Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Sermon July 26, 2015 Eighth Sunday after Trinity

There is an Old Aboriginal teaching:

An elder was teaching his grandson about life.  He said to him, “Grandson, a fight is going on inside you and me.  It is a terrible fight between two wolves”.  “How come there are two wolves grandfather?” the boy asked.  His grandfather answered, “One wolf is evil – he is anger, envy, regret, greed, conceit, self-pity, guilt, lies resentment, false pride, superiority and ego.  The other wolf is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.  The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person.”  His grandson thought about this for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The elder replied, “The one you feed.” 

They come in sheep’s clothing but inwardly they are ravening wolves.  Last week Father David quoted someone I don’t hear quoted in church very often, Bob Dylan. 
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed
You’re gonna have to serve somebody
Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord
But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

You’re gonna have to serve somebody; that is the basic message in both that Aboriginal teaching and the Bob Dylan song.  The Gospel tells us that false prophets are inwardly ravenous wolves.  We will know them by the fruit of their teachings. 
This was very important in Jesus’ time.  We know there were many false prophets who were doing miraculous things just as Jesus was.   Most of them have rightly faded into the mists of time.  However, one we know about is Simon Magus or Simon the Magician.  The apostle Peter is recorded in the Book of Acts to have had an encounter with Simon.  In some apocryphal books he is recorded to have been a formidable sorcerer with the ability to levitate and fly at will.  It is recorded in Acts that he tried to bribe the apostles—offering money to receive the power of the Holy Spirit which the Apostles were demonstrating.  The sin of Simony is named after Simon.   Simony is the sin of paying for position and influence in the church.
Jesus does not give his warning lightly—it is a matter of salvation.  The Apostles and first Christians knew that Jesus was a true prophet—the true messiah—by the fruit of who he was.  They were filled with the Holy Spirit just as Jesus was at his baptism in the Jordan River.  Christians throughout the millennia that followed have known that Jesus is the only begotten son of God because of the fruits of that belief.  They have known the fulfilling and full life which following Christ can bring.  That, of course, doesn’t mean that there haven’t been false prophets in the church and false prophets in the world.

We have false prophets who follow false gods all around us today.  I don’t know if there are more than in other times but it certainly seems that way.  Perhaps it seems this way because there are more opportunities for us to be exposed to them and tempted by them through modern communication which started with radio and TV and has expanded exponentially with the internet and social media.  There is no shortage of people willing to lead us astray offering instant cures for all ills. There are princes in Nigeria willing to share their fortunes with us if we only send them some seed money.  We have no shortage of financial gurus who are going to give us fantastic returns on our investments.  We have false prophets of government who are giving us simplistic solutions to all the world’s problems.  Just say no to drugs; just get tough on crime and increase the mandatory minimum sentences and lock them up and throw away the keys—don’t waste money on rehabilitation; waste it on building more prisons to hold more prisoners of which there will be an ever increasing supply.    The false prophets are everywhere.  We have to be aware and beware of them as Jesus says and judge them by their fruit.  Do they bring forth evil fruit or good fruit?  It can be hard to tell the difference—at least initially.

Which prophet will you serve; which wolf will you feed?  The Gospel tells us that inwardly the false prophets are ravening wolves.  The false prophets are, of course, not only in the outer world.  The inner wolves take the form of devices and desires of our inner lives.  The demand of the hunger of alcoholism can only be described as a ravenous evil wolf.  It will eventually devour those who are attacked by it and who respond by feeding it.  One way of describing alcoholism is a need to find the Spirit of God in a person’s life. The alcoholic tries to have the Spirit through the spirits of alcohol. 
A key—I don’t know if it is the key—to the 12 step program of AA—is to acknowledge that you can’t do it yourself; you have to give your life to a higher power, in effect give up the illusion that you are in control and give that control to God.  This is true for everyone—not just alcoholics.
There are many other—perhaps numberless—forms of the evil wolf; from the desire for power to the desire for material possessions.  There is the desire for love which people hope can be found in the fairy tale romance of happily ever after in the arms of Prince Charming or Sleeping beauty. 

What is it that you are feeding in your life?  Many of the wolves are easy to see in others.  We can see the devastation of alcoholism or materialism.  But what about those that have the appearance of being harmless and perhaps even fruit that appear to be good. Are you someone who must keep busy to believe that you are worth being loved?  Do you think if I don’t keep active doing I am not worthy of being loved by God?  How are you filling your life because you don’t want to recognize who you are a beloved child of God?  These too can be subtle evil wolves that are disguised as good wolves.  These wolves can seem to offer the answer to all our problems.  They seem to provide easy answers.  But they are not; the answers they provide are not easy; they are false.  We can try to ignore them.  However, they will not be ignored. We can try to feed them but they are ravenous and always hungry.  That is another sign that the fruit is bad.  The only answer is to face them and engage them to find out what they are truly offering—what need they are filling and determine that the fruit they offer is false. 

The answer is to discover the truth of salvation and grace in the saving power of Jesus Christ offered to us through the forgiveness of the cross.  The grace of God is offered to each of us because we are God’s Children and not because of the wolf that we try and feed.  The true fruit of Jesus Christ is the possibility of salvation through the forgiveness offered in seeking and following Jesus Christ.    The fruit of that journey is the forgiveness that is given to us when we miss the mark and feed the evil wolf.  Jesus knows that is going to happen and welcomes us back when we turn again to him.  Thanks be to God.  

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