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The Third Sunday in Lent

David Phillips

Holy Communion

Petite Riviere, Cherry Hill, West Dublin, Vogler’s Cove, March 11, AD 2007

Ephesians 5:1-14      Luke 11:14-26

 

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 Satan.

 

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?

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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.

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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. 

 

Christ’s Kingdom 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 from the 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.

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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.

Have no 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.

 

Governments in 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 perpetuated.

 

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.

 

 

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