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Posts Tagged ‘Bride of Christ’

“Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

In today’s Epistle lesson, St. James does not threaten us with damnation if we do not act a certain way.  He does not chastise us for the ugly results of our misbehavior.  Instead, St. James explains how we relate both to creation and to God, knowing that this knowledge will force us to change our behavior.  So what is this knowledge?

God the Father “begat us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”  What are firstfruits?  My wife, Angela, picked up a small tomato plant recently that would fit in our tiny patio area at our condominium.  Remember, we moved recently from a proper house with a proper yard.  We are not used to working with a small space.

But Angela did a fine job and brought home this plant, which we hung up back there and watered.  God’s creation, the sun, has done most of the work.  With some water, the vine itself began growing.  After a little while, our first little tomato matured.  We brought it in and ate the little thing together, enjoying the firstfruits of this new vine at our new home.  I enjoyed it as a very nice moment.

But I did not create the tomato vine, nor did I create the sun and water.  This first tomato was the first taste of things to come which the good Lord has brought us from this plant.  In that first taste was the actuality of that gift and the promise of more gifts to come.

St. James says here that “we should be a kind of firstfruits of” God the Father’s “creatures.”  On each of the six days of creation recounted in the first book of Moses, Genesis, “God saw that” what he had wrought that day “was good.”  But, God changed his judgement of what he beheld later on that sixth day.

“[After] God made the beast of the earth after his kind … God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.  So God created man in his own image, in the image of God created he him; male and female created he them.”

After this creation of man, “God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good.”  God made man alone of all creation in his own image.  God gave dominion of all creatures to man alone.  God judged all of creation as very good only after he created man.

These three things distinguish mankind from the rest of God’s creation from the very beginning:  Man is created in God’s image, dominion of all creatures is given to man, and creation was very good only after man was created.  These three things form our understanding of our relation to creation from its very beginning.

But Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden, pushing us away from the holy and pure God out into a broken and enfeebled world of sinful men, patrolled by Satan.  Then, after the holy nation of Israel, set apart by God as a holy people, was led to greater and greater truth through the Law and the prophets, Christ our Lord came into the world.

St. John in his gospel calls Christ the Logos, the Verbum, the Word of God.  So here St. James writes that God the Father “begat us with the word of truth”, Who is Christ our Lord.  We are slaves no longer to hurting one another and our Heavenly Father.  Christ, the Son of God, has taken up our flesh and made it holy through His Incarnation, death, and Resurrection.  We are changed by Christ’s action of wondrous loving-kindness.  We are restored, we are justified through Christ back to the holy state in which God the Father originally created us.

And as we can see that God created us last but called all creation with us very good, God the Father says that we shall be the firstfruits of his creation.  We are the tithe of God’s creation, the very best it has to offer, the first and top-most offering of it to God the Father which represents the whole.  So we are the uppermost cut of God’s creation which is given back to God as a sacrificial offering of love.

For we who are in dominion of the whole world are not to exercise our dominion of the world for our own sakes but for God’s sake as found in Christ.  As God became man to redeem us and all creation, so we return with Christ back to God the Father as a love offering on behalf of all God’s creation.

As men joined together in Holy Church, which is the Body and Bride of Christ, we must also be holy.  We are made holy through God in Christ Jesus.  But we must also comport ourselves in the manner to which we are called.

When I go out on the town, I wear my clericals unless I am on an exclusively recreational or medical mission, for I am a priest of God.  If you as a father sit amongst your children, you act as the most responsible of them, not the least, for you are no child to your children.  We each must behave ourselves in accordance with the manner to which we are called.

Therefore, St. James continues on in this Epistle lesson to explain the way we must behave in keeping with the high calling we receive together as the pinnacle of creation and brothers of our Lord Christ.  He lays out three specific things we must do to live out the calling as the lords and ladies of creation and joint-heirs of Christ.

First, St. James says, “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.”  We should first seek to understand rather than jumping immediately into feeling anger.  But you might say, ‘I cannot control when I feel angry!’  We indeed can control how we feel.  Try listening to everything before drawing a conclusion.

This teaching on anger is very important.  Christ Himself said in St. Matthew v.21-22:

“Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment:  But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire.”

We place ourselves in mortal danger, that is, danger of losing our very lives and our very soul, when we jump into anger.  Let God be angry for us.  He always judges correctly.  He never makes mistakes.  And God is omnipotent, all powerful.  He can actually do something about it.  Be not angry, but rather trust in God.

Second, St. James continues:  “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness….”  I have been a little boy, a fraternity pledge, a paid scholar at the School of Infantry, and a choral scholar at seminary.  I know how to cuss.  I was raised well after the Sixties and the Baby Boom, so I know how to participate in all the superfluity of naughtiness literally like there is no tomorrow.

Dear people of God, we cannot allow filthiness and naughtiness into our hearts even in secret without disinheriting ourselves from the inheritance Christ has won for us on the Cross and the empty tomb.  We cannot join ourselves to selfish things whether culturally high or low as the gutter without turning our back on our good God.  If we love pleasure more than we love Christ, then we hate Christ with our minds, our hearts, our bodies, and our whole souls.

Third, St. James writes to us:  “…Receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.”  Our salvation is not a thing of pride.  Our relationship with Christ is not a thing we have accomplished.  The eternal action of spiritual things has not been done by us.  We are the recipients of the goodness of God in our lives.  True, we can open or close ourselves to a certain degree, but even that is done by the grace of God.  Knowing that all goodness which flows to us comes from God, and especially the heavenly goodness of salvation and our attachment to the Body of Christ through the grafting of the Holy Ghost, then the best we can do is to meekly receive the good gift given to us.

And there we have it.  We must know one thing and do three things.  We must know that God created us from the beginning to be the apex of his glorious creation, even to the point of sending his beloved Son our Saviour Jesus Christ to redeem us from our sins and join us to His holy Person through the power of the Holy Ghost.  We must know that we are the rightful heirs, through no virtue or good decision of our own, that being the rightful heirs of God we are the lords of creation and must conduct ourselves like nobility.

And we must act like God’s chosen.  We are not to give in to anger so that we may work the righteousness of God.  We must act like the joint-heirs of Christ by avoiding “all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness” both in our lives and secretly in our hearts.  We must act the lords of this world by receiving with meekness the engrafted Word of God which saves our souls.

This week, go back to your homes and into our community and act like the noble bearers of God’s Word which you are.  Act like Christ gave you the most precious gift He could give:  Himself.

 

“Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another.

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

We are not living up to our potential.  We want to be better Christians.  We want to feel God’s presence in our lives more than we do now.  We want to live holier lives with fewer sins, trusting in God and feeling his comfort more.  But we don’t.  Because to live a more outrageously Christian life, we would have to change.  We would have to alter comfortable habits.  We would have to change our routine.  And here’s the kicker:  We would have to risk losing what we have.

But it is exactly so that we must lose much of what we have.  We have regular sins we habitually commit.  That’s gotta change.  We have a set of friends that don’t challenge us when we misbehave.  That’s gotta change.  We have God in a box, sometimes on the mantle, sometimes on the bookshelf, sometimes on our nightstand.  That’s gotta change.

It hurts to change, but change we must.  We must direct ourselves outward.  Inward is our own self, our own interests, our own safety.  It is a dangerous world out there.  But God is out there too.  We must direct ourselves outward.  The two great commandments are to love the Lord our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.  And we must love our neighbors as ourselves.  Both God and our neighbors are beyond ourselves, out there.  You cannot stare at your belly button and find God.  But you will find God in the faces of the man who is asking for a handout, the man who has sinned against you, and the woman who lives down the block.

The Church does not exist for herself.  The Church is the Bride and Body of Christ.  The Church, by her nature, serves the Lord.  We too serve the Lord.  We do not all serve the Lord in the same way.  Some serve Him loudly, others quietly.  Some pray more than they can give, and others give more than they can pray.  But we are made holy, consecrated, set apart from the sin and brokenness of the world through our Lord Whom we serve.

How we treat people is vitally important.  First, it is one of the two great commandments.  Second, it is the subject of six of the Ten Commandments.  Third, it is what those outside the fellowship of Christ notice first about us.  Fourth, these are the same people for whom Christ came down from Heaven, for whom Christ lived and suffered amongst us, for whom Christ died on the hard wood of the Cross, for whom Christ rose again on the third day, for whom Christ ascended into Heaven, for whom Christ sent the Holy Ghost, and for whom Christ intercedes at the right hand of God the Father.  Those people outside of ourselves, those people outside the household of faith are pretty darn important, you could say!

 

Loving-kindness is the chief of the theological virtues.  It alone remains after faith and hope have passed away.  As Christians, love is our rule, love is our guide.

But love means almost anything in today’s society.  All sorts of selfish and immoral behaviors are conducted in the name of love.  This is one of the reasons I follow the Authorized Version of the Bible in using loving-kindness for the Greek agape, which is the same as the Latin caritas.  Loving-kindness is the self-sacrificial love manifested in Christ which resides in the will and not in the emotions.  We do not feel in loving-kindness; we act in loving-kindness.

And so St. Paul describes the life of the Christian community, the blessed company of all faithful people, the Body of Christ, the Bride of Christ, that life which is lived in loving-kindness.

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate.

“Let love be without dissimulation.”  This means that we must stop pretending to love each other.  I understand that it is more polite to pretend to care for someone while mentally reserving bad opinions about them, but it is contrary to Scripture.  We cannot be transformed into lovers of God and our fellow man if we walk around pretending to love them.

“Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good.”  This needs no explanation.  Flee from evil and cling to all that is good.

“Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another;”  When we love each other like Christ loves us, we may not all be close social friends.  But we will be brothers and sisters one to another.  You may know the Greek word for this brotherly love:  Philadelphia.  We have an obligation to act in loving-kindness with everyone everywhere, but we have a special obligation to our brothers and sisters in the Church.  Indeed, each of us ought to seek to honor our brother more than ourselves.  If we do not change our lives within the bosom of Christ’s Church, then what are we really doing here?

“not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord;” Without letting our zeal wane, we are to serve the Lord in a determined fashion filled with the Holy Ghost.  What is your vocation?  What is God calling you to do?  Are you fully involved in serving God?  If not, what are you waiting for?  If God called you, then you have a mission from God to fulfill.  Don’t wait until tomorrow, for tomorrow may never come.  Don’t worry about waiting for the right moment, for you may never feel the time to be right.  Get going with God’s business!

“rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer;”  How ought we to live?  We not only are to live in hope of Christ’s return and life everlasting, we are to rejoice in that hope.  And yet while we are waiting, we suffer.  We see suffering all around us.  We experience suffering in our bodies, in our minds, in our families, in our friends.  Here, we have a difficult word from St. Paul:  Be patient.  We are not to be lazy, but we should bear our pains, our griefs, and our sorrows.  This is hard, and this is why St. Paul follows this with prayer.

We must continue instant in prayer; that is, we are to pray to God at all times.  We are to pray with our mouths, we are to pray with our bodies, we are to pray with our thoughts, and we are to pray with our actions.  Kneeling before God is prayer.  Contemplating the wonders of Holy Scripture is prayer.  Serving each other in Christ’s Holy Name is prayer.  And of course, following the Mass and praying the Lord’s Prayer is prayer.

“distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.”  We must look after others.  In particular, we must look after our own people.  The Holy Order of Deacons was created to serve the widows and destitute of the Body of Christ.  We must look after our own.  And we must also look after the stranger.  Our service to those whom we do not know opens a relationship wherein we can live out our Christian lives in front of somebody new.  This and proclamation are the earliest and best ways of evangelism.  More importantly, they show loving-kindness both to brother and stranger alike.

“Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.”  Hurting those that hurt you is directly contrary to the teaching of Christ.  St. Paul writes later, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.”  The greatest help you can give someone who has lost his way or is mired in sin is to live a holy and virtuous life brimming over with loving-kindness.  Take it from me, the example of my elders and the close reasoning of apologists were not the things that tipped me over into worshipping Christ our Lord.

Instead, it was the meek, humble, honest, decent, and loving co-worker who never returned evil for evil, but instead always returned good for evil.  “Who can live like that?” I said.  Who indeed?  A Christian, a woman filled with the love of God, who knew that God absolutely loves her and gives her the stability and confidence to love those around her, even a sarcastic jerk.  I cannot recall her name, but she changed my life, and her example comes down through the decades to you right here in this church.  We should all be like her.

“Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep.”  When people lose someone close to them, invariably some people say that they don’t know how to talk to them.  This counsel from St. Paul is excellent:  “Weep with them that weep.”  You don’t have to cheer up the sad.  Sometimes, there are most excellent reasons to be sad.  I didn’t need someone to tell me a joke and crack me up when my dog died.  I needed someone to commiserate with me, to share my sufferings, even if only a little.

Likewise, when your brother rejoices, rejoice with him!  When your sister rejoices, don’t put your feelings above hers and grow jealous – rejoice with her!  “So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.”  When our brother weeps, open up your heart and weep a little with your brother.  When your sisters rejoices, open up your heart and rejoice with your sister.

We are now come to the end of today’s Epistle Lesson.  This last part is hard for us:  “Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate.”

I’ve said before that there is only one thing needed to be welcomed to St. Luke Church:  A soul.  But there are many divisions within our society that have nothing to do with whether we have souls or not or even whether we have faith or not.  We have the high and haughty of this society which look down their noses at those they perceive to be of lower class.  And we have the working and poor folk who look down their noses at those they perceive to be rich and snobby.

These are unholy and unchristian distinctions.  The early Church encompassed all believers.  We do not have eight different parishes spread throughout Augusta, catering to different races, classes, strata, or other such things.  No.  Our primary identifier in this society must be that of Christian, a follower of Christ.  You cannot take anything else with you when you go to Heaven.  All you will have is Christ.  All you need is Christ.

For a long time, I very much sought to live inside my identity as a Georgian and a Southerner.  And I am not ashamed by either label.  But one day, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament at Benediction, I sang the hymn, “O Saving Victim Opening Wide”.  I regularly did this.  But this one evening, something was different.  As I sang, “O grant us life that shall not end / in our true native land with thee”, I heard it differently than before.  Where is my true native land?  With Thee, with Christ in Heaven above.  Everything else is dross, is consumable, will be burned in the cleansing fire.

And so I followed my call up north to Wisconsin, and from there to Illinois.  For five years I sojourned amongst the Yankees, and found that I was brother to them and they were to me.  For all of us who are in Christ are one.  We are “members one of another”.  We are joined in a way that mysteriously transcends the foolishness of the world.  I know this seems wildly ridiculous, very pie-in-the-sky.  But Christ is real.  God created the world.  If you look around and see the hatred, war, theft, murder, assault, rape, abortion, prostitution, and domestic violence around you, if you look around and see the graft, corruption, manipulation, unbridled greed, and downright lies, you will see the filth that we live in.  We are called out of that.  We are called out to leave that behind.

But if we answer that call, if we turn our backs on the warped selfishness which has enslaved our home and instead turn to Christ, we must change our lives.  We must love one another through thick and thin.  When I served at the Episcopal cathedral in Peoria, one of the men was convicted of a crime.  We all threw him a going away party the night before he went to prison and looked after his family while he was gone.  The bishop drove him to the prison gate.  Now that’s loving your brother.  That’s not kicking a man when he was down.

We must reach out to those who slap our hands away.  And we must do it without self-congratulation and pride.  Humbly, knowing that all lovely things are a gift from God and no doing of our own, humbly we lift our hands up to Heaven and thank the good Lord for his gracious mercies.  And with loving-kindness and gratitude in our hearts for our Lord above, loving the Lord our God with all our hearts, with all our souls, and with all our minds, we turn our gaze to earth and love our neighbors as ourselves.

 

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another.

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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My beloved children and dear brother, please turn in your Prayer Books to page 179.  Let us read together the Collect for the Sunday after Ascension Day:

“O GOD, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

Christ has become man, taught us, suffered for us, died for us, rose from the grave for us, and ascended into Heaven for us.  Christ has sent the Holy Ghost to comfort us and lift us up to Heaven, where He has gone to prepare a place for us.

Christ will come again in power and great glory to judge us and bring us to Heaven.  We must be ready for Him, and the Holy Ghost is with us and in us to prepare us.  We find in St. Peter’s letter that we must prepare by soberly assessing our situation and carefully watching in prayer.  We are heading to Heaven, where we will live with God forever in perfect love.  Therefore, we must practice loving each other in the fullness of loving-kindness.  The deep and abiding loving-kindness we have for one another will cover a multitude of sins.  To prepare ourselves for Heaven, we must practice hospitality with each other without grudging.  This means that we do not count another’s sins.  We do not compare ourselves with each other.  We do not form sides or parties opposed to each other, for that is against Christ, against the Holy Ghost, against charity, and against hospitality.  To prepare ourselves for Heaven, we must open our hearts and our hands and accept our brothers and sisters in Christ as brothers and sisters in our hearts.  We will fail and hurt each other and sin against each other, but shrouded in loving-kindness and open hospitality, Christ will forgive us our sins and fill our hearts with love by the Holy Ghost.

But make no mistake:  We will suffer for holding fast to Christ.  He came into this world to save us, and the world put Him to death.  When we follow Christ, we also will die.  We will suffer public humiliation when we choose the way of Christ over the way of our friends and neighbors.  We will suffer pain and disease and death in this fallen and broken world.  We will suffer ostracism when we speak boldly and plainly for Jesus Christ.  We cannot be ugly or ungracious, but neither can we back off an inch from what is true.  Christ says the Holy Ghost, the Comforter, is the Spirit of Truth.  We must speak plainly and lovingly and take our lumps.

We will be tempted to shut our mouths; we will be tempted to temper the truth in order to spare the feelings of others; we will be tempted to relativize God’s Son and His teaching so we fit in better with our modern, secular, and pluralistic society.  But we have been bought with a terrible price by a mighty God who loves us more than a mother loves her child.  We must share the Good News of Jesus Christ with our words and with our lives.  Visitors to our little parish must be able to pick up the Bible and read of Christ in the Gospels and then look at us and say, “Right there!  These people love each other as Christ loved them!  I want to love God and my fellows and be loved in return with them!”  We must put away our silly and childish notions of fairness and thinking that we can rightly discern the hearts of others and take the great risk of opening up ourselves to Christ and to other people in loving-kindness through the Holy Ghost.

David sang, “The Lord is my light, and my salvation; whom then shall I fear?”  When we love Christ and we understand in our deepest self that He loves us, when we are fortified with the sacramental power of Christ, when we profess the Gospel of Christ, we are on solid rock and can be touched by no man.  We may follow Christ to be crucified ourselves, but we know in our gut that we are His and He is ours.  We cannot be moved.  When we fear God, then we fear no man.  With joy and gladness we open our hearts to each other and bear one another’s burdens.  When our brother falls, we bend down and pick him up so that he might finish the race.  Only Satan wants us to kick dust in his face and mock him.  When our sister cries, we draw near to her and comfort her, like a father lifting up his daughter.  Only Satan wants us to tell her to stop her weeping and get with the program.

The Devil is watching each one of us closely.  When we stray from the righteous and just path of Christ, we are easy pickings for our wicked and supernatural foe, that evil angel.  He will turn our hearts to hatred and evil under the guise of being right.  Satan seeks to build up in us the vices of pride, lust, greed, gluttony, anger, envy, and sloth.  He wants us negligent in our religious and family and work duties.  He wants us to compare ourselves to other people and resent their easy lives and dwell on our bad luck.  He wants us to raise our hackles and get mad at other folks in their faults and stupidities.  He wants us to satisfy our every desire and complain when we must make do without.  He wants us to earn more, save more, give less, and rely upon the security of our worldly treasure.  He wants us to give in to the passions of our bodies and imaginations through fantasy, pornography, and sex outside of holy matrimony.  But most of all, he wants us to think of ourselves first, to think of our families first, to think of our people and country first, and think of our own parish first.  He wants our every desire and concern to revolve around what we feel, giving no thought to actually listening to others and what they feel.  Satan wants us to decide for ourselves the value of other people, their opinions, and their feelings.  Satan wants us to throw Christ off his throne in our hearts and decide for ourselves what is right and what is wrong.  He wants us to kill God.

The word which means to kill God is deicide.  The only difference in spelling between decide and deicide is that extra ‘I’.  I decide where God fits in my life.  I want what I want.  I want my ego in charge of my life.

This way leads to endless sin, disease, sickness, and death.  We must throw down the ‘I’ from our heart and praise Christ Who reigns within our hearts through the Holy Ghost, the Comforter.  We must say, “Get behind me, Satan!” and rush into the loving arms of God our Father.  We must shut our mouths and listen . . . to the direction of the Holy Spirit of God.  We must follow Christ.  Following Christ is a hard path, and it will lead in our death, but through the veil of His holy Flesh, we will pass from death into life everlasting.  Washed in the blood of Christ, God claims us for his own.  Like the Jews in Egypt who put lamb’s blood on their doors to keep away the angel of death during the Passover, so we have the blood of the eternal Lamb on our souls so that we might stay alive and stay with God.

Christ has gone up to prepare a place for us.  In Hebrews we read:  “Seeing that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”

Christ has passed into the heavens.  When we claim Christ and He claims us, we can approach the throne of grace that our sins may be forgiven and that we receive heavenly grace in our present trials and temptations.  We have an ‘in’ with the master of the universe.  We are connected; we are family.  When my great-uncle returned from Italy and France after the Second World War, his sister’s husband, my grandfather got him a job at the plant.  My uncle had an in, he had a job, he had a place.  We also know the boss; we know the ruler of heaven.  Christ is there right now interceding with His Father in Heaven for us.  We must turn to Him and receive the healing balm which our cracked and soiled and bruised soul needs.  He will pour on us grace, unmerited favor, the loving-kindness of Heaven upon us to heal our inward parts.  He will give us those things we need for our outward parts as well.

We sang a few minutes ago the words of Caroline Maria Noel:  “In your hearts enthrone him; / There let him subdue / All that is not holy, / All that is not true: / Crown him as your Captain / In temptation’s hour; / Let his will enfold you / In its light and power.”

The Holy Ghost is working on each one of us right now.  He is working and guiding our most cherished matriarch with scores of years of faithfulness.  He is working and guiding the perpetrators of that horrible beating down at the riverfront last week.  We cannot control God, but we can *try* to cooperate with him.  When Christ knocks on our door, even if we can’t open the door, even if we can’t say, “come on in”, then at least we can unlock the door and stand aside.  Christ will come and reign in our hearts.  And with our great captain and high priest reigning inside of us, He will root out “all that is not holy, all that is not true.”  When tempted, we do not fall limp like a silly person and just fall in with whatever we feel.  No!  We stand firm and rely upon Christ who reigns within us and we fight against those temptations.  We will sometimes fail, and God will forgive us.  But our forgiveness was purchased at great price.  Every sin we commit is like flushing diamonds down the commode.  Every sin we commit is like splattering mud on a palace.  We wash our cars and go out to spas and salons.  We give more thought to our outward appearance than we give to our souls!  Talking about misplaced priorities!  Our hair will fall out and our truck will rust out, but our soul is going either to Heaven or Hell for all eternity.  Which do you think we should look after first?

The Holy Ghost is ready and waiting closer to us than the air in our lungs, and he is ready to guide us and hold onto us no matter what befalls us.  It is not an act of courage to allow Christ to reign within us; it is an act of desperation.  Times are tough, they always have been since the Garden of Eden, and we had better hold on to the best thing that comes to us.  And Christ comes to each of us.

I’m going to stop preaching soon.  While we dress and set the altar and the collection plate goes around, you all are going to have some time to think, time to prepare.  We will pray for the church and the world.  We will confess our sins and receive forgiveness for them.  All of us together will join in the great prayer of our Holy Mother Church, the Bride of Christ.  We will follow Christ in praying like He taught His disciples to pray.  And then we shall come to the Body and Blood of Christ, given to us.  I will say, “The Body of our Lord Jesus Christ, which was given for thee, preserve thy body and soul unto everlasting life. Take and eat this in remembrance that Christ died for thee, and feed on him in thy heart by faith, with thanksgiving.”  After our thanksgiving we will praise God singing songs of worship and adoration.

Each one of us has to make a choice.  We have chosen before, but today is a new day, and we have to choose again.  Will we worship and praise our God and Savior Jesus Christ in Heaven?  Or shall we throw Him off the throne of our hearts and rule ourselves all the way down to Hell?

 

“O GOD, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

 

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth….”  Christ instructs the disciples that the Holy Ghost will become their teacher after He leaves them.  In leading them into all truth, the Holy Ghost will not teach new doctrine, because Christ Himself is all truth.  Rather, God’s continuing revelation of himself profoundly entered upon in Christ’s first Advent will not end but indeed continue after Christ’s Ascension after His Resurrection.

Christ promises in St. John viii.31-32:  “If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.”  In accordance with Christ’s promise, the Holy Ghost speaks to and instructs us of the things of Christ, who received all He had from the Father.  Within the accord of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost is all truth and goodness.  The Holy Ghost will lead us in the path of truth in accord with the promise of Christ.

What does this guidance look like which Christ has promised in the Holy Ghost?  A Scriptural example of being guided in the truth is found in the Acts of the Apostles viii.31:  The Ethiopian eunuch was reading Scripture without understanding it.  When St. Philip observed that he was reading Scripture, he asked the eunuch if he knew what it meant.  The Ethiopian replied, “‘How can I, except some man should guide me?’ And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him.”  St. Philip sat down with the reader of Scripture and showed him, guided him in understanding what it meant.  The apostle was not the Scripture, but showed him how to understand the Scripture.  This is an example of guiding in the knowledge of God.

Sometimes we experience fresh insight into the things of God or we “hear God’s voice” instructing and comforting us in our lives, perhaps in our distress.  We ought to be extraordinarily wary of attributing any internal thought or feeling to God the Holy Ghost.  Yet truly we might be hearing from the Holy Ghost.  We must ask ourselves:  “Is this thought or feeling in one accord with Christ and His Church?”  If not, then we ought to reject attributing the authority of God to what we have experienced.  But if it is in accord with Christ and His teaching, then we may carefully and humbly attribute it to God the Holy Ghost for our personal edification and instruction.  Let us remember that my particular inspiration is for me, and it is not for me to teach or instruct you.  For our common instruction, we have Holy Scriptures and the official dogma of Holy Church our mother.

 

Now, the Holy Ghost does not speak “for” himself, but on behalf of Christ.  Keeping in mind that he speaks not for himself but for Christ, let us look at St. John xii.49:  “For I [Christ] have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.”  Again in St. John xiv.10:  “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.”

What Christ says about the Holy Ghost speaking on behalf of Him, Christ also says about Himself concerning the Father.  The Holy Ghost speaks for Christ, and Christ speaks for the Father.  Both the Holy Ghost and the Son of God do not speak for themselves but on behalf of another person of the Holy and ever-blessed Trinity.

Each person of the Holy Trinity is at unity with each other.  There is no division within God; there is no division within the three Persons of God.  The First Article of Religion, found in our Prayer Book, states that “There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without body, parts, or passions;” and “in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, of one substance, power, and eternity; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost.”

The Holy Ghost only speaks what the Son tells Him.  Christ says, “All things that the Father hath are mine:”  All that the Son has is from the Father.  Each member is in unity with each other; there is only one God.  When we are led and guided by the Holy Ghost, we are being led and guided by God.

 

Intriguingly, Christ says in today’s Gospel that the Holy Ghost “will shew you things to come.”  Does the Holy Ghost act like a sorcerer, giving us peaks into the future?  Will he give us next week’s lottery numbers?  Is this some strange new doctrine?  No.

We do not need knowledge of the future; what we need is a fuller understanding of the things of Christ.  Some of the things of Christ we will not understand or recognize in importance until future things come to pass for us, and at that time, the Holy Ghost will still be there for us and guiding us into all truth.

In the past, Christ sent his disciples the Holy Ghost after He left them.  And in the future, Christ will come again in power and great glory for the Last Judgement.  The time when the Holy Ghost will be with us is an interim time between the first and second Advents of Christ.

We should have great confidence because we are being led by the Holy Ghost, the Third Person of the Holy Trinity.  We are not alone.  He shall “shew you things to come” – this is an on-going relationship we have with him, and he will be with us along our journey.  We can count on it, for Christ told us it is so.

We live in the tension between the gift of today and the promise of tomorrow.  Christ will come again; but we are also told to live thoroughly into the day we have been given.  Christ says in St. Matthew vi.34:  “Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”

Unlike some Eastern and New Age religions, the Christian religion is one of both today and tomorrow.  We are not to live a moral life today so that we may live in Heaven tomorrow, we are to live in the presence of God all the time.  Today we live in the presence of God the Holy Ghost, tomorrow we live in the presence of the Son of God when He returns, and forever we live with God the Father in Heaven.  Thus, today we feel an inherent tension in living the Christian life.

The Holy Ghost directs the Bride of Christ, the Church, on this side of death until Christ returns.  He teaches no new doctrine, but explains us Christ’s doctrine as the ages roll by.  For instance, now we have more explicit notions of salvation through faith and the apostolic succession.  As new challenges face us, the Holy Ghost through the teaching office of Holy Church illumines Christ’s teachings so that we can face these new challenges, such as environmental pollution, embryonic stem cell research, and artificial birth control.

 

The Holy Ghost leads us into all truth.  The Holy Ghost does not speak for himself, but on behalf of Christ, Who in turn speaks of what the Father has given Him.  And the Holy Ghost will accompany us, speaking through the Church and in our hearts, from the day of Pentecost until the day Christ returns again.

 

“Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth:”

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.  Amen.

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