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circus ringmasters

... my heart’s desire and prayer to God for them is that they might be saved [Greek = delivered from serious peril; kept in good health; preserved in inner being]. ...... For, being ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God, and seeking to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness.        Romans 10: 1-3


Yes, in Jersey there are many who would love to be and attempt to be (and, in some cases, are) circus ringmasters – in charge over all in their immediate circle.


He/she arranges everything in his/her circle in accordance with his/her wishes. By word or by whip. Because his/her way is right.


But look at the words in bold above. They were written about people like that who sought, in the same way, to establish their own right-ness, their own righteousness.


Who were “they”? Who were the people about whom the writer had such longing that he prayed for “them” with all his heart? (Note in passing that this writer really, truly loved circus ringmasters – something that is terribly hard to do.)


 “They” were the ethnic group of people known as “Israel” in around AD 55. That group comprised all manner of people in all manner of occupations with all manner of gifts and skills – and with all manner of besetting problems internal and external.


What about the writer? He was Paul, a highly educated, highly intelligent, highly articulate natural leader. He was trained under a Doctor of Laws (Rabban – higher than Rabbi - Gamaliel) in the city of Tarsus (same Tarsus as in present day Turkey).   He was a member of that ethnic group. He loved his own ethnic group. Just as folk have come to love Jersey and to love all who live here by birth or by choice.


Paul’s heart desire and (private and public) prayer for his people focussed on their greatest need (see bold above): to be delivered from serious peril. The peril actually arose because they were all “seeking to establish their own” right-ness, because all were circus ringmasters.


Why? The reason is given by Paul. They “were ignorant of the righteousness that comes from God.” They were ignorant of a vastly purer right-ness. None of them could see the standard against which they were being measured. They couldn’t see the gold standard so set about arranging everything by their own view of right-ness: what was right for them.


About 20 years before Paul wrote his learned letter to folk in Rome (well worth reading as a superbly logical legal brief) the man whom he followed with all his being, Jesus Christ, told a story.


The story was about two men in the Jerusalem temple, only one of whom was pronounced totally righteous by Jesus himself.


·         The first, standing up front by himself, prayed, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers or even like this other fellow here.’

·         The second, standing far off, would not even look upwards but in his self-awareness said, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’


The second had seen the gold standard. And despaired of all his activity in the circus ring. He asked God for mercy. God gave him God’s own gold-standard-righteousness. Jesus said, “He went to his house righteous.”


Righteousness that comes from God and not from “me” or from what I do? Sure thing.


As Paul wrote in that same letter in AD 55, “But now, apart from law, the righteousness of God has been disclosed, ..., the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe.”


That all is all circus ringmasters, including those in Jersey. All who ask.

‘If Washington were a circus, as some think it is, the Washington Post would be the ringmaster.’(Phil Galley, Editor of Editorials, New York Times)..
‘With all my heart I seek / the true and living way! / LORD, guide these steps of mine / or I shall go astray.’(David Mowbray, based on Psalm 119)
Richard Syvret

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