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my miscellany

A Priestly Word — 20 Jul 18

A Priestly Word

Sunday’s portion of the Epistle to the Ephesians (2:11-22) conveys St Paul’s stunning insight into the mission and purpose of Christ’s ministry and that of the church. Christ and the church broke down the wall separating Jews and Gentiles, reconciling “both groups to God in one body through the cross” (2:16) and giving both groups “access in one Spirit to the Father” (2:18).

Formerly, the Gentiles had “no hope” “without God in the world” (2:12). The Gentiles lacked Israel’s messianic expectation, the several covenants God made with Israel, and hope of salvation and knowledge of God. But through Christ all these divisions have been transcended by the abolition of the Mosaic law for the sake of uniting Jew and Gentile in a single religious community imbued with the same Holy Spirit and worshipping the same Father. The Gentiles are now included in God’s household as it arises from the foundation of the apostles and those endowed with prophetic power. With Christ as the “cornerstone” (2:20), Jews and Gentiles together are being built “into a holy temple in the Lord” (2:21). The Ephesians themselves are built spiritually in that temple, itself “a dwelling place for God” (2:22).

The implications of St Paul’s insight are enormous though in truth, however large they are, they themselves are but a part of God’s entire design or plan in Christ, announced to the shepherds, to deliver “on earth peace among those whom he favors” (St Luke 2:14).

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Pentecost 8, 2018 — 15 Jul 18

Pentecost 8, 2018

RCL Year B Proper 10
Amos 7:7-15, Psalm 85:8-13, Ephesians 1:3-14, Saint Mark 6:14-29

When you think about it, the Gospel today concerns Jesus only by analogy. King Herod hears of Jesus and his disciples, the Gospel begins.[1] And then we hear the story of the death of Saint John the Baptist by way of the rumor that Jesus is Saint John risen from the dead.

The Gospel really concerns Saint John the Baptist, the forerunner of Jesus and a major messenger of God. As God’s messenger, John has told Herod that it is not lawful for him to take his brother’s wife, Herodias, as his own wife. For this message from God Herod throws John into prison, and Herodias bears a grudge against John. She satisfies that grudge by suggesting to her daughter that she ask for John’s head on a platter, since Herod has offered to give her anything she wants. Herod keeps his promise, and John is beheaded. And we see what happens to God’s messenger.

Something similar happens to Amos when he delivers God’s message about King Jeroboam. Amaziah misrepresents Amos’ message to Jeroboam and runs Amos out of town, commanding him to earn his daily bread in Judah not Israel. Prophesy there, why don’t you? If Amos and Saint John’s stories resemble the truth, being God’s messenger isn’t such a cushy and hotsy-totsy vocation after all.

You’ve heard the expression, “Don’t kill the messenger.” But that expression is current, because it tells the truth. People kill messengers often enough to give the expression full meaning.

I began by saying that the Gospel today concerns Jesus only by analogy. John and Jesus are God’s messengers, and people kill them both because of their identity as God’s messengers.

Which brings me to the heart of the Gospel today. You and I work both sides of the message street. We claim to be part of the Jesus Movement, as the Presiding Bishop likes to call it. And, at the same time, our sins nailed Jesus to the cross. Part of what it means to be a foot-soldier in the Movement is a certain ambivalence about the Movement. We see nothing ambivalent in Amos, in John, or in Jesus. And yet we want to stay on both sides of the street. My prayer for you and for me is that we all grasp our calling a little more fervently and a little less ambivalently. For to do that is our journey, a journey leading to salvation. God help us along the way.

[1] Saint Mark 6:14

A Priestly Word — 13 Jul 18

A Priestly Word

We begin on Sunday a journey through St Paul’s Epistle to the Ephesians, the great epistle about the worldwide church whose head is Jesus Christ. This journey continues through August 26.

Certain early manuscripts omit the phrase in Ephesus from the first verse, and this omission raises the question of whether the epistle was addressed to a particular community of believers, where Paul ministered for well over two years, or was written for a broader, if not universal, audience. Certainly we believe that whenever we read any of the Scriptures in church that the reading applies to us as well as to all Christians.

A major theme of the epistle concerns the purpose of the worldwide church which is to be the instrument for making God’s plan of salvation known throughout the universe. God’s plan of salvation, shown most especially in Jesus Christ, flows from God’s saving love for all whom God created.

The portion of the epistle appointed for Sunday (1:3-14) refers repeatedly to God’s plan of salvation: “[h]e destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ” (1:5) and “[w]ith all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (1:8c-10) are prime examples of Paul’s emphasis on God’s plan of salvation.

Paul concludes Sunday’s portion, the opening of the epistle, by specifying that his readers, too, specifically were targeted in God’s sweeping plan of salvation: “In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance twoard redemption as God’s people, to the praise of his glory (1:13-14).

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