Many churches throughout the world use a Bible reading schedule called a "lectionary." It's just a fancy word meaning "selected readings." Posts like this reflect on the readings for an upcoming Sunday or other Church holiday, as found in the historic one-year lectionary.
As I promised when we had readings for St. Thomas (December 21) posted some time early, there's now a flurry of special observances that will keep us busy for a while. I may even go to posting more than four days a week at some point. Here's what we have on the docket: Christmas Eve 12/24, Christmas Midnight 12/24, Christmas Dawn 12/25, Stephen 12/26, John the Evangelist 12/27, Holy Innocents, Martyrs 12/28, Eve of the Circumcision and Naming of Jesus 12/31, Circumcision and Naming of Jesus 1/1, then Epiphany ⅙. When people called the end of December "the holidays" that was part of what they were talking about.
Psalm 110:3 says, "Your people will offer themselves freely / on the day of your power, / in holy garments; / from the womb of the morning, / the dew of your youth will be yours" (ESV).
This psalm is a prophetic one, addressed, as Christians believe, to Christ, the Lord who sits at the right hand of the Father. In his day, his people, Christians, offer themselves to him freely. Moreover, they are dressed in holy garments. What does this imply?
First, the Gospel of Christ is not about compulsion or about force. In many secularist views of Christianity, religion is understood as a power play in which people who seek power manage to get themselves elevated in the religious heirarchy so as to wield that power over others. The average Christian is forced into submission to a pile of rules and regulations, many of which make little sense, and is made to feel guilty and therefore obedient to the overweening authorities.
This is, to say the least, a seriously defective view of Christianity. It looks more like some sort of dystopia that attempts to overthrown society by force and subject it to tyranny. Christians offer themselves to God in Christ freely. They have been confronted with their sin and failings, and have been told that Jesus promised to take away that sin. He has promised eternal rest as opposed to the striving we are confronted with every single day in this world. And he proved that he was able to do what we think is impossible by dying and rising from the dead, showing himself to many eyewitnesses, and then ascending to the right hand of the Father. If he can do this impossible thing, we are persuaded that he can also take away our sin which separates us from the mercy of God. You might say a positive response to that isn't offering ourselves to God freely, but it is. There are plenty of positive things we offer ourselves to freely. Eternal forgiveness, life, and salvation are among those positive things. The Christian life is not one of tyranny. It is a life which has received mercy. Where people have abused positions of authority in the name of God they have exalted themselves to be little gods and have acted just like the sinful people we confess we all are. The disobedient few do not disprove the true message of the Gospel.
Second, Christians are dressed in holy garments. Does that mean they are better than everyone else? Christians sin all the time. Yes, we do. By our sinful nature we are dressed in sin. We are unable to change those clothes to clothes of righteousness because we don't own any such garments. It is God's work to dress his people in Christ's holiness. It is the Christian's hope that eventually, bit by bit, we become more accustomed to wearing that holiness. True Christian holiness is not vindictive or self-centered. It might make us see ourselves as unholy by comparison, but the holiness we are given by Jesus is a holiness that cares for our neighbor's good. If it provokes you that a Christian would selflessly care about you, that's really your problem. The Christian is dressed in holiness to reflect God's glory and to show that glory through a life of mercy, which is God's great desire. He shows himself to be great by showing mercy to the least of his created beings.
In Christ, God has redeemed the world to himself. Christians are called to trust in this good favor of God, which is mercy itself.
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