I consider a mark of a great book to be the fact that you can read it again and again and find something new each time. That is the care with today’s Epistle.
We’ve heard the usual “pep talk” before of being what you have become, rather than what you once were. We hear it on other occasions too, such as graduation ceremonies and job promotions. But there’s another factor here, in actually receiving and claiming that which you have been given. That too is worth exploring.
We owe you an explanation why we couldn’t produce a Eucharist this week.
In the Epistle, the writer is trying to make clear the distinction between Old Testament thinking and that of the New Testament. In our terms, the Old Testament was basically just a bunch of rules. And for all the glory some claimed about rules, the fact is that the greatest reward for following rules is the absence of punishment!
How much more does the New Testament and the Holy Spirit offer! All that, and sacraments too!
The Feast of St Bartholomew celebrates one of the more obscure disciples. But, you will see in the Gospel reading today that in being obscure, he was accomplishing something great, especially if you look at his known history. He accomplished a great deal, according to the histories that have been handed down to us. Yet if you look at the name he is given, you might recognize the obscurity that was given to him!
The challenge this week is not finding something to speak about, but choosing from two of the most significant passages in the entire Bible! I’ve spoken often on the Prodigal Son, but this time I want to focus on the Epistle and its lesson for us.
How many times, when we are on a journey of some sort, do we think about how to get out of it? The Israelites left Egypt with all kinds of enthusiasm, but they began to mutter during the journey and lost sight of who they were and what they were supposed to do. Hence such stories as the infamous golden calf. No matter how much they might have fantasized about plenty to eat in Egypt, the truth was that there was no real option but to be focused on the journey they were on!
BTW, if I seem not myself, it’s the result of being jumped on by a loving dog who thinks she’s still a puppy.
Along with our Holy Communion, the lessons offer an interesting “double punch”. The Epistle continues a basic theme of letting us know that we are indeed changed from what we used to be, and he uses the Roman-style adoption as an example. And in the Gospel, a warning about false prophets and false leaders, stories about which we can find in almost any newspaper. I could name names and give phone numbers from my own experience!
Another version of the “loaves and fishes” story, but with one difference: this time, they are in the wilderness with a big crowd of hungry people. But Jesus has no problem knowing what needs to be done, and doing it! This comes along with an epistle giving the same message that a certain training officer imparted on me as a young cadet: Hold on to what you’ve gained!