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Welcome to “read the Bible – expand your mind:”
The Book of Common Prayer* says that by sharing Holy Communion, Christians become “very members incorporate in the mystical body” of Jesus. The words “corporate” and “mystical” are the key. They show that a healthy church has two sides. The often-overlooked “mystical” side asks, “How do I experience God?” This blog will try to answer that.
It has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (See John 6:37.) The second is that God wants us to live lives of abundance. (John 10:10.) The third is that Jesus wants us to read the Bible with an open mind. As it says in Luke 24:45: “Then He [Jesus] opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.” The fourth theme – and most often overlooked – is that God wants us to do even greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12.)
And this thought ties them together:
In the meantime:
The last two posts focused on my recent “Camino” hike on the Way of St Francis.
I flew over from Atlanta to Rome on August 27 and came back on September 22. In between I hiked – with my brother and his wife – some 140 miles, from Assisi back to St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City, in Rome. I’ll be doing more reviews on the hike-pilgrimage in the future, but as it turns out, the last two weeks of October are full of Feast Days. The two biggies are for St. Luke, on October 18, and October 23 is the Feast for James, brother of Jesus.
But first a note about the big Christian hubbub over “Faith and Works.” See for example, Faith and Works: Reconciling the Two Doctrines – Learn Religions or Faith, Works, and the Apparent Controversy of Paul and James. Briefly, the question is “How do I get to Heaven?” Or, “Can you ‘buy your way into heaven,'” or is it enough just to believe in Jesus?
The controversy came to a boiling point way back in 1517, over the Roman Catholic practice of selling indulgences. The implication became that you could “buy your way into heaven.” The practice became so corrupt – in Martin Luther‘s view – that in 1517 he published his 95 Theses and thus started the Protestant Reformation and all the religious wars that followed.
So, on the one hand you had the implication that you could buy your way into heaven, either by performing good works or by paying out “filthy lucre.” On the other hand you had Martin Luther’s sola fide, “by faith alone.” The implication there was that you could simply express your belief in Jesus, then take it easy for the rest of your life. (See The Just Shall Live by Faith Meaning – Rom 1:17, Gal 3:11, etc.) But as usual, the best answer is “somewhere in the middle.”
I recently found that answer “in the middle” back on October 10, 2022, doing my daily Bible readings. Specifically, in Acts 26:20. And the Bible book Acts of the Apostles is one of the two Bible books written by St. Luke. (Whose Feast Day is October 18.) There are a number of translations for Acts 26:20, but the one I like best is in my DOR book, which uses the Revised Standard Version (RSV). In that version the Apostle Paul tells the people he is addressing that they should “repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance.”
As noted, in John 6:37, Jesus said he would accept anyone who turns to Him. Then there’s Romans 10:9, where the Apostle Paul reiterated that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” No ifs, ands or buts. That’s the “turn to God” part, but it’s not enough to just accept your free gift from Jesus. (Then sit on your spiritual butt for the rest of your life.)
So the better answer is not, either what Paul said, or what James said. You don’t have to choose between them. It’s not an either-or situation. The best answer is both. Or as it says in 2d Corinthians 1:20, “all the promises of God are ‘yes’ in Christ.” Problem solved…
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Anyway, getting back to the October feast days, I covered St. Luke and James, brother of Jesus in 2019’s Saints James, Luke – and the lovelies of Portugal, and other posts listed therein. In turn I noted that James, brother of Jesus is one of several “Jameses” in the New Testament…
About which there seems to be some confusion, not least of all on my part. He’s sometimes confused with James, the son of Zebedee, also called James the Greater, “to distinguish him from James, son of Alphaeus (James the Less) and James the brother of Jesus,” also known as “James the Just.”
It’s easy to confuse the “Brother of Jesus” with “St. James the Greater,” whose feast day is July 25. (Among other differences, James the Greater is the “patron saint of pilgrims,” especially Camino pilgrims.) But the James remembered on October 23 is said to be the author of the Epistle of James. In turn, other New Testament books mention him – the Pauline epistles and Acts of the Apostles – and show him as a key player among the Christians of Jerusalem.
When Paul arrives in Jerusalem to deliver the money he raised for the faithful there, it is to James that he speaks, and it is James who insists that Paul ritually cleanse himself at Herod’s Temple to prove his faith… Paul describes James as being one of the persons to whom the risen Christ showed himself … and in Galatians 2:9 Paul lists James with Cephas (better known as Peter) and John the Apostle as the three “pillars” of the Church.
There’s also confusion on how he died. “According to Josephus James was stoned to death by Ananus ben Ananus.” But Clement of Alexandria relates that “James was thrown from the pinnacle of the temple, and was beaten to death with a club.” Either way, he was important.
Which is also true of St. Luke.
The noted Catholic writer Garry Wills – in his book What the Gospels Meant – noted that Luke wrote the longest of the four Gospels. He added that Acts of the Apostles is almost as long, and that these two of Luke’s books together “thus make up a quarter of the New Testament.” (And they’re longer than all 13 of Paul’s letters.) He said Luke is rightly considered the most humane of the Gospel writers, and quoted Dante as saying Luke was a “describer of Christ’s kindness.”
Thus Luke’s Gospel was – to Wills and many others – “the most beautiful book that ever was.” Which means that Luke’s version of the Jesus story is one to which we should pay special attention. And especially to being “humane” and active practitioners of “Christ’s kindness.”
“We could use a lot more of that Christian kindness these days…”
And speaking of Christian kindness – something else we could use a lot more of these days – Luke added some distinctive accounts in version of the Gospel:
Only in Luke do we hear the story of the Prodigal Son welcomed back by the overjoyed father. Only in Luke do we hear the story of the forgiven woman disrupting the feast by washing Jesus’ feet with her tears. Throughout Luke’s gospel, Jesus takes the side of the sinner who wants to return to God’s mercy… Reading Luke’s gospel gives a good idea of his character as one who loved the poor, who wanted the door to God’s kingdom opened to all, who respected women, and who saw hope in God’s mercy for everyone.
And finally, see the Collect for St. Luke’s Feast Day, Saturday October 18: “Almighty God, who inspired your servant Luke the physician to set forth in the Gospel the love and healing power of your Son: Graciously continue in your Church this love and power to heal…“
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The upper “witch” image is courtesy of Hail to Dorothy! The Wicked Witch is dead …54disneyreviews.
The full Daily Office readings for October 10, 2022, are: “AM Psalm 1, 2, 3; PM Psalm 4, 7, Micah 7:1-7; Acts 26:1-23; Luke 8:26-39.” I do those daily readings using “my DOR book.” It’s part of a four-volume set published by Church Publishing Incorporated. (Formerly The Church Hymnal Corporation. See ChurchPublishing.org: Church Publishing Incorporated.) Or for more see What’s a DOR?
Re: “Other posts listed therein.” see more detail on St. Luke in Saints Luke, and James of Jerusalem – 2021 or in 2014’s St. Luke – physician, historian, artist, or On St. Luke – 2015. (Or – from 2018 – On Luke and the “rich young man.”)
The lower image is courtesy of Healing Power Image – Image Results. Also re: “Holy Spirit does,” see Romans 8:26, “In the same way the Spirit also comes to help us, weak as we are. For we do not know how we ought to pray; the Spirit himself pleads with God for us in groans that words cannot express.” That’s from the Good News Translation.
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As noted in the opening blurb, this blog has four main themes. The first is that God will accept anyone. (John 6:37, with the added, “Anyone who comes to Him.”) The second is that God wants us to live abundantly. (John 10:10.) The third is that we should do greater miracles than Jesus. (John 14:12). A fourth theme: The only way to do all that is read the Bible with an open mind:
…closed-mindedness, or an unwillingness to consider new ideas, can result from the brain’s natural dislike for ambiguity. According to this view, the brain has a “search and destroy” relationship with ambiguity and evidence contradictory to people’s current beliefs tends to make them uncomfortable… Research confirms that belief-discrepant-closed-minded persons have less tolerance for cognitive inconsistency…
So in plain words, this blog takes issue with boot-camp Christians. They’re the Biblical literalists who never go “beyond the fundamentals.” But the Bible can offer so much more than their narrow reading can offer… (Unless you want to stay a Bible buck private all your life…) Now, about “Boot-camp Christians.” See for example, Conservative Christian – “Career buck private?” The gist of that post is that starting the Bible is like Army Basic Training. You begin by“learning the fundamentals.” But after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training.”
However, after boot camp, you move on to Advanced Individual Training. And as noted in “Buck private,” one of this blog’s themes is that if you want to be all that you can be, you need to go on and explore the “mystical side of Bible reading.*” In other words, exploring the mystical side of the Bible helps you “be all that you can be.” See Slogans of the U.S. Army – Wikipedia, re: the recruiting slogan from 1980 to 2001. The related image at left is courtesy of: “toywonders.com/productcart/pc/catalog/aw30.jpg.” *
Re: “mystical.” Originally, mysticism “referred to the Biblical liturgical, spiritual, and contemplative dimensions of early and medieval Christianity.” See Mysticism – Wikipedia, and the post On originalism. (“That’s what the Bible was originally about!”) See also Christian mysticism – Wikipedia, “In early Christianity the term ‘mystikos’ referred to three dimensions, which soon became intertwined, namely the biblical, the liturgical and the spiritual or contemplative… The third dimension is the contemplative or experiential knowledge of God.” As to that “experiential” aspect, see also Wesleyan Quadrilateral – Wikipedia, on the method of theological reflection with four sources of spiritual development: scripture, tradition, reason, and “Christian experience.”
For an explanation of the Daily Office – where “Dorscribe” came from – see What’s a DOR?
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And finally, some notes for my next post:
Jesus on those so-called Open Borders. Matthew 25:38 is generally translated “when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?” But the better translation from the original Hebrew is alien. As in “”when did we see you an alien and welcome you?” In turn, Matthew 25:43 is properly translated, “I was an alien and you did not welcome me.” Followed by Matthew 25:45-46: “‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”
This is in keeping with Exodus 22:21, and Deuteronomy 10:19. Exodus 22:21 reads “You must not exploit a resident alien or oppress him, since you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.” Deuteronomy 10:19 reads, “You are also to love the resident alien, since you were resident aliens in the land of Egypt.”
From Luke 10:25-37, where a smarmy lawyer wanted to test Jesus and justify himself. When properly recited the Two Great Commandments, including the one to Love Your Neighbor, the lawyer asked, “And who is my neighbor?”
The following is how Jesus might update the parable today:
“A man was going down from Washington D.C. to Richmond, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A Christian Evangelical happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Southern Baptist, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a California Liberal, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man in his car, brought him to a nearby Hilton and took care of him. The next day he took out his credit card and paid for two night’s lodging, and told the hotel clerk, ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
Jesus asked, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”
The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.”
Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”
The point is, the Pharisees in Jesus’ time hated Samaritans as much as today’s Conservative Christians hate California Liberals.