Trinity 13 – Healing the Violence

Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see. 

We are being led ever more deeply into the life of Christ in Trinity season.  We are beginning not just to believe in Jesus but to see, that is, to know Him dwelling within us.

And as Jesus taught daily in the Temple, he promises to teach us daily inwardly [see Trinity 10].  Our ears are being opened to Him.  We are not afraid of his voice of correction inwardly, because we know that mercy is ever stretched out towards us, it is a voice of loving correction.  Jesus relieves us of all fear of condemnation as we trust in His perfect self-offering.  We are listening and hearing because we desire to ascend into the heights of heaven and he will guide us into all truth.

Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see.  For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them.  [St Luke 10:23-24]

Are you having this experience, as you come to know Jesus?  Jesus is saying there is something more that is available to us than was available before his coming, that is, than is available through the Old Testament.

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In the Epistle this morning [Galatians 3:16-22], St. Paul reminds us to think of the promises that were made in the Old Testament to Abraham and to his offspring.  In Genesis, God makes these promises to Abraham at different times [12:2-3; 17:1-8; 22:15-18] and includes:

I will make your name great.
In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.
Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them…so shall your descendants be.
I will make you exceedingly fruitful.
I will give to you, and your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings…for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God.

St. Paul describes in Hebrews what it is that Abraham longed for:

He looked forward to the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God…they [that is, those ancient men and women of faith] desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one.  Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city.  [Heb 11:10, 16]

The kingdom of heaven, that Abraham desired, is promised to us, and we can begin to participate in it even now.  It includes promises of: greatness of soul, the hope of glory; to have others blessed by knowing us; to be exceedingly fruitful, that is, to bear spiritual fruit that just keeps growing; to have an eternal place that we can call our home, finally a place of rest, of peace; and, these things are the result of having and holding God, the promise of spiritual marriage to God.  I will be your God!

Do you hope for these things?

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Well, how do we attain these promises, that were made to Abraham and to his seed, which St Paul says refers not to many, but to one, to Christ? [Galatians 3:16, see also Peter in Acts 3:22-26]

In the Gospel today [St Luke 10:23-37], a clever lawyer asked Jesus what he should do to inherit eternal life – He is speaking about receiving the promises made to Abraham.

Jesus asks him what Moses said we must do – the Lawyer answers with the two great commandments, love God with all that you are and love your neighbour as yourself.  Jesus says, “Yes, do that and you will live.”

The Lawyer, perhaps recognizing the unboundedness of such a high calling, tries to qualify and limit love, And who is my neighbour?

The Good Samaritan, Domenico Feti c.1623

So Jesus tells the story of the Good Samaritan.

You know it well –

“A man going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, fell among robbers, who stripped and beat him and… left him half dead.” The priest and the Levite both teachers of the Law of Moses, and servants in the Temple, pass by the man in distress, and it is the outsider, the Samaritan, who stops and helps – he is the one who is neighbour to the man in distress, he is the one who shows mercy – and Jesus says, Go and do likewise.

Knowing the Law of Moses, which describes something of the breadth of what love is, did not help the priest and Levite in doing the Law of Moses, in loving, it just shows up their hard hearts.

As St. Paul says, If a law had been given that could give life, (that is, change us so that we could truly love) then righteousness would indeed be by the Law.  But the Scripture (that is, the Law and the Prophets) imprisoned everything under sin (the Law merely shows us our unrighteousness but does not bring us into the kingdom of heaven, it does not give us a new heart, it does not fulfill the promises made to Abraham but, St Paul says that) promise [is] by faith in Jesus Christ… [it is] given to those who believe (as it was given by promise to Abraham, who lived 430 years before the giving of the Law).

We want to be inheritors of the new kingdom even now, with new hearts and minds: our faith turned to understanding (to see); our hearts of stone replaced with hearts of flesh (to be able to love) [see Ezekiel 36:25-28].  And Jesus is promising the fulfillment of these hopes even now.

Blessed are the eyes which see the things that you see.  For I tell you, that many prophets and kings have desired to see those things which you see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which you hear, and have not heard them.

But what is it we’re seeing, what is it we are hearing, that makes us especially blessed?

We’re looking inward, we’re not afraid of the voice of the Spirit calling us to be holy.  We’re not afraid of the close scrutiny of our actions and words and thoughts, by the Spirit, we bring them continually before Christ.  As we do this inward turn, we also come to know ourselves more and more to be that man in the parable who has suffered violence, who “fell among thieves – the world, the flesh, and the devil – which stripped him of his clothing – our noble character, our being made in the image and likeness of God – wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  We know ourselves to be that man.  But we also know a certain restoration that is happening in us.  We are cooperating with the grace given us as we’ve reflected on the passions [Trinity 3-9], and we know it was not ultimately our own effort that has enabled us to get up out of the ditch and heal ourselves, but rather Christ, the Good Samaritan, who has come to our rescue, pouring oil and wine on our wounds, His Spirit and his Blood (our baptism).  He is bearing the burden of our flesh, on His flesh [Isaiah 53, especially vs 5-6], and has brought us to the Inn, his Church, and is restoring us day by day with the two coins left for us – His Word written and His Sacrament.  And we await there in hope, for the return of our Lord at the last day, when whatever remains to be restored in us will be restored.  [This interpretation is often spoken of by the Fathers in their commentaries on the parable.  See for e.g. Ambrose, “Gleanings from the Orthodox Fathers“, and the Venerable Bede.]

Our faith that this is the case, is changed, the more we look inwardly, into knowledge – we are beginning to see, we are beginning to hear.  Our hard hearts are being melted, not by our knowledge of the Law, but by our knowledge and love of Jesus and through our participation in Him.

And as we come to know and love Jesus, our spiritedness is being released towards the love of our neighbour as ourselves – and not just our family members, or our church community, but towards every person we see.  We come to see all people as just like us, having been stripped and beaten and left half dead by the violence of the world, the flesh and the devil.  We are able to go and do likewise, because Jesus has gone before us and done likewise in us.

Think, for example, of the power of actions of love between Israelis towards Palestinians, or Palestinians towards Israelis – “enemies” melting the hearts of one another by acts of kindness – and it is happening, there are groups committed to better relations, meeting one another face to face, recalling our common humanity.  Think of someone who dislikes you for some reason, even someone who has been mean to you – to see them as also wounded by the world, the flesh and the devil, and to do some kindness to them, pouring oil and wine on their wounds, rather than furthering the divide.

What we hoped for, is being given to us…we are becoming inheritors even now of the promises made to Abraham and his descendent, who is Christ. 

Through us, by our participation in Christ, the nations will be blessed.
We, in Christ, are becoming more fruitful, and will become exceedingly fruitful.
We, in Christ, are becoming possessors of our own souls, which is our homeland, we feel more at ease in ourselves, it is an eternal inheritance…whose builder and maker is God.
And we find ourselves drawn to be with other Christians, who also are coming to know our eternal inheritance, to a city whose builder and maker is God.

Therefore God is not ashamed to be called [our] God, for he has prepared for [us] a city.  

We’ve heard God’s Word written and doesn’t it brings us some comfort this morning?  This is what it is to be blessed to see things that have not been seen, to hear things that have not been heard, before the coming of Jesus Christ.

Let us prepare ourselves now for the Holy Communion of Christ’s Body and Blood, where Jesus continues that work of pouring oil and wine on our wounds, restoring our souls, that we might, Go and do likewise.

Amen +