The Divine Preference for the Poor, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parish Soup Kitchen, by George Elgar Hicks

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday Before Lent, Year 2

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O Lord, we beseech thee favorably to hear the prayers of thy people;

that we, who are justly punished for our offenses,

may be mercifully delivered by thy goodness, for the glory of thy Name;

though Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord,

who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit,

ever one God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 136

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Ezekiel 3:4-11

Psalm 86

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Matthew 5:1-16

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Some people are hopelessly stubborn; they refuse to heed wisdom.  They persist in telling God and those who speak for God to go fly a kite, so to speak.  They persist in behavior that harms even members of their community and congregation.

Taking the Holy Eucharist improperly has long been a topic for theologians and denominations.  Many of them have resorted to an excessive, Donatistic emphasis on doctrine as the litmus test for partaking of that sacrament.  Some still do.  I, as an Episcopalian, am, according to some denominations with congregations in my town, one of the theologically and doctrinally impure.  Therefore, if I were, theoretically, to take communion in any of those denominations, I would violate the rule of closed communion.  I favor open communion.  That is how “impure” I am.

The issue in Corinth had a particular context.  The Eucharist was still a communal meal in a house church.  Members of the congregation came from a variety of economic backgrounds.  Poorer members depended partially on food wealthier members provided.  Denying those vulnerable members of the church what they needed was wrong.  So was mistaking the Eucharist for an opportunity to drink too much.

The lectionary committee’s choice to schedule the Beatitudes from Matthew 5 was odd.  The Beatitudes and Woes from Luke 6 would have been better.  “Blessed are you who are poor” would have fit better than “Blessed are the poor in spirit.”

The poor are always with us.  A combination of factors, from sound economic policy to good decisions, can raise many of them out of poverty.  Yet, even under the best of circumstances in the human order, the poor will always be with us.  Helping them is the wise, ethical course.  Blaming and scorning them is not.  Neither is criminalizing poverty, another matter of policy.

I write this post during the COVID-19 pandemic.  The economic damage of that virus is severe.  May governments and other institutions play their part in doing what they can–rebuilding systems and infrastructures so that the opportunities for the economically devastated to lead better lives will exist.  May the post-COVID-19 economic order be just.  And may we, as individuals, do what we can.  May we have proper attitudes, with actions to match.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF LUKE OF PRAGUE AND JOHN AUGUSTA, MORAVIAN BISHOPS AND HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT KAZIMIERZ TOMASZ SYKULSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1942

THE FEAST OF LARS OLSEN SKREFSRUD, HANS PETER BOERRESEN, AND PAUL OLAF BODDING, LUTHERAN MISSIONARIES IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF MARYRS OF EL MOZOTE, EL SALVADOR, DECEMBER 11-12, 1981

THE FEAST OF SAINT SEVERIN OTT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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