Week of Proper 20: Friday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Zerubbabel

Image in the Public Domain

Be Strong and Act

SEPTEMBER 29, 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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Haggai 1:14-2:9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then the LORD roused the spirit of Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and the spirit of the high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak, and the spirit of all the rest of the people.  They came and set to work on the House of the LORD of Hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the sixth month.  In the second year of Darius, on the twenty-first day of the seventh month, the word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai:

Speak to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to the high priest  Joshua son of Jehozadak, and to the rest of the people:  Who is there left among you who saw this House in its former splendor?  How does it look to you now?  It must seem like nothing to you.  But be strong, O Zerubbabel–says the LORD–be strong.  O high priest Joshua son of Jehozadak; be strong, all of you people of the land–says the LORD–and act!  For I am with you–says the LORD of Hosts.  So I promised you when you came out of Egypt, and my spirit in your midst.  Fear not!

For thus said the LORD of Hosts:

In just a little while longer I will shake the heavens and the earth, the sea and the dry land; I will sake all the nations.  And the precious things of all the nations shall come [here], and I will fill this House with glory,

said the LORD of Hosts.

Silver is Mine and gold is Mine–says the LORD of Hosts.  The glory of this latter house shall be greater than that of the former one,

said the LORD of hosts;

and in this place I will grant prosperity–declares the LORD of Hosts.

Psalm 43 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O God,

and defend my cause against an ungodly people;

deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.

2 For you are the God of my strength;

why have you put me from you?

and why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me?

3 Sent out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,

and bring me to your holy hill

and to your dwelling;

4 That I may go to the altar of God,

to the God of my joy and gladness;

and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.

5 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?

and why are you so disquieted within me?

6 Put your trust in God;

for I will yet give thanks to him,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

Luke 9:18-22 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now one day when he [Jesus] was praying alone in presence of his disciples he put this question to them,

Who do the crowds say I am?

And they answered,

John the Baptist; others Elijah; and others say one of the ancient prophets come back to life.

He said,

But you, who do you say I am?

It was Peter who spoke up.

The Christ of God,

he said.  But he [Jesus] gave them strict orders not to tell anyone anything about this.

The Son of Man

he said

is destined to suffer grievously, to be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and scribes and to be put to death, and to be raised up on the third day.

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The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The returned exiles lived within the Persian province Beyond the River.  It was a minor and impoverished province, far from the glorious heart of the empire.  So there arose an important question:  How could they build a temple appropriate to the glory of God?  They lacked the resources that Solomon could summon.  God’s answer is that he will glorify the house; the people need merely to be reverent and do their best.  Above all, they need to be strong in God and to act accordingly.  God will handle the rest.

I have been inside some wondrous church buildings, from the Washington National Cathedral, in Washington, D.C., to the Catholic Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Savannah, Georgia.  It is indeed appropriate to make a church building beautiful; this indicates reverence.  More years ago than I like to admit, I watched a 1970s documentary series called The Christians.  One episode showed working men and women of one town in the Soviet Union donating their time and talents to make their local parish church building as lovely as possible.  This was an expression of their faith.  May nobody question the sincerity of architectural beauty born of reverence.

Yet, in a larger sense, no structure, regardless of how stunningly beautiful it may be, is sufficient to show the glory of God.  But God is present in such places.  This is a grace.

If we think that we have little or nothing to offer, that what we have to offer to God is inadequate, we need to remember that God is gracious to the the honestly faithful.  No gift, no matter how large or impressive it is in human terms, is adequate to pay God back for mercy.  So may we bring the small gifts and offerings, too.  It is the thought behind the gift and offering that counts, too.

The reading from Luke is one of the Synoptic accounts of the Confession of Saint Peter.  It is important to remember where this falls in that book.  So here is the sequence of Chapter 9, to verse 51:

  • Jesus sends out the Twelve. (1-6)
  • Herod the tetrarch thinks Jesus might be John the Baptist back from the dead. (7-9)
  • The Twelve return.  Jesus feeds 5000+ people with some loaves and fishes.  (10-17)
  • Peter professes his faith.  (18-21)
  • Jesus foretells his death and resurrection.  (22)
  • Jesus says to take up a cross and follow him.  (23-26)
  • “I tell you truly, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the kingdom of God.”  (27)  See this:  http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/week-of-6-epiphany-friday-year-1/
  • Jesus is transfigured.  (28-36)
  • Jesus heals an epileptic child.  (37-43a)
  • Jesus predicts his death and resurrection again.  (43b-45)
  • Jesus contradicts notions of greatness.  (46-48)
  • “Anyone who is not against you is for you.”  (49-50)
  • Jesus sets his face toward Jerusalem.  (51)

Then Jesus begins to utter some really hard sayings.  Read them yourself.

The only adequate offering is Jesus himself, so let us not fool ourselves with delusions of grandeur or with inferiority complexes.  Our strength is in God alone.  Our identity is in God alone.  Our kinship is in Jesus, through whom we have adoption into the household of God.  We need to act reverently, bringing what we can for the service and glory of God.  But we also must remember that God alone glorifies our gifts, regardless of the form or quantity in which we have them.

So, with that in mind, I offer my devotional blog posts for this purpose.  May they do their job, with God’s help.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/be-strong-and-act/

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