Sunday, October 24, 2010

Homily for the Twenty-First Sunday after Trinity (Trinity 21)


John 4:46-54; Ephesians 6:10-17; Genesis 1:1 – 2:3

In the Name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.

There’s a lot of talking going on in that first chapter of Genesis. There’s a lot of talking going on, but, there’s no people, it’s all God. And, yet, look at all the stuff that happens: The heavens and the earth are created. There is light. There are oceans, seas, and land. There are stars, the moon and the sun, and all the celestial bodies. And, then there are living things, first grass, plants, and trees, but, then, birds and fish, and, finally, land animals of all kinds --- all this from God, and from God alone, talking, speaking His creative and life-giving Word, bringing all things out of nothing. As St. John the Evangelist writes in the Prologue to His Gospel, “All things were made through [the Word], and without [the Word] was not anything made that was made.” All things were made through the Word of God, the Word that was with God in the beginning, the Word that was God and is God still.

It was that Word that became flesh and, in the person of Jesus, made His dwelling amongst us. So, God continued to talk, God continued to speak His creative and life-giving Word, and creation continued to happen, through the Words of Jesus, who is the Word of God become flesh. The people of Israel understood that God created all things out of nothing by His powerful and creative Word, but they did not understand that God’s creative and life-giving Word could possibly stand right there in their very midst to re-create His fallen creation. Jesus, the Word of God made flesh, was able to turn water into wine, to heal the sick, and to raise the dead by His Word alone, still the people demanded signs and wonders in order to believe. Sometimes Jesus granted them signs and wonders, but ultimately He invited them to believe that He was the Word of God incarnate, the glory of God and His Word of creation, present in their very midst. It’s still all God, and it’s still all by God’s Word. As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end.

When Jesus healed the sick, raised the dead, and cast out demons it was by the power of the Word of God. In all such cases it was God’s creative Word re-creating His creation ruined by sin and the temptations of the devil. Each and every case was a confrontation between the Word of Life and the powers of darkness. When Jesus Himself was tempted by the devil in the wilderness, Jesus drove away the devil by the Word of God alone. In His death on the cross, the Word of God, Jesus, was triumphant over the devil, destroying his power forever.

Your old evil foe is defeated, but still he tempts you, and often convinces you, to believe that this is not so. Each day of your life, therefore, you are under siege from his temptations. Yet, still, for you, now, the Word of God alone can drive away the devil. Thus, Paul instructs you to “Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Such armor is defensive, not offensive, for, it is not you who will be doing the fighting. Indeed, the fight is already over and the victory is won for God through Christ’s death and resurrection. But, you need protecting, still, from the temptations of the evil one; you need defensive armor. God supplies you that armor in Jesus Christ: He supplies you with the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, the gospel of peace as shoes for your feet, the shield of faith, and the helmet of salvation. These are defensive armor; they will protect you from the assaults of the devil if you trust in them. Indeed, the only offensive weapon that is given you is the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. It is the Word alone that heals the sick, that raises the dead, that casts away demons, that drives off the devil.

So, it was not necessary that Jesus go to the official’s dying son, but for Him only to speak His Word. The official sought out Jesus because he believed Him to be a healer, otherwise he would not have come to Jesus. The official believed that Jesus could and would heal his dying son, but he wrongly believed that it was necessary for Jesus to be physically present. “Unless you see signs and wonders,” Jesus says to him, “you will not believe.” Jesus was not sent to receive glory for Himself but glorify His Father who sent Him by restoring His fallen creation and by redeeming men who He created in His own image.

There is a similar account in St. Matthew’s Gospel of a Roman centurion who asked Jesus to heal his servant who was tortured with palsy. In that account, Jesus answers straightway “I will come and heal him.” But, the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof, but only speak Your Word and my servant will be healed.” Why is it that when the official asks Him to come to his son Jesus refuses to go their bodily, while, though not asked to come to the servant of the centurion, He offers to go there at once? Is it not to rebuke man’s sinful pride? Is it not to show that the ways of men are not the ways of God? Is it not to strengthen men’s faith in the Word of God alone and to demonstrate that the Word of God made flesh in Jesus is everywhere present as He fills all things? Is it not to show that faith that demands signs and wonders to believe is a little faith or no faith at all? The official came to Jesus seeking healing for his son; he went home that day with so much more, true, unshakable, unwavering faith. He who had faith to come needed a greater faith to go away, faith that believes without seeing, faith that finds peace in the Word of God alone.

“All things were made through [the Word], and without [the Word] was not anything made that was made.” Jesus is the Word of God made flesh and dwelling amongst. Forty days after His resurrection from the dead, Jesus ascended to the right hand of His Father in Heaven. In Christ’s Ascension, it was not that Jesus was taken away from His disciples and that He was no longer with them, but it was simply that they would no longer see Him in the same way. Indeed, during those forty days after His resurrection, Jesus willfully appeared and disappeared before the presence of His disciples, first at His empty tomb, then in the upper room behind closed doors, with the disciples on the road to Emmaus, and with his disciples on the shores of the lake. Though He has now ascended to the right hand of the Father, in so doing He fills all things and is present everywhere as He promised, “I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age.”

So, the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ, is with you, now, to forgive, to nourish and strengthen, and to feed you, His disciples, with His creative and life-giving Word and His precious body and holy blood that you may believe and have peace and live to the glory of His Father in His most Holy Spirit.

In the + Name of Jesus. Amen.

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