Thursday, October 1, 2009

October 25, 2009. Twenty First Sunday after Pentecost. Proper 25

© 2009 by Louie Crew

Today’s Lections

The Collect

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The authors of the collects did not assume that the gift of faith would flourish without encouragement, that converts or even long-time Christians would automatically manifest spiritual gifts or want to do God’s will. The authors of the collects assume that we are sinners, like themselves, who need to learn the mind of Christ. One way of learning the mind of Christ is by praying for it.

Job 42:1-6, 10-17

The play ends happily ever after. We can hardly fault the playwright for the optimism, since that formula still pleases audiences enormously. I suppose that with four generations to do so, a Job might get over the ‘all the evil that the Lord had brought upon him.’ I am glad that the playwright remains honest that God did bring evil upon Job. Some want to improve God’s performance by claiming that we who suffer bring on our own punishment.

I am unhappy that in this play, the ‘solution’ for Job is to confess: he has not discovered any sins that he had ignored when for most of the play he declared himself innocent. Yet now he professes that he knows how ignorant he was: “I uttered what I did not understand.”

Job has told the truth about his own behavior; what he did not understand was that God was using him capriciously to prove a bet with Satan. Job has been duped.

He’s well rewarded as a dupe -- getting back far more than he ever lost. Perhaps Yahweh should have gone Allah ‘one better’ and rewarded Job with 1,000 virgins.

Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22)

Psalm 34 seems written to order as a postscript for Job. Job has suffered but God is faithful and delivers him from “all of my terror.” Righteousness promises no immunity from troubles, but it does promise final deliverance.

Recently I watched the very powerful 2008 film God On Trial, starring Rupert Graves, Dominic Cooper, Antony Sher and Stellan Skarsgard. A group of inmates at Auschwitz know that half of them will die then next day in the gas chamber. They put God on trial for their murder, for abandoning the covenant with Israel.

One of them, who had been a judge in the high court, presides. The playwright intersperses this drama with the story of a group of tourists, many of them well-off Jews of today, who visit the prison. Some rejoice that God has indeed remained faithful, that they are themselves alive and well. It seems to me that the tourists' claim is glib and trivializes the enormity of the prisoners' suffering. I encourage you to come to your on conclusions by watching the film. You can rent it through Netflix

Hebrews 7:23-28

Last week Saint introduced Jesus as a high priest, a role that Jesus did not take on for himself. While he dwelt among us, he was a carpenter and an itinerant rabbi.

Saint argues that Jesus alone could fulfill the demands of the law because he alone was sinless. All other high priests have to pay the price of their own sins, not just the price of the sins of those whom they serve. All other high priests have to die, as the price of their own sins, but Jesus through his sinlessness overcame death, and has paid the price of our own sins forever -- “once for all.” God made his son “perfect forever.”

Is this Doctrine of the Blood Atonement a nice sermon illustration or a serious requirement for entry into heaven? Adult circumcision doesn't seem all that painful if it could effect an exemption from believing that God has nothing better to do than sit in heaven and punish his son so that the rest of us don't have to suffer.

Nowhere does Scripture make belief in the doctrine of the Atonement a core requirement for being a Christian. Nor does Scripture spell out belief in the Virgin Birth or every clause of the Nicene Creed as core requirements.

How successful would Jesus have been in evangelizing the Samaritans if he had turned from offering Living Water to requiring doctrinal purity?

With the woman at the well, Jesus ducked her invitation to argue about the supremacy of Jewish doctrine or Samaritan doctrine. She asked him whether the Jews or the Samaritans were right in regard to where and how we are to worship God. Jesus did not take her bait but said that “God is a spirit and those who worship God must worship God in spirit and in truth.” Jesus' answer to her is not a favorite theme with institutional guardians of the faith.

Suppose Jesus had answered the thief on the next cross: “With me in Paradise? O come now. You must first repeat after me ‘I believe in God the Father Almighty…….and the life everlasting.’ When you have said that without crossing your fingers or toes, I want you to describe and assent to my role as a high priest….”

Mark 10:46-52

Lesbians, gays, bisexuals, and the transgendered, have cried out, “Jesus, son of David, have mercy on us.”

Some have sternly ordered us to be quiet, but we have called out even more loudly, “Son of David, have mercy on us!”

Jesus told his disciples, “Call them here,” and some of you have come to tell us that Jesus is calling us to come near.

When we reach him, Jesus says to us, "What do you want me to do for you?" We answer, "Teacher, make us whole."

What do you suppose Jesus will do or say to us? Will he hit us over the head with draft upon draft of the proposed Anglican Covenant?

See also

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