Bread – Being

September 15, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, September 15, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 21:17-29; 1 Cor. 1:20-31; Matt. 4:12-17; Psalms 61,62,68

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There are many rich topics in today’s readings … sin, judgment, contrition, deferral of judgment, wisdom, the world, the cross, salvation, election, foolishness, boasting, prophesy, fulfillment of prophesy, forgiveness, Jesus Christ … but I having to pick one, so I pick “being” as in “being saved” from this verse: “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Cor. 1:18

When we think of the word “being,” what may come to mind immediately is that a “being” (noun) is something which is in existence, for example “I am a human being.” Because the word “being” is usually associated with higher order intelligence and self-awareness, it sounds strange being applied to other forms of life (it would be unusual, but not necessary inaccurate, to say “dog being”).

If we think further, we may ask ourselves what constitutes the status of “being.” Is it autonomy – I am a being because I have a choice, and maybe even “the” choice? Is it in community – I am a being because my spouse, friends, family, etc., consider me so? Is it because I was made so – I am a being because God made me so? These are deep questions, but they are also fundamental questions. If I am autonomous, I am not dependent upon God or man for my being. If I am defined by others, I am dependent for my being on them (the world) and not on God or myself. If I am made by God, I am dependent upon Him and not upon others or myself. I stand alone (autonomy), with (community), or because (God).

And the problem is, our “being” throws off signals which can be confusing. If I am autonomous, I am lonely. If I am dependent on the community, I float on the shifting sands of public opinion and worldly temptation. If I am dependent upon God, then I am in need of mental adjustment (according to the world).

But then there is another sense of the word “being,” and that is as the English “participle.” Now I have studied English and I write it, but I have to confess that I have never understood participles. I use them all the time, but I still don’t understand them. And so looking up the participle “being,” I find in the dictionary that it is the participle of the word “be” (which is accurate but unhelpful). And then when I look up the word “participle” that it is “verb form having the qualities of both verb and adjective. So both action (verb) and description (adjective) are brought together in one place. But one thing this research did tell me is that, if the word ends in “ing”, then it is a “present participle,” meaning that it is acting and describing today, now.

Do we have a headache yet?

So what is the meaning then of the phrase “are being saved?” In the Greek, the “are being” is a “present passive participle.” The verb “save” and the adjective “saved” are being applied in the present, right now, to “us,” passively, meaning that we are not doing it … we are merely receiving both the action (save) and description (saved). In case we miss who is then doing this “saving” to us, Paul is clear that it the power of God. Not the power of the individual and not the power of the collective but the power of the Infinite.

But, wait a minute, in the sense of Christian salvation, wasn’t I saved at a point in time in the past and not the present? So what is this “am being saved” routine?

Which now is where the deeper question arises, the question of what is “being.” If I am autonomous, then I chose God and there is a point in time when I uttered the magic words and took the ceremonial washing. If I am a being defined by the community, then they chose God for me and there is a point in time when they uttered the magic words on my behalf. But if I am dependent on God, then at what point in time has God not saved me? If I am dependent upon God, then I was saved, am being saved, and will be saved … all at the same time and at different times.

What is the nature of our being? Is it with God, with man, or with self? The answer depends upon which wisdom you believe. And that, too, is a gift of God.

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© 2015 GBF

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Bread – Denial

September 1, 2015


Readings for Tuesday, September 1, 2015, designated by the 1979 Book of Common Prayer: 1 Kings 8:65-9:9; James 2:14-26; Mark 14:66-72; Psalms 26,28,36,39

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In today’s reading from Mark, Peter is waiting in the courtyard outside where Jesus is being tried. When asked three times about his relationship with Jesus, Peter denied the relationship.

Elsewhere in Scripture, Jesus asks the disciples “who do say I am?” In today’s reading, the question might well be “Who do you deny I am?”

This reading is so known to me that I realized I was skimming it. After all, who does not know about Peter’s denial of Jesus three times before the cock crowed twice?

That is a major problem with the stories of the Bible. We know what they say, so we miss what they say. We know the story, so we miss the detail.

Peter not only denied Jesus three times, but he denied Him three particular ways.

The first statement which Peter denies is the accusation of the servant girl, who said to Peter “You also were with the Nazarene, Jesus.” Mk. 14:67 Here, the observation is that Peter was so closely identified with Jesus that he was “with Him.” Peter denied that.

The second statement which Peter denies is the statement of the same servant girl to the effect that “This man is one of them.” Mk. 14:69 Note that Peter is not being accused of being “with Jesus” but is accused of being with a group of people (“one of them”) who claim to follow Jesus.

The third statement is simply an association of a people group, the Galileans. One of the bystanders says “Certainly you are one of them, for you are a Galilean.” Mk. 14:70 Peter denied that relationship as well.

To put these in modern terms, I could be accused of attending an Anglican Church (of being a Galilean), of being a disciple (of being one of them), and of being “with Jesus.” Each one is an increasingly closer relationship with the Lord. What becomes merely a membership in a people group then becomes a relationship among a study group of fellow Christians which then becomes a personal relationship with the Savior. If Jesus is the center, then each group (with Him, one of them who study Him, one of a collection of people who are from the same place where He is talked about) gets further and further away. And as you get further and further away, the groups get bigger and bigger and farther and farther away from the center.

Notice the progression of denials. Rather than start at the edge and work to the inside, Satan here (through the servant girl and the bystanders) starts at the closest point and works outward.

Why is that?

I think it has to do with safety in numbers. If I am with Jesus, it is Jesus and me and Satan can work only on me to separate me from Him. As the number of people increase, not only may the personal relationship with Jesus decrease (thereby diminishing the amount of work required) but the number of people who Satan must affect goes up (thereby increasing the amount of work required). Besides, if Satan can break you apart from your personal relationship with Jesus, then it becomes much easier to break you apart from your band of brothers and then from the church.

Also, think about it from the individual believer’s point of view. If I am in a crowd at church, it is much easier for me to avoid the attack. If I am in my study group, it is much harder to avoid the attack, but then there may be people around who can help me better deal with it. However, if I am by myself (with Christ), then it is Christ who must fight my battles for me, but when I deny Him I can be easily picked off.

Before we are attacked in groups, we will be isolated and attacked one on one. When we are confronted with “stay with Jesus and lose your job; deny Jesus and keep your job,” will we be so weak as to deny Him. Will we say that we do not follow Him and then deny that we are part of the band of disciples and then deny that we are even in a church? The answer is “yes,” if we deny Him when we are accused of being “with Him.”

We are rapidly reaching a point where it is OK to say that you are member of a church and maybe even OK to say that you are a member of a small group in your home, but it will not be OK to say publicly that you are “with Jesus,” because confession of Him as the Way, the Truth, and the Life will be considered to be offensive. And when we are put to the test of denying that we are with Him, we need to remember that it only begins there, because once we have denied that we are with Him, then we will also deny that we are with a group of people who follow Him, and will also deny the Christian community of which we are a part.

The funny thing about this story is that, because three is the number of completeness, denying Jesus three times meant that Peter denied Him completely. However, the truth is that Peter denied Him completely when he said that he was not with Jesus. Everything else became a given after that.

So, really, to deny Jesus all we have to do is to do it once. When might that happen to you? If we think about the circumstances in which we may find ourselves when we will be most vulnerable to denying Jesus, we can be prepared to respond automatically with the answer that Peter could have given if he had first looked to God for strength and the answer.

What would that answer be? Well, when you find yourself surrounded by hostiles demanding an answer to the question of whether you are with Jesus, what will your answer be? That is the only answer that matters. Be prepared!

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© 2015 GBF

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