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Third Sunday after Trinity

D. G. Phillips

Holy Communion

LaHave, Crousetown, Broad Cove – July 2 AD 2006

1 Peter 5:5f    St. Luke 15:1-11

 

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God

that in due time he may exalt you.

 

On Trinity Sunday our minds were lifted up by St. John to the heavenly vision of God and Jesus reminded us that if we want to see heavenly things, we must be born again, born of water and of the Spirit. 

 

It is a new life, was begun in our baptism, confirmed by the gift of faith.  If we are to see it more clearly, if we are to enter it more fully, we must pass through a period of suffering.  As St. Peter reminds us this morning, the God of all grace, who hath called us into his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while, make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you. 

 

The suffering he is talking about is the suffering we experience if we love our Lord, and try to follow His commandments.  His commandments are spiritual – and yet to the carnally minded, they are oftentimes contrary to what we might normally think or feel.

 

These thoughts and feelings are called “passions” – they are a gift to help us to relate to the world around us and to God.  Ideally they make us desire what is good – God and our neighbour, and hate what is evil.  And yet, we are fallen creatures.  We are born with confusion in our souls about the passions.  And when we sin we become further confused – and the devil would use these passions to bind us in destructive ways of thinking and acting.  

 

Today and in the weeks to come, we will look at all of these passions of the soul –shining the light of Scripture upon them so we become more aware of them in us, confess if we are being led astray by them, and seek the counsel and the grace of Jesus, to no longer be overwhelmed by them….it is all a part of our being born again to the new life, the life of heaven.                 

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Today we are considering the passion of “Pride”.  It is a called a “passion” because we suffer it, when it arises in our souls – we all experience these thoughts of pride.

 

What is pride?

 

Pride is a passion of the rational part of the soul – it is not so much a feeling that comes over us, though feelings may result, but it is a way of thinking.

 

Dorothy Sayers has described it as “the sin of trying to be as God.”  It is called the root of all sin because we encounter it first at the moment of the fall of Adam and Eve in the garden.  The serpent convinced our first parents to eat of the tree of which God told them not to eat – they became the judges of what is right and what is wrong, taking heed to the devil’s false promise:

Ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil.

 

To think oneself to be God is very subtle to see in ourselves – because it is the very air we breathe.  Sayers continues, “whenever we say, whether in the personal, political, or social sphere, I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul, we are committing the sin of Pride; and the higher the goal at which we aim; the more far reaching will be the subsequent disaster.”

 

Maybe you know of such a moment of disaster through following your own ideas of what is right, being the captain of your own soul.  Disaster in one’s life, being lost and recognizing that one is lost, having hurt ourselves or loved ones around can be moment of gracious conversion of the soul – a conversion from thinking ourselves to be the center to recognizing our creatureliness and our dependence upon the One who made us.  When we break through our pride and see it revealed to us clearly by God, it results in a “hearty desire to pray” – maybe partly out of fear, because we know how subtly we can be taken in by pride and how destructive it can be – it is the very severing of ourselves from the life of God.

 

Jesus tells us a parable this evening that He told to the proud Pharisees and Scribes.  It is a particular manifestation of pride in the religious soul – as church goers, we need to take special heed that we are not fooled like this.  The Pharisees and Scribes wanted to be followers of the law and yet they fell into pride.  It was revealed in them in the way they judged Jesus as unholy, unrighteous, simply because he “receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.”

 

Jesus tells them, What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it?  And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.  I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.

 

In the life of heaven, the life into which we are being born again, we both continually realize that whatever righteousness we have, has been given us by God, and we only rejoice when we see another soul around us converted and brought into the fold.  There is no place whatsoever for thinking some souls worth saving and others unworthy – we have all been and are all being brought back to God by Christ.

 

Being in Church Sunday by Sunday is not the test of whether or not our souls are converted – the test is what is our motivation for being here.  It should be because we see ourselves as needy, because we have been given a desire to pray, because we know we stray so easily, and because we want to give thanks to God.  We rejoice inwardly when someone who has not been for a while arrives – because another soul is being stirred like ours.  There is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth.  If we are entering the kingdom of heaven we know something of that joy – there is no resentment, no feelings of superiority.

 

In the second part of the parable, Jesus describes a woman sweeping her house for a lost coin, until she finds it and then rejoicing.  This is perhaps a call for us who are the Church, who have been found by Christ, to continue to mix with those who have been lost to the church, in the hopes of recalling them to the kingdom.

 

Is there any place for pride in the Christian soul?

As with any passion it does have its place.

 

It is not wrong to have a feeling of gladness at accomplishing some task.  It would be wrong not to desire to excel because of fear that one might become proud.  There is a kind of pride of race, or pride of nation which is healthy if we have somehow thought ourselves to be less than another on these grounds – less human.  But we measure the limits of that pride, when we for one moment think ourselves better than another.  St. Peter reminds us that the devil will take these feelings of pride and twist them for ill - Your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about seeking whom he may devour  The antidote always is humility: All of you be subject to one another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.  Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God…casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you.  Humility before our neighbour and before God.

 

It is wrong for us to undervalue our worth, our dignity as human beings – but we measure our worth not by what we have done, but by what God the Son has done for us – taking upon himself our flesh, dying on the Cross for each of us, that we might die with him and ascend with Him.

 

All of our spiritual disciplines are meant to help undermine our pride and keep us mindful of the presence of God and seeking His direction continually – reading Scripture, prayer, and coming regularly for the Holy Communion where we have presented before us the Son of God's humbling himself on the Cross for us.  These disciplines help us both to be humble before God, but at the same time, to be continually striving for greatness of soul.

 

It is not wrong for us to desire to be great, to be lifted up into the kingdom of heaven, to be crowned with the righteousness of Christ, to be united with the divine life, to be images and likeness of God, to be as God

 

But that true exaltation, St. Peter reminds us, comes about not by self assertion, but by the way of humility –

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time

The God of all grace, who hath called us into his eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after that ye have suffered a while – (that is, after we have refused continually to consent to foolish pride), make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, settle you.  To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.   Amen.

 

 

 

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