Sunday, February 4, 2018

The Sunday called Sexagesima, 2018

(Genesis 3)
2 Corinthians 11:19-31
Luke 8:4-15
Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field; In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” (Genesis 3:17-19)
So we read this morning at Mattins.

According to “COMMON PRAYER: A Commentary on the Prayer Book Lectionary”, the Sundays of Septuagesima are about the cultivation of Virtue. Temperance and Justice were addressed last Sunday; Prudence, and Fortitude this Sunday, and next Sunday, the last before Ash Wednesday, is given over to Love.

The Four “Cardinal Virtues” of Temperance, Justice, Prudence, and Fortitude were first enumerated by Plato, and elaborated by other ancients, including the Book of Wisdom. The Theological Virtues of Faith, Hope, and Love were first described by Saint Paul. What distinguishes these two classes of Virtues? The first four “Moral” virtues, “may, as natural virtues, be acquired by our own efforts,” by practicing them until they become a habitual disposition. The latter three place us in relation with the Trinity and are called “infused; that is, poured into our souls, because they are strictly gifts of God.

In our Epistle today, Paul is contrasting himself with what he calls “Super Apostles” who have recently been to Corinth - they seem to have advertised themselves based on their Jewish pedigree, their wonder-working, and their authoritarian demeanor. (The Authorized Version translation makes this passage difficult because of Paul’s use of sarcasm.) He compares and contrasts his own credentials with theirs: “If these are the things that matter to you,” he says to the Corinthians, “well, then, I exceed these teachers on every front: and furthermore I exceed them in what I’ve suffered to spread the Gospel. All the glamour doesn’t matter: “If I must needs glory, I will glory of the things which concern mine infirmities.” Paul exemplifies the virtue of Fortitude in the midst of his sufferings; and faults the Corinthians for a lack of Prudence: of being able to distinguish between Virtue and Vice, between his true Fortitude and the Pride of the “Super Apostles.”

The Gospel today is interesting. As Fr. Robert Capon points out, we tend to think it surprising that Jesus has to explain this parable, since the meaning is so obvious, and yet, it is perhaps less obvious even to us than we think, and no more so than to his original listeners. We might hear the parable something along these lines, “The seed is Christian preaching, which everyone needs to hear; but only in those who act uprightly, who are Virtuous, will it operate.” Fr. Capon sees in this parable something far less comfortable to us - and yet far more comforting. If we follow the premise of allowing the Bible to interpret itself, the seed can be nothing but Jesus himself. “The seed is the Word of God.” Saint John says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Speaking of the “Hour when the Son of man should be glorified,” John quotes Jesus as saying, “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” So the seed is Jesus, and he is sown to all conditions of life. And what is the purpose of seed? To fall to the ground and die. No matter what the conditions that receive the seed, its purpose will be fulfilled. What of the birds that ate the seed off the road? “And the fowls of the air devoured it”- The devil thought at the Crucifixion that he had won - but that was the fulfilling, not the frustration, of God’s purpose. When birds eat seeds, the seeds pass through them and spread further - and bring about more growth than if the seeds had only fallen. “And some fell upon a rock, and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture.” And yet the withered plant then turns to soil, and subsequent moisture can now be retained. Among the thorns, “The thorns sprang up with it, and choked it” - choked it, yes, preventing “perfect fruit”, but not preventing its growth entirely. And one who sees the potentially fruitful growth among the thorns might well be inspired to then clear them away. And finally, the “good ground,” where the seed may bring forth fruit an hundredfold.

The Gospel doesn’t allow us to sit smugly knowing that we are good, and thus the seed is only effective in us, like Paul’s “Super Apostles.” The seed is everywhere, and it is effective everywhere, because that is God’s purpose and it does not depend upon us. All that we have to do is to cooperate or not. If we do - we will enjoy the fruit that springs up an hundredfold. If we do not, its purpose will be effected anyway.

This brings us back to the curse of the fall. We are no longer in the garden - and yet, the ground itself still gives its natural fruit through the sun and rain and seed that God distributes. And God distributes his graces to all humanity as well, that the fruit on coinhering with him and with each other may be brought to perfection. No effort of ours may cause or prevent this. But we can work with it by rooting out the thorns as best we can; and tilling with the cultivation of Virtue. We may practice the Fortitude of enduring the “times of temptation,” and the “cares, and riches, and pleasures of this life,” and Prudence of knowing that even so, we are not – in success – causing or earning or, – in failure – preventing or frustrating God’s gifts to us — that our heart may be made “good ground” for God to work through in us.

Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Second Sunday after the Epiphany

Romans 12:6-16
John 2:1-11

Here on the Second Sunday, we finally have the last of the “Three Miracles” that the Feast of the Epiphany celebrated. I cannot say why the church postponed it past last Sunday and until today! We continue in the spirit of the feast, showing the various ways that Christ is revealed in the world.
Why does Christ need to be manifested? As Psalm 19 says, “The heavens declare the glory of God : and the firmament sheweth his handywork.” This, however, is God as seen in his works; Christ reveals God as he is. The text says that this first miracle at Cana “manifested forth his glory.” - but how? No one even noticed but the servants and his mother.

One of the first things that I noticed was the apparent disconnect in the conversation with his mother.
The mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.
He seems to be rebuking her, and yet he answers her request. George McDonald suggests that this indicates that his mother, – like most of his followers and like far too many of us! – was looking for a Big Reveal, a spectacle to leave no doubt that the new Solomon was arisen to free them from the Romans. But that isn’t what Christ was, nor what he reveals about God. He fulfills the request for wine – that part was reasonable – but as a sign of the kingdom. The operations of God come in hidden ways, unnoticed if no attention is payed.  And so he converts the water into wine. This was one of the two miracles Christ performed where he brought something out of nothing - the other being the division of loaves and fishes for the five thousand.  Bread and Wine, as in the Eucharist. Psalm 104, says that God brings forth “wine that maketh glad the heart of man ... and bread to strengthen mans heart.”
In both of these miracles, note that no one saw the multiplication occur. They only experienced the results. There were 5 loaves and two fish - but they didn’t multiply in place, spilling off the table like the contents of Belatrix LeStrange’s vault in Harry Potter. They simply, and imperceptibly, didn’t run out. The water in the waterpots didn’t flash and smoke, it simply was wine, by the time it was borne to the governour of the feast.
The second thing to note, is the extravagance of this miracle. With many of Jesus’ miracles, including the feeding of the five thousand, he was satisfying a need. In this miracle, it satisfied only a want – and perhaps one that not everyone had even noticed yet. They didn’t need wine.  No question of if they deserved it, no question of if it was good for them.  The governour of the feast even implies that most of the guests are probably too drunk to even appreciate that this best wine only came out now.
This is the nature of the Kingdom of Heaven. The best wine is given to all - those who drank to fast at the start, those who paced themselves throughout the feast, and those who were abstaining. It comes as a gift, with no conditions. How appropriate was Psalm 36 at Mattins this morning, as we chanted, “They shall be satisfied with the plenteousness of thy house : and thou shalt give them drink of thy pleasures, as out of the river. For with thee is the well of life!”
One final point perhaps worth investigating is that the wine was supplied from the water-pots whose purpose was ritual washing. The connection to Baptism must at least be remarked.

At Christmas, Christ, the Sun of Righteousness, was said to come “forth as a bridegroom out of his chamber.” And as Paul elaborates, Christ is the bridegroom to his bride, the church. With such proximity to Christmas, we must ask then what the connection is between this wedding and our own union with Christ.  To Dr. Robert Crouse I owe the insight that throughout Epiphany, the Gospels show the divine life manifested is Christ, as the Epistles show the same manifested in us. Paul lists many gifts that any of us may have. As Christ with the wine, we are called to give of these gifts: without fanfare, but abundantly. Not asking who deserves, that doesn’t matter. Are we able to supply a want? And we needn’t be be concerned to do extra in order to for our gifts to partake of the kingdom. We may find that God manifests his glory in our gifts, without anyone even knowing “whence it comes.”

Friday, June 21, 2013

Whitsunday in Fangorn

(Moved over belated from being posted on Facebook...)

I love it when independent cycles reinforce meaning for one another.
Yesterday’s Reading from The Lord of the Rings, beginning at the 5th chapter of the 3rd book, contained,
“It was not in vain that the young hobbits came with us, if only for Boromir’s sake. But that is not the only part they have to play. They were brought to Fangorn, and their coming was like the falling of small stones that starts an avalanche in the mountains... A thing is about to happen which has not happened since the Elder Days: the Ents are going to wake up and find that they are strong.”

How relevant to Whitsunday! I have been speculating as to the “meaning” of Hobbits, though I don't mean to imply anything so overt as allegory, which Tolkien detested. But in many ways they do seem to be in a sense the operation of the Holy Ghost in the story. They seem to exemplify the Third Theme of Illuvatar, which “seemed at first soft and sweet, a mere rippling of gentle sounds in delicate melodies; but it could not be quenched, and it took to itself power and profundity... It was deep and wide and beautiful, but slow and blended with an immeasurable sorrow, from which its beauty chiefly came... And [Melkor’s theme] essayed to drown the other music by the violence of its voice, but it seemed that its most triumphant notes were taken by the other and woven into its own solemn pattern.”
The loud brash note of the capture of Merry and Pippin in fact only bore them to Fangorn where they tipped the scales of motivating the Ents. “The Ents are going to wake up, and find that they are strong.” - and today we invoke the “Comfortor” - which word in its oldest sense means “strengthener.”
That first Whitsun was a turning of the tide for the disciples, when they woke up, and found that they were strong - and the good news went out then to spread over the entire world.
This Whitsuntide, may we also allow ourselves to be comforted - to find out we are strong, and through off the tide of evil that may be attempting to assail us and ours. Whatever that evil may yet attempt, may it find that “this shall prove but mine instrument in the devising of things more wonderful, which [it] hath not imagined.”

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The subordination of Omnipotence

It has been one of those weeks were a number of disparate references touching upon similar themes have presented themselves to me in passing, and so it would seem to be my obligation to Providence to offer some comment on them.

Last week (or the week before?) I read a blog post advocating ‘communion on the tongue’ as opposed to ‘communion in the hand.’  Now, it is known that communion in the hand was at least practiced, if not the norm, in the early church; but communion on the tongue came to be the norm at least by the middle ages. I myself prefer on the tongue, primarily because to me it presents a weird and incongruous symbol to have the priest be careful of crumbs, and wash his hands after handling the bread - but to deny laity the same opportunity.  This blog post I read, however, went much further, advocating forbidding communion in the hand (and, furthermore, forbidding communion to those who hadn’t previously proved themselves to the priest) in an effort to prevent Sacrilege.  According to this individual, consecrated hosts are routinely sneaked out of Roman parishes in order to be used in black magic or desecrated by atheist college professors.

About the same time, I’d been reading “Many Dimensions” by Charles Williams.  The premise of the book is that the crown of King Solomon was purchased by an evil British scientist, and he was experimenting with the Stone it contained, in an effort to profit from it.  Although he never explicitly connects the Stone of Solomon to the consecrated bread of the Eucharist, he does describe it metaphysically in ways that imply that it is a manifestation of The Word.  One property of the Stone is that it can be divided without being diminished (like the Bread of Life!)  The main character ended up with one of the “types” of the stone, and was one of the few people not trying to use it.  One night someone broke into her house to steal it, and she was torn whether or not to finally “use” the stone.
“She was protecting it. Not being a reader of religious history Chloe was ignorant what things have been done in the strength of that plea, or with what passionate anxiety men have struggled to protect the subordination of Omnipotence. But in her despair she rejected what churches and kings and prelates have not rejected; she refused to be deceived, she refused to attempt to be helpful to the God...”
With what passionate anxiety men have struggled to protect the subordination of Omnipotence!
God made flesh, and eternally present in the Bread in wine - Ever broken but never divided - does not need our help!  This is not to say we should be casual with consecrated bread - but the reason is for our sakes, not his.  Just like a grudge or hate, sacrilege does not harm its object in anyway: it only harms the subject - or rather, gives exposure to the sickness already present.  Once upon a time, the Book of Common Prayer required the reading of certain Exhortations with greater or lesser frequency warning people to examine their motives - not to protect God, but to protect themselves from spiritual damage.

Today, many in the United States are looking to a couple courts for a ruling on same-sex marriage.  Those opposed, it seems to me, are also concerned about protecting the subordination of Omnipotence.
There's much talk about the “institution” of marriage, and it’s sacred nature.  It seems to me that marriage has moved in and out of institution during the past 3 thousand years depending on the priorities of various societies.  It certainly wasn’t an institution in the early middle ages, perhaps a ‘custom’ would be more accurate.
Jesus doesn’t seem to be ‘pro’ or ‘anti’ marriage, it’s simply a thing that exists. He goes to wedding feasts, but points out that in the Life of the World to Come, we are neither married nor given in marriage.  Paul the Apostle has no problem with marriage, but doesn’t encourage it: it’s just one more part of this passing world.
There is one Marriage in the new testament that is Instituted and Sacred beyond all doubt: and that Marriage is between the Lamb that was Slain, and his Bride, the New Hierusalem.  In my daily lectionary right now, I’m coming up toward the end of John. Just yesterday, during his farewell discourse, Jesus described Love: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”  God laid down his life for his bride, for us.  “Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you.” “This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.”

This is The Marriage. This lasts beyond death, world without end. And nothing humans can do can touch this.

But what we can do, is participate in it. We can be about our father’s business by loving as he loved us.  For many, this is best rehearsed, as in a laboratory, with one other person, so that those two in turn can better take and share that love to all they come in contact with.  That particular agreement to be safe, to trust, to not give up - just as God does not give up on his people, no matter how they stray.  This love is what we are called to as Christians.  Earthly marriage is a means to facilitate that, but it is no end in itself.  Married or unmarried, Christians are called out of themselves, to give themselves fully to others, and in doing so both to open themselves to God’s love, and thereby draw water from that well which never runs dry and which makes glad the city of God.  Et omnes ad quos pervenit aqua ista salvi facti sunt!

But - that the civil order should facilitate this purpose is challenged by some right now.  To quote an early 20th C. liturgical book I was reading, “These modern Manichees, consisting as they do partly of fanatics, and partly of remorseful sinners who, having for a long time failed to govern themselves and keep within the bounds of decency and reason, are now determined to govern the rest of mankind which never had any inclination to transgress.”  Those who would assert that they are for “Family values” or ”tradition” seem frequently to oppose the very Life in Christ that I have above described.  They do not lay down their lives for their children or parents - those ‘natural affections’ that arise from blood - but instead kick out the children who are gay, and send mom and dad to ‘the home.’  They don’t lay down their lives for ‘the least of these’, but rather assert that those are getting what they deserve.  Again turning to Charles Williams, this time in “Descent into Hell”:
“... don’t you know how quiet the streets of Gomorrah are? haven’t you seen the pools that everlastingly reflect the faces of those who walk with their own phantasms, but the phantasms aren’t reflected, and can’t be.  The lovers of Gomorrah are quite contented, Periel; they don’t have to put up with our difficulties.  They aren’t bothered by alteration, at least till the rain of the fire of the Glory at the end, for they lose the capacity for change, except for the fear of hell.  They’re monogamous enough! and they’ve no children- no cherubim breaking into being or babies as tiresome as ours; there’s no birth there, and only the second death.  There’s no distinction between lover and beloved; they beget themselves on their adoration of themselves, and they live and feed and starve on themselves, and by themselves too, for creation, as my predecessor said, is the mercy of God, and they won’t have the facts of creation... When all’s said and done, there’s only Zion or Gomorrah.”
In a great irony, when searching for this quote, I turned up several “fundamentalists” blogs or posts using this as if he were talking about gay people!  But it is exactly that they have turned within, and do not wish to be confronted with the “other” that is in fact God, and to have to exist in relationship and communion with them that makes them the subject of this description, and not the gays.  Those of us for marriage equality are precisely trying to counter this: We attempt (haltingly, but by God’s grace better every day!) to Love one another as Christ loved us, to see in other faces God’s own; to lay down our lives to create a safe place for another to in turn find that they are loved of God so that they too may love.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Fourth Sunday in Lent

Rejoice ye in Hierusalem; and be glad for her, all ye that delight in her.
Galatians iv.
St. John vj.

Here we are, in the midst of Lent.  Six weeks ago, we buried “The Lord’s Song” (Ps. 137) and entered the exile of Babylon.  On Ash Wednesday, the English church remembers the expulsion of our first parents from Eden.  But while this is often and rightly understood to be a time to mourn our sins which brought us to this place, and to do penance, it is also a time to reflect without distraction about where we have come from, and where we are going.  We fast not to deprive ourselves of what we need, but of what we don’t need, adopting once more the diet of Eden.  As we’ve been singing at Mattins the past week,
“2. Thus Moses dear to God became, / And fitly did the law proclaim:
Thus heav’nward was Elias raised,  / On steeds of fire, and wheels that blazed.

3. Thus Daniel mysteries beheld,  / And rage of fiercest lions quell’d:
Thus, as the Bridegroom’s friend, alone / Is John in holy lore made known. ”

And now we aim for a return.  A return to Eden, to the Promised Land, to Hierusalem.  But what is the nature of our return? Is it back to the status quo, back to how things were?  Or is it “back” to how things should be?

And so Paul asks us, do we wish to be children of the Hierusalem “which is above” or of the earthly Hierusalem? What is the difference between them?

I think that the difference is primarily one of disposition.  The verse of the Office was from Psalm 122: “I was glad when they said unto me * We will go into the house of the Lord.”  To “Go into the house of the Lord” has been interpreted by our forebears as meaning to be in that place called in “folk psychology” “right-brained”:  Being in the present, and apprehending intuitively the “deeper” or “bigger” picture.  The child of the Heavenly Hierusalem, we read, is born “after the Spirit:”  just as we discussed last night in regards to chanting the psalms and using the spirit, or breath, to help bring ourselves into the House of the Lord, the better to hear his scriptures.

So how does the gospel today exemplify this heavenly Hierusalem? At first glance, it seems unrelated: it takes place “over the sea of Galilee.”  But I think that it is showing us an example of the disciples themselves being divided between the Heavenly and Earthly Hierusalems.  They, like us, “in the midst of life are in death” as we sang at Compline.  They are in the exile of the earthly, seeking the heavenly.
The people hunger, and the disciples note that they have no bread.  They are like baren Sarah, who didn’t yet believe the promise; but they, like Sarah, in spite of their doubt, do what they are told.  Jesus took the bread that was procured, blessed it, and gave it to the disciples.  So far, nothing remarkable.  The disciples distributed it to the people.  Also, unremarkable: but wait! The people were filled, and twelve baskets remained! At what point did this happen?  This is a foretaste of the Hierusalem above.  Rejoice ye in Hierusalem; and be glad for her, all ye that delight in her.

This is the economy of the Hierusalem which is above: an economy of abundance.  Unlike the earthly Hierusalem where we live our day-to-day lives, it is through giving up, sacrifice, and yielding that enough, and more! is found.  But, through grasping and hording, one looses even what was has.  This is emphasized again and again in scriptures... Cast your bread upon the water.  Ho, ever one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money, come ye, buy, and eat - yea, come, buy wine without money and without price.  We read last night that Joseph’s brothers went to Egypt to by grain, and came home with grain - and with their money also!  This is the way that the children of freedom, the children of the promise, the children of heaven live.
And so, during Lent, we practice this heavenly way.  A diet of less - that is more than enough.  We give alms not to punish ourselves but because God freely gives, and in giving we open ourselves to his gift.  And we can take comfort in knowing that, like the disciples, we don’t have to understand, and we can be full of doubt. But if we have faith only the size of a mustard seed, if we take the bread he gives us and distribute, we will find that all have been filled, and more.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance.

I'm reading right now about the drawing of figures (specifically in the context of icons, but the principles apply more broadly) in Aidan Hart's "Techniques of Icon and Wall Painting."  His first principle he bases on the line from the Athanasian Creed: "Neither confounding the persons nor dividing the substance:" There is no unity without distinction, and no distinction without relationship. Although on the one hand this is obvious, on the other it really struck me! That's often how obvious things are, huh?  Isn't this a statement so much more broadly applicable than in simply portraying a believable form? It's necessary in relationships: if you confound the persons, you end up codependent, unable to "think for yourself", and manipulated. If you divide the substance, you end up cruel and selfis h. Healthy society requires individuals in relationship with each other. (And it's almost as though our two political parties have each selected a half to goof up! Liberals confound the person: "We're all the same! Everything's equal! Whatever I like is true - and so is whatever you like!" while conservatives divide the substance: "I've got mine, I don't owe you anything! Take the country back from the 'other' in our midst!" ) I've seen similar "faults" in music - although I wouldn't have thought to phrase it this way: People can become so concerned with not "confounding" the notes, that they totally "divide" the sense: All of a sudden you have a stulted series of pitches and syllables rather than a framework of melody carrying meaning.

His second principle is to understand the form and allow the brush to follow - which seems to only elaborate the first one. Again, in singing, if you step back and see the entire line of text, the entire line of melody, where it's going, and what it's doing, the details, really, take care of themselves. If you look only at "1 & 2 e & a" reading words perfunctorily while lunging after notes - you don't get music! When playing tuba, one of my first breakthroughs was when I realized (much like Professor Hill's "think method!") that hearing the pitch I was about to play in my Mind's Ear was infinitely more important that attempting to squeeze my lips right.

Later, while describing hands, he states, "When deciding precisely where to place each hand, keep in mind that whenever we create and place a form we are also changing the shape of the space in which it is placed...Also, like everything else in the icon, hands and arms need to relate to the things near them..." Again, this flows from the first principle, has universal applicability, and is particularly striking in how often it is forgotten. A particular fault of a sort of Middle Manager seems to be the inability to ever see a whole: While working at Borders a regional manager came in and rearranged our displays in spite of our protests - she goofed up necessary relationships in the space, changing it in ways that while good perhaps for "sales" were manifestly bad for being a human being and getting to the check-out. It took watching several customers pile up and a wheel chair get wedged before she conceded that our local staff might know something about the space...
I think this is also a part of what annoys me about a certain tendency among what I will term the "liberal" (for want of a better term) side of liturgical Christianity - they seem to have a particular weakness for getting stuck in the ideas of their heads, rather than inhabiting their physical space (even, and perhaps especially, while talking about "use of space!") And so you end up with altars placed in odd places, weird unforeseen emphases, awkward movements, bizarre proportions implying importance and lack thereof of all manner of furniture and ornament, to cater to a particular idea - but at the cost of "dividing the substance." Organic development over time lead to chasubles suitable for the task at hand; theory led to the replacement with chasubles that are "too hot, so we won't wear them during the summer" and that knock things over, drag hosts off the paten, etc. Organic development let to altars being slightly raised to enhance line-of-site; theory moves the altar nearer to the [front row] people, and thus hides it from any in the middle-to-back.
Talk amongst yourselves. :-)

Monday, August 27, 2012

"Proper 14"

2 Samuel 18:5-9, 15, 31-33
Ephesians 4:25-5:2
John 6:35, 41-51

As those of you who are on Facebook are no doubt aware, the past week the media has been abuzz with the curfuffel over Chick-fil-A. The CEO said in an interview that he was “guilty as charged” on opposing the rights and safety of gay people. This was news to no one. So interviews were sought for responses, and various “liberals” and gay persons were naturally repulsed and advocated boycotting Chick-fil-A: which many of us had been doing anyway. Those people who supported his views tried to make it a “free speech” issue, and went en-masse to eat there and have their pictures taken, ostensibly to support his rights, which were not being challenged. That some would agree with him was also not surprising; what was surprising was that those people – our own friends and family members – would come out and make such a public statement on our Facebook feeds that agreement his views was more important that being in relationship with us: that they would sell us for a chicken sandwich.

In today's Epistle, Paul writes, “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil.” That has been extremely hard for me this past week. I have been angry as I've gone to bed each night. But I don't wish to make room for the devil!

Paul says in the first line, “let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors.” The Chick-fil-A-ers would no doubt say that's exactly what they were doing: speaking the truth. But I would first ask, along with Pontias Pilate: What is truth? The mediævals saw this question as an anagram of its own answer: Quid est veritas? Est vir qui adest. What is truth? It is the man standing here. Jesus is The Truth. Although “What Would Jesus Do?” is a modern meme, it is a very biblical question. After all all, as Paul continues, “we are members of one another-” and we share that membership in Christ.

It seems to me that Jesus was always secure in his relationships. Unlike many of us, he didn't let his interactions be coloured by fear, deference, or hedging, so as not to say something that might upset someone. He always spoke his Truth in a respectful dialogue with anyone who was interested. Those who were not interested in dialogue, he called out- sometimes in very colourful terms. But he never attempted to suppress their own views, and he never used force to get his way.

In today’s Old Testament reading we also have a story of broken relationships and no communication. To summarize the backstory: David’s son by one wife, Amnon, raped his sister by another wife, Tamar. Tamar went to her brother Absolom and told him what happened, and Absolom went to David. But David’s response was, essentially, “Boys will be boys!” Finding this an insufficient response, Absalom killed Amnon, and fled the country. Time passed, and Absolom returned to the area, but still wouldn't talk to his father. Instead he began forming a rebellion. David ignored this as long as possible, and then finally had to let his captain, Joab, put it down. "But," he said, "deal kindly with the young man Absalom." Well, Joab killed Absalom as soon as he had the chance. The sun went down on anger, communication ceased, and a family was destroyed. To late, David lamented, "Oh, Absalom my son, my son! Would God that I had died instead of you!" It is interesting to note that “David’s Greater Son” did die instead of those that rebelled against him - and thus brought healing to broken relationships.

Looking back to the Epistle: “Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” What would Jesus do? He would be kind, tenderhearted, and forgiving. I saw a quote recently, though I can't remember who said it, that “Holding on to anger is like drinking poison, and expecting your enemy to die.” The behaviour that Paul recommends is not just for the sake of others, but for our own sake.

So, being kind and forgiving, how did Jesus effect his “victory”, and how do we do so in him? According to the Prophet Isaiah, “By his stripes we are healed.” The exhibition of his wounds did more to strengthen his allies and confound his enemies than any argument could. So likewise, we ought to speak the truth, exhibit our pain and woundedness, but refuse to fight. (Now, this is not to suggest that we ought not individually to leave an abusive situation if we may, for then we certainly ought to.) On a public scale, though, this is what I believe Paul is telling is us is the appropriate response. It is not flamboyant, and it is certainly not easy. But we must remember, that it is not flesh and blood behind the offenses. And so, without anger, we must forgive others, as we hope God will forgive us.