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Punishing parties

Sunday, October 27, 2019

Sermon for the nineteenth Sunday after Trinity

Have you ever been to a party and had the experience where you’re not entirely sure that you are in the same conversation as the people around you? You’ve somehow managed to be standing sort of near a group of people and there is a discussion going on but you’ve missed bits of it. Are you near enough into the group so as to be included or not? It’s a bit of a social dilemma.

Perhaps, then, you can sympathise with Samuel who has come to the house to hear this Jesus fellow and finds the place rammed full of people. He see Jesus there and he seems to be having a discussion with those who are closest to Him. Occasionally He says something to the crowd and then, at other times, Samuel can hear words which he is not sure are meant for his ears. You can understand that he gets a little confused.

He is rather grateful, then, when one of the disciples, a largish chap with a big voice and whose tunic appears to be covered in fish oil asks Jesus who He is talking to. Jesus doesn’t seem to give an answer to this question. Clearly, some people hear what He says, and some people do not.

Why is this?

[PAUSE]

We have to understand that, when Jesus wants to be heard, then He will make sure that everyone He’s talking to is actually able to hear Him. He gets in a boat to talk to a crowd of people who are desperate to hear the word of God. He speaks to them on a hill side so that they can all hear. They may not be able to understand what He says, but it is clear when He is talking to them. This is why we have been given the gift of the Holy Scriptures, so that we, too, might hear the words of Jesus.

But here we are with Samuel, only half-hearing what is being said.
We seem to be hearing two things. The first is the need to be watchful and vigilant for the Son of Man is coming. We remember that Our Lord tells us the parable of the wise virgins and the foolish virgins. The wise virgins are ready for the Bridegroom’s arrival and enter into the feast. The foolish virgins are unprepared and are shut out from the feast. Clearly Jesus has said this out loud and St Peter is confused as to whether Jesus means to tell this to all around.

The second thing we hear is that stewards who have been given charge over the household must also wait faithfully for the return of the householder. Those who do are rewarded with greater responsibility and honour. Those who do not are punished. Those who listen to God and do not do His will are punished severely. Those who do not know God’s will are punished less severely.

Why are we only half-hearing this?

[PAUSE]

The second parable is meant for the Apostles and for those who serve the Lord as leaders of His flock. These words are for the clergy, the bishops, priests and deacons. If we hear those words apply to us, then perhaps this is a sign that God is calling us to serve Him and His people as clergymen. This is why not everyone can receive this. Not everyone can be a steward, but all are servants of the Living God.

We all have to be ready for the return of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and this means hearing His will for the Church and then carrying it out. Those who do not, those who squander their lives as children of God in the service of their own bellies will not be allowed to enter the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

Those priests, however, who do not listen to God will be cut asunder. They will be punished most severely. The priests who do not know the will of God will be punished, too, but in a way that corrects and brings them back to God. The punishment that priests receive will be much, much greater than the people they lead astray! It will be better for them to have a millstone tied around their necks!

[PAUSE]

If Samuel hears these words in the second parable then He has received His vocation. The ways of the world are to be resisted and the way of the Cross embraced. This is hard and Jesus is uncompromising but with good reason. He wants everyone to enjoy the Wedding Feast of the Lamb and not shut out from it permanently. If the way is hard then we must be diligent in prayer for each other. The priests of God also will be very grateful for each and every prayer offered up for them on their behalf. The good priest wants to serve. It is every Christian’s duty to help him do so.

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