Good morning, Christ Church!
I have been reading biographies these last several weeks of sheltering in place. Two have been particularly helpful. Erik Larson’s new biography, “The Splendid and the Vile” tells the story of Winston Churchill, his family, and close associates over the course of the Battle of Britain. It is certainly true that the ultimate trajectory of what we are going through right now is unknowable and therefore scary. But can you imagine going to bed every night wondering whether a bomb was going to land on your home while you slept? The resilience of those who have endured such times is, to say the least, remarkable. Carrying a gas mask into an underground station night after night, as opposed to wearing a surgical mask to the grocery store, does put things in a new perspective.
The other is William Hague’s biography of William Wilberforce. Talk about both resilience and perseverance. Wilberforce fought for the abolition of slavery for over twenty years. He endured all manner of hatred, vilification, and rejection for the sake of his sisters and brothers. In the end, he succeeded in making the abolition of the slave trade the law of the land. That is the love and the striving for justice at the heart of our baptismal covenant. It is always there, no matter what our present circumstances. What can we do today, in the midst of all that we are enduring, to incarnate God’s amazing grace?
Friday, April 24, 2020 RCL Daily Office Readings, Year 2
AM Psalm 16, 17
I have been making a long-delayed attempt at ridding our home of “clutter” in its many and various forms. In the process, I came across a box full of notebooks from college and seminary. There are scribbled thoughts and reflections from classes taken about great systematic thinkers in both philosophy and theology: Descartes, Locke, Kant, Tillich, Nietzsche, Barth, Gutierrez, and Aquinas, to name a few. (Yes, I am dating myself.) While taking very different paths, I think that they hold in common a shared goal. Each is attempting to both seek and explain “Truth” as best as they possibly can.
This is certainly a great and laudable goal, very much worth dedicating a lifetime to the pursuit. Personally, I don’t believe a community can really exist without some shared sense of Truth. And one of the great truths about the Christian faith and life is that it is not based on any particular system. Instead, it is rooted in the Truth as revealed in the life of Jesus of Nazareth. Truth here is personal. It is incarnate. It is, first and foremost, relational.
Truth revealed in relationship has profound consequences. As we find in this morning’s passage from 1st Peter, “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God.” The author goes on to point out that, as briefly entertaining as “licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry” may be, such behavior really has no place in the Truth of God in Christ.
Furthermore, in this morning’s passage from the Gospel according to John, Jesus is trying to strengthen his disciples in Truth for the difficult days ahead. His earthly life is coming to an end. But this will not be the end of the relationship: “Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send (the Holy Spirit) to you.” Here is another of the great truths revealed in the resurrection. We have not been left comfortless. Yes, Jesus has ascended to the right hand of God, but the Truth he came to share is still very much alive in the presence and power of the Holy Spirit. Here, in the third decade of the twenty-first century, God is very much with us, seeking to be with us, seeking to encourage us and guide us into all Truth. And that, in the midst of all that is going on in the world today, is very Good News indeed.