my miscellany

Pentecost 15, 2016 — 28 Aug 16

Pentecost 15, 2016

RCL C Proper 17 Complementary
Sirach 10:12-18, Psalm 112, Hebrews 13:1-8 and 15-16, Saint Luke 14:1 and 7-14

“The beginning of human pride is to forsake the Lord,”[1] words from the First Lesson. Pride usually is defined to be the desire to take the place of God. All human beings have a measure of desire to take the place of God. We are united in our pride. We may have it in a small amount or a large amount, but we all have it. And whatever the amount, we have a Savior in Jesus Christ who freely offered himself to receive the punishment of the pride of all human beings, past, present, and to come. The bad news is our pride; the good news is our Savior.

And in the Gospel today, we have both. We have our pride and our Savior. We see them both in the parable. Our pride finds expression in the guest at a wedding banquet who sits in the highest place. And our Savior in the parable recommends that the guest sit in the lowest place, so that if he is invited higher, his honor may be seen by all. Our pride urges us on, and our Savior holds us back. The two can work together for our benefit if we will let them. This is very good news.

And it is an example of a very great blessing. Our Savior is able to save us if we coöperate, if we let God be God and not allow our pride to put us in the place of God.

Some of you know a cleric who gained a reputation for being first in line at church dinners and lunches. No hint, no suggestion, no direct order deterred him from being first in line. And here is a second great blessing. People around him cared enough for him to be a Savior to him and to try to encourage him is a direction other than the direction that was his by nature. Many a suggestion that comes from a human Savior actually comes from the Lord.

And so, the First Lesson and the Gospel are about us, you and me. We have in whatever degree pride that urges us on in a direction that leads not to God. And we have a Savior who accepted our punishment and who tries to show us another way to live. We even have friends who speak the Savior’s words to us to show us a better way to live.

And finally we have freedom to choose to be motivated by our pride or to be directed by our Savior. And our lives are measured by these choices over and over again, day in and day out, year by year. All of those choices over a lifetime will tend to one direction or the other. When you recollect the choices you have made, in what direction have they already taken you?

[1] Sirach 10:12. NRSV.

A Priestly Word for 26 Aug 16 — 26 Aug 16

A Priestly Word for 26 Aug 16


Sunday we have a reading from Sirach (10:12-18) which is one of the Books of the Apocrypha. And I thought this reading would be the occasion to write something to you about the Apocrypha.

The Apocrypha are the Biblical Books received by the early Church as part of the Greek version of the Old Testament. They were excluded by the non-Hellenistic Jews from the Hebrew Bible. Hellenistic Jews, on the other hand, included them in their version of the Hebrew Bible that was translated into Greek and is known as the Septuagint.

The Apocryphal Books have had a somewhat ambiguous usage in Christianity. In the Vulgate and versions derived from it, they are mostly part of the Old Testament. But in the Authorized Version (also known as the King James Bible), the Revised Version, and other non-Roman Catholic versions, the Apocryphal Books either form a separate section between the Old and New Testaments or they are left out altogether.

The Episcopal Church’s acceptance of the Apocryphal Books has limits. The Catechism in the Prayer Book defines them as “a collection of additional books written by the people of the Old Covenant, and used in the Christian Church” (page 853). Readings from the Apocrypha are occasionally heard in Church on Sundays in the Eucharist in the place of Old Testament readings and more frequently are heard as the First Lesson at Morning or Evening Prayer.

Though the Apocrypha is heard, a traditional distinction regarding its use is honored in the Articles of Religion, the attempt of the sixteenth-century Church of England to define its theological positions in relation to the controversies of the Reformation. These Articles were accepted by the Episcopal Church in the General Convention of 1801, and, referring to the Apocrypha and Saint Jerome, they state: “And the other Books (as Hierome saith) the Church doth read for example of life and instruction of manners; but yet doth it not apply them to establish any doctrine” (Prayer Book, page 868). The same position is accorded the Apocrypha by the Eastern churches.

The Book of Sirach also is known as the Book of Ecclesiasticus. The author was a sage who lived in Jerusalem and wrote in Hebrew two centuries before Christ. The author loved the law, the priesthood, the Temple, and divine worship. As a wise observer of life he addressed himself to his contemporaries to help them to maintain religious faith and integrity through study of holy books and through tradition.

In the Lesson appointed for Sunday, forsaking the Lord is the beginning of pride, and pride displeases God. To the proud fall destructive calamities. Even the memory of the proud is destroyed, and God transfers the power of the proud to the lowly. The Lesson is a word to the wise.

Pentecost 14, 2016 — 21 Aug 16

Pentecost 14, 2016

RCL C Proper 16 Complementary
Isaiah 58:9b-14, Psalm 103:1-8, Hebrews 12:18-29, Saint Luke13:10-17

From time to time, the Scriptures reveal to us what I like to call God’s economy. I mean by that the revelation of what God regards as valuable. The lesson from Isaiah and the Gospel proclaim what God regards as valuable. And if God regards something as valuable, we should regard it as valuable also. We should go and do likewise[1], as Jesus says to the lawyer who stupidly asked him who his neighbor is.

I shall go even further and say this. If it is revealed to us that something is valuable to God, we should create an account book, a ledger with credits and debits, that identifies how often we have done what God regards as valuable and how often we have left undone what God regards as valuable. The idea of a ledger is simple, I know. But we who want to do what God would have us do will take it and use it in order to progress in learning how to live as God would have us to live.

And so, in the Lessons today, what do we learn that God regards as valuable? Let’s look at the reading from Isaiah. “If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer your food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday.”[2] Or hear the prophecy from the New American Bible: “If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday.”[3] The rest of the reading is a catalog of the blessings, the good things, that will befall us in God’s economy if we do these things. God will feed us with the heritage of Jacob.[4]

And in the Gospel, we see Jesus removing the yoke of a spirit that had crippled a woman for eighteen years.[5] Jesus performs this removal of a yoke on a sabbath, giving rise to the question of when it is appropriate to do what God regards as valuable. Jesus’ reply settles the question, and the entire crowd rejoices at the wonderful things he was doing.

Removing a yoke, a burden; removing pointing a finger, finding fault; removing speaking evil; feeding the hungry; and satisfying the needs of the afflicted—these are the things that God values. These are the coins of exchange in the kingdom of God. They are the valuables that we are to share with anyone who wants them.

A ledger giving an account of instances we have done them, or left them undone, would reveal something important about us. It would reveal whether we have done God’s will or, alternatively, whether we just couldn’t be bothered. We are free to do either one. What will go into our ledger today?

[1] Saint Luke 10:37. Quotations from Scripture are the New Revised Standard Version of the Holy Bible except as noted.

[2] Isaiah 58:9b-10.

[3] Isaiah 58:9b-10, from the New American Bible.

[4] Isaiah 58:14.

[5] Saint Luke 13:11.

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