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Lindemann on Epiphany 4

by revalkorn ~ January 24th, 2011

THE FOURTH SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY

The miracles of the Epiphany are to be regarded rather as manifestations than as formal proofs of our Lord’s deity. Their purpose was not mainly evidential but educational. To prove Himself divine was not enough, for men had wrong ideas about God and their conceptions needed to be purified and exalted. The object of Christ’s miracles was, therefore, not to show power but grace. When we consider His power, we are to see that it was used only to save what is good and to destroy what is evil. Mere power is neither good nor evil, though power magnifies the effects of good and evil. We need not fear the almighty power of love but rather rejoice that love will prevail.

A complete set of Propers is provided for the first three Sundays after the Epiphany and for the Last Sunday, the Transfiguration. Five and six Sundays after the Epiphany are observed rarely and only when Easter falls on a late date. This explains the rubric that on the Fourth and Fifth Sundays the Introit and the Gradual are the same as for the Third Sunday. For the sake of convenience, this Introit and this Gradual are given again.

The Introit. “Worship Him, all ye His angels. Zion heard and was glad. The daughters of Judah rejoiced because of Thy judgments, O Lord. The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of isles be glad thereof.”

The Collect. “Almighty God, who knowest us to be set in the midst of so many and great dangers that by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright, grant to us such strength and protection as may support us in all dangers and carry us through all temptations.”

Last Sunday our Lord manifested Himself as the Savior of those afflicted with the frailties and ills in human flesh, as the Healer of sickness. Today He is revealed as saving perfectly sound and vigorous men who, notwithstanding their health and strength, are helpless and hopeless without Him, as the Savior of all who are “set in the midst of so many and great dangers.” Men whose daily life was on the sea, hardy fishermen, cry to Him. He granted such strength and protection as carried them through all temptations.

The Epistle (Rom. 13:8-10). There seems to be no connection between the Epistle and the Gospel. The Collect indicates that the thought for the day is presented in the latter. It is the Epiphany of Power, not over nature, for the changing of water into wine already displayed unlimited power over nature. It is the divine power, the strength and protection that supports us in all dangers and carries us through all temptations. To establish a connection that does not appear too forced and artificial, we must recall that for the past three Sundays the series of Epistles from Romans 12 instructed us regarding the epiphany by us and through us. Here we heard expressions like “We, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another,” and “Love one another with brotherly affection,” and “Live peaceably with all.” These were not mere repetitions but instructions in corporate relationships of different kinds. In the Epistle for this day we now have the summary. “The commandments . . . are summed up in this sentence, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”‘ It reveals the all-pervading inspiration of the obedience to the Law. The law of Christ is meant, the law as revealed and lived by Him. The heart possessed by the real power of loving for Christ’s sake holds the all-inspiring motive of service and manifests Christ in every relationship of life. But because “by reason of the frailty of our nature we cannot always stand upright in the midst of so many and great dangers,” we pray for divine strength and power. We think of our manifest duties to one another, of the dangers and temptations. We think of “Thou shalt not!” and that yet we do! Grant to us strength and protection, that we may manifest Christ and His power by loving our neighbor as ourselves.

The Epistle begins: “Owe no one anything except to love one another.” A Christian meets his obligations as soon as possible. He is uncomfortable so long as he is conscious of owing anything to anybody. But in one respect we Christians remain lifelong debtors to all men. In the question of love charity, we are all debtors. Every man who meets us makes demands on our love. It is Christ speaking to us in our neighbor. A beggar knocks at our door, and Christ says through him: “You owe Me a debt of love.” When people on the bus show themselves irritable and inconsiderate toward us, Christ speaks through them: “You owe Me a debt of love.” When the members of our family get on our nerves and provoke us to impatience, Christ speaks through them: “You owe Me a debt of patience and love.” Perhaps we reply that we are unable to give what is required of us because we have not the means. St. Paul said: “We are treated . . . poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” If we have a heart full of love, then we are rich and can enrich others. We can do good in word and deed. We can do good with our lips either by speaking or remaining silent; with our ears, by listening to others or by acting as if we had not heard; with our eyes, by looking with favor on what we meet or by overlooking many a thing; with our hands, by giving generously; with our feet, by going out of our way to do favors to others. As long as we have love, we possess a great fund on which others can draw.

Love is the fulfillment of the Law. The Commandments on the whole are negative. They say what we are not allowed to do. Christ said that He had not come to destroy the Law but to fulfill it, that is, to make it more perfect. He wills not a mere negative observance but a positive one that is based mainly on love. For example, among Christians the Fifth Commandment reads: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

The Gradual. “So the heathen shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth Thy glory. When the Lord shall build up Zion, He shall appear in His glory. Alleluia! Alleluia! The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice, let the multitude of isles be glad thereof. Alleluia!

The Proper Sentence. “Alleluia! Oh, praise the Lord, all ye nations, and laud Him, all ye people. For His merciful kindness is great toward us, and the truth of the Lord endureth forever. Alleluia!”

The Gospel (St. Matt. 8:23-27). A Miracle of Saving Power. The disciples had learned to love Christ as a man and to listen to Him as a teacher Now they must learn to trust Him. Doubtless, our Lord permitted the storm that they might find in Him one mightier than the storm. They saw the calmness of trust, how faith can sleep while the storm rages. The disciples had not the same confidence. They saw the quiet naturalness of kingly power, for He acted with the untoiling ease of Godhead, and the powers of nature in their wildest uproar yielded immediate obedience to His voice.

We dread nature now more than ever, for though man has made nature his servant, nature serves only so long as man obeys. We stand in awe of the magnitudes, regularities, and potencies around us. There is, therefore, the greater need to retain faith in a Christ who is above nature. We may not speak of interference, for Christ is at home in nature and Master of His home.

Our lives are scenes of storm as well as of calm. We need not suppose that because we meet with storms, Christ is not with us, or that because Christ is with us, we shall not meet with storms. The Church is often storm-tossed, but this does not prove her Lord to be absent. There is a calm that might prove this, and a sleep more like that of Jonah than that of Christ. The sleep of conscience is by no means the sleep of faith, and better any storm endured with Christ than calm without His presence.

The Proper Preface. “And now do we praise Thee, that Thou didst send unto us Thine only-begotten Son and that in Him, being found in fashion as a man, Thou didst reveal the fullness of Thy glory.”

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