Day 276 “Revelation” Luke 11:37 – 12:59
October 3, 2021, 9:35 AM

Day 276 “Revelation” Luke 11:37 – 12:59

This is an unusual Sunday morning. Having spent time with a family friend and serving in the service for the re-affirmation of vows for his daughter and son-in-law, I am not home on a Sunday morning! Church will begin at St. John’s in about an hour, and I am hours and hours away, packing up to come home again. And when priests are away from home, this is what happens…we worry. We wonder. We hope that things go well. We hope that the right message is preached to reach the maximum number of people.

The readings for today felt more personal because of this, and they brought up things that I have concerns about for myself as a minister. The Pharisees begin with their usual rant against Jesus for the usual reasons—he is breaking rules that have been established to maintain ritual purity, rules that speak of traditions handed down, rules that have been built around rules in order to keep the first rule safe.

Jesus begins another series of woes, the second in the book of Luke, and these are aimed squarely at the synagogue officials. Woe to the Pharisees who love the seat of honor, who love the place of power, who like to be popular in the marketplace. Jesus really gives it to them because they are far more concerned about the outward appearance, about popularity, about people showing them respect than they are about caring for the poor and overcoming injustice.

Note to self: I get this. This scares me. When does the outward appearance of being a minister or pastor or priest become more important than the inward dedication to caring for the poor, the sick, the needy? When do the rules of the church get upheld in order to restrict rather than to transform? When do the church police have more power than the Holy Spirit? This is one of my wrestling matches. Since I am not a cradle Episcopalian, the traditions of the church I now serve are not gilded in gold. As a Roman Catholic, I had experienced the sense of a ‘golden halo’ about many traditions that I now consider unimportant, but which were defining in my young life. Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but I was pretty sure that being Roman Catholic gave me some kind of holy edge on heaven. The True Church, it was called. I identified as Catholic without knowing, as a child, that I was a Christian first.

Leaving my childhood church and being able to question those traditions provided a spiritual freedom that allowed me to see the presence of God in churches I had once been forbidden to enter. Joining the Episcopal Church gave me the flavor of liturgy (work of the people) and tradition that I was used to, but it felt less rigid in the way those traditions were practiced. But have I slowly lost the sense of freedom and become more dedicated to rules, practices and structures rather than to the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Jesus?

Please don’t think this means that traditions are unimportant—far from the truth. But I want to be careful, as a minister, when traditions may get in the way of a living and active faith. Traditionalism is the dead faith of the living while tradition is the living faith of the dead. Alistair says this all the time, but he also warns me that it can be used to judge others rather than to promote a living faith. We can use this to promote our own agenda rather than promoting God’s agenda.

But I wonder…I wonder how much freedom I allow God to have in my life and in my ministry. I wonder if I am not worried about small things when there are bigger things about which to care. I wonder if, as a minister, I make it clear that we are to “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matthew 6:33) or as the New Living Translation says: “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need. Everything you need. Not everything I want. Am I afraid to let go of the kind of God who will give me everything I want in order to follow to the God who gives me everything I need?

So how do I give up worry? And how do I let go of financial concerns for me and for the church? How can I be ready, and help make others ready for the master to return (12:35-40)?

When Jesus says the phrase “I came to bring fire to the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled!”, do I understand that he tells us, he tells me, that faith is not Easy Street? (OK—quick tangent—the beautiful little church where our service was held yesterday, St. John’s in the Wilderness, was on Easy Street in Paul Smiths! Couldn’t get the irony out that out of my mind!) The fire about which Jesus speaks is the Refiner’s fire, a purifying fire that burns away the dross and helps create pure gold, or pure silver. Am I afraid of that fire, or do I seek it out as being instrumental in my own continued transformation, and in the teachings that I am able to do in the name of Jesus? Do my words contain some of the fire that Jesus speaks of, not in word or tone, but in truth?

Jesus wasn’t only addressing his disciples in these teachings. He was passing information along to you and me through the centuries. He knew we would be studying this, reading these words, and puzzling over them.

I come to no conclusions today. I have no smug way to tie all this up. Pharisees, rich fools, hypocrites, lazy servants—I see myself in all of them today, and I will pray hard that God helps me see this for good use, not just to beat myself up, but to change from a sharpened sword that cuts into a plowshare that plants (Isaiah 2:4, Micah 4:3). The only way this can happen is if I allow the hand of the Master to apply pressure, to shape my life, to warm the steel of my heart so it becomes pliable. Please God, turn my hardened, agenda-driven, self-righteous and hypocritical heart towards the fire of your presence.

Be blessed and be a blessing to others,



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