Archive for December 2012

Proper 17, Year C   9 comments

Christ Pantocrator Moody

Above:  Christ Pantocrator, Daphni, Greece

Duties to God and Each Other

The Sunday Closest to August 31

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 1, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 2:4-13 and Psalm 81:1, 10-16

or 

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 10:12-18 or Proverbs 25:6-7 and Psalm 112

then 

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Luke 14:1, 7-14

The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; 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:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fifteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-confession-for-the-fifteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fifteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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Let mutual love continue.

–Hebrews 13:1, New Revised Standard Version

Thus I find my theme for this post.  That theme unites the assigned readings for Proper 17, Year C.  The rest of the Hebrews lection speaks of our obligations to God and each other.  These duties exist in the context of mutual love.

I am, among other things, intellectually honest.  The readings from Jeremiah 2, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 10, and Psalm 81 speak of divine judgment for faithlessness among people for God has done much.  These lections do not seem loving.  And Psalm 112 sounds too much like Prosperity Theology for my comfort.  I can think of parts of both Testaments which contradict it.  If you, O reader, expect me to provide simple answers to these, I will disappoint you.  I could provide such answers, but I would do so insincerely and they would be useless.

I write these words during Advent 2012.  (I like to write ahead of schedule.)  During this time the words attributed to Hannah in 1 Samuel 2 and Mary in Luke 1 ring in my head.

The LORD makes poor and makes rich,

he brings low, he also exalts.

He raises up the poor from the dust;

he lifts up the needy from the ash heap,

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of great honor.

–1 Samuel 2:7-8a, New Revised Standard Version

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He has routed the proud and all their schemes;

he has brought down monarchs from their thrones,

and raised high the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich empty away.

–Luke 1:51b-53, Revised English Bible

Those beloved passages are consistent with Jeremiah 2, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 10, and Psalm 81.  Whether this reversal of fortune is good news depends on who one is.

The context for this reversal of fortune is faithlessness to God, who has done much for us.  It is polite to be grateful to one who delivers, is it not?  So attitudes occupy the heart of the matter.  And we cannot love God, whom we cannot see, unless we love people, whom we can see.  Our deeds will reveal our creeds.  That much I know for certain.  As for the rest, ask God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/duties-to-god-and-each-other/

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Devotion for August 30 and 31 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Elijah

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Window with Elijah

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part VII:  The Face of God

FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2019, and SATURDAY, AUGUST 31, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 12:20-13:5, 33-34 (August 30)

1 Kings 16:29-17:24 (August 31)

Psalm 86 (Morning–August 30)

Psalm 122 (Morning–August 31)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–August 30)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening–August 31)

2 Corinthians 8:1-24 (August 30)

2 Corinthians 9:1-15 (August 31)

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The political narratives of the royal houses of Israel and Judah continue in 1 Kings 12-16.  In the northern Kingdom of Israel, as the story goes, old habits of faithlessness continued and dynasties came and went.  One of the more common means of becoming king was assassinating the previous one.

The narratives build up to the Omri Dynasty and the stories of the prophet Elijah.  Today’s Elijah story concerns a drought, a desperately poor widow, and the raising of her son from the dead.  God, via Elijah, provided for the widow.  That story dovetails nicely with 2 Corinthians 8-9, with its mention of fundraising for Jerusalem Christians and exhortation to generosity, cheerful giving, and trusting in God to provide that which one can give to help others.  In other words, we are to be the face of God to each other.  When God helps others, one of us might be a vehicle for that aid.

To whom is God sending you, O reader?  And which person or persons is God sending to you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/1-kings-and-2-corinthians-part-vii-the-face-of-god/

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Devotion for August 29 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Above:  The Divided Monarchy

Image in the Public Domain

1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part VI: Authority and Actions

THURSDAY, AUGUST 29, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 11:42-12:19

Psalm 143 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening)

2 Corinthians 7:1-16

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King Rehoboam took counsel with the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime.  He said, “What answer do you advise [me] to give to this people?  They answered, “If you will be a servant to those people today and serve them, and if you respond to them with kind words, they will be your servants always.”  But he ignored the advice that the elders gave him, and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him.”

–1 Kings 12:6-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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We have not injured anyone, or ruined anyone, or taken advantage of anyone.

–2 Corinthians 7:2b, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Paul, by his own admission, had the authority to tell people to do things; he had earned his bona fides via many sufferings.  But he encouraged and coaxed (and, more than once, fussed at) people.  He was a man of strong opinions, so some people took offense at him.  But he did not abuse his rightful authority.

In contrast, Rehoboam, son of Solomon, did abuse his authority.  He doubled down on his father’s most exploitative policies, such as forced labor.  The rebellion was predictable.

Each of us has some measure of power over others.  We can, for example, choose to behave graciously or abusively toward another person.  Our decisions will affect others and ourselves, for all of us are parts of the web of humanity.  When we harm another, we injure ourselves.  Likewise, when we aid another, we help ourselves.  That is reality.  May we act in socially constructive ways.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/1-kings-and-2-corinthians-part-vi-authority-and-actions/

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Devotion for August 28 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Oxen

Above:  Yoked Oxen, 1860-1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part V: Proper Companions

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 28, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 11:1-26

Psalm 65 (Morning)

Psalms 125 and 91 (Evening)

2 Corinthians 6:1-18

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Do not harness yourselves in an uneven team with unbelievers; how can uprightness and law-breaking  be partners, or what can light and darkness have in common?

–2 Corinthians 6:14, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Solomon loved many foreign women in addition to Pharaoh’s daughter–Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Phoenician, and Hittite women, from the nations of which the LORD had said to the Israelites, “None of you shall join them and none of them shall join you, lest they turn your heart away to follow their gods.”  Such Solomon clung to and loved.  He had seven hundred royal wives and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned his heart away.

–1 Kings 11:1-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Those who study 2 Corinthians closely and honestly–critically, in the highest sense of that word–know that its arrangement is odd; someone or some people cut and pasted at least two epistles and perhaps former parts of 1 Corinthians.  Indeed, 2 Corinthians 6:11-18 is a fine example of this practice, given what precedes and succeeds it.  In fact, those verses fit neatly with 1 Corinthians 7.  A plea for open hearts precedes and follows 2 Corinthians 6:11-18, so this passage seems especially out-of-place.  This matter of cutting and pasting is a worthy matter of academic study of 2 Corinthians.  But this is a devotional blog, not one focused on academic analysis.  I mention this academic matter to indicate that I know of it and accept objective reality.  Now I move along to my main point.

As I plan these devotions, I read the assigned texts and ask one question:

What theme unites these lections?

The answer today is foolish partnerships.  Solomon’s kingdom, in one part of the narrative, of 1 Kings, began to crumble because of his faithlessness, which flowed partially from the influences of pagan, foreign women.  (May we not ignore Solomon’s weaknesses.)  The Hebrew Bible spoke elsewhere of foreign women in favorable terms.  Ruth, for example, adopted the Hebrew religion and became an ancestor of David, Solomon, and Jesus.  But Solomon’s women retained their ways and influenced him negatively.  That was one type of uneven partnership mentioned in 2 Corinthians 6.

Now I will state something obvious:  We human beings influence each other.  We are role models.  We will be role models.  But will we be good or bad ones?  Children influence each other in school.  Coworkers influence each other in offices, et cetera.  Sociologists know that there are some things people are more likely to do in a group context than alone.  The pressure to conform can be very strong, especially at certain ages and upon people with certain personality types.  Many of those who choose to resist these pressures risk bullying by insensitive conformists.

And, in the realm of romance (in which I have limited experience), people certainly influence each other.  One of the key ingredients of a healthy relationship is shared values.  I have paid close attention to relationship advice for long-term married people; they make that point.

We humans are social creatures; may we choose our companions well, so far as we have the power to decide.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/1-kings-and-2-corinthians-part-v-proper-companions/

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Devotion for August 27 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

3g05226v

Above:  The Meeting of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

Artwork from 1899

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-5226

Copyright by The U.S. Printing Co.

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part IV: Decisions and Their Consequences

TUESDAY, AUGUST 27, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 9:1-9; 10:1-13

Psalm 54 (Morning)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening)

2 Corinthians 5:1-21

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The story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba reaches its peak in 1 Kings 9-10.  God talks to him, the monarch is fabulously wealthy, and the Queen of Sheba visits.  1 Kings 9:1-9 provides foreboding foreshadowing:  Disobedience to God will lad to national disaster.  One needs to be careful here, lest one blame natural disasters frustrated by foolish human decisions (often regarding infrastructure or where to live) on homosexuality, not on the climate and what we humans are doing to change it.  But 1 Kings 9:1-9 addressed political forces, not natural ones.  Those verses date from a time after which people had experienced national collapse and exile, so they constitute hindsight also.  They come from a place of loss and introspection, of being humble before God and of grieving over losses.

Yet, as Paul reminds us, our life is in God.  Our only proper boasts are in God–in Jesus, specifically.  (That part about Jesus did not apply in the BCE years, of course.)  And our confidence is properly in God, in whom we have reconciliation not only to God but to each other.  So there is always hope in God, who seeks us by a variety of means over time.

Our decisions matter.  Although nobody is the captain of his or her soul, our decisions matter greatly.  How we respond to God is important.  Here I take my cues from Hebrew Prophets:  Will we commit idolatry?  Will we condone and/or practice economic exploitation?  Will we condone and/or condone corruption?  Will we become so enamored of ourselves and our institutions that we will fall into hubris?  Or will we recognize the Image of God in each other and serve God by serving each other?  Society is concrete, not abstract; it is merely people.  Societies can and do change.  So the choice is ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/1-kings-and-2-corinthians-part-iv-decisions-and-their-consequences/

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Devotion for August 25 and 26 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part III:  Jesus, the Everlasting Temple

SUNDAY, AUGUST 25, 2019, and MONDAY, AUGUST 26, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 7:51-8:21 (August 25)

1 Kings 8:22-30, 46-63 (August 26)

Psalm 67 (Morning–August 25)

Psalm 51 (Morning–August 26)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–August 25)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–August 26)

2 Corinthians 3:1-18 (August 25)

2 Corinthians 4:1-18 (August 26)

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It is not ourselves that we proclaim; we proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake.

–2 Corinthians 4:5, The Revised English Bible

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I have read 1 Kings many times.  Each time I do so I notice details that I missed or did not focus on during each previous reading.  This time, for example, I have thought deeply about the forced labor involved in the construction of the First Temple.  And now, as I re-read the pious Deuteronomistic speech placed in Solomon’s mouth, I find that oratory irrelevant.  The Temple was grand, but it was the result of forced labor.

Paul wrote of passing glory in 2 Corinthians 3:7f.  That portion of the epistle led to a discussion of liberty in God.  Paul and his companions did suffer, sometimes in prison.  But they were free in God.  Their labor was not forced; they gave it of their own accord.  And they proclaimed Jesus, a Temple which no power could destroy.  The Roman Empire tried, but he rose from the dead.

Some might criticize me for my Marxian Conflict Theory-based interpretation of these texts.  So be it!  I seek to write from an attitude of concern rooted in the concept of the Image of God and in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Whose physical labor would Jesus coerce?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/1-kings-and-2-corinthians-part-iii-jesus-the-everlasting-temple/

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Proper 16, Year C   9 comments

Bonfire

Above:  A Bonfire

Image Source = Fir0002

A Consuming Fire

The Sunday Closest to August 24

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 25, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Psalm 71:1-6

or 

Isaiah 58:9b-14 and Psalm 103:1-8

then 

Hebrews 12:18-29

Luke 13:10-17

The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; 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:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-confession-for-the-fourteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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Many passages in the Bible speak of the imperative of obeying God.  Among them is Hebrews 12:18-29, which includes the promise of destruction for disobedience and concludes with

For our God is a consuming fire.

–12:29, The New Jerusalem Bible

That is scary, is it  not?

The Law of Moses is clear:  Anyone who works on the Sabbath day has earned a death sentence:

And the Lord said to Moses:  Speak to the Israelite people and say:  Nevertheless you must keep My sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the LORD have consecrated you.  You shall keep the sabbath, for it is holy for you.  He who profanes it shall be put to death:  whoever does work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his kin.  Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD:  whoever does work on the sabbath day shall be put to death.  The Israelite people shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant between Me and the people of Israel.

–Exodus 31:12-17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures 

(Fortunately this law does not apply to me, a Christian.  As I understand theology, the cultural details of the Law of Moses are not universal principles for all time.)

Jesus, a Jew, lived under occupation in his homeland.  One way the Jews of the time, a minority in the Roman Empire, retained and asserted their identity was to keep religious laws.  But there were Jewish sects, some of which disagreed with each other strongly, and therefore there was a multiplicity of interpretations of religious laws.  So, did Jesus violate the Sabbath laws when he healed on that day?  He did not think so, and I side with him:  Every day of the week is a good day to commit good deeds.

The readings for this Sunday speak of the imperative of repenting, literally turning around.  The prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah (all the Isaiahs) decried a variety of sins, from committing idolatry to exploiting the poor economically.  Observing holy rituals did not fool God into thinking that perpetrators of these perfidious acts were righteous, the prophets said correctly.  The Temple system at the time of Jesus was corrupt, demanding offerings from those who could not spare the money.  Jesus, of course, opposed that system.

Another there running through these readings is one which becomes clearer after one reads the lections in their literary contexts:  Many of those who consider themselves religious insiders, people close to God, are fooling themselves.  And many of the alleged outsiders are really insiders.

The God of these readings is the deity who cares for the widows and the orphans, executes judgment for the oppressed peoples, and whose kingdom is like a large, uncontrollable, and frequently unwanted pest of a plant that gives shelter to a variety of species, not all of whom like each other.  This is the God who defines “insider” and “outsider” differently than many people do.  This is the God whose Gospel comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.  This is the God I recognize in Jesus, who ate with notorious sinners, causing scandal.  This is the God each of us is called to follow.

A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) offers a fitting conclusion to this post.  In the Eucharistic rite, just after a reading from Scripture, the lector says

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

The congregation replies,

Thanks be to God.

With that in mind, I say

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church or just to one who reads this post.

Whether or not one who reads this post answers

Thanks be to God

sincerely reveals much about that person’s spiritual state.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/a-consuming-fire/

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