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Archive for May 18th, 2012

Introduction:  The Gospel Reading for the 7th Sunday of Pascha (Easter), in Year B of the 3 year lectionary,  St. John 17:  11b-19,  can be summed up with this familiar statement:  “The Church is in the world but not of the world.”  Why?  The Church is modeled by the Holy Spirit after Jesus Christ Who is also in the world but not of the world. “They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.” Verse 16  There is so much in Scripture to reiterate this reality.  This Gospel Reading reminded me of The Letter to Diognetus.  The author of this letter is unknown but the recipient, Diognetus, was  a “…pagan of high social or political rank.” The letter is an apology for Christianity.  An apology is first and foremost a defense of a position.   (Only later did “apology” become  associated with sorrow over a wrong action, “Oh, I apologize that I step on your toe…”  But that is not the apology!  “…on your toe, because I did not see you.” That is the apology, the defense.)  This letter from the late 2nd Century is a powerful example of an apology and is becoming more relevant in the 21st century day by day.  Someone wrote a book on this letter entitled, Resident Aliens.  This is what Christian are.  (quote above and below from Ancient Christian Writers)

Christians are not distinguished from the rest of mankind by either country, speech, or customs;  the fact is, they nowhere settle in cities of their own; they use no peculiar language; they cultivate no eccentric mode of life.  Certainly, this creed of theirs is no discovery due to some fancy or speculation of inquisitive men;  nor do they, as some do, champion a doctrine of human origin. Yet while they dwell in both Greek and non-Greek cities, as each one’s lot was cast, and conform to the customs of the country in dress, food, and mode of life in general, the whole tenor of their way of living stamps it as worthy of admiration and admittedly extraordinary.  They reside in their respective countries, but only as aliens. They take part in everything as citizens and put up with everything as foreigners. Every foreign land is their home, and every home a foreign land.  They marry like all others and beget children; but they do not expose their offspring.”  Their board they spread for all, but not their bed. They find themselves in the flesh, but do not live according to the flesh. They spend their days on earth, but hold citizenship in heaven.  They obey the established laws, but in their private lives they rise above the laws. They love all men, but are persecuted by all.  They are unknown,  yet are condemned; they are put to death, but it is life that they receive.  They are poor, and enrich many;  destitute of everything, they abound in everything.  They are dishonored, and in their dishonor find their glory. They are calumniated, and are vindicated.  They are reviled, and they bless;  they are insulted and render honor.  Doing good, they are penalized as evildoers; when penalized, they rejoice because they are quickened into life. 

Father of all holiness,
guide our hearts to you.
Keep in the light of your truth
all those you have freed from the darkness of unbelief.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever.

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