|I DID IT MY WAY|
Sinatra's popular song, but thinking of Jesus singing it. Jesus' "way" much different than the world's way.
Last week I talked about Ordinary time, the part of the church calendar year that we are going through right now- symbolized by the "green" you see on the altar. There's really nothing "ordinary" about this part of the year, in fact, it's a quite "extraordinary" time because the scriptures each week point the "way" to this life we are trying to live following the teaching and example of Jesus Christ. Nothing is ordinary about following Jesus!
Remember last week when we were re-introduced to Solomon and over-heard his prayer to God for wisdom. This prayer, and God's answer, was a fore-shadowing of the coming of God's own Son Jesus coming into the world. In Jesus' Incarnation we find the fullest manifestation of God's wisdom and will for the world. Listen to Solomon's prayer this week as he dedicates the Temple:
Will God indeed dwell on earth? Even heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain you, much less this house that I have built! . . . Hear the plea of your servant and of your people Israel when they pray toward this place; . . . heed and forgive. Likewise when a foreigner comes and prays toward this house, then hear in heaven your dwelling place, and do according to all that the foreigner calls to you, so that all the peoples of the earth may know your name and fear you, as do your people Israel . . .
Hear the prayers of Israel and the foreigners! This open, universality is unprecedented! Everyone is included in Solomon's prayer to God to hear prayers! Solomon has clearly stepped into the stream of God's will that empties into the river of Jesus' love for all people. My house shall be a House of Prayer for all people. This is the witness to God's intention for Holy Communion among all the peoples of the earth made truly possible in Jesus!
This is wonderful, but unfortunately we continue to live in a world full of "un-holy communions." What is an "un-holy communion?" An un-holy communion is a communion based on being against someone else. Holy Communion is the complete opposite of this. The Church in our time is relearning what Holy Communion really means. At it's roots it means communion "with and for" and never "against." When we eat and drink Jesus' flesh and blood we are with and for the world, even with all it's un-holy communions, just as he was. We commune in Jesus' flesh and blood, as he gave it, for "the life of the world."
We care about the world, period. So did the folks in Ephesus who had come to believe in Jesus. Ephesus had everything: wealth, knowledge, culture, and high religion. But to live in such a place, the Christians of Ephesus (and by extension, us) needed to "be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his power by putting on the whole armor of God, so that they (us) stand against the wiles of the devil." (Wiles= the subtle ways the devil creates sad un-holy communions among people, all created and loved by God) Paul goes on:
For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh (Unfortunately, precisely who we do think we need to struggle against most of the time!), but against the ruler, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
We usually think that evil resides in particular, powerful, evil individuals of flesh and blood. If we can only kill or assassinate Hitler, Saddam Hussein, or Osama ben Laden, all flesh and blood people, deemed evil, then all our troubles will be over and real peace can take hold in the world. But we learn quickly that when we get rid of one bad guy, there's always another, and another, and another. That is why Paul says our struggle is not against blood and flesh individuals, but the "powers." Paul knew that the power of Satan is rooted, not in any particular person, but in human communal life itself, in the temptation to form un-holy communion instead of the Holy Communion Jesus Christ came to bring by his life teaching, living example, and his death and resurrection.
When the New Testament speaks of "powers and principalities," it means all the ways that the "powers-that-be" foster death and victimization in the world. The first believers in Jesus had a healthy distrust of the sovereign states in which they lived and the violent origins in which those states began and the violence they depended on for security. The earliest believers didn't ever use the actual names for these jurisdictions, ie., Roman Empire or Herodian Tetrarchy, but instead referred to them as the "Powers and Principalities."
It's easy for some people to think, when they hear this kind of language, that the christian scriptures are just full of supersitions, with the "powers and the principalities" equivalent to "ghosts and goblins." But this is not the case at all. The "powers" refer to actual communities, groups, nations, who at the same time are made up of people created and loved by God, yet for the presservation of "values" important to them, declare others evil and form un-holy communions to get rid of them, thinking they have the blessing of their beloved god(s). Satan's power to wreak havoc in the world is not rooted, as I said earlier, in any "evil" individual (all are created good by God and remain so as part of God's creation), but in the un-holy communions some people feel they have to form or take part in.
As we gather here this morning we attempt, helped by the Holy Spirit and the grace of Sacrament, to learn a different strategy of living in Jesus Christ, so we can bring his love and reconciliation to our broken world. We learn to extricate ourselves from as many un-holy communions as possible (recognizing that some of the worst are found in religion itself) and refuse to participate further in them or foster new ones. We do all this by putting on the "armor of God:"
. . . the belt of Truth, the breastplate of righteousness (not our own by God's), good shoes on our feet to spread the Gospel of Peace, and with all these the shield of faith, the helmet of salvation, and last, but not least, the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.
May we live Jesus' strategy, his Way, for living boldly and fearlessly in this world in the power of the Holy Spirit. Amen!
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.