Lessons from History; Some Things Never Change
July 24, 2012 39 Comments
Chalcedon451, Jessica Hoff’s co-writer at All Along the Watchtower has done a series on a long sermon that has major significance for us today. My understanding is that Chalcedon is a distinguished scholar and historian of the early church, which is consonant with his work that I have seen. It is something that our clergy don’t often go into with us and yet, it tells us a lot about where our faith began and how took the shape we know today. I’m going to let Chalcedon introduce his subject, and then excerpt it. But, in truth, you need to read the entire series. So let’s get started.
Theophilus ofAlexandria is regarded as a Saint in the Coptic Church. He was Patriarch of Alexandria from 385-412, when he was succeeded by his nephew, the great St. Cyril. Much less well-known, he has been neglected by later historians. The best (indeed the only) scholarly introduction by Norman Russell. Theophilius’ homily on the Penitent Thief is worth our reflection
This, if you like, is the way of Our Lord Jesus Christ, when he saw the real enemy of the whole human race, who is the devil. For the devil invade the whole earth, and afflicted everyone with many kinds of sins, which he spreads with these great scourges, namely, idolatry, robbery, vanity, fornication, theft, murder, slander, licentiousness, envy, hatred, contempt, anger, sorcery, pollution, fraud, arrogance, perjury, falsehood, corruption, prostitution, deceit and whatever is similar in them. These are the traps which the devil set for humanity, until he brought it to perdition and dispersed it.
When he descended into this world, he came to the people of Israel and preached to them saying: ‘Repent for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’ (Mt. 4:17) But they paid no heed to his holy counsels. After this he performed all the signs of his divinity in their presence, miracles without number. … It was because an adulterous woman was made worthy of this great grace that her hands anointed the feet of him who had created her. (Lk. 7 37-8 ) From the moment she participated in the purity of his divinity, the voice of God came to her. ‘Your faith has saved you; go in peace.’ (Lk. 7:50)¹
They crucified him with two thieves. One of them, who was unworthy of the vision of his divinity, said to the Lord, deriding him: ‘If you are the Christ, save yourselves and us’. (Lk 23:39) The other replied, rebuking him with indignation: ‘Do you not fear God? We are receiveing the reward of our sins, which we have committed, but this man has done nothing wrong.’ And he said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him with great joy, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’ (Lk 23:40-3).
The Gate of Paradise has been closed since the time when Adam transgressed, but I will open it today, and receive you in it. because you have recognised the nobility of my head on the cross, you who have shared with me the suffering of the cross will be my companion in the joy of the kingdom. You have glorified me in the presence of carnal men, in the presence of sinners. I will therefore glorify you in the presence of the angels. You were fixed with me me on the cross, and you united yourself with me of your own free will. I will therefore love you, and my Father will love you, and the angels will serve you with my holy food. If you used once to be a companion of murderers, behold, I who am the life of all have now made you a companion with me. You used once to walk the night with the sons of darkness; behold, I who am the light of the whole world have now made you walk with me. You used once to take counsel with murderers; behold, I who am the Creator have made you a companion with me.²
All these things I will pardon you because you have confessed my divinity in the presence of those who denied me. For they saw all the signs which I performed, but did not believe in me. You then, a rapacious robber, a murderer, a brigand, a swindler, a plunderer have confessed that I am God….
See, now, brethren, what torment the man who denied the Lord brought upon himself? We should therefore watch over ourselves that we should not be led astray, that for the sake of the things of this life we should not be made strangers to him who has created us. Perhaps there is someone today who is denying God for the sake of riches, because the love of money closes the eyes of those who are given to it. Such a person takes the part of Judas. He has sold the Lord for thirty pieces of silver.³
I think there are lessons for us approximately 1600 years later in this homily.
- First, Jesus came to save us but, if we fail to recognize him, he, in his turn, will also fail to recognize us, with dire consequences for our soul.
- Second, Confessing in church on Sunday morning isn’t going to cut it, if you are not going to confess your faith when it has a cost for you, your return will equal your benefit. You shall reap what you sow.
- Third, let not the things of this world concern you more than the things of the next. Be careful, it’s very easy to do this, even with good will.
Would you like a real life example of this sermon in action? I thought so. Let’s wander out to Oklahoma and talk with a legislator there a bit, her name is Rebecca Hamilton, and she is a heroine of mine.
Where there is no vision, the people perish. Proverbs 29: 18
… and he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6: 34
For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall much be required. Luke 12: 48
Demagoguery is not preaching Christ.
Protecting priestly privilege is not preaching Christ.
Pandering to your parishioners is not preaching Christ.
Pandering to your brother and sister clergy is not preaching Christ.
Pandering to political parties and secular powers is not preaching Christ.
Protecting your career and advancement in the Church is not preaching Christ.
We are like sheep without a shepherd. In fact, we are more than like sheep without a shepherd. We are sheep without a shepherd. Telling us how to vote is not telling us how to live. It does not equip us to be the salt and light that bring the Kingdom. It does not grow our faith in Christ. What it does is gather political power to the person who is telling us how to vote.
We are lied to, manipulated, whipped up into hatred and degraded with cheap slogans instead of intelligent dialogue by the media, the two political parties and the various candidates. We don’t need more of the same coming at us from the pulpits in our churches.
We need Christ and Him crucified. We need clergy who will preach the revolutionary, civilization-building, soul-saving Gospel of Christ in all its fullness.
Continue reading Stop Slogan-Voting. Stop Hate-Voting. Stop Being Manipulated. Part 6. Preach Christ = Preach Christ Crucified. In fact you should read the whole series, it is all of this quality.
So there we have it, the church in Alexandria in approximately 400 AD and the church in Oklahoma with exactly the same problem in 2012 AD. Is it any different where you live?
Same problem, Same solution.
- Do You Know Jesus? (servehiminthewaiting.wordpress.com)