Archive for the ‘July 26’ Category

Devotion for Friday Before Proper 12, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Caiaphas

Above:  Caiaphas

Image in the Public Domain

Esther III:  National Security

JULY 26, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready than we are to pray,

and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.

Pour upon us your abundant mercy.

Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience,

and give us those good things that come only through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 3:7-15

Psalm 138

Acts 2:22-36

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Though I live surrounded by trouble

you give me life–to my enemies’ fury!

You stretch out your right hand and save me,

Yahweh will do all things for me.

Yahweh, your faithful love endures for ever,

do not abandon what you have made.

–Psalm 138:7-8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The story in Esther picks up at the point at which Haman persuades Ahasuerus to order genocide against the Jews.  The official reason for the decree, according to the royal decree (as contained in Chapter B, as The New American Bible labels it) is national security.  The Jews allegedly follow laws which set them at opposition to all other people and to royal decrees.  The official purpose of the planned genocide is to restore the stability of the Persian Empire.  The actual reasons, of course, are Haman’s egotism and anti-Semitism.  As Dr. Samuel Johnson stated,

Patriotism is the last resort of a scoundrel.

The reading from Acts 2 concerns the crucifixion of Jesus.  Roman imperial personnel executed Jesus, of course, but certain Jewish religious leaders were complicit in the unjust act.  As Caiaphas said in John 11:50,

You do not understand that it is better for you to have one man die than to have the whole nation destroyed.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

National security is a legitimate concern, one which requires difficult decisions sometimes.  Nevertheless, genocide is never a justifiable practice.  Just as national security has its place, so does patriotism.  My point is that some scoundrels hide behind these virtues and convince other people to support them in unjust actions.  I would like to be a pacifist, but my sense of reality prevents me from doing that.  I do propose, however, that most violence is immoral and unnecessary.  This is especially true of the violence planned in Esther 3 and the crucifixion of Jesus.

There is a proper balance between individual rights and the common good.  There is also such a thing as the tyranny of the majority or of a powerful minority.  The common good, by definition, cannot justify genocide or judicial murder.  Those with power have no moral right to victimize any person or population.  And nobody has a moral right to be complicit in such a plot or effort.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/esther-iii-national-security/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 12, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Elisha

Above:   The Prophet Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

The Will of God and Morality

JULY 26, 27, and 28, 2018

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The Collect:

Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children

a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth.

Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven

and share this bread with all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:19-21 (Thursday)

2 Kings 3:4-20 (Friday)

2 Kings 4:38-41 (Saturday)

Psalm 145:10-18 (All Days)

Colossians 1:9-14 (Thursday)

Colossians 3:12-17 (Friday)

John 4:31-38 (Saturday)

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All you have made will confess you, LORD,

those devoted to you will give you thanks.

They will speak of your royal glory

and tell of your mighty deeds,

Making known to all mankind your mighty deeds,

your majestic royal glory.

–Psalm 145:10-12, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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Certain stories of Elisha resemble those of his mentor, Elijah, as an observant reader of the Books of Kings knows.  And, as an observant reader of the Gospels and the Books of Kings knows, some of the miracle stories of Jesus echo certain accounts of incidents from the lives of Elijah and Elisha.  Examples of these include raising people from the dead and feeding a multitude with a small amount of food.  Those stories indicate, among other things, that the heroes were close to God and were able to meet the needs of people.

The Elisha stories for these days have him leave home, participate in helping his kingdom win a war against Moab, and render dangerous food safe.  They portray him as an agent of the will of God.

The “will of God” is a phrase many people use improperly, even callously.  I, as a student of history, know that various individuals have utilized it to justify the murder of priests of Baal (by the order of Elijah, in 1 Kings 18:40), blame innocent victims of natural disasters exasperated by human shortsightedness (such as God allegedly sending Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans or a devastating earthquake to Haiti, supposedly to smite evildoers in those places), et cetera.  These misuses of the concept of the will of God offend my morality and make God seem like a thug at best.

We ought to exercise great caution using the phrase “the will of God,” for we might speak or write falsely of God and drive or keep people away from a Christian pilgrimage.  This is a topic to approach seriously, not lightly.  Among the most thoughtful treatments is Leslie D. Weatherhead’s The Will of God (1944), which speaks of three wills of God:  intentional, circumstantial, and ultimate.  That is deeper than some professing Christians want to delve into the issue, however.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the will of God, but I do attempt to be an intellectually honest Christian.  I, as a Christian, claim to follow Jesus.  To ask what he would do or would not do, therefore, is a relevant question when pondering issues of morality and the will of God.  The four canonical Gospels are useful for these and other purposes.  I conclude, therefore, that Jesus would not have ordered the deaths of priests of Baal or resorted to homophobia to explain the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  And I cannot conceive of Jesus agreeing with George Zimmerman that the death of Trayvon Martin was part of God’s plan and that wishing that Martin were alive is almost blasphemous.  Zimmerman is a bad theologian.

Living according to compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and love, per Colossians 3:12-14, is the best way to proceed.  Doing so increases the probability that one will live as an agent of the will of God, whose love we see epitomized in Jesus.  It is better to live rightly than to seek to be right in one’s opinion of oneself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/the-will-of-god-and-morality/

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Devotion for July 24, 25, and 26 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  A Crown

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and Acts, Part IV:  Positive and Negative Identity

WEDNESDAY, JULY 24, 2019

THURSDAY, JULY 25, 2019

FRIDAY, JULY 26, 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 8:1-22 (July 24)

1 Samuel 9:1-27 (July 25)

1 Samuel 10:1-27 (July 26)

Psalm 15 (Morning–July 24)

Psalm 36 (Morning–July 25)

Psalm 130 (Morning–July 26)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–July 24)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–July 25)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–July 26)

Acts 21:15-36 (July 24)

Acts 21:37-22:16 (July 25)

Acts 22:17-29 (July 26)

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Central to the narrative of 1 Samuel 8-10 is the idea that Israelites were properly different from other nations.  Their neighbors had human kings yet the Israelites had God as monarch; “judges,” or chieftains, provided human governance.  So the demand for a human king constituted a rejection of God.  The people got what they requested, although the beginning of Saul’s reign was promising.  In the long term, however, monarchy turned out as Samuel predicted it would.

In the Acts of the Apostles we read of the other, dark side of not being like other nations:  It can become a matter of hubris, that which goeth before the fall.  Paul worked among Gentiles, to whom he did not apply the Law of Moses.  Yet, contrary to rumor, he did not tell Jews to disobey that code, in particular relative to circumcision.  But objective reality did not prevent him from getting into trouble.

I propose that an element crucial to understanding the theme of being different is considering that the Jews were a minority population, heirs of a monotheistic tradition in a sea of polytheism.  How a member of a minority identifies oneself flows from that minority status.  So a certain element of negative identity (“I am not a/an _______.”) is inevitable.  But positive identity (“I am a/an ________.”) is preferable.

I, as a nonconformist, often by who the fact of who I am and frequently by choice, understand both forms of identity.   I am usually clueless regarding many popular culture-related topics of conversations, for

  1. I have other interests, and
  2. I choose not not to consume most popular media.  The “join the bandwagon” advertising approach has less of an effect on me than on many other people.  I tend to turn away unless I am already interested.

My favorite Fifties music comes from the 1750s and the 1850s, from the European classical tradition, unless one speaks of certain jazz of the 1950s.  I am an unapologetic musical snob; somebody has to be.  And, if many people go out of the way to be like others and to subsume their identities into the collective, somebody has to go out of his or her way to stand out.

But none of that justifies spreading rumors, threatening innocent people with violence, and rejecting God.  None of that makes right writing off most of the human race and contenting oneself with a “God-and-me” relationship.

Speaking of positive identity, each of us, regardless of labels, background, and circumstances, can claim one status with honesty:

I am a bearer of the image of God.

May we think of each other and ourselves accordingly.  As we think so we act and are.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT CHURCH BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/1-samuel-and-acts-part-iv-positive-and-negative-identity/

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Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

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

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

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

Image in the Public Domain

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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

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

We pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

That

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

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

we pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

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

we pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

That we may be good stewards of Mother Earth,

we pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

We intercede for

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

I invite your prayers, silent or aloud.

(Pause)

We pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

We thank you for

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

I invite your thanksgivings, silent or aloud.

(Pause)

We pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

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

we pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

The celebrant concludes with a collect.

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

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Proper 12, Year A   28 comments

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles, a Painting from the 1500s

Image in the Public Domain

Single Predestination

The Sunday Closest to July 27

The Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 26, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 29:15-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Laban said to Jacob,

Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?

Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said,

I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.

Laban said,

It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.

So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban,

Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.

So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her.  (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban,

What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?

Laban said,

This is not done in our country– giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.

Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob has chosen.

7 He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

8 He has always been mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made for a thousand generations.

9 The covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath that he swore to Isaac,

10 Which he established as a statute for Jacob,

an everlasting covenant for Israel,

11 Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan

to be your allotted inheritance.”

45b Hallelujah!

Or

Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they all who fear the LORD,

and who follow in his ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

3 Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus indeed be blessed.

5 The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

6 May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

1 Kings 3:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said,

Ask what I should give you.

And Solomon said,

You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him,

Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.

Psalm 119:129-136 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

129 Your decrees are wonderful;

therefore I obey them with all my heart.

130 When your word goes forth it gives light;

it gives understanding to the simple.

131 I open my mouth and pant;

I long for your commandments.

132 Turn to me in mercy,

as you always do to those who love your Name.

133 Steady my footsteps in your word;

let no iniquity have dominion over me.

134 Rescue me from those who oppress me,

and I will keep your commandments.

135 Let your countenance shine upon your servant

and teach me your statutes.

136 My eyes shed streams of tears,

because people do not keep your law.

SECOND READING

Romans 8:26-39 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

For your sake we are being killed all day long;

we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus put before the crowds another parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.

He told them another parable:

The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.

The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Have you understood all this?

They answered,

Yes.

And he said to them,

Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.

The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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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We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

–Romans 8:28-30 (New Revised Standard Version)

I consider myself a serious student of the Bible–a student, not a teacher or scholar.  There is always something more for me to learn, and what I do know about the Bible outweighs my accumulated learning concerning it.  So I have no problem admitting freely that there are certain passages and verses I have not really read for years.  I have read the words, but I have moved along.

Romans 8:28-30 is one such passage.  Yes, I knew 8:28, but focused on that, not 8:29-30.  I began to focus on this passage in late 2008.  My methodology was quite Episcopalian; I examined the scriptures carefully, read what Christian theologians have made of these verses, and employed my reason in pondering all this information.  The preponderance of scripture, tradition, and reason has convinced me to be become and remain a Single Predestinarian:  God has predestined some people to Heaven, but nobody to Hell.  The witness of the Holy Spirit and the missions efforts of the Church are available to invite all others into the path leading to eternal life in this life and the next.

Being raised United Methodist, I imbibed deeply of free will and the rejection of any form of predestination.  The Methodist concept of salvation available to all according to all, with only the free will choice to reject it standing in the way, is a democratic theology consistent with the American ethos.  It is a powerful idea which has affected U.S. history and culture, helping to liberate women and slaves spiritually while negating social hierarchies.  Despite these positive contributions, it is a flawed idea.

Calvinism, in any form, is a textured and subtle theological system, one which does not lend itself to bumper sticker statements. This confusion is mildly amusing when it becomes the fodder for jokes, but does not aid in spiritual contemplation.

The good news is that the wisdom that Solomon sought is available to all by grace, either in the form of predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit; that the extremely valuable Kingdom of God is within the grasp of all, either in the form of predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit.  The mustard seed grows into a giant shrub that goes where it will.  Yeast, traditionally associated with corruption in Judaism, becomes a symbol of extravagant grace.  The pearls are extremely valuable; the pursuit of them indicates single-minded devotion.  The parable of the fish in the net is akin to that of the mustard seed, for both contain the good and the bad, the pure and the impure; God will sort out everything at the end.

The mustard plant provides shelter for many varieties of animal life.  Some of the neighbors do not get along, but there they are, together.  And Jesus says this is a metaphor for the Kingdom of God.  The net collects the good fish along with the rotten ones.  Who is a good fish?  Who is a rotten one?  Do you not get along with your neighbor species in the mustard bush?  Leaving decisions as to who is pure and who is impure, who is good and who is rotten, to God is the better part of wisdom.  We might even be confused about our proper classification.

Fortunately, grace is present, in one form or another, and there is hope for us yet.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/09/26/single-predestination/

Week of Proper 11: Friday, Year 1   19 comments

Above:  The Ten Commandments in Hebrew

Image in the Public Domain

Great Wisdom, Combined with Troubling Insensitivity

JULY 26, 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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Exodus 20:1-17 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And God spoke all these words, saying:

I am YHWH, your God, who brought you out from the land of Egypt, from a house of slaves.

You shall have no other gods before my face.

You shall not make a statue or any form that is in the skies above, or that is in the earth below or that is in the water below the earth.  You shall not bow to them, and you shall not serve them.  Because I, YHWH, your God, am a jealous God, counting parents’ crime on children, on the third generation, and on the fourth generation of those who hate me, but practicing kindness thousands for those who observe my commandments.

You shall not bring up the name of YHWH your God, for a falsehood, because YHWH will not make one innocent, who will bring up His name for a falsehood.

Remember the Sabbath day, to make it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work, and the seventh day is a Sabbath to YHWH, your God.  You shall not do any work, you and your son and your daughter, your servant and your maid and your animal and your alien who is in your gates.  Because for six days YHWH made the skies and the earth, the sea, and everything that is in them, and He rested on the seventh day.  On account of this, YHWH blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days will be extended on the land that YHWH, your God, is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not testify against your neighbor as a lying witness.

You shall not covet your neighbors’s house.  You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife or his servant or his maid or his ox or his ass or anything that your neighbor has.

Psalm 19:7-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold,

more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey,

than honey in the comb.

Matthew 13:18-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,]

Now listen to the parable of the sower.  When a man hears the message of the kingdom and does not grasp it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.  This is like the seed sown by the road-side.  The seed sown on the stony patches represents the man who hears the message and eagerly accepts it.  But it has not taken root in him and does not last long–the moment trouble or persecution arises through the message he gives up his faith at once.  The seed sown among the thorns represents the man who hears the message, and then the worries of this life choke it to death and so it produces no ‘crop’ in his life.  But the seed sown on good soil is the man who both hears and understands the message.  His life shows a good crop, a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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I write these words on the First Sunday After Epiphany, the Baptism of Our Lord, Year A.  This morning, in church, the liturgy entailed the reaffirmation of the Baptismal Covenant found on pages 304-305 in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  One question stands out in my mind this day, in light of news of the January 8, 2011, shooting in Tucson, Arizona:

Will you strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being?

The reply is,

I will, with God’s help.

The Ten Commandments begin with YHWH saying that the Israelites shall have no other gods.  This statement does not deny the existence of other gods, for polytheism was nearly universal at the time.  It means that YHWH shall be the only deity for the Hebrews.  They did not obey this command for centuries, and successive prophets railed against the people due to their continued polytheism.

These commandments mean more than many people think.  The prohibition against swearing refers to attempts to manipulate God, for example, and the Sabbath is meant as a gift, not a burden.  The Hebrews did not get a day off when they were slaves in Egypt.  A free man or woman is one with a day off from work.

Obviously, murdering, bearing false witness, and stealing hurt others.  How much better would the U.S. economy be in January 2011 if many people had not coveted what belonged to another, if they had been content with a simpler lifestyle?  Also, within the previous week, I heard a news story about a man in Texas who served thirty years in prison on a charge of rape.  DNA evidence has proved his evidence.  The jury convicted him on the basis of erroneous eyewitness testimony.  In another case, a man in Tucson killed people, including a federal judge and a nine-year-old girl, yesterday, and shot a member of Congress in the head.

Yet the Ten Commandments catalog women and slaves–human beings all–as property, along with livestock and inanimate objects.  Many Antebellum U.S. advocates of slavery quoted the Ten Commandments to justify the damnable Peculiar Institution when using the Bible to make their case.  And I am sufficiently liberal to object to thinking of women as anything less than equal to men.

I challenge all of us–beginning with myself–to look around and ponder those we dislike, those with whom we disagree profoundly, and those we do not understand because they are so different from us.  Do we, in the words of the Prayer Book, respect their dignity?  This can be hard, especially when members of the Westboro Baptist Church, Topeka, Kansas, protest funerals for people ranging from soldiers to Elizabeth Edwards, but even these individuals, who deny the dignity of the mourners and the deceased, have human dignity.

Earlier this day, when updating my GATHERED PRAYERS blog, I focused on basic human decency and grief with regard to the victims of the Tucson shootings.  Basic compassion has guided my response.  I do not care about being right or wrong, only about being kind.  So I typed in parts of the Prayer Book related to death.  The URLs are here:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/for-those-in-distress-tucson-arizona-shootings/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/at-a-time-of-tragedy-tucson-arizona-shootings/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/for-the-victims-of-the-shootings-at-tucson-arizona-on-january-8-2011/

May we love one another, and seek to live at peace with each other and God.

Pax vobiscum,

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/great-wisdom-combined-with-troubling-insensitivity/