Trinity 8 Proper 10A What is Christian spirituality
Isaiah 55:1-5, 10-13
Thus says the Lord: “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Behold, I made him a witness to the peoples, a leader and commander for the peoples. Behold, you shall call a nation that you do not know, and a nation that did not know you shall run to you, because of the Lord your God, and of the Holy One of Israel, for he has glorified you. For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it. For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands. Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress; instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle; and it shall make a name for the Lord, an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.”
Psalm 65:(1-8), 9-14 Book of Common Prayer p416
You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.
Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
That same day Jesus went out of the house and sat beside the sea. And great crowds gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat down. And the whole crowd stood on the beach. And he told them many things in parables, saying: “A sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seeds fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured them. Other seeds fell on rocky ground, where they did not have much soil, and immediately they sprang up, since they had no depth of soil, but when the sun rose they were scorched. And since they had no root, they withered away. Other seeds fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked them. Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. He who has ears, let him hear. Hear then the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart. This is what was sown along the path. As for what was sown on rocky ground, this is the one who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy, yet he has no root in himself, but endures for a while, and when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately he falls away. As for what was sown among thorns, this is the one who hears the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. As for what was sown on good soil, this is the one who hears the word and understands it. He indeed bears fruit and yields, in one case a hundredfold, in another sixty, and in another thirty.”
WHAT IS SPIRITUALITY? What is Christian spirituality?
The words from Isaiah in our Old Testament reading were spoken in the 8th century before Jesus’ birth tells of a people who were spiritually hungry for a time of peace, safety, righteous government and prosperity. Isaiah reassures his people that under the reign of God such a time would come on this earth.
The Apostle Paul saw in the Risen Christ the Son of God, the King or Messiah who would bring in such a reign of righteousness and peace when the race of man submitted to Christ the King. The reading today makes a little more sense if you link it to Romans 6. There Paul teaches that as people are baptized into the Body of Christ they begin a new life. The old life died in the baptistery and was buried by baptism. The new life in Christ began as the Christian emerged from the water of baptism. Paul said, “If anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation!”
We Christians moan and groan, as we bewail the evils around us, but forget that in our hands we have the power of God to save not only our own soul, but also the power to renew creation.
Read those lines again from St. Paul. He has a radical view of the possibility for good in human life. Life away from Christ is a living death. Those alienated from God are dead men walking. But he Christian has the power to renew creation because Christians are God’s ambassadors to the world whose message is, “Be reconciled to God. Find the Christ’s peace.”
Those who are spiritual are the most alive people in this world, on this planet, in this city. The Christian has “life because of righteousness. If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.” In Paul’s view, spirituality is something we achieve while we still have bodies!
Paul was a mystic. That does not mean he withdrew from the world as hermits did later and spent their days in nothing but prayer. Paul was profoundly spiritual, mystical in his belief but very practical in his action. He lived in the spirit of prayer while visiting among real lively people as he urged them “Be reconciled to God, save yourselves from this evil generation.” He urged them as he urges us to find in Christ Jesus, the reign of God, “the peace that passes understanding, passes our comprehension.”
He urges we find in Christ our work and find so much joy and peace we can’t hold it all.
One of his better-educated contemporaries said of Paul, “Your much learning has made you mad.” You’re crazy man! Why would anyone say that of the Great Apostle, who has been called the greatest mind of the first century?
Paul said, “Rejoice in tribulation!” He viewed such opposition as a sure sign that he was serving Christ and that the kingdom was coming. If in our endeavors to build Christ’s kingdom we find it easy, that is a certain sign we aren’t serious.
It is when we are on the verge of achieving something that opposition arises, doubts form in our minds and dissension comes up.
Last week we heard Jesus call us to His service. He comforted us with the strengthening words saying, “Come to me all of you who are heaven and I will refresh you.” We need refreshing, because he is putting us to work as he said, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me.”
In today’s reading from Matthew, Jesus said we are to be sowing the seed, teaching the Gospel, the Good News that God has come into the world in the Person of Jesus and His righteous Kingdom is being established.
However, in sowing this seed, Jesus said, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.“
In some places Jesus was received gladly and many people crowded around Him.
In others, Scripture teaches, “He could not do many mighty works because of disbelief.”
I love the prayers we have inherited from centuries past. One that I have cherished for many decades reads, we will not “fear the power of any adversary.” The Christian can and should be fearless for he lives under the reign of God, in Christ’s peace.
Paul wrote, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.”
You will live here and now, if you are spiritual because you are God’s chosen.
Spiritual life begins here and now and extends into eternity.
“For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”
Jesus also said, in connection with calling us as disciples and sending us out to recreate the world, “Fear not little flock, it is the Father’s good will to give you the kingdom.”
What can you do to recreate this world, bring in the Kingdom? The book of Acts gives us several clues. There were the meeting of the faithful in prayer waiting for the Holy Spirit to come. There was a great day when thousands were granted special gifts of the spirit for ministry. There was preaching and many baptized.
Then there was persecution. The leaders of the Church were hunted down, put into prison and beaten. There were false leaders who mislead people.
Then, after all of this turmoil, because people were faithful, there was a time of peace and “Then the Church throughout Judea, Galilee and Samaria enjoyed a time of peace. It was strengthened, and encouraged by the Hoy Spirit. It grew in numbers, living in the fear of the Lord.” *Acts 9:31
All of this growth was not only because of the preaching and heroic deeds of a few apostles. A story at the end of Acts 9 tells how, in the time of peace, the Gospel spread.
“In Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which, when translated, is Dorcas[b]), who was always doing good and helping the poor. 37About that time she became sick and died, and her body was washed and placed in an upstairs room. 38Lydda was near Joppa; so when the disciples heard that Peter was in Lydda, they sent two men to him and urged him, "Please come at once!"
“Peter went with them, and when he arrived he was taken upstairs to the room. All the widows stood around him, crying and showing him the robes and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was still with them.
Peter sent them all out of the room; then he got down on his knees and prayed. Turning toward the dead woman, he said, "Tabitha, get up." She opened her eyes, and seeing Peter she sat up.1He took her by the hand and helped her to her feet. Then he called the believers and the widows and presented her to them alive. This became known all over Joppa, and many people believed in the Lord. Peter stayed in Joppa for some time with a tanner named Simon.” Acts 9:36ff
The community mourned at the death of saintly Dorcas. We don’t know anything that this woman said, we know nothing of her circumstances, we only know she must have loved all those in need in her community and gave herself wholly to service. We know she was loved and her death was a terrible loss.
There is only a hint in the New Testament about the church orders of the first century. We know, from Acts and the other writings that there was an order of widows; there were deaconesses and the daughters of a Deacon, were teachers.
In the ordinary time of peace, it was devoted Christian men and women, whose names we will never know who did the most to build a Christian culture we still enjoy today.
There were also men who served well – Stephen the Deacon was the first martyr, and there were other deacons.
As we recount the stories of Jesus and the Apostles from Sunday to Sunday, we should not forget that in a peaceful time the Church grew because of the efforts of people like Simon the Tanner and Dorcas.
Let your light so shine among men that they may see your good works and glorify God who is in heaven.