Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit,
That’s a pretty heavy charge ….What has God done that we should be turned from Him? What wrong has He done, What sin? The people God gave the charge to shepherd would not do it – They didn’t even ask, “Where is the Lord?” We see it all around us still today – how many so-called churches are dividing over God’s commandments?
For a few hundred years, leaders of the modern church have been turning people from God’s ways. They remove the things that would help us stand in temptation & trial — not teaching repentance to turn back to God’s ways. Teachers teach their own ways – not those of our Apostolic faith, but to itching ears. They turn far from the paths laid down from the beginning. Even the grace of Baptism and the Eucharist has been subverted by many. They don’t even know their own way – certainly not the ways of God. The contemporary church is watching itself implode – and it seems, that no one knows what to do.
It is so surprising here – that God points out that not even those who worship false gods turn their back on their idols. What kind of hope can there be for those who know God and turn from Him? As unfortunate as that is – worse is the huge numbers who have been given false hope in a false gospel, and they don’t even know it.
Many however, are hearing the call to come back. The resurgence of interest in the Ancient Ways are across the board, in all groups. I’ve heard of many returning – from all denominations and traditions … so many are again giving Jeremiah’s call today. Many want to know “what must I do …”
Our psalm today tells of the benefits of fearing God and delighting to do His will. Eight verses to note the benefits. To those who do God’s will – not those who know it, but those who do it. Some of you will remember an illustration from Francis Chan. – If you write a note to your child to clean their. However, you return to find nothing done, but it is being translated, memorized, quoted and signs of it made. But you just wanted it done…
14:1 And it came to pass, as he went into the house of one of the chief Pharisees to eat bread on the sabbath day, that they watched him.
What would He do? – (while they secretly were looking for ways to kill him, it say’s elsewhere). A Pharisee, of higher rank than usual, invited Jesus to a banquet. Although he knew their bad intentions, he went with him and ate in their company. It says, “They watched him.” Why did they watch him? They watched to see if he would disregard the honour of the law and so do something forbidden on the sabbath day.
While … They slaughtered the animals in the temple and performed the acts of service that were required of them. No one rebuked them, and the law itself was silent. It did not forbid people ministering on the sabbath. You know, nowhere does the law forbid showing mercy on the Sabbath. No, this lesson is simply about humility – as our Saviour demonstrated it.
Cyril of Alexandria (375–444; fl. 412–444). Patriarch of Alexandria (in Egypt) whose extensive explanations, characterized specifically by a strong advocacy of the unity of Christ, led to the condemnation of Nestorius in 431.
“If any one among you wants to be set above others, let him win it by the decree of heaven and be crowned by those honours that God bestows. Let him surpass the many by having the testimony of glorious virtues. The rule of virtue is a lowly mind that does not love boasting. It is humility. The blessed Paul also counted this worthy of all esteem. He writes to those who eagerly desire saintly pursuits, “Love humility.”1
St Benedict (you know, the guy’s rule about which the Benedict Option is written): The Scripture asserts that “everyone that exalts himself will be humbled, and he that humbles himself will be exalted.” …
“If we want to attain to true humility and come quickly to the top of that heavenly ascent to which we can only mount by lowliness in this present life, we must ascend by good works. We must erect the mystical ladder of Jacob, where angels ascending and descending appeared to him. Ascent and descent mean that we go downward when we exalt ourselves and rise when we are humbled. The ladder represents our life in this world, which our Lord erects to heaven when our heart is humbled. The sides of the ladder represent our soul and body, sides between which God has placed several rungs of humility and discipline, whereby we are to ascend if we would answer his call. Rule of St. Benedict 7.2
This, written for monks, has a moderation for most of us, as we have today in the Epistle reading
He doesn’t say – don’t marry, but keep marriage holy. Be content with what you have – he doesn’t say “have nothing” All the fathers agree that being free from excess, things not necessary, keep us from pride and falling. Not to covet, but be glad when what you have is useful for another. All of these are action, which are the result of a purposeful training of our bodies and souls.
“Paul is not talking here about those sins that we all recognize and confess as such. Rather he is speaking about preferring one person before another and making invidious comparisons of moral behaviours. Only God, who knows all our secret doings, can judge that sort of thing with accuracy. Only he knows what is more and what is less worthy of punishment.3
We need someone to point the way for us … not create a new way for yourself. Right! But to point out the “boundary stones”. Where do we walk on this journey … to holiness? Without which we will not see God (Heb 12:14)
Ok, I know that for most of us, that has been a nice pious saying, but – it’s not a suggestion. St Paul writes to the Hebrews – the law keepers (Jews), and the Holy Spirit, by that same pen to us. This really important lesson is the subject of much of the Father’s writings. It is an awesome and frightful instruction – especially for those in service to God! Holiness is required … do we know what that means?
The Ladder of Divine Ascent. St John Climacus (John of the Ladder) The Year of our Lord, AD 600 ($3 on Kindle). “Undoubtedly one of the most influential Christian texts ever written” Specifically for monks, there are valuable lessons here for all of us.
The path to true humility is not being last in line, or to be seated at the table …The 25th step … is humility. It is one of the hardest things ever to attain to in this life. You don’t just poof, become humble. That’s not even at the beginning. Our Lord expected an audience that had been trained and was well versed. Kind of like us …
GREAT – but how!!! Must I Do something? Wouldn’t that be “works righteousness”? – don’t I become holy as Christ is Holy be sitting and praying and waiting on the Holy Spirit to change me …? You know – Virtue will just appear, like fruit on a tree…Cause – well, that ain’t working – right?
Meekness/Simplicity, Humility & Discernment
I borrow a few themes here….So many are the references to “going up”
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of our God” (Isa. 2:3),
“Who sets us on the high places, that we may be triumphant on His road” (Hab. 3:19).
“Let us hurry until we all arrive at the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of God, at mature manhood, at the measure of the stature of Christ’s fullness” (Eph. 4:13).
The point is we all want to reach higher, we are urged higher by the Holy Spirit. So much “TALK” has passed for theosis that it could cause me to wish I were deaf. Talk, preach, teach, read, hear ….No – we are to follow those who’ve gone before. Not only listen to them.
I dared asked our staff in Canada to watch my life – follow my example. I have at least five people keeping me accountable. For me, I need that – it’s so easy to surrender to the passions of this life. But I can’t – you can’t – we are to be holy … and left alone – that won’t happen.There’s no way to become holy all by yourself. No way to follow the path that so many fall from, especially as we grow older in our journey. No, we must do something … I want to see God – so do you.
I remember when we first became aware of the mission in the world and how GFA encouraged us to put up a world map in a prominent location in our home. We were becoming aware of the need to keep our mission forefront in our family life. How much more important to keep God forefront in our family life by placing a cross or an altar or a few icons in a location in our home. Just like when neighbours would come or family or friends, they would see we are actively pursuing our calling to mission. Those who enter your home and find an altar or cross or icon, will see your active commitment to God to be a worshipper of God and carry the traditions from the home into the church.
I was ordained almost 10 years ago, here, within this community. While that was not the beginning of our journey, it certainly underscored our need to comprehend and put into practice those things which our church was beginning to understand. And I had a long list of things I did not understand! One of the very first was marking the sign of the cross on my body.
To me this was one of the most frightening things that could have come about. I had no understanding, I had great fear, until I began to learn and read and apply what I had learned in my life. The understanding, of course, that marking the sign of the cross began way even before Passover. It is in the Bible on so many pages and in so many situations. I wonder even if there is more mention of that in the pages of scripture that we revere, than even baptism. I learned that the apostles taught us to mark with the sign of the cross before even the destruction of the temple.
Yes, it was a lot of work. But it was critically important to me that I understand the practises of the church. And, take advantage of the active work of God that I had, for so many decades, kept from my life. It helped me to have to do the hard work of reading the original texts as translated into English. The work of deciding to change my own personal practices. It meant changing what I had been taught about devotion time and practical application if any from my previous 30 years of experience with Christianity.
All are available for download from this website. Today, we have this wealth of teaching from Metropolitan and so many others. Are you reading them?
You can listen to podcasts, you can download materials, books to read to you, you can find materials online that have never been available in English before. We are at a time like the time of Jeremiah, like the time of the Apostles, there is so much understanding available to us that we can choose to return to God.
The humility part – well, I think that is very simply deciding to let go of, changing my strongly held, and usually misinformed, individual ideas, practices and fears, so that I can learn of God and allow his life through the Holy Spirit, through the sacraments, through daily life with him to change me, to change us, into the body of Christ.
Lectionary, even our own GFA devotional email series. There are as many as 20k people following along with us, are you?
Irenaeus (c. 135–c. 202). Bishop of Lyons who published the most famous and influential refutation of Gnostic thought. This was way before Nicene Creed or the Bible was ever written.
The Poor Invited to the Table. Where are the hundredfold rewards in this age for the dinners offered to the poor? These things will be during the times of the kingdom, on the seventh day that is sanctified when God rested from all his works that he made. This is the true sabbath of the just, in which they will have no earthly work to do, but will have a table prepared before them by God, who will feed them with all kinds of delicacies.4
The Grace of our Saviour is what we come here to receive today. He has promised to meet our every need This hope and promise we have is for all the world. We actually have something to offer the hurting, needy and hopeless all around us.
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
~ Rev. Fr. Pat
1 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 236
2 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 236-237
3 Thomas C. Oden and Gerald Bray, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament VII (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 38
4 Thomas C. Oden and Arthur A. Just Jr., Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture New Testament III (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 237
Lauder, Robert Scott, 1803-1869. Christ Teaches Humility, from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, TN. http://diglib.library.vanderbilt.edu/act-imagelink.pl?RC=55623 [retrieved September 9, 2019]. Original source: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Christ_Teacheth_Humility.jpg.