Sixth Sunday after Trinity, 2011

Readings:  Is 66:1-2, 10-24; Psalm 98; I John 3:1-8; Matthew 24:23-31

16 February a.d. 2011


Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.  AMEN.

Three thing jump out at us from this passage:  Love, Sight, Judgement.


BEHOLD!  Hear!  Look!  Listen!  Ponder!

God our father is so determined to encourage us with his love that he sends his holy Apostle to make this announcement:

“Behold what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God.”

We ought to feel never-ending astonishment in these words, at this love so complete, so great, so transforming, that men and angels and God himself call us “sons of God.”  How can this be, since by nature and inheritance we were God’s enemies, sinners and sons of the devil?

By the gift of Christ.  We have been made sons of God by Son of God, by the gift of Christ.  By his only begotten Son the Father himself has made peace with us and has removed all barriers removed and given all gifts.

What barriers removed?

  • Guilt of sin
  • Power of sin

What gifts bestowed by this mighty love?

  • Not only peace with God,
  • but we are also adopted as God’s own children, “heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ”.  Romans 8:15-17

Everything that was his alone is now ours together.  Everything.  What manner of love is this, that leaves nothing out, withholds nothing, not even his own Son?  Romans 8:32

What about the world?  It does not know us, cannot recognize us, because it refused also to recognize Christ.  John 1:10.

Truth is, world does not WANT to know us.  Two different worlds exist, one world Christian, and one world ungodly.  The one knows not the other.

The world derides those who lead godly lives.  The one despises worldly things; the other gives himself to them.  The one lives for the Superbowl, giving itself to spectacles and entertainment, the prizes of pride, drunkenness, money, anger, lust, power over men.  The world scoffs at those whose heart is fixed on the prizes of Christ’s unseen kingdom.

And least of all do these lovers of the world want to know the Lord Jesus Christ, because he reproves all sin.  Since they love sin, they must despise him, because where Christ enters in the devil and sin flee and the Spirit rules in holiness and righteousness, and they don’t want to let go of their beloved sin.

St. John tells us how to distinguish the godly from the ungodly:  “every man that hath this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure.”  The godly keep their eyes on the unseen prize and the unseen Christ, and purify themselves.  They put sin to death, and if a person is not putting sin to death, however slowly the warfare drags on, that person is not a Christian.


“It doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him.”

God does not change Christians instantaneously.  When he regenerates us, we become truly the sons of God adopted as completely as we will ever be, possessing all his love, but the change, the regeneration, has only BEGUN in us and is not yet complete.  We are not yet perfect, and will never have shed all our sin until we behold Christ in glory.

How do I know this is what St. John means?  How do I know that he is not arguing that Christians all live in sinless perfection?

By his own words opening this epistle.

  • John 1:8 ¶  If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
  • John 2:1b:2.  “If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous:  And he is the propitiation for our sins…”

“We shall be like him.” That is, we shall be as he is, but “as” is not “equal.”  We will never be the equal of God in his being, wisdom, justice, holiness, goodness, and truth.  Even in glory we will never be perfect as he is perfect, but still we will be like him, we will be “little Christs,” as the model is like the original, because right now the Holy Spirit is conforming us to his image.  Romans 8:29.


The greatest promise of the Scripture, the thing most longed for by fallen and redeemed mankind, is to once again see God face to face as Adam saw him in the garden.  That is our greatest desire.  You find it throughout Scripture

Moses begged God that he might see him, but told him he could not see him and live.  God put him into the cleft of a rock, shaded him with his hands, and let him see only the backside of his glory passing by.  Exodus 33:18-23

Job consoled himself with these words, “I know that my Redeemer liveth, and though worms devour this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God.”  Job 19:26

The Psalmist echoes the same promise, “I will behold thy face in righteousness;  I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness.  (Ps. 17:15)

And how many Christians on their death beds have said with St. Paul that their deepest longing is “to be with Christ, which is far better.”  Philippians 1:23.

But think on, “We shall see him as he is.”

  • Not as in this world, “through a glass, darkly.”
  • Not merely the reflection of him through his creation and his Word.
  • Not in the readily-wearied weakness of our flesh.
  • Not with our frail attention.
  • Now with a will weakened and an understanding clouded by sin and emotion, but

As he is.

Triumphant.  Shining as the sun.  Glorious in the favour of the Father, no longer veiled in the weakness of his flesh.  Perfect beyond all our ability to conceive perfection.  We will see what eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor hath entered into the hearts of men, a vision surpassing all earthly beautifulness.

  • More beautiful than a new calf,
  • more beautiful than gold, than silver,
  • than forests and fields,
  • than high mountains and great plains,
  • more beautiful that the stretching sea,
  • more beautiful than sun or moon or stars or angels,
  • surpassing all those

Because from Christ’s beauty all other beauty flows.

But what we will see when we see Christ does not stop there, because what we see will also change how we see.

We will no longer be looking at a reflection, a promise, a hope, but the reality, the source, the original.  We will see not the truth we imagine, or reason to, but Truth itself, because Christ is the Truth.  And when we see the reality of Christ, all our understanding will be changed because then we will see everything through the lens of Christ himself.

We will be like those angels who longed to look (I Peter 1:12) into the means of the salvation of mankind, who for ages wondered and pondered and guessed at this mystery past finding out, and then at the birth of Christ stood gazing in wonder at this babe with their hands over their mouths, whispering, “THIS is the mystery!  This is the Father’s great salvation!”

After we see Christ, the way we see everything else will change.  Through his perfect holiness we will see our sin, and at last with a full understanding grasp what his forgiveness has done for us.  When we see Christ, we will see all else clearly, and understand perfectly.


Finally, this passage teaches us that there are two kinds of men, and only two – no third group:  the sons of God and sons of the devil – and that a sure and certain judgement is coming.

Sons are called sons because they act just like their father.

SONS OF GOD live not in sinless perfection, never sinning ever, but they are not given to sin.  They are not habitual sinners.  They do not embrace sin as rule of their lives, but they are fighting it, they are becoming more and more like Christ, dead to sin and alive to righteousness.  When they fall down in sin, the stand up in repentance.  That is the pattern of the Christian life, sin and repentance, not sinless perfection.  Everybody knows whose sons they are because they act like their elder brother and their Father.

SONS OF THE DEVIL.  Don’t think the devil is some sort of god equal to the real God.  He’s not.  God created him, and he fell away to evil.  We call them sons of the devil not because the devil created them or has begotten them, but because they act like him.  They hate God and fall away from him and rebel against him.  They embrace sin, they wallow in sin, they alibi for sin, they glory in sin.

The devil wants us to think of him as the comic “man in red tights.”  Thus we we will underestimate his power and his hatred, we discount his power, and thus he more easily fools us, even God’s elect.  But whatever silly ideas the world has for the devil, God warns us about him in the sternest terms:  He is a roaring lion who roams the whole earth looking for souls to devour.  1 Peter 5:8.  That is the reality of the devil.

But that does not mean that we are doomed to be the devil’s victims.  Listen to what St. John teaches us:  “The Son of God was manifested for this purpose, to destroy the works of the devil.”

At his resurrection Christ already triumphed over the Devil and all his angels.  Colossians 2:13 says he “made a show of them openly, triumphing over them.”

Christ has already made a definitive end of the devil.  He has already broken the power of the devil and all his works, his chief work being the fall and damnation of mankind.  Now, we, the sons of God, are involved merely in Christ’s mopping-up operation.

And lest you forget the Father’s love for you, lest you forget Christ’s triumph over the devil, lest you look at the evil in the seen world around you and forget the unseen Christ that awaits you, Christ himself has given you a reminder, a token and pledge and sign of his love, a vision of himself:  his own body and blood.

And as you partake of that body and blood today, and every other day of your life, you must remind yourself with St. John, “BEHOLD!  What manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God!”     ?


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Trinty 3: The mirror of God/mp3 available

Third Sunday after Trinity 2010
Jer. 31:1-14; Ps. 145; 1 Peter 5:5-11; Luke 15:1-10. 20 June a.d. 2010
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer. AMEN.
We have spent two Sundays laying the foundation in love for the Christian warfare, the Christian life, that we are setting out on. All of us must look at our own strength versus the demands the Christian life puts on us and despair. We don’t have it in us. Yet this Sunday is the Sunday of grace. The message of all these readings is, although God calls you to do what is impossible in your own power, he will surely give you the grace to perform it.
Hateful. Some people are just hateful. They have no redeeming social value. They are ignorant white trash. “Nutzlose Fresser”, the Nazis called them, Useless eaters. Oxygen wasters. Fornicators. Adulterers. Drunkards. Pill heads. Pot heads. Meth heads. Junk food eaters. Scabby. Tatooed. No judgment at all. That’s the thing about the lost. They’re so – lost. They are all so hateful.
Their sin is easy to see. It only takes one look. Our sin, on the other hand, is not so easy to see. Like Count Dracula, we look into the mirror and see nothing. What blinds us? Our pride.
Yet there is one mirror that shows with perfect clarity & faithfulness exactly what we look like, one mirror that shatters all the blindness of our pride: the grace of God.
Luke 15 is the chapter of the Lost and Found. Lost sheep, lost coins, lost sinners in today’s reading, and even the lost prodigal son immediately after today’s reading. This chapter makes utterly plain one fact: the grace of God, and only the grace of God saves sinners.
Two kinds of people come to hear Jesus: Pharisees and Scribes (the religious people) on one side and tax collectors & sinners on the other. In the nose of the religious people, the sinners smell bad. They look bad, too. The religious people don’t want to touch the dirty sinners, much less eat with them. They’re losers.
Now there is nothing wrong with being religious, if your religion is Christianity. But there is something very wrong pretending to religion outwardly while you are dead inwardly. That’s one of the dangers of religion.
Pride has so blinded the nice religious people that Jesus holds up the grace of God as a mirror so they can see what they really look like, i.e., how God sees them.
How has their pride blinded them? Pride makes them raisethemselves above God. Pride makes them set themselves up as judges over Jesus Christ himself.
But wait! Weren’t these Pharisees already on God’s side? How were they exalting themselves above God? Didn’t they keep all of God’s rules meticulously? If that isn’t submission to God, what is?
That’s not submission at all. They had dragged God and his holiness down to their own level so they avoid seeing what they really were. They were so proud of how well they kept all their imagined rules, which weren’t God’s in the first place, that they had turned a blind eye to their own real sins. They could not see themselves as God saw them: as hateful sinners.
Pride had blinded them to the perfect holiness of God. They had forgotten that God is “of purer eyes than to behold evil, and cannot look on iniquity.” (Habbakuk 1:13. As every man does, as you and I also most certainly do, the Pharisees worked hard at deceiving themselves to make themselves holy in their own eyes, like covering up all the mirrors in the house so they couldn’t be forced to see their true faces. If they could just keep their elaborate rules and stay away from God’s mirror, they could stand tall and stay proud.
But whose rules did they follow, theirs or God’s? Not God’s. No, they had imagined and invented all sorts of rules. Outwardly they promised to keep God’s law, but inwardly they only gave them an excuse to break it. Jesus had already indicted them as hypocrites. “You teach your own commandments and traditions only so you can lay aside God’s commandments, so you don’t have to obey. You make up all sorts of rules about washing your hands, and pots and cups, but you reject God’s commandment. You say you are obeying God, but the rules are only an excuse to cheat your parents, to commit adultery, or to defraud the widow and the poor while salving your own conscience.” (Mark 7:1-23)
It’s not too surprising then, that when the sinners and tax collectors show up to hear Jesus, the Pharisees and scribes grumble, saying, “This man receives sinners, and even eats with them!” What they didn’t say, but were thinking, was, “We are the nice people! How could he be a nice person? Nice people don’t have anything to do with sinners. We are too good to lower ourselves to the level of sinners.”
Pride had blinded them. They had substituted their own cheap cardboard righteousness for the fierce, burning, perfect righteousness of God, and worse, they dared to call it holy. Pride persuaded them that they were earning their own righteousness, and therefore could not be sinners.
Pride blinded them, so they could not see God’s standard of perfect holiness. They forgot that God says, “There is none righteous, no not one. They have all gone astray.”
And having raised themselves up higher than God, it was easy, it was essential, that they forget that they came out of their mother’s womb exactly like those other sinners, just one more naked sinner.
And pride would not let them see that no works or merit on the sinners’ part moves God to love them. Only the grace of God saves sinners. Pride had blinded them to the hideousness of their own sin. Pride had persuaded them that sin was a scratch, a pin prick, and not a soul-killing mortal wound.
So Jesus holds before their eyes the mirror of grace, because only the depth of our sin teaches us the height of God’s grace. Once we look into the mirror of God’s grace, we see ourselves as we truly are, covered not with stars & glory but with shame and sin. Hopelessly separated from God.
Every one of Jesus’ three examples has one thing in common: the owner of the lost item didn’t need it. He had no real reason to recover the lost thing except that he loved it, and it was his own.
As anyone can tell you who has ever owned sheep, the man with 99 sheep didn’t need one more sheep. Still, he leaves the others behind in order to go find the one that was lost. And when he found it he rejoiced, so much that when he gets home he calls in all this friends and neighbours to rejoice with him.
And the woman with ten pieces of silver – can one lost piece really make that much difference? Yes, so she sweeps the whole house and searches diligently until she finds it. And just like the shepherd, when she finds the lost coin she calls all her friends and neighbours together to rejoice with her.
This, Jesus says, is what lost sheep and lost coins have in common with lost sinners: their recovery brings greater joy than owning the whole mob. “I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance.”
Why rejoice? Because, as the prodigal Father says to his other son who complains about forgiving the prodigal and rejoicing over his return: “It was meet [fitting & right] that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”
Rejoice, because the lost was found, and restored. Rejoice, the hopeless found hope. Rejoice, the goodness of God has conquered. Rejoice, the relentless, longsuffering love of God has been vindicated, with glory.
The Fall is undone. The love of God has restored the world to what he created it to be. And God says to all the angels and all his saints, “Rejoice with me! For I have found my sheep which was lost.”
Maybe you are thinking, ‘Well, if I had been there among all those Pharisees I wouldn’t have been blinded by pride.”
Yet that very thought is identically the same sin. “Well, I may be bad, but I’m not as bad as so-and-so. There’s nothing wrong with a little of my sin – I don’t think God really cares about little things like that. It’s just a little thing.”
You are too proud too look into the mirror.
Beloved, only one thing can cure pride, and that is to look full into the mirror of God’s grace and see yourself as you truly are, as far from the holiness of God, as hideously covered with the scabs and sores of sin as all those terrible sinners you hate so much. The longer you stare into the grace of God, the clearer you will see you own sin, and the faster your pride will die, for the grace of God kills all pride.
The Christian life begins with humility, with the confession of powerlessness and helplessness and sin. That confession claims nothing by right, but only bows before God and says, “I submit. I submit.”
In today’s Epistle St. Peter tells us that we must cloth ourselves with humility, and humility means submitting to human authorities, and submitting to God.
Submitting to God? That doesn’t mean merely to stop shoplifting and abstain from axe murders and adultery. No, it means to accept humbly all events that come from his Providence, all trials, all persecutions, all betrayals, and all sickness. Submitting to God means to receive and embrace the trial, knowing that God has cut and measured the trial for you by his perfect wisdom and grace.
And lest you lightly throw away St. Peter’s admonition, he also delivers a warning and a promise.
“Be sober, be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil, as a roaring lion walks about, seeking whom he may devour.” And of course Satan, who himself was destroyed by pride, knows how to use your pride to destroy you.
Finally, St Peter promises that if you do submit yourself to the God of grace that after suffering only a little while, he will make you perfect, stablish, strengthen, and settle you, and then at the very thought of God’s goodness, he bursts out with praise.
Beloved, if I leave you thinking that you can kill your fierce pride in the power of your own strength, I would be just like those Pharisees Christ rebuked. No. Humility is a grace, a gift from God who opens our eyes so we can see ourselves.
But like every grace, it begins as a gift but must be cultivated like a habit. It is painful to look into the mirror and see ourselves, perhaps the most painful act in the world, but humility is the gift of God that cleanses us, and after that painful suffering the God of grace will make you perfect.
The alternative to that painful suffering is to cling to your pride, and wait until the devil comes for you. Perish the thought! ?

Glory be to the Father,
And to the Son,
And to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning,
Is now and ever shall be,
World without end, Amen.

Third Sunday after Trinity
O LORD, We beseech thee mercifully to hear us;
and grant that we,
to whom thou hast given
an hearty desire to pray,
may, by thy mighty aid,
be defended and comforted
in all dangers & adversities;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen
Trinity 3

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Trinity 2: Go in love

First Sunday after Trinity 2010
Readings: Deut 20:1-9; Ps. 76; 1 John 3:13; Luke 14:16-24
13 June a.d. 2010

Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer. AMEN.

Today’s readings present us a contradiction, something altogether contrary to our expectation & understanding: The New Testament lesson is more stringent, more demanding, than the Old Testament lesson.
We are used to thinking of the Old Testament of a set of long, complicated rules that the Hebrews couldn’t keep no matter how hard they tried. Then in the New Testament Christ abolishes all those rules and ceremonies and pretty much leaves us free to run along our merry way. We’re under grace, not law, after all, and grace requires nothing at all from us, just that we love God and love everybody and are nice.
Oh, how wrong we are. How utterly, totally wrong.
In the Old Testament lesson God through Moses actually hands the people several ways to dodge the draft. That’s right, when the people of Israel go out to war with their enemies and God’s, you’d think that everybody would have to be there, sword in hand. Not so.
When you go to war, God says, and you see enemies more numerous than you, don’t be afraid for I am with you.
However, before the battle the priest shall go out and make this announcement:
1. Do not be terrified of your enemies, because the Lord Your God is with you to fight against your enemies and save you.
2. But wait: send the officers also out to give the people excuses on these grounds.
a. If you have built a new house, and haven’t yet dedicated it, go home.
b. If you have planted a vineyard, but not yet eaten of it, go back.
c. If you have been engaged but not yet married your wife, go home
d. Finally, if any one of you is fearful, and faint hearted, go back. No shame, no blame, just go back.
All this is awfully generous. It addresses all the regrets a man might have going into battle – he might lose property and wife before he ever gets to enjoy them – and even gives cowards an excuse. Just admit you are a coward, and go home. This is not very strict.
But in today’s Gospel, we find the same excuses blown to smithereens.
You know this parable well. A man made a great supper, maybe a wedding feast for his son, and sent out invitations, just like the invitation to go to war in the OT lesson.
But when he sent his servant to call the guests to supper, they all began to make excuses, and they are excuses nearly identical as those in the OT lesson:
? One says, I just bought a new piece of ground I have to go inspect. Property I haven’t been able to use yet
? Another says, I’ve just bought five yoke of oxen, and I need to go test-drive them.
? Another says, “I have just gotten married, so I can’t possibly come.”
Does the host then back off and say, “Well, those are pretty strong excuses. I will just forgive those people and maybe change my feast to another date.”
Not at all. When the servant told him about these excuse-mongers, these ingrates, his eyes flashed with anger. “You go out into the streets and highways and you find the people sleeping under the bushes, the worthless, the poor, the crippled and lame and the blind, and you drag them in to fill my supper table – and I promise you this, that none of those men that spurned my invitation will taste of my supper.”
Whoa. No much understanding or generosity there. No way out. Come to my supper, or that’s the end of you.
None of this is so subtle that we cannot penetrate its meaning. In fact, it is very plain. Christians have always understood the Christian life as a kind of warfare against the world, the flesh, and the devil. The conquest of the Promised Land symbolizes and foreshadows has the Christian life, the life of warfare against giants in the land and against our enemies and God’s. It is spiritual warfare against our own sin, the lusts of our flesh, the temptations of the world and the tricks and deceit of the devil, but is it still warfare, and far more arduous warfare than physical warfare. And no Christian, not a single one, is exempted from this warfare.
Then there is the Feast, the Great Supper. Wherever it appears in Scripture, from
? the sacrifice of Abel to
? Melchizedek’s meal to
? Abraham’s meal with the angels
? to the Passover
? to the wedding at Cana
? to the Last Supper
? to the Wedding Supper of the Lamb,
the Supper is that event where God meets with man, offering with the food peace and fellowship. The feast of God feeds both body and soul. It is the unique event that assures us that God really is with us that he forgives and accepts us and has adopted us into his own family. The Feast, in other words, is shorthand for the whole Christian life, for all of life with God.
“He prepareth a table before me in the presence of my enemies, my cup runneth over.”
“Take, eat, this is my body which is broken for you and for many, for the forgiveness of sin. Do this as often as you shall eat it, in remembrance of me.”
And this parable clearly represents the Feast. Jesus is warning the Jews, his hearers, that they must come to his feast, or God will utterly reject them, and in their place he will substitute the unworthy and the lowest of the low. They think themselves too good to come to the feast, too righteous. Well, God will show them. He will beat the bushes and drag the dirty, the poor, the lame and blind in to fill up the tables at his feast. He will find those who know they have no claim to righteousness, and drag them in kicking and screaming, but he will fill his table.
Clearly, God has upped the ante hugely since the Old Testament, because NO excuse satisfies now to allow you to dodge the Christian life and Christian warfare. None.
Yesterday Johnny Bain and I were talking about a book he had recently read by a Presbyterian pastor. He had taken up a new church and was preaching the grace of God. One of the members, a woman, came to him and said, “What you have been preaching is completely different from what I have been taught and understood of Christianity my whole life. The way I understand it, if I keep the rules and do what God commands, God has to accept me. I’ve earned it.
“But what you are teaching me is terrible. It isn’t terrible because my good works don’t count. No, it is terrible for another reason.
“You see, all my life I knew that when I had kept the rules, done my duty, that was enough. God couldn’t demand anything else from me. I could know when I was done. But now, with this grace, there is no end. God can demand everything.”
Of course, she was absolutely right. That’s what Jesus means when he says, “when you have done everything you are commanded, say, we are unprofitable servants. We have only done our duty.” (Luke 17:10).
But this poor woman only saw grace halfway, ignorantly and suspiciously, and without love. She feared God, but the wrong way, the same way we fear a mousetrap, that it will suddenly spring and hurt us.
According to the Gospel, the only obedience that pleases God is obedience that springs from love. Love, not gain or merit, is the reason that we obey God, and we obey solely to please him.
And certainly, just like this poor woman, fear holds most of mankind away from God’s table and the Feast. “Oh,” they say, “if I submit myself to God, if I give myself wholly and without reserve to God, why, there’s no telling what he will make me do. For starters, he’ll certainly make me give up smoking, and probably drinking, and I can’t cuss anymore, and then he’ll make me go to deep, dark Africa to spend my life as a missionary.”
Oh, how wrong we are. How utterly, totally wrong. How utterly we misunderstand God and his love. We believe that we will LOSE when we abandon ourselves to the love of God, when in fact we become infinite gainers.
She was right about this part: With grace, there is no end of what God can demand of us. The terrible love of God knows no limit at all. He won’t take half of you, or even ¾ or 9/10s. He will have you all, or none.
But she was wrong about this part: how the grace and love of God change us. How the love of God, growing in our heart, changes all our desires, so we no longer clutch tightly houses and wives and position and money. Instead, the love of God, our love for him and his love working in us, changes our desires, so that just has he has not withheld his only begotten Son from us, so we cannot, would not withhold anything from him.
We don’t have to, because whatever we ask of him, he will give to us. And because his grace gives us the will to obey him, and the power.
All those things we were afraid God would make us give up, all those things we were terrified of losing if we abandoned ourselves to God, suddenly fall out of the equation altogether. We are glad to give whatever God demands, because we love him.
Beloved, we are ready to set out on Trinity season to lead the Christian life, wholly offering ourselves to God and not holding anything back. These last two Sundays we have heard again and again that for that warfare, the one indispensable piece of equipment we must carry with us is love: love of God, and love of our neighbour.
Beloved, you have your marching orders: go forward, in love. ?

Glory be to the Father,
And to the Son,
And to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning,
Is now and ever shall be,
World without end, Amen.

The Collect for Second Sunday after Trinity
O LORD, who never failest to help and govern
those whom thou dost bring up
in thy steadfast fear and love;
Keep us, we beseech thee,
under the protection of thy good providence,
and make us to have
a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

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Trinity 1

First Sunday after Trinity, 2010
Readings: Jeremiah 23:23-35; Ps. 73; 1 John 4:7-21; Luke 16:19-31
6 June a.d. 2010

Laying a Foundation in Love
Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be always acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength and my redeemer. AMEN.
Last week I said that Trinity Sunday marks our graduation from learning the Christian life to practicing it. The first two Sundays in Trinity are spent laying the only foundation that can be laid for that life: love. All our work, all our efforts, all our obedience, all our good deeds, will all be worthless without love. (1 Corinthians 13)
Now, contrary to every thing that American culture teaches & portrays, love is not automatic. Love is not spontaneous. Love does not come naturally. Rather, love is the gift of God by the Holy Spirit, and like every other gift from God, it must be cultivated. You are responsible to see that it grows. You must learn love, you must feed and nurture love by the Word, and, most of all, you must practice love. All these readings today speak this same message with one voice.
It is not by accident that both of these first two Trinity Sundays present Gospel readings that show people who love the world more than they love God. We always live under the danger of the world stealing our hearts from God, and must work to guard our hearts.
That is the message of this sermon: Love is the foundation of the Christian life, and your must cultivate it. If you love God, you must love your neighbour, and you must practice loving both.
This love is not the warm fuzzies. This love is not the love of infatuated teenagers, not some undefined, formless emotion. This love is a cause, not an effect. Stop wondering what love is. God clearly defines love for us in 1 John 5:3: “This is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.”
Of course, this does not mean that you love God if you only observe his commandments outwardly. Outward obedience without the inward love of God is worthless. Our collect today prays that God would give us grace “that in keeping thy commandments we may please thee both in will and deed.” The deed is not enough; the will, that is, love, must accompany it.
Both these first Trinity Sundays take their epistle readings from 1 John. Why? Because the other title of 1 John is the “Book Of How You Can Know You Are A Christian.” It tells you how to measure your own life by the standard of Christianity to see if you are one.
In today’s Epistle St. John makes four points:
I. We know God through love.
II. We see God through love
III. Love is made perfect in us
IV Obedience proves our love.
I We Know God Through Love.
St. John begins with a command: “Beloved, let us love one another.” But why? Why should we do that?
Because love is of God, love is the essence of God’s character, and we who are made in his Image must love if we are to reflect that image. Every one that is born of God and loves God loves the brethren also, John says. And yes, the inverse is also true: He who loves not knows not God.
But why? Because God is love. Opposites cannot exist together, fire and ice, west and dry, oil and water. If God’s love lives in you, then love will come out of you. Love is never silent, love is never fruitless. Love will grow and overflow and make itself known.
God’s love makes itself know to us by his sending his only begotten Son into the world so that through him we might live, and that through him our sins might be removed. This is the original of all love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us. The love within the Trinity overflowed into creation, and after man fell, it overflowed into redemption. Love is a gift, not a reward, and our love can only spring from God’s love.
No natural man loves God. That has been true since Adam sinned. That sin makes every one of us hate God by nature. “There is none righteous, no, not one.” (Ps. 14:3; Ps 53:3; Romans 3:10, 12)
St. John draws a conclusion from God’s example: If God loved us so much that he sent his only begotten Son to die for us while we were still his enemies, then we ought to love one another.
No man has seen God. God is a spirit and hath not a body like men. (cf. John 6:40; John 14:8-9)
But just as we know the wind is passing because it bends the tree tops, so we can see God by the evidence of his presence. If we know that love originates only from God and we see ourselves loving one another, and then we can be sure that God dwells in us, because his love shows in the love we show one another.
That love proves that God has given us his Spirit, and proves that we dwell in him, and he dwells in us.
But there is a test that even love must pass.
St. John writes, “I, John, have seen and bear witness that God has sent his Son as saviour of the world.” This is the foundation of all truth, and without truth love cannot exist. Therefore, whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, then God abides in him, and he abides in God.
Earlier, in 1 John 4:2-3, St. John has already given this test for all spirits, including all men. It is a very simple test:
“By this we know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God. And Every Spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. This is the spirit of Antichrist.”
John says, “I pass this test. I know and have believed the love that God has for us in Jesus Christ and bear witness to him.”
God is love. So whoever abides in love, abides in God, and God in him. Over and over John identifies God as love, and draws this conclusion: that love in a person furnishes sufficient evidence that God himself dwells in him.
Here is where our love is grown up, mature, “made perfect”, and why: “so that we may have boldness in the day of judgment.”
But that raises a question: which day of judgment? The Last Day? Or the day we must face judgment in this world? Every day?
Certainly we will be bold in the Last Day, covered in the blood of Christ, all our sins forgiven, but John adds something. He says we have this boldness because “as God is in this world, so are we.”
We are Christ in the world, and to the world. Christ had to face judgment and persecution in this world to show his faithful love for God.
So we as little Christs in this world show our faithful love for God in every tribulation and persecution. Yes, every one.
Perfect love casts out fear. Think of what this means, that we can walk through our whole lives confident that our Father’s love is so great that we need fear nothing in this world. NOTHING. Not our own sin, not our own failures (past or future), not any man or what any man can do to us, not any deadly catastrophe, no earthquake or fire or flood or tornado or hurricane or financial collapse. Perfect love casts out fear, and not fear of persecution only, but all fear.
All fear arises from doubting God’s love. There can be no fear in perfect love because fear denies love. All fear involves torment, and there cannot be torment in love. If God loves us, would he leave us in the torment of fear? No. The very idea contradicts love’s nature.
But wait! I’m a Christian. I love God. I love my neighbour. What if I still have fears?
If you still fear, then you haven’t yet been made perfect in love. You haven’t entered fully, in full trust, into God’s love. Period.
This is not my conclusion, this is God’s, by the Holy Spirit in the mouth of the Apostle John. But that is not the hopeless end of the matter, because John’s epistle does not describe the perfect Christian only, but all Christians. Freedom from fear is the maturity of love, not its infancy. It is the goal every Christian is working toward, so you may not be fearlessly perfect in love yet, but you will be. And you must keep training yourself in that direction.
What proves your love for God? Your confession? Your donations? Your talk? No, only your obedience.
John says, If someone says he loves God and hates his brother, he is a liar. No middle ground or half-way house. Love God, love your brother; don’t love your brother, can’t love God.
Why is that? John explains: If you don’t love the brother you have seen, how can you love the God whom you have not seen? Your love for the unseen God can only be seen by your love for your seen brother. Period. God commands this: if you love me you must love your brother, too.
But wait! This is not new with Jesus and the New Testament. This is “the law and the prophets.”
In today’s Gospel, Abraham says that the law and the prophets are enough to teach anyone love. Just the mere words.
Every Sunday we hear Christ’s summary of the law: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and all thy soul and all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it: thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.” (Matt. 22:37-40)
If the love of God is working in you, and the Spirit of God is living in you, then inevitably that will produce love for your brother.
And that’s why it is so alarming, so terrifying, if that love does not appear in you, because that means that no matter how nice, no matter how well-behaved, no matter how religious you are, God’s Spirit is not in you.
The Holy Spirit inevitably brings forth love working obedience in every Christian, and if you cannot find some trace of that in you, however slight and weak and immature it might be, then you are not a Christian.
So we who by nature lack both love and obedience, pray in today’s collect that God would graciously help us. Even as we look at our own lack of love, we still ask him to help us keep his commandments both in deed and will, i.e., love. Give us, O Father, the love we need!
And because he loves us, and has planted his love in us, we don’t have to fear. He will answer that prayer. ?
Glory be to the Father,
And to the Son,
And to the Holy Ghost.
As it was in the beginning,
Is now and ever shall be,
World without end, Amen.

The Collect for First Sunday after Trinity
the strength of all those
who put their trust in thee;
Mercifully accept our prayers; and because,
through the weakness of our mortal nature,
we can do no good thing without thee,
grant us the help of thy grace,
that in keeping thy commandments
we may please thee,
both in will and deed;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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We have adopted By Laws, and Our Rector is the proud new owner of a Vestry:

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