Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
Well, the new year is here and it occurred to me yesterday that I was going to have to start to do something NEW in 2013. The cycle for readings is only one year for the New Testament readings, so I am actually posting at least in part some of the posts I did in January of 2012. I thought I might try to put together some thematic commentary on the New Testament readings from the Early Church Fathers or more early Friends' writings. I have done that to some extent, but perhaps there could be more. It will be harder to keep it a "daily" contribution. We'll see how it goes. But until I get through Matthew, I will continue doing what I've been doing.
Psalm 102 – “Lord, hear my prayer! Listen to my plea! Don’t turn away from me in my time of distress” (102:1-2).
“For my days disappear like smoke, and my bones burn like re-hot coals. My heart is sick, withered like grass, and I have lost my appetite” (102:3-4).
“But you, O Lord, will sit on your throne. Your fame will endure to every generation. You will arise and have mercy on Jerusalem—and now is the time to pity her, now is the time you promised to help. For your people love every stone in her walls and cherish even the dust in her streets” (102:13:14).
“[T[he Lord will rebuild Jerusalem. He will appear in his glory. He will listen to the prayers of the destitute. He will not reject their pleas. Let this be recorded for future generations, so that a people not yet born will praise the Lord” (102:16-18).
“He broke my strength in midlife, cutting short my days. But I cried to him, ‘O my God, who lives forever, don’t take my life while I am so young! Long ago you laid the foundation of the earth and made the heavens with your hands. They will perish, but you remain forever; they will wear out like old clothing. You will change them like a garment and discard them. But you are always the same; you will live forever” (102:24-26).
Psalm 103 – “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name. Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy, who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s” (103:1-5).
“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” (103:8).
“He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him” (103:10-13).
“For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust. As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more” (103:14-16).
“[T]he steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments” (103:17-18).
“Bless the Lord, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, obeying the voice of his word” (103:20).
Matthew 19 – This chapter follows closely Mark 10. Jesus leaves Galilee and goes to the other side of the Jordan in Judea, followed by large crowds. The Pharisees try to test him. They ask about the lawfulness of divorce. Why do they ask Jesus this? What are they hoping he will say? What may they have heard about him that leads them to think he will say something scandalous? Why is his teaching scandalous to them? He tells them that the joining of man and woman reflects an intention on God’s part to see man and woman joined in a mutual and steadfast relationship. They challenge him by reminding him that Moses gave them a way to divorce. Jesus tells them [“hard to teach” in Today’s English Version].Moses allowed it because they “were so hard-hearted” (19:8) But Jesus is here to teach about God’s intentions, God’s will, and that will is that marriages be permanent unless “unchastity” or “unfaithfulness” is involved. It's interesting that this OUT is not present in Mark. Apparently, there was an issue in the early church about whether you needed to stay married to a spouse when that spouse was not a convert to Christianity. But there seem to be other things in mind here. Marriage is not an ultimate destiny for people as it seems from Jesus' words. Jesus says here “This teaching does not apply to everyone, but only to those to whom God has given it. Some are not born to marry or not raised to it and others do not marry “for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven.” It remains a little mysterious. I wonder what “not raised to it” means?
Next, people try to bring little children to Jesus for him to touch them and pray. The disciples try to keep them, but Jesus protests. “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs” (19:14).
Then “a man” (a “young man” according to verse 22) comes to Jesus and says, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” (19:16) Jesus asks him about the commandments, and he knows and follows them all. He asks, “What do I still lack?” (19:20). Jesus says, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me” (19:21). The young man grieves when he hears this, “for he had many possessions” (19:22).
Jesus observes to his disciples that it is hard for the rich to get into the kingdom of heaven, easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle. The disciples recoil in amazement—then who can be saved? (19:25) “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (19:26). The disciples remind him that they have left everything and he acknowledges it. Their reward will be great and will include eternal life.