Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Proper of the Day: Pentecost XXIII

In many parishes today is All Saints' Sunday, because it's permitted to transfer All Saints' Day (Nov. 1) to the following Sunday. We did that at Trinity Parish today, so see my entry for Nov 1 here for thoughts on All Saints'. We had a glorious celebration, I have to say. The hight point for me was remembering all those enshrined in our stained glass windows within the Prayers of the People.

In other parishes that observe All Saints' on its day, today is the Twenty-Third Sunday after Pentecost. We continue our overview of the Minor Prophets, today hearing from Habbakuk, who complains to God about the injustice of the world. God replies:

Write the vision;

make it plain on tablets,

so that a runner may read it.

For there is still a vision for the appointed time;

it speaks of the end, and does not lie.

If it seems to tarry, wait for it;

it will surely come, it will not delay.

We also begin a short series from the Second letter to the Thessalonians. November of every year is sort of an "end times" theme, and both letters to the Thessalonians deal with what's going to happen in the future. They were concerned because, early in the Christian movement, believers thought Our Lord was on his way very soon, i.e., within a few years. At Thessolonica, some of the believers had already died and the Lord had not yet returned. They wrote to St. Paul for some advice, and he wrote back in I Thes. and possibly in II Thes. Today Paul, or possibly a disciple of Paul writing under his name, greets the Thessalonians and encourages them, because they're being persecuted in some way. More on that in coming weeks.

In the Gospel, we hear of Zaccheus, who, because he was short, climbed a tree to see the Lord as Jesus was passing by. Zee has a conversion experience when Jesus says he will have dinner with him tonight. That's extraordinary in and of itself because Zaccheus was not only a tax collected but apparently a chief tax collector. Remember that tax collectors were hated by the Jewish people because they collected money - extorted it, in some cases, from their fellow Jewish people and then turned it over to the hated Roman overlords. So this is a powerful story indeed that demonstrates that "it is necessary" for the Lord to dine not only with Zee, but with all who are lost. "For the Son of Man came to seek out and save the lost," - even the tax collectors.

Who are the tax collectors in our society, those who are hated by many? Undocumented aliens? Muslims? Gay people? Mormons? Who is the Lord calling us to reach out to? Is the Lord calling out to each of us? Would we be converted if Jesus had dinner with us today? Many of us dined with the Lord in the Eucharist today. How was that a converting experience for each of us?

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


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