Archive for the ‘August 23’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 16, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Church of the Resurrection February 8, 2015

Above:  Episcopal Church of the Resurrection, Sautee, Georgia, February 8, 2015

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Sabbath

AUGUST 22, 2019

AUGUST 23, 2019

AUGUST 24, 2019

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O God, mighty and immortal, you know that as fragile creatures

surrounded by great dangers, we cannot by ourselves stand upright.

Give us strength of mind and body, so that even when we suffer

because of human sin, we may rise victorious through

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 15:32-41 (Thursday)

2 Chronicles 8:12-15 (Friday)

Nehemiah 13:15-22 (Saturday)

Psalm 103:1-8 (All Days)

Hebrews 12:13-17 (Thursday)

Acts 17:1-9 (Friday)

Luke 6:1-5 (Saturday)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Bless Yahweh, my soul,

from the depths of my being, his holy name;

bless Yahweh, my soul,

never forget all his acts of kindness.

–Psalm 103:1-2, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Keeping divine commandments is one way of manifesting love for God.  Observing the Sabbath is the dominant issue in these days’ readings, so I focus on it.

Sabbath is an indication of freedom.  When the Israelites were slaves in Egypt, they had no days off.  Since they were free, however, they had a day off each week.  Violating it carried a death sentence, though.  (That was unduly harsh!)  The reality of the death penalty for that infraction indicated the importance of keeping Sabbath in that culture, which understood that individual violations led to communal punishment.

Our Lord and Savior’s Apostles plucked grain with their hands one Sabbath.  This was permissible in Deuteronomy 23:25 yet not in Exodus 34:21.  Jesus preferred to cite the former, but his accusers favored the latter.  He also understood the precedent David set in 1 Samuel 21:1-6, in which, in an emergency, he and his soldiers consumed holy bread.  Jesus grasped a basic reality–people need the Sabbath, but there should be flexibility regarding the rules of the day.  In this respect he fit in nicely with his Jewish culture, with its various understandings of Sabbath laws.

Life brings too many hardships to endure (often for the sake of righteousness).  Fewer of them would exist if more people would be content to mind their own business.  Why, then, do so many observant people add to this by turning a day of freedom into one of misery?  I suppose that legalism brings joy to certain individuals.

May we keep the Sabbath as a day of rest, relaxation, and freedom, not legalism and misery.  If we must work on our usual Sabbath, may we keep Sabbath another day.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/sabbath/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 16, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Joshua and the Israelite People

Above:  Joshua and the Israelite People

Image in the Public Domain

Living in Community, Part I:  Misunderstanding

AUGUST 23, 24, and 25, 2018

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Holy God, your word feeds your people with life that is eternal.

Direct our choices and preserve us in your truth,

that, renouncing what is evil and false, we may live in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 22:1-9 (Thursday)

Joshua 22:10-20 (Friday)

Joshua 22:21-34 (Saturday)

Psalm 34:15-22 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (Thursday)

Romans 13:11-14 (Friday)

Luke 11:5-13 (Saturday)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The man who does right may suffer many misfortunes,

but the LORD rescues him from them all.

He keeps him safe from physical harm,

not a bone of his body is broken.

–Psalm 34:20-21, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I have read and written of martyrs, such as St. James Intercisus (died circa 421), whose lives contradicted those verses.  Reality has proven much of the Book of Psalms to be naively optimistic.

The theme of this post comes from Romans and 1 Thessalonians.  I begin with Romans 13:12b-13a:

Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day….

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I continue with 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11:

God destined us not for his retribution, but to win salvation through our lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that, awake or asleep, we should still be united to him.  So give encouragement to each other, and keep strengthening one another, as you do already.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Rabbi Hillel, who was an old man when Jesus was a juvenile, summarized the Torah by quoting the Shema then saying,

The rest is commentary; go and learn it.

I apply the same statement to the remainder of the pericopes from Romans 13 and 1 Thessalonians 5.  It is commentary; go and learn it.

Living properly in community before God requires much of us.  It means that we must put up with inconveniences sometimes, for the sake of hospitality, which was frequently a matter or life or death in Biblical times.  It also means that, among other things, we must lay aside misunderstandings and encourage one another.  The altar in Joshua 22 was, in fact, not a threat to the central place of worship.  Neither did it constitute evidence of any variety of treachery before God, contrary to the charge in verse 16.  How many people might have died needlessly had the planned war against the transjordan tribes, based on a misunderstanding, occurred?

Often those who plot and commit errors seek to behave correctly, but they proceed from false assumptions and understandings.  This statement remains correct in current times, unfortunately.  More people (especially those who decide policies) need to check their information more often.  The rest of us (not the policy makers) carry erroneous assumptions in our heads.  As I heard a professor who is an expert in critical thinking say years ago, our most basic assumptions are the ones we do not think of as being assumptions.  How can we live in peace with our neighbors if we do not understand their actions correctly?

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/living-in-community-part-i/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 21, 22, and 23, 2017

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for August 23 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Solomon's_Wealth_and_Wisdom

Above:  Solomon’s Wealth and Wisdom

Image in the Public Domain

1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part I: Potential

FRIDAY, AUGUST 23, 2019

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 3:1-15

Psalm 130 (Morning)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening)

2 Corinthians 1:1-22

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2 Corinthians is an interesting epistle so far as its internal structure is concerned.  The letter is a composite document with odd seems indicating editing, cutting, and pasting.  And Paul might not have been responsible for all the words.  Those are details which a serious student of the New Testament should want to know.  But, for today, they have no impact on devotional reading.

Paul had a difficult relationship with the Corinthian congregation.  Yet he wrote of suffering then of receiving divine consolation, which  would help him to console the Corinthian Christians.  In other words, he thought of their benefit after he had a brush with death.

The benefit of others was the heart of the matter in God granting Solomon wisdom, for David’s son was no constitutional monarch.  The observant reader of that part of the Old Testament knows that the Kingdom of Israel broke apart shortly after Solomon’s death for reasons flowing from oppressive royal policies, which his son and successor continued against counsel.  So the observant reader of 1 Kings 3 cannot help but notice the unrealized potential of Solomon in that text.

Paul recognized potential in the troublesome Corinthian Church.  Circa 100 CE, at the time of St, Clement of Rome’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, a fascinating, authenticated, and non-canonical text of great historical value, the Corinthian Christians had not improved.  Solomon had potential, which he squandered by losing his way.  May we learn from these bad examples and not emulate them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/1-kings-and-2-corinthians-part-i-potential/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week of Proper 15: Thursday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 15: Friday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, by Gustave Dore

Restoration

AUGUST 23 and 24, 2018

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

THE FIRST READING FOR THURSDAY

Ezekiel 36:22-28 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[The word of the LORD came to me:]

Say to the House of Israel:  Thus said the Lord GOD:  Not for your sake will I act, O House of Israel, but for My holy name, which you have caused to be profaned among the nations–among whom you have caused it to be profaned.  And the nations shall know that I am the LORD

–declares the Lord GOD–

when I manifest my My holiness before their eyes through you.  I will take you from among the nations and gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you back to your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean:  I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your fetishes.  And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you:  I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh; and I will put My spirit into you.  Thus I will cause you to follow My laws and faithfully to observe My rules.  Then you shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers, and you shall be My people and I will be your God.

THE FIRST READING FOR FRIDAY

Ezekiel 37:1-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The hand of the LORD came upon me.  He took me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the valley.  It was full of bones.  He led me all around them; there were very many of them spread over the valley, and they were very dry.  He said to me,

O mortal, can these bones live again?

I replied,

O Lord GOD, only you know.

And He said to me,

Prophesy over these bones and say to them:  O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!  Thus said the Lord GOD to these bones:  I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live again.  I will lay sinews upon you, and cover you with flesh, and form skin over you.  And I will put breath into you, and you shall live again.  And you shall know that I am the LORD!

I prophesied as I had been commanded.  And while I was prophesying, suddenly there was a sound of rattling, and the bones came together, bone to matching bone.  I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had grown, and skin had formed over them; but there was no breath in them.  Then He said to me,

Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, O mortal!  Say to the breath:  Thus said the Lord GOD:  Come, O breath, from the four winds, and breathe into these slain, that they may live again.

I prophesied as He commanded me.  The breath entered them, and they came to life and stood up on their feet, a vast multitude.

And He said to me,

O mortal, these bones are the whole House of Israel.  They say, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone; we are doomed.”  Prophesy, therefore, and say to them:  Thus said the Lord GOD:  I am going to open your graves and lift you out of the graves, O My people, and bring you to the land of Israel.  You shall know, O My people, that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and lifted you out of your graves.  I will put My breath into you and you shall live again, and I will set you upon your own soil.  Then you shall know that I the LORD have spoken and have acted

–declares the LORD.

THE RESPONSE FOR THURSDAY

Psalm 51:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

THE RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 107:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

and his mercy endures for ever.

2  Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3  He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

4  Some wandered in desert wastes;

they found no way to a city where they might dwell.

5  They were hungry and thirsty;

their spirits languished within them.

6  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

7  He put their feet on a straight path

to a city where they might dwell.

8  Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy

and the wonders he does for his children.

THE GOSPEL READING FOR THURSDAY

Matthew 22:1-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus began to talk to them again in parables.

The kingdom of Heaven,

he said,

is like a king who arranged a wedding-feast for his son.  He sent his servants to summon those who had been invited to the festivities, but they refused to come.  Then he tried again; he sent some more servants, saying to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Here is my banquet all ready, by bullocks and fat cattle have been slaughtered and everything is prepared.  Come along to the wedding.”‘  But they took no notice of this and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business.  As for the rest, they got hold of the servants, treated them with insults, and finally killed them.  At this the king was very angry and sent his troops and killed those murderers and burned down their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding-feast is all ready, but those who were invited were not good enough for it.  So go off now to all the street corners and invite everyone you find there to the feast.’  So the servants went out on to the streets and collected together all those whom they found, bad and good alike.  And the hall became filled with guests.  But when the king came in to inspect the guests, he noticed among them a man not dressed for a wedding.  “How did you come in here, my friend,” he said to him, “without being properly dressed for the wedding?”  And the man had nothing to say.  Then the king said to the ushers, “Tie him up and throw him into the darkness outside, where there will be tears and bitter regret!”  For many are invited but few are chosen.

THE GOSPEL READING FOR FRIDAY

Matthew 22:34-40 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees they came up to him in a body, and one of them, an expert in the Law, put this test-question:

Master, what is the Law’s greatest commandment?

Jesus answered him,

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”  This is the first and great commandment.  And there is a second like it:  “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The whole of the Law and the Prophets depends on these two commandments.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The readings from Ezekiel speak of the restoration of the people of the former Kingdom of Judah.  God will do this, the people will benefit greatly, and God will receive the glory.  What seemed impossible will become reality.

To know helplessness is a terrible feeling.  And to experience God’s restorative power is magnificent.  I have done both.  And, from experience, I testify that the memory of hopelessness and pain do not fade, but that, fortunately, the awareness of what God is doing and has done fills one with awe, wonder, and gratitude.

Recently (relative to the composition and typing of this post) I realized (almost as an afterthought) that the fifth anniversary of my previous life beginning to crumble had passed.  Fortunately, this did not inspire deep ire in me–mostly it brought up surprise.  Was that five years ago?  It feels like longer than that.  I am a different person now, after having passed through the fire, by grace.

Yes, dry bones can live again.

KRT

Week of Proper 15: Friday, Year 1   13 comments

Above: Naomi and Her Daughters-in-Law, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

“For wherever you go, I will go….”

AUGUST 23, 2019

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ruth 1:1-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the days when the chieftains ruled, there was a famine in the land; and a man of Bethlehem in Judah, with his wife and two sons, went to reside in the country of Moab.  The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name was Naomi, and his two sons were named Mahlon and Chilion–Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah.  They came to the country of Moab and remained there.

Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.  They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth, and they lived there about ten years.  Then those two–Mahlon and Chilion–also died; so the woman was left without her two sons and without her husband.

She started out with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab; for in the country of Moab she had heard that the LORD had taken note of His people and given them food.  Accompanied by her two daughters-in-law, she left the place where she had been living; and they set out on the road back to the land of Judah.

But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law,

Turn back, each of you to her mother’s house.  May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me!  May the LORD grant that each of you find security in the house of a husband!

And she kissed them farewell.  They broke into weeping, and said to her,

No, we will return with you to your people.

But Naomi replied,

Turn back, my daughters!  Why should you go with me?  Have I any more sons in my body who might be husbands for you?  Turn back, my daughters, for I am too old to be married.  Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I were married tonight, and I also bore sons, should you wait for them to grow up?  Should you on their account debar yourselves from marriage?  Oh no, my daughters!  My lot is far more bitter than yours, for the hand of the LORD has struck out against me.

They broke into weeping again, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law farewell.  But Ruth clung to her.  So she said,

See, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and her gods.  Go follow your sister-in-law.

But Ruth replied,

Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you.  For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.  Thus and more may the LORD do to me if anything but death parts me from you.

When [Naomi] saw how determined she was to go with her, she ceased to argue with her; and the two went on until they reached Bethlehem.

When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole city buzzed with excitement over them.  The women said,

Can this be Naomi?

She replied,

Do not call me Naomi.  Call me Mara, for Shaddai has made my lot very bitter.  I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, when Shaddai has brought misfortune upon me!

Thus Naomi returned from the country of Moab; she returned with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabite.  They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

Psalm 146 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,

for there is not help in them.

3 When they breathe their last, they return to earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

4 Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

5 Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise for ever.

6 Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

7 The LORD sets the prisoner free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down.

8 The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked!

9 The LORD shall reign for ever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Hallelujah!

Matthew 22:34-40 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees they came up to him in a body, and one of them, an expert in the Law, put this test-question:

Master, what is the Law’s greatest commandment?

Jesus answered him,

‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.’  This is the first and great commandment.  And there is a second like it:  ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.’  The whole of the Law and the Prophets depends on these two commandments.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Naomi:  Do not call me Pleasant.  Call me Bitterness, for Shaddai has has made my lot very bitter.  I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Pleasant, when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, when Shaddai has brought misfortune upon me!

–Ruth 1:20-21 (TANAKH), with name meanings taking the places of names

Names mean a great deal in the Book of Ruth.  Bethlehem means “the house of bread,” but there is a famine there.  Naomi means “pleasant,” while the name of her husband, Elimelech, means “my God is king.”  They have two sons, Mahlon, or “sickness,” and Chilion, or “consumptive.”  (Consumption was an old term for tuberculosis.) The name of  Orpah, who left for her mother’s house and (presumably) a second husband, means “back of the neck.”  But Ruth means “friend” or “companion.”  And, Boaz, whom we will meet in Chapter 2, bears a name meaning “in him is strength.”  Mara, of course, means “bitterness.”

Feminism has benefited women greatly, freeing many of them from economic dependence on men.  But Naomi, Orpah, and Ruth did not live in a society blessed by feminism.  Naomi understood that she was past the age to remarry, and that her life would most likely be difficult, given that her husband and sons were dead, and that there were no grandsons.  But Orpah and Ruth, her Moabite daughters-in-law, could remarry and find security.  Orpah decided to take this option, and why not, given the circumstances?  But Ruth chose a riskier path and attached her fate to that of Naomi, who had to return home, to Bethlehem.

Ruth was a Moabite, a member of a tribe descended from incest between Lot and one of his daughters.  That, at least, is the origin story from Genesis.  She was a foreigner and a polytheist.  Then she converted to the Hebrew faith, but she will still a foreigner.  So moving to Bethlehem with her mother-in-law meant living as an immigrant.  What neither she nor Naomi knew was that something far better than either of them knew awaited them there.  That, however, will come in the next day’s entry.

The reading from Matthew contains a famous quote from Jesus.  He fielded a trick question as to the greatest commandment.  So he gave an honest and excellent answer in which none of his would-be tricksters could find fault.  He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. His point was simple:  Human love is grounded in love of God.  Rabbi Hillel (died 10 C.E.) summarized the Torah by quoting the Jewish version of what we Christians call the Golden Rule.  “The rest,” he said, “is commentary.”  Jesus agreed, and so do I.

Ruth grasped this simple yet profound lesson; her life bore witness to it.  May we do likewise.

As to Naomi, her bitterness was understandable.  I grasp it, in my own way.  Sometimes circumstances, which might me somewhat or entirely beyond our control, destroy our security, especially that of the economic variety.  Yet, without resorting to annoying and inaccurate Polyannishness or Leibnizian Optimism, hope remains.  Not everything that happens is for the best.  Voltaire was correct; some events are just bad.  But we are not alone.  God is with us, and people around us can be instruments of grace.  And what follows the disaster might be better, in God’s way, than what it replaces.  But will we trust God long enough to find out?

I am exploring these themes in my life as I write these words.  So the text of Ruth 1:1-22 hits home with me in a powerful way.  Perhaps they do with you, O reader, as well.  I, too, find it difficult to trust God sometimes.  I,  too, wrestle with bitterness, frustration, and disappointment.  Yet I know that abandoning hope is a sure way to hopelessness, and I refuse to travel that path.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/for-wherever-you-go-i-will-go/