Friday, October 24, 2014

Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her


Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Therefore tell her to help me."  And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."

Luke 10:38-42


Yesterday we read that a certain lawyer stood up and tested Jesus, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  He said to him, "What is written in the law?  What is your reading of it?"  So he answered and said, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"  And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."    But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"  Then Jesus answered and said:  "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a certain priest came down that road.  And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was.  And when he saw him, he had compassion.  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?"  And he said, "He who showed mercy on him."  Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

Now it happened as they went that He entered a certain village; and a certain woman named Martha welcomed Him into her house.  And she had a sister called Mary, who also sat at Jesus' feet and heard His word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, "Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  Therefore tell her to help me."  And Jesus answered and said to her, "Martha, Martha, you are worried and troubled about many things.  But one thing is needed, and Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her."  My study bible has one comment on this passage:  "Mary and Martha are the sisters of Lazarus, whom Jesus raised from the dead (John 11:1).  Martha is not rebuked for serving, but for complaining and for being distracted, worried and troubled.  In following Christ, we serve in order to facilitate the spread of the gospel (see Acts 6:1-4)."

We could look at this reading and just blame Martha for all her worldly cares of serving.  But if we look closely at the Gospels, we see other instances where Martha is clearly the one who's more in charge of hospitality.  Perhaps she's more outgoing, and Mary more "contemplative."  In the scene in which Jesus approaches their home after Lazarus has died, it is Martha who goes out to meet Jesus as He approaches the house on the road.  Mary is sitting inside together with the other mourners who have come from Jerusalem, the proper posture for mourning.  She is fulfilling a religious duty.  So the picture of these sisters is consistent; furthermore it is to Martha that Jesus says, "I am the resurrection and the life," and Martha who replies that she believes He is the Christ.  Here in today's scene we see the sisters again playing out their roles, only today Mary sits at Jesus' feet presumably with many men also listening to the Teacher.  The duties of hospitality fall on Martha.  But there is something else going on here.  He is the one whom "you do not have  always."  There is something that trumps even the formal duties of hospitality, and that is love.  Mary sits at the feet of Christ because she adores what He offers.  This is a position of worship, of love -- the posture of one who puts what Christ offers above everything else.  That is the "good part" Mary has chosen, and it is the part that "will not be taken away from her," no matter what else may be happening.   The idea that Martha is "distracted" gives us this same idea.  Somehow, by being so involved in what she understands as her social and domestic duty, she's distracted from the fact of what Mary sees and experiences.  There is One present who won't be with them forever, the One who offers the "words of eternal life."   Jesus loves this family of sisters and brother.  They are His close friends.   But Mary's great love for Christ stands as a kind of a sign for this Gospel of love, the Kingdom of God who is love.  This "good part" trumps everything else, no matter the merit or worth.  It won't be taken away from Mary, and by implication, from any one of us.  A great act of love by Mary will also be the decisive moment Judas will turn from Christ to betray Him.  It's a pivotal moment of choice, a new kind of teaching to understand about Jesus and what He preaches.  It's a teaching about our faith, that it is not just a set of rules to follow, but a relationship.  It is all about love; this is the better part we have with Him and we share with others.  Can we go that  far?  Can we take that step?


Thursday, October 23, 2014

Go and do likewise


 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  He said to him, "What is written in the law?  What is your reading of it?"  So he answered and said, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"  And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."  

But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"  Then Jesus answered and said:  "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.  Now by chance a certain priest came down that road.  And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side.  But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was.  And when he saw him, he had compassion.  So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?"  And he said, "He who showed mercy on him."  Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

- Luke 10:25-37

Yesterday, we read that the seventy apostles who had been sent out by Jesus returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."  And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."  In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.  All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son will to reveal Him."  Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it."

 And behold, a certain lawyer stood up and tested Him, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"  He said to him, "What is written in the law?  What is your reading of it?"  So he answered and said, "'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind,' and 'your neighbor as yourself.'"  And He said to him, "You have answered rightly; do this and you will live."     The two laws cited by the lawyer (an expert in the law) are from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18

"But he, wanting to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"  Then Jesus answered and said:  "A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, who stripped him of his clothing, wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead."   My study bible says, "Jerusalem is the place of peace, symbolic of communion with God.  Jericho, on the other hand, was renowned as a place of sin (see 19:1).  Falling among thieves speaks to the natural consequence of journeying away from God toward a life of sin (see John 10:10)."

"Now by chance a certain priest came down that road.  And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.  Likewise a Levite, when he arrived at the place, came and looked, and passed by on the other side."  My study bible tells us that titles and positions are meaningless in God's sight when good deeds do not accompany them.  Quoting Cyril of Alexandria:  "The dignity of the priesthood means nothing unless he also excels in deeds."  A note continues, "That the priest and the Levite did not help the man also indicates the failure of the Old Testament Law to heal the consequences of sin."

"But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was.  And when he saw him, he had compassion."   My study bible suggests that the Samaritan, while a despised foreigner, is an image of Christ (see John 8:48).  Christ "came down from heaven" (Creed) to save even those in rebellion against Him."

"So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; and he set him on his own animal, brought him to an inn, and took care of him.  On the next day, when he departed, he took out two denarii, gave them to the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.'  So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among thieves?"  And he said, "He who showed mercy on him."  Then Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."  A note says, "The bandages, oil, and wine are sacramental images for (1) the garment of baptism, which delivers us from the wounds of sin; (2) the oil of chrismation, which gives us new life in the Holy Spirit; and (3) the communion of the living Blood, which leads to eternal life.  His own animal indicates Christ bearing our sins in His own body, and the inn reveals the Church in which Christ's care is received.  He pays the price for that care (1 Corinthians 6:20; 7:23)."

Jesus' statement, "Go and do likewise," puts us in an entirely different place than the Law leaves us. The Law speaks about refraining from vengeance, and from holding a grudge.  These are important points that Jesus also makes in various Sermons, that I think we miss all too often.  (It also tends to refer to those who are of the same people; see again Deut. 6:51.)  "Love your enemies" is a direct appeal against vengeance.  But from there, in this story, our understanding of the concept of neighbor becomes entirely changed from a "do not" into a highly proactive behavior.  And in this "Go and do likewise" we find yet another mandate for gracious behavior.  That is, being like Christ, imitating the grace that is given to each of us through Him.  And in this behavior is a "neighbor" made.  It is entirely within keeping of the Gospel message, of being disciples, even being sent out into the world to represent this Kingdom into the world, that we are to be -- in some sense -- proactively gracious!  In that case, it is entirely up to others (would-be neighbors) whether or not they accept or reject our gracious (loving) behavior.  It is in the practice of kindness that we offer the Kingdom to others.  Refraining from the kind of vindictive behavior that a grudge would carry to someone else is another side of the same coin; what Jesus teaches isn't at all in contradiction to the Law.  Rather, as He says Himself, it is in fulfillment of it.  In a time when image becomes more and more powerful, given the omnipresence of social media of all kinds, we are -- somewhat surprisingly -- living in a world where it seems like graciousness is increasingly hard to find.  The ever-present and growing power of image becomes a weapon, for PR or perhaps for fighting or bullying.  The seeming anonymity or protection of a screen and distance seems to amplify hostility and rudeness, and it translates into our daily lives, where a kind of force of how you look to others, how impressive one is, how much power one has, becomes a leaven that is evermore bluntly pursued and winds up affecting daily commerce in many ways, especially among the young.  Image also serves hypocrisy, where what matters isn't your heart, but what impression other might have (that is, the right people).  This can translate into donations that have meaning for publicity's sake, but a lack of charity in personal behavior.  I have found a lack of graciousness in all settings, in Churches and among those who really should know better, who may occupy and seek positions of importance.  And, on the other hand, I regularly experience great graciousness from the powerless, and the less seemingly-important, including elders of another generation.  Graciousness, "good manners," is all about the kindness we offer to others.  There's a well-known saying that good manners or etiquette really translates into one thing:  making another person feel comfortable.  This the Samaritan quite literally does.  He treats the hurt man as if he were in his own home, and in effect makes a home for the man, providing for his care.  Thus the Samaritan makes a neighbor of the other.  We don't know whether or not the hurt man was grateful.  The story doesn't tell us that.  It doesn't tell us whether he went his way after healing feeling he had just "gotten something" out of someone else with an attitude of entitlement or superiority.  It doesn't tell us if he repaid the innkeeper for the cost of care provided by the Samaritan.  It just doesn't tell us any of those things.  But it does give us a recipe for ourselves, and for bearing a gracious kingdom into the world.  "He who showed mercy on him" is the one who was the true neighbor.   Let us endeavor to go and do likewise.  It is the way to be disciples and apostles, the very way to show that we are followers of Christ.



Wednesday, October 22, 2014

I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven


 Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."  And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."

In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.  All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son will to reveal Him."

Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it."

- Luke 10:17-24

Yesterday, we read that, after teachings on discipleship, the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.  Then He said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.  Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.  Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road.  But whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house.'  And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.  And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages.  Do not go from house to house.  Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.  And heal the sick there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'  But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you.  Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.'  But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city.  Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades.  He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me."

  Then the seventy returned with joy, saying, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us in Your name."  And He said to them, "I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you.  Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven."  My study bible says that I saw Satan fall describes an event that took place before the creation of the world.  Five times Satan set his will against God (Isaiah 14:12-15; see also Revelation 12:7-12).   We should also note that "serpents and scorpions" are images of demons and devils, putting them in the context of "all the power of the enemy."  But the greatest rejoicing isn't in power -- it's in belonging to the Kingdom of heaven.

 In that hour Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit and said, "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes.  Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in Your sight.  All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and the one to whom the Son will to reveal Him."   My study bible tells us that "babes," in this context, are people of simple faith and open hearts (see 18:15-17).  And Jesus refers here to the ways God works in the world, how things are revealed.  It is all about relationship.  He is the face of the Father in the world, He is inseparable from the Father.  It is through Him we know God.

Then He turned to His disciples and said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see; for I tell you that many prophets and kings have desired to see what you see, and have not seen it, and to hear what you hear, and have not heard it."  There is a powerful, extraordinary quality hidden in today's reading, and we may miss it unless we understand the reality revealed through Christ and the power over the demonic shown here to and through His disciples.  It's a kind of extraordinary authority shared even with "babes."  Jesus refers to the generations of those who sincerely desired to have what they have, and yet it was not revealed to them.  Hidden from prophets and kings, what He has revealed to these "babes" chosen to be His apostles is a profound secret sought for ages by the wise and worldly.

It is truly remarkable to hear Jesus marvel.  When He tells the disciples, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see," He's pointing out to them the amazing work of God in this ministry.  So many -- the wise and powerful of the ages -- have sought what has been revealed to these apostles, made known to them.  We also get the extraordinary prayer of thanks by Jesus to the Father, making the occasion doubly remarkable:  "I thank You, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and prudent and revealed them to babes."  He is rejoicing in the Spirit, the Gospel tells us, when He says these things.  This in itself is a rather tremendous revelation; such moments aren't given to us often in the texts of the Gospels.  The greatest joy of Christ is in the will of the Father, which is love.  And here is love:  that what was always sought by the wise and prudent has been revealed to babes.  It is another way that God has "lifted up the lowly."  It is a profound form of justice, as it teaches all of us what God's love is about.  It's not that the "wise and prudent" do not need the love of God as well, or that they all  need to be torn down.  What is happening here is a message about the Kingdom.   What we expect, our worldly sense of how things should be, is all turned upside down in Christ's ministry.  Jesus Himself, who speaks with authority so that people marvel, has no worldly authority.  He hasn't worked His way into some great position of teaching in the hierarchy of the religious establishment.  None of His disciples are learned in the sense that they had already been a part of the religious rulers.  What they have, though, is a capacity for love and relationship to Christ, and this is the "new wine" that must be put in "new wineskins."  It's a hint about the work of the Spirit, as the text tells us Jesus rejoiced in the Spirit.  Let us remember that we are assured of the fall of Satan, and the work in the world of the disciples is to express the power over the demonic that Jesus has shared with them.  We are also to remember what is to come, that one of these hand-picked disciples will betray Him.  There are the oppressive forces that fight the work of God, the work of Christ, and the Spirit in the world.  There are those who doubt spiritual work in "babes" of all kinds, and the wisdom of babes that may be unacceptable for one reason or another within a particular hierarchy, or ways of thinking.  There is a force of oppression.  And then there is the force of liberation, the defeat of the "occupying" enemy, and it is a force of love and grace, a different kind of power that the "darkness doesn't comprehend"  - neither perceiving nor overcoming.  Let us remember Jesus' joy in the revelation to the babes.  What He wants is just the currency of love, the foundation of real discipleship.




Tuesday, October 21, 2014

I send you out as lambs among wolves


After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.  Then He said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest.  Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves.  Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road.  But whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house.'  And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.  And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages.  Do not go from house to house.  Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you.  And heal the sick there, and say to them, 'The kingdom of God has come near to you.'  But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you.  Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.'  But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city.

"Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades.

"He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me."

- Luke 10:1-16

Yesterday, we read that, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that Jesus steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face.  And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.  But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.  And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?"  But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them."  And they went to another village.  Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go."  And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."  Then He said to another, "Follow Me."  But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."  Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."  And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house."  But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go.  Then He said to them, "The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest."  The seventy apostles (or disciples) are by tradition understood to be devout "laborers," some of them also mentioned in the New Testament.  Among them are Barnabas and Titus. My study bible suggests here that we are to "pray not only for the harvest of converts to Christ, but also for the laborers who will reach them."

"Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves."  My study bible says that "lambs speak of the sacrificial life of the apostles and of all followers of Christ.  The wolves are those who seek to frighten and devour those who follow the Lord (John 15:18)." 

 "Carry neither money bag, knapsack, nor sandals; and greet no one along the road.  But whatever house you enter, first say, 'Peace to this house.'  And if a son of peace is there, your peace will rest on it; if not, it will return to you.  And remain in the same house, eating and drinking such things as they give, for the laborer is worthy of his wages.  Do not go from house to house.  Whatever city you enter, and they receive you, eat such things as are set before you."  We notice the reliance on God conveyed in these directions -- everything starts there first.  To remain in the same house is to stay in the first place offered, and not to "trade up" for better accommodations, no matter how humble the home may be.  My study bible tells us, "Twice here Christ commands the apostles to eat whatever is offered to them.  This has a twofold significance:  (1)  the apostles must be content with whatever is offered, even if the food is little and simple; and  (2)  the gracious reception of others' hospitality takes precedence over personal fasting or dietary disciplines."

"And heal the sick there, and say to them, "The kingdom of God has come near to you.'"  The message is not just that there is a Kingdom in the future, but rather that the kingdom of God has come near."   It is present in those who carry it, those who are sent bearing it into the world, those who bear signs of its presence.

"But whatever city you enter, and they do not receive you, go out into its streets and say, 'The very dust of your city which clings to us we wipe off against you.  Nevertheless know this, that the kingdom of God has come near you.'  But I say to you that it will be more tolerable in that Day for Sodom than for that city."    Once again, as with the first sending out of the Twelve, these apostles are to shake the very dust off their feet in rebuke to those who reject them and their message -- the kingdom of God that has come near.

"Woe to you, Chorazin!  Woe to you, Bethsaida!  For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  But it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment than for you.  And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades.   He who hears you hears Me, he who rejects you rejects Me, and he who rejects Me rejects Him who sent Me."  My study bible notes, "Judgment is severe for those who reject Christ after experiencing His grace.  In contrast, those who have never known Christ due to genuine ignorance are without sin in that regard (John 15:22-24), and are instead judged by their God-given conscience (Romans 2:12-16)."  We note the powerful representation in this Kingdom that has come near:  those who hear the apostles hear Christ - for rejection it is the same, but Christ as "bearer" of the Father ("I and the Father are one") means also it is the Father who is rejected.  Relationship or communion, in this Kingdom, is everything.

Judgment is a difficult proposition for a lot of people.  It makes them uncomfortable.  But what Jesus speaks about here is a rejection; that is, a rejection on the part of those who don't want to hear about it, don't want to welcome the disciples.  It's a rejection of the message of the Kingdom coming near -- and that is the essence of the message.  We can take it as the essence of His mission to and ministry in the world:  the kingdom of God has come near.  Then the question posed to all of us becomes more clear:  Do you want it, or do you not want it?  In effect, the judgment becomes a question of rejection by those to whom it is offered.  It is not up to us how that judgment happens or even to judge how reception or rejection happens (after all, this judgment is in the future, and we are not the ones who know the hearts of all).  But it does give us a very important clue about how we are to bear the Kingdom into the world and also about how we are to deal with rejection.  This is the second time the apostles are told to wipe the dust off as a sign of rebuke, and to move on in their mission (the first time was in the sending out of the Twelve).  I think this is a good guideline for all of our lives.  It is important that we understand we're not the ultimate judges here.  The concept that rejection simply means a "rejection" back (shake the dust off!) and moving on, focusing positively on the work that is at hand, just as the Kingdom is "at hand."  It's a good guideline for the ways in which we live our lives.  As disciples and apostles, it would seem, their mission is simply offering this Kingdom in all that they do.  That includes gracious behavior everywhere they go, akin to humble behavior everywhere they go.  They are not told to show great might and force as representatives of this Kingdom but rather the power and force of the holy:  they heal, they cast out demons, they preach the Gospel message.  "Greet no one on the road" is an admonition to refrain from elaborate formal greetings, and to remain humble in this sense.  They are lambs in the midst of wolves; this is the way the Kingdom comes into the world, and it is the way we are taught to bear ourselves.  Grace comes first as a way of representing Christ and the Father.  Let us get the message clearly.  Let us remember the power of grace.



Monday, October 20, 2014

No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God


 Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face.  And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.  But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.  And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?"  But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them."  And they went to another village.

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go."  And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."  Then He said to another, "Follow Me."  But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."  Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."  And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house."  But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."

- Luke 9:51-62

Yesterday, we read that it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him.  Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, "Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.  And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him.  So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not."  Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you?  Bring your son here."  And as he was coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him.  Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.  And they were all amazed at the majesty of God.  But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples, "Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men."  But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.  Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.  And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me.  For he who is least among you all will be great."  Now John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us."  But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side."

  Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face to go to Jerusalem, and sent messengers before His face.  And as they went, they entered a village of the Samaritans, to prepare for Him.  But they did not receive Him, because His face was set for the journey to Jerusalem.  And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, "Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?"  But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what manner of spirit you are of.  For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives but to save them."  And they went to another village.  Here is the firm resolution, Jesus knows where He is headed, in every sense of the term, and He has His mind fixed to go to Jerusalem.  That is the journey He and the disciples undertake.  The response of James and John Zebedee is entirely in character; they are called "Sons of Thunder," and the text as a whole shows us what this thunder will be turned into through the coming of the Spirit (John will be called "the apostle of love," while James is by tradition considered to be the first apostle to be martyred).  The disciples, as in yesterday's reading, are still coming to terms with power and its uses in the context of the Church, of being disciples of Christ.  The 'manner of spirit they are of' is one of salvation.  In a sense, we are all sinners; salvation won't work if the objective is to destroy. According to Cyril of Alexandria, this experience was for the disciples' own good:  "Christ rebuked them for their own good when they were enraged beyond measure at the hatred of the Samaritans. He did this so they might learn that as ministers of the divine tidings, they must rather be full of longsuffering and gentleness, not revengeful. They must not be given to wrath or savagely attack those who offend them"  (Commentary on Luke, Homily 56). 

Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, that someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go."  And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head."  Then He said to another, "Follow Me."  But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father."  Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."  And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go and bid them farewell who are at my house."  But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."   Of this passage, which begins with the statement, "I will follow You," my study bible says:  There is a cost to discipleship.  Jesus reveals three:  (1)  The disciple relinquishes personal or earthly security -- if the Lord has nowhere to lay His head, neither will the disciple.  (2)  Nothing, not even the honor due to parents, can be an obstacle to serving the Lord.  (3)  A disciple cannot delay in accomplishing the good that Christ demands."

Jesus is on His way to Jerusalem.  It is a frank acknowledgement of what is coming.  These disciples will be the ones the world will rely on to carry Christ's church into the world.  Jesus, in the flesh, will not be present, although Christ and the Kingdom will be with them.  So will the Spirit.  But ultimately, it is the quality of our discipleship that really and truly bears the burden of the Church, becomes the foundation of the Church, constructs the Church in the world.  Let us consider that.  I think that, too often, we don't give credit to discipleship as perhaps the most important thing we can be a part of.  Being good disciples (that is, "learners") is the same as being a good parent, or being an exemplary man or woman, being an example of taking responsibility for your life and the way you live your life.  It's the quality of our discipleship that makes all the difference in the world and to the world, to whatever community we are a part of.  Jesus gives several examples in today's reading that are all about the teaching of discipleship.  How are the disciples to handle rejection?  He's already told them that their rebuke to those who will not receive them (on their first mission) is simply to shake the "very dust" off of their feet, and move on.  Losing ourselves in anger and rage -- but more particularly, in vengeance -- isn't going to help.  It's not the proper discipline of a disciple of Jesus.  To follow Him, we must be prepared for all conditions, to endure in faith.  All these things are a product, once again, of humility.  Our lives are not judged by the quality or expense of the home we have.  They're not judged by how many people think we're just great.  Our value and worth comes from somewhere else, Someone else, far beyond the world and the interactions we have and problems we have with one another.  This is the "higher power" we cling to in order to see our problems in their right perspective.  Even family, even cultural commitments, do not come before this duty of discipleship.  Jesus is giving us the perspective that we need.  Nowadays, we hear about many broken families, all kinds  of problems of abuse.  But Jesus gives us the cue for healing:  He comes first.  The Kingdom comes first.  Discipleship comes first.  Thereupon is a higher and greater perspective to which to take all our healing and brokenness, no matter what it is.  He comes first in our lives; there may even be a kind of spiritual "deadness" in your life that you need to acknowledge and take to Christ for His way to handle it; His way to learn your discipline in life -- a peaceful taking of responsibility for what is of true value and what is essential.  Finally, Jesus says, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."  Elsewhere He reminds the disciples, "Remember Lot's wife" (Luke 17:32).  We don't look back, we go forward.  All of this constitutes the discipline of a follower of Christ.  From my personal experience, God's forgiveness is endless; our faith need not be utterly perfect and we may make many mistakes, as the disciples do.  God wants us on that road, to turn back to Christ, and 'follow Him.'  That's discipleship, and how He teaches us the discipline of what it is to bear His kingdom into the world.  It is the most important job we have.  It intersects everything else in our lives.  We each have a journey to make, cultivating the good ground for the seed of the Sower, and new things to learn.






Saturday, October 18, 2014

Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me


Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him.  Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, "Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.  And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him.  So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not."  Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you?  Bring your son here."  And as he was coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him.  Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.  And they were all amazed at the majesty of God.

But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples, "Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men."  But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.

Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.  And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me.  For he who is least among you all will be great."

Now John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us."  But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side."

- Luke 9:37-50

Yesterday we read that, about eight days after Peter's confession that Jesus is Christ, and Jesus' subsequent warnings to the disciples about what is to come in His life, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.  As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening.  And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decrease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.  But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.  Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles:  one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" -- not knowing what he said.  While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud.  And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son.  Hear Him!"  When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone.  But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen.

Now it happened on the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, that a great multitude met Him.  Suddenly a man from the multitude cried out, saying, "Teacher, I implore You, look on my son, for he is my only child.  And behold, a spirit seizes him, and he suddenly cries out; it convulses him so that he foams at the mouth; and it departs from him with great difficulty, bruising him.  So I implored Your disciples to cast it out, but they could not."  Then Jesus answered and said, "O faithless and perverse generation, how long shall I be with you and bear with you?  Bring your son here."  And as he was coming, the demon threw him down and convulsed him.  Then Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the child, and gave him back to his father.  And they were all amazed at the majesty of God.  My study bible suggests that while the disciples' faith was incomplete (Matthew 17:19-20), His rebuke here is also meant to the crowds, whose faith was "weaker still" (see Mark 9:22-24).

But while everyone marveled at all the things which Jesus did, He said to His disciples, "Let these words sink down into your ears, for the Son of Man is about to be betrayed into the hands of men."  But they did not understand this saying, and it was hidden from them so that they did not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask Him about this saying.   In the past couple of readings, the revelation of Jesus' identity as Christ was immediately met with a warning about what is going to happen in His ministry.  After that came the Transfiguration experience of His inner circle of disciples (yesterday's reading).  After a particularly impressive act of healing in today's reading, and the marveling of the crowds who are amazed at God's majesty, the disciples are immediately brought "down to earth" so to speak, when He warns them again about what is coming.  My study bible says that His repeated prediction of His Passion was meant to encourage and strengthen them for the terrifying events they were going to face -- and to assure them that Christ was not powerless but went willingly to the Cross. 

Then a dispute arose among them as to which of them would be greatest.  And Jesus, perceiving the thought of their heart, took a little child and set him by Him, and said to them, "Whoever receives this little child in My name receives Me; and whoever receives Me receives Him who sent Me.  For he who is least among you all will be great."  The understanding of Jesus' true identity and the revelation of majesty in so many ways creates a notion of power among the disciples.  This is now a new sense of who Jesus is, just what this ministry is about.  And of course the first appeal to weakness in human beings is the powerful nature of what they might find themselves involved with.  It's telling for all of us how the disciples respond to the understanding of Jesus' identity as Christ:  they start disputing over who's going to have a more powerful position in the Kingdom.  Jesus' first teaching then is about humility; how they must treat the littlest ones.  Gracious behavior is true greatness!

Now John answered and said, "Master, we saw someone casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow with us."  But Jesus said to him, "Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side."  This is yet another sort of teaching on humility.  The chosen disciples aren't the only ones who call upon Christ.  "He who is not against us is on our side" is a good motto to follow!

Humility is a repeated teaching in today's reading, and it's a kind of subject flowing through all the recent readings in which the true power and majesty of Christ is revealed in the person of Jesus.  It's a necessary component of our faith.  Not only are we asked to remain "down to earth" in our understanding of where we are and who we are in our lives as Christ's followers, but we're also asked for an imitation of His condescension and graciousness as well.  The Christ Himself, the Son, has come into the world as a vulnerable human being.  So we are also to remember even the "littlest" among ourselves as though we were greeting Him.  These are His words to those who will lead and shape His church in the world.  And we can't get enough of these teachings.  The understanding of ourselves as powerful beings is a very important part of human nature. Our need for strength and power, for security, becomes a vulnerable spot for understanding life and the nature of life in Christ's kingdom.  The first taste of power and its revelation brings out the competition in the disciples.  They are thinking of a worldly kingdom -- we can relate it to a modern country in which all kinds of offices are appointed via an elected leader, and competition within the party for places.  This is clearly an example of human nature for us, where we go when faced with a prospect of some sort of power.  But Christ calls His disciples to a different kind of power, and it's the kind of power via which His kingdom will work.  It's the power of humility and the understanding of what it means to practice the kind of grace He shares with us.  Even in the littlest, we are to see a reflection of His power and majesty, and His love.  This is the only way in which His church is really going to work properly.  It is the thing that we are called to.  He will go through terrible suffering, and the death reserved for the worst criminals.  They will face all kinds of slander and He will be tried with lying witnesses.  It is only humility that will enable them to continue with their missions in the face of what seems like apparent and thorough defeat.  Humility becomes a kind of weapon that defeats all forms of egotism and selfishness, the influence of evil in the world, because it keeps us grounded within our true reality.  People confuse humility with self-abasement but this is a completely false understanding, in my point of view.  Humility is not about any form of groveling to human power; it is, instead, a grounding in the love of Christ, a recognition that we are all imperfect and that our great goal is simply seeking His love and to be like His love in all its manifestations of graciousness.  It is the willingness to change and repent, to accept that He always has something else to teach us on this forward road of faith, no matter how far we've already come.  Most of all, it's the understanding that we accept our identities given by Him in His love, so that regardless of what the world may tell us about ourselves -- either via a false kind of flattery and inflated egotism, or a false negative (such as the false charges against Jesus and later on His followers) -- we may remain in truth, grounded in the reality that we really do need to cling to.  Humility is the key to clear thinking, to landing on our feet, to grounding ourselves in the awareness of the kingdom.  Thus He leaves us with clear-sightedness, about just what is what:  warning us against our own foibles and foolishness, but also guarding us from the lies the world may tell us about ourselves.  It is the only true realistic path.  The sooner we understand this the better; we strive to know Him better, to bear His kingdom better into the world.  But at the same time this should make us more aware of the reality of the world, not blind to it.  This is His wisdom given to us.  Let us remember how essential humility is, and the great goal of graciousness.  It is carrying that kind of grace that makes us truly like Him.  It doesn't mean we look for ill-treatment or suffer it unnecessarily.  Rather, in humility is our true dignity.  It is a product of the kind of faith He's calling us toward.



Friday, October 17, 2014

This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!


Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.  As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening.  And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decrease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.  But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.  Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles:  one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" -- not knowing what he said.  While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud.  And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son.  Hear Him!"  When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone.  But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen.

- Luke 9:28-36

Yesterday, we read that, as Jesus was alone praying, His disciples joined Him, and He asked them, saying, "Who do the crowds say that I am?"  So they answered and said, "John the Baptist, but some say Elijah; and others say that one of the old prophets has risen again."  He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?"  Peter answered and said, "The Christ of God."  And He strictly warned and commanded them to tell this to no one, saying, "The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day."  Then He said to them all,  "If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.  For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will save it.  For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and is himself destroyed or lost?  For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, of him the Son of Man will be ashamed when He comes in His own glory, and in His Father's and of the holy angels.  But I tell you truly, there are some standing here who shall not taste death till they see the kingdom of God."

 Now it came to pass, about eight days after these sayings, that He took Peter, John, and James and went up on the mountain to pray.  As He prayed, the appearance of His face was altered, and His robe became white and glistening.   My study bible refers to the light that emanates from Christ, a divine light sometimes painted in icons as a blue-white, whiter than white, beyond the full spectrum of light as we know it (thereby, an ineffable color).   He is the Light, a sign of His divinity.  His altered face tells us we are now in a different "space" than is usual, in the presence of the Kingdom.  As they are on the mountain to pray, they are set apart in a high place for a special reason.  This is His inner circle, the same who were present for the healing of Jairus' daughter.

 And behold, two men talked with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His decrease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem.   Moses represents the law and all those who have died, while Elijah stands in for the prophets -- and, my study bible says, since Elijah himself did not experience death, all those who are alive in Christ.  As they are recognizable to the disciples (as we shall see), they represent the communion of saints as well.  My study bible says, "Their presence shows that the law and the prophets, the living and the dead, all bear witness to Jesus as the Messiah, the fulfillment of the whole Old Testament."  In using the term "decrease" in translation (as in His decrease which He was about to accomplish at Jerusalem), the English translates the word exodus in Greek, literally meaning "departure."   This, of course, refers to Jesus' death.  My study bible tells us:  "Christ's death is intimately connected to the glory of the Transfiguration, for Christ is glorified through His death (John 12:23).  . . .  The term exodus reveals that Christ's Passion is a fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover and is the true exodus from enslavement into salvation.  This revelation of divine power also confirms Christ's upcoming death was not imposed on Him by outside forces, but was a voluntary offering of love, for no arresting soldier could withstand such glory if Christ had not consented (Matthew 26:53)."  Christ's glory revealed here would also certainly confirm to the disciples the voluntary nature of His exodus from this world.

But Peter and those with him were heavy with sleep; and when they were fully awake, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him.  Then it happened, as they were parting from Him, that Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for us to be here; and let us make three tabernacles:  one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah" -- not knowing what he said.  This incident is connected with the Feast of Tabernacles (Sukkot), a feast commemorating the time that Israel wandered in the wilderness and lived in tents or tabernacles.  The tabernacle of Moses also went with with them, a confirmation of God dwelling among the righteous.  It's reasonable that Peter would associate Moses and Elijah's presence (and glory) -- as well as the cloud above -- with the coming of the Kingdom, connecting the building of tabernacles or tents.

While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were fearful as they entered the cloud.  And a voice came out of the cloud, saying, "This is My beloved Son.  Hear Him!"  When the voice had ceased, Jesus was found alone.  But they kept quiet, and told no one in those days any of the things they had seen.  This experience is a kind of revelation called a Theophany, a revelation of God in the Greek.  The cloud is like the cloud that went before the Israelites in the wilderness, the visible sign of God being "extraordinarily present." The voice is clearly the voice of God the Father, who reveals Jesus as Son -- and the dazzling light surrounding Christ, which also overshadows the whole mountain (Matthew 17:5), reveals the presence of the Spirit.

In addition to the rest of the things we read about Jesus in the Gospels (healing, compassion, forgiving sins, practicing mercy in so many ways, teaching, and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom), we also read of moments like this:  Transfiguration, theophany, the revelation of divine mysteries beyond our full comprehension, His glory.  If we're tempted to think of our faith as simply a set of ethics, a way to live in this world with certain guidelines to think about, then we're entirely mistaken.  Events like the Transfiguration are not included in the Gospels so that we can just reduce Christ to a highly ethical man who's going to teach us all about love simply by a kind of judicious example.  That, in my opinion, is a very wrong reading of this text.  Events like the one in today's reading aren't included in the text to be glossed over and ignored.  They're not presented to us simply to impress or astound.  They are included in order to reveal things that are great mysteries, beyond our understanding.  They are revealed as gift from God, to let us in on things that are beyond our full comprehension.  They invite us into a whole Kingdom that actually dwells among us, to realities we can seldom perceive -- and never completely.  They let us know that whatever Jesus teaches is coming from a Wisdom that is far beyond our own resources and intellectual capacities.  Above all, it gives us certain understanding that our relationship to Christ and our participation in His kingdom goes way beyond intellectual assent, or a kind of argument over what His teachings mean.  This participation touches on levels within ourselves we can't necessarily get to -- and we are loved in ways that are truly ineffable to us.  The only way we can get a glimpse of all that is through some kind of experience, some kind of "enlightenment" if you will.  Christianity isn't just a set of rules.  We're not abstract human beings in our faith, living by some set of ideological values.  We are in relationship to one another as persons because, in, and through our relationship to the Persons of God.  This is our source not only for wisdom but for understanding and for love.  This is our source for grace and the blessings of faith, including courage, tenacity, endurance, kindness, compassion, and all the blessings faith can confer that we don't necessarily have of our own strength.  Our religion can't be boiled down to a set of absolute certainties in the sense that we simply can't know the fullness of any absolute.  We are in relationship to God who knows God fully, but we don't know God as God knows God.  (That is rather abstract language, but that is the right way to understand what scenes like this reveal to us.)   This is yet another important reason why we turn in prayer for guidance and help all the time, because we know that we don't have all the answers.  Like the healed man who was blind since birth, there are some things we know, and some things we don't  ("Whether He is a sinner or not I do not know.  One thing I know:  that though I was blind, now I see"  - John 9:25).  It is of great essence for us to understand that there is so much that is also beyond us, beyond our fully knowing, because it opens the door to the fullness of what participation in the kingdom is all about, what faith is truly about.  And it is also the knowledge that there is so much more we await.  In other accounts of Peter's confession (see yesterday's reading), Jesus tells him immediately that it was the Father who had revealed this knowledge to Peter ("Blessed are you, Simon-bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My father who is in heaven" - Matthew 16:17).  So, we also are connected with the Persons of infinite mystery, even in communication somehow.  This glimpse of divinity in today's reading gives us an assurance that whatever we think we know, there is more beyond to be revealed, and in which we may take confidence.  Let us remember what faith is, and how it works in the light of what has been revealed.  That includes glimpses of the ineffable, the unknowable.  There is always so much more that we reach toward than what we already know, or what we think we understand.  The Father's command, "Hear Him!" is a constant present.  We can't forget He's always with us, and we always need to "be hearing."  Most especially, let us learn to perceive the love that comes to us from far beyond ourselves, from the One to whom we are all beloved children.  Love is like the glue of God, the substance that seals everything together.