Home      Back to Easter 4




The Fourth Sunday after Easter
By W. J. Hankey
from COMMON PRAYER, Volume Six:  Parochial Homilies for the Eucharist 
Based on the Lectionary of the Book of Common Prayer, 1962, Canada. (p. 80-82)
St. Peter Publications Inc. Charlottetown, PEI, Canada.  Reprinted with permission of the publisher.
I look for the Resurrection of the Dead and the life of the World to come.
(Nicene Creed)
Identifying our values is now-a-days said to be the essence of morals and religion.  Identifying our values is to mark out the things most important to us, the activities and objects, the thoughts and feelings and sensations, which mean most to us and which thus give purpose to our lives.  When we clearly distiguish and determine our own personal values, we are able to give shape to our lives.  When we know what our values are--what we want most--we can shape our decisions and choices around these things.  These days most talk about religion and morality is talk about values.  From it we Christians can learn something.  We can be reminded that every human life is given character and shape by its loves and desires, its hopes and fears, and by its faith and trust.  What we love most, what we trust in as the true reality, and what we hope for with our hearts all contribute to the shaping of our characters. 

But ultimately Christians cannot accept the language of values.  It is not Christian language.  In fact it is atheist language, language created in the last century by atheists in order to replace Christian ways of speaking and thinking.  To talk and think about human life, morality, and even religion in terms of values is to speak the language of this present age; it is to conform our minds to this present world.  This, of course, is forbidden by Scripture.  The language of values assumes that we humans determine our own destiny, ends, and goals.  It assumes that we create what is good for us, and that we form our own characters.  But Christianity teaches the opposite.  God as judge determines the destiny of us all.  God creates the true human good by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  God recreates, renews, and transforms our lives and characters by shaping them according to the likeness of his dear Son. 

It is the resurrection of Jesus that determines the values of Christians.  The resurrection is the basis of faith; we trust in the God who raised Jesus from the dead.  The resurrection creates in us the "confidence of a certain faith" and also "a sure and certain hope" (Canadian BCP, 1962, pp. 599 and 602).  The resurrection shows us our eternal future.  And Christ risen from the dead remakes our lives, for we desire to be "like him."  Our good is not of our own making; it is a gift from God.  The gift of his goodness is our new birth. 

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.  Of his own will [not our will but his will] he brought us to birth by the word of truth [his Son], that we should be a kind of first-fruits of all his creation. 
Or as St. John puts it, 
IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God... All things were made by him... As many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his Name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. 
It is God's good gift to mankind of his own dear Son, "the Word made flesh and dwelling among us," which brings true faith, a good hope, and a right love to birth in us.  It is God's goodness, his good will shown in the resurrection of Christ from the dead, which creates good will in us. 

It is a great error to give people the impression that their opinions determine what is true, that their decisions make the good, or that their aspirations compose human hope.  This is a fraud even in this present world where circumstances set our limits and the outcome of our projects.  Ultimately, it is altogether false and destructive.  It is God and his word in Jesus Christ who determines our end and creates our good.  As St. Peter writes: 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, which according to his abundant mercy hath begotten us again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.  (1 Peter 1:3-4)
Our good is seen in the resurrected Christ, in the Jesus whose flesh is saved from all death and corruption, whose spirit and body are in perfect harmony.  The risen Christ has turned his sufferings into signs of his union with God's will and good purposes.  The wounds of Jesus are battle scars of his glorious victory.  He is a perfectly complete and identifiable individual, and yet he communicates himself everywhere to be the life and peace and joy of his friends.  Individual and community are harmonized in him.  Space and time are no barriers to his good will which is the ground of our faith, hope, and love.  Spirit and nature, individual and community, history and perfection, are harmonized.  This is the aspiration and longing of humanity. 

If we do not hope for and love this, if we imagine that we can create our own values by our own choices, we go astray into every wicked and corrupting folly of this present world.  God alone can give us a goal and object of our faith, hope, and love which is worthy and good.  St. Augustine teaches: 

Present reality without that hope is, to be sure, a false happiness, in fact an utter misery.  For the present does not bring into play the true good of the mind; since no wisdom is true wisdom if it does not devote its attention, in all its prudent decisions, its resolute actions, its self-control and its just dealings with others, toward that ultimate state in which God will be all in all, in the assurance of eternity and the perfection of peace. (City of God XIX, 20)
Today's collect teaches the same doctrine and turns it into our prayers: 
O ALMIGHTY God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men: Grant unto thy people, that they may love the things which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.