D. G. Phillips
West LaHave, Crousetown, Broad Cove – August, AD
1 Cor 10:1f St. Luke 16:1f
Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of
that, when ye fail, they may receive you into
Are you getting a
sense of being on a journey in these past several weeks of Trinity
season – maybe even of beginning in a gracious ascent up a
mountainside? We are seeking the kingdom of heaven – to amend our
loves that we might eat bread in the kingdom of heaven.
We began by
remembering that it starts with humbling ourselves before God and
our neighbour. If our love had been perverted, turned inward only
on ourselves, the signs were pride and envy. But when we humbled
ourselves before God and our neighbour, love has begun to stretch
out, we find ourselves in relation to God and neighbour, new worlds
open up – the adventure has begun.
Then we looked at
the releasing of a spiritedness in the soul – the various ways that
our love, our desire, that spiritedness, can be inhibited through
fear or a lack of hope. God wants to remove all the obstacles for
the release of our desire in a heavenward pursuit. Heaven rejoices
to see us more lively and fruitful as we come to know the mercy of
God and our status and children of God.
And as that
desire is awakened in us, last week and this morning, we are being
reminded about the true object of our desire. We were
warned last week not to fix our hearts and minds, on the things
where sharing can have no part – we prayed that God would take from
us hurtful things and give us those things that are truly
All this time we
are being asked to look inward, to take off the mask, the face that
we present to the world of who we are (and even to ourselves), and
to look at what it is we really want inwardly – are we are ravenous
wolf (plotting to take from others) or a hound of heaven?
Epistle, St. Paul reminds us, of the example of the Israelites, who,
even though they had experienced that great deliverance from Egypt –
saw God parting the Red sea for them, saw water given to them out of
the stoney ground, tasted the manna that fell down from heaven to
sustain them – even with all of this daily providential care and
encouragement, they made idols of food and drink and sex – they were
confused on their journey to the promised land by the lust of the flesh.
ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people
sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us
commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one
day three and twenty thousand.
It is hard for us
to be patient in our wilderness wandering. We’re seeking to be
obedient to the ways of love, but we can’t yet see where God is
leading us, or what God will open up to us.
ourselves with food and drink and sex in our wandering can
short circuit the stretching out of our desire for God. In our
anxiety (desire stretching out but not yet being fixed securely on
heaven) we too quickly turn back to old ways of being satisfied, we
can long for the flesh pots of Egypt.
But you might say
– I have to eat, I have to drink, or I will die, and there must be
sex for at least some or the human race will not survive and perhaps
sex is important even beyond reasons of procreation.
What would Jesus
have us do with these basic desires of the body – after all, it is
he who gave them to us?
Let’s look at
In the Gospel
reading, Jesus is encouraging us to temperance – to being wise
stewards of our desires.
Jesus says, a
certain rich man, [that is God – who is the maker of all things]
which had a steward; [God gives to us everything – our life,
our salvation – we are His stewards] and the same was accused
unto him that he had wasted his goods [God fills us with love
for Him and for our neighbour yet we often spend that same desire
excessively on the desires of the body]. And he called him, and
said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account
of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. [When
we leave this world, we will be asked to account for how we spent
The steward in
the story – makes deals with those in the world – to give them
something so that they give something back – to one he says, take
50% and give 50% back, to another he says take 20% and give back
In this parable,
Jesus commends, not the man’s fraud but his wisdom in trying to make
friends of these debtors.
In the context of
our living our lives here on earth in the flesh, we’re to consider
our relation to food and drink and sex and material riches. They
are God’s gracious gifts to us – yet no doubt we are confused by
them regularly, trusting in them excessively to bring us peace.
want us to be miserable – He would have us enjoy the good things of
the creation and our embodied lives. He’s suggesting a certain
“making friends” with our desire. There is a certain necessity and
health and good pleasure in the fulfilling of earthly desire – but
we are to do that always in the light of the bigger picture, which
is, that we are stewards of God’s gifts. Is our desire bringing us
to God? and is our desire spent in part in reaching out in love to
1. Desire for
An over emphasis
on food – whether for the pleasure of taste or just in the amount –
takes our desire, that feeling of anxiety of not being fulfilled
spiritually, and can short circuit it – satiating it with food.
As I mentioned
last year, St. Augustine suggests that we should use food as a kind
of medicine [Confessions X. 31] – to stand in that sort of relation
to it – discovering for ourselves what is a good amount, what are
the right kinds, so that we can be most fit for the spiritual life –
so that we are alert, healthy, and most able to love God and our
2. What about
Last week I was
looking at the New York Times online, and an article intrigued me in
the business section -
Are Three Martinis Three Too Many? It is a person
giving advice to someone entering into the corporate world.
These are some of the questions that are asked and then answered:
Q. You are new
to the corporate world and not sure what to do at business functions
or after-hour gatherings where alcohol is present. If everyone else
is drinking — including your boss — should you drink, too?
Q. How do you
politely decline to drink, especially if others are urging you to
Q. When you
attend business-related social events with more-senior colleagues,
they always seem to be holding a drink. Could your refusal to do the
same draw attention to your youth and inexperience?
Q. If you wound
up overdoing it at a company event, what’s the best way to deal with
it the next day at the office?
Q. Is it
acceptable to call in sick if you are suffering from a bad hangover?
Q. How can you
tell if you have a drinking problem that needs to be addressed?
This article is a
clear call to temperance in the secular world. It is for the
purpose of succeeding in the corporate world. Do you not think that
we should be even more concerned about this as Christians who have
such a high call – to be children of God, stewards of the divine
mysteries, desiring to climb, not the corporate ladder, but the
ladder that leads to God Himself?
3. What about
Well I spoke
about this a bit in the last parish letter,
reread it if you
like (see parts 3 and 4) – we need to reflect on why there is
this call to a chaste life throughout Scripture. If we really think
about this, and use our reason we can see for ourselves why we might
want to live a more chaste life, certainly than the society we live
in promotes, but maybe even more than the current ideas we hold
about this. [When Dante, on Mount Purgatory, is entranced by the Siren, a heavenly lady
comes to his assistant Virgil, who has stepped back, Virgil!
Virgil! she cries out. Virgil, a symbol of human reason, steps
forward and leads Dante beyond the Siren. (The Divine Comedy)]
Why the temperate
life? It's not because we want to be “responsible” people who
won’t rock the boat, who won’t upset cultural norms. It's not
to live boring unspirited lives – in a joyless world of dull gray
medians. It's not so that we become over-scrupulous, or a kill
joy for others. And, it's definitely not so that we can sit
back and judge others who we think are excessive.
So why the
is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few
there be that find it.
We narrow the expression of our desire, we focus it, to walk the
narrow path that opens up into paradise, where pleasure can be our
guide. [Dante, Purgatorio]
Why the temperate
He that is
faithful in that which is least
(earthly and bodily desire) is
faithful also in much (the divine gifts); and he that is
unrighteous in that which is least is unrighteous also in much.
God wants to fill
us with love – that is, God wants us to be full of desire. But
until we can show ourselves good stewards of the desire we’re given,
God holds back, otherwise we will destroy ourselves on this
journey. God is ready to pour out upon us such great spiritual
gifts, and yet God is constrained by love, until we show ourselves
ready – to be good stewards of our desire.
In the next
several weeks we will be looking more fully at the divine gifts God
would like us to have, at the gracious pouring out of the Spirit on
us. We are not to be ignorant of where we are being led and of
the greater treasures that are in store, the heavenly treasures.
In closing today,
let us bring before our minds the two beatitudes:
are they which do hunger and thirst
[not after the satiety of a full
belly or for the easy mirth from a bottle, but] which do
hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled;
are [not the lecherous but] the pure in heart; for they
shall see God. [Matt 5]
us, Lord, we beseech thee, the spirit to think and do always
such things as be rightful; that we, who cannot do anything that
is good without thee, may by thee be enabled to live according
to thy will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
[Collect for Trinity IX]]