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Eighth Sunday after Trinity

The Rev. Canon Robert Crouse

AD 2000

Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

The teaching of the Church for these Sundays after Trinity is always a very practical Christianity, setting always before us the practical demands of our life as Christians.  How must we, as Christians, live our life in this world?  What must be our attitudes?  What must be the character of our relationships with one another?  What must be our hopes and expectations?  What must be our conduct in this or that situation?


Those are practical questions, and the Scripture lessons for this Trinity season speak to such questions in a profoundly practical way.  But, of course, the answers are really practical for us only in so far as we think seriously about their meaning, and relate that meaning to the concrete circumstances of our life, as individuals and as community.  No one can really do that for us.  These lessons will be meaningful for us only in so far as we give them our thoughtful and prayerful attention: only in so far as we are ready to open our minds and hearts to God's Word for us, here and now, in the practical circumstances of our life.


As Jesus reminds us, in the Parable of the Sower, the word of God is like seed, sown in our hearts.  That seed must be cherished, and nourished, and cultivated if it is to bring forth fruit.  It must not be starved by neglect, or choked by the weeds and thorns and thistles of worldly busyness.  So we should not just hear these lessons in Church Sunday by Sunday: we must also ponder them in our hearts day by day - think about them, and pray about them, and try to conform our lives to their teaching.  Only if we can do that will they become genuinely practical teaching for us.


Now, let's take a few minutes to think about the lessons appointed for today, for this Eighth Sunday after Trinity.  In the Epistle lesson, from St. Paul's letter to the Romans, the Apostle speaks of our divine sonship and our life in the Spirit.  "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God."  But who are led by the Spirit of God?  those who are "debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the manner of the flesh":  that is to say those who are free from worldly conformities, and live their life, and use this world for the glory of God.  They are led by the Spirit.


They are the sons of God.  That is, of course, the very basis and starting-point of our practical life as Christians.  What we could never do for ourselves, God does for us.  "See, beloved," says St. John, "what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the Sons of God."  "What manner of love!"  "Not the spirit of servitude," says the Epistle, "not the spirit of servitude," of slavishness, "but a spirit of sonship, in which we cry aloud, Abba, Father."  That is to say, we live not in the bondage of fear and constraint, but in the free and willing obedience of God's household, as members and heirs of the kingdom, who find our peace in his will.


We are children of God, and our Gospel lesson, from Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, reminds us that we fulfill that calling by doing the will of our Father.  The lesson is really a very direct and simple one: 

Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? 

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit.

The point is really very simple, we live as we do, and act as we do, because of the kind of people we are.  Saying Lord, Lord, is not enough: we must be different people - led by the Spirit of God, living in loving obedience to God's will.


The calendar of lessons for the Trinity season gives us, week by week, practical guidance for living that way, as children of God, and heirs of his kingdom.  And we learn that it is only by the gift of God's Spirit that such a life is possible.  And so we give ourselves to prayer - we place ourselves in the presence of God, as in today's Collect:

O GOD, whose never-failing providence orders all things both in heaven and earth: We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord.