Individual Faith, in Community Context   1 comment

Above: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins (1838-1842), by Friedrich Wilhelm Schadow (1788-1862)


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.


1 Thessalonians 4:1-8 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Finally, brothers, we urge you and appeal to you in the Lord Jesus Christ to make more and more progress in the kind of life that you are meant to live:  the life that God wants, as you learnt from us, and as you are already living it.  You have not forgotten the instructions that we gave you on the authority of the Lord Jesus.

What God wants is for you all to be holy.  He wants you to keep away from fornication, and each one of you to know how to use the body that belongs to him in a way that is holy and honourable, not giving way to selfish lust like the pagans who do not know God.  He wants nobody to at all ever to sin by taking advantage of a brother in these matters; the Lord always punishes sins of that sort, as we told you before and assured you.  We have been called by God to be holy, not to be immoral; in other words, anyone who objects is not objecting to a human authority, but to God, who gives you hisHoly Spirit.

Psalm 97 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the earth rejoice;

let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him,

righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

A fire goes before him

and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees it and is afraid.

The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

Confounded be all who worship carved images

and delight in false gods!

Bow down before him, all you gods.

Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O LORD.

For you are the LORD,

most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The LORD loves those who hate evil;

he preserves the lives of the saints

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous,

and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy Name.

Matthew 25:1-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Jesus said,

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this:  Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five sensible:  the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps.  The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep.  But at midnight there was a cry.  ’The bridegroom is here!  Go out and meet him.’  At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil:  our lamps are going out.’  But they replied, ‘There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.’  They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived.  Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed.  The other bridesmaids arrived later.  ’Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us.’  But he replied, ‘I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.’  So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.


The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


This day’s readings flow naturally from those ( for the previous day; the theme continues to have an eschatological root.

The wedding custom to which Jesus refers in Matthew 25 is one in which a wedding was a week-long event.  Bridesmaids kept the bride company until the bridegroom arrived.  But nobody knew when the bridegroom would arrive, so the wise bridesmaid was prepared with a lit lamp and spare oil.  And nobody was allowed to process to the wedding without a lit lamp.  Once the doors closed, those who were in were in and those were outside were outside.

Jesus, of course, is the bridegroom, and each of us is a bridesmaid.  The oil stands in for a right relationship with God.  Nobody can borrow this from anyone else.  This relationship with God is in faith community; it is not hyper-individualistic.  But each person must take responsibility for his or her faith life.  Hence the Church has incorporated the balance of individual and community into its rites for baptism, confirmation, and reaffirmation of faith.

The reading from 1 Thessalonians also pertains to marriage.  Paul cautions the recent converts to Christianity to avoid promiscuity, which was apparently common among many pagans.  The reference to taking advantage of a brother refers to wrecking his marriage by luring his wife away from him, hence leading to divorce, or by merely committing adultery with his wife.  Either way, the result was negative.

The subtext is this:  What we do affects others.  All that we do, for good or for ill, we do in community.  And we are how we think; our attitudes influence our actions.  So proper regard for each other is the first link in a chain that leads to a healthy community and society.  We cannot borrow this attitude from anyone else; we must take responsibility for it ourselves.

And who are our neighbors, brothers, and sisters?  All persons are our neighbors, brothers, and sisters.  On that day when God asks us if we have loved them as ourselves, may we be able to say honestly that we have tried more often than not.  Until then, imagine what the world would like if more people followed this ethic.  Then try to make it look more like that.






Adapted from this post:


Posted May 4, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 Thessalonians 4, Matthew 25, Psalm 97

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 16: Friday, Year 1 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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