Original title: The Sunday Liturgy: Second Sunday of Easter: Living What We Believe
Article by: William Birch
Read also: “Love is Obedience” by William Birch.
Read also “Sola Fide” and “Synergism“.
Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery has established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ's Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (Book of Common Prayer, Second Sunday of Easter, 172-73)
This prayer is great! In essence, we are asking God to enable us to walk the Walk of Faith, instead of just talking about walking the Walk of Faith. My parents taught me as a young boy that actions speak louder than words. This prayer calls to mind that very sentiment: “Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith.” But notice the call for a profession.St Paul teaches us concerning “the righteousness that comes from faith” (Rom. 10:6), insisting that the Word of Faith is on our lips and in our hearts (Rom. 10:8), because “if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved.” (Rom. 10:9-10) Private belief, by itself, seems ineffective: it is to be accompanied by what proceeds out of our mouths.This truth is taught by Jesus: “For out of the abundance [or overflow] of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt. 12:34) Have you ever heard an older person say, “What’s in the well always comes up”? The implication is that whatever is present in our hearts will show forth in our lives. If we are full of wickedness then we live wicked lives. If we are full of love for Jesus then our lives will demonstrate it. If we are in a lukewarm or stagnate state then that, too, will be obvious. But our prayer to the Lord today is to rid us of the wicked and lukewarm states — that we may show forth in our lives what we profess by our faith.
Henri Nouwen reminds us that, from the perspective of the Bible, the heart is not merely a muscle but is “a symbol for the very centre of our being.”1 This place, the heart, is where “we are mostly ourselves.”2 We are called in Scripture to, above all else, guard our hearts (Prov. 4:23). St Paul concurs with this proverb:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:4-7)
The guarding of our hearts is obviously an important theme in both old and new covenants. Again, Nouwen confesses that the heart is like “the core of our being, it’s the spiritual centre of our being,” noting also that solitude and silence are “ways to get to the heart, because the heart is the place where God speaks to us, where we hear the voice who calls us the beloved. This is precisely in the most intimate place.”3 If we are to live out what we believe in our hearts, setting apart Christ as Lord in our hearts (1 Pet. 3:15), we must be mindful to take great care of our hearts.For this reason, St Paul instructs us to fix our spiritual eyes (heart) on whatever is true, worthy of honor, just or righteous, pure, God-pleasing, commendable, excellent, and that which is worthy of praise (Phil. 4:8). Gone, then, is that which is false, shameful, wicked, unchaste, God-displeasing, unworthy, morally detestable and condemnable. Protecting our hearts in Christ forces us to renounce the latter and embrace the former. Doing so brings much freedom. Richard Foster explains:
I said that every Discipline has its corresponding freedom. What freedom corresponds to submission? It is the ability to lay down the terrible burden of always needing to get our own way. The obsession to demand that things go the way we want them to go is one of the greatest bondages in human society today. ...
In the Discipline of submission we are released to drop the matter, to forget it. Frankly, most things in life are not nearly as important as we think they are. Our lives will not come to an end if this or that does not happen.4
This is why the apostle encourages us to “not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Phil. 4:6, emphasis added) Worry, stress, anxiety — none of these disciplines (and they are disciplines that people learn to develop and practice in their lives) help the heart and further the cause of righteousness. Instead, our disciplines include relying on God, protecting our hearts in Christ, and living out what we profess to believe. May our Father, in our Savior, through His Spirit, enable us to this end, for His glory and His people.
1 Henri J.M. Nouwen with Philip Roderick, Beloved: Henri Nouwen in Conversation(Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), 21.
3 Ibid.4 Richard J. Foster, Celebration of Discipline: The Path to Spiritual Growth, third edition (New York: Harper One, 1998), 111.