This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
1 Corinthians 16:1-9
16Now concerning the collection for the saints: you should follow the directions I gave to the churches of Galatia. 2On the first day of every week, each of you is to put aside and save whatever extra you earn, so that collections need not be taken when I come. 3And when I arrive, I will send any whom you approve with letters to take your gift to Jerusalem. 4If it seems advisable that I should go also, they will accompany me.
5 I will visit you after passing through Macedonia—for I intend to pass through Macedonia— 6and perhaps I will stay with you or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way, wherever I go. 7I do not want to see you now just in passing, for I hope to spend some time with you, if the Lord permits. 8But I will stay in Ephesus until Pentecost, 9for a wide door for effective work has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.
My own analysis of the evidence has led me to think that Paul was under house arrest inn Ephesus and also made it his HQ in the period after his first missionary journey. His plan regarding aid for the poor Christians in Jerusalem was a splendidly advanced bit of thinking. He was probably the first person to conceive of one part of the world coming to the aid of another in time of famine. This comes from his resolute ecumenism (Greek oecumene means the inhabited world) which envisaged human beings living without racial barriers. Life in one world and in one family meant for him that the old Jewish laws of neighbourliness and care of the poor had to be translated into convincing forms of transnational solidarity.
This original form of Christian Aid remains a challenge today, when especially in economic recession people may feel that charity begins at home. The record response in the UK to the emergency appeal for East Africa is a sign that this need not be so. Solidarity across boundaries of race and nationality is a mark of authentic Christina faith.
15 When Jesus became aware of this, he departed. Many crowds followed him, and he cured all of them, 16and he ordered them not to make him known. 17This was to fulfil what had been spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
18 ‘Here is my servant, whom I have chosen,
my beloved, with whom my soul is well pleased.
I will put my Spirit upon him,
and he will proclaim justice to the Gentiles.
19 He will not wrangle or cry aloud,
nor will anyone hear his voice in the streets.
20 He will not break a bruised reed
or quench a smouldering wick
until he brings justice to victory.
21 And in his name the Gentiles will hope.’
The five “Songs of the Lord’s Servant” in Isaiah 40-55 were used byb the first Christians to understand the ministry of Jesus. Although the servant depicted inn these songs is not the messiah he/she is a better template for understanding Messiah Jesus than messianic passages which speak of supernatural power and military victory. Matthew especially uses the Isaianic material to explain the suffering of Jesus e.g. “he carried our diseases.” This passage models the humility and modesty of Jesus: he is not a demagogue nor a TV Evangelist. His mission to Gentiles is also emphasised. Matthew almost certainly saw this as being fulfilled in the ministry of the first churches. To many people, including many Christians, the fact that Jesus didn’t sell his gospel and even warned people soberly about the cost of following him, is a scandal. He probably didn’t really know what he was at. A good evangelical PR and Advertising department could have sorted him out. We could make sure his voice is heard in the streets!