PRAY FOR THE LIGHT
Almighty God, you show those in error the light of Your truth so that they may return to the way of righteousness. Grant faithfulness to all who are admitted into the fellowship of Christ's church that they may avoid whatever is contrary to their confession and follow all such things as are pleasing to you.
THIS morning let us delve more deeply into today's collect because it has so much to say to us. In it we ask our God to "show those in error the light of His truth," but who exactly are we talking about?
The obvious answer is the entire unbelieving world, because contrary to human dogma, people are not "basically good." The verdict of Scripture is quite the opposite; that like so many crack-babies, people are born into the addiction of their parents, born addicted to sin, to devotion to rebellion, and enmity with their Creator, and though we may come into this world in perfect bodily health, spiritually speaking we entire it blind, deaf, mute and lame. Every inclination of the heart of man is only evil all the time. (Gen. 6:5) We have no natural or inborn love or trust for the Almighty, but on the contrary are born rebels and the only god we truly serve is our own bellies. That is the spiritual condition of every person born into the world.
Yet it is for this very reason that God gave His one and only Son to be our Savior. Jesus did not come to "fix" us, but to save us. He who is Perfect God, became Perfect Man; who by His life, death and death-defying resurrection saved and redeemed humanity from its fatal flaw. He is the True Light that enlightens every man that comes into the world.
It is also for this very reason that God also provided holy baptism, so that by means of it we might gain access into this grace in which we now stand, so that we might be born a second time, born from above with God as our Father and Jesus as our Brother.
For this reason, because of the ongoing sins of the flesh, He also gives holy absolution, so that those who confess their sins will learn that God is faithful and just, forgives our sins, and continually cleanses us from all unrighteousness.
For this reason He also provides holy worship, holy communion and holy prayer so that even men who are made of dust and will return to dust can share now the immortal life God grants us in Christ.
Who else do we mean when we pray for those "in error?" We also here pray for those who have given up their first love and have returned to the broad and easy road. It happens, but we also know that Jesus relentlessly searches for his lost sheep. He often recovers them by allowing all manner of trouble to plague their lives until they exhaust every earthly prop and can find not peace or rest, and there is only one way left to look: UP, so we should never grieve as those who have no hope when we think of our fallen angels, for He who began a good work in all He has called will bring it to completion on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. He is faithful. He will do it.
Who else do we pray for when we speak of those "in error?" We also mean those who are weak in their faith, tempted and torn each hour, assaulted by the devil and filled with anxiety, conflict, and doubt. That is to say, we pray for ourselves, that we might gain strength, remain faithful, love the beauty of holiness, and overcome all temptation to believe or act contrary to our confession of faith.
We pray that God would grant faithfulness to all of the above: to the blind world, that it might come to faith by the light of the glorious gospel; for those who have fallen by the way that they might be restored; and for ourselves that we should not engage in self-righteousness, because remember, it is the sinful tax collector who went down to his house justified in the parable, and not the self-righteous Pharisee. You are not better than the person you disparage: the blind heathen, the fallen angel or any other person. Indeed to think any other way is to elevate oneself over Christ who alone makes men righteous by His blood., There is nothing worse than that, but when we pray such prayers we should understand that we are not praying alone. No Christian ever prays alone. First and foremost the Holy Spirit carries the church's prayer to the Father and translates our very awkward and stumbling hopes into ones that are perfect in every way. As if this were not enough, we know that Jesus is seated in glory at the right hand of the Father and is always interceding for His church. You are that church. Neither is that all, because the whole church of heaven and earth joins the chorus as well. This is what we mean by "the communion of saints."
How does this prayer get answered? How do people "return to the way of righteousness," remain faithful to the church's confession, and act in accordance with it? This is the "business" the church conducts every Sunday as she prays for God to deliver her from evil, give her His Holy Spirit and every good and perfect gift from above.
Now we all know that what happens in Mexico may stay in Mexico, but what happens here does not. Instead the grace here received goes into the world as this "noble army of men and boys, matron and maid." (TLH #452) Take to heart what St. Peter says in today's epistle lesson, "Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul; and to keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation."
This is who we pray for then: the blind world, the fallen that they might be restored to the joy of salvation, and for ourselves lest we too should fall; and this glorious prayer is answered in this holy house. God be praised. Amen.
~ Rev. Dean Kavouras