Week of Proper 18: Tuesday, Year 1   19 comments

Above:  Crucifixion Nail


Jesus Lifted Burdens.  Why Do We Impose Them?

SEPTEMBER 12, 2023


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 2:6-15 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You must live your whole life according to the Christ you have received–Jesus the Lord; you must be rooted in him and built on him and held firm by the faith you have been taught, and full of thanksgiving.

Make sure that no one traps you and deprives you of your freedom by some secondhand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ.

In his body lives the fulness of divinity, an din him you too find your own fulfilment, in the one who is the head of every Sovereignty and Power.

In him you have been circumcised, with a circumcision not performed by the human hand, but by the complete stripping of your body of flesh.  This is circumcision according to Christ.  You have been buried with him, when you were baptised; and by baptism, too, you have been raised with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead.  You were dead, because you were sinners and had not been circumcised:  he has brought you to life with him, he has forgiven us all our sins.

He has overridden the Law, and cancelled every record of the debt that we had to pay; he has done away with it by nailing it to the cross; and so he got rid of the Sovereignties and the Powers, and paraded them in public, behind him in his triumphal procession.

Psalm 145:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day I will bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

5 I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

6 They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of your greatness.

7 They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

Luke 6:12-19 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now it was about this time that he [Jesus] went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God.  When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; the called them “apostles”:  Simon, whom he called Peter, and his brother, Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealon, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.  People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.


The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


There were bad influences in the Colossian church.  There was pressure to embrace Gnosticism, which incorporated astrology, hence Paul’s reference to “some secondhand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ.”  And there were those who sought to impose circumcision on the men in the church.  Circumcision, an ancient Jewish tradition, served as a reminder that life comes from God.  But insisting that Gentile men undergo the procedure would have deterred many from joining.

Paul wrote that Jesus lifted burdens at the cross and cancelled old debts there.  So anyone who would impose or reimpose them is wrong.  In Christ, Paul wrote, there is freedom, not spiritual bondage or tyranny.  The grace is free, but not cheap, however.  Paul’s life testified to that fact.  The grace was free and transformative, but his positive response to let to imprisonments, attempted murders, and his martrydom.  Yet he was free in Christ.

Likewise, ten of the twelve original Apostles died as martyrs.  But they were free in Christ.

May we refrain from imposing undue burdens (especially spiritual ones) on each other.  This means shunning legalism and embracing freedom in Christ, wherever it leads.  We are free in Christ to serve and follow him.  The cost might be high, but therein one finds the path to true life.

So why do we impose and reimpose these burdens?  Perhaps we do not know better, for we are mired in our native or adopted traditions.  People do have spiritual blind spots, after all.  Maybe the idea of grace, as radical as it is, frightens us.  Certainly, we might say to ourselves, it cannot be that simple; people ought to jump through some hoops first.  Such attitudes ignore the truth that Jesus took the hoops away, that it is that simple, and that simplicity does not translate into spiritual laziness.  Spiritual simplicity in Christ is rigorous indeed, minus the hoops through which to jump.  If any of this disturbs us, we need to take it to the cross and leave it there.



19 responses to “Week of Proper 18: Tuesday, Year 1

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