Week of Proper 3: Monday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  Camels at Giza

To What Do We Cling?

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 17:24-29 (Revised English Bible):

Yet he leaves a way open for the penitent to return to him

and endows the waverer with strength to endure.

Return to the Lord and have done with sin;

make your prayer in his presence and lessen your offence.

Come back to the Most High,

renounce wrongdoing,

and hate intensely what he abhors.

The living give him thanks,

but who will praise the Most High from the grave?

When the dead cease to be, their gratitude dies with them;

only when alive and well do they praise the Lord.

How great is the Lord’s mercy

and his forgiveness to those who turn to him!

Psalm 32:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,

and whose sin is put away!

2 Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

and in whose spirit there is no guile!

3 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,

because of my groaning all day long.

4 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;

my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and did not conceal my guilt.

6 I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”

Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

7 Therefore all the faithful will make your prayers to you in time of trouble;

when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

8 You are my hiding-place;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

Mark 10:17-27 (Revised English Bible):

As he was starting out on a journey, a stranger ran up, and, kneeling before him, asked,

Good Teacher, what must I do to win eternal life?

Jesus said to him,

Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments:  ‘Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not give false evidence; do not defraud; honour your father and your mother.’

He replied,

But Teacher, I have kept all these since I was a boy.

As Jesus looked at him, his heart warmed to him.

One thing you lack,

he said.

Go, sell everything you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.

At these words his face fell and he went away with a heavy heart; for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round at his disciples and said to them,

How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!

They were amazed that he should say this, but Jesus insisted.

Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

They were more astonished than ever, and said to one another,

Then who can be saved?

Jesus looked at them and said,

For men it is impossible, but not for God; everything is possible for God.

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The Collect:

Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be peaceably governed by your providence; and that your Church may joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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A commonly-held First Century C.E. Jewish assumption was that the wealthy were closer to God than were common people.  Jesus refuted that point of view.

I have encountered an assumption that there is a checklist of holiness, and that, if one does enough good deeds, one will go to Heaven.  Jesus refuted that point of view, too.

A wealthy man who had observed many commandments asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to win eternal life?”  Jesus told the man to abandon his security blanket, his wealth.  The rich man’s sin was the false assumption of self-sufficiency.  He needed to depend solely on God, a theme consistent with other material from Mark 10.

Then Jesus delivered a striking piece of hyperbole:  “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  The commentaries I have consulted agree that this most likely what is seems to be:  it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  The Babylonian Talmud contains a similar expression about an elephant passing through the eye of a needle.

The rich man needed to cease to cling to his wealth to draw nearer to God.  To what do you cling?  What holds you back?  It is possible to draw nearer to God by grace.  Forgiveness and repentance are possible by grace.  And we need to cling only to God.

KRT

Published originally as Week of 8 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 5, 2010

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