Tag Archives: 1 Corinthians

The roads to Zion mourn

Twin Towers 9-11 by William Wray -- http://williamwray.blogspot.com

Twin Towers 9-11 by William Wray — http://williamwray.blogspot.com

How lonely sits the city that once was full of people! How like a widow she has become, she that was great among the nations! She that was a princess among the provinces has become a vassal. She weeps bitterly in the night, with tears on her cheeks; among all her lovers she has no one to comfort her; all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they have become her enemies. Judah has gone into exile with suffering and hard servitude; she lives now among the nations, and finds no resting place; her pursuers have all overtaken her in the midst of her distress. The roads to Zion mourn, for no one comes to the festivals; all her gates are desolate, her priests groan; her young girls grieve, and her lot is bitter. Her foes have become the masters, her enemies prosper, because the LORD has made her suffer for the multitude of her transgressions; her children have gone away, captives before the foe. (Lamentations 1:1-5)

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In his course this fall at Seabury titled “This Dangerous Book: Strategies for Teaching the Bible,” John Dally suggests that the Bible is organized around two 9-11’s.

The Hebrew Bible, or the Old Testament, was compiled into its final form after the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and the exile of the Jews into Babylon.

The New Testament is the record of the Church’s attempt to understand the disaster of Jesus’ crucifixion.

Notes from the first session of John Dally's "This Dangerous Book: Strategies for Teaching the Bible" at Seabury.

Notes from the first session of John Dally’s “This Dangerous Book: Strategies for Teaching the Bible.”

The passage this morning from the Book of Lamentations captures the despair of the people of Judah over the destruction of the Temple. In the juxtaposition of this lesson and the canticle appointed for today (Canticle 13), we can see the seeds of Israel’s judgment on itself — “God is worthy of praise; this disaster must be our fault.” An empire has crushed the hope of God’s people.

The story that becomes clear throughout the Hebrew scriptures is the story of God seeking the people of Israel and their turning away from him again and again. In the New Testament, we see the same story written in small letters, but on a cosmic scale.

The New Testament story concerns Jesus of Nazareth — “we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21).

Not only did God come into the world he had created, but once again we turned away from him. Even when some came to accept him and place their hope in him, they had their hopes terribly dashed when he was killed by the Romans. Yet again, an empire crushed the hopes of God’s people.

In both cases, however, as John Dally observes, the people of God had their belief shattered and kept on believing.

Paul sums up the Christian understanding beautifully: “Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, so will we bear the image of the man of heaven” (1 Cor. 15:49).

Though the Bible is organized around two disasters, they are not the point of the story. The point of the Biblical story is the unswerving love of God for the people he made. Just as the Jews in exile came to understand that God was with them in Torah rather than Temple, the early Church came to realize that not even death could separate them from the love of God or stop the plan of salvation that Jesus had set into motion.

That they might lovely be

The St. Augustine Chapel at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

The St. Augustine Chapel at the Cathedral of St. Paul in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin

Over on Twitter this morning, Charles Hawkins (@Parish_Parson) shared an article by Rowan Williams on Augustine and the Psalms. It’s a typically dense read, but well worth attempting on this feast day.

Williams says that “the psalms represent the unifying of the divine and the human voice in Christ.”

What is distinctive about any hermeneutic of the Psalms is that singing them is quite simply and literally an appropriation of Christ’s life, in history and eternity. And, from this act of appropriation, the church as a whole is revealed as the community where humanity is allowed full scope to say what it is, in terms of its failure and pain, so that it may fully become what it is created to be, the multiple echo of the Word’s response to the Father. “Do not hear anything spoken in the person of Christ as if it had nothing to do with you who are members of the Body of Christ” (Enarrat. Ps. 143.1).

He goes on to say that “the singing of the psalms becomes the most immediate routine means of identifying with the voice of Christ. And that identification carries implications for the kind of mutual relation that concretely defines the life of the church.”

What we try to do in the Daily Office as we sing or recite the psalms morning and evening, day after day, is to more and more become the Body of Christ, in which one member cannot say to the other “I have no need of you” (1 Cor. 12).

The more there is love, the more suffering at the lovelessness of others in the church (Enarrat. Ps. 98.13, referring to Paul in 2 Cor 11). But such love is precisely what we have to offer the loveless within the Body; thus the cost must be borne.

Here Williams’ words call to mind the hymn by Samuel Crossman:

My song is love unknown,
my Savior’s love to me
love to the loveless shown
that they might lovely be.

This love which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things” (1 Cor. 13) is precisely the bond of our unity as the Body of Christ, the unity we pray for in the Collect appointed for this week:

Grant, O merciful God, that your people, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen. (BCP 232)

The Spirit renews the face of the earth

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Alleluia. The Spirit of the Lord renews the face of the earth:
Come let us adore him. Alleluia.

Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God (1 Cor. 2:12).

Alleluia. The Spirit of the Lord renews the face of the earth:
Come let us adore him. Alleluia.

Juxtaposition

The interplay between Scripture readings and the prayers and canticles in the Daily Office sets up resonances in the biblically educated ear.

Take, for example, this morning’s Old Testament lesson and the canticle appointed to be read immediately following.

In the reading from Genesis, we have a vivid picture of murderous jealousy. Joseph, the dreamer, is stripped of his cloak and thrown into a pit by his brothers who “saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, … conspired to kill him” (Gen. 37:18).

After saying “The Word of the Lord; Thanks be to God” we turn back to the service of Morning Prayer and see that Canticle 13 is appointed for Tuesdays.

Glory to you, Lord God of our Fathers; *
You are worthy of praise; glory to you. (BCP 90)

What an enormous gulf there is between our jealousy and God’s glory! The abrupt transition brings that truth home.

The regular patterns — Scripture readings over a two-year period and canticles day by day — mesh in surprising and illuminating ways.

The same thing happens with the New Testament reading: “Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by the world’s standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong” (1 Cor. 1:26-27).

The Office continues with Canticle 18:

Splendor and honor and kingly power *
are yours by right, O Lord our God.
And yours by right, O Lamb that was slain, *
for with your blood you have redeemed for God,
From every family, language, people, and nation, *
a kingdom of priests to serve our God. (BCP 93)

How little we deserve to be juxtaposed with God’s glory. How little a detail in the Daily Office drives home that truth.