Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Grace and Courage

Today, August 1, we pause to remember Joseph of Arimathaea. He is definitely a character on the periphery in the Passion of Christ, but nevertheless an important one. Like Nicodemus, the tradition reports that even though he was a member of the Sanhedrin, he was a "secret disciple" of Jesus. The brief write-up in Holy Women, Holy Men, states that:
When our Lord’s intimate disciples were hiding for fear of the authorities, Joseph came forward boldly and courageously to do, not only what was demanded by Jewish piety, but to act generously and humanely by providing his own tomb for the decent and proper burial of our Lord’s body, thus saving it from further desecration.
The collects written for feast days aim at capturing something of the Light that the person being commemorated allowed God to reflect through their actions. I think the collect for today is particularly astute, seeing both grace and courage as qualities that Joseph embodied in this act of asking for Jesus' body.
Merciful God, whose servant Joseph of Arimathaea with reverence and godly fear prepared the body of our Lord and Savior for burial, and laid it in his own tomb: Grant to us, your faithful people, grace and courage to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion all the days of our life; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Grace and courage. I think about how Christians are behaving, on both sides of the controversy over Chick-Fil-A, and mostly it is about self-righteous posturing. One piece that runs counter to most of what I've seen can be found here. I think that it is both graceful and courageous.

Grace without courage can leave us sitting on the sidelines, and never acting or speaking up for what is right. While it is true that all are sinners, and fall short of the glory of God; and by God's grace all is forgiven, grace without courage can allow injustice to flourish.

On the other hand, courage, without grace, can turn us into what William Sloan Coffin, Jr. used to call "good haters." It can make us bitter, certain, and angry.

When held together, grace and courage allow us to act out of our convictions without demonizing the other. We become more generous and humble. Grace and courage, together, allowed Joseph to do the right thing--the thing he was in a unique position to do. Grace and courage, together, open the path for us to love and serve Jesus with sincere devotion, all the days of our life.

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