Archive for June 15, 2017

Devotion for Proper 6 (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:   Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Vindication

JUNE 17, 2018

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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 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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Genesis 38:1-26

Psalm 35:19-25

Acts 5:1-11

Matthew 12:43-45

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In June 1996 my father became the pastor of Asbury United Methodist Church in rural Appling County, Georgia, U.S.A.  One of the adult Sunday School classes was reading and discussing the Book of Genesis at the rate of a chapter per week.  I recall that, on the Sunday morning after they had read and discussed Chapter 37, the teacher skipped directly to Chapter 39.

Genesis 38 is a hot potato.  What are we to make of a story that approves of a childless widow pretending to be a pagan temple prostitute, seducing her father-in-law, and becoming pregnant with twins, his children?  Judah (the father-in-law) understands the deception by Tamar (the widow) as justified, per the rules governing levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10).  As Professor Amy-Jill Levine says, we must accept that people did things differently then.

The author of Psalm 35 prays for divine vindication against enemies.  Perhaps that mindset informs the treatment of the selfish people (struck dead by God) in Acts 5.  The sense of grievance certainly informs Matthew 12:43-45, which literally demonizes Jewish leaders who opposed Jesus.  One can reasonably imagine members of a marginalized Jewish Christian community demonizing the non-Christian Jews circa 85 C.E.

The desire for divine vindication can be legitimate.  Yet may we who seek vindication never surrender to hatred and thereby become as those who seek to harm us or otherwise deny us that which is rightfully ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/vindication-2/

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Devotion for Proper 5 (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:   Paying the Tax with a Coin from the Fish

Image in the Public Domain

The Sovereignty of God

JUNE 10, 2018

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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 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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Genesis 27:1-10, 18-19, 26-33, 38-40

Psalm 12

Acts 4:23-31

Matthew 17:24-27

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O LORD, watch over us

and save us from this generation for ever.

The wicked prowl on every side,

and that which is worthless is highly prized by everyone.

–Psalm 12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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One of the primary challenges understanding the Bible is the fact that we moderns come from different cultural and intellectual backgrounds than the ancients did.  The Biblical texts leave much unwritten because members of the original audiences did not require the explanation of every germane assumption.  Consider, O reader, blessings and curses.  By curses I refer not to profane and coarse language, but to the opposite of blessings.  One assumption in the Hebrew Bible is that spoken blessings and curses have power.  Oral blessings and curses are motifs in the Old Testament.  In this case the second son steals the blessing (due to the first son) by fooling an aging and blind father.  The stolen blessing, however, still has power.  Furthermore, God works through the blessing and the act of stealing it.

The theme of the sovereignty of God continues in the readings.  The promises of God are sure in Psalm 12, even though people exalt vileness.  In Acts 4 religious persecution becomes an opportunity certain early Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the faith boldly.

The Gospel reading requires much explanation.  A standard exegesis is that the tax in question was the Temple tax.  However, Father Raymond E. Brown questions this conclusion in his magisterial An Introduction to the New Testament (1997).  He proposes that, since Matthew 17:24-27 does not identify the tax as the Temple tax, it might have been a different tax–perhaps the census tax mentioned in Matthew 22:15-22.  Or, if one assumes that the tax in Matthew 17:24-27 was the Temple tax, one might surmise that post-70 C.E. realities inform the telling of the story.  With the destruction of the Temple and the continuation of the Temple tax, the purpose of said tax had shifted to support the temple of Jupiter on the Temple Mount.

The real issue is the sovereignty of God.  The Roman destruction of the Temple could not overcome the sovereignty of God.  Imperial power might extend even to fish, but God could place the coin to pay the tax inside a fish.  For the sake of avoiding public scandal Jesus pays the tax with money God has provided, but God is still more powerful than the Roman Empire.

We who follow God should acknowledge divine sovereignty.  Our relations to the state might be strained.  I acknowledge the moral legitimacy of political revolution sometimes, especially when the system oppresses those who seek to change it peaceably.  In all circumstances, we ought to, in the words of Jesus,

Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar–and God what belongs to God.

–Matthew 22:21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God, who is sovereign over empires and republics, wants us.  That is fair.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/the-sovereignty-of-god/

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Devotion for Proper 4 (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:   The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

False Teachers

JUNE 3, 2018

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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 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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Genesis 19:1-8, 15-26, 30-38

Psalm 11

2 Peter 2:4-10a

Matthew 11:20-24

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David Ackerman continues his grand tour of difficult passages of scripture.  The theme this time is judgment and mercy.

One should be careful to examine a passage of scripture closely.  In Genesis 19, for example, we read of (A) an equal-opportunity rape gang and (B) the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The gang members do not care if their conquests are male, female, or angelic.  Furthermore, Lot, while being hospitable to his house guests, offers his two daughters to the gang instead.  Fortunately for the daughters, the gang had become fixated on “fresh fish.”  One might reasonably surmise, however, that Lot knew the character of his neighbors.  One might also question the character of the daughters, who went on to get their father drunk, seduce him, and have children with him.  Lot and his family are a disturbing group of people in Genesis.

Elsewhere in the assigned lessons we read of divine judgment on false teachers and those who follow them.  This judgment falls on the unrepentant, whether Jewish or Gentile.  Yet there is also mercy for the repentant, whether Jewish or Gentile.

These readings contain much material to make one squirm.  I refer to what is there, not what we merely think is present.  Genesis 19 is partially an origin story of the Amorites and the Moabites, whose founders were the products of subterfuge, drunkenness, and incest.  It is also partially a cautionary tale about the lack of hospitality.  What could be more inhospitable than seeking to seeking to rape someone?

Divine judgment and mercy are real, as are human misinterpretation of Bible stories.  May we turn of the autopilot mode that prevents us from studying passages seriously and transform us into false teachers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/false-teachers/

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Guide to Ordinary Time Devotions in May 2018   1 comment

Above:  The Cathedral of Christ the King, Atlanta, Georgia

Image in the Public Domain

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Monday in Pentecost Week:  May 21:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-pentecost-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-in-pentecost-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-21-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/29/week-of-proper-2-monday-year-2/

Tuesday in Pentecost Week:  May 22:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-pentecost-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-in-pentecost-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-22-and-23-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/week-of-proper-2-tuesday-year-2/

Wednesday in Pentecost Week:  May 23:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/devotion-for-wednesday-after-pentecost-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/devotion-for-wednesday-and-thursday-in-pentecost-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-22-and-23-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/week-of-proper-2-wednesday-year-2/

Thursday in Pentecost Week:  May 24:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-trinity-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-3-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/devotion-for-wednesday-and-thursday-in-pentecost-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-24-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/week-of-proper-2-thursday-year-2/

Friday in Pentecost Week:  May 25:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-trinity-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-3-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/devotion-for-friday-in-pentecost-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-25-and-26-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/week-of-proper-2-friday-year-2/

Saturday in Pentecost Week:  May 26:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/devotion-for-saturday-before-trinity-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-3-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/26/devotion-for-saturday-in-pentecost-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-25-and-26-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-proper-2-saturday-year-2/

TRINITY SUNDAY:  THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B:  MAY 27: 2018:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-ackerman/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-year-d/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/trinity-sunday-year-b/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/devotion-for-trinity-sunday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-27-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Monday, May 28:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-trinity-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/devotion-for-monday-after-proper-3-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-28-29-and-30-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-proper-3-monday-year-2/

Tuesday, May 29:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-trinity-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/devotion-for-tuesday-after-proper-3-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-28-29-and-30-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-proper-3-tuesday-year-2/

Wednesday, May 30:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/devotion-for-wednesday-after-trinity-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-3-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-28-29-and-30-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/12/week-of-proper-3-wednesday-year-2/

Thursday, May 31:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/12/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-4-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/03/devotion-for-may-31-and-june-1-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-proper-3-thursday-year-2/

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Devotion for Trinity Sunday (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:   The First Council of Nicaea

Image in the Public Domain

Relationships

MAY 27, 2018

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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 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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Song of Songs 8:6-7

Psalm 89:5-8

Hebrews 11:4-7, 17-28

John 5:19-24

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Trinity Sunday is frequently a difficult occasion to preach, for many heresies have their origin in attempts to explain the Trinity.  Yet on this day, the only Christian feast devoted to a doctrine, one must say something.

The Bible offers a variety of images for God from Genesis to Revelation.  Abraham and God, we read, took walks together and engaged in conversations.  Yet, as we read in Exodus, the understanding of God had become one of a remote figure whose holiness was fatal to most people–Moses excepted.  We read of the heavenly court, modeled after earthly royal courts, in Psalm 89.  And we read in John 5 that Jesus and YHWH/God the Father have a relationship.

The full nature of divinity exceeds human capacity to grasp it, but we can know some truths.  Hebrews 11 reminds us of the faithfulness of God in relating to we human beings.  By faith, we read, people have committed great deeds that have glorified God and benefited others, even long past the lifespans of those who have committed those great deeds.  The theme of relationship is also present in the Song of Songs (a book I advise reading in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985).   The relationship in Song of Songs 8 is between a man and a woman (marital status unknown), whose love has placed their lives at risk.  Love and death are linked for them.

Let me be a seal upon your heart,

Like the seal upon your hand.

For love is fierce as death,

Passion is mighty as Sheol;

Its darts are darts of fire,

A blazing flame.

Vast floods cannot quench love,

Nor rivers drown it.

If a man offered all his wealth for love,

He would be laughed to scorn.

–Song of Songs 8:6-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Neither can anything quench or drown divine love for us, despite our frequent lack of love for God.  Yet for a relationship to be healthy, more than one figure must be engaged in maintaining it.  May we embrace the mystery of the Holy Trinity and pursue and deepen a healthy relationship with God, whose goodness and mercy alone pursue us in Psalm 23.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/relationships/

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Devotion for Proper 3 (Ackerman)   Leave a comment

Above:   Cain and Abel

Image in the Public Domain

Jealousy

NOT OBSERVED IN 2018

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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 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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Genesis 4:1-16

Psalm 7

Jude 8-13

Matthew 9:32-34

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In Psalm 7 the author seeks divine protection from enemies.  In Genesis 4 Cain kill Abel.  God exiles the murderer yet protects him.

Genesis 4, unlike a host of exegetes dating from antiquity to the present day, does not explain why God favored one sacrifice over the other.  The story does, however, make clear the defective character of Cain, who acted out of, among other motivations, jealousy.  Genesis 4:7 offers a vivid image of sin as, in the words of the Everett Fox translation, “a crouching demon” by an entrance.  One has the option of not giving into temptation, of course, as the text tells us.

Jealousy leads to many sins, especially of one passion or another.  Out of jealousy one might accuse an agent of God (Jesus, for example) of being in league with evil (as in Matthew 9:32-34).  Jealousy can also lead to spiritual blindness, consciously or otherwise.  Either way, one commits serious error.

May we, by grace, rule over the metaphorical demon of sin crouching by the door, waiting to ambush us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LEONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITING, HYMN WRITER

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Also known as Devotion for the Eighth Sunday After the Epiphany

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Devotion for Proper 2 (Ackerman)   Leave a comment

Above:   An Olive Tree

Image in the Public Domain

Good and Bad Fruit

NOT OBSERVED IN 2018

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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 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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1 Samuel 28:7-8, 11-25

Psalm 6

2 Peter 2:1-3, 17-22

Matthew 7:13-17

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Psalm 6, with its references to death, fits well with the reading from 1 Samuel 28, in which King Saul, in violation of Jewish law, consults a necromancer.  She is actually a somewhat sympathetic character, for she cares about the monarch’s well-being.  Meanwhile, one gets the impression that Saul has neglected his duties.  I do not agree, however, that committing genocide is a king’s duty.

With great power comes great responsibility, as an old saying tells us.  This is true in both secular and sacred settings.  In 2 Peter 2, for example, we read condemnations of certain early Christian leaders who, out of embarrassment, sought to reconcile Christianity with pagan permissiveness.  As we read in Matthew 7, good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit.

And committing genocide is definitely bad fruit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LEONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITING, HYMN WRITER

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Also known as Devotion for the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany

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