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Tenth Sunday after Trinity

D. G. Phillips

Holy Communion

Vogler’s Cove and West Dublin   August 16 AD 2009

1 Cor 12:1f    St. Luke 19:41f

 

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

 

Over the past seven weeks we have been looking at the reform of our loves.  We learned it is about humbling of ourselves before God and neighbour (and then all pride and envy of our neighbour is undone).  We learned that it is about the recovery of spiritedness in the soul (removing the obstacles of wrong kinds of fear of God and neighbour that hold us back or putting an end to wrath).  We learned that it involves checking our appetites for material riches, food and drink, and sex – you can figure it out with your reason what is appropriate, you don’t need the Bible to tell you – if you really think about it and love of God and neighbour is your guide.

 

At the early stages of the Christian’s journey to God, this introspection, this checking of how we are spending our desire, is important if we are to grow in the Christian life, to move higher.

 

Just as we each grew up and assumed greater and greater responsibilities as teens, as young adults and as mature adults, this whole experience of how we deal with earthly loves is a kind of testing of our faithfulness.  Are we ready to receive the keys to move higher on the wings of desire, to enter into a divine-human marriage, to begin living in the mansions of the kingdom prepared for us even now?  Our Gospel concluded last week, He that is faithful in that which is least is faithful also in much; and he that is unrighteous in that which is least is unrighteous also in much.  How could God trust us with the higher things if we show ourselves simply immersed in and distracted and even unfaithful in earthly things?  Like leaky buckets, receiving water at a well and then just spilling it all on the earth before we even get it home to drink deeply from it.

 

But we are looking higher.  And our desire, given by God, will find its way, will lead us to that higher place.

 

Remember that the purifying of our loves, requires that we look inwardly at ourselves, to take off the mask, the face we present to others and even to ourselves of who we are.  We take off the mask to really look at what is motivating us – are we ravenous wolves?  and what is our appetite really for?  What is going on in our hearts?  What is the content of our imaginations, what are we thinking about as we go about doing our daily tasks, or driving on the road, or as we lie in our beds at night before going to sleep?

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In the Gospel today, Jesus comes near the city of Jerusalem...

AND when he 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. 

But we, all these year later, do know what makes for peace – it is about being reconciled with God and neighbour, and then, by grace, ordering our loves, so that our actions are in accord with the will of God.  As we call upon him in prayer, he enters our hearts and cleanses the Temple that is our body that He might dwell there more fully within us.  And the more this happens, the more our earthly loves are perfected, His presence driving out our foolishness, the commotion inwardly becomes a calm.  And then, the most miraculous things are promised.  We become humble listeners of the Spirit of Christ dwelling in our hearts, where he promises to teach us daily.

 

And 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.

 

And as we choose to decrease, to humble ourselves that Jesus’ voice may increase, as we acknowledge that Jesus is Lord, we are infilled more and more with His Spirit. 

 

What will this mean for us?

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In our Epistle today, St. Paul explains what will happen when we are infilled with the Spirit of Christ…

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

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.

 

All of these spiritual gifts are the enlightening of our minds and hearts by God.  These gifts come to us inwardly.  We become aware of them before anyone else knows of them.  Each of us must decide what to do with the gift.

 

There is a danger that we might fail to share the gift we receive with others, simply to become a dead end of the grace given.  There is also a danger we might fail to acknowledge the gift as being from above – to become thieves of grace.  Both these responses would be mistakes that would result in the cessation of the gift.  So we pray as we receive gifts for the grace to remain humble in heart, dependent on Christ, and also for the wisdom to know how to share it in a way that will give glory to God.

 

The gifts of the Spirit – wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues – all these are given not just to build up an individual, but for the good of the Church:

St. Paul says, the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

 

No one person has all of the gifts, because God wants us to depend upon one another, to build up one another in love.  We need each other in this small congregation – each church in our parish needs each other church in this parish, this parish needs the neighbouring parish, our parishes need the diocese, the diocese needs the Anglican communion, and the Anglican Communion needs the wider catholic Church.  The gifts are spread among us.  This is wonderful, really, how God does this.  No person is an island.

 

The peace that God wants to bring us is not just a peace within each of our hearts, but a peace which comes with each other in the Church as we share and listen to each other and enjoy one another in love.

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One final word.

 

We are beginning to be opened up to something new today in the readings and in the weeks to come. 

 

It is about knowing the things which belong unto...peace.

 

It is to enter into God’s rest – to begin to taste, not just the active life of doing things that reveal our love of God and neighbour outwardly in our lives, but something beyond this.

 

We are beginning to learn of a new way of being Christian.  It is the contemplative life, the life that rests in the knowledge and love of God, and rests while a kind of steady inward vision is opening up for us.  We are allowing Christ to dwell in us and all our earthly strivings begin to be transformed into a heavenly resting.  Joy is being brought to birth in us as we spend more time thinking upon the wonders of God’s creation, thinking with gratitude upon God’s goodness and providential care of us, enjoying more a resting in worship with others and by ourselves, recognizing that resting in worship as really the culmination of what it means to be human, to be brothers and sisters of Jesus, with a heavenly Father who turns the light of His countenance upon us and makes us whole as we look upon Him.

 

We are learning higher things about the Christian life – this is the life of heaven, and may God bring us there today and open up to us that life more and more.

 

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.

 

 

 

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