Archive for the ‘Agape’ Tag

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   15 comments

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image Source = Library of Congress

Rejecting Agape

FEBRUARY 3, 2019

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Jeremiah 1:1-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The words of Jeremiah, son of Hilkiah, one of the priests at Anathoth in the territory of Benjamin.  The word of the LORD came to him in the days of King Josiah son of Amon of Judah, in the thirteenth year of his reign, and throughout the days of Jehoiakim son of Josiah of Judah, and until the end of the eleventh year of King Zedekiah son of Josiah son of Judah, when Jerusalem went into exile in the fifth month.

The word of the LORD came to me:

Before I created you in the womb, I selected you;

Before you were born, I consecrated you;

I appointed you a prophet concerning the nations.

I replied:

Ah, Lord GOD!

I don’t know how to speak,

For I am still a boy.

And the LORD said to me:

Do not say, “I am still a boy,”

But go wherever I send you

And speak whatever I command you.

Have no fear of them,

For I am with you to deliver them

–declares the LORD.

The LORD put out His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me:

Herewith I put My words into your mouth.

See, I appoint you this day

Over nations and kingdoms:

To uproot and to pull down,

To destroy and to overthrow,

To build and to plant.

Psalm 71:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;

let me never be ashamed.

2  In your righteousness, deliver me and set me free;

incline your ear to me and save me.

3  Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe;

you are my crag and my stronghold.

4  Deliver me, my God, from the hand of the wicked,

from the clutches of the evildoer and the oppressor.

5  For you are my hope, O Lord GOD,

my confidence since I was young.

6  I have been sustained by you ever since I was born;

from my mother’s womb you have been my strength;

my praise shall be always of you.

1 Corinthians 13:1-13 (New American Bible):

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.   It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.  If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present, I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am known.  So faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Luke 4:21-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

And he [Jesus] won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

They said,

This is Joseph’s son, surely?

But he replied,

No doubt you will quote the saying, “Physician, heal yourself” and tell me, “We have heard all that happened in Capernaum, do the same here in your own countryside.”

And he went on,

I tell you solemnly, no prophet is ever accepted in his own country.

There were many widows in Israel, I can assure you, in Elijah’s day, when heaven remained shut for three years and six months and a great famine raged throughout the land, but Elijah was not sent to any one of those; he was sent to a widow at Zarephath, a Sidonian town.  And in the prophet Elisha’s time there were many lepers in Israel, but none of these was cured, except the Syrian, Naaman.

When they heard this everyone in the synagogue was enraged.  They sprang to their feet and hustled him out of town; and they took him up to the brow of the hill their town was built on, intending to throw him down the cliff, but he slipped through the crowd and walked away.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; 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:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/forgive-our-lack-of-love-prayer-of-confession-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphan/

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Love bade me welcome; yet my soul drew back,

Guilty of dust and sin.

But quickeyed Love, observing me grow slack

From my first entrance in,

Drew nearer to me, sweetly questioning,

If I lacked anything.

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“A guest,” I answered, “worthy to be here.”

Love said, “You shall be he.”

“I the unkind, ungrateful? Ah, my dear,

I cannot look on thee.”

Love took my hand, and smiling did reply,

“Who made the eyes but I?”

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“Truth, Lord, but I have marred them.  Let my shame

Go where it doth deserve.”

“And know you not,” says Love,  “who bore the blame?

My dear, then, I will serve.

You must sit down,” says Love, “and taste my meat.”

So I did sit and eat.

–George Herbert (1633)

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The love in 1 Corinthians 13 is agape.  There are four types of love in the New Testament, with agape being the highest form.  For a description of agape I turn to Volume X (1953), page 167 of The Interpreter’s Bible:

Agape is another kind of love which roots in the undeserved goodness men have received in Christ.

Agape is a type of love which extends to one’s enemies, looks past mutual interests, and is not merely sentimental.  It is the love which God has for us.  Thus agape is crucial, greater even than faith and hope, which are also commendable and of God.

This was the love which qualified Jeremiah and kept him company on his difficult vocation, one fraught with rejection.  And this was the love which Jesus, also rejected, embodied in a unique way.  This was the love those who tried to kill him at Nazareth lacked.

Agape is hard for many people to practice, for we are flawed.  This statement applies to me.  But I like agape; I seek to come nearer to living it.  One poetic expression of the essence of agape is the George Herbert poem I have quoted in this post.  My choir at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, has sung the Ralph Vaughan Williams setting of it.  The text speaks to me of what I have received and continue to receive from God.  I can do better, by grace, and I am.  And I have much room for improvement.

Agape is also intolerable for many people.  They seek to destroy it.  The reason for this, I suppose, is that it reminds them of their shortcomings.  And, instead of admitting those failings, some people react defensively and fearfully.  Thus violent people have, throughout history and into the present day, persecuted pacifists, from Quakers to Anabaptists to Mohandas Gandhi to Martin Luther King, Jr.  New England Puritans hanged Quakers in colonial times.  Anabaptists in Europe and elsewhere have attracted a host of foes.  There was, for example, state-sanctioned persecution of Amish and Mennonite conscientious objectors in the United States during World War I.  And Gandhi and King became victims of assassins.  Before King’s death many of his self-identified conservative coreligionists condemned his stances on civil rights and the Vietnam War.  (I have notecards full of citations, quotes, and summaries from back issues of The Presbyterian Journal, which midwifed the Presbyterian Church in America in the early 1970s.  The Journal, publishing immediately after King’s death, continued to condemn him.)

Our human intolerance for agape has caused quite a body count to accumulate.  May God forgive us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/rejecting-agape/

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Week of 8 Epiphany: Friday, Year 2   9 comments

Above:  A Depiction of an Agape Feast from the Roman Catacombs

“Agape cancels a host of sins….”

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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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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1 Peter 4:7-13 (Revised English Bible):

The end of all things is upon us; therefore to help you pray you must lead self-controlled and sober lives.  Above all, maintain the fervour of your love for one another, because love cancels a host of sins.  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.  As good stewards of the varied gifts given you by God, let each use the gift he has received in service to others.  Are you a speaker?  Speak as one who utters God’s oracles.  Do you give service?  Give it in the strength which God supplies.  In all things let God be glorified through Jesus Christ; to him belong glory and power for ever and ever.

Dear friends, do not be taken aback by the fiery ordeal which has come to test you, as though it were something extraordinary.  On the contrary, in so far as it gives you a share in Christ’s sufferings, you should rejoice; and then when his glory is revealed, your joy will be unbounded.

Psalm 96:7-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  ”The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

Mark 11:11-26 (Revised English Bible):

(Note:  Mark 11:1-10 tells of Jesus borrowing a colt and entering Jerusalem.)

He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.  He looked round at everything; then, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

On the following day, as they left Bethany, he felt hungry, and, noticing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it.  But when he reached it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs.  He said to the tree,

May no one ever again eat fruit from you!

And his disciples were listening.

So they came to Jerusalem, and he went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold there.  He upset the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dealers in pigeons; and he would not allow anyone to carry goods through the temple court.  Then he began to teach them, and said,

Does not scripture say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”?

The chief priests and the scribes heard of this and looked for a way to bring about his death; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.  And when evening came they went out of the city.

Early next morning, as they passed by, they saw that the fig tree had withered from the roots up; and Peter, recalling what had happened, said to him,

Rabbi, look, the fig tree which you cursed has withered.

Jesus answered them,

Have faith in God.  Truly I tell you:  if anyone says to this mountain, “Be lifted from your place and hurled into the sea,” and has no inward doubts, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  I tell you, then, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.

And when you stand praying, if you have a grievance against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive the wrongs you have done.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/week-of-8-epiphany-friday-year-1/

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/lord-help-us-walk-your-servant-way/

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The reading from 1 Peter occurs in the context of the expectation that Jesus would return very soon.  That nearly two thousand years ago.  Nevertheless, the relevance of what follows the failed prediction remains current.

More than one verse from the Bible teaches that there is a relationship between how we treat others and how God treats us.  Consider the end of the Gospel lection:  We must forgive others if we are to have a reasonable expectation that God will forgive us.   And God will extend to us the same standard we apply to others (Matthew 7:1-5).  The Greek word for “love” in 1 Peter 4:8 is agape.  This is selfless, self-sacrificing, unconditional love, the kind we see Jesus just a few days from demonstrating on the cross in the reading from Mark 11.  Jesus is our model, of course, but we must not lose sight of the fact that 1 Peter 4:7-13 uses agape to refer to how we ought to treat our fellow human beings.

Agape cancels a host of sins,

we read, followed by exhortations to act hospitably and use spiritual gifts for the common good, what Paul called the building up of the body of Christ.  More of this ought to happen among the churched population.  Often branches of the Church hinder their divine mandate by engaging in backstabbing, frontstabbing, bickering, gossiping, fighting needlessly over minor doctrinal disputes, and mistaking orthodoxy for the mere recitation and affirmation of a written confession of faith.  Indeed, much of Protestantism contains an unfortunate and reflexive reaction against anything resembling works-based righteousness.  But then there are books such as James and 1 Peter.

I am sufficiently close to Roman Catholicism to lack an anti-works-based righteousness reflexive kick.  Besides, as I ponder texts and interpretations of them over time, I conclude that there is validity to some degree of works-based righteousness within the context of grace, by which God empowers us to live  faithfully.  A positive response to God does require free will if it is to have any meaning.  Any such response is a work, is it not?  And this free will comes from God.  So everything leads back to God.

Within this context we have the teaching that we, by our actions, can contribute to our own forgiveness by God.  Dare we hear and accept this?  And how much better off would our families, friends and acquaintances networks, neighborhoods, communities, nations, world, congregations, and denominations be if more of us focused on extending agape toward each other instead of pointing fingers and trying to win arguments about theology and social issues?  Such arguments feed the heresy of Donatism, which is destructive.  But agape builds up.

May agape mark our individual and common lives.

KRT