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The Sixteenth Sunday after Trinity

D. G. Phillips

Holy Communion

LaHave, Vogler’s Cove, Petite Riviere, West LaHave – Sept 23 AD 2007

Ephesians 3:13f    St. Luke 7:11f

That ye might be filled with all the fullness of God!

 

We are continuing our gracious ascent up the steps of the ladder Sunday by Sunday into the Kingdom of heaven.

 

It began with an inward turn, and we saw first our sins, all of the ways our loves can be  disordered – and we have sought and received perfect forgiveness from Jesus.  We know a certain joy and peace as we rest in the mercy of God.

 

As we continued inward we began to see our inner brokenness and we were assured of the gift of healing that Jesus can bring.  First, he drives away discordant thoughts, that we might begin to hear him teaching us inwardly – when the Word is spoken outwardly, it is no longer like some object to be taken in, but more a reminder of what we know inwardly to be true – our “ears” have been opened.  We were reminded that we have all known a kind of brokenness, have all experienced the violence of the world, the flesh and the devil – yet Jesus has come to lift us up and bring us into the church and he is healing our hearts by Word and Sacrament – and so we are able to have compassion on all others suffering likewise.  We have begun to see I hope, the ways that he is healing us, and it is bringing about in us a spirit that we cannot suppress, a spirit of gratitude and praise. 

 

And last week, we were reminded, and hopefully became more aware, that our every decision in life, down to our very necessities, are opportunities to seek God’s kingdom and his righteousness instead of Mammon.  And because we are choosing more and more the kingdom of heaven, we are even despising more and more the false god of Mammon.

 

These fifteen weeks in Trinity season have been a whirlwind tour of the human heart in its search for God.  But I hope you are in no way satiated in your thirst for the living God.

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This morning, our readings bring us to a very exciting point.  We have discovered in this inward search the inner man.  St. Paul prays for us as follows:

 

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ…that he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man

 

What is this inner man?  Well in those first several weeks of Trinity season we looked at what it was to be an outer man, or the old Adam, running to and fro being led around by our passions into the world, but not out of love for the world, but rather being madly led by our disordered loves.  If we are proud or envious, we are still living in the outer man.  If we are always annoyed, angry with others outwardly or inwardly, we are still living in the outer man.  If we are slothful, afraid to do anything or keeping so busy that we can’t think of spiritual things, we are living in the outer man.  If we are following our greed or gluttony or lust in an endless, fruitless search for satisfaction, we are in the outer man.

 

But we’ve moved beyond that, I hope.  We’ve looked further, inwardly, and we’ve seen our brokenness, and beyond that we have found by grace, or been shown, a place of freedom.  When we are in a state of peace because we know ourselves to be reconciled with God and man through Jesus Christ – that is the inner man.  When we step back for a moment to reflect on the purpose of life or to search for meaning in the light of Christ, we are in the inner man.  When we are in that place in our soul where we know true humility before God, or holy fear, where we believe in God and hope in his promises, we are in the inner man.  When we are in a state of mind where we can offer true worship, express true gratitude to God, then we are in the inner man.  When we are in that place where we turn from self absorption to the authentic love of our neighbour, and can see clearly what action is to be taken to express our love, we are dwelling in the inner man

 

It is when we are in that place, that we can grow in knowledge of the love of God.  There we see that God’s love “comprehends” all things – that is, our lives, with its good things and supposedly bad things, our health and our sicknesses, our youth and our old age, our pleasures and our pains, the pruning of God, even death itself, is comprehended in God’s love - and we begin to comprehend it.  St. Paul prays…

that [God] would grant [us], according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in [our] hearts by faith; that [we], being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that [we] might be filled with all the fulness of God.

 

When St. Paul says, to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, he is talking in the language of the mystical marriage, the union of the soul with Christ.  It is the language we pray before receiving Communion – that we may evermore dwell in him and he in us.  It is the promise of God through Jeremiah, they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them [31:34]And when we know God, we know love.

 

Why does St. Paul pray that we might be strengthened with might in this inner man?

It is because we come to this place where this inner man has been uncovered by grace and with much suffering, but how easy it is for us, even as we leave this church today, to fall back into the world, into the outer man, to simply return to being drawn into a whirlwind of confusion and to battered about by the world, the flesh and the devil.

 

All our spiritual disciplines – prayer, Scripture reading, fasting, almsgiving, acts of charity – are for the uncovering by grace of this inner man, and that we might remain centred in the inner man, living our lives from the inner man.  How much we are in need of God’s continual pity to cleanse and defend us – to preserve us in this state, or to keep us in this place from which alone we can grow in love.

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In our Gospel this morning Jesus does not just heal a man, but raises him from the dead.

 

Again the Gospel shows in this miracle Jesus’ power, and that he truly is the Son of God. He is the one promised by the prophets…The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up. [Matt 11:5]

 

But the circumstances surrounding this miracle, as with all the miracles, point to a greater lesson for every soul.

 

The man is brought out of Nain – a word meaning "Pleasant".  The world when it forgets God, seeks only outward pleasure.  St. Paul describes Gentiles who think like this: what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die [1 Cor 15:32].  And when we seek only pleasure because we have forgotten the higher aims of life, our inner man is captured.  We turn our greatest gift, the inner man, fashioned in the image and likeness of God, we turn simply into the world.  And our true purpose, the pursuit of God, the comprehension of God, the manifesting of the love of God in us, is stifled and then destroyed.

 

But Jesus has come into the world, and has come into our lives, and comes to us this very morning, to bring about a kind of resurrection in each one of us.

Now when he came nigh to the gate of the city [called Pleasant], behold, there was a dead man carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and much people of the city was with her.  And when the Lord saw her, he had compassion on her, [as he does today for our Church] and said unto her, Weep not.  And he came and touched the bier; and they that bare him stood still.  And he said, Young man, I say unto thee, Arise. [And Jesus says to each of us this morning, I say unto thee, Arise.]  And he that was dead sat up, and began to speak.  And he delivered him to his mother. 

 

When we leave the pursuit of pleasure, and turn inward seeking God, as we have today, there is a promised resurrection to new life.  Our inner man is revived and we are able to live the spiritual life.  It is here and only here that we

being rooted and grounded in love, [are made] able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that [we] might be filled with all the fulness of God. 

 

Let us desire, like St. Paul, that we and all our loved ones and our enemies, may be strengthened with might in the inner man this day, and that we might live our whole lives from this new place of freedom and light and love.

 

O LORD, we beseech thee, let thy continual pity cleanse and defend thy Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without thy succour, preserve it evermore by thy help and goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

[The Collect for Trinity 16]

 

 

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