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Eighth Sunday after Trinity

Holy Communion

Petite Riviere, Cherry Hill, LaHave – July 13 AD 2008

Rom 8:12f    St. Matt 7:15f

 

We are the children of God.  And if children, then heirs;

heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that

we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.. 

 

Through our baptism each one of us has been joined mystically with Christ – we have become sons and daughters of the Most High God.

 

St. Paul reminds us of what this means – ye have received the Spirit of adoption whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

 

We know this Spirit of adoption each time we say the Lord’s Prayer – Our Father – and we have a confidence that this truly is the case.  I have seen this countless times in my ministry, even people who have not had much to do with the Church for years, in a time of crisis, when we have prayed this prayer together – it has suddenly brought up such deep emotion – the recollection and remembrance of who we really are.

 

And St. Paul says something remarkable about this fact of us being God’s adopted children: 

And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ

 

What does it mean to be an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ?

 

Well we know what it means to be an heir of own parents.  And we know that if we were an heir of very wealthy parents, that it would mean that we would likely inherit much wealth.   But to be an heir of God, and a joint-heir with Christ, who is the Maker of all things – who has all wealth, all power, who is all Wisdom, all Love, all Light?

 

In Revelation, St. John says,

Whoever overcometh [that is, who resists the temptations of this life and remains, by grace, faithful] shall inherit all things. 

In our baptism, we are joined in heaven with the Principle of Life to which all things are returning – and so we become the inheritors of all things.

 

That is quite a place to start from!  No need to strive to build a kingdom here!

 

Our inheritance is the kingdom of God!  God wants to give us the very best gifts.  Did Jesus own or have any care to set up an earthly kingdom?  What did He seek and what should we earnestly desire?  What is this kingdom of God that is ours? 

 

Can we put a price on divine wisdom, on holy joy, on being filled with all the fullness of love? on participating in the life of God? 

 

How can we be assured of this inheritance?

 

It comes back this distinction that we have begun to make in our readings – between the outer life in the world and the inner life of the spirit.

 

Last week I spoke about entering into God’s rest, that gift of doing less, and sitting more often at the feet of Jesus, an inner seeking, knocking and asking – that the kingdom of God, which is within us, might be found by us – that we might reach inwardly to touch and to allow ourselves to be touched by the Divine presence.

 

Today, our readings help us to see a way in which we can be distracted from this inward turn – it is if we are caught up in trying to satisfy “the flesh”.

 

St. Paul says, MY BRETHREN, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. 

 

Now St. Paul is not speaking about our physical body when we speaks of ‘the flesh’, but rather, of a “fleshy” way of thinking – that somehow I could be inwardly spiritually satisfied by being outwardly physically satisfied. 

 

We owe our bodies the care and nurture that God would have us give them as His creatures.  But often we live our lives as if we owed ourselves or some aspect of ourselves something – as if every impulse should be met or we cannot be happy.  We set a goal for ourselves of a certain lifestyle and the things associated with it and we aim for that, thinking that is the secret of happiness.

 

God is Spirit – and His inheritance is spiritual – His gifts are spiritual.

But God also became incarnate in Jesus Christ – and He takes up the body into heaven.

 

Our danger is either to deny the goodness of the created order and so to despise it or to deny the spiritual realm that is behind it and so become immersed in the creation.  But in Christ, it is possible for us to avoid both of these dangers.

 

St. Paul warns us of the second danger…

For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die:

That is, if we think that we should satisfy every urge of the flesh to find satisfaction and inward peace we will not only be disappointed (because we won’t find peace), but it will destroy us. 

 

And Jesus warns us that there are plenty of people – even within the church (wolves with sheep’s clothing) – who will wrongly try to convince us of this.

Preaching a prosperity Gospel – is an example – be faithful and God will give you material prosperity – that is a false prophet.  The end is not a liberation from the ever increasing demands of the flesh, but trying to satisfy those demands in a fleshy way.  The end is not the liberty of a Christian, but further bondage.

 

I think we all know something of this in a way from our own experience of life - how we can be distracted by our possessions.  The more things we get, the more they have to be kept up, the more we worry about them being protected.  Our possessions take up our thought and our time, and in so doing our focus is drawn away from God.

 

[Living "after the flesh" includes not just following the impulse to collect possessions, but ways of thinking including being vainglorious, envious, dejected, or wrathful, but we've looked at these in previous Sundays.  It also includes being gluttonous or lustful, but we will look at these two next Sunday.]

 

If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 

 

What is it to "mortify the deeds of the body"?  It is to no longer act outwardly on an inner prompting of the flesh.  And that is less and less a struggle when we put to death that inward prompting which would replace a spiritual longing with some purely physical satisfaction.  And it is a spiritual struggle, something painful, to say no to the prompting of the flesh – it is putting to death those older ways or habits of dealing with our spiritual longing.  It is to deny ourselves and take up the Cross. 

 

The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God.  And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him.

 

This spiritual suffering we've been speaking of is a kind of suffering that has a purpose – the forming of new habits, the becoming a more spiritually minded person, one who turns more and more often towards Jesus and so becoming a joint-heir with Him – one who can inhabit his or her body and live in this world without being overly drawn into it and destroyed spiritually by it.  And even more, one who is able and ready to receive the higher spiritual gifts and so bear fruit to everlasting life.

 

This is what it is to be glorified with him – it is to live in this world as the Son of God did.

O GOD, whose never-failing providence orders all things both in heaven and earth: We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

[The Collect for the Eighth Sunday after Trinity]

 

 

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