Fourth Sunday after Trinity
D. G. Phillips
West LaHave, Cherry Hill, Crousetown – June 15 AD
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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