Posts Tagged 'Matthew 5:43-48'

For July 6, 2014: Independence Day

The Reading      Deuteronomy 10:17-21, KJV

Deuteronomy 10:17-21 reminds us to be generous with foreigners as God has been generous with us. Reading these verses for Independence Day also reminds us that our independence is more by God’s gift than by human doing. In the English of 1611 (when the King James Bible was written), terrible meant not ‘bad’ but ‘worthy to be feared’.

 

The Gospel      Matthew 5:43-48

Whether the English is King James-era or today’s slang, Jesus commands us in verse 48 to be perfect as God is perfect. The context suggests that we are called specifically to love like God—and that is perfectly sobering.

 

Further thoughts

What I wrote for this time last year turn out to have anticipated a controversy of early July 2014. Once again St Alban’s is celebrating US Independence Day with a Eucharist based on the first Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (BCP) of 1789, issued just a few years after the end of the Revolutionary War. Since the 1789 BCP’s lectionary does not distinguish July 4, we are taking the Old Testament and Gospel for Independence Day from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, in the King James translation rather than the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV) that the lectionary normally provides.

The 1928 BCP came into use ten short years after the end of what was then called the Great War, the European conflagration of nationalism that was the first major military venture of the United States as a world power; we know it as World War I. One expects, in response, celebratory verses about cities on hills, anointings, or victory, or perhaps admonitory verses that counsel preparedness, intemperance, or greater faith.

What we find, however, are two remarkable injunctions that all of us must love all of us. That these commands are addressed not just to individuals but to the community is less obvious in the modern English of the NRSV, in which you can denote one or many, but it is quite clear in the consciously archaic King James version, which carefully distinguishes plural ye and you from singular thou and thee. With “Love your enemies,” Jesus commands all his disciples—and us—to love widely and deeply, without regard to whom we see as right or wrong, good or bad, ours or theirs. The Deuteronomy writer’s “Love ye the stranger” explicitly calls all of us to care for those who are Not Us. Other translations render “stranger” as “alien” or “foreigner”: those in our midst who are not citizens, we are nevertheless called not to reject but to protect.

That love is how God loves, and that is the perfection to which Jesus calls us.

For July 7, 2013: Independence Day

The Reading      Deuteronomy 10:17-21

17 For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward:

18 He doth execute the judgment of the fatherless and widow, and loveth the stranger, in giving him food and raiment.

19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt.

20 Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name.

21 He is thy praise, and he is thy God, that hath done for thee these great and terrible things, which thine eyes have seen.

 

The Gospel      Matthew 5:43-48

43 Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44 But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

45 That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.

46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?

47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Further thoughts

St Alban’s is celebrating US Independence Day 2013 with a Eucharist based on the very first Episcopal Book of Common Prayer (BCP). This 1790 service provides for only two readings, from the Old Testament and the Gospels—and none for Independence Day as such, though it offers prayers worth reviving for the President and for Congress. In fact, no authorized edition of the BCP before 1928 ever specified Independence Day readings. It is the 1928 readings that St Alban’s somewhat anachronistically uses today with the 1790 order of service, in the King James translation rather than the New Revised Standard Version (NRSV).

The 1928 readings make a striking pair, especially for their time. The 1928 BCP came into use ten short years after the end of what was then called the Great War, the European conflagration of nationalism that was the first major military venture of the United States as a world power. One expects celebratory verses about cities on hills, anointings, or victory, or perhaps cautionary tales of unpreparedness, intemperance, or failure to exercise civic virtues.

What we find, however, are two remarkable injunctions to love. Each is addressed not just to individuals but to the community: this is less obvious in modern English, in which you can denote one or many, but it is quite clear in the consciously archaic English of the King James version, which carefully distinguishes plural ye and you from singular thou and thee. The Deuteronomy writer’s “Love ye the stranger” thus bids all of us to care for the person who is Not Us: not from these parts, not from our economic stratum, not of our race or language, not a citizen (for some other translations render “stranger” as “alien”). Then Jesus commands, “Love your enemies”, serving notice on all his disciples—us, too—that we are to love widely and deeply and without regard to who’s right or wrong, good or bad, ours or theirs.

That’s God’s love, and it’s as remarkable in our time as it was almost 90 years ago. More’s the pity.


Enter your email address to subscribe to St Alban's Lections and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 2 other followers