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Fourth Sunday after Trinity

D. G. Phillips

Holy Communion

West LaHave, Cherry Hill, Crousetown – June 15 AD 2008

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.

 

Last Sunday in our readings Jesus called on us to humble ourselves under God and before one another.  He reminded us that we have been like sheep gone astray, but found by God – every one of us, and lifted onto His shoulders and brought back into the fold.  It is really the first reaction in the soul to a conversion to God – the recognition that we are not an end in ourselves, that there is One greater than us, that we all are in need of salvation.  Love and gratitude spring up in the heart towards God and we relate in a new way to our neighbours – humbling ourselves before them, especially if they are lost, mirroring the way Jesus has come to us.  God the Son humbled Himself to take flesh and be among us, to serve us, and die for us on the Cross.  And so are we called to humble ourselves before others and give up our lives for them.

 

I hope that when we reflected on our lives last week, we also saw ways in which we still are not fully humbling ourselves under God – that we continue to linger at the edges of the field, not staying with one another – the flock.  We still hold our own peculiar ideas about God and the soul, not always submitting to the basic commandments of love – I’ll follow these commandments, but I don’t really agree with these – submitting ourselves to some basic spiritual disciplines and at the same time not submitting to others – we linger at the edges.

 

I hope we can see this in ourselves, a kind of rebellion still in our souls.  And this is why we pray in our liturgy – no matter how mature we are in Christ (in fact we pray it with more conviction, the more mature we are) – Lord have mercy upon us, Christ have mercy upon us, Lord have mercy upon us.  Because we know that so long as we are in this world we must trust in God’s mercy.

 

God’s mercy is, a forbearance; it is the pity that God has for humanity in our weakness and misery and helplessness; it is a generous and kindly disposition towards us; it is God’s acceptance of us in the midst of our rebellion, while we continue to struggle within ourselves. 

 

We saw God’s love in the Son humbling himself to take flesh and seek us out, now we know His love in the mercy he shows towards us.  We haven’t been condemned eternally, we haven’t been struck down by lightening, we are being given time for amendment of life, or rather, time for the Holy Spirit to sanctify us – to renew our hearts and lessen all the time our rebellion so that we will be as St. Paul says in today’s Epistle…delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

 

Sometimes when a person has a sudden conversion, the gift of suddenly seeing the depth of his or her own sinfulness in contrast to God’s goodness, there is some bargaining that goes on.  “God just give me a bit more time in this life and I will make up for it” – and in time we see that we must trust fully in the divine forbearance, in the divine mercy always – because we can never make up for our faults and we keep committing more – but we learn to trust fully in the mercy of God shown in Jesus’ sacrifice on the Cross.

 

Jesus says to us today – if we want the liberty of the sons of God, we are to show mercy towards our neighbours.

Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

He says, Judge not, … condemn not, … forgive, …give.. with the same measure that ye mete withal, it shall be measured to you again. 

 

Why would we judge or condemn our neighbours, for being too much this or too much that, for sinning in this way, for sinning in that way? 

 

Jesus is not saying that our neighbours don’t sin, or that we cannot see their sins – he says that they do undoubtedly have specks in their eyes – but he says we are not to condemn or reject the person because of these specks. 

 

If we do find that we are in the habit of condemning people before others or even inwardly, Jesus says that there is a great log in our own eye – and it is blocking our vision of God – we are no longer able to see the divine mercy in which we must trust and under which we have life, we have in fact shut ourselves off from the divine mercy. 

 

Why would we write other people off for those specks or be quick to point them out?  Is it because we are trying to exalt ourselves over them – see ourselves or have other people see us as better than them?  Are we still in that mode of seeking the world’s praises?  looking for honour here?  It is a kind of bondage that Christ has come to set us free from. Do you want to be great?  Why not be even like God?  Be ye …merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

 

This is Father’s Day.  It is a good time to reflect on the gift of parenting and of having been parented.  Parents know about showing mercy to their children, or if you are not a parent, you know about showing mercy to the children of friends or relations.  When you see a child doing something wrong, you sometimes smile (or cringe) inwardly – and in your best moments you gently correct them, or sometimes you see it is best to just let it pass over this time, knowing that the child is not yet ready to understand being corrected for that particular fault.

 

That is love showing itself as mercy.  The sin is before your eyes, but you love the child despite his or her sin.  And is this not also the way we often relate to our friends, letting a sin pass by, because we have a hope that they will come to know themselves and mend their ways [John of Ruysbroeck].

 

If a person is rude and ignorant towards us – it is all the more opportunity to show mercy.  Jesus says, be merciful not just towards your children or your friends, but even towards your enemies.  The sentence leading into today’s Gospel is,

But love ye your enemies, and do good, …; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.  Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

 

If we are in this habit of condemning others, we’re to take a few steps back out of the world and view it with the eyes of God – who sees us all for what we are – wayward, rebellious, proud souls, trapped in vanity, somewhat blind to eternal things – and yet He loves us, forbears us, shows us mercy.  God shows mercy towards us, and now we also can show it towards our neighbour – it is one of the first fruits of the Spirit in us. 

 

The whole of creation desires to see expressions of the Father’s mercy – they are blind to it.  They are locked in some terrible game of one-up-man-ship, of dog-eat-dog, of taking advantage of another’s failure in order to advance themselves.  But they may just see, they may just catch a glimpse of the Father’s mercy, if we show it towards them, as Christ has shown it towards us. 

 

Remember always the mercy shown towards you, remember that it is in that mercy that you and I have life, then shalt thou see clearly to pull the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.

 

In the words of a Christian mystic,

the oil of mercy enlightens the erring sinner with good example, and with words and works of comfort it anoints and heals those whose hearts are wounded or grieved or perplexed.  [and why would some people be rude or rough with us except because their hearts are wounded or grieved or perplexed?]  And [mercy] is a fire and a light for those who dwell in the virtues, in the fire of charity; and neither jealousy nor envy can perturb it. [John of Ruysbroeck]

 

And in the words of Jesus,

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. 

 

O GOD, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal: Grant this, O heavenly Father, for Jesus Christ's sake our Lord.  Amen.

Collect for Trinity 4

 

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