Archive for the ‘August 7’ Category

Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 13, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Lillies of the Field

Above:  Lilies of the Field

Image in the Public Domain

Lilies of the Field

AUGUST 7, 2019

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The Collect:

Benevolent God, you are the source, the guide, and the goal of our lives.

Teach us to love what is worth loving,

to reject what is offensive to you,

and to treasure what is precious in your sight,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 12:1-8, 13-14

Psalm 127

Luke 12:22-31

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If Yahweh does not build a house

in vain do its builders toil.

If Yahweh does not guard a city

in vain does its guard keep watch.

–Psalm 127:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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We will all age and die, Koheleth reminds us.  Pursuits we might think are important and accomplishments we might think are permanent are actually fleeting and futile, we read.

Perhaps Koheleth overcorrected excessive optimism, such as we find in the Book of Proverbs and some of the psalms, but the point is valid.  Nevertheless, what we do or do not do matters, at least in the moment.  Frequently the effects are long-term, even intergenerational.  Yet the vast majority of us will, in time, become as if we had never existed.  Our names will pass into anonymity.  So be it.

Nevertheless, God loves us.  The passage from Luke 12 might seem unduly optimistic, given the nature of poverty across the planet.  The problem is distribution, not supply.  Those are matters of human responsibility.  Too often we fail miserably in them, do we not?

Koheleth also instructs us accordingly:

This is the end of the matter:  you have heard it all.  Fear God and obey his commandments; this sums up the duty of mankind.  For God will bring everything we do to judgement, every secret, whether good or bad.

–Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Among those commandments is to provide for the less fortunate.  This is a sacred duty, one which requires people working together to accomplish.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/lilies-of-the-field/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 13, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Manna

Above:  Manna

Image in the Public Domain

Our Insufficiency and God’s Sufficiency

AUGUST 6 and 7, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love,

you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied.

Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 11:16-23, 31-32 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 8:1-20 (Tuesday)

Psalm 107:1-3, 33-43 (Both Days)

Ephesians 4:17-24 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 12:27-31 (Tuesday)

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Whoever is wise will ponder these things,

and consider well the mercies of the LORD.

–Psalm 107:43, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Sometimes the Bible harps on a theme, repeating itself.  I notice this most readily while following a well-constructed lectionary and trying to find new ways to make one post in a series based on that lectionary read differently than some of its preceding posts.  This is easier on some occasions than on others.

The repeated theme this time is that we humans depend on God for everything, rely on each other, and are responsible to and for each other.  I have written about this many times, including in the previous post.  We ought not to cling to the idol of self-sufficiency, the assigned readings tell us.  No, we have a responsibility to trust and obey God, who is faithful to divine promises.  God, who fed the former Hebrew slaves in the desert, calls people to lead holy lives marked by the renewing of minds and the building up of the community of faith.  Love–agape–in 1 Corinthians 13, which follows on the heels of the reading from 1 Corinthians 12, is selfless, self-sacrificial love, a virtue greater than faith and hope.

If acceptance of our insufficiency injures our self-esteem, so be it.  Humility is a virtue greater than ego.  Actually, a balanced ego–a realistic sense of oneself–is a virtue which includes humility.  Raging egos and weak egos are problems which lead to the same results–destroyed and missed opportunities, lives of selfishness, and the failure to acknowledge one’s complete dependence on God.  The desire to build up oneself at the expense of others damages not only one but the group(s) to which one belongs and the people around one.

May the love which 1 Corinthians 13 describes define our lives, by grace.  May acceptance of our total dependence upon God, our reliance upon each other, and our responsibilities to and for each other define our lives, by grace.  And may a faithful walk with God, who is trustworthy, define our lives, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/our-insufficiency-and-gods-sufficiency/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 13, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Moses

Above:  Moses, by Michelangelo Buonarotti

Image in the Public Domain

Trusting in God

AUGUST 7, 2017

AUGUST 8, 2017

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The Collect:

Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness,

and you cover creation with abundance.

Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit,

and with this food fill all the starving world,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 8:1-10 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 26:1-15 (Tuesday)

Psalm 78:1-8, 17-29 (Both Days)

Romans 1:8-15 (Monday)

Acts 2:37-47 (Tuesday)

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We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

He gave his decrees to Jacob

and established a law for Israel,

which he commanded them to teach their children;

That the generations to come might know,

and the children yet unborn;

that they might in turn tell it to their children;

So that they might put their trust in God,

and not forget the deeds of God,

but keep his commandments;

And not be like their forefathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

–Psalm 78:4-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To believe in God, in the Biblical sense, is to trust in God.  The Psalm speaks of trusting in God, hence the focus of this post.  Deuteronomy, placing words in the mouth of Moses, reminds people of what God had done for them–how faithful God had been–and how faithful they should be.  Among the commandments to keep were orders to care for the widows and the orphans, and, by extension, all the vulnerable members of society.  There was more than enough for them to eat, dress, and have shelter properly in God’s economic plan.  If we have faith that God will provide enough for all of us to have a sufficient supply of necessities, we will have a secure place from which to extend hospitality to others, as God commands us to do.

We humans are at our worst when we act out of fear.  We protect ourselves and our families at the expense of others at such times.  We might even seek to harm others actively because we imagine that there is not enough for everyone to have enough of necessities.  In such cases we might affirm the existence of God, but we do not trust in God.

Whenever I hear people speaking of belief in God I suppose that they really mean affirming the existence of God.  An Episcopal priest I know has an excellent way of dealing with people who claim not to believe in God.  He asks them to describe the deity in whom they do not believe.  He winds up replying that the does not believe in that God either.  But, to the larger point of trusting in God versus merely affirming the existence of God, I have my own answer.  I affirm the existence of God consistently, but I trust in God most of the time.  And I seek to trust God more often.

How about you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/trusting-in-god-3/

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Devotion for August 7 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Ancient Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part I:  Words

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 7, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 20:24-42

Psalm 96 (Morning)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 1:1-25

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Saul flew into a rage against Jonathan.  “You son of a perverse, rebellious woman!” he shouted.

–1 Samuel 20:30a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Saul boiled with rage.  “You son of a bitch!” he yelled at him.

–1 Samuel 20:30a, The Living Bible

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Sing a new song to Yahweh!

Sing to Yahweh, all the earth!

Sing to Yahweh, bless his name!

Proclaim his salvation day after day,

declare his glory among the nations,

his marvels to every people!

–Psalm 96:1-3, The New Jerusalem Bible

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After all, Christ me not to baptise, but to preach the gospel, and not by means of wisdom of language, wise words which would make the cross of Christ pointless.  The message of the cross is folly for those who are on the way to ruin, but for those of us who are on the road to salvation it is the power of God.

–1 Corinthians 1;17-18, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Words matter.  Psalm 96 exhorts people to use words to proclaim divine glory and the message of salvation.  And we read of King Saul cursing out his son Jonathan in 1 Samuel 20:30.  The Living Bible, usually a substandard version, gets Saul’s tone right and places it in a familiar, modern idiom.  (Aside:  Later printings of The Living Bible replaced “son of a bitch” with “fool,” which has less of an impact.)  So words can humiliate or encourage, tear down or build up.

And sometimes words prove to be irrelevant.  The message of the cross contradicts conventional wisdom regarding who died that way and why, so of course one cannot cite conventional wisdom on the topic to explain the crucifixion, much less the subsequent resurrection, properly.  But words did play a vital part in Paul’s message; witness his epistles, O reader.  And he had to use words to preach the good news of Jesus.

Words have power.  According to myth, God spoke and thereby transformed chaos into order in Genesis 1.  Much of the time, however, we mere mortals speak and thereby convert order into chaos.  We speak and thereby either build up or tear down.  May we use our words for positive purposes, glorifying God and building up others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

PROPER 23:  THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

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

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Week of Proper 13: Monday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 13: Tuesday, Year 2   2 comments

Above:  Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Bad News and Good News

AUGUST 6 and 7, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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FIRST READING FOR MONDAY

Jeremiah 28:1-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

That year, early in the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, who was from Gibeon, spoke to me in the House of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and all the people.  He said:

Thus said the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel:  I hereby break the yoke of the king of Babylon.  In two years, I will restore to this place all the vessels of the House of the LORD which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took from this place and brought to Babylon.  And I will bring back to this place King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, and all the Judean exiles who went to Babylon

–declares the LORD.

Yes, I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.

Then the prophet Jeremiah answered the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and of all the people who were standing in the House of the LORD.  The prophet Jeremiah said:

Amen!  May the LORD do so!  May the LORD fulfill what you have prophesied and bring back from Babylon to this place the vessels of the House of the LORD and all the exiles!  But just listen to this word which I address to you and to all the people:  The prophet who lived before you and me from ancient times prophesied war, disaster, and pestilence against many lands and great kingdoms.  So if a prophet prophesies good fortune, then only when the word of the prophet comes true can it be known that the LORD really sent him.

But the prophet Hananiah removed the bar from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, and broke it, and Hananiah said in the presence of all the people,

Thus said the LORD:  So will I break the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon from off the necks of all the nations, in two years.

And the prophet Jeremiah went on his way.

After the prophet Hananiah had broken the bar from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:

Go say to Hananiah:  Thus said the LORD:  You broke bars of wood, but you shall make bars of iron instead.  For thus said the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel:  I have put an iron yoke upon the necks of all those nations, that they may serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon–and serve him they shall!  I have even given the wild beasts to him!

And the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah,

Listen, Hananiah!  The LORD did not send you, and you have given the people lying assurances.  Assuredly, thus said the LORD:  I am going to banish you from off the earth.  This year you shall die, for you have urged disloyalty to the LORD.

And the prophet Hananiah died that year, in the seventh month.

FIRST READING FOR TUESDAY

Jeremiah 30:1-2, 22-30 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD:

Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel:  Write down in a scroll all the words that I have spoken to you.

For thus said the LORD:

Your injury in incurable,

Your wound severe;

No one pleads for the healing of your sickness,

There is no remedy, no recovery for you.

All your lovers have forgotten you,

They do not seek you out;

For I have struck you as an enemy strikes,

With cruel chastisement,

Because your iniquity was so great

And your sins so many.

Why cry out over your injury,

That your wound in incurable?

I did these things to you

Because your iniquity was so great

And your sins so many.

Assuredly,

All who wanted to devour you shall be devoured,

And every one of your foes shall go into captivity;

Those who despoiled you I will give up to pillage.

But I will bring healing to you

And cure you of your wounds

–declares the LORD.

Though they called you, “Outcast,

That Zion whom no one seeks out,”

Thus said the LORD:

I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents

And have compassion upon his dwellings.

The city shall be rebuilt on its mound,

And the fortress in its proper place.

From there shall issue thanksgiving

And the sound of dancers.

I will multiply them,

And they shall not be few;

I will make them honored,

His children shall be as of old,

And his community shall be established by My grace;

And I will deal with all his oppressors.

His chieftain shall be one of his own,

His ruler shall come from his midst;

I will bring him near, that he may approach Me

–declares the LORD–

For who would otherwise dare approach me?

You shall be My people,

And I will be your God.

RESPONSE FOR MONDAY

Psalm 119:89-96 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

89  O LORD, your word is everlasting;

it stands firm in the heavens.

90  Your faithfulness remains from one generation to another;

you established the earth, and it abides.

91  By your decree these continue to this day;

for all things are your servants.

92  If my delight had not been in your law,

I should have perished in my affliction.

93  I will never forget your commandments,

because by them you give me life.

94  I am yours; oh, that you would save me!

for I study your commandments.

95  Though the wicked lie in wait for me to destroy me,

I will apply my mind to your decrees.

96  I see that all things come to an end,

but your commandment has no bounds.

RESPONSE FOR TUESDAY

Psalm 102:16-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

16 For the LORD will build up Zion,

and his glory will appear.

17 He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless;

he will not despise their plea.

18 Let this be written for a future generation,

so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD.

19 For the LORD looked down from his holy place on high;

from the heavens he beheld the earth;

20 That he might hear the groan of the captive

and set free those condemned to die;

21 That they may declare in Zion the Name of the LORD,

and his praise in Jerusalem;

22 When the peoples are gathered together,

and the kingdoms also, to serve the LORD.

THE GOSPEL READING FOR MONDAY

Matthew 13:13-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said,

This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.

Jesus said to them,

They need not go away; you give them something to eat.

They replied,

We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.

And he said,

Bring them here to me.

Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

THE GOSPEL READING FOR TUESDAY

Matthew 14:22-36 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

Directly after this Jesus insisted on his disciples’ getting aboard their boat and going on ahead to the other side, while he himself sent the crowds home.  And when he had sent them away he sent up the hill-side quite alone, to pray.  When it grew late he was there by himself while the boat was by now a good way from the shore at the mercy on the waves, for the wind was dead against them.  In the small hours Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples caught sight of him walking on water they were terrified.

It’s a ghost!

they said, and screamed with fear.  But at once Jesus spoke to them.

It’s all right!  It’s I myself, don’t be afraid!

Peter said,

Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you on the water.

Jesus replied,

Come on, then.

Peter stepped down from the boat and began to walk on the water, making for Jesus.  But when he saw the fury of the wind he panicked and began to sink, calling out,

Lord save me!

At once Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying,

You little-faith!  What made you lose you nerve like that?

Then, when they were both aboard the boat, the wind dropped.  The whole crew came and knelt down before Jesus, crying,

You are indeed the Son of God!

When they had crossed over to the other side of the lake, they landed at Gennesaret, and when the men of that place had recognised him, they sent word to the whole surrounding country and brought all the diseased to him.  They implored him to let them “touch just the edge of his cloak”, and all those who did so were completely cured.

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The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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I have written a devotional post covering two days because I cannot think of anything new to say about the Monday readings, the themes of which I have covered recently.  Joining the two Jeremiah readings, however, does yield something I hope will prove edifying.

Hananiah might have believed what he said.  Even if we assume the best about him, he was incorrect, and his words offered false assurance.  Sometimes we lie to ourselves first then proclaim what we believe to be true.  But we are still wrong and inaccurate in such circumstances.  Hananiah said that God would break the yoke the Babylonian king in two years.  A few years later, that monarch took over the Kingdom of Judah, already a vassal state.  Yet, God told Jeremiah, there would be a return from exile.  Chaldea/Neo-Babylonia, which devoured Judah, fell to the Persians and the Medes.  And the relationship between YHWH and the Jews became stronger.

You shall be My people,

And I will be your God.

–Jeremiah 30:22, TANAKH

There was good news after all, but it followed the bad news.

Sometimes we might feel forsaken by God.  Indeed, the Bible does, in places, speak of God forsaking and destroying entire empires.  Yet we might not be forsaken.  The feeling might be purely in our imagination.  Or we might face a chastisement before restoration.

May we keep in mind that those who wrote certain texts and edited their final drafts did so with certain perspectives–sometimes owing to hindsight–in mind.  Sometimes YHWH comes across as abusive and otherwise cruel then alternatively loving, exhibiting manic-depressive-style mood swings.  Those who wrote the Bible experienced God powerfully and expressed their experiences the best way they could.  Our sensibilities might not mesh well with theirs, and that fact does not necessarily speak poorly of us.  Our object should be to seek God, not to transform the Bible into an idol with which we seek to agree on every point.

The YHWH of the Jewish Bible was passionate for the chosen people.  This same God, I say, is passionate about you, O reader, and about me.  May we return the love, as best we can, by grace.

KRT

Week of Proper 13: Wednesday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  The Sinai Peninsula (Gemini 11, 1966)

Image in the Public Domain

Consequences of a Slave Mentality

AUGUST 7, 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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Numbers 13:1-2, 25-14:1, 26-35 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Send men and let them scout the land of Canaan that I’m giving to the children of Israel.  You shall send one man for each tribe of his fathers, every one of them a chieftain.

And they came back from scouting the land at the end of forty days.  And they went and came to Moses and to Aaron and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, to the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and all the congregation and showed them the land’s fruit.

And they told him and said,

We came to the land where you sent us, and also it’s flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.  Nonetheless:  the people who live in the land are strong.  And the cities are fortified, very big.  And also we saw the offering of the giants there.  Amalek lives in the land of the Negeb, and the Hittite and the Jebusite and the Amorite live in the mountains, and the Canaanite lives by the sea and along the Jordan.

And Caleb quieted the people toward Moses and said,

Let’s go up, and we’ll take possession of it, because we’ll be able to handle it.

And the men who went up to him said,

We won’t be able to go up against the people, because they’re stronger than we are.

And they brought out a report of the land that they had scouted to the children of Israel, saying,

The land through which we passed to scout it:  it’s a land that eats those who live in it, and all the people whom we saw in it were people of size! And we saw the Nephilim there, sons of giants ffrom the Nephilim, and we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes.

And all the congregation raised and let out their voices!  And the people wept that night.

And YHWH spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,

How much farther for this bad congregation, that they’re complaining against me?  I’ve heard the complaints of the children of Israel that they’re making against me.  Say to them:  As I live–word of YHWH–what you have spoken in my ears, that is what I’ll do for you!  In this wilderness your carcasses will fall; and all of you who were counted, for all your number, from twenty years old and up, who complained against me, I swear that you won’t come to the land that I raised my hand to have you reside there–except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.  And your infants, whom you said would become a spoil:  I’ll bring them, and they will know the land that you rejected!  And you:  your carcasses will fall in this wilderness.  And your children will be roving the wilderness forty years, and they’ll bear your whoring until the end of your carcasses in the wilderness.  For the number of days that you scouted the land, forty days, you shall bear your crimes a day for each year, forty years, and you shall know my frustratration!  I, YHWH, have spoken:  If I shall not do this to all the bad congregation who are gathered against me:  in this wilderness they shall end, and they shall die there!

Psalm 106:6-14, 21-23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 We have sinned as our forefathers did;

we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.

7 In Egypt they did not consider your marvelous works,

not remember the abundance of your love;

they defied the Most High at the Red Sea.

8 But he saved them for his Name’s sake,

to make his power known.

9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up,

and he led them through the deep as through a desert.

10 He saved them from the hand of those who hated them

and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

11 The waters covered their oppressors;

not one on them was left.

12 Then they believed his words

and sang him songs of praise.

13 But they soon forgot his deeds

and did not wait for his counsel.

14 A craving seized them in the wilderness,

and they put God to the test in the desert.

21 They forgot God their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22 Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,

and fearful things at the Red Sea.

23 So he would have destroyed them,

had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,

to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

Matthew 15:21-28 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

Jesus then left that place and retired into the Tyre and Sidon district.  There a Canaanite woman from those parts came to him crying at the top of her voice,

Lord, son of David, have pity on me!  My daughter is in a terrible state–a devil has got into her!

Jesus made no answer, and the disciples came up to him and said, “Do not send her away–she’s still following us and calling out.”

“I was only sent, ” replied Jesus, “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Then the woman came and knelt at his feet.

Lord, help me,

she said.

It is not right, you know,

Jesus replied,

to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

The woman replied,

Yes, Lord, I know, but even the dogs live on the scraps that fall from their master’s table!

Jesus returned,

You certainly don’t lack faith; it shall be as you wish.

And at that moment her daughter was healed.

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The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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

Sometimes I wish that biblical authors had noted the tone of voice in which a person, such as Jesus, spoke, when writing about certain incidents.  The story of the conversation between Jesus and the Gentile woman is such a case.  But some details in the account provide fascinating clues.

Most importantly, Jesus was in the district of Tyre and Sidon, which was Gentile central.  And he went there voluntarily.  If he had a serious attitude problem regarding Gentiles, he would not have gone there voluntarily.  It is also vital to note that he granted the woman’s request to heal her daughter, even after his comment about throwing table scraps to dogs, who were allegedly impure and unclean animals, not beloved furry family members, as many North Americans think of domesticated canines.  But the woman expected our Lord’s mercy and made her case for it to his face.  She had faith and was persistent in it, and she went away satisfied.  She passed the test.

The Gentile woman did not have a slave mentality.  But the generation of Israelites that escaped from Egypt did.

Professor Richard Elliott Friedman makes the case for the existence of this slave mentality in his Commentary on the Torah.  Time after time the children of Israel had waxed nostalgic about Egyptian table scraps and complained about how God provided for them in the wilderness.  Mentally, they were still in Egypt, where they depended upon their overlords.  But YHWH offered them something far better–freedom.  Alas, they were not ready for it.  They were afraid of so much, mostly that they would die in the desert.  So they reacted fearfully.  Those actions had consequences, including their death in the wilderness.  Those who lacked a slave mentality were destined to reach the promised land.

This is what is really going on the the reading from Numbers.  The origin of the Nephilim is an interesting intellectual and mythological knot to attempt to untie, but it serves no useful devotional purpose for me today.  The Nephilim scared many Israelites; that is the important detail about them today.  The lack of faith and prevalence of fear in this matter constituted the last straw for YHWH in Numbers 14.  That is vital in this account.

At this time my mind turns to James 4:1-6.  It reads:

What causes fighting and quarrels among you?  Is not their origin the appetites that war in your bodies?  You want what you cannot have, so you murder; you are envious, and cannot attain your ambition, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not get what you want, because you do not pray for it.  Or, if you do, your requests are not granted, because you pray from wrong motives, in order to squander what you get on your pleasures.  Unfaithful creatures!  Surely you know that love of the world means enmity to God?  Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy.  Or do you suppose that scripture has no point when it says that the spirit which God implanted in us is filled with envious longings?  But the grace he gives is stronger; thus scripture says, ‘God opposes the arrogant and gives grace to the humble.'”  (Revised English Bible, 1989)

Humility, contrary to a widespread misunderstanding, is not beating one’s breast and considering oneself a worthless excuse for a human being.  That is low self-esteem.  No, being humble is having a realistic self-image in relation to God.  So a healthy ego–one neither too small nor raging out of control–is part and parcel of humility.  We humans bear the image of God, and therefore have inherent dignity others are obligated to recognize and respect.  The Gentile woman knew that she and her daughter had inherent human dignity Jesus was obliged to recognize and respect.  She insisted on this, and Jesus granted her request.  She asked–properly–for a just cause, and she received what she requested.  She was humble.

On the other hand, those Israelites with a slave mentality were not humble.  And neither did they expect the best, which they did not receive.  It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.  They were responsible for what happened to them.

Which story more nearly describes you?  If the answer to that question is damning, you can rewrite the rest of your narrative.  The children of Israel had many such opportunities, and they wasted them.  Learn from these ancient accounts.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/consequences-of-a-slave-mentality/