Saturday, February 02, 2013


II COR. 11:19-31 * LUKE 8:4-15

“The seed is the word of God.”

In today’s Epistle reading, St. Paul said that, in addition to all his sufferings and persecution, he had the daily responsibility of “the care of all the churches.” In some minds, churches need no care because people only need a one time, quick fix kind of conversion experience. To some, churches are a big business, or the family store. To some, who find themselves in ecclesiastical offices, as laymen, churches are a hobby and a place to wield power.
          For me, I have the care of one church as a daily responsibility: This one. That is why the parable we read on this Sunday is so important to me. The seed is the word of God, and only that seed can bring forth fruit. The power of life is in the word of God, and how that word can change lives, save souls and grow the virtues, all by the work of the Holy Spirit, requires above all else fidelity. It is not my role to preach to you my own ideas, not even my best ideas. It is my responsibility before God to care for your souls. In the matter of preaching, it is my task to speak faithfully, not cleverly.
          And, with the reality of eternal destiny in mind, it is your need to look to what kind of ground your own heart is. Is your heart an honest and good heart? Will the ground keep the seed, and produce the fruits of repentance, the fruit of good works, and the fruit of the Spirit? You must pray that it will. You must pray for yourself that your own heart will be honest and good, as good ground for the seed.
          You know what they say about oxygen masks on an airplane: In the event of an emergency, put your own mask on first before trying to secure anyone else’s. Otherwise, you could pass out and be of no help to anyone. So, it is right and wise to pray to God that He will, by His grace given by the Holy Spirit, convert your heart into a good and honest ground for the seed of His word.
          This is not a one time deal. The word of God comes to us all the time, and it has in it the message of the kingdom of God. Jesus said that the decision to carry your cross and follow Him is daily: “And he said to all, ‘If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.’ (Luke 9:23)” Your heart must not be allowed to harden or grow cold.
          So, yes, you do need to pray for yourself as well as others. I urge you to use the Book of Common Prayer, that you use it as a regula or Rule of daily Morning and Evening Prayer, reading the word of God as you pray. His word is sent to create life in you.
          The proclamation of the Kingdom of God, by Jesus Christ, is as radical as any message can be. It is not acceptable in this world. It runs contrary to the values of the world. It is a Kingdom that conquers without use of force. It has no armies wielding weapons. It is not about establishing power or wealth for anybody. The values of God’s kingdom are not only alien to the world, but in direct opposition to its sinful values.
          The kingdom of God was established by a cross rather than a sword; not by an army nailing vanquished enemies to crosses, but rather established by One Who gave His life on a cross. The agent of God’s kingdom is the Church, a race begotten by virgins, the New Eve and the Last Adam (the Seed of the Woman – Genesis 3:15). The kingdom of God is established by those who may experience poverty, deprivation and persecution, because the power of the Kingdom of God belongs to the Holy Spirit. It is the wielding of His supernatural power, and that is not measured in dollars and cents, in lands, weapons or political influence. It is spread by love, not by violence.
          In every way it is most subversive.
          No wonder Jesus tells us that His Kingdom is established in spiritual warfare, by Christ overcoming Satan (the strong man), and spoiling his house. “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you (Matt. 12:28).”
          We have many ways, that we can learn, of shutting out the word of God. In a church that is regularly attended, as this one is, I believe the ultimate danger is in letting the world convert us. The world will not support your efforts to be a disciple of Jesus Christ. It certainly will not applaud. We live in a time when comedians mock even someone as saintly as the late Mother Theresa of Calcutta. Some twisted her words about suffering, her personal Dark Night of the Soul, into disbelief. One shudders at what they might do with the words we have read this day, about the sufferings and persecution endured by St. Paul.
          How does the world seek to convert us? Jesus answered that, as we heard already, “with cares and riches and pleasures of this life.” And, those cares, those riches and those pleasures are like enemies that want to dull our ears to His word, and harden our hearts. In the face of Christ’s most direct, simple and to the point teaching, those “thorns” say to us, “Come on; He didn’t really mean that. You aren’t really supposed to turn the other cheek. You can’t be expected to really forgive your enemies and love them. You can’t really keep yourself pure and dedicated wholly to God. You can’t always go the extra mile”
          But, His word is clear. He did mean what He said. Consider how clear it is. He even calls His disciples to be willing to die rather than to deny Him in the face of persecution. And, in other lands where life is not as safe and cozy as it is in the United States, your brothers and sisters are faced with that very choice. The age of persecution is not over.
          Why is the message of the kingdom of God, the Word of God, so just and right? Yes, we may be called to give our lives; but to save us from sin and death, Christ gave His life for us. To pay the full price of all human sin, so that you and I could stand before God forgiven and justified, heirs of eternal life, Jesus paid our debt on the cross, and then he rose again from the dead on the third day to remain with us forever.
          Every word God has spoken He still speaks. Open the Bible prayerfully with the Church, and you can hear His voice even now. As the ancient words are read, unchanged for millennia, they are always new, fresh and alive. Through those old words God is still speaking His word that transcends time and generations. What Jesus said two thousand years ago on the Mount, He says to you today. “Whatsoever you would that men do unto you…Love your enemies…Blessed are the pure in heart…” He is saying it all right now. The Holy Spirit is still speaking through the words of the Apostles, so we confine our lectionary to sacred Scripture alone. Christ is speaking. The Holy Spirit gives witness. Pray that your own heart will receive it as seed into good and honest ground.

Turn with me to p. 49, and let us pray:

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that the words which we have heard this day with our outward ears, may, through thy grace, be so grafted inwardly in our hearts, that they may bring forth in us the fruit of good living, to the honour and praise of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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