Devotion for Wednesday After Pentecost, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

STPN_6036

 

Above:  St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Newnan, Georgia, January 26, 2014

My favorite aspect of this arrangement is the centrality of the baptismal font.

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Active Love and Living Water

JUNE 7, 2017

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The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people by sending into us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit, that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 11:24-30

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

John 7:37-39

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When you send forth your spirit, they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:32, Common Worship (2000)

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This devotion owes much to the excellent and scholarly work of the late Father Raymond E. Brown in Volume One (1966) of his commentary on the Gospel of John for The Anchor Bible set of books. He wrote two thick volumes on that Gospel. I am glad that I walked into a certain thrift store on a certain day and purchased those two books.

The Spirit of God fell upon seventy Hebrew elders in Numbers 11. Meat for the masses followed. The liberated people who pined for the food they ate when they were slaves in Egypt had received freedom from the hand of God. Since that freedom was apparently insufficient for many and since God had compassion, God sent quails also. Moses had seventy people with whom to share his burdens. God had provided abundantly.

The Exodus, the central narrative of the Hebrew Bible, informs the Gospel of John also. In the scene from John 7, Jesus was in Jerusalem for the Festival of Tabernacles (or Booths), originally a harvest festival (in September-October on the Gregorian Calendar). The holy time also carried associations with the Exodus and with the Day of the Lord (as in later Jewish prophecy), when, as Bishop N. T. Wright fixates on in books, God would become king in Israel. Thus the festival carried messianic meanings also.

A helpful note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) reads:

As part of the celebration of the Tabernacles, the priest poured freshly drawn water on the altar as a libation to God. Just as Jesus is the means of Passover (chap. 6), he is also the life-giving water of Tabernacles (4:10-14; 6:35).

–Page 1922

That living water (yes, a baptismal metaphor in Christian theology) refers to new life in Christ, to divine wisdom (see John 1:1-18), and to the active power of God in the world. (The Church came to call the latter the Holy Spirit.) And, as Father Brown writes,

If the water is a symbol of the revelation that Jesus gives to those who believe in him, it is also a symbol of the Spirit that the resurrected Jesus will give, as v. 39 specifies.

–Page 328

One might also take interest in another detail of John 7:38, the prompt for a lively theological debate. How should one read the Greek text? From whose heart shall the streams of living water flow? Much of Western Christian theology (especially that of the Roman Catholic variety) identifies the heart in question as that of Jesus. (Father Brown argues for this in his commentary.) This position is consistent with the filoque clause of the Nicene Creed: the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Many who maintain that the heart in question is that of Jesus also cite John 14:6 and 26, John 16:17, and John 20:20, in which the Holy Spirit proceeds from God the Father or from Jesus unambiguously.

The Eastern Orthodox, however, use a form of the Creed with omits the filoque clause. The Eastern Church Fathers, consistent with their theology, interpreted the heart in quiestion as that of a believer in Christ. A note in The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) indicates this:

The living water (v. 38) is the gift of the Holy Spirit (v. 39) and the new life that accompanies this gift.

–page 1438

I have noticed that some translations, such as the New Revised Standard Version, render John 7:38 as to support the Eastern Orthodox position.  Gail R. O’Day and Susan E. Hylen, in their volume for John (2006) for the Westminster Bible Companion series (Westminster/John Knox Press) refer to this decision and refer to the linguistic ambiguity in the Greek text of that verse.  They, without dismissing the possibility of the stream of living water coming somehow through the individual believer, note that

…the ultimate source of then living water in John is always Jesus or God.

–Page 86

The ultimate textual context for interpreting a given passage of scripture is the rest of scripture, as I have read in various books about the Bible.  Given this interpretive framework, we ought never to forget that the source of the living water is divine.  The role of the individual in that in John 7:38 is a live theological issue.  Even if the heart in question is that of the individual believer, the living water still comes from God–in this case, via Jesus.

As for filoque, the question of the procession of the Holy Spirit is a recipe for mental gymnastics. How, for example, can the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father and the Son if the Son also proceeded from the Father, especially if the Son has always existed? When, then, did he proceed from the Father? And how does one attempt to untangle details of Trinitarian theology without falling into serious heresy? The question of how the procession of the Holy Spirit works is also an issue irrelevant to salvation.  I am content to say that God is active among us and to leave the details of the procession of the Holy Spirit as a divine mystery.

The contents of these questions do not change a basic point: God, who liberates us (not so we can grumble and be ungrateful), also empowers us to glorify God and to support one another. If we do not love one another, whom we can see, we do not love God, whom we cannot see. This is active love, the kind which resists exploitation and other evils in our midst. This is active love, which builds up the other and thereby improves not only his or her lot in life but the society also. This is active love, by which we help each other bear burdens. This is active love, a mandate from God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF COMMON WORSHIP, 1906

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF PIRIPI TAUMATA-A-KURA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/active-love-and-living-water/

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2 responses to “Devotion for Wednesday After Pentecost, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)

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  1. Pingback: Active Love and Living Water | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

  2. Pingback: Guide to June Ordinary Time Devotions for 2017 | ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS

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