Fifth Sunday of Trinity


Old Testament

Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. Then Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah, saying, ‘So may the gods do to me, and more also, if I do not make your life like the life of one of them by this time tomorrow.’ Then he was afraid; he got up and fled for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongs to Judah; he left his servant there.

But he himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a solitary broom tree. He asked that he might die: ‘It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life, for I am no better than my ancestors.’[ Then he lay down under the broom tree and fell asleep. Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him, ‘Get up and eat.’ He looked, and there at his head was a cake baked on hot stones, and a jar of water. He ate and drank, and lay down again. The angel of the Lord came a second time, touched him, and said, ‘Get up and eat, otherwise the journey will be too much for you.’] He got up, and ate and drank; then he went in the strength of that food for forty days and forty nights to Horeb the mount of God. At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there.

Then the word of the Lord came to him, saying, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’

He said, ‘Go out and stand on the mountain before the Lord, for the Lord is about to pass by.’ Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, ‘What are you doing here, Elijah?’ He answered, ‘I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.’ Then the Lord said to him, ‘Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.

1 Kings 19:1–4 [5–7] 8–15a


1 As the deer longs for the water brooks, •

so longs my soul for you, O God.

2 My soul is athirst for God, even for the living God;•

when shall I come before the presence of God?

3 My tears have been my bread day and night, •

while all day long they say to me, ‘Where is now your God?’

4 Now when I think on these things, I pour out my soul: •

how I went with the multitude

and led the procession to the house of God,

5 With the voice of praise and thanksgiving, •

among those who kept holy day.

6 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, •

and why are you so disquieted within me?

7 O put your trust in God; •

for I will yet give him thanks,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

8 My soul is heavy within me; •

therefore I will remember you from the land of Jordan,

and from Hermon and the hill of Mizar.

9 Deep calls to deep in the thunder of your waterfalls; •

all your breakers and waves have gone over me.

10 The Lord will grant his loving-kindness in the daytime; •

through the night his song will be with me,

a prayer to the God of my life.

11 I say to God my rock,

‘Why have you forgotten me, •

and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresses me?’

12 As they crush my bones, my enemies mock me; •

while all day long they say to me, ‘Where is now your God?’

13 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, •

and why are you so disquieted within me?

14 O put your trust in God; •

for I will yet give him thanks,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 42

1 Give judgement for me, O God,

and defend my cause against an ungodly people; •

deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.

2 For you are the God of my refuge;

why have you cast me from you, •

and why go I so heavily, while the enemy oppresses me?

3 O send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me, •

and bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling,

4 That I may go to the altar of God,

to the God of my joy and gladness; •

and on the lyre I will give thanks to you, O God my God.

5 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul, •

and why are you so disquieted within me?

6 O put your trust in God; •

for I will yet give him thanks,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Psalm 43


Now before faith came, we were imprisoned and guarded under the law until faith would be revealed. Therefore the law was our disciplinarian until Christ came, so that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer subject to a disciplinarian, for in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith. As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:23–29


Then they arrived at the country of the Gerasenes, which is opposite Galilee. As he stepped out on land, a man of the city who had demons met him. For a long time he had worn no clothes, and he did not live in a house but in the tombs. When he saw Jesus, he fell down before him and shouted at the top of his voice, ‘What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I beg you, do not torment me’— for Jesus had commanded the unclean spirit to come out of the man. (For many times it had seized him; he was kept under guard and bound with chains and shackles, but he would break the bonds and be driven by the demon into the wilds.) Jesus then asked him, ‘What is your name?’ He said, ‘Legion’; for many demons had entered him. They begged him not to order them to go back into the abyss. Now there on the hillside a large herd of swine was feeding; and the demons begged Jesus to let them enter these. So he gave them permission. Then the demons came out of the man and entered the swine, and the herd rushed down the steep bank into the lake and was drowned. When the swineherds saw what had happened, they ran off and told it in the city and in the country. Then people came out to see what had happened, and when they came to Jesus, they found the man from whom the demons had gone sitting at the feet of Jesus, clothed and in his right mind. And they were afraid. Those who had seen it told them how the one who had been possessed by demons had been healed. Then all the people of the surrounding country of the Gerasenes asked Jesus to leave them; for they were seized with great fear. So he got into the boat and returned. The man from whom the demons had gone begged that he might be with him; but Jesus sent him away, saying, ‘Return to your home, and declare how much God has done for you.’ So he went away, proclaiming throughout the city how much Jesus had done for him.

Luke 8:26–39

Sermon on Fifth Sunday of Trinity

For the past few weeks I have been spending a lot of time at the Existentialist Café. My cogitations over their peach brandy cordials have centred on each week’s readings and this week we have continued to read in Galatians and the theme I would like to consider is justification by faith – in other words, how we christians live in hope. Like Paul, the existentialists always want to describe what things are in themselves, whether they are the psychological aspects of life, or the facts of the matter, while Paul writes about his relation to Jesus Christ his Lord.

Last week we read that there is no limitation on any person, and we read this week, in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, nor male nor female. Paul’s thought frees every one of us from any strictures of citizenship, or race, and even, dare I say it, creed. Nothing forms a boundary between one and another, the wall of definition is not built anywhere in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. In fact, according to some of the existentialists, the Other is the primary category of understanding for authentic human being.

For others among the existentialists, the I is only a reflection of the Other person – that I am only evaluated in the gaze of the Other, just as the Other is only real in my gaze. Distinction is gone, so the Gerazene demoniac’s question “What do you have to do with me?” makes no sense to us christians, for everyone is in everyone else’s care, within their gaze. Jesus and the mad-man of the desert are brothers in a very profound way, they will keep each other just as the Samaritan was to keep that poor man beaten on the road. This is the existentialist ethic, a situation ethic, where the individual treats the Other as one’s self – the christian loving one another as oneself – at every distinct moment.

Jesus pushes us into the present situation so that we will act without compunction to do what is good and right. Jesus frees us to live out our goodness, not hide it behind the many excuses we have for acting just as badly as everyone else.

Paul writes that we are freed by faith and we are not determined by the disciplinarian of the law, we are very different from all other objects in the world. The existentialists also wanted to show human being as freedom personified. An authentic person does not pay any attention to what ‘they’ say about him or her. The ‘they’ are the collective who say things about life, the universe and everything. ‘They’ say the answer is, perhaps, “42”, but do we really believe that?

‘They’ say immigration is deleterious to life in the UK, but do we have to believe that? ‘They’ say we need to work 40 hours or more a week, but do we? There are so many things ‘they say’ that will confine us into lives of desperation, the lives the philosopher disparages because he knows there are better ways of living.

What does the philosopher say about what ‘they’ say? We have to work out our own answer, he says – we may work it out to be 42 but we should work it out for ourselves, not just accept what ‘they’ say. In connection with this, doesn’t he say that the unexamined life is not worth living? The philosopher and Jesus don’t give us an easy way out, do they? They thrust us into our own freedom to do the good – and they compel us to consider what the good is in our own lives. What do I say about immigration? Do we stick with what ‘they’ argue – about what is to our benefit? Do we calculate costs and create a scale of benefits and disadvantage and choose what will be to our profit? What about the value of the Other? Doesn’t the Other weigh more in our calculus of merit than money? So we may never come back to that answer of 42 ever again.

We must, however, live in that realm of freedom where we are to do what is good. The ‘they’ will never allow that. The ‘they’, like the authoritarian law, does not allow us to make our own decisions about what is right and good. In fact the disciplinarian does not encourage us to come to our own decisions at all.

The disciplinarian does not trust any one person to make any decision for the good or the right. I wonder does an authoritarian Church do the same? What about strict parents?

We find this question in all aspects of our lives don’t we? “Health and safety” is a wonderful example of how the ‘they’ constrains us. I cannot make my own mind up about playing conkers for instance, because “health and safety” says it is too dangerous. When does risk begin? When is there clear and present danger? The ‘they’ set the boundaries and we are expected to live within those confines, aren’t we? The ‘they’ have always been around. – Thirty years ago it was the “job’s worth”. – During world war two, it was the secret police (whatever the country) or the spy (so we would keep our lips shut tight, so no ship would sink). – In Jesus’ day ‘they’ were the foreign oppressors. Sometimes the constraining agent is a transcendent ‘fate’ which confined people into a straightjacket with no choice nor personal thought and commitment. Paul is making it difficult for anyone to be disciplined by anyone other than Christ, isn’t he? But what does the Christ do to us when we have sinned?

Doesn’t Jesus say time and again, “Go and sin no more”? He doesn’t rant. He doesn’t berate us. As the children’s hymn says, “Jesus loves me – this I know.” Love is a very different way of disciplining the wayward. When we are loved, life is given to us, no longer is there any impediment constraining us in the way we behave. When we are loved, life is a joy for which we are totally responsible. We take care of ourselves and our neighbours near and far. We become our own burden – and we end up singing “He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.” I think this should be our song because self and other are indistinguishable – so there is no weight other than our consciences which bear down so excruciatingly when each one of us is allowed to act out the promise.

The situation is this – we have to live authentically, to pursue the good at every point. Christians and existentialists agree here. We have to follow Jesus’ word to ‘go and sin no more’. What more can there be to the moral life? What more can we do to live ethically in every situation? Going out and sinning no more is not so easy, because there is no rule book which confines us. every situation is open and draws out the good from the core of our being, from our faith, from our hope, from our love.


This sermon is from Stilman Davis. It is copyrighted. You are welcome to use it, but put some extra money in the plate if you do.

Sermons are spoken. They whistle in the wind and enter your ears to echo for some time between them. However, sermons are destined to go on into the distance after they have resonated with you.