Jun 29, 2020

COMMEMORATION OF ST PETER & ST PAUL

Tradition holds that this is the day when both St. Peter and St. Paul were martyred for their witness to Jesus Christ as God's Messiah (i.e. Anointed One) whose kingdom stands in contrast to the Roman Empire.




O God, make haste to help us.
Make haste to care for us, O God.
Glory be to the Blessed and Holy One.
And blessed is the Kin-Dom forevermore.

PRAYER
Loving One, Holy and Mighty, Holy Immortal
hear us as we pray.
You are the presence of all that is good and beautiful
throughout your creation.
You are the breath we breathe,
the mystery in our imagination.
To you be glory and praise
in all times and places.
For you alone are God
and you alone we worship.
Amen.

SCRIPTURE       Matthew 16
When Jesus came to the neighborhood of Caesarea Philippi, he asked the disciples this question: 
“What do people say about who the Chosen One is?”
They replied, “Some say John the Baptizer, others say Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
“And you,” he said, “who do you say that I am?”
“You are the Messiah,” Simon Peter answered, “the Firstborn of the Living God!”
Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon ben-Jonah! 
No mere mortal has revealed this to you, but my Abba God in heaven.
I also tell you this: your name now is ‘Rock,’ and on bedrock like this I will build my community, and the jaws of death will not prevail against it.
“Here—I’ll give you the keys to the reign of heaven: 
whatever you declare bound on earth
will be bound in heaven,
and whatever you declare loosed on earth
will be loosed in heaven.”
Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible. Sheed & Ward.

SCRIPTURE       Ephesians 3
For I, Paul—a prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles—am sure that you have heard of God’s grace, of which I was made a steward on your behalf; this mystery, as I have briefly described it, was given to me by revelation.
When you read this, you can understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
which was unknown to the people of former ages, but is now revealed by the Spirit to the holy apostles and prophets.
That mystery is that the Gentiles are heirs, as are we; members of the Body, as are we; and partakers of the promise of Jesus the Messiah through the Good News, as are we.
I became a minister of the Good News by the gift of divine grace given me through the working of God’s power.
To me, the least of all believers, was given the grace to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ and to enlighten all people on the mysterious design which for ages was hidden in God, the Creator of all.
Priests for Equality. The Inclusive Bible. Sheed & Ward.

THOUGHTS FOR MEDITATION
Upon the confession of Peter (i.e. “You are the Firstborn of the Living God"), the Church has been built. Not on Peter the person, but the truth to which Peter testifies.

And, as that Church was becoming, Peter and Paul had their differences. There were things they just could not agree on. It was not so much a conflictual understanding of who Jesus was. Rather, it basically was based in a question that was arguing the finer points of what the Good News meant for the people.
Paul has raised the question: "does a person who is not Jewish and of the Hebrew Faith, have to become Jewish in order to then become Christian (i.e. followers in the way of Jesus)? At the core of this question was the Hebrew ritual of circumcision. 

Gentiles, or people other than those of the Jewish Tradition and Hebrew Faith, were normally not circumcised following birth (8 days following, to be precise). Thus, in Peter's thinking even adult converts to the Church would need to be circumcised in keeping with the covenant God made with Abraham (i.e. Genesis 
17.10—"Every male among you shall be circumcised.")

Paul, on the other hand, saw no need for converts to become Jewish before becoming Christian. While circumcision served its purpose in the history of the Hebrew people, there was no need at all to subject converts to such rituals and practices.

The larger problem here is not whether one is circumcised, but that circumcision only involved the male gender. The point that seems to be missed by Peter and Paul (one might say, especially Paul who was the voice from the Gentile people, opening the Church to the inclusion of both Jew and Gentile) is that you do not have to be male to be in God's love and care. You do not need to be male to have the same blessing and standing in the Kin-Dom as the culture maintained.

What if...what if the Scriptures were not written by males? What if the female followers of Jesus were given the same recognition and honor as the male disciples? What if women were not barred from the religious authority of that day? What is women were the majority of Church leaders today?

______________________
Delores Williams, the Paul Tillich Professor of Feminist Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York, calls herself a ''womanist'' theologian. (The term ''womanist'' was coined by the writer Alice Walker to describe ''black feminism.'' )

To Ms. Williams, womanist theology is concerned with the place and practice of religion in the lives of African-American women. If religion, as Ms. Williams maintains, should embrace matters of ''race, gender and class,'' then in the African-American community religion must deal with the ubiquitous ''issue of violence,'' and that includes the ''violence in the crucifixion of Jesus.''

To Christians, the murder of Jesus represents the first step in salvation, God's deliverance from sin and victory over evil, but to Ms. Williams and her ideological kin, it is also a sobering echo of the frequent murder in the streets and abuse of children, particularly in homes distressed by poverty. ''How do you teach these children that a loving father sent his son to be murdered?'' she asks. ''How do you teach them that this amounts to love? We do not need theories of atonement that focus on the blood and murder of Jesus.''

Ms. Williams does not want to excise the crucifixion from religious practice. She simply wants it reinterpreted. ''I want to give it a meaning less consistent with and supportive of the violence that is so endemic to our society,'' she says. What this means in practice is a shift from emphasizing the cross as the symbol of salvation to emphasizing Jesus's life as the vehicle for Christian deliverance.

''The ministry of Jesus is what brought salvation to humankind,'' she said. ''The cross represents only the results of that.'' 
from the New York Times: "Feminists Nurture a More Tolerant Christianity" Michael Norman, April 11, 1998
______________________
What empire do we need to stand up against? What in our world and culture are more like Caesar and less like Jesus?

One can only hope that white males of privilege will step aside, support women (and women who are a people of color), listen to them, learn from them, and celebrate their leadership. Perhaps a day to commemorate Mary and Martha, Lois and Eunice, Phoebe and Lydia, Priscilla and Rhoda and Mary (mother of John Mark) would be spot on.


PRAYER
God of all people, God of all love, God of all goodnessforgive us our sin of male preference, racism, and misogyny.
Violence must end. 
Genders must be equal. 
Allmeaning ALLmust have equity in access to the resources of your giving,
and all the resources that will eliminate hatred, discrimination, warfare, and bring healing, reconciliation, and unity even in our diversity.
Amen.



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