Week of Proper 8: Thursday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  King Jeroboam II

Righteous Judgments and Mercies

JULY 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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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/

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