A Word about the Readings
by Father Gethin
(The readings may be found here)
Taken together, today’s lessons recall both the foundation of our Christian life, in the redeeming event of Christ’s Incarnation and Passion—“how that Christ died for our sins, according to the Scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures”—and also the means whereby we come to enjoy the fruits of that Redemption: “for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” By the humble act of repentance, we become the members of a new, and heavenly, Jerusalem. This is to remind us how only our faithful communion and fellowship with Christ, our chief cornerstone, provides the framework for us to become the spiritual temple of the Holy Spirit, which is the Church. Following from last Sunday’s lessons about our spiritual gifts and the divine calling within which those gifts have purpose and meaning, we come to see more clearly how we are meant to order our lives as the members of Christ’s body.
St. Paul tells us that the crucial dimension of that well-ordered life, in which all the members cohere together according to the glorious liberty of Christ, is our memory: “the Gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand: by which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you.” We persevere in the work of redemption as we persevere in memory. In other words, we must continually recall the events that form us as God’s children, if we are to continue to enjoy the benefits of His kingdom. And therefore, if we are to grow up into our calling as the citizens of heaven, we must first of all be clear what we mean by this effort of recollection.
In the first place, we must understand that the content of our Christian memory is not a series of principles or helpful guides for living well. Our Creed is not a statement of the ideas we hold dear. It is a statement of the God we hold dear, Who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And God’s life is not recalled merely as a source of divine rationale for our earthly behaviour; His life is recalled as a story: He makes, He sends, He comes, He suffers, He forgives, He establishes, He glorifies. Our Christian conviction rests in the story of God’s love, brought to bear upon our story, so that in the end, the stories may become one. That is why the Scriptures are essentially narrative, and also, why we must continually engage them by reading and reflection; it is why in prayer our language for God is deeply personal, and also why, on the eve of His suffering, Jesus made it clear that he wants us to be His friends. Our new life depends on the living and growing memory of how we are bound to God in His gift of divine friendship.
Crucial to this act of memory, this recollection of the love of God, is to see how it changes our behaviour and our way of experiencing the world. By His mercy, we are changed: as St. Paul says, “I am…not meet to be called an Apostle…but by the grace of God I am what I am.” We do not become better because we learn more clearly what the law says; we become better because we learn how God works for our good in spite of our confusion and sin. “We love”, St. John told us ten weeks ago, “because He loves us first.” And that is how we learn to behave, as Christ’s followers and friends. We remember His love, His offering of friendship, and we re-enact the same love, as the Spirit gives us strength, in our daily lives. “Do this”, Jesus said, “in remembrance of me.” As we continually recall His love for us, we are continually taken up into it, and therefore, find ourselves both justified by His continual mercy, and liberated for the labours of His kingdom—to labour continually with ‘more abundance’, as we recall more deeply the heart of all our Christian memory: “this is my body, given for you”.