Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Year C 3 Epiphany WED 2019 The High Road

Year C 3 Epiphany WEDNESDAY, 30 January 2019 
St. James the Less Episcopal, Ashland, VA 
“The High Road” 
Isaiah 49:1-12 
“...I will turn all my mountains into a road, and my highways shall be raised up…” 
Galatians 2:11-21 
“...I opposed him to his face… ...a person is justified not by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ. And we have come to believe in Christ Jesus, so that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by doing works of the law,because no one will be justified by works of the law. ...I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing.” 
Mark 6:13-29 [Herod thought Jesus was a reincarnated John because of his mighty act. The story goes on to tell of Herod’s beheading of John the Baptist, who remained solid to the end.] 
We are in a strange place from the outside looking in. We preach grace, but then live by high standards. Supposedly. 
The accusations of hypocrisy are rampant, especially now that it is socially acceptable to be opposed to religion in the public square without major damage to one’s image. Atheism and Agnosticism are often far more acceptable. The rage which swept in the current administration was in many ways a response from the religious right in opposition to societal trends. It is in many ways like yelling at the tide not to come in, it may work for what seems like a while, but eventually the tide turns and there is no stopping it. And the backlash, it seems, will be severe. 
Paul recounts a struggle in the early church, where even Peter, the foremost leader in the early church waffled. We have accounts in the Book of Acts where he welcomed and invited in Gentiles, baptizing them. But when Paul comes to Jerusalem Peter (Cephas) had fallen in with the Judaizers, people demanding circumcision as a requisite to becoming Christian. Paul was apoplectic, he could not believe it. Even Barnabas, who had been on missionary journeys with him, had fallen in as well. In this letter to the Galatians, he recounts his demand that this heresy cease. Salvation cannot, does not, come from anything we do or could do. A little snip snip does not make one right with God. Not having a snip snip does not make one right with God. God is already okay with us. We have to claim that, we have to have faith in what Jesus did and does for us. [Singing...] 
Jesus paid it all, all to him I owe,  
sin had left a crimson stain, he washed it white as snow. 
A more modern way of saying it comes from Brennan Manning, “There is nothing that could make God love us any more, and nothing that could make God love us any less.” Paul said the same thing almost 2,000 years ago. 
Residing in that, we have a struggle, and Paul spoke of this, too, in various places. Since we are free, can we do whatever we want? NO! I tend to put it this way. We have been set free to live the way we should. We are free to do whatever we ought, not whatever we want. We are set free so we can take the high road God speaks of in the Isaiah passage. Isaiah 49:11  
I will turn all my mountains into a road, and my highways shall be raised up… 
We are called, in our lives and in our society, to smooth out the rough places, for God and in God. We do this out of love, not obligation. We do it out of our desire to be who we were intended to be, born to be. 
John the Baptizer stayed true to the end. Even in a jail cell he preached the right and wrong to the very end, and gave his head for staying true. But even here, he called Herod to a better place. He offered grace and forgiveness instead of judgment only. If not, would Herod have kept him around? It even says he liked hearing him preach, even if he was “perplexed.” 
In the public square, when we call out err, may we do it in such a way that Grace is lifted up. In our personal lives, may we be consistent, taking the “high road” so that we do not give others another excuse for falling away. When we fall short, may we lean on Grace, and look to our Master and Lord for the right way to go, to make amends for our wrongs, and model Christlikeness in all we say and do. 
 The High Road is hard, but only if we act like we are still hidden down in the valley. It’s the hypocrisy that makes it hard. God bless us all in the struggle. Amen. 

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Blessings, Rock