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The Rev. Dr. Robert Crouse: “A Sermon for Septuagesima Sunday”

February 1, 2015

This Sunday, February 1, being Septuagesima Sunday, here is a sermon by Dr. Robert Crouse, of blessed memory, preached in Halifax in 1987, titled A Sermon for Septuagesima Sunday.  As one would expect, he sets the stage for this pre-Lenten season:

Now, as we approach the Lenten season, we consider more fully the nature of that transformation. Lent is about conflict and suffering, about death and resurrection. It is about Jesus’ death and resurrection, certainly, but also about our own, as we follow his road, through conflict and temptation, to Jerusalem. For our transformation, the renewing of our minds in conformity to the Word of God, is, indeed a kind of death and rebirth – it is death to an old nature, an old worldliness, an old conformity to this present age, which does not give up without a struggle.

As St. Augustine says, in his Confessions: “Those trifles of all trifles, those vanities of vanities …. held me back, plucking at the garment of my flesh, softly murmuring, ‘Are you sending us away? From this moment, shall we not be with you, now or ever?”‘ Those old, long-cherished demons perhaps hardly ever recognised as demons will not be easily dismissed. They will be cast out only with much prayer and fasting. That is the meaning of the disciplines of Lent.

But between Epiphany and Lent, there are three Sundays, with ancient Latin names: Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima – the seventieth, sixtieth, and fiftieth days (approximately) before Easter. The intention of these three weeks is to prepare us to undertake the journey and the labour, the pilgrimage of Lent. Thus, St. Paul reminds us, in this week’s Epistle Lesson, we are to be like athletes, competing in a struggle – athletes in training, temperate in all things; not aimless, but disciplined, striving for a prize which is immortal. The Gospel likens us to workers in a vineyard. It matters not whether we have come early in the morning, or at midday, or at the last, eleventh hour; we labour for the one reward, which God’s free grace provides. Whether the hour be late or early matters not; the point is that now we are called to spiritual reward, and now, now, in- the moment when God’s Word addresses us, we must give up our idleness.

This is a good message for this time when we prepare for Lent – read it all.

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