The Fourth Sunday in
LaHave, Broad Cove
and Crousetown - March 18, AD 2007
therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.
We are now at the
midpoint of our Lenten journey.
If we are following
as a spiritual discipline some sort of self denial we are encouraged
today knowing we are now on the last half of that journey.
The purpose of that
self-denial has been to lessen our dependence upon earthly consolations
and to transfer that same desire heavenward – it is to reach out for
In the Epistle
today, St. Paul speaks to us about the Jerusalem which is above
which is free. The Jerusalem which is above is another
way of describing what we’ve been considering in our Home study groups –
the Kingdom of Heaven. Now let’s think on this not as some outward
city, some outward manifestation of God’s heavenly rule, but as it
relates to each one of us in our spiritual struggle during Lent. The
kingdom of heaven, the Jerusalem which is above, is coming upon
us – God’s rule in our hearts and minds and souls.
In the Epistle, St.
Paul compares the two children that Abraham had. Do you remember the
story? Abraham was promised a son by God. And after many years of
trying to have a child with Sarah his wife, Sarah told Abraham to have a
child by their Egyptian slave Hagar. But this was not the child that
God had promised to Abraham and Sarah, Ismael was not the son which was
given to them several years later – when Sarah conceived and bore a son
Isaac. So one of these sons was born of an earthly decision, the other
was born of a divine promise.
St. Paul says this
is an allegory, that is, it points to a spiritual truth in our lives.
We, by our every action, bear some kind of fruit in our lives, some kind
of child. Our actions which are inspired by an earthly way of thinking,
bring forth earthly results; our actions which are inspired by a
spiritual way of thinking, bring forth spiritual results.
We know that we are
a bit of a mixture of both – and during Lent we are hoping to become
less earthly minded and more spiritually minded and bear heavenly
Here’s a simple
example. Suppose I am not at peace in my soul. If in my anxiety I go
to the fridge and satisfy my desire by eating a large piece of chocolate
cake, it is pretty clear what the results are – I am given some
enjoyment in eating the cake, I forget my troubles temporarily, while I
rest in a big chair with a smile on my face enjoying the flavours, and
the sugar and fat – the sense of being full. The fruit of that decision
is that the next time I feel anxiety, I know I can do the same thing to
be happy again – yet, it is a decision which bears carnal fruit – I can
get bigger, and more dependent on the food to quiet me. I become more
carnally minded, more dependent on the cake, more enslaved in a way –
and I haven’t resolved my anxiety but covered it over temporarily. This
is “the child” of the bond-woman.
If however, in my
anxiety, I hold off, and I wait for spiritual consolation – that is, I
sit in my chair by myself (maybe with cup of hot tea - we wouldn't want
to be too miserable!), and ask, “God, why am I anxious – help me to see
it.” And if I see why, I ask God to help me in the situation, or
perhaps to forgive me my sin. We wait, holding off from some immediate
and distracting pleasure, then we open ourselves up to the promised
consolation of God. And that consolation will come, we will know it, if
we are patient – certainty of forgiveness, a renewal in the Spirit, a
word of wisdom from above. And the next time we have some anxiety, we
forget the cake and become more desirous of spiritual consolation, we
have become more spiritually minded. A certain wisdom and discretion
has been born in us. This is “the child” of the free-woman.
What I’ve described
is the transferal of our desire from the earthly to the spiritual. The
satisfying of the earthly is easier – just a step away to the fridge and
some immediate satisfaction, but it doesn’t free us; the spiritual is
harder, because it takes patience, and the turning of our minds
heavenward, and we have to wait, because we can’t demand that
consolation but must wait for it, since it is a gift. But if we wait,
we become free.
I use the example of
chocolate cake because it is easy. But seeking earthly satisfaction,
being worldly minded, can mean that when we have anxiety, we forget
about it by immersing ourselves in our careers, or in the buying of lots
of things, or even in relationships – not that careers or things of this
world (or even chocolate cake!), or relationships are bad, but we can
bury ourselves in them and forget to seek spiritual consolation.
But, says St.
Paul, the Jerusalem which is above is free –
that is, it costs us
nothing, it is a free gift of God, and it leads us into freedom,
which is the mother of us all. For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren
that bearest not; that is, those who can’t see any immediate change,
but who wait for spiritual consolation, break forth and cry, thou
that travailest not: it seems as if nothing is coming forth, for
the desolate that is, the one who sits in desolation, and waits in
prayer, hath, in the end, many more children than she which
hath an husband, that is, than she who simply satisfies the flesh.
Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise we are
born, “not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God”
[John 1:13]. But as then he that was born after the flesh
persecuted him that was born after the Spirit; even so it is now –
we know this is battle within us – the carnal man, the old Adam, wants a
quick fix to all disquietude in our souls, but the new man, the
spiritual inner man is rising up within us – Christ who dwells in us and
is bringing us to a new liberty. What saith the Scripture? Cast out
the bond-woman and her son; let’s not be carnally minded, seeking
carnal satisfactions for what are spiritual longings, for the son of
the bond-woman shall not be heir with the son of the free-woman. So
then, brethren, we are not children of the bond-woman, but of the free.
Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free.
This is the message
from our mother the Church today – half way through lent – stand fast in
your disciplines, wait…wait…for the spiritual consolations, and Christ
will make us free!
Jesus knows, that it
is hard for us to be patient – to wait for those things which are in
fact, invisible, but which are in truth the greatest of gifts – such as
being strengthened in the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit – the spirit of
wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of
knowledge and true godliness, and the spirit of holy fear – as we draw
ever closer to the Divine presence.
We wait patiently.
And Jesus knows that in our wilderness wandering, in our Lenten fast, we
would seek relief even today.
And the passover,
a feast of the Jews, was nigh.
We are coming close
to the celebration of that great Passover when the Lamb of God was slain
for us When Jesus then lift up his eyes, and saw a great company come
unto him - as they are this day in churches all around the world,
he saith…, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat?... There is a
lad here, which hath five-barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what
are they among so many? And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. … And
Jesus took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed to
the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and
likewise of the fishes as much as they would. And they were
is the bread that comes down from Heaven and gives life and liberty to
the world, beginning in our souls. This manna in the wilderness is know
to us inwardly and mysteriously as we lift our hearts in worship, as we
quiet ourselves in prayer, as we meditate upon His Word written, as we
look to see God. It is known to us especially in the Sacrament of His
Body given for us, His Blood poured out for us. It is spiritual food –
the smallest portion of that Bread, the smallest sip of that Cup is
sufficient for us. In the Sacrament we come to know inwardly the depths
of the mercy of God – the forgiveness of our sins, the cleansing of our
souls of all unrighteousness, and the gift of new life – eternal life.
Here we learn about transferring our longing for earthly satisfaction to
seeking spiritual consolation. Here we receive hidden manna and know in
our hearts, even if just for a few minutes, the liberty wherewith
Christ hath made us free.
Let us in our Lenten
journey be patient, waiting to be refreshed with this food and to
stand fast in that liberty now and forever.