This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
1 Peter 1:13-25
13 Therefore prepare your minds for action; discipline yourselves; set all your hope on the grace that Jesus Christ will bring you when he is revealed. 14Like obedient children, do not be conformed to the desires that you formerly had in ignorance. 15Instead, as he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; 16for it is written, ‘You shall be holy, for I am holy.’
17 If you invoke as Father the one who judges all people impartially according to their deeds, live in reverent fear during the time of your exile. 18You know that you were ransomed from the futile ways inherited from your ancestors, not with perishable things like silver or gold, 19but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. 20He was destined before the foundation of the world, but was revealed at the end of the ages for your sake. 21Through him you have come to trust in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are set on God.
22 Now that you have purified your souls by your obedience to the truth so that you have genuine mutual love, love one another deeply from the heart. 23You have been born anew, not of perishable but of imperishable seed, through the living and enduring word of God. 24For
‘All flesh is like grass
and all its glory like the flower of grass.
The grass withers,
and the flower falls,
25 but the word of the Lord endures for ever.’
“Live in reverent fear during the time of your exile” is a phrase expressing the piety of the early church which has taken the bible experience of exile in Babylon and made it stand for the earthly life of believers. This should not be misunderstood as a life-denying faith; it’s more a sober reckoning with the trials and brevity of this life. The disciplined person deals with these courageously because she believes she’s journeying homewards. It’s an attitude which helps to counteract my often undisciplined worldliness.
Jesus’ sacrificial offering of his whole life to God’s loving purposes draws the believer into his life of trust in the God who raises the dead. The gospel of Jesus offers a rebirth into his loving life, because it is the word of the Lord written of in Isaiah, which lasts beyond the fragility of earthly life.
Even if, as seems likely, the writer is simply reminding his readers by traditional phrases of what they know well, the phrases point to a quality of faith and life which challenge us in our own time.
13 Then little children were being brought to him in order that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples spoke sternly to those who brought them; 14but Jesus said, ‘Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.’ 15And he laid his hands on them and went on his way.
16 Then someone came to him and said, ‘Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?’ 17And he said to him, ‘Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.’ 18He said to him, ‘Which ones?’ And Jesus said, ‘You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19Honour your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ 20The young man said to him, ‘I have kept all these; what do I still lack?’ 21Jesus said to him, ‘If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.’ 22When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.
The children are brought to Jesus in their naked humanity by parents who in their love desire his blessing for their children. The rich young man comes also in the nakedness of his human longing for goodness but when challenged to come to Jesus in this nakedness he remembers his clothes and turns away. Jesus will not allow a religiosity that conceals our human nakedness: “Why ask me about good? There is only one who is good.” Even this is Matthew’s less naked version of Mark’s “Why do you call me good?” Matthew doesn’t want Jesus denying his own goodness.
Those of us who are rich-and that’s most of us who live in rich countries-have lost touch with our basic humanity, with what King Lear calls “a poor, bare, forked creature.” It is a loss which makes us less rather than more civilised as we become adept at what Isaiah called “hiding ourselves from our own flesh.” We don’t have to reckon with hunger, thirst, pain, heat and cold. Jesus is impatient with all of that. He says to us, “Go sell….and come follow!”