Resources for Worship on the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity (Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost) on Sunday, September 20, 2020. The resources are gathered from a variety of sources and, while assembled mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, others may find them useful.

The Fall of Manna, German ca. 1470
oil on cradled pine panel, Detroit Institute of the Arts

Read

I was planning on having a Blessing of the Animals on this day, transferring readings from the Feast of St Francis, but it looks like restrictions will remain in place in the Chania Prefecture, and we will still be on Zoom. Ah, well. You can find a copy of the service we will be using here:

So, let us use some of the Readings appointed for the Fifteenth Sunday after Trinity (known as the Sixteenth Sunday after Pentecost outside of the Church of England). These are: Exodus 16:2-15, Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45, Philippians 1:21-30, and Matthew 20:1-16. We will omit the passage from Philippians.

Share

It looks as thogh the restrictions are continuing in the Prefecture of Chania (which includes Apokoronas and Kefalas). This means that gatherings of more than nine (9) persons are still forbidden. As we have for the past tthree Sundays, we will not be meeting in person.

BUT, you can join us via Zoom!

Click this link, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209. My thanks to Frances Bryant-Scott for being the Zoom host last Sunday. It is possible that we will be having electrical storms during the morning, in which case I may try to reconvene later.

If you do not want to join us via Zoom, then you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

Reflect

I will do my best to post the sermon soon after the service (I know, I haven’t posted last week’s yet . . .).

In the meantime, you could always read this sermon by John Donne (Sermon LXVI, Preached at Old St Paul’s in London, January 29, 1625 (1625/1626) which he begins by stating, “The psalms are the manna of the church.”

Pray

Collect
God, who in generous mercy sent the Holy Spirit
upon your Church in the burning fire of your love:
grant that your people may be fervent
in the fellowship of the gospel
that, always abiding in you,
they may be found steadfast in faith and active in service;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

Lord God,
defend your Church from all false teaching
and give to your people knowledge of your truth,
that we may enjoy eternal life
in Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Intercessions
That this day may be holy, good and joyful:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That we may offer to you our worship and our work:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That we may strive for the well-being of all creation:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That in the pleasures and pains of life,
we may know the love of Christ and be thankful:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

That we may be bound together by your Holy Spirit,
in communion with Thomas our patron and all the disciples,
with Patrick and Brigid of Ireland,
Bede and Hilda of England,
David and Adwen of Wales,
Ninian and Margaret of Scotland,
and with Mary Magdalene, and Mary the Mother of God, and all your saints,
entrusting one another and all our life to Christ:
All  we pray to you, O Lord.

Let us commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God.

I bed your prayers for the Church:

  • for Robert Innes & David Hamid, our bishops;
  • for Justin Welby our archbishop, Stephen Cottrell the Archbishop of York, and the General Synod of the Church of England;
  • for the churches and peoples of Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, and Peru (World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle);
  • for the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan and the leadership of The Most Revd Justin Badi Arama, Bishop of Juba and Archbishop of the Province of the Episcopal Church of South Sudan (Anglican Cycle of Prayer); and
  • (from the Prayer Diary of the Diocese in Europe) give thanks for:
    • the Russian Orthodox Church,
    • for Malcolm Rogers as The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Apokrisiarios to the Patriarch of Moscow and all Russ.
    • and remember the Persecuted Church worldwide and the role of Open Doors in providing information about this.

I bid your prayers for the leaders of the nations; especially

  • Katerini Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece, and
  • Elizabeth, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her other realms, and also in her role as Governor of the Church of England;
  • In the European Union,
    • Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission;
    • Charles Michel, President of the European Council; and
    • Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy;
  • the peoples of Belarus as they demonstrate for democracy;
  • for the people across the world marching for fair treatment from security forces and police;
  • for the peoples of the United States as they enter the last couple of months before their elections;
  • for advocates of Indigenous rights and the adoption and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • prisoners and captives, especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China;
  • and the people of Lebanon, as they recover from the massive explosion in Beirut and the collapse of the government in that country;
  • for a lessening of tensions between Turkey and Greece; and
  • for peace in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and between Palestinians and Israelis.

I bid your prayers for the sick and suffering and all who minister to their needs;

Sing

This great hymn picks up on a few themes in the reading from Exodus.

This hymn was written by Suzanne Toolan, a Roman Catholic Sister of Mercy, for an event in the Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco in 1964. This version has a Spanish verse in the middle.

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Resources for Worship on the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the Fourteenth Sunday after Trinity (Fifteenth Sunday after Pentecost) on Sunday, September 13, 2020. The resources are gathered from a variety of sources and, while assembled mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, others may find them useful.

Read

The readings from scripture appointed for this coming Sunday are: Exodus 14:19-31, Romans 14:1-12, and Matthew 18:21-35. After the first reading from Exodus the responsorial psalm is Psalm 114, or one can read a portion of the Song of Moses and Miriam, from Exodus 15.1b–3,6,10,13,17 (or, alternatively Exodus 15:1b-11,20-21).

At St Thomas’s we will use the first reading fro Exodus, the Song of Moses and Miriam, and the gospel from Matthew 18.

Share

If you are in Crete, you will already know that in the Prefecture of Chania (which includes Apokoronas and Kefalas), gatherings of more than nine (9) persons are still forbidden. As we have for the past two Sundays, we will not be meeting in person.

BUT, you can join us via Zoom!

Click this link, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209. My thanks to Frances Bryant-Scott for being the Zoom host last Sunday.

If you do not want to join us via Zoom, then you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

Reflect

I will do my best to post the sermon promptly after I preach it on Sunday

Fr Leonard Doolan of St Paul’s Athens sent me a prerecorded sermon for tomorrow, but I have been unable to upload it; I will see what I can do in future weeks.

Pray

Collect
Almighty God,
whose only Son has opened for us
a new and living way into your presence:
give us pure hearts and steadfast wills
to worship you in spirit and in truth;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

Merciful God,
your Son came to save us
and bore our sins on the cross:
may we trust in your mercy
and know your love,
rejoicing in the righteousness
that is ours through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Intercessions
For the unity of the Church in witness and proclamation of the Gospel;

  • for Robert Innes & David Hamid, our bishops;
  • for Justin Welby our archbishop, Stephen Cottrell the Archbishop of York, and the General Synod of the Church of England;
  • for the churches and peoples of Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay (World Council of Churches Ecumenical Prayer Cycle);
  • for the Anglican Church of South America and The Most Revd Gregory James Venables, Presiding Bishop & Bishop of Argentina (Anglican Cycle of Prayer); and
  • (from the Prayer Diary of the Diocese in Europe) give thanks for:
    • Pray for the Serbian Orthodox Church, and for Robin Fox as Archbishop of Canterbury’s Apokrisiarios to the Patriarch of Serbia.
    • Pray for the autocephalous Orthodox churches of Eastern Europe and the Baltic.
    • Pray for Ben Gordon-Taylor (Liturgy Officer);
    • John Newsome (Spirituality Advisor) and our team of Spiritual Directors; and for John also in his role as Area Dean;

let us pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer.

For the peace and stability of all peoples
and for the leaders of the nations; especially for

  • Katerini Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece, and
  • Elizabeth, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her other realms, and also in her role as Governor of the Church of England;
  • In the European Union, Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission;
    • Charles Michel, President of the European Council; and
    • Josep Borrell, High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy;
  • the peoples of Belarus and Hong Kong, as they demonstrate for democracy; for the people across the world marching for fair treatment from security forces and police;
  • for advocates of Indigenous rights and the adoption and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • prisoners and captives, especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China;
  • and the people of Lebanon, as they recover from the massive explosion in Beirut and the collapse of the government in that country;

let us pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer.

For places of work, education and leisure;
remembering especially students in Greece as they return to school;
those who travel by land, air, or water,
and for all medical staff testing and tracing tourists;
for those in quarantine;
let us pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer.

For a blessing on our homes;
for our relations and friends and all whom we love;
let us pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer.

For the sick and suffering and all who minister to their needs;

let us pray to the Lord: Lord, hear our prayer.

Let us commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God. Amen.

Sing

This song goes with our reading from Exodus.

An alleluia from the Iona Community for use before the gospel reading.

And, now, a Bluegrass Gospel version of a song from India.

A string quartet plays Ben Johnston’s “String Quartet #4 (Amazing Grace)” – microtonals ahead!

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What is God’s Will in the Time of a Pandemic?

A sermon preached on
The Thirteenth Sunday After Trinity (The Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost)
in an online Zoom service sponsored by
The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete,
September 6, 2020 11:00 am

The readings appointed for this Sunday are Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 149, and Matthew 18:15-20.

When I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt..” Exodus 12:1
For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them. Matthew 18:20

God, Rulers, and Plagues

Why does God kill all the firstborn of the Egyptians? Surely they have no part in the enslavement of the Israelites?  

Two principles need to be kept in mind. First, in the Hebrew scriptures God is usually seen as the one who causes all things. If good things happen, it is because of God. If bad things happen, it is because of God. This is especially true in the so-called Deuteronomic history, but also in the Torah. And yet, even though God seems to be the cause of all things, human beings seem to have free will; people have the choice to follow God’s ways. This contradiction is never really worked out logically, but is a tension throughout scripture. Thus, when the ten plagues come upon Egypt, it is not merely by chance, but the action of God.

As well, in the Old Testament the people and a king are one. If the ruler does evil, the people suffer. If the monarch does good, the people benefit. This may seem alien to our sense of understanding, but, again, it is what we find in most of the Tanach.

These are not so much explanations but descriptions. In the OT story this morning the Egyptian people suffer because of the hardness of heart of Pharaoh, who will not release the Israelites. God causes Pharaoh to be cruel, but he would have chosen to be that way anyway. Pharaoh on one side opposes God and Moses and Aaron on the other, and so the people of Egypt all suffer. Indeed, were it not for the sign of the Passover, the blood placed upon the doorway, even the Israelites, slaves that they were, would suffer. This may not be fair, but it seems to be the way of the world.

Today people across the world are in the midst of a plague. In some places, such as here in Greece, the leadership has been very effective, and the numbers of infections and deaths have been very low. In other places the leadership has not been so effective. There the numbers of infections have been high and the number of deaths comparatively high – thirty times more so than here. Is that fair? No, not at all. But it is as true for us as it was for the Egyptians.

God, Democracies, and the Pandemic

So what message is God trying to tell the leaders of the present? In Exodus the authors, writing many centuries after the events they were describing, believed that in God’s eyes that the enslavement of Israel in Egypt was wrong. What is God calling us to in this worldwide pandemic?

For today’s world perhaps we can take several lessons.

  • First, perhaps an economic one. We are a globalized economy and people travel far and wide very quickly. Along with that globalization comes the possibility of some bad things – perhaps in the past it was radicalized religious terrorists, but today it is a simple virus. What are the most effective ways to ensure health and safety?
  • Perhaps, when looking at the decline in our economies, we need to build in greater resiliency. In our efforts at just-in-time manufacturing, in cost-cutting and share-holder value, we have created a fragile system. Do we need to build something more robust?
  • Or, when we look at the internet and social media, we see a world that is increasingly fractured, inside the so-called echo chambers, and where facts are ignored and conspiracy theories abound. How do we raise citizens so that they have critical thinking? The failure to regulate what is called surveillance capitalism has led to polarization. How do we get people to listen to each other more carefully?
  • Finally, times of stress usually affect the poor, the sick, and the marginalized more so than others. Not surprisingly, just as the ten plagues of Egypt were coincident with the call to free the Israelites, so the current pandemic has come with a new civil rights movement. How do we ensure that the most vulnerable in our society receive justice and empowerment?

Of course, all of this goes with conflict. On the local level, in the gospel reading, Jesus gives us a way to go forward to resolve conflict. One starts small – one to one, then two to one, and so forth. One builds up the community in an attempt to point out someone’s fault. If it doesn’t work we are required to bring in a third person, and in working with that other person we move towards a resolution. Sometimes that person will help us see what we contributed to the problem. Ideally one keeps the level of tension low, but that is not always possible.

As Christians we rely on each other. We believe that it is community that we find truth, the word of God speaking to us. Let us listen to one another in love and care.

On the larger level, we live in an unusual time, where we can always vote out the leaders who do not rule well. I am not so cynical that I believe it makes no difference who is in charge. I am not so naïve to believe that simply calling oneself a Christian means that one follows Christ-like ways. There are many toxic theologies out that that uphold corrupt politicians and voters.

That said, a robust democracy, with a free press, wide enfranchisement, freedom to associate, free speech, a well-educated citizenry, empowered minority voices, and ease of voting, is always to be preferred to a dictatorship. The country we live in, Greece, has in the past century suffered under two right-wing dictatorships and a Nazi occupation, so most people here are aware of the dangers of right-wing demagoguery. It also has hesitated to run towards a left-wing dictatorship; ever since the Communist Party was made legal in 1974 it never received much more than 9% of the vote, and these days usually gets around 5%. Democracy is never perfect (although the Swiss might claim theirs is really good), but it is the best system we have found to deal with political differences, and to serve the people. The Christian faith has co-existed with many types of governments – to the point of being co-opted and compromised – but it is probably least uncomfortable and comprised in a democracy. In being called to love our neighbour, to feed the hungry, give water to the poor, visit the sick, clothe the naked, care for the sick, we are also called to be involved in the politics that affect them and us.

Signs of the Times

Of course, I may be quite wrong in all of this. That said, we do live in a time of plague – perhaps not as awful as that visited upon the Egyptians, but still pretty awful.  

  • What are the signs of the times?
  • Who is it that God is calling on us to liberate?
  • How have the leaders led us astray?

May God give us the vision and the hearing to do God’s will on earth, as it is in heaven.

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Resources for Worship on the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity (Fourteenth Sunday after Pentecost) on Sunday, September 6, 2020. The resources are gathered from a variety of sources and, while assembled mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, others may find them useful.

It would be very helpful to me to get a sense of whether there are people who actually use these resources, and would miss them if I did not do them (like last week). If you do appreciate my weekly collection of these resources, would you be so kind as to either leave a comment below or email me at bbryantscott AT gmail.com?

e0569ff51097725565de3e4ad6c1b830

Read

The readings appointed for this Sunday are Exodus 12:1-14, Psalm 149, Romans 13:8-14, and Matthew 18:15-20. As we have been doing all summer, we will omit the reading from Romans and my sermon will focus on an aspect of the reading from the Torah.

Share

If you are in Crete, you will already know that in the Prefecture of Chania (which includes Apokoronas and Kefalas), gatherings of more than nine (9) persons are forbidden for at least another two weeks. In theory, we could meet for worship, but we would have to restrict attendance and turn people away. Rather than refuse anybody entry to the service, or do three in a row to accommodate everyone, or tell everyone to meet in a field just over the border in the Prefecture of Rethymno we have decided to suspend the service.

BUT, you can join us via Zoom!

Click this link, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209. My thanks to Jan Lovell for being the Zoom host last Sunday, and to the Reverends Julia Bradshaw and Ruth Wooster for leading the service.

If you do not want to join us via Zoom, then you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, as well as listen to the recorded sermon, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

Reflect

I will do my best to post the sermon promptly after I preach it on Sunday.

Fr Leonard Doolan of St Paul’s Anglican Church, Athens, has  once again sent me  a recording of the sermon he will preach on Sunday.

Pray

Collect

Almighty God,
who called your Church to bear witness
that you were in Christ reconciling the world to yourself:
help us to proclaim the good news of your love,
that all who hear it may be drawn to you;
through him who was lifted up on the cross,
and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

Almighty God,
you search us and know us:
may we rely on you in strength
and rest on you in weakness,
now and in all our days;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Let us pray to God the Father,
who has reconciled all things to himself in Christ:

For peace among the nations,
that God may rid the world of violence
and let peoples grow in justice and harmony,
remembering the peoples of Yemen and Syria,
for peace between Turkey and Greece,
between Israelis and Palestinians;
your kingdom come, your will be done.

For those who serve in public office,
that they may work for the common good;
remembering especially

your kingdom come, your will be done.

For Christian people everywhere,
that we may joyfully proclaim and live our faith in Jesus Christ;

your kingdom come, your will be done.

For those who suffer from hunger, sickness or loneliness,
that the presence of Christ may bring them health and wholeness;

  • those who travel by land, air, or water,
    and for all medical staff testing and tracing tourists;
  • the sick and the suffering,
    remembering the over 7 million active cases of the novel coronavirus, and mourning with the families of the 880,000 who have died in the pandemic;
    and also remembering those ill with other diseases, and those whose operations have been postponed;
  • the over 79.5 million refugees and nearly 4 million stateless person, remembering especially the crucial situation of Greece;
  • the peoples of Belarus and Hong Kong, as they demonstrate for democracy; for the people across the world marching for fair treatment from security forces and police; for advocates of Indigenous rights and the adoption and implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples;
  • prisoners and captives,
    especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China; and
  • the people of Lebanon, as they recover from the massive explosion in Beirut and the collapse of the government in that country;

your kingdom come, your will be done.

Let us commend ourselves, and all for whom we pray,
to the mercy and protection of God;
your kingdom come, your will be done.

Sing

This first piece seems to go with the reading from Exodus, as the people of Israel prepare to march out of Egypt. It comes out of South Africa, and, of course, it was one of many anthems associated with the long walk to freedom in that country.

This piece by John Bell comes from the Iona Community in Scotland, and is particularly well suited to be sung before gospel readings.

Where is the church?

I must have first heard this piece thirty years ago. It was written by Paul Halley, a English-born Canadian musician and organist when he was working at the Cathedral of St John the Divine in New York City. If you do not know where it is going, hang on, because, like the Holy Spirit, it will take you to unexpected places! The latin lyrics Ubi caritas et amor Deus ibi est. Congregavit nos in unum Christi amor means: “Where there is charity and love, God is there. The love of Christ has gathered us together.”

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Who is Moses? Who is Jesus?

A sermon preached on
The Eleventh Sunday After Trinity (The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost)
at The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete,
August 23, 2020 11:00 am.

The texts we read in St Thomas’s were Exodus 1:8-2:10, Psalm 124, and Matthew 16:13-20.

Dura_Europos_fresco_Moses_from_river

“The Drawing of Moses from the River”, a fresco c. 235 CE from the Dura-Europos Synagogue, now in the National Museum of Damascus.

When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.” Exodus 2:10

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Matthew 16:16

Dual Citizens

Do we have any dual citizens here?

Moses was a dual citizen, as it were, being born a Hebrew and raised by his mother, yet adopted by a princess of Egypt and raised as an Egyptian.

Who is Moses For Us?

Moses is a forerunner of Jesus, a prefiguring of what Jesus is and will be, and never so much as in this Gospel according to Matthew. Jesus is the new Moses.

Here are some things they have in common.

  • Both were persecuted as infants, Moses by Pharaoh and Jesus by Herod the Great.
  • Both delivered their people, Moses by leading the children of Israel out of Egypt, Jesus by liberating them from the bondage of sin and death.
  • The number five is significant. Moses had the five books of the Torah – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. Conservative rabbinical writings suggest that they were written by Moses — which would be a neat trick, as it also describes Moses’s death and burial — but they are known, among other things, as The Books of Moses. Now, in The Gospel according to Matthew Jesus gives five discourses; they do not have a 1:1 correspondence with the five Books of Moses, but the number is suggestive. The discourses are:
    • The Sermon on the Mount in Chapters 5-7
    • The Missionary Discourse in Chapter 10
    • The Parables, in Chapter 13, from which we have been reading these past few weeks
    • The Discourse about the Church, in Matthew 18
    • The Discourse about the End Times in 24, 25, & 26, given on the Mount of Olives in the last week of his earthly life.
  • Moses gives the Law, but Jesus fulfills the Torah and the Prophets, and creates a higher standard of righteousness. In the Sermon on the Mount he says six times, ““You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times” and then he quotes Moses, and then says,” but I say to you . . .” and gives a standard of higher righteousness. For example:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. Give to everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.” Matthew 5:38-42

  • The Passover is initiated by Moses, the Christian Passover of the Last Supper is initiated by Jesus.
  • Moses feeds the Children of Israel with manna in the desert, Jesus feeds us with the bread of heaven – his own body.
  • Moses has a dual nature, being brought up both Egyptian and Hebrew, high and princely and low and enslaved. Jesus has a paradoxical dual nature, being both human and divine, both Lord and servant, wholly other and completely like us.

I could go on, to talk about how both were prophets, how both were mediators between God and humans, and how the cross was prefigured by that weird story about the serpent on a raised stick, as the Gospel of John asserts. But you get the idea. History, it is said, does not repeat, but it does rhyme. I think it can also be said that biblical themes rhyme and echo as well, and none more strongly than with Moses and Jesus.

How does it rhyme with us now? How does Moses and Jesus relate to us?

Spas_vsederzhitel_sinay

The Christ Pantocrator of St. Catherine’s Monastery at Sinai. Sixth century. Coloured wax (encaustic) on wood.

Who Is Jesus For Us?

The big question for us is this: “Who do you say that I am?”

When we went through the visioning exercise last Advent I asked this question – who is Jesus for you, and the responses were:

    • peacemaker
    • messiah
    • lover
    • arbitrator
    • scapegoat
    • Jewish
    • Galilean
    • friend
    • lamb
    • sacrifice
    • shepherd
    • miracle worker
    • brother
    • family
    • father
    • resurrection
    • firstborn of creation
    • challenger
    • preacher
    • teacher
    • healer
    • saviour
    •  made flesh
    • an historical figure
    • king
    • rod of Jesse
    • holy
    • a rebel put to death
    • an icon
    • an indigenous man put to death by a colonizing empire
    • leader
    • comforter
    • God
    • divinely inspired man
    • servant
    • the suffering servant
    • Word of God

May you find in Jesus the Saviour you need, someone who exceeds all definitions and ascriptions, yet is as knowable as the person next to you.

May you know him, as he knows you, and be transformed.

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Resources for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the Eleventh Sunday after Trinity (the Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost) on Sunday, August 23, 2020. The resources are gathered from a variety of sources and, while assembled mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, others may find them useful.

I will be away next week from the chaplaincy to try and rewrite my dissertation. As a result, I will be taking a one-Sunday hiatus from producing these resources.

Dura_Europos_fresco_Moses_from_river

“The Drawing of Moses from the River”, a fresco c. 235 CE at the Dura-Europos Synagogue, now in the National Museum of Damascus. Dura-Europos was a Roman border town, just above the Euphrates in what is now the eastern Syria, close to Iraq. The city passed back and forth between the Roman Empire and its eastern foes, until it was taken by the Sassanian Empire in 256-257 CE; it was abandoned and buried by sand, which led to the remarkable preservation of paintings in many buildings. 

Read

The readings appointed for Sunday, August 23 2020 are Exodus 1:8-2:10, Psalm 124, Romans 12:1-8 and Matthew 16:13-20. At St Thomas’s we will use the first reading, the psalm, and the gospel, omitting the second reading from Romans.

Share

You can join us via Zoom by clicking the link below, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85044839927?pwd=TkQ1cHEzNUNjSjVCNTNJVUJwSkZaQT09. Once again, things went fairly well last Sunday with only some minor technical problems!

If you are unable to join us in person, or cannot join us via Zoom, then you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, as well as listen to the recorded sermon, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

If you are in Crete you can join us in person. We meet this coming Sunday, August 23 2020 at 11:00 am EEST at the Tabernacle of the Church of St Thomas, Kefalas. We have revised our protocols around the pandemic:

Protocols for St Thomas’s in the Pandemic

  • Anyone attending a service or activity at the Anglican Church of St Thomas must wear a mask.
  • Visitors are welcome, but if you have been here less than two weeks we will ask that you sit outside the church, and maintain social distancing.
  • Before entering the church please was your hands or use hand sanitizer.
  • Social distancing is practiced – so individuals or families must stay at least 1.5 metres from another individual or family. Seats are set out this way in the Tabernacle, so please do not move them.
  • If you are a regular, please take the books home with you and bring them back next time – the hymn book, the service booklet, and the psalter. If you are a visitor, please just leave them on the chair, and someone will collect them and wipe them down. 
  • A maximum of 18 persons may be in the Tabernacle. Any more than that will have to sit outside.
  • We sing – but we request that you do so softly!
  • Communion will continue to be offered to the people in one kind only, the consecrated bread. Communion will be brought to congregants.
  • While we do provide coffee, and tea after the service, we ask that people keep their distance while getting their refreshments, and that they might take them outside immediately afterwards.

We recognise that these protocols are changing as we learn more about how to live with the Covid-19 pandemic; thank you for your patience!

Reflect

I will do my best to post the sermon promptly after preaching it.

God willing, on Saturday August 22 I will have a text version or a recording of Fr Leonard Doolan’s sermon for Sunday August 23.

In the meantime, in relation to the gospel reading, you can read the congregation’s response last Advent IV to the question Jesus asked: “But who do you say that I am?”

Pray

Collect
O God, you declare your almighty power
most chiefly in showing mercy and pity:
mercifully grant to us such a measure of your grace,
that we, running the way of your commandments,
may receive your gracious promises,
and be made partakers of your heavenly treasure;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

God of glory, the end of our searching,
help us to lay aside
all that prevents us from seeking your kingdom,
and to give all that we have to gain the pearl beyond all price,
through our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

Intercessions (Litany 36 from Common Worship | Daily Prayer)
O Lord, answer us in the day of trouble,
send us help from your holy place.

Show us the path of life,
for in your presence is joy.

Give justice to the orphan and oppressed
and break the power of wickedness and evil.

Look upon the hungry and sorrowful
and grant them the help for which they long.

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad;
may your glory endure for ever.

Your kingship has dominion over all
and with you is our redemption.

I bid your prayers for the Church.

I bid your prayers for those in leadership:

    • For Katerini Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece, and
    • for Elizabeth, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her other realms, and also Governor of the Church of England;
      • and Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of her British government;
    • for the leaders of all nations, and for all in authority.
  • I bid your prayers for this village of Kefalas and all the villages and homes in the Demos of Apokoronas here on the island of Crete;
    and for the cities, towns, and villages from which we come.

I bid your prayers for the safety, health and salvation of:

  • those who travel by land, air, or water,
    and for all medical staff testing and tracing tourists;
  • the sick and the suffering,
    remembering the over six and a half million active cases of the novel coronavirus, and mourning with the families of the 800,000 who have died in the pandemic;
    and also remembering those ill with other diseases, and those whose operations have been postponed;
  • prisoners and captives,
    especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China;
  • the people of Lebanon, as they recover from the massive explosion in Beirut and the collapse of the government in that country;
  • the peoples of Syria and Yemen in the midst of horrific civil wars;
  • the peoples of Belarus and Hong Kong as they demonstrate for political freedom and liberty; and
  • refugees and migrants,
    especially those on Lesvos and in other camps in Greece

Sing

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Maybe

A sermon preached on
The Tenth Sunday After Trinity (The Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost)
at The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete,
August 16, 2020 11:00 am.

The texts read in church were Genesis 45:1-15, Psalm 133, and Matthew 15:21-28

Screenshot 2020-08-16 at 2.15.58 PM

From “Grooms and Horses“, dated 1296 and 1359, Zhao Mengfu Chinese. Public Domain, from The Metropolitan Museum, New York City.

God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God.”
Genesis 45.7-8a

An Old Story from China

There was a farmer whose horse ran away. That evening the neighbors gathered to commiserate with him since this was such bad luck. He said, “Maybe.”

The next day the horse returned, but brought with it six wild horses, and the neighbors came exclaiming at his good fortune. He said, “Maybe.”

And then, the following day, his son tried to saddle and ride one of the wild horses, was thrown, and broke his leg. Again the neighbors came to offer their sympathy for the misfortune. He said, “Maybe.”

The day after that, conscription officers came to the village to seize young men for the army, but because of the broken leg the farmer’s son was rejected. When the neighbors came in to say how fortunately everything had turned out, he said, “May be.”

The point of the story is that we do not always immediately understand the meaning of events. What we think of as bad luck or good fortune at the time may, in retrospect be seen quite differently. It takes time – often a long time – for the true significance to become clear. This does not necessarily diminish the initial significance of the event – a moment of joy is still wonderful, and a tragedy is still remembered as full of suffering, but it does mean that there are layers of meaning, which are frequently in tension with each other. Events may have more than one meaning.

Manifold Meanings

With the story from Genesis this morning we hear of one of those multi-layered events.

  • Joseph is sold into slavery by his brothers. This seems to be an event of misfortune. Well, no.
  • We then we hear that Joseph was sent to Egypt by God to save the children of Israel from a devastating famine. So, it all is for the good, right? Well, no.
  • Because then we hear in Exodus that the descendants of Joseph and his brothers are enslaved by Pharaoh. So, it really wasn’t a good thing, right? Well, no.
  • In Exodus we hear how God liberates Israel through Moses, who leads them to Sinai to receive the Torah at Mount Sinai. So that’s a good thing, right? Well, maybe.
  • The people in the desert rebel against Moses and God. They are condemned to spend forty years in Sinai. That’s not so good, right? Well, maybe.
  • The generation raised in the desert are primed to enter into the Promised Land under Joshua, and to establish the worship of God as ordained at Sinai. This is finally a good thing, right? Well, sort of.
  • The people arrive in Canaan, but start worshiping idols and forgetting the Torah. So, back to an unfortunate situation, yes?
  • Except God raises up judges – both male and female – to lead the people in time of crisis. So it all it good, right? Well, no.
  • The people of Israel are restless and they demand a king, so that they are like other nations. God says that he is their king, and they have no need of a human ruler like other nations. So, the people and God are at an impasse, yes? Well, no.
  • God gives way and allows them to have Saul as a king.

Our Own Lives

We do not always see what is going on. People sometimes talk about the fog of war. If we are honest, there is a certain fogginess to history, too, and there is a fogginess to our lives. Sometimes there appears to be scripts and paths, especially when we are young, but as we live our lives we realise that we are not in a movie or a situation comedy. There is no script, and real people are invariable more complex than the characters in a television program. Our lives have meaning, but not necessarily the meaning we think they have, and especially not that imposed from outside. We are always making decisions on the basis of limited information, we cannot foresee the future with certainty, and we do not necessarily understand the consequences of our actions.

So perhaps we get our A level scores, and they do not let us get into the university or college we want. Nevertheless, when we go to the one that takes us, and we may find ourselves still doing brilliantly, or meeting people that will be with us through the course of our lives.

Harry S Truman could not afford to go to university after graduating from high school in 1901, and he was rejected by West Point because of poor eyesight. From 1906 to 1917 he worked on the family farm, hard work for a meagre income. He did join the Missouri National Guard and served in its artillery from 1905 until 1911. When the United States entered the Great War Truman rejoined, and because of his experience he was commissioned an officer and rapidly advanced to captain; the leadership experience he gained from his time in France in 1918 laid the foundation for his political career, one which eventually led to the US Senate and the White House.

The Death of Jesus

The death of Jesus, which we commemorate every Sunday, is one of those multi-level events whose meaning took time to emerge. Jesus was arrested, tortured, and crucified. On the face of it, this is an undeniable bad thing. No one should be falsely arrested, cruelly tortured, or horribly executed. But, in the light of the resurrection, his disciples interpreted his death as more than a tragedy.

  • It was a sign of solidarity, that God was on the side of the poor and the oppressed, and shared in their sufferings.
  • It was a expression of God’s love, that he would not withhold anything from us, not even divine life itself.
  • It was an act of obedience by Jesus, for in being true to the sacrificial love of God, Jesus poured himself out even to death, even death on a cross.
  • It was a sacrifice, a death on behalf of all of us, in which we are united with Jesus in his death and resurrection.
  • It is an overcoming of evil and death, for those powers cannot contain the divine, which overflows them, and leads to God raising Jesus.
  • It is a transformation, the beginning of a new heaven and a new earth, in which we die to the sinfulness of the world and rise to the glory of God.
  • His followers were likewise put to death for witnessing to his death, in speaking truth to power. Their deaths were terrible.  But the blood of the martyrs becomes the seed of the church – a ultimate witness that is a good thing.

Thus, at the centre of our Sunday worship is the tension between calamity and blessing, horror and redemption, death and resurrection.

Lives of Calamity and Fortune

In the gospel today Jesus is confronted by the Canaanite woman – a Syrian, not a Jew. She demands that Jesus helps her, and the disciples find her pleading annoying. Jesus, very conservatively and conventionally, says, ““I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel . . . It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” The descendants of Jacob here are the children, and the Syrians are outside human norms, to be thought of as dogs. She comes back at him though, and says, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Did she shame Jesus? Whatever the case, Jesus stepped outside of the norms of his time – speaking to a foreigner and a woman – and states, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.”The woman’s daughter is then healed. What appears to be an unfortunate encounter – Jesus and an annoying foreign woman – becomes a moment of grace, prefiguring the grace extended to all of us who are not of Jewish descent. Parabolically, we are the Canaanite woman, embarrassing the disciples. But, by God’s grace we are treated as worthy to gather up the crumbs under the table, and so much more.

So as we reflect on Joseph – by whose misfortunes the people of Israel were saved, may we keep in mind Jesus, through whose suffering the whole world is redeemed. As we look back on our lives and our journeys in faith, may we pause and say, “Maybe”, and wait to see the divine exposed in the tumults of time.

Source of the Old Chinese Story
I first heard this story in oral form on a ferry between Swartz Bay and Pender Island, in British Columbia; I cannot remember who told it to me. More recently, my friend John Thatamanil, posted this story on Facebook, asking his learned colleagues for the source; John is an Associate Professor of Theology & World Religions at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Hogyi Wang, a student at Union, identified it as a story from the Daoist tradition, from the text known as Huainanzi. The story became known in the English speaking world after Alan Watts repeated it in his book Tao: The Watercourse Way (1975). The original goes like this:

As for the revolutions and the mutual generation of calamity and good fortune, their alterations are difficult to perceive. At the near frontier there was a [family of] skilled diviners, whose horse suddenly became lost among the Hu [people]. Everyone consoled them. The father said, “This will quickly turn to good fortune!” After several months the horse returned with a fine Hu steed. Everyone congratulated them. The father said, “This will quickly turn to calamity!” The house was [now] replete with good horses; the son loved to ride, [but] he fell and broke his leg. Everyone consoled them. The father said, “This will quickly turn to good fortune!”After one year, the Hu people entered the frontier in force; the able and strong all stretched their bowstrings and fought. Among the people of the near frontier, nine out of ten died. It was only because of lameness that father and son protected each other. Thus, 

good fortune becoming calamity,
calamity becoming good fortune,
their transformations are limitless,
so profound they cannot be fathomed.

From The Huainanzi: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Government in Early Han China, by Liu An, King of Huainan, translated and edited by John S. Major, Sarah A. Queen, Andrew Seth Meyer, and Harold D. Roth, with additional contributions by Michael Puett and Judson Murray (New York NY: Columbia University Press, 2010), pp. 728-729 [“Among Others” 18.7].

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Resources for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity

These are resources for the Tenth Sunday after Trinity (the Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost) on Sunday, August 16, 2020. The resources are gathered from a variety of sources and, while assembled mainly for The Anglican Church of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, on the island of Crete in Greece, others may find them useful.

tetralogie-joseph-und-seine

The German edition of Thomas Mann’s four volume novel Joseph and His Brothers, written between 1926 and 1942 in Germany, Switzerland, and California. He had already won the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1929 for such works as Tonio Krüger, The Magic Mountain, and Death in Venice, but Mann considered the tetralogy his greatest work. It is a retelling of the biblical story from Genesis, informed by facts and speculation derived from archaeology and non-biblical histories. It is not accidental that as Mann wrote the work he found himself in exile from Nazi Germany. It has been translated into English twice, in 1948 and 2005. Rumour has it he started it as a short story.

 

Read

The readings appointed for August 16, 2020, according to the Church of England Common Worship Lectionary, and the Revised Common Lectionary, are Genesis 45:1-15, Psalm 133, Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32, and Matthew 15: (10-20), 21-28. At St Thomas’s we will use the reading from Genesis, the Psalm, and the short version of the gospel.

Share

You can join us via Zoom by clicking the link below, or enter the information at right into your Zoom app: Meeting ID: 850 4483 9927 Password: 010209:
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85044839927?pwd=TkQ1cHEzNUNjSjVCNTNJVUJwSkZaQT09. Things went fairly well last Sunday with only some minor technical problems!

If you are unable to join us in person, or cannot join us via Zoom, then you can simply do it all yourself – read the lessons and pray the prayers below, as well as listen to the recorded sermon, and intersperse it all by clicking on the links to the hymns.

If you are in Crete you can join us in person. We meet this coming Sunday, August 16 2020 at 11:00 am EEST at the Tabernacle of the Church of St Thomas, Kefalas. We have revised our protocols around the pandemic:

Protocols for St Thomas’s in the Pandemic

  • Anyone attending a service or activity at the Anglican Church of St Thomas must wear a mask.
  • Before entering the church please was your hands or use hand sanitizer.
  • Social distancing is practiced – so individuals or families must stay at least 1.5 metres from another individual or family. Seats are set out this way in the Tabernacle, so please do not move them.
  • Visitors are welcome, but if you have been here less than two weeks we will ask that you sit outside the church, and maintain social distancing.
  • If you are a regular, please take the books home with you and bring them back next time – the hymn book, the service booklet, and the psalter. If you are a visitor, please just leave them on the chair, and someone will collect them and wipe them down. 
  • A maximum of 18 persons may be in the Tabernacle. Any more than that will have to sit outside.
  • We sing – but we request that you do so softly!
  • Communion will continue to be offered to the people in one kind only, the consecrated bread. Communion will be brought to congregants.
  • While we do provide coffee, and tea after the service, we ask that people keep their distance while getting their refreshments, and that they might take them outside immediately afterwards.

We recognise that these protocols are changing as we learn more about how to live with the Covid-19 pandemic; thank you for your patience!

Reflect

As usual I will post the sermon shortly after the service.

Fr Leonard Doolan’s of St Paul’s, Athens did not manage to record his sermon, but the printed text of what he will preach today is available here: Trinity 10 2020 Sermon

I posted about a sideways-way of listening to the parables of Jesus which may or may not work, here.

Pray

Collect
Let your merciful ears, O Lord,
be open to the prayers of your humble servants;
and that they may obtain their petitions
make them to ask such things as shall please you;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever. Amen.

(or)

Lord of heaven and earth,
as Jesus taught his disciples to be persistent in prayer,
give us patience and courage never to lose hope,
but always to bring our prayers before you;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Intercession (Litany 35 from Common Worship | Daily Prayer)
Send forth your strength, O God,
establish what you have wrought in us.

Uphold all those who fall
and raise up those who are bowed down.

Open the eyes of the blind
and set the prisoners free.

Sustain the orphan and widow
and give food to those who hunger.

Grant them the joy of your help again
and sustain them with your Spirit.

O Lord, judge the peoples
and take all nations for your own.

I bid your prayers for the Church.

I bid your prayers for those in leadership:

    • For Katerini Sakellaropoulou, President of Greece, and
    • for Elizabeth, Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, and her other realms, and also Governor of the Church of England;
      • and Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister of her British government;
    • for the leaders of all nations, and for all in authority.
  • I bid your prayers for this village of Kefalas and all the villages and homes in the Demos of Apokoronas here on the island of Crete;
    and for the cities, towns, and villages from which we come.

I bid your prayers for the safety, health and salvation of:

  • those who travel by land, air, or water,
    and for all medical staff testing and tracing tourists;
  • the sick and the suffering,
    remembering the approximately six and a half million active cases of the novel coronavirus, and mourning with the families of the 750,000 who have died in the pandemic;
    and also remembering those ill with other diseases, and those whose operations have been postponed;
  • prisoners and captives,
    especially the over one million Uigers being held in detention in China;
  • for the people Lebanon, as they recover from the massive explosion in Beirut and the collapse of the government in that country; and
  • refugees and migrants,
    especially those on Lesvos and in other camps in Greece

Sing

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The Corporation of God: A Parabolic Alternative?

41ImhRgBtZL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_

Here’s a thought!

What if, in the parables, instead of Jesus saying, “The kingdom of  God is . . .” or “The kingdom of heaven is like . . .”, he said, “The Corporation of God is  . . .” or “The Corporation of heaven is . . . “?

Okay, he could never of said that, because corporations as we know them in 2020 did not really exist in 30 CE. But why would I want him to say this? It’s because I think that we have become inured to the word “kingdom”. The word “the kingdom” here in Greek is η βασιλεία (ee va-si-LEE-ah, at least in Standard Modern Greek pronunciation). Whether in ancient times or modern, it simply means a country that has a king or a queen – a monarchy. In Roman times the word was also used increasingly to refer to the Emperor, although, strictly speaking, the Emperor was not a king.

canada

Her Majesty, whom all agree is a very nice person, and especially when in Canadian colours, inspects an honour guard at Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Now, when I think of monarchies I think of democracies like the UK, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Spain. The monarch is usually a positive thing, more symbolic of power than actually exercising it. In these constitutional monarchies the Queen or King establishes a personal link with the past of a country, while personifying the state and the people. It’s fairly benign.

I grew up in a monarchy. Elizabeth II has reigned over Canada since 1952. She is absent most of the time, which works out just fine. In her place the Governor General has exercised the royal prerogatives, such as inviting prime ministers to form governments, assenting to acts duly passed, and allowing for the prorogation of Parliament, and the directing that a writ be dropped to have an election. It is a great arrangement, because it is an almost entirely ceremonial role. The Governor-General is a temporary figure head, and most Canadians struggle to remember the name of the person at Rideau Hall. Her Majesty is on our banknotes and coins, but otherwise largely absent, thus saving us the costs of residences and security, and preserving the mystery of the Crown. I remember when Prince William and the Duchess of Cambridge, along with their two children came to British Columbia in 2016, and stayed at Government House in Victoria. We were glad to have them there, but just as glad to have them leave after a couple of weeks of traffic holdups and being inundated by the media with all things royal.  Indeed, it’s such a good system that we have replicated it on a provincial scale, with ten Lieutenant Governors. Again, few people know, or care, who these people are. So, when I hear “The kingdom of God is like . . .” I have a positive association with the secular meaning of the word.

The Kingdom: Maybe Not So Positive

But I suspect that this was not necessarily so for those who listened to Jesus. They would have known the Roman Empire and its predecessors as foreigners who exercised sovereignty over Palestine and the people of Israel. Sometimes, as around the time of Jesus’s birth, they imposed client kings, such as Herod the Great. Other times they sent governors, such as Pontius Pilate. The Romans joined and divided up the units – provinces, kingdoms, tetrarchies – more or less at whim. The rulers, whatever form and origin they had, had two basic responsibilities – raise funds for Rome, and keep the peace. Thus when we hear of the activities of the Romans in the gospels we hear of them commanding soldiers and executing criminals, and the most hated and feared people were the tax collectors, who enriched themselves by taking a premium on what was owed to Caesar.

Of course, you might want to argue that Roman rule was good for Palestine. The scene above from Monty Python’s Life of Brian (1979) presents Jewish zealots and revolutionaries as if they were the same as modern Marxian terrorists such as the Baader–Meinhof Gang in West Germany of the ’70s, or the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine faction of the PLO. The members of Monty Python, being British, and all but one the product of Oxbridge, were raised on the glories of the British Empire. People from the colonizing power do not always understand how harmful their regimes in other countries are; it’s possible that the Pythons were unaware of just how horrific colonialism had been for the peoples of the Americas, India, and Africa. The scene in the movie has often been brought up in casual conversation as an apologia for the British Empire. However, as

However, archaeology tells another story. Galilee appears to have been economically depressed in the time of Jesus, not because it was unproductive, but because the taxes were driving the people into penury. The revolution in 66-69 in Judea against Rome was violent and popular, although it was also doomed once the Roman armies began to move into the province to restore imperial rule.

For the past twenty-five years it has been a given in New Testament scholarship, across the spectrum of research, that there is a subversive anti-imperial theme in the gospels, letters, and Revelation.

  • The Greek word “euangelion” good news was originally a word used to proclaim the great deeds of the Emperor.
  • “Son of God” was a title applied to the current living emperor, as the deceased ones were all considered to have ascended into the heavens and become divine.
  • Whereas the emperor was considered to be the savior of Rome, Jesus was the long-promised Jewish saviour, whose saving power would encompass all things.
  • Revelation sets up the emperor and Rome as beast, opposed to Jesus Christ.
  • Whereas those who benefited from Roman rule looked for the coming of the Emperor to a town or province, Christians looked to the coming of Jesus, who would judge the world at his second coming, and destroy all evil, and then hand the world over to God the Father.
  • If Augustus was the saviour of Rome, Jesus was the saviour of the world. Tiberius claimed to be the son of the deified Augustus, but Jesus was the son of only true God.

Thus, when the first Christians heard “the kingdom of God/heaven”they would have understood it as being opposed to the imperial sovereignty of Rome – the emperor, the senate, its puppets and its collaborators.

Given that most of us do not experience secular kingdoms the way that the people in 1st Century Palestine and the lands around Mediterranean did, is there another metaphor we might use?

How about corporations?

Corporations for Good and Evil

The modern corporation only goes back a few centuries, and it has evolved significantly. The key thing is that a corporation – literally, a body of persons – lasts longer than any single person operating it or owning it. Originally corporations were founded by acts of legislatures, and were relatively rare things – the East India Company being an example. Today, in many parts of the world, setting up a corporation is a simple action, and can even be done online. There are corporations sole, where one person holds an office (like a bishop) and that corporation survives and is treated as the same person over decades and centuries regardless of who holds the office. Corporations are legal persons – they can hold and sell property, sue and be sued, and, in the United States, enjoy First Amendment rights. The Anglican Church in Greece, which is what the Diocese in Europe, Church of England is known by here in the Hellenic Republic, is just such a legal person, and so owns property, including the car I drive. Limited liability for corporations emerged in the 19th century, and so the failures of the corporation could not be ascribed to the owners; if a corporation went bankrupt, the creditors could not try and sue the owners.

Ideally corporations, like flesh and blood people, are good citizens. However, this is not always the case. Companies like Enron lied about their assets and liabilities in a mad pursuit of profit before anything. Bernie Madoff ran a brokerage firm that stole something like $18 billion from investors. The Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway was responsible for the Lac Megantic rail disaster in 2003 which killed 47 people and caused $200 million damage. Some are not criminal, but people question their morality – thus, some people critique Facebook for not shutting down political lies and conspiracy theories, other disparage Amazon for not paying its employees adequately, and others look at tobacco companies and defense suppliers as merchants of death.

The 2003 movie The Corporation goes further, arguing that modern government policy and certain neo-liberal economic theory has created a situation in which corporations act like psychopaths. It suggests that, due to the priority of maximizing shareholder value, that corporations are characterized by:

  • a callous disregard for the feelings of other people,
  • an incapacity to maintain human relationships,
  • a reckless disregard for the safety of others,
  • a potential for deceitfulness (continual lying to deceive for profit),
  • an incapacity to experience guilt,
  • and a failure to conform to social norms and respect the law.

While the movie has been criticized for cherry picking its examples and data, even The Economist found it to be a coherent critique of a central part of the modern economy.

A Thought Experiment

Given the potentially problematic nature of corporations, might it be a more useful metaphor to use in place of “kingdom”? Try this:

[Jesus] said therefore, “What is the corporation of God like? And to what should I compare it? It is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in the garden; it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” And again he said, “To what should I compare the corporation of God? It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

Does it change anything for you? Let me know in the comments if it makes any difference.

 

 

 

 

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“Not Long After the Bible Began”

A sermon preached on
The Ninth Sunday After Trinity (The Tenth Sunday after Pentecost)
at The Anglican Church of St. Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas, Crete,
July 12, 2020 11:00 am.

Has anyone here ever seen Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat?

It was originally a short, fifteen minute cantata for schools; it was the first thing that Andrew Lloyd Weber and Tim Rice collaborated on that got performed. It was written in 1968 as a pop cantata, to be done by schools. After the success of Jesus Christ Superstar they expanded it considerably, and in time was presented as a full blown musical on both the West End and Broadway in the 1990s. The video version with Donny Osmond came out in 1999. My children watched it repeatedly.

Oh, and I was in a version at my high school in 1979, sharing the role of the narrator and Potiphar.

“The Story of the Family of Jacob,” as Genesis 37.1 puts it, takes up the last fourteen chapters of the book.

What are we to make of it (other than the fact that it is a good story and a darned good musical)?

Context

Fundamentally, it is that we need a saviour. The story of Joseph and his brothers is the story of how God saved the children of Israel from a devastating famine. But it is not happily ever after, because just as it ends in Genesis, we read of their descendants becoming enslaved in Egypt. So they still need a saviour, someone who will deliver them from slavery.

Well, let’s pause to put it into a large context. Now is a good time to do so, as since Trinity Sunday we have been reading our way through Genesis, and we will now be going through the Joseph story for a few weeks. Then we continue on into Exodus, and we end up by late October in Joshua.

  • So, the Big Context is: The Bible, which as we know, has two parts the Old and the New Testament (ignore the Apocrypha right now). The Old Testament, originally written in Hebrew and often referred to as the Hebrew Bible, was the only Bible of Jesus. And he would not have known it so much as a book, as a collection of sacred writings, which he would have referred to as “The Law and the Prophets” or “The Law, the Prophets, and the Psalms”. Greek speaking Jews such as Paul would have known it mainly in a Greek translation called the Septuagint.
  • The Hebrew Bible had three divisions. The Hebrew names for the three divisions of books were: The Torah, the Nevi’im, and the Kethubim. Jews often call the whole colleNeviimction Tanakh, from the first letters of these three divisions – Taph, Nun, and Caph. We translate the latter as “Prophets” and “Writings”.
  • Prophets includes the prophetical texts of Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and the shorter texts known in Judaism as The Twelve but called by Christians The Minor Prophets. It also includes things we think of as histories – Joshua, Judges, the two volumes of Samuel, and the two volumes of Kings.
  • WritinCethuviimgs is a real grab-bag of things – Psalms, Proverbs, Daniel, Job, Ruth, the two volumes of Chronicles, the Song of Songs.
  • The Sadducees, or the Zadokite priesthood that controlled the Temple worship in Jerusalem, rejected these latter two collections of scrolls as being sacred, they accepted only the Torah.
  • The Torah is the most sacred of these texts, accepted by all Jews. It contains the first five books of the Bible, traditionally ascribed to Moses and his immediate successors. They are Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. The word Torah was translated from Hebrew into Greek as “Law”, but it is clear that it is much more than law. It includes commandments and guidance, but also narratives, theology, genealogies, history, prophecy, and poetry. Torah could be translated just as well as “InstructionTorah”, for it is that.
  • Our text this morning is in Genesis, the first book, which Jews call Bereshith, from its first word meaning “In the beginning”. Genesis itself has two parts.
  • Chapters 1-11 tell of God’s creation of the cosmos, and how human beings screwed up repeatedly. There was Adam and Eve, then Cain murdering Abel, the murder of Lamech, the depravity of the world which led to the Great Flood, the depravity of some of Noah’s sons, and finally the Tower of Babel. Obviously things were not going well. So God starts all over with one family.
  • Chapters 12 to 50 tell the story of that family – the call of Abraham and Sarah, of Isaac and Rebekah, and Jacob and his two wives, two concubines, and twelve sons, one of whom was Joseph.
  • Throughout Genesis there are these dual themes – God as the creator, but also the one who promises this family a piece of land in Canaan that will be theirs. But the Torah is not fundamentally about that.
  • The Torah – all five books – and especially the four books that follow Genesis – are fundamentally about Moses leading the people of Israel out of slavery Egypt into the Promised Land, and of the giving of the Commandments at Sinai. There were the ten commandments, and the total numbers was held to be 613, which guided the people of Israel in how to live and worship. All of Genesis is a prologue – a long and grad prologue, but nevertheless a preliminary part – to the next four books.
  • So, today’s story is a part of the set up. It explains how the people of Israel found themselves in Egypt. The first chapter of Exodus explains how they were enslaved. It is the hinge on how the story of God and humanity becomes the story of God’s salvation of Israel, and his gracing with them of the Torah.

So, again, what do we make of this?

Beyond Broadway and the West End

As Christians, we read everything in the Tanakh as if it potentially foreshadows Jesus. What Moses is for Israel, Jesus is for all humanity. We are like Joseph. He did not intend to lead Israel into slavery, but that is what happened. None of us intended to be enslaved by sin and oppressed by powers greater than ourselves, but that is the situation we find ourselves in. We need a saviour, to permanently rescue us from the evil powers that would dominate us and oppress us, and from ourselves.

Chapel of St Thomas the Apostle, Kefalas

If we look at the gospel reading for today, we are people in a small boat, battered by waves and wind. It can be terrifying. But the one who made the heavens and the earth is among us. Whether we find ourselves in slavery, in the wilderness, or in a great pandemic, Jesus is with us, and he says to us, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

So let us invite Jesus into our lives, once again. Let us invite him into this small bark, and perhaps we will see that with God all things are possible, and perhaps, just as he led Joseph to save his family from famine in Egypt, so God will lift us up, and maybe we can even walk on water. Amen.

 

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