Week of Proper 24: Saturday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70 (1850), by David Roberts

Image in the Public Domain

Yet Another Chance

OCTOBER 26, 2019

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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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Romans 8:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

It follows that there is now no condemnation for those who are united with Christ Jesus.  In Christ Jesus the life-giving law of the Spirit has set you free from the law of sin and death.  What the law could not do, because human weakness robbed it of all potency, God has done:  by sending his own Son in the likeness of our sinful nature and to deal with sin, he has passed judgement against sin within that very nature, so that the commandment of the law may find fulfillment in us, whose conduct is no longer controlled by the old nature, but by the Spirit.

Those who live on the level of the old nature have their outlook formed by it, and that spells death; but those who live on the level of the spirit have the spiritual outlook, and that is life and peace.  For the outlook of the unspiritual nature is enmity with God; it is not subject to the law of God and indeed it cannot be; those who live under its control cannot please God.

But you do not live like that.  You live by the spirit, since God’s Spirit dwells in you; and anyone who does not possess the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, then although the body is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is your life because you have been justified.  Moreover, if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then the God who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give new life to your mortal bodies through his indwelling Spirit.

Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is he who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend to the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

5 They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

Luke 13:1-9 (Revised English Bible):

At that time some people came and told him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  He answered them:

Do you suppose that, because these Galileans suffered this fate, they must have been greater sinners than anyone else in Galilee?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all of you come to the same end.  Of the eighteen people who were killed when the tower fell on them at Siloam–do you imagine they must have been more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all come to an end like theirs.

He told them this parable:

A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none.  So he said to the vine-dresser, “For the last three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any.  Cut it down.  Why should it go on taking goodness from the soil?”  But he replied, “Leave it, sir, for this one year, while I did round it and manure it.  And it it bears next season, well and good; if not, you shall have it down.”

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; 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 passage from Luke contains a historical reference which requires explanation.  Pontius Pilate, the Roman imperial Procurator in the region, had decided to finance improvements to the Jerusalem water supply infrastructure with Temple monies.  A riot ensued, as did the predictable violence of Roman soldiers with orders to suppress the uprising.  A common idea at the time assumed that those who died must have been greater sinners than the rest, for such a terrible fate befell them but not others.  Jesus rejected this automatic link between sin and suffering.  Apparently he had paid close attention to the Book of Job.

The writing of the Gospel of Luke occurred circa 85-90 C.E., within recent memory of the First Jewish War and the destruction of Jerusalem and Herod’s Temple.  This historical fact must inform our interpretation of this passage, as that reality influenced its writing.  Presumably the message was that those who had rejected Jesus and the Christian message after his crucifixion and Resurrection suffered the wrath of God–a wrath they had a chance to avoid.

Such ancient logic lends itself too easily to hatred of the Jews, and I reject Anti-Semitism.

The non-Anti-Semitic takeaway from Luke 13:1-9 common to Romans 8:1-11 is that God has given us second, third, fourth, et cetera chances.  To the extent that we have life, that is in and through God–notably Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  This changes our way of understanding the world.  It changes mine.  I consider my response to the death of Osama bin Laden.  Yes, the man was a mass murderer and a terrorist, but would Jesus rejoice at the man’s death?  No, I think not; so I cannot rejoice at it either.

Yet I know that there is much room left for personal transformation within me.  May it continue.

We see also in this day’s readings the conjunction of mercy and judgment.  As I have written before in other blogs, one is meaningless without the other.  That is a sobering thought.  Yet let us leave vengeance to God, with whom there is also extravagant mercy.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/yet-another-chance/

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