The Eleventh Sunday
D. G. Phillips
Broad Cove, Petite Riviere, West LaHave – August
23 AD 2009
1 Cor 15:1f St. Luke 18:9f
His grace which was bestowed upon me was not
We have been learning what it means to run the
way of God’s commandments. For many Sundays we looked at the reform
and the ordering of our loves – so that desire in us is not
misdirected within us (we humbled ourselves under God waiting to be
lifted by Him), nor squelched by others, but rather released towards
its true end – the love of God and the love of our neighbour.
We are beginning to learn about something new
that happens in us as the expression of our love outwardly is
ordered, that is, as we trust in and are found by God to be faithful
in the little things, the way we show our love outwardly, the way we
respond to earthly desire, that God can trust us with great things –
spiritual gifts, heavenly treasures, that we can partake of and that
are revealed in us.
Our walk in faith is accompanied even now by a
certain knowledge and love of Jesus. Remember last Sunday – Christ
cleansing the Temple – prayer is being awakened in us and all the
discordant voices within us are being quieted down by Jesus. We are
becoming aware that Christ Himself is dwelling in us, in the temple
that is our body, and he is teaching us daily as we listen for his
voice. Faith in Christ is being transformed into knowledge and
understanding. This is the first fruits of the resurrection life
now in us.
And this is a new way of being Christian. Our
lives are being founded upon Christ in a more solid way, we are
tasting and delighting in heavenly treasure inwardly… or are we?
In this morning’s Collect we prayed that
running the way of thy commandments, [we might] obtain thy
gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy heavenly treasure.
It seems possible that we could run the way of
the commandments and not obtain God’s gracious
promises or partake of the heavenly treasure.
this is precisely the case with the Pharisees in the parable that
Jesus spoke in today’s Gospel.
The Pharisee – he is not an extortioner (meaning
he is honest in business, not obtaining things by violence or
intimidation), he is just in his dealings with others (honest), he
is not an adulterer but faithful to his wife, and he fasts twice
in the week, gives tithes of all he possesses. Here is an
example of someone who is following in every way outwardly the
precepts of the commandments – no one could complain about his
dealings with other people. (not murdering, committing adultery,
stealing, bearing false witness, coveting). He’s also following
outwardly the other commandments – worshipping the one God in the
Temple, not idols, he is as far as we know observing the Sabbath and
honouring his parents, and not using the Lord’s name in vain...or is
And this could be each one of us, when our lives
become ordered outwardly through our faith in Christ. A regular
pattern of worship, not bowing before statues, doing our duties
outwardly to our parents (if they be living), generally honest and
faithful, and relating to the good things in creation in a temperate
And yet Jesus says that the Pharisee in his
prayer will not go down to his house justified – that means, he will
not be right with God, he is not living in truth, he does not know
deep peace, he is not obtaining God’s gracious promises
nor partaking of God’s heavenly treasure.
Here’s the astounding thing about the Christian
faith. It is possible to do everything right outwardly and still
fail to obtain the true desire of our hearts – to be filled with
Christ, filled with the Spirit, and lifted even in this life into
the heights of heaven – to live the resurrection life.
It is a matter again of something hard but so
important to understand – it is this distinction between the outer
and inner life, between the outward man, and the inner man.
We have to turn the focus of our attention now,
not just to how we appear to others outwardly, but to what is going
on in our minds, in our thoughts, inwardly, to our inner motivations
for all that we do.
we being righteous so that we look good in other peoples’ eyes? for
acceptance? for their praises? or
we being righteous out of a love for God who calls us and makes us
Jesus says today that there is a test that we can
give ourselves this morning to see our growth in holiness outwardly
is accompanied by a new heart.
Jesus spake this parable unto certain which
trusted themselves that they were righteous, and despised others…And
here is the key…and despised others.
He’s not saying we should not try to be righteous
outwardly, but what is going on in our hearts, in our minds
inwardly, when we are confronted by our fellow Christians? Do we
despise repentant sinners in our midst? [e.g. Here is someone at
church who I know has done something terrible. Why is he here? He
doesn’t deserve to be here.]
Think about what is happening here if we look
down on others: We’re saying our righteousness is something we did
and deserve – it is no longer a matter of God having showed mercy on
us, and given us the grace to order our lives. We are trusting in
our own righteousness. We’ve forgotten the voice of Jesus, the
presence of Christ in our soul, and his voice has been replaced by
our voice. We’ve chased Jesus out of the Temple and our inner
beauty, Christ in us, is lost.
In the Epistle this morning we have the example
of St. Paul put before us.
And this is a wonderful example when we remember
who St. Paul was before he met Christ and who he became in
Remember that before St. Paul became a Christian
he was Saul, the righteous Pharisee, who followed every detail of
the Law of Moses – his outward life conformed to the letter of the
Law in every way. In Philippians he says,
eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, an
Hebrew of the Hebrews; as touching the law, a Pharisee;… touching
the righteousness which is in the law, blameless. But what
things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. Yea
doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the
knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord
(not just faith in Jesus, but knowledge):
for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them
but dung, that I may win Christ, and be found in him, not having
mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is
through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by
faith (trusting in the blood of Jesus to wash him inwardly):
that I may know him (faith leading to knowledge), and the
power of his resurrection (not just in the life to come but even
in this life, that inward renewal). [Php. 3:5-10]
And in this morning’s Epistle St. Paul speaks
about having seen Jesus risen, and how that knowledge has not been
received in vain. He tells us he worked harder than all the other
disciples, yet acknowledges it was not him but the grace of God
working in him.
Jesus didn’t die for us that we might become
righteous Pharisees, satisfied with a certain outward orderliness of
life. Rather, Jesus died and rose again that we might continue in
the journey towards God inwardly – not just believing in Jesus, but
knowing him inwardly, and experiencing his resurrection in our life
As we grow in the Christian life we begin to see
ourselves and those around us more plainly for who we are. For each
one of us it is always the case that some are less mature than we
are and some are more mature than we are.
We don’t look at those who are less mature and
think ourselves better. Rather, we recognize every one of us as
covered in the righteous blood of Jesus and so we are accounted
righteous in God’s eyes and are being made righteous by God.
We are all caught up in a movement of ascent towards God, deepening
in holiness and ever deepening in our love of God and neighbour. We
don’t despise those who are failing and repenting in our midst,
because we are all failing and in need of repentance continually.
Instead, we find ourselves reaching out with a loving hand to those
whom we can help and ever in need of those above us who reach out to
us – more mature Christians and the help of the saints and the whole
angelic realm sent by God to help us on our journey.
We see ourselves as forever in need of mercy and
the recipients of mercy and so can easily show mercy to those around
us. It’s not Jesus' way to despise us who are unrighteous, so why
would we despise those who are unrighteous in our midst?
And in this state we can go to our homes
justified. Humble, in amazement that we are all living and
flourishing because we are under the mercy of God.
This is why our liturgy, the words we use in
daily prayer and in our worship Sunday by Sunday, are just peppered
(spiced!) from the beginning to the end with the cry and with
the joy of the gracious words “have mercy”.
O GOD, who declarest thy almighty power most
chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Mercifully grant unto us such a
measure of thy grace, that we, running the way of thy commandments,
may obtain thy gracious promises, and be made partakers of thy
heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Collect for Trinity XI