O LORD, who never failest to help and govern them who thou dost bring up in thy stedfast fear and love; Keep us, we beseech thee, under the protection of thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Epistle. 1 St. John 3. 13.
MARVEL not, my brethren, if the world hate you. We know that we have passed from death unto life, because we love the brethren. He that loveth not his brother abideth in death. Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him. Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth. And hereby we know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before him. For if our heart condemn us, God is greater than our heart, and knoweth all things. Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.
The Gospel. St. Luke 14. 16.
A CERTAIN man made a great supper, and bade many: And sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come. So that servant came, and shewed his Lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, That none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.
Thoughts on the Collect and Lessons
In our collect, fear and love are not inconsistent. This is because they do not refer to fear and love in the worldly sense or in a distorted sense, but in their deepest and most meaningful sense. Through God’s keeping, holding, helping, loving, and caring for his people, they are secure. Therefore, while God is to be feared for his righteousness, to the humble sinner who is granted faith and repentance, the fear of God has actually drawn him to God and so he has experienced the love of God. Such continuance in the fear of God is one of the best ways to experience the love of God. Through this we will be saved from our own love toward God and our brethren growing cold or even lukewarm.
The Epistle reading shows the revolution of love that is in the Gospel. The world should marvel at how Christians love one another. Yet the world hates the true Christian. The confusion these days is because the world has come into the churches and so it appears that the church hates itself. That is why it is so important that we have church discipline and that we do not allow heretics to lead our churches like the Church of England. Such a scene brings great shame upon the name of Christ and the unbeliever consequently blasphemes the names of Christ and God very easily and to his peril.
The Gospel reading shows us what it is like to live in a sinful world. One of the characteristics is that men make excuses. They pretend that their conscience is silent, and as they do so, God turns them over and gives them up (Romans 1) to all sorts of sins. Of course we must be careful how we accuse other people of making excuses as sometimes they may have a genuine excuse. The world is very good at lying and no doubt they all take into account the fact that they are being lied to and so take steps to protect themselves. In some cultures it is thought to be very impolite to say ‘no’ so lying is thought of as the right way to avoid offence! But lying is not acceptable to God. Behind the excuses is not just laziness and lying, but a rebellion against God. His gracious invitation is thought of as being insincere and the great supper is not thought of as being very great. It is thought that other things are more interesting. How foolish! We are nevertheless encouraged that the rough fellows in the highways and hedges may be converted and dressed in a wedding garment for the glorious marriage supper of the Lamb of God. We are encouraged to go and preach to them, even to “compel them to come in”.