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Fifth Sunday after Trinity

Holy Communion

Petite Riviere, West LaHave, Broad Cove – July 12 AD 2009

1 Peter 3:8-15    St. Luke 5:1-11

 

GRANT, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

We want to be lifted into the life of God and we are learning what is required of us.  Two weeks ago, we were called to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God - and God promises to exalt us in due time.  Last week Jesus told us to turn inward and to look at ourselves.  We know we’re in need of mercy and have been promised it by God, so we look at others differently – we show them mercy.  Christ is removing the beams from our own eyes and so we are able to be more than blind guides to others.

 

Humbling ourselves and showing mercy are both virtues of the reasoning aspect of our soul – this is what happens to us when we allow God’s love to touch our minds.

 

This morning, and the next two Sundays, we will look at the spirited aspect of our souls and the way in which this aspect is made strong and an instrument of love by Christ.

 

What do I mean by the spirited aspect of the soul? 

 

I mentioned a few weeks ago about those who train dogs know that you need to be careful not to use too heavy a discipline or you will take away the spiritedness of the animal.

 

Spiritedness is that bounce, that being-full-of-life, ready for adventure.  We see and prize this spiritedness most clearly in the youth.  Think of the soldier who goes off to war for the first time – anxious about the danger, but also excited, for adventure, and with a real desire to do something noble for his or her country and to help those struggling under oppression.  Or think of the young student who goes off to college or university with eyes wide open and excited about learning new things.  Or think of the young employee who is just entering the work force and is full of ideas about how things could be done in a better way.  Or think of someone who moves into a village with a new way of looking at things; or someone who has just been awakened by the Spirit and is excited about entering more fully into the life of the Church.  That is what I mean by spiritedness.

 

This excitement, this energy, is something that God would by no means have beaten out of us, but rather it is a gift to be nurtured and expressed in the service of God and man – it is the wind needed behind the sails, it is the fire that gets us moving, it is what makes the service, the love, of God and our neighbour not easy, it is still hard work, but it makes it a joy.

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When this spiritedness leaves us, we are dejected or in a state of sadness.  It is what modern psychologists speak of when they describe depression.  But depression is not something new, it has always been understood in the history of the Church as a spiritual danger.  In the church bulletin this morning, John Cassian, a monk from the 4th century describes it.  It is one of a deadly sins later to be included in the list of 7 as an aspect of Sloth or Accidie.  In the 17th century Bunyan writes about it in his book Pilgrim’s Progress – he describes it as the Slough of Despond.  It is of course described in Scripture.  This depression of spirit is reflected in our lives by a withdrawing from others, when we find it difficult to work, when we lose hope…it is one of the temptations, the battles we can all expect to struggle with at some point in the Christian life.

 

Think again of what can happen to some soldiers – who become disillusioned about the nobility of their pursuit and some are traumatized by the continual terror – and return with a deep depression and a withdrawal from society – all that energy, that spiritedness, that youthfulness is gone.  Or think of the young employee whose every new idea is rejected and all that wide eyed innovativeness is stamped out or ideas are stolen and not acknowledged and he or she becomes depressed.  [e.g. Last week I saw a movie Revolutionary Road – a tragedy about a young very spirited couple wide eyed, who resist, who then fight against, but then finally are drawn in and crushed by the pressures of conforming to a societal dream that is really an urban wasteland.]

 

In today’s readings we have examples of some causes of dejection.

 

In the Epistle:

 

St. Peter describes being ill-used by others – he speaks about the oppressiveness of evil or being railed against, about being afraid of their terror, it is about others who trouble the soul.  These things can oppress us, undermine our spiritedness.  St. Peter knew very well what this was like as he taught in the synagogues and was rejected by Jewish and Roman authorities – beaten and imprisoned often.  He also no doubt knew turmoil from others within the early church, no doubt experiencing, like Moses, challenges to his leadership. 

 

But he has council for us so that this does not cause one to become dejected, depressed by it.  He says, have compassion one of another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous; not rendering evil for evil, or railing for railing: but contrariwise blessing.  And we can think of Jesus’ call elsewhere – anyone can love those who love them, but we are to go beyond that – love your enemies and those who despitefully use you, love them as yourself.  Don’t be discouraged by this reaction against you if you do what is right – in fact, rejoice that you are joining in with the sufferings of Christ.

 

Is there some fear this morning that is oppressing you?  fear of someone in your midst – at home or at work or in your community– or just a discouragement from a continual undermining? 

 

Don’t fear others if you are doing what is right.  Remember St. Peter and St. Paul, who were beaten literally, but got up with rejoicing, realizing they were participating in the sufferings of Christ – they didn’t end their mission, but headed to the next town, often to be beaten again, but they got up and continued on, all the while growing in patience, growing in love, growing in joy.  [this is obviously not council to stay with a spouse that is destroying you by violent oppression – God does not want any spirit to be broken – but it does mean a new way to respond, to break out of, an unhealthy cycle of mutually destructive behaviour – railing for railing]

 

In today's Gospel we also see two causes of dejection:

 

 

Jesus draws near to Peter and James and John who have toiled all night and caught nothing – they are just putting away their nets and feeling discouraged.  A night with no fish, is discouraging, but a whole life pursuing what is really not satisfying, is that what we want?  We have to ask ourselves, is what we are toiling for really what we want?  Can we really be made happy simply with an earthly goal – even lots of fish?  Jesus tells us that in the time of Noah they ate and drank, they married and were given in marriage; in the time of Lot - they ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built – if that is all we are pursuing, we will find like them destruction.  We need loftier goals, we are made for loftier goals – the heavenly life mingled with the earthly.

 

Another reason, for dejection – the most serious form of dejection – is where people despair of their very salvation – where rather than drawing near to God, a person flees.  When Peter sees the miracle, and realizes he is in the presence of the Divine, he falls down before Jesus and cries out - Depart from me for I am a sinful man.

 

To both of these concerns, for a meaningful life and for forgiveness, Jesus responds with the generosity of God to release these men from their fears and hopelessness.  Do you see the great burst of energy that these exhausted men suddenly have when they see the fish swarm into the net?  Do you see the great sudden burst of energy, of new life, that is brought forth when Peter and James and John, hear from the mouth of God, Fear not, from henceforth thou shalt catch men?   Something has been released in them, the things which were holding them back from the spiritual ascent into God were overcome completely.  When they brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.

 

Do you have a fear of drawing nearer to God or following him more closely because of a sin unconfessed?  Unburden yourselves today – Jesus forgives everything – by his once for all offering of himself on the Cross – that full, perfect, and sufficient sacrifice, oblation and satisfaction for the sins of the whole world.  Are you being held back from the heavenly life because your mind is set only on earthly goals? Jesus has hopes for each one of us beyond merely the earthly.

 

In this morning’s Collect, the prayer for these readings, we prayed to God that the Church would “joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness.”  The godly quietness that is being spoken about is by no means a call to a timid, beaten down, un-spirited following of Jesus.  The quietness being spoken about, is a following that does not respond to evil with evil, or railing with railing.  It is a following that is not an emotional roller coaster where we are bumping into one another and hurting one another continually, but rather a steady, energetic love, coming from a soul that is resting in an inward joy, a lightness of being, that comes about by sanctifying the Lord God in [our] hearts – that is, returning inwardly to the place where in prayer we can have converse, communion with God – and knowing for ourselves that blessedness inwardly, that peace, bringing that peace and blessedness to others.

 

Peter and James and John needed a miracle to snap them out of a state a dejection to a wholehearted following of that which is good, they followed Jesus who is Goodness incarnate.  

 

Let us come forward now to know the miracle of being filled inwardly with the peace that passes all understanding, even Jesus Christ – let us sanctify the Lord God in our hearts.

 

GRANT, O Lord, we beseech thee, that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by thy governance, that thy Church may joyfully serve thee in all godly quietness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

 

 

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