Friday, July 23, 2010

Thinking Big

Friday, July 23, 2010 -- Week of Proper 11, Year Two

Today's Readings for the Daily Office (Book of Common Prayer, p. 977)
Psalms 40, 54 (morning)       51 (evening)
Joshua 9:22 - 10:15
Romans 15:14-33
Matthew 27:1-10

What do you do when you've finished your mission?  Paul's calling has been to bring the gospel to places where the church had not been introduced.  He traveled widely in the Roman Empire, starting from just north of Israel.  He covered cities along some of the major Roman roads and cities that were along the seacoast and trade routes.  He and his associates went through Asia Minor (Turkey), Cyprus, Macedonia, Crete and Greece.  His particular calling was "to proclaim the good news, not where Christ has already been named," but to "those who have never been told of him" and "those who have never heard of him."

As we conclude this letter to the Christians in Rome, he says he is now ready to visit the great capital city.  "Now, with no further place for me in these regions, I desire, as I have for many years, to come to you when I go to Spain."  Ahh.  His mission is not quite finished.  He wants to press onward into Spain, where Paul imagines he can bring the good news to another land.  He'll make a visit to Rome on the way.

But first, he's got a bit of fundraising and stewardship to finish.  Paul spent a great portion of his ministry raising money.  He frequently references the "collection" that he has raised.  At one point he chastises the wealthy Corinthians by comparing their modest response with the generous giving from the relatively poorer congregation in Thessoliniki. 

He's raising money for the mother church in Jerusalem.  Paul always characterizes them as poor.  "At present, however, I am going to Jerusalem in a ministry to the saints; for Macedonia and Achaia have been pleased to share their resources with the poor among the saints at Jerusalem." 

Why is he raising money for Jerusalem?  He represents the Jerusalem church as being poor and needy.  That may be true.  Jesus ministered primarily among the peasants.  Jesus' movement seemed to have more support among the peasants, so there may have been relatively fewer wealthy members in the predominately Jewish congregations there.  Paul may also be buying a little friendship.  Great authority rested with James and the disciples in Jerusalem.  They had authorized Paul's mission to the Gentiles.  A regular contribution would reinforce the fruitfulness of that mission. 

Paul addressed Gentiles in the Roman world.  He particularly found audience with Gentiles who had been attracted to Judaism for its high ethic and its monotheism, those called "godfearers."  Godfearers might attend synagogue, learn of the tenets of Judaism, but would not become Jews themselves.  Many of the Gentile godfearers were people of means, with the leisure to explore an esoteric foreign faith like Judaism.  We have records of synagogues being built by the generous donations of the local Gentiles who were attached to the Jewish community, but could not belong. 

One of the reasons Paul raised such hostility toward himself in the synagogues was that he "stole" from them some of their wealthiest associates.  Paul offered the Gentile godfearers full membership without circumcision, full membership into a faith with a similar ethic and monotheism, but without the kosher rules and other oddities that made Judaism so different from the Hellenized world.  It was a successful strategy, and allowed the Christian Church to expand far beyond its origins as a reform sect of Judaism.

So now Paul will be heading back to Jerusalem to offer his collection to the Jerusalem church.  As he returns, he knows that the synagogues he has "raided" will have sent word back home about him, and about his threat to the Jewish diaspora.  In his letter to the Roman church, he asks for "earnest prayer to God on my behalf, that I may be rescued from the unbelievers in Judea, and that my ministry to Jerusalem may be acceptable to the saints."  He's got a tricky trip to make.  Jewish authorities would like to kill him because of the damage he has been doing to their congregations throughout the Empire.  He wants to keep the original Christian church in Jerusalem happy so that they don't get uncomfortable enough with his new way of creating mostly Gentile congregations.  Paul has had trouble with the Christian authorities in Jerusalem before.  He doesn't want to be challenged or decommissioned there. 

But if it goes well.  If the Christians in Jerusalem welcome him (and his money), and if he can avoid the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem, then he's ready to put an exclamation point on his work in the eastern part of the Empire, and visit Rome on the way to Spain. 

That's thinking big.

Lowell

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About Morning Reflections
Morning Reflections is a brief thought about the scripture readings from the Daily Office of Morning and Evening Prayer according to the practice found in the Book of Common Prayer of the Episcopal Church.


Morning Prayer begins on p. 80 of the Book of Common Prayer.
Evening Prayer begins on p. 117
An online resource for praying the Daily Office is found at www.missionstclare.com
Another form of the office from Phyllis Tickle's "Divine Hours" is available on our partner web site www.ExploreFaith.org at this location -- http://explorefaith.org/prayer/fixed/index.html

The Mission of St. Paul's Episcopal Church
is to explore and celebrate
God's infinite grace, acceptance, and love.

Visit our web site at www.stpaulsfay.org

Our Rule of Life
We aspire to...
worship weekly
pray daily
learn constantly
serve joyfully
live generously.

Lowell Grisham, Rector
St. Paul's Episcopal Church
Fayetteville, Arkansas

1 Comments:

At 2:30 PM, Blogger HumbleHumanity said...

Kind of like his own version of "Purpose Driven Church"?

 

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