Archive for August 2011

Week of Proper 8: Saturday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

A Light to the Nations Throughout Time

JULY 4, 2020

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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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Amos 9:11-15 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In that day,

I will set up again the fallen booth of David:

I will mend its breaches and set up its ruins anew.

I will build it firm as in the days of old,

So that they shall possess the rest of Edom

And the nations once attached to My name

–declares the LORD who will bring this to pass.

A time is coming

–declares the LORD–

When the plowman shall meet the reaper,

And the trader of grapes

Him who holds the [bag of] seed;

When the mountains shall drip wine

And all the hills shall wave [with grain].

I will restore My people Israel.

They shall rebuild ruined cities and inhabit them;

They shall plant vineyards and drink their wine;

They shall till gardens and eat their fruits.

And I will plant them upon their soil,

Nevermore to be uprooted

From the soil I have given them

–said the LORD your God.

Psalm 85:7-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Show us your mercy, O LORD,

and grant us your salvation.

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Matthew 9:14-17 (An American Translation):

Then the disciples of John came up to him [Jesus] and said,

Why is it that we and the Pharisees are keeping the fast, while your disciples are not keeping it?

Jesus said to them,

Can wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?  But a time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and they will fast then.  But no one sews a patch of unshrunken cloth on an old coat, for the patch will tear away from the coat, and make the hole worse than ever.  And people do not put new wine into old wine-skins, or if they do, the skins burst, and the wine runs out and the skins are spoiled.  But people put new wine into fresh wine skins, and so both are saved.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 8:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/week-of-proper-8-saturday-year-1/

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The Kingdom of Israel, Amos proclaims, will go to its doom, and Judah will go into exile yet return from it.  For Judah, hope and restoration will follow judgment and exile.  The line of David will continue.

Sometimes restoration comes in ways we do not expect.  Judah was never again as great politically as it had been.  History tells us that the territory we now call the State of Israel was part of a series of foreign empires for nearly two thousand years, except for about a century, when the Hasmoneans governed.  Then the Romans came, and that was that.  The restoration of Amos spoke was religious.  And, from the House of David came one who drew foreigners to God.  Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnate, historical form of the Second Person of the Trinity, was that light to the nations.  As the risen Christ he remains that light.

This post constitutes the end of our journey through the Book of Amos.  It is a book worth revisiting many times, for its message is timeless.  Unfortunately, many of my fellow human beings insist on repeating the sins of economic exploitation which Amos condemned.  But the testimony of the prophet indicts them also as it echoes through the corridors of time.  May God, through the merits of Jesus, forgive and deliver us all.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/reading-and-pondering-amos-part-six/

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Week of Proper 8: Friday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  A U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

Too Late to Repent?

JULY 3, 2020

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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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Amos 8:1-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

This is what my Lord GOD showed me:  There was a basket of figs.  He said,

What do you see, Amos?

I replied,

A basket of figs.

And the LORD said to me:

The hour of doom has come for my people Israel; I will not pardon them again.  And the singing women of the palace shall howl on that day

–declares my Lord GOD:

So many corpses

Left lying everywhere!

Hush!

Listen to his, you who devour the needy, annihilating the poor of the land, saying,

If only the new moon were over, so that we could sell grain; the sabbath, so that we could offer wheat for sale, using an ephah that is too small, and a shekel that is too big, tilting a dishonest scale, and selling grain refuse as grain!  We will buy the poor for silver, the needy for a pair of sandals.

The LORD swears by the Pride of Jacob:

I shall never forget any of their doings.

Shall not the earth shake for this

And all that dwell on it mourn?

Shall it not all rise like the Nile

And surge like the Nile of Egypt?

And in that day

–declares my Lord God–

I will make the sun set at noon,

I will darken the earth on a sunny day.

I will turn your festivals into mourning

And all your festivals into mourning

And all your songs into dirges;

I will put sackcloth on all loins

And tonsures on every head.

I will make it mourn as for an only child,

All of it as on a bitter day.

A time is coming

–declares my Lord GOD–

when I will send a famine upon the land:  not a hunger for bread or a thirst for water, but for the hearing of the words of the LORD.  Men shall wander from sea t sea and from north to east to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.

In that day, the beautiful maidens and the young men shall faint with thirst–

Those who swear by the guilt of Samaria,

Saying, “As your God lives, Dan,”

And “As the way to Beer-sheba lives”–

They shall fall to rise no more.

Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

Matthew 9:9-13 (An American Translation):

Afterward, as Jesus was passing along from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tollhouse, and he said to him,

Follow me!

And he got up and followed him.

While Jesus was at home at table, a number of tax-collectors and irreligious people came in joined Jesus and his disciples at table.  And the Pharisees observed it, and they said to his disciples,

Why does your master eat with tax-collectors and irreligious people?

But he heard it, and said,

It is not the well but the sick who have to have the doctor!  Go and learn what the saying means, “It is mercy, not sacrifice, that I care for.”  I did not come to invite the pious but the irreligious.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 8:  Friday,  Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-1/

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I enjoy wordplay.  I eve have my own blog devoted to puns.  So imagine, if you, O reader, will, my interest in noting the Hebrew-language pun early in Amos 8.  “Kayitz,” the Hebrew word for “summer fruit” or “figs”,” sounds like “ketz,” the Hebrew word for “the end.”  Amos sees a basket of figs or summer fruit, a sign that the end is near.  This pun is serious.

And why was the end near?  As Amos keeps repeating–just in case we have missed it for the previous seven chapters–cheating, exploitation, systemic corruption–angered God.  And this had been going on for some time.  Those who benefited to the detriment of others showed no signs of changing their ways.  So God declared that the time for forgiveness had ended and that judgment day was near.

Now for the Gospel reading.

The Jewish men who collected taxes for the occupying Roman Empire cheated others.  These men lived–often quite comfortably–off the difference between what Rome required them to collect and what they collected.  Matthew/Levi was a tax collector before becoming an Apostle.  He repented and followed Jesus, with whom he shared a scandalous meal.  And Matthew/Levi invited some others who sought to reform their lives.

To repent, of course, is to turn around and change one’s mind.  That was what would have made glad the heart of God in much of the Old Testament, including the Book of Amos.  What we do affects others for good or for ill.  There, of course, is nothing morally objectionable about earning a just profit, but the economic exploitation of people is a sin.  To base one’s economic good fortunes on gouging people financially is wrong at all times and at all places.  And it makes God angry.

Maybe those who practice this sin still have time to repent.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/reading-and-pondering-amos-part-five/

Week of Proper 8: Thursday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  King Jeroboam II

Righteous Judgments and Mercies

JULY 2, 2020

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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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Amos 7:1-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

This is what my Lord GOD showed me:  He was creating [a plague of] locusts at the time when the late-sown crops were beginning to sprout–the late-sown crops after the king’s reaping.  When it had finished devouring the herbage in the land, I said,

O Lord GOD, pray forgive.  How will Jacob survive?  He is so small?

The LORD relented concerning this.

It shall not come to pass,

said the LORD.

This is what the Lord GOD showed me.  Lo, my Lord GOD was summoning to contend by the fire which consumed the Great Deep and was consuming the fields.  I said,

Oh, Lord GOD, refrain!  How will Jacob survive?  He is so small.

The LORD relented concerning this.

That shall not come to pass, either,

said my Lord GOD.

This is what He showed me:  He was standing on a wall checked with a plumb line and He was holding a plumb line.  And the LORD asked me,

What do you see, Amos?

I replied,

A plumb line.

And my Lord declared,

I am going to apply a plumb line to My people Israel; I will pardon them no more.  The shrines of Isaac shall be laid waste, and the sanctuaries of Israel reduced to ruins; and I will turn upon the House of Jeroboam with the sword.

Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent this message to King Jeroboam of Israel:

Amos is conspiring against you within the House of Israel.  The country cannot endure the things he is saying.  For Amos has said, “Jeroboam shall die by the sword, and Israel shall be exiled from its soil.”

Amaziah also said to Amos,

Seer, off with you to the land of Judah!  Earn your living there, and do your prophesying there.  But don’t ever prophesy again at Bethel; for it is a king’s sanctuary and a royal palace.

Amos answered Amaziah:

I am not a prophet, and I am not a prophet’s disciple.  I am a cattle breeder and a tender of sycamore figs.  But the LORD took me away from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, “Go prophesy to My people Israel.”  And so, hear the word of the LORD.  You say I must not prophesy about the House of Israel or preach about the House of Isaac; but this, I swear, is the the LORD said:  Your wife shall play the harlot in the town, your sons and daughters shall fall by the sword, and your land shall be divided up with a measuring line.  And you yourself shall die on unclean soil; for Israel shall be exiled from its soil.

Psalm 19:7-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

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

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

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

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

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

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

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

Matthew 9:1-8 (An American Translation):

So he [Jesus] got into the boat and crossed the sea, and returned to his own city.

Some people came bringing to him on a bed a man who was paralyzed.  Seeing their faith, Jesus said to the paralytic,

Courage, my son!  Your sins are forgiven.

Some of the scribes said to themselves,

This man is talking blasphemy!

Jesus knew what they were thinking, and he said,

Why do you have such wicked thoughts in your hearts?  For which is easier, to say, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Get up and walk”?  But would you know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth.

Then he said to the paralytic,

Get up, pick up your bed, and go home!

And he got up and went home. And when the crowd saw it, they were filled with awe, and praised God for giving such power to men.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 8:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-thursday-year-1/

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Sometimes the words and deeds of God offend or otherwise disturb us.  How we deal with such cognitive dissonance speaks to our spiritual state.

The Kingdom of Israel had run out of forgiveness.  Amos, as we have read in previous posts in this series, announced God’s impending judgment for a variety of sins, economic exploitation among them.  The religious establishment close to King Jeroboam II commanded Amos to leave the kingdom for his homeland, for his words did not affirm the ruling class.

Forgiveness and healing, not judgment, got Jesus into trouble with his critics in today’s reading from Matthew.  There can be many causes for paralysis, as medical science tells us these days.  But religious orthodoxy in Judea understood the paralytic to be paralyzed because of sin.  This theology, which the Book of Job contradicts, blamed the victims.  (True, much suffering results from one’s sins, but much does not.  Sometimes one’s suffering results from the sins of others or another.  And, at other times, suffering has no cause one can understand.)

The paralyzed man, who does not speak in this narrative, probably believed in “sin leads to suffering” theology.  It was what his culture told him.  He probably lived with needless guilt, a burden members of his community (excluding some kind friends) imposed upon him.  Jesus removed that burden from the paralytic, giving him spiritual wholeness.

Some commentators have suggested that the man’s paralysis was psychosomatic.  So, they say, of course the man could walk again after Jesus forgave his sins.  This might be accurate.  Whatever caused the physical paralysis, Jesus took that away from the man.

Yet our Lord faced criticism for forgiving the man.  Was this blasphemy?  No, it was mercy.

When God says and/or does something hard for us digest, we can humble ourselves before God graciously, in the spirit of Psalm 19:

…the judgments of the LORD are righteous and true altogether.

We might not like, agree with, or understand these judgments, but we can at least not oppose them.  Or we can react defensively, trying to silence an annoying prophet or condemning a merciful man.  But God will still be be God regardless of what we do.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/reading-and-pondering-amos-part-four/

Week of Proper 8: Wednesday, Year 2   4 comments

Above:  A Soup Kitchen

Image Source = Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson

Loving One Another = Righteousness

JULY 1, 2020

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Amos 5:14-25 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Seek good and not evil,

That you may live,

And that the LORD, the God of Hosts,

And truly be with you,

As you think.

Hate evil and love good,

And establish justice in the gate;

Perhaps the LORD, the God of Hosts,

Will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Assuredly,

Thus said the LORD,

My Lord, the God of Hosts:

In every square there shall be lamenting,

In every street cries of “Ah, woe!”

And the farm hand shall be

Called to mourn,

And those skilled in wailing

To lament;

For there shall be lamenting

In every vineyard, too,

When I pass through your midst

–said the LORD.

Ah, you who wish

For the day of the LORD!

Why do you want

The day of the LORD?

It shall be darkness, not light!–

And if a man should run from a lion

And be attacked by a bear;

Or if he got indoors,

Should lean his hand on the wall

And be bitten by a snake!

Surely the day of the LORD shall be

Not light, but darkness,

Blackest night without a glimmer.

I loathe, I spurn your festivals,

I am not appeased by your solemn assemblies.

If you offer Me burnt offerings–or your meal offerings–

I will not accept them;

I will pay no heed

To your gifts of fatlings.

Spare Me the sound of your hymns,

And let Me not hear the music of your lutes.

But let justice well up like water,

Righteousness like an unfailing stream.

Did you offer sacrifice and oblation to Me

Those forty years in the wilderness,

O House of Israel?

Psalm 50:7-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear, O my people, and I will speak:

“O Israel, I will bear witness against you;

for I am God, your God.

8 I do not accuse you because of your sacrifices;

your offerings are always before me.

9 I will take no bull-calf from your stalls,

nor he goats out of your pens;

10 For all the beasts of the forest are mine,

the herds in their thousands upon the hills.

11 I know every bird in the sky,

and the creatures of the fields are in my sight.

12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the whole world is mine and all that is in it.

13 Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls,

or drink the blood of goats?

14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and make good your vows to the Most High.

15 Call upon me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.

Matthew 8:28-34 (An American Translation):

When he [Jesus] reached the other side, in the region of Gadara, two men possessed by demons came out of the tombs and confronted him; they were so extremely violent that nobody could go along that road.  And they suddenly screamed out,

What so you want of us, you Son of God?  Have you come here before the appointed time to torture us?

Now at some distance from them there was a great drove of pigs feeding.  And the demons entreated him, saying,

If you are going to drive us out, send us into the drove of pigs.

And he said to them,

Begone!

And they came out and went into the pigs.  And suddenly the whole drove rushed over the steep bank into the sea, and perished in the water.  And the men who tended them ran away and went off to the town and told it all, and the news about the men possessed by demons.  And the whole town came out to meet Jesus, and when they saw him they begged him to go away from their district.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 8:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-wednesday-year-1/

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God cares deeply about how we treat each other.  This theological point recurs throughout both the Old Testament and the New Testament.  It is especially prominent in Amos, whee we read condemnations of economic injustice and judicial corruption.  Today we read in Amos to participate in or condone such sin then to appear holy by taking part in religious ceremonies offends God.  Few offenses rankle more than hypocrisy.

For more on our topic, loving one another equals righteousness, shall we turn to the reading from Matthew? The text identifies the two men whom Jesus healed as demoniacs.  The diagnosis of demon possession was commonplace in Hellenistic times.  Today we would say emotional distress or mental illness or epilepsy or multiple personalities, et cetera.  The story tells us that, whatever afflicted these men, Jesus healed them of it, and some pigs died in the process.  Certainly some of the people who asked our Lord to leave had lost wealth in the porcine rush to die.  Others, however, were probably unnerved by the new state of wholeness the two men exhibited.  These villagers knew who they were; they were not those two demoniacs.  But now, with the demoniacs healed, who were the villagers in relation to them?

Often we define ourselves by what or who we are not.  We might think of ourselves as among the pure, but then others must be impure for this definition of purity to work.  It is better to define ourselves as who and what we are–bearers of the divine image–allegedly pure and impure alike–and all of us  are people who need grace.  We are also people who ought to administer this grace to each other, bear one another’s burdens, weep with each other, laugh with each other, help each other, rejoice in each other’s good fortune, and seek the common good.

This is righteousness.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/reading-and-pondering-amos-part-three/

Week of Proper 8: Tuesday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  President Lyndon Baines Johnson with the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Societal Righteousness

JUNE 30, 2020

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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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Amos 3:1-4, 13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Hear this word, O people of Israel,

That the LORD has has spoken concerning you;

Concerning the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt;

You alone have I singled out

Of all the families of the earth–

That is why I call you to account

For all your iniquities.

Can two walk together

Without having met?

Does a lion roar in the forest

When he has no prey?

Does a great beast let out a cry from its den

Without having made a capture?

Hear [this], and warn the House of Jacob

–says my Lord GOD, the God of Hosts–

Psalm 5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give ear to my words, O LORD;

consider my meditation.

2  Hearken to my cry for help, my King and my God,

for I will make my prayer to you.

3  In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;

early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you.

4  For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,

and evil cannot dwell with you.

5  Braggarts cannot stand in your sight;

you hate all those who work wickedness.

6  You destroy those who speak lies;

the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O LORD, you abhor.

7  But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy I will go into your house;

I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.

8  Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness,

because of those who lie in wait for me;

make your way straight before me.

9  For there is no truth in their mouth;

there is destruction in their heart;

10  Their throat is an open grave;

they flatter with their tongue.

11  Declare them guilty, O God;

let them fall, because of their schemes,

12  Because of their many transgressions cast them out,

for they have rebelled against you.

13  But all who take refuge in you will be glad;

they will sing out their joy for ever.

14  You will shelter them,

so that those who love your Name may exult in you.

15  For you, O LORD, will bless the righteous;

you will defend them with your favor as with a shield.

Matthew 8:23-27 (An American Translation):

And he [Jesus] got into the boat, and his disciples with him.  And suddenly a terrific storm came up on the sea, so that the waves broke over the boat, but he remained asleep.  And they woke him, saying,

Save us, sir!  We are lost!

And he said to them,

Why are you afraid?  You have so little faith!

Then he got up and reproved the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And the men were amazed and said,

What kind of man is this?  For the very winds and sea obey him!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 8:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-tuesday-year-1/

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The book of Amos has provided inspiration for those who have pursued social justice out of their faith.  Modern examples include labor activists, civil rights workers, and adherents of Liberation Theology.

Abraham Heschel writes (on page 34 of The Prophets, Volume 1, 1962) that, in Amos,

God’s supreme concern is righteousness and that His essential demand of man is to establish justice.

This is justice, which, for Amos, can exist only in the context of God, who seeks intimacy with human beings.  This reminds me of the Baptismal Covenant in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which includes a promise to respect the dignity of every human being–In other words, to love one’s neighbor as one loves one’s self.

An individual can pursue this goal, which one ought to do.  And, by grace, he or she can succeed more in time.  But what about pursuing this good on a societal level?  Theocracy is not the answer, for (A) it leads to abuses of alleged heretics, and such deeds are inherent violations of the Golden Rule, and (B) there is no way to coerce goodness, which must be voluntary.  In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated a moral revolution, one in which U.S. society would come to value people more than things.  His vision has yet to become reality, unfortunately.

We–you and I–are parts of society.  If we do not like certain aspects of society, we need not resign ourselves and curse the darkness.  No, we can light a candle.  We can shed light in the darkness.  And we need to do so positively.  We might also succeed.  Social mores can change; they have changed; they are changing.  People change them.  May we change them toward economic justice, toward loving our neighbors more generally, and away from coercion.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/reading-and-pondering-amos-part-two/

Week of Proper 8: Monday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  The Prophet Amos

Against Economic Exploitation and Other Forms of Cruelty

JUNE 29, 2020

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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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Amos 2:6-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Thus said the LORD:

For three transgressions of Israel,

For four, I will not revoke it;

Because they have sold for silver

Those whose cause was just,

And the needy for a pair of sandals.

[Ah,] you who trample the heads of the poor

Into the dust of the ground,

And make the humble walk a twisted course!

Father and son go to the same girl,

And therefore profane My holy name.

They recline by every altar

On garments taken in pledge,

And drink in the House of their God.

Wine bought with fines they imposed.

Yet I

Destroyed the Amorite before them,

Whose stature was like the cedar’s

And who was as stout as the oak,

Destroying his boughs above

And his trunk below!

And I

Brought you up from the land of Egypt

And led you through the wilderness forty years,

To possess the land of the Amorite!

And I raised up prophets from among your sons

And nazirites from among your young men.

Is that not so, O people of Israel?

–says the LORD.

But you made the nazirites drink wine

And ordered the prophets not to prophesy.

Ah, I will show your movements

As a wagon is slowed

When it is full of cut grain.

Flight shall fail the swift,

The strong shall find no strength,

And the warrior shall not save his life.

The bowman shall not hold his ground,

And the fleet-footed shall not escape,

Nor the horseman save his life.

Even the most stouthearted warrior

Shall run away unarmed that day

–declares the LORD.

Psalm 50:14-24 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and make good your vows to the Most High.

15 Call upon me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.

16 But to the wicked God says:

“Why do you recite my statutes,

and take my covenant upon your lips?

17 Since you refuse discipline,

and toss my words behind your back?

18 When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast in your lot with adulterers.

19 You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

20 You are always speaking of evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

21 These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

22 “I have made my accusation;

I have put my case in order before your eyes.

23 Consider this well, you who forget God,

lest I rend you and there be none to deliver you.

24 Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me;

but to those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God.”

Matthew 8:18-22 (An American Translation):

Then Jesus, seeing a crowd about him, gave orders to cross over to the other side.  And a scribe came up and said to him,

Master, I will follow you wherever you are going!

And Jesus said to him,

Foxes have holes and wild birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head!

And another of his disciples said to him,

Let me first go, sir, and bury my father.

But Jesus said to him,

Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 8:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-monday-year-1/

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The Kingdom of Israel was wealthy and militarily strong during the reign of King Jeroboam II (788-747 B.C.E.)  The Assyrian Empire, which would conquer Israel twenty-five years later (722 B.C.E.), was not yet a threat.  It is easy to be strong and prosperous kingdom with expanding borders when one has mostly weak neighbors.

Yet the prosperity coexisted with corruption in the judiciary and exploitation of the poor.  Many of the wealthy were ostentatious; pride flowed through the land like a mighty river.  The prophet Amos, a shepherd and sycamore tree dresser, proclaimed the word of God.  Part of the word he proclaimed was this:  Social justice is an essential part of societal righteousness.  For these sins, Amos said, God promised to destroy Israel, the northern kingdom.

Before this reading in Amos one reads other pronouncements of doom on various nations:  Aram, Philistia, Tyre, Edom, Ammon, Moab, and Judah.  The proclamations condemn the acts of exiling and selling populations into slavery, repressing all pity, ripping open pregnant women of Gilead to expand national territory, burning the bones of the Edomite king to lime, and not observing God’s law.  Then, of course, we have this day’s reading from Chapter 2.

We will always have with us those who profess to follow God yet who act without mercy, slaughter innocents for national and personal glory, sell people into some form of slavery (wage or otherwise), force people out of their homes unjustly and seize the land, or condone one or some or all of these deeds.  They are hypocrites.  There are those among us today who profess to follow God yet trample and exploit others economically and sexually or condone such actions.  They are hypocrites.

Who are these people where you live?  Look around; you can identify them.  Reject their message.  If, for example, they seek to gain or retain political office via wedge issues, such as “I don’t like (insert name of despised group here) either,” the moral choice is to vote for an inclusive candidate.  As a student of Southern U.S. history I can call to mind quickly tales of successful politicians who used racism to win votes from poor whites then instituted or continued policies which hurt the interests of those voters.  And I don’t have to reach back to the aftermath of Bacon’s Rebellion to do this.

The message of Amos, which we will continue to explore for the next five posts in this series, is timeless.  For now focus on how you, O reader, can affirm human dignity, especially that of the vulnerable, properly and most effectively.  (It is vital to do the right thing in the right ways.)  Then put your plan into motion.  Love of one’s neighbors requires nothing less.

Abraham Heschel writes:

There is a living God who cares.  Justice is more than an idea or norm.  Justice is a divine concern.  What obtains between God and His people is not only a covenant of mutual obligations, but also a relationship of mutual concern.  The message of God is not an impersonal accusation, but the utterance of a Redeemer who is pained by the misdeeds, the thanklessness of those whom He has redeemed.  His words are plaintive and disconsolate.  (The Prophets, Volume 1, 1962), page 32

By grace, may God have no cause to look upon our actions then become plaintive and disconsolate.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/reading-and-pondering-amos-part-one/

Proper 8, Year B   18 comments

Above:  Statue of Reconciliation, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry, England, United Kingdom

Image Source = Rebecca Kennison

Community, Beloved and Broken

The Sunday Closest to June 29

The Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 1, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

2 Samuel 1:1, 7-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.

David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan.  (He ordered that The Song of the Bow he taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.)  He said:

Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!

How the mighty have fallen!

Tell it not in Gath,

proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon;

or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,

the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

You mountains of Gilboa,

let there be no dew or rain upon you,

nor bounteous fields!

For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,

the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.

From the blood of the slain,

from the fat of the mighty,

the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,

nor the sword of Saul return empty.

Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!

In life and in death they were not divided;

they were swifter than eagles,

they were stronger than lions.

O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,

who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,

who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

How the mighty have fallen

in the midst of the battle!

Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.

I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;

greatly beloved were you to me;

your love to me was wonderful,

passing the love of women.

How the mighty have fallen,

and the weapons of war perished!

Psalm 130 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;

LORD, hear my voice;

let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2  If you , LORD, were to note what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

3  For there is forgiveness with you;

therefore you shall be feared.

4  I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him;

in his word is my hope.

5  My soul waits for the LORD,

more than watchmen in the morning,

more than watchmen in the morning.

6  O Israel, wait for the LORD,

for with the LORD there is mercy;

7  With him there is plenteous redemption,

and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Wisdom of Solomon 1:12-15, 2:23-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

Do not invite death by the error of your life,

or bring on destruction by the works of your hands;

because God did not make death,

and he does not delight in the death of the living.

For he created all things that they might exist;

the generative forces of the world are wholesome,

and there is no destructive poison in them,

and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.

For forgiveness is immortal.

…for God created us for incorruption,

and made us in the image of his own eternity.

but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,

and those who belong to his company experience it.

Response, Option #2A:  Lamentations 3:21-33 (New Revised Standard Version):

But this I call to mind,

and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.”

The LORD is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul that seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly

for the salvation of the LORD.

It is good for one to bear

the yoke in youth,

to sit alone in silence

when the Lord has imposed it,

to put one’s mouth to the dust

(there may yet be hope),

to give one’s cheek to the smiter,

and be filled with insults.

For the Lord will not

reject forever.

Although he causes grief, he will have compassion

according to the abundance of his steadfast love;

for he does not willingly afflict

or grieve anyone.

Response:  Option #2B:  Psalm 30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 I will exalt you, O LORD,

because you have lifted me up

and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

 O LORD my God, I cried out to you,

and you restored me to health.

 You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead;

you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

 Sing to the LORD, you servants of his;

give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,

his favor for a lifetime.

6 Weeping may spend the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

 While I felt secure, I said,

“I shall never be disturbed.

You,  LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”

 Then you hid my face,

and I was filled with terror.

 I cried to you, O LORD;

I pleaded with the LORD, saying,

10  “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?

will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

11  Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me;

O LORD, be my helper.”

12  You have turned my wailing into dancing;

you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

13  Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

SECOND READING

2 Corinthians 8:7-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

As you excel in everything– in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you– so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something– now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has– not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,

The one who had much did not have too much,

and the one who had little had too little.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 5:21-43 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly,

My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.

He went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said,

If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.

Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said,

Who touched my clothes?

And his disciples said to him,

You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?”

He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her,

Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say,

Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue,

Do not fear, only believe.

He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them,

Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.

And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her,

Talitha cum,

which means,

Little girl, get up!

And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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:

Proper 8, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/proper-8-year-a/

2 Samuel 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/week-of-2-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

Wisdom of Solomon 1-2:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-seventh-day-of-lent/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-tuesday-year-1/

Mark 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/week-of-4-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

Jerusalem:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/jerusalem-by-william-blake/

O Lord, You Gave Your Servant John:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

New Every Morning is the Love:

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

A Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/a-prayer-by-st-francis-of-assisi/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/911-a-prayer-of-st-francis-of-assisi/

A Franciscan Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-franciscan-blessing/

Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/where-cross-the-crowded-ways-of-life/

A Prayer for Shalom:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-for-shalom/

On a ______:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/on-a/

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We are social creatures–some more so than others.  But we are all social creatures.  This fact helps explain why solitary confinement is such a strong punishment.  Furthermore, empathy helps bind us to each other.  It is to empathy that Paul appeals in 2 Corinthians 8:7-15.  Nobody should have too much or too little, he wrote; there should be a “fair balance” between the abundance of one and the needs of another.

In other words, we ought to take care of each other.  Corporations with enough cash on hand to spend millions or billions or dollars to purchase patents for things they did not invent for the purpose of either suing other corporations for patent infringement or intimidating other corporations from suing them for patent infringement have enough cash on hand to hire actual human beings.  There is an imbalance between abundance and needs.  As Martin Luther King, Jr., said on April 4, 1967, people should matter more than things and other forms of wealth.  To value property more highly than people is to have an inverse moral order.

We read of Jesus healing a woman with a persistent hemorrhage.  This condition had afflicted her for twelve years, during which she could not earn money and she was ritually unclean.  Therefore she was marginal in her community.  But now she was once again whole.

The woman had to deal with stigma over a physical problem.  David had another difficulty:  an estranged father-in-law who wanted him dead and against whom he was leading a rebellion.  Despite these facts, David had spared Saul’s life when he had the chance to take it.  And David mourned both Saul and Jonathan, his brother-in-law and best friend, who had died recently.  He referred to both of them as “beloved and cherished.”

We should grieve when relationships break, and we ought to mourn the fact that there is no way to repair some interpersonal ruptures due to realities such as death.  We should also be discontented when unjust economic disparities persist.  What can we do about it, whether in a family, community, county, state, national, or international level.  Alone we might not be able to do anything, but what can we accomplish collectively?  That is a question with an answer worth finding.  For, as the author of the Wisdom of Solomon reminds us,

God created us for incorruption,

and made us in the image of his own eternity.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/community-beloved-and-broken/