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Third Sunday after Trinity

Holy Communion

Cherry Hill, Petite Riviere, LaHave – June 28 AD 2009

1 Peter 5:5f    St. Luke 15:1-11

 

ALL of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility…

Humble yourselves…under the mighty hand of God,

 that he may exalt you in due time.

       

This season of Trinity is about growing in love – love of God and love of our neighbour.  This morning and in the weeks to come we will be looking at the perfection of our loves.

 

In today’s readings there is a focus on humility.  St. Paul says in the Epistle,

ALL of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble. 

 

How is humility related to love?

Remember in that famous passage on love in 1 Cor 13, St. Paul describes love by what it is not…love is not boastful, love is not arrogant or rude, does not insist on its own way.

 

Back to today’s Epistle,

Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time; casting all your care upon him, for he careth for you. 

 

It seems that humility is something surprising to us, like that image of Lazarus we had two Sundays ago – we are to be dependent on another, dependent upon God.

Humble yourselves…casting all your care upon God, for he careth for you.

 

To trust in, to depend upon God is to love him – and we show that dependence when we pray, when we seek counsel from God’s Word.

 

In Proverbs, which we begin reading this week, near the beginning we read – Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight.  In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.  Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.

 

The love of God is shown in our humbling ourselves before him.

 

And remember that love of God and love of neighbour are like commandments?

 

If we are not so sure what humbling ourselves before God is, we have the very practical advice today that we are to practice the humbling of ourselves before our neighbour – that is love too.  ALL of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility.

 

That is not an easy thing – it is what makes the monastic life a counsel of perfection (humbling oneself by bear with and depending upon those who annoy you - you can't leave them); it is what makes the married life a counsel of perfection (humbling oneself and depending upon one’s spouse, not always insisting on your own way); and those of us who are neither monastics nor married are to practice this counsel of perfection with all whom we encounter daily, our friends, the shop clerk, the waitress, the waiter.  This is love of neighbour, this is love of God.

This is one side of today’s readings – it is not good to be proud – God resists the proud.  If we are always pressing against others, if we feel a heavy weight on us always, as if even heaven is against us – we need to ask ourselves, am I a proud soul?

Jesus says, Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.

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But there is another side to these readings today – which is really quite wonderful too. 

 

Why is it that we all seem to have this impulse in us that can lead us to being proud?  Why do we all need to be told, All of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility?

 

Why do we want to do things our own way, why do we have impulse in us

to stand out from the pack?

to leave behind us easy conformity to what others tell us?

to violate the very laws of love that God lays down for us, the commandments we are taught as youth?  Why do children and teens rebel? Why did we, why do we, rebel?

 

In our Gospel today, Jesus tells us the parable of the lost sheep and the lost coin. 

And Jesus says something we don’t expect about the lost sheep sought by the shepherd –

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. 

 

More joy seems like a good thing.  Should we sin then, that grace may abound, that there might be more joy in heaven?  No, says St. Paul.

 

The teaching here is the same as we read in the parable of the Prodigal Son – there is more joy in the father’s response to the son that was lost and then found than in the son who never strayed but stayed close by and was obedient.

 

The sheep that wandered away from the flock, the prodigal son, is there something commendable about them?

 

What were they seeking, to go off on their own? 

To know something for themselves; they sought individuality; was a desire to be great, not just like everyone else; is it that they desired much more?  (Oliver - please sir, can I have some more?)

 

There is something in this that God loves, and in fact has placed in our hearts.

God especially loves Jacob, who wrestles with an angel all night – Tell me your name! I will not let you go until you give me a blessing! His presumption, his boldness, is an engagement, a dependence – his presumption is challenged a bit, the angel dislocates his hip! but also the angel does bless him and God gives him a name Israel – he who strives with God!

 

We can think about how God especially loves Saul who becomes St. Paul – the spirit in Saul that desired action, to do the right thing, even though he was wrong headed, and Jesus has to confront him and blind him and knock him off his horse to change his direction – Paul’s desire to do great things is commended, but it must come under the hand of the Almighty.

 

Or think of how God especially loves Mary Magdalene (and how Mary Magdalene especially loves Jesus) – who was delivered of seven demons, who was forgiven much and so loves much.

 

Their desire for greatness, for so much more, only becomes greatness when St. Paul or St. Mary submit themselves to the Almighty.  When they were outside, their actions brought destruction – Saul fought the Church, Mary brought destruction to herself and others – the devil as a roaring lion seeks whom he may devour – but they are changed and bring about so much good.

 

But it doesn’t require going outside the bounds to bring God joy.

 

We can think of God’s servant Job, who reveals perfection not through rebellion and false repentance but gives God joy for his faithfulness – but Job’s demands on God are high, but they are met…Job says…

Only grant two things to me, then I will not hide myself from thy face:

withdraw thy hand far from me, and let not dread of thee terrify me.

Then call, and I will answer; or let me speak, and do thou reply to me.

What boldness, what presumption!  And how wonderful that in Job’s fierce testing, and in his demands, God replies by revealing himself to Job in a whirlwind and then saying to Job’s false comforters, you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.

Of course we have the example of St. John the Baptist, who we remember this week, who even as a boy left to go into the wilderness to seek wholeheartedly the will of God.  Or think of St. Mary, Mother of our Lord, who as a young woman responded in perfect humility to the high call of God to bear His Son – when asked by Gabrien she said immediately, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.

 

Greatness, individuality, non-conformity with the flock – all of these characteristics are found in the saints in the Church through the ages, many of whom came to greatness by a profound transformation of their lives from sin and many others who simply sought a radical holiness which looked like a leaving of the flock.  All humbled themselves under the mighty hand of God, and God exalted them all in due time.

 

And look at the gentleness of the Shepherd, look at the searching love of the woman seeking the coin – the Shepherd does not beat that spirited lamb when he finds it but puts it on his shoulders and carries it home and calls his friends to rejoice with him; the woman lights a candle, sweeps the room and diligently seeks it and when  she does she does not sware and blame and stamp on the coin that fell away, but calls her friends to rejoice with her.  And there is joy in heaven.

Anyone who trains dogs knows that you cannot be too hard in discipline or you will crush the spirit of the dog – take away its bounce.  Likewise with a child – St. Paul says, Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, lest they be discouraged.

 

God would have us all repent and humbled under the mighty hand of God, but loves the spirit that strives, would in no way discourage seeking and asking and knocking on heavens doors – this is the Israel God loves, it is the love we are to show one another –generous, glad, joyful searching dependent love – always seeing and hoping for the possibilities of every human soul whether saint or sinner. 

 

And now, let us give joy to our Lord and to the angels in heaven as we prepare ourselves for Holy Communion.

And 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.  To him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.  Amen.

 

 

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