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The Tenth Sunday after Trinity

D. G. Phillips

Holy Communion

Petite Riviere, Cherry Hill, LaHave, Vogler’s Cove.  August 12 AD 2007

1 Cor 12:1f    St. Luke 19:41f

Concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I would not have you ignorant... 

 

We have begun our Trinity season with an inward turn, that is, to look at ourselves, because the kingdom of heaven is within us. 

 

But when we turn to look inwardly to find God we first discover our own voices – the passions which we are being sometimes led by – pride, vainglory, dejection, anger, sloth, avarice, gluttony, lust.  We discover we are, as St. Paul says to the Corinthians, Gentiles, carried away unto these dumb idols, even as ye were led.  These are the things which distract us continually, if we try to pray, or can distract us from even trying to pray.  In fact they are a kind of prayer in themselves – but not prayer to God but to dumb idols.

 

And if we are growing in the Spirit – we are discovering that we have been led by one or more of these passions into sin and we are now keeping our eye on ourselves a little bit more closely, and asking the Spirit’s help to restrain our desire and direct it more fruitfully – to the love of God and neighbour.

 

The very act of consciously directing our minds towards God in prayer is to quiet those voices clammering for our attention.  I find people are generally more ready to hear a sermon after we have sung together – because as St. Augustine says, singing is praying twice – our minds are quieted and more focussed.

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With a quieting down of the passions, we are able to hear another voice. 

 

One of the sentences that can be read at the beginning of morning or evening prayer is this – The Lord is in his holy temple, let the whole earth keep silence before him.  When that is said, I think we are to imagine, recalling the presence of God, not just in the Church building, but primarily in our hearts – and the whole earth are all of those voices, worldly concerns, they are to be quieted down, that we might offer worship to God alone, and hear His voice.

 

This same teaching is shown in the history of Israel in the establishment of the kingdom – what we have been reading from the Old Testament over the past several weeks in our daily readings [1 and 2 Samuel and 1 Kings].  The story of Saul and then David called upon by God to battle with the enemies of Israel on all sides, so that finally, there could be peace in the land and the holy city Jerusalem could be built up.  And the end and fulfillment of all that struggle is when David’s son Solomon, is asked to build the Temple – that task was finished in our readings just last night.  And in Solomon’s reign wisdom and prosperity flourish – Israel reached its heights. 

 

This history of Israel relates to our souls in this way: when we have battled with our passions, and by grace redirected them to the love of God and neighbour, there can be some peace in our soul, and God can then infill us with his spiritual gifts – we can hear the word of wisdom or receive other gifts spoken of in today’s Epistle.

 

The same teaching we see in today's Gospel.  When Jesus comes into the Temple, he finds it full of noise and worldly commerce.  He went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.  And he taught daily in the temple.

 

As we allow Jesus to enter our hearts, as we think on Him through reading Scripture and in prayer, he drives out all of the discordant voices.  Jesus makes those passions which once seemed so overwhelming, less and less central, less and less noisy, and we can begin to hear him teach us inwardly, daily in the temple of our souls.

 

If we cooperate with God’s grace to redirect our desire towards Him, towards a seeking Him out, in fact that is what praying to Him is, He will be found – within us and above us.  The Kingdom of heaven becomes ours to enter into inwardly, and we discover treasures in our souls beyond what we expected.  St. Paul lists some of the gifts of the Spirit given to the Church: - to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; to another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues. 

 

Imagine these gifts of the Spirit manifesting themselves more fully in our congregations.  People outside the Church would surely recognize the power of God and be drawn from their spiritual slumber – as they were in the early Church, and as they have been during moments of renewal and revival of the Church throughout the ages since – gifts of wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues.  Sadly, some of these gifts we are too afraid to even ask for, or do not even hope for.

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In the distribution of these gifts of the Spirit we see the love and wisdom of God.  So far in Trinity season, I have not spoken much about us as a body of Christians – it has been more individual spiritual counsel about the passions that each one of us experience.  But as we mature as Christians, we come to see the corporate nature of our salvation more and more – that our increasing love of God, leads to an increasing love of our neighbour.

 

This is the case shown so clearly in God’s distribution of the gifts of the Spirit.  God could give every person all the gifts, but chooses to distribute them to different people, so that we continue to need each other and are in fact are drawn together, united in a holy fellowship of mutual love, of exchange, of give-and-take. 

 

We see so clearly our need of one another when we organize as a church – wardens, treasurers, secretaries, sextons, builders, gardeners, altar guilds, organists, clergy, Sunday School teachers, those given to hospitality – or when we try to organize particular ministries such as a Vacation Bible School – I can’t teach children, but I can do this – I don’t have the strength for that but I do for this.  And when we all come together good things, great things, can happen.  There are diversities of gifts…of administrations…of operations, but it is the same God that worketh all in all.

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We cannot leave today without reflecting on the strong warnings Jesus gives us.

 

In the Gospel we hear, when Jesus was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes.  For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation. 

 

Jesus speaks prophetically about the destruction of Jerusalem by Rome in 70 AD because they did not recognize their true King but sought instead an earthly kingdom.  But it is also a warning to each one of us – because the city is an allegory of the soul.

 

If we don’t take time to calm our hearts of all the discordant noises of our passions – our enemies, spiritual forces of evil, will run amuck, and our lives will be fruitless, we will not enter into God’s peace, we will not recognize the still small voice of Christ speaking to us inwardly – there will be no spiritual gifts, no growth – it will be doom not only for us individually, but the Church will never be built up as a holy fellowship of love.

 

The other warning is not to take those spiritual gifts that God is giving to us and simply spend them in building up our pride or vanity – they are given for the building up of the body of Christ.  Jesus warns us not become a den of thieves, thieves of God’s gracious gifts.  But the manifestation of the Spirit, St. Paul reminds us, is given to every man to profit withal.

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Finally, when there was peace in ancient Israel and Solomon was made king at a young age, he made a prayer that Scripture says gave God pleasure.  He prayed – not for long life or for earthly riches or honour – but for wisdom and knowledge, that he might judge rightly the people whom God had placed under his leadership.  His prayer was perfect for his circumstances.  [1 Kings 3:5-15; 2 Chron 1:7-12]

 

Let each one of us this today allow Christ to quiet down our minds, and, especially in that time when we come back from Holy Communion, or in time of quiet tonight or this week, let us ask God for the things that are most needful for the circumstances we find ourselves in – perhaps even asking for some of the gifts of the Spirit mentioned by St. Paul – and let us give God pleasure.

LET thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants; and, that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please thee; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

[The Collect for Trinity 10]

 

 

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