12 January 2023 Anno Domini, the Anglican Orthodox Communion Worldwide
“And every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life.” Gospel of St. Matthew 19:29-30
(all scripture quoted is form the King James Version)
A century and a half ago, the great Russian writer, Leo Tolstoi, wrote a short story entitled, ‘How Much Land does a Man Need?’ I will leave the details to the reader to discover, but in his story, a man’s greed for more and more land led to the one plot of ground necessary for all men – the grave. To that man, land was the most important thing of all. What is the most important thing to you, my friend? Is it the security of a fat bank account, spacious home, fancy exotic automobile – what?
The Preacher of Ecclesiastes narrows the field of needs somewhat in his last two verses of his book: “Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. 14For God shall bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14)
Fear of God was the concluding matter for the Old Testament writers, but the Law and Prophets were a school teacher to bring us nearer to God that we might LOVE him and thus, our fears of judgment were transformed into fears of disappointing the One who loved and died for us.
The introductory text from the Gospel of St. Matthew above may sound somewhat contrary to the Law of Love in Christ, but it is the very opposite. We find the beginning and essence of love in Christ alone. It is from that Mountain Spring of Love and Life from which all loves flows. Our love for family or others is empty and meaningless if not found in Christ. “He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love.” (1 John 4:8) He is the Word that came down and was made flesh that we could know and love Him.
There is an interesting account given in both the Gospels of Matthew and Mark on an occasion when Christ was teaching in the synagogue. The disciples who followed Christ to catch every word of His teaching were present, but His own close family were seldom present at His teaching sessions. “While he yet talked to the people, behold, his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. 47 Then one said unto him, Behold, thy mother and thy brethren stand without, desiring to speak with thee. 48But he answered and said unto him that told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? 49And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! 50 For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” (Matthew 12:46-50)
This passage reveals the compelling measure of our love for Christ juxtaposed to that of our near blood relations in the world. The former visitation of the great Angel, Gabriel, had long ago become gray with age in Mary’s memory. The threats and danger evoked by the teaching of her beloved Son in the hostile hearts of the Jewish rulers perhaps overwhelmed that memory. Everything He said and did seemed to provoke the anger of the Scribes and Pharisees. Her physical concern for Jesus for a time eclipsed that memory of the promises of God shared by Gabriel. She seems to have avoided being present at much of His teachings and this event mentioned above was likely one of those moments. She waited outside the synagogue to meet with Jesus rather than entering to hear His words.
Many today want to claim Christ as their own but avoid heeding His Word and following close in His footprints. I have had many young Koreans members of St. Andrews over the years that I have come to love as close kin – in some cases more than blood, many blood relatives. They are dear to me, and I consider them my own children. The reason for this affection derives from their readiness to faithfully attend my church and hear my voice in sharing the Gospel. The relationship we share in Christ is beyond comparison to any earthly affection we may feel for family and friends outside that circle of love. If our love is not centered in Christ, it is a love that shall perish at the moment of death. But we have no stronger blood relations than that of the Blood of Christ. The love we share in Christ is a love that survives death itself!
“For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, 39Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) Paul was convinced of that blood relationship in Christ – are you, my friends? That is the MOST IMPORTANT THING!