Thursday, September 29, 2016

Going Beyond

In the gospel lesson Sunday (Matthew 5:21-37), Jesus revisits and teaches on the law or the commandments given to Israel by Moses (in Matthew's gospel, Jesus parallels Moses in several illustrations). In his continuing address to the disciples, Jesus teaches that while the law is binding, our hearts should go an extra distance. Jesus said, "You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment..." Following Jesus bids us to go deeper than just keeping rules and laws. Jesus teaches us to examine our hearts and keep our motives pure.

Today, the church remembers Thomas Bray, an English parson who came to the colony of Maryland around 1800 to educate clergy, laity, and children in the ways of the faith and of the Church. He founded thirty-nine lending libraries in the new world, as well as several schools, and raised money for missionary work.

Upon his return to England, Thomas Bray was appalled at the condition of English prisons and raised public awareness of the problem. Again, he raised money to help fund ways to alleviate the misery of inmates. He organized Sunday "Beer and Beef" dinners in the prisons as well as proposed prison reform. 

The example Thomas Bray sets for us in light of the gospel of Jesus is that he goes beyond the rule of law to care for the sick and those in prison and took the initiative to affect change for those suffering. Not just visit the imprisoned, but improve their lives and conditions, following the charge to "respect the dignity of every human being" as our Baptismal Covenant states in the Book of Common Prayer. As an Anglican, Bray would hold fast to this theology.

Go the extra step to follow Jesus. Rather than merely refrain from violence, be kind to others. Rather than following basic precepts of your own faith, take the initiative to make someone else's life a little better. In doing this, we will find immeasurable grace, and the peace that passes human understanding.

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