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Extension Of Honor, Ego And Pride

Readings: Isaiah 40:12-17, 27-end; 2 Corinthians 13: 11-end; Matthew 28:16-20.

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The OT passage this morning is the start of the oracles of that great prophet we call Deutero (or Second) Isaiah. The Book in the OT we all know as Isaiah actually was written over several centuries by three, possibly four, different prophets. Their oracles were combined by an editor into one book. So we do not really know the name of the person whose prophecies we’re reading. We do know that Second Isaiah was writing to the Exiles in Babylon, and here, on this powerful passage, he is laying out the idea of religion for a believer i.e., the absolute power of the God who created all that’s created, the Lord our God.

If someone were to ask who can achieve the impossible, the answer is: He who created the world before whom the idols and false Gods are nothing. The Spirit of the Lord is the prime mover in creation, as we see from the first verses of the in the Bible, the Book of Genesis. But he was not just the Creator, he was also the Counsellor who directs the course of history. The nations include the nice and powerful, including Lebanon, whose mighty forests of cedar were world famous. Now, sadly, they’ve almost disappeared. These nations are symbolic of human power and pride. In fact they are all emptiness and nothingness compared with the only true reality, the final word reality, which we discover in God. The issue was that the Exiles, with the event of the exile itself, and with the passage of time with no sign of rescue or change of their situation, were coming to believe that God had forgotten them.

The prophet’s answer is to make the first recorded connection of creation and eternity in respect of God. Thus, Yahweh is both Creator, in time, and in addition the Timeless God. That’s, he’s Lord of both the universe and of time. Which is more than claiming that he’s eternal: it’s proclaiming him as Lord of the Ages that he is active in history, active through all eternity. He’s thus the source of strength and renewal for many who wait upon him. Age is not going to be a determinant, all may rise up like eagles with renewed strength, they shall be saved.

The idea of the Trinity shouldn’t be spelt out anywhere in the OT, but there are instances, as on this passage, where it’s suggested. We see here also a robust sense of community and of corporate responsibility, as the people of God. The identical sense of community ought to be seen as characteristic of the Christian Church. Here, that’s our responsibility. This sense of membership one with another can be seen within the Epistle also. S. Paul shows a deep sense of responsibility for the community at Corinth. There is no such thing as a sense of resentment even against the people there who’ve opposed him. His greetings and farewells are addressed to everyone. There isn’t any place in the Church for ongoing ill-will or division. However, he makes it clear that there is still some approach to go in the healing process. After the farewell, the first imperative translates as mend your ways. The verb within the Greek has the sense of repairing that which is broken, of constructing progress to an entire whole. And indeed, Christian living is a becoming, a progression towards perfection. None of us is ideal yet, but we’re coming closer as long as we are on the road and not turning aside.

There was still a protracted technique to go at Corinth before that church could be a totally integrated community: too many factions were pulling in different directions. Within the Church there has to be an effort and intention on the a part of all to discover a way forward together. The second imperative is a call from S. Paul for the Corinthians to concentrate on what he has said to them. The primary letter contains much of his teaching. He warned of the danger of factionalism (chap. 1); and of the fruitless pursuit of human wisdom, he warns against the toleration of open immorality within the church community (chap. 5); he defended his own teaching and his own authority (chap. 9); he taught on the subject of spiritual gifts and of their use in and for the Church; he gave us that sublime treatise on love in chapter 13, and much else in addition. If our church communities were to live by the spirit of his precepts which closely echo the person and teaching of Jesus, then there could be no divisions, we could be making real progress towards perfection.

The pleas to agree with each other and to live in peace are the logical outcomes of practicing what he preached. The result might be that the God of love and peace will probably be with you. The effect of division is to drive out God. Only as we come together within the Church, being of one mind, is God able to make his presence known. Human rivalry and resentment, so involves the ego that God is excluded. The holy kiss is an indication of our love and commitment to one another. The kiss was widely used within the ancient world as an indication of membership within a group, and could signify a variety of relation-ships. It still does in much of the world, including Hungary. There’s evidence that the kiss was a part of the Eucharistic liturgy from the earliest times.

Cyril of Jerusalem is reputed to have said: Think not that this kiss (i.e., the liturgical ‘kiss of peace’) ranks with that given in public by common friends. It is not such: this kiss blends souls with each other, and solicits for them entire forgiveness. Therefore, this kiss is the sign that our souls are mingled together and have banished all remembrance of wrong. The kiss therefore is reconciliation, and for that reason is holy. The Kiss is what we now call the ‘Peace’. So try to think about Cyril’s words as we shake hands or whatever this morning. The Peace just isn’t simply a greeting. The sense of holy reconciliation must be present. The grace within the last verse is the grace which comes from our Lord Jesus Christ, the love that comes from God, and inspires the same love in believers; the sense of partnership which comes from sharing God’s Spirit within the Church. The form is that of benediction, and the emphasis is on grace, love and partnership.

There is no direct reference to God as Trinity, yet it is from such passages, and from the experience of our early brethren of the way God acted of their lives, that the doctrine of the Trinity arose. Good dogma comes out of experience it is not imposed by Church councils they simply reflect the fact of the experience of the Church. So, the doctrine of the Trinity, which we celebrate today is an expression of human experience of God. We hold God to be the Creator. God has revealed himself in power and majesty; peruvian wave he is Almighty. At the identical time he’s merciful and loving. He has communicated this to his people from OT times onward by the activity of his Spirit within the minds of those that believe and are open to revelation. Most clearly and tangibly, Jesus has revealed God in his human life, which at the identical time was divine.

The Trinity helps us keep a balance in our view of God: balance which is commonly lost when people clutch hold of varied enthusiasms for a particular type of revelation. It’s into God in his totality that we are baptized, as the Gospel reminds us. The Gospel passage is the concluding verses of the Gospel of Matthew. They are there to help make the transition from the earthly ministry of Jesus to that of the Church. The Church is to hold on the work of Jesus it is Jesus to the world in its day. We are Jesus on this planet today. Obedience plays a large part in this reading. The disciples go to Jerusalem in obedience; discipleship itself implies obedience. We read of the disciples of Jesus, forgetting that today we’re his disciples. They in turn are to make disciples … by way of baptism, and teach obedience to those baptized. It is critical that moral obedience is the first requirement for the baptized. This whole Gospel places a robust emphasis on ethics. It’s to this Gospel alone that we owe the powerful moral teaching enshrined within the so-called Sermon on the Mount.

That was teaching given to disciples for discipleship. It means renunciation of worldly ambition for its own sake and the denial of self and self-centred ways of acting. It demands the bearing of the cross; the following of Christ; the willingness to be a servant to all; and a commitment to living in obedience to the will of our Father God. This Gospel passage leaves us in little question about the writer’s view on the divinity of Jesus. He’s given all authority in heaven and on earth. Such authority is God’s alone. We’re reminded that it is through Jesus and his teaching that we all know what to believe and the way to live. It is the Spirit promised by Jesus that is poured out on us at our baptism, and which provides us understanding of God through the revelation of Jesus. It is the Spirit which leads us into a contemporary application of his teaching. As Jesus spoke of worshipping his Father, so we worship God’s totality according as we’ve received the revelation of God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

St Margaret’s Budapest
Rev’d Canon Denis Moss

edited by Simon Harding

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