When Shakespeare penned these words, the point was, “not much,” although that didn’t prove to be the case as two star-crossed lovers lost their lives in fair Verona. What we name things defines how we see them and how they impact our lives. In the Western Protestant Church, we have two sacraments as so designated in Latin, which became the language of the realm in the early Church. Sacramentum means a “sacred obligation.” We are defined to the obligation of receiving the sacraments. Of course, that fits well with the Roman understanding of the sacrament as the ultimate arbiter of God’s grace. The Eastern Church is not caught up in the obligation thing as these rites are simply known as “the Mysteries.” Participating in a holy mystery seems more inviting than servicing an obligation as obligation comes across as something we’ve gotten ourselves into and need to get out of as painlessly as possible.
This subject came up in a discussion of grace and faith in the Bible Study held in the Cook Room Sunday. (If you have not made plans to be part of the Advent Study beginning next week, please do so. These discussions are quite challenging and informative.) We talked about the receiving of God’s grace and what our response should be. We agreed that God-given free will enables us to accept or reject God’s gracious offer of relationship. In fact, I argue that free-will is the image of God in which we are created. What happens when we accept God’s grace?
Do we have an obligation to “be Christian?” Does that suggest some sort of mechanistic program for living the Christian life? I had a parishioner once give me a note pad that said, “What’s the minimum I need to do and still get to heaven?” It was sadly on point if we think about the Christian life as an obligation. As we talked Sunday, the word responsibility came to the fore. In thinking about the word, it is the ability to respond, and as such, makes us able to choose for ourselves whether we answer God’s call in Christ, and the life-giving, life-changing, life-completing gift that comes with it.
Christ calls us freely to respond to his offer of relationship. God’s grace enables us to respond to that offer. When we do respond, we find that we have a responsibility for be in relationship. It is ongoing, as opposed to a one-time assumption of vows and obligation. Rather than tiring of obligation, we find response-ability to deepen our relationship with Christ. As we move into Advent and the new beginning of the story, what a wonderful time to reaffirm our response to God through Jesus. That responsibility is literally life-changing, in this world and the next.
But…before Advent, we celebrate Christ the King Sunday, the last Sunday of the Christian year. Join us this Sunday as we look forward to God’s consummation of history and the recognition that Jesus is Lord over all creation. There will come a time when every knee shall bend and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord (see Philippians 2.6ff.).
There is a silent auction set up outside the office door, disposing of some un-needed items from the kitchen. Take a look, make a bid. The funds go into the General Fund.
The resource for the Advent Study is Adam Hamilton, The Journey: Walking the Road to Bethlehem. I look forward to seeing you on Nov. 27.
I also look forward to seeing you Sunday,