Archive for March 2011

Proper 20, Year A   27 comments

Above:  Map of Ancient Nineveh

Image Source = Fredarch

Scandalous Generosity

The Sunday Closest to September 21

The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 16:2-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them,

If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites,

In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For what are we, that you complain against us?

And Moses said,

When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him– what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.”

And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said,

I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,

What is it?

For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them,

It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

37 He led out his people with silver and gold;

in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.

38 Egypt was glad of their going,

because they were afraid of them.

39 He spread out a cloud for a covering,

and a fire to give light in the night season.

40 They asked, and quails appeared,

and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water flowed,

so the river ran in the dry places.

42 For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43 So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44 He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil.

45 That they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.

Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Jonah 3:10-4:11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said,

O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.

And the LORD said,

Is it right for you to be angry?

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The LORD God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said,

It is better for me to die than to live.

But God said to Jonah,

Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?

And he said,

Yes, angry enough to die.

Then the LORD said,

You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?

Psalm 145:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

5 I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

6 They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of your greatness.

7 They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

SECOND READING

Philippians 1:21-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well– since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 20:1-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; 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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We like grace when we benefit from it, as in the case of the children of Israel, whom God fed in the wilderness.  Yet often we object when others–especially our enemies and others unlike us–benefit from it, too.

Consider Jonah, one of the most interesting literary creations in the Bible.  He was a satirical figure who epitomized the worst of post-Exilic Judaism, which had a strong dose of exclusivity about it.  So, in the short book bearing the name “Jonah” the titular character receives a mandate from God to offer the people of Nineveh–traditional enemies–a chance to repent.  Jonah runs away, but cannot escape from God.  Finally, Jonah does as God demands, and finds success in this effort disappointing.  Who is he without his traditional enemy?  What is his identity now?  This man cares more for a plant than for fellow human beings who are different from him, but whom God loves and to whom God reaches out.

This not merely about the scandal of grace extended to our enemies.  Jesus told a parable about a vineyard owner who hired people during various times of day then paid everybody the same amount–the standard daily wage at the time and place.  Those who had worked all day were upset, but the vineyard owner had not cheated them.

Why does God’s generosity scandalize us, or at least bother us?  Perhaps we think that we are deserving, but those people over there are not.  I have seen a sticker which reads,

GOD LOVES EVERYBODY, BUT I’M HIS FAVORITE.

This is supposed to be funny, which is how I interpret it.  But some people believe it.  In reality, however, we are just as deserving as those people are, which is to say that we are not deserving at all.  This, however, is not how many of us like to think of ourselves.

Too often we define ourselves according to what we are not.  We are not like those people.  We are not those people.  We are better than them, we tell ourselves.  In reality, however, my identity, your identity, and the identity of the person least like us all exist in the context of God.  We are children of God, and therefore siblings.  So our quarrels exist within a family context.  God, our Father-Mother (Metaphors relative to God are imperfect, and the Bible contains both masculine and feminine images for God.), loves us and does not give up on any of us.  So we ought not to write anyone off.  Yet we do.

We can be instruments of God voluntarily–like, Moses dealing with the ever-grumbling children of Israel, or Paul, bringing the message of Jesus to the Gentiles–or involuntarily–like Jonah, weeping over a dead plant while bemoaning the repentance of a population.  If divine grace and generosity scandalize us, the fault is with us, not with God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/scandalous-generosity/

Week of Proper 19: Saturday, Year 1   11 comments

Above: Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder, 1557

Image in the Public Domain

Seed Among Thorns

SEPTEMBER 18, 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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1 Timothy 6:13-21 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now, before God the source of all life and before Jesus Christ, who spoke up as a witness for the truth in front of Pontius Pilate, I put to you the duty of doing all that you have been told, with no faults or failures, until the Appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ,

who at the due time will be revealed

by God, the blessed and only Ruler of all,

the King of Kings and the Lord of lords,

who alone is immortal,

whose home is in accessible light,

whom no man has seen and no man is able to see:

to him be honour and everlasting power.  Amen.

Warn those who are rich in this world’s goods that they are not to look down on other people; and not to set their hopes on money, which is untrustworthy, but on God who, out of his riches, gives us all that we need for our happiness.  Tell them that they are to do good, and be rich in good works, to be generous and willing to share–that is the way they can save up a good capital sum for the future if they want to make sure of the only life that is real.

My dear Timothy, take great care of all that has been entrusted to you.  Have nothing to do with the pointless philosophical discussions and antagonistic beliefs of the “knowledge” which is not knowledge at all; by adopting this, some have gone right away from the faith.  Grace be with you.

Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

2 Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are his people and the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and call upon his Name.

4 For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Luke 8:4-15 (The Jerusalem Bible):

With a large crowd gathering and people from every town finding their way to him, he used this parable:

A sower went out to sow his seed.  As he sowed, some fell on the edge of the path and was trampled on; and the birds of the air ate it up.  Some seed fell on rock, and when it came up it withered away, having no moisture.  Some seed fell amongst thorns and the thorns grew with it and choked it.  And some seed fell into rich soil and grew and produced its crop a hundredfold.

Saying this he cried,

Listen, anyone who has ears to hear!

His disciples asked him what this parable might mean, and he said,

The mysteries of the kingdom of God are revealed to you; for the rest there are only parables, so that

they may see but not perceive,

listen but not understand.

This, then is what the parable means:  the seed is the word of God.  Those on the edge of the path are people who have heard it, and  the devil comes and carries away from the word their hearts in case they should believe and be saved.  Those on the rock are people who, when they first hear it, welcome the word with joy.  But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of trial they give up.  As for the part that fell into thorns, this is people who have heard, but as they go on their way they are choked by the worries and riches and pleasures of life and do not reach maturity.  As for the part in the rich soil, this is people with a noble and generous heart who have heard the word and take it to themselves and yield a harvest through their perseverance.

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The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Many people who grow up in churches then join one as an adult stop attending services at any congregation after a while.  One such person who stops attending a liberal church but becomes a regular at a conservative one, or one who leaves a conservative church for a liberal one makes a move for reasons of theology.  But one drops out entirely might have other reasons.  Survey data indicates that the most frequent reason for dropping out of church, according to those who do so, is that they are too busy.

Other posts, links to which I have provided in this one, have their own emphases.  Here, however, I choose to focus on those who the seed that fell among thorns.  Seeds of weeds were present among tilled soil.  Some of these seeds germinated and produced weeds with thorns.  So, when the sower dropped non-weed seeds into the soil, the thorns choked them.  These thorns, according to Luke 8, are “the worries and riches and pleasures of life,” so the good seeds “do not reach maturity.”

I chose to extend the assigned reading from 1 Timothy (6:13-16) to the end of the book (verse 21).  “Why not?” I thought.  Besides, the Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following moves along to Ezra, beginning with Monday, Year 1, in the Week of Proper 20.  Extending the reading by a few does connect 1 Timothy 6 to Luke 8.

Warn those who are rich in this world’s goods that they are not to look down on other people; and not to set their hopes on money, which is untrustworthy, but on God who, out of his riches, gives us all we need for our happiness.  Tell them that they are to do good, and be rich in good works, to be generous and willing to share–this is the way they can save up a good capital sum for the future if they want to make sure of the only life that is real.

–1 Timothy 6:17-19 (The Jerusalem Bible)

When we chase after that which does not satisfy, we do not pursue that which does.  When we live over-scheduled lives, we leave no or inadequate time for prayer and leisure.  When we are often or constantly in touch with others via technology, we leave no or inadequate time for peace and quiet.  The only life that is real is life in God.  If we neglect this truth, we do so at our own peril.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/seed-among-thorns/

Week of Proper 19: Friday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  U.S. $10,000 Bill, 1934

(Note:  $10,000 in 1934 = $163,000 in 2010.)

Images of U.S. currency, especially old banknotes, are in the public domain.

Greed, the Root of All Evil

SEPTEMBER 17, 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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1 Timothy 6:1-12 (The Jerusalem Bible):

All slaves “under the yoke” must have unqualified respect for their masters, so that the name of God and our teaching are not brought into disrepute.  Slaves whose masters are believers are not to think any less of them because they are brothers; on the contrary, they should serve them all the better, since those who have the benefit of their services are believers and dear to God.

This [the contents of 1 Timothy prior to this paragraph] is what you are teach them to believe and persuade them to do.  Anyone who teaches anything different, and does not keep to the sound teaching, which is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine which is in accordance with true religion, is simply ignorant and must be full of self-conceit–with a craze for questioning everything and arguing about words.  All that can come of this is jealousy, contention, abuse, and wicked mistrust of each other; and unending disputes by people who are neither rational nor informed and imagine that religion is a way of making a prophet.  Religion, of course, does not bring large profits, but only to those who are content with what they have.  We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it; but as long as we have food and clothing, let us be content with that.  People who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction.  The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.

But, as a man dedicated to God, you must avoid all that.  You must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle.  Fight the good faith of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses.

Psalm 49:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hear this, all you peoples;

hearken, all you who dwell in the world,

you of high degree and low, rich and poor together.

2 My mouth shall speak of wisdom,

and my heart shall meditate on understanding.

3 I will incline my ear to a proverb

and set forth my riddle upon the harp.

4 Why should I be afraid in evil days,

when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,

5 The wickedness of those who put their trust in their goods,

and boast of their great riches?

6 We can never ransom ourselves,

or deliver to God the price of our life;

7 For the ransom of our life is so great,

that we should never have enough to pay it,

8 In order to live for ever and ever,

and never to see the grave.

9 For we see that the wise die also;

like the dull and the stupid they perish

and leave their wealth to those who come after them.

Luke 8:1-3 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now after this he [Jesus] made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God.  With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments:  Mary surnamed the Magdalene, form whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who had provided for them out of their own resources.

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The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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“If you want to make a little money, write a book.  If you want to make a lot of money, create a religion.”

–L. Ron Hubbard, Founder of the Church of Scientology

Wealth and money, in and of themselves, are neither good nor bad.  The good and the bad originate from one’s motivations for seeking to acquire them and how one uses them when one has them.  Wealthy women financed the work of our Lord.  That was a good use of wealth, certainly.  Likewise, philanthropy is always a worthy cause.  But basing one’s identity on socio-economic status is foolish, for our identity ought to be in God alone.  And he who dies with the most toys does not win.  The haunting final scene of Citizen Kane returns to my memory at this time.  Charles Foster Kane had many possessions and a mansion, but nothing could make up for his lost childhood.  And his things, for lack of a better word, were useless to those cleaning up after him.

There is part of 1 Timothy 6 which I must address before moving forward.  The chapter opens with two verses concerning slavery but not condemning it.  Many Christians of the First Century C.E. expected Jesus to return any day, week, month, or year, so social reform took a back seat to personal holiness in the name of preparing for our Lord’s parousia.  Of course, he did not keep their schedule.  Another issue informing this chapter and much of the rest of the New Testament is how to be a good Christian and a good Roman.  Rocking the socio-economic boat by trying to abolish slavery, on which the Roman economy depended, was not on the agenda.

Here I must argue with more than one author of a New Testament text and side with Jesus.  Slavery is incompatible with following the Golden Rule.  I approach this issue from the perspective of a history buff.  For many centuries in Europe secular leaders oppressed the peasant majority of people while church leaders told the peasants that God had made them peasants.  So resisting the social order was allegedly a sin.  And, in the U.S. South, preachers used to quote the Old and New Testaments chapter and verse to defend racial slavery.  They said that those who used the Bible to condemn slavery were heretics.  Illustrative sermons are available at http://docsouth.unc.edu/, among other places.  There are also excellent books, such as In His Image, But…, by H. Shelton Smith, on the subject.  And the 1865 Journal of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States reflects honest confusion about how the Confederacy could have lost the Civil War, for many white Southern Christians believed that God condoned slavery, and perhaps even commanded it.

But the Golden Rule is concise and unambiguous.  And this slavery served to benefit the masters, not the slaves.

Saint Laurence of Rome (died 258) was a deacon who became a martyr during the Valerian persecution.  The Empire tried to confiscate the wealth of the Church.  So Laurence, the treasurer, distributed the funds to the poor.  When captured and questioned, he said that the poor were the wealth of the Church.  He was correct, not that this fact spared him from a gruesome death.

He understood the true value of wealth, which is that its best use is meeting the needs of people.  We came into the world with nothing, which is how much we will take with us when we die.  How we care for each other with the time and other resources we have matters far more than how much money or many “toys” we have.  Following the Golden Rule is far more valuable than any amount of gold.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/greed-and-the-golden-rule/

Week of Proper 19: Thursday, Year 1   14 comments

Above: Timothy and His Grandmother, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

“Do not let people disregard you….”

SEPTEMBER 16, 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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1 Timothy 4:12-16 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Do not let people disregard you because you are young, but be an example to all the believers in the way you speak and behave, and in your love, your faith and your purity.  Make use of the time until I arrive by reading to the people, preaching and teaching.  You have in you a spiritual gift which was given to you when the prophets spoke and the body of elders laid their hands on you; do not let it lie unused.  Think hard about all this, and put it into practice, and everyone will be able to see how you are advancing.  Take great care about what you do and what you teach; always do this, and in this way you will both save yourself and those who listen to you.

Psalm 111:7-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

8 They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

9 He sent redemption to his people;

he commanded his covenant for ever;

holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.

Luke 7:36-50 (The Jerusalem Bible):

One of the Pharisees invited him to a meal.  When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town.  She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment.  She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself,

If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is who is touching him and what a bad name she has.

Then Jesus took him up and said,

Simon, I have something to say to you.

The reply was,

Speak, Master.

Jesus said,

There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty.  They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both.  Which of them will love him more?

Simon answered,

The one who was pardoned more, I suppose.

Jesus said,

You are right.

Then he turned to the woman.

Simon,

he said,

do you see this woman?  I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love.  It is the man who is forgiven little who  shows little love.

Then he said to her,

Your sins are forgiven.

Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves,

Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?

But he said to the woman,

Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

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The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Among the lessons I derive from my studies of history is this:  There is far more to a person than his or her Curriculum Vitae.  Three of the worst Presidents of the United States (if not the worst) were Millard Fillmore (1850-1853), Franklin Pierce (1853-1857), and James Buchanan (1857-1861).  They came from two parties, so this judgment does not indicate any partisan bias I carry.  These men, with CVs ranging from the skinny to the thick, helped lead this nation toward a civil war in 1861.  Of the three Buchanan was the most experienced; he was an old pol.

Likewise, youth is neither inherently good nor bad relative to experience.  The verdict varies according to each circumstance.  Timothy was a good case for demonstrating the virtues of youth.  He was young but capable, having learned much of his faith from his grandmother.  He did take care with regard to what he said and did, to the end, which came in 97 C.E., when he denounced a pagan festival and met his martyrdom as a result.

The woman in Luke 7:36-50 was also despised.  This story, with some variations, appears in all four canonical gospels.  Simon was either a leper (Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13) or a Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50).  The woman was either an anonymous prostitute (Luke 7:36-50) or Mary of Bethany (John 12:1-11) or just unnamed (Mark 14:3-9, Matthew 26:6-13).  And she either anointed his feet (John 12:1-11, Luke 7:36-50) or his head (Matthew 26:6-13, Mark 14:3-9).  These are the kinds of details which render Biblical literalism an unfeasible position.

But let us take the story in Luke as we have it.  Simon the Pharisee was socially respectable, and the prostitute was not.  He had neglected to perform basic etiquette according to his culture, but the woman of ill repute exceeded it.  The portrayal of Jesus in this story is consistent with that in other Gospel accounts in which Jesus associates with notorious sinners.  Why them?  They knew and accepted their need for repentance–literally, turning around and changing one’s mind–and forgiveness.  Jesus offered this freely, but the spiritually proud resisted this invitation.

Jesus still offers this invitation, and the vehicles of it might be socially respectable, or not.  They might be young, middle-aged, or elderly.  They might be like you or very different from you.  But all of them have spiritual gifts from God.  May we not disregard each other because of our preconceived notions.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/disregarding-people/

Week of Proper 19: Wednesday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  An Icon of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

“For Every Action….”

SEPTEMBER 15, 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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1 Timothy 3:14-16 (The Jerusalem Bible):

At the moment of writing to you, I am hoping that I may be with you soon; but in case I should be delayed, I wanted you to know how people ought to behave in God’s family–that is, in the Church of the living God, which upholds the truth and keeps it safe.  Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is very deep indeed:

He was made visible in the flesh,

attested by the Spirit,

seen by angels,

proclaimed to the pagans,

believed in by the world,

taken up in glory.

Psalm 111:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

2 Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

4 He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

Luke 7:31-35 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

What description, then, can I find for the men of this generation?  What are they like?  They are like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market place:

‘We played the pipes for you,

and you wouldn’t dance;

we sang dirges,

and you wouldn’t cry.’

For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, ‘He is possessed.’  The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’  Yet Wisdom has been proved right by all her children.

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The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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There is a joke about an Episcopal congregation that had just received its first female priest.  The Senior Warden and the Junior Warden, although skeptical about their new pastor, took her on a fishing trip.  So the three of them got into a fishing boat and headed away from the shore.  Then the priest realized that she had left her fishing gear on the shore.  Therefore she apologized, excused herself, and walked across the water to retrieve it.  One warden turned to the other and said,

See, she can’t even swim.

As a sign says,

FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE CRITICISM.

I know from my study of history, especially that of U.S. politics, that more than one leading political figure (such as Thomas Jefferson) has criticized the ruling party from the perspective of a member of the opposition.  Yet these individuals (such as Jefferson) have changed their minds after coming to power.  Then they have faced criticism from their opposition, members of the former ruling party, for doing what members of the former ruling party advocated doing while in power.  Principles and politics diverge much of the time, but this is not always bad.  Had Jefferson stuck to his Strict Constructionist principles, he would not have approved of the Louisiana Purchase.  But he did approve of it, and he doubled the territorial size of the United States and did something great for his nation.

Perhaps you know or have known (or at least known of) someone impossible to please.  Nothing is ever good enough for that person.  Or maybe it was just true that you could never do anything to this individual’s satisfaction.  It was a frustrating experience, was it not?  I have had this experience.  I was glad when my path of life took me away from that person.

It was impossible for John the Baptist or Jesus to please many professional religious people in First Century C.E. Judea.  John and Jesus were revolutionaries who threatened the order in which the Sadducees, scribes, and Pharisees thrived.  So these religious elites grasped at any straw to criticize, and consistency was absent.  John was allegedly too ascetic, but Jesus allegedly ate and drank too much.  If he had been an ascetic, they would have criticized him for that.  So, regardless of what he did or did not do, the same people were going to criticize him for something.  This spoke volumes about them, and the sound was negative.

John and Jesus were not what their critics wanted them to be.  Rather, these men were what they were–and needed to be.  Here is the take-home message for this day:  Do you find Jesus threatening or disappointing?  If so, the fault is with you, not him.  He is who he is–and who he needs to be.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/for-every-action/

Week of Proper 19: Tuesday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  French Suffragettes in 1935

Image in the Public Domain

Gender Equality in Jesus Via the Holy Spirit

SEPTEMBER 14, 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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1 Timothy 3:1-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Here is a saying that you can rely on:  To want to be a presiding elder is to want to do a noble work.  That is why the president must have an impeccable character.  He must not have been married more than once, and he must be temperate, discreet and courteous, hospitable and a good teacher; not a heavy drinker, nor hot-tempered, but kind and peaceable.  He must not be a lover of money.  He must be a man who manages his own family well and brings his children up to obey him and be well-behaved:  how can any man who does not understand how to manage his own family have responsibility for the church of God?  He should not be a new convert, in case pride might turn his head and then he might be condemned as the devil was condemned.  It is also necessary that people outside the church should speak well of him, so that he never gets a bad reputation and falls into the devil’s trap.

In the same way, deacons must be respectable men whose word can be trusted, moderate in the amount of wine they drink and with no squalid greed for money.  They must be conscientious believers in the mystery of the faith.  They are to be examined first, and only admitted to serve as deacons if there is nothing against them.  In the same way, the women must be respectable, not gossips but sober and quite reliable.  Deacons must not have been married more than once, and must be men who manage their children and families well.  Those of them who carry out their duties well as deacons will earn a high standing for themselves and be rewarded with great assurance in their work for the faith in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 101 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will sing of mercy and justice;

to you, O LORD, will I sing praises.

2 I will strive to follow a blameless course;

oh, when will you come to me?

I will walk with sincerity of heart within my house.

3 I will set no worthless thing before my eyes;

I hate the doers of evil deeds;

they shall not remain with me.

4 A crooked heart shall be far from me;

I will not know evil.

5 Those who in secret slander their neighbors I will destroy;

those who have a haughty look and a proud heart I cannot abide.

6 My eyes are upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me,

and only those who lead a blameless life shall be my servants.

7 Those who act deceitfully shall not dwell in my house,

and those who tell lies shall not continue in my sight.

8 I will soon destroy all the wicked in the land,

that I may root out all evildoers from the city of the LORD.

Luke 7:11-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now soon afterwards he [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people.  When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her.  When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her.

Do not cry

he said.  Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said,

Young man, I tell you to get up.

And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying,

A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.

And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over his countryside.

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The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Consider the following:

All baptised in Christ, you have all clothed yourselves in Christ, and there are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus.  Merely by belonging to Christ you are the posterity of Abraham, the heirs he was promised.

–Galatians 3:28 (The Jerusalem Bible)

1 Timothy can be a troublesome book, for it contains a mixture of culturally-conditioned and locally-specific gender attitudes (in this day’s reading and in 2:9-15) as well as garden-variety sexism.  But a survey of the epistles we know that Paul wrote reveals great openness to a prominent place for women in the church.  And then there is Galatians 3:28.

A few days ago I read a New York Times story about the difficulty that many unmarried (and presumably chaste; I have no reason to suspect otherwise) evangelical ministers in the United States have securing pastorates.  I assume that interpretations of passages, such as those from 1 Timothy for this day, account for part of the cause of this difficulty.  But, as Matthew 19:12 quotes Jesus speaking affirmatively, there are those who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven.  Besides, marriage is not a universal vocation.  Furthermore, speaking as a recovering Preacher’s Kid, there is much virtue in certain proportion of the clergy being voluntarily celibate, for the lack of a family life enables them to devote more time to serving God via the church.

Gender roles in the Bible vary according to time and place.  Many laws regarding women in the Hebrew Scriptures assume that females are property of men.  So, for example, premarital sexual relations become a property crime–against her father, no less.  The man makes restitution by marrying the woman he has deflowered.  However, if one cannot prove that the man deflowered her, she is to die by stoning.  (Deuteronomy 22:13-21)  And adultery, in the Ten Commandments, is a property crime against the husband.  (See Exodus 20:17)

And, in the Hellenistic world, most women depended on men financially.  This fact helps explain our Lord’s condemnations of divorce without serious cause.  It was convenient for the husband, but placed the ex-wife at great risk.  And a widow needed a male relative–in the case of the woman from Luke, a son, to protect her.

Fortunately, there is equality through the Holy Spirit.  If our societies and institutions (especially religious ones) do not recognize this reality, they err in so far as they deviate from this high standard.  But a society is not an abstraction, for it consists of people.  Societies change over time as attitudes shift.  Sometimes this is positive; other times it is not.  Yet gender equality is good.

So, where do you stand?  And how will you act to make the world, or just your corner of it, a more equitable place, for the benefit of all?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/gender-equality-in-jesus-via-the-holy-spirit/

Week of Proper 19: Monday, Year 1   17 comments

Above:  Rosary Beads

Image in the Public Domain

Proper Attitudes in Prayer

SEPTEMBER 13, 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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1 Timothy 2:1-8 (The Jerusalem Bible):

My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone–petitions, intercessions, and thanksgiving–and especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious an reverent lives in peace and quiet.  To do this is right, and will please God our saviour; he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth.  For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself as a ransom for them all.  He is the evidence of this, sent at the appointed time, and I have been named a herald and apostle of it and–I am telling the truth and no lie–a teacher of the faith and the truth to the pagans.

In every place, then, I want the men to lift their hands up reverently in prayer, with no anger or argument.

Psalm 28 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 O LORD, I call to you;

my Rock, do not be deaf to my cry;

lest, if you do not hear me,

I become like those who go down to the Pit.

2 Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry to you,

when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies.

3 Do not snatch me away with the wicked or with the evildoers,

who speak peaceably with their neighbors,

while strife is in their hearts.

4 Repay them according to their deeds,

and according to the wickedness of their actions.

5 According to the work of their hands repay them,

and give them their just deserts.

6 They have no understanding of the LORD’s doings

nor of the works of his hands;

therefore he will break them down and not build them up.

7 Blessed is the LORD!

for he has heard the voice of my prayer.

8 The LORD is my strength and my shield;

my heart trusts in him, and I have been helped;

9 Therefore my heart dances for joy;

and in my song I will praise him.

10 The LORD is the strength of his people,

a safe refuge for his anointed.

11 Save your people and bless your inheritance;

shepherd them and carry them for ever.

Luke 7:1-10 (The Jerusalem Bible):

When he [Jesus] had come to the end of all he wanted the people to hear, he went into Capernaum.  A centurion there had a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death.  Having heard  about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his servant.  When they came to Jesus they pleaded earnestly with him.

He deserves this of you,

they said,

because he is friendly towards our people; in fact, he is the one who built the synagogue.

So Jesus went with them, and was not very far from the house when the centurion sent word to him by some friends:

Sir,

he said,

do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured.  For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man:  Go, and he goes; to another:  Come here, and he comes; to my servant:  Do this, and he does it.

When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning around, said to the crowds following him,

I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this.

And when the messengers got to the house they found the servant in perfect health.

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The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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A comparison of the reading from Luke and its counterpart in Matthew is interesting.  The author of Luke-Acts includes details his Matthew counterpart omits.  The Lukan account tells us that the Roman centurion was friendly to the Jews, going so far as to supervise the construction of the synagogue at Capernaum.  Yet in both versions of the story the centurion is a good man who displays care for his servant and humility with regard to Jesus.  There is one difference:  In Matthew the centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant.  But in Luke he sends some Jewish elders to make the request.  This might bother a scriptural literalist, which I am not.  Yet the canonical Gospels are not documentaries; they are documents which speak of the Good News of Jesus.  And they do this well.

The author of 1 Timothy writes that one ought to pray reverently, “with no anger or argument.”  Certainly the Roman centurion was reverent toward Jesus, but the author of Psalm 28 disobeyed the rule regarding “anger or argument.”  I know angry prayer well; I have said many of them over the years.  They constituted an emotional release for me, but I doubt that they were a good use of prayer time.  They were not worthy of the standard of Jesus, who prayed for the forgiveness of those who executed him.  If my choice of the label “Christian” is to mean what it should, I need to become more like the Lord I claim to follow.  This includes backing away from the desire for God to punish my enemies or just people I dislike.

And what about praying for those in authority?  The author of 1 Timothy does not say to pray for only those authority figures one likes.  This makes sense, for we ought to pray for those in authority because they are in authority.  What we think of them is irrelevant to whether we ought to pray for them.  What kind of people they are has no bearing on whether we should pray for them.  We need to be careful to pray for them, not about them.  We ought to pray for them without judging them, for our Lord has commanded us to leave judgment to God, with whom the sole right of vengeance resides.  But this is the same God who extends lavish and scandalous grace, too.

So, what is prayer?  Growing up, the most frequent definition I heard was “talking to God.”  That is part of it, certainly.  But there is far more to it than that.  The Catechism from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer defines prayer as “responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words,” and Christian prayer as “response to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (page 856)

When, with or without words, we pray for–not about–another person, we open the door for God to change how we think about that individual.  We open ourselves up to perceive him or her in a more positive, sympathetic way than we do already.  We might even end up identifying with this person and understanding that he or she is not as different from us than we once thought.  If praying honestly and non-judgmentally does nothing else, it makes us better than we were before.   Besides, we need grace as much as anyone else.  Do we understand this–really?

If we do not, may we embark on the prayer journey to that realization.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/proper-attitudes-in-prayer/

Proper 19, Year A   21 comments

Above: Forgiveness

Image Source = AK Pastor

Forgiveness, the Way of Peace and Freedom

The Sunday Closest to September 14

The Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 13, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 14:19-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said,

Let us flee from the Israelites, for the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.

So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the LORD tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

Psalm 114 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

When Israel came out of Egypt,

the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech,

2 Judah became God’s sanctuary

and Israel his dominion.

3 The sea beheld it and fled;

Jordan turned and went back.

4 The mountains skipped like rams,

and the little hills like young sheep.

5 What ailed you, O sea, that you fled?

O Jordan, that you turned back?

6 You mountains, that you skipped like rams?

you little hills like young sheep?

7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,

at the presence of the God of Jacob,

8 Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water

and flint-stone into a flowing spring.

Or this alternative to Psalm 114:

Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

The LORD is my strength and my might,

and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him,

my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

The LORD is a warrior;

the LORD is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea;

his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea.

The floods covered them;

they went down into the depths like a stone.

Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power–

your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.

In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries;

you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble.

At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up,

the floods stood up in a heap;

the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy said,

I will pursue, I will overtake,

I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.

I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.

You blew with your wind, the sea covered them;

they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?

Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

awesome in splendor, doing wonders?

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.  And Miriam sang to them:

Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Genesis 50:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said,

What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?

So they approached Joseph, saying,

Your father gave this instruction before he died, “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.” Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.

Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said,

We are here as your slaves.

But Joseph said to them,

Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.

In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins

and heals all your infirmities;

4 He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

5 He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and his works to the children of Israel.

8 The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,

so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

SECOND READING

Romans 14:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall give praise to God.

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 18:21-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

Peter came and said to Jesus,

Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?

Jesus said to him,

Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Sometimes the readings for any given Sunday, according to the Revised Common Lectionary, fit together smoothly.  Other times, however, they do not.  This happens most often during the Season after Pentecost.  The readings from Genesis, Romans, and Matthew mesh well, for they pertain to forgiveness.  But where is the forgiveness (especially for the Egyptians) in the Exodus lections?

I have written on the subject of forgiveness at least several times on my devotional blogs, for the lectionaries I have chosen to follow touch on this subject again and again.  What I have written stands; this is difficult for me.  Here is a prayer I wrote on February 27, 2011:

Gracious God, why is forgiving so difficult?

I know what I need to do, and I want to do it–

except when I do not want to do it.

Forgive me for this sin, I ask you,

and bestow grace upon me sufficient to enable me

to forgive others and myself,

so to live in Godly liberation with you and my fellow human beings.

Amen.

Link = http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/a-prayer-for-grace-to-forgive/

On a different aspect, however…

Yesterday I taught another session of my World Civilization II course for Gainesville State College.  I spent most of the time discussing Islam, the Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Empire, and Western imperialism in the Middle and Near East, as well as indigenous reactions and responses to it.  One of the reactions was Wahhabism, the legacy of which includes the attacks of September 11, 2001.  I told the gathered students that resentments which flow from being on the colonial end of imperialism are understandable, but that resentment which festers for too long turns poisonous.  It devours the person who harbors the resentment(s) and therefore affects those around him or her.  And sometimes, as in the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it it consumes a nation.  And, in the case of 9/11, it strikes far overseas.  How much better would world history have played out had more people combined forgiveness with their nationalism, instead of mixing militant religion with it?

But two wrongs do not make a right, and one person’s intolerance does not excuse corresponding intolerance.  The proper extinguishing agents for hatred are love and forgiveness, for they break the cycle.  If we do not break the cycle of hatred and violence, it will break us.  God offers us freedom in forgiveness; may we accept it and extend it ourselves and each other.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/forgiveness-the-way-of-peace-and-freedom/

Week of Proper 18: Saturday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  Storing Olives

Hearing and Acting Accordingly

SEPTEMBER 11, 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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1 Timothy 1:15-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Here is a saying that you can rely on and nobody should doubt:  that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  I myself am the greatest of them; and if mercy has been shown to me, it is because Jesus Christ meant to make me the greatest evidence of his inexhaustible patience for all the other people who would later have to trust in him to come to eternal life.  To the eternal King, the undying, invisible, and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

Psalm 113 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Give Praise, you servants of the LORD;

praise the Name of the LORD.

2 Let the Name of the LORD be blessed,

from this time forth for evermore.

3 From the rising of the sun to its going down

let the Name of the LORD be praised.

4 The LORD is high above all nations,

and his glory above the heavens.

5 Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

6 He takes up the weak out of the dust

and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

7 He sets them with the princes,

with the princes of his people.

8 He makes the woman of a childless house

to be a joyful mother of children.

Luke 6:43-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit.  For every tree can be told by its own fruit; people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles.  A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness.  For a man’s words from what fills his heart.

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say?

Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them–I will show you what he is like.  He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house  but could not shake it, it was so well built.  But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations:  as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!

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The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Theology contains many subtle factors.  They fascinate me.  I have concluded that the best theology is too complex to fit neatly on a bumper sticker, in fact.  Consider, for example, the Lutheran understanding of Single Predestination.  I spent at least an hour late last night and early this morning pouring through the Book of Concord, biographies of Martin Luther, and volumes of comparative theology to be sure that I understand this perspective factually and correctly.  Luther wrote and spoke about predestination, accepting it as a reality.  But he also discouraged speculation about whether one is or is not predestined to Heaven.  Furthermore, Luther believed that all who trust Christ and in his promises will find redemption.  In simple terms, regardless of whether a specific Christian is predestined to Heaven, God will redeem him or her.  Jesus is the trump card over a lack of predestination to Eternal Election.  And the Predestined will be Christian, in this theology, of course.  (There is much more to this aspect of Lutheran theology, of course.)

If we are in Christ, whether by Single Predestination or the witness of Holy Spirit (Here I channel the 1903 U.S. Presbyterian version of the Westminster Confession of Faith.), we will bear good fruit.  Except in the case of accidents, what we say and do will flow from our attitudes.  Here, as we say in the United States, is where the rubber meets the road.  And what is our standard?  The example of Jesus is; compassion is.  As much as Jesus is the trump card over a lack of predestined state to Eternal Election, compassion is the trump card over minute aspects of religious traditions and law codes.

Above:  Ground Zero, New York, New York, September 17, 2001

Image in the Public Domain

That, you might say, is obvious, well, and good.  But what about a practical application.  Here it is.  Jesus said to love one’s enemies and to bless those who curse and persecute us.  He said also that everyone is everybody else’s neighbor, and that we should treat each other accordingly.  I claim to follow Jesus.  So these instructions apply to me in all circumstances.  If I do not act accordingly, I do not follow Jesus, to the extent that I deviate from this ethic.

The attacks of September 11 (in the proximity of this post or on it, depending on the year) constituted terrorism and mass murder.  I make no excuse for either.  But the actions of some do not justify subsequent hatred, murder, violence, fear-mongering, and scapegoating.  Whom would Jesus scapegoat?  Nobody.  Whom would Jesus kill?  Nobody.  Whom would Jesus torture?  Nobody.  The teachings of Jesus stand in stark contrast to a bumper sticker I saw in Statesboro, Georgia, in 2002.  It said:

KILL THEM ALL AND LET ALLAH SORT THEM OUT.

Bearing good fruit can be a difficult task, but grace is available to us.

To the eternal King, the undying, invisible, and only God, be honour and glory for ever and ever.  Amen.

–1 Timothy 1:17 (The Jerusalem Bible)

KRT

Week of Proper 18: Friday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Ephesus on a Map

Image Source = http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CN092MAPS1.htm

Spiritual Courage

SEPTEMBER 10, 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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1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-14 (The Jerusalem Bible):

From Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus by the command of God our saviour and of Christ Jesus our hope, to Timothy, true child of mine in the faith; wishing you grace, mercy and peace from God the Father and from Christ Jesus our Lord.

I thank Christ Jesus our Lord, who has given me strength, and who judged me faithful enough to call me into his service even though I used to be a blasphemer and did all I could to injure and discredit the faith.  Mercy, however, was shown me, because until I became a believer I had been acting in ignorance; and the grace of our Lord filled me with faith  and with the love that is in Christ Jesus.

Psalm 16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”

2 All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land,

upon those who are noble among the people.

3 But those who run after other gods

shall have their troubles multiplied.

4 Their libations of blood I will not offer,

nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.

5 O LORD, you are my portion and my cup;

it is you who uphold my lot.

6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

7 I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel;

my heart teaches me, night after night.

8 I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9 My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall rest in hope.

10 For you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor let your holy one see the Pit.

11 You will show me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy,

and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Luke 6:39-42 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] also told a parable to them,

Can one blind man guide another?  Surely both will fall into a pit?  The disciple is not superior to this teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you cannot see the plank in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.

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The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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A Related Post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/week-of-proper-7-monday-year-1/

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There is a lively academic debate regarding the authorship of 1 Timothy.  Did Paul write the epistle during his time at Rome, or did someone writing in Paul’s name produce the letter later?  Although very interesting to many people, this issue is irrelevant to my purpose in this post.  I follow Lectio Divino, the Benedictine practice of reading the Bible for spiritual formation, here.

So, regardless of the identity of the author of 1 Timothy, there is nothing in the reading for today that contradict’s Paul’s back story prior to his conversion.  That is the first important fact to consider relative to 1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-14.  Paul, when Saul of Tarsus, did act out of his spiritual ignorance.  And committed and condoned murders while in this state.  But God did not give up on him.  And Paul became an essential figure in early Christian history.  Those of us who have come into this world and the Christian faith after him stand on his shoulders.

But even those of us within the fold are not free of spiritual blindness.  Paul was not free of such blindness, even after his conversion.   And spiritual vision did not always translate into actions.  Epistles that Paul either wrote or dictated testify to these facts.  We still judge others, do we not?  But Jesus said not to do this.  We do not know all the struggles that any other person faces.  Neither do we understand all that occurs between any other person and God.  For that matter, we tend to notice faults (real or misperceived) in others before we acknowledge them in ourselves.  (When I say “we,” I include myself in “we.”)

Would you have given up on Saul of Tarsus?  Come on, be honest.  I will start; I might have given up on him.  This is a purely hypothetical question, so I can provide only a hypothetical answer.  But God did not.  Ananias of Damascus of Antioch did not give up on Saul/Paul.

Here is the potent question with which I leave you, O reader:  Would have had the spiritual courage to trust and obey God, and therefore act as Ananias did?  It is a purely hypothetical question, but it is useful for spiritual formation.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/spiritual-courage/