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Monday, September 5, 2016

The Reverend John Smith: "POSSESSING AND CONTROLLING OTHERS IS A BLOCK TO FOLLOWING CHRIST..."

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Breaking Whole
        Last week the Gospel led us to the consideration of “traditional family values.”  We see Jesus deconstructing the way we usually think of family to make it broader and more inclusive.  Traditional family values upheld, for example, by the Pharisees, and historically, by other groups that seek to conserve tradition, most often end up excluding many from membership in the family.  If you are going to talk in terms of family, Jesus taught you can’t leave anyone out.  We are all brothers and sisters of our Father in heaven.

        Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life itself, cannot be my disciple.

        SAY WHAT?

This is Jesus’ deconstruction of the family I’m talking about.  Jesus scandalizes us as he breaks up our closely held notions about family,  so he can give us the notion back in a new, more loving way, based on mercy and forgiveness.  The English poet Yates put it this way:

Nothing can be sole or whole unless it has been rent.

Just as the Eucharistic bread must be broken in order to make us whole, representing Jesus’ broken body on the Cross, to be made whole in resurrection, so some of our strongest held notions or relationships need to be broken in order to be infused with new life.

Jeremiah took a crowd with him to the Potter’s shop.  When the potter started making a pot out of clay and it wasn’t turning out the way he wanted, he took the clay and reworked it into something more beautiful to his liking.  Jeremiah points out to the crowd, all Israelites, that God was doing the same with them.  God let them be exiled and broken so they could be formed and renewed as his God’s people.  

Can’t God do with you like the potter with his clay­.

Another good example is given us in Paul’s Letter to Philemon.  Onesimus, Philemon’s slave, has become a son to Paul while he was imprisoned.  Paul is sending Onesimus back to Philemon with his sincere thanks, and asking Philemon to take Onesimus back, no longer as a slave, but as a true brother in Christ.  This request of Paul is based on faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul chooses not to make an argument for ending slavery as such, but does insist that for followers of Christ, relationships are based on equality.

As many of you as were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.  There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3,27

        The Gospel ends with the admonition of Jesus to the crowd and his disciples. You cannot be my disciple unless you give up all your possessions.  All of the above is about the giving up of all our possessions in order to follow Christ.  Let God reshape us so we can be useful to God.  Give up the ownership we have over other human beings.  What we are to hate about our family members, slaves, etc., is our possessing of them!  Our possessing and controlling of those who we claim to love is a block to following Christ and really loving them. That’s where we get the saying love someone to death.  We squeeze the life out of the things and relationships we try to possess.  We must let others breathe, be themselves, live life, and see their relationship with us as a gift and never a possession.  Instead of clinging to others, we let go of them, and receive them back as a gift.

Jesus is teaching us about family, making it not something we possess, but a gift.  We can love our families into life and make them inclusive relationships where mercy, forgiveness, and acceptance of others are possible.  This is the liberating Good News that Jesus brings us!   (emphasis added lr)
Amen! 
John+ 

St. Alban
Saint Alban Episcopal Mission (English) meets for mass every Sunday at 10:00 A.M. (see welcome letter at sidebar) at Casa Convento Concepcion, 4a Calle Oriente No. 41, Antigua, Guatemala.
The Reverend John Smith, Vicar

5235-6674 cell telephone (502 country code)

THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH WELCOMES EVERYONE 

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