The BCP

Sexagesima

Author: The Revd Dr Peter Toon

Collect

O LORD God, who seest that we put not our trust in any thing that we do: Mercifully grant that by thy power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Collect Commentary

This Collect is not a straight translation of the old Latin Collect. It was edited to remove a reference to the Apostle Paul. The petition originally asked, "Mercifully grant that by the protection of the teacher of the Gentiles we may be fortified against all adversities". The Reformers of the 16th century did not allow any prayer to the saints, any request of saints to pray for us, or the treating of a saint as if he were a guardian angel. Thus they changed "by the protection of the teacher of the Gentiles" to "by thy power".

Yet they retained the Epistle, 2 Corinthians 11:19-31, which contains St Paul's descriptions of the variety of sufferings he had endured for the Gospel. In this physical and mental pain he could, if he wished, have boasted for the pain was much more than any other apostle or evangelist had experienced, and it was for the sake of Christ. Yet he did not believe that this pain and tribulation was the basis for his acceptance with God. It was part of his willing service of Christ Jesus.

It is a very difficult thing, even for saints, not to put any trust in the things that they do. For most of us it is a natural thing and certainly a temptation to think that there is virtue before God and man in the really good things that we think we do. Especially is this so if what we do brings us persecution or suffering for the sake of the Gospel.

God sees all and everything! To him all hearts are open and all desires known and from him no secrets are hid. He is watchful and persuades us by many means (the example of Paul, the instruction in Scripture and so on) to trust only in him for he alone is the source of all life, power, knowledge and wisdom.

Therefore, we pray that we shall be defended from all adversity be it in the form of testings or temptations, pain or suffering, trial or tribulation, the desires of the flesh or the wiles of the devil. "When I am weak then I am strong" said the Apostle Paul (2 Cor. 12:10). Only as we know our own weakness and rest in God's strength are we making progress towards Christian maturity. In order rightly to approach Lent and benefit from its disciplines, we surely need to learn this lesson.

The Gospel for this week is the Parable of the Sower and the Seed. And the purpose of this is to place before Christians the goal of being so receptive to the word of God in all situations, and at all times, that they, in an honest and good heart, bring forth fruit with patience.

 

Epistle 2 Corinthians 11.19-31

YE suffer fools gladly, seeing ye yourselves are wise. For ye suffer, if a man bring you into bondage, if a man devour you, if a man take of you, if a man exalt himself, if a man smite you on the face. I speak as concerning reproach, as though we had been weak: howbeit whereinsoever any is bold, (I speak foolishly,) I am bold also. Are they Hebrews? so am I. Are they Israelites? so am I. Are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool,) I am more: in labours more abundant; in stripes above measure; in prisons more frequent; in deaths oft. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one; thrice was I beaten with rods; once was I stoned; thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeyings often; in perils of waters; in perils of robbers; in perils by mine own countrymen; in perils by the heathen; in perils in the city; in perils in the wilderness; in perils in the sea; in perils among false brethren; in weariness and painfulness; in watchings often; in hunger and thirst; in fastings often; in cold and nakedness; beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? who is offended, and I burn not? If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which is blessed for evermore, knoweth that I lie not.

 

Gospel St Luke 8.4-15

WHEN much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he spake by a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell by the way-side, and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundred-fold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe, and be saved. They on the rock are they which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.