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my miscellany

A Priestly Word — 29 Jun 18

A Priestly Word

St Paul turns to another subject in the reading from II Corinthians (8:7-15) for Sunday, and the subject is the collection made by the Corinthians for the benefit of the church in Jerusalem.

Acts (11:27-30) records that the church in Antioch sent Paul and Silas to Jerusalem with relief for the church there. Later Paul organized a project of support for Jerusalem from the churches he established, and early evidence of this project is found in I Corinthians 16:1-4.

Sunday we hear that the precedent of such collections roots in “the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ” (8:9), “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich” (8:9). St Paul encourages the Corinthians to continue their good deed of similar generosity: “now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means” (8:11).

St Paul concludes his advice about finishing the project with concepts of equality and balance. “I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance” (8:13-14).

Paul finds an example of such equality and balance in God’s gift of manna to Israel in the desert. Equality was achieved by God who gave with an even hand according to need: “As it is written, ‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little’” (Exodus 16:18). Thus St Paul in using the idea of fair balance implies that the need to receive finds a balance in giver’s need to give, a very important part of a sound theology of stewardship.

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Pentecost 5, 2018 — 24 Jun 18

Pentecost 5, 2018

RCL Year B Proper 7
Job 38:1-11, Psalm 107:1-3 and 23-32, II Corinthians 6:1-13, Saint Mark 4:35-41

“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”[1] This question ends the Gospel today. It is no rhetorical question. Jesus has called his disciples, cured the man with the withered hand on the Sabbath, taught several parables, and, now, he has commanded the wind and the sea to be quiet and calm. The disciples are beginning to realize that Jesus is more special than perhaps they originally thought. “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The simple answer to the question is that the wind and the sea obey God. Jesus is God. A fuller answer includes that Jesus is the Son of God who speaks in today’s first lesson from the Book of Job.

You could hardly find better summer reading than the entire Book of Job. From the sixth century, during the Babylonian Captivity, Job asks the hard question of whether God is good if God permits the existence of evil. Is God good if he permits his people to be taken into exile? Is God good if he permits Job, a pious and upright man, to lose his children, his property, and his health to loathsome sores covering his entire body?

The answer Job works out requires integrity. So long as he keeps his integrity, so long as he does not curse or blame God, he maintains his relationship with God even in the midst of his suffering. The problems Job encounters can be transcended by maintaining his agency’s freedom and by keeping a broader awareness of God’s power, presence, and wisdom. Salvation, Job discovers, is his relationship with God in spite of circumstances that could sway him to change his allegiance. Through his suffering while keeping his relationship with God intact, Job learns the hard truth that loosing children, property, and health are not the worst things that can befall a man. He learns that the worst thing is loosing one’s relationship with God. As we sing in the great hymn, “let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also;…his kingdom is forever.”[2]

Similarly, God permits a storm on the Sea of Galilee with some frequency. But in one instance, Jesus quiets the storm to leave a footprint leading to his identity. Storms come, and storms go. But seeing the footprint of God himself, and having, week by week, a memorial of his death and resurrection, we have encouragement to remain faithful while the storms come and go. Like Job, we have the freedom to learn that there are things worse than loosing goods, kindred, and even our life.

God’s love is tougher than a painkiller. That love involves God’s recognition of our integrity. We love God in return by following God’s example in recognizing our integrity as he has. We hold on to him in storm after storm, and, by this faith, we discover finally that the last thing God would do is to let us go.

[1] Saint Mark 4:41.

[2] The Hymnal 1982, Hymns 687 and 688, Stanza 4.

A Priestly Word — 22 Jun 18

A Priestly Word

Sunday’s reading from II Corinthians (6:1-13) may be familiar to you, because much of it is read each year on Ash Wednesday (5:20b–6:10).

St Paul begins the reading for Sunday by exhorting the Corinthians “not to accept the grace of God in vain” (6:1). The context suggests that St Paul means for the Corinthians not to fail to conform to God’s gift of justification and being a new creation. Concretely, he means the Corinthians to become God’s righteousness (5:21), not to live for oneself (5:15), and to be reconciled to Paul (6:11-13 and 7:2-3). If the Corinthians do these things, no fault will be found in them at the last judgment (I Cor 4:2-5).

The Corinthians should undertake these concrete actions, because Paul has put “no obstacle in anyone’s way” (6:3). And in the highly rhetorical section, St Paul lists all the impediments he has endured beginning with “afflictions” (6:4) that commend his ministry to them. He goes on to say that he has been treated as an impostor, unknown, dying, punished, sorrowful, poor, and having nothing. None of these, he says, is true. In fact, their opposites are true. He ends by saying that his heart is open wide to them, and he says they should open wide their heart to him.

Shining through St Paul’s approach to his thorny relationship to the Corinthians is the Christian ideal of living up to the image of God in us that means, in our Catechism, “that we are free to make choices: to love, to create, to reason, and to live in harmony with creation and with God” (The Book of Common Prayer, page 845). The help we have to reach this ideal is God’s ministry to each of us by each Person of the Holy Trinity.

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