March 15, 2023
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE READING:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ Jesus. It is the power of God to bring salvation to everyone who believes; first to the Jew and then to the Greek [read ‘to the rest of the world].” (Romans 1.16)
“They [the believers in the resurrected Jesus of Nazareth who is the Son of God and Messiah] devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. All the believers were together and had everything in common.” (Acts 2.42,44)
TODAY’S SCRIPTURE REFLECTION:
Many biblical scholars will draw attention to the circle within a circle when it comes to identifying the disciples whom God chose to give to Jesus. We often hear of Peter- the Rock, James and John- the sons of Thunder (or Boageneres). From there, we will hear of Phillip, Andrew, Thomas and Judas- the man of Kerioth. Then, the rest of the storied fellowship of that Jesus “fraternity.” I only draw our attention to that seemingly defined construct of relationships to highlight our reflections on Jesus’ new commandment: Love One Another. Placed against the backdrop of “insider” and “outsider,” we can look at other such distinctions to reflect a similar paradigm. Paul’s declaration to the followers of Christ in Rome would be one such example as he declares “…first to the Jews and then to the Greeks (or some may read ‘the rest of the world.’) In the commissioning of the disciples before His ascension into Heaven at Mt. Tabor would be another example as He declared “Go into all the world beginning in Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria and to the rest of the world.” (This is Luke’s presentation of the commissioning.) We can see it in the distinctions Jesus made such as “be sacrificial and humble yourselves so that even the little children can come to me for to such belongs the kingdom of Heaven.” There are many others which can give us an understanding of the “insider” and “outsider” motif where the general heading of “Jew” and “Gentile” could serve as identifiers. One doesn’t have to be a “Jew” to be in the “Jew” category and an insider or a disciple (some might read it as ‘saint.’) Nor does one have to be a “Gentile” to be in the “Gentile” category and an outsider or a sinner. The simple truth espoused in the theology of Paul, “for all have sinned and fallen short,” puts us all on the outside and only the Godhead on the inside (plus the faithful angels in Heaven who were made just a little higher than human beings so we might assume from David’s psalm.) As we would read the story of Lazarus and the Rich Man, we hear the fate of those who believe they were an insider but found themselves on the outside and the outsider who found himself on the inside.
Can we make such an application of this motif within today’s culture and climate? Can we do so even within the Church and the communities of faith in Jesus as the Christ which comprise its “many members” of one body or one family? The declaration of Jesus to the crowd gathered in what may have been a local synagogue or some gathering place used for such meetings “Those who do the will of My Father in Heaven are my mother, brothers and sisters- my family” can be applied to how some see the Church or “their church.” A sharp contrast is made by Matthew that Jesus’ family (Mary and her other children both sons and daughters) were “on the outside and couldn’t get in.” Is there a special signal or code or password or behavior that indicates who is in and who is out? Ultimately, the day will come when there will only be two realities and all the gray area will dissolve and fade away. What are those two realities: Heaven and Hell. The description of those realities in Matthew’s “little apocalypse” and in John’s “Revelation” give an eye to those who are in the light and those who are in the dark. For the time being most of the world lives in the comfortable “gray” area. For many, the most important part of one’s existence is the “gray” matter, the brain. Having the right thought, the right intention, is all that is needed and the rest? Well, “if it doesn’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” But, aren’t we called to have the mind of Christ? Paul seemed to have thought so and we can read his assertion in 1 Corinthian 2.16. The problem will always be when we “think” about who is in and who is out and not what we “know” about who is in and who is out. As mighty ones of God in Jesus as the Christ, “save for the grace of God” there go we with the goats… the go-ats! Those who sow sin and reap its harvest always seem to “go-at” someone or something in order to justify their position of rightness. Rightness does not equate with righteousness. Those who assume it does may find that what is on their mind and in their heart won’t really matter. What matters is when we put on the mind of Christ and allow Him into our thinking and our actions which speak to the goodness and glory of God, the Father. He alone has shown us perfectly, who is in and who is out. Our choice affirms the truth that binds us to freedom or to eternal slavery. Let us be “in with Christ” and not on “the outs with God.”
Father, by Your grace and mercy alone shall we find ourselves in Your House forever. That mercy and grace has been shown to us and made available to us in Jesus the Christ. We profess Him as our Lord and Savior. We invite Him into our heart, mind, soul and strength so that authentic love may be our eternal identity. Help us to show others this love so that we might fully love one another as we have been commanded to do. In Jesus’ name- AMEN.