Friday, July 29, 2016


We continue our study and presentation of P. M. Scott's work with The Service of Stewards.  So far we have progressed from our baptismal incorporation into the Church, admission into God's service, adoption as sons of God, and now take a look at the responsibility of our higher calling as such.
BRETHREN, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; And did all eat the same spiritual meat; and did all drink the same spiritual drink (for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them, and that Rock was Christ). But with many of them God was not well pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness. Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. Neither be ye idolaters, as were some of them; as it is written, The people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Neither let us commit fornication, as some of them committed, and fell in one day three and twenty thousand. Neither let us tempt Christ, as some of them also tempted, and were destroyed of serpents. Neither murmur ye, as some of them also murmured, and were destroyed of the destroyer. Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.  ~ 1 Cor. 10. 1

The Jews enjoyed special privileges and Paul reminds his listeners of all Israel received and yet forgot their savior God. Paul emphasizes the magnitude of blessing by using the word 'all' five times in a row- all have received of God's blessings and provision- "I would not have you ignorant."  The Jews were baptised unto Moses and the Law, delivered from death, given meaning of the Exodus, provided with living water and Spirit, a sea of protection, supernatural food, and yet were overthrown in the wilderness because they failed to remember and honor God. Paul surely must have stung the conscience of his listeners. How vivid the types and figures that certainly flashed across the minds of those addressed in the Epistle.

Previously we talked about Jesus leading the 4000 into the wilderness and performing the miracle for the 4000, like the Red Sea invoked here, it cut them off from temptation and bondage. Like the slave whose service is absolute- there is no turning back. As with the Manna, Jesus had compassion on them and fed them in the wilderness. These things are recounted for our example- to convey what was given to sustain Israel and fulfilled in the birth of the Church- the Body of Christ. Types are fulfilled. Our Exodus from slave into sonship. The Cloud and Red Sea prefigures our baptism by water and the Holy Spirit. The Law becomes Love. Manna and living water prefigure our Holy Communion- Miracles of 4/5000, Cana, the Upper Room.

The Christian blessings are far greater than that of the Jews because they are fulfilled in the coming of Jesus (S. Luke 10:23)! It follows then that our duty is also greater- we must give back to God being so richly endowed with sonship!

Misuse of Stewardship

Then comes the sobering reminder- they were overthrown! God was not well pleased as they trusted in what they could see rather things spiritual- the things of God. “They despised the pleasant land,” “they forgat God their Saviour,” “they murmured in their tents,” “they were mingled among the heathen and learned their works.”(Ps. 106.) We see Jesus recount all these things in John 6 against the Pharisees who, as did their forefathers in the desert, refused to see and understand the spiritual feeding Jesus will provide his Body. We still see it today. "Wherefore have ye brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? for there is no bread, neither is there any water; and our soul loatheth this light bread (Numbers 21:5) "When Jesus knew in himself that his disciples murmured at it, he said unto them, Doth this offend you??(John 6:61)

Indeed they forgot their covenant position and they forgot the spiritual things and idolized the material world, trading heritage for lentils, unable to fathom the invisible and eternal, they lusted, worshipped gods, fornicated, murmured, and provoked the Lord their God.  They received no rest. There is no stewardship in any of that.

Remembering in Christian Stewardship

We have a far higher position than the Jew, but we retain the liability to temptation and the perennial significance of the Jewish history in the Old Testament underscores this for us. We are also fallen and these things are written for our example.  Our greatest dangers are feeling overly secure in material things and by doing so take the "Promise" for granted. Secondly, we must be on guard for despair which is a form of unfaithfulness and also temptation.  A lacking of trust and faith in the God who led Israel through the desert and provides spiritual food to sustain us today.  Fear not though, for our God always provides a way out- that He will not lay on us more than we can bear. We have an escape- the Hope within us, the indwelling Spirit, testifies to it.  More on that next week.


This is one of those tough parables on the surface it might seem Jesus is condoning white collar crime but that is certainly not the case. He teaches the duties and faults of a steward in a parable of responsibility.

JESUS said unto his disciples, There was a certain rich man, which had a steward; and the same was accused unto him that he had wasted his goods. And he called him, and said unto him, How is it that I hear this of thee? give an account of thy stewardship; for thou mayest be no longer steward. Then the steward said within himself, What shall I do? for my lord taketh away from me the stewardship: I cannot dig; to beg I am ashamed. I am resolved what to do, that, when I am put out of the stewardship, they may receive me into their houses. So he called every one of his lord's debtors unto him, and said unto the first, How much owest thou unto my lord? And he said, An hundred measures of oil. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and sit down quickly, and write fifty. Then said he to another, And how much owest thou? And he said, An hundred measures of wheat. And he said unto him, Take thy bill, and write fourscore. And the lord commended the unjust steward, because he had done wisely: for the children of this world are in their generation wiser than the children of light. And I say unto you, Make to yourselves friends of the mammon of unrighteousness; that, when ye fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations.

Saint Luke 16. 1-


A steward has a higher calling in being both master of servants and as servant to his Master, but he is only responsible to the later.  In the parable the servant fails in his responsibility by wasting his master's goods and by not earning the love of his servants. His selfishness has put him into a precarious position of losing his job and his means of living.  He has no options as he cannot dig, to beg he is ashamed.

What's a crook to do? Before the boss gets back he comes up with an ingenious scheme! Of course this is easier than going to his master and making amends.  He calls the servants in under the pretense of duty and cuts a deal on their payments if they pay up. He secures his future by being shrewd and gains the admiration of both the servants and the master!  If only he had been so shrewd in serving the master as himself.  Yet the Master still seeks the heart of his wayward his servant if only that servant realized he is a son.

The Moral Of The Story:
"The children of this world are wiser than the children of light, for they can see what the children of light so often fail to discover—that duty to others is so necessary that if a man does not do it he must at least make the best pretence he can". ~P. M. Scott  
Isn't it sad that a servant is often more ingenious than the son in his use of God's provision? Of course the servant is like Israel being preoccupied with outward, visible, and perishable things rather than the inward, invisible, and eternal.

So the moral is if keeping up appearances is wise, isn't it much wiser and true to be good without pretending? Those in bondage to flesh- politicians, actors, criminals, tradesmen, and professional types, regularly employ virtue as a cloak.  We all do!  But the Christian is called to wear virtue as skin.

As good stewards our sonship compels us in the labor of love of our brethren in fullness and truth and without pretense which gives us confidence towards Him whose name is Love.  Pray that our works are not so weak that He will not “receive us into everlasting habitations,” and that our works of love may follow us before the judgment seat of Christ. 

Let's pray these scriptures for a right desire and sufficient power of our baptism and spiritual feeding through the Body and Blood of Jesus to never forget his bounty and benefits and to do his will in the care for that which we have been entrusted:
Grant to us, Lord, we plead, the spirit to think and do always such things as are right; that we, who cannot do anything that is good without you, may be enabled by you to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We hope you enjoyed this lesson* and will consider joining us for Christian Education at St. Athanasius next Sunday as we finish our study of duty towards God with more on stewardship and spiritual gifts.

Peace of Christ,

John Dixon

Warden, St. Athanasius Anglican Church

For further reading: Psalm 115; 103; 91; Ezekiel 14:1-11; Genesis 28:10-20; I Thessalonians 4:1-12;
St. John 8:1-11; II Corinthians 9; and from the Septuagint and KJV Apocrypha: Wisdom 11:22-12:2 

Sources: The Holy Bible; *The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels by P. M. Scott D.D.; Ancient Christian Commentary; Book of Common Prayer; Sermons on the Epistles and Gospels by Isaac Williams.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Adoption: Not Slave, But Son.

Last week we looked at service to God in terms of slavery in conveying the absoluteness of our relationship and the change that will be effected in us by our submission. But there is more to our relationship then a robotic performance of duty and Paul illustrates our relationship to God from slavery to that of a son.
MY BRETHREN, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God. And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified with him. Rom. 8. 12-
Paul conveys our debt is absolute and brings obligation because we are not our own- bought by His precious blood and delivered from the bondage of flesh. Jesus' love constrains sin, and it dies with him, our souls become enlivened in him through the Spirit of God. We need not fear death as we become more than slave, we become sons and live through Him. Through this divine action we have been given new life and now we need to live into it.

Receiving Revelation.
A son isn't a just a servant or hireling and doesn't expect to be paid to do what a son should in love for his father. We learned last week we are not to serve sin more than we serve God and a son rightly does more than a slave because of his birthright. We have been made heirs, receiving bounteously, and we should in turn give freely our all to our Father, Abba, who loves us- the love Jesus made known in addressing God as the Jews could not under the yoke of the Law. Our Father's longing should be ours and we should take the initiative and not be ordered to act. It is a shameful thing for a hireling do more than a son.

"The Spirit beareth witness with our spirit" quickens our confidence and conviction towards the desires of the Father and as we grow in faith so our confidence grows in God and will bear fruit. The witness of the Spirit is proof of our Sonship, not in fear but adoption, not as slaves but friends.  God isn't the hypocrite in (Matt 18:28) and our dept was paid in full.  We should expect more in being a son than a slave and our inheritance being spiritual and not merely earthly is just that.

 Let us examine the Gospel.
JESUS said unto his disciples, Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. ~ S. Matth. 7. 15
Our Saviour warns of false prophets and here the rubber meets the road... we are given the universal test by which all things in nature and in grace are judged — "Ye shall know them by their fruits.” We need to understand who would keep us slaves to this world and test for it and Jesus gives us a means to discern both conduct and character. If conduct be the fruit then the tree is one's character.

We cannot see the heart of another but we can know it by it's manifest actions and feelings. Living in fear and ungodly situations with ungodly people reveals a heart in bondage to the flesh. The visible reveals the invisible and the veil of flesh is pulled back and the state of the soul is discerned. The tree that produces no fruit will be cut down. Yet we do not cut down a tree to test the fruit. We first test the fruit and then we know whether the tree is good or bad.

False teachers are everywhere and their fruit is obvious to those who spend time reading the scripture and testing both interpretations and themselves against the collective wisdom of the saints. Those in bondage love to quote Scripture out of context and do so selectively avoiding large swathes of texts that reveal the impurities of the heart. Those with itching ears are all too eager in having their bondage justified with such Scripture twisting, for the blind love being led by the blind. We must test all things and the Spirit will bear witness to us and lead us towards sanctification.

Our test is singular for others in that we only judge the fruit- for ourselves we judge both the root and the fruit. Remember our new standard of obligationWe are called to do more than the hired hand or the slave, we must seek to emulate the Son to be heirs and in that pursuit we must be obedient

Christ came to make us the sons of God, and to reveal the pattern of sonship in His own life, so He will judge us as faithful or faithless sons to His Father. Christianity does not dispense us from doing the will of God, but rather enables us to do it. The atonement and other doctrines of Christianity are not to be regarded as an escape from obedience, nor prayer as a means of changing the will of God, for we are to pray, “Thy will be done.”  ~ P. M. Scott
Our inheritance is contingent and so we obey but not as slaves or for the sake of an imperious God. Obedience is our preparation to enter the Kingdom of God- Heaven- which is a place of order, reverence, and obedience; but most of all the Kingdom is a place of joy. Joy comes through both our adoption and spiritual feeding as Jesus taught us in the lessons of the 5000 and 4000 preparing us spiritually for perfect obedience to the Lamb of God.


As sons of adoption we are heirs to that Kingdom and we can ask and be answered.  We can knock and the door will be opened!  All things will be added unto us if we first seek the Kingdom of Heaven! It takes discipline and Paul is telling us so.  The privilege of service and sonship gains much for us. So let's do our best to serve Him freely and without question.

Let's pray these scriptures:
O GOD, whose never-failing providence orders all things both in heaven and earth: We humbly beseech thee to put away from us all hurtful things, and to give us those things which be profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

God has ordered all things so that we may gain the hope that is within us through discipline and sobriety, avoiding what is harmful and partaking that which is good according to His assurances.

We hope you enjoyed this lesson* and will consider joining us for Christian Education at St. Athanasius next Sunday as we continue our study of service to Christ next week as stewards.

Peace of Christ,

John Dixon

Warden, St. Athanasius Anglican Church

For further reading:
Psalm 119:33-48; 12; 84; Ecclesiasticus 1:18-27; Genesis 24:1-27; St. John 7:14-24; Galatians 3:24 - 4:7; Ephesians 5:22

Sources: The Holy Bible; *The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels by P. M. Scott D.D.; Ancient Christian Commentary; Book of Common Prayer.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

The Service of Slaves and the Master We Serve

Last week we learned about Christian duty and the higher standard of obligation that comes with our baptism in the New Covenant. This week we move on to Romans chapter 6:19-23, and notably Paul's use of use of the word slave to show the nature of our new relationship to God and His character and disposition towards us.  Slave is a culturally loaded word in our day but Paul has a purpose and it demands our fullest service. In return we discover our truest liberty.  Let's take a look.
"I SPEAK after the manner of men because of the infirmity of your flesh: for as ye have yielded your members servants to uncleanness and to iniquity unto iniquity; even so now yield your members servants to righteousness unto holiness. For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death. But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Slaves To Seven Deadly Sins
Paul suggests his presentation "in the manner of men" will be imperfect and rightly so as up to this point in history revelation hadn't been fully revealed much less the teaching of bondage to Christ. Bondage? Paul doesn't use the metaphor lightly and points out that we have been slaves to sin and makes a demand on our baptism calling us to be slaves to righteousness. We were consecrated into God in baptism and it's gifts and we are expected to make full and constant effort to consecrate (commit) ourselves to God's service.  Certainly we can not serve Christ less than we served sin and the imagery of slavery conveys the absoluteness of our service towards God. There is no middle ground here, we pass from one master to another. Our servitude to sin must be reversed.

Liberty of Seven Gifts of The Holy Spirit. Isaiah 11
Slavery wasn't new to Paul's audience and they understood at least the term in context of the Law. The Sabbath Year and Jubilee Year liberated slaves to remind the Jews of their deliverance from Egypt.  So in the New Covenant what is our deliverance, our recompense? We know Jesus stated he hadn't come to change the Law but fulfill it and he does so by freeing us from our old master... sin.

So we must put off the old man as the effects of sin are immediate- sin blinds us, blocks reasonbrings us downeffects our morality and intellect and separates us from God. The wages of sin is death and we must leave sin behind to gain the immediate fruits of our new relationship with Him: the fullness of gifts of the Holy Spirit that come with our baptism and bear witness to His providence and compassion.

Mark 8:1-.
IN those days the multitude being very great, and having nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples unto him, and saith unto them, I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: and if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way; for divers of them came from far.And his disciples answered him, From whence can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness? And he asked them, How many loaves have ye? And they said, Seven. And he commanded the people to sit down on the ground: and he took the seven loaves, and gave thanks, and brake, and gave to his disciples to set before them; and they did set them before the people. And they had a few small fishes; and he blessed, and commanded to set them also before them. So they did eat, and were filled: and they took up of the broken meat that was left seven baskets. And they that had eaten were about four thousand. And he sent them away.

Jesus has led the 4000 into the wilderness and after 3 days of teaching shows compassion on them with a miracle of abundance. He knows their needs and provides for them so they can go back without faltering.  He has demanded their all for three days and now he rewards their faith.

Jesus brings them to the wilderness for a reason. Just as the Father led Moses and the Jews into the desert and fed them manna to sustain them we see a fulfilling of the Old, a completion of a means in this miracle.  The wilderness serves to break the grip of their old master in unrighteousness, temporalities, and temptations. The flock is forced by their surroundings to recognize and acknowledge their new Master, and in return, he demonstrates grace and providence and bounty by feeding them not merely to relieve physical hunger but to feed the soul as well.

The Gospel testifies this is the second time Jesus performs this creation miracle because they didn't get it the first time. And we all know we need to hear things repetitively to commit them to memory and habit.  Isn't it wonderful that Jesus has infinite patience with us?  Now the flock gives their all in the effort for the trip and Jesus has compassion on them and blesses them with life giving bounty such as only He can give! The fruit of righteousness in the life and ministry of Jesus-- freely shared by simply acknowledging Him as our master.

"Does this offend you" John 6:61
Let me state it again -- this miracle illustrates the fullness of Christ's grace and providence. Just as Paul outlines the immediate effects of sin in the Epistle,  Jesus' miracle reveals an immediate reward for serving the new Master. A demonstration of divinity confirming his mission and edifying future generations as to his continued bounty not the least of which is the cup of salvation -- His Body and Blood taken in communion, of which he exhorts the crowd in John Ch 6 and refers directly to this miracle, is that life giving bounty.  We see affirmation of this reality when Jesus tells Peter "If you love me feed my sheep" and he says it three times because we just don't get it without repetition. And again, Paul reminds- The cup of blessing which we bless , is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break , is it not the communion of the body of Christ?  We receive immediate reward in the feeding of our souls to help us overcome sin.  A reward for our service but we have to partake... we have to Remember.

What's the takeaway?

The people who saw the miracles were hard of heart and slow to see the truth but Jesus, in his infinite love, didn't give up on them and in these trying times we must not give up on Him or each other.  We must freely choose to become slaves to righteousness and give our all in love to Him as he accepts no less. These miracles of creation confirm his Kingship and Messiahship and a means of keeping his promise "I am with you alway" and as a means to feed the sheep. This is our means into the coming Kingdom.

Man's tendency is to rely on the creation rather than the Creator in slavish pursuit of material needs and we lose sight of things spiritual just as in Egypt.  Grain is multiplied for our bodies and yet this feeding is literally more than the manna in the desert.  We need to surrender our sin before we can accept the bounty which is the spiritual food.  Jesus lays it out in no uncertain terms in St. John Ch. 6.

These Scriptures remind us that material things perish and that the real bounty is spiritual and eternal-- we were not made to be satisfied with bread alone and here it is provided.  The lessons also demonstrate we have to be active participants in our conversion if we want the reward. True liberty comes with acceptance of that high standard of service in baptism, our consecration of our whole self and the recognition of our new Master and for that we receive our spiritual feeding to strengthen us for our journey home!

Let's pray these Scriptures:
LORD of all power and might, who art the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of thy Name, increase in us true religion, nourish us with all goodness, and of thy great mercy keep us in the same; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Devotion: Ps 47:1-4
Clap your hands together, all ye peoples; O sing unto God with the voice of melody.
For the Lord Most High is to be feared; he is a great King over all the earth.
He subdued the people under us, and the nations under our feet.
He chose our heritage for us, even the glorious land of Jacob, whom he loved.

We hope you enjoyed this lesson and will consider joining us for Christian Education at St. Athanasius next Sunday as we continue our study of service to Christ next week as slavery becomes sonship.

Peace of Christ,

John Dixon

Warden, St. Athanasius Anglican Church
For further reading and devotion on this lesson: Psalms 18:1-20; 133; 134; 138; 40:1-16; Hosea 14; Ecclesiasticus 6:5-17; Genesis 22:1-18; Romans 6:12-18; John 15;12-27; Hebrews 6

Sources:  The Holy Bible; The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, P. M. Scott D.D.; Ancient Christian Commentary; Book of Common Prayer.

*We use the KJV as it is a literal translation rather than a thought for thought dynamic equivalent translation such as NIV. If it helps you, just open your bible to Rom 6:19-23.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Our Christian Duty

One charism given the Church by the Holy Spirit is the office of teaching and that of course implies
there are students in need of knowledge (Job 36:3; Psa 119:66). To be a right student of the precepts of Christ and biblical doctrines, we should seek the wisdom of the ages imparted to the Church by the Spirit of God (John 14:26). As traditional Christians we look to the ancient Kalendar to guide us in this pursuit which is no mere accident: as God creates order so the Christian year is set up cyclically and systematically to teach basic doctrine unto salvation as we are taught to pray and teach unceasingly (Acts 5:42; 1 Thessalonians 5:16-28, etc.) to gain command of precepts, tradition, and doctrine (2 Thes 2:15;3:3; 1Cor. 11:2). In this way each person entering the church is assured a solid and consistent foundation in order to work out their salvation through knowledge, wisdom, and holiness, which are gained in repetition. (Heb 5:11-6:3).

So where are we in this systematic cycle of doctrine today? Briefly, we begin the Year with Advent- a season of preparation and anticipation; Christmas - a season of revelation; Epiphany - meditation; Lent sin and pardon; Ash Wednesday- repentance; Easter - resurrection and the Risen life; Ascension - ascension and waiting on the Church; Pentecost - the mission of the Church; Trinity Sunday – The Church Triumphant and the Vision of God; Sundays after Trinity (also referred to as "Common Time") - The Life of Holiness; The First Trinity Series – Christian Motive; and today, the sixth Sunday in Trinitytide is the first in five Sundays outlining our duties Godward and towards our fellow man.

Let's take a look at Christian Duty, we begin with the Epistle to the Romans Ch. 6 v. 3.-

KNOW ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection; knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: knowing that Christ being raised from the dead dieth no more; death hath no more dominion over him. For in that he died, he died unto sin once; but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God. Likewise reckon ye also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Here we learn about grace through baptism is both the beginning of the risen life (Easter) and the basis of a life of duty. Our baptism brings us into union with Christ Jesus through grace and divine love and there our duty begins. Decades of neglect of many churches to teach duty towards baptism and grace can certainly be seen in today's cultural decline.

But Christ's death and resurrection extend themselves to the sacrament of Baptism, making it the means of a death unto sin and a new birth unto righteousness: and thus endowing Christians with a power to fulfil the requirements of His law which otherwise they could not possess. ~ John Henry Blunt

In this epistle Paul speaks to being baptism into and buried into His death while united with Him by the likeness of the same as well as our fallen nature dying with Him. We receive the benefits of His Passion - grace received, remission of sins, and share in all for he which he died just as if we were crucified with him. 
The power of Christ against sin becomes thus not only a power external to the soul, but an inward capacity, the practical use or disuse of which is at the will of those to whom it is given. ~ JHB

As such we have a duty of remaining dead to sin and we need to understand how, through grace, we are given the means of dying to sin and begin to walk in the newness of life.  The implication here is that in the power of His death we are to continually die to sin and by the power of His life we are to continually put on the new man.  We can reject duty and the gifts given to us at our baptism as we have free will. Many do reject covenants with God as we will see later in this post- the outcome is disastrous.

Now let's read today's Gospel, S. Matthew Ch. 5 beginning at verse 20.

JESUS said unto his disciples, Except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the Scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven. Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgement. But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgement: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. Agree with thine adversary quickly, whiles thou art in the way with him; lest at any time the adversary deliver thee to the judge, and the judge deliver thee to the officer, and thou be cast into prison. Verily I say unto thee, Thou shalt by no means come out thence, till thou hast paid the uttermost farthing.

The Christian Year begins with Advent.
Why do you suppose these scriptures are given together? Consider that our New Covenant reveals the love of God which one might consider to require less effort on the part of those baptized into this covenant. But that is not the case we see here.  In fact, by receiving this unbounding grace more is expected of us, a new standard, and the bar of duty has been raised. Even the esteemed Scribes and Pharisees are now brought low in comparison. 
"This day sets forth the principle that the obligation of the old law is heightened under the New Dispensation: as also that the stricter obligation of the new law is accompanied by a proportionate increase in the grace by which the duty of obedience to God may be fulfilled." ~ John Henry Blunt
It's not hard to see why. They do not know humility, they are self-satisfied, and they love the law more than the Lawmaker. Their arrogance and self absorption is a stumbling block to knowing the love of God. God's mercy and love are infinite, while finite hubris limits the soul's progress towards the Kingdom.

As such, the various devotions of prayer, fasts, and alms-givings of the Scribes and Pharisees are merely outward- a saccharin substitute without value or power and unable to save. They withhold the greater gift of love and are content to give menial sacrifice. Consider Ananius and Sapphira (Acts 5) when they chose externals over the law of love and such evil was judged accordingly. 

We also see Jesus speak to judgment and the Jewish Courts -- rage leads to the coroner's investigation and then to the court for judgment and sentence.  Such separates man from God.

"Christ's law extends to the wilful conception of an act as well as to the act itself, and accounts the one a sin as well as the other." ~ John Henry Blunt

This warning gives us pause to examine our intentions and passions- to restrain the impulse and evil thoughts which are internal crimes, stopping them from becoming word or act. Thus we live the law of love in our hearts giving us a sense of duty to live a higher standard by "putting on the new man" through our baptism into Christ Jesus.  As a new creation our inward life will extend to all our relationships bringing peace with men so that we can now approach the altar of God, not with a superficial and external pretense as a Pharisee, but with a contrite heart and sincere devotion- born anew by the power of Jesus and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Our New Covenant truly is a restoration and perfection of the covenant with Abraham.  Through faith regaining that which Abraham received through faith.  Our OT lesson- Genesis 18:1-16 has a purpose here:

And the Lord appeared unto him in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant: Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said. And Abraham hastened into the tent unto Sarah, and said, Make ready quickly three measures of fine meal, knead it, and make cakes upon the hearth. And Abraham ran unto the herd, and fetched a calf tender and good, and gave it unto a young man; and he hasted to dress it. And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat. And they said unto him, Where is Sarah thy wife? And he said, Behold, in the tent. And he said, I will certainly return unto thee according to the time of life; and, lo, Sarah thy wife shall have a son. And Sarah heard it in the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old and well stricken in age; and it ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women. Therefore Sarah laughed within herself, saying, After I am waxed old shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also? And the Lord said unto Abraham, Wherefore did Sarah laugh, saying, Shall I of a surety bear a child, which am old? Is any thing too hard for the Lord? At the time appointed I will return unto thee, according to the time of life, and Sarah shall have a son. Then Sarah denied, saying, I laughed not; for she was afraid. And he said, Nay; but thou didst laugh. And the men rose up from thence, and looked toward Sodom: and Abraham went with them to bring them on the way.

The Lord appears to Abraham but God is invisible and yet is seen by Abraham, and of course, fulfilling the promise centuries later, Christ will become Incarnate in a lowly manger before men.

Note that Abraham was a holy man and elder and he wasn't required by custom to greet anyone in the extraordinary manner related in the narrative yet he gets up (those of us gaining in age know how this alone can be a difficult) and runs in adoration and humility to accommodate these guests. We see in Abraham's hospitality a manifestation of duty of love in the Epistle. Think of Christ affirming hospitality when he says "I was a stranger and you took me in" and His washing of the Apostles feet.

 Figuratively the oak of Mamre (Hebron) means vision or sharpness of sight- he could see because he was pure of heart... a foreshadowing of the Beatitudes to the 'pure of heart'. Abraham doesn't posture like a Pharisee- his heart guides his response as he is a subject of the law of love.

A glimpse of the Holy Trinity.  Saint Ambrose sums it up:
"Abraham, who was glad to receive strangers, faithful to God and tireless in his service and prompt in fulfilling his duty, saw the Trinity typified. He added religious devotion to hospitality, for although he beheld three, he adored one, and, while keeping a distinction of the persons, yet he called one Lord, thus giving honor to the three but signifying one power. For not knowledge but grace spoke in him. And he believed better what he had not learned than we who have been taught. No one had falsified the type of truth, and therefore he saw three but worshiped their unity. He brought out three measures of meal but slaughtered one calf, believing one sacrifice was sufficient, but a threefold offering; one victim, but a threefold gift. ON HIS BROTHER, SATYRUS 2.96.4
The Three Cakes.  Ambrose continues:
He says, “Mix three measures of fine flour and make cakes.” In Greek these are called enkryphia, that is, hidden things, to indicate that every mystery must remain hidden and as if covered by inviolable silence, so that it should not be divulged inconsiderately to profane ears. In this silence the divine majesty is nurtured. With this inner attitude the one who is sober in speech avoids divulging the sacred. In using three measures of flour, Sarah is in fact giving a brief teaching about the mystery of the faith, she who is herself a prefiguration of the church, to whom are addressed the words, “Sing, O barren one, who did not bear; break forth into singing and cry aloud, you who have not been in travail.”39 It is in fact the church that protects the faith in the intimacy of the Spirit when it professes the Trinity of one and the same nature, when it adores in equal measure and with equal veneration the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and celebrates them together in the same majesty, distinguishing according to what is proper to each person. Mix your piety with this profession of faith! ON ABRAHAM

Bread and meat are distributed as blessings- just as the gifts of our baptism into Christ, nourishing us with His sacraments and gifts of the Spirit.

Hospitality, a duty of love, has recompense- divine reward. Sarah is promised a son as a sign of covenant which will lead to generations of heirs- the Church.

The passage ends with the three men leaving to go down to Sodom.  A stark consequence with the grace bestowed on the humble and portent of judgment and one that illustrates our free will to choose sin and reject the law o love.  A lesson learned too late by Ananias and Sapphira.

Let's pray these Scriptures:
O GOD, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man's understanding; Pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things, may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

We hope you enjoyed this lesson and will consider joining us for Christian Education at St. Athanasius next Sunday as we continue our study of duty in Part II: The Service of Slaves. 

Pax Christus,

John Dixon
Warden, St. Athanasius Anglican Church

For further reading and meditation this week-- Romans 4:13; Psalms 85, 16, 111, 71; Isaiah 57 13b-19; Matthew 5:38; 2 Timothy 2:7-13.

Sources:  The Harmony of the Collects, Epistles, and Gospels, P. M. Scott; Ancient Christian Commentary.

Illustrations by Enid Chadwick

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