Sunday, July 20, 2014

Byzantine: 6th Sunday after Pentecost/Feast of the Holy and Glorious Prophet Elijah (7/20/14)

Today's another day (second week in a row!) with two sets of readings prescribed, one for the Sunday and one for St. Elias. If you've been following things here for a while, you know the drill: only the first reading is properly announced, and it just flows into the second reading. Know where one reading leaves off and another begins.

Apostol: Romans 12:6-14; James 5:10-20

Gospel: Matthew 9:1-8; Luke 4:22-30

Apostol 1: Romans

The reading for this Sunday shows what for lack of better words I'll somewhat crudely call both the individual and collective (I don't like my wording, for the record) aspects of Christian practice. St. Paul begins with the particular here: We have different gifts. He goes through this list of gifts right after declaring,
For by the grace given to me I bid every one among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith which God has assigned him. For as in one body we have many members, and all the members do not have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. (Rom 12:3-5)
Then, after pointing out that whatever gifts God has given, each Christian should use, St. Paul continues on with things universal among Christians: love, zeal, prayer, serving the Lord, practicing hospitality. These are things which any Christian can do, things which all Christians must do. So, we see that there are some gifts given to Christians more in particular, and other things which are generally expected of Christians. None are exempted; all are called. Only some are prophets, only some are teachers, but all are called to be lovers of God and neighbor.

Apostol 2: James

"The prayer of a righteous man has great power in its effects" (Jas 5:16). What is righteousness? Righteousness is a covenant word which "denotes one's restored relationship with God as an adopted son or daughter" (ICSB, Word Study at Matt 3:15). "[It] is a state of conformity to the covenant, and to act in righteousness means to fulfill one's obligations by keeping the commandments of the covenant" (CBD, "Justification"). To be righteous is to be in a right relationship with God! We will be held righteous if we keep the covenant (into which we were initiated by the free gift of God), and this not on our own power, but by the grace of God (cf. 1 Cor 15:10), for we are unable to do so acting solely on our own (though remember synergy—it's not like we just sit back and God drags us to heaven, either!). Then our prayers will be more effective, like those of the Holy Prophet Elias, whom we celebrate today.

Now go, live the covenant. And get your car blessed while you're at it. It's tradition.

Scripture quotations are from the RSV-CE.

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