THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER TRINITY
In last week’s Gospel parable of The Wedding Feast of the King (Mt 22.1-14), Jesus reminded us of future judgment; judgment upon all who will not accept the King’s invitation, and, judgment upon Christian’s who having accepted, refuse to live their lives according to the calling they have received. We are called unto a life of holiness, to put on Christ, and thereby become recognizable to the King who clothes us with the beautiful wedding garment. But a holy life is not easy. In fact it is fraught with perils of all kinds, external temptations, the inner-life and its proclivity to vice and concupiscence. The Christian life is a continual struggle against sin, against the world, the flesh, and the devil.
St Paul encourages us this evening,
My brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might... Put on the whole armor of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places (Eph 6.10).
In other words, underneath and behind all that is human and sinful, Satan is active. That crafty serpent seizes upon the corrupt nature of fallen men. Active in the worldly structures and institutions of power and influence, the world-ruling powers of men, in a world which lie in darkness.
To live as Christ, to seek after righteousness, to be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, is a battle… it is an all out war! So St. Paul employs a military term to exhort us this evening, to the Church at Ephesus and to us he says “stand”; hold your ground; be steadfast and unwavering. But to stand, one must first put on the Divine armor, every single available piece of protection: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, our feet fitted with the preparedness that comes from the good news of peace, and taking up the shield of faith. Only then, clothed in the Divine armor will we be able to stand in the conflict which is ever at hand, and afterwards, stand as victors in Christ.
Central to our ability to stand amidst the onslaught of the enemy, both his internal and external attacks, "our feet,” says St. Paul, “must be shod with the preparedness of the Gospel of peace.” What does this mean? First we must think of the war-sandals common to Paul’s day that provided a firm footing and gait to the soldier. Second, the sandals are a metaphor for the ‘gospel of peace’, it is the Gospel in which the feet of the warrior of Christ stand. By the Gospel we who were wicked sinners and enemies of God, St. Paul says we were at enmity with God, and why? Because at one time we were on fighting for the wrong side, our allegiance was to self, our master… sin.
Hear St. Paul again,
In times past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others (Eph 2.2).
“But God…” the two sweetest words that ever touched the ears of sinners,
But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast (Eph 2.2-8).
Now in Christ we are finally at peace with God. No longer enemies but friends. No longer stranger but sons and daughters. No longer living in the fear and anxiety of death but filled with joy and hope of eternal life: for in Christ we have overcome death. No longer on shifting sand but standing firm in the peace of the Gospel. Pardoned by the King, not on account of anything we have done, but by faith in his beloved Son Jesus Christ, who gave himself for the life of the world. Hear the blessed Apostle,
Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory (Rom 5.1-2).
We stand firm in the past knowledge of our salvation and the future hope of glory. And in the midst of the battle we are bold to say, If God is for us, who can be against us Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? (Rom 8.32-36). God stands for us when we stand in the Gospel of peace, of this we most certainly can be assured,
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom 8.38-39).
Form the miracle of The Healing of the Nobleman’s Son (John 4.46) we learn that the peace of God, in times of trouble, depends upon faith and comes only to the believing. The nobleman set off on a journey of sorrow, anxiety, and sadness for his son was deathly sick. And, yet it was a journey of faith, though mixed with fear. Without faith he would not have come. Faith was present, but feeble, for, unlike the Centurion, he thinks that Christ could not heal without coming, and that if the child died before He came all would be over. So, little faith has little peace.
Jesus said to nobleman, “Go thy way, thy son liveth.” Surely he who had faith to come needed a greater faith to go away! Who can describe this return journey, and its struggle between faith and unbelief, between confidence and anxiety? But divine mercy shortened his time of trial, and arranged that the servants should meet their master by the way. Let us remember in our time of trial that the journey of faith may be shorter than we fear, and the message of peace may be already on its way.
And as he was now going down, his servants met him, and told him, saying, “Thy son liveth.” So the father knew that it was at the same hour, in the which Jesus said unto him, Thy son liveth: and himself believed, and his whole house (John 4.50).
Christ’s miracle was so absolute and so immediate that there was no further room for doubt. A journey that began in tribulation and sorrow ends in peace. And here were are reminded that peace is intricately connected to faith. “Above all, take the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked” (Eph 6.16).
On this twenty-first Sunday in Trinity-Tide we learn that the blessing of peace flows from the blessing of pardon, from being reconciled to the Father through Christ by faith. This is beginning of true and lasting peace… Gospel-Peace; peace in the midst of trial; peace in the most difficult and angst ridden moments of our lives; the peace of God which passeth all understanding… a very present help in our time of trouble. Amen.