.


 

Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

Holy Communion

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 getteth understanding.

For the merchandise of it is better than the merchandise of silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold.

She is more precious than rubies: and all the things thou canst desire are not to be compared unto her.

 

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.