Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ's glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.
I find Isaiah’s pride in Israel distracting. He speaks out of Israel’s experience of being deeply despised, abhorred by the nations, the slave of rulers. He expects the savior to redress all of these national grievances. He expects God to give Israel its come-uppance, and quotes God saying:
"Kings shall see and stand up,
princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,
because of the LORD, who is faithful,
the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you."
Yet when Jesus, whom we Christians take to be the Messiah, came, Israel and the Romans rejected him. In his resurrection, the Christ, while consummately Jewish, was not just, or even primarily, the “glory of Israel” but instead is proclaimed as the “Savior of the whole world."
To his credit, Isaiah himself sees the limits of God if God is viewed merely as the savior of Israel:
"It is too light a thing that you should be my servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and to restore the survivors of Israel;
I will give you as a light to the nations,
that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth."
As a member of the lgbt tribe, I appreciate how important it is to proclaim that God redresses the hate. God loves all who are “deeply despised, abhorred by the nations.” I too know that hundreds, perhaps thousands of people have taken hope that God might indeed love them when they see Christians so changed that they dare to love and value folks like me.
But I expect this process not to stop. It is not ultimately about our vindication or our ratification. It is not ourselves whom we proclaim, but Christ Jesus as Lord with ourselves his servants.
Salvation does not occur to make the formerly despised the new rulers over all. Salvation make us all servants of Christ. As Christ loves us, we too must love the next group of the deeply despised and abhorred – and the next, and the next, and the next.
God came into the world not to condemn the world, nor to make one better than another, nor to be the glory of Christ’s followers, but that the world through Christ might be saved.
How do you expect the conversation with God to go when at the end of your life you meet God face to face?
I turned 74 in December, and I find myself thinking about that scene more often than I would like. Older people have long told me to expect such concerns to increase, and I have been content to put them off for the most part until they insisted on moving nearer to the top of my agenda.
“Heaven’s my home,” a neighbor’s gardener told me when I was six or seven; “but I ain’t homesick right now.”
I find myself getting a touch more homesick in old age. I wonder what I will say to God and what God will say to me.
Some arch conservatives love to write the script for that scenario. For years once about every six months I would treat myself to single-malt whiskey while I Googled for my name on sites such Standfirm.com, Titusonenine.com and Virtue Online. For a recent example, see David Virtue’s article Episcopal Liberals Rip Anglican Primates over Covenant.
David dubs me “the Episcopal Church's emeritus homosexual.” That’s a bit of a come-down: he used to call me the chief sodomite of the Anglican Communion. When I encountered him at a church meeting a few years ago, I confided in him that the appellation provided me with a rush cheaper than Cialis or Viagra. Thereafter, the added the “emeritus,” as had Rutgers when I retired.
Note the verbal inventiveness of David’s mostly anonymous respondents. They’re particularly hard on our Presiding Bishop:
Great article, David, and you've pointed out the attitudes which are so typical of the liberal heretics who have deliberately caused so much havoc in the Communion.
They've made it abundantly clear that everyone who doesn't share those attitudes is not at all welcome among them unless they kowtow to them, and as for those 15 primates....those 15 Judases....who once were among the 22 who refused to share communion with Mrs. Schori, but who have since switched positions, I wonder how many 'pieces of silver' they took from her to betray their people?
Was it 30 pieces of silver, or was it much more than that? Was it the cost of their souls?
Nor do they spare me:
Dr. Louis Crew, and his ilk, have modeled lying and manipulation as life-long modus operendi. That alone is sinful enough, without the obvious perversions that backs (and fronts) their every claim.
He (they) should shut their mouths AND go away!
The orthodox primates are the heroes of our day, standing for Christ and his word. Whatever effectiveness they have had is actually 'getting to' the Crew Crowd - which includes the ABC
Louie Crew is about as disingenuous and hypocritical as a person can get.
Louie Crew? He's just an old pervert with a seared conscience. Why should any Christian care one whit about this man's opinions on matters of faith, theology, and morals?
When I face my maker, should I present myself as “just an old pervert with a seared conscience”?
The psalms frequently offer models for talking to God in show-down moments. Today’s psalm suggests that we should flatter God by proclaiming His [sic] greatness publicly, not concealing God’s love and faithfulness from others. The psalmist says that money won’t impress God. God wants our obedience, and even more, wants the law written in our heart so securely that we love to do God’s will. Then we can pray with confidence
Do not withhold your compassion from me;*
let your love and your faithfulness keep me safe for ever.
All that is a bit too iffy for me, as it was for Saint. If I can get into heaven only by keeping the law perfectly, I haven’t a chance. Face to face with God I shall say,
“Be merciful to me, a sinner.”
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
1st Corinthians is a locus classicus for passive aggressiveness. In it Saint excoriates the Christians in Corinth for their lax sexual morality. He wants them to move into a new place spiritually. Yet he does not drop so much as a hairpin of this agenda in his opening gambit. One has to know the rest of the book to expect the strong but! that will follow his opening compliments. You have to pay very close attention indeed to detect an undertone when Saint says God “will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Dr. Hudson Long, head of the English department at Baylor when I was an undergraduate English major there (1954-58) was one of the primary editors of the Norton’s Anthology of American Literature, used at that time in most American universities. Dr. Long frequently said, “Do not ever expect a helpful answer when you ask a gentleman to give an opinion about a work of art. All that a gentleman can say about anything is, ‘It’s nice.’”
Saint does not usually come across as a gentleman and he won’t maintain that pretense very far into his first letter to the Corinthians, but enjoy the ruse while you can.
Expect the same heightened intensity when God tells you that you have been marvelously made, as indeed you have been. Enjoy the reality of that! It will sustain you when push comes to shove, when a strong but! shifts to harder counsel to “strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Does the question, “Are you saved?” sit well with you, uneasily, or offensively?
Where were you when you were saved? Was anyone else there? Were you surprised?
Or did you recognize that you were saved more slowly, after the fact?
Or do you see yourself in the process of still being saved?
Do you feel a ‘calling’ to be a Christian? If so, how do you perceive the call?
As John watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed, "Look, here is the Lamb of God!" The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus.
…. They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o'clock in the afternoon.
What is your story? What time was it for you? How have you “found” the Messiah, the Anointed one?
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