Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who calls us to repentance and new life in himself. Amen.
“Beware of practicing your piety before others.”
“Whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting.”
“When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face.”
We read these words from Saint Matthew’s Gospel every year before we begin our Lenten fast.
Minutes later, we kneel down and receive an ashen cross prominently on our foreheads – an obvious and outward sign that we went to church like good little Christians. Continue reading “Ashes to Ashes”→
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who comes into the midst of us as a radiant and lowborn King. Amen.
As formal as royal events are today, they have nothing on the status of kings in ages past. The further back in history you go, the more power kings and emperors claimed for themselves. We may know a little about folks like Richard the Lionheart or Charlemagne (whose Latin name, Karlus Magnus, means Charles the Great. But of course his full title for use in documents was “Charles, most serene Augustus crowned by God, the great, peaceful emperor ruling the Roman Empire.”)
And these medieval kings have nothing on their ancient counterparts.
Consider the heirs of Alexander the Great. When his empire wad divided among five ruling families, they set themselves up as kings and were constantly at war with each other. One such ruler, Antiochus IV, ruled over territory stretching from Judaea to Persia. He claimed the titles Nicator (“the Bringer of Victory”) and Epiphanes (“the Manifestation of God”). He also brought his kingdom to the brink of war, persecuted the people of Judaea, and rededicated the Temple in Jerusalem to the pagan god Zeus, ultimately setting up the successful Jewish rebellion now observed as Hanukkah – so perhaps he was not so manifestly awesome as he claimed.
I spend a lot of time around self-described fundamentalists — perhaps because I live in the Southeast, in the land of Southern Baptist churches. One of the defining doctrines of the modern SBC (and of fundamentalism in general) is their belief in a literal interpretation of Scripture; this tenant is spelled out in the first article of the Baptist Faith and Message, the SBC’s statement of faith:
It has God for its author, salvation for its end, and truth, without any mixture of error, for its matter. Therefore, all Scripture is totally true and trustworthy. [Emphasis added.]
It is worth noting that fundamentalism is a new position, dating back less than two centuries, and it would not come to dominate the Southern Baptist Convention until a concentrated campaign called a “resurgence” by its champions (men like Albert Mohler and Paige Patterson) and a “takeover” by its detractors.
Grace to you and peace from God our Heavenly Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who bids us take up our cross and follow him. Amen.
Saint Peter is hot-headed and impulsive, eager to step out in faith but fast to fall short, in equal measure profoundly faithful and unruly. And it kind of makes you wonder, given some the guidelines about teachers that James and Isaiah put forward, would either of them have called Peter as a pastor to their congregation?
The readings from Saint James and the prophet Isaiah give us a short glimpse of just some of the requirements for those called to lead God’s people. Teachers should have the ability to sustain the weary with a word, open ears, remain steadfast. They should tame their mouths, uttering blessings rather than curses. And, James is quick to remind us, those called to leadership as teachers “will be judged with greater strictness.”
Texts: Joel 2:1-2, 12-17, Psalm 51, St. Matthew 6:1-6, 16-21
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and Christ Jesus our Lord, who calls us to repentance. Amen.
Rarely is the tension of our faith on such stark display as it is today. We sit here, brows smeared with ash, and ponder the words of Christ:
Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them….whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that your fasting may be seen not by others….