bible blog 793

This blog provides a meditation on the Episcopal daily readings along with a headln from world news:

OBAMA VOWS TO WORK FOR GREATER GUN CONTROL AFTER “JOKER” SHOOTINGS

PSALM 50

Mine are the cattle on a thousand hills

Hear, O my people, and I will speak,    O Israel, I will testify against you.    I am God, your God.
8 Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you;    your burnt-offerings are continually before me.
9 I will not accept a bull from your house,    or goats from your folds.
10 For every wild animal of the forest is mine,    the cattle on a thousand hills.
11 I know all the birds of the air,*    and all that moves in the field is mine.
12 ‘If I were hungry, I would not tell you,    for the world and all that is in it is mine.
13 Do I eat the flesh of bulls,    or drink the blood of goats?
14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving,*    and pay your vows to the Most High.
15 Call on me in the day of trouble;    I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.’

This psalm makes an eloquent plea against the cult of sacrificial offerings to God. Notice also the freedom with which the Psalmist puts words in the mouth of God, articulating an obvious truth: if God is the creator and all the earth is his, what is the point of offering him sacrificed animals? If God is the One who gives all gifts, what gift can we offer to Him? The answer given by the psalmist is still valid: gratitude and the fulfillment of our promises to Him-and one more thing; that we call upon Him in the day of trouble. These are genuine expressions of trust and are worth more than any ritual.

Matthew 26:69-75

Peter’s Denial of Jesus

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard. A servant-girl came to him and said, ‘You also were with Jesus the Galilean.’70But he denied it before all of them, saying, ‘I do not know what you are talking about.’71When he went out to the porch, another servant-girl saw him, and she said to the bystanders, ‘This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.’*72Again he denied it with an oath, ‘I do not know the man.’73After a little while the bystanders came up and said to Peter, ‘Certainly you are also one of them, for your accent betrays you.’74Then he began to curse, and he swore an oath, ‘I do not know the man!’ At that moment the cock crowed.75Then Peter remembered what Jesus had said: ‘Before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly. 

This is part of the Peter-saga which is present in all four gospels  with varied material but some common strands:

1. Peter stands for the whole group of disciples. 2. He talks a better game than he plays. 3. He denies Jesus 4. He sees the risen Lord and finds forgiveness. 5. He becomes a courageous leader of the Jesus communities. 6. He “takes up the cross” that is, he follows the way of Jesus knowing it may lead to his death.

These elements are of course intended as a model for each believer and for the community of believers. In the case of the passage above, all believers are reminded of the ways they have betrayed Jesus; of the bitter self-accusations which follow; and of necessary repentance. The commonest sort of denial is when like Peter we are caught off-guard and made fearful to acknowledge our discipleship.

Less common and perhaps less excusable is the sort when we use the name of Jesus to support an attitude or action which is un-Christlike. The man selected by the Pope as the new Archbishop of my native city of Glasgow should repent his recent betrayal when he suggested that the tragic death of a young politician was due to his being gay. This was only the latest in a series of announcements by the certain Catholic leaders in Scotland which have so lacked compassion that they have dishonoured the name of Jesus, and brought the whole Christian Church in Scotland into disrepute. We should remember the witness of the bible to another of Peter’s bad days when Paul had to accuse him of hypocrisy for bowing to Jewish prejudice aganist Gentiles.

I take no pleasure in these remarks because I’m conscious of my own betrayals of Jesus. Indeed if I keep them in remembrance I’ll be less likely at least to betray him out of arrogance, even while I put myself to learning more courage.

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