Christ The Servant Church
homily august 2017
Homily for august 06, 2017
So here we are another Sunday, listening to another homily based on some pretty tough readings. When I first read them, I was a bit overwhelmed by the imagery.
People riding on clouds, fire, snow, mountain top visitations with booming voices declaring the coming of the “Son of Man” and authenticity of Jesus. Where these writings really meant to be taken literally or where they created to awe the faithful and keep them inspired?
All this takes us back to my oft repeated premise that the New Testament was accumulated from a variety of sources and that the Bible, as we know it today, has been selected and edited over time for specific purposes and reasons.
The original “Jews for Jesus” movement saw Jesus as the messiah but not in the traditional sense of a rebellious military leader. It is my belief that there were actually two factions of original followers.
The first faction, included Jesus’s mother, Mary Magdalen, Peter and James, they saw Jesus for what he really was, a divinely inspired prophet, healer and a charismatic leader of radical non-violent social and spiritual change.
As his reputation and popularity grew, others joined the movement. Some of these followers may have had a more aggressive agenda and I believe became disenchanted when Jesus refused the mantle of a rebellious leader against Rome.
It is this split that explains the actions of Judas and lead to Jesus’s betrayal and rejection by some of those gathered at his trial. After his death, the rebellious faction dropped off and were swept away in the Roman destruction of Israel.
The remainder or “remnant” remained true to Jesus’s message and awaited faithfully for the promised day of Judgement and resurrection.
The selection in todays reading from 2-Peter was, according to scholars, written approximately 60 to 160 years after the crucifixion.
During this time, Paul was forming the new Christian Church throughout what is now Syria, Lebanon and Israel. Many of the original Jewish followers, for the most part, had either left the movement or most likely passed away.
The new “Christians” were less attached to Jewish traditions for a variety of reasons. They were aware of the profoundly important promise of the second coming and deeply concerned that Judgement Day had not already happened. There was, in other words, a crisis of faith.
2- Peter addressed this crisis of faith by stating categorically that the miraculous nature of Jesus was not mythical or allegorical but factual. What 2-Peter does is to reset the time clock of the “Second Coming” from the original promise to a more distant undetermined future. 2-Peter was now asking the faithful to refocus from immediate salvation to a long-term commitment to Christ and the developing Church of Christ.
The readings from Mathew provide the scriptural reinforcement of 2-Peter’s claim. The readings from Daniel show the ancient prophetic roots of the Church’s claim of Jesus’s authenticity.
The transfiguration story is one of the key moments that solidifies the relationship between Jesus and God on the miraculous level. It is where Jesus becomes the Christ where a man is deified in front of witnesses and receives the full authority of God.
This is then the most important fulcrum in the pivot from a cult to a religion.
Contemporary fundamentalist Christians continue to be asked to believe in these “miracles” and embrace the Bible as both true and factual.
Many of us, however, have a problem with this. The more we study and read scholarly modern research of the Bible, the more obvious it becomes that much of the Bible is factually impossible, improbable or unknowable.
What are we then to make of these miracles? Are they just “fake news” designed to mesmerize dullards and children, or is there a deeper aspect to this issue?
I believe in this deeper aspect.
I believe in the divine nature of Jesus, but this belief is couched in the understanding that all of us have the same divine spark.
I believe that It is our desire to connect with that divinity that empowers our relationship with God.
I choose to make this connectivity through Jesus our Christ and through you who are Christ the Saviour Church.
I believe that the Universe is fundamentally miraculous.
I believe that scripture is inspired and that it represents the word of God, not always in a literal sense, but in a deeply more profound universal sense.
I believe that the Bible holds everything that we need to live spiritually and socially abundant lives. I believe that Jesus existed and the core of his teachings remain true and relevant.
The miraculous glory that is attributed to him in Mathew and 2-Peter is the foundational structure upon which the Church was born, but, it is not necessary for belief in the deeper mystery of Christ’s purpose and relationship to us.
The historical veracity of this story is indeed unknowable but the miraculous impact of Jesus’s teachings to us and the spiritual power of Christ’s love is undeniable.
Homily for august 27, 2017
Today’s homily focuses on Christ’s proclamation of a “new Church” obviously different from the prevailing Jewish faith. Christ’s Church would be lead by and built on the “rock”, his close friend and disciple, Peter.
In order that we might understand the rationale for this proclamation, it is helpful to place it within its time frame. Scholars suggest that the Bible, including the new testament, was first compiled approximately three hundred years after the crucifixion.
By this time the Church had evolved into its Roman Catholic format. It was important for the established priesthood to reinforce the legitimacy of the apostolic succession and to link the Church of Christ directly to Jesus.
This need for linkage resulted in the inclusion, or addition, of Jesus’s proclamation that Peter would be the first leader of the “Church” of Christ.
The fact that Peter was chosen by the compilers of the Bible to be the “foundation” of the new Church indicates a deliberate desire to see Peter rather than Paul as the preeminent Father of this new church.
Peter’s traditional position as the most beloved apostle explains why he was selected specifically to be represented as the cornerstone of the bridge that connected the Jews for Jesus movement to transformational Christianity.
When we read Peter 1 today, we see the writer’s attempt to synthesize Jesus’s core messages with Paul’s ideas and to summarize them into a more effective guide for proper Christian behavior.
This “epistle” or message was written during the time when the new Christian Church began to be noticed and then persecuted by Rome.
I believe it would be helpful to compare some of the core teachings of Jesus to Peter 1’s epistle. This will help us to understand how the writer of Peter 1 reinforced and expanded Christ’s message within the historical context of Roman derision and persecution.
Here are a number of pronouncements attributed to Jesus
a. Love God
b. Love each other
c. Judge not unless you are willing to be judged
d. Share your wealth
e. Give anonymously
f. Treat each other as spiritual equals
g. Do not use the Church as a vehicle for the accumulation of wealth
h. Use non-violent ways to fight injustice.
i. Be a righteous example to the world
Here are the things that Peter emphasized to ensure that the Church of Christ continued successfully.
a. Hold to your faith in Christ
b. Conduct yourself reverently (humbly)
c. Love one another
d. Turn away from malice, deceit, insincerity, envy and slander
e. Be a righteous example to the world
f. Use non-violent ways to fight injustice
g. Suffer persecution, indignity, criticism and derision without retaliation or anger.
h. Be charitable
i. Keep right order
Peter’s concept of right order was built on the classic pyramid structure.
2: Presbyters (Priesthood)
The subordination of women to men is perhaps, the most controversial of Peter’s directives by today’s standards. This subject deserves its own discussion, but the most important aspect of this direction is the understanding that the relation of men and women to God is “joint” and therefore equal. Not only is there spiritual equality between men and women, but Peter then emphasises the requirement that men are to honour their wives.
The concept of honour as it is used in this context includes respect, truthfulness, fidelity, gentleness and above all else, love.
Peter’s constant star is his focus on a loving, non- confrontational and non-violent relationship within and external to the Christian community. Peter’s focus on righteous behavior addresses the problem of abuse in all of its forms.
It is this fundamental focus on righteous behavior that carries Christianity forward and ultimately shields it from the worst of worldly persecution.
I suggest to you that the thoughts, words and actions described in Peter 1 are the most profound aspects of Christianity and the true reason that it has lasted for two thousand years.