A Sermon for the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity, October 14, 2018
St. Dunstan’s Anglican Church, Largo, FL
The Reverend J. Michael Strachan
I’ve asked Mike Miller to speak to us today during announcements, so I will keep my reflections brief so that we have more time to hear about what’s going on at The Hope of Jesus Children’s Home in Honduras. The point I want to make this morning is something that comes from our lessons but is also central to our Anglican identity, whether we recognize that or not.
The author of the letter to the Hebrews says in our reading this morning, “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” What I want to focus on briefly is that appeal for mercy, that drawing near to the throne of grace to find help in time of need.
The official prayer book of the Anglican Church and the standard for rule and faith in the ACNA is the 1662 prayer book. The ACNA says, “We receive The Book of Common Prayer as set forth by the Church of England in 1662, together with the Ordinal attached to the same, as a standard for Anglican doctrine and discipline, and, with the Books which preceded it, as the standard for the Anglican tradition of worship.” In the 1662 Book of Common Prayer is a catechism, which by the standard of other catechisms written during the Reformation, and even in comparison to the ACNA’s catechism, is remarkably short.
I like to think it is focused on the essentials of the Christian faith and the Anglican tradition, the things that hold us together and we all confess to be true regardless of whether we are more Catholic or Reformed or Pentecostal. The Catechism opens with questions about what happened when you were baptized, so it starts at the beginning of the Christian life. It then moves into question about what a Christian believes, and its answer is the Apostles’ Creed. It then moves into questions about what a Christian does, and it contains the Ten Commandments and our Lord’s Summary of the Law.
Then something different happens. Until this point, the catechist is merely asking questions. Now, before the transition to questions about prayer, the catechist speaks. He says, “My young friend, please understand this: that you are not able to do these things with your own strength, or to walk in the Commandments of God, and to serve him, without his special grace. So you must learn at all times to call for that grace through prayer. Let me hear, then, if you can say the Lord’s Prayer.”
This claim by the catechist is central to what it means to be Anglican and central as well to what it means to be Christian. You can’t do this on your own, and the moment you think you can you’ve lost already. What follows this statement by the catechist is teaching on prayer and teaching on sacraments, because the Christian knows deep down that to be the people God has called us to be we need God’s grace. We need to ask for that grace, and we need to receive that grace.
So thanks be to God that we have a great High Priest who sits at the right hand of God in heaven and intercedes for us, asking for that grace even when we forget to and encouraging us to draw near to the throne of grace with confidence. We have confidence because of what he has done. We have confidence because of what we confess. We have confidence because of who he says he is.
So draw near to God’s throne today in prayer and in the sacrament. Know that you cannot do this yourself. You need God’s grace. So draw near to the throne of grace in confidence today, for you will not be turned away.