16 June 2008

Homily - Trinity 4

“In All Godly Quietness”
Genesis 50:15-21; Romans 12:14-21; Luke 6:36-42

In today’s Collect we prayed that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered by God’s governance that His Church would joyfully serve Him – and here’s the phrase we want to ponder this morning – “in all godly quietness.”

What is this “godly quietness” for which we pray? It’s the peace of heart, the quiet and calm that can rule in our hearts even in the midst of the most difficult and trying times. It is the peace that passes understanding. It is the peace that does not fret and get all worked up, but instead entrusts itself into the hands of God. Godly quietness of heart is one of the fruits of faith.

To get a handle on it, remember today’s Old Testament reading. Here we meet Joseph, a 17 year old young man. He had those dreams of everyone bowing down to him and honoring him. God had told him that’s what would happen. And what came next? He was betrayed by his brothers, sold as a slave, and made an exile in a foreign land. Then he was falsely accused, and, because he would not compromise with wickedness, he was tossed into jail. Once in jail, he was promptly forgotten by those for whom he did nothing but good.

During this 20-year journey, I wonder if he struggled to hold on to the promises that God had made so many years earlier. Did God really mean them? Why then was He allowing such awful things to befall Joseph time and time again? But despite the roadblocks and setbacks, Joseph held on to God and His promises with “godly quietness.” He held on in true worship. According to our Confessions, true worship is “the exercises of faith struggling with despair,” (Treatise 44). Joseph clung to the promises, and in peace of heart, in godly quietness, he sought to serve in whatever new predicament he found himself.

Scripture says, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time He may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:6). Just think of how Joseph lived the truth of those words! He humbled himself and in godly quietness cast all his cares and anxieties on the Lord. And look at what happened! The day finally came when he went from being Pharaoh’s lowly, forgotten prisoner to serving as the Prime Minister of all Egypt. And he continued serving the Lord, saving the lives of countless Egyptians, and yes, of his own family, who did indeed come and kneel before him as his servants.

Godly quiet may have reigned in Joseph’s heart, but fear reigned in the hearts of his brothers who had treated him so poorly. “What if he pays us back?” they wondered, when they saw that their father Jacob had died. “What if Joseph decides to get even now?” How little they understood their brother’s heart! So they came and pleaded with him for forgiveness one more time.

Joseph spoke those astonishing words: “Do not fear, for am I in the place of God? As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” He spoke out of the godly quiet of his heart. He did not excuse their sins, but he did invite them to behold the miracle of God’s forgiveness. Yes, our Lord knows how to take the evil and sin we suffer at the hands of others, and even the evil and sin we do ourselves, and in sheer grace, He turns it into blessing for us and for others.

Joseph, of course, is a type, a foretaste, a preview, of our Lord. This same “godly quietness” for which we pray reigned in Jesus’ divine-human heart. His trust in His Father was unshakeable, and so He urges us to “be merciful, even as [our] Father is merciful.” He trusted in His Father to vindicate Him, and so He also exhorts us: “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you.” Yes, all of this will be given to you, more than you ask or desire or deserve, “good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over.” Your Lord Jesus invites you to live the very life that He lived. He holds it out to you to be your life as well. It’s a life in which the godly quietness of heart trusts the Father’s plan, knows that He is the master of turning ill into good. It’s a life that trusts that God Himself redirects evil and hatred to serve the designs of His gracious kingdom.

Consider the Cross. Our Lord Jesus was also betrayed by His brothers, sold as a slave, wrongfully arrested, and then condemned to die—all of this even though He was completely innocent. He willingly accepted all of this in utter godly quietness of heart – the quietness of heart that comes from submission to the will of the Father. After all, He had prayed, “Not my will, but Yours be done” (Lk. 22:42). And then in peace He went forth to drink the cup His Father prepared for Him. Then, as happened with Joseph, a grand reversal took place. Through the very act of His betrayal, suffering, and death, our new Joseph was raised from death in an incorruptible and immortal body. And He does not rule some measly piece of earthly real estate, but He reigns over the whole universe. Instead of hating us for what we sinful human beings did to Him, He uses His suffering and cross to forgive us and love us. He also says: “Do not fear, I will provide for you and your little ones.”

Joseph gave them grain. Jesus gives us the living bread of heaven, His very Body and Blood – the same Body and Blood that hung on the cross for us, crying out for our forgiveness for all of the times that we have shamefully treated one another, betrayed each other, hated each other, and wished each other ill. His Body and Blood still cry out for our forgiveness, even now, from this very altar. They tell us the glorious and unfathomable truth that despite our wretchedness and sin, we are God’s beloved in His Son. They tell us that His will for us is to share with Him a life that never ends, the life of forgiveness and mercy.

So here in the Eucharist we receive our Lord’s gift of godly quietness. It soothes us with forgiveness; it frees us to live in Jesus’ own divine-human godly quietness. Like our Lord, we don’t need to avenge ourselves; we don’t even need to worry about looking out for ourselves. That is God’s job.

Instead, we get to live in the joy of today’s Epistle. St. Paul exhorts us: “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be conceited. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to what is honorable in the sight of all…. Never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

In other words, we can say and pray it this way: “O Lord, grant us to serve You joyfully in godly quietness, to trust that our lives are governed by You and that all things do indeed work together to bring us blessing, especially when we are called to suffer for Your name.” Then we are utterly free in our Lord Jesus to love and bless, to forgive and give to all who mistreat us, to all who hate and seek our ruin. In our Lord Jesus, by the strength of His Holy Spirit, we are set free to love them and to seek God’s richest blessing on their lives.

“Give us, O Lord, this godly quietness of heart to trust in You at all times and in all places, for You are merciful and You love Your whole creation, and we Your creatures glorify You, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Amen.

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