Friday, November 9, 2018

Gospel text for Sunday 11 November 2018

Mark 12:38-44        As Jesus taught, he said, “Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have the best seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets! They devour widows’ houses and for the sake of appearance say long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation.”

He sat down opposite the treasury, and watched the crowd putting money into the treasury. Many rich people put in large sums. A poor widow came and put in two small copper coins, which are worth a penny. Then he called his disciples and said to them, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put in more than all those who are contributing to the treasury. For all of them have contributed out of their abundance; but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on.”

Reflection        Did you know that according to a report released by the Pew Research Center in 2017, ninety one percent of the members of Congress identify themselves as Christian? * That being the case, we should be a nation above reproach; people imbued with the Spirit of God working together for the common good? With ninety one percent of the members of Congress identifying themselves as Christian, surely they affirm the fundamental Christian belief that we are all made in the image of God which means we understand all people to be good and therefore treat one another with dignity and respect? Of course we welcome strangers, for we never know, we could be entertaining angels? We share our resources to insure that all of our sisters and brothers have access to decent lives?       How are we doing?

I do not recall anything in Jesus’ teaching about the virtue of amassing wealth and shoring  up power. But today, like the scribes of old who walk around in long robes, demanding respect and seats of honor at elite banquets,  many of the most vocal purveyors of Christian righteousness have sold their moral high ground for financial gain and a place at the table of power. They quote scripture and put on bombastic displays while “devouring widows houses” and turning their backs on the most vulnerable.

Here is the thing. “From the beginning we have misused our freedom and made wrong choices” by “putting ourselves in the place of God.” (bcp 845) That  is  what caused our ancestors Adam and Eve to trip and fall out of the garden, misusing their freedom and making the choice to eat the one and only thing they were told not to touch. And that is what trips us up today, “putting ourselves in the place of God.”

As people of God we have free will to turn toward or away from God. As people of God it is our commission to believe and trust in God, to love our neighbors as ourselves and do to them as we wish them to do to us.” (bcp 848) There it is.  Christians love God and love their neighbors. The purview of sorting and judging people belongs to God - not us.

This is a really high standard; value and dignify all people and leave the judging to God. The cost of being a true Christian is enormous, and frankly, there is only one way we can do it. It is by remembering the New Commandment given to us by Jesus, “Love one another as I have loved you.” We do not have to rely on ourselves to muster up love out of thin air because we are already full of love, love born and blooming within us as the Spirit of God with us. 

Six hundred years before Jesus the prophet Jeremiah foretold of this, “The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah… says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer 31.31,33) Jeremiah’s promise is fulfilled when Jesus gives this parting gift to his friends, I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13.34) and then he promises, “I will not leave you orphaned; I am coming to you… but the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” (John 14.18,25) 

We are not left on our own to conjure up love for all people. The law of love is written on our hearts. We no longer have to depend on ourselves to generate love because the Spirit of God rises in our hearts and pours through us to love one another. This is what makes it possible for us to stretch to the high standard of valuing and dignifying all people and leave the judging to God.

Etched on the stone of our hearts is God’s law of love. The challenge is to remember and rely on it and let God’s law of love dictate our decisive actions. If we deign to identify ourselves as Christian then it is incumbent upon us to verify our claim by our decisive actions; loving one another as God loves us. Nothing more and nothing less. 

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bcp refers to The Episcopal Church  Book of Common Prayer