Who Am I?

The Didache 21 – Do What You Are Able

Posted: July 1st, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Didache | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Didache 21 – Do What You Are Able

This series is reflecting on the Didache if you want to read it separately.

For if you are able to bear the entire yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect; but if you are not able to do this, do what you are able. And concerning food, bear what you are able; but against that which is sacrificed to idols be exceedingly careful; for it is the service of dead gods.

Once again we encounter the idea of being perfect, this time in connection with being able to bear the entire yoke of the Lord. All who follow Jesus are called to the same yoke, the same rule, the same way. Whether it be love, prayer, ascetism, or vocation, we are all called into the fullness of life. When you read the gospels, the yoke of Jesus can sometimes seem overwhelming. It permeates every aspect of our lives and is so foreign to what we often consider “natural”. And yet there is also boundless mercy, especially in the recognition that we are to grow in faith and practice through the presence and activity of God in our lives. We are not expected to instantly be perfect, in any sense of the word. That would be a crushing weight indeed.

And here we see that reflected here in the very early tradition of the church. Do what you can. Receive the grace of God, which is to say receive God himself, and swim in the mercy of God. Move. Act. Live. And do all that you are able in the yoke of the Lord. This is reflected even today in the life of the Orthodox Church. There is one rule for everyone within the church: monastics, presbyters, deacons, and that first order of the royal priesthood often call the laity. And yet there is economy whenever needed. If in the demands of your work, you cannot pray all the hours and have not absorbed the Jesus Prayer or other prayers to the point that you pray without ceasing, pray those hours you can manage. If for health or other reasons you cannot keep the full fast, work with your priest to find a fast that you can follow. If you are fasting and are given a meal in love and hospitality by one who does not follow the same fast, thank that person graciously and eat the meal. The person is more important than your fast.

We don’t often encounter meat sacrificed to idols in our part of the world these days. It can be hard for us to recognize how prevalent that was in the ancient world. In some markets at some times, it could be hard to find any meat that was not a remnant of a sacrifice. The tension here is the one Paul addressed many times and which the Council of Jerusalem described in Acts faced also. Paul largely dealt with the love expressed to one who offers you a meal when he wrote not to ask and to share in hospitality. Paul wrote that we are free, but that some might remember their worship of those other gods and be drawn back toward. The Council was establishing rules that would allow Jewish and Gentile believers to share the same table.

It might be interesting if we attempted to identify our “meat sacrificed to idols” today. What do we blithely consume today that is in service to dead gods?


The Didache 18 – Confession

Posted: June 28th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Didache | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on The Didache 18 – Confession

This series is reflecting on the Didache if you want to read it separately.

In the church you shall acknowledge your transgressions, and you shall not come near for your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life.

The Teaching emphasizes confession. As in James, the earliest records are of confession before the whole church. Historically, it developed to be just the presbyter listening as you confessed to the Lord because public confession tended to harm those who heard the confession and were not strong enough to bear it. Some would hear the sin confessed and be tempted by that same sin. Others would hear the confession and pride like that of the pharisee in the parable of the pharisee and the publican would begin to weave its way into their hearts. Yet it is important that we confess to someone or the confession simply does not have the same power in our own minds and lives. Silent, inward confession does not tend to lead to change.

Confession has all but vanished from modern evangelicalism. The “altar call” or “invitation” provides a poor substitute among those groups who use it. “Accountability partners or groups” feel creepy and sick to me the way they are typically presented. They seem to be more about artificial control-based relationships than anything else. There is no confession. And as a result we are not honest with each other, with ourselves, or with God.

How can we avoid the masquerade discussed in my previous post if we do not know how to tell the truth?

For that is ultimately what confession is. We tell the truth about ourselves to God in the presence of another human being. And in so doing, we begin to become human once more.

This marks the end of the Teaching on the way of life. It’s been a list of commandments to do and things we need not to do. All of it taken together forms the way of life.