Above: Moravian Logo in Stained Glass
Image Source = JJackman
Mercy, Judgment, and Grace
NOT OBSERVED IN 2013
(The 2013 Sunday Sequence is The Feast of the Epiphany-1 Epiphany, 2 Epiphany, 3 Epiphany, 4 Epiphany, Last Epiphany. Then Ash Wednesday follows, beginning Lent.)
Genesis 45:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):
Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out,
Send everyone away from me.
So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers,
I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?
But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.
Then Joseph said to his brothers,
Come closer to me.
And they came closer. He said,
I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, “Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there– since there are five more years of famine to come– so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.” And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.
Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.
Psalm 37:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;
do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.
2 For they shall soon whither like the grass,
and like the green grass they fade away.
3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,
dwell in the land and feed on its riches.
4 Take delight in the LORD,
and he shall give you your heart’s desire.
5 Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,
and he will bring it to pass.
6 He will make your righteousness as clear as the light
and your just dealing as the noonday.
7 Be still and wait for the LORD
and wait patiently for him.
8 Do not fret yourselves over the one who prospers,
the one who succeeds in evil schemes.
9 Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;
do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.
10 For evildoers shall be cut off,
but those who wait upon the LORD shall possess the land.
11 In a little while the wicked shall be no more;
you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.
12 But the lowly shall possess the land;
they will delight in abundance of peace.
41 But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the LORD;
he is their stronghold in time of trouble.
42 The LORD will help them and rescue them;
he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them,
because they seek refuge in him.
1 Corinthians 15:35-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):
Someone may ask,
How are dead people raised, and what sort of body do they have when they come back?
These are stupid questions. Whatever you sow in the ground has to die before it is given new life and the thing that you sow is not what is going to come; you sow a bare grain, say of wheat or something like that, and then God gives it the sort of body that he has chosen: each sort of seed gets its own sort of body.
Everything that is flesh is not the same flesh: there is human flesh, animals’ flesh, the flesh of birds and the flesh of fish. Then there are heavenly bodies and there are earthly bodies; but the heavenly bodies have a beauty of their own and the earthly bodies a different one. The sun has its brightness, the moon a different brightness, and the stars a different brightness, and the stars differ from each other in brightness. It is the same with the resurrection of the dead: the thing that is sown is perishable but what is raised is imperishable; the thing that is sown is contemptible but what is raised is glorious; the thing that is sown is weak but what is raised is powerful; when it is sown it embodies the soul, when it is raised it embodies the spirit.
If the soul has its own embodiment, so dies the spirit have its own embodiment. The first man, Adam, as scripture says, became a living soul; but the last Adam has become a life-giving spirit. That is, first the one with the soul, not the spirit, and after that, the one with the spirit. The first man, being from the earth, is earthly by nature; the second man is from heaven. As this earthly man was, so are we on earth; and as the heavenly man is, so are we in heaven. And we, who have been modelled on the earthly man, will be modelled on the heavenly man.
Luke 6:27-38 (The Jerusalem Bible):
But I say this to you who are listening: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly. To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you. Treat others as you would like them to treat you. If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect? For even sinners do that much. And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect? Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount. Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return. You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.
Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate. Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned. Give, and there will be gifts for you: a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.
O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
Some Related Posts:
Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:
Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B:
1 Corinthians 15:
Prayer of Praise and Adoration:
Prayer of Confession:
Prayer of Dedication:
Rise, heart, thy Lord is risen. Sing his praise
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him may’st rise;
That, as his death calcined thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more just….
Joseph forgave his brothers who sold him into slavery. God, he said, used that dastardly deed to help many others years after the fact. Nevertheless, forgiving those who had sold him into slavery seems like a spiritual feat under my circumstance. It is possible only by grace. Being better than others might expect–doing more than one must–being as merciful as possible by grace–is the unifying core of this Sunday’s readings. Dong this consists of nothing less than applying to others the same love one has received from God. Thus grace is supposed to beget more grace.
We have a model–Jesus–to follow. We have his ethical teachings and his life. And he have his resurrection. People murdered him. He forgave them. He even interceded for them. Peter denied Jesus, who forgave him. Jesus is the “man of heaven” whose image each of us can bear. Bearing our Lord’s image, forgiving our enemies, refraining from baseless judgments–these are possible by grace and free will, the latter of which exists because of grace. So these are possible ultimately by grace. These can be very difficult tasks, and I have not mastered them. But I have learned them better than before. And I look forward to becoming more proficient at them. Moral perfectionism is quite unrealistic, for flawed beings can never achieve that goal. But we can do better. And God–in Christ–offers to help us do so.
I have known this help many times. During one particular season of my life I detected much sudden grace. It was an extremely difficult time, so the grace was that much more obvious. My spiritual life improved greatly without much effort on my part. I found that my internal reality had changed for the better overnight. I did not object; I cooperated instead. And my willingness to extend mercy to my enemies came in time–not immediately, to be sure; it is still coming. God, I perceive, meets us where we are and carries us as far as we need to go. Our task is to cooperate.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
APRIL 14, 2012 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT FULBERT OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF ARKANSAS, AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF NORTH CAROLINA
THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER
THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP