Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ saith

.THOU shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.  This is the first and great commandment.  And, the second is like unto it; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.  On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets

 Eucharistic Liturgy of the Book of Common Prayer (1928).

     It is stewardship awareness and pledge time in most Episcopal Churches this time of the year.  The push is on and the pressure is great.  We have needs, we have programs, we have salaries to pay, buildings to maintain and so on and so forth. But we must also remember that as a Christian people we also have souls to minister to not the least of which is our own.

In the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, Chapter 53 , there is a lament which has been characterized as a portrait of Jesus, the Christ, the anointed one, who was born over seven hundred years after this bit of Hebrew poetry was written.  The lament does not describe a powerful ruler characterized by might and majesty.  He is no Wall Street mogul, no dashing James Bond, no political wizard with ready answers to all our problems, but rather a “servant”.  And worse, he is a “suffering” servant at that.  Unlike the laments of the prophet Jeremiah or Job this servant suffers silently.  He is unjustly condemned, executed, and ignominiously buried.  He suffers painful loneliness and rejection by the community.  But by his vicarious suffering he restores all people to God.

If this is our leader, our savior, our God, then how have we followed him recently?  Who among us can say honestly that we have actually “suffered” so that others might find God?

As we are called to make our pledges and engage in courageous giving let us also remember that courage and sacrifice can take many forms.  Money is very important as a Church cannot function without it.  But more importantly a Christian community cannot function without sacrifice and suffering for the sake of our fellow man.  Search your conscience and give as much of your treasure as you can remembering the widow who gave out of her poverty as portrayed in chapter 12 of Saint Mark’s Gospel.   But also, give of yourself.  Give of your time and serve God as Jesus did sacrificing so that others might live in the joy and knowledge of the Lord.

In addition to pledging a portion of your treasure, consider making a pledge of your time to engage in such activities as teaching a class, leading a Daily Office, singing in the choir, or serving breakfast to the homeless.  There are innumerable ways to be a “suffering servant”  And, by doing so you will not only bring your fellow man closer to God but yourself as well.

The story of the widow who put into the offering a mere two coins forming about a penny from Saint Mark’s Gospel formed a part of the assigned lessons for the day this week at the Holy Eucharist.  A very wise priest pointed out to the attenders at the Mid-Mass that he has always seen this story as saying that the widow was actually the one who contributed out of her abundance of spirit and the wealthy folk were the ones contributing out of their poverty of spirit.  Let us not fall into that trap.

Therefore,  brothers and sisters become a “suffering servant” that you may be equipped to serve those whom you are called to love this day and always. [1]

[1] Those whom you are called to love are those you find most difficult to love and who it is so easy to marginalize such as the poor, the hungry, and the homeless.  Open your heart to them that you might live.

ART:  Saint Sebastian, by Andrea Mantegna. (1456-1459) Saint Sebastian was a “suffering servant” as he defied the Emperor of Rome by defending fellow Christians.  The Emperor ordered him to be put to death by being shot full of arrows, but Sebastian survived.  Having recovered he set himself upon the Emperor during a procession and the Emperor then ordered him beaten to death which procedure proved most effective.


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