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. Romans 6:3
In today's Epistle lesson, St. Paul speaks of becoming a Christian -- being baptized into Christ -- as a participation in Jesus' death and resurrection. It is a dying and a rising again: putting off an old life, an old way of being, an old worldliness, and putting on a new spiritual life: "Knowing this, that our old Adam was crucified with him, that our sinful self might be destroyed, that we should never again be the slaves of sin."
But what is that old Adam of which the Apostle speaks? What is that old Adam that must die when we "put on Christ"? What is it but a worldly way of being, a worldly way of thinking and acting which sees nothing beyond worldly justifications, which measures and judges everything according to worldly standards.
In the end, of course, that worldliness leads nowhere. Seeking only worldly gratifications, that is all it finds; and that, in the end, comes to nothing but eternal frustration; and that bitter eternal frustration is what we mean by hell. A notable 19th century English wit once remarked that his idea of heaven what "eating pate de fois gras to the sound of trumpets." No doubt a certain bliss might be found in that; but if that were all there is for eternity, that would surely be not heaven, but hell.
When we become Christians, says St. Paul, when we put on Christ, that "old Adam," that old worldliness, is put to death -- that our sinful self might be destroyed. That is to say, in the dying and rising of Christ, there is opened to us, and shown to us a new and living way -- the way of faith and obedience to God's will. And that, you see, is both a death and a rebirth. "For in that he died, he died unto sin once, but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." "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."
"That we also should walk in newness of life." That is the heart of the message of the Scripture lessons for the whole of this Trinity season: that we also should walk in newness of life": in the light of Jesus' Resurrection, in the power of His Spirit.
Today's Gospel lesson tells us something quite specific about that walking in newness of life. It's all about loving your enemies: "Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you, bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you. And to him that smiteth thee on the one cheek, offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak, forbid not to take thy coat also." Don't let the sun go down on your wrath.
But, we say, the world simply doesn't work that way, well, yes, true enough, the world doesn't work that way -- But, you see, our lessons are about anti-worldliness -- about a new way of being and living. Love your enemies. But what is this unworldly love? Sometimes we confuse love with emotion or affection -- which may, indeed, accompany love, or may not -- but they are not love. Love, in the context of the Gospel, means willing, steadfastly WILLING, the eternal GOOD in all things, in one another, in all people, including our enemies, BECAUSE, God loves us that way, and demonstrated that way of love in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
In the sacrament we celebrate this morning, we come into the presence of that sacrifice, which demonstrates the divine love and calls us to newness of life and empowers us to live that life. And what is this sacrament but ordinary worldly things -- bread and wine? That's all it is. Yet, when we bring these ordinary things to God's altar in obedience and faith, they are transformed by the word of the Lord, to become spiritual food -- the world of God which cometh down from heaven to give life unto the world.
We feed on him in our hearts by faith with thanksgiving, and we rise up to walk in newness of life, sharing such good things as pass man's understanding, obtaining God's promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Father Ed Bakker,
Anglican Catholic Church / Original Province
Mission of Saint Aidan of Lindisfarne