Role Models   1 comment

Above:  The Communion of Saints

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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 8:1-13; 9:16-27; 10:14-32 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now about food sacrificed to idols:

We all have knowledge;

yes, that is so, but knowledge gives self-importance–it is love that makes the building grow.  A man may imagine he understands something, but still not understand anything in the way he ought to.  But any man who loves God is known by him.  Well then, about eating food sacrificed to idols:  we know that idols do not really exist in the world and that there is no god but the One.  And even if there were things called gods, either in the sky or on earth–where there certainly seem to be ‘gods’ and ‘lords’ in plenty–still for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things come and for whom we exist; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things come and through whom we exist.

Some people, however, do not have this knowledge.  There are some who have been so long used to idols that they eat this food as though it really had been sacrificed to the idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled by it.  Food, of course, cannot bring us in touch with God:  we lose nothing if we refuse to eat, we gain nothing if we eat.  Only be careful that you do not make use of this freedom in a way that proves a pitfall for the weak.  Suppose someone sees you, a man who understands, eating in some temple to an idol; his own conscience, even if it is week, may encourage him to eat food which has been offered to idols.  In this way your knowledge could become the ruin of someone weak, of a brother for whom Christ died.  By sinning in this way against your brothers, and injuring their weak consciences, it would be Christ against whom you sinned.  That is why, since food can be the occasion of my brother’s downfall, I shall never eat meat again in case I am the cause of a brother’s downfall.

Not that I boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it!  If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands.  Do you know what my reward is?  It is this:  in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.

So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could.  I made myself a Jew to the Jews, to win the Jews; that is, I who am not a subject of the Law made myself subject to the Law.  To those who have no Law, I was free of the Law myself (though not free from God’s Law, being under the Law of Christ) to win those who have no Law.  For the weak I made myself weak.  I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.

All the runners at the stadium are trying to win, but only one of them gets the prize.  You must run in the same way, meaning to win.  All the fighters at the games go into strict training; they do this just to win a wreath which will wither away, but we do it for a wreath that will never wither.  That is how I run, intent on winning; that is how I fight, not beating the air.  I treat my body hard and make it obey me, for, having been an announcer myself, I should not want to be disqualified.

This is the reason, my dear brothers, why you must keep clear of idolatry.  I say to you as sensible people:  judge for yourselves what I am saying.  The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the blood of Christ.  The fact that there is only one loaf means that we all have a share in this one loaf.  Look at the other Israel, the race, where those who eat the sacrifices are in communion with the altar.  Does this mean that the food sacrificed to idols has a real value, or that the idol itself is real?  Not at all.  It simply means that the sacrifices they offer they sacrifice to demons who are not God.  I have no desire to see you in communion with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.  You cannot take your share at the table of the Lord and at the table of demons.  Do we want to make the Lord angry; are we stronger than he is?

For me there are no forbidden things,

but not everything does good.  True, there are no forbidden things, but it is not everything that helps the building to grow.  Nobody should be looking for his own advantage, but everybody for the other man’s.  Do not hesitate to eat anything that is sold in butchers’ shops:  there is no need to raise questions of conscience; for the earth and everything that is in it belong to the Lord.  If an unbeliever invites you to his house, go if you want to, and eat whatever is put in front of you, without asking questions just to satisfy conscience.  But if someone says to you,

This food was offered in sacrifice,

then, out of consideration for the man that told you, you should not eat it, for the sake of his scruples; his scruples, you see, not your own.  Why should my freedom depend on somebody else’s conscience?  If I take my share with thankfulness, why should I be blamed for food for which I have thanked God?

Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it all for the glory of God.  Never do anything offensive to anyone–to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God….

Psalm 139:1-19, 22, 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

22 Search me out, O God, and know my heart;

try me and know my restless thoughts.

23 Look well whether there be any wickedness in me

and lead me in the way that is everlasting.

Psalm 84 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house

and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;

by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

3 Happy are they who dwell in your house!

they will always be praising you.

4 Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

5 Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs,

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

6 They will climb from height to height,

and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

hearken, O God of Jacob.

8 Behold our defender, O God;

and look upon the face of your Anointed.

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,

and to stand in the threshold of the house of my God

than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

10 For the LORD is both sun and shield;

he will give grace and glory;

11 No good thing will the LORD withhold

from those who walk with integrity.

12 O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!

Psalm 116:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Hallelujah!

Luke 6:27-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But I say this to you who are listening:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.  To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you.  Treat others as you would like them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect?  For even sinners do that much.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount.  Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return.  You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.  Give, and there will be gifts for you:  a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.

He [Jesus] also told a parable to them,

Can one blind man guide another?  Surely both will fall into a pit?  The disciple is not superior to this teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you cannot see the plank in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.

There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit.  For every tree can be told by its own fruit; people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles.  A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness.  For a man’s words from what fills his heart.

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say?

Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them–I will show you what he is like.  He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house  but could not shake it, it was so well built.  But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations:  as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!

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The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Once, when I was a youth, there was a famous basketball player who recorded a television spot in which he proclaimed that he was not a role model.  I understand his main point, for the fact that one is a talented and recognized athlete ought not to cause others (often young people) to look up to and emulate one.  There is a difference between heroism and athletic prowess.  Parents and/or guardians ought to instill good values in children, and there are plenty of excellent people (living and dead) who are excellent role models.  As a Christian, I look to Jesus of Nazareth.  As an amateur hagiographer, I point to the saints when I seek good examples from mere mortals.

Life in community requires us to accommodate each other.  So, if something otherwise harmless we do harms another person spiritually, we need (within reason, of course) to refrain from such behaviors.  I say “within reason” because anything any of us does might offend or confuse someone else spiritually.  So the principle, applied without reason, leads to us doing nothing.

Each of us is a role model, even if we do not want to be one.  So may we be the best role models we can be.  May we love our enemies, denying them any excuse for hating us.  May we live compassionately, performing as many good deeds as possible and forgiving others.  And may we avoid hypocrisy–all by the grace of God, of course.

God is watching, of course, and that fact matters very much.  And our fellow mere mortals are also watching.  What kind of messages are we sending to them via our deeds, words, and attitudes?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 18, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUKE THE EVANGELIST, PHYSICIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/week-of-proper-18-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

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