Friday, 2 March 2012

The Great Omission

My colleague, the Rev. Dr. David Usher allowed me to post this. I can not know if his report is accurate...

- Andy

The Great Omission 

The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke all contain reference to what is known as The Great Commission, when Jesus charges his disciples to go in pairs out into the world to preach the new gospel, giving them authority to perform miracles of healing in his name. He warns them that they must not think of their own physical comfort, nor will not always be made welcome where they go, but he reassures them that through all travails they will be blessed for the work they do.

In a dramatic development which has been hailed as the most significant for Biblical studies since the discovery of The Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, previously lost fragments of Scripture have been discovered which cast new light on The Great Commission. They show that the disciples were rather less willing to accept Jesus’ charge than had been thought.

The fragments read as follows…

First Chapter
  1. But when the disciples heard these words of Jesus, and they thought of the discomfort and inconvenience to which they had been charged, they did appoint a delegation to go unto Jesus and offer their objections.
  2. And the delegation did go to Jesus, and they did say unto him.
  3. Lord, we like not what thou hast given us to do. For verily, the way you show us is full of hardship and sacrifice, and we think we are not fit for what they demandest of us. For lo, we are but twelve, and the world is a large and hostile place.
  4. And is it not so that the faith to which you called us is a faith of personal salvation? And we answered your call because we wanted the well-being of our own souls, and not because we wanted to be missionaries unto the world.
  5. Let us instead meet in small circles where we may practise a faith of quietness and seclusion.
  6. For verily, the smallness of our number is a true testament to our spiritual purity. Are we not above the unseemly scramble of the market-place. We would not wish to sully the holiness of our smallness by inviting in the unwashed and the unclean. 
  7. The fact that we are few makes us feel special. We do not want to spread your message to the unclean, Lord, lest we become less special in thy sight, and we lose the sense of intimacy with you that we hold so dear.
  8. For truly we say unto thee, Master, that if we allow too many into our circle we will become corrupted by their presence, and the ways we love will be no more.
  9. Therefore let us not make ourselves known. Let us not proclaim our healing message loudly to the world, but whisper it only to ourselves.
  10. Let us hide ourselves away, and the reward for those who find us in spite of our hiddenness is that we shall allow only them to be part of our quiet number.
  11. For it is surely so, that our smallness is the most true testament of our specialness.

Second chapter
  1. And the Disciples did say further,
  2. Lord, it worrieth us that you are alienating people, when surely your message is one of being nice to our neighbours and not upsetting them. Do you not say that we must love our neighbour as ourselves?
  3. Lord, we ask that you refrain from doing works of public charity. Prithee, do not again feed the hungry as you have done before. For we are told that to feed the hungry only encourages their idleness. We must exhort them to feed themselves, even though there is no food nor money with which to purchase. Lo, you did feed the many thousands that one time, and verily did many thousands come back a second time to be fed, and where is the end of it to be?
  4. And lo, we have had word from the Federation of Kosher Bakers, protesting that we do take away their livelihood by creating loaves as if by miracle.
  5. Likewise, your miracles of healing, Master, do cause resentment. For why should one be healed and not another? 
  6. If thou canst not heal all, or feed all, or clothe all, or comfort all, then surely it is better to heal or feed or clothe or comfort none, lest there be jealousy.
  7. Master, we beg of thee, it is better not to do the work of justice and compassion at all. For such is not the true work of the spirit.
  8. The work of the spirit is in quiet contemplation and the recitation of comforts for our own soul.

Third Chapter
  1. And Jesus did rebuke them, saying
  2. And did thou thinkest that the invitation was only unto thee, my first few?
  3. Did thou thinkest that once thou was safely within the castle, thou might pull up the drawbridge against others who might enter?
  4. As I extended the invitation to you that you might freely receive this liberating gospel, so must you extend it to others, for it is not for you alone but for all who would be glad to receive it.
  5. If your heart has been gladdened by this gift of faith, dare you withhold it from another?
  6. Your desire for comfort is no testament to the purity of your soul, but a witness against the hardness of your heart.
  7. And the acts of kindness and compassion to the multitudes are not mere spectacles that people might gape and marvel.
  8. They are the very core of faith, for without them, faith is but a withered vine of use to no-one.
  9. Therefore, I command ye again, hide not your light beneath a bushel. Share the gift of your faith with all on the highway and in the market-place. Bless them that have their own faith, and wish them true joy in it, but deny not your faith to others who might be glad of it.
  10. For those not willing to share faith are not worthy to keep it.
  11. Those not willing to show compassion are not worthy to receive it.
  12. Those not willing to speak the Word are not fit to hear it.
  13. And the disciples were rebuked, and their contrition was real. And they did go out to the world, two by two as Jesus had commanded, and they did preach the new gospel of love to all who would hear it. And they did endure hardship, and some did spit upon them, but they also found many who rejoiced to hear this new word, and who did join the growing throng of eager believers.

The discovery of this new fragment makes one wonder what might have happened to Christianity if the timidity of the disciples had prevailed. Might it have slowly withered away, with the ever -diminishing band convincing itself that its decline was not their fault, it was just a sign of the times, that anyway it was better to die than to do anything which might be uncomfortable or not be according to accepted norms, or even upset the neighbours.