Week of Proper 25: Monday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  A Father and His Son

Image Source = Onkelbo

Compassion and the Family of God

OCTOBER 30, 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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Romans 8:12-17 (Revised English Bible):

It follows, my friends, that our old nature has no claim on us. we are not obliged to live in that way.  If you do so, you must die.  But if by the Spirit you put to death the base pursuits of the body, then you will live.

For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  The Spirit you have received is not a spirit of slavery, leading you back into a life of fear, but a Spirit of adoption, enabling us to cry “Abba!  Father!”  The Spirit of God affirms to our spirit that we are God’s children; and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow-heirs with Christ; but we must share his sufferings if we are also to share his glory.

Psalm 68:1-6, 19-20 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered;

let those who hate him flee before him.

Let them vanish like smoke when the wind drives it away;

as the wax melts at the fire, so let the wicked perish at the presence of God.

But let the righteous be glad and rejoice before God;

let them also be merry and joyful.

Sing to God, sing praises to his Name;

exalt him who rides upon the heavens;

YAHWEH is his Name, rejoice before him!

Father of orphans, defender of widows,

God in his holy habitation!

God gives the solitary a home and brings forth prisoners into freedom;

but the rebels shall live in dry places.

19  Blessed be the Lord day by day,

the God of our salvation, who bears our burdens.

20  He is our God, the God of our salvation;

God is the LORD, by whom we escape death.

Luke 13:10-17 (Revised English Bible):

He was teaching in one of the synagogues on the sabbath, and there was a woman there possessed by a spirit that had crippled her for eighteen years.  She was bend double and quite unable to stand up straight.  When Jesus saw her he called her and said,

You are rid of your trouble,

and he laid hands on her.  Immediately she straightened up and began to praise God.  But the president of the synagogue, indignant with Jesus for healing on the sabbath, intervened and said to the congregation,

There are six working day:  come and be cured on one of them, and not on the sabbath.

The Lord gave him this answer:

What hypocrites you are!

he said.

Is there a single one of you who does not loose his ox or his donkey from its stall and take it out to water on the sabbath?  And here is this woman, a daughter of Abraham, who has been bound by Satan for eighteen long years:  was it not right for her to be loosed from her bonds on the sabbath?

At these words all his opponents were filled with confusion, while the mass of the people were delighted at all the wonderful things he was doing.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; 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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In modern times we might say that the woman suffered from a psychosomatic condition.  We would, anyhow, offer a scientific explanation, not demonic affliction, a common diagnosis in the Hellenistic world.  That, however, is really beside the point.  Whatever ailed the woman, Jesus rid her of it on the sabbath, and he faced criticism for doing so.  It was a matter of timing, his critic said.  Why did you perform this good deed on the sabbath?

Jesus offered some excellent logic, which I find summarized on page 241 of Volume VIII of The Interpreter’s Bible (1952):

If it is right to care for domestic animals on the sabbath, it is right to relieve human distress.

This, as I understand it, is a very Jewish understanding of the sabbath.  I have heard of Jewish medical professionals who consider their sabbath shifts as ways of keeping the sabbath.  Yet Jesus was up against a narrower interpretation, one which said that is permissable to save a life but not to offer full first aid,much less a cure, on the sabbath.

This woman had lived in poverty, on the margins of society, for years because of her physical condition.  Jesus restored her to health, wholeness, and social standing, and one person dared to criticize him!  Where was this man’s compassion?

Paul, for a while now in Romans, has been extolling the virtues and consequences of grace–including its cost to God.  Now, in this day’s portion, he uses the analogy of adoption into the family of God and states the cost of grace for us:

…but we must share in his sufferings if we are also to share his glory.

The inheritance comes in two flavors:  pleasant and unpleasant.  My first thought as I typed that partial verse the first time was of Lutheran congregational names.  One of the common names of Lutheran churches I have seen in various places is “Cross and Crown.”  That sums it up, does it not?

Yet, by grace, we have the opportunity to be members of the household of God.  We can be children and heirs.  And how do members of functional families act toward each other?  They support, care for, and look out for each other, do they not?  They do not complain about a sabbath healing.

Karen Armstrong has said that the basic act of transcendence each of us needs to do is to transcend self and identify with other people.  This is compassion.  God has identified with us, hence the Incarnation.  Grace requires us to identify with others.  Where will compassion take us?  What will it cost us?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/compassion-and-the-family-of-god/

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