Belonging to the Christian community

Frances writes on the readings for this coming Sunday :- This section of Luke’s gospel (Luke 12:32-48) is all part of his exploration of the Christian life. As it was most likely written for converts from paganism, I think we can get some insights from his use of Jesus’ teachings, by way of looking at the world with which they were so familiar on an everyday basis. Jesus consistently taught that he had not come to be served but to serve, not as master but as servant, slave of the Good News; of his Father’s will. He taught about this by way of parables, memorable stories which fixed the meaning of his teaching in the minds of his hearers. Jesus’ understanding of what it was to be God was astoundingly different from any belief about pagan gods, just as it shattered the ideas of Jews about the meaning and being of God. But just what did that imply; was it demanding of a revolution or was it suggestive of an approach to God in which their everyday world acquired a new perspective?

Converts from paganism would have been very familiar with Saturnalia, (17-23rd December), the winter festival in which slaves would dress up as the master of the house and lord it over all for the holiday. It was a time of frivolity and rejoicing in which this great role-reversal served to emphasise the master-servant role, not diminish it. It was part of that vast network of obligations and meanings that bound master and servant, patron and clients in an unassailable web of relationships of dependency. Happy those servants (slaves) whom the master finds awake when he comes. I tell you solemnly, he will put on an apron, sit them down at table and wait on them. Readiness, alertness to what was going on, was fundamental both to the festival and the wider meaning of the interrelationships between all involved; and both Jesus and Luke emphasised this to the full in the new community of the Christian Church. Here mutuality and dependency were fundamental to the life of the Church. Nowhere was it suggested that the new faith was about the rejection of one’s social duties, far from it, they now became an essential part of belonging to the household of God in which the earthly community played its essential part.

This is why the use of parables continues, with its emphasis on the need for household security, reminding us that the larger houses would have had guards or night watchmen, and continues through this imagery with the issue of stewardship. By the 1st century AD large tracts of Italy, Sicily and North Africa had become either Imperial property, or the large estates of the very rich, and these would have been under the supervision of stewards, often senior slaves or freedmen dependants of the owners. Their behaviour was critical to the smooth running of the estate, and a negligent steward could bring about its decline whilst a diligent one ensure its success, and both could expect to be treated accordingly. Inadequate stewards could well be downgraded and maltreated whilst the successful might expect their freedom and be set up in business by their master. All ex slaves would be keenly aware of the continuing power of their patrons over their lives which even extended to future misdemeanours and powers of inheritance. The maxim when a man has had a great deal given him on trust, even more will be expected of him, would have rung bells in the mindset of many at this time. Ancient Christianity was definitely not about a liberal society but about obligations and duties performed in honour of a great deity.

Our reading from Hebrews, (Heb 11:1-2.8-19), speaks a lot of ‘faith’. When we look at the explanation given, we see that this is not some intrinsic ability to believe given by God, but rather a call to action on behalf of the recipients. Abraham set out on his journey to the Promised Land; Sarah conceived a child who would bring the race into being, and their descendants are those ‘in search’ of a homeland or, rather a full relationship with God, their ‘heavenly homeland’. Abraham was willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of Isaac, his only son, to God. In this sense then ‘faith’ seems to be about actions, behaviour which make one’s relationship with God, and with the community of which they were so vital a part. In fulfilling their obligations to it they became what they were intended to be. If Abraham had stopped at home in Southern Iraq he could never have been the founder of the Jewish people, and the whole of his story, of his losing his ancestral gods and of the ‘sacrifice’ of Isaac, is about the forging of this new relationship with the one God and his rejection of older practices such as infant sacrifice. Abraham had all these experiences not on his own, but from within a community that he made into the People of God.

The Book of Wisdom, (18:6-9), was probably written about 50 BC, at a time when Palestine had been occupied by the Romans. Its’ aim appears to be to bolster the scattered Jewish diaspora, be that in Egypt or other parts of the Mediterranean or at home, by emphasising the correct behaviour for the Jew. It consistently favourably contrasts the behaviour of the righteous with that of the unrighteous or their enemies, non-believers, and promises triumph, success and prosperity for correct worship of God and the ultimate downfall of their opponents. We find such a simplistic and rather crass approach unpalatable and even unrealistic today, but it nevertheless raises real issues for us. What is the meaning of belonging to the Christian community? How do we express this and what will be the consequences of our neglect of these obligations to specific congregations? If the writer of Wisdom was driven to write this tract, how are we today to be aroused to play our part in the continuation of the Church we fully expect to be there for our sons and daughters in the future?

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2 thoughts on “Belonging to the Christian community

  1. CHRISTIAN PRIESTS????

    Are there Christian priests mentioned in the Bible? The only high priest mentioned is Jesus Christ. The priesthood of all believers is mentioned, however, there is not an office of Christian priest for selected individuals.

    JESUS IS THE HIGH PRIEST!

    Hebrews 3:1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession;

    JESUS IS THE HIGH PRIEST!

    Hebrews 2:17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.

    The so-called Christians priests of today cannot grant forgiveness from sins nor can they make atonement for the sins of the people. Only Jesus is a high priest.

    Hebrews 7:11-12 Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aron? 12 For when thepriesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also.

    The Levitical priesthood ended when Jesus died on the cross. There is and never has been a Christian priesthood of individual priest, overseeing, or acting as priests of congregations. THE INDIVIDUAL CHRISTIAN PRIEST IS A MAN-MADE PRIESTHOOD.

    Hebrews 8:3-4 For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest also have something to offer. 4 Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law;

    Christians nor anyone else are under the Law. If Jesus were here on earth He would not be a priest. Why would any Christian, here on earth, consider himself to be a priest able to offer gifts or sacrifices.

    THERE IS ONLY ONE PRIEST STANDING BETWEEN MAN AND GOD. THAT PRIEST IS JESUS CHRIST.

    1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Jesus Christ,

    A HOLY PRIESTHOOD, A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD INCLUDES ALL CHRISTIANS.

    1 Peter 2:4-9 ….5 you also, as living stones, are being built up as a spiritual house for a holypriesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ…… 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’ own possession….

    Peter was talking to Christians who were throughout the world. (Peter 1:1). Peter was not addressing certain individuals who were selected to the office of priest.

    THE OFFICE OF CHRISTIAN PRIEST IS NOT MENTION IN THE BIBLE. Christian priests are only mentioned in church catechisms and other extra-Biblical books. Man-made writings are not Scripture.

    Ephesians 4:11-12 And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, 12 for equipping of the saints for the work of service, to building up the body of Christ; 13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith…

    You will notice priests were not mentioned as equipping the saints. Why? Because Jesus is the priest. There is no office of “CHRISTIAN PRIEST.”

    YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. Google search>>>steve finnell a christian view

    1. Thank you. I have approved this because it is a well presented piece on the Protestant view of the priesthood most of which the Catholic Church agrees with. However, as you might imagine, the Catholic Church does not agree that there cannot be people called Bishops or Priests in the Church provided, as we do, that we always affirm that there is only one true High Priest, Jesus Christ and that all the people of God are called to be part of his priesthood, as a chosen race, a royal priesthood. I will write later on how the Church justifies calling those that lead the Church Episcopoi, Bishops in English and calling those that assist them Priests and Deacons.

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