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Eighth Sunday after Trinity

D. G. Phillips

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.. 

 

Over the past several weeks we’ve been poking around in the soul – checking for signs of health and also looking for disorders.  Jesus is showing us all the while, by His Word, how our love can be freed up and rightly directed to a love of God and our neighbour.

 

We looked inwardly at the reform of the mind – we saw foremost the need for humility before God and our neighbour if we would grow in love.

 

We looked over the past three weeks at the recovery of spiritedness – a zeal or zest for life, for God, and to be freed up for loving service.  This happens when our desire is no longer squelched out of fear of others or an improper fear of God or when it is no longer consumed by anger without a cause and when our spiritedness is released instead to seek out the things of heaven.

 

This morning we are assuming that desire is being freed up, that it is stretching out.  Jesus doesn’t hate our desire, in fact he wants us to be wide eyed and ready for adventure.  When we eat the Bread of heaven, we are satisfied, but then we are even more hungry than before, our appetite is stirred up.

e.g. Think about this – after Sunday worship – do you find yourself at peace momentarily, but then even more hungry, perhaps even more tempted later in the day (increased desire in us but then returning easily to well worn paths)?

 

How will we satisfy this ever renewed appetite?

 

Here is a spiritual truth that we should keep always before our minds:

Our appetite, our desire stretching out, our love, is a spiritual longing – it cannot be satisfied ultimately with material things.

 

MY BRETHREN, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh.  For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. 

 

Let’s think about some examples:

 

A child with a video game, which is meant to be something that is fun and that can help with certain skills and be enjoyed with friends.  It can also become an obsession, the child beginning to direct all attention to winning, to besting the previous record – in an extreme form the child shuts down contact with all others, directs his or her entire focus and energy into the game – what was fun has become destructive, God given desire has been fixed to a foolish end (vainglory?).  The child has become a slave of the game, and a parent who sees this happening, restricts the use or takes the toy away, or in extreme cases gets medical intervention.  And oh, the suffering as the child is weaned off this fleshy desire.

 

What about us adults, if we get ourselves so much in debt by buying things beyond what we can afford and end up working long hours slavishly to pay our debts.  Our true desire was to create an environment where we could enjoy life – but we have no time to enjoy it.  We may find ourselves continually afraid of losing what we have or of others stealing it.  Bankruptcy may be the very best thing for us, but oh, the suffering, the humiliation, and the pain of having things repossessed that we enjoyed, even if only for a moment.

 

Our appetite, our desire, our love, is a spiritual longing – it cannot be satisfied ultimately with material things.

 

St. Paul would have us remember, ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.  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.

 

What do we desire? what are we looking for?  the state of soul that is at peace with God and our neighbour, time to be able to reflect, time to read a book, time for family and friends – these things take less material comfort that we might think.  When Mary held the Christ Child in her arms in a stable, was she really thinking about the quality of her surroundings?  (But some of you may say, what about the gold he received? – God provided what was needed for them to escape to Egypt and to return.)

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What about that Gospel with the scary picture that Jesus leaves us with -

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. 

 

You don’t want a minister, a prophet, here who is out to make a profit!  a minister here whose real motivation is to make a lot of money – especially a lot of your money!

 

You know the type.  Just each give me $100 and come to my seminar and I’ll show you how to become rich.  And for $150 if you buy my book I’ll show you how to become really rich. And if you buy these mugs and T shirts and CDs and DVDs, you’ll be continually reminded of how to have the right frame of mind to become really, really rich. 

 

Do you recognize a ravenous wolf who is feeding the ravenous wolf in others?  There are many false prophets in the world, and they are usually much more subtle.

But each of us here today is being challenged to take off our masks – the face we present to the world, and to look plainly at ourselves, at our inner motivations for what we are doing, to look at our appetites within us – to make sure there isn’t a wolf there.

 

What do we really want?

Why do we really want the things that we want?

There is a bit of the wolf in all of us – we have to do battle in our choices every time we go to make a major purchase – are we spending too much or too little?

 

The ravenousness of the wolf within us, that great appetite is not a bad thing.  But if that great appetite is turned to seek out material things alone it will never be satisfied.  And desire when turned to the material alone becomes wolf-like because there is only so much of the world’s goods – if I take it, you can’t have it.  Greed in its extreme form leads to the devouring of what others have.  But as one poet [Dante] puts it,

Why do you turn your hearts to those things

where sharing can have no part?

 

But if we turn this great appetite of ours, this appetite that Jesus is stirring up in us, to the things of heaven – the knowledge of God, to Truth, to holy Wisdom, to joy, to seeking peace, the spiritual gifts and treasures – we discover that the more I get of these, the more everyone gets. [Dante]  Think about it – if you are wise and I come into your presence and learn wisdom – now we are both wise – spiritual things grow the more each of us are gifted with them. 

 

The ravenous wolf can be turned into a soaring eagle – who ascends into the heights.  St. Paul reminds us – we are the children of God.  And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ.  We want to enter the Kingdom of heaven now, in this life, to know true treasures, and because Christ has died for us, and we are his brothers and sisters, we can inherit the things of heaven even now. 

 

Jesus warns us,

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.  And part of doing the Father’s will is to take off the mask, look inwardly, check our desires, and direct them to the highest things – trusting in God’s providence to give us what we need of earthly things. 

 

There is some suffering in this – we are joint-heirs with Christ, if so be that we suffer with him (putting away desire for the worldly), that we may be also glorified with him.  Remember the child with the video game that became an obsession? what pain when it is taken away, but it is for the recovery of his humanity.  It is the same for us to purify our appetite, our desire, for material things.

 

This morning’s Collect, is actually quite a difficult prayer – one that we might find terrifying to pray with conviction if we understand its implications:

 

O GOD, whose never-failing providence orders all things both in heaven and earth: are we really trusting in God’s providence?  We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things – that means anything in our life that we are too fixed on so that our vision of heaven is obscured – and to give us those things which be profitable for us – in this culture that is looking so intently at the latest weal and woe of the stock market, just hoping that it will all begin spinning again like before – do we know, are we desiring what is truly profitable? are we doing the will of our Father through Jesus Christ our Lord? 

 

Do we dare pray this prayer this week daily with conviction?  Do we dare to strip off the mask, and ask God to turn all our greed, our excessive love of material things, into a longing for heavenly things, even a heavenly avarice?

 

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