We love Him because he first loved us. (1 John 4. 19) 19)
Trinity tide is all about the moral life rooted in the vision of God. Today, I will speak about the friendship of God and man. Throughout the seasons of the liturgical year, you and I have been illuminated progressively by the knowledge of God so that we might come to find friendship with Him. If Eastertide might be called the season of vision and knowledge, Trinity tide is one of moral activity. To know God through vision, as He reveals Himself in the historical life of Jesus Christ, is not enough. Vision is knowledge, but knowledge for the Christian is also the Truth that bears fruit in the good life.
The knowledge of God in Jesus Christ is what we have been working through from Lent to Ascension Tide. We have come to the knowledge of what God thinks, speaks, and does in the Sacred Humanity of Our Blessed Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. What we see in Jesus Christ is the Wisdom, Power, and Love of God the Father perfectly at work in the human life of Jesus. St. Paul tells us, For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich. (2 Cor. viii. 9) St. Paul hopes that we might find the knowledge or vision of God in His Son that [our] hearts might be comforted, being knit together in love, and unto all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the acknowledgement of the mystery of God, and of the Father, and of Christ; in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. (Colossians ii. 2-4) St. Paul teaches us that Jesus Christ sets aside the plentiful treasure of His Divine nature to become poor for our sakes. The Wisdom, Power, and Love of God comprise the only treasure that ought to interest every earthly man. Jesus possesses this treasure forever as the only begotten Son of the Father. He is the Logos or Articulation of what the Father intends for us. Adam was made to be moved and defined by this treasure of inestimable worth but rejected it. Jesus takes upon Him the seed of Abraham and becomes the New Adam who will be poor on earth so that He might make many rich in Heaven. How does Jesus become poor? Jesus takes on our frail, weak, suffering human nature. He takes on our sin and subjects Himself to it. He reveals how the Omnipotent Word of God made Flesh responds to sinful man’s attempt to kill it in Man. He reveals how, as God’s Word in the Flesh, in His Death he will conquer all earthly concupiscence and love of earthly riches.
In this morning’s Epistle, St. John reminds us that no man hath seen God at any time (1 John 4. 12). But he tells us also that God is love. (Ibid, 8) God is one who desires and longs for, seeks out and finds a common ground of friendship with us in Jesus Christ our Lord. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1 John 4. 10) So, we love Him because he first loved us. (1 John 4. 19) God is Love, and that Love is revealed and seen in His Word made flesh. His Word is His Son. His Son not only creates, orders, defines, governs, beautifies, and harmonizes all of creation, but He also humbles Himself to become Man to redeem and reconcile all men to God the Father. To know this is to begin to see how the Word of God made flesh in Jesus Christ became poor for our sakes. St. John tells us that every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. (Idem, 7,8) In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. (1 John 4. 9) And here is the operative difference between those who live naturally in and through the world and us. God sent His only-begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. The knowledge that we have in God’s own Son is nothing short of seeing God and coming to believe and know how we must become poor in this world to be made rich spiritually in the next. Our knowledge of Jesus Christ should begin to form a new moral character in us, as He comes to us through the Holy Spirit.
And yet we cannot have any of this until what we know is actualized by following Jesus from poverty into the riches and treasures of His Kingdom. In other words, we must make an act of will that becomes poor in this world and surrenders completely to Jesus Christ by forfeiting and foregoing all rights to ourselves. God is Love, and He loves us in and through His Son. This Love who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians ii. 7,8) We can be like most men of the world, good enough, but loving and living only for the here and now. They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them. (1 John 4. 5) We can be like Dives - the rich man in today’s Gospel, who was clothed in purple and fine linen, and fared sumptuously every day, (St. Luke xvi. 19) whose was rich in earthly things, lorded it over others, and cared little for that deeper Mercy and Love that stoop down and become poor, to be one with the poor, in order to lift them up and into the riches of God’s spiritual bounty. Or if we are rich like those who are full of tongue and weak of mind (R.Hooker, E.P., i. viii. 2), we might be like Dives in another way - perhaps we already count ourselves rich spiritually. We keep the Law, we tithe, we attend Church regularly, and we are sufficiently religious, outwardly visible for all to see. We feast sumptuously on Christ’s Body and Blood each week, we live fairly moral lives, and count ourselves blessed, hoping all the while that this might earn us our salvation!
Being like Dives or the rich man may mean that we are either material or spiritual hoarders. In this morning’s Gospel, Dives walked over Lazarus, who was laid at his gate, full of sores and desiring to be fed with the crumbs which fell from the rich man’s table. (Ibid, 20, 21) Dives’ moral character was such that he was unloving and ungenerous with his earthly treasure. Because Dives did not meet his poor brother’s material needs, Lazarus was left hungry of earthly food and, thus, destitute of spiritual potential. Lazarus found love only from the dogs [who] came and licked his sores. (Ibid, 21) In either case Dives did not know God, love God, or love His neighbor. Friendship with God seemed too costly a price to pay for a man who was possessed with earthly treasure and religious self-satisfaction. So, in the end, his soul is parched and tormented forever because he rejected the knowledge of God and the love that it necessarily implies. And it came to pass, that the beggar died, and was carried by the angels into Abraham’s bosom: the rich man also died, and was buried; and in hell he lift up his eyes, being in torments, and seeth Abraham afar off, and Lazarus in his bosom. (Ibid, 22,23) Dives might have known God, but his knowledge had not been converted into Love of God in his neighbor.
Unlike Lazarus, who had nothing here but longed for the more that only God can give, Dives is left with the broken cisterns that can hold no water, crying out of sterile narcissism that rejects God’s offer of loving friendship with man. Had he received the Love of God in Jesus Christ, he would have emptied himself of his riches to stoop down and give bread to poor Lazarus. St. John tells us this morning that If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? (1 John 4. 20) If we do not love those whom God gives us to see with our earthly eyes, how can we love God with supernatural eyes? With Dives, we shall find ourselves in Hell forever where there is a great gulf fixed…an eternal separation, a yawning chasm, too deep to be filled up and too wide to be bridged over. (Trench, Parables…)
Today we come to know about the friendship of God and Man in Jesus the Word of God, who lives out the Summary of the Law: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, soul, strength, and mind. And thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. In the Love of Jesus, we find the Father’s rich spiritual treasure come down from Heaven to all of us. But perhaps Archbishop Trench’s warning about the deeper meaning of the Parable ought to strike us today. He reminds us that we all can become like Dives in a spiritual sense. The sin of Dives in its root is unbelief: hard-hearted contempt of the poor, luxurious squandering on self, are only the forms which his sin assumes. The seat of the disease is within….(Idem) Again, with the good Archbishop, the parable is a warning to the Church, that it do not shut itself up in selfish pride; glorying in the multitude of its own privileges but at the same time with no feeling sense of the spiritual wants and miseries of those who know not God, with no earnest effort to remove these distresses; that on such forgetfulness a terrible judgment must follow. (Idem) The Church’s treasure is to be found in the friendship that might have been between Dives and Lazarus. The poor we have with us always. The Church must be awakened to her own spiritual poverty for as long as she neglects the spiritual treasure that still lurks in the heart of that one lost soul that the Church has not found. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. (1 St. John iv. 16) When the Church ministers the poor, the friendship between God and Man is imitated and perfected. Then she shall be rich indeed.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons: