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Trinity XXII

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that the words which we have heard this day with our outward ears, may, through thy grace, be so grafted inwardly in our hearts, that they may bring forth in us the fruit of good living, to the honour and praise of thy Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

Good morning!

In a conversation with Bishop Marsh recently, I was moved to consider something that we all come to at different times in our lives.

With a single comment, he made me realize I needed to step back and review my outlook, my perspective on life.

When we are led to adopt another view, another perspective, we are usually humbled, but always understand that the new way of looking at things is, now, somehow, a better way.

But, in no small part, when we make that change, we ask in the vaults of our minds with a little voice – Why is my original take on this situation so wrong?

It is a taught response from the world around us - Our society, such as it is, is a swamp of self -justification – People justifying sinful actions under the guise of moral superiority, or some other excuse. This necessity for self-justification has altered the schools to such an extent that you cannot tell a student they are wrong, so as not to ‘damage their self esteem’.

I have found, at several points in my life, I need to stop and review situations from another vantage point. This can be physical, this can be spiritual. Regardless, this change of ‘point of view’ usually shows my initial opinion was formulated from a set of ill considered premises, usually rather selfish in origin. We all have had experiences where the Holy Ghost indicts us in this way!

When we consider the scriptures for today, starting with the Psalm, we note that God is working to sculpt some new ideas and perspectives in the reader’s mind.

Psalm 147 presents to us a thanksgiving song for the gifts that God has given to Israel. It presents the vision of Israel after being restored, either in the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, or the New Jerusalem. In it, the people are to praise God for the amazing gifts presented at that time of healing . It challenges the reader that lived in the time of exile to consider the perspective of a revived, vital Jerusalem, ruled by the power of the Lord.

Additionally, I read a commentary that noted this could also speak of the Church, in specifics, verse 147:18 where “He sendeth out his word and melteth them: He causes his wind to blow, and the waters flow” The writer mentions that the wind and the waters could be seen as descriptive of the Holy Spirit.1 Again, a different, and valuable perspective.

Next, our first lectionary reading was from the book of Baruch. Baruch was the prophet Jeremiah’s scribe, and was writing at the time of the Maccabees, when Israel was under more pressure from yet another oppressive empire, this being the Greeks, and needed encouragement. He does this by reminding the Israelites they would be “called of God forever” and goes into a poetic description of the restoration of the Israelites, perhaps recalling the time of Ezra and Nehemiah , and describes that loving act as “… gathering them from the west unto the east by the word of the Holy One”. 2

If we read this short chapter of Baruch 5 with a different view – it could, again, be about the church, and its mission in the world because, again, we are gathered by His Word and the last few verses could describe the New Jerusalem, finally at peace:

“For they departed from thee on foot, and were led away of their enemies: but God bringeth them unto thee exalted with glory, as children of the kingdom.

For God hath appointed that every high hill, and banks of long continuance, should be cast down, and valleys filled up, to make even the ground, that Israel may go safely in the glory of God,

Moreover even the woods and every sweetsmelling tree shall overshadow Israel by the commandment of God.

For God shall lead Israel with joy in the light of His glory with the mercy and righteousness that cometh from Him.”3

Again, just a matter of changing how you look at it.

Then, we have our second reading, from The First Letter of St John, in chapter 2, starting with the 24th verse. In this text, St John is exhorting the reader to be encouraged and abide in Him who taught us to do so. It means to lend the perspective that God is our refuge even when we are seduced by the world, and that if we take advantage of His sheltering love, we can do more than hide in fear. At His return, we can be confident we did the right things and kept ourselves righteous and correct with him.

But, consider again, St John also calls the reader beyond encouragement, to a different way of living – to accept the promises of God and live into that way. From this angle, we can see that he is calling the reader to a radical new life, one that they “heard from the beginning”4, and is much more active than mere refuge.

Again, you can see this particular passage as speaking to two different groups, it is just a matter of stepping through what the writer, ultimately, the Holy Ghost, meant for us to find.

Now, did I get all of this from that short conversation with the Bishop? Directly, no, but his comment led me to examine my own ideas and views.

As I went through each of these readings, I found myself noting the different ways that this verse or group of verses could be read and interpreted.

We all know that we read the same scripture sometimes several times a month, yet it always gives us a different gift each time.

The Holy Ghost is an amazing interpreter, vast in His knowledge of us, and what we need at a particular moment.

The visions He presents us as we read a particular book, chapter or verse is as individual as our voice, a loving, specific gift presented for us alone at that moment, like a photograph of a long passed grandmother, sweet in our memory.

I would offer to you another perspective, another view of this continual gift of the Holy Ghost for a practical application:

Consider when a friend asks you “How can you say you have a personal relationship with the vast Creator of The UNIVERSE?

You can point to one of these instances where scripture came alive for you. Who knows, that might get that friend wondering about a relationship like that for themselves!

It boggles my mind - The Lord of Lords, through the actions of the Holy Ghost, deigns to give us a brief vision of how WE should see something, new each time, to apply to our lives AT THAT TIME.

Amazing, truly amazing.

Let us pray.

Almighty God, we thank you for the active role You play in our lives through the Holy Ghost. We pray that we will continue to heed His most excellent perspectives on scripture, on our lives and on You, using those thoughts to further Your Kingdom here on earth.
In Jesus’ Holy name we pray,
AMEN

1. http://www.christnotes.org/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=19&c=147

2. Book of Baruch 5:5

3. Book of Baruch 5:6 to 5:9

4. John 2:24

Charlie Niemi

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