Aside

Mathew was used to assessing a person’s worth and he could determine their value, he was a taxman. Then Jesus said follow me, and that taxman did. In doing so, he began a new system of appraisal. People were no longer valued in terms of income, or status. All people are precious in the eyes of God, this is Jesus’s reminder to his followers. This is the reminder to the tax collector that once valued people according to earnings; Matthews’s valuation turned from the earthly to the heavenly. Through his discipleship he learned the true value of mankind. That’s something to think of on his feast-day. How often are people thought of as precious in the eyes of God today? How many are valued instead on their wealth, or their intelligence, or their profession, or their heritage. How often do people forget that all people are precious in the eyes of God? So often when people think of Saint Matthew they become focused on Matthew the sinner because that is how he was perceived in his day. How many forget that Matthew himself once valued people incorrectly, according to a materialistic scale. How many forget that he drastically changed his approach once he became a disciple of the LORD. How many are willing to take the same leap of faith that Matthew did, and realize that all people are precious in the eyes of God.

The feast of the apostle Matthew

21 September 2017

Feast of (doubting) Saint Thomas.

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How many consider that Thomas’s absence was part of a divine plan? Thomas’s absence from originally seeing the risen LORD separates him from the group. His questions are a contrast to the disciple’s testament, Thomas questions both the LORD and His Apostles. Thomas challenges a cult mentality by introducing doubt and reason, and by demanding proof. By way of the doubt and the questions and the demands, Thomas proclaims both the LORD has truly risen, and My LORD and my GOD. With his doubts Thomas declares the presence of the Easter Christ. Thomas proclaims a Christ of the resurrection.

But Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

An Easter Christ is the Christ that as revealed to Saint Paul, and Paul also was known for his doubting Christ. Paul was the persecutor of Christians who encountered the Easter Christ in the road to Damascus. That encounter was after the Ascension. Peter also had his doubts about the LORD, his were famously acknowledged by the crowing of a rooster at the crucifixion. Interesting how the LORD revealed Himself at the transfiguration with the inner group of disciples. That is Peter’s experience, an experience that is challenged by the crucifixion. Then there is Thomas, also one who walked with Christ. Finally Paul, who persecutes the followers of Christ. All three are challenged, yet all three proclaim Christ as truly risen, and Christ as LORD. With questioning minds they make their declaration.

Thomas’s doubt bridges that Christ of the Transfiguration and the Easter Christ. Thomas did walk with Christ as a disciple, and then proclaim the Christ of Easter. The same with Peter. For Paul a Christ after the resurrection. For us? Ours is a Christ of the resurrection, an Easter Christ. And our doubts, do we have them? Are we any less human than the other three? Thomas’s doubts serve a purpose, as does any inquisitive mind. Ours is a God given ability to question, to ponder the LORD.

When Jesus encounters Thomas’s doubts and questions the Lord does not chastise or condemn him. Jesus asks that Thomas seek the answers to his questions. He says to place his hands into the wounds of Christ. Jesus has Thomas explore the risen LORD. The doubts are a natural part of the human experience. Thomas needed to see and touch Jesus to believe, and he does so. He declares Christ truly risen. Jesus also tells that it is better that those who do not see believe. Not to see, and yet believe is go have faith. Both are important, naturally seeking and being guided simply by faith. For certain I can probe this planet and see the works of Christ. I can also follow Christ in faith when I am blinded by darkness. Perhaps it is the first, the questioning, that feeds and strengthens the second that is faith. (Faith & Reason)

John, the beloved disciple

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Many of the icons of Saint John show him with a chalice, and frequently that chalice has a snake emerging from it. The imagery relates to a tale that the evangelist drank from a chalice poisoned by a snake yet was unharmed due to the blessing he gave that potion before drinking it.

The chalice is an important part of this apostles imagery, but I think only partially because of that story. It was John who was with Jesus at the agony of the garden when he said let this cup pass from me, but not my will but thy be done. John was one of the inner circle, witnessing the transfiguration. He stood at the foot of the cross with Mary when Jesus said behold your mother and behold your son. As that chalice held the suffering of Christ that John witnessed at the garden, he also held that vision of the transfiguration. He was in charge of protecting Mary, and of receiving her guidance and wisdom. Mary is that model of the Church, and the one who carried the Christ. Hers was the faith that proclaimed the greatness of the Lord at the incarnation, and the one who maintained that faith throughout Jesus ministry. Hers was the message of Gods joy, and when Jesus said behold your Mother; that joy was placed in charge of John. In a way that chalice that is associated with John is not simply the poisoned cup, but is also that cup of Christ’s suffering, and of the Joy signified through wine.
It is the chalice that contains the messages of Mary, as mother of the Church. It is a symbol, of apostolic succession as the priesthood, and can rightly be looked at as a combined symbol of the ministry Christ’s Church. Johns symbol, that chalice reminds one of that saints ministry role in the Church as a guardian of knowledge, and as teacher. In the Christmas narrative, Jesus is told of being laid in a manger. Later in the story, he will take wine and pour it in a chalice  and say this is my blood. That is the chalice that John holds. The Christmas narrative tells of the birth of Christ, Johns story reminds us of the reason. The manger held the body, and the chalice holds the blood.

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“a mission” told twice, and today..

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Over the past couple of days the gospel readings have  been from Matthews Mt 10:7-15 account of the commissioning of the Apostles to proclaim the Kingdom of God. They are given permission to do certain things and they are prohibited from doing others. They are directed to bring the message to the house of Israel, and not to the likes of Samaria. They are given permission to cure and heal in His name, they are prohibited from allowing anything to corrupt their mission. Finally, they are told of the many hardships they will endure.

Think of those 12 Apostles going into the world Mt 10:16-23 on this specific mission. They are a small group of followers going against an enormous establishment. They are going against a massive temple, and the power and wealth that is behind it. They challenge a religious authority, that authority is also a political authority; and it is an authority with powerful allies(?) in a world that abhors unrest and uprisings. It is a world that is dominated by brute and brutal strength. It is a world where the authority does not tolerate challenges. My first biblical image? They are David going after Goliath.

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“As you go, make this proclamation:
‘The Kingdom of heaven is at hand.’
Cure the sick, raise the dead,
cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.
Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.

David versus Goliath gives image of the twelve stepping into the world, it also should give hint of the outcome. The young shepherd defeats a behemoth, defeats the beast with what? A slingshot and some stones, that’s what the story implies. The story implies those simple devices, but that boy has something behind him too. Something that gives him strength, strength to go into battle and be victorious. David is an anointed one, the Apostles are too. Seemingly small they have the power of God standing beside them. If their opponent is strong, they are stronger. Looks can be deceiving. Most know how both stories continue. David is victorious, Christ’s Apostles continue their mission undefeated. Their commission continues to this day. The empire has not defeated them, no matter how hard it tries.

Jesus said to his Apostles:
“Behold, I am sending you like sheep in the midst of wolves;
so be shrewd as serpents and simple as doves.
But beware of men,
for they will hand you over to courts

I say the Apostles mission continues, and that they have not been defeated, but I dare not say the opponent has surrendered. Mt 10:24-33 Read a newspaper, turn on the television, eavesdrop on a conversation. What’s all the chatter about, and can anyone spot an agenda? Its more than liberal versus conservative, or the donkey and an elephant. Odd image that last one! Its the social agenda, or I should say agendas. Many align with their parties. They are the truths and the lies interspersed amongst battling fractions perched on a soapbox. Each claiming to be David and both acting like a Goliath. Power proclaiming its story.

But where are those disciples, where can they be seen? The mission continues, and the opponent flexes its muscle. Its puffed up and well fed, well financed and organized and well seated on a gilded  earthly throne. The disciples, distressed and tormented, they are under attack. Values and beliefs under siege, plundered. Attacked verbally by the media, by a well fed army. The disciples  are called the devil, even though many see their good works. But then again, maybe they don’t see , that mighty opponent is blind and crippled, though they do not know. Blinded by a false message proclaimed by an overstretched authority. Crippled by corruption and coin, the same corruption the disciples were commanded to avoid. The apostles mission, to defeat and also to heal. Don’t miss that word heal. To heal the cripple, to restore sight to the blind, to add salve to a wound.

“Therefore do not be afraid of them.
Nothing is concealed that will not be revealed,
nor secret that will not be known.
What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light;
what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops.

The opponent armed with power and gold and supported through propagandists.The disciples, armed with a simple truth as proclaimed by their LORD. It seems like the battle of David and Goliath continues today. We all know how it ends, even though some refuse to admit it. Such is the power of deception. The lie will fall, and truth will prevail. The kingdom of God is at hand. It truly is. The story told three times. One, David and Goliath. Two, the Apostles and the world. Three, those that listened to those disciples and their world today.1,2,3.

 

 

Peter and Paul

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Peter and Paul, and Jesus’s call to “Follow me.” A few days ago I pondered, “to follow Jesus do my feet need to move?” The quiz revolved around following in terms of entourage, or following philosophically. To rephrase it is following a corpus, or the teachings. Peter and Paul are an example. Peter, the disciple who walked and talked, and dined, and sailed, and questioned the LORD for several years before Jesus’s Passion, death, resurrection, and ascension. Paul, the follower who heard the voice from heaven “Why are you persecuting Me? “Two different experiences. One followed with sandals to the sand, and the other with eyes to the sky. Both followed the LORD, but in different ways. Peters discipleship I will not experience, Paul’s is up or debate. Peter, from the Baptism of the LORD through the Ascension, Paul’s an Easter disciple. Both followers of Christ.

Both these Apostles are a study in contrasts. Peters walking with the LORD versus Paul’s conversion to the LORD is but one example. Peter, a Jew as was Paul. Peter delivered Christ’s message to a Jewish population in Rome. With his congregation there is a cultural continuity, they knew where Jesus the Christ came from. Paul however, preached to the pagan gentiles. With him is a great cultural divide. The gentile gods were alien and numerous, Paul had to explain the God of Israel and His only begotten Son to a people of an entirely different tradition. With them there was limited knowledge of David, or Moses, or the covenant. Peters flock started their experience with these Old Testament figures. Their introduction to Christianity was through Judaism, Paul’s students started their journey with the pagan deities of Greece and Rome. A contrast and a challenge. The challenge though, helped define the Christ Paul taught. That is the Jesus Christ that was passed down to me.

When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi
he asked his disciples,
“Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah,
still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter said in reply…

His challenges of bringing Jesus to the Gentiles influenced Peter too. With the questions brought about by the gentile converts, Peter had to reevaluate the Judaism styled Christianity Peter inherited. For them to answer Christ’s “Follow Me” required that they reexamine the spiritual roadmaps they referenced.” To follow” as to choose the path of Christ. Surprisingly that path was forged through the differences of cultures, the truth of Christ was found in each. Obstacles also were common to each. Christ was not Peter’s victory, or Paul’s. Christ was the victory of both, it was the Church they became members of; and that Church was influenced by the unique gifts brought by each of its members.

I want you to know, brothers and sisters,
that the Gospel preached by me is not of human origin.
For I did not receive it from a human being, nor was I taught it,
but it came through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

Peter emphasizes the foundation of Christ’s teachings. Few knew the LORD as well as Peter. Paul brought the questions of the LORDS flock, and his pagan congregation certainly must have asked the most questions. They also were the most likely to be misled by unscrupulous leaders. They emphasized the need for truth in teaching the gospel, and Peter with Paul prayed constantly that the Holy Spirit deliver that truth. One can’t forget that before Paul was a Christian, he was a persecutor of Christians. In his battles with the LORD, the LORD indeed was the victor. Saint Thomas’s doubts come to mind, first his stubborn disbelief and then his proclamation of faith. “My LORD and my GOD.” Paul’s Apostleship is a proclamation of faith. Such was the conversion he preached, and his preaching was filled with passion. Fitting that their feast is celebrated together, Peter the rock anchored in a personal knowledge of the LORD. Paul the convert with a zeal for bringing Christ to others