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The Tenth Sunday after Trinity

Fr. David Curry

Christ Church, Windsor, Nova Scotia, August 19, AD 2001


“No-one can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit”


“No-one can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit”. This is one of the earliest creedal statements from within the Scriptures themselves. It is a Trinitarian statement really, the nucleus of what we proclaim more fully in the great Catholic Creeds of the Church which come out of the Scriptures - out of such words as these - and which return us to the Scriptures within a way of understanding. And such clarifying proclamations give shape to our lives in grace. “Concerning spiritual gifts,... I would not have you ignorant”, says St. Paul. “Now there are diversities of gifts...” and he goes on to list some of them. But they are gifts which arise, as it were, out of this fundamental proclamation out of what we have been given to say about God by God himself. “No one can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit”.


The diversity of gifts belongs to our life with God in the communion of God - the Trinity. The different gifts are about his grace in our lives. To esteem them is to honour him. This is something communicated to us by the grace of God with us - Jesus Christ – God’s Word and Son. To confess Jesus as Lord acknowledges him as “I am who I am”, as God with us, God in the very flesh of our humanity, God made man. Only so can he be Lord. In Jesus the Old Testament mystery of God’s name - “I am who I am” - is opened to view, explored and explicated in terms of the spiritual relation of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost. God’s relation to us radically depends upon his self-relation, upon the communion of God with God in God, the communion of the Trinity.


This is the burden of our proclamation in which we are privileged to participate. For if we cannot proclaim with clarity the God of our salvation, then we cannot participate with charity in the divine life which has been opened to view through the sacrifice of the Son to the Father in the Holy Spirit.


Something of this underlies the strong scene in today’s Gospel - St. Luke’s account of Christ’s cleansing the temple. What is it about really, except a recalling of the true purpose of the Temple, a reminder to us of the true purpose of this and every holy place? This place, too, is to be the place where we attend to the high things of God, to the things which Jesus wants us to know. This is to be a place of teaching. This is to be a place of our abiding in the love of God revealed and proclaimed. Such is the challenge for all the churches in our communities; the challenge to be the Church in the communities where we have been placed means acting out of what we have been given to see.


What stands in the way is our preoccupation with our own immediate, economic, material and sensual concerns, our wills as over and against God’s will. There is the constant temptation and tendency to want to use the things of God and the places of God for ourselves, for our own ends and purposes, for the projects of our own devisings. We forget that we have an end in God and that such things must fall under the rule of his will and purpose without which they are nothing and nothing worth. When we forget that, then our projects are deadly and destructive “because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation”. We so easily become the thieves of the grace of God - forgetful of the gifts and the giver. 


We have a wonderful illustration of these lessons in the baptism of Syndey Ann Baker this morning. She has been named in God’s own naming of himself. She has been baptised in the Name of God the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. Why? Because “no-one can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit” and the Church’s responsibility is to act out of that understanding. Her baptism signals new birth, a new orientation, an openness to God. Her baptism is a reminder to all of us of our identity in Christ, of our incorporation into the death and life of Jesus Christ. She has her spiritual identity through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It is the pattern which defines her and us. But there remains a challenge for her and for us, both individually and collectively.


The challenge is to act out of what we have received and to enter more fully into the understanding of what we have been given. It means that we are not to be strangers “to the time of thy visitation” but constantly on the look-out for the grace-notes of God in our lives. Fundamental and necessary to such a look-out is our attention to the things of God in the places where God’s Word is proclaimed and his Sacraments are faithfully administered. It really cannot be otherwise.


But it means that the churches of our communities and our country have to be true to what belongs to their spiritual purpose and identity. Without that they become little more than dens of thieves; in short, thieves of the charity of God. When the churches are brain-dead to the understanding which defines them, when they are willfully indifferent to the spirit which animates them, then they become little more than fascist cells defined by the ideological flavour of the day. The institutional churches become ends unto themselves and that is always deadly. And it is deadly at every level - the parish, the diocese, national bureaucracies and international congresses and conferences. It is very much, I fear, where we are now and all because we do not honour these gifts and the giver.


At the heart of the matter is this “creedal” phrase, “no-one can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit”. To attend to this phrase is to begin to enter into the understanding which it opens to view. It is to be reminded of our vocation and the vocation of the Church. Nothing less will do because without this our lives are empty and nothing worth and we have nothing to say that is worth saying or thinking or believing. Nothing less will do because this is all the grace of God for us and in us.


“No-one can say Jesus is Lord but by the Holy Spirit”