Tuesday, February 23, 2010


Today is the feast of St. Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, martyred on this day in the year 1-5-6. We used to be amused by dear St. Polycarp, back in the day, mostly because of the name and because we were smart-asses. When I was living in Rochester, we had Polycarp parties, because it was good to celebrate something towards the end of February when you still had three more months of winter to go, and because we were cheeky Anglo Catholics.

But today, I think, is the first time I actually read the only writing of Polycarp extant, his letter to the Philippians. And the thing that struck me is that the big sin in his book, the #1 badness, the commandment he emphasizes over and over is...covetousness.

Now He that raised Him from the dead will raise us also; if we do His will and walk in His commandments and love the things which He loved, abstaining from all unrighteousness, covetousness, love of money, evil speaking, false witness; not rendering evil for evil or railing for railing or blow for blow or cursing for cursing.

OK, yes, there's unrighteousness in there, false witness, evil speaking, and love of money. Love of money appears over and over again in this letter, but I'm struck by the thought that love of money is a form of covetousness.

I'm also struck by how much covetousness is at the root of a lot of our church strife. In the Episcopal Church, in the Anglican Communion, and many times in local congregations as well. It's not a glamorous sin, covetousness, but it deserves more attention, and no doubt a lot more repentance.

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