Monday, January 19, 2009

Sunday, February 1, 2009, Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

.Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Yes, do it in our time, God. Grant us your peace. It’s hard to find peace of any kind in the current landscape of the world. Please don’t go out of the Mercy business. AMEN

Deuteronomy 18:15-20

Through Moses, God promises to send a prophet to be Moses’ successor. The Israelites must be careful to discern good prophets from false prophets.

The tasks God sets for them, and for us, are not easy. Who speaks for God? Whom must we heed? God holds us accountable to heed the prophets who speak for God. God will kill those prophets who presume to speak for God but speak something God has not commanded them to speak.

Who speaks for God in 2009? What tests do you expect prophets to pass?

Enough is at stake to put the fear of God into us!

Psalm 111

What is the “fear of God”? In my neighborhood as a child, the ‘fear of God’ required a change in attitude. When the “fear of God” was put into someone, it shook the person at her or his foundations. The person turned from willful wrong doing and became devoted to doing the right thing.

The psalmist says “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.” The opposite of wisdom is ‘foolishness’ or ‘stupidity,’ or ‘air-headedness.’ We lack wisdom when we blindly worship God without using our own minds.

I doubt that God wants to bow us down with fear. Why would the maker of the universe want his creatures to grovel? Rather, fear of suggests ‘fearful respect (towards).’ The Concise Oxford Dictionary illustrates with the phrase “had a fear of heights.” Wisdom starts not when we grovel but when we take the creator with deadly seriousness.

God is not a self-centered, sadistic potentate who gives us creatures tough puzzles to trick us and make us die! God sent Jesus into the world not to condemn the world, but to save it.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13

I was 1-2 years younger than most of the boys on my block. They loved to bate me telling me there was no Santa Clause. I knew they were wrong, and told them in no uncertain terms. I pointed to the evidence of all that Santa had given me, and not just me, but them too. They said their parents had actually given them the gifts. “But……“ The more I proclaimed Santa’s existence, the more impatient they became.

My parents and I had strong bonds of trust. “Charles, Bucky, and Jimmy all say there is no Santa,” I reported to them. “Of course there is a Santa,” my parents replied, but after a time they told me that Santa is just an imaginary figure to delight small children. “You are no longer a small child and need to know this.”

One of the ways religious leaders of many religions raised money in the first century was to sell in temple markets the meat of animals that practitioners of the religion had brought to the temple as gifts to the various gods. The priests were not supposed to burn to cinders the animals offered. Once slaughtered, they were butchered and sent from the altar to temple markets for sale. All knew this, and practitioners of the religion often believed meat bought at the temple markets brought with it added blessings from the ritual sacrifices at the altar and from the faith of those who brought the animal offerings for that purpose.

Christians did not practice animal sacrifice. Some Christian converts wanted nothing to do with the meat sold at the temple markets: they felt that would compromise their witness to God in Christ.

Saint tells the Corinthians, “We know better.” There is nothing wrong with buying and eating meat from temple markets, BUT that’s not the way we want to live with Christians who don’t share our knowledge. Those who think the food offered to idols is wrong, should not eat it, he explains. And we who care about them, won't insist on the privilege of eating temple meat because of our superior wisdom.

Elsewhere, Saint tells Christians that it is okay to vary their personal practice according to local custom. “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.”

Some Baptists preachers have told me they are aware that drinking whiskey in moderation will not damn them to hell, but they are careful not to say this in their pulpits lest they offend those who disagree.

In the 21st century anything that we do may well be caught as a digital image and circulated to the entire world. The little boys who argued with me about Santa Clause can now easily sneak a picture of my father taking off his Santa costume. The Baptist preacher will have a much harder time explaining the hard liquor at his table out of town for a convention.

At some point, all religions need to level with the believers: “You are no longer small children and you need to know this, this, this, ………”

That's what many Christians are saying to other Christians who insist that all lesbians, gays, trangendered and bisexuals are like the mauraders of Sodom, or that all lbgt Christians in committed relationships are no different from temple prostitutes: "You are no longer small children, and you need to know that God is no respecter of persons. Jesus loves absolutely everybody! Serve Jesus in the lives of the lbgt neighbors God has given to you."

Mark 1:21-28

“They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.”

The scribes were recorders. They tracked and shared ‘received opinions.’ They offered points of view not their own, but opinions they could trace through various ’authorities.’ They knew the provenance of points of view, but could not themselves speak authoritatively. They were a bit like sophomores who, learning how to document their papers, feel the worth of a paper is to be determined by how many footnotes it has, not by any authority inherent to the ideas and thesis in the paper.

When I had successfully defended my doctoral dissertation, Dr. James B. McMillan, chair of the English Department and a member of my committee, said to me on the way out of the examination room, “Up until this point you have succeeded in your education quite well, mainly by showing how much you know of what the main authorities know about the subjects of your papers. From here on, readers will continue to expect you to know well what others have said, but hope that you will share that information only selectively. You will make your mark hereafter primarily by how cogent others find claims made from your own authority.”

See also

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