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Quinquagesima

David Phillips

Holy Communion

West Dublin, Broad Cove, Crousetown, February 18, AD 2007

Corinthians 13:1-13      Luke 18:31-43

 

Behold, we go up to Jerusalem, and all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. 

 

Today is the third Sunday in PreLent.  We’ve been encourage to no longer stand idle in the marketplace but to enter into the labour of looking at our souls.  We’ve been called upon to attend to the soil, the ground that is our soul, and to the seeding of it with God’s word that it may bring forth fruit an hundredfold.  And this morning we are being called by Jesus to go up with Him to Jerusalem, to witness once again His passion and death, that we might know His resurrection.

 

This Wednesday, we will enter into the season of Lent, beginning with the imposition of ashes. 

 

But why Lent again!  Why go up to Jerusalem again?  We know the story well, don’t we?  We represent that passion and death each year, and each Sunday in the Holy Communion.  Why does the Church call on us to fix our minds here, year after year, Sunday after Sunday?

 

For he shall be delivered to the Gentiles, he shall be mocked, and spitefully entreated, and spitted on: and they shall scourge him, and put him to death; and the third day he shall rise again.  And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken. 

 

The Gospel account repeats three times the ignorance of the disciples to Jesus’ warning about what is coming.  And yet this is not the first time they have been warned by Jesus about His passion and death.  Luke recalls three other times in his Gospel where the disciples had been told plainly that this must take place. 

 

Imagine, the disciples, who left family, left jobs, left their homes, to follow Jesus with apparently all their hearts all over Israel for three years – that’s a pretty strong commitment of faith, that’s a pretty strong attachment to the Messiah.  Do we have that commitment of faith?  Yet they don’t get it.  They were blind.

 

It is easier for us to grasp the necessity of the Cross, living two thousand years after the event, having grown up with it in our minds and hearts.  It is the sign to identify the Christian faith – but it was yet unknown to the disciples.  On the cross we have put before our minds the charity of God, the divine love, manifested in its most sublime form.

 

And God’s purposes in exposing our hatred and revealing His love on the Cross is to break down all barriers that remain in us to responding to His charity with charity. 

 

We can look to our Epistle reading today as a kind of test to see if there remain any barriers in our hearts to the love of God shining through us back to our Maker and to our neighbour.

 

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. 

 

But instead of this, do we not find that often we are unable to be patient in suffering, or to be kind; that we envy our neighbour’s goodness rather than celebrate when they succeed far beyond us; that we vaunt ourselves, puff ourselves up in our own minds; behave unseemly and wonder why later we did or said what we did; do we not often seek our own rather than the good of others; are we not all too easily provoked, thinking evil of others, glad when we see iniquity, rejoice in lies; do we not find that we cannot bear much, don’t believe very much, have very limited hopes and expectations, and find our endurance to be lacking?

 

If our hearts were filled, if we allowed our hearts to be filled by divine charity, these things would no longer happen to us or in us.  We love in part.

 

The disciples who had left all to follow Jesus, who had heard the Sermon on the Mount, the Sermon on the Plain, heard the call to love God and love our neighbours, and had seen Jesus showing that love for the multitudes in ways beyond number – still needed their hearts radically changed by something more.

 

Imagine a blind man, crying out to our Lord in our midst, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me.  Can you imagine these same loyal disciples of Jesus, rather than making a way for the blind man to come to Jesus, rebuked him, that he should hold his peace.  Their hearts needed a stronger medicine than words could heal.  And our hearts need a stronger medicine too.

 

Something stands between us and God and our fuller love of our neighbour.  This is why we go up to Jerusalem again this Lent.

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We have recently gone through our Annual Meetings.  We all share a common concern about the health of our churches – we’d all like to see growth in our numbers, and this is a godly desire – that others might share in the joy we know in worshipping and serving God.  We begin to wonder if there is some sort of way we can re-jig things, some practical ways we can change the way we do things to help us to grow in numbers.  How our minister spends his time, what combination of services, what sort of outreach, concerts, times, places, signs?  And no doubt there are some practical things we can do to be more faithful.

 

But here is an absolutely sure way that we can grow as a church – maybe not in numbers, not right away – but grow in the depth of our own knowledge and of our love of God.  It is, if we attend to our own souls this Lent.  Some form of giving up – of fasting, of some worldly pleasures – and some replacement of that earthly consolation with a spiritual feast – increased attention to prayer, to the reading of the Bible, attending a Home Study Group to learn about and be drawn more into the Kingdom of Heaven.  We can also consider some form of service, some act of love – attention to visiting, or some community service.  Any of these things carried out in faith will result in the growth of our churches – the key will be that it is not someone else that will do it, the Minister or the Diocese, but each one of us.

 

For now we see through a glass darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known. 

 

And Jesus stood, and commanded [the blind man] to be brought unto him: and when he was come near, he asked him, saying, What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee?  And he said, Lord, that I may receive my sight.  And Jesus said unto him, Receive thy sight; thy faith hath saved thee.  And immediately he received his sight, and followed him, glorifying God.

 

The blind man followed Jesus, and where did Jesus lead him? to Jerusalem where all things that are written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man shall be accomplished. 

What things?

 

He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. Isaiah

 

I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.  Jeremiah

 

      Ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.  A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  Ezekiel

 

These are the things written by the prophets concerning the Son of Man that shall be accomplished in us if we go up to Jerusalem this Lent.

 

Amen.

 

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