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Civic Apathy (a Sermon for Women)
I. The Home-Side of Patriotism. Is it not a serious matter to find such multitudes in all our large towns and cities who have little or no sense of what it means to belong to a great community, who have little or no idea of the life in common and of the responsibility and duty which all share? There are many around us who do not care anything for the problems of a great city; do not indeed realize that there are any problems at all, except how to get more money, or more amusement in and from the city. It is only the few here and everywhere who care enough to give thought and time and toil to the things on which depend the public good.
II. The Cause of Indifference. The causes of this indifference are many. ( a ) The love of ease and personal indulgence tempts many who might be rendering noble service to the community to be content with the conditions of citizens of the lowest class. ( b ) There is now, as there ever has been, a large number of men who are kept from all public work by their eagerness for the accumulation of worldly interests. It is nothing to them that thousands and thousands around them are at a woeful disadvantage in the struggle for existence and the attainment of good. Business dominates; they are men of business and nothing more.
III. The Citizenship of Women. Though the women of Today in our country as compared with the women of yesterday are more awake to the ideals and duties of citizenship, have wider interests and sympathies, and are not untouched by that new sense of social responsibility which is the centre of the times; yet the common lot of women still fails to develop in them a social spirit, a public soul. The selfish pride and vanity of men has much to do with the circumscribing of the sympathies and activities of our women. Man has for long claimed exclusively for himself the capacity to carry on all the higher work of the world. Though equality does not mean identity each sex has its peculiarity of capacity of character, and therefore of service yet there is no reason in the nature of things why women should not share with men on more equal terms all the largest aims of life and be able in spite of different gifts to do much in common. The womanly qualities are needed not only in the home but in the community, and just as they find expression and scope will the best life of the community be nourished and strengthened.
IV. What Women can do. It is often asked what can women do in the way of social service without losing their womanliness? There is very little I think which they cannot do. Give the women of London and England the sense that they belong to a people; give them the feeling that they owe something to their city and country, that the uplifting of the community is part of their work, and you will not degrade but ennoble them, their life will not lose one particle of its real beauty and charm, but will gain immeasurably in depth and breadth and power.
V. Sacrifice for Citizenship. We have been hearing much in recent days about revivals. One revival we sorely need, and we need it all over the country, is a genuine revival of civic patriotism, a national awakening of home patriotism. The command to seek first the kingdom of God, translated into the language of this generation, includes as one of its first implications the subordination of all private, party, and class aims and interests to the common good, the diligent and conscientious discharge of our civic duties.
J. Hunter, Christian World Pulpit. vol. lxviii. 1905, p. 273.
For Good Friday
I. Good Friday a melancholy day. Our attention held against Christ's suffering.
II. What can we make of all this.
a. Ordinarily we are repelled by human pain.
b. The emotion which contemplation of pain produces is precluded. Pity for the suffering of Christ is an impertinence!
c. Yet men are strangely drawn by the story. It is so free from repulsiveness. Dignity of the succinct narrative. Instead of being dragged down by His agony He exalted pain.
III. Christ by His 'sorrow' let Himself into Humanity's tragic economy.
IV. He sanctified suffering. Not made evil good, but gave it a meaning.
V. Chiefly; He bore our sins.
S. D. McConnell, Sermon Stuff, p. 51.
Is It Nothing To You?
Go back six hundred years in thought before the Crucifixion, and there you will see a city which, in spite of warning after warning, has got slack and careless, has endured a sixteen months' siege, gone through incredible hardships, and at last has given itself over into the hands of the conqueror. And there they pass by, this triumphant host, as it enters the conquered city. They jeer at those who are sitting on the roadside, and at last, as they come to a man we know his name, this Jeremiah who is making his great lamentation they wring from him who has warned the city, year after year, the cry of a wounded heart: 'Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by, you who jeer at us in our defeat, you who see these men and these women so cruelly emaciated, and our little children suffering so after the siege?' Who shall tell what that wounded cry of that great patriot was as they wrung from him that pathetic appeal, 'Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?'
The story is a parable of Passion time. Time passes, and the world is taken captive by the great arch-enemy. Warning after warning has been neglected by humanity, the great Captain is dying and nailed to the Cross, and, as the passers by go to and fro in front of Him, there come the words the Church has ever loved to put into His mouth, 'Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by? You have conquered, you have gained a temporary victory, what use are you going to make of it?' And there still Today, as we are in sight of Good Friday, that same cry rings out.
From the throne of His Cross, the King of grief
Cries out to a world of unbelief:
Oh! men and women, afar and nigh,
Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by?'
And what is our answer Today to be?
If I were a great painter I would paint a picture of the Crucifixion, with a great Christ in the centre, and I would there place three different groups of passers by, as they listened to that great antiphon as it comes from the Redeemer's lips. I would place a group that was there those to whom He was nothing; a group of those who did care; and a group of those who had learnt to care. That picture would sum up the state of humanity Today.
I. The Appeal to Those who Care. Look first at that large and ever-growing group that does care, when the appeal from the Cross is made 'Is it nothing to you?' and who have seen the vision, and throw back the answer, 'Yes, it is something to us, nay it is everything to us as we pass by'. 'There stood by the cross of Jesus His mother.' She cared; it was something to that mother; and when I see the hundreds and thousands of mothers and fathers Today who do care that their children should receive and pass on the old, old faith of Jesus and Him crucified, I am filled with hope for the state of the world. It is so easy to throw a cheap sneer or a nasty thrust at it, and never to see those thousands of men and women who, from their very hearts, like the Blessed Mother, are caring when they see the crucified Sufferer.
II. The Appeal to Those who do not Care. There are still those, God help them! to whom it is nothing as they pass by. They will find themselves in company with those of whom it is said that they who passed by wagged their heads and reviled Him: not so many as there were, but you know, if you have ever tried for a fortnight to live the Christ life in the middle of the world, that you will come across that group of whom it can be said, 'It is nothing to them what went on for them on the first Good Friday'. And you may find yourselves standing with that group of soldiers who, sitting down, watched Him in cold, callous indifference, gambling, seizing as their perquisites the very clothes of the dear Lord as they jeer at Him in His dying moments. Do you mean to tell me that the world is no better now than it was when the soldiers, unrebuked by public opinion, could do that? Nineteen centuries of Christianity have left their mark upon the world, and though there are those to whom the appeal from the Cross is a matter of sheer indifference, I dare to say that their number is decreasing, and not increasing. There they are, just those few, and to them with all a man's pathos the Christ appeals.
III. The Appeal to Those who have Learnt to Care. You must have something to tell them, before you can tell it, in your own hearts, and perhaps you have not got it Then you will be standing in our third group, and be amongst those who did not care but who have learnt to care, those who find themselves in that group where there is the well-known figure of the dying thief, the one to whom it was nothing at first and then to whom it became something. As you look back upon life and know the sin that has got to be surrendered, then as you learn to care, the appeal from the Cross will get right homo to you. You will say, 'I have learnt to care. I am like the centurion, like the soldier who little thought as he donned his uniform on the morning of the first Good Friday whose army he was going to belong to before Friday's evening shades were to fall. God saw humanity wandering, God at the Incarnation came down. At the Crucifixion He placed His picture, the express image of His Person, where all wanderers can see it, and there, won by His love, many and many a wanderer this week will see it, and yield themselves up to the claims of Jesus the Crucified.
In View of the Passion
The plain fact from the Hill of Calvary is this: that God has opened out Himself in this story of the Passion, for the regarding of them that pass by.
I. It may mean Much, or it may mean Little to You and Me.
a. We can ignore the Passion, the story of Calvary, if we will. It is easy to hide it under the drift of the things that we are doing day by day. It is easy to forget, it is easy to leave it out, it is easy to go our own way and to leave it unregarded.
b. Or we may belittle it. There are those who look upon the Passion as just one of the events of ancient history that, perhaps, has had its share once in moulding men and creatures long ago, but which we may leave, noticed or unnoticed, with the dust of the forgotten past.
c. Or we may resent it. I saw once a bitter wail of resentment against the preaching of Lent and of the Passiontide, as a false presentment of religion in the face of the growing spring, when all things bid a man renew himself and rejoice. It is a thing, this Passion of the Lord, it is a thing resented by the rich, and by the comfortable, and by the selfish, as a thing that is interfering with the enjoyment of the pleasures of the world.
II. Whatever you Think about it, it is There, it is here, immovable, confronting us. We have to do with it. No man can escape from it. It cannot be taken from you. You cannot take the Passion of the Lord out of the world's book, you cannot take the Passion of the Lord out of the world's imagination. It has coloured our imagination, it has set its mark in our literature, it has given the ideals which every one of you are pursuing, even those of you who, maybe, reject the name of Christ. It has coloured our ideals, it has set our tone, it has left its mark, it is there.
III. Nor can it be taken out of Christian Experience. There are some of us, perhaps most of us who have come prepared to get its message, prepared to get its meaning. Long enough it may be with some of us here, long enough our consciences have been stirring blindly under the touch of God. My conscience is my spiritual faculty which is capable of perceiving the spiritual touch of God. Long enough we have been filled have we not, or why are we here? we have been filled with the desire for some assurance of His reality. To us, then, the Passion of the Lord is the sign, which witnesses to God's high seriousness. It is the sign of His earnest intention to stand by the man who is struggling, to stand by the girl who is afraid, to stand by the life that is daunted. It is the sign and mark of high seriousness that God Himself has come down to share in, not merely the glory of the world's achievement, but the Passion and the struggle of its people. Is it nothing, then, to you, all ye that pass by? It is a serious matter to God; it is a serious matter to you and me.
IV. What Means it to go Home and to Ignore this? Shall I tell you what it means to go home and leave the Passion, and the Crucifixion, and the Cross, and the seriousness of God, and the sympathy of His Spirit, and the history of His Son? Shall I tell you what it means to leave all these things out of your life? It means this, that you will go home to bear and to take upon yourselves alone the burden and the judgment of your own life. This is the attempt of God to share with us, and if we will not join Him, if we will leave Him all to Himself, then, you and I, with our conscience, and our load, and our burdens, and our mixed motives, and our stained life, and our past history, and our sense of guilt, and the wrong we have done in the world, we, with all we have done, must stand the eternal judgment by ourselves; and what man will stand the judgment by himself? Is it nothing to you, all ye that pass by, that the Lord desires to share judgment with us? Is it nothing to us, that God has taken a place which He opens out to every man who cares to join Him?
References. I. 12. J. Keble, Sermons for the Holy Week, p. 183. E. M. Geldert, Faith and Freedom, p. 80. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxvii. No. 1620. J. M. Neale, Sermons Preached in Sackville College Chapel, pp. 280, 288. Ibid. Readings for the Aged (4th Series), pp. 71, 82. E. Blencowe, Plain Sermons to a Country Congregation (2nd Series), p. 205.
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Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Lamentations 1". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany