Perfection Before God   1 comment

Apotheosis of War, by Vasily Vereshchagin (1871)

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Deuteronomy 26:16-19 (New Jerusalem Bible):

[Moses said,]

Yahweh your God commands you today to observe these laws and customs; you must keep and observe them with all your heart and with all your soul.

Today you have obtained this declaration from Yahweh: that he will be your god, but only if you follow his ways, keep his statutes, his commandments, his customs, and listen to his voice.  And today Yahweh has obtained this declaration from you: that you will be his own people–as he has said–but only if you keep all his commandments; then for praise and renown and honour, he will raise you higher and every other nation he has made, and you will be a people consecrated to Yahweh, as he has promised.

Psalm 119:1-8 (New Jerusalem Bible):

How blessed are those whose way is blameless, who walk in the Law of Yahweh!

Blessed are those who observe his instructions, who seek him with all their hearts,

and, doing no evil, who walk in his eyes.

You lay down your precepts to be carefully kept.

May my ways be steady in doing your will.

Then I shall not be shamed, if my gaze is fixed on your commandments.

I thank you with a sincere heart for teaching me your upright judgements.

I shall do your will; do not ever abandon me wholly.

Matthew 5:43-48 (New Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus said,]

You have heard how it was said, You will love your neighbour and hate your enemy.  But I say this to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; sot hat you may be children of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on the bad as well as the good, and sends down rain to fall on the upright and the wicked alike.  For if you love those who love you, what reward will you get?  Do not even the tax collectors do as much?  And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional?  Do not even the gentiles do as much?  You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Collect:

O God, by your Word you marvelously carry out the work of reconciliation: Grant that in our Lenten fast we may be devoted to you with all our hearts, and united with one another is prayer and holy love; 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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Who can be perfect before God?  In the sense in which most of us use that word, nobody can.  Therefore the Matthew Gospel must use this word in a different way.  The parallel reading in Luke says “merciful” or “compassionate” (depending on the translation) ,” not “perfect.”  That is attainable by grace.

The New Interpreter’s Bible (Volume VIII) states that Matthew took the word from Deuteronomy 18:13, which reads, “You shall be perfect before the Lord your God.”  The Hebrew word translated “perfect” in this passage indicates wholeness.  Therefore,

To be perfect is to serve God wholeheartedly, to be single-minded in devotion to the one God, just as God is one, the ethical stance appropriate to a monotheistic faith.

This ethical monotheism includes loving oneself and loving others as one loves oneself.  The former must precede the latter.  The Law of Moses constituted a relatively high moral bar in its historical, geographical, and cultural contexts.  And Jesus raised the bar even higher.

This morning, on Speaking of Faith, a public radio program, I heard interviews with Israeli and Palestinian parents who lost children in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  When these emotionally injured people spoke and listened to each other they understood that they had more in common than not; they shared the same pain.  And they understood their common humanity.

Stereotypes separate us from those we consider irreparably different from ourselves and, unless the scales fall away from our eyes, we will never recognize that our most powerful bond is our shared humanity.  This sentiment is not politically palatable in many settings, but neither is merely decent behavior in general, which is what I write of now.

All of us are children of God.  Some of us know we are children of God; others do not.  Some of us know that every human being is a child of God; others do not.  Yet we all bear the same divine image, and from that reality we derive what is good and noble about our nature.  From that reality we derive our natural rights.  From that reality we derive our equality.  And from that reality proceeds hope for peace, or at least less hostility.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 21, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF STEVE DE GRUCHY, SOUTH AFRICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ARNULF OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, AND SAINT GERMANUS OF GRANFEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ETHELBERT OF KENT, KING 

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT SOUTHWELL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/tenth-day-of-lent/

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  1. Pingback: Tenth Day of Lent « LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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