June 17, 2012

Sermon, Second Sunday after Trinity

God Our Governor
Psalm 15, 1 John 3:13-24, Luke 14:16-24
Second Sunday after Trinity
June 17, 2012

"Grant, O Lord, that by thy holy Word read and preached in this place, and by thy Holy Spirit grafting it inwardly in the heart, the hearers thereof may both perceive and know what things they ought to do, and may have power and strength to fulfill the same." In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

The Collect for this morning has been prayed by God's people for at least 1500 years, and possibly for more than 1900 years. Its primary request is for God to govern, or, direct His Church, so we will have a perpetual fear and love for Him. In other words, we are asking for steadfastness in revernece and faithfulness. The passage from 1 John 3 reminds us that we cannot claim to be steadfast in love for God if we are not also steadfast in our love for the brethren. The brethern are the Church; that spiritual Temple of the Holy Spirit in which all who are in Christ through Biblical faith are living stones. The passage gives very pointed examples of what it means to love the brethren beginning with the antipathy of the world. If you are at home and comfortable with the world and its ways you are probably not going to be comfortable with the Church. Your interests and values will be different, and you will find the Church and the worship of God boring and out of touch with your life. If you find this to be true in your own life you have cause for great concern about the state of your soul. If you do not love the Church, if you do not love to gather with it in worship, love its fellowship, and share a common life with it, you do not love the brethren, you love the world, and to love the world is to be at emnity with God.. This is a major point in 1 John 3.

Luke 14 shows that those who reject God's invitation to the supper do not love God. The supper has many layers of meaning. It is first and primarily the forgiveness of sins and restoration to God's fellowship through the cross of Jesus Christ. It is second the eternal bliss of our Heavenly home. Third, it is the fellowship of Christ's Church here on earth. Fourth, it is all the means of grace God has given to feed and strengthen us in Christ during our earthly sojourn of faith. The Bible, the Church, and the Sacraments are some of the means of grace, and the more you invest yourself in them the more steadfast you will become in the fear and love of God.

Psalm 15 continues this theme, asking who shall dwell in the tabernacle of God, and who shall rest in His holy hill. The tabernacle refers to the house of God prior to the building of the Temple. The Tabernacle consisted of curtains and tents where the Holy of Holies and the Altar of God stood. The holy hill is the hill of Zion in Jerusalem where the Tabernacle stood until it was replaced with the Temple. Together they represent the presence of God with His people. To dwell in the Tabernacle, then, is to dwell in God. It does not mean to take up physical residence in the Taberncle; it does mean to take up spiritual residence in God. Who can do this? Who is able to reside in God? Who are those who are forgiven of their sins? Who are those who are in fellowship with God? In New Testsatment language, we would say, who are the saved? Who is going to Heaven? That is the question that opens Psalm 15. The answer is given in several statements which we may summarise thusly; they shall dwell in the house of God and they shall rest in His holy place who are steadfast in the fear and love of God.

Clearly the Psalm takes us back to the point of 1 John 13 that our love for God is shown in part by our love for each other, our brothers and sisters in Christ. The Psalm is about our relationships with those who are part of us in the community of God. It is true that the Church is called to do good to those outside its fellowship. It is true that, because we see people as God sees them, as sheep without a Shepherd, and because we are moved with Godly compassion at the sight of hunger and sickness and human need, that we want to help. But we need to always keep in mind that it is not our calling to be the caretakers of the physical needs of the world. Even Christ refused to be reduced to a mere healer or feeder. He could have fed all the hungry in Israel as easily as He fed the five thousand. He could have healed all the sick in Israel as easily as he healed Bartimeus. But He didn't, because that was not His mission. His mission was to bring spiritual food and spiritual healing by His sacrifice on the cross. Our task, as the Church, then, is to proclaim the spiritual food and healing of the soul through faith in Christ. Our task is to invite people to the supper. That is our primary duty to the people of the world.

But in our dealings with people, both inside and outside of the Faith, we are always to conduct ourselves with the utmost propriety. It may not be our task to feed the world, but it is certainly not our task to rob it. Rather, in Christian compassion we abstain from all the harmful things we are warned about in the Ten Commandments. We do not murder, we do not commit adultery, do not steal, deceive, or covet. We live quiet and holy lives before God and before people. Thus we continue steadfast in the fear and love of God.

"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 the, under the protectionof thy good providence, and make us to have a perpetual fear and love of thy holy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."