Archive for September 2010

Week of 3 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 1   17 comments

Above:  Mithras and the Bull

Image Source = User:PHGCOM

Members of the Family

JANUARY 26, 2021

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 10:1-10 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For since the law has but  a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near.  Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered?  If the worshipers had once been cleansed, they would no longer have any consciousness of sin.  But in these sacrifices there is a reminder of sin year after year.  For it is impossible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins.

Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said,

Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired,

but a body have you prepared for me;

in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure.

Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God,’

as it is written of me in the roll of the book.

When he said above,

You have neither desired nor taken pleasure in sacrifices and offerings and burnt offerings and sin offerings (those are offered according to the law),

then he added,

Behold, I have come to do your will.

He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Psalm 40:1-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I waited patiently upon the LORD;

he stooped to me and heard my cry.

2 He lifted me out of the desolate pit, out of the mire and clay;

he set my feet upon a high cliff and made my footing sure.

3 He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God;

many shall see, and stand in awe,

and put their trust in the LORD.

4 Happy are they who trust in the LORD!

they do not resort to evil spirits or turn to false gods.

5 Great things are they that you have done, O LORD my God!

how great your wonders and your plans for us!

there is none who can be compared with you.

6 Oh, that I could make them known and tell them!

but they are more than I can count.

7 In sacrifice and offering you take no pleasure

(you have given me ears to hear you);

8 Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required,

and so I said, “Behold I come.

9 In the roll of the book it is written concerning me:

‘I love to do your will, O my God;

your law is deep in my heart.'”

10 I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation;

behold, I did not restrain my lips;

and that, O LORD, you know.

11 Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart;

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance;;

I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation.

Mark 3:31-35 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And his mother and his brethren came; and standing outside they sent to him and called him.

Your mother and your brethren are outside, asking for you.

And he replied,

Who are my mother and my brethren?

And looking around on those who sat about him, he said,

Here are my mother and my brethren.  Whoever does the will of God is my brother, and sister, and mother.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Sometimes I read a Bible story and think about how nice and comforting it is.  Holy Writ contains many such incidents.  It also contains those parts that cause me discomfort.  Among these is the reading from Mark.  Mary and some “brethren,” who could be her children by Joseph (They were married, and presumably in love, so what is this theology of perpetual virginity?) are concerned about Jesus.  They do not understand Jesus, whose mental health they question.  Then Jesus says this family members are those who do the will of God.  Translation:  “My flesh and blood do not understand me, so I adopt you, who listen to me, as my family.  Ours is a spiritual kinship.”

I feel the need to make a disclaimer, out of complete honesty.  As I write these words, I sit adjacent to a corner Marian shrine.  I count six images of Mary (mostly three-dimensional) plus a two-dimensional image of Joseph with young Jesus.  I like the Holy Family.  Yet Mary, as great as she was (and continues to be), did not always understand her firstborn son.  Part of the credibility of many Bible stories flows from the unflattering portraits of sympathetic figures–in this case, Mary of Nazareth, Mother of God.

Through Jesus all of us can become members of the family of God.  Through his death and resurrection we have adoption and no need to fear the power of death and evil.  We are not alone, and the power of God is peerless.

Mithras was a deity of Persian origin.  Mythology stated that his sacrifice of a bull atoned for the sins of the world.  Mithras was also the God of the Sun, and his cult was a major competitor of early Christianity in the Roman Empire.  Adherents to Mithraism, a male cult popular with Roman soldiers, underwent baptism, swore to adhere to a strict moral code, and attended rituals similar to a Mass.  Yet Mithras never walked the face of the earth or had dinner at anybody’s house.  He was a figment of many imaginations.  And, as the author of Hebrews states plainly, the blood of bulls cannot take away sins.

We Christians follow the genuine article, not a figment of imaginations.  And we are, by grace and faith, spiritual family members of that genuine article.  Will we strive to be properly thankful children of God?  I hope so.  We can never repay God for grace, but we can develop a healthy relationship with God and follow that wherever it leads.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/members-of-the-family/

Week of 3 Epiphany: Monday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Bonfire

Image Source = Fir0002

Blasphemy Against the Holy Spirit

JANUARY 25, 2021

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 9:15, 24-28 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant.

For Christ has entered , not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own; for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  But as it is, he has appeared once for all for the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly awaiting him.

Image Source = Raul654

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

2 With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

3 The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

4 He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

5 Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

6 Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

7 With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

8 Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

9 Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

Mark 3:19b-30 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Then he went home, and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat.  And when his friends heard it, they went out to seize him, for they said,

He is beside himself.

And the scribes who came down from Jerusalem said,

He is possessed by Beelzebul, and by the prince of demons he casts out the demons.

And he called to him and said to them in parables,

How can Satan cast out Satan?  If a kingdom is divided against itself, that kingdom cannot stand.  And if a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand. And if Satan has risen up against himself and is divided, he cannot stand, but is coming to an end.  But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man; then indeed he may plunder his house.

Truly I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they utter; but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”–for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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We humans like to judge each other.  Yet we have partial knowledge, so our judgments are prone to error, often of a severe nature.  God is the ultimate judge, however, and judgment belongs there properly.   We ought to demonstrate enough humility to recognize the limits of our knowledge and wisdom, and to leave judgment to God.

The Bible uses many metaphors for God.  Among these is “a consuming fire,” an image similar to representations of the Holy Spirit as tongues of flame.  With these facts in mind, I selected a Wikipedia image of a bonfire for this post.  The metaphor works on another level, too:  The unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, and unpardonable sin leads to Hell, depicted also with flames.

So, what is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit?  It is the inability to recognize goodness when a person sees it.  Thus one does not see one’s sin, and cannot ask pardon and repent of it.  So a person has erected a barrier between himself or herself and God.

Consider the context in Mark; scribes have attributed acts of God (and goodness) to Satan (and evil).  They were so spiritually blind that they could not bring themselves to recognize acts of mercy as such.  Perhaps they did this as psychological self-defense; often we humans see what we want to see and hear what we want to hear.  The possibility that we are wrong can prove devastating to our egos.  And, if we admit that we are wrong and act accordingly, we might endanger our livelihood and our social definition and standing.

But may we mere mortals refrain from proclaiming anyone as guilty of the unpardonable sin.  Such judgments reside properly within the purview of God alone.  Besides, I find that my own sins that I recognize as such keep me occupied; the sins of others are between them and God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/blasphemy-against-the-holy-spirit/

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A   20 comments

Above:  Cloud in Sunlight

A Little Bit of Light Makes a Big Difference

JANUARY 26, 2020

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Isaiah 9:1-4 (New Revised Standard Version):

But there will be no gloom for those who were in anguish.  In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he will make glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

The people who have walked in darkness

have seen a great light;

those who lived in a land of deep darkness–

on them light has shined.

You have multiplied the nation,

you have increased its joy;

they rejoice before you

as with joy at the harvest,

as people exult when dividing plunder.

For the yoke of their burden,

and the bar across their shoulders,

the rod of their oppressor,

you have broken as on the day of Midian.

Psalm 27:1, 4-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom shall I fear?

The LORD is the stronghold of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

One thing I asked of the LORD,

that will I seek after:

to live in the house of the LORD

all the days of my life,

to behold the beauty of the LORD,

and to inquire in his temple.

For he will hide me in his shelter

in the day of trouble;

he will conceal me under the cover of his tent;

he will set me high on a rock.

Now my head is lifted up

above my enemies all around me,

and I will offer in his tent

sacrifices with shouts of joy;

I will sing and make melody to the LORD.

Hear, O LORD, when I cry aloud,

be gracious to me and answer me!

Come,

my heart says,

seek his face!

Your face, LORD, do I seek.

Do not hide your face from me.

Do not turn your servant away in anger,

you who have been my help.

Do not cast me off, do not forsake me,

O God of my salvation!

1 Corinthians 1:10-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. What I mean is that each of you says,

I belong to Paul,

or

I belong to Apollos,

or

I belong to Cephas,

or

I belong to Christ.

Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power. For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

Matthew 4:12-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew to Galilee. He left Nazareth and made his home in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, so that what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled:

Land of Zebulon, land of Naphtali,

on the road by the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles–

the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light,

and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.

From that time Jesus began to proclaim,

Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.

As he walked by the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea– for they were fishermen. And he said to them,

Follow me, and I will make you fish for people.

Immediately they left their nets and followed him. As he went from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John, in the boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets, and he called them. Immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed him.

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing every disease and every sickness among the people.

The Collect:

Give us grace, O Lord, to answer readily the call of our Savior Jesus Christ and proclaim to all people the Good News of his salvation, that we and the whole world may perceive the glory of his marvelous works; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The central theme in the Sundays after the Epiphany is the spread of the Christian message to the Gentiles.  This reminds us that message of Jesus is for all people, that God seeks to draw all people around the heavenly throne.  St. Peter came to understand this lesson, that God shows no partiality, but that all who follow God please God, regardless of who they are or from where they come.

You, O reader, might notice that the readings for the Third Sunday after the Epiphany fit neatly with those for the Second Sunday.  This demonstrates the beauty and utility of a lectionary.  Thus my next remarks fit well with those for the previous Sunday.

Everyone has a calling from God to be a positive influence and a light.  The nature of light in darkness is such that even a little light makes a great difference; it can be the difference between standing in the pitch dark and having one’s bearings, knowing where one is and identifying the route one needs to take.  This light is for the common good, as are the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  So to use the light for selfish, self-aggrandizing ends is sinful and destructive to the faith community.  Actually, the faith community is at its peak when it permits everyone’s light to shine to its full potential.  Human divisions–such as politics, economics, gender, race, and ethnicity–are irrelevant to the potential of one’s light from God.

KRT

Written on June 15, 2010

Week of 2 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Christ in Majesty

Image Source = ich

More Than a Prophet

JANUARY 23, 2021

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 9:2-3, 11-14 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For a tent was prepared, the outer one, in which were the lampstand and the table and the bread offering; it is called the Holy Place.  Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies….

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once and for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but not his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

Psalm 47 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Clap your hands, all you peoples;

shout to God with a cry of joy.

2 For the LORD Most High is to be feared;

he is the great King over all the earth.

3 He subdues the peoples under us,

and the nations under our feet.

4 He chooses our inheritance for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

5 God has gone up with a shout,

the LORD with the the sound of the ram’s horn.

6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

7 For God is King of all the earth;

sing praises with all your skill.

8 God reigns over all the nations;

God sits upon his holy throne.

9  The nobles of the peoples have gathered together

with the people of the God of Abraham.

10 The rulers of the earth belong to God,

and he is highly exalted.

John 8:51-59 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Jesus said,

Truly, truly, I say to you, if any one keeps my word, he will never see death.

The Jews said to him,

Now we know that you have a demon.  Abraham died, as did the prophet; and you say, ‘If any one keeps my word, he will never taste death.’  Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died?  And the prophets died!  Who do you claim to be?

Jesus answered,

If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing; it is my Father who glorifies me, of whom you say that he is your God.  But you have not known him; I know him.  If I said, I do not know him, I should be a liar like you; but I do know him and I keep his word.  Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day; he saw it and was glad.

The Jews then said to him,

You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?

Jesus said to them,

Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.

So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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John Marsh, in his commentary on the Johannine Gospel (Pelican Books, 1968), labels the John 8:48-59 section “Demented or Divine?”  Indeed, if Jesus were not divine, he would have been demented.  I grew up with the canonical Gospels, so I understand them accordingly; I take some theological propositions for granted.  Yet, when I hear people relatively new to Christianity discuss these books, I hear a different take; Jesus would seem presumptuous at best and demented at worst if he were not speaking truthfully.  Ideas such as the deity of Jesus are “old hat” to me, and I see no reason to look at that hat twice.  I just wear the hat.

A few explanatory notes are in order:

  1. Leviticus 24:16 calls for the stoning of a blasphemer.
  2. Jesus referred to rabbinical interpretations of Abrahamic prophecies.  The citations are Genesis 15:8-21 and 17:17.
  3. Let us take note of the vitriol embedded in the Fourth Gospel, the last of the canonical Gospels written.  The Johannine Gospel dates from a time of Jewish-Christian conflict, which Christians were losing.  The Christians, then still technically Jews, were sufficiently marginalized that they referred to orthodox Jews as “the Jews.”

Now, back to our regularly scheduled programming….

The Jesus of Mark (which we read most of the time on this lectionary) is unlike the Christ of John.  In Mark Jesus orders people not to say who and what he is; he maintains his Messianic Secret until the end.  In John, however, he broadcasts who and what he is, even using the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew “I AM” in reference to himself.  All the Gospels are theological works grounded in history.  Mark, I suspect, is closer to history than is John.  None of this bothers me, for I am not and have never been a biblical literalist.

Anyhow, as the authors of Hebrews and John remind us, Jesus was no ordinary sage or prophet.  The author of Hebrews employs Greek philosophy to make the point that Jesus is the unblemished, sacrificial lamb.  The author of John understands the crucifixion Jesus as the exaltation and glorification of Jesus.  In the Johannine Gospel the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior occurs on Thursday, at the same time priests at the Temple are sacrificing animals.  The point is clear:  Jesus did not celebrate Passover that year; he was the Passover.

He was much more than a prophet.

And what will we do with this?  As the title of this post makes clear, this is an Epiphany devotion.  The theme of the season of Epiphany is taking the message of Jesus to the Gentiles.  We have a great treasure in Jesus, and we need to share it, not sit on it.  Even the calmest, most intellectual and well-reasoned explanation of Christianity can sound demented to someone from a different background.  It might sound demented to me had I not grown up within it.   Yet good catechetical pedagogy, combined with a life of faith and love of God, can prove effective in many cases.  May we try, at least.  We will not succeed with everybody; not even Jesus did.  Yet he succeeded well enough, did he not?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/more-than-a-prophet/

Week of 2 Epiphany: Friday, Year 1   6 comments

Above:  Coral Reef Biodiversity

Image Source = Richard Ling

The Universal Covenant of Christ

JANUARY 22, 2021

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 8:6-13 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

But, as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry which is much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.  For it that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second.

For he finds no fault with them when he says:

The days will come, says the Lord,

when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel

and with the house of Judah;

not like the covenant that I made with their fathers

on the day when I took them by the hand

to lead them out of the land of Egypt;

for they did not continue in my covenant,

and so I paid no heed to them, says the Lord.

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel

after those days, says the Lord:

I will put my laws into their minds,

and write them on their hearts,

and I will be their God,

and they shall be my people.

And they shall not teach every one of his fellow

or every one of his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’

and all shall know me,

from the least of them to the greatest.

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,

and I will remember their sins no more.

In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete.  And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

Psalm 85:7-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Show us your mercy, O LORD,

and grant us  your salvation.

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together,

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Mark 3:13-19 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him.  And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons:  Simon whom he surnamed Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes of a new covenant, one which God has instigated for people without regard for human distinctions.  We mere mortals are skilled at labeling ourselves and each other and transforming these into the basis for conflict:  clean vs. unclean, Jew vs. Gentile, White vs. Black, native-born vs. foreign-born, liberal vs. conservative, heterosexual vs. homosexual, male vs. female, Protestant vs. Roman Catholic, et cetera.  We are a tribal bunch, are we not?  Yet our notions of what is proper or clean do not bind God.

This theme runs through the canonical Gospels.  Jesus was on the outs with the religious establishment of his own religion, and he found faith among prostitutes, Roman collaborators, tax collectors (working for Rome), Gentiles attracted to Judaism (yet kept marginal by the orthodox), and notorious sinners.  Shame and honor are social constructs; one has or lacks them according to consensus.  By this standard, Jesus died shamefully.  Yet the instrument of his execution has become a symbol of triumph and a popular symbol for jewelry.

Let us consider the motley crew we call the Twelve Apostles.

  • Simon Peter was impetuous. He went on to deny Jesus three times before finding his sea legs and becoming the leader of the group.
  • Thomas was a healthy skeptic, and thus a good foil to Simon Peter’s tendency to blurt out unfortunate yet well-meant statements.
  • James and John, sons of Zebedee, were cousins of Jesus.  The standard translation of boanerges is “sons of thunder,” but I recall a now-deceased seminary professor saying that “hellraiser” is a better rendering of the word.
  • Matthew had been a tax collector for the Roman Empire.  The tax farming system was set up such that he and other tax collectors gathered more funds than the Empire required.  They passed along the Empire’s taxes and kept the rest for themselves.  They were literal tax thieves, not to mention collaborators.
  • Simon the Cananaean had been a violent revolutionary trying to expel the occupying Romans.
  • Judas Iscariot became disappointed in Jesus, whom he betrayed.
  • Unfortunately, we know little about some of the Apostles.  This is one area in which I would have asked the authors of the canonical Gospels for more information.
  • Ten of the Twelve Apostles died as martyrs.

The canonical Gospels (especially Mark) are clear that the Apostles misunderstood Jesus for years.  Others knew who and what Jesus was and what that meant (at least partially).  Yet the Apostles stand out in the Gospels as not being the brightest crayons in the box.

There is hope in this for you and me.  Jesus did not call he qualified; he qualified the called.  Our Lord and Savior recognized the potential in these men.  And it worked out well in 11 of 12 cases.  It did not work out well immediately, but I have my faith today in large part because of the Apostles and their actions.

The universal covenant of Christ defies human labels.  Jesus had both a former Roman tax collector and a former insurrectionist against Roman imperial rule within his inner circle.  Both Matthew and Simon found their unity in Jesus.

The universal covenant of Christ is written on human hearts and minds.  It is internalized, based on love of God.  This is a healthy spiritual relationship built on terror, but on trust, awe, and respect.  In this context social constructs, such as shame and honor, mean nothing.  Most of the Apostles died shamefully, according to human standards.  Yet their martyrdoms were not shameful, for these men died for the love of God and their fellow human beings.

In the early 1950s, during the McCarthy Era witchhunts, Doris Plenn wrote the following words:

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,

And hear their death-knell ringing,

When friends rejoice both far and near,

How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile,

Our thoughts to them go winging;

When friends by shame are undefiled,

How can I keep from singing?

I suspect that we humans like labels, such as “clean” and “unclean” because they help us order our world in ways convenient for us.  We tell ourselves that are “clean,” of course, and those different people are “unclean.”  We heap shame upon the heads of others when they have done nothing wrong and we excuse ourselves when we sin.  But God does not see as we do; God looks on the heart.  And, as Jesus said, certain prostitutes will enter Heaven before some of us, who think ourselves respectable, will.  So, what is certain?  The judgment, mercy, and wisdom of God, which exceed human understanding, are constant.  And, if that makes you uncomfortable, that might be a healthy spiritual sign, depending on what you do with that discomfort.  Will you examine yourself spiritually and be open to God, or will you resist?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/the-universal-covenant-of-christ/

Week of 2 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Jesus, Too Crowded

(This is a screen capture from the 2000 video of Jesus Christ Superstar, with Glenn Carter as Jesus.  The film is the property of Universal Pictures.)

Why Do We Seek Jesus (Assuming That We Do)?

JANUARY 21, 2021

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 7:23-8:7 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever.  Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; for he did this once for all when he offered up himself.  Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been make perfect for ever.

Now the point in what we are saying is this:  we have such a high priest, one who is seated at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven, a minister in the sanctuary and the true tent, which is set up not by man but by the Lord.  For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.  Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law.  They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly sanctuary; for when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying,

See that you make everything according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry which is much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is enacted on better promises.  For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second.

Psalm 40:8-12, 17-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required,

and I said, “Behold, I come.

9 In the roll of the book it is written concerning me:

‘I love to do your will, O my God;

your law is deep within my heart.'”

10 I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation;

behold, I did not restrain my lips;

and that, O LORD, you know.

11 Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart;

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance;

I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation.

12 You are the LORD;

do not withhold your compassion from me;

let your love and your faithfulness keep me safe for ever,

17 Let all who seek you rejoice in you and be glad;

let those who love your salvation continually say,

“Great is the LORD!”

18 Though I am poor and afflicted,

The LORD will have regard for me.

19 You are my helper and my deliverer;

do not tarry, O my God.

Mark 3:7-12 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon a great multitude haring all that he did, came to him.  And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they should crush him, for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him.  And whenever the unclean spirits saw him, they fell down before him and cried out,

You are the Son of God.

And he strictly ordered them not to make him known.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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(Another Screen Capture)

We all have needs.  Many of us take these to God, as our religious traditions and aspects thereof, including our sacred texts, tell us to do.  There is nothing wrong with this.  Do we stop there, however?  Is prayer little or nothing more than presenting God with a “honey do” list?

We–you and I–and have been following the Gospel According to Mark.  (The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following for these devotions entails doing this for almost all of the Epiphany Season.)  Jesus has worked astounding miracles and begun to attract much attention to himself.  The desperately poor and sick of his region have flocked to him, and the stress has gotten to him.  The man needed some time away, too.  Even Jesus needed to be alone.   He needed to be where people did not seek anything from him.

Jesus is more than our perfect, celestial high priest, a role of which the author of the Letter to the Hebrews reminds us eloquently.  Jesus is also our passover lamb, our Messiah, a great sage, and our Lord and Savior.  He is our role model.  And I propose that we ought to seek him for these reasons.  We should seek to please him, as best we can.  As the old quote says, “I don’t know how to please you, Lord, but I think the fact that I try to please you, pleases you.”

Speaking of Jesus as role model…..

If Jesus needed quiet time, we do, too.  If Jesus needed to escape the demands of others, even for a little while, so do we.  I write from a society replete with computers, pagers, email, cellular phones, blackberries, and many other electronic devices.  I have chosen to forgo these, except for computers, email, and cellular phones, which have become necessities in my life.  The rest, however, are purely optional, and I opt out.  One can be too accessible too much of the time, and sometimes I want to isolate myself from the rest of the world for a few hours at a time.  So I do.  That time is wonderful.

God speaks to us frequently, but how often to we listen?  We cannot pay God adequate attention if other stimuli distract us.  And we must be quiet in order to listen.   We cannot seek Jesus properly if we do not study his life and teachings.  All of these efforts require us to devote ourselves to reading and contemplating, among other tasks.  These, in turn, are possible only if we turn off the electric and electronic distractions at certain times.  And then we might hear God speaking, and we will know why we seek God?

Why do I seek God within the context of Christianity?  I do this because of the person who was Jesus on this planet.  One can never uncover the full reality of the historical Jesus, in the sense that one can understand who other people were.  The Gospels are not biographies, in the sense that we moderns think of biography.  They tell us how others understood him, and they omit many details.  Yet I can and do know that the historical Jesus was a remarkable and brave figure whom the Roman Empire executed as an insurrectionist.  He was a rebel, of sorts, but that is a high compliment.  The execution of Jesus was an act of state-sponsored terrorism, judicial murder, and scapegoating, but the death of Jesus was an act of love.  It signified, among other things, that God does not desire scapegoating.  And, by faith, I believe that Jesus was far more than this.  By faith I understand that the divine power to resurrect Jesus is unconquerable.  Christ is the victor. Although the Roman Empire executed Jesus, who was love incarnate, it could not kill love.

These are just some of the reasons I seek Jesus.

KRT

Glenn Carter as Jesus

(Another Screen Capture)

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/why-do-we-seek-jesus-assuming-that-we-do/

Week of 2 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Ruins of the Capernaum Synagogue, Built in the 300s C.E.

Good Works are Lawful Every Day

JANUARY 20, 2021

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 7:1-3, 15-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him; and to him Abraham apportioned a tenth part of everything.  He is first, by translation of his name, king of righteousness, and then he is without father or mother or genealogy, and has neither beginning of days nor end of life, but resembling the Son of God he continues a priest for ever.

This becomes even more evident when another priest in the likeness of Melchizedek, and who has become a priest, not according to a legal requirement concerning bodily descent but by the power of an indestructible life.  But it is witnessed of him,

You are a priest for ever,

according to the order of Melchizedek.

Psalm 110 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2 The LORD will send the scepter of your power out of Zion,

saying, “Rule over your enemies round about you.

3 Princely state has been yours from the day of your birth;

in the beauty of holiness have I begotten you,

like dew from the womb of the morning.”

4 The LORD has sworn and he will not recant;

“You are a priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek.”

5 The Lord who is at your right hand

will smite kings in the day of his wrath;

he will rule over the nations.

6 He will heap high the corpses;

he will smash heads over the wide earth.

7 He will drink from the brook beside the road;

therefore he will lift high his head.

Mark 3:1-6 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.  And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him.  And he said to the man who had the withered hand,

Come here.

And he said to them,

Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?

But they were silent.  And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.”  He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Is it lawful to perform a good and kind work on the sabbath?  Or, to state the matter another way, is it ever wrong to do something good and kind?  Jesus’ answer is that goodness and kindness are lawful in the eyes of God at all times and all places.  This seems obvious to me, but why was it not obvious to our Lord’s critics in the Gospel reading?

There is much depth and subtlety in the reading from Hebrews.  Part of  it is this:  Jesus is the great high priest because of who he is, not due to his lineage.  Thus he stands apart from human religious establishments, especially priesthoods.  The Gospels tell many stories of Jesus contradicting something one of the religious parties (or a representative thereof) of his time advocated or did.  He stood apart from them.  Many people become quite defensive about religion, and some take this mindset to malicious extremes.

Religion which is inherently self-defensive is negative, and can turn easily against any good soul who just happens to have another opinion.  In the case of these certain Pharisees, they turned against Jesus (truly a good person) and enlisted the help of Herodians, natural rivals.  But the enemy of my enemy is friend, as the old saying goes.  Even if one were not familiar with the Synoptic Gospel narrative, one reading Mark closely should pick up some foreboding hints about the fate of Jesus by now.

These Pharisees were holding onto their traditions and egos, and others be damned.  Jesus be damned, they said, in so many words.  The unfortunate man with a withered hand be damned, they said, in so many words.  The man with a withered hand could not use that hand to hold onto anything, so he had nothing to lose but everything to gain.  These Pharisees, however, had everything to lose.

Jesus taught by his words and his deeds that good works and simple human kindness are always righteous.  Today we have other cultural and legal restrictions against good works and simple human kindness.  Some basic facts never change, only the details, such as names, dates, places, and clauses.  Yet some facts remain constant.  God is love.  God commands us love God fully, and our neighbors as ourselves.  The Golden Rule still applies.  And good deeds and simple acts of kindness are righteous at any time and any place.

I encourage you, O reader, to devote yourself to ever-increasing good and kind works for the benefit of others, especially those who will never be able to repay you in any way.  Do this for the others and for God.  And know that, along the way, you will attract criticism, sometimes from people who should know better.  Some things never change, but neither does the divine mandate to love each other.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/good-works-are-lawful-every-day/

Week of 2 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  A Corn Field

Love, the Final Arbiter

JANUARY 19, 2021

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 6:10-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed us for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.  And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the same assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

For when God made a promise to to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore to himself, saying,

Surely I will bless you and multiply you.

And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise.  Men indeed swear by a greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.  So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, and a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Psalm 111 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

2 Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

4 He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

7 The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

8 They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

9 He sent redemption to his people;

he commanded his covenant for ever;

holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.

Mark 2:23-28 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  And the Pharisees said to him,

Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?

And he said to them,

Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him; how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the showbread, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?

And he said to them,

The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The Pharisees (most, not all of them) are among the bete noires of the canonical Gospels.  These very publicly pious people criticize Jesus, his Apostles, and even some people he healed again and again.  In all likelihood these critics did what they understood righteousness to require of them.  I prefer to extend to them the benefit of the doubt; they were wrong, but sincerely so.  They did not wake up each morning and plot how to be difficult spiritually, although much of what they did and the Gospels report to us constituted such.

Indeed, I think that we need to check ourselves for signs of being contemporary counterparts of the Pharisees.  Christian denominations have built up traditions over thousands and hundreds of years.  Many of these are functional and constructive, even beautiful.  Yet even something useful and beautiful can become an idol, if we transform it into that.  And ossification of tradition can occur easily, rendering us inflexible in the habits of our minds.  The stories of Jesus teach us many valuable lessons, including the importance of avoiding such ossification.

Consider this day’s reading from Mark.  Jesus and his Apostles violated many sabbath laws observant Pharisees kept.  There were many arcane sabbath laws, which split hairs more finely than any Philadelphia lawyer.  Taken together, the sabbath laws permitted preventing an emergency situation from getting worse yet forbade making it better.  For example, one could apply a plain bandage but not ointment to an injured finger on the sabbath.  So you should not be surprised to learn that plucking and eating corn was illegal on the sabbath.  Doing so remedied hunger, but that meant making something better.

This is a twisted way to think about the sabbath, is it not?  It transforms the sabbath, which is supposed to a gift and a marker of freedom (slaves did not get days off) into a burden and something to manage with the help of a very long checklist of forbidden activities.  Puritans did it too, and many observant self-professing Christians and Jews continue to treat the sabbath in this way.  We should not neglect the sabbath, of course, but we ought not treat it like a burden and an occasion of legalism, either.

Back to our story….

Jesus reminded his critics of scriptural precedents for what he had done.  In 1 Samuel 21:1-6, Exodus 25:23-30, and Leviticus 24:9 we find the relevant information about David and the showbread.  Mentioning David, the revered king, was powerful rhetorical tool, although it certainly did not impress hyper-critical Pharisees.  It did, however, point out the hypocrisy of Jesus’ critics, who were not the intended audience for the Gospel According to Mark.  So the comment finds its target even today, at least some of the time.  I wonder, though, how often well-intentioned Christians miss the power of this story, perhaps more out of a “I know that story already” attitude, if nothing else.

William Barclay, in his insightful commentary on the Gospel reading, points out that “Religion does not consist in rules and regulations” and “The best way to use sacred things is to use them for men.”  In other words, it is sinful to refuse to apply religious laws to prevent starving and very hungry people from eating–sabbath or not.  This principle applies to physical realities beyond hunger; it pertains to helping people with whatever distresses them.  Barclay concludes his section of the reading from Mark with this sentence:  “The final arbiter in the use of all things is love and not law.”

I could not have said it better.

We have a loving God and Lord.  The works of God are marvelous and utterly spectacular.  And Jesus became not only our priest but our passover lamb.  That demonstrates love, does it not?  So we ought to display love, as well, and not hide behind laws which reinforce self-righteousness and make excuses for oppressing people and not helping them.   We have a mandate from God to care for others and to love them as we love ourselves.  God has commanded us to care for the vulnerable among us.  We might make excuses for why we fail to do this, but that does not erase our sin in the eyes of God.

One of my favorite deceased people was the actor Andreas Katsulas (1946-2006).  He played the one-armed man in the film version of The Fugitive.  He also portrayed Commander Tomalok on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Ambassador G’Kar on Babylon 5.  Katsulas was a practicing Greek Orthodox and an excellent chef.  Part of his Sunday ritual involved cooking meals for homeless people.  This would have violated the Pharisees’ sabbath codes, but it did demonstrate love.

May we compete with one another in demonstrating love for our fellow human beings every day of the week.  Let us lay aside tendencies toward one upsmanship, self-righteousness, and public displays of piety meant to make us look good.  May we listen to one another more and more often, and shout at each other less and less often.  May we love one another in attitudes, words, and deeds.  May that be our law.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/love-the-final-arbiter/

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Barnabas Episcopal-Lutheran Worshiping Community, Jefferson City, Tennessee

(Their website is here:  http://stbarnabas.etdiocese.net/)

Let Us Emphasize Our Common Ground and Build On It

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From Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), the hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

Isaiah 2:2-4

Psalm 122

Ephesians 4:1-6

John 17:15-23

God our Father, your Son Jesus Christ prayed that his followers might be one.  Make all Christians one with him as he is one with you, so that in peace and concord we may carry to the world the message of your love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

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Now, for my thoughts….

We Christians have divided ourselves into competing theological and liturgical tribes since the earliest decades of the Jesus movement.  For confirmation of this, read the New Testament epistles.  Sometimes these divisions are silly or based on ego gratification.  Other times, however, the matters are weightier.  Yet the tragedy of schism remains, even after stated issues which people used to justify the schism have become moot points or ceased to points of contention.  Inertia preserves a high degree of divisiveness within Christianity.

Sometimes schisms remain insurmountable.  Yet this fact should not prevent Christians of good will from reaching across boundaries to identify and build upon common ground, to do something positive and for the glory of God together.  I do not expect the Anabaptists and Roman Catholics to reconcile, but they can cooperate.  Last Sunday afternoon I listened to a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio interview with a Mennonite pastor who maintains a close faith-based relationship with nearby Catholic monks, often praying with them.

And I believe that when two or more denominations cease to have good reasons to remain separate they should open negotiations to unite organically.  But when issues, such as baptismal theology, prevent a merger, the groups can still cooperate on other matters.  We Christians have more in common with each other than not.  May we build on that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2010

THE FEAST OF ST. BARNABAS THE APOSTLE

THE FEAST OF THE REVEREND VERNON JOHNS, U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS PIONEER

Week of 2 Epiphany: Monday, Year 1   19 comments

Above:  Spring Flowers

Image Source = Anita Martinz

Enjoying God and Life

JANUARY 18, 2021

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 5:1-10 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.  Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as those of the people.  And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

You are my Son,

today I have begotten you;

as he says also in other place,

You are a priest for ever,

according to the order of Melchizedek.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear.  Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Psalm 110 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2 The LORD will send the scepter of your power out of Zion,

saying, “Rule over your enemies round about you.

3 Princely state has been yours from the day of your birth;

in the beauty of holiness have I begotten you,

like dew from the womb of the morning.”

4 The LORD has sworn and he will not recant;

“You are a priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek.”

5 The Lord who is at your right hand

will smite kings in the day of his wrath;

he will rule over the nations.

6 He will heap high the corpses;

he will smash heads over the wide earth.

7 He will drink from the brook beside the road;

therefore he will lift high his head.

Mark 2:18-22 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him,

Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?

And Jesus said to them,

Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?  As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.  No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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What is the chief and highest end of man?

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

–Question #1 from the Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), as printed in The Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1965)

I am a ritualist.  I admit this fact freely and without compunction.  Rituals are crucial to the healthy maintenance of society, and anyone who says otherwise is mistaken.  Ritualism is like any other good thing in so far as that it can become a bad thing if one takes it too far, though.  An icon is something or someone through which we see God; an idol distracts us from God.  A ritual can be either an icon or an idol, depending on what we choose to make it.

Consider fasting, for example.  This can be a healthy spiritual exercise.  Yet, when one approaches it from the wrong angle, fasting becomes an occasion of pride, not humility.  First Century C.E. Palestinian Judaism came with one compulsory fast day, the Day of Atonement.  Many especially observant Jews chose to fast from 6:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. each Monday and Thursday, too.  There was no fault in this practice, assuming that one did not approach it as a way to display one’s holiness before others and hopefully to attract God’s favor.  Jesus rejected such displays, preferring instead to enjoy food, often in the company of disreputable people, as in the Gospel reading from Saturday.  Now that was a different kind of display, was it not?

How would you react or respond if your pastor or priest spent much time dining with disreputable people, not engaging in public activities associated commonly with holiness?  How long would he or she remain in your parish or mission congregation?  Think about it.  The more we are like Jesus, the less respectable we become.  The Jesus of many imaginations is a respectable, even bourgeoisie, figure.  This version of Jesus is a fiction.  The real Jesus was scandalous.  And we are called to follow him.

And Jesus enjoyed life, eating much food and drinking much wine.  He savored wonderful conversation, too.  Enjoying life is a call of every Christian, therefore.  From time to time  I have had the great displeasure of meeting and having to spend too much time in the company of a self-professing Christian with no apparent sense of humor.  You, O reader, might have had the same experience.  Life is a gift of God; let us enjoy it in God and glorify God through it.

May we delight in all that is beautiful, good, and meritorious.  Koholeth, the author of Ecclesiastes, reminds us that there is a time and a season for everything. Taking proper times and seasons into account is part of determining if something is beautiful, good, and meritorious.  We follow the greatest high priest, who can and does identify with us.  The fact of his Incarnation, followed by his life and our Atonement, ought to comfort us.  So why should we walk around looking as if our parents weaned us on dill pickles?

Laugh. Chortle.  Have a good belly laugh.  Enjoy staring at cloud formations.  Dare I say it, even tell atrocious puns.  Savor a well-written novel or poem.  And enjoy God during all of it.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/enjoying-god-and-life/