That thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through
Things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal.
Trinity season is all about growth and fertility. And from the time of the ancient Christianity until our own, in the churches which retain the ancient lectionary - or calendar of readings, the faithful have sought to grow from strength to strength, in the knowledge and love of God, as they make their way towards God’s kingdom. For traditional Christians, the core essence of the faith has never changed, and so you and I are invited today to continue with the saints of all ages towards heaven. And the Scriptural lessons which we read for this Fourth Sunday after Trinity enable us to understand better what is essential for that growth in God’s truth which will ensure that so passing through things temporal…we finally lose not the things eternal. Our destination is Heaven and the glory which shall be manifested through us, and today our Collect, Epistle and Gospel aid us in this endeavor.
Let us begin with the Gospel lesson for this morning. In this morning’s Gospel lesson our Lord Jesus Christ situates our souls in that proper disposition which enables us to make our journey towards God’s kingdom. Jesus says, Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father is also merciful. (St. Luke vi. 36) And, judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven. (Ibid, 27) And these hard sayings all follow upon His command: love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest. (Ibid, 34) It all must have seemed rather too much for his listeners to hear! Men commonly say that certain sins are unforgivable, and that giving should be conditional. The unforgivable sins and the controlled giving, however, are forbidden by our Lord precisely because, as he will show, those who act in such ways have never really embraced God’s forgiveness of their sins nor appreciated adequately His superabundant giving and what that entails for us as His disciples.
So Jesus, as usual, resorts to using a parable. He says Can the blind lead the blind? Shall they not both fall into a ditch? (Ibid, 39) Are you also blind, He asks us today? Open your eyes, and begin to see what I bring to you, He suggests. What I bring to you from the Father of Lights is a release from blindness. He goes on. The disciple is not above his master. But every one that is perfect shall be as his master. (Ibid, 40) If I am your master, Jesus tells his hearers and us, then you must be filled with the Light moves and defines me. If you will be perfect, open your hearts and souls to the Light that shines out from my heart to yours. Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Either how can thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou beholdest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (Ibid, 41,42) Has my Light not reached you? Are you blind to the Light that perfects and binds all who love God together? Do you not see that this is the true light which ligtheth ever man that cometh into the world? (St. John i. 9)Do you not see that you need the constant presence of God in your heart and soul? Do you not see that you need forgiveness as much if not more than even your worst enemies? And who are your enemies; conflicts always involve at least two parties, and, besides, the fault most often resides somewhere in the middle! Thou hypocrite, says Jesus, cast out first the beam that is in thine own eye, and then thou shalt see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. (St. Luke vi. 42) See that what you need, first and foremost are God’s mercy and compassion, His strength and power which alone can heal you and enable you to share His love with others. See, Jesus suggests, that what you need, I alone can give to you. Know yourself, and see that the love which I bring to you, you have not deserved or merited, could never have produced or created, and for this reason God has visited you with the Light of His love. And that love I bring to you, if it fills you, will move and define you as it moves and defines me. Then you will be able to do nothing less than give it out to all others, as I have given, and continue to give it to you. That love will be felt in you and by you as forgiveness. This is the nature of the love I bring to you, says Jesus. Receive it gratefully and humbly, and its otherwise inconceivable and unimaginable nature will become your instinctive inclination as you offer it to others.
This is what our Gospel teaches us today. It sounds so logical in a way. But it runs against the grain of our habitual and usual natures. Father Jean Mouroux is precisely correct when he describes the chief center of opposition to the receiving and giving of love and forgiveness. There is a conflict, he says, not between two principles, between soul and body, but a conflict within the interior of one and the same “I”, between two selves of opposing orientation; a carnal self, solidly rooted in the most elementary and violent instincts, and a spiritual self solidly rooted in the deep mystery and radical dynamism of the Spirit. (The Meaning of Man, p. 73) Father Mouroux says that the two forces are locked and engaged in battle within us; one is love of self, which is elementary to all men, and the other is an intuition that there is something more than self to be loved. It is always a struggle. St. Paul, long since having given himself over to Christ, reminds us that still the good that he wishes to accomplish, he doesn’t, and the evil that does not want to do, he does. (Romans vii, 19) And so Christians will be able to love other people, to forgive them, only if they realize that they need the forgiveness of their own sins, do not deserve it, but nevertheless are offered it always through the all merciful Christ. To follow Christ means to receive the forgiveness of sins. But there is more. To follow Christ means to make a choice which is at once an act of renunciation and a gift; a renunciation of all that hinders, and a gift of himself to all that goes with [realizing and attaining] communion with [God’s]being. (Ibid, 72) Renunciation means denial, the denial of any desire, thought, word, or work that hinders the receiving of God’s forgiveness and love. What we must renounce is our right to judge. What we must accept is the inestimable love of God the Father in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is the forgiveness of sins. Renunciation of the self means that the Christian places himself in the hands of Christ –into the perfect activity of the forgiveness of sins as the first principle of entry into the new life.
In our Collect for today we ask the Lord to increase and multiply upon us [His] mercy, that [He] being our ruler and guide, we mass pass through things temporal that we finally lost not the things eternal. This is the same thing. If we are truly passing through things temporal on the way to things eternal, then in this world which surrounds us the old man must die, as the new man comes alive. And so to pass through to things eternal, we must die to the habits and traditions of the world we inhabit. We must learn to forgive, and not judge. Judge not, Jesus warns us this morning. We are not to judge because when we do so, we do not forgive, love, and hope. It is not because there is no difference between right and wrong, but simply because at the end of the day God is the judge of all human life, and as far as we are concerned, we must use all the time we’re given in seeing to it that his forgiveness and love of us are transformed into good desire and hope for all others. For, if God’s forgiveness of our sins has been embraced truly in our hearts, they must be alive and growing. Forgiveness that is alive is forgiveness that grows; forgiveness that grows is forgiveness that is offered to all others. If God were to judge us rather than forgive us, it would be the worse for us. So with thankful and grateful hearts, we praise and magnify our good God who desireth not the death of a sinner, but that he may turn from his wickedness and live.(Ez. xxxiii. 11)
My friends, God desires that we should not only live, but live well. And living well means to live as people of hope. Forgiveness and mercy comprise the fire and heat of God’s burning love for us that must be converted into hope. They come alive when we embrace the deep mystery and dynamism of the Holy Spirit in our hearts and souls. So we must forgive now so that we might be forgiven. Jesus says, For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.(St. Matthew vi. 14-15) Will the process hurt? Of course. The birth of good things always involves pain. But the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us, (Romans 8. 18) We suffer, we wait patiently, we hope, we look forward, and we move on. Simon Tugwell says, living by faith, hope and love means suffering a first kind of emptiness, but one within which God is creating from the raw material [and pure potentiality] something new and vibrant. (The Beatitudes, p. 48)The newness and vibrancy that God creates ensure that we are not [going to] lose things eternal, because we are passing through things temporal with the forgiveness and love that are converted into earnest expectation, desire, and hope for the redemption of the whole creation. Amen.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons: