Archive for the ‘August 16’ Category

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

Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Dagon

Above:  The Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Dagon

Image in the Public Domain

Keeping Faith

AUGUST 15, 2019

AUGUST 16, 2019

AUGUST 17, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, judge eternal, you love justice and hate oppression,

and you call us to share your zeal for truth.

Give us courage to take our stand with all victims of bloodshed and greed,

and, following your servants and prophets, to look to the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 7:1, 10-26 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 5:1-12 (Friday)

1 Samuel 6:1-16 (Saturday)

Psalm 82 (All Days)

Hebrews 10:26-31 (Thursday)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Friday)

Matthew 24:15-27 (Saturday)

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God takes his stand in the divine assembly,

surrounded by the gods he gives judgement.

–Psalm 82:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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In 1 Samuel 5 and 6 Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, which proved to be more than they knew how to handle.  Idols bowed down to the Ark.  The Ashdodites came down with what was most likely venereal disease, although other translations include hemorrhoids and the bubonic plague.  The Philistines returned the Ark promptly.

God is more than we mere mortals can handle or contain.  Some of our theological propositions are true (at least partially), but the combination of these does not equal the truth of God.  There is always a glorious mystery of divinity; one should accept and embrace it.  We ought to persevere in faith and good works, especially when doing so is difficult.  Doing the right thing during good times is easy, and every day is a good day for faith and good works.  Yet keeping faith during challenging times is when, as an old saying tells us, the rubber meets the road.  When we fail, we have an obligation to express remorse and to repent.

Writing these words and creating this post is easy.  Living these words is more difficult, however.  I have to work on that task daily.  The results vary from day to day and from time of day to time of day.  To keep trying is crucial.  To do so while trusting in God, who is always somewhat mysterious, and in the existence of grace makes succeeding more likely.

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/keeping-faith/

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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 14, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Job and God

Above:  God Speaking to Job; from a Byzantine Manuscript

Image in the Public Domain

Arguing Faithfully With God

AUGUST 14, 15, and 16, 2017

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The Collect:

O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid.

Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons daughters from fear,

and preserve us in the faith of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 7:11-8:5 (Monday)

Genesis 19:1-29 (Tuesday)

Job 36:24-33; 37:14-24 (Wednesday)

Psalm 18:1-19 (All Days)

2 Peter 2:4-10 (Monday)

Romans 9:14-29 (Tuesday)

Matthew 8:23-27 (Wednesday)

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Faithful and pure, blameless and perfect–

yet to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.

Your holy light shines on my darkness;

my steps are guided, my vigor renewed.

Your law will shape my heart and my mind,

letting me find richest blessing.

–Martin Leckebusch, Verse 3, “Refuge and Rock,” a paraphrase of Psalm 18 in Psalms for All Seasons:  A Complete Psalter for Worship (2012)

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Elihu, in the Book of Job, was a pious idiot.  He condemned Job for challenging God and was sure that the titular character of the text must have done something wrong, for surely a just deity would not permit the innocent to suffer.

The Almighty–we cannot find him;

he is great in power and justice,

and abundant righteousness he will not violate.

Therefore mortals fear him;

he does not regard any who are wise in their conceit.

–Job 37:23-24, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The Book of Job 1 and 2, had established, however, that God had permitted this suffering as a test of loyalty.  And, starting in Chapter 38, when God spoke to Job, one of the most impatient people in the Bible (despite the inaccurate cliché about the “patience of Job”), the divine reply contained no apology.

(Yes, I know of the layers of composition in the Book of Job, that Elihu’s section was not part of the original text and that the prose wraparounds came later, but I am, in this post, treating the book as a whole, as we have received the final version.)

The readings from Genesis contain parts of accounts of divine destruction of the wicked and sparing of some people in the process.  The men of Sodom were as anxious to rape women as they were to violate angels, so their issue was not homosexual orientation or practice but violence against almost anyone on two legs.  Their sin involved the opposite of hospitality in a place and at a time when the lack of hospitality could prove fatal for guests or world-be guests.  Lot was morally troublesome, for he offered his virgin daughters to the rape gang.  Those same daughters got him drunk and committed incest with him later in the chapter.  Abraham had at least negotiated with God in an attempt to save lives in Genesis 18:20-33, but Noah did nothing of the sort in his time, according to the stories we have received.

Sometimes the faithful response to God is to argue, or at least to ask, “Did I hear you right?”  The Bible contains references to God changing the divine mind and to God holding off judgment for a time.  I am keenly aware of the unavoidable anthropomorphism of the deity in the Bible, so I attempt to see through it, all the way to the reality behind it.  That divine reality is mysterious and ultimately unfathomable.  The titular character of the Book of Job was correct to assert his innocence, which the text had established already, but, in the process of doing so he committed the same error as did Elihu and the three main alleged friends; he presumed to think to know how God does or should work.

This occupies my mind as I read elsewhere (than in the mouth of Elihu or one of the three main alleged friends of Job) about the justice, judgment, and mercy of God.  I recall that the prophet Jeremiah argued with God bitterly and faithfully–often for vengeance on enemies.  I think also of the repeated cries for revenge and questions of “how long?” in the Book of Psalms and the placement of the same lament in the mouths of martyrs in Heaven in the Book of Revelation.  And I recall how often God has extended mercy to me in my ignorance, faithlessness, and panic-driven errors.  I conclude that I must continue to seek to embrace the mystery of God, rejecting temptations to accept false and deceptively easy answers as I choose the perhaps difficult alternative of a lack of an answer or a satisfactory reply instead.  God is God; I am not.  That much I know.  Nevertheless, some more answers from God might be good to have.  May the faithful argument continue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/arguing-faithfully-with-god/

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Devotion for August 16 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant, from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

(A Screen Capture)

2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part III:  God, Undomesticated

FRIDAY, AUGUST 16, 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:

2 Samuel 6:1-19

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 9:1-23

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Sometimes I argue with Bible stories.  The Bible, which people wrote, comes from antiquity, a time which predates many of the events which have shaped my world view.  I am, for example, a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, and I have access to more knowledge than those who wrote the Bible could ever know about certain topics.  So I reject the idea that demon possession causes epilepsy, for example.

Yet other influences on my thought which cause me to argue with certain Bible stories come from the Bible itself.  God, depending on the part of the Old Testament one reads, is either approachable (as in the case of Abram/Abraham) or fearsome to be near (as in death for touching the Ark of the Covenant).  But God was most approachable in the person of Jesus of Nazareth; people not only touched him but had him over for dinner.

The stories of the power and menace of the Ark of the Covenant speak of God as an undomesticated force.  Jesus died for several reasons, among them the fact that he challenged domesticated views of God.  The study of the past uncovers examples of people who faced violence (often fatal) because they challenged beloved organizing ideas in society.  They include Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, Mohandas Gandhi, and numerous civil rights martyrs in the United States.  Violence, part of the darkness of human nature, rears its ugly head in defense of the indefensible and the merely traditional alike.  But one fact remains unchanged:  We cannot domesticate God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL MANZ, DEAN OF LUTHERAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF JAMES HANNINGTON AND HIS COMPANIONS, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN BUCKMAN WALTHOUR, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/2-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-iii-god-undomesticated/

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Week of Proper 14: Wednesday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 14: Thursday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  A Hook

God, On the Hook

AUGUST 15 and 16, 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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FIRST READINGS FOR WEDNESDAY

Ezekiel 9:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then He called loudly in my hearing, saying,

Approach, you men in charge of the city, each bearing his weapons of destruction!

And six men entered by way of the upper gate that faces north, each with his club in hand; and among them was another, clothed in linen, with a writing case at his waist.  They came forward and stopped at the bronze altar.  Now the Presence of the God of Israel had moved from the cherub on which it had rested to the platform of the House.  He called to the man clothed in linen with the writing case at his waist; and the LORD said to him,

Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who moan and groan because of all the abominations that are committed in it.

To the others He said in my hearing,

Follow him through the city and strike; show no pity or compassion.  Kill off graybeard, youth, and maiden, women and children; but do not touch any person who bears the mark.  Begin here at My Sanctuary.

So they began with the elders who were in front of the House.  And He said to them,

Defile the House and fill the courts with the slain.  Then go forth.

So they went forth and began to kill in the city.

Ezekiel 10:18-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then the presence of the LORD left the platform of the House and stopped above the cherubs.  And I saw the cherubs lift their wings and rise from the earth, with the wheels beside them as they departed; and they stopped at the entrance of the eastern gate of the House of the LORD, with the Presence of the God of Israel above them.  They were the same creatures that I had seen below the God of Israel at the Chebar Canal; so now I know that they were cherubs.  Each one had four faces and each had four wings.  As for the form of their faces, they were the very faces I had seen by the Chebar Canal–their appearance and their features–and each could move in the direction of any of its faces.

FIRST READING FOR THURSDAY

Ezekiel 12:1-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, you dwell among the rebellious breed.  They have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but hear not; for they are a rebellious breed.  Therefore, mortal, get yourself gear for exile, and go into exile before their eyes.  Go into exile from your home to another place before their very eyes; perhaps they will take note, even though they are a rebellious breed.  Carry out your gear for exile by day before their very eyes, as one who goes out into exile.  Before their eyes, break through the wall and carry [the gear] out through it; before their eyes, carry it on your shoulder.  Take it out in the dark, and cover your face that you may not see the land; for I will make you a portent to the House of Israel.

I did just as I was ordered:  I took out my gear by day as gear for exile, and in the evening I broke through the wall with my own hands.  In the darkness I carried [the gear] out on my shoulder, carrying it before their eyes.

In the morning, the word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, did not the House of Israel, that rebellious breed, as, you, “What are you doing?”  Say to them:  “Thus said the Lord GOD:  This pronouncement concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the House of Israel who are in it.”  Say:  “I am a portent for you:  As I have done, so shall it be done to them; they shall go into exile, into captivity.  And the prince among them shall carry his gear on his shoulder as he goes out in the dark.  He shall break through the wall in order to carry [his gear] out through it; he shall cover his face, because he himself shall not see the land with his eyes.”  I will spread My net over him, and he shall be caught in My snare.  I will bring him to Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, but he shall not see it; and there he shall die.  And all those around him, his helpers and all his troops, I will scatter in every direction; and I will unsheathe the sword after them.  Then, when I have scattered them among the nations and dispersed them through the countries, they shall know that I am the LORD.  But I will spare a few of them from the sword, from famine, and from pestilence; that they may recount all their abominable deeds among the nations to which they come; and they shall know that I am the LORD!

RESPONSE FOR WEDNESDAY

Psalm 113 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Give Praise, you servants of the LORD;

praise the Name of the LORD.

2 Let the Name of the LORD be blessed,

from this time forth for evermore.

3 From the rising of the sun to its going down

let the Name of the LORD be praised.

The LORD is high above all nations,

and his glory above the heavens.

Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust

and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

7 He sets them with the princes,

with the princes of his people.

He makes the woman of a childless house

to be a joyful mother of children.

RESPONSE FOR THURSDAY

Psalm 39:11-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11  Take your affliction from me;

I am worn down by the blows of your hand.

12  With rebukes for sin you punish us;

like a moth you eat away all that is dear to us;

truly, everyone is but a puff of wind.

13  Hear my prayer, O LORD,

and give ear to my cry;

hold not your peace at my tears.

14  For I am but a sojourner with you,

a wayfarer, as all my forebears were.

15  Turn your gaze from me, that I may be glad again,

before I go my way and am no more.

GOSPEL READING FOR WEDNESDAY

Matthew 18:15-20 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,] “

But if your brother wrongs you, go and have it out with him at once–just between the two of you.  If he will listen to you, you have won him back as your brother.  But if he will not listen to you, take one or two others with you so that everything that is said may have the support of two or three witnesses.  And if he still won’t pay attention, tell the matter to the church.  And if he won’t even listen to the church then he must be to you like a pagan–or a tax-collector!

Believe me, whatever you forbid upon earth will be what is forbidden in Heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven.

And I tell you once more that if two of you on earth agree in asking for anything it will be granted to you by my Heavenly Father.  For wherever two or three people have come together in my name, I am there, right among them!

GOSPEL READING FOR THURSDAY

Matthew 18:21-19:1 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Peter approached him [Jesus] with the question,

Master, if my brother goes on wronging me how often should I forgive him?  Would seven times be enough?

Jesus replied,

No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!  For the kingdom of Heaven is like a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants.  When he had started calling in his accounts, a man was brought to him who owed him millions of pounds.  As he had no means of repaying the debt, his master gave orders for him to be sold as a slave, and his wife and children and all his possessions as well, and the money to be paid over.  At this the servant fell on his knees before his master.  “Oh, be patient with me!” he cried, “and I will pay you back every penny!”  Then his master was moved with pity for him, set him free and cancelled his debt.

But when this same servant had left his master’s presence, he found one of his fellow-servants who owed him a few shillings.  He grabbed him and seized him by the throat, crying, “Pay up what you owe me!”  At this his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and implored him, “Oh, be patient with me, and I will pay you back!”  But he refused and went out and had him put in prison until he should repay the debt.

When the other fellow-servants saw what had happened, they were horrified and went and told their master the whole incident.  This his master called him in.

“You wicked servant!” he said.  “Didn’t I cancel all that debt when you begged me to do so?  Oughtn’t you to have taken pity on your fellow-servant as I, your master, took pity on you?”  And his master in anger handed him over to the jailers till he should repay the whole debt.  This is how my Heavenly Father will treat you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.

When Jesus had finished talking on these matters, he left Galilee and went on to the district of Judea on the far side of the Jordan.

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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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This is bleak material.  The readings from Matthew speak of forgiveness and how, important it is, but the lections from Ezekiel are harsh.  Idolatrous abominations have polluted the Temple, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian forces will destroy the Temple and slaughter much of the population (including young children), the divine Presence will depart the city, King Zedekiah will go blinded into exile, and Ezekiel will also go into exile.  God will spare from death those who had objected to the sinfulness, but apparently this protection will not extend to young children.  And the texts depict God as being in charge of all these events.

As an intellectually honest Monotheist, I acknowledge the main problem of Monotheism:  There is no good and honest way to let God off the hook.  If I a were to accept the existence of multiple deities, I could blame one or more for evil and other events I do not like.  Yet Monotheism requires me to accept that God is responsible for good and for bad, for what I like and for what I consider detestable.  Brains older, wiser, and better educated than mine have pondered this quandary, which remains, so I will not untangle it today or any other day.

Father Robert Farrar Capon offers the following analysis:

Just remember that what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the liver fluke, the killer whale, and the loan shark–that if God is holding all things in being right now, he’s got some explaining to do if he hopes to maintain his reputation as the original Good Guy.  Or, more accurately (since God steadfastly refuses to show up and explain anything, except by announcing mysteries and paradoxes) we’ve got a lot of explaining to do if we are to go on thinking of him in terms of his creation.

The Third Peacock:  The Problem of God and Evil, 2d. Edition (Minneapolis, MN:  Winston Press, 1986) , page 11

A few pages later, we find these words:

God is still firmly on the hook.  (That he is actually on the hook, of course, is God’s own final answer to the whole matter.  According to the Gospel, he himself hangs on the cross with the rest of his free creation.  If you believe that, it is great comfort; it is not, however, one whit less a mystery.–page 14

The greatest fault of Fundamentalism is its pretense of knowing more than it does.  My theology, in contrast, flees from the false comfort of easy and pat answers.  I embrace the unknown, claim the mystery, and catalog the questions I want to ask God one day, in another life.  Until that day, however, I choose not to refrain from recognizing that there is only one God and seeking a deeper relationship with God.  Certain matters are too great for me, not that my acknowledgement of this fact prevents me from remaining inquisitive.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/god-on-the-hook/

Week of Proper 14: Friday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Nablus, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, 1918 (Built on the Site of Shechem)

Image in the Public Domain

The Original Principle

AUGUST 16, 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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Joshua 24:1-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem.  He summoned Israel’s elders and commanders, magistrates and officers; and they presented themselves before God.  Then Joshua said to all the people,

Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel:  In olden times, your forefathers–Terah, father of Abraham and father of Nahor–lived beyond the Euphrates and worshiped other gods.  But I took your father Abraham from beyond the Euphrates and led him through the whole land of Canaan and multiplied his offspring.  I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau.  I gave Esau the hill country of Seir as his possession, while Jacob and his children went down to Egypt.

Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with [the wonders] that I wrought in their midst, after which I freed you–I freed your fathers–from Egypt, and you came to the Sea.  But the Egyptians pursued your fathers to the Sea of Reeds with chariots and horsemen.  They cried out to the LORD, and He put darkness between you and the Egyptians; then He brought the Sea upon them, and it covered them.  Your own eyes saw what I did to the Egyptians.

After you had lived a long time in the wilderness, I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan.  They gave battle to you, but I delivered them into your hands; I annihilated them for you, and you took possession of their land.  Thereupon Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, made ready to attack Israel.  He sent for Balaam son of Beor to curse you, but I refused to listen to Balaam; he had to bless you, and thus I saved you from him.

Then you crossed the Jordan and you came to Jericho.  The citizens of Jericho and the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, and Jebusites fought you, but I delivered them into your hands.  I sent a plague ahead of you, and it drove them out before you–[just like] the two Amorite kings–not by your sword or by your bow.  I have given you a land for which you did not labor and towns which you did not build, and you have settled in them; you are enjoying vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.

Now, therefore, revere the LORD and serve Him with undivided loyalty; put away the gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD….

Psalm 136:1-3, 16-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever.

2 Give thanks to the God of gods,

for his mercy endures for ever.

3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,

for his mercy endures for ever.

16 Who led his people through the wilderness,

for his mercy endures for ever.

17 Who struck down great kings,

for his mercy endures for ever;

18 And slew mighty kings,

for his mercy endures for ever;

19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,

for his mercy endures for ever;

20 And Og, the king of Bashan,

for his mercy endures for ever;

21 And gave away their lands for an inheritance,

for his mercy endures for ever;

22 An inheritance for Israel his servant,

for his mercy endures for ever.

Matthew 19:3-12 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then the Pharisees arrived with a test-question.

Is it right,

they asked,

for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds whatever?

He answered,

Haven’t you read that the one who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said: ‘For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two separate people but one.  No man therefore must separate what God has joined together.

They retorted,

Then why did Moses command us to give a written divorce notice and dismiss the woman?

He replied,

It was because you knew so little about the meaning of love that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives!  But that was not the original principle.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife on any grounds except her unfaithfulness and marries some other woman commits adultery.

His disciples said to him,

If that is a man’s position with his wife, it is not worth getting married!

Jesus replied,

It is not everybody who can accept this principle–only those who have a special gift.  For some are incapable of marriage from birth, some are made incapable by the action of men, and some have made themselves so for the kingdom of Heaven.  Let the man who can accept what I have said accept it.

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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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Marriage is indeed a great gift, and not one for everybody.  I write as a never-married man who is content to remain unattached.  It is good that I am not a Mormon, for my single state would place me at a great spiritual disadvantage within that tradition.  But, as William Barclay wrote in Volume 2 of his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew:

…there are those who have taken upon themselves voluntarily vows of chastity, celibacy, purity, poverty, abstinence, continence.  That will not be the way for the ordinary man, but the world would be a poorer place were it not for those who accept the challenge to travel alone for the sake of the work of Christ.  (Page 208)

Here are links to other posts pertaining to divorce:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

KRT

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Now, for my main point…

The reading from Joshua is the first part of a speech which continues with the devotion for Saturday in the week of Proper 14, Year 1.  So, to help provide a hint of what verses 1-13 build up to, I have extended the reading by one verse:

Now, therefore, revere the LORD and serve Him with undivided loyalty; put away the gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

That is the original purpose of the many laws of the covenant.  It is possible to become lost in the details of any elaborate law code, thereby reducing morality to a check list.  But that misses the point and evades the spirit of the law.  We human beings are as we think, for actions (excluding accidents) flow from attitudes.  And both the Old and New Testaments tell us to God fully and our neighbors as we love ourselves.  That is the big picture, the forest view.  So let us avoid becoming legalistic, lost amid the trees while deluding ourselves into thinking that we are practicing righteousness.

Let us consider the issue of divorce, for example.  The Law of Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife for almost any reason, but he had to issue a certificate of divorce.  And she had the right to remarry in such an event.  The assumed reason in the Mosaic Law was adultery, but the letter of the law did not specify this.  So, in a highly patriarchal age, a woman might find herself at great economic risk due to the whims of an uncaring man.  Jesus condemned this.

There was also a practice called Korban, by which a person gave property to the religious establishment, for the support of the professional religious.  This was often noble and well-intentioned, but not always.  Some used this as a way of depriving family members with whom they were at odds of financial support.  Jesus condemned this, too.

Many of us in the human species like to game any given system for own advantage, fulfilling the letter of a specified legal or religious system to appear good.  But we do not fool God when we act for selfish reasons.  God tells us to love each other, to care for each other, to support each other in our common life together.  That is the big picture, the forest view.  How is that for an original principle?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/the-original-principle/