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7 Aug 2022

The Gospel. St. Matthew vii. 15.

Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.

If a large snake came slithering down the aisle of Good Shepherd, I am sure we’d probably move as far away from it as possible. It’s funny then that we don’t always react the same way to a man who is spiritually the same thing.  There is of course a reason for our phobia about snakes. Many of us have a fear of snakes because of the story of the fall of man in the Book of Genesis. Remember that the villain in the story looked like a snake, but was something else entirely. Now, I know there are others that fear snakes because they know that some of them are poisonous and that makes good sense, but being wary of the snake—animal or man—is vital to our survival. 

Another fear many also have developed because of the Scriptures is the fear of wolves. In particular, because of the Gospel reading this morning, "Beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves."  We think of wolves as predators usually hunting in packs and targeting the weakest for their prey.  Again, there are men inside and outside the Church—even those who pretend to be spiritual and godly, who are ravenous predators of the spiritually weak and immature. We are right to beware of these.

What Jesus teaches is that there are some who would mask themselves as angels of light when really they are demons of darkness. They are evil pure and simple. From the time of Matthew's Gospel to the present, there have been those who have clothed themselves in sheep's clothing and have attempted to destroy the flock of Christ. In every age there has been one or another kind of heresy, a deviation from the teaching of Jesus Christ our Lord. 

All through the ages the heresies have always ultimately been revealed as an aberration, a deviation from the truth. This is why we say the Nicene Creed every Sunday—to remind us of the Church’s response to the many heresies past and present.  The individuals that were involved in them were like wolves in sheep's clothing seeking to deceive as many of God’s children as possible. The damage they have done is terrible.

In our own time there are still heresies around. But not all of the spirits of these new, sometimes bizarre cults are benign; not all of those spirits are of the Holy Spirit. 

There's another heresy that abounds in our society: secularism. Secularism is, simply, the separation of religion from life. You compartmentalize the two. "Religion is fine for old folks and children, but for anyone who has a brain, no thanks! We are more sophisticated than to believe in myths of the Bible. It really doesn't have anything to do with real life," the secularists say. These are truly individuals masquerading as sheep but are ravenous wolves. There is a great danger in this kind of thinking.  It can destroy a nation-- separating it from God. 

The separation of religion from life, secularism, is a very subtle thing. It whispers to us that it is okay to believe in Jesus and love religion, but these things don’t have anything to do with what is really important in our lives. The secularists would have us believe that there is nothing that religion can contribute to our understanding of society, of economics, of politics, of any of these things. By attempting to have us separate our spiritual life from the rest, secularism is a deceptive, insidious poison trying to tear us away from Jesus and his Church.

What would Jesus say to an individual who believed such things? Read Scripture! Did he not give to us truths by which we could live more positively and effectively in this real world? Secularism would have you deny that the teachings of Jesus work in the here and now.

The people that promote these heresies now as they have in the last two thousand years are not people with horns and evil looks in their eyes. They are people who are, to all appearances, very positive and very good--even righteous. Sometimes, some of the things that they say appeal to us as true and beneficial. But so much of what they say, if followed to its logical conclusion, would end in our spiritual destruction.  So Jesus was warning us, and He says, beware, "they come in sheep’s clothing but are ravenous wolves." 

In the end, how can we tell what is of God and what is of man? Jesus tells us very simply, "By their fruits, you will know them”.  What kind of fruits would we look for in true and authentic religion? That wouldn't be godly fruits. How will we be recognized by our Lord?  What fruits will He see in us?

Jesus our Lord intended that you and I receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth. He gave us that Spirit to dwell in us individually and collectively as a Church in order that we can discern what is true and authentic, what is false and damning. Jesus our Lord has given us the Holy Spirit in order that you and I can see whether or not our Church and community are upbuilding, whether they are growing, prospering, whether we really do care about one another. These things are of the Spirit; anything else isn't. And even though people masquerade in many different guises, they are not of God. We as Christians have to learn to discern the spirit of people and organizations. We have to see what would be the results of their thinking.  Truly, “by their fruits, you will know them.”                     

Bishop Edwin Tompkins

Source: Eighth Sunday after Trinity--August 13, 2000
Fr. William Sisterman
St. Dunstan's Anglican Church, Minneapolis, MN 

The Decalogue.

God spake these words, and said:

I am the LORD thy God; Thou shalt have none other gods but me.

Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not make to thyself any graven image, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, or in the water under the earth; thou shalt not bow down to them, nor worship them;

Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not take the Name of the LORD thy God in vain;

Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Remember that thou keep holy the Sabbath-day.

Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

 Honour thy father and thy mother;

Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt do no murder.

Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.

Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not steal.

Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour.

Lord, have mercy upon us, and incline our hearts to keep this law.

Thou shalt not covet

Lord, have mercy upon us, and write all these thy laws in our hearts, we beseech thee.


The Transfiguration of Christ.  [August 6]

O God, who on the mount didst reveal to chosen witnesses thine only-begotten Son wonderfully transfigured, in raiment white and glistering; Mercifully grant that we, being delivered from the disquietude of this world, may be permitted to behold the King in his beauty, who with thee, O Father, and thee, O Holy Ghost, liveth and reigneth, one God, world without end. Amen

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