Hopelessly Devoted

Romans Chapter Three Verses Nine Through Twelve

Mockingbird / 12.16.19

This one comes to us from Paul Walker’s “Almost Daily Devotional”:

The Third Sunday of Advent has been called “Stirrup Sunday” after the collect’s plea for God to “stir up” his power on our behalf. There’s nothing like a little churchy witticism to get you going on a Monday in mid December.

Ecclesial wit aside, the collect reminds us of what the 1928 Prayer Book confession of sin so boldly stated: “we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves.” This is a deeply countercultural assessment of our own abilities, not to mention the reason you will not find the 1928 Prayer Book either on a Self-Help shelf or in most church pews. (I’ve got one in my office if you’d like to come in and borrow it!) For that matter, a thorough reading of the Bible also disqualifies it from the self-help realm. According to Holy Writ, we fit nicely in the “sorely hindered” category.

The Apostle Paul assesses the condition of both Gentiles and Jews (in Bible terms that means everybody) and concludes that we are all up sin’s creek without a paddle. “What shall we conclude then? Do we have any advantage? Not at all! For we have already made the charge that Jews and Gentiles alike are all under the power of sin. As it is written: ‘There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one’” (Romans 3:9-12). Note that he quotes the psalmist for good measure – and to show that he is not just being curmudgeonly about our predicament.

Paul also knew where – and to whom – to turn in our powerlessness. “What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!” (Romans 7:24-25).

“Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.” (Third Sunday of Advent – Book of Common Prayer, 212)

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