Week of 6 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  The Rich and the Poor, Close Together

Image Source = eenthappana

Mercy and Impartiality

FEBRUARY 16, 2012

FEBRUARY 20, 2014

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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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James 2:1-13 (Revised English Bible):

My friends, you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ who reigns in glory and you must always be impartial.  For instance, two visitors may enter your meeting, one a well-dressed man with gold rings, and the other a poor man in grimy clothes.  Suppose you pay special attention to the well-dressed man and say to him,

Please take this seat,

while to the poor man you say,

You stand over there, or sit here on the floor by my footstool,

do you not see that you are discriminating among your members and judging by wrong standards?  Listen, my dear friends:  has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to possess the kingdom he has promised to those who love him?  And yet you have humiliated the poor man.  Moreover, are not the rich your oppressors?  Is it not they who drag you into court and pour contempt on the honoured name by which God has claimed you?

If, however, you are observing the sovereign law laid down in scripture,

Love your neighbor as you love yourself,

that is excellent.  But if you show partiality, you are committing a sin and you stand convicted by the law as offenders.   For if a man breaks just one commandment and keeps all the others, he is guilty of breaking all of them.  For he who said,

You shall not commit adultery,

said also,

You shall not commit murder.

If you commit murder you are a breaker of the law, even if you do not commit adultery as well.  Always speak and act as men who are to be judged under a law which makes them free.  In that judgement there will be no mercy  for the man who has shown none.  Mercy triumphs over judgement.

Psalm 72:1-4, 13-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give the King your justice, O God,

and your righteousness to the King’s Son;

2  That he may rule your people righteously

and the poor with justice;

3  That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people,

and the little hills bring righteousness.

4  He shall defend the needy among the people;

he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

13  He shall have pity on the lowly and the poor;

he shall preserve the lives of the needy.

14  He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence,

and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

Mark 8:27-33 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi, and on the way he asked his disciples,

Who do people say that I am?

They answered,

Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others one of the prophets.

He asked,

And you, who do you say that I am?

Peter replied,

You are the Messiah.

Then he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him; and he began to teach them that the Son of Man had to endure great suffering, and to be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes; to be put to death, and to rise again three days afterwards.  He spoke about it plainly.  At this Peter took hold of him and began to rebuke him.  But Jesus, turning and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter.

Out of my sight, Satan!

he said.

You think as men think, not as God thinks.

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The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/week-of-6-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

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Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye” when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

–Matthew 7:1-5, Revised Standard Version

and this:

Matthew 18:22-35, which I cover with this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-1/

One of the advantages to following a well-planned lectionary is reading certain books continuously.  If, however, one drops in during the continuous reading and does not orientate one’s self, one will not not notice the threads binding one portion of a book to others.  James 2:1-13 fits neatly with James 1 and, immediately, the rest of James 2.  (Read for yourself.)  At the end of James 1, for example, we read that pure religion–worship, rather–in the sight of God entails caring for widows and orphans (and other vulnerable people, we may extrapolate safely).

Then we read a condemnation of class-conscious preference and the predatory  rich, the kind of who drag the poor into court.

Fortunately, we read, mercy trumps judgment.  This is consistent with Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5 yet goes beyond that.  James 2:13 does say that, by showing mercy to others, we can erase our own sins.  I can understand why Martin Luther, who objected strongly to Roman Catholic theology of works, called James “an epistle of straw.”  But what if Luther overreacted?

A firm and balanced grasp of James 2:13 requires an understanding of faith, as Paul used that term in Romans, and faith, as James wrote of it.  Fortunately, I have covered that in a post, a link to which I have provided in this post.  It is sufficed to say here, however, that if one understands faith as intellectual and therefore works as necessary for justification, James 2:13 is consistent with the rest of the book.

There was much egalitarianism, especially across economic lines, in the early Church.  Unfortunately, as Christianity became respectable, mainstream, and even state-sponsored, it abandoned much of that ethic in favor of defending the status quo as God’s favored order.  To agitate for social justice, then, became a sin, according to the Church.  This state of affairs was itself a sin.

The predatory rich, who are distinct from the genuinely philanthropic and kindhearted wealthy, remain with us, as does the imperative to show mercy.  May all of us, regardless of our economic states, treat others with mercifully, obeying the Golden Rule.

KRT

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