The Eighteenth Sunday after Trinity 2017
The Epistle – 1 Corinthians 1:4-8
The Gospel – St. Matthew 22:34-46
Article 35 – Of the Homilies
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.
So many times in the Scriptures we find someone speaking about the importance of knowledge.
We must know about God in order to love Him.
We must know who Christ is in order to properly follow Him.
We must know about God and Christ and the primary way we do know about God and Christ and the Holy Spirit is through the Scriptures.
We must know what the Scriptures say in order to know about many things.
Just prior to, and then coming to a head in, the 16th century, there was a growing desire to know the ancient classical writings…both secular and religious.
There was a desire to go back to the original languages of Greek and early Latin and learn them and familiarize oneself with them so that the classical writings may be read and enjoyed and hopefully many valuable things would be learned from them.
The idea was that the earlier the writing, the more sound the information and the knowledge you would gain. You would obviously be closer to the sources and not be reading a translation.
A Latin term was used by many at this time: Ad fontes. Back to the sources or more literally back to the fountains.
At the time of the Reformation, which coincided roughly with this desire to go back to the sources, the people had all but lost their understanding of Latin…which was the language now of the Priests and the Mass.
They knew very little of what was being said in a Church service so there would be no edification.
The Reformers were concerned that not only the clergy but the laity must know the Bible. They must know what God has said….and of course to know it…. meant knowing God and knowing Christ and finding salvation.
This was also a time when clergy were not very educated in theology. Or others were educated but had a jargon all of their own.
There was such a division between the clergy and the laity and what each knew.
We do hear many times, though, about the priests being unaware of and unable to articulate Christian doctrine.
This too was addressed in the 16th century. Hence we have today our 35th Article, Of the Homilies.
But first, lets look at a few places in our lessons for today to see the emphasis that is placed on knowledge and understanding.
In the very short section from 1 Corinthians today, Paul writes, “1 Corinthians 1:4-9
“I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge—even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you—so that you are not lacking in any gift, as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. (ESV)
Theologian Charles Hodge says, “The meaning would then be that the church in Corinth was richly endowed with divine truth and with clear apprehension or understanding of the doctrines they had been taught. They were second to no other church, either in doctrinal knowledge or in spiritual discernment.”
So there was great joy on the part of Paul that the Corinthians had been so blessed by God to have a strong understanding of the faith through the gift of the Holy Spirit.
On the other hand we have with Jesus in the Gospel today, an exchange between Jesus and a Scribe…a man who knew the Law and knew it well.
He asks a question of Jesus to test Jesus’ knowledge…and how He might answer…maybe they could trap Jesus in His words.
“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?”
R.C. Sproul: “Of course, this whole discussion about which commandment was the most important was thoroughly academic and scholarly, having little or nothing to do with faithful obedience to the law.”
So there is a time and a place. There is an intent here that is not genuine.
This man is not interested in debating the finer points of the Law…which ones were more weightier and which were less weighty.
He wanted to show off his knowledge, trap Jesus. Humiliate Him with some answer perhaps to set Him straight and of course find something Jesus said that could be used against Him.
But Jesus of course cannot be trapped or tricked. He understands what this man is up to and yet plays along… as far as is safe.
He simply offers what we call The Summary of the Law. Simple. Nothing wrong. Answer directly from Scripture.
Jesus has a good working knowledge of what the Old Testament taught and answered perfectly.
Then Jesus decides to ask one in return. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?”
Now the scribes had this belief (a wrong belief) that the man who would redeem Israel would come from the line of David and be a successor of David’s sons.
He would be the Messiah, the Christ, the savior and redeemer.
He would come though as a human being and nothing more.
They knew of the promises of God to send someone who would be of the seed of David, but they could not imagine him being anything more than human.
So this Christ, this Messiah…whose son is He? He would indeed come from the line of David…from the seed of David, but to imagine him coming down from Heaven and take on human nature and enter the line of David this way was just not what they would have believed.
But in Jesus’ question to them, He makes them think a bit about this possibility. He doesn't make a direct assertion about Himself, but He simply shows them that they were in error to hold that the redeemer they looked for could only be human.
“Why then,” asks Jesus, “if David calls to Him Lord….how is he also David’s son?” Which one is it?
Or could it be both? The Scribes could not accept this possibility.
So in both of these examples from today, coupled with the idea that they needed to go back to the fount, back to the source, there was a corrective move made in the Church.
Since the clergy were either teaching heresy or unbiblical doctrines or they had no preaching skills at all, Archbishop Cranmer and others set out to write sermons for the clergy to preach.
Homilies for them to preach.
These would be circulated to the churches and in them they would correct error and give the people not only solid Biblical teaching…but they would also aid the priest in his teaching and preaching.
In fact the Article mentions the Second Book of Homilies. This means that there was a First Book as well.
Consider some of the titles given to these homilies.
The very first one in the list is:
“A Fruitful Exhortation to the Reading of Holy Scripture.”
So right out of the gate there is the exhorting of the people to read their bibles.
And of course in reading the Bible, the message is fruitful. To read the Bible is to read God’s very words to us. What could be more fruitful?
Here are some other titles..
Of the Misery of all Mankind. So obviously it is important to understand ourselves as sinners. We lie in misery and in the shadow of death until we are saved by God….and that applies to all of us.
Of the True and Lively Faith. So there is a desire to explain what faith is.
There is true faith and the homily explains what faith is.
How we are called to have a saving faith? What does saving faith look like?
Of Good Works and Of Christian Love and Charity.
Both of these are going to teach the hearer what Good Works are and how they relate to God saving us apart from works.
Christian Love and Charity will be the living out of the Christian life. These are the Good Works we are called to show forth.
An Exhortation against the Fear of Death.
The Scriptures tell us over and over that we need not fear death, for we belong to Christ by faith.
We were sealed at baptism with the seal of the Holy Spirit. Christ has conquered death through His resurrection…therefore those who trust in Him will enjoy heavenly joy with Him forever after death.
Or from the list here today in the Second Book.
The Right Use of the Church
Against Gluttony and Drunkenness.
Against Excess of Apparel.
Of the Place and Time for Prayer.
So a wide variety of topics were preached on by the priests and heard by the people.
To pick one randomly, the Homily Against Idleness runs about 3500 words. This sermon today is 1934 words.
They were thoroughly enriched by now hearing sound doctrine preached from the Bible…from the pulpit…. and were in turn edified by what they heard, comforted by the Gospel and led to do all of the good works God had prepared them to walk in.
The first part of the Article states that these Homilies contain godly and wholesome Doctrine, and necessary for these times.
These times are easy now to discern. Doctrinal error.
No preaching in some places.
No understanding of the Bible by the people.
And no edification.
The Homilies were an attempt to correct these problems. They were to be “read in Churches by the Ministers, diligently and distinctly, that they may be understanded of the people.”
That was the goal.
This was an aid to the clergy to get back to what they were called and ordained to do. Take care of the people.
Feed the flock.
Educate the flock.
Make disciples of the flock.
The clergy/laity distinction in certain ways was brought to an end.
Now the clergy were not to be the only holy ones and the people rely on them, but the people were called to holiness as well.
This doesn't undermine the office of the priest. It puts the priest now back in the position where he should be…feeding, teaching and leading from what is found in the Bible, The Word of God.
Nor does it make the laity into clergy. This is exactly what the laity need.
They need food. The food they need is the Word of God.
So we should be very thankful that men saw fit to wake the clergy and the Church from it's slumber and to bring the understanding of God and His Church back to the people in a fuller sense.
They are not to be self-feeders.
We all come to Church to hear the Word of God read to us and then explained to us from the pulpit.
Then the Sacraments are administered …taken and received by the people in order to give the stamp of approval and the stamp of authenticity to what the people have just clearly heard read and preached.
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.