Week of Proper 17: Saturday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Playing Cards

Image in the Public Domain

Compassion is the Trump Card



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.


Colossians 1:21-23 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Not long ago, you were foreigners and enemies in the way that you used to think and the evil things that you did; but now he has reconciled you, by his death an in that mortal body.  Now you are able to appear before him holy, pure, and blameless–as long as you persevere and stand firm on the solid base of the faith, never letting yourselves drift away from the hope promised by the Good News, which you have heard, which has been preached to the whole human race, and of which I, Paul, have become the servant.

Psalm 54 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Save me, O God, by your Name;

in your might, defend my cause.

2 Hear my prayer, O God;

give ear to the words of my mouth.

3 For the arrogant have risen up against me,

and the ruthless have sought my life,

those who have no regard for life.

4 Behold, God is my helper;

it is the Lord who sustains my life.

5 Render evil to those who spy on me;

in your faithfulness, destroy them.

6 I will offer you a freewill sacrifice

and praise your Name, O LORD, for it is good.

7 For you have rescued me from every trouble,

and my eye has seen the ruin of my foes.

Luke 6:1-5 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now one sabbath he happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples were picking ears of corn, rubbing them in their hands and eating them.  Some of the Pharisees said,

Why are you doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath day?

Jesus answered them,

So you have not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry–how we went into the house of God, took the loaves which only the priests are allowed to eat?

And he said to them,

The Son of Man is master of the sabbath.


The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.


The law has two components–the spirit and the letter.  It is more important to honor the spirit of the law than its letter.  Besides, one can honor the letter of the law while trampling its spirit.  In the case of the Bible, there are so many contradictory passages that one cannot keep all the commandments while honoring the spirit of the law.  And the spirit of the law of this:  Love God.  Love yourself.  And love your neighbor as yourself.

There were many sabbath laws governing activities on that day, some of them related to food gathering.  But there was also a greater principle:  Breaking any of these laws was acceptable for the purpose of not making a bad situation worse.  The critics of our Lord in Luke 6:1-5 ignored this.

I think of a more recent example of legalism run amok.  Philip Yancey is the only Evangelical writer I read with any regularity.  He grew up in a fundamentalist home in the U.S. South in the 1950s and 196os.  Social justice was not a priority in the religion of his youth.  For example, his Atlanta church decided to open a private school because of the 1954 Brown decision.  And, in the 1960s, Yancey attended a Bible college with strict rules about men’s grooming habits.  Then Yancey noticed something:  “It dawned on me that virtually all portrayals of Jesus, including the Good Shepherd of my Sunday school and the United Nations Jesus of my Bible college, showed him wearing a mustache and beard, both of which were strictly banned from the Bible college.”  (The Jesus I Never Knew, Zondervan, 1995, page 14)

Faith and morality are not matters of nit-picky rules of grooming on any day, food gathering on the sabbath, or anything else.  No, they are matters of attitudes.  And the proper basis for them is that God is love.  So we ought to love God.  So we ought to love ourselves.  So we ought to love each other as we ourselves.  Compassion is the trump card.  The fulfillment of basic human needs matters more than obedience to any legalistic rule.

And Jesus is the ultimate expression of the love of God.  In Jesus there are not friends and enemies, just friends (despite the vindictiveness of the psalm).  In Jesus there are not men and women, just siblings in the family of God.  In Jesus there are not Jews and Gentiles, just people.  In Jesus the labels we use separate ourselves from others melt away.  In Jesus we are able to stand before God.

This is a great hope, which is open to all by either Single Predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit.  It is a glorious hope.  May we embrace it.



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