Humility and Spiritual Gifts (Trinity X sermon)

T10 - Jesus Wept-Enrique_Simonet_-_Flevit_super_illam_-_1892

1 Corinthians 12:1-11       St Luke 19:41-47a


Now concerning spiritual gifts, brothers and sisters,
I do not want you to be uninformed.
[1 Cor 12:1]

Our readings from Trinity 3 to 9 are about various passions of the soul – strong thoughts, emotions, desires – which all have their place in the our life – they are a part of being human.  But there must be a certain ordering of those passions, a certain restraint and redirection, if we would really flourish as individuals, and if love would grow.

The right directing of our passions is accomplished as we follow, by grace, the moral life God reveals to us in the Law of Moses and that Jesus affirms and deepens our understanding of – that is what it is to love.  You could say it is what happens to us in our lives when we become whole again.

And that moral life is in part an end in itself – it is the expression of the life of heaven, where love is perfect, revealed here on earth.  It is the true love of neighbour.  But that moral life is also a kind of preparation so that we can handle the greater infilling of our souls with the Holy Spirit, with power and light from above.  This greater infilling has been described as the illumination of our souls with grace.  You could say that, after putting to death sin, purgation, we rise to the new life in Christ, illumination.


There is a beautiful parallel to this pattern of our growth as Christians in the suggested daily Old Testament readings in the last few weeks and in the coming week, if we read them allegorically.

The Old Testament history, recorded in the two books of Samuel and the two books of Kings, describe Israel’s history a thousand years before the birth of Jesus.  Israel found itself in the promised land but surrounded by enemies on every side.  God choose David to be king and gradually brought about victory over the various enemies both outside Israel and within the kingdom – including treason from his own son Absalom and civil war.  David wanted to build the Temple in Jerusalem, a place for God’s presence in the midst of the people.  But God said, while it is a good desire, it is not for you to do this holy task – it will be for your son Solomon.

Last night’s reading was about Solomon finally building the Temple and tomorrow we will hear of its dedication and the infilling of the Temple with God’s presence.

Do you see how this is an allegory for us of God’s work in our souls?  We likewise, by our baptism and faith, have been brought into the promised land, the kingdom of heaven, and yet at first we only have a taste of the promised peace.  Our souls must still do battle with its enemies, our passions.   As we are given more self control, our soul has more peace, and God has made us ready for the greater infilling of the temple that is our soul with His presence.


Our Gospel this morning, is Jesus’ response, near the end of his earthly ministry, when he came to the holy city and looked upon it.  Jesus knew the history of Israel intimately and loved more than any other God’s chosen people.  He knew the breakdown of the nation of Israel after the death of Solomon and of the centuries of struggle to be faithful, and of the exile to Babylon and return, of the sufferings and the reforms, which never lasted...

When Jesus drew near and saw the city, and wept over it, saying, “Would that you, even you, had known on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes.” 

The city on a hill established by God for the people to glorify God and to be light to all nations, had lost their way – in teaching and in worship.  And most, especially the leadership, had not recognized Jesus as the promised Messiah.  And Jesus weeps knowing also the coming destruction of the city by the Romans, within two generations after his death.

But we have been shown what makes for peace and are beginning to experience it.  It is about being reconciled with God and our neighbour, through Jesus Christ.  Peace comes as we know forgiveness and, by grace, as we order our loves, so that our actions outwardly are in accord with the will of God.  But we must go beyond outward conformity to discover what is within.

Jesus lights within us the lamp of His Spirit to reveal what we are really thinking.  When we see and acknowledge our thoughts, we can ask him to cleanse them, and he turns our minds to higher things.

When Jesus beheld the city and wept, he did not despair, but our Gospel continues:

Jesus entered the temple, and began to drive out those who sold, saying to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer’; but you have made it a den of robbers.”  And he was teaching daily in the temple. [Luke 19:45-47]

Jesus’ presence in our souls drives out our foolishness, making us more at peace, and miraculous things are promised.  The Spirit of Christ within us touches us in our minds, where he promises to teach us daily.  This is the beginning of the resurrection to new life that we have been promised.


In our Epistle today, Paul explains what we can expect as we mature as Christians, what it is like to be infilled with the Spirit of Christ.  He writes,

To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another … knowledge … to another faith …to another gifts of healing … to another the working of miracles… prophecy…the ability to distinguish between spirits… various kinds of tongues… the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.

All of these spiritual gifts are the enlightening of our minds by God.  The gifts come to us inwardly, and we are to become aware of them.  We are to know the time of our visitation!

No one person has all of the gifts, because God wants us to have to depend upon one another, to build up one another in love.  We need each other in this local church congregation, and this congregation needs the fellowship in the wider holy catholic Church, including the vast tradition we all share, or we will lose our way.  This is wonderful, really, how God arranges it.  No individual, no church is an island or has the fullness – we need each other.

The peace that God wants to bring us is not just a peace within each of our hearts, but a peace with each other in the Church as we use our gifts to build up one another in love.


While there may be moments of God’s kingdom revealed in community, in worship, in family, in human love – the kingdom of heaven is not something we establish, it is something we discover, and it is found within us and above us.  To discover God’s presence, to drink of the spring of water welling up to eternal life, to catch a glimpse of the kingdom of heaven, and to be free to act in love as God acts, in other words to enter the kingdom of God, we must turn and look within.

As we call upon Jesus in prayer, he enters our hearts and cleanses the Temple that is our soul and body that He might dwell there more fully within us.

But when Jesus comes to our temple, our inner life, what does he find there?  As I’ve said before, it is a remarkable thing that we are often unaware of what we are really thinking.  This has to change if we are to continue to grow in the spiritual life.  We want to take into captivity every thought so that we might live the risen life in Christ.

St. Romauld was a hermit in North Italy in the 11th century who brought about a certain reform of the Benedictine tradition.  He gave advice in his “Little Rule” for hermits that can be useful for every one of us when we take time from our busy lives to be in a room in silence by ourselves.

“Sit in your cell as in Paradise.  Put the whole world behind you and forget it.  Watch your thoughts like a good fisherman watching for fish… Empty yourself completely and sit waiting, content with the grace of God, like a chick who tastes nothing and eats nothing but what his mother brings him.”

If we take time in silence by ourselves we begin to realize just how much of our thoughts are completely unrelated to the love of God and our neighbour.  We have this great gift of a mind to bring God glory but our wandering thoughts have become robbers stealing our attention.  We can ask Jesus for grace to think of better things.   And we can expect that Jesus will speak to us inwardly – as he taught daily in the temple when he entered Jerusalem.


We are beginning to learn a new way of being Christian, it is the contemplative life, the life that rests in the knowledge and love of God, and rests while a kind of steady inward vision is opening up for us.  We are allowing Christ to indwell us and all our earthly strivings begin to be transformed into a heavenly striving and resting.  Joy is being brought to birth in us as we spend more time:

  • thinking upon the wonders of God’s creation;
  • as we reflect on our lives (even in its most tragic moments), thinking with gratitude upon God’s goodness and providential care of us; and
  • enjoying more a resting in worship with others and by ourselves, recognizing that resting in worship is really the culmination of what it means to be human.

This is the shift from being carnally minded to being spiritually minded, from being babes in Christ to growing in maturity.  This is really to participate in the life of heaven and to know something of it – Christ dwelling in us and we dwelling in Christ.

When Solomon was made King, God asked him in a dream what it is he wanted most.  Solomon said, I am young and inexperienced and have been given great responsibility to guide your people—so give me wisdom, I pray.  [1 Kings 3]  And God was pleased – it was the perfect prayer for the situation into which God had brought him – and he poured out on him great wisdom.

As we remember now Jesus’ death and receive His risen Body and Blood, let us ask God precisely what gifts we (as individuals and as a church) most need from him.

LET your merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of your humble servants; and, that they may obtain their petitions make them to ask such things as shall please you; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen. [Ancient Collect for Trinity X]


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Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. Psalm 127:1,2