Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity 2021

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

My Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus, blessings, and peace, as we celebrate together this Twenty-Fourth Sunday after Trinity. In our Gospel reading for today, we open upon a scene all too familiar. Christ Jesus is speaking privately with a small group, which in this case happens to include disciples of John the Baptist. An outsider breaks into their intimate gathering. There is a crisis in this outsider’s life: His daughter has died just recently, and the man is certain that if Our Lord follows him to her, and lays His hand upon her, then she will live again. It is impossible for us to tell if this man is motivated by a clear-eyed faith about who Christ Jesus is and what He is setting out to accomplish with His ministry, or if this frantic man is simply at the end of his rope and willing to turn to anyone. For all we know, the man may harbor very strange ideas about the Prophet and Messiah he is interrupting. If quizzed about who this Nazarene really is, he is not likely to say anything that would fit nicely into our Creed. His answers probably would not be included in our Catechism. The man is described as a “ruler,” which means presumably that he has considerable wealth and power in his hand. Nevertheless, when it comes to knowledge of the Christian faith, he is not likely to be counted even among the catechumens, let alone the ecclesiastical rulers. The circumstance of the moment suggests that he is in way over his head, a position with which as a ruler he is not at all accustomed, and yet he is willing to press forward. He is willing to act. More than that, he is willing to worship this Nazarene who, by the standards of this world, is in a lower caste than himself. Modern men will refer to this derisively as a leap of blind faith – the connotation being that a man should never leap even when desperate until he has it all figured out. How much should that matter, though? Must faith be grounded in clear and certain knowledge in order to be real? What if we turn to Christ Jesus, and beg for His help, even when we barely know Him? What if we start going to Church, even when we are not sure yet what it is we believe? Does that make us less worthy than the learned man who can recite the Nicene Creed, or pray the Lord’s Prayer, and then explain it all with the academic flourish of a tenured professor of theology? Who has faith, really, the man who moves toward God, even when he has a very limited understanding of who God is and what God wants of him, or instead the man who hides behind his arcane theology and his self-righteous morality, lest God forbid that man actually interrupt Our Lord’s private discussion? Jesus answers the question, when He arises and starts to follow the man back to his home. Jesus is not at all offended that the man is interrupting His time with John’s disciples. Nor does He stop to quiz the man first in order to be absolutely sure this man can accurately describe who He is, how it is He fulfills the Law and the Prophets, and what it is He intends to do for mankind. The message is clear: God wants us to be willing to come to Him, even to interrupt Him when we are desperate, no matter how much or how little we know about Him. Having greater knowledge of God is fine to the extent that, as a result, we learn to love Him more and to conform ourselves to His will. Nevertheless, acquiring more knowledge of God does not make us any worthier in His eyes than our clueless neighbors or the infidels on the other side of the planet. If God arises and follows us back to our home, it is because we come to Him, not because we know Him better than anyone else may know Him. The reason is that only one Man truly knows the Father, and that Man is His Son, the Incarnate God. In comparison to Christ Jesus, we are able know the Father no better than this frantic man can know Him. Without Christ Jesus we are blind, no matter how much we may study the Creed or the Lord’s Prayer. With Christ Jesus we shall see, for He will arise and follow us back into our homes just as He follows the frantic man back to his.

Consider the woman who is diseased with an issue of blood for twelve years. She says to herself in silence: If I may touch his garment, I shall be whole. Could she recite any one of our Creeds, if pressed? Most likely not, and yet what she says to herself really cuts to the heart of our Creeds, our Collects, our Consecration Prayers, and our Hymns. If I touch Him, if I am with Him, if I am in a direct relationship with Him, however fleeting or beyond my comprehension, then that alone is going to make me whole. Set aside all the theological niceties, and that is the faith in its most clear and concise expression. In a way, the woman’s experience is similar to when Moses asks if He see God’s face directly. God explains that Moses cannot withstand seeing God so directly at this time, but if Moses looks away, then he can catch a glimpse of God’s divine light when He is passing by him. Moses catches a glimpse of divine light. The woman barely touches Our Lord’s garment. In the case of Moses, God continues to pass out of sight; but in this case, Christ Jesus stops and turns back to her. Moreover, while Moses fails to see God’s face directly, Christ Jesus does look directly at the woman’s face, and presumably she looks directly at him. In the miracle of the Incarnation, there is the possibility of a direct relationship with God not even Moses had. Moses had known so much more than anyone else the nature of God; and yet this poor woman in a crowd, this diseased woman whose name has escaped our history, comes to God, and God to her, to a degree of personal intimacy beyond what Moses experienced.

Today, we celebrate the consecration of Samuel Seabury to the Episcopacy. He is the first of the Episcopal Bishops in the newly independent United States of America. Though a Loyalist during the American Revolution who debated the worthiness of the cause with Alexander Hamilton in a series of published letters, he identifies with the new country after the war. When he goes to England to be consecrated a Bishop, he refuses to take an oath of loyalty to the Crown, which is a legal necessity at the time for anyone desiring to become a Bishop there. He is consecrated by Non-Juror Bishops in Scotland whose only condition is that he include the Scottish Rite into the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer. Most everything found in our Consecration Prayers after the Words of Institution can be attributed to this Scottish Rite. The result is a Consecration that well highlights the sacrifice of the faithful, ourselves, our souls, and our bodies, in virtue of the One, Perfect, and Sufficient Sacrifice Our Lord made for us upon the Cross. In the Prayers, we say we are going to Him, and He to us, because first Christ Jesus gave Himself for us unto the Father in Heaven. When Samuel Seabury set sail for England, he could not have known then that the final result of his consecration in a distant land would be an Episcopal Consecration Rite that better reflects how we go to God, and God to us, in virtue of Our Lord’s sacrifice. He was not as blind in his leap of faith certainly as the ruler with the dead daughter or as the woman with the issue of blood, but neither did he have a full command of what was about to happen. He had not had the chance first to figure it all out, so to speak, and yet he set sail anyway. Like the frantic man, he presses forward. He interrupts the powers that be. He acts without full knowledge of what is going to happen, and yet he acts decisively. The end result is a Church in America far beyond his imagination. For the frantic man, the end result is a daughter back from the dead. For the poor woman, the end result is relief from an otherwise incurable disease. Believe in Christ Jesus, and trust in Him, even when His ways make little sense to you. Go to Him, decisively, worshipfully, even when you have yet to figure it out. Be courageous, and He will arise and come to you. For this we should pray. God’s ways may remain mysterious to us even unto the end, but with ever more faith we can go to Him, reach out to touch His garment, set sail for His Kingdom. We truly can do this notwithstanding our unworthiness, for God has invited us in and through His Son to interrupt Him with our cries; and He has assured us that He will arise and come to us in return.

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen.

Published by Michael Sean Erickson

I write, act, and produce films in Los Angeles. Everything else is conjecture.

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