The Third Sunday in
Cherry Hill, West Dublin, Vogler’s Cove, March 11, AD 2007
And it came to
pass, when the devil was gone out,
the dumb spake;
and the people wondered.
We are now in the
third week of Lent and our readings continue to guide us through the
intensified battle we may be experiencing with temptation as we wander
in the wilderness with Jesus to Jerusalem.
We are seeing
perhaps more clearly the clash of two kingdoms – the kingdom of light
and the kingdom of darkness; the kingdom of Christ and the kingdom of
In our Home Study
Groups, we have been looking at the Kingdom of Heaven parables. The
Kingdom of Heaven is God’s rule in our hearts and souls and minds. That
Kingdom is first of all an inward transformation – the rule of God
inwardly. It is coming about within us – a mustard seed, tiny,
implanted within us and becoming a great tree; or like leaven hidden in
us, that leavens the whole lump that is our souls; or like treasure
hidden within us, there to be discovered; or a pearl of great value, so
that we sell all to buy that one pearl. God, who commanded the light
to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts…we have this
treasure in earthen vessels. The kingdom of heaven is within you,
says Jesus. Will we allow that kingdom to come – in earth as it
is in heaven?
In our daily Bible
readings in the Prayer Book this past week, we have been reading the
story of the battle in Exodus between Pharaoh’s kingdom and the kingdom
God has told Moses to lead - the people of Israel.
Pharaoh does all
that he can to prevent the people of Israel from going into the
wilderness to worship God, that is, to enter into God’s rest. Pharaoh
knows that if he allows this to happen that they will never be the same,
that they will not be conformable to his will, but that they will be
under God’s rule. We might marvel that Pharaoh can experience the
punishments of God’s plagues and relent for a moment but then change his
mind and try to reassert control – not once, but ten times! Yet, do we
not see within ourselves something of the Pharaoh at work? In that inner battle
with temptation – two kingdoms at war – do we not see ourselves
submitting to God and then taking things back into our own hands,
submitting then reasserting our own wills against God, failing to
believe, failing to hope, failing to love? Will we not allow that
kingdom to come – in earth as it is in heaven?
In our readings
today this battle is shown plainly.
St. Paul speaks of
the “children of disobedience” and of the “children of light”, of works
of darkness –and the fruit of the light, that is, of the Spirit.
For this ye know,
that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man hath any
inheritance in the kingdom of Christ, and of God.
They do not enter
into God’s Kingdom, they don’t have that rest, they do not know the
light shining in the darkness that is their souls.
St. Paul calls on us
to separate ourselves from that other kingdom – be ye not partakers
with them and have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of
darkness and let not [these works of darkness] be once
named among you as becometh saints, that is, let no one have to be
reproved for these things. He calls us to an Exodus from the
tyranny of the world, the flesh and the devil, to awaken from a kind of
deadly sleepiness, and to the recovery of that Kingdom of heaven that
Christ would bring about within us – Awake, thou that sleepest,
and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
What kind of weapons
do we have in this battle? Moses was given powers by God to shake
Pharaoh’s kingdom – a rod that turned into a snake, and great plagues
that brought Pharaoh to his knees. What great power are we given to
overcome the world the flesh and the devil, the battle for our souls?
the battle of the two kingdoms?
In the Gospel -
JESUS was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass,
when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered.
The devil, the
Father of lies, binds us by convincing us of a lie – this is the armour
he trusts in. And he will bind us tighter and tighter in layers upon
layers of self deception. But Jesus says, When a stronger than he
shall come upon him, that is, when Christ comes upon Satan, and
overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherin he trusted, and
divideth his spoils.
comes, as the Word of truth, to shatter that armour wherein the devil
trusted. It shines as a light in our hearts, dispelling the darkness.
It is the Word spoken outwardly, and then known inwardly as the divine
truth – that is all the power needed to overcome Satan. Remember
First Sunday in Lent, the Temptations of Christ – Jesus overcame the devil
in each case by recalling God’s word. And today Jesus says, If I with the finger
of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you.
That finger of God is the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, which writes
the truth on the tablet that is our heart.
We hear the words of
Jesus with our ears outwardly, and we know them to be true in our
hearts. God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath
shined in our hearts…we have this treasure in earthen vessels.
When we hear the
truth we know the kingdom of heaven is coming upon us.
St. Paul says that
we are to participate in the bringing about of this kingdom in the souls
of others by speaking the truth clearly.
fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove
them – in
other words, speak the truth clearly – for it is a shame even to
speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things
that are reproved are made manifest by the light – that is,
by the truth – for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.
We know this tension
in our souls when something wicked is manifested around us. Have you
ever experienced knowing something is quite wrong and yet everyone is
silent and there seems to be a kind of power manifesting itself, a
conspiracy of silence. We are afraid to speak out. And it came to
pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake.
recent years have passed legislation protecting whistle blowers –
because there could be a cost associated with telling the truth. There
has been a growing recognition of the importance of speaking out as soon
as physical or sexual abuse is known so that it is not simply
This sort of
situation of a conspiracy of silence shows itself sometimes in social
situations, with our friends, or in our families, when we are afraid or
embarrassed to speak out against some sort of lie or wickedness. We
don’t want to risk our relationships, and so we say nothing, we remain
dumb. [of course, must speak the truth in love, not out of
self-righteousness or to condemn]
But here’s the
catch, we see it more easily in others. Do we see how this same power
manifests itself in our own souls, preventing us from admitting our own
sins and confessing them? That power makes us mute, no longer able to
pray to God – it becomes a gradual falling asleep. Do we not know the
experience of release, when having heard the Word, we are completely
honest before God? It is truly to be delivered from the power of
darkness, from that sleepiness that overcomes us, and to rise from the
dead, knowing Christ, the eternal Word in our hearts. It is to allow
that Kingdom of Heaven to come upon us.
We are being called
during this Lenten fast to take time to enter into God’s rest. And as
we do this, there are obstacles being revealed to us, obstacles to our
reconciliation with God and with our neighbour. Let us allow God’s Word
to dwell in us. This morning, let us break the conspiracy of silence
about our sins before God, confessing them inwardly, remembering that
Christ hath loved us, and hath given himself for us, an offering and a
sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. Amen.