The First Sunday
D. G. Phillips
West LaHave, Crousetown, Vogler’s
Cove – December 2, AD 2007
Romans 13:8-14 Matthew 21:1-13
Owe no man any thing,
but to love one another:
for he that loveth
another hath fulfilled the law..
Today we begin the
Church year anew. Advent, which begins today, is a season of
spiritual preparation for Christmas.
We remember that Jesus
has come to us in the flesh; we remember that He will come again
some day in glory; and we are grateful that He comes to us even
now. And whenever Jesus comes, His coming bring judgement.
Now the choice of this
Gospel today with this Epistle, is perhaps, a bit of a divine
comedy, or a joke – but we’ll get to that later.
In our Gospel we are
reminded of how when Jesus appeared in Jerusalem, the city was moved
– they took note of this remarkable man. And with his appearing in
the Temple was a proclamation of judgement against a religion that
had become perverse:
And Jesus went into
the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the
temple; and overthrew the tables of the money-changers, and the
seats of them that sold doves; and said unto them, It is written, My
house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den
We’re not so familiar
with talk of judgement these days. When we think of our modern
world and our Western societies we’re more apt to think of tolerance
and inclusiveness – which are good words in themselves – but how can
we also talk of judgement?
We say in our Creed –
and He shall come again to judge both the quick and the dead.
Did the Early Church, who put together this Creed from passages of
Scripture, need the more enlightened understanding that we have
today? But you would have to remove a lot of passages from the
Bible, including the Gospels for the coming weeks, if you want to
conclude somehow that there will not be a final judgement.
What will be the basis
of that judgement?
Strangely, St. Paul
speaks as if we are judged by the Law…
OWE no man any thing,
but to love one another: for he that loveth another hath fulfilled
Then he speaks of the
Ten Commandments which relate to love of our neighbour and says…
Love worketh no ill
to his neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilling of the
The moral law of the Old Covenant is what loving our neighbour is –
don’t covet, steal, bear false witness, commit adultery, kill. The
moral law helps us to see all the ways that our love is imperfect
and in need of reform. It doesn’t save us, but is a mirror to show
us that we need help. The Law is not opposed to the Gospel, the Law
is not replaced by the Gospel, but the Law can only be fulfilled as
we unite ourselves with the One who fulfills it perfectly for us and
who gives us the grace to conform our lives with the Law of love –
that is, to make our love perfect.
So we can’t say, let’s stop moralizing, let’s stop being concerned
with peoples’ private lives, and just get on with loving others.
The moral law is precisely what it is to love our neighbour. We
should be concerned very much about what other people are doing in
their private lives – almost as much as we should be concerned about
what we do in our private lives. Certainly Jesus is
concerned, because he wants us to be able to see Him and so love Him
having had our hearts made pure and able to love others in the
Now it is high time
to awake out of sleep:
St. Paul describes our
state in this world as a kind of sleeping. So long as we are
confused about what love is – simply following our every desire or
passion or lust we are spiritually asleep. And to be sleeping is to
not even be conscious really about what we are doing.
The night is far
that is, the time of sleeping – the day is at hand; let us
therefore cast off the works of darkness, and let us put on the
armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day; not in
rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not
in strife and envying. But …make not provision for the flesh,
to fulfil the lusts thereof.
The flesh, is not just bodily desires, but also carnal thinking
that results from fulfilling these desires. We get ourselves all
wrapped up or tied up and stuck – our love twisted, turned back on
itself – not able to love of our neighbour at all – but filled with
strife and envy and so on…
But put ye on the
Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil
the lusts thereof.
Our salvation comes through putting on the Lord Jesus Christ, and
restraining our flesh.
St. Francis understood how the flesh could become a distraction
from love of God and neighbour – he called his body, and his fleshy
desires – Brother Ass. Maybe because of its stubbornness, its
willfulness, its impeding and resisting his desire to love rightly.
He treated his body harshly through strict ascetic practices, like
the Italian peasants of his day who often beat their animals. Later
in his life he spoke of it lovingly, asking for its forgiveness for
having treated it so harshly.
But it was always clear to him, that Brother Ass needed a ruler.
So maybe this is the comedy I spoke of. In the Gospel today, Jesus
says to the disciples,
Go into the village
over against you, and straightway ye shall find an ass tied, and a
colt with her: loose them, and bring them unto me. And if any man
say ought unto you, ye shall say, The Lord hath need of them; and
straightway he will send them.
Do we find ourselves tied up in the village that is really, in
truth, against us – trying to conform with the world and the flesh –
and finding no peace, not really in love, but stuck, and asleep
there? Will we live out our days enslaved by the flesh, led
here and there by Brother Ass?
And the disciples
went, and did as Jesus commanded them; and brought the ass, and the
colt, and put on them their clothes, and they set him thereon.
St. Paul says, Put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not
provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
And Jesus led the donkey into the heart of the city and to the
Temple, while the people sang Hosanna.
This morning, we have put Jesus on our backs, we have allowed Him
to guide us here, stubborn as we are, to offer our praises.
And as we keep submitting ourselves, our lives, to His rule
outwardly, we see suddenly a great commotion, a battle that opens
And when he was come
into Jerusalem, all the city was moved, saying, Who is this?
When Jesus rules our outer lives, we begin to wonder inwardly –
that inner city is moved – who is this? His coming to rule our
lives outwardly, brings judgement inwardly, something of a battle
within. Inwardly we are still thinking in a fleshy way and that too
must change. And it is Jesus who will bring this change about
within us. His rule and His judgement will come upon us to cleanse
So let us welcome Him even now, outwardly and inwardly, for
it is high time to awake out of sleep, for now is our
salvation nearer than when we first believed.
Almighty God, give us
grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us
the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which
thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the
last day, when he shall come again in his glorious Majesty, to judge
both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal;
through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost,
now and ever. Amen.