This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headline from world news:
1 Peter 4:7-19
7 The end of all things is near; therefore be serious and discipline yourselves for the sake of your prayers. 8Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. 9Be hospitable to one another without complaining. 10Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. 11Whoever speaks must do so as one speaking the very words of God; whoever serves must do so with the strength that God supplies, so that God may be glorified in all things through Jesus Christ. To him belong the glory and the power for ever and ever. Amen.
12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice in so far as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed. 14If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you. 15But let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief-maker. 16Yet if any of you suffers as a Christian, do not consider it a disgrace, but glorify God because you bear this name. 17For the time has come for judgement to begin with the household of God; if it begins with us, what will be the end for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18And
‘If it is hard for the righteous to be saved,
what will become of the ungodly and the sinners?’
19Therefore, let those suffering in accordance with God’s will entrust themselves to a faithful Creator, while continuing to do good.
Perhaps the belief that the end is near makes this author short of hope for the world, and therefore for justice in this life. His acceptance of unjust suffering is of perennial value to all who are unable to find protection from injustice and have no hope of righting the wrong they suffer. He has a keen insight into what is of true worth and the ability to describe it: “love covers a multitude of sins”. This is beautifully true whether the sin is that of the lover or the beloved.
The “fiery ordeal” seems to be some kind of persecution, perhaps by the state or some more local authority. The author again commends the privilege of sharing in the suffering of Christ. It’s easy from the perspective of a democratic society in which the citizen has access to basic justice to regard the plight of those addressed in 1 Peter as irrelevant. On the contrary, we should take very seriously the fact that our own access to the gospel of Jesus comes through the patience of these people under Roman persecution. Their suffering is part of the cross of Christ and of his gift to humanity. It is also an example and a challenge to us:
“Forbid it Lord, that I should boast
Save in the death of Christ my God;
All the vain things that charm me most
I sacrifice them to his blood.”
These words were written by Isaac Watts (1674-1748) whom the church remembers today.
29 As they were leaving Jericho, a large crowd followed him. 30There were two blind men sitting by the roadside. When they heard that Jesus was passing by, they shouted, ‘Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David!’ 31The crowd sternly ordered them to be quiet; but they shouted even more loudly, ‘Have mercy on us, Lord, Son of David!’ 32Jesus stood still and called them, saying, ‘What do you want me to do for you?’ 33They said to him, ‘Lord, let our eyes be opened.’ 34Moved with compassion, Jesus touched their eyes. Immediately they regained their sight and followed him.
Matthew has a curious trick of doubling the numbers of people described in his source, the Gospel of Mark. There’s only one blind man, Bartimaeus, mentioned by Mark. Matthew’s version emphasises that the blind men can see that Jesus is a) Lord and b) Son of David=Messiah; that Jesus has compassion on them; and that they became disciples. This is a pattern of salvation: in our blindness we cry to the one who is Lord and Christ; he has compassion on us and heals us; we become disciples. The oppressed black people of America could see this truth which they articulated wonderfully in their spiritual:
Blin’ man stood on the road an’cried;
Blin’ man stood on the road an’ cried;
Cryin’ O Lord, show me the way;
Blin’ man stood on the road an’ cried.
That’s me, that’s you, brothers and sisters…