Summary: Sermon deals with self-righteousness vs. humility.
By the Grace of God
Fr. James Cloud
St. Jude’s Anglican Church
The readings today include some very important points in our spiritual walks as Christians. Many churches proclaim, in the spiritual sense, go ahead and play with the boiling water on the stove if you want, stick your hand deep inside. If that is what God has planned for your life, I must be tolerant and accept whatever you feel God wants you to do. This idea is not only deeply entrenched within the realm of moral relativism; it is plainly absurd and can be instantly recognized as an error in thought.
Many Christians resemble the Pharisee in the readings today which said before God at the temple, “I am glad I am not like these other sinners.” Others resemble the publican, “God be merciful to me, a sinner.” Christ tells us that the one who is humble in his or her conscience before a righteous God will understand we have erred in thought, word and deed. How can the pharisaical Christian comprehend sin if they believe it either doesn’t reside within them or becomes just a catch-phrase or by-word within their life or their church?
St. Paul said, “I am the least of the Apostles” because he persecuted Christ’s Church. He was a party to the stoning of St. Stephen in the book of Acts. He imprisoned and brutalized Christians in the name of God willingly and with conviction. Let us now think of it this way. What if the same moral relativist’s ideas were applied to St. Paul’s situation? Upon observing Saul of Tarsus (St. Paul) beating and imprisoning Christians, the moral relativist would have said, “Well, if God has this planned for Saul’s life, who are we to stand in the way of it? We must be tolerant of his ideas because he’s doing it in the name of God and still is a good Jew, caring for the poor and destitute as well as these acts.”
Now let us hear what Christ Himself said to Saul of Tarsus for these sinful acts. In Acts 9:1-9 we read:
1Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest 2and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. 3As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. 4He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" 5"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked. "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. 6"Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do." 7The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. 8Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. 9For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
Was Christ a bigot or hatemonger for correcting Saul’s actions? Was God being unjust by demanding that Saul live up to certain standards and expectations in his personal life so that Saul’s life could be transformed into the spiritual powerhouse that was St. Paul?