Reflections for the Week of Sunday, October 1, 2017 Seventeenth after Pentecost

Gospel: Matthew 21.23-32 tells two messages: First, the chief priests and elders ask  Jesus what is His authority for purging the Temple, and second, about two opposite responses from two sons to an order from a father.

The setting is Palm Sunday when a young Jewish prophet rode into Jerusalem on  a donkey, weeping for the city, and representing God returning at last to the Temple. Jesus says that some who seem to be sinners, i.e., tax collectors and prostitutes, have followed Him, while the seemingly righteous, priests and elders, don’t believe or obey Him.

After You Believe says the inner dynamic of Christian virtue is to point away from oneself and toward God in mission and worship. We are to be mirrors angled to reflect God to the world (mission) and the world’s praises back to God (worship). Christians are a new creation (2 Cor 5.17) animated by the Holy Spirit to be able to bring God’s justice, freedom, beauty, peace and above all, rescuing love to the world (Col 3; Eph 4,5; Phil 2.14-16) which is in the dark; Christians are to shine God’s light into it; the call is to be the light to the world (Isa 49.6; Dan 12.3), to be a royal priesthood. This is the point of Rm 8, that God’s new creation is to be brought about through the church, linking personal conversion, faith, and sanctification with the wider task of inaugurating the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven. The new Christian virtues of humility, charity, patience, unity, and chastity along with the other pagan and Christian virtues exemplify and mold genuine humanness as lived out by Jesus Himself. These are the robes of the royal priesthood to be “put on” every day. Some of the persons in our text for today didn’t understand what Jesus had come to teach. In ancient classical virtue as defined by Aristotle (courage, prudence, justice, temperance) humility is seen by some as weakness. Virtue to Aristotle was heroic and the basis for pride. Today’s society may regard sports figures, popular musicians, politicians along with their drugs, alcohol, fast cars, power, and sex as the ideal. Such people do not reflect the generous, self-giving love of Jesus, but the self-glorifying and self-gratifying lust of pagan gods and goddesses. Patience (also referred to as ‘long-suffering’) is one of the places where faith, hope, and love meet. It is the first thing Paul says about love (1 Cor 13.4). Chastity is the mutual and outward-looking delight of husband and wife; outward-looking  because, like God’s love, it results in new creation in children as well as a secure, hospitable home. Marriage is a sign of the unbreakable commitment of the creator God to His creation. And charity (agape love) is the virtue which we need to put on over and around all the others like a belt to keep them in place (Col 3.14). Today’s society often seems to substitute a lukewarm tolerance for real love. Tolerance doesn’t cost much and doesn’t really know or care very much (ignorance and apathy!). Love must confront tolerance and insist on a better way. Love is the greatest of virtues, the first-fruit of the Spirit, the primary thing that sets Christians apart. It includes forgiveness for the hostility and malice of others toward us when we are committed to loving them regardless. It requires that we have died to ourselves in order to accept the cruelty and thoughtlessness of others and return love to them as Jesus did to those who were crucifying Him.

Memory Verse: In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world that we ought to love through Him.  In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins (1 Jn 4.9, 10).

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