Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity
West LaHave, Broad Cove
– August 17AD 2008
Gal 3:16f St. Luke
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
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
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
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 –
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
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
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
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