Archive for November 2010

Week of Proper 4: Friday, Year 1   8 comments

Above:  The Healing of Tobit, by Bernardo Strozzi (1581-1644)

Yahweh is Good

JUNE 4, 2021

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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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Tobit 11:5-18 (Revised English Bible):

Anna sat watching the road by which her son would return.  She caught sight of him coming and exclaimed to his father,

Here he comes–your son and the man who went with him!

Before Tobias reached his father’s house Raphael said,

I know for certain that his eyes will be opened.  Spread the fish-gall on them; this remedy will make the white patches shrink and peel off.  Your father will get his sight back and see the light of day.

Anna ran forward, flung her arms round her son, and said to him:

Now that I have seen you again, my child, I am ready to die.

And she wept.

As Tobit rose to his feet and came stumbling out through the courtyard gate, Tobias went up to him with the fish-gall in his hand.  He blew into his father’s eyes and then, taking him by the arm and saying,

Do not be alarmed, father,

he applied the remedy carefully and with both hands peeled off the patches from the corners of Tobit’s eyes.  Tobit threw his arms round him and burst into tears.

I can see you, my son, the light of my eyes!

he cried.

Praise be to God, and praise to his great name and to all his holy angels.  May his great name rest on us.  Praised be all the angels for ever and ever.  He laid his scourge on me, and now, look, I see my son Tobias!

Tobias went inside, rejoicing and praising God with all his might.  He told his father about the success of his journey and the recovery of the money, and how he had married Raguel’s daughter Sarah.

She is on her way,

he said,

quite close to the city gate.

Tobit went out joyfully to meet his daughter-in-law at the gate, praising God as he went.  At the sight of him passing through the city in full vigour and walking without anyone to guide his steps, the people of Nineveh were amazed; and Tobit gave thanks to God before him all his mercy in opening his eyes.

When he met Sarah, the wife of his son Tobias, he blessed her and said to her:

Come in, daughter, welcome!  Praise be to God who has brought you to us.  Blessings on your father and mother, and on my son Tobias, and blessings on you, my daughter.  Come into your home, and may health, blessings, and joy be yours; come in, my daughter.

For all the Jews in Nineveh it was a day of joy, and Ahikar and Nadab, Tobit’s cousins, came to share his happiness.  The joyful celebrations went on for a week, and many were the presents given to them.

Psalm 146 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,

for there is not help in them.

3 When they breathe their last, they return to earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

4 Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

5 Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise for ever.

6 Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

7 The LORD sets the prisoner free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down.

8 The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked!

9 The LORD shall reign for ever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Hallelujah!

Mark 12:35-37 (Revised English Bible):

As he taught in the temple, Jesus went on to say,

How can the scribes maintain that the Messiah is a son of David?  It was David himself who said, when inspired by the Holy Spirit,

“The Lord said to my Lord,

‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’

David calls himself ‘Lord’; how can he be David’s son?”

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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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1 The LORD said to my lord,

“Sit at My right hand

while I make your enemies your footstool.”

2 The LORD will stretch from Zion your mighty scepter;

hold sway over your enemies!

3 Your people come forward willingly on your day of battle.

In majestic holiness, from the womb,

from the dawn, yours was the dew of youth.

4 The LORD has sworn and will not relent,

“You are a priest forever, a rightful king by My decree.”

5 The Lord is at your right hand.

He crushes kings in the day of his anger.

6 He works judgment upon the nations,

heaping up bodies,

crushing heads far and wide.

7 He drinks from the stream on his way;

therefore he holds his head high.

–Psalm 110, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), of the Jewish Publication Society

This day’s reading from Mark is short and confusing on its face.  But, when one considers it in literary context and reads the psalm Jesus quotes, the meaning becomes clear.  Many people expect Jesus to be a conquering hero, but he is actually a different kind of Messiah.  Recall that the concept of Messiahship in the Gospel of Mark is that the Messiah must suffer, die, and rise again; that is how his Messianic identity will become clear.  The goodness of Yahweh shines through Jesus, but not in the way that many people expect.  Jesus was not what they wanted him to be.  This was not his fault; it was solely theirs.

Does Jesus disappoint us?  Is he not what what we expect or want?  If so, the fault is solely ours.  We have not been paying sufficient attention to the available evidence.  His life and example demonstrate that Yahweh is good.  What else do we expect or want?

The name Tobias means “Yahweh is good.”  The Book of Tobit teaches that Yahweh is good, too.  Not only did Tobias survive his wedding night, but Raphael expelled the demon Asmodaeus.  A two-week wedding feast followed, and Tobias, Sarah, and Raphael (disguised as the kinsman Azarias) departed for Nineveh, with Tobit’s money.  Meanwhile, Tobit and Anna were concerned that Tobias had met an unfortunate fate.  Soon, however, Tobit had his sight back and met his daughter-in-law.  Everybody was happy, and the Jewish community of Nineveh rejoiced.  God was good, indeed.

I am convinced that God does care for us, and that God sends help our way.  But do we recognize it?  One reason we human beings exist on this planet is to assist each other, so we are supposed to function as vehicles of grace.  We are supposed to behave in a sacramental way toward each other.  The catechism from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer defines the sacraments:

The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.

The Church has seven sacraments:  Baptism, Eucharist, Confirmation, Confession, Matrimony, Unction, and Holy Orders.  These are wonderful, and I respect all of them.  I have, in fact, participated in most of them.  And I am convinced that there is an eighth sacrament:  practiced human kindness, the act of participating in God’s grace toward another human being.  God, in Jesus, has established a fine example to follow.

Thanks be to God!

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/yahweh-is-good/

Posted November 17, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2021, Canadian Anglican Lectionary Year 1, June 4

Tagged with , ,

Week of Proper 4: Thursday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  First Paragraph of the Shema in Hebrew

Finally, a Sincere Question!

JUNE 3, 2021

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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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Tobit 6:9-11; 7:1-15 (Revised English Bible):

When Tobias had entered Media and was already approaching Ecbatana, Raphael said to the youth,

Tobias, my friend.

He replied,

Yes.

Raphael said:

We must stay tonight with Raguel, who is a relative of yours.  He has a daughter named Sarah, but no other children, neither sons nor daughters.   You as her next of kin have the right to marry her and inherit the girl’s property….

As they entered Ecbatana Tobias said,

Azarias, my friend, take me straight to our kinsman Raguel.

So he took him to Raguel’s house, where they found him sitting by the courtyard gate.  They greeted him first, and he replied,

Greetings to you, my friends.  You are indeed welcome.

When he brought them into his house, he said to Edna his wife,

Is not this young man like my kinsman Tobit?

Edna questioned him,

Friends, where do you come from?

They answered,

We belong to the tribe of Naphtali, now in captivity at Nineveh.

She asked,

Do you know our kinsman Tobit?

and they replied,

Yes, we do.

She said,

Is he well?

They answered,

He is alive and well,

and Tobias added,

He is my father.

Raguel jumped up and, with tears in his eyes, he kissed him.

God bless you, my boy,

he said,

son of a good and upright father.  But what a calamity that so just and charitable a man has lost his sight!

He embraced Tobias his kinsman and wept; Edna his wife and their daughter Sarah also wept for Tobit.

Raguel slaughtered a ram from the flock and entertained them royally.  They bathed and then, after washing their hands, took their places at the meal.  Tobias said to Raphael,

Azarias, my friend, ask Raguel to give me Sarah my kinswoman.

Raguel overheard this and said to the young man:

Eat and drink tonight, and enjoy yourself. There is no one but yourself who should have my daughter Sarah; indeed, I ought not to give her anyone else, since you are my nearest kinsman.  However, I must reveal the truth to you, my son:  I have given her in marriage to seven of our kinsmen, and they all died on their wedding night.  My son, eat and drink now, and may the Lord deal kindly with you both.

Tobias answered,

I shall not eat again or drink until you have disposed of this business of mine.

Raguel said to him,

I shall do so:  I give her to you in accordance with the decree in the book of Moses, and Heaven itself has decreed that she shall be yours.  Take your kinswoman; from now on belong to her and she to you, from today she is yours for ever.  May all go well with you both this night, my son; may the Lord of heaven grant you mercy and peace.

Raguel called for Sarah and, when she came, he took her by the hand and gave her to Tobias with these words:

Receive my daughter as your wedded wife in accordance with the law, the decree written in the book of Moses; keep her and take her safely home to your father.  And may the God of heaven grant you prosperity and peace.

Then he sent for her mother and told her to fetch a roll of papyrus, and he wrote out and put his seal on a marriage contract giving Sarah to Tobias as his wife according to this decree.  After that they began to eat and drink.

Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who fear the LORD,

and who follow in your ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus be blessed.

5 The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

6 May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.

Mark 12:28-34 (Revised English Bible):

Then one of the scribes, who had been listening to these discussions and had observed how well Jesus answered, came forward and asked him,

Which is the first of all the commandments?

He answered,

The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel:  the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’   The second is this:  ‘You must love your neighbour as yourself.’  No other commandment is greater than these.

The scribe said to him,

Well said, Teacher.  You are right in saying that God is one and beside him there is no other.  And to love him with all your heart, all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself–that means far more than any whole-offerings and sacrifices.

When Jesus saw how thoughtfully he answered, he said to him,

You are not far from the kingdom of God.

After that nobody dared put any more questions to him.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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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THE SHEMA

Hear, Israel:  the LORD is our God, the LORD our one God; and you must love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments which I give you this day are to be remembered and taken to heart; repeat them to your children, and speak to them both indoors and out of doors, when you lie down and when you get up.  Bind them as a sign on your hand and wear them as a pendant on your forehead; write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.

–Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (Revised English Bible)

The recent arc of the Markan narrative in the lectionary has been one of Jesus fielding insincere questions.  But, at the end of this part of the story, a scribe asks an intelligent and sincere question:  What is the greatest commandment.  This man receives a reply unlike the one Jesus had for the Sadducees just a few verses ago:  “You are so far from the truth!”  In this case, Jesus quotes the Shema, a duly famous part of the Law of Moses, and amends it:  We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  The scribe agrees with the answer, and Jesus says that the man is near to the kingdom of God.  Did the scribe complete the journey?  The texts are silent on that point, but I hope the answer is affirmative.

Too often certain people and institutions who claim the Christian label become caught up in legalism and call this holiness.  For example, the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) began in the 1800s as a Restorationist body claiming the Bible alone as its source of authority in matters of doctrine and practice.  For a while men were not allowed to wear neckties to church; the denomination was that strict.  The Anderson, Indiana, group liberalized by 1910-1911, when it permitted men to wear neckties to church.  This was one issue that prompted the Church of God (Guthrie, Oklahoma) to break away; it opposed neckties.  (My source = Encyclopedia of American Religions)

In the 1960s, in rural Kathleen, Georgia, parents began to offer a regular Saturday night chaperoned dance at the fellowship hall of Andrew Chapel Methodist Church.  This was an event for local youth, so they would have something positive to do on the weekend.  One night, the pastor of a local Baptist church made an unfortunate scene at one of these dances when he complained loudly about all the allegedly sinful dancing taking place indoors.  Some of his parishioners were at that dance, and that pastor had to seek other employment shortly thereafter.  (My source = the United Methodist minister who had served as pastor of Andrew Chapel in the 1960s)

These are just two examples of what has happened when people seeking to obey God become so lost in the trees that they lose sight of the forest.  If we will focus on loving people as ourselves, for example, many details will fall into place.  It is laudable to love the Bible, but not to seek permission for every minute detail (such as whether it is proper to wear a necktie) in its pages.  And the denunciation of all dancing as sinful is an old saw, one that ought to die.

As Jesus reiterated, we need to love God fully.  After all, God loves us.  The Book of Tobit tells a fictional story of that love.  After the events of the previous excerpt from Tobit, the elderly blind man sends his son to Ectabana, in Media, to visit a family friend with whom Tobit had deposited money.  (Tobit and Anna needed the money now.)  The archangel Raphael, disguised as Azarias, a kinsman of Tobias, accompanies Tobit’s son to Ecbatana and helps ensure the successful match-making between Tobias and Sarah.  The divine healing of Sarah then Tobit is about to commence in the narrative.

The scriptures say that God wants to be gracious to us.  May we respond favorably to God and extend grace to others, as we have opportunity.  Yesterday I had the chance to be extraordinarily kind to a student experiencing a medical situation.  It will not derail her progress in my course; I will not permit it to do so.  I mention this for one reason:  Everything I have learned from my formative years tells me that my decision was the only proper one.  So, when the opportunity to function as an agent of grace presented itself, I never considered doing anything else.  Yes, I broke rules to do this, but God has broken rules in order to extend grace to many of us again and again.  I have learned the meaning of the words of Jesus:  “Go and do likewise.”

All praise to the God of mercy!

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/finally-a-sincere-question/

Week of Proper 4: Wednesday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  Raphael the Archangel, According to Bartolome Esteban Murillo (1617-1682)

God Heals

JUNE 2, 2021

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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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Tobit 3:1-11, 15c-17 (Revised English Bible):

In deep distress I groaned and wept aloud, and as I groaned I prayed:

O Lord, you are just and all your ways are merciful and true; you are the Judge of the world.  Now bear me in mind, Lord, and look upon me.  Do not punish me for the sins and errors which I and my fathers have committed.  We have sinned against you and disobeyed your commandments, and you have given us up to the despoiler, to captivity and death, until we have become a proverb and a byword; we are taunted by all the nations among whom you have scattered us.  I acknowledge the justice of your many judgements, the due penalty for our sins, for we have not carried out your commandments or lived in true obedience before you.  And now deal with me as you will.  Command that my life be taken away from me so that I may be removed from the face of the earth and turned to dust.  I would rather be dead than alive, for I have had to listen to taunts I have not deserved and my grief is great.  Lord, command that I be released from this misery; let me go to the eternal resting-place.  Do not turn your  face from me, Lord; I had rather die than live in such  misery, listening to such taunts.

On the same day it happened that Sarah, the daughter of Raguel who lived at Ectabana in Media, also had to listen to taunts, from one of her father’s servant-girls.  Sarah had been given in marriage to seven husbands and, before the marriage could be duly consumated, each one of them had been killed by the evil demon Asmodaeus.  The servant said to her:

It is you who kill your husbands!  You have already been given in marriage to seven, and you have not borne the name of any of them.  Why punish us because they are dead?  Go and join your husbands.  I hope never to see son or daughter of yours!

Deeply distressed at that, she went in tears to the roof-chamber of her father’s house, meaning to hang herself.  But she had second thoughts and said to herself:

Perhaps they will taunt my father and say, ‘You had one dear daughter and she hanged herself because of her troubles,’ and so I shall bring my aged father sorrow to his grave.  No, I will not hang myself; it would be better to beg the Lord to let me die and not live on to hear such reproaches.

Thereupon she spread out her hands towards the window in prayer saying,

Praise be to you, merciful God, praise to your name for evermore; all creation praise you for ever!…Already seven husbands of mine have died; what have to live for any longer?  But if it is not your will, Lord, to let me die, have regard to me in your mercy and spare me those taunts.

At that very moment the prayers of both were heard in the glorious presence of God, and Raphael was sent to cure the two of them:  Tobit by removing the white patches from his eyes so that he might see God’s light again, and Sarah daughter of Raguel by giving her in marriage to Tobias son of Tobit and by setting her free from the evil demon Asmodaeus, for it was the destiny of Tobias and of no other suitor to possess her.  At the moment when Tobit went back into his house from the courtyard, Sarah came down from her father’s roof-chamber.

Psalm 25:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

my God, I put my trust in you;

let me not be humiliated,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2 Let none who look to you be put to shame;

let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3 Show me your ways, O LORD,

and teach me your paths.

4 Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

in you have I trusted all the day long.

5 Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,

for they are from everlasting.

6 Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;

remember me according to your love

and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

7 Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8 He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches his way to the lowly.

Mark 12:18-27 (Revised English Bible):

Next Sadducees, who maintain that there is no resurrection, came to him and asked:

Teacher, Moses laid it down for us that if there are brothers, and one dies leaving a wife but no child, then the next should marry the widow and provide an heir for his brother.  Now there were seven brothers.  The first took a wife and died without issue.  Then the second married her, and he too died without issue; so did the third; none of the seven left any issue.  Finally the woman died.  At the resurrection, when they rise from the dead, whose wife will she be, since all seven had married her?

Jesus said to them,

How far you are from the truth!  You know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.  When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; they are like angels in heaven.

As for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story of the burning bush, how God spoke to him and said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob’?  He is not the God of the dead but the God of the living.  You are very far from the truth.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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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Voltaire wrote that, if God created human beings in his image, we have more than returned the favor.  Yes, we mere mortals carry inadequate God images in our imaginations, as J. B. Phillips argued in Your God is Too Small.   As Ron Popeil says, “But wait, there’s more.”  Our concepts of the afterlife are too small and limited, too.  They tend to reflect earthly conditions and circumstances.  Ancient Egyptians sought an idealized Egypt in their afterlife, and the popular image of Hell as a place of fire, smoke, and noxious fumes comes from the old Jerusalem garbage dump.  These are just two examples of a much greater possible number.

Likewise, many have hypothesized that human relationships carry over into the afterlife.  Notable among these are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, with their concept of marriage continuing after death.  The Sadducees labored under no such idea, for they rejected the possibility of life after death.  So their question regarding the levirate marriage of one woman to seven brothers was insincere.  This story in Mark occurs in the context of attempts to entrap Jesus in his own words.  As in the cases of the other challenges, Jesus is the superior debater.

FYI:  Levirate marriage was a practice meant to continue the family name, keep property within the family, and protect a childless widow from homelessness and other unfortunate circumstances.  It comes from Deuteronomy 25:5-10 and features prominently in Genesis 38.  (Genesis 38 contains a theological hot potato of a story, the moral  implications of which I leave for you, O reader, to ponder.  But I must move along now.)

Had these Sadducees asked a sincere question, they would have received a constructive answer from Jesus.  In the Bible, God says to those ask sincere questions than to those who presume to know the answers or to those who make insincere queries.  (Read the book for confirmation of this assertion.)  Speaking of sincerity, let us turn to Tobit and Sarah.

Both were in very bad situations, and both wanted to die. Tobit, blind, helpless, and living in exile, had just accused his wife of stealing livestock.  It was a false charge, and he realized this fact after Anna, his wife, denied the accusation and berated him.  But Tobit had more on his mind.  He was part of a despised and politically weak population dispersed throughout an occupying power.  He had heard the taunts for a long time.  It all seemed like too much to bear.

And Sarah had been married to seven men yet was still a virgin.  She had developed a reputation as having bad luck and perhaps being a murderer.  She lived in a patriarchal society which presumed that a woman was supposed to be a wife and a mother.  And the author of the text presumed that she was property, too.  Pay attention to the language:  The Revised English Bible says that Tobias was destined to “possess” her.  Likewise, the New Revised Standard Version says “have” and the New American Bible translates the verb as “claim.”  (Aside:  Sarah was a woman, not a piece of furniture.  But I cannot make the text fit early 21st Century gender concepts.)

Anyhow, the author of the Book of Tobit says that God heard the prayers of Tobit and Sarah, and sent the archangel Raphael to cure them both.  Raphael means “God heals.”  Much of the rest of the book is the account of how this healing took place.  Without giving away too many details, I can say that people were part of the process.

As I typed the reading from Tobit, the prayers for death struck a chord with me.  I have been in difficult situations in which I have prayed for death.   When death did not come, I cursed the mornings on which I awoke.  And God did cure me via direct action as well as by people.  Perhaps you, O reader, have been in a similar situation or know someone who has.  In my case, it did get better.

I wonder what the spiritual lives of the Sadducees could have been if they had been interested in sincerity, not in insincerity.  When one plays semantic and mind games with God, God wins.  And God wants sincerity and humility from us.  If we argue with God, fine; let us argue sincerely.  (Read the Book of Job.)  If we pray for death during difficult times, God hears us.  And I am convinced that the most merciful answer at that time is “No.”  That was the answer God gave me, and that was the answer in the narrative of the Book of Tobit.  In the cases of Tobit and Sarah, God had something wonderful in mind, and this involved them being alive.

As St. Patrick wrote:

Christ be with me,

Christ within me,

Christ behind me,

Christ before me,

Christ beside me,

Christ to win me,

Christ to comfort and restore me,

Christ beneath me,

Christ above me,

Christ in quiet,

Christ in danger,

Christ in hearts of all that love me,

Christ in mouth of friend and stranger.

Amen.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/god-heals/

Posted November 16, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2021, Canadian Anglican Lectionary Year 1, June 2

Tagged with , ,

Week of Proper 4: Tuesday, Year 1   8 comments

Above:  A Coin, from 36 C.E., Bearing the Image of the Emperor Tiberius

What Belongs to Caesar and What Belongs to God

JUNE 1, 2021

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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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Tobit 2:9-14 (Revised English Bible):

That night, after bathing myself, I went into my courtyard and lay down to sleep by the courtyard wall, leaving my face uncovered because of the heat.  I did not know that there were sparrows in the wall above me, and their droppings fell, still warm, right into my eyes and produced white patches.  I went to the doctors to be cured, but the more they treated me with their ointments, the more my eyes became blinded by the white patches, until I lost my sight.  I was blind for four years; my kinsmen grieved for me, and for two years Ahikar looked after me, until he moved to Elymais.

At that time Anna my wife used to earn money by women’s work, spinning and weaving, and her employees would pay her when she took them what she had done.  One day, on the seventh of Dystrus, after she had cut off the piece she had woven and delivered it, they not only paid her wages in full, but also gave her a kid from her herd of goats to take home.  When my wife came into the house to me, the kid began to bleat, and I called out to her:

Where does that kid come from?  I hope it was not stolen.

But she assured me:

It was given me as a present, over and above my wages.

I did not believe her and insisted that she return it, and I blushed with shame for what she had done.  Her rejoinder was:

So much for all your acts of charity and all your good works!  Everyone can now see what you are really like.

Psalm 112:1-2, 7-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and who have great delight in his commandments!

2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

7 They will not be afraid of any evil rumors;

their heart is right;

they put their trust in the Lord.

8 Their heart is established and will not shrink,

until they see their desire upon their enemies.

9 They have given freely to the poor,

and their righteousness stands fast for ever;

they will hold up their head with honor.

Mark 12:13-17 (Revised English Bible):

A number of the Pharisees and men of Herod’s party were sent to trap him with a question.  They came and said,

Teacher, we know you are a sincere man and court no one’s favour, whoever he may be; you teach in all sincerity the way of life that God requires.  Are we or are we not permitted to pay taxes to the Roman emperor?  Shall we pay or not?

He saw through their duplicity, and said,

Why are you trying to catch me out?  Fetch me a silver piece, and let me look at it.

They brought one, and he asked them,

Whose head is this, and whose inscription?

They replied,

Caesar’s.

Then Jesus said,

Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and God what belongs to God.

His reply left them completely taken aback.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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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The story of Tobit continues.  He goes blind due to natural causes and begins to feel helpless.  He lashes out verbally at his wife, accusing her of stealing a young goat, and she rebukes him, understandably.  But, if one continues to read, Tobit realizes that he has accused her unjustly, and prays immediately for forgiveness.   He is imperfect, but he does the right thing more often than not.  And Tobit understands his duties to God.

Duties to God, especially versus those to the occupying Roman Empire, reside at the heart of the reading from Mark.  Jewish religious and political elites collaborating with the empire ask Jesus a question meant to entrap him.  Is it lawful to pay the small annual poll tax to the Roman Emperor, Tiberius?  This was not a major source of imperial revenue, but it did remind the Jews living under occupation in their homeland who was in charge, at least in the temporal realm.  This poll tax was payable in a coin bearing the image of the emperor and a written reminder of the official line, which was he was the “Divine Caesar.”  Such a coin was a purposeful affront to Jewish sensibilities.  The tax was in the amount a denarius, or one day’s wage, and men aged 14-65 years and women aged 12-65 had to pay it.  This was a despised tax, and the Romans were rubbing the Jews’ noses in it.

This was a dicey political situation for Jesus.  If he said, “No, this is unjust taxation,” he would be in trouble with the Romans.  And many soldiers were in town during the days leading up to the Passover, the annual commemoration of God’s deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.  Some of them could arrest Jesus at a moment’s notice.  But if he said, “Yes, Tiberius is our emperor, and he deserves our respect, too,” Jesus would lose much public support.   Our Lord and Savior, being perceptive and intelligent, delivered a faultless answer:  The coin belongs to Tiberius; pay it.  But give to God what is due to God.  And what is due to God?  We owe God the pattern of our daily living.

Simply put, the goal of life should be that it will consist increasingly of prayer.  How we live ought to be a prayer.  Too often we think of prayer only as “talking to God.”  There is nothing wrong with oral prayer, but the words we address to God need to be only part of prayer life.  A sense of the sacred ought to inform even the simplest, most mundane actions.  The character Tobit understood this, and repented when he went astray.  So should we.

For none of us has life in himself,

and none becomes his own master when he dies.

For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord,

and if we die, we die in the Lord.

So, then, whether we live or die,

we are the Lord’s possession.

–From The Burial of the Dead:  Rite Two, The Book of Common Prayer (1979), quoting Romans 14:7-8

Amen.

KRT

Published Originally as Week of Last Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1 (Shrove Tuesday) at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 9, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/what-belongs-to-caesar-and-what-belongs-to-god/

Posted November 15, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2021, Canadian Anglican Lectionary Year 1, June 1

Tagged with , ,

Week of Proper 4: Monday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  The Wicked Husbandmen, by Jan Luyken

Holiness, Actual and Imagined

MAY 31, 2021

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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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Tobit 1:1-2 and 2:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

This is the story of Tobit son of Tobiel, son of Hananiel, son of Aduel, son of Gaguel, of the family of Asiel, of the tribe of Naphtali.  In the time of King Shalmaneser of Assyria he was taken captive from Thisbe which is south of Kedesh-naphtali in Upper Galilee above Hazor, beyond the road to the west, north of Peor.

During the reign of Esarhaddon, I retuned to my house, and my wife Anna and my son Tobias were restored to me.  At our festival of Pentecost, that is the feast of Weeks, a fine meal was prepared for me and I took my place.  The table being laid and food in plenty put before me, I said to Tobias,

My son, go out and, if you find among our people captive here in Nineveh some poor man who is wholeheartedly mindful of God, bring him back to share my meal.  I shall wait for you, son, till you return.

Tobias went to look for a poor man of our people, but came straight back and cried,

Father!

I replied,

Yes, my son.

He answered,

Father, one of our nation has been murdered!  His body is lying in the market-place; he has just been strangled.

I jumped up and left my meal untasted.  I took the body from the square and put it in one of the outbuildings until sunset when I could bury it; then I went indoors, duly bathed myself, and ate my food in sorrow.  I recalled the words of the prophet Amos in the passage about Bethel:

Your festivals shall be turned into mourning,

and all your songs into lamentation,

and I wept.  When the sun had gone down, I went and dug a grave and buried the body.  My neighbours jeered.

Is he no longer afraid?

they said.

He ran away last time, when they were hunting him to put him to death for this very offence; and here he is again burying the dead!

Psalm 112:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments!

2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches will be in their house,

and their righteousness will last for ever.

4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

5 It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

6 For they will never be shaken;

the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.

Mark 12:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

He went on to speak to them in parables:

A man planted a vineyard and put a wall round it, hewed out a winepress, and built a watch-tower; then he let it out to the wine-growers and went abroad.  When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce.  But they seized him, thrashed him, and sent him away empty-handed.  Again, he sent them another servant, whom they beat about the head and treated outrageously, and then another, whom they killed.  He sent many others and they thrashed and killed the rest.  He had now no one left to send except his beloved son, and in the end he sent him.  “They will respect my son,” he said; but the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir; come on, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”  So they seized him and killed him, and flung his body out of the vineyard.  What will the owner of the vineyard do?  He will come and put the tenants to death and give the vineyard to others.

Have you never read this text:  “The stone which the builders rejected has become the main corner-stone.  This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes”?

They saw that the parable was aimed at them and wanted to arrest him; but they were afraid of the people, so they left him alone and went away.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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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The Book of Tobit, part of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox canons of scripture, is, like Jonah, religious fiction.  Tobit is a pious Jew living in exile in the Assyrian Empire.  He loves God, his wife, Anna, and his son, Tobias.  And Tobit observes the Jewish faith as much as possible, given the circumstances.  He cannot, for example, observe the harvest festival of Pentecost in Jerusalem, but he does seek to share his Pentecost meal with a less fortunate Jew.  One year Tobit’s son informs his father that the body of a recently murdered Jew is on public display, not buried.  So, in violation of civic law but in accordance with Jewish law, Tobit takes and buries the body.  And he bathes himself ritually afterward, for touching a corpse made one unclean.

Thus Tobit sets in motion the action of the book bearing his name.  I will get to that in subsequent posts, but it is sufficed to say here that Tobit is a model of sincere Jewish piety, and that this holiness brings about both suffering and rewards.  Real life is like that, and the Book of Tobit, although a work of fiction, teaches this lesson.

Now, for the other side…..

Let us ground ourselves in the narrative within the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus is in Holy Week.  He is also engaged in a series of confrontations with Jewish religious leaders headquartered at the Temple at Jerusalem.  The “them” in Mark 12:1 consists of chief priests, scribes, and elders.  Jesus tells them a parable about an absentee landlord (YHWH), a vineyard (the Jewish people), murdered servants (prophets), wicked, selfish tenants (chief priests, scribes and elders) who hope to become heirs by killing the son, and the son (Jesus) of the absentee landlord.  The son will die, but he will become the chief cornerstone, and the God will win despite the best efforts of the wicked tenants, who will lose their position in the vineyard.

Brendan Byrne, S.J., in A Costly Freedom:  A Theological Reading of Mark’s Gospel (Collegeville, MN:  Liturgical Press, 2008), describes this parable as an encapsulation of the Gospel of Mark.  This makes sense:  Jesus lives, suffers, dies, and still triumphs.

The piety of these religious leaders served to build them up and set them apart from the “great unwashed,” who lacked the financial resources to achieve the standards of holiness the religious elite held up as the goal.  This was self-serving religion, not true seeking after God and identifying with the poor.  The fictional Tobit personified true holiness, and, by grace, so can we.  The religious elite Jesus stared down in the telling of the parable could have repented and come to personify true holiness, but they entrenched themselves in defensive positions.

May God reckon us as being more like Tobit than these chief priests, scribes, and elders, who lost their stake in the vineyard when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E., during the First Jewish War.

KRT

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

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/holiness-actual-and-imagined/

Rebirth: A Prayer   Leave a comment

Chrysalis

(Photograph by Pollinator)

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I wrote this prayer in 2007, after my life had collapsed.  To post this prayer now seems appropriate, given the substance of the devotion for Proper 4, Year A.

KRT

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Everything I once considered certain

Is uncertain;

What I once thought I knew

Was wrong.

Earthquakes have shaken my

My presumptions and illusions.

I am dying,

Only to be reborn—

But as what and as whom and when?

Death hurts;

Rebirth is painful, too.

Yet I trust in God—

Most of the time.

Yet I am at peace—

Some of the time.

Dear God, I implore you,

Please forgive me

For my inconstancy,

Comfort me in my pain and grief,

And guide me along your

Path to serenity.

Amen.

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Rien je songais être certain

Est certain;

Tout j’imagais que je savais

Furent incorrect.

Des tremblements de terre ébranlerent

Mes présumptions et mes illusions.

Je meurs,

Seulement éprouver une renaissance—

Mais a quoi et a qui et quand?

La mort fait du mal;

La renaissance fait souffrir aussi.

Mais je met confiance en Dieu—

Ordinairement.

Mais je suis en paix—

Quelquefois.

Mon Dieu, je vous implore,

S’il vous plait pardonnez-moi

Pour mon caractère changeant,

Consolez-moi en ma peine et ma douleur,

Et guidez-moi en votre

Chemin à la sérénité.

Amen.

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

May 2007

Posted November 15, 2010 by neatnik2009 in August 1, August 10, August 11, August 12, August 13, August 14, August 15, August 16, August 17, August 18, August 19, August 2, August 20, August 21, August 22, August 23, August 24, August 25, August 26, August 27, August 28, August 29, August 3, August 30, August 31, August 4, August 5, August 6: Transfiguration, August 7, August 8, August 9, Christ the King Sunday, December 1, December 2, July 1, July 10, July 11, July 12, July 13, July 14, July 15, July 16, July 17, July 18, July 19, July 2, July 20, July 21, July 22, July 23, July 24, July 25, July 26, July 27, July 28, July 29, July 3, July 30, July 31, July 4, July 5, July 6, July 7, July 8, July 9, June 1, June 10, June 11, June 12, June 13, June 14, June 15, June 16, June 17, June 18, June 19, June 2, June 20, June 21, June 22, June 23, June 24, June 25, June 26, June 27, June 28, June 29, June 3, June 30, June 4, June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8, June 9, Labor Day, May 18, May 19, May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, May 24, May 25, May 26, May 27, May 28, May 29, May 30, May 31: Visitation, November 10, November 11, November 12, November 13, November 14, November 15, November 16, November 17, November 18, November 19, November 1: All Saints, November 20, November 21, November 22, November 23, November 24, November 25, November 26, November 27, November 28, November 29, November 2: All Souls, November 3, November 30, November 4, November 5, November 6, November 7, November 8, November 9, October 1, October 10, October 11, October 12, October 13, October 14, October 15, October 16, October 17, October 18, October 19, October 2, October 20, October 21, October 22, October 23, October 24, October 25, October 26, October 27, October 28, October 29, October 3, October 30, October 31: All Hallows' Eve/Reformation, October 4, October 5, October 6, October 7, October 8, October 9, September 1, September 10, September 11, September 12, September 13, September 14: Holy Cross, September 15, September 16, September 17, September 18, September 19, September 2, September 20, September 21, September 22, September 23, September 24, September 25, September 26, September 27, September 28, September 29, September 3, September 30, September 4, September 5, September 6, September 7, September 8, September 9, Thanksgiving Day, Trinity Sunday

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Proper 4, Year A   32 comments

Above:  The Sermon on the Mount Window, Stanford Memorial Church, Stanford, California

Beginning Again

The Sunday Closest to June 1

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 6:9-22; 7:24; 8:14-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

These are the descendants of Noah.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation:  Noah walked with God.  And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth.  And God said to Noah,

I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth.  Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.  This is how you are to make it:  the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.  Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks.  For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life, everything that is on the earth shall die.  But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.  And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.  Of the birds according to their kinds, of every creeping things of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive.  Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days.

In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.  Then God said to Noah,

Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.  Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh–birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth–so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.

So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives.  And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.

Psalm 46 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,

and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea;

3 Though its waters rage and foam,

and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.

4 The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

5 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High.

6 God is in the midst of her;

she shall not be overthrown;

God shall help her at the break of day.

7 The nations make much ado, and the kingdoms are shaken;

God has spoken, and the earth shall melt away.

8 The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

9 Come now and look upon the works of the LORD,

what awesome things he has done on earth.

10 It is he who makes war to cease in all the world;

he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,

and burns the shields with fire.

11 “Be still, then, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations;

I will be exalted in the earth.”

12 The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and and on your gates, so that your days and the days the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse:  the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn from the way that I am commanding you today, to follow other gods that you have not known.

Psalm 31:1-5, 19-24 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;

let me never be put to shame;

deliver me in your righteousness.

2 Incline your ear to me;

make haste to deliver me.

3 Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,

for you are my crag and my stronghold;

for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.

4 Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me,

for you are my tower of strength.

5 Into your hands I commend my spirit,

for you have redeemed me,

O LORD, O God of truth.

19 How great is your goodness, O LORD!

which you have laid up for those who fear you;

which you have done in the sight of all

for those who put their trust in you.

20 You hide them in the covert of our presence from those who slander them;

you keep them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the LORD!

for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.

22 Yet I said in my alarm,

“I have never been cut off from the sight of your eyes.”

Nevertheless, you heard the sound of my entreaty

when I cried out to you.

23 Love the LORD, all you who worship him;

the LORD protects the faithful,

but repays to the full those who act haughtily.

24 Be strong and let your heart take courage,

all you who wait for the LORD.

SECOND READING

Romans 1:16-17; 3:22b-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written,

The one who is righteous will live by faith.

For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.  He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies  the one who has faith in Jesus.

Then what becomes of boasting?  It is excluded.  By what law?  By that of works?  No, but by the law of faith.  For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.  Or is God the God of Jews only?  Is he not the God of Gentiles also?  Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through the same faith.  Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?  By now means!  On the contrary, we uphold the law.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 7:21-29 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Jesus said,]

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’  Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The fain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat against that house, and it fell–and great was its fall!

Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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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Beginning with Proper 4, the Revised Common Lectionary provides options for the First Reading and the Psalm.  As I ponder these choices for Proper 4, Year A, I detect some common ground.  It consists of the following elements:

  1. God prepares chosen people for a new beginning, whether in the case of Noah’s Ark or of the Israelites on the verge of entering Canaan.
  2. God is a refuge, strength, and stronghold.

I propose that God grants new beginnings out of mercy while imposing certain obligations.  This is where the reading from Deuteronomy applies:  obey God.  My thinking, with its emphasis on higher biblical criticism, tells me that the Deuteronomist was not Moses, and that this speech postdates Moses by centuries.  So this speech, put into the mouth of Moses, functioned as a criticism of the Kingdom of Judah late in its life.  My paraphrase of the Deuteronomist’s agenda:  “That is where we went wrong so long ago; we disobeyed God.  We have become at least as corrupt as was the generation in the time of Noah.  We have squandered an opportunity God has granted us.”

The readings from the New Testament remind us in prose and parable that the righteous live by faith.  We must build on the rock, Jesus says.  And Jesus himself is the rock.  The storms of life will come, but the house of faith built with a solid foundation will survive intact.  It is important to have a firm foundation, but also to possess sufficient flexibility, though.  The storms of life include strong winds, and, if one cannot sway with the winds, one will snap in two.  And what good is that?  Have you ever watched tall pine trees during a strong wind?  They remain standing because they are rooted firmly, but they remain whole because they sway with the wind.

Holiness is not abstract.  Much of it consists of how we treat each other.  Do we respect one another, or do we seek to exploit each other?  Do we love one another, or do we demonize each other?  In the name of God, do we extend helping hands to each other, or do we turn into cynical, Social Darwinian, every man, woman, and child-for-himself-and-herself types?  Is justice truly blind, or is it on the dole?  Do we nurture beauty, or do we nourish that which is coarse?  I could continue, but I trust that I have made my point clearly.

Thanks to grace, we get to start over periodically.  But this is not cheap grace, that which costs us nothing.  No, this grace demands something of us.  We must love God and each other if we are to make the most of each new beginning.  We must live by faith and practice good religion, that built on love, not hatred.

In grace we have a firm foundation.  Let us build on it, or continue to do so.

KRT

Week of Proper 3: Saturday, Year 1   4 comments

Above:  Christ as Emperor, from Ravenna, Italy

Do We Want to Hear What Divine Wisdom Teaches?

MAY 29, 2021

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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) 51:13-22 (Revised English Bible):

When I was still young, before I set off on my travels,

in my prayers I asked openly for wisdom.

In the forecourt of the sanctuary I laid claim to her,

and I shall seek her to the end.

From the first blossom to the ripening of the grape

she has been the delight of my heart.

From my youth my steps have followed her without swerving.

I had hardly begun to listen when I was rewarded,

and I gained for myself much instruction.

I made progress in my studies;

all glory to God who gives me wisdom!

I determined to practice what I had learnt;

I pursued goodness, and shall never regret it.

With all my might I strove for wisdom

and was scrupulous in whatever I did.

I spread out my hands to Heaven above,

deploring my shortcomings;

I set my heart on possessing wisdom,

and my keeping myself pure I found her.

With her I gained understanding from the first;

therefore I shall never be at a loss.

Because I passionately yearned to discover her,

a noble possession was mine:

as a reward the Lord gave me eloquence,

and with it I shall praise him.

Psalm 19:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults?

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Mark 11:27-33 (Revised English Bible):

They came once more to Jerusalem.  As he was walking in the temple court the chief priests, scribes, and elders came to him and said,

By what authority are you acting like this?  Who gave you authority to act in this way?

Jesus said to them,

I also have a question for you, and if you give me an answer, I will tell you by what authority I act.  The baptism of John:  was it from God, or from men?  Answer me.

This set them arguing among themselves:

What shall we say?  If we say, ‘From God,’ he will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’  Shall we say, ‘From men?’

–but they were afraid of the people, for all held that John was in fact a prophet.  So they answered,

We do not know.

And Jesus said to them,

Then I will not tell you either by what authority I act.

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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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Experience confirms in my mind that using lectionaries is the best way to study the Bible.  Reading more than one section of scripture helps the process of finding links and common themes.  Sometimes one reads a group of lessons and finds no overall message, but, as in the case of these lections, a composite moral emerges.  Here it is:  Human traditions to not restrict the wisdom of God.  If we truly seek divine wisdom, we need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that God will tell us we are terribly mistaken.

Let us begin with Mark 11:27-33.

The Temple at Jerusalem was the headquarters of a religious system that exploited poor people by preying on their desires to be holy.  It was also the seat of collaboration with the Roman Empire.  This is a very important point to understand.  The setting of this lection is one of the days leading up to the annual celebration of the Passover, the celebration of God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  They did this each year in occupied Jerusalem, and the nerve center of activity was the Temple.  There was no separation of Temple and state, so Jesus’ activities placed him at risk of what happened to him at the end of the week:  the crucifixion.  By standing against the Temple system and collaboration with Rome, our Lord and Savior put himself in the line of fire from the imperium.

For some reason (I do not know why.), I did not understand this point until my early adulthood.

Many professional religious people derived both livelihood and social status from this Temple system.  They perceived Jesus as a threat, which he was, and reacted defensively.  If they had sought wisdom, they would have been open to learning that they were mistaken.  If they had received wisdom, they would have recognized their secret faults.  But they did none of this.  Instead, they challenged Jesus and attempted to entrap him in his own words.

Jesus was smarter then they, however.  So, when they asked him by what he authority he acted, he demonstrated his authority by turning the tables on his questioners.  Instead of playing their game, he made them play his game.  He asked them an awkward question:  By whose authority did the late John the Baptist act?  Many people regarded the forerunner as a prophet (which he was), but these professional religious people disagreed.  Recognizing their difficult situation, which the text of Mark 11:27-33 describes well, they opted for a diplomatic, know-nothing reply.  And Jesus refused to answer their query verbally.

He had, however, answered them by the way he handled them.  Jesus was still a force with which to reckon.  Those with authority do not need to speak of it much, for it is obvious.  They carry themselves with authority, and that is enough.  So beware of those who speak incessantly about their power and authority; they are probably insecure in both.

Ben Sira wrote of his quest for wisdom.  He pursued wisdom, attempted to live what he had learned, and gave all glory to God.  He had no regrets.  Psalm 19 contains one of my favorite lines of scripture:

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,
the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

Sometimes these judgments say that we are wrong, that we need to repent.  Many people misunderstand the meaning of “repent.”  It means far more than apologizing to someone (such as God) or lamenting one’s sins.  Actually, to repent is turn around, change one’s mind, and to be transformed.  Even the possibility of transformation can prove terrifying, but it is way to deeper spiritual life in God, or just to spiritual life in God.  So, when Gods says we are wrong, may we repent, not become defensive.

Now, for the rest of the story.  The Romans ended the Temple and the Temple system by force in 70 C.E., when they destroyed Jerusalem.

KRT

Published Originally as Week of 8 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 7, 2010

Week of Proper 3: Friday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  A Model of the Temple Complex in Jerusalem During the Time of Jesus

Jesus vs. the Temple System

MAY 28, 2021

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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) 44:1-15 (Revised English Bible):

Let us now praise famous men,

the fathers of our people in their generations;

to them the Lord assigned great glory,

his majestic greatness from of old.

Some held sway over kingdoms

and gained renown by their might.

Others were far-seeing counsellors

who spoke out with prophetic power.

Some guided the people by their deliberations

and by their knowledge of the nation’s law,

giving instruction from their fund of wisdom.

Some were composers of music;

some were writers of poetry.

Others were endowed with wealth and strength,

living at ease in their homes.

All those won glory in their own generation

and were the pride of their times.

Some there are who have left behind them a name

to be commemorated in story.

Others are unremembered;

they have perished as though they had never existed,

as though they had never been born;

so too it was with their children after them.

But not so our forefathers, men true to their faith,

whose virtuous deeds have not been forgotten.

Their prosperity is handed on to their descendants,

their inheritance to future generations.

Through him their children are within the covenants–

the whole race of their descendants.

Their line will endure for all time;

their glory will never die.

Their bodies are buried in peace

and their name lives for ever.

Nations will tell of their wisdom,

and the assembled people will sing their praise.

Psalm 149:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker;

let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

3 Let them praise his Name in the dance;

let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.

4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people

and adorns the poor with victory.

5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph;

let them be joyful on their beds.

Mark 11:11-26 (Revised English Bible):

(Note:  Mark 11:1-10 tells of Jesus borrowing a colt and entering Jerusalem.)

He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.  He looked round at everything; then, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

On the following day, as they left Bethany, he felt hungry, and, noticing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it.  But when he reached it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs.  He said to the tree,

May no one ever again eat fruit from you!

And his disciples were listening.

So they came to Jerusalem, and he went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold there.  He upset the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dealers in pigeons; and he would not allow anyone to carry goods through the temple court.  Then he began to teach them, and said,

Does not scripture say, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations’?

The chief priests and the scribes heard of this and looked for a way to bring about his death; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.  And when evening came they went out of the city.

Early next morning, as they passed by, they saw that the fig tree had withered from the roots up; and Peter, recalling what had happened, said to him,

Rabbi, look, the fig tree which you cursed has withered.

Jesus answered them,

Have faith in God.  Truly I tell you:  if anyone says to this mountain, ‘Be lifted from your place and hurled into the sea,’ and has no inward doubts, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  I tell you, then, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.

And when you stand praying, if you have a grievance against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive the wrongs you have done.

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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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The Temple system benefited the wealthy and provided professional religious people with a comfortable living.  Temple taxes, paid mostly by those who could not afford them yet who acted out of community pressure and what they understood as piety (because that is how their religious leaders defined it) paid temple taxes and purchased sacrificial animals.  But they had to convert their Roman currency, which bore the image of the Emperor and the Latin words for “Divine Caesar” before they bought such sacrificial animals as pigeons.  Each Roman coin was an idol.  And the money changers were turning a nice profit, as was the the chief priest.  It was religious racketeering, and Jesus confronted it.

And we have an odd two-part story about Jesus cursing a fig tree for not producing figs out of season.  The account from the Gospel of Matthew repeats this story, but not the out of season detail.  This is a difficult story, and it does not cast Jesus in a positive light.  The best I can offer, after reading commentaries, is that the poor fig tree is a stand-in for the Temple system, for the accounts of the fig tree are set amid condemnations of that system.

Jesus does propose an alternative, however.  We can pray to God without spending needless money on currency conversion and on sacrificial pigeons.  But…there is always a but…we need to forgive others, for there exists a link between our forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of us.  Jesus raises the bar again.

This hits me where it hurts.  I had a hell of a time (Yes, it was that bad.)  at the Department of History, The University of Georgia, during the sixteen months of my doctoral program.  I can think of the names of three professors, including my major professor, whom I need to forgive.  And, to this day, I harbor some negative emotions toward the entire university.  They are less prominent than they used to be, but they persist.  Forgiveness is hard, especially when one is the aggrieved party.  But it is possible, by grace.  It is only possible by grace.  And I am convinced that is a process much of the time.  [Update: Those negative emotions washed out of my system years ago.  I would not have been human had I not had such emotions, but I would have been foolish not to drop that burden years ago.–2017]

God knows that we are “but dust,” yet holds us to certain standards.  Fortunately, the two sides of that sentence exist in balance.  This, however, does not absolve any of us from doing are spiritual part.  Jesus has shown us the way; may we follow him.  That, too, is a process.

KRT

Published Originally as Week of 8 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 7, 2010

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance   Leave a comment

Loving God, anger is seductive

and our self-defense mechanisms lead us frequently

to ignore inconvenient facts and truths.

And, when people confront us,

sometimes we become rude and obnoxious.

Parts of the mass media feed off this tendency.

Yet reality is objective,

and no amount of repetition of mantras, doctrines, and dogmas

can change this fact.

Furthermore, nobody is entirely correct or incorrect all the time.

So may we have enough humility to recognize when we are objectively wrong

and others are objectively right.

May we embrace love, empathy, and compassion, seeking active virtue.

May our lives become prayer pleasing to you.

May we become Jesus to each other.

May we value people more than objects,

and the intangible more than the tangible.

May we reject all phobias and isms which denigrate people.

May we have what Martin Luther King, Jr., called a “revolution of values.”

In the name of the God.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 3, 2010 COMMON ERA

FEAST OF STS. JOANNA, MARY MAGDALENE, AND SALOME, WITNESSES TO THE RESURRECTION

Published Originally at GATHERED PRAYERS COLLECTED BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on August 3, 2010

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