Sermon for the Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity
St. John’s Church – Moultrie, GA
October 3, 2010
Some of you may be wondering if I read the wrong Gospel lesson this morning. You might be thinking, didn’t we hear just a few weeks ago the re-telling of the Summary of the Law? Why are we hearing it again? If you thought that or asked those questions, I think you’ve hit on something important. You’re asking a very good question.
In fact, we did hear the re-telling of the Summary of the Law just five weeks ago on the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity. It was within the context of the Parable of the Good Samaritan from St. Luke’s Gospel. If you remember that account, it is not Jesus who recites the Summary, but rather, the lawyer who posed the question to Jesus, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” In this morning’s Gospel from St. Matthew, the situation is somewhat different, but in actuality, it’s quite similar. A group of people who simply want the easy way out ask Jesus a question in attempt to catch him in a trap.
I’m not really sure what type of answer they were searching for, hoping he’d give in order to trap Him in His words, but we know that this was their ulterior motive for doing what they did. In somewhat atypical Jesus fashion, he actually answers their question, and does so by appealing to the only logical place he could, Sacred Scripture. He recounts for them the words from Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 19, and those same words are proclaimed each and every time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist. So why do we seemingly hear the same story that we heard five weeks ago again this morning? Unfortunately, if we ask that question, I’m afraid we’ve missed the point.
After all, it’s not the same story at all. It’s quite different on so many fronts.
First of all, we never hear the same stories twice. We never hear the same stories twice because we are never the same when we hear them for the second, third, forty-fifth, or any number of times. We are never the same, and therefore, the story affects us differently each time we hear it. It may not be something we are conscious of at the time, but the gospel is new and fresh even if we are hearing a familiar passage.
This does not mean that the Truth behind it is different. As St. Paul regularly said, God Forbid! Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If, as we proclaim, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, there is no variation in the message. It is the recipient of that message that is different, and with God’s grace, different for the better.
If we were to have cut off the second part of these two pericopes, then we would miss out on the critical points that Matthew and Luke are trying to bring to light.
If you remember back to the Gospel from St. Luke from a few weeks ago, the second half of the story centered around the retort from the lawyer when he asks Jesus, “so who is my neighbor?” In response, Jesus then tells the Parable of the Good Samaritan, and thus exegetes the second portion of the Summary, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
In this morning’s Gospel from St. Matthew, we again hear those familiar words, but then Jesus wants to focus on the first half of the Summary, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God.” He does this by asking a circular question that completely befuddles the Pharisees and those who were listening to Him.
Jesus quotes the first verse of the 110th Psalm, and does so in a manner that, “no man was able to answer him a word,” and actually puts the crowd to silence. He says to the crowds, “What think ye of Christ? Whose son is he?” To which the Pharisees give the expected response. Why of course, he’s the Son of David. We’ve been waiting patiently when a descendent of King David might again sit on God’s throne, and rule his people, and we might no longer live as slaves. We are the sons of Abraham, to whom all of the promises of the covenant were given, and we’ve followed the Law of Moses ever since. What kind of question are you asking us here? Of course, he’s the Son of David.
Jesus then very carefully asks them this question, “How then doth David in spirit call him Lord, saying, The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou on my right hand, till I make thine enemies thy footstool?”
Here again, the Bible fails us! No, I don’t mean in what it says, but by what it doesn’t say. Golly I wish I could have seen the expressions of utter dismay, confusion, and frustration that must have been written large across their faces. I’m sure that the prevalent thought running through their heads was, “I sure didn’t see that one coming.” For anyone who has seen The Simpsons, the only fair reaction is that of Homer, “DOH!”
What Jesus has just done in one swoop is give them a glimpse into the first half of the Summary, that they needed to realize and understand that the God who spoke all things into Creation, who made the Covenant with Abraham, who was with Moses on Mt. Sinai, who was praised as LORD by King David, who was spoken of and proclaimed by the prophets was standing right in front of them. They were given the gift of seeing God in his Incarnate form, and they walked off dumbfounded and silent. In many ways they were simply predecessors of Pontius Pilate who when the Truth was standing right in front of him, he asks the question, “What is truth?” No, they weren’t like the lawyer from the Lukan version of this story when he asks, “Who is my neighbor?” Instead their actions spoke louder than any words could, “And no man was able to answer him a word; neither durst any man from that day forth ask him any more questions.” They truly had no idea who Jesus was talking about when he told them, “Thou shalt love the LORD thy God.”
The confusion didn’t stop 2,000 years ago in Palestine. Many are just as confused today even within the church about who God is, who Jesus is, and who we are in light of that revelation. As disciples of Jesus Christ our mission, our mandate, our calling is the worship and love the LORD our God with every fiber of our being, and to love our fellow man as ourselves. The two questions that we must be able to answer and show to others is “Who is God?” and “Who is my neighbor?” In the parable of the Good Samaritan we get a very good picture of who our neighbor is. In this morning’s Gospel we see who God is. As we sang in our hymn just few moments ago, we worship, “the Lord’s Anointed, great David’s greater Son!” We worship the one who embodies all of the promises of the Covenant made to Abraham, who is not the God of the dead, but of the living. We worship the one who has left us with His promise that He will never leave us nor forsake us, and who was revealed to those apostles on the road to Emmaus in the Breaking of the Bread. He is truly present with us today in the celebration of His Blessed Sacrament – to whom we ascribe all honour, might, majesty, and dominion this day and evermore. Amen.