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Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

Holy Communion

West LaHave, Broad Cove – August 17AD 2008

Gal 3:16f    St. Luke 10:23f

 

What shall I do to inherit eternal life?

 

As Christians, we teach the Law and the Gospel.  To know the Gospel in its fullness, we must also know the Law – and so we teach the Ten Commandments or the Summary of the Law as Jesus commands us.  Our Bible contains both the Old and New Testaments. 

 

I suspect that in practice, in our day to day lives, we perhaps unconsciously sever these two Testaments from each other.  We sometimes are in danger of thinking we have followed the law of love sufficiently (and so are trying to justify ourselves) or we think that because we trust in the great mercy of Jesus we needn’t be concerned with the destructiveness of sin.  Today's readings relate to the former of these dangers.

 

In the Epistle today, St. Paul wants us to understand that the Law does reveal to us our sin, but it cannot save us from our sins.  It is given to us to make us look for a Saviour.  If there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the Law.  But the Scripture [that is, the Law] hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

 

The Law cannot save us, it cannot bring healing to our souls, it cannot give us a new heart filled with compassion.

 

But we, as Christians, are able to continue our pilgrimage to heaven because we trust in the mercy of Jesus Christ.  We have looked at ourselves in the light of the Truth, who died for us on the Cross, and we are unafraid of condemnation. 

 

We are hearing inwardly the truth and our mouths are beginning to open to speak our joy, the praises of God are on our lips.

Blessed are the eyes which see the things that ye see.  …Blessed are ye who hear those things which ye hear.

 

The burden of sin is lifted from us by Jesus, but can our hearts be healed so that we might love God with all that we are, and love of our neighbours as ourselves?

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A certain lawyer [someone with the law in his mind but not on his heart] stood up, and tempted [Jesus], saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?  He said unto him, What is written in the Law? how readest thou?  And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all [that you are]; and thy neighbour as thyself.  And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live. But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

 

So Jesus tells the parable of the Good Samaritan – we know it well – and the neighbour turns out to be anyone who is in need.  And to be neighbourly is not just to know what is right, but to act by showing mercy.  This do, and thou shalt live. 

 

Priests are perhaps particularly sensitive to this parable.  I think often of it when I’m driving on the road and someone is in need of help – it happened again just this week.  My mind tends so quickly though to a literal interpretation, like the Lawyer, trying to limit the breadth of the Gospel, thinking it is only about someone actually by the side of the road. 

 

But this parable describes much more.  The road from Jerusalem to Jericho that Jesus speaks of in the parable, is it not really the road we take daily in our interaction with the world – from the heaven of our quiet recollection in prayer (from the peace we know here in Church) – Jerusalem – to our daily encounters with others in the world – Jericho. 

We need to ask ourselves who are the people that we cross over to the other side of the road to avoid in our daily lives?  Is it not those whom we dislike?  And who are they?  [Isaac Williams]

 

I don’t like this person because he is too much this or too much that.  The proud, the vainglorious, the cowardly, the angry, the slothful, the greedy, the gluttonous, the lustful – do we find ourselves wanting to avoid them, especially when their sin is particularly obvious to us?  But are they not the very persons who are stripped of their robe and beaten and left half dead on the way to heaven? 

 

Have we forgotten where we have come from?  Have we not seen that we are subject from time to time to some if not all of these passions, making us less beautiful in God’s eyes and in the eyes of others?  Yet we have trusted that Jesus has come to each one of us.

 

So the parable challenges us to consider who it is we are avoiding.  For whom are we the priest or Levite going to the other side of the road to continue on our merry way – so we can do the things we think most needful, when, in fact, the thing most needful is really to stop and draw near and love our neighbour as ourselves?

 

Remember that to show mercy, is to show love towards those who are undeserving of our love.

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But how will our hearts be healed so we stop avoiding those in need and instead draw near to them with compassion?  It is not enough to say – Do the right thing.  The Law tells us that, and as we are reminded today by St. Paul and by Jesus, it does not save us, it does not change our hearts.

 

We all know how we are able to have greater compassion on those who have suffered the same sort of calamity that we have suffered.  Whether it be grief or some other calamity in our life.

 

But here is the thing:  Each one of us have suffered under the violence of the world, the flesh, and the devil – we’ve all been stripped of the robe of immortality, beaten and left by the side of the road half dead.  But we who are here today have been brought here by Jesus the Good Samaritan, he has lifted us onto his body, brought us to the inn, His Church, and is restoring us inwardly by Word and Sacrament. 

 

When we see others who are caught in some grievous sin – see it so clearly, so painfully, because we have been caught before – we do not avoid them, we do not pass them by, but Christ-like we draw near to them, to sooth their sin-sick souls with the Gospel of mercy, the mercy that’s been shown to us.  We’re not afraid that we will be infected, or once again beaten ourselves, but we draw near in love, confident that Christ is working in us.

 

Our eyes are beginning to see…the law of love is reappearing in our minds, and this is for good – that we might know and enjoy God.  The recovery of our vision of the truth will be accompanied by the recovery of our hearts – hearts of gentleness and compassion – if we continually remember our own brokenness and the mercy shown us by Jesus. 

 

Staying close to Jesus, allowing His love to dwell in us, this is the way we inherit eternal life, this is the way that we are enable by God to Go and do likewise.

 

Almighty and merciful God, of whose only gift it cometh that thy faithful people do unto thee true and laudable service: Grant, we beseech thee, that we may so faithfully serve thee in this life, that we fail not finally to attain thy heavenly promises; through the merits of Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

[The Collect for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity]

 

 

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