Note to readers: Liturgical entries on this blog are based on the traditional calendar of the Books of Common Prayer and the traditional one-year Eucharistic lectionary. If you follow a newer calendar or three-year lectionary, there are variations in names for some Sundays and in the readings.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fourth Sunday after Epiphany

The Epistle for this Sunday continues the series of ethical readings from Romans. In Romans 13:1-7 , the Apostle Paul develops a Christian perspective upon secular power.

He writes, "Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God" (Rom. 13: 1). Speaking of the secular ruler, Paul continues, "for he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake" (Rom. 13: 4-5) .

In modern times, there have been varied reactions to these words. Some on the left side of the political spectrum have criticized St. Paul for being either too positive or too passive with regard to worldly governments. Others on the right of the political spectrum have used the Apostle's word to support corrupt or oppressive governments. Both extremes miss the important point. Human beings need social order and political structure. This natural need is heightened by the sinful corruptions of human nature after the Fall. Worldly rulers contribute to order and punish human wickedness.

St. Paul recognized this legitimate function of government. He was not blind to the dangers. In fact, he himself suffered a number of times from authorities who opposed the Christian message, and according to ancient tradition, he was eventually executed by order of the emperor. However, such governmental abuses do not invalidate the apostolic principle that secular government is a useful and important part of the natural order.
Christians do not have to accept, and indeed sometimes they should not approve, every action of government. Sometimes, believers are called to find legitimate ways to influence, change or oppose secular governments. Whenever governments oppose God's standards (as they often have done and still do), then believers must choose to obey God rather than men. At the same time, for conscience sake, Christian believers are called to acknowledge the legitimate purposes of government and to reject anarchy.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Third Sunday after Epiphany

The Epistle continues the series of selections from the twelfth chapter of St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans. The ethical exhortation this week is Romans 12:16-21. Previous selections seem to have focused on relationships among believers, but this time (especially beginning in verse 17), the application seems broader- "no man," "all men."

Although the world may abuse or attack believers in a variety of ways and although anger may be an understandable reaction, Christians sould seek to control their responses. They do so because they trust in divine Providence. God wants all events to contribute to His redemptive purposes. Whether the difficulties of the faithful or the punishment of the unrepentant, all things should work to further God's kingdom. Doing good to enemies may even lead to their repentance and conversion.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Second Sunday after Epiphany

(I am back. Last week I was coughing so much that I never posted.)

The Epistle for this Sunday is from St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans, 12:6-16b:

Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, whether prophecy, let us prophesy according to the proportion of faith; or ministry, let us wait on our ministering; or he that teacheth, on teaching; or he that exhorteth, on exhortation: he that giveth, let him do it with simplicity; he that ruleth, with diligence; he that sheweth mercy, with cheerfulness. Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate.

These words of the Apostle come from the more practical or application part of the Epistle and remind believers of their ministries. Verses 6-8 point out that every Christian has a calling to use his/her unique combination of gifts and talents in God's service. Verses 9-16 are a general exhortation about living a Christian way of life, a life full of love and other virtues. All this is possible because of faith in the redemptive grace of Jesus Christ which the Apostle emphasizes in the first chapters of Romans.

The points of this Epistle can have a special application as we consider the season of Epiphany. During this part of the church year, there are two emphases: 1) some of the epiphanies or manifestations of Christ in the Gospels and 2) ways that Christians serving the living Lord can continue to manifest Christ in the world. From prophesying or proclaiming Christ's message to helping the needy, each of us should be as active as possible in living out our individual callings. In addition, beside or through our unique vocations, each of us should seek the divine grace to embody the holy characteristics that Christ manifested in His ministry.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Epiphany

I have not had time to write down thoughts today, but the mission of Christ to the nations which is mentioned in the Epistle from Ephesians 3 has been on my mind.

Ephesians 3:1ff-
For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God, which is given me to you-ward: how that by revelation he made known unto me the mystery; (as I wrote afore in few words, whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ) which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God, according to the eternal purpose which he purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord: in whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him.