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The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

by J.A. Matheson

All Saints Church; St. John the Baptist Chapel of Ease


Galatians 5:16f     St. Luke 10:25f

 “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”


Well, I’ve been to Ottawa and back, and the conference was well-worth the trip.  But whenever I’m in the city, I’m reminded that I really am a country boy at heart.  Most of those who were attending the conference from New Brunswick were staying at the Ottawa Marriott, which was a few kilometres from the church where the conference was being held.  That meant driving back and forth on each of the 3 days.  We were kept busy, from 7:00 am until 10:30 each evening.  At the end of the first day, I was offered a ride to my hotel by Graham Eglington, who used to be national director of the Prayer Book Society. ‘Where are you staying?’ he asked.  ‘At the Marriott,’ I answered.  So he dropped me off, at a little after 11:00 pm, at what said, ‘Marriott Residence’ or something like that.  I jumped on the elevator and went up to the 7th floor.  Now, hotel keys, as you know, are not old-fashioned metal keys anymore, but look like  credit cards.  The number of your room, for various reasons, is not printed on the card.  I was fairly sure that the room Fr. Ian Wetmore and I were sharing was 712.  Just in case Fr. Wetmore had returned to the hotel before me, I knocked on 712, and then inserted the key.  There was no answer from inside and the key didn’t work.  ‘Well, I thought,’ maybe I got the wrong room, so I started inserting the key in the rooms nearby-711, 710, 713.  None of my tries produced the little green light indicating success.  But, as you all know, these electronic keys are far from fool-proof.  Sometimes it takes a few tries to get them to register.  So I made the rounds again, beginning with room 712.  No luck.


Finally, I got back on the elevator and went to the front desk (I wonder if anyone in the rooms I tried to gain access to wondered who was scratching at their door at 11:30 at night).  I told the young woman at the desk (I tried not to be too indignant) that my key wouldn’t work.  ‘What is your name, sir?’ she asked.  But my name was not in the computer.  ‘But it must be there...no try my roommate’s name...it must be there, we checked in this morning.’  ‘Are you sure you are staying at this Marriott, sir?’ the young woman asked, patiently.  ‘Do you mean there is more than one?’ ‘Yes, sir, there are 3 Marriott Hotels in Ottawa.’ And the light went on.  ‘Well, where is the Ottawa Marriott?’ I asked.  ‘Several blocks from here, would you like me to call you a cab?’ ‘No, just give me directions, please.  I think the walk will do me good.’

I’ve been thinking about my experience at the hotel, and there is, I believe, a parallel to be made between it and how many of us live our Christian lives.  By one means or another, we feel that we have, within our grasp, the key to our happiness: power, riches, careers, our friend-ships and family relationships.  Every person has a different idea of what the key to happiness is. 

But what if the door we are trying to open is the wrong one?  What if we are in the wrong building altogether?  Most of the keys that we think will open the door to happiness, to contentment, give only partial, and fleeting happiness.  Friends let us down, careers come to an end, money often creates more problems than it solves.  In any case, the kind of happiness we humans were created for is not a happiness that can be found in this world, but is an eternal happiness, the basis of which is a relationship with God.  As the Psalmist asks, “What is man, that thou art mindful of him?  And the son of man, that thou visitest him? For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.” (Psalm 8:4, 5)

Our home is in heaven (“In my Father’s house are many mansions ...I go to prepare a place for you.”) and no matter how much happiness worldly achievements provide, there is always that nagging feeling that there must be something more, that maybe we are trying to unlock the wrong door.

The lawyer in today’s Gospel had that feeling.  He saw his opportunity and asked Jesus, “Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus knows he knows, at least in theory; he is a lawyer, after all, and it is his business to know.  ‘Love God with all your being, and love your neighbour as yourself.’ After that, there is some splitting of hairs, during which Jesus tells the wonderful parable of the Good Samaritan to show who our neighbour is (anyone in need); but the point I want to make this morning is that most of us are not even in the right building.  To love God with all our being and to love our neighbour as ourselves is so foreign to our modern mind set, a mind set that is encouraged by a consumer society that demands that we seek fulfilment in pursuing what we think will make us feel good-what the ancient philosophers would call our appetites, what St. Paul, in today’s epistle and in other places calls “the flesh.” The list produced by the Apostle may seem quaint to us, but is every bit (perhaps more) as applicable today as when he wrote to the Galatians.  (Did you know, for example, that witchcraft is the fastest growing religion in Canada?  A visit to Chapters on Wednesday showed me that the section of books given over to witchcraft and new age is as large as the section on Christianity.)  The flesh is opposed to the spirit. If we live after the flesh, after our appetites and earthly desires, we are friends, in the wrong hotel.  The key is not going to work, no matter how many times we try it, no matter how many doors we try to open.


Loving God, loving our neighbour.  That is the house we want to be in, no matter how imperfect our attempts to do so are.  Do you want eternal life?  I pray that you do, and I pray that you will search for it today.