Posts Tagged 'love one another'

For Aug. 25, 2013: Proper 16, Year C

The Reading            Jeremiah 1:4-10

This week we begin reading from the book of Jeremiah, who prophesied in the seventh century before Christ. Unlike Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah, who came to prophecy from other lines of work, Jeremiah started prophesying as a young man. In today’s reading, the Lord calls Jeremiah. His immediate response echoes ours, far too often: “Who, me? I can’t do that!”

The Response            Psalm 71:1-6

“You are my hope, O Lord GOD, my confidence since I was young. I have been sustained by you ever since I was born.”

The Epistle            Hebrews 12:18-29

Today’s reading from the book of Hebrews contrasts the experiences of God’s people on Mount Sinai and Mount Zion. Where Moses’ mountain was too holy for mere mortals, the city of God welcomes all who respond to God’s call through the sacrifice of Jesus.

The Gospel            Luke 13:10-17

“‘Ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham…, be set free from this bondage on the Sabbath day?’”

 

Further thoughts

As Jeremiah tells it, one day YHWH tapped him on the shoulder and said, “Son, go talk truth to power on Our behalf.” Jeremiah retorted, “Who, me? I’m just a kid.” His excuse might even have been literally true, but it is as likely that Jeremiah was old enough to foresee how much trouble this call would be: spending decades showing kings the hot water they were in with YHWH and being showered liberally with hot water in return.

The reading from Hebrews contrasts calls to two holy mountains. Mount Sinai, off in the wilderness, sounds like Mount Saint Helens in mid-eruption; Moses alone was called there to encounter the living YHWH on behalf of the Israelites, and even he trembled and did not presume to live there. Mount Zion, in contrast, is in—or is—the City of God, where angels and saints dwell and rejoice; reverence and awe are still in order, but, thanks to Jesus, the invitation is open to all. Though God’s mercy bends a longer arc through time and space even than God’s justice does, and God’s house is where our hearts find rest, the call can be hard to respond to: Am I really invited as I am, even if everyone else is better? Are the others really invited as they are, even if they don’t seem good enough? Aren’t there rules and rituals and standards to uphold?

In the gospels, Jesus consistently bends rules; he hangs out with riffraff and challenges authority, and in today’s reading he offends a leader by healing a woman on the sabbath. It is easy to condemn the leader for hardheartedness, but he’s only doing what most of us do: turning good expedients into ironclad prescriptions in a valiant but doomed attempt to insulate ourselves from screwing up and having to think too much. As Jesus reminds us elsewhere, though, all the law and the prophets hang on two principles:

1. Love God wholeheartedly.

2. Love everyone else as we should love ourselves.

Following these principles will not insulate us from screwing up any more than YHWH’s protection insulated Jeremiah from hot water—but as we unbind others’ hearts in love, we also unbind our own.

For April 28, 2013: 5 Easter, Year C

The Reading            Acts 11:1-18

This week’s reading from the book of Acts skips past Peter’s precedent-shattering visit to the Roman centurion and his family in Joppa to show what happens on his return to Jerusalem: he is grilled by the believers there, who have been taught from birth that they must keep away from Gentiles. How do we know who belongs to God?

The Response            Psalm 148

“Kings of the earth and all peoples… old and young together… let them praise the Name of the Lord.”

The Epistle            Revelation 21:1-6

Revelation this week closes with a vision of a redeemed world in which all the pain and grief that came into the world with Adam and Eve are no more. Strikingly, the holy city Jerusalem is not found far off in heaven: it comes as all our tears are wiped away by God’s own hand, and it comes to Earth.

The Gospel            John 13:31-35

“‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.’”

 

Further thoughts

In this weary world it is impossible to love without grieving, because it is impossible to love without loss. Because not even mothers (whatever their small children may believe) can be in more than one place at one time, we suffer separations large and small; lacking God’s-eye insight into each other, we endure misunderstanding and being misunderstood. We grieve when others don’t live up to our expectations for them or when we don’t or can’t live up to theirs; we give each other grief, in more senses than one; and of course we grieve both for those who die before we were ready for them to—which takes in practically everyone—and, as we begin to see it coming, for our own death.

On some level we all know this. It is part of what makes Jesus’ charge to love another so darned hard: Sooner or later—sooner and later—it has to hurt, and hurt deeply. The reading from Revelation paints for us a luminous picture of a world in which that pain is no more… but Lord knows we’re not there yet.

One suspects that the believers in Jerusalem all went through some of this grief on Peter’s return to Jerusalem. One imagines brash, openhearted Peter rushing back to share the exciting news about the astonishing new definition of “God’s people”, only to hit the brick wall of the Judeans’ opposition; one visualizes the Judeans, horrified by accounts of Peter’s apparent dereliction and determined to make things as right as they possibly could. This situation could easily have led straight to impasse—to the sort of schism that has recurred, regrettably, throughout the history of religions and philosophies. Instead, however, both sides contained their disappointment and grief long enough for Peter to explain well and for the Judeans to listen well. They loved each other not only that much, but that well.

And perhaps that is exactly where the new Jerusalem is: not there in heaven, but here, and here, and here, in the hearts that we care for and cherish and in the hearts we miss with tenderness, in the praises we raise together and the prayers that we pray with and for each other, and in the drying of each other’s tears.


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