Proper Context   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday in Lent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who seest that we are prone to bring back the troubles of yesterday,

and to forecast the cares of tomorrow:

give us grace to throw off our fears and anxieties, as our Lord hath commanded;

that, this and every day, we may by kept in thy peace;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Jeremiah 23:1-4

Ephesians 5:1-10

Mark 10:17-22

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Personal peccadilloes are important moral issues, of course, but hopefully one does not restrict moral outrage to them.  Perhaps one thinks of certain men who committed criminal behavior related to the Watergate Scandal (1972-1974).  One may recall that some of them had few personal peccadilloes yet demonstrated a lamentable lack of public morality.  Or perhaps one ponders bad Kings of Judah (in the case of Jeremiah 23, Zedekiah), described as terrible shepherds.  Great responsibility comes with great power.

High position is no excuse for pride; it is faith and love that are everything, and these must come before all else.

–Epistle of Ignatius to the Smyrnaeans 6, translated by Maxwell Stanforth and Andrew Louth

The story of the pious rich man in Mark 10:17-22 reminds us not to become too attached to that which is temporary–in this case, wealth.  The call of Jesus is to follow him.  Those who respond faithfully to that call must put Jesus first and sacrifice much.  Details vary according to one’s circumstances, but the principle is universal.

Perhaps the most difficult attachments to lay down are those to intangible factors, such as ego.  Pride–hubris, actually–does go before the fall.  Often we like to define ourselves as insiders, as members of the company of God’s favored people.  Frequently we do this by wrongly defining many people as outsiders.  But what if our self-estimate is mistaken?  Admitting that may be devastating psychologically.

We need to rein in our appetites, whether for matters tangible or intangible–if we are to serve God properly.  This does not mean becoming killjoys.  No, we are correct to enjoy life and revel in blessings.  We need, however, to put everything in proper context.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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