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Psalm 131

 

O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. O Israel, hope in the LORD from this time forth and forevermore. (ESV)

 

The Majesty of the Word

St. Mark, Evangelist

25 April 2014

In my early days of ministry to the church, Lloyd, one of my parishioners would blow into my office and say abruptly, "Pastor, let's talk. What's going on?" Even when it seemed that I didn't have time to talk, I took great delight in spending time talking with Lloyd. Lloyd was a professor of communications at a local university. I enjoyed talking with Lloyd because he was a superb listener. He always understood where I was going with my arguments and often anticipated my conclusions long before I made them. He was a great communicator because he truly listened. Listening so that you can understand well is such a major part of communicating. One of the reasons for his listening skill was that he was always interested in what we were talking about. Lloyd had a restless, but patient, intellect and nothing was beyond his desire to learn. Lloyd also loved people. He was passionately involved in people's lives and loved others, especially his students.

 

Pastors pray for parishioners like Lloyd. I mean they pray that the Lord would grant them one or two members like this man. Occasionally, Lloyd would rip my sermon. He was not a big fan of the long, drawn out "introduction." I learned. Mostly. I often felt that my communication skills were too meager not only for Lloyd, but also for the majesty of the subject I was trying to communicate to Lloyd. Such things are too lofty for me (Ps 131:1). I feel tongue tied in the presence of the divine Word. I feel inadequate to the task of disclosing by hiding and hiding by disclosing. I stutter in the face of God's fluency. That will always be the way of the ministry; stammering a few broken words for God, with none of the elegance that the subject requires.

 

The subject has its own majesty; its own glorious elegance. Not because we are rhetorical wizards, but because Jesus speaks knowingly to our desperate need. It is right that we preachers despair of our eloquence, recognizing the weakness of our stammering speech, because when we are weak, then we are strong. Even the greatest among us, like Cyprian of Carthage (d. 258), was forced to admit his simplicity, even as he wrote to his Lloyd: Donatus. Tarted up words won't do what the brute truth of God's speech will always do: proclaim life and in that proclaiming give it. Like Cyprian, I am continuing to learn that the words are too meager for the majesty of the Word. No matter how much I try, all is given at once in a breath, which is the kiss of grace. One breath from God gives it. He needs nothing more. Neither do I.

 

Cyprian of Carthage

 

"With your mind as well as your ears you are altogether a listener; and a listener, too, with an eagerness proportioned to your affection. And yet, of what kind or of what amount is anything that my mind is likely to communicate to yours? The poor mediocrity of my shallow understanding produces a very limited harvest, and enriches the soil with no fruitful deposits. Nevertheless, with such powers as I have, I will set about the matter. For the subject itself on which I am about to speak will assist me. In courts of justice, in the public assembly, in political debate, a copious eloquence may be the glory of a voluble ambition; but in speaking of the Lord God, a chaste simplicity of expression strives for the conviction of faith with the substance, rather than with the powers of eloquence. Therefore accept from me things, not clever but weighty, words, not decked up to charm a popular audience with cultivated rhetoric, but simple and fitted by their unvarnished truthfulness for the proclamation of the divine mercy. Accept what is felt before it is spoken, what has not been accumulated with tardy painstaking during the lapse of years, but has been inhaled in one breath of ripening grace."

 

Cyprian of Carthage,To Donatus,1-2
 
Collect for St. Mark

Almighty God, You have enriched Your Church with the proclamation of the Gospel through the evangelist Mark.  Grant that we may firmly believe these glad tidings and daily walk according to Your Word; through Jesus Christ, our Lord. Amen.

 

For Charles St-Onge, that his service to the people of China would prosper

 

For college students, that the Lord would grant them growth in grace and knowledge

 

For safe travels for those who must travel to serve the church, that the holy angels would attend them 

Art: GRÜNEWALD, Matthias Resurrection (1515)

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