“But I Say to You”   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever . Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 4:1-5 (Monday)

Micah 4:6-13 (Tuesday)

Psalm 79 (Both Days)

Revelation 15:1-8 (Monday)

Revelation 18:1-10 (Tuesday)

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Do not remember against us the sin of former times:

but let your compassion hasten to meet us, for we are brought very low.

–Psalm 79:8, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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Psalm 79 prays for divine violence against enemies while seeking forgiveness for sins and deliverance from the consequences of sin.  Micah 4 and Revelation 18 speak of that deliverance, which comes with divine violence in Micah 5 and Revelation 15 and 18.  Yet I recall Jesus teaching in Matthew 5:43-48 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You have heard how it was said:  You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.  But I say to you:  love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you; in this way you will be sons of your Father in heaven, for he causes his sun to rise on bad man as well as good, and his rain to fall on honest and dishonest men alike.  For if you love those who love you, what right have you to claim any credit?  For the tax collectors do as much, do they not?  And if you save your greetings for your brothers, are you doing anything exceptional?  Even the pagans do as much, do they not?  You must therefore be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect.

“Perfect,” in this case, indicates being suited to one’s purpose.  Thus a sacrificial animal which met the standards was perfect, even though it had some physical imperfections.  If our purpose as human beings is to love, glorify, and enjoy God forever, as the Westminster Catechisms tell us, that is our standard of perfection.  Grace will enable us to attain it.

We cannot be suited to our high calling if we carry grudges around.  This baggage is too heavy a burden and a distraction from our sacred vocation.  Yes, sometimes oppressors refuse to cease oppressing, so good news for the oppressed is dire news for the oppressors, but the righteous ought not to rejoice in the bad fortunes of others.  The Dalai Lama, a Tibetan Buddhist, has compassion for the Chinese oppressors of Tibetans.  The Chinese oppressors are hurting themselves also, he says correctly.  He puts many Christians to shame with regard to Christ’s teaching about loving one’s enemies.  He puts me to shame in this matter.

Recognizing that a problem exists is the first step in the process of correcting it.  I know well the desire for vindication at the expense of those who have wronged me.  I also know the spiritual acidity of the desire for revenge.  God has intervened in my life with regard to this issue.  Grace has arrived and continues to be necessary, for I am weak.  Yet I keep trying to become stronger.  Even a minimal effort is something which God can use, I am convinced.  A humble beginning plus ample grace equals wonderful results.

This is a devotion for Advent, the season of preparation for the arrival of Jesus.  Liturgically the build-up is to Christmas (December 25-January 5), but the assigned readings include references the Old Testament Day of the Lord and to the Second Coming of Jesus.  The expectation in such lessons is that Yahweh or Jesus will replace the old, corrupt, and exploitative human order with the new, divine, and just order.  This has yet to happen, obviously, but that vision of how things ought to be should propel we who call ourselves Christians to oppose all that exploits our fellow human beings and denies them all that a proper respect for human dignity affords them.  The test of whether we should support or oppose something comes from Jesus himself:  Is it consistent with the command to love others as ourselves?

A perhaps apocryphal story tells of the aged St. John the Evangelist/Divine/Apostle.  He visited a congregation, the members of which anticipated what he might tell them.  The Apostle said,

My children, love one another.

Then he left the room where the congregation had assembled.  One person followed John and asked an ancient equivalent of

That’s it?  Is there not more?

The Apostle replied,

When you have done that, I will tell you more.

Often we cannot even love those similar to ourselves, much less pray for our enemies.  Thus we are not suited to our divine calling.  We can be so, however.  May Christ, who entered this world long ago on a mission of mercy, find in many people metaphorical stables in which to continue arriving among us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY A. LATHBURY, U.S. METHODIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERTILLA BOSCARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND NURSE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HARRIS BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF TARORE OF WAHAORA, ANGLICAN MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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