Week of Proper 18: Saturday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Storing Olives

Hearing and Acting Accordingly

SEPTEMBER 16, 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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1 Timothy 1:15-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt:  that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust in him to come to eternal life.  To the eternal King, the undying, invisible, and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

Psalm 113 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Give Praise, you servants of the LORD;

praise the Name of the LORD.

2 Let the Name of the LORD be blessed,

from this time forth for evermore.

3 From the rising of the sun to its going down

let the Name of the LORD be praised.

4 The LORD is high above all nations,

and his glory above the heavens.

5 Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

6 He takes up the weak out of the dust

and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

7 He sets them with the princes,

with the princes of his people.

8 He makes the woman of a childless house

to be a joyful mother of children.

Luke 6:43-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit.  For every tree can be told by its own fruit; people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles.  A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness.  For a man’s words from what fills his heart.

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say?

Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them–I will show you what he is like.  He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house  but could not shake it, it was so well built.  But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations:  as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!

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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.

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Theology contains many subtle factors.  They fascinate me.  I have concluded that the best theology is too complex to fit neatly on a bumper sticker, in fact.  Consider, for example, the Lutheran understanding of Single Predestination.  I spent at least an hour late last night and early this morning pouring through the Book of Concord, biographies of Martin Luther, and volumes of comparative theology to be sure that I understand this perspective factually and correctly.  Luther wrote and spoke about predestination, accepting it as a reality.  But he also discouraged speculation about whether one is or is not predestined to Heaven.  Furthermore, Luther believed that all who trust Christ and in his promises will find redemption.  In simple terms, regardless of whether a specific Christian is predestined to Heaven, God will redeem him or her.  Jesus is the trump card over a lack of predestination to Eternal Election.  And the Predestined will be Christian, in this theology, of course.  (There is much more to this aspect of Lutheran theology, of course.)

If we are in Christ, whether by Single Predestination or the witness of Holy Spirit (Here I channel the 1903 U.S. Presbyterian version of the Westminster Confession of Faith.), we will bear good fruit.  Except in the case of accidents, what we say and do will flow from our attitudes.  Here, as we say in the United States, is where the rubber meets the road.  And what is our standard?  The example of Jesus is; compassion is.  As much as Jesus is the trump card over a lack of predestined state to Eternal Election, compassion is the trump card over minute aspects of religious traditions and law codes.

Above:  Ground Zero, New York, New York, September 17, 2001

Image in the Public Domain

That, you might say, is obvious, well, and good.  But what about a practical application.  Here it is.  Jesus said to love one’s enemies and to bless those who curse and persecute us.  He said also that everyone is everybody else’s neighbor, and that we should treat each other accordingly.  I claim to follow Jesus.  So these instructions apply to me in all circumstances.  If I do not act accordingly, I do not follow Jesus, to the extent that I deviate from this ethic.

The attacks of September 11 (in the proximity of this post or on it, depending on the year) constituted terrorism and mass murder.  I make no excuse for either.  But the actions of some do not justify subsequent hatred, murder, violence, fear-mongering, and scapegoating.  Whom would Jesus scapegoat?  Nobody.  Whom would Jesus kill?  Nobody.  Whom would Jesus torture?  Nobody.  The teachings of Jesus stand in stark contrast to a bumper sticker I saw in Statesboro, Georgia, in 2002.  It said:

KILL THEM ALL AND LET ALLAH SORT THEM OUT.

Bearing good fruit can be a difficult task, but grace is available to us.

To the eternal King, the undying, invisible, and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

–1 Timothy 1:17 (The Jerusalem Bible)

KRT

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