Sunday after Trinity
D. G. Phillips
West LaHave, Broad Cove, Crousetown – November 18
Colossians 1:3f St. Matthew 9:18f
Give thanks unto the Father, which hath made
to be partakers of the inheritance of the
saints in light.
the last few weeks we’ve been celebrating All Saints’ for eight days
and All Souls day. It is a fitting way to wind up the Church
year. If we have been keeping our eyes on Jesus, lovingly, we will
without a doubt, by grace, have become more saintly ourselves, more
holy. And we are being drawn upward as we reflect on the examples
of the saints, of the ways they have partaken in the inheritance,
participated in the life of God.
The focus of my preaching during Trinity season
has been on the reform of the soul, on the ascent of the soul in a
journey of pilgrimage into the Kingdom of heaven. You may not have
heard me calling you much to specific ministries to express our love
of neighbour – next year I will try to reflect on that more. But
the love of our neighbour is an unstoppable outcome of our drawing
nearer and becoming more like God – because God is love – active,
life giving, fiery red love.
Today is about the culmination of that journey –
sainthood. The Father, through Jesus Christ, hath made us
meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light.
And what is that inheritance? St. Paul says it is to be filled
with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual
understanding: that ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all
pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing
in the knowledge of God; strengthened with all might,
according to his glorious power, unto all patience and
long-suffering with joyfulness.
That’s a lot of alls (and one
It sounds like loving God with all your heart and
soul and mind and strength and your neighbour as yourself. It is to
think the things we’ve been made by God to think about, to
do the things we’ve been made by God to do, and to be the
people God has made us to be. This is the life of the saints. And
it is the life we are to hope for, the life we are to
believe is possible by grace, and the life that we are to
love, wherever we see it manifested in whole or in part in
ourselves and in one another.
St. Paul mentions these three virtues of faith,
hope and love at the beginning of today’s Epistle: we heard
of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which
ye have to all the saints; for the hope which is laid up for
you in heaven
Our gift of faith is leading us to think about
the things of heaven, even Jesus Christ; God’s love is moving our
hearts to a greater love of our neighbour; and we are being filled
with hope that all things are working together ultimately for good.
We are partakers even now of that inheritance…
Yet we would all partake more fully, wouldn’t we? And sometimes we
know something of that partaking and then we lose it, become
discouraged, or we can’t see, our hearts are lukewarm and we feel
held back, or even that we are falling away from an earlier state of
So why is this? what gives?
Well, let’s recall our journey.
We’ve been led through these readings over that
last half year to recognize a separation between the old Adam and
the new person being raised up in Christ. This is a crucial
Remember we started from a state of fallenness
where we were completely absorbed by our passions – pride,
vainglory, dejection, wrath, sloth, greed, gluttony, lust. At the
start we found ourselves a bit out of control, lurching from one of
these passions to the other, never satisfied, never at peace.
[Trinity 3 to 9]
Christ delivers us from this torment, by
recalling us to ourselves, to look in, to confess our worldly way of
thinking and acting, and to recover inwardly the gifts that are ours
as children of God – to enter into His rest. When we drew ourselves
apart from that mad engagement in the world, there was a recovery of
an inner quiet, of an inward hearing of the Word. When we entered
that rest, we found our hearts moved with compassion for others. We
came to know again an inner joy, began to stretch out to know God,
were given the grace to overcome the fears, hatred, and despair that
had paralyzed us, and we began to walk in the Spirit, in love.
[Trinity 10 to 16]
This was the recovery of the inner man or inner
person. So we dwell in this place, our true self, made in the image
and likeness of God.
Well Jesus wants us to stay there – our souls
conformed to His image and likeness. And our bodies become obedient
to the commands of this inner person, no longer dragging the inner
person to destruction. Our remaining in this right relation between
the inner and outer person in the face of the world is the
perseverance of the saints.
What happens if we find our inner man withering
away? What can we do?
This is the subject of today’s Gospel.
The fate of the inner person is dependent upon
the health of the outer person. The health of the inner person, our
salvation and our Godward focus, our maturity in Christ, is
undermined so long as the outer person or our outer activities are
dissipating our desire in unhealthy ways.
In the Gospel, a young girl has fallen ill and
has died. Mark and Luke in their accounts of this miracle tell us
she was twelve years old – at the age for her bet-mitzvah, on the
verge of entering into adulthood. Her father, a man who is used to
ruling and having authority on earth, is powerless to help her in
the face of her death. He seeks the intercession of Jesus to raise
her from death and Jesus makes his way to her home.
But a mature woman, who has suffered twelve years
from an issue of blood, interrupts this procession to the girl’s
house. Here is a woman whose strength has been dissipated
continually – she has sought all the world’s healers and has had no
relief. She comes up behind Jesus, and the crowd who followed him,
and she reaches out in faith to touch the hem of his garment, and in
that very hour she knew herself to have been made whole.
Jesus continues on now towards the girl who
cannot reach out, and he reached out towards her, taking her by the
hand, and she arose.
What does this have to do with the inner man in
us withering away?
It is surely significant that the young girl,
has been alive for twelve years, and that the sickness of the woman, has
lasted twelve years.
Is this not the experience of every Christian?
We’ve been made a child of God, and yet at the same time we still
suffer. And that suffering continues, so long as we continue to
pursue outwardly the consolations of the world – there is a kind of
believing and an unbelieving, there is a kind of hope in the
promises of God and a hope in the promises of the world, there is a
kind of love of Jesus but it is half hearted and we continue to
pursue our previous loves. [And we suffer not just because of our
unfaithfulness, but because also of trying to be faithful in a world
that fights against us.]
God raises up within us the new man, the inner
person, conformed to the image of the Trinity, but so long as we fail to
give ourselves wholeheartedly to Jesus, everything is half measures.
And how can God strengthen [us] with
all might, according to his glorious power, unto all
patience and long-suffering with joyfulness – so long as we are
dissipating half our life on seeking worldly ends? Can we serve tea
to our neighbours if the teapot is full of holes?
How can God fill [us] with the
knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding,
so long as we are committing the highest aspect of our minds, made
to view the heavens, using it mostly to consider simply this dust
that we walk on?
Can God make us walk worthy unto all pleasing,
being fruitful in every good work so long as our activity is
half spent in vanity and nothingness.
Our outer lives must conform to, be directed by,
our inner person, and that inner person must be conformed to the
image and likeness of God. Only then can we more fully be partakers
of the inheritance of the saints in light.
I think probably for all of us, we find that that
inner person is in state of immaturity, ready for Christian
maturity, and yet we are held back, and we are often at the point of
death inwardly. The distinction between our inner and outer lives
If this is so, our transformation will come about
as we outwardly in our lives seek to touch the hem of his garment,
as we will do shortly in coming forward to receive the Bread of
life, to drink from the Cup of salvation. [And we can touch the
hem of his garment, when physically we pick up with our hands
the Bible, the Word of life, and read it.]
Here, in the flesh, outwardly, we reach out to
touch Christ’s body and blood in faith, spiritual food united by
Word and Spirit with
His perfect body in heaven. And Jesus promises to come to us,
inwardly, from heaven to restore that inner person, bringing us to
maturity, making us whole, and able to be partakers of inheritance of
the saints in light.
He took her by the hand, and the maid arose.
LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy household
the Church in continual godliness; that through thy protection it
may be free from all adversities, and devoutly given to serve thee
in good works, to the glory of thy name; through Jesus Christ our