The collect for today, the commemoration of John Coleridge Patteson (1827-71), Missionary, First Bishop of Melanesia, Martyr (source):
O God of all tribes and peoples and tongues,
who didst call thy servant John Coleridge Patteson
to witness in life and death to the gospel of Christ
amongst the peoples of Melanesia:
grant us to hear thy call to service
and to respond with trust and joy
to Jesus Christ our redeemer,
who liveth and reigneth with thee,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.
The Epistle: 1 St. Peter 4:12-19
The Gospel: St. Mark 8:34-38
John Coleridge Patteson was a curate in Devon when Bishop of New Zealand George A. Selwyn persuaded him to go out to the South Pacific as a missionary. In 1856 he journeyed to Melanesia. He encouraged boys to study at a school Selwyn had founded in New Zealand and later set up a school in Melanesia. He was very proficient in languages and eventually learned twenty-three different languages and dialects spoken in Melanesia and Polynesia.
In 1861 Patteson was consecrated Bishop of Melanesia; he travelled across his diocese constantly, preaching, teaching, confirming, building churches, and living among the people. On the main island of Mota most of the population were converted.
What is man, that thou art mindful of him?
The words of Psalm 8.4 reflect the teaching of Genesis 1 about the nature of our humanity and our place in the created order. It captures what one of the priest’s prayers at Mass names explicitly: “O God who didst wonderfully create yet more wondrously restore the dignity of our humanity”. The Hebrew word in the Psalm actually means mortal but in both the Greek Septuagint and the Latin Vulgate, the gender neutral anthroposand homo, meaning humankind, are used, thus tying the Psalm passage to the Genesis text and to the word ‘ha’adam,’ again an all-encompassing sex neutral term for our humanity. In English that term, following the Hebrew in Genesis and the Greek and the Latin translations, has been rendered generically as man. ‘Ha’adam’ is Adam, not (yet) as a name but as a comprehensive and descriptive term – man meaning humankind.
Genesis 1 presents creation as an orderly affair which proceeds not in a temporal order but in a logical process of distinguishing one thing from another. Man, ‘ha’adam’, is a creation of the sixth day, at the end of that process but not as an afterthought and not as an accident. Genesis 1 says that man, ‘ha’adam’ is made “in the image of God,” the creator. God as Creator is utterly distinct from creation and emphatically not created since God is the intellectual principle of all reality. At once connected to everything else in the created order, from dust to angels, only about Adam, man, is it said that he is made in the image of God. It suggests profoundly the dignity of our humanity. And as the Christian prayer indicates, there is the concept of dignity both in creation and in redemption. These are powerful ideas that shape a whole tradition of ethical discourse.
This idea of our humanity as having a special relation to the Creator is critical to the Judeo-Christian understanding and carries over into Islam. That sense of connection is also there in Hinduism in the relation between the Atman, the self, and Brahma, the Creator. The idea of image becomes a matter of considerable controversy in the relations between Islam and Christianity, reflected in such things as the iconoclastic controversy in the eighth and ninth centuries that contributes to the different artistic representations of religion, not only between Islam and Christianity but also within the Christian world between East and West. One of the Islamic Hadiths – collected saying of Mohammed – speaks of Adam being made in the image of Allah. For Jews, Christians, and Muslims, one point is clear. Man made in the image of God is not God, not divine. Yet the idea of image confers a certain dignity.
The collect for today, the Feast of St. Theodore of Tarsus (602-690), Archbishop of Canterbury (source):
Almighty God, who didst call thy servant Theodore of Tarsus from Rome to the see of Canterbury, and didst give him gifts of grace and wisdom to establish unity where there had been division, and order where there had been chaos: Create in thy Church, we pray thee, by the operation of the Holy Spirit, such godly union and concord that it may proclaim, both by word and example, the Gospel of the Prince of Peace; who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
The Epistle: 2 Timothy 2:1-5,10
The Gospel: St. Matthew 24:42-47
“To know the love of Christ which passeth knowledge”
The Epistle reading from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians complements wonderfully the Gospel story from St. Luke; in a way, the Gospel illustrates the teaching of the Epistle. We are shown something of “the love of Christ which passeth knowledge.”
But what does that mean? Does it mean that love is unknowable or even irrational? The love that is shown to us here and elsewhere in the Gospels is the love of God which by definition goes beyond human knowing because it is a divine knowing, the knowing love of Christ for our humanity which always exceeds the limitations of all and every form of human knowing. What is known is something which goes beyond what we can produce by our knowing. In short, something is known; it is just not something which we produce as knowledge.
Faith, too, is about something known but known as beyond us, as something divine and as such something which is always beyond our finite comprehension. We are being raised up by God to learn and know what belongs to our life with God. It is the idea of being raised up that is key, our being raised up by God and to God. Such is the power of the Gospel story. It illustrates wonderfully the love of God in Christ.
The poet, Dante, in a wonderful phrase, designates Luke as scriba mansuetudinis Christi, the scribe of the gentleness of Christ (De Monarchia I, xvi). The Gospel story of the raising of the only son of the widow of Nain is one of those stories which reminds me of that description. It shows the gentleness of Christ and illustrates the nature of the divine love which seeks our good. We are raised up out of our falleness, out of sin and death, out of grief and sorrow. Here is a kind of resurrection story which shows us something about what God seeks for our humanity. It the love which “passeth knowledge” because it goes beyond what we could imagine or do for ourselves or for one another.
It teaches us about what it might mean to be “rooted and grounded in love.” To be rooted and grounded in love is about being raised up into that divine love by “comprehending”, itself a verb about knowing or understanding, “with all saints, what is the breadth, and length, and depth and height” of that love, the love “which passeth knowledge.” It is not a knowing which comes from us but from God to us. How that is shown is the wonder and the marvel of the Gospel.
Monday, September 17th
6:30-7:30pm Sparks – Parish Hall
Tuesday, September 18th
6:00pm ‘Prayers & Praises’ – Haliburton Place
6:30-8:00pm Girl Guides – Parish Hall
7:00pm Christ Church Book Club – Coronation Room
Bookshops: A Reader’s History, by Jorge Carrion, and The Book Smugglers of Timbuktu: The Quest for This Storied City and the Race to Save Its Treasures, by Charlie English.
Wednesday, September 19th
6:30-8:00pm Brownies – Parish Hall
Thursday, September 20th, Eve of St. Matthew
3:15pm Service – Windsor Elms
7:00pm Holy Communion
Friday, September 21st, St Matthew/Ember Friday
11:00am Holy Communion – Dykeland Lodge
6:00-7:30pm Pathfinders & Rangers – Parish Hall
Sunday, September 23rd, Seventeenth Sunday after Trinity
8:00am Holy Communion
10:30am Holy Communion
7:00pm Holy Communion – KES Chapel
Saturday, September 29th
7:00-9:00pm Newfoundland & Country Evening of Musical Entertainment – Parish Hall