Royal Reception

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
March 24, 2013 – Lent VI – Palm Sunday

Isaiah 50:4-9a, Psalm 31:9-16, Philippians 2:5-11, Luke 19:28-40

From the book of the Prophet Isaiah:
For the Lord God helps me; therefore I have not been confounded; therefore
I have set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame; he
who vindicates me is near.

From St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians:
Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is
above every name, that at the name o f Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven
and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is
Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole
multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for
all the mighty works that they had seen, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes
in the name of the Lord!”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in
thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

I don’t know how many of you were able to see the Mass to inaugurate the new papacy
on Tuesday morning in St. Peter’s Square. He appears to be a very humble man.

After his election in the Sistine Chapel, the new pope chose not to sit on the papal throne
when he received the oath of obedience and homage from the cardinals. Instead, he stood
and received the cardinals one by one, according to Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi,
director of the Vatican Press Office.

After his appearance to the 100,000 well wishers in St. Peter’s Square, Pope Francis
declined to use a special car prepared for him, but chose to take the minibus back to Casa
Santa Marta, the residence the Cardinals use during the conclave.


The next morning, Pope Francis made a visit to the St. Mary Major basilica, the oldest
church dedicated to Mary, mother of Jesus. Exiting the basilica, he spent some time
visiting with children in a nearby schoolyard. He traveled to the basilica in a common
Vatican service car, declining again to use the papal limousine. Some of you might
remember the limousine being called the “Pope mobile.” He was also accompanied by a
small security detail and not a police escort.

It is commendable that Pope Francis chooses to be humble, but I pray that his act of
humility does not tempt fate; that he does not “set things in motion.” The reason for the
“Pope mobile,” with its bullet-proof glass was to prevent an assassination. Christians and
Jews are under attack from non-believers; disciples of the evil one. There will continue to
be evil in this world until the return of Jesus Christ.

Five days before the Passover, Jesus came from Bethany to Jerusalem. People had
gathered in Jerusalem for the Passover and were looking for Jesus: both because of His
great works and teaching and because they had heard of the miracle of the resurrection
of Lazarus. When they heard that Jesus was entering the city, they went out to meet
Him with palm branches, laying their garments on the ground before Him, and shouting,
“Hosanna! Blessed is he that comes in the Name of the Lord, the King of Israel!”

When Jesus made his triumphal entry into Jerusalem, he didn’t choose a horse or a
chariot; he didn’t even choose a donkey; he chose a colt. He didn’t choose any of the
various means of transportation usually associated with a King; instead He chose a lowly
colt; or was it?

As the two disciples were untying the donkey and colt, the owners questioned the
two disciples: “Why are you untying the colt? So, they simply responded as Jesus
had instructed, “the Lord has need of them.” The plan was executed quietly because
the Jewish leaders had let it be known that anyone confessing Christ would be
excommunicated (John 9:22). The fact that the rulers planned to kill Jesus made it even
more important that the owners be protected.

We think of the donkey as a lowly animal, but to the Jew it was a beast fit for a king (1
Kings 1:33, 44). Jesus rode the colt (Luke 19:35) while the mother of the colt walked
along with it. The fact that the colt had never been ridden and yet submitted to Jesus
indicates our Lord’s sovereignty over His creation. The laying of garments on the animals
and on the road and the waving and spreading of branches were all part of a traditional
Jewish reception for royalty.

The colt, one of the animals that were considered unclean according to the Law, is
symbolic of the inclusion of all peoples of all nations in the new covenant that will come
through the death and resurrection of Christ (Isa. 62:10-11). It is also a sign that our Lord
has revealed a heavenly and spiritual kingdom that offers true and enduring peace.


When Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, this was the only time Jesus
permitted a public demonstration on His behalf, and He did so for at least two reasons.
First, He was fulfilling prophecy and presenting Himself as Israel’s king (Zech. 9:9).
How much of this the crowd really understood we cannot tell, even though they
responded by quoting their praises from a messianic psalm (Ps. 118:25-26). No doubt
many of the Passover pilgrims thought that Jesus would lead them in conquering and
getting rid of the Roman invaders and establishing a glorious kingdom.

The second reason for this demonstration was to force the Jewish religious leaders to act;
to set in motion the events of Jesus final hours on earth. The leaders had hoped to arrest
Him after the Passover (Matt. 26:3-5), but God had ordained that His Son be slain on
Passover as the “Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world” (John 1:29). Every
previous attempt to arrest Jesus had failed because “His hour had not yet come” (John
7:30; 8:20). When they saw this great public celebration, the leaders knew they had to
act, and the willing cooperation of Judas solved their problem for them (Matt. 26:14-16).

At the outset of His public ministry Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God and announced
that the powers of the age to come were already active in the present age (Luke 7:18-
22). His words and mighty works were performed “to produce repentance as the response
to his call, a call to an inward change of mind and heart which would result in concrete
changes in one’s life, a call to follow Him and accept His messianic destiny. The
triumphant entry of Jesus into Jerusalem is a messianic event, through which his divine
authority was declared.

Palm Sunday summons us to behold our king: the Word of God made flesh. We are
called to behold Him not simply as the one who came to us once riding on a colt, but as
the One who is always present in us.

Palm Sunday summons us to accept both the rule and the kingdom of God as the goal
and content of our Christian life. We draw our identity from Christ and His kingdom. The
kingdom is Christ – His indescribable power, boundless mercy and incomprehensible
abundance given freely to man. The kingdom does not lie at some point or place in
the distant future. The scripture tells us, the kingdom of God is not only at hand (Matt.
3:2), it is within us (Luke 17:21). The kingdom is a present reality as well as a future
realization (Matt. 6:10).

The kingdom of God is the life of the Holy Trinity in the world. It is the kingdom of
holiness, goodness, truth, beauty, love, peace and joy. These qualities are not works of
the human spirit. They proceed from the life of God and reveal God. Christ Himself is the
kingdom. He is the God-Man, Who brought God down to earth (John 1:1, 14).

Palm Sunday summons us to behold our king – the Suffering Servant. We cannot
understand Jesus’ kingship apart from the Passion. Filled with infinite love for the
Father and the Holy Spirit, and for creation, in His inexpressible humility Jesus accepted
the infinite sacrifice of the Cross. He bore our griefs and carried our sorrows; He was
wounded for our transgressions and made Himself an offering for sin (Isa. 53).


His glorification, which was accomplished by the resurrection and the ascension, was
achieved through the Cross.

As a servant of God, Jesus submitted His mind to the Lord God so that He could learn
His work and His will (Isa. 50:4). Everything Jesus said and did was taught to Him by
His Father (John 5:19, 30). He prayed to the Father for guidance and meditated on the
Word. What God taught the Servant, the Servant shared with those who needed help and

The Servant’s will was also yielded to the Lord God. The people to whom the Prophet
Isaiah ministered to were neither “willing” nor “obedient” (Isa. 1:19), but the Servant
did gladly the will of the Lord God. This was not easy, for it meant yielding His body
to wicked men who mocked Him, whipped Him, spat on Him, and then nailed Him to a
cross (Matt. 26:67; 27:26, 30).

When Christ was born at Bethlehem, He entered into a permanent union with humanity
from which there could be no escape. He willingly humbled Himself that He might lift us
up! Jesus did not pretend to be a servant; He was not an actor playing a role. He actually
was a servant! This was the true expression of His innermost nature. He was the God-
Man, Deity and humanity united in one, and He came as a servant.

The person with the submissive mind does not avoid sacrifice. He lives for the glory of
God and the good of others; and if paying a price will honor Christ and help others, he is
willing to do it. This was St. Paul’s attitude and Timothy’s as well. Sacrifice and service
go together if service is to be true Christian ministry.

This coming Thursday, we will be administering the Office of Tenebrae. In the Upper
Room, when His disciples apparently refused to minister, Jesus arose, laid aside His outer
garments, put on the long linen towel, and washed their feet! (John 13). He took the place
of a menial slave.

The next day He accepted His fate. He took our place and suffered on a cross for the
remission of our sins; for our salvation. Then He rose again as King Eternal! May we
join in the chorus and never falter: Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the Name of the

Let us pray:
Almighty and everlasting God, who, of thy tender love towards mankind, hast
sent thy Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our flesh, and to suffer death upon
the cross, that all mankind should follow the example of his great humility: Mercifully
grant that we may both follow the example of his patience, and also be made partakers of
his resurrection; through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with thee
and the Holy Spirit, one God, forever and ever.


Priceless Anointing

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
March 17, 2013 – Lent V

Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, Philippians 3:4b-14, John 12:1-8

From the book of the prophet Isaiah:
The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches; for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise.

From St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians:
Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

And from the Gospel of St. John:
Mary took a pound of costly ointment of pure nard and anointed the feet of Jesus and wiped his feet with her hair; and the house was filled with the fragrance of the ointment.

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

As I am sure you all know, the Roman Catholic Church has a new Pope: Pope Franciscus. On Wednesday, March 13th, Jorge Mario Bergoglio was elected Pope, and he succeeds Pope Benedict XVI, who resigned on February 28th. As such, he is both head of the Catholic Church and Sovereign of the Vatican City State.

A native of Buenos Aires, Argentina, he was ordained as a priest in 1969. In 1998 he became the Archbishop of Buenos Aires, and in 2001 a cardinal. He chose the papal name Franciscus in honor of Saint Francis of Assisi, the 13th century much-loved saint who is associated with peace, poverty and simplicity. He is the first Jesuit pope, the first from the Americas, and the first from the Southern Hemisphere. Francis is the first non-European pope in 1,282 years.

When he was Cardinal, he became known for personal humility, doctrinal conservatism and a commitment to social justice. A simple lifestyle contributed to his reputation for humility. He lived in a small apartment, rather than in the palatial bishop’s residence. He gave up his chauffeured limousine in favor of public transportation and cooked his own meals.
The pope and all of the cardinals in attendance wore light yellow robes over their cassocks as he appeared on the balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica just after a church official announced “Habemus Papum” – “We have a pope.” The new pope spoke to a crowd of some 100,000 people packed in rain-soaked St. Peter’s Square just after his election and anointing as pope.

He said, “Ladies and Gentlemen, good evening. He then humbled himself and asked everyone to bow their heads as he asked for prayers for himself, and for retired Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, whose resignation paved the way for the conclave that brought the first Jesuit to the papacy. Before he blessed the crowd, he wanted their prayers for him as he bowed his head and accepted their blessings for their new pope.

Our Gospel reading this morning has Jesus and His disciples returning to Bethany for some needed rest with His dear friends: Mary, Martha and Lazarus. Our Lord knew that the Jewish leaders were out to arrest Him and kill Him (John 11:53), but He still returned to Bethany, only two miles from the very citadel of His enemies. True to His friends’ personalities, Martha busily served them food and Mary worshiped at the feet of Jesus.

The account of Mary’s anointing of her Lord is found also in the book of Matthew, chapter 26 and Mark, chapter 14. But it must not be confused with the account given in Luke 7:36-50, where a former harlot anointed Jesus in the house of Simon the Pharisee. Mary, the sister of Martha and Lazarus was a virtuous woman, and she anointed Jesus in the house of Simon the former leper.

When you combine all three accounts, you learn that Mary anointed both Jesus’ head and feet. It was an act of pure love on her part, for she knew her Lord was about to endure suffering and death. Because she sat at Jesus’ feet and listened to Him speak, she knew what He was going to do. It is significant that Mary of Bethany was not one of the women that went to the tomb to anoint the body of Jesus (Mark 16:1); for she had already anointed the body.

In a sense, Mary was showing her devotion to Jesus before it was too late. She was “giving the flowers” while He was still alive, and not bringing them to the funeral! Her act of love and worship was public, spontaneous, sacrificial, lavish, personal, and unembarrassed. Jesus called it “a good work” and commended her and defended her.

It would require a year’s wages from a common laborer to purchase that ointment. Like David, Mary would not give to the Lord that which cost her nothing (2 Sam. 24:24). Her beautiful act of worship brought a fragrance to the very house in which they were dining, and the blessing of her deed has spread around the world (Matt. 26:13; Mark 14:9). Little did Mary realize that night that her love for Christ would be a blessing to believers around the world for centuries to come!

When she came to the feet of Jesus, Mary took the place of a slave or servant. When she undid her hair (something Jewish women did not do in public), she humbled herself and laid her glory at His feet. Of course, she was misunderstood and criticized; but that is what usually happens when somebody gives his or her best to the Lord.

It was Judas who started the criticism, and, sad to say, the other disciples joined in the chorus in ridiculing her. They did not know that Judas was a devil, and they admired him for his seeming concern for the poor. After all, he was the treasurer; and especially at Passover season, he would want to share with those who were less fortunate. Until the very end, the disciples believed that Judas was a devoted follower of the Lord.

We know from the Holy Scriptures that Judas was a thief and was in the habit of stealing money from the money box that he carried. No doubt Judas had already decided to abandon Jesus, and he wanted to get what he could out of what he considered a bad situation. Perhaps he had hoped that Jesus would defeat Rome and set up the kingdom.

What Mary did was a blessing to Jesus and a blessing to her own life. She was also a blessing to the home, filling it with fragrance; and today, she is a blessing to the church around the world. Her one act of devotion in the little village of Bethany still sends “ripples of blessings,” “chills up the spine,” “tears of joy.”

As we look at this event, we see some “representative people” who are examples to us. Martha represents work as she served the dinner she had prepared for the Lord. This was just as much a “fragrant offering” as was Mary’s ointment. Mary represents worship, and Lazarus represents witness, for people went to Bethany just to see the man who was raised from the dead! Actually, the Christian life ought to be a beautiful balance of worship, work, and witness.

Pope Francis is surely one of the “representative people.” On Tuesday, he will officially be installed as pope, on the feast of St. Joseph, patron saint of the universal church. According to Federico Lombardi, a Vatican spokesman, Jesuits typically shun positions of authority, so Francis must have felt it “a strong call to service” (work). First thing the next morning, he entered the St. Mary Major basilica through a side entrance for prayer (worship). He has been elected head of the 1.2 billion strong Catholic Church and will lead them in witnessing (witness) to the resurrection of and saving grace of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

St. Paul was another of the “representative people.” When Paul met Jesus Christ on the Damascus road (Acts 9), he trusted Him and became a child of God. It was an instantaneous bright light from heaven, a miracle of the grace of God; the kind that still takes place today whenever sinners will admit their need and turn to the Saviour by faith. When Paul met Christ, he realized how futile were his good works and how sinful were his claims of righteousness. A wonderful “anointing” took place. Paul lost some things, but he gained so much more!

When Paul became a Christian, it was not the end for Paul, but the beginning. His experience with Christ was so tremendous that it transformed his life. And this experience continued in the years to follow. It was a personal experience as Paul walked with Christ, prayed, obeyed His will, and sought to glorify His name.

Jesus enjoyed a quiet evening of fellowship with His friends in Bethany. This must have brought special encouragement and strength to the Savior’s heart as he faced the demands of that last week before the Cross. As He enjoyed the evening of delicious food and fellowship, He probably looked around the room at His dear friends: Mary, Martha, Lazarus and His twelve disciples; He was probably thinking: if they only knew what was going happen in the next few days. He told them, but they did not understand.

As Christians, we have been “anointed” by the priceless sacrifice of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. He suffered on the cross for our redemption; He was crucified for the remission of our sins; He died and was buried; the third day He conquered death and rose from the dead; Who by His suffering and death became the author of eternal salvation for all who put their trust in Him.

I would encourage you to spend some time in prayer for the remaining days of Lent; and meditate on God’s Word and all that He has done for us through His Son, Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners; Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Reconciled and Saved

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
March 10, 2013 – Lent IV

Joshua 5:9-12, Psalm 32, II Corinthians 5:16-21, Luke 15:1-3, 11b-32

From the book of Joshua:
And the Lord said to Joshua, “This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.”

From St. Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians:
We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
And he said to him, “Son, you are always with me, and all that is mine is yours. It was fitting to make merry and be glad, for your brother was dead, and is alive; he was lost, and is found.”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

Our Gospel reading this morning is referred to as “The Parable of the Prodigal Son,” but it could also be called “The Parable of the Loving Father,” for it emphasizes the graciousness of the father more than the sinfulness of the son. Unlike a shepherd, the father did not go out to seek the son, but it was the memory of his father’s goodness that brought the boy to repentance and forgiveness.

According to Jewish law, an elder son received twice as much as the other sons (Deut. 21:17), and a father could distribute his wealth during his lifetime if he wished. It was perfectly legal for the younger son to ask for his share of the estate and even to sell it, but it was certainly not a very loving thing on his part. It was as though he were saying to his father, “I wish you were dead!”

We are always headed for trouble whenever we value things more than people, pleasures more than duty, and faraway places more than the blessings we have right at home. The prodigal son learned the hard way that you cannot enjoy the things money can buy if you ignore the things money cannot buy.

The younger son dreamed of “enjoying” his freedom far from home and away from his father and older brother. He wanted to have his own way so he rebelled against his own father and broke his father’s heart.

But life in the far country was not what he expected. His resources ran out, his friends left him, a famine came, and the boy was forced to go to work! Sin promises freedom, but it only brings slavery (John 8:34); it promises success, but brings failure; it promises life, but “the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). The boy thought he would “find himself,” but he only lost himself!

The young man changed his mind about himself and his situation, and he admitted that he was a sinner. He confessed that his father was a generous man and that service at home was far better than “freedom” in the far country. It is God’s goodness, not just man’s badness that leads us to repentance (Rom. 2:4). If the boy had thought only about himself – his hunger, his homesickness, his loneliness – he would have despaired. But his painful circumstances helped him to see his father in a new way, and this brought him hope. If his father was good to his servants, maybe he would be willing to forgive his son.

Had he stopped there, the young man would have experienced only regret or remorse, but true repentance involves the will as well as the mind and the emotions – “I will arise…I will go…I will say…” Our resolutions may be noble, but unless we act on them, they can never of themselves bring about any permanent good. If repentance is truly the work of God, then the sinner will obey God and put saving faith in Jesus Christ (Acts 20:21).

When the son returned home, the father ran out to meet him. The father prepared a great feast and invited the whole village to attend. The father shows us the attitude of our Heavenly Father towards sinners who repent: He is rich in His mercy and grace, and great in His love toward them (Eph. 2:1-10). All of this is possible because of the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. We are saved by God’s grace, and grace is love that pays a price.

Everything the younger son had hoped to find in the far country, he discovered back home: clothes, jewelry, friends, joyful celebration, love and assurance for the future. In the far country, the prodigal son learned the meaning of misery; but back home, he discovered the meaning of mercy.

It is interesting to consider the father’s description of his son’s experience: he was dead, and was now alive; he was lost, and now was found. This is the spiritual experience of every lost sinner who comes to the Father through faith in Jesus Christ (John 5:24, Eph. 2:1-10).

When we look at the elder brother, he had some virtues that were quite commendable. He worked hard and always obeyed his father. He never brought disgrace either to the home or to the village. He was a good citizen, a good son, and compared to his younger brother, almost a saint.

Unfortunately, the elder brother was angry at both his father and his brother , and chose not go into the house and share in the joyful celebration. He stayed outside and pouted. He missed the joy of forgiving his brother and restoring the broken fellowship, the joy of pleasing his father and uniting the family again.

If we are out of fellowship with God, we cannot be in fellowship with our brothers and sisters and, conversely, if we harbor an unforgiving attitude toward others, we cannot be in communion with God. When they show true repentance, we must forgive those who sin, and we should seek to restore them in grace and humility.

I am sure we all know someone, perhaps ourselves, who have preferred nursing a wound to enjoying the fellowship of God that comes from forgiveness.

The act of rebellion started right from the beginning with Adam’s rebellion with God, which put man out of fellowship with God. Through the work of the Cross, Jesus Christ has brought man and God together again. God has been reconciled and has turned His face in love toward the lost world. The basic meaning of the word reconcile is “to change thoroughly.” It refers to a changed relationship between God and the lost world.

God does not have to be reconciled to man, because that was accomplished by Christ on the cross. It is sinful man who must be reconciled to God.

In his farewell address to the nation, Moses repeatedly commanded the Jews to remember that they were once slaves in Egypt and that the Lord had delivered them and made them His own people. This great truth was embodied in their annual Passover feast. They were never to forget that they were a redeemed people, set free by the blood of the lamb.

I am going to tell you a story that will perhaps help to illustrate forgiveness and reconciliation. When a man and a woman get married, it is very important to establish “rules of engagement.” It is important to determine where and with whom the couple is going spend the holidays and other special occasions with. The fair way would be to alternate between the two families. Such as, if you spend Thanksgiving with the husband’s family, then you spend Christmas with the wife’s family, etc. If this arrangement is not done, it can cause some hurt feelings.

Such was the case with Peter and his wife, Jane. For some reason, Peter’s family always spent Christmas day with them, but the rest of the year was determined by his wife, Jane which meant it was only her family. When the grandchildren came along, it was hard, because literally half the birthday parties Peter’s family was not invited to. It was also the case that Peter’s mother was never honored or remembered on Mother’s Day; not even a card, because Peter left that chore up to his wife.

Peter died in the year 2000 from a fatal car crash, at the age of 47. Jane soon severed ties with Peter’s family; wouldn’t even speak to any of them. This hurt Peter’s mother very much. It was hard enough to lose a son, but to have his wife act this way only made it worse.
A few months after Peter’s death, his mother fell at home in the bathroom; hit her head on the bathtub. She managed to crawl to the bedroom and call 911. She had fractured her left leg and was in a rehab center for several months. Jane did nothing to show that she cared.

When Peter’s mother came home, she started calling her daughter-in-law to see how she was doing, with no response. Peter’s mother would call her up, leave a message, hang up and then start crying. Peter’s mother tried for 6 months and her daughter-in-law would not return any of her phone calls.

Four years after Peter’s death, his mother died of cancer. When it was determined that the end was near, her grandchildren were contacted, because she wanted to see them one last time. To everyone’s surprise, Jane came too. It had been over 3 years since anyone had seen or heard from her. Peter’s mother welcomed Jane with open arms and tears of joy.

No one knows why Jane acted the way she did. The purpose of this story is not to berate Jane, but to witness to Peter’s mother’s love and reconciliation with her daughter-in-law. Jane did not deserve her mother-in-law’s forgiveness, but it was given freely.

This is the message that we all need to hear: That we are all sinners; that we do not deserve God’s forgiveness, but that God’s Son, Jesus Christ, freely gave His life on the cross, so that we might be reconciled to God; that we are saved by His redeeming love. As we come to your most sacred table Lord; we remember Thy Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ; that we are partakers of His most blessed Body and Blood; that this Bread and Wine are signs of the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ; that we may evermore dwell in Him and He in us, until His coming again.

Let us pray:
Almighty God, you alone bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.


Evil’s Destruction

Rev. Deacon Allen J. Batchelder

Trinity Church
Waltham, Massachusetts
February 24, 2013 – Lent II

Genesis 15:1-12, Psalm 27, Philippians 3:17-4:1, Luke 13:31-35

From the book of Genesis:
As the sun was going down, a deep sleep fell on Abram; and lo, a dread and great darkness fell upon him.

From St. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians:
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is the belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.

And from the Gospel of St. Luke:
Behold, your house is forsaken. And I tell you, you will not see me until you say, “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”

Let us pray:
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in thy sight, O God, our Rock and our Redeemer, our Strength and our Salvation.

“One who truly fears God, and is obedient to Him, may be in a condition of darkness, and have no light; and he may walk many days and years in that condition…”

So wrote the Puritan Thomas Goodwin (1600-1679), and the Prophet Isaiah agrees with him: “Who among you fears the Lord? Who obeys the voice of His Servant? Who walks in darkness and has no light? Let him trust in the name of the Lord and rely upon his God” (Isa. 50:10).

At times even the most dedicated Christian feels “in the dark” and wonders why God seems so far away. During the Boxer Rebellion, the China Inland Mission suffered greatly; and its founder, J. Hudson Taylor, said to a friend, “I cannot read; I cannot think; I cannot even pray; but I can trust.” It was a dark time, but God eventually gave light.

Abraham had an experience of what spiritual directors call “the dark night of the soul.” The term comes from a sixteenth-century spiritual classic of that title by St. John of the Cross. Based on the night scenes described in the Song of Songs, the book tells how the child of God enters into deeper love and faith by experiencing temporary darkness and seeming separation from God. It is not an easy thing to experience, but sometimes necessary.
People with faith are also people with feelings, and feelings must not be discredited or ignored. Many orthodox Christians are prone to emphasize the mind and will and minimize the emotions, but this is a grave error that can lead to an unbalanced life.

We are made in the image of God, and this includes our emotions. While it is unwise to trust your emotions and bypass your mind, or let your emotions get out of control, it is also unwise to deny and suppress your emotions and become a religious robot. In the Psalms, David and the other writers told God honestly how they felt about Him, themselves, and their circumstances; and this is a good example for us to follow. Jesus was a real man, and He expressed openly His emotions of joy, sorrow, holy anger, and love.

You certainly ought to “listen to your feelings” and be honest about them. “When a person assumes responsibility for his feelings,” writes psychiatrist David Viscott, “he assumes responsibility for his world.” But don’t stop there: Take time to listen to God, and receive His words of encouragement. The faith that conquers fear is faith in the Word, not faith in feelings.

God’s remedy for Abraham’s fear was to remind him of who He was: “I am thy shield, and thy exceedingly great reward” (Gen. 15:1). God is our shield and our reward, our protection and our provision.

Protection and provision are blessings that the world is seeking and the politicians are promising whenever they run for office. Candidates offer voters protection from war and danger on the streets as well as provision for jobs, health care, education, and old age. Some of the promises are kept, but many of them are forgotten. Almighty God is the only One who can offer you protection and provisions and keep His promises.

Our Gospel reading today has Jesus in Perea, which was ruled for Rome by Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great. The terrain of Perea was one of the most picturesque in Palestine, marked by rugged highlands and secluded and fruitful valleys. The Pharisees wanted to get Jesus back into Judea where the religious leaders could watch Him and ultimately trap Him, so they tried to frighten Him away.

Herod had been perplexed by our Lord’s ministry and was afraid that John the Baptist, whom he murdered, had come back from the dead (Luke 9:7-9). In fact, at one point, Herod wanted to meet Jesus so he could see Him perform a miracle! But it appears that Herod’s heart was getting harder, for now he threatened to kill Jesus. The warning the Pharisees gave was undoubtedly true or Jesus would not have answered as He did.

Our Lord was not afraid of danger. He followed a “divine timetable” and nothing could harm Him. He was doing the will of God according to the Father’s schedule. It had been decreed from eternity that the Son of God would be crucified in Jerusalem at the Passover (1 Peter 1:20; Rev. 13:8), and even Herod Antipas could not hinder the purposes of God. Quite the contrary, our Lord’s enemies only helped fulfill the will of God (Acts 2:23; 3:13-18).
Jesus used a bit of “holy sarcasm” in His reply. He compared Herod to a fox, an animal that was not held in high esteem by the Jews (Neh. 4:3). Known for its cunning, the fox was an apt illustration of the crafty Herod. Jesus had work to do and He would accomplish it. After all, Jesus walked in the light, and foxes went hunting in the darkness!

Our Lord’s heart was grieved as He saw the unbelief and rebellion around Him, and He broke out in a lamentation over the sad plight of the Jewish nation. It was a sob of anguish, not an expression of anger. His compassionate heart was broken.

In this lament, Jesus was addressing the whole nation and not just the Pharisees who had tried to provoke Him. The people had been given many opportunities to repent and be saved, but they had refused to heed His call.

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians, he is filled with joy, but he is also weeping. Perhaps he is weeping over himself and his difficult situation, being in prison. No, he is a man with a single mind, and his circumstances do not discourage him. Is he weeping because of what some of the Roman Christians are doing to him? No, he has the submissive mind and will not permit people to rob him of his joy. These tears are not for him at all; they are shed because of others. Because Paul has the spiritual mind, he is heartbroken over the way some professed Christians are living, people who “mind earthly things.”

We are not sure who Paul is weeping for. He may be referring to the Judaizers and their followers. Certainly Paul is writing about professed Christians and not people outside the church. The Judaizers were the “enemies of the cross Christ” in that they added the Law of Moses to the work of redemption that Christ wrought on the cross. Their obedience to the Old Testament dietary laws would make a “god” out of the belly; and their emphasis on circumcision would amount to glorying in that about which they ought to be ashamed.

To refer to the Judaizers as “enemies of the cross Christ” might be a bit harsh. These were Jews who converted to Christianity, but did not want to give up the Jewish laws and traditions. They also expected all converts to take on the Jewish laws and traditions in order to be considered Christian. This included circumcision and dietary laws. This must have been hard for the Jews; all their life they were taught to obey the Old Testament laws; laws that Moses gave to the Jewish people from God. Now they were told that many of those laws were not important. This brought about the conflict in the church and Paul’s sadness for the people in Philippi.

In what sense, were the Judaizers the “enemies of the Cross of Christ”? For one thing, the Cross ended the Old Testament religion. When the veil of the temple was torn in two, God was announcing that the way to God was open through Christ (Heb. 10:19-25). When Jesus shouted, “It is finished!” He made one sacrifice for sins, and thus ended the sacrificial system (Heb. 10:1-14). By His death and resurrection, Jesus accomplished a “spiritual circumcision” that made ritual circumcision unnecessary (Col. 2:10-13). Everything that the Judaizers advocated had been eliminated by the death of Christ on the cross!

Furthermore, everything that they lived for was condemned by the Cross. Jesus had broken down the wall that stood between Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14-16), and the Judaizers were rebuilding that wall! It is the Cross that is central in the life of the believer. He does not glory in men, in religion, or in his own achievements; he glories in the Cross (Gal. 6:14).

These men were not spiritually minded; they were earthly minded. They were holding on to earthly rituals and beliefs that God had given to Israel, and they were opposing the heavenly blessings that the Christian has in Christ.

The spiritually minded believer is not attracted by “things” of this world. He makes his decisions on the basis of eternal values and not the passing fads of society. Lot chose the well-watered plain of Jordan because his values were worldly, and ultimately he lost everything. Moses refused the pleasures and treasures of Egypt because he had something infinitely more wonderful to live for (Heb. 11:24-26). “What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain he whole world, and lose his own soul?” (Mark 8:36)

The Judaizers were living in the past tense, trying to get the Philippian believers to go back to Moses and the Law; but true Christians live in the future tense, anticipating the return of their Saviour (Phil. 3:20-21). It is this anticipation of the coming of Christ that motivates the believer with the spiritual mind.

There is tremendous energy in the present power of a future hope. Because Abraham looked for a city, he was content to live in a tent (Heb. 11:13-16). Because Moses looked for the rewards of heaven, he was willing to forsake the treasures of earth (Heb. 11:24-26). Because of the “joy that was set before Him” (Heb. 12:2), Jesus was willing to endure the cross. The fact that Jesus Christ is returning is a powerful motive for dedicated living and devoted service today. “And every man that hath this hope in him purifies himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 2:28-3:3).

The time is coming when our Messiah will return and be recognized and received by both Jews and Gentiles. They will shout, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:35). There can be no peace on earth until the Prince of Peace is seated on David’s throne (Isa. 11:1ff). “He who testifies to these things says, “Surely I am coming soon.” Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” (Rev. 22:20).

Let us pray:
Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.