This blog offers a meditation on the Common Lectionary daily readings along with a headline from world news:
COURT CONFIRMS SALVADOR ALLENDE, CHILEAN “MESSIAH”,
Complete Jewish Bible (CJB)
24 I rejoice in my present sufferings on your behalf! Yes, I am completing in my own flesh what has been lacking of the Messiah’s afflictions, on behalf of his Body, the Messianic Community. 25 I became a servant of the Good News because God gave me this work to do for your benefit. The work is to make fully known the message from God, 26 the secret hidden for generations, for ages, but now made clear to the people he has set apart for himself. 27 To them God wanted to make known how great among the Gentiles is the glorious richness of this secret. And the secret is this: the Messiah is united with you people! In that rests your hope of glory! 28 We, for our part, proclaim him; we warn, confront and teach everyone in all wisdom; so that we may present everyone as having reached the goal, united with the Messiah. 29 It is for this that I toil, striving with all the energy that he stirs up in me so mightily.
2 For I want you to know how hard I work for you, for those in Laodicea, and for the rest of those who have not met me personally. 2 My purpose is that they may be encouraged, that they may be joined together in love, and that they may have all the riches derived from being assured of understanding and fully knowing God’s secret truth, which is — the Messiah! 3 It is in him that all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are hidden.
4 I say this so that no one will fool you with plausible but specious arguments. 5 For although I am away from you physically, I am with you in spirit, rejoicing as I see the disciplined and resolute firmness of your trust in the Messiah. 6 Therefore, just as you received the Messiah Jesus as Lord, keep living your life united with him. 7 Remain deeply rooted in him; continue being built up in him and confirmed in your trust, the way you were taught, so that you overflow in thanksgiving.
The Jewish translation is again helpful today in is repeated translation of the Greek “Christos” as Messiah rather than Christ; and its translation of the Greek “ecclesia”, literally “assembly” as Messianic Community, rather than church. The latter is more of a paraphrase than a translation but serves to remind the reader that we’re not dealing here with anything like today’s churches.
Paul claims that the great secret of God which he’s authorised to announce is that Jesus is Messiah of Gentiles as well as Jews. Rejected by his own people and condemned by their religious Law, he is united with Gentiles. God has “set apart” a new people for himself; not by excluding his people Israel but by uniting them with the rest of humanity. This theology gives a new meaning to the concept, Messiah. Rather than being the bringer of justice to an oppressed Israel, he is oppressed by some of his own people and brings God’s saving justice to all men and women regardless of race.
The presence of Messiah for the new people of God is however not as an external leader, but rather as a shared life: “Messiah in you the hope of glory” is a literal translation of verse 27. Individual people and the the believing community must welcome Messiah Jesus in faith into their lives. Their relationship to Jesus is not imposed from outside nor is it simply a piece of mythology. It is offered by a real announcement; received by a real decision; and manifests itself in a real presence.
Again the reader sees that Paul is anxious, while he sketches out the full scope of the Gospel, that the Community should stay real. His words about treasures of wisdom and knowledge may hint at the kind of “New Age” spiritualities available in the Roman Empire which offered “sophia” (wisdom) and gnosis (knowledge). Those gifts are found only in Messiah Jesus, he says, and counsels them towards discipline and firmness of faith.
We can note that Paul gets his metaphors mixed when he talks of “being rooted”, and then “built up”, but whether he has in mind a growing tree or a well-constructed building, the end product is simply, thanksgiving. He expects to see a grateful people. I’ve seen many lauded processes of church growth which produce people who think they’re doing God a favour by their membership of such a splendid community; and other communities, where there has been very little obvious growth, whose members are profoundly grateful to God and each other for their shared life in Jesus.
Those readers who are not Christian believers will have their own experience of being part of grateful communities and will know how life-enhancing that is.