Sunday, September 4/17, 2017
15th Sunday After Pentecost
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever. Beloved in the Lord, What does it take to be an apostle or a missionary? Among the great epithets that our mother church assigns to her saints, I admit that “Enlightener and Equal-to-the-Apostles” has to be one of my favorites. From the epistle this morning, St. Apostle Paul reveals a little of his inner psychology so that we can know a bit of what it takes. But I ask again, what could bring a human being to such a state as he describes?
We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. (II Corinthians 4:8-10)
We read later in this same epistle some of the conditions which could cause this kind of psychological trauma:
23 Are they ministers of Christ?—I speak as a fool—I am more: in labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often. 24 From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep; 26 in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27 in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (II Corinthians 11:23-27)
How can those of us who struggle working 40-60 hours a week just to feed our family identify with someone like this, let alone “follow his example as he follows the example of Christ?” What is the secret of this apostle’s super human endurance?
The answer is found in this morning’s Gospel and it is not some secret formula or radio-active spider venom that causes such heroic activity. When the Lord Jesus confronts the learned professors of the law with an answer to their question, it makes them stop asking any more questions. The greatest commandment is to love God and love your neighbor. This dear brothers and sisters is the fuel that drives an apostle like St. Paul who heard the same call as Abraham or the Prophet and God-seer Moses (whose memory we celebrate today) to leave family and people and GO. Abraham is called out and sent forth as an old man; Moses as a tiny baby. But when and where to go is never as important as why. For the apostle to the Gentiles writes in his epistle, “The love of Christ constrains/compels us…” (II Corinthians 5:14) And it is this love that stretches, “even to the outermost parts of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Brothers and sisters, where is God calling you to go this morning? It may not be as dramatic as St. Paul’s epic journeys, but your inner struggle may be the same. Are you feeling hard-pressed, struck down, perplexed, or persecuted by someone or some situation outside of your control? Then know by the promise of this morning’s letter and testimony of one who trusted God in the deepest of ways, you are not crushed completely; you are not left alone; you are not without hope. Ask then the Lord of the harvest to send you deeper into the struggle that His life may be manifested in your mortal flesh as well. And perhaps, you too, through this struggle can become an apostle, one sent forth into the world with a message of hope and resurrection for all. In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.