Archive for the ‘August 8’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 14, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Abraham

Above:  Icon of Abraham

Image in the Public Domain

Waiting for God, Part I

AUGUST 8, 2019

AUGUST 9, 2019

AUGUST 10, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church.

Open our hearts to the riches of your grace,

that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 21:1-16 (Thursday)

Ecclesiastes 6:1-6 (Friday)

Genesis 11:27-32 (Saturday)

Psalm 33:12-22 (All Days)

Romans 9:1-9 (Thursday)

Acts 7:1-8 (Friday)

Matthew 6:19-24 (Saturday)

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We are waiting for Yahweh;

he is our help and our shield,

for in him our heart rejoices,

in his holy name we trust.

Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us,

as our hope has rested in you.

–Psalm 33:20-22, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer.  This reality has frustrated many for ages and contradicted incarnations of Prosperity Theology (a heresy that does not die) since antiquity.  In the Book of Job the titular character’s alleged friends insisted that he must have done something to deserve his suffering.  The text, with all of its layers of authorship, explains in Chapters 1 and 2 why Job suffered; God allowed it.  Job was a pawn in a heavenly wager.

We who follow God wait for God, but, if we are realistic, we will not expect that doing so will lead to life on Easy Street.  Sometimes, in fact, it will lead to suffering for the sake of righteousness.  On other occasions suffering will just happen, seemingly for no reason.  Suffering is a part of life, I have become convinced.

Yet we need not suffer alone.  In Christ Jesus God suffered in human flesh, after all.  The divine promise is not that a proper relationship with God will be present during suffering.  This has been my experience.  We are members of God’s household via grace, not lineage, and the pilgrimage of faith begins with one step.  In God we find intangible and eternal (in the Johannine sense of that word, that is, “of God,” see 17:3) treasures, the variety that outlasts and is vastly superior to the most appealing temporal prizes.

Of course we should love God for selfless reasons; the rewards will come.  I recall a story about a woman who walked around carrying a torch and a bucket of water.  The torch, she said, was to burn up heaven and the water was to extinguish the flames of hell so that nobody would seek to follow God to enter heaven or to avoid hell.  Yet we humans seem to have mixed motivations much of the time, do we not?  Certain evangelists emphasize the possibility of damnation to frighten people into salvation.  Although I affirm the existence of both heaven and hell, I argue that terror is not a basis for a mature relationship with God, whom many Jews and Christians describe as loving and compassionate.

May we wait for Yahweh, who is our loving and compassionate help and shield, in whom our hearts rejoice.  May we wait for God in times of prosperity and of scarcity, of suffering and of ease, of pain and of pleasure.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH VON LAUFENBERG, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/waiting-for-god-part-i/

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

Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Above:  Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

With God There Are Leftovers

AUGUST 8, 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:

Isaiah 55:1-9

Psalm 107:1-3, 33-43

Mark 8:1-10

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Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he rendered them from the hand of the foe.

He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

–Psalm 107:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Repentance is an option, even late in the game, so to speak.  God, who glorifies the chosen people and remains faithful to divine promises, invites those who need to change their minds and ways to do so.  The more people who are present at the divine banquet, the merrier.

Speaking of banquets, Mark 8:1-10 tells of Jesus feeding 4000 people (not just men) with a few fishes and loaves of bread.  I refuse to try to explain the Feeding of the 4000 and the 5000 (Plus) (Mark 6:30-44) rationally for the same reason, which is that to do so is address the wrong question.  I focus instead on one detail:  there was more afterward than before.

Some people think that they have nothing to offer or that what they have to offer is inadequate, so they do not offer it to God for divine purposes.  God, however, can multiply those gifts and talents, leaving leftovers.  Many people need to repent of their failure to trust in God’s strength instead of their own.  These are not evil people, just weak ones with psychological and emotional issues.  At some point in each of us has been among this population.  Others of us remain in their ranks.

The graciousness of God to the Hebrews in Isaiah 55 benefited the world (verse 5).  God’s blessings to any one of us can and should benefit others.  If we trust God to multiply that which we have to offer, as meager as it might seem, it will enrich the lives of more people than we can imagine, for the glory of God.

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/with-god-there-are-leftovers/

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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 8 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Saul and David, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part II:  God’s Choices

THURSDAY, AUGUST 8, 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 24:1-22

Psalm 116 (Morning)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 1:26-2:16

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The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Daily Lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006) skips over part of 1 Samuel.  A summary of that portion follows:  David, a fugitive from King Saul, becomes a rebel leader.  Saul, who knows that David will succeed him as monarch, kills some of those (excluding others, including Jonathan) who aid David.  Chapter 24 contains the famous story of David sparing the life of the monarch (his former father-in-law) who had tried more than once to kill him.

That content fits well with a part of 1 Corinthians 1:

No. God chose those who by human standards are fools to shame the wise; he chose those who by human standards are common and contemptible–indeed those who count for nothing–to reduce to nothing all those that do count for something, so that no human being might feel boastful before God.

–Verses 27-29, The New Jerusalem Bible

Saul was of less than “noble” origin.  His activity while chosen king as chasing runaway donkeys, after all.  But Saul was tall and handsome by the standards of the day.  And he was powerful relative to young David, who, in contrast, was the son his father left tending the sheep when Samuel met the other brothers.  The choice of David was an unlikely one by human standards.

Many of God’s choices will surprise us.  First we need to be sure that we have perceived correctly that x is God’s choice.  (This can be difficult.)  But, assuming that x is God’s choice, it might violate our sense of what ought to be.  Saul preferred to be the founder of a dynasty and for Jonathan to succeed him immediately.  Yet that was not what happened.  How will we respond to God’s choices?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN EDUCATORS AND INTELLECTUALS

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HERRICK, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/1-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-ii-gods-choices/

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Week of Proper 13: Wednesday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 13: Thursday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Nicodemus and Jesus, by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov

Born from Above

AUGUST 8 and 9, 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 WEDNESDAY

Jeremiah 31:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

At that time

–declares the LORD–

I will be God to all the clans of Israel, and they shall be My people.

Thus said the LORD:

The people escaped from the sword,

Found favor in the wilderness;

When Israel was marching homeward

The LORD revealed Himself to me of old.

Eternal love I conceived for you then;

Therefore I continue My grace to you.

I will build you firmly again,

O Maiden Israel!

Again you shall take up your timbrels

And go forth to the rhythm of the dancers.

Again you shall plant vineyards

On the hills of Samaria;

Men shall plant and live to enjoy them.

For the day is coming when watchmen

Shall proclaim on the heights of Ephraim:

Come, let us go up to Zion,

To the LORD our God!

For thus said the LORD:

Cry out in joy for Jacob,

Shout at the crossroads of the nations!

Sing aloud in praise, and say:

Save, O LORD, Your people,

The remnant of Israel.

FIRST READING FOR THURSDAY

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

See, a time is coming

–declares the LORD–

when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers, when I took them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, though I espoused them

–declares the LORD.

But such is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel after these days

–declares the LORD:

I will put My Teaching into their inmost being and inscribe it upon their hearts.  Then I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  No longer will they need to teach one another and say to one another, “Heed the LORD”; for all of them, from the least of them to the greatest, shall heed Me

–declares the LORD.

For I will forgive their iniquities,

And remember their sins no more.

RESPONSE FOR WEDNESDAY

Psalm 121 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

2  My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

3  He will not let your foot be moved

and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

4  Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber nor sleep;

5  The LORD himself watches over you;

the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

6  So that the sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.

7  The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;

it is he who shall keep you safe.

8  The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in,

from this time forth for evermore.

RESPONSE FOR THURSDAY

Psalm 51:11-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17  Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,

but you take no pleasure in burnt-offerings.

18  The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

GOSPEL READING FOR WEDNESDAY

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.

Jesus replied,

I was only sent 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.

She returned,

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.

GOSPEL READING FOR THURSDAY

Matthew 16:13-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When Jesus reached the Caesarea-Philippi district he asked his disciples a question.

Who do people say the Son of Man is?

They told him,

Well, some say John the Baptist.  Some say Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

He said to them,

But what about you?  Who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered,

You?  You are Christ, the Son of the Living God!

Jesus said,

Simon, son of Jonah, you a fortunate man indeed!  For it was not your own nature but my Heavenly Father who revealed this truth to you!  Now I tell you that you are Peter the rock, and it is on this rock that I am going to found my Church, and the powers of death will never have the power to destroy it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in Heaven and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven!

Then he impressed on his disciples that they should not tell anyone that he was Christ.

From that time onwards Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he would have to go to Jerusalem, and endure much suffering from the elders, chief priests and scribes, and finally be killed; and be raised to life again on the third day.

Then Peter took him on one side and started to remonstrate with him over this.

God bless you, Master!  Nothing like this must happen to you!

Then Jesus turned round and said to Peter,

Out of my way, Satan!…you stand right in my path, Peter, when you think the thoughts of man and not those of God.

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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 solemnly assure you,

no one can see the kingdom of God

without being begotten from above.

–John 3:3, The Anchor Bible

Jeremiah 31 speaks of, among other things, an internalized relationship and covenant with God.  Words will cease to be necessary, for the relationship will be intrinsic.  Both passages from that chapter remind me of an often misunderstood concept from John 3.  The Evangelical misapprehension of “born from above,” thereby transforming it into “born again,” as in the perceived necessity of a dramatic or defined conversion experience, is an error.  There are many of us who lack such an experience yet who are close to God, and who are hopefully getting nearer.

The Gentile woman understood something profound.  So did Simon Peter, although he had no idea of the full implication of what he confessed.  At least it was a start.  We humans are spiritual beings having physical experiences, so how can we not brush up against God?

And it is no wonder to me that God slips into our minds, bypassing our five senses.  I have assumed this for years, and circumstances (inside my cranium) have confirmed my conclusion.  If we are open to God, we will learn quite a bit just by being quiet.  And not all of us will require metaphorical conks over the heard to draw nearer and nearer to God.  Yes, some people do have dramatic experiences with God, and therefore clearly defined conversions.  Yet one ought not to assume that one cannot be a Christian without such an experience.

Perhaps Single Predestination applies to this theme.  Some of us come to God via the witness of the Holy Spirit, which works in many ways, some of them subtle.  Others of us are among the predestined to Heaven.  There is no need for a conversion experience in such cases, is there?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/born-from-above/

Week of Proper 13: Thursday, Year 1   18 comments

Above: Moses Striking the Rock, by Pieter de Grebbel (1630)

Image in the Public Domain

Of Faith and Rocks

AUGUST 8, 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 20:1-13 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And the children of Israel, all the congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh.  And Miriam died there and was buried there.  And there was no water for the congregation, and they assembled against Moses and against Aaron.  And the people quarreled with Moses, and they said, saying,

If only we had expired in front of YHWH!  And why have you brought YHWH’s community to this wilderness to die there, we and our cattle?  And why did you bring us up from Egypt to bring us to this bad place?  It’s not a place of seed and fig and vine and pomegranate, and there’s no water to drink!

And Moses and Aaron came in front of the community to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and they fell on their faces.  And YHWH’s glory appeared to them.  And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Take the staff and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron, your brother.  And you shall speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will give its water.  So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give a drink to the congregation and their cattle.

And Moses took the staff in front of YHWH as He commanded him.  And Moses and Aaron assembled the community opposite the rock.  And he said to them, “Listen, rebels, shall we bring water out of this rock for you?”  And Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock with his rock twice.  And much water came out!  And the congregation and their cattle drank.

And YHWH said to Moses and Aaron,

Because you did not trust in me, to make me holy before the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this community to the land that I have given them!

They are the waters of Meribah, over which the children of Israel quarreled with YHWH, and He was made holy among them.

Psalm 95:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

4 In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

8 Harden not your hearts,

as your forebears did in the wilderness,

at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,

when they tempted me.

9 They put me to the test,

though they had seen my works.

Matthew 16:13-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When Jesus reached the Caesarea-Philippi district he asked his disciples a question.

Who do people say the Son of Man is?

They told him,

Well, some say John the Baptist.  Some say Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

He said to them,

But what about you?  Who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered,

You?  You are Christ, the Son of the Living God!

Jesus said,

Simon, son of Jonah, you a fortunate man indeed!  For it was not your own nature but my Heavenly Father who revealed this truth to you!  Now I tell you that you are Peter the rock, and it is on this rock that I am going to found my Church, and the powers of death will never have the power to destroy it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in Heaven and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven!

Then he impressed on his disciples that they should not tell anyone that he was Christ.

From that time onwards Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he would have to go to Jerusalem, and endure much suffering from the elders, chief priests and scribes, and finally be killed; and be raised to life again on the third day.

Then Peter took him on one side and started to remonstrate with him over this.

God bless you, Master!  Nothing like this must happen to you!

Then Jesus turned round and said to Peter,

Out of my way, Satan!…you stand right in my path, Peter, when you think the thoughts of man and not those of God.

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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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Israelite grumbling continues, even after the episode from Numbers 13, which I covered in the previous day’s devotion.  Already God has informed the people that most of them will die before Canaan.  If they were humble before God, they would have moved toward repentance.  Rather, we have this incident, with more grumbling.  It is the same song, only another verse.  This took a toll on Moses.  (How could it not?)

God promised to provide water for the people and their cattle, and did so.  There is water in many desert rocks, so Moses received instructions to gather the people and cattle before a very big rock, stand with Aaron in front of them, hold Aaron’s staff, and speak to the rock.  Moses did all of this except speak to it.  He struck it instead.  Regardless of his motivation, he had called attention to himself and away from God.  The people and cattle drank water while Moses and Aaron learned that, for their lack of faith, which is to say, trust in God, they would not enter Canaan.  Perhaps Aaron’s sin leading to the penalty was not related to Moses striking the rock with his staff.  I propose that Aaron’s cumulative faithlessness caught up with him.  More than once he had plotted against Moses over the years.  And Aaron was deeply involved in the infamous Golden Calf incident.

So God was angry, announcing penalties for sin, but God had not forsaken either Moses, Aaron, or any of the Israelites.  All had the promised water to drink, but they still had to pay the price for failing to trust God.  So, once again, divine judgment and mercy intermingled.

Another kind of rock figures prominently in the reading from the Gospel of Matthew.  Simon Peter becomes the first Apostle to confess Jesus as the living Son of God.  This is a momentous event in Christian history; there is even a feast day (The Confession of St. Peter the Apostle, January 18) for it.  Yet Peter’s understanding was partial.  Out of good intentions, he protested against the coming torture, execution, and resurrection of Jesus.  As we say in the U.S. South, I say of Peter, “God bless him.”

“You are Peter,” Jesus says to him, “and upon this rock I will build my Church.”  What is “this rock”?  I have read what various commentators have said about this and pondered the germane ecclesiastical traditions.  William Barclay, the great Scottish Presbyterian Bible scholar, proposes the best answer.  The foundational rock of the Church is God, and Peter is the first stone.  In the Greek, Jesus says, “You are Petros, and upon this petra I will will build my Church.”  A petra is a rock mass, so Barclay’s interpretation makes sense.  Many stones have joined the rock mass sense then, and continue to do so.

Peter wavered after this incident.  He denied Jesus publicly three times shortly before the crucifixion.  And he hid shortly after his leader’s execution.  Yet he became a bold leader in the Acts of the Apostles, and, according to tradition, died of crucifixion.  Peter insisted that he was unworthy to die as Jesus had, so he was crucified upside-down.

Thus the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24-26 take on added meaning:

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all rights to himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his real life?  What could a man offer to buy back that life once he has lost it?  (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

Our “real life,” as J. B. Phillips translates the text, is in God.  More traditional renderings include “soul,” but “real life” gets to the point nicely.  Our real life is in God.  Do we realize this fact?  This is the God in whom we can trust, that is, have faith.  This is the God in whom judgment and mercy co-mingle.  This is the God in who was patient with Moses, Aaron, the Israelites, and Simon Peter.  This is the God who recognized the great potential within Simon Peter and never gave up on the impetuous Apostle.  This is the God who gives us water and manna in our spiritual deserts.  This is the God who is the rock upon which we are stones in the rock mass.

More Than Words, Revised Edition, is a 1958 Christian Education resource The Episcopal Church published for “Church School Teachers and for Students in Junior High School Classes.”  I quote part of the entry for “A Saint,” from page 167:

But the saints were not heroes all their lives.  When they started they were just like you and me.  James and John had fiery tempers.  Peter cursed and swore.  Matthew bled the people for money.  Peter disowned Jesus three times.  Yet Jesus made them into saints.  He can also do it with us.

How so we start?  By letting our Lord love us and forgive us.  If we start again, we must let Him forgive us again, even if He has to do it a million times.  For the joy of being forgiven is our first taste of heaven.

How we respond to God matters.  Will we be grateful?  Will we trust?  Will we accept forgiveness?  Will we accept transformation?  Or will we persist in slave mentalities, expecting nothing while grumbling?  The choice is ours to make.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/of-faith-and-rocks/