The Imperative of Active Love   1 comment

Above:  Christ Healing the Blind Man, by Eustache Le Sueur

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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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Revelation 1:1-3; 2:1-5 (Revised English Bible):

This is the revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave him so that he might show his servants what must soon take place.  He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who in telling all that he saw has borne witness to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ.

Happy is the one who reads aloud the words of this prophecy, and happy those who listen if they take to heart what is here written; for the time of fulfillment is near.

To the angel of the church at Ephesus write:

These are the words of the One who holds the seven stars in his right hand, who walks among the seven gold lamps:  I know what you are doing, how you toil and endure.  I know you cannot abide wicked people; you have put to the test those who claim to be apostles but are not, and you have found them to be false.  Endurance you have; you have borne up in my cause and have never become weary.  However, I have this against you:  the love you felt at first you have now lost.  Think from what a height you have fallen; repent, and do as once you did.  If you do not, I will come to you remove your lamp from its place.

Psalm 1 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and the meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither,

everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked;

they are like the chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the ways of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Luke 18:35-43 (Revised English Bible):

As Jesus approached Jericho a blind man sat at the roadside begging.  Hearing a crowd going past, he asked what was happening, and was told that Jesus of Nazareth was passing by.  Then he called out,

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

The people in front told him to hold his tongue; but he shouted all the more,

Jesus, son of David, have pity on me.

Jesus stopped and ordered the man to be brought to him.  When he came up Jesus asked him,

What do you want me to do for you?

He answered,

Sir, I want my sight back.

Jesus said to him,

Have back your sight; your faith has healed you.

He recovered his sight instantly and followed Jesus, praising God.  And all the people gave praise to God for what they had seen.

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Links:

Week of Proper 28:  Monday, Year 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/week-of-proper-28-monday-year-1/

A Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/911-a-prayer-of-st-francis-of-assisi/

A Franciscan Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-franciscan-blessing/

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Procedural Comments on the Monday-Saturday Posts for the Weeks of Propers 28 and 29:

The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following leads me through Revelation for the last two weeks of the church year every other year.  This being the first post of that series, I make some procedural comments here and now.

Religious imagination is important, for the most effective way to communicate some religious truths is imaginatively, as in poetry and other symbolic language.  Word pictures can be more vivid than dry explanations.  I recognize and embrace this fact.  You, O reader, also need to know that I am not an avid consumer of prophesy-themed content, much of which is full of bologna (to use a polite term) anyway.  My training is in history and the analysis of texts.  So, when I approach a part of the Bible, I want to know, in context, what the message was or the messages were to the original audience.  Then I extrapolate to today.

That said, here is some of what we know:

  1. The author was one John of Patmos, an exile who did not write the Gospel of John.  He probably composed the Revelation, or Apocalypse, of John in the 90s C.E., a time of sporadic persecutions throughout the Roman Empire.
  2. The main purposes of the book were to encourage persecuted Christians and Christians who might face persecution, and to remind them of the contrast between Christianity and the dominant Greco-Roman culture.
  3. The Apocalypse’s language is symbolic.  Fortunately, we can decode it.  ”Babylon,” for example, is the Roman Empire.  And sometimes the text decodes language, as in 1:20.
  4. Revelation is an essentially positive book, one which tells us that God will win and evil will face destruction.
  5. Protestant Reformers Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli detested Revelation.  They would have removed it from the New Testament, had that been possible.

Now I proceed to my comments specific to this day’s assigned readings.

KRT

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The blind man in Luke 18:35-43 called out for Jesus as people told him to be quiet.  But the man refused to obey them.  His persistence paid off, for the got our Lord’s attention and regained his sight.  Those who told the man to be quiet–to cease to be inconvenient and annoying–did not act out of love for him.

Active love is of the essence in today’s post.  The message to the church at Ephesus commended it for holding to orthodoxy during persecution yet condemned it for waning in either devotion to Christ or care for each other or both.  The church did, however, have an opportunity to repair its ways, thereby avoiding dispossession by Jesus.  This message reminds me of Matthew 25:31-46, in which the test of devotion is active love.

The lesson remains as germane for us today as it was for ancient Christians.  None of us can do everything, but each of us can do something, at least some of the time.  The challenge is to do what we can as opportunities present themselves.  Fortunately, helping others can assume many forms.  Some women grow their hair long then sell it for use in wigs for women who have lost their hair because of chemotherapy.  And certain professions are inherently human service-oriented.  I have heard of medical professionals who prefer to work in an Emergency Room setting out of a religious obligation.  Furthermore, volunteer opportunities abound, providing opportunities outside time on the clock.  And comedy can help people through difficult times; sometimes we need to laugh.

Purely intellectualized orthodoxy is not helpful; it must find compassionate expression.  Likewise, good deeds themselves are inadequate; love must animate them for the maximum effect.  (See 1 Corinthians 13.)  If I, for example, affirm that each person bears the image of God, I make an orthodox doctrinal statement rooted in Genesis 1:27.  (I do affirm it, by the way.)  But, if I do not act on that proposition, it is useless.  How ought that item of orthodox doctrine inform my life?  I cannot, in good conscience, approve of racism if I really believe that each person bears the image of God.  (I have an interest in civil rights.)

May our love for God and our fellow human beings deepen and become more active as time passes.  I wonder how much the world will improve as that happens.  By grace, may we and those who succeed us on this planet learn the answer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SIMEON, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/week-of-proper-28-monday-year-2/

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One response to “The Imperative of Active Love

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 28: Monday, Year 2 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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