Miserable Sinners?

The old Prayer Book says we are! I once heard a cathedral choir sing the litany emphasising every syllable in “mis-er-a-ble”!

“GOD the Father, of heaven : have mercy upon us mis-er-a-ble sinners.

O God the Son, Redeemer of the world : have mercy upon us mis-er-a-ble sinners.

O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the Son : have mercy upon us mis-er-a-ble sinners.

O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one God : have mercy upon us mis-er-a-ble sinners.

Remember not, Lord, our offences, nor the offences of our forefathers; neither take thou vengeance of our sins: Spare us, good Lord, spare thy people, whom thou hast redeemed with thy most precious blood, and be not angry with us for ever.”

Today’s version?

God the Father, have mercy upon us.

God the Son, have mercy upon us.

God the Holy Spirit, have mercy upon us.

Holy, blessed and glorious Trinity, have mercy upon us.

and the rest is missing.

What a change in 40 years!  God forbid that we should be miserable in church so that people think our services are like funerals. The New Testament says we should be “filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy” (1 Peter 1:8). So even if our feet aren’t dancing in church, our hearts should be!

But haven’t we lost something?  I think we have, and it’s very important. We have lost, or at least largely lost, a fear of God. As someone said: We have become matey with the Almighty.  Amongst other things, that undermines our joy.

It works like this.  In line with modern culture we don’t have a fear of God. So we don’t have a sense of sin being serious. So we don’t deeply appreciate being forgiven. So we miss out on the joy of being forgiven much.

We need to remember that we are accountable to God for the thoughts we entertain, the words we say, the actions we take. We are accountable for the way we treat and speak about other people, and for any secret wrongdoing. We shall stand before him one day and the Cross shows us how seriously God takes our sins. We need a healthy fear of God. Then we’ll enjoy a deeper joy of knowing we’re forgiven because of the Cross, as we repent and trust the one who died on it.

© Tony Higton: see conditions for reproduction