Archive for the ‘August 31’ Category

Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 17, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Hope flows through a new canal

Above:  Canal

Image in the Public Domain

Service and Glory

AUGUST 31, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 21:1-4, 24-26

Psalm 112

Matthew 20:20-28

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How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,

who delights in his commandments!

–Psalm 112:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The reading from Matthew 20 concerns the misguided quest for glory in lieu of service.  In Matthew 20:20-28 St. Mary Salome, sister of St. Mary of Nazareth, asks her nephew (Jesus) to grant her sons (Sts. James and John) places of honor in the Kingdom of God.  In Mark 10:35-45, however, Sts. James and John make the request instead.  In each account our Lord and Savior’s reply is the same:

  1. “You do not understand what you are asking.”–The Revised English Bible (1989);
  2. That is not a decision for Jesus to make; and
  3. The request is misguided.

As the lection from Proverbs 21 reminds us,

Haughty looks–a proud heart–

The tillage of the wicked is sinful.

–Verse 4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

May we seek instead to be like the channeled water of Proverbs 21:1–directed toward whatever God wishes.  May we seek to glorify God and benefit our fellow human beings, not to glorify ourselves.  Jesus has provided a fine example of service for us to emulate in our circumstances.  If we are really Christians, we will seek to follow him more than we do already.

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/service-and-glory-2/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 17, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

GoldCalf

Above:  The Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin

Image in the Public Domain

Cleansing from Evil that Arises Within Ourselves, Part I

AUGUST 30 and 31, 2018

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The Collect:

O God our strength, without you we are weak and wayward creatures.

Protect us from all dangers that attack us from the outside,

and cleanse us from the outside,

and cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves,

that we may be preserved through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 32:1-14 (Thursday)

Exodus 32:15-35 (Friday)

Psalm 15 (Both Days)

James 1:1-8 (Thursday)

James 1:9-16 (Friday)

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Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may rest upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads an uncorrupt life

and does the thing that is right;

Who speaks the truth from the heart

and bears no deceit on the tongue;

Who does no evil to a friend

and pours no scorn on a neighbour;

In whose sight the wicked are not esteemed,

but who honours those who fear the Lord.

Whoever has sworn to a neighbour

and never goes back on that word;

Who does not lend money in hope of gain,

nor takes a bribe against the innocent;

Whoever does these things shall never fall.

–Psalm 15, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The theme of this post comes from the collect.  May God cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves.  This evil manifests itself in many forms, such as greed, exploitation, needless violence, callousness to the lack of necessities, et cetera.  The author of the Letter of James encouraged people to endure doubt and temptation.  Doubts arise from within, and temptations come from many points of origin.  How one deals with temptations points to one’s inner life, however.

Today’s example of that principle comes from Exodus 32.  The purpose of the golden calf was to replace Moses, not God.  Moses had been away on the mountain so long that many people feared that they had lost their conduit to God.  That conduit was Moses.  He returned, of course, and was livid because of what he saw, as he should have been.  The slave mentality thrived in the recently liberated people.  Theology of God has changed from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, a fact which explains many otherwise confusing purposes and incidents.  I admit that reality while I affirm that the full revelation of God is the one we have received via Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate, fully human and fully divine.  Yes, we humans use mortal and immortal intercessors–even in Christianity.  I have, for example, asked people I know to pray for me, family members, et cetera.  I have even asked Mother Mary to intercede.  (And I grew up as a good United Methodist boy!)  No, I do not need any intercessor apart from Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but I like the other intercessors also.

The Hebrews in Exodus 32 did not need Moses, any other mortal, a golden calf, or anything else to function as a conduit to God for them.  They needed no conduit at all.  No, they needed to approach God humbly as free people, not as slaves in their minds, murmuring and rebelling often.  From faithful confidence they would have gained endurance during difficult times.  Then they would have resisted temptations more easily.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET E. SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/cleansing-from-evil-that-arises-within-ourselves-part-i/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 17, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

05791v

Above:  Civil Rights Memorial, Montgomery, Alabama

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-05791

Christian Liberty to Love Our Neighbors

AUGUST 31, 2017

SEPTEMBER 1 and 2, 2017

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The Collect:

O God, we thank you for your Son,

who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world.

Humble us by his example,

point us to the path of obedience,

and give us strength to follow your commands,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 14:13-18 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 15:1-9 (Friday)

Jeremiah 15:10-14 (Saturday)

Psalm 26:1-8 (All Days)

Ephesians 5:1-6 (Thursday)

2 Thessalonians 2:7-12 (Friday)

Matthew 8:14-17 (Saturday)

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I will wash my hands in innocence, O Lord,

that I may go about your altar,

To make heard the voice of thanksgiving

and tell of all your wonderful deeds.

Lord, I love the house of your habitation

and the place where your glory abides.

–Psalm 26:6-8, Common Worship (2000)

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Christian liberty is the freedom to follow Christ without the shackles of legalism.  All the Law of Moses and the Prophets point to the love of God and one’s fellow human beings, our Lord and Savior said.  Rabbi Hillel, dead for about two decades at the time, would have continued that teaching with

Everything else is commentary.  Go and learn it.

Many of those laws contained concrete examples of timeless principles.  A host of these examples ceased to apply to daily lives for the majority of people a long time ago, so the avoidance of legalism and the embrace of serious study of the Law of Moses in historical and cultural contexts behooves one.  St. Paul the Apostle, always a Jew, resisted legalism regarding male circumcision. In my time I hear certain Protestants, who make a point of Christian liberty from the Law of Moses most of the time, invoke that code selectively for their own purposes.  I am still waiting for them to be consistent –to recognize the hypocrisy of such an approach, and to cease from quoting the Law of Moses regarding issues such as homosexuality while ignoring its implications for wearing polyester.  I will wait for a long time, I suppose.

My first thought after finishing the readings from Jeremiah was, “God was mad!”  At least that was the impression which the prophet and his scribe, Baruch, who actually wrote the book, left us.  In that narrative the people (note the plural form, O reader) had abandoned God and refused repeatedly to repent–to change their minds and to turn around.  Destruction would be their lot and only a small remnant would survive, the text said.  Not keeping the Law of Moses was the offense in that case.

The crux of the issue I address in this post is how to follow God without falling into legalism.  Whether one wears a polyester garment does not matter morally, but how one treats others does.  The Law of Moses, when not condemning people to death for a host of offenses from working on the Sabbath to engaging in premarital sexual relations to insulting one’s parents (the latter being a crucial point the Parable of the Prodigal Son/Elder Brother/Father), drives home in a plethora of concrete examples the principles of interdependence, mutual responsibility, and complete dependence on God.  These belie and condemn much of modern economic theory and many corporate policies, do they not?  Many business practices exist to hold certain people back from advancement, to keep them in their “places.”  I, without becoming lost in legalistic details, note these underlying principles and recognize them as being of God.  There is a project worth undertaking in the name and love of God.  The working conditions of those who, for example, manufacture and sell our polyester garments are part of a legitimate social concern.

Abstract standards of morality do not move me, except occasionally to frustration.  Our Lord and Savior gave us a concrete standard of morality–how our actions and inactions affect others.  This is a paraphrase of the rule to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself.  I made this argument in a long and thoroughly documented paper I published online.  In that case I focused on the traditional Southern Presbyterian rule of the Spirituality of the Church, the idea that certain issues are political,  not theological, so the denomination should avoid “political” entanglements.  In 1861 the founders of the Presbyterian Church in the Confederate States of America (the Presbyterian Church in the United States from 1865 to 1983) invoked the Spirituality of the Church to avoid condemning slavery, an institution they defended while quoting the Bible.  By the 1950s the leadership of the PCUS had liberalized to the point of endorsing civil rights for African Americans, a fact which vexed the openly segregationist part of the Church’s right wing.  From that corner of the denomination sprang the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973.  This fact has proven embarrassing to many members of the PCA over the years, as it should.  The PCA, to its credit, has issued a pastoral letter condemning racism.  On the other hand, it did so without acknowledging the racist content in the documents of the committee which formed the denomination.

May we, invoking our Christian liberty, seek to love all the neighbors possible as we love ourselves.  We can succeed only by grace, but our willingness constitutes a vital part of the effort.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT POEMAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINTS JOHN THE DWARF AND ARSENIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE AUTPERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN PLESSINGTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE YOUNGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/christian-liberty-to-love-our-neighbors/

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Devotion for August 30 and 31 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Elijah

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Window with Elijah

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part VII:  The Face of God

FRIDAY, AUGUST 30, 2019, and SATURDAY, AUGUST 31, 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 12:20-13:5, 33-34 (August 30)

1 Kings 16:29-17:24 (August 31)

Psalm 86 (Morning–August 30)

Psalm 122 (Morning–August 31)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–August 30)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening–August 31)

2 Corinthians 8:1-24 (August 30)

2 Corinthians 9:1-15 (August 31)

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The political narratives of the royal houses of Israel and Judah continue in 1 Kings 12-16.  In the northern Kingdom of Israel, as the story goes, old habits of faithlessness continued and dynasties came and went.  One of the more common means of becoming king was assassinating the previous one.

The narratives build up to the Omri Dynasty and the stories of the prophet Elijah.  Today’s Elijah story concerns a drought, a desperately poor widow, and the raising of her son from the dead.  God, via Elijah, provided for the widow.  That story dovetails nicely with 2 Corinthians 8-9, with its mention of fundraising for Jerusalem Christians and exhortation to generosity, cheerful giving, and trusting in God to provide that which one can give to help others.  In other words, we are to be the face of God to each other.  When God helps others, one of us might be a vehicle for that aid.

To whom is God sending you, O reader?  And which person or persons is God sending to you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/1-kings-and-2-corinthians-part-vii-the-face-of-god/

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Week of Proper 16: Friday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  Victory of the Resurrection

Foolishness or Wisdom?

AUGUST 31, 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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1 Corinthians 1:17-25 (The Jerusalem Bible):

For Christ did not send me to baptise, but to preach the Good News, and not to preach that in the terms of philosophy in which the crucifixion of Christ cannot be expressed.  The language of the cross may be illogical to those who are not on the way to salvation, but those of us who are on the way see it as God’s power to save.  As scripture says:

I shall destroy the wisdom of the wise and bring to nothing all the learning of the learned.  Where are the philosophers now?  Where are the scribes?

Where are any of our thinkers today?  Do you see now how God has shown up the foolishness of human wisdom?  It was God’s wisdom that human wisdom should not know God, it was because God wanted to save those who have faith through the foolishness of the message that we preach.  And so, while the Jews demand miracles and the Greeks look for wisdom, here are we preaching a crucified Christ; to the Jews an obstacle that they cannot get over, to the pagans madness, but to those who have been called, whether they are Jews or Greeks, a Christ who is the power and the wisdom of God.  For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

Psalm 33:1-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous;

it is good for the just to sing praises.

2 Praise the LORD with the harp;

play to him upon the psaltery and lyre.

3 sing for him a new song;

sound a fanfare with all your skill upon the trumpet.

4 For the word of the LORD is right,

and all of his works are sure.

5 He loves righteousness and justice;

the loving-kindness of the LORD fills the whole earth.

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,

by the breath of his mouth all the heavenly hosts.

7 He gathers up the waters of the ocean as in a water-skin

and stores up the depths of the sea.

8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;

let all who dwell in the world stand in awe of him.

9 For he spoke, and it came to pass;

he commanded, and it stood fast.

10 The LORD brings the will of the nations to naught;

he thwarts the designs of the peoples.

11 But the LORD’s will stands fast for ever,

and the designs of his heart from age to age.

Matthew 25:1-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this:  Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom.  Five of them were foolish and five sensible:  the foolish ones did take their lamps, but they brought no oil, whereas the sensible ones took flasks of oil as well as their lamps.  The bridegroom was late, and they all grew drowsy and fell asleep.  But at midnight there was a cry.  ’The bridegroom is here!  Go out and meet him.’  At this, all those bridesmaids woke up and trimmed their lamps, and the foolish ones said to the sensible ones, ‘Give us some of your oil:  our lamps are going out.’  But they replied, ‘There may not be enough for us and for you; you had better go to those who sell it and buy some for yourselves.’  They had gone off to buy it when the bridegroom arrived.  Those who were ready went in with him to the wedding hall and the door was closed.  The other bridesmaids arrived later.  ’Lord, Lord,’ they said, ‘open the door for us.’  But he replied, ‘I tell you solemnly, I do not know you.’  So stay awake, because you do not know either the day or the hour.

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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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The late Lesslie Newbigin, a Presbyterian minister and missionary, later a bishop in the Church of South India, and, at the end of his life, a minister in The United Reformed Church (in Great Britain), disapproved of Christian apologetics which attempted to make Christianity seem reasonable to conventional standards.  For Newbigin, the basis of proper Christian confidence is the person of Jesus himself, not any external, culturally accepted wisdom or an allegedly infallible book.  Newbigin, hardly a Fundamentalist, wrote a small volume entitled Proper Confidence:  Faith, Doubt, and Certainty in Christian Discipleship (Eerdmans, 1995).    In it he quoted this day’s passage from 1 Corinthians.  And he concluded the book with this paragraph:

The confidence proper to a Christian is not the confidence of one who claims possession of demonstrable and indubitable knowledge.  It is the confidence of one who had heard and answered the call that comes from God through whom and for whom all things were made:  “Follow me.”–page 105

I have read and reread Proper Confidence carefully.  Many of Newbigin’s points make sense to me, but I struggle with others.  I am, to a great extent, a product of the Enlightenment–most a positive time, I remain convinced.  I do like freedom of press, conscience, and religion–all Enlightenment ideals.  I appreciate Newbigin’s critique of Fundamentalism and repudiation of biblical literalism.  Yet his critique of Cartesian Rationalism hits too close to home for me.  Nevertheless, I keep the book and consult it from time to time.  And my opinion of it has changed since the first time I read it.

All that said, I agree with Newbigin’s core argument, which he took from Paul:  God defies human wisdom.  I call myself a Christian.  So, if I am intellectually honest and not hypocritical, I must follow Jesus, whose crucifixion is a historical fact but whose resurrection defies reason.  Yet that resurrection is essential to the truth of Christianity; without the resurrection, we have a dead Jesus.

So, for those of “us who are being saved” (1 Corinthians 1:18, New Revised Standard Version), or, as The Jerusalem Bible renders the same text, “those of us who are on the way [to salvation]”–the message of the cross is that of God’s saving power.  We stand in the presence of God, to whom our standards of wisdom and truth are irrelevant.  No wonder so many find Jesus baffling, even scandalous!  Yet God is what God is, has done what God has done, does what God does, and will do what God will do.  May we seek and succeed in following God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/foolishness-or-wisdom/

Week of Proper 16: Saturday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Parable of the Talents Woodcut, 1712

Image in the Public Domain

Sins of Omission

AUGUST 31, 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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1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (The Jerusalem Bible):

As for loving our brothers, there is no need for anyone to write to you about that, since you have learnt from God yourselves to love one another, and in fact that is what you are doing with all the brothers throughout the whole of Macedonia.  However, we do urge you, brothers, to go on making even greater progress and to make a point of living quietly, attending to our own business and earning your living, just as we told you to, so that you are seen to be respectable by those outside the Church, though you do not have to depend on them.

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

2 With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

3 The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

4 He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

5 Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

6 Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

7 With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

8 Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

9 Let the rivers clap their hands,

and the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

Matthew 25:14-30 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Jesus said,

It [the kingdom of heaven] is like a man on his way abroad who summoned his servants and entrusted his property to them.  To one he gave five talents, to another two, and to a third one; each in proportion to his ability.  Then he set out.  The man who had received five talents promptly went and traded with them and made five more.  The man who had received two made two more in the same way.  But the man who had received one went off and dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.  Now a long time after, the master of those servants came back and went through his accounts with them.  The man who had received five talents came forward bringing five more.  ‘Sir,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five talents; here are five more I have made.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown that you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.’  Next the man with two talents came forward.  ‘Sir,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two talents; here are two more that I have made.’  His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you have shown you can be faithful in small things, I will trust you with greater; come and join in your master’s happiness.’  Last came forward the man who had the one talent.  ‘Sir,’ said he, ‘I had heard that you were a hard man, reaping where you had not sown and gathering where you had not scattered; so I was afraid, and I went off and hid your talent in the ground.  Here it is; it was yours, you have it back.’  But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and lazy servant!  So you knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered?  Well then, you should deposited my money with the bankers, and on my return I would have recovered my capital with interest.  So now, take the talent from him and give it to the man who has the five talents.  For to everyone who has will be given more, and he will have more than enough; but from the man who has not, even what he has will be taken away.  As for this good-for-nothing servant, throw him out into the dark, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.’

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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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Matthew 25 is a chapter about the Second Coming of Jesus.  It has three distinct and related sections.  The first consists of verses 1-13, the Parable of the Bridesmaids.  Some were prepared, others were not.  Then follows this day’s reading, the Parable of the Talents.  I will return to that in a moment.  The final part of Chapter 25 is the familiar discourse about the final judgment.  Jesus will interview people.  He will inform many of them that they fed him when he was hungry, clothed him when he was naked, and visited him when he was in prison.  Surprised, they will ask when they did this.  And Jesus will say that they did this for him when they did it for others.  Conversely, Jesus will inform others that they did none of these things.  Shocked, they will ask when they did not.  As it turns out, they did not help others in these ways.

These three sections of Matthew 25, taken together, focus on actions, inactions, and their consequences.  Those who act righteously, even if they have little or no idea how righteously they are behaving, will reap what they sow.  Those who act unrighteously, even if they have little or no idea how unrighteously they are acting, will reap what they sow.  And not doing something when that is appropriate and one has the opportunity to do so is a sin of omission.  God frowns on those, as well as sins of commission.

And all of this occurs in the shadow of Golgotha.

So, with preliminaries out of the way, let us explore the Parable of the Talents.

It is a simple story.  A very wealthy landowner entrusts his property to three servants before he goes abroad for a long time.  A talent, according to The New Interpreter’s Bible, was “a large sum of money, equal to the wages of a day laborer for fifteen years” (Volume VIII, page 453).  So each servant, whether he received one, two, or five talents, held a large amount of wealth, especially by the economic standards of most people of that time and place.  The servants entrusted with two and five talents invested it wisely and doubled their amounts.  Their master was pleased with them when he returned.  But one servant buried the talent in the ground.  It was common to bury something valuable in the ground for safe keeping.  This servant was honest; he did not abscond the wealth and flee the area.  But he did nothing.  Neither did he disobey instructions, for there are none in the parable.  But he displeased the master by not even depositing the talent in a local bank.  The servant had nothing to show, for he did nothing.

William R. Herzog II, in Parables as Subversive Speech: Jesus as Pedagogue of the Oppressed (1994), interprets this story in a way unlike I have read anywhere else.  He treats the servant with one talent as the hero of story.  According to Herzog (pages 150-168), the point of the parable is to identify with the vulnerable whistle-blower who, by his inaction, calls attention to the unjust means by which his master accumulates wealth.  As much as I identify with Herzog’s notions of economic justice and injustice, I conclude that he twists more than one parable, including this one, to fit his preconceived ideas.  I skimmed his chapter on the parable before typing the parable word-for-word into this post.  So both are fresh in my mind.  Herzog’s interpretation makes no sense within the textual context of Matthew 25.

The Biblical texts are what the are, and they say what they say.  Sometimes I argue with them.  Other times I agree with them.   But I try first to identify what they say.  And Matthew 25:14-30 does not say what Herzog wants it to say.

The anticipated Second Coming of Jesus also figures into today’s excerpt from 1 Thessalonians.  Some members of the Thessalonian congregation had dropped out of the work force so they could devote themselves to preparing themselves for the great event.  So Paul wrote that they should resume their lives as productive members of society.  Matters of prophecy will tend to themselves, but we have work to do.  May we not be so heavenly minded that we are of no earthly good.

Reading the Bible according to a lectionary is the best method, for it facilitates the recognition of connections between passages.  The readings from Matthew and 1 Thessalonians are especially appropriate to read together, for a common thread runs through them.  My synthesis of these lessons follows:  Some of us have more to offer to God than others, but all of it comes from God.  We have the option of seeking the safest course in life, which is not to take risks or rock the boat.  But that is not what God calls us to do.  No, God calls us to take risks–even the chance of losing everything without trying to accomplish that end.  But, if we do this faithfully, at least we have been faithful.  Jesus did not “play it safe,” and neither should we who claim to follow him.  What each of has is time, in various quantities.  May we make the most of it, for the glory of God.  As Mother Teresa said, God has calls us to be faithful, not successful.

Too much of religion consists of “playing it safe.”  But I prefer a riskier spiritual route, one I have heard described as “doing a daring dance with God.”  The tango sounds like fun; God will lead.

KRT

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

Curiosity

may have killed the cat; more likely

the cat was just unlucky, or else curious

to see what death was like, having no cause

to go on licking paws, or fathering

litter on litter of kittens, predictable.

Nevertheless, to be curious

is dangerous enough.  To distrust

what is always said, what seems,

to ask odd questions, interfere in dreams,

leave home, smell rats, have hunches,

cannot endear them to those doggy circles

where well-smelt baskets , suitable wives, good lunches

are the order of things, and where prevails

much wagging of incurious heads and tails.

Face it.  Curiosity

will not cause him to die–

only lack of it will.

Never to want to see

the other side of the hill

or some improbable country

where living is an idyll

(although a probable hell)

would kill us all.

Only the curious

have, if they live, a tale

worth telling at all.

Dogs say cats love too much, are irresponsible,

are changeable, marry too many wives,

desert their children, chill all dinner tables

with tales of their nine lives.

Well, they are lucky.  Let them be

nine-lived and contradictory,

curious enough to change, prepared to pay

the cat-price, which is to die

and die again and again,

each time with no less pain.

A cat minority of one

is all that can be counted on

to tell the truth.  And what cats have to tell

on each return from hell

is this:  that dying is what the living do,

that dying is what the loving do,

and that the dead dogs are those who never know

that dying is what, to live, each has to do.

Alastair Reid, 1959

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/11/sins-of-omission/