A Different Standard   1 comment

Above:  A Bullseye

Image Source = Alberto Barbati

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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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1 Corinthians 3:1-23; 4:1-5 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Make no mistake about it:  if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he can be wise.  Why?  Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.  As scripture says:

The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts:  he knows how useless they are;

or again:

God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise.

So there is nothing to boast about in anything human:  Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.

People must think of themselves as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God.  What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of his trust.  Not that it makes the slightest difference to me whether you, or indeed any human tribunal, find me worthy or not.  I will not even pass judgement on myself.  True, my conscience does not reproach me at all, but that does not prove that I am acquitted:  the Lord alone is my judge.  There must be no passing of premature judgement.  Leave that until the Lord comes:  he will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men’s hearts.  Then will be the time for each one to have whatever praise he deserves, from God.

Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

Psalm 37:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon wither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

Be still and wait for the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

8  Do not fret yourselves over the one who prospers,

the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

9  Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;

do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

10 For evildoers shall be cut off,

but those who wait upon the LORD shall possess the land.

11  In a little while the wicked shall be no more;

you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.

12  But the lowly shall possess the land;

they will delight in abundance of peace.

Luke 5:1-11, 33-39 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now he was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank.  The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats–it was Simon’s–and asked him to put out a little from the shore.  Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon,

Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.

Simon replied,

Master, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.

And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying,

Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.

For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners;  But Jesus said to Simon,

Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.

Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

….

Then they [the Pharisees and their scribes] said to him [Jesus],

John’s disciples are always fasting and the disciples of the Pharisees too, but yours go on eating and drinking.

Jesus replied,

Surely you cannot make the bridegroom’s attendants fast while the bridegroom is still with them?  But the time will come, the time for the bridegroom to be taken away from them; that will be the time when they will fast.

He also told them this parable,

No one tears a piece from a new cloak to put it on an old cloak; if he does, not only will he have torn the new one, but the piece taken from the new will not match the old.

And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and then run out, and the skins will be lost.  No; new wine must be put into fresh skins.  And nobody who has been drinking old wine wants new. “’The old is good” he says.

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The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; 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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We human beings are social creatures.  So what others think of us affects us.  Some of us care about these matters more than others do, and I suspect that the person who does not care at all is rare.  If the opinions of certain of our fellow humans are sufficiently negative, we might face criminal sanctions, justifiably or not.  Paul, by 53-54 C.E., had arrived at a spiritual point at which he wrote a text which translates as the following in English:

…the Lord alone is my judge.–1 Corinthians 4:4c

He was still subject to earthly tribunals and penalties, of course, but God alone was the only judge which really mattered.

That is true for each of us, is it not?  If you, O reader, have read continuously in 1 Corinthians to the point of Paul’s line about having only for God for a judge, you should know that it flows naturally and logically from what precedes it.  Human “wisdom” is nothing compared to divine wisdom.  Even divine foolishness is superior to human “wisdom.”  The message of Christ crucified (and resurrected) is therefore either a portal to eternal life or a stumbling block to one, depending on whether one has the mind of Christ.  So yes, it is true that God is the only judge which really matters.

Each of us has secrets.  Each of us commits sins unawares.  Each of us mistakes some activities as being sinful.  Each of us mistakes certain activities as not being sinful.  Often our standards are grounded (at least partially) in our societies, cultures, and subcultures.  And often we miss the mark so much that we are not even close to the bullseye.  Yet with God there is mercy.  There is also judgment, of course.  May we, however, trust God, do the best we can by grace, follow the example of Jesus as best we can by grace, love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and leave the rest to God.

One of the advantages to following a lectionary is that it provides structure to my Bible study.  And one of the joys is that I reread passages I have not encountered in years.  Once, many moons ago, I read every book in the Jewish, Protestant, and Roman Catholic, and Russian Orthodox canons of scripture.  Yet I find myself reading passages now as if it were the first time.  This rediscovery of the Bible is an ongoing process, one which I hope will continue for a long time.  This day’s rediscovered gem comes from 1 Corinthians 4:3.

I will not even pass judgement on myself.

Too often I judge myself, probably more harshly than do many others.  Yet Paul invited the Corinthians to live in liberation from even that verdict.  The invitation stands for us today; dare we accept it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/week-of-proper-17-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-17-friday-year-2/

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