See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools,
But are wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
This morning you and I continue our spiritual journey through the season of Trinity. Our theme today involves both seeing and walking, two activities which better situate us in the center of reality which is the heart of God. We long to be centered in God the Holy Trinity because we were made in His Image and Likeness. Long ago, St. Macarius said this about our created nature and potential.
For great is the dignity of humanity. See how great are the heavens and the earth, the sun and the moon. But the Lord was not pleased to find his rest in them but in humanity alone. Man, therefore, is of greater value than all the other creatures, and perhaps, I will not hesitate to say, not only the visible creatures, but also those invisible, namely, “the ministering spirits. (Heb. 1.14) For it was not of the angel Michael or Gabriel the Archangels, that God said, “Let us make man according to our image and likeness” (Gen. 1.26) but he said it concerning the spiritual makeup of the human. I mean the immortal soul.
St. Macarius proclaims that we belong to God in a special way with a unique destiny. God desires to live in us in a way unlike his relation to all other creatures. True life for man is all about discovering how to perfect God’s Image and Likeness in us by His Grace. In other words, true life is about understanding God’s way in the soul and living it out through the body. What an incredible challenge. We have bodies and souls and both are meant to come together as we serve God and perfect His Image and Likeness in us. We have the opportunity to know the Good through our souls and to apply what we know to our bodies. We are a coming together of angels and animals. We are the crown of God’s creation. So, we are given the chance to know and to will the Good in action.
But our task in seeking to know and to do relies completely on God’s Revelation of Himself to us. We are not really talking here about behavioral science or situational ethics, or what we can come up with as a scheme for the happy life. Rather we are seeking to open our souls to Divine wisdom and to pray for the love and power to translate it all into the good and happy life. As Brother Lawrence says, God alone can reveal Himself to us; we toil and exercise our mind in reason and in science, forgetting that therein we can only see a copy, whilst we neglect the Incomparable Original. In the depths of our soul, God reveals Himself, if only we would wake up and realize it.”(p95)
In this morning’s Epistle St. Paul exhorts the Ephesians and us to walk circumspectly. (Ephesians v. 15) Circumspection comes to us from the Latin word circumspecere. It means literally to look around. St. Paul is urging his Greek audience and us to use our souls to look around and survey the terrain before we walk about. You say, well that seems logical enough. Otherwise we trip and break a hip. Of course, St. Paul is speaking figuratively. He uses the word walk, and he means it in a spiritual manner. In walking Paul means our spiritual moving or better yet our thinking. This is the soul’s job. The soul needs to discover God’s Wisdom and Will before it can apply it to human life. What we must discover from God’s wisdom is that we are fallen and in need of Saviour and Redeemer. St. Paul says that we are here to redeem the time (Ephesians v. 15), and redemption means recovery, deliverance, or payback. Christians believe that they are in a process of discovering how they are recovered, delivered and paid back to God. Christians discover that they cannot redeem themselves. For this we rely upon the Saving Life, Death, and Resurrection of our Saviour, Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ, our souls discover that our real nature has been recovered, carried back, and paid back to God. We can participate in this, St. Paul says, if we stop acting like fools. Foolish men do not discover what Christ has done for us. They are swift to speak and slow to hear. (St. James i. 19) They are immersed in the world around them, playing the part of fools. Consumed with the world, they never discover what God has done for us already in Jesus Christ. They never find that true Wisdom that is made flesh in Jesus Christ.
St. Paul tells us that we are not meant to behave like fools but as wise men. Wise men know that the world around us is full of temptation and danger due to our will to power and greed. But wise men see something else. Wise men quietly look into the world around them. What they see first is what is not their own. It is God’s world. Wise men see that God has created a beautiful canvas for man’s use and enjoyment, and not for his abuse and destruction. Man can be wise and he can become circumspect. He sees what is not his. He sees a beauty, an order, a rationally coherent cosmos that far surpass his weak and halting rationality. Man looks out and is overwhelmed by the power, wisdom, and love that must be at work in that vast universe that his mind begins to perceive. He sees beautiful forms and substances that carry and convey his reason and desire back to their Maker. Beneath and behind the creation, he discovers the Creator. The works of God are overwhelmingly beautiful enough. But what of the worker? As Hans Von Balthasar says, when we reach him, we find glory. And the glory of the Lord… is the super-eminently luminous beauty of divinity beyond all experience and all descriptions, all categories, a beauty before which all earthly splendors, marvelous as they are, pale into insignificance.
But, again, for man to be wise, he must have more than an appreciative relation to the universe and God. Man is called to be wise in another way. He is called with St. Paul to redeem the time. He is called to know that God’s Son has redeemed the world and desires still to deliver man from his innate tendency towards sin and alienation, from that foolishness that characterizes the life of so many. Man is called to search out the will of God in the life and mission of Jesus Christ and to imitate it. He is invited to participate in that perfect virtue that will transform his life. He finds this first when he realizes that a loving God has made him. Man is being loved. And then, that the same slove longs to redeem and save him.
St. Paul tells us that more is needed. He says that we are called to be filled with the Spirit. He means the Holy Spirit. If we are not filled with the Spirit, we cannot receive the wisdom and holiness that will ensure our redemption for salvation in God’s Kingdom. And yet, what is the nature of this filling? Paul Claudel describes it this way:
It is the Holy Spirit- ardent, luminous, and quickening by turns- who fills man
and makes him aware of himself, of his filial position, of his weakness, of his discontent his state of sin, of his dangers, of his duty, and also of his unworthiness
and inadequacy of everything around him. Through man the world inhales God,
and through him God inhales the world….and continually renews his knowledge of it.
The wisdom of God is made present to us when we are filled with the Holy Spirit. We come to know ourselves as the children of our Heavenly Father. We come to confess our weaknesses and grow to be unsatisfied with our sins. We learn of the dangers of sin and of our duties to God. We come to experience our own unworthiness in the presence of God from our inability to live up to what God has called us to become. We come to understand our need for Christ, our need for His perfect sacrificial offering of Himself on the Tree of Calvary and our need for His ongoing presence in our hearts. The Holy Spirit enables us to inhale God as Jesus Christ did. We then become the Sons of God. And then the Holy Spirit enables us to be inhaled by God. God surrounds us and takes us into his presence if only we pray that he may begin to inform us.
We come to know through the Holy Spirit. Then the Holy Spirit enables us to speak and act in the drama of sanctified human life. We are gifted to speak to each other in psalms, and hymns and spiritual songs. We begin to make melody to God in our hearts. (Ephesians v. 19) In so doing we sing the song of the Son’s love for the Father through the Spirit. For the Lord we know is now alive through His Spirit in our hearts and in our souls. Our song binds us to God in rapturous praise and then will reveal to others the music that stirs our hearts for the joy and happiness of Heaven.
This morning, let us remember that we are called not only to see and grasp the need for God. This morning let us know that we must express that knowledge in our thoughts, words, and deeds. Let us not, with the people in this today’s Old Testament lesson, deal treacherously with one another, dividing, sewing discord, uprooting, and maligning, shooting privately at them that are true of heart, (ps. xi. 2) as the Psalmist says. Let us rather, with the same Psalmist, remember that the righteous Lord loveth righteousness; his countenance will behold the thing that is just. (ps. xi. 8) Let us know that Heaven has made us to be lit up as torches, as the Father breathes the Spirit of His Son into us, that we may reveal the truth. For as Shakespeare writes, in Measure for Measure:
Heaven doth with us as we with torches do,
Not light them for themselves; for if our virtues
Did not go forth of us, ‘twere all alike
As if we had them not.
We are made to be set on fire by the knowledge and love of God. We are made then to sing a new song about the Divine Wisdom that is alive in our hearts. Today let us sing, sing unto the Lord, praise His name, bask in His beauty, and reveal to the world the truth that we serve, as wise men and not fools. Amen.
St. Michael and All Angels Sermons