Sunday, June 1, 2008

Some thoughts on today's Scriptures (RCL & 1928)

Matthew 7:21-29 (Revised Common Lectionary)

Jesus said. "Not everyone who says to me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. On that day many will say to me, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?' Then I will declare to them, `I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.'

Judas Iscariot was an original Apostle. Apostles were sent out to announce Jesus, and as the Scriptures tell us this was accompanied with healings, exorcisms and signs of power. Judas must have done all these things, yet "Satan entered into him" and he betrayed the Lord. Our titles and positions in the church mean little. We can be "white-washed tombs" full of corruption, even as we handle holy things.

"Everyone then who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock. And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell-- and great was its fall!"

The only real source we have for "these words of His" is the Holy Bible. It is fashionable with some to cite "hidden" books, but these almost all present a one-dimensional Jesus. He's just a wise guy who cracks one-liners. He's just a miracle worker. He's just a prophet. The "lost Gospels" generally pander to the particular fetish of this or that sect - they make God into what some group wants Him to be.

But the New Testament presents Jesus fully. The New Testament does not present an easy-to-label Jesus. In short, he is both awesomely real and mysterious, human and divine, Son of Man and Son of God. Only the Holy Bible gives us this full picture. Divorce Jesus from the Bible and you get deception in place of "the way, the truth and the life."

Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

Sadly, even those who read the Bible can reduce Jesus to words on a page or theological propositions. But this need not be. Over at Anglican TV, you can hear a fine sermon from Bishop David Anderson, in which he reminds us to surrender our lives, receive the Holy Spirit, and complete our relationship with Jesus. Not Jesus as an abstract idea or historical figure, but Jesus as "Lord" - the sovereign in charge of our lives. We can live in the authority of "real Gospel power." Or we can be the "frozen chosen" - "holding a form of religion, but denying its power."


St. Luke xiv. 16. (1928 Book of Common Prayer)

A CERTAIN man made a great supper, and bade many: and sent his servant at supper time to say to them that were bidden, Come; for all things are now ready. And they all with one consent began to make excuse. The first said unto him, I have bought a piece of ground, and I must needs go and see it: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I go to prove them: I pray thee have me excused. And another said, I have married a wife, and therefore I cannot come.

We have to come to God on His terms. The faith revealed through the Bible is that Jesus is the way to God. He is the New and Everlasting Covenant. Not all religions are the same.

And our agendas must give way so we can respond on God's terms. This cuts across ideology - the gay/lesbian activist and the social conservative are equally capable of subordinating Christ to culture.

So that servant came, and shewed his lord these things. Then the master of the house being angry...

God does not say, "Oh, well" when we reject Him. He loves us passionately. He is jealous for His own image in us. It is not popular to say that we anger God, but it is true.

...said to his servant, Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in hither the poor, and the maimed, and the halt, and the blind. And the servant said, Lord, it is done as thou hast commanded, and yet there is room. And the lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled. For I say unto you, that none of those men which were bidden shall taste of my supper.

God loves the human race and will seek out those who respond to His love. But we can refuse the invitation, and "have our reward" in things that feel good for the moment but pass away. We can gorge ourselves on things of this world and never taste the goodness of God.


These are critical times for Christians. We see traditional denominations that have lost confidence in the Bible and do a bunch of busy-work while they age and die. We hear large "conservative" churches preaching a loud moral message while their members divorce at higher rates than atheists. We see "Christian" clergy who dress fancy while preaching pagan falsehood or political platitudes - substituting their own fetishes for the Word of God while demanding titles and perks.

As both of today's Gospel lessons show, we are not "entitled" to God's protection or blessing. We can choose to "build on sand" and lose God's protection. We can refuse God's invitation and lose the blessing.

May we hear God's Word, accept His invitation, and find shelter in the stormy world and a place at the heavenly banquet.

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