Fifteenth Sunday after
West LaHave, West Dublin, Cherry Hill, Vogler’s Cove
– September 24 AD 2006
Gal 5:25f St. Matthew 6:24f
He that soweth
to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption;
but he that
soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap everlasting life.
This past week, on Thursday, we remembered St.
Matthew the Apostle and writer of the Gospel. St. Matthew is remembered
as the tax collector, a man who loved money more than his fellow
countrymen, and was despised as a traitor. Yet when Jesus walked by and
said, Follow me, Matthew immediately got up from his table, left
everything, his bags of money, and followed Jesus. He suddenly
realized, by the grace of God, that all that money was as nothing
compared with the treasures offered by Jesus. He knew suddenly the
truth of the words of Lady Wisdom in proverbs:
Happy is the man that
findeth wisdom, and the man that
For the merchandise of
it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than
She is more precious
than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared
We know how worldly things can bind us – how
advertisers are always trumping what it is we just bought, so as to make
what we have seem less appealing; and the more we have, the more we have
to concern ourselves with caring for them; and then, with securing them
from being stolen by others who also desire them.
In Dante’s great poem, The Divine Comedy, when Dante
takes a serious inward look at his own soul, he sees three beasts – the
leopard, the lion, and finally a ravening wolf. This last beast
symbolizes the temptation especially of later life to try to hold on to
or greedily acquire this world’s goods as positions of influence and as
health slip from us.
We have considered this passion of avarice or
covetousness seven weeks ago.
We were reminded that we are heirs of God and fellow
heirs with Christ – that the highest gifts of this life, the greatest
treasures, are freely given of God. So maybe we have moved beyond this
mad acquisition of worldly things and have a right relation to this
world’s goods – not loving them as if they are our salvation.
But Jesus does not call on us to renounce our desire
to acquire things – as if wanting itself was somehow a bad thing in our
souls – but we are to realize what are the best things to want, and to
turn our desire fully towards receiving those best things. And just as
gold is better than a more perishable material good, even so, the things
that last forever are better than gold and all other worldly things
which moth and rust doth corrupt or which thieves can break in and steal.
And strangely, these highest things are not things we must buy but
things that are given to us.
It is quite clear how we can acquire this world’s
goods – we develop our skills – skills of the mind and body – and then
we use our skills in labouring, and are given money for the goods we
produce which we can use to buy things.
A farmer uses his skills and knowledge to sow a crop
hoping that the seeds will sprout and bring forth, with his care and
nature’s additions, a fruitful crop.
But is there anything we can do to acquire these
highest things? the eternal things?
In our Epistle this morning St. Paul wants us to see
that whatever action we take, whatever energy we spend in this life, we
are acquiring something. He wants us to take a serious look at whether
we are by our actions acquiring fleshy things or spiritual things. What
it is we are truly wanting to acquire is revealed in our relations with
our brothers and sisters in Christ. If we are envying others, if we are
correcting other people for the wrong reason, if we are always provoking
others – is it not that we are trying to acquire vainglory?
God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man
soweth, that shall he reap. For he that
soweth to the flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption –
that is, something that will not last
eternally, such as the glory of this world which is fleeting, just as
are its material goods – but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of
the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing
– one way of sowing to the Spirit – for in due season we shall
reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good
unto all men – sow to the Spirit – especially unto them who are
of the household of faith.
Now there is a danger here in thinking we are getting
something for being good –gaining points in heaven for doing good.
[Such a danger that the Reformers changed this Epistle reading.] But
this needn’t be so if we are careful to remember that our desire to do
any good thing, is a seed implanted in us by God, and when we do an act
of kindness we are simply, in obedience to Christ and by his grace,
planting that seed that it might bring forth fruit. We simply need to
remember that not only in the case of material things, but spiritual
goods as well, All things come of thee, O Lord, and of thine own have
we given thee.
And what it is that we reap is not something that is
our possession alone, but something that is shared by all – when we sow
to the Spirit the love of God is shed abroad more fully in our hearts by
the Holy Spirit that is given to us.
In our Gospel, our Lord reminds us of another kind of
possession which we can sometimes have anxiety about having enough of –
food and clothing. And are these earthly goods not also related to a
desire for something spiritual?
The desire for food, for the contentment we know
after we eat a meal together and are full, is it not a desire to be
full, to be at peace, to be happy? Is it not related to the higher
desire to be filled with all the fullness of God?
The desire for clothing – think of when we get
dressed up for a wedding or some other special occasion – is it not a
desire for a certain dignity, a sense of self worth, even of nobility –
to be a king or queen – to be desired and to be beautiful? Is it not a
desire that can only ultimately be satisfied by being clothed in the
righteousness of Jesus Christ? to be like God? And is it not a desire
ultimately to be clothed in immortality? St. Paul says
we groan, earnestly desiring to be clothed
upon with our house which is from heaven: … that mortality might be
swallowed up of life.
Jesus reminds us not to be
anxious about whether or not we will get these earthly satisfactions or
the heavenly satisfactions that they point to. Jesus says, look at
nature, unable to store up food, yet provided for by God; unable to
change how it looks, and yet made beautiful by God –
Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall
we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be
clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your
heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But
seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all
these things shall be added unto you.
Christ does provide what we need to sustain and
clothe our bodies – but he tells us to first seek the food which
preserves our bodies and souls to everlasting life and that clothes us
with the righteousness of Christ – even His body and blood given for us.
KEEP, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy Church with
thy perpetual mercy (Latin: propitiation); and,
because the frailty of man without thee cannot but fall, keep us
ever by thy help from all things hurtful, and lead us to all things
profitable for our salvation; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.