A teaching-based identity (Judges 8,32-9,24; Hebrews 8 / Tuesday after the Sunday after Ascension Day, BCP)
Today’s pair of readings sets up the possible starkest contrast. On the one hand, we see when a community gives in to idol-worship and totally loses its true self. ‘And it came to pass, as soon as Gideon was dead, that the children of Israel turned again, and went a whoring after Baalim, and made Baal-berith their God. And the children of Israel remembered not the Lord their God, who had delivered them out of the hands of all their enemies.’ On the other hand, we can see the firmest possible connection rebuilt between man and God. ‘We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heavens; a minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle.’
The big question faced by our generation is this. How to transform one’s nature from being an ‘idol worshipper’ into a genuine recipient of God’s revelation? How can we bend our habits, conditioned by the idols of consumerism, to serve God? Only in this way shall emerge Christian communities on the ‘ruins of Christian communities’.
This requires extra work. The Church of England is particularly facing the challenge of recovering its sense of doctrine. Without the knowledge and understanding of our faith, who we are, there is no firm identity. When people are drawn by the Christian teaching, and not only stimulating music, then we can say that there is genuine church growth.
Paul’s important and beautiful icon of Christ, as our living doctrine, is a pivotal motive on this journey towards growth. ‘For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know they Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.’
This passage tells us that the knowledge of God is important. Also, it informs us, that the renewal of this knowledge-based covenant is important. However, the heart of the message is that God is willing to teach us, to transform us, through Christ, who is our bridge to divine life. This passage by Paul radiates a healing peace and a reassurance that our relationship with God is permanent! The gates of understanding divine Love are open; so ‘discipuli, advertite animos!’ Disciples of the Lord, open you souls to the one who is speaking/teaching!
These are verbal Icons, expressions of how the world is seen from Saint Augustine's..