Saint John continues our late-summer Gospel readings with Jesus feeding the ancient crowds with bread, and feeding us with his Word. We are confronted again with the ‘either-or’ questions of discipleship we have been hearing from Jesus all summer.
And then Saint Mark concludes our summer of self-examination, questioning whether we value human traditions more than God’s ancient commandments. St. Mark’s Jesus stories, late this month from his gospel, are all challenges to our troubling complacence with “getting back to normal”, and yet our wanting to take on faithful responsibilities, on July 4.
The Second Readings from Ephesians have already begun a seven-week journey (now through early Fall) beginning with a vision of the risen Christ, in whom God gathers all things — all things — even biblical binaries which appear as contradictory opposites!
Ephesians 4.1-6 Christians in the world share a fundamental unity and diversity. Our unity consists in the one body, one Spirit, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God. Our diversity is expressed in various forms of ministry whose goal is equipping the saints and building up Christ’s One body. August 1
Ephesians 4.25-5.2 Christians are called to be imitators of God. This does not mean Christians are perfect. Rather, the Spirit is at work in our lives so that our actions and attitudes genuinely reflect the love and forgiveness we have received through Christ and his death. August 8
Ephesians 5.15-20 True wisdom integrates our new reality in Christ with our weekly Christian fellowship and daily conduct. Because we are filled with the Spirit, Christians regularly rejoice together, give thanks to God for one another, and care for one another. In this way we revere our Lord Jesus Christ. August 15
Ephesians 6.10-20 Like a military general giving a rousing speech to troops before battle, this letter closes by calling on Christians to be equipped for spiritual warfare against evil. The full armor of God includes truth, righteousness, peace, faith, the gift of salvation, and the word of God inspired by the Spirit. August 22
Ephesians has a catechetical style (Catechism Class!), making it suitable for in-depth summer Bible study or expositorystyle preaching. Like the long series from Saint John “Bread of Life” discourses, there is much to “chew on” from this “Church Letter”.
And then, like the first stiff breeze of Fall, there is an abrupt shift to the Epistle of James at the very last of August. Lest we get lost in Ephesians beautiful rhetoric, plain-speaking James points us toward a pure religion that cares for the abused, and the oppressed, and the forgotten: widows and orphans.
James 1.17-27 The letter of James was intended to provide first-century Christians with instructions in godly behavior. Here Christians are encouraged to listen carefully and to act on what they hear, especially by caring for those least able to care for themselves. August 29
After a long summer crawling out of an epidemic, there is still discipleship work to do!