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

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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

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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)

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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)

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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

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

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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

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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

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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)

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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)

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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

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

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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

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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 Kings 3:1-15

Psalm 130 (Morning)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening)

2 Corinthians 1:1-22

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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

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

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Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

Posted October 7, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2019, 2020, August 1, August 10, August 11, August 12, August 13, August 14, August 15, August 16, August 17, August 18, August 19, August 2, August 20, August 21, August 22, August 23, August 24, August 25, August 26, August 27, August 28, August 29, August 3, August 30, August 31, August 4, August 5, August 6: Ascension, August 7, August 8, August 9, Christ the King Sunday, December 1, December 2, July 1, July 10, July 11, July 12, July 13, July 14, July 15, July 16, July 17, July 18, July 19, July 2, July 20, July 21, July 22, July 23, July 24, July 25, July 26, July 27, July 28, July 29, July 3, July 30, July 31, July 4, July 5, July 6, July 7, July 8, July 9, June 1, June 10, June 11, June 12, June 13, June 14, June 15, June 16, June 17, June 18, June 19, June 2, June 20, June 21, June 22, June 23, June 24, June 25, June 26, June 27, June 28, June 29, June 3, June 30, June 4, June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8, June 9, Labor Day, May 18, May 19, May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, May 24, May 25, May 26, May 27, May 28, May 29, May 30, May 31: Visitation, November 10, November 11, November 12, November 13, November 14, November 15, November 16, November 17, November 18, November 19, November 1: All Saints, November 20, November 21, November 22, November 23, November 24, November 25, November 26, November 27, November 28, November 29, November 2: All Souls, November 3, November 30, November 4, November 5, November 6, November 7, November 8, November 9, October 1, October 10, October 11, October 12, October 13, October 14, October 15, October 16, October 17, October 18, October 19, October 2, October 20, October 21, October 22, October 23, October 24, October 25, October 26, October 27, October 28, October 29, October 3, October 30, October 31: All Hallows' Eve/Reformation, October 4, October 5, October 6, October 7, October 8, October 9, September 1, September 10, September 11, September 12, September 13, September 14: Holy Cross, September 15, September 16, September 17, September 18, September 19, September 2, September 20, September 21, September 22, September 23, September 24, September 25, September 26, September 27, September 28, September 29, September 3, September 30, September 4, September 5, September 6, September 7, September 8, September 9, Thanksgiving Day, Trinity Sunday

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Prayers of the People for the Season After Pentecost   Leave a comment

Above:  The Missal (1902), by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

Image in the Public Domain

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Here I share with everyone a proposed form of the Prayers of the People, for congregational use, for the Season After Pentecost.  Anyone may modify this form to fit local needs and update it as people leave or enter office.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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The congregational response to “We pray to you, O God” is “Hear our prayer.”

As God’s people, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, we ask that our lives may become prayer pleasing to you, and that all people and institutions which profess to follow our Lord, may express God’s love and grace to others.

We pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

That

  • Barack, our President;
  • Nathan, our Governor;
  • Nancy, our Mayor;
  • And all other government officials and all influential persons

may exercise their power and authority wisely and for the common good, so that all people everywhere may be treated with dignity and respect, dwell in safety, and have everything they need,

we pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

That we may love you with our whole heart and life and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves,

we pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

That we may be good stewards of Mother Earth,

we pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

We intercede for

  • (first names here);
  • And our men and women in the armed forces, especially (names here);
  • And all people struggling with vocational and career issues.

I invite your prayers, silent or aloud.

(Pause)

We pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

We thank you for

  • (names here), who celebrate their birthdays this week;
  • And (names here), who celebrate their wedding anniversaries this week.

I invite your thanksgivings, silent or aloud.

(Pause)

We pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

That all who have passed from this life to the next will know the boundless joy and peace of eternal rest,

we pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

The celebrant concludes with a collect.

Posted June 1, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2019, 2020, August 1, August 10, August 11, August 12, August 13, August 14, August 15, August 16, August 17, August 18, August 19, August 2, August 20, August 21, August 22, August 23, August 24, August 25, August 26, August 27, August 28, August 29, August 3, August 30, August 31, August 4, August 5, August 6: Ascension, August 7, August 8, August 9, Christ the King Sunday, December 1, December 2, July 1, July 10, July 11, July 12, July 13, July 14, July 15, July 16, July 17, July 18, July 19, July 2, July 20, July 21, July 22, July 23, July 24, July 25, July 26, July 27, July 28, July 29, July 3, July 30, July 31, July 4, July 5, July 6, July 7, July 8, July 9, June 1, June 10, June 11, June 12, June 13, June 14, June 15, June 16, June 17, June 18, June 19, June 2, June 20, June 21, June 22, June 23, June 24, June 25, June 26, June 27, June 28, June 29, June 3, June 30, June 4, June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8, June 9, Labor Day, May 18, May 19, May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, May 24, May 25, May 26, May 27, May 28, May 29, May 30, May 31: Visitation, November 10, November 11, November 12, November 13, November 14, November 15, November 16, November 17, November 18, November 19, November 1: All Saints, November 20, November 21, November 22, November 23, November 24, November 25, November 26, November 27, November 28, November 29, November 2: All Souls, November 3, November 30, November 4, November 5, November 6, November 7, November 8, November 9, October 1, October 10, October 11, October 12, October 13, October 14, October 15, October 16, October 17, October 18, October 19, October 2, October 20, October 21, October 22, October 23, October 24, October 25, October 26, October 27, October 28, October 29, October 3, October 30, October 31: All Hallows' Eve/Reformation, October 4, October 5, October 6, October 7, October 8, October 9, September 1, September 10, September 11, September 12, September 13, September 14: Holy Cross, September 15, September 16, September 17, September 18, September 19, September 2, September 20, September 21, September 22, September 23, September 24, September 25, September 26, September 27, September 28, September 29, September 3, September 30, September 4, September 5, September 6, September 7, September 8, September 9, Thanksgiving Day, Trinity Sunday

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Proper 16, Year A   31 comments

Above:  Saint Peter, by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

Upon This Rock…

The Sunday Closest to August 24

The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 23, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 1:8-2:10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people,

Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,

When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.

But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them,

Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?

The midwives said to Pharaoh,

Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.

So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people,

Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him,

This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,

she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter,

Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?

Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,

Yes.

So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,

Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.

So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses,

because,

she said,

I drew him out of the water.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

2 If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

4 Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 51:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,

you that seek the LORD.

Look to the rock from which you were hewn,

and to the quarry from which you were dug.

Look to Abraham your father

and to Sarah who bore you;

for he was but one when I called him,

but I blessed him and made him many.

For the LORD will comfort Zion;

he will comfort her waste places,

and will make her wilderness like Eden,

her desert like the garden of the LORD;

joy and gladness will be found in her,

thanksgiving and the voice of song.

Listen to me, my people,

and give heed to me, my nation;

for a teaching will go out from me,

and my justice for a light to the peoples.

I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,

my salvation has gone out

and my arms will rule the peoples;

the coastlands wait for me,

and for my arm they hope.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,

and look at the earth beneath;

for the earth will wear out like a garment,

and those who live on it will die like gnats;

but my salvation will be forever,

and my deliverance will never be ended.

Psalm 138 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

before the gods I will sing your praise.

2 I will bow down toward your holy temple

and praise your Name,

because of your love and faithfulness;

3 For you have glorified your Name

and your word above all things.

4 When I called, you answered me;

you increased my strength within me.

5 All the kings of the earth will praise you, O LORD,

when they have heard the words of your mouth.

6 They will sing of the ways of the LORD,

that great is the glory of the LORD.

7 Though the LORD be high, he cares for the lowly;

he perceives the haughty from afar.

8 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;

you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand shall save me.

9 The LORD will make good his purpose for me;

O LORD, your love endures for ever;

do not abandon the works of your hands.

SECOND READING

Romans 12:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 16:13-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,

Who do people say that the Son of Man is?

And they said,

Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

He said to them,

But who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered,

You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus answered him,

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; 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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What is the rock upon which Jesus built his Church?  I have read various analyses, and the one that makes the most sense to me is God.  Simon Peter was the first pebble upon this rock, and each subsequent believer and follower is another pebble.  The pebbles are the Church.  So God is the foundation of the Church.

God is also the rock from Isaiah 51.  God is the rock from which we are hewn, the quarry from which we are cut.  So our lives and identities derive from God.  We Christians  stand in a long tradition that stretches back to Abraham and Sarah; the Jews are, as Pope John Paul II said, our elder brothers and sisters in faith.  God, the rock, was the strength of the Hebrews when they were slaves in Egypt.  God, the rock, provided the means of their political liberation.  And God, the rock, provides the means of our spiritual liberation.  As Paul reminds us in Romans, this liberation will be evident in our attitudes and relationships.

Next Sunday’s Gospel Reading will pick up where this one leaves off.  In it Jesus predicts his capture, torture, death, and resurrection.  Then Peter, horrified, protests.  But Jesus says to the Apostle he just praised highly a few breaths previously,

Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

Peter did not understand yet.  Maybe only Jesus did.  So let us take comfort in the fact that one does not need to achieve spiritual mountainhood to be an effective and important pebble in the rock mass that is the Christian Church.  We have to begin somewhere, so why not where we are?  But let us move on from there to where Jesus wants us to go.

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

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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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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.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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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/