Archive for the ‘August 13’ Category

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 14, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment


Sacrifice of Isaac--Caravaggio

Above:  The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

Active Faith

AUGUST 12 and 13, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church.

Open our hearts to the riches of your grace,

that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 33:1-17 (Monday)

2 Chronicles 34:22-33 (Tuesday)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Both Days)

Hebrews 11:1-7 (Monday)

Hebrews 11:17-28 (Tuesday)

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How blessed the nation that learns to acclaim you!

They will live, Yahweh, in the light of your presence.

–Psalm 89:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That is the theology in the accounts of Kings Manasseh and Josiah of Judah.  We read of Manasseh (reigned 698/687-642 B.C.E.) in 2 Chronicles 33:1-20 and 2 Kings 21:1-18.  The story in 2 Kings is more unflattering than the version in 2 Chronicles, for the latter mentions his repentance.  Manasseh’s grandson, Josiah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.) is on the scene in 2 Chronicles 34-35 and 2 Kings 22:1-23:30.  His fidelity to the Law of Moses delays the destruction of Judah, we read.

Hebrews 11 focuses on faith.  Verse 1 defines faith as

the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

In context this definition of faith is consistent with the understanding of St. Paul the Apostle, for whom faith was inherently active, hence the means of one’s justification with God.  In the Letter of James, however, faith is intellectual, so justification comes via works.  This is not a contradiction, just defining “faith” differently.  Active faith is the virtue extolled consistently.

I argue with Hebrews 11:17-20.  The near-sacrifice of Isaac (Genesis 22) was a form of child abuse.  There was no way it did not damage the father-son relationship.  Earlier in Genesis Abraham had interceded on behalf of strangers in Sodom (Chapter 18).  Yes, he had relatives there (see Genesis 13, 14, and 19), but he argued on behalf of strangers.  In Chapter 22 he did not do that for his son, Isaac.  God tested Abraham, who failed the test; he should have argued.

Did I understand you correctly?

would have been a good start.

May we have the active faith to follow God.  May we know when to question, when to argue, and when to act.  May we understand the difference between an internal monologue and a dialogue with God.  Out of faith may we act constructively and thereby leave the world better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH VON LAUFENBERG, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/active-faith-2/

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Devotion for Monday After Proper 14, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath--Bartholomeus Breenbergh

Above:  Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up Our Neighbors, Part IV

AUGUST 13, 2018

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The Collect:

Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread that gives life to the world.

Give us this bread always,

that he may live in us and we in him,

and that, strengthened by this food,

may live as his body in the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 17:1-16

Psalm 81

Ephesians 5:1-4

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Oh, that my people would listen to me!

that Israel would walk in my ways!

–Psalm 81:13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Much of Christianity has condemned personal sins (such as swearing, gambling, fornicating, and fighting) exclusively or primarily while justifying oppressive violence and unjust economic systems over time.  One could point to, among other examples, the tradition of Roman Catholic support for feudalism and manorialism then for various dictators (such as Francisco Franco of Spain; at least he was anti-Communist) or to the Lutheran tradition of supporting the state, even when that is dubious.  And Martin Luther (1483-1546) did support the brutal repression of a peasants’ revolt by the German ruler who was protecting his life during the earliest years of the Protestant Reformation.  I cannot forget that fact either.  (To be fair, the Roman Catholic Church has also opposed dictatorships and many German Lutherans opposed the Third Reich.)  I choose to emphasize an example of which many people are unaware.  The Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old “Southern” Presbyterian Church, began in 1861 with a narrow range of moral concerns:  private behavior.  Slavery was not a moral concern fit for the church.  No, that was a matter for governments to address.  This was an example of the “Spirituality of the Church,” one of the biggest cop-outs I have encountered.  In the 1930s part of the left wing of that denomination succeeded in expanding the church’s range of moral concerns to include structural economic inequality, war and peace, et cetera.  In 1954 the Southern Presbyterians became the first U.S. denomination to affirm the ruling in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) as consistent with scripture and Christian values.  Much of the right wing of that denomination objected to these changes vocally, even to the point of defending Jim Crow laws in print.  (I have index cards full of evidence.)  Nevertheless, did not Jesus command people to love their neighbors as they love themselves?

“How long will you judge unjustly,

and show favor to the wicked?

Save the weak and the orphan;

defend the humble and the needy;

Rescue the weak and the poor;

deliver them from the power of the wicked….”

–Psalm 82:2-4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Sins come in the personal and collective responsibilities, among others.  Infractions of both kinds require confession and repentance, but addressing offenses in the former category is easier than seeking to correct offenses in the latter category.  Focusing on the former primarily or exclusively is, I suppose, a way (albeit an unsuccessful way) to seek to let oneself off the proverbial hook morally.

God commands us to care for people actively and effectively.  Sometimes this occurs on a small scale, as in the pericope from 1 Kings 17.  On other occasions the effort is massive and might even entail resisting unjust laws which place the poor at further disadvantage.  All of these efforts are consistent with the command to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 28, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN H. W. STUCKENBERG, LUTHERAN PASTOR AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF EDWIN POND PARKER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET POLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/05/28/building-up-our-neighbors-part-iv/

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Devotion for August 13 and 14 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Mountains of Gilboa

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part VI:  Self-Control

2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part I:  Self-Control

TUESDAY, AUGUST 13, 2019, and WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 14, 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 Samuel 31:1-13 (August 13)

2 Samuel 1:1-27 (August 14)

Psalm 42 (Morning–August 13)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–August 14)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–August 13)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–August 14)

1 Corinthians 7:1-24 (August 13)

1 Corinthians 7:25-40 (August 14)

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Paul expected Jesus to return quite soon.   So, regarding marriage and sexuality, he advised people to remain as they were–single or married–and to place matters of God above those of the desires of one’s spouse or body.  He advised self-control while acknowledging the goodness of sexuality.  But even a good thing, not controlled, can become a distraction.

Along the way Paul wrote a number of statements one will not hear at a wedding ceremony.

To the unmarried and to widows I say this:  it is a good thing if like me they stay as they are; but if they lack self-control, they should marry.  It is better to be married than to burn with desire.

–Verses 8-9, Revised English Bible

In other words,

Marriage:  At least it is not fornication.

And we read at the end of the chapter:

Thus he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who does not marry does better.

–Verse 38, Revised English Bible

The main idea, that one must not become and/or remain distracted from God’s call on one’s life, unites the chapter.  And sexuality is a powerful human drive; it does ensure the continuation of the species and provide much pleasure.  But it, like so much else, can become a distraction from one’s divine vocation(s).

The theme of self-control continues in 1 and 2 Samuel.  Saul had tried more than once to kill David.  And the monarch had ordered the killing of people who had helped the former shepherd.  Yet David had refused to kill Saul when he had opportunities to do so.  He even lamented not only his friend, Jonathan, but Saul, after they died.  David’s self-control relative to Saul was remarkable.  It is a model to emulate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PAUL TILLICH, LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/1-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-vi2-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-i-self-control/

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Week of Proper 14: Monday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Ezekiel

And the Glory of the Lord Will Be Revealed

AUGUST 13, 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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Ezekiel 1:1-5, 24-28 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the thirteenth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, when I was in the community of exiles by the Chebar Canal, the heavens opened and I saw visions of God.  On the fifth day of the month–it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin–the word of the LORD came to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, by the Chebar Canal, in the land of the Chaldeans.  And the hand of the LORD came upon him there.

I looked, and lo, a stormy wind came sweeping out of the north–a huge cloud and flashing fire, surrounded by a radiance; and in the center of it, in the center of the fire, a gleam as of amber.  In the center of it were also the figures of four creatures.

When [the creatures] moved, I could hear the sound of Shaddai, a tumult like the din of an army.  When they stood still, they would let their wings droop.  From above the expanse over their heads came a sound.  When they stood still, they would let their wings droop.

Above the expanse over their heads was the semblance of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and on top, upon this semblance of a human form.  From what appeared as his loins up, I saw a gleam of amber–what looked like a fire encased in a frame; and from what appeared as his loins down, I saw what looked like fire.  That was a radiance all about him.  Like the appearance of the brow which shines in the clouds on a day of rain, such was the appearance of the surrounding radiance.  That was the appearance of the semblance of the Presence of the LORD.  When I beheld it, I flung myself down on my face.  And I heard the voice of someone speaking.

Psalm 148:1-4, 13-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD from the heavens;

praise him in the heights.

2 Praise him, all you angels of his;

praise him, all his host.

3 Praise him, sun and moon;

praise him, all you shining stars.

Praise him, heaven of heavens,

and you waters above the heavens.

13 Let them praise the Name of the LORD,

for his Name only is exalted,

his splendor is over earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up strength for his people

and praise for all his loyal servants,

the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

Hallelujah!

Matthew 17:22-27 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

As they went together in Galilee, Jesus told them,

The Son of Man is going to be handed over to the power of men, and they will kill him.  And on the third day he will be raised to life again.

This greatly distressed the disciples.

Then when they arrived at Capernaum the Temple tax-collectors came up and said to Peter,

Your master doesn’t pay Temple-tax, we presume?

Peter replied,

Oh, yes, he does!

Later when he went into the house, Jesus anticipated what he was going to say.

What do you think, Simon?

he said.

Whom do the kings of this world get their tolls and taxes from–their own family or from others?

Peter replied,

From others.

Jesus told him,

Then the family is exempt.  Yet we don’t want to give offence to these people, so go down to the lake and throw in your hook.  Take the first fish that bites, open his mouth and you’ll find a silver coin.  Take that and give it to them, for both of us.

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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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There was a common belief in the ancient Near East:  When Nation A defeated Nation B, Nation A’s gods defeated Nation B’s gods.  In 593 B.C.E. (as The Jewish Study Bible tells me), in the final years of the Kingdom of Judah, already a vassal kingdom with a puppet monarch, the priest and prophet Ezekiel had a stunning vision of divine glory for which, I suspect, human words–even the best ones–written or spoken, were insufficient.  YHWH was not defeated.

Now we turn to the reading from Matthew.  Jesus predicted his crucifixion and resurrection.  He would suffer and die painfully, but this would not constitute a defeat, for he would live again–very shortly.  And, in the Gospel of John, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus constituted his glorification.  The Roman Empire did its worst, but God reversed their actions.

When all seems lost, when the enemies of God seem to have won, may we remember that God remains undefeated.  This fact might not seem obvious yet, but it is no less true.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/and-the-glory-of-the-lord-will-be-revealed/

Week of Proper 14: Tuesday, Year 1   20 comments

Above:  Moses Window at Washington National Cathedral

Image Source = Captain Phoebus

“Be Strong and Be Bold”

AUGUST 13, 2019

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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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Deuteronomy 31:1-8 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses went and spoke these things to all Israel.  And he said to them,

I’m a hundred twenty years old today.  I’m not able to go out and come in anymore.  And YHWH said to me, ‘You shall not cross this Jordan.’  YHWH, your God:  He is crossing in front of you.  He’ll destroy these nations in front of you, and you’ll dispossess them.  Joshua:  he is crossing in front of you, as YHWH has spoken.  And YHWH will do them as he did to Sihon and to Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, that He destroyed them.  And YWHH will put them in front of you, and you shall do to them according to all of the commandment that I’ve commanded you.  Be strong and be bold.  Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared in front of them, because YHWH, your God:  He is the one going with you.  He won’t let you down and won’t leave you.

And Moses called Joshua and said to him before the eyes of all Israel,

Be strong and be bold, because you will come with this people to the land that YHWH swore to their fathers to give to them, and you will get it for them as a legacy.  And YHWH: He is the one who is going in front of you.  He will be with you.  You shall not fear, and you shall not be dismayed.

Psalm 111 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

2 Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

4 He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

7 The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

8 They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

9 He sent redemption to his people;

he commanded his covenant for ever;

holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.

Matthew 18:1-6, 10-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

It was at this time that the disciples came to Jesus with the question,

Who is really greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?

Jesus called a little child to his side and set him on his feet in the middle of them all.

Believe me,

he said,

unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.  It is the man who can be as humble as this little child who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.

Anyone who welcomes one child like this for my sake is welcoming me.  But if anyone leads astray one of these little children who believe in me he would be better off thrown into the depths of the sea with a mill-stone round his neck!…

Be careful that you never despise a single one of these little ones–for I tell you that they have angels who see my Father’s face continually in Heaven.

What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep and one wanders away from the rest, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hill-side and set out to look for the one who has wandered away?  Yes, and if he should chance to find it I assure you he is more delighted over that one than he is over the ninety-nine who never wandered away.  You can understand then that it is never the will of your Father in Heaven that a single one of these little ones should be lost.

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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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The reading from Deuteronomy is at the tail end of the Torah.  The Israelites are preparing to enter the promised land of Canaan.  Moses knows that he will not be with them, so he delivers his farewell address and passes the torch of leadership to Joshua, son of Nun.

Among the pieces of advice Moses gives to the people as a whole and to Joshua individually are to trust in God, obey the commandments, and to “be strong and be bold.”  All of these are consistent with each other.  Do not fear, Moses says, for God will go with the people.  So boldness is a sign of trust, that is, faith, and fear indicates the opposite.

It is easy to trust God when our lives go well and circumstances are favorable to us.  But the real test is whether we trust God the rest of the time.  I admit freely that I have failed by this standard many times, some of them in very recent memory.  I have been fearful, not bold.  I have worried, an activity which does not lead to practical solutions, when I should have been duly concerned then sought said solutions.  I am no spiritual giant, just a person trying to do his best, with mixed results.

Moses would not be with the Israelites in Canaan, but Joshua would.  One Joshua took the Israelites across the River Jordan into the promised land, and another Joshua (“Jesus” in Greek) became the central figure of the New Testament and of the Christian faith.  Each leader offered a form of liberation within specific circumstances of time and space.  The second Joshua continues to live, although no longer in human form, for he is part of the Trinity (however that works).  So there is no need to be fearful if one trusts in him; there is ample cause for holy boldness.

Many negative actions flow from the failure of nerve, the lack of faith.  But our strength is not the central issue; that of God is.  And that strength will never fail.  Yet we fear needlessly, and therefore we lash out at each other, making scapegoats instead of seeking good solutions.   When we do this we do not love our neighbors as we love ourselves, as God loves everybody.  And so we sin again.

Greater amounts of constructive faith which rests upon the active love of God would make the world a better place.  So may we be bold, and thereby improve our local area, at least.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/be-strong-and-be-bold/

Proper 14, Year A   31 comments

Above:  A Scroll of the Book of Esther

Image in the Public Domain

“The Word is Near You….”

The Sunday Closest to August 10

The Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 13, 2017

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph,

Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.

He answered,

Here I am.

So he said to him,

Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.

So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him,

What are you seeking?

He said,

I am seeking my brothers; tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.

The man said,

They have gone away, for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.”

So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another,

Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying,

Let us not take his life.

Reuben said to them,

Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him

— that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers,

What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.

And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

16 Then he called for a famine in the land

and destroyed the supply of bread.

17 He sent a man before them,

Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

18 They bruised his feet in fetters;

his neck they put in an iron collar.

19 Until his prediction came to pass,

the word of the LORD tested him.

20 The king sent and released him;

the ruler of the peoples set him free.

21 He set him as a master over his household,

as a ruler over all his possessions,

22 To instruct his princes according to his will

and to teach his elders wisdom.

45b Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

1 Kings 19:9-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

At Horeb, the mount of God, Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying,

What are you doing here, Elijah?

He answered,

I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.

He said,

Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said,

What are you doing here, Elijah?

He answered,

I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.

Then the LORD said to him,

Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.

Psalm 85:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

SECOND READING

Romans 10:5-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that

the person who does these things will live by them.

But the righteousness that comes from faith says,

Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”

(that is, to bring Christ down)

or

“Who will descend into the abyss?”

(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

The word is near you,

on your lips and in your heart

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says,

No one who believes in him will be put to shame.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For,

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written,

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 14:22-33 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying,

It is a ghost!

And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said,

Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

Peter answered him,

Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.

He said,

Come.

So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out,

Lord, save me!

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him,

You of little faith, why did you doubt?

When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying,

Truly you are the Son of God.

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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I have chosen to take my focus from Romans.  Thus I refer you, O reader, to the following links, for further details:

For Genesis–https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/week-of-proper-9-thursday-year-1/

For Matthew–https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/week-of-proper-13-monday-year-1/

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Consider these words, put into the mouth of Moses toward the end of the Israelite sojourn in the wilderness:

For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say ‘Who will go over to the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil.   If you obey commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, they you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it.  But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish….  (Deuteronomy 30:11-18a, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

Paul was obviously familiar with this passage, for he channeled it in this day’s excerpt from Romans.  God’s message is not remote, he says; it is near us.  Indeed, the Hebrew prophets proclaimed this word, and many Jewish scriptures, originally oral tradition, did as well.  So did Jesus, God incarnate.  How much more concrete could God get than that?  So, yes, the word is very near us.  If we do not perceive it, we need to pay closer attention.

The reading from Deuteronomy describes following God as the path to life and the alternative as the route to death.  Life and death are both physical and spiritual in this context.  I typed only part of the germane passage; a portion I chose not to type concludes, “therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live….” (Deuteronomy 30:19)  But we know how the story unfolded, do we not?  Read the excerpt from 1 Kings; pious advocacy of monotheism by a portion of the population did not prevent the widespread practice of polytheism.  Thus hindsight, in the wake of the Babylonian Exile, informs the theology of final, edited version of much of the Hebrew Bible:  Spiritual infidelity led to the decline, division, and extinction of the Jewish kingdoms.

YHWH was a different kind of deity relative to the alleged members of pantheons.  As Professor Richard Elliott Friedman writes in his Commentary on the Torah:

In comparing Israel’s monotheism to pagan religion, we must appreciate that the difference between one and many is not the same sort of thing as the difference between two and three or between six and twenty.  It is not numerical.  It is a different concept of what a god is.  A God who is outside of nature, known through acts of history, a creator, unseeable, without a mate, who makes legal covenants with humans, who is one, is a revolution in religious conception. (Page 586)

The account from 1 Kings reinforces this point.  Adherents of other deities believed that they made themselves known in forces of nature, such as earthquakes, fire,  and mighty winds.  But YHWH did the opposite.  God does that often.  We find God in silence, not noise.  And we Christians worship God, who took on human form and became both fully human and fully divine.  (I have given up trying to explain this mystery and chosen to revel in it instead.)  God refuses to fit into our theological boxes.  If we cannot deal with this reality in a healthy way, then we need to read the great J. B. Phillips book, Your God is Too Small.

The word is near us.  It is present in the silence around us, as well as in any place we read or hear God speaking–certainly in the Bible, but not just there.  The word can also be present in other literature, as well as in nature.  The word is present anywhere the Holy Spirit speaks to us, including our minds.  So the word is around us and inside us.  Do we hear it?  Do we really hear it?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/the-word-is-very-near-you/