The Third Sunday in Lent.
WE beseech thee, Almighty God, look upon the hearty desires of thy humble servants, and stretch forth the right hand of thy Majesty, to be our defence against all our enemies; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
In today's Gospel, Jesus concludes his dialog with a blessing of those who hear (understand) God's Word and do it. This is closely akin to St. Peter's statement concerning Cornelius in Acts 10, "he who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to Him." The person who does follow God's Word will indeed be happy, for they shall have the Peace of God in their lives, and the promise of the inheritance of the greatest prize imaginable in their vision. Praise the Lord!
Jesus was about his Father's work in healing people, and he did so body and soul. He cast the devil from the dumb man, thereby cleansing his soul, so that his tongue would be loosed. There are always the critics and naysayers who will malign a good work, and such was the case here. They went even further to impute evil into Jesus' good works. Jesus rebuked these blasphemers, and promised they would be judged for their malicious accusations. Jesus then warns that once evil is cast out, it may quickly return with a sickness much worse than before (seven times worse - perfectly and completely). At the same time, he gives the remedy, Blessed are they that hear the word of God and keep it. The person who has some evil excised from his life, and then fills his life with what is good, wholesome and pleasing to God in thought, word, and deed, shall indeed be happy.
In St. Paul's letter, he admonishes the Christians at Ephesus to guard against all manner of uncleanness. I wonder if he had observed or heard of some problems with the assembly there? Perhaps some had returned to their old ways or perhaps they never completely abandoned them all or continued to have close associations with those who were engaged in the unclean acts.. Whatever may have been situation, Paul was very clear that those who persist in such behavior would never inherit the Kingdom of God. He instructed the people to rebuke the unclean, and to avoid contact with them. As in the Gospel, he encourages them to goodness saying, :for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.
What shall we do? Obey our Lord's command to hear and do the word of God. General Thomas J. Jackson's advice for Christian living was "The most important thing in the world is to know the will of God, and then to do it!" During this season of Lent, clean out your house as in the parable in the Gospel. Identify all associations that are applicable to our lesson today and dissolve them. Look for every thought, word, and deed that is outside of the Goodness and Righteousness that Paul commends and sweep them away. And through your prayer, study and discipline, fill you life with God's goodness and enjoy the happiness and blessings that shall come through His word.
Let us Pray.
Almighty God, Captain of the Host, aid us in our defense against the evil of this world, from every evil spirit that would enter in. Help us to see those things in our lives that hurt us and are in conflict with your Word and to sweep them from our lives, and send your Holy Spirit to strengthen us in all goodness that we may be protected from all evil; through Jesus Christ our savior and only Mediator. Amen.
The Epistle. Ephesians v. 1.
BE ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light: (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) proving what is acceptable unto the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make man-ifest is light. Wherefore he saith, Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.
The Gospel. St. Luke xi. 14.
JESUS was casting out a devil, and it was dumb. And it came to pass, when the devil was gone out, the dumb spake; and the people wondered. But some of them said, He casteth out devils through Beelzebub the chief of the devils. And others, tempting him, sought of him a sign from heaven. But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desola-tion; and a house divided against a house falleth. If Satan also be divided against himself, how shall his kingdom stand? because ye say that I cast out devils through Beel-zebub. And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your sons cast them out? therefore shall they be your judges. But if I with the finger of God cast out devils, no doubt the kingdom of God is come upon you. When a strong man armed keepeth his palace, his goods are in peace: but when a stronger than he shall come upon him, and overcome him, he taketh from him all his armour wherein he trusted, and divideth his spoils. He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scattereth. When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest; and finding none, he saith, I will return unto my house whence I came out. And when he cometh, he findeth it swept and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh to him seven other spirits more wicked than himself; and they enter in, and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first. And it came to pass, as he spake these things, a certain woman of the company lifted up her voice, and said unto him, Blessed is the womb that bare thee, and the paps which thou hast sucked. But he said, Yea rather, blessed are they that hear the word of God, and keep it.
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