Thursday of the Fifth Week of Easter

Lectionary: 288

As the Father loves me, so I also love you. 
Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and remain in his love.


The Latin word for rule is regula, the root of many English words like: regulation, regular, regal, regalia and reign. Regula might be translated as rule, law, commandment, precept, statute, ordinance or any of that family of synonyms.

When we hear Jesus speak of "my commandments" and "my father's commandments" we might wonder about which specific rule he has in mind. Does he mean, "Do good, avoid evil?" Or "Do unto others....?" Or "Love one another as I have loved you?"

But I think the word commandments in this context is about his reign, and our choice to remain under his rule, within his house and abide in his love. We must know the Lord as friend and champion, as savior and  redeemer -- all titles which imply what he does for us -- and as Lord, meaning we are subject to him. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is addressed as "Sir" ten times! We live in his presence as we permit his Spirit to rule our hearts.

I have a pet theory that the ancient Near East was so delighted with their codes of systematic law they considered them heaven-sent. God himself gave the law to Moses, or Hammurabi, or the Pharaoh. Gratitude and love for God practiced obedience to the law. 

But, sinful humans find ways to corrupt the observance. No law can regulate every eventuality, and ingenuity will find ways to serve oneself while ostensibly obeying the law. Stretching the law becomes convenient, then a mindset, a way of life and finally blatant hypocrisy. So long as the Deity is silent we make do with inventiveness. As a commander of the US Army remarked about the torture of prisoners at Abu Ghraib: without very specific, detailed instructions about interrogation, young soldiers can get "very creative." 

The Christian controversy introduced another way to abide gratefully within God's presence. That is, we should continually ask the Holy Spirit to reveal God's will for us. We do not assume we can interpret the laws that were formulated in ancient times by vastly different cultures. Rather, we pray that the Spirit will keep us within the tradition even as it adapts to the changing world around us. This will entail conversation, disagreement and patience. It should involve the whole community because the Holy Spirit can speak with equal facility to the newest and least, as well as the oldest and wisest, among us. 

Reading the Acts of the Apostles we see how the disciples eagerly paid attention to the Holy Spirit. They went where the Spirit told them to go, avoided those places where the Spirit prevented them, and prayed continually for guidance. If the Spirit rushed upon them they acted; if not, they refrained. They never had to be in a hurry to do anything unless the Spirit sped them along. 

This is what Saint Paul means by the life of faith. It is not simply a set of opinions, it is a way of being in God's presence continually, gratefully and confidently. 

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.