Week of Proper 15: Monday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 15: Tuesday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  The Front of the 1934 U.S. $10,000 Dollar Bill, worth $163,000 in 2010 Currency

Image in the Public Domain

Security Blankets

AUGUST 20 and 21, 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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THE FIRST READING FOR MONDAY

Ezekiel 24:15-24 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, I am about to take away the delight of your eyes from you through pestilence; but you shall not lament or let your tears flow.  Moan softly; observe no mourning for the dead:  Put on your turban and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover over your upper lip, and do not eat the bread of comforters.

In the evening my wife died, and in the mourning I did as I had been commanded.  And when I spoke to the people that morning, the people asked me,

Will you not tell us what these things portend for us, that you are acting so?

I answered them,

The word of the LORD has come to me:  Tell the House of Israel:  “I am going to desecrate My Sanctuary, your pride and glory, the delight of your eyes and the desire of your heart; and the sons and daughters you have left behind shall fall by the sword.  And Ezekiel shall become a portent for you:   you shall do just as he has done, when it happens; and you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”  Accordingly, you shall do as I have done:  you shall not cover over your upper lips or eat the bread of comforters, and your turbans shall remain on your heads, and your sandals on your feet.  You shall not lament or weep, but you shall be heartsick because of your iniquities and shall moan to one another.

THE FIRST READING FOR TUESDAY

Ezekiel 28:1-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, say to the prince of Tyre:  Thus said the Lord GOD:

Because you have been so haughty and said, “I am a god; I sit enthroned like a god in the heart of the seas,” whereas you are not a god but a man, though you deemed your mind equal to a god’s–

Yes, you are wiser than Daniel;

Is no hidden matter can anyone

Compare to you.

By your shrewd understanding

You have gained riches,

And you have amassed gold and silver

In your treasuries.

By your great shrewdness in trade

You have increased your wealth,

And you have grown haughty

Because of your wealth.

Assuredly, thus said the Lord GOD:  Because you have deemed your mind equal to a god’s,

I swear that I will bring against you

Strangers, the most ruthless of nations.

They shall unsheathe their swords

Against your prized shrewdness,

And they shall strike down your splendor.

They shall bring you down to the Pit;

In the heart of the sea you shall die

The death of the slain.

Will you still say, “I am a god”

Before your slayers,

When you are proved a man, not a god,

At the hands of those who strike you down?

By the hands of strangers you shall die

The death of the uncircumcised;

For I have spoken

–declares the Lord GOD.

THE RESPONSE FOR MONDAY

Psalm 79:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, the heathen here come into your inheritance;

they have profaned your holy temple;

they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

2  They have given the bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the air,

and the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the field.

3  They have shed their blood like water on every side of Jerusalem,

and there was no one to bury them.

4  We have become a reproach to our neighbors,

an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5  How long will you be angry, O LORD?

will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

6  Pour out your wrath upon the heathen who have not known you

and upon kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7  For they have devoured Jacob

and made his dwelling a ruin.

8  Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

THE RESPONSE FOR TUESDAY

Psalm 60:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, you have cast us off and broken us;

you have been angry;

oh, take us back to you again.

2  You have shaken the earth and split it open;

repair the cracks in it, for it totters.

3  You have made your people know hardship;

you have given us wine that makes us stagger.

4  You have set up a banner for those who fear you,

to be a refuge from the power of the bow.

5  Save us by your right hand and answer us,

that those who are dear to you may be delivered.

THE GOSPEL READING (COMBINED FOR BOTH DAYS)

Matthew 19:16-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then it happened that a man came up  to him and said,

Master, what good thing must I do to secure eternal life?

Jesus answered him,

I wonder why you ask me what is good?  Only One is good.  But if you want to enter that life you must keep the commandments.

He asked,

Which ones?

Jesus replied,

Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother; and Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

The young man returned,

I have carefully kept all these.  What is still missing in my life?

Then Jesus told him,

If you want to be perfect, go now and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor–you will have riches in Heaven.  The come and follow me!

When the young man heard that he turned away crestfallen, for he was very wealthy.

Then Jesus remarked to his disciples,

Believe me, a rich man will find it very difficult to enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Yes, I repeat, a camel could more easily squeeze through the eye of a needle than a rich man get into the kingdom of God!

The disciples were simply amazed to hear this, and said,

Then who can possibly be saved?

Jesus looked steadily at them and replied,

Humanly speaking it is impossible; but with God anything is possible!

At this Peter exclaimed,

Look, we have left everything and followed you.  What will that be worth to us?

Jesus said,

Believe me when I tell you that in the new world, when the Son of Man shall take his seat on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also be seated on twelve thrones as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Every man who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or land for my sake will get them back many times over, and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last then–and the last first!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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My journey through Samuel, Kings, and various prophets is almost over, and I am glad for that fact.  These are horrendous readings from Ezekiel.  God takes the prophet’s wife away from him and uses the incident as an object lesson for others.  And a foreign prince who has deified himself dies–another object lesson.  I do not pretend to understand how to grasp and make anything useful of Ezekiel 24:15-24.  As for Ezekiel 28:1-10, all I can do is repeat a recently covered theme:  God, in the Bible, despises hubris.  One might contrast Ezekiel 28 with Mathew 19, in which Jesus offers a rich man (for whom wealth is a spiritual impediment–his security blanket, if you will) an opportunity to let go of that impediment.

The rich man could not bring himself to follow our Lord’s advice, so he was, as J. B. Phillips translated the text, “crestfallen.”  Jesus probably was, too.  Whatever our impediments are, Jesus offers us opportunities to stop carrying them around.  And, when we refuse, we break his heart.  I prefer that understanding of God to the one I see in Ezekiel 24 and 28.

KRT

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