KNOW ye not, that so many of us as were
baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death?
Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that
like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the
Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
Epistle lesson, St. Paul speaks of becoming a Christian -- being
baptized into Christ -- as a participation in Jesus' death and
resurrection. It is a dying and a rising again: putting off an
old life, an old way of being, an old worldliness, and putting on a
new spiritual life: "Knowing this, that our old Adam was
crucified with him, that our sinful self might be destroyed, that we
should never again be the slaves of sin."
But what is that old Adam of which the Apostle
speaks? What is that old Adam that must die when we "put on
Christ"? What is it but a worldly way of being, a worldly way
of thinking and acting which sees nothing beyond worldly
justifications, which measures and judges everything according to
In the end, of course, that worldliness leads
nowhere. Seeking only worldly gratifications, that is all it
finds; and that, in the end, comes to nothing but eternal
frustration; and that bitter eternal frustration is what we mean by
hell. A notable 19th century English wit once remarked that
his idea of heaven what "eating pate de fois gras to the sound of
trumpets." No doubt a certain bliss might be found in that;
but if that were all there is for eternity, that would surely be not
heaven, but hell.
When we become Christians, says St. Paul, when we
put on Christ, that "old Adam," that old worldliness, is put to
death -- that our sinful self might be destroyed. That is to
say, in the dying and rising of Christ, there is opened to us, and
shown to us a new and living way -- the way of faith and obedience
to God's will. And that, you see, is both a death and a
rebirth. "For in that he died, he died unto sin once, but
in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." "Like as Christ was
raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also
should walk in newness of life."
"That we also should walk in newness of life."
That is the heart of the message of the Scripture lessons for
the whole of this Trinity season: that we also should walk in
newness of life": in the light of Jesus' Resurrection, in the
power of His Spirit.
Today's Gospel lesson tells us something quite
specific about that walking in newness of life. It's all about
loving your enemies: "Love your enemies, do good to them which
hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which
despitefully use you. And to him that smiteth thee on the one
cheek, offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak,
forbid not to take thy coat also." Don't let the sun go
down on your wrath.
But, we say, the world simply doesn't work
that way, well, yes, true enough, the world doesn't work that way --
But, you see, our lessons are about anti-worldliness -- about
a new way of being and living. Love your enemies.
But what is this unworldly love? Sometimes we confuse love
with emotion or affection -- which may, indeed, accompany love, or
may not -- but they are not love. Love, in the context
of the Gospel, means willing, steadfastly WILLING, the eternal GOOD
in all things, in one another, in all people, including our enemies,
BECAUSE, God loves us that way, and demonstrated that way of
love in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
In the sacrament we celebrate this morning, we
come into the presence of that sacrifice, which demonstrates the
divine love and calls us to newness of life and empowers us to live
that life. And what is this sacrament but ordinary worldly
things -- bread and wine? That's all it is. Yet, when we
bring these ordinary things to God's altar in obedience and faith,
they are transformed by the word of the Lord, to become spiritual
food -- the world of God which cometh down from heaven to give
life unto the world.
We feed on him in our hearts by faith with
thanksgiving, and we rise up to walk in newness of life, sharing
such good things as pass man's understanding, obtaining God's
promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ