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Fourth Sunday after Trinity

D. G. Phillips

Holy Communion

LaHave, Crousetown, Broad Cove – July 1 AD 2007

1 Peter 5:5f    St. Luke 15:1-11

 

I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy

to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

 

During Trinity season we are focusing on the sanctification or the perfecting of our souls by Jesus Christ.  We are ascending by so many steps on a ladder Sunday by Sunday into the life of God.  We are seeking glory – the true glory that only God can give us – the glory that we all secretly desire, I hope, and believe will be ours.

 

Last week, we were told to humble ourselves under the almighty hand of God that in due time He may exalt us.

 

Today, St. Paul does not discourage, but rather encourages us further in this desire for glory in our Epistle reading:

I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy

to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.

and,

The creature shall be delivered from the bondage of corruption

into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

 

When we were children, we were perhaps told fairy tales by our parents, stories with characters who showed great courage and valour, and we identified ourselves with them – wanting to do something great, to be the prince or princess, the explorer, or the warrior or guardian, or the wise person whose counsel is sought.  And we still get a charge, an encouragement, when we read great books, or see in movies, characters doing noble acts. 

 

We recognize this desire in those who are wanting to lay their lives on the line for a noble cause – we see it in our firefighters; or in those who serve in wars in hopes of bringing peace and a better life to others; or in those who make great sacrifices in the raising of their children; or in following professions to help others; or in those who serve the public good in a myriad of ways to uphold and foster a just society.

 

To be sons and daughters of the living God, is to be free to do whatever we want, and to want to do only that which is good.  It is to be given such control of our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength – that all that we are can be turned to the love of God and of our neighbour.  What liberty – to be made lords of ourselves and then to turn all that we are to the good.  This is the true glory that is and shall be revealed in us.

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Yet there are many spoilers of that dream.

 

Today’s readings speak of one of those spoilers, the second rung of that ladder of ascent, when God has begun to lift us towards himself.

 

It is a corruption in the soul that comes in to spoil the good that God would do in us – it is vainglory.  It is very small at first, but it comes upon us as a spoiler.  John Climacus describes it as like an ant – have you been battling a little with ants this past month?  Climacus says this:  Vainglory is like…the ant on the threshing floor, small and yet with designs on all the fruit of one’s labour. 

 

Imagine all of those fairy tales or tales of great glory and adventure, if the hero, turned for one moment and said – aren’t I great for what I’ve done?  Suddenly, we would think – oh, that’s not the character I admired, that I wanted to be like. 

How did that creep in?  The person has still done all the same things, but all the virtues, the God given gifts displayed in their life have somehow been undermined – and we are repulsed. 

 

This is one of the ways that vainglory can strike us, though we are normally much better at hiding it.  It is when inwardly, we begin to take credit for the gifts showered upon us by God – we fail to return the glory that is God’s to God, or we turn these gifts over only to seek worldly ends.  Nothing has changed outwardly in what we have done, yet there is a corruption of our souls inwardly, and a loss of all the good that has been accomplished in us.  Often we think of corruption in terms of some scandalous act outwardly – yet this change of mind, change of purpose is just as destructive to our soul’s health.  What we do now is done to further our glory, and we become like thieves of God’s glory – it is a scandal, but it can be quite hidden.  The works themselves, though outwardly being the same, because they are not done in faith, that is, for God, become in fact for us, sinful. (Article XIII) 

 

To come towards God, we need to look very carefully at our motives, at why we do the things we do.  Are we quick to return the praise we receive to God – not necessarily outwardly, but always inwardly?  Do we mean it when we conclude the Lord’s Prayer saying, For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, forever and ever.  Amen?

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If we become vainglorious, we are always worried about our position relative to others, and we judge our success by the world’s standards.  And we are immediately in a competition with everyone else – because the world can only give so much glory.

 

One sign that vainglory has tainted our desire for true glory is if we find ourselves always judging and condemning other people, as Jesus warns us against in today’s Gospel.  He says,

Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven: give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. 

 

If we are really bothered when other people around us do well, if we are overly critical of others – is that not because we are trying to tear them down and so build ourselves up?  We feel our position of ascendancy being threatened.   When we are tempted to condemn or judge another, Jesus says, Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye.  In this case, the beam of vainglory.

Or as St. Paul says elsewhere,

Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another. [Gal. 5:26]

Rather than condemning others, we are to look with merciful eyes, as God looks upon each of us with merciful eyes, and give praise (not flattery) for the good that we see in others, and excusing their faults. 

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To avoid the corruption of our desire for true glory into vain glory – there are some strategies we can take:

Some of the saints stared at a skull – to remember the shortness of life, to keep in perspective that all flesh is grass so that we might turn our hearts to wisdom (Ps 90).  There is a tradition of paintings of Vanitas, especially with the Dutch in the 17th and 18th centuries (see bulletin cover).

 

We can also hold before our minds the Christian heroes and the stories of their noble deeds – it is one reason we celebrate the saints days throughout the year.  It is interesting that we have all of these saints days falling like a torrent on us – celebrating the octave of St. Peter and St. Paul even before we finish the octave of St. John the Baptist.  Here are examples of those who truly sought glory, not the glory of the world, but the true glory that comes from God.  Their lives were a giving up of all to the love of God and their neighbour – lives of extraordinary courage, patience, endurance in suffering, and finally execution by the earthly powers that were supreme.  And do we remember the names of those who executed them?  Well we could look them up in a book, but we don’t name churches after them and celebrate their feast days.  We don’t read their writings to lead us to God, we don’t hope to meet them some day, as we hope to meet St. Peter, St. Paul, St. John the Baptist or… St. Mary.

 

Listen to St. Mary – she knew the difference between vainglory and true glory.  When God revealed His great plans to her, she cried out:

My soul doth magnify not herself, but the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced not in herself, but in God my Saviour

For he hath regarded the lowliness of his handmaiden.

For behold from henceforth, all generations shall call me blessed, in fact, most blessed among women

For He that is mighty hath magnified me – and holy is His name. 

She always return the glory to God.

 

And listen to Jesus, the perfect man and God, that he spoke to the Father at the end of his earthly life (John 17):

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:…

I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.  Will we be able to say this to the Father on the day of our death? 

And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.…

 

And of us Jesus says to the Father, in that same prayer,

and I am glorified in them.…

And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them;…

Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory.

 

We overcome the temptation to vainglory, the corruption of true glory; we come to know the true liberty of the children of God – not worrying a wit what the world thinks of us, only when we keep before our eyes, the world’s true glory – the glory that stands behind all of creation, the glory revealed in the face of Jesus Christ.  Then we will say with St. Paul,

I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy

to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in (and unto) us.

Amen.

 

 

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