Easter III 2023 Sermon
But praised be the LORD, who hath not given us over
for a prey unto their teeth. Our soul is escaped even as a bird out of the
snare of the fowler; the snare is broken, and we are delivered.
(Ps. cxxiv. 5,6)
Easter Tide is all about eschewing those things that are contrary to our profession and following all such things as are agreeable to the same. (Collect Easter III) Easter Tide teaches us that we have been admitted into the fellowship of Christ’s religion. (Idem) So, in this holy season, we undertake the hard labor of dying to our old selves to be formed in the new Resurrected life of Christ. We die to ourselves as we petition God to show [us] that are in error the light of [His] truth. (Idem) In Easter Tide, we pray that the Holy Ghost will not give us over as a prey unto the teeth of Satan and that Christ will give us a way to escape out of the snare of the fowler. (Idem) Satan is the fowler who intends to trap us like birds of prey in his net. But Jesus intends to invite us into His Resurrection, as He leads us from sin to righteousness, from death to life, and from Satan’s temptations to His victory over all that might separate us from our foreordained communion with God the Father forever.
Our Resurrected Lord Jesus Christ invites us into a relationship that will ensure our deliverance to the Kingdom He shares with our Heavenly Father. To enter this relationship, with St. Peter, in this morning’s Epistle, we must come to discover ourselves as strangers and pilgrims (I St. Peter ii. 11) in this fallen creation. This means that we must become aliens to this world, to the creation and its spirit-killing sin. St. Peter insists that the starting point is to
abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul; having [our] conversation honest among the Gentiles: that whereas they speak evil against [us] as evil doers, they may by [our] good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation. (Idem)
We must say no to any inordinate lust that is not of God. Isaiah the Prophet says that for the iniquity of [our] covetousness was God wroth…smote [us in times past]…and hid [Himself](Is. xviii. 17) Our sinful selves had forgotten the secret things that belong to the Lord our God (Deut. xxix. 29). But Jesus reveals to us the hidden things of God so that as born-again Christians, by the Grace of our Lord Jesus Christ we might become strangers and pilgrims to this fallen world.
St. Peter reminds us that we must be cuttingly candid about the hidden spiritual warfare that threatens to envelop us if we forget God. David, the Psalmist, reminds us If the Lord Himself had not been on our side…when men rose up against us. They had swallowed us up alive, when they were so wrathfully displeased at us…The deep waters of the proud had gone even over our souls. (Ps. 1-4) David claims that the troubled sea…[whose] waters cast up dirt and mire, in which is…no peace, always threatens to devour and drown our souls if we forget God’s Hidden Power. When we struggle to be faithful to God we are hindered and even harassed by those who have no fear of God before their eyes. (Rom. iii. 18) We shall be assaulted by a blasphemous and brutish generation, that set their mouths against Heaven, out of [whose mouths] belch forth impieties and impurities, to dishonor God who made them, to grieve the souls of his servants, and to spread the contagion of their ungodliness. (B. Jenks: P.P., p.240) David knows that Satan and his human friends are his enemies. David flees to God’s strength in all humility. Praised be the LORD, who hath not given us over for a prey unto their teeth. Our soul is escaped even as a bird out of the snare of the fowler; the snare is broken, and we are delivered. Our help standeth in the Name of the LORD, who hath made heaven and earth. (Ibid, 5-7) David believed that the hidden, Invisible God alone had the strength and love to deliver him. David believed that God alone could chase away the birds of prey that would [ensnare and] devour God’s Sacrifice in his heart. David trusted that God alone could drive out the unclean beasts that would trample down the plantation of God’s Grace in his soul. (Jenks, 224) David knew that the Lord of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. (Ps. lxvi. 11)Against the clear and visible threats of his earthly enemies, in the meekness of his heart, David humbled himself before God, for that continual proneness which was in him to sin against His Maker and Redeemer, that made him so unlike to God, and so contrary to what His holy laws required him to be. (Jenks)
David was a stranger and pilgrim in this world. He looked forward to the fulfillment of God’s promises in His Son, Jesus Christ. Christians know that the benefits of Christ’s Resurrection promise to deliver us all from our sin. But for that power to liberate us effectually, we must declare spiritual war on this world and its ship of fools. Fools trust in themselves and their own fallen reason. He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool. (Prov. xxviii. 26) A fool despiseth wisdom and understanding. (Prov. i. 7) Fools rejoice when they should lament and mourn when they should rejoice. Because they are at home in this world and not strangers and pilgrims in it, they trust only in what they see and perceive. Because they are earthly minded, they say to themselves that surely God doesn’t care about this or that. They are like the fool who hath said in his heart there is no God. (Psalm xiv. 1) They have forgotten that God is everywhere and cares about everything since He is the author of it all!
Whither shall I go from thy spirit?
or whither shall I flee from thy presence?
If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there:
if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea;
even there shall thy hand lead me,
and thy right hand shall hold me.
(Ps. cxxxix. 7-100
David mourns when he forgets the Invisible God and that he is truly a stranger and pilgrim to this world. David’s heirs, the Apostles, who witnessed Christ’s Resurrection, must trust in the promises of God’s Invisible Wisdom, Power, and Love.
We are summoned to be moved by faith from death into the fruitfulness of Christ’s Resurrection. We are being moved into goodness. But the journey does not end here. St. Thomas Aquinas writes:
Now, by His Resurrection Christ entered upon an immortal and incorruptible life. But whereas our dwelling-place is one of generation and corruption, the heavenly place is one of incorruption. And consequently it was not fitting that Christ should remain upon earth after the Resurrection, but it was fitting that He should ascend into Heaven. (Idem)
The Resurrection is all about a transition to from what is good to what is better. (Idem) In the Resurrection, the Apostles and we see the revealed and unhidden glorified state of Man on route home to Heaven. He tells us that the wise Christian will be sad for Jesus’ return to hiddenness. For, by sadness of evil, man is corrected. (Easter III: TA) Christ leaves us in the flesh for us to repent in spirit. Unless we mourn over what our sins have done to God’s Word made flesh, the Resurrected Christ cannot begin to make us better for His Kingdom. Thomas reminds us also that Christ is risen from the dead and become the first fruit of them that slept. (1 Cor. xv. 20) The movement from darkness into light is the first fruits. A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father. (St. John xvi. 16) Jesus Christ, the eternally begotten Son of the Hidden but Living God, must return to God. As the Apostles became strangers and pilgrims to this world, with them we must learn to follow Christ back to the Father, invisibly, in Spirit and in Truth. (St. John iv. 24)
Being strangers and pilgrims in this world is just the beginning for St. Peter and his friends. Abide in me, and I in you. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. (St. John xv. 4, 5) Christ is preparing to ascend to the Father. If the Hidden Christ begins to be born in the hidden recesses of our believing and hoping souls, He will make us better. We must never be at home or at rest in this world. Our journey is like a woman with child. A woman when she is in travail hath sorrow, because her hour is come: but as soon as she is delivered of the child, she remembereth no more the anguish, for joy that a man is born into the world. And ye now therefore have sorrow: but I will see you again, and your heart shall rejoice, and your joy no man taketh from you. (Ibid, 21, 22) The expectant mother is sorrowful over what is yet hidden, that her newborn babe will be born into the world. If we wisely endure all suffering and sorrow, as strangers and pilgrims in this world, for joy that the hidden Christ is being born in our souls, we shall see Him again in Heaven forever in immortality and with incorruption.
The end that we seek is the consolation of the hidden Divine Presence. Being strangers and pilgrims, we hope for what we see not but with patience wait for it. (Romans viii, 24) What is hidden consoles us. I will see you again, and you will rejoice. (St. John xvi. 22) With St. Peter, if we wisely and joyfully embrace the Hidden Christ who ascends to the Father, we shall be occupied with well doing, [that we] may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men, and not using [our] liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. (Ibid, 13) Believing in Christ’s Hidden Nature, as strangers and pilgrims, here and now, our weeping and lamenting shall join the hope that our sorrow shall be turned into joy. (Ibid, 20) With well doing, Christ’s hidden victory over all our sin and suffering makes us better.! Then others shall be astonished that the hidden love of the Invisible Godin the Spirit of the Resurrected Christ is carrying us all to Heaven, no longer as strangers and pilgrims, but those who are at rest and made the best for home in His Kingdom.
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