Week of Proper 6: Tuesday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  The High Altar at the Old Coventry Cathedral

Image Source = Sannse

Living According To Our Intended Purpose

JUNE 20, 2017

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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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2 Corinthians 8:1-9 (An American Translation):

I must tell you, brothers, how the favor of God has been shown in the churches of Macedonia, for in spite of a severe ordeal of trouble, their extraordinary gladness, combined with their extreme poverty, has overflowed in a wealth of generosity.  For they have given to the utmost of their ability, as I can bear them witness, and beyond it, and begged me most earnestly, of their own accord, to let them share in the support of God’s people.  They did far more than I hoped, for first in obedience to God’s will, they gave themselves to the Lord, and to me.  This has led me to urge Titus to complete the arrangements he had formerly begun among you for this gracious undertaking.  Just as you excel in everything else–faith, expression, knowledge, perfect devotion, and the love we have awakened in you–you must excel in this generous undertaking too.

I do not mean this as a command.  I only want to test the genuineness of your love by the devotion of others.  You know how gracious the Lord Jesus Christ was.  Though he was rich, he became poor for your sake, in order that by his poverty you might become rich.

Psalm 146 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, not in any child of earth,

for there is no help in them.

3 When they breathe their last, they return to earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

4 Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

5 Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise for ever;

6 Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

7 The LORD sets the prisoners free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

8 The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked.

9 The LORD shall reign for ever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Hallelujah!

Matthew 5:43-48 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,] “You have heard that they were told, ‘You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for your persecutors, true sons of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun to rise on bad and good alike, and makes the rain fall on the upright and the wrongdoers.  For if you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect?  Do not the very tax-collectors do that?  And if you are polite to your brothers and no one else, what is there remarkable in that?  Do not the very heathen do that?  So you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is.”

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The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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The proper name of Coventry Cathedral is the Cathedral Church of St. Michael.  The original building, designated St. Mary’s, dates to the Eleventh Century; ruins remain.  The second structure, called St. Michael’s, dates to the 1300s and 1400s.  At its peak, it was a masterpiece of Gothic architecture.  Nazi bombs destroyed the city and cathedral of Coventry on November 14, 1940.  The dedication of the third and present church building occurred on May 25, 1962.  Benjamin Britten wrote his wonderful War Requiem for this occasion.

The new church sits adjacent to the ruins of the one that Nazi bombers destroyed in 1940.  Behind the old high altar are a burnt cross and the words, “FATHER FORGIVE.”

The website of Coventry Cathedral (http://www.coventrycathedral.org.uk/) features a page about the congregation’s ministry of reconciliation.  Back in 1940, the Cathedral Provost, Dick Howard, devoted himself to forgiveness for and reconciliation with those responsible for the destruction, not revenge upon them.

This was very Christ-like.  It was also, to steal a line from Paul, a “generous undertaking.”  The Macedonian Christians, facing great difficulties, excelled in generosity with what they had.  Paul held them up as an example before the Corinthian church, which needed as many positive role models as possible.  In the case of Coventry Cathedral, what could have been more generous than forgiveness and reconciliation?

Britten, in his War Requiem, combined the Latin Requiem texts with poems by Wilfred Owen, the British poet and soldier who died one week before the armistice in World War I.  A baritone soloist sings the following text at the end of the Libera Me:

I am the enemy you killed, my friend.

I knew you in the dark; for so you frowned

Yesterday through me as you jabbed and killed.

Let us sleep now….

This day’s reading from Matthew flows naturally from that of the previous day.  Resentments are natural and understandable, but they accomplish nothing positive beyond perhaps short-term purposes.  I recall that, for a time in 2007, when my life had collapsed and I faced great peril, resentments kept me going for a few months.  Then they had done their work, and I had to begin letting go of them.  The burden of them becomes too heavy to bear after a very short period of time.

Nursing grudges and lugging them around does no harm to the object of them.  These activities do harm the one who maintains them, though.  Beginning to let go of grudges is part of loving oneself.

The reading from Matthew ends with the command to be perfect, as God is perfect.  The Greek word for “perfect” in this text indicates being suited to one’s intended purpose.  In this way, an animal considered suitable for ritual sacrifice was “perfect.”  The most succinct statement of our the intended purpose of human beings comes from the The Larger Westminster Catechism, Question #1:

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

We cannot do this while carrying around grudges like so much luggage.  I do not pretend to have accomplished the state of grudgelessness, but I am closer to it than I have been in a long time, by grace.  And, by grace, I will arrive.  Experience has taught me that some resentments fade away over time instead of vanishing instantly.  And, one day, one realizes that all of the anger over a certain incident is gone.  That is a blessed state.

It is appropriate that Coventry Cathedral bears the name of  St. Michael.   Exorcists invoke Michael in their rituals.  Recall a thought from the devotion for the Week of Proper 6:  Monday, Year 1:  Only good can overcome evil.  And only good can overcome run-of-the-mill cruelty, pettiness, and carelessness.  Let us do more than repay evil with goodness, as in the case of Coventry Cathedral since 1940.  May we also repay run-of-the-mill cruelty, pettiness, and carelessness with goodness.  This is my challenge, and it might be yours.  But we will meet it with the help of God.

May love and simple goodness prevail, and may each of us, by grace, be suited to our intended purpose, which is enjoy and glorify God forever.

KRT

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