Archive for July 2011

Week of Proper 4: Tuesday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image Source = Edal Anton Lefterov

Divine Patience

JUNE 5, 2018

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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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2 Peter 3:11-18 (Revised English Bible):

Since the whole universe is to dissolve in this way, think what sort of people you ought to be, what devout and dedicated lives you should live!  Look forward to the day of God, and work to hasten it on; that day will set the heavens ablaze until they fall apart, and will melt the elements in flames.  Relying on his promise we look forward to new heavens and a new earth, in which justice will be established.

In expectation of all this, my friends, do your utmost to be found at peace with him, unblemished and above reproach.  Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience is an opportunity for salvation, as Paul, our dear friend and brother, said when he wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him.  He does the same in all his other letters, whenever he speaks about this, though they contain some obscure passages, which the ignorant and unstable misinterpret to their own ruin, as they do the other scriptures.

So, dear friends, you have been forewarned.  Take care not to let these unprincipled people seduce you with their errors; do not lose your own safe foothold.  But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory both now and for all eternity!

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

3 You turn us back to the dust and say,

“Go back, O child of earth.”

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

5 You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered.

13 Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry?

be gracious to your servants.

14 Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning;

so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

15 Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us

and the years in which we suffered adversity.

16 Show your servants your works

and your splendor to their children.

17 May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us;

prosper the work of our hands;

prosper our handiwork.

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, who before the passion of your only­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; 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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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 4:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/week-of-proper-4-tuesday-year-1/

Week of Last Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1 (Shrove Tuesday):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/week-of-last-epiphany-tuesday-year-1-shrove-tuesday/

Week of Last Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 2 (Shrove Tuesday):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/week-of-last-epiphany-tuesday-year-2-shrove-tuesday/

Matthew 22 (Parallel to Mark 12):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/proper-24-year-a/

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I have covered the matter of the tax in the corresponding Year 1 devotion and in the post for Proper 24, Year A.  So, for full details, follow the links I have provided.  Nevertheless, I need to say that those who questioned Jesus were insincere.  They tried his patience.

The reading from 2 Peter occurs in the context of the expectation that Jesus would return very soon.  That was nearly two thousand years ago.  Yet the advice to work for justice, be at peace with God, be above reproach, and live dedicated and devout lives is as germane now as it was then.  This advice is timeless in its wisdom.  And so is this:

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience is an opportunity for salvation….

God is patient, but not always.  But God is patient with us now.  God has been patient with us.  May we not try that patience very often, by grace.  May we enjoy our lives, not acting like Christians weaned on dill pickles.  Who likes a grumpy, humorless Christian?  May we enjoy our lives, live good lives (Doing good deeds is better than performing bad ones.), and live for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  May we preach the Gospel of Jesus at all times, using words only when necessary.  May our deeds speak louder than our words.

KRT

Published in a nearly identical form as Week of Last Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 2 (Shrove Tuesday), at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 23, 2011

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Week of Proper 4: Monday, Year 2   4 comments

Above:  Mother Teresa, Who Loved Her Neighbors

Image Source = Turelio

Piety, Genuine and False

JUNE 4, 2018

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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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2 Peter 1:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

From Simon Peter, servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who share equally with us in the privileges of faith through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace be yours in fullest measure, through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

God’s divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and true religion, through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  In this way he was given us his promises, great beyond all price, so that through them you may escape this corruption with which lust has infected the world, and may come to share in the very being of God.

With all this in view, you should make every effort to add virtue to your faith, knowledge to virtue, self-control to knowledge, fortitude to self-control, piety to fortitude, brotherly affection to piety, and love to brotherly affection.

If you possess and develop these gifts, you will grow actively and effectively in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Whoever lacks them is willfully blind; he has forgotten that his past sins were washed away.  All the more often, my friends, do your utmost to establish that God has called and chosen you.  If you do this, you will never stumble, and there will be rich provision for your entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Psalm 91 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,

abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall say to the LORD,

“You are my refuge and my stronghold,

my God in whom I put my trust.”

He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter,

and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He shall cover you with his pinions,

and you shall find refuge under his wings.

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,

nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness,

nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

7  A thousand shall fall at your side

and ten thousand at your right hand,

but it shall not come near you.

8  Your eyes have only to behold

to see the reward of the wicked.

9  Because you have made the LORD your refuge,

and the Most High your habitation,

10  There shall no evil happen to you,

neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

11  For he shall give his angels charge over you,

to keep you in all your ways.

12  They shall bear you in their hands,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

13  You shall tread upon the lion and adder;

you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,

therefore I will deliver him;

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;

I am with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

16 With long life will I satisfy him,

and show him my salvation.

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, who before the passion of your only­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; 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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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 4:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/week-of-proper-4-monday-year-1/

Week of Last Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/week-of-last-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Week of Last Epiphany:  Monday, Year 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/week-of-last-epiphany-monday-year-2/

Mark 12:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/week-of-proper-4-monday-year-1/

Matthew 21 (Parallel to Mark 12):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/proper-22-year-a/

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There is an old, perhaps apocryphal story.  The elderly Apostle John was about to visit a congregation.  The people gathered and anticipated what pearls of wisdom might drop from his lips.  When John arrived, he was so frail that others had to carry him.  Seated in front of the rapt audience, the Apostle said, “My children, love one another.”  Then he summoned the men who had carried him in to carry him out.  One congregation member, disappointed with the brevity of the address, chased after John and said, in so many words, “That’s it?”  John replied, “When you have done that, I will tell you more.”

Too often we Christians misunderstand orthodoxy as merely being correct on doctrinal matters.  As 2 Peter 1 reminds us, there is a lived aspect of orthodoxy.  The most basic test of this is, “Do we love one another?”  The jealous vineyard tenants in our Lord’s parable did not, but perhaps they thought themselves doctrinally orthodox.  The tenants were stand-ins for professional religious people of our Lord’s time and place.  They lived according a version of piety which depended on separation from the great unwashed, a type of piety which the great majority of people could not afford to maintain. So this was a smug, condescending piety–a false piety.

Jesus, of course, scandalized the practitioners of such piety by doing things like dining with tax collectors and speaking with prostitutes.

False piety is more socially respectable, is it not?  And what does tell you, O reader?

May we love one another, however this appears to others.

KRT

Published in a nearly identical form as Week of Last Epiphany:  Monday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 23, 2011

Trinity Sunday, Year B   16 comments

Above:  A Father and His Son

Image Source = Onkelbo

Members of the Family

FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

MAY 27, 2018

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The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Isaiah 6:1-8

Psalm 29 or Canticle 13 from The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Romans 8:12-17

John 3:1-17

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Trinity Sunday, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/trinity-sunday-year-a/

John 3:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/second-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/ninth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/tenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/eleventh-day-of-easter/

Romans 8:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/proper-11-year-a/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/week-of-proper-25-monday-year-1/

Alta Trinita Beata:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/alta-trinita-beata/

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Trinity Sunday is a potentially awkward time, one at which a person might feel the temptation to try to explain the Holy Trinity.  This temptation has given rise to a host of heresies, including Adoptionism and Arianism.  The Trinity is a mystery; may we be content with that.  As far as I am concerned, the concept of the Holy Trinity, as we have it, comes as close as any human idea can to summarizing God.  Yet there must be far more than what we can possibly imagine.

Yet we can make some statements confidently.  As Paul reminds us, God has adopted us into the family.  And, as the Johannine Gospel tells us, God seeks to redeem, not condemn,us.  We occupy a seat of privilege because God has placed us in it.  This status brings with it certain responsibilities.  We need, for example, to love one another, not fear, hate, and loathe each other.  We need to treat others as fellow members of the family of God.  Obeying this mandate will reform us and our societies, challenge mores (and perhaps laws), and maybe place us in harm’s way.  There are, unfortunately, those who find simple compassion threatening–sometimes to the extent of being willing to commit or condone violence.

God loves even those who find love so baffling that they are willing to kill to resist it.  And we must love and bless them too, by grace.  Jesus did no less.  And, if we are to follow our Lord, we must do as he did.

Adoption into the family of God can be a joy, but it can also lead to much grief in this life.  Such is the world as it is, but not as it needs to remain.  We can make this world a better place simply by being better people in it.  This is part of of our call from God.  Redeeming the world is God’s task, for which we are not equipped.  Yet the inability to do everything is no excuse to do nothing, so may we do what God commands us; may we love one another and act accordingly.  May we be salt and light.

KRT

Proper 4, Year B   21 comments

Above:  Corn

Regarding the Sabbath

The Sunday Closest to June 1

The Second Sunday after Pentecost

JUNE 3, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

1 Samuel 3:1-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli.  The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.  Then the LORD called,

Samuel, Samuel!

and he said,

Here I am!

and ran to Eli, and said,

Here I am, for you called me.

But he said,

I did not call, my son; lie down again.

Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.  The LORD called Samuel again, a third time.  And he got up and went to Eli, and said,

Here I am, for you called me.

Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy.  Therefore, Eli said to Samuel,

Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before,

Samuel! Samuel!

And Samuel said,

Speak, for your servant is listening.

Then the LORD said to Samuel,

See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.  On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.  For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restraint them.  Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.

Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD.  Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.  But Eli called Samuel and said,

Samuel, my son.

He said,

Here I am.

Eli said,

What was it that he told you?  Do not hide it from me.  May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.

So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him.  Then he said,

It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.

As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.  And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.  The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.

Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made;

your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you,

while I was being made in secret

and woven in the depths of the earth.

15 Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;

all of them were written in your book;

they were fashioned day by day,

when as yet there was none of them.

16 How deep I find your thoughts, O God!

how great is the sum of them!

17 If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand;

to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work–you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.  Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

Psalm 81:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing with joy to God our strength

and raise a loud shout to the God of Jacob.

2 Raise a song and sound the timbrel,

the merry harp, and the lyre.

Blow the ram’s-horn at the new moon,

and at the full moon, the day of our fast.

For this is a statute for Israel,

a law of the God of Jacob.

He laid it as a solemn charge upon Joseph,

when he came out of the land of Egypt.

6 I heard an unfamiliar voice saying,

“I eased his shoulder from the burden;

his hands were set free from bearing the load.”

7 You called on me in trouble, and I saved you;

I answered you from the secret place of thunder

and tested you at the waters of Meribah.

8 Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you:

O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

There shall be no strange god among you;

you shall not worship a foreign god.

10 I am the LORD your God,

who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said,

“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

SECOND READING

2 Corinthians 4:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.  For it is God who said,

Let light shine out of darkness,

who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in theface of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.  For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 2:23-3:6 (New Revised Standard Version):

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  The Pharisees said to him,

Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?

And he said to them,

Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?    He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest; and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.

Then he said to them,

The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.  They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him.  And he said to the man who had the withered hand,

Come forward.

Then he said to them,

Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?

But they were silent.  He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man,

Stretch out your hand.

He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; 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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Some Related Posts:

Proper 4, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

1 Samuel 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

Exodus 29 (Parallel to Deuteronomy 5):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/week-of-proper-11-friday-year-1/

2 Corinthians 3:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/week-of-proper-5-wednesday-year-1/

Mark 2-3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/week-of-2-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

Matthew 12 (Parallel to Mark 2-3):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/week-of-proper-10-friday-year-1/

Luke 6 (Parallel to Mark 2-3):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/week-of-proper-17-saturday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/week-of-proper-18-monday-year-1/

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Lectionaries cycle around and overlap.  I have written a large number of lectionary-based posts to date.  In so doing I have already said what I want to say regarding the sabbath theme of the readings.  Therefore I reproduce two devotions, both based on the reading from Mark.  Links to the original posts are above.

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The Pharisees (most, not all of them) are among the bete noires of the canonical Gospels.  These very publicly pious people criticize Jesus, his Apostles, and even some people he healed again and again.  In all likelihood these critics did what they understood righteousness to require of them.  I prefer to extend to them the benefit of the doubt; they were wrong, but sincerely so.  They did not wake up each morning and plot how to be difficult spiritually, although much of what they did and the Gospels report to us constituted such.

Indeed, I think that we need to check ourselves for signs of being contemporary counterparts of the Pharisees.  Christian denominations have built up traditions over thousands and hundreds of years.  Many of these are functional and constructive, even beautiful.  Yet even something useful and beautiful can become an idol, if we transform it into that.  And ossification of tradition can occur easily, rendering us inflexible in the habits of our minds.  The stories of Jesus teach us many valuable lessons, including the importance of avoiding such ossification.

Consider this day’s reading from Mark.  Jesus and his Apostles violated many sabbath laws observant Pharisees kept.  There were many arcane sabbath laws, which split hairs more finely than any Philadelphia lawyer.  Taken together, the sabbath laws permitted preventing an emergency situation from getting worse yet forbade making it better.  For example, one could apply a plain bandage but not ointment to an injured finger on the sabbath.  So you should not be surprised to learn that plucking and eating corn was illegal on the sabbath.  Doing so remedied hunger, but that meant making something better.

This is a twisted way to think about the sabbath, is it not?  It transforms the sabbath, which is supposed to a gift and a marker of freedom (slaves did not get days off) into a burden and something to manage with the help of a very long checklist of forbidden activities.  Puritans did it too, and many observant self-professing Christians and Jews continue to treat the sabbath in this way.  We should not neglect the sabbath, of course, but we ought not treat it like a burden and an occasion of legalism, either.

Back to our story….

Jesus reminded his critics of scriptural precedents for what he had done.  In 1 Samuel 21:1-6, Exodus 25:23-30, and Leviticus 24:9 we find the relevant information about David and the showbread.  Mentioning David, the revered king, was powerful rhetorical tool, although it certainly did not impress hyper-critical Pharisees.  It did, however, point out the hypocrisy of Jesus’ critics, who were not the intended audience for the Gospel According to Mark.  So the comment finds its target even today, at least some of the time.  I wonder, though, how often well-intentioned Christians miss the power of this story, perhaps more out of a “I know that story already” attitude, if nothing else.

William Barclay, in his insightful commentary on the Gospel reading, points out that “Religion does not consist in rules and regulations” and “The best way to use sacred things is to use them for men.”  In other words, it is sinful to refuse to apply religious laws to prevent starving and very hungry people from eating–sabbath or not.  This principle applies to physical realities beyond hunger; it pertains to helping people with whatever distresses them.  Barclay concludes his section of the reading from Mark with this sentence:  “The final arbiter in the use of all things is love and not law.”

I could not have said it better.

We have a loving God and Lord.  The works of God are marvelous and utterly spectacular.  And Jesus became not only our priest but our passover lamb.  That demonstrates love, does it not?  So we ought to display love, as well, and not hide behind laws which reinforce self-righteousness and make excuses for oppressing people and not helping them.   We have a mandate from God to care for others and to love them as we love ourselves.  God has commanded us to care for the vulnerable among us.  We might make excuses for why we fail to do this, but that does not erase our sin in the eyes of God.

One of my favorite deceased people was the actor Andreas Katsulas (1946-2006).  He played the one-armed man in the film version of The Fugitive.  He also portrayed Commander Tomalok on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Ambassador G’Kar on Babylon 5.  Katsulas was a practicing Greek Orthodox and an excellent chef.  Part of his Sunday ritual involved cooking meals for homeless people.  This would have violated the Pharisees’ sabbath codes, but it did demonstrate love.

May we compete with one another in demonstrating love for our fellow human beings everyday of the week.  Let us lay aside tendencies toward one upsmanship, self-righteousness, and public displays of piety meant to make us look good.  May we listen to one another more and more often, and shout at each other less and less often.  May we love one another in attitudes, words, and deeds.  May that be our law.

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Is it lawful to perform a good and kind work on the sabbath?  Or, to state the matter another way, is it ever wrong to do something good and kind?  Jesus’ answer is that goodness and kindness are lawful in the eyes of God at all times and all places.  This seems obvious to me, but why was it not obvious to our Lord’s critics in the Gospel reading?

There is much depth and subtlety in the reading from Hebrews.  Part of  it is this:  Jesus is the great high priest because of who he is, not due to his lineage.  Thus he stands apart from human religious establishments, especially priesthoods.  The Gospels tell many stories of Jesus contradicting something one of the religious parties (or a representative thereof) of his time advocated or did.  He stood apart from them.  Many people become quite defensive about religion, and some take this mindset to malicious extremes.

Religion which is inherently self-defensive is negative, and can turn easily against any good soul who just happens to have another opinion.  In the case of these certain Pharisees, they turned against Jesus (truly a good person) and enlisted the help of Herodians, natural rivals.  But the enemy of my enemy is friend, as the old saying goes.  Even if one were not familiar with the Synoptic Gospel narrative, one reading Mark closely should pick up some foreboding hints about the fate of Jesus by now.

These Pharisees were holding onto their traditions and egos, and others be damned.  Jesus be damned, they said, in so many words.  The unfortunate man with a withered hand be damned, they said, in so many words.  The man with a withered hand could not use that hand to hold onto anything, so he had nothing to lose but everything to gain.  These Pharisees, however, had everything to lose.

Jesus taught by his words and his deeds that good works and simple human kindness are always righteous.  Today we have other cultural and legal restrictions against good works and simple human kindness.  Some basic facts never change, only the details, such as names, dates, places, and clauses.  Yet some facts remain constant.  God is love.  God commands us love God fully, and our neighbors as ourselves.  The Golden Rule still applies.  And good deeds and simple acts of kindness are righteous at any time and any place.

I encourage you, O reader, to devote yourself to ever increasing good and kind works for the benefit of others, especially those who will never be able to repay you in any way.  Do this for the others and for God.  And know that, along the way, you will attract criticism, sometimes from people who should know better.  Some things never change, but neither does the divine mandate to love each other.

KRT

Week of Proper 3: Saturday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  A Bowl of Fruit

Image Source = Yosarian

It Is Not Really About the Me (“Me” Being the Speaker)

JUNE 2, 2018

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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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Jude 16-25 (Revised English Bible):

They [“certain individuals who have wormed their way” into the church and who “pour abuse on whatever they do not understand,”per verses 4 and 10] are a set of grumblers and malcontents.  They follow their lusts, and they court favour to gain their ends.  But you, my friends, should remember the predictions made by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They said to you:

In the final age there will be those who mock at religion and follow their own ungodly lusts.

These people create divisions; they are worldly and unspiritual.  But you, my friends, must make your most sacred faith the foundation of your lives.  Continue to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Keep yourselves in the love of God, and look forward to the day when our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy will give eternal life.

There are some doubting souls who need your pity.  Others you should save by snatching them from the flames.  For others your pity must be mixed with fear; hate the very clothing that is contaminated with sensuality.

Now to the One who can keep you from falling and set you in the presence of his glory, jubilant and above reproach, to the only God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all time, now, and for evermore.  Amen.

Psalm 63:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,

as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.

2  Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place,

that I might behold your power and your glory.

3  For your loving-kindness is better than life itself;

my lips shall give you praise.

4  So will I bless you as long as I live

and lift up my hands in your Name.

5  My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness,

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips.

6  When I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the night watches.

7  For you have been my helper,

and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.

8  My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast.

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:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 3:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/week-of-proper-3-saturday-year-1/

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/week-of-8-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/week-of-8-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

Blest Are the Pure in Heart:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/blest-are-the-pure-in-heart/

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A spiritual mentor of mine from the 1990s asked one question of each passage from the Bible.  He said, “What is really going on here?”

That question cuts through minor material and steers one past distractions.  The author of Jude wrote the brief epistle to one congregation experiencing specific difficulty at a certain time.  The details of the heresy in question are relatively minor.  They might even qualify as distractions.  My goal in this post is to focus on the important details, those which echo today.

Two main ideas stand out in my mind.  First, the unnamed villains were not merely people who held heterodox ideas.  No, they were also selfish, quarrelsome, verbally abusive, and apparently prone to carousing.  As we read elsewhere in the New Testament, one will know the variety and health of a tree by its fruit.

The other main idea is that the orthodox believers to whom the author wrote should respond faithfully, trusting in God, acting in pity, being above reproach.  After all, to quote a separate New Testament thread, one will know the variety and health of a tree by its fruit.

Often we human beings err when we act out of psychological defensiveness or excessive egotism, thereby seeking our own gain at the expense of others.  And congregational office, which is supposed to be a sacred trust, becomes either an ego crutch for an insecure person or a vehicle for an egomaniac.  A congregation, however, is part of the body of Christ.  The exercise of spiritual gifts is properly for the building up of the body, not an individual.  And one ought to check one’s ego at the church door.

Furthermore, while resisting destructive heresies, may we not fall into the pit being insulting and verbally abusive, of grumbling and being malcontented.  May we speak and live truth in love, with the accent on “in love.”  Winning the argument ought not become an idol which distracts us from demonstrating the love of Christ to everyone, including the grumbling heretics.  After all, is a grumbling heretic any better or worse than a grumbling orthodox person?

KRT

Published in a nearly identical form as Week of 8 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 18, 2011

Week of Proper 3: Friday, Year 2   11 comments

Above:  A Depiction of an Agape Feast from the Roman Catacombs

“Agape cancels a host of sins….”

JUNE 1, 2018

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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 Peter 4:7-13 (Revised English Bible):

The end of all things is upon us; therefore to help you pray you must lead self-controlled and sober lives.  Above all, maintain the fervour of your love for one another, because love cancels a host of sins.  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.  As good stewards of the varied gifts given you by God, let each use the gift he has received in service to others.  Are you a speaker?  Speak as one who utters God’s oracles.  Do you give service?  Give it in the strength which God supplies.  In all things let God be glorified through Jesus Christ; to him belong glory and power for ever and ever.

Dear friends, do not be taken aback by the fiery ordeal which has come to test you, as though it were something extraordinary.  On the contrary, in so far as it gives you a share in Christ’s sufferings, you should rejoice; and then when his glory is revealed, your joy will be unbounded.

Psalm 96:7-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  ”The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

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:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 3:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/week-of-proper-3-friday-year-1/

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/week-of-8-epiphany-friday-year-1/

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-8-epiphany-friday-year-2/

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/lord-help-us-walk-your-servant-way/

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The reading from 1 Peter occurs in the context of the expectation that Jesus would return very soon.  That nearly two thousand years ago.  Nevertheless, the relevance of what follows the failed prediction remains current.

More than one verse from the Bible teaches that there is a relationship between how we treat others and how God treats us.  Consider the end of the Gospel lection:  We must forgive others if we are to have a reasonable expectation that God will forgive us.   And God will extend to us the same standard we apply to others (Matthew 7:1-5).  The Greek word for “love” in 1 Peter 4:8 is agape.  This is selfless, self-sacrificing, unconditional love, the kind we see Jesus just a few days from demonstrating on the cross in the reading from Mark 11.  Jesus is our model, of course, but we must not lose sight of the fact that 1 Peter 4:7-13 uses agape to refer to how we ought to treat our fellow human beings.

Agape cancels a host of sins,

we read, followed by exhortations to act hospitably and use spiritual gifts for the common good, what Paul called the building up of the body of Christ.  More of this ought to happen among the churched population.  Often branches of the Church hinder their divine mandate by engaging in backstabbing, frontstabbing, bickering, gossiping, fighting needlessly over minor doctrinal disputes, and mistaking orthodoxy for the mere recitation and affirmation of a written confession of faith.  Indeed, much of Protestantism contains an unfortunate and reflexive reaction against anything resembling works-based righteousness.  But then there are books such as James and 1 Peter.

I am sufficiently close to Roman Catholicism to lack an anti-works-based righteousness reflexive kick.  Besides, as I ponder texts and interpretations of them over time, I conclude that there is validity to some degree of works-based righteousness within the context of grace, by which God empowers us to live  faithfully.  A positive response to God does require free will if it is to have any meaning.  Any such response is a work, is it not?  And this free will comes from God.  So everything leads back to God.

Within this context we have the teaching that we, by our actions, can contribute to our own forgiveness by God.  Dare we hear and accept this?  And how much better off would our families, friends and acquaintances networks, neighborhoods, communities, nations, world, congregations, and denominations be if more of us focused on extending agape toward each other instead of pointing fingers and trying to win arguments about theology and social issues?  Such arguments feed the heresy of Donatism, which is destructive.  But agapebuilds up.

May agape mark our individual and common lives.

KRT

Published in a nearly identical form as Week of 8 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 16, 2011

Week of Proper 3: Thursday, Year 2   13 comments

Above:  Jesus Healing the Blind Man (circa 1625-1650), by Eustache Le Sueur

Responsibilities

MAY 31, 2018

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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 Peter 2:2-12 (Revised English Bible):

Like the newborn infants you are, you should be craving for pure spiritual milk so that you may thrive on it and be saved; for surely you have tasted that the Lord is good.

So come to him, to the living stone which was rejected by men but chosen by God and of great worth to him.  You also, as living stones, must be built up into a spiritual temple, and form a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For you will find in scripture:

I am laying in Zion a chosen corner-stone of great worth.

Whoever has faith in it will not be put to shame.

So for you who have faith it has great worth; but for those who have no faith

the stone which the builders rejected has become the corner-stone,

and also

a stone to trip over, a rock to stumble against.

They trip because they refuse to believe the word; this is the fate appointed for them.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, a people claimed by God for his own, to proclaim the glorious deeds of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.  Once you were not a people at all; but now you are God’s people.  Once you were outside his mercy; but now you are outside no longer.

Dear friends, I appeal to you, as aliens in a foreign land, to avoid bodily desires which make war on the soul.  Let your conduct among unbelievers be so good that, although they now malign you as wrongdoers, reflection on your good deeds will lead them to give glory to God on the day when he comes in judgement.

Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are 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.

Mark 10:46-52 (Revised English Bible):

They came to Jericho; and as he was leaving the town, with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was seated at the roadside.  Hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout,

Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me!

Many of the people told him to hold his tongue; but he shouted all the more,

Son of David, have pity on me.

Jesus stopped and said,

Call him;

so they called the blind man:

Take heart,

they said.

Get up; he is calling you.

At that he threw off his cloak, jumped to his feet, and came to Jesus.  Jesus said to him,

What do you want me to do for you?

The blind man answered,

Rabbi, I want my sight back.

Jesus said to him,

Go; your faith as healed you.

At once he recovered his sight and followed him on the road.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 3:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/week-of-proper-3-thursday-year-1/

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/week-of-8-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-8-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

New Every Morning is the Love:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/new-every-morning-is-the-love-by-john-keble/

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1 Peter 2:2-12 reminds us that being among the called of God brings with it responsibilities.  We have a divine calling, one bought at a high price to God and which requires much of us.  The grace is free, not cheap, to us.  And we who claim the label “Christian” are witnesses to and ambassadors of Christ.  How effective are we?  People being as diverse as they are, each of us will, even when we do everything properly (by grace, of course) not attract some people to Jesus, and might even drive some away.  If we are indeed doing everything properly at such a time, the result speaks volumes about the other person or persons, not us.  Not even Jesus had a 100% conversion rate, and he was perfect.

Part of our calling entails being mindful of our behavior.  This includes avoiding hypocrisy.  Over ten years ago, I heard a news story about a minister somewhere in the United States.  He was quite vocal about the evils of gambling for a long time.  Then, one day, somebody caught him gambling at a local casino.  His actions spoke louder than his words, belied them, and brought disgrace upon him and his cause.

Perhaps the most basic behavioral issue is the showing of mercy.  God has shown mercy on us and expects us to extend it to others.  Acting mercifully matters more than winning theological or political arguments, for it is living one’s stated faith.  Consider the story of Jesus, blind Bartimaeus, and the crowd.  If you were a member of the crowd, would you have been more likely to try to silence the blind man or to help him go to Jesus?

Answer the question honestly.  If your answer disturbs you, take that to God in contrition and repentance.

KRT

Published in a nearly identical form as Week of 8 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 16, 2011