Quinquagesima Feb 23, 2020

Sermon by Canon Claude Schroeder

We come today to the final Sunday in this season of pre-Lent: Quinquagesima, from the Latin word tor 50, in anticipation of the 40 days of Lent which starts on Wednesday.

“Then Jesus took unto the 12 aside and said to them, “See ​we are going up to Jerusalem, and everythinq that is written about the Son of Man by the prophets will be accomplished.”

Lent is a journey with Jesus and his disciples to Jerusalem.

According to the law of Moses, all Jewish males were required three times a year to appear before the Lord in Jerusalem, But in Jesus’ day, people were reluctant make the journey. In the parable of the Good Samaritan which Jesus told, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he was attacked by robbers.” This is what happens when you leave home. You got robbed and beat up.  This stretch of highway between Jerusalem and Jericho was particularly dangerous in this regard.

Although our journey to Jerusalem is not a literal, physical journey, but a spiritual one, some of us will naturally experience a reluctance, a hesitation about leaving home and embarking on this journey.

Why is this? Well, like all journeys, it’s going to take us out of our comfort zone. If you sign up for one of our small groups you are going meet and get to know somebody new. You are going to be asked to open your ears but more importantly open your heart to Jesus Christ, as He speaks to you through the words of the Gospel, and to share what you have heard. But that’s not the scary part. The scary part is that you are going to discover something inside you that resists His call, to follow where He leads. It’s called sin. But Jesus has come to deliver us from sin, and makes us ministers of that saving grace to each other. Isaiah wrote, “Say to those who are of a fearful heart, be strong do not fear. Here is your God. He will come and save you.” This journey to Jerusalem is for your salvation, for your healing. God is with you and God is for you. Hold on to that, and He will take away your fear.

There are perhaps others who have taken this journey before. You’re not scared. You’re just tired. and not sure whether you are up to it. To you the prophet Isaiah declares, “Strengthen the weak hands, and make firm the feeble knees!” You walk as you can, not as you can’t, or as you used to, and as you are able.

This concept of life as a journey is familiar one. We were born into the world at a certain point in time, and we depart this world at a certain point in time. Our journey through life is the passage of time in between our birth and our death.

The Danish philosopher Soren Kierkegaard wrote that, “Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.” But where is life headed? What are we looking forward to?

Jerusalem is built as a city that is at unity in itself, For thither the tribes go up, even the tribes of the Lord, to testify unto Israel, to give thanks unto the name of the Lord. ( Psalm 122. 3,4)

This is where we are headed. Jerusalem is the place where we come face to face with God, As Christians on the journey to Jerusalem we look forward to we look forward are we headed? ” For now we see in a mirror dimly,” writes St. Paul, “but then face to face.” It is only then we will have arrived at our destination that we will be able to look back and understand what it was all about, how every that happened to us was bringing us one step closer to our journey’s end. “Now I know in part, then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. In the meantime, we journey onwards with faith and in hope with love.

Like many of you, l have attended more than one wedding where Paul’s hymn to love in Corinthians 13 was the appointed reading. After all, isn’t love the essence of marriage? Not if you equate “being in love” or “falling in love” with actually loving another person. They are not the same thing, “For Christians the defining mark of marriage is not love but rather a sense of faithfulness to one another in the community such that over a life-time we can look back on the relationship and call it love (Stanley Hauerwas). It remains to be seen if I have been patient and kind, not jealous or boastful, not irritable or resentful, not rejoicing in the wrong, but rejoicing in the right, bearing, believing, hoping, and enduring all things. lf love is the goal of the journey we call marriage, it is also the goal of the journey we call life. It is to be perfected in love. So our journey with Jesus to Jerusalem is about our growing up, our becoming mature disciples of Jesus Christ, loving human beings, but of that is to happen, as St. Paul reminds us, we will have to “give up our childish ways.”

The Gospels record that Jesus could not have put it any clearer, when he told them not once, not twice, but three times that upon his arrival in Jerusalem he was going to handed over to the Gentiles; and be mocked, insulted and spat upon, and after they have flogged him, they will kill him, and on the third day he will rise again.” Luke tells us that they understood nothing about these things. What he said “was hidden from them”, so “they did not grasp what was said”

This bit about rising on the third day was certainly a puzzling and cryptic statement, but what was it about being “handed over, mocked, insulted, spit upon, flogged, and killed” that they did not understand? In Jesus’ day, crucifixion were as common as traffic accidents in our own.

This suggests that something other than knowing the facts is involved in coming to a place of knowledge and understanding. It’s what Holy Elders of the Church called “the nous.” (spelled n-o-u-s). What is the nous? The nous is that aspect of our souls where we encounter and come to know God. The nous is not a place where we have thoughts and feelings and are troubled by sinful desires. It is a place where we know by means of perception through our participation in that which is known.

It may have been a while since you went for a bike ride, but you all know how to ride a bike. How did you come to know this? By reading a book? By having somebody show you or tell you? All things may have been helpful, but this was no substitute for jumping on the bike and starting to pedal! As you pedaled and as you pedaled you acquired a knowledge and understanding of biking riding that was beyond thought and beyond words. You had a perception. Then came the great day when you took it to the next level, and could say, 

“Look! No hands!”

How do we come to know God? Do we come to know God by reading, thinking, and speaking about Him? No. This is not to say that reading, thinking about God doesn’t have it’s place. Do we come to know God by having certain feelings and spiritual experiences? No. Feelings come and go, and experiences vary. We can feel joyful, close to God and loved one moment, sad, alone and abandoned by God the next. What to do? Don’t confuse the feeling of God and the experience of God with knowledge of God lest you end up chasing after feeling and the chasing an experience.

Big mistake.

So how do we come to know God?

In the 14th chapter of the Book of Exodus the Israelites are making good their escape from slavery in Egypt, and have set up camp on the shores of the Red Sea, when all of sudden they see Pharaoh and his chariots coming out after them to kill them. Panic ensues in the camp. Then Moses addressed the people and said, “The Lord will fight for you, you only have to be still.” (Exodus 14.14)

Years later the Psalmist would write, “Be still then and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth” (Psalm 46.10)

For God alone my soul waits in silence; from him comes my salvation. (Psalm 62.1)

Today St. Paul teaches us anticipate the day when “prophecies will cease; tongues will be stilled.”

What will be left? Only silence and stillness, not the stony silence of people who are no talking to each other, but the wordless contemplation of the face the One who loves us.

Knowledge and understanding of God requires stillness. We live in a culture that knows almost nothing about stillness. The world we live in is not only a busy place, but a place of unrelenting talkativeness which amounts to not much more than “noisy gongs and clanging cymbals.”

This stillness into which the Word of God invites us has to do with not only with quieting and silencing of the sinful passions, but also the silencing of emotions and thoughts. Then it becomes possible for us to be aware and to know God wordlessly with a depth and stability that is the very bedrock of the spiritual life. (Stephen Freeman)

Does this mean we sit around all day and say and do nothing? No. Because to know God is to share in life of God. That life, as Jesus has shown us, consists in self-emptying love. This is my body given for you. This is my blood shed for you.

Do you understand what I am saying? Do I understand what I am saying?

“Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.”

Our situation is not unlike that of the blind beggar in today’s gospel who was sitting in the ditch on the road to Jericho , and when he heard that Jesus was passing by, shouted out at the top of his voice, Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.” Those who were in front sternly ordered him to be quiet, he shouted even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on me.”

And it says that at that moment, Jesus stood still. Jesus, you see was a practitioner of stillness. It the midst of the shouting and confusion of the crowds, it was the stillness of body, mind and spirit which enabled him to be attentive to the reality of another person in distress who was calling upon His name. Would you be attentive to the reality of the person nearby who is in distress, and be a sign of God’s healing presence, and able to speak a healing word? You must become still.

Jesus asked him, “What do you want me to do for you?” He said, “Lord me see again.” Here was a man who at some point in his life, had been able to see, but had lost his sight. We see here how Jesus answered this man’s prayer.

Have you lost your spiritual eyesight, as your vision become darkened?

Lent is a time for us to sit in silence and in faith to call upon the name of the Lord to have mercy upon us, that He would open the eyes of our souls to true knowledge and understanding, so that might get up out of the ditch in which we have landed and follow Him, glorifying God; such that when others see it, they would praise Him. Amen.