Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Fourth Sunday after Trinity (Proper 9), 2020.
“The life of a Christian is a continual response to the fact of his Baptism,” taught Michael Ramsey, the late Archbishop of Canterbury. Responding to our baptism through all of life becomes disposition we have towards all of life, a fundamental attitude toward the world. The life of a Christian, in other words, means having a baptismal disposition, a baptismal attitude. Our baptism is not like the clothes we wear on Sunday when we head to our local parish church. We are not baptized people only on Sundays so we can hear a sermon and receive Holy Communion. Baptism, rather, is the garments of grace we wear seven days a week, not only on Sundays but Mondays through Saturdays as well as we go about our largely quiet and domestic lives—garments of baptismal grace we wear day in and day out, week in and week out, all the days, weeks, months, years, and decades of our life. The life of a Christian is a continual response to the fact of all this.
It was through responding to the fact of his own baptism that led Saint Paul to preach and teach. His journeys took him around the known world, planting Christian parishes everywhere he went. And what he planted were communities centered around baptism. And he taught them, as he teaches us, that through baptism, we are the Body of Christ, members one of another through Christ. The only way to grapple with this, and indeed the only way to live with the fact of baptism is, as Paul teaches us, to set our minds not on things of the flesh but to set our minds on the things of the Spirit and thereby live according to the Spirit. Setting our minds on the things of the Spirit and living according to the Spirit leads to life and peace. It allows us, in the words of Our Lord, to find rest for our souls. “Come to me,” Jesus says, “all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” As an early Father of the Church, Saint Augustine of Hippo wrote as a prayer to God in his book The Confessions, “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in You.”
We might ask, why are we restless? What is the source of restlessness that Jesus, through the grace of baptism, desires to give us? Our Lord taught on this immediately after his baptism in the River Jordan by the hands of Saint John the Baptist. Our restlessness is rooted in temptations we face of the devil. Everyone faces them, and they seem part and parcel of the baptismal life itself.
He taught there are three kinds of temptations inherent in the baptismal life. The temptation Our Lord faced to command the stones become bread represents for us that temptation to seek security from things other than Our Lord. But we cannot find real security, Jesus teaches, anywhere but from “every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.”
In addition to the temptation to security, there is the temptation to control. Our Lord was tempted this way on the pinnacle of the temple, to throw Himself down and control the angels to save Him. But we cannot control God—and likewise, we cannot control the world, or other people—and this is through Our Lord’s teaching “You shall not tempt the Lord your God.” We are members of a Body other than our own: members of God’s Body, and He is always in control.
And then with the temptations to security and control, there is the temptation to need approval. Our Lord was tempted to need approval on the high mountain seeing all the kingdoms of the world and their glory, being giving these if He would fall down and worship the devil. Tempted to worship and serve approval, He said rather, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.” The Christian life, lived according to Our Lord, is often a life greatly disapproved by wider society, for disapproving society nailed Jesus to the Cross. When we worship and serve God, no matter what discord may be around us, God approves of what we are doing, and God gives us all the protection we need.
And so it is the need for security, control, and approval sought from sources other than Jesus leads to restlessness. Leads to anxiety. Leads to acting out against others with anger—without Christ, when our sense of security, control and need for approval are threatened we lash out, whether vocally or silently, against other people. This is the war Paul speaks of between the law of sin and the law of God. Being a baptized person means learning by His grace, how to come to Jesus and rest in Jesus. It means abandonment of ourselves to Him and His divine providence, His loving Hands, and His heavenly power.