Archive for the ‘August 18’ Category

Devotion for Proper 15, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Joseph Reveals His Dream to His Brethren, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

Trusting in God, Part II

AUGUST 18, 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 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 37:1-28 or Isaiah 30:15-25

Psalm 18:16-30

1 Corinthians 6:1-11

Matthew 11:2-19

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Patriarchs in Genesis had dysfunctional families.  Abraham tried to kill his son Isaac, on faith that God had told him to do so.  (Yes, I argue with that story.)  Isaac’s son Jacob, with the help of Jacob’s mother, fooled him and defrauded Esau.  Jacob seemed not to care about the rape of his daughter Dinah and, in a different context, acted in such a way as to foster tension among his sons, most of whom fooled him into thinking that his son Joseph was dead.  With family like that, who needs enemies?

The main idea in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 is that believers ought to conduct themselves in ways that glorify God and distinguish them from unbelievers.  Yet even when holy people do that, they will still receive criticism, for some people thrive on finding faults, even if those faults are imaginary.  It is preferable that the criticisms be baseless; that way they show up the critics.

During the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.), the kingdom entered into a military alliance with Egypt against Assyria.  This was an ill-advised alliance; Egypt was not trustworthy.  The author of Isaiah 30 argued that the alliance indicated a lack of trust in God, who was reliable.  After the announcement of divine wrath followed the prediction of mercy.

Trusting in God liberates one to do as one should and become the person one should be.  One can lay aside the desire for revenge, not to lead a life defined by anger, and value justice instead.  With confidence in God one can avoid foolish decisions that end badly.  One, trusting in God, can find the source of ultimate peace and strength.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/trusting-in-god-part-viii/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 15, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Stoning of St. Stephen

Above:  The Stoning of St. Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

Image in the Public Domain

Causing Dissensions and Offenses, Part I

AUGUST 16, 17, and 18, 2018

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The Collect:

Ever-living God, your Son gives himself as living bread for the life of the world.

Fill us with such knowledge of his presence that we may be strengthened and sustained

by his risen life to serve you continually,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 11:1-20 (Thursday)

Job 12:1-25 (Friday)

Job 13:1-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 34:9-14 (All Days)

Acts 6:8-15 (Thursday)

Romans 16:17-20 (Friday)

John 4:7-26 (Saturday)

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See that you never say anything wrong;

do not deceive people by telling lies.

Turn from bad behaviour to good,

try your best to live in peace.

–Psalm 34:14-15, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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One might start by refraining from blaming victims for their plights.

The titular character of the Book of Job, the opening of that composite text informs us, suffered not because of any sin he had committed.  No, God had permitted Satan, then an employee of God in the Hebrew theology of the time, to test the loyalty of Job.  (The adversary did not become God’s rival in Jewish theology until much later.  Many readers miss that point and read the Book of Job anachronistically.)  The primary guilty party in the case of the suffering of the impatient Job, then, was God.  (The expression “the patience of Job” makes no sense to me, based on the text which bears his name.)  Job’s alleged friends, including Zophar the Naamathite, argued however that God, being just, would not permit the innocent to suffer, so Job must have done something wrong.  Job gave as good as he got, as Chapters 12 and 13 indicate:

But you invent lies;

All of you are quacks.

If you would only keep quiet

It would be considered wisdom on your part.

–Job 13:4-5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Nevertheless, much of what Job’s alleged friends said sounds like what one reads elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Books of Psalms and Proverbs, stated authoritatively.  (Those books are too naively optimistic in places.  Of course some of those raised to follow God grow up and depart from the proper path, despite Proverbs 22:6, for example.)  These alleged friends were not entirely wrong, but they proceeded from a false assumption, one common in antiquity as well as today.  Old ideas–including demonstrably false ones–persist.  If one’s sins necessarily lead to one’s suffering, how does one explain the crucifixion of Jesus, the living bread, the living water, and the sinless one?  One must also, if one is to be intellectually thorough and honest, contend with the sufferings and martyrdoms of many faithful, mere mortals, from antiquity to current events.

There are, of course, various reasons for suffering.  The Buddhist statement that suffering results from wrong desiring covers much of that territory well.  One might suffer because of the wrong desiring of another person or because of one’s own wrong desiring.  Even that, however, does not account for the suffering one must endure apart from that with causation in wrong desiring.  Why do some children enter the world with terrible diseases with genetic causes, for example?

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans 16:17, urged his audience

to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I file Zophar the Naamathite and the false witnesses against St. Stephen in that category.

A complicating factor is that “those who cause dissensions and offenses” usually do not think of themselves as such.  They might even consider themselves as righteous people, or at least as people who perform necessary, if unpleasant, deeds for the greater good.  Furthermore, you, O reader, and I might be among these people, according to others.  The only infallible judge of such matters is God.

We can attempt to act kindly, at least, and to refrain from blaming victims for their afflictions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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This is post #700 of ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS.

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/causing-dissensions-and-offenses-part-i/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 15, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Star of David

Above:  The Star of David

Image in the Public Domain

The Gifts of the Jews

AUGUST 17-19, 2020

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The Collect:

God of all peoples, your arms reach out to embrace all those who call upon you.

Teach us as disciples of your Son to love the world with compassion and constancy,

that your name may be known throughout all the earth,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 (Monday)

Isaiah 43:8-13 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 66:18-23 (Wednesday)

Psalm 87 (All Days)

Acts 15:1-21 (Monday)

Romans 11:13-29 (Tuesday)

Matthew 8:1-13 (Wednesday)

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Glorious things of thee are spoken,

Zion, city of our God;

He whose word cannot be broken

Formed thee for His own abode:

On the Rock of Ages founded,

What can shake thy sure repose?

With salvation’s walls surrounded,

Thou mayst smile at all thy foes.

–John Newton, 1779, quoted in The Hymnal (1895), Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

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That magnificent hymn, keyed to Psalm 87, fits well with the assigned Isaiah readings, which speak of the Jews as playing a pivotal role in the salvation of the Gentiles.  And the cure of an enemy general’s skin disease comes via a Hebrew servant girl in 2 Kings 5.  In the time of Christ many Gentiles recognized the superiority of the Jewish faith to pagan mythology.  Our Lord and Savior acknowledged the faith of some of them and the early Church decided not to require Gentiles to become Jews before becoming Christians formally.

These were difficult issues because they were matters of identity, something which takes a negative form much of the time.  “I am not…” is a bad yet commonplace starting point for individual and collective identity.  “We are not Gentiles; we are the Chosen People” is as objectionable an identity as is “We are not Jews; we are Christians, who have a faith superior to theirs.”  Examples and rejections of both errors exist in the pages of the Bible.  My encounters with Jews have been positive, I am glad to say, but I have heard the second error repeatedly.

The question in Acts 15 was whether Gentiles had to become Jews to join the Church, thus it concerned male circumcision, a matter of Jewish identity and strong emotions then and now.  The early Church and St. Paul the Apostle, who never ceased being Jewish, favored not placing obstacles in the way of faithful people.  They favored a generous, inclusive policy which, ironically, functioned as an example of excessive leniency in the minds of conservative thinkers.  How much tradition should the nascent Church–still a small Jewish act at the time–retain?  Who was a Jew and who was not?  Keeping laws and traditions was vital, many people argued.  Had not being unobservant led to national collapse and exiles centuries before?

Unfortunately, Anti-Semitism has been a repeating pattern in Christian history.  The writing of the four canonical Gospels occurred in the context of Jewish-Christian tensions, a fact which, I am sure, shaped the telling of the first four books of the New Testament.  Jesus engaged in controversies with religious leaders, I affirm, but how could the conflicts of early Christianity not influence the telling of those stories?  Sometimes I read these accounts and recognize that misreading of them has had devastating effects on uncounted numbers of people over nearly two thousand years and sit in silence and absolute sadness.  On other occasions I focus on other aspects of these accounts.

St. Paul the Apostle offered sage advice.  Gentiles are a branch grafted onto a tree, he wrote.  That branch ought not to consider itself superior to the other branches.  As for the tree itself, I have only respect for the Jews and Judaism, for salvation is of the Jews.  Besides, I, as a Gentile and a Christian, have much to learn from those whom Pope John Paul II called the elder brethren in faith.  To that end I read and study as I thank God for all the gifts of the Jews.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUTH, ANCESTOR OF KING DAVID

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONAVENTURE, THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SWITHUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF WINCHESTER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/the-gifts-of-the-jews/

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Devotion for August 18 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part V: Role Models

TUESDAY, AUGUST 18, 2020

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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:

2 Samuel 7:18-29

Psalm 19 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:16

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I must deal with 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 before I proceed to my main point.  Some advice in the Pauline tradition is specific to a certain place at a specified time.  So to universalize such counsel is inappropriate.  The contents of 1 Corinthians 11:2-16 falls into that category.

Now for the meat of this post….

Jesus of Nazareth, a descendant of David, is the appropriate pattern for a Christian to emulate.  Jesus had a basic commandment of discipleship:

Follow me.

This the one in whom we see God incarnated fully.  We see God incompletely in others, for we ought to be the hands and feet of God to each other.  We are all role models, regardless of whether we seek that responsibility.  May we be the best possible role models, by grace, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2012 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/2-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-v-role-models/

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Proper 15, Year C   12 comments

Above:  A Sonoma Valley, California, Vineyard

Image Source = Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [reproduction number, e.g., LC-USF34-9058-C]

Injustice and Its Consequences

The Sunday Closest to August 17

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 18, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:1-7 and Psalm 80:1-2, 8-18

or 

Jeremiah 23:23-29 and Psalm 82

then 

Hebrews 11:29-12:2

Luke 12:49-56

The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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-thirteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/sin-clings-to-us/

Prayer of Dedication:

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

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The readings for this Sunday sound a note of judgment.

I begin with Luke 12:49-56.  Read it, O reader of this post, in literary context:  reed it in the context of precedes and follows it immediately.  The context is one of Jesus comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable hypocrites, especially certain Pharisees.  As a matter of fact, Jesus was, in the Lukan narrative, en route to Jerusalem to die.  Yes, he was a cause of conflict.  Yes, he remains one.

Do not test and oppose God, the readings say.  Do not follow false gods and prophets–even out of ignorance, they tell us.  Repent–straighten up and fly right–or face the consequences, they attest.  And Isaiah 5:7 speaks of the need to repent of injustice.  The Hebrew prophets decried corruption, idolatry, and economic injustice more than any sexual acts.  Yet I detect a preoccupation with sexual acts at the expense of condemnations of corruption and economic injustice–related problems–in many Christian quarters.  This reality indicates misplaced priorities on the part of those I criticize.

To commit idolatry is to focus on anything other than God when one should focus on God.  Thus idolatry is commonplace and idols are varied and ubiquitous.  But one can become mindful of one’s idolatry and seek to reduce one’s instances of committing it.  The problems of corruption and economic injustice are systemic.  One can act constructively; one should do so.  These systems are of human origin, so people can change them.  Yet we can do this only by grace.  May we do so.  May we love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  And may we therefore avert harm to others and destruction of ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF BARTON STONE, COFOUNDER OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/injustice-and-its-consequences/

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Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, SHEPHERD OF LUTHERANISM IN THE AMERICAN COLONIES

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

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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 17 and 18, 2020

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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