Ms. Cusk refers at several points to the Bible, and specifically, to Jesus. Here is one: "[Rudeness] is the outward sign of an inward and unseen calamity. Rudeness itself is not the calamity. It is the harbinger, not the manifestation, of evil. In the Bible, Satan is not rude-he is usually rather charming-but the people who act in his service are." And later: "The death threat, I suppose, is the extreme of rudeness: it is the place where word finally has to be taken as deed, where civilization's immunity reaches the place of breakdown. [...] What Jesus did was to sacrifice himself, use his body
to translate word to deed, to make evil visible. While being crucified, he remained for the most part polite. He gave others much to regret." In her conclusion, her suggested answer to her presenting question, Ms. Cusk draws on Jesus' example: "It strikes me that good manners would be the thing to aim for in the current situation. I have made a resolution, which is to be more polite. I don't know what it will do: this might be a dangerous time for politeness. It might involve sacrifices. It might involve turning the other cheek." In the end, she writes, "it would be good to have something to navigate by."
Our readings for this seventh Sunday after the Epiphany definitely give us something to navigate by, something that fills out the biblical imperative behind the impulse Rachel Cusk seems to feel. In Leviticus, God tells Moses to remind the people of Israel that they are to be holy because their God is holy; the way to holiness for them is to follow God's commandment. In the Leviticus account of the Decalogue, the writer emphasizes the importance of attending to the poor and the alien as part of following God's commands. The emphasis in on justice in all dealings, abiding by the great command to "love your neighbor as yourself." In his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul tells those young Christians that the foundation that he has laid, that is being built upon among them, is the only one that can be true-Jesus Christ himself. Wisdom resides in Christ and in his ways, not in the ways and teachings of the world. "You are his temple," Paul tells them, and as such you must be holy.
Our gospel reading continues Jesus' teaching in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus continues and extends his new context for the traditional teachings of the Law. He tells his followers to go further in their self-giving and their patience that any would imagine: when asked for your coat, go even further and give your cloak, too; when asked to carry a burden for a mile, go two; do not resist evil doers-the law is no longer "an eye for an eye"-you must "turn the other cheek." Love your enemies, Jesus commands, and pray for them; this is how you will be children of your Father in heaven.
These phrases are so familiar that we often do not consider their real-life ramifications for us in daily living. In the present world context, it would be best if we did. Perhaps then we could make a difference, although not without sacrifice.
This Sunday we will welcome Willa Bolt, daughter of Molly and Weathers Bolt and granddaughter of Sage and Preston Bolt, into the household of God. We will promise to teach her the lessons Jesus gave us, and much of our teaching will be through example. The stakes are high, and Christ is expecting us to meet them.
We will also say good-bye this Sunday to Canon Dan Wagner, who will be moving this week to Aiken, South Carolina to take up his ministry as Vicar of St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church. Please let Dan know how much you appreciate his ministry here among us and give him your prayers for a fruitful ministry in his new call. We will miss him, but he will always be a part of the Christ Church Cathedral Family.