Archive for the ‘July 1’ Category

Devotion for Monday After Proper 8, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Rebekah (2)

Above:  Eliezer Meeting Rebekah at the Well

Image Source = Elsie E. Egermeier, Bible Story Book (1939)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The Commandment to Commit Agape

JULY 1, 2019

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, ruler of all hearts,

you call us to obey you, and you favor us with true freedom.

Keep us faithful to the ways of your Son, that,

leaving behind all that hinders us,

we may steadfastly follow your paths,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 24:34-41, 50-67

Psalm 140

1 John 2:7-11

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I know that Yahweh will give judgement for the wretched,

justice for the needy.

The upright shall praise your name,

the honest dwell in your presence.

–Psalm 140:12-13, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The reading from Genesis 24 might prove confusing unless one reads the entire chapter.  In it Abraham sends a servant (whom the text does not name) to find a wife for Isaac.  The standard for a wife is good character.  Rebekah, daughter of Laban, passes the test by extending hospitality (a matter of life or death in that place and culture) to the servant.  She becomes Isaac’s beloved.  On the other hand, we read of her devious side in Genesis 27.  That, however, is another story for a different story.

The standard for righteousness in 1 John 2:7-11 is love–agape, to be precise.  Agape is unconditional and selfless love, the variety of love that leads one to sacrifice for another person.  The person who lacks agape resides in spiritual darkness, but he or she who has agape knows the way to go.

This is an appropriate standard to apply to questions of individual actions and governmental policies, especially when lives are at risk.  Extending hospitality might constitute the difference between people living or dying, or of living in a better situation or in worse circumstances.  The commandment to love unconditionally and selflessly applies, does it not?  It might be politically unpopular, but it still applies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLOTTE ELLIOTT, JULIA ANNE ELLIOTT, AND EMILY ELLIOTT, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUMPHREY OF PRUM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF THEROUANNE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HAMPDEN GURNEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/the-commandment-to-commit-agape/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 8, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

3c34893v

Above:  Couples Dancing the Jitterbug, 1938

Photographer = Alan Fisher

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-134893

Stumbling Blocks

JULY 1, 2017

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The Collect:

O God, you direct our lives by your grace,

and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world.

Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 28:1-4

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Luke 17:1-4

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Happy are the people who know the shout of triumph;

they walk, O Lord, in the light of your contenance.

In your name they rejoice all day long

and are exalted in your righteousness.

For you are the glory of their strength,

and in your favour you lift up our heads.

Truly the Lord is our shield;

the Holy One of Israel is our king.

–Psalm 89:15-18, Common Worship (2000)

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[Jesus] said to his disciples, “There are bound to be causes of stumbling; but woe betide the person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round his neck than to cause the downfall of one of these little ones. So be on your guard. If your brother does wrong, reprove him; and if he repents, forgive him. Even if he wrongs you seven times in a day and comes back to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you are to forgive him.”

–Luke 17:1-4, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Years ago I saw a cartoon on a church office door. A man was standing at the Pearly Gates of Heaven. St. Peter said to him,

No, that’s not a sin either. You must have worried yourself to death.

There are varieties of stumbling blocks.

One type is obsessing over activities which are not sinful. I have read of congregational leaders calling members to account for playing Bridge or hosting a dance at home in the 1800s. In the early 1990s a United Methodist minister told me about an experience he had had in the 1960s, when he was a pastor in rural Houston County, Georgia. Parents in the community, in an effort to provide safe activities for their children, had organized a series of Saturday night chaperoned dances at the fellowship hall of the local Methodist Church. One night a local Southern Baptist pastor made a scene outside as he complained loudly about the sinful dancing going on indoors. I suppose that he thought he was reproving people in the spirit of Luke 17, but his congregation fired him shortly thereafter. Many of the people in the Methodist fellowship hall that night, O reader, were his parishioners.

Obsessing over small fries which are not even sinful as if they are detracts one from actual sins.

Many people have long mistaken medical problems, such as addictions and dependencies, as moral failings, and therefore sins. Yet having a medical condition—a physical illness (including mental illness, which has organic causes)–is no sin. One should strive to fulfill one’s responsibility to be a better person—including not caving into certain cravings—of course, but having a problem of that sort is no sin.

Neither is acting according to or having a characteristic with which one is born and over which one has no control sinful. The option to do one thing or another is part of what makes some deeds sinful. Where there is option there is no sin, which is doing the wrong thing when one can do the right thing.

False prophecy is a sin. The Bible names many prophets who said that which was convenient and politically expedient and who led people astray. And I can think of some false prophets with ministerial titles and television shows in my own time. Many of the broadcast of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), where the hair is big and much of the furniture, in the words of someone I heard speak in the late 1990s, would fit in at a New Orleans bordello. (I assume that the metaphor had mostly to do with furniture in pre-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.)

One can also erect stumbling blocks of the excessively permissive variety. I refer not so much to peccadilloes (not that they do not matter) as to patterns and structures in society. Peccadilloes, which are bad and therefore require correction, constitute low-hanging fruit. The real challenge is to climb the tree. The Bible contains more material about money, the uses of it, and economic injustice (including the exploitation of people) than it does about sexual practices and proclivities. One should, then, hear more about economics than sexuality from the pulpit, but often reality is the other way around. Not reproving people complicit in economic exploitation constitutes a failure on one’s part. Allegations of engaging in class warfare aside, engaging in such reproof is the right thing to do.

We humans exist chiefly to glorify and enjoy God forever. The Psalm speaks to that point from the Westminster Catechism. Forgiveness—something frequently difficult—is a vital part of approaching that goal—for both the one who pardons and he or she who receives the forgiveness. And so is appropriate reproof. Inappropriate reproof, however, does not help. May we, by grace, see through our blind spots and bad cultural programming to recognize that which is proper. Then may we affirm it and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DESIDERIUS/DIDIER OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUIBERT OF GORZE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST ROSSI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS, SCIENTIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/stumbling-blocks/

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Devotion for June 30, July 1, and July 2 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Jericho, 1925-1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Joshua and Acts, Part IV:  God, Love, Violence, and Moral Responsibility

SUNDAY, JUNE 30, 2019

MONDAY, JULY 1, 2019

TUESDAY, JULY 2, 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:

Joshua 5:1-6:5 (June 30)

Joshua 6:6-27 (July 1)

Joshua 7:1-26 (July 2)

Psalm 67 (Morning–June 30)

Psalm 51 (Morning–July 1)

Psalm 54 (Morning–July 2)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–June 30)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–July 1)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–July 2)

Acts 10:1-17 (June 30)

Acts 10:18-33 (July 1)

Acts 10:34-48 (July 2)

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Much of the Old Testament wearies me with its persistent violence.  The God of Joshua 5-7 is the warrior deity.  Excepting Rahab and her family,

They exterminated everything in the city with the sword:  man and woman, young and old, ox and sheep and ass.

–6:21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Yet, according to the story, Achan, one soldier, took some souvenirs for himself, thereby bringing down divine wrath on the nation and causing about thirty-six men to die.  Everyone was responsible for one man’s fault.

Huh?  And, to my previous point,

Whom would Jesus exterminate?

The cases of Rahab and her family and of Cornelius the Centurion and his household point to one great lesson:  Acceptability in God’s sight has nothing to do with nationality.  Rahab had acknowledged YHWH in Joshua 2, thus the Israelites spared her and her family.  Cornelius was a Roman officer–a centurion–in command of 100 men.  He was also a Gentile.  And, according to tradition, he became host to a house church and the first Bishop of Caesarea.  I wonder what would have happened had St. Simon Peter not received and accepted his new understanding (Acts 10:34-43).

Although the decision of others affect us, we are morally responsible for ourselves unless a severe brain problem renders us incapable of acting responsibly.  Christ calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves and to serve one another, not to exterminate each other in the name of God.  And, in Christ, one spiritual brethren come from a wide variety of backgrounds, some of them surprising to us.  Perfect love casts out fear and violence; may we never forget that great lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTOLOME DE LAS CASAS, WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/joshua-and-acts-part-iv-god-love-violence-and-moral-responsibility/

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Proper 8, Year B   18 comments

Above:  Statue of Reconciliation, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry, England, United Kingdom

Image Source = Rebecca Kennison

Community, Beloved and Broken

The Sunday Closest to June 29

The Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 1, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

2 Samuel 1:1, 7-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

After the death of Saul, when David had returned from defeating the Amalekites, David remained two days in Ziklag.

David intoned this lamentation over Saul and his son Jonathan.  (He ordered that The Song of the Bow he taught to the people of Judah; it is written in the Book of Jashar.)  He said:

Your glory, O Israel, lies slain upon your high places!

How the mighty have fallen!

Tell it not in Gath,

proclaim it not in the streets of Ashkelon;

or the daughters of the Philistines will rejoice,

the daughters of the uncircumcised will exult.

You mountains of Gilboa,

let there be no dew or rain upon you,

nor bounteous fields!

For there the shield of the mighty was defiled,

the shield of Saul, anointed with oil no more.

From the blood of the slain,

from the fat of the mighty,

the bow of Jonathan did not turn back,

nor the sword of Saul return empty.

Saul and Jonathan, beloved and lovely!

In life and in death they were not divided;

they were swifter than eagles,

they were stronger than lions.

O daughters of Israel, weep over Saul,

who clothed you with crimson, in luxury,

who put ornaments of gold on your apparel.

How the mighty have fallen

in the midst of the battle!

Jonathan lies slain upon your high places.

I am distressed for you, my brother Jonathan;

greatly beloved were you to me;

your love to me was wonderful,

passing the love of women.

How the mighty have fallen,

and the weapons of war perished!

Psalm 130 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;

LORD, hear my voice;

let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2  If you , LORD, were to note what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

3  For there is forgiveness with you;

therefore you shall be feared.

4  I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him;

in his word is my hope.

5  My soul waits for the LORD,

more than watchmen in the morning,

more than watchmen in the morning.

6  O Israel, wait for the LORD,

for with the LORD there is mercy;

7  With him there is plenteous redemption,

and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Wisdom of Solomon 1:12-15, 2:23-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

Do not invite death by the error of your life,

or bring on destruction by the works of your hands;

because God did not make death,

and he does not delight in the death of the living.

For he created all things that they might exist;

the generative forces of the world are wholesome,

and there is no destructive poison in them,

and the dominion of Hades is not on earth.

For forgiveness is immortal.

…for God created us for incorruption,

and made us in the image of his own eternity.

but through the devil’s envy death entered the world,

and those who belong to his company experience it.

Response, Option #2A:  Lamentations 3:21-33 (New Revised Standard Version):

But this I call to mind,

and therefore I have hope:

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases,

his mercies never come to an end;

they are new every morning;

great is your faithfulness.

“The LORD is my portion,” says my soul,

“therefore I will hope in him.”

The LORD is good to those who wait for him,

to the soul that seeks him.

It is good that one should wait quietly

for the salvation of the LORD.

It is good for one to bear

the yoke in youth,

to sit alone in silence

when the Lord has imposed it,

to put one’s mouth to the dust

(there may yet be hope),

to give one’s cheek to the smiter,

and be filled with insults.

For the Lord will not

reject forever.

Although he causes grief, he will have compassion

according to the abundance of his steadfast love;

for he does not willingly afflict

or grieve anyone.

Response:  Option #2B:  Psalm 30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 I will exalt you, O LORD,

because you have lifted me up

and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

 O LORD my God, I cried out to you,

and you restored me to health.

 You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead;

you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

 Sing to the LORD, you servants of his;

give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,

his favor for a lifetime.

6 Weeping may spend the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

 While I felt secure, I said,

“I shall never be disturbed.

You,  LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”

 Then you hid my face,

and I was filled with terror.

 I cried to you, O LORD;

I pleaded with the LORD, saying,

10  “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?

will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

11  Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me;

O LORD, be my helper.”

12  You have turned my wailing into dancing;

you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

13  Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

SECOND READING

2 Corinthians 8:7-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

As you excel in everything– in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in utmost eagerness, and in our love for you– so we want you to excel also in this generous undertaking.

I do not say this as a command, but I am testing the genuineness of your love against the earnestness of others. For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. And in this matter I am giving my advice: it is appropriate for you who began last year not only to do something but even to desire to do something– now finish doing it, so that your eagerness may be matched by completing it according to your means. For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable according to what one has– not according to what one does not have. I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,

The one who had much did not have too much,

and the one who had little had too little.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 5:21-43 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered around him; and he was by the sea. Then one of the leaders of the synagogue named Jairus came and, when he saw him, fell at his feet and begged him repeatedly,

My little daughter is at the point of death. Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.

He went with him.

And a large crowd followed him and pressed in on him. Now there was a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years. She had endured much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had; and she was no better, but rather grew worse. She had heard about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, for she said,

If I but touch his clothes, I will be made well.

Immediately her hemorrhage stopped; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease. Immediately aware that power had gone forth from him, Jesus turned about in the crowd and said,

Who touched my clothes?

And his disciples said to him,

You see the crowd pressing in on you; how can you say, “Who touched me?”

He looked all around to see who had done it. But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling, fell down before him, and told him the whole truth. He said to her,

Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.

While he was still speaking, some people came from the leader’s house to say,

Your daughter is dead. Why trouble the teacher any further?

But overhearing what they said, Jesus said to the leader of the synagogue,

Do not fear, only believe.

He allowed no one to follow him except Peter, James, and John, the brother of James. When they came to the house of the leader of the synagogue, he saw a commotion, people weeping and wailing loudly. When he had entered, he said to them,

Why do you make a commotion and weep? The child is not dead but sleeping.

And they laughed at him. Then he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was. He took her by the hand and said to her,

Talitha cum,

which means,

Little girl, get up!

And immediately the girl got up and began to walk about (she was twelve years of age). At this they were overcome with amazement. He strictly ordered them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone: Grant us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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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Some Related Posts:

Proper 8, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/proper-8-year-a/

2 Samuel 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/week-of-2-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

Wisdom of Solomon 1-2:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-seventh-day-of-lent/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-tuesday-year-1/

Mark 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/week-of-4-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

Jerusalem:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/jerusalem-by-william-blake/

O Lord, You Gave Your Servant John:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

New Every Morning is the Love:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/new-every-morning-is-the-love-by-john-keble/

A Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/a-prayer-by-st-francis-of-assisi/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/11/911-a-prayer-of-st-francis-of-assisi/

A Franciscan Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-franciscan-blessing/

Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/where-cross-the-crowded-ways-of-life/

A Prayer for Shalom:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-for-shalom/

On a ______:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/on-a/

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We are social creatures–some more so than others.  But we are all social creatures.  This fact helps explain why solitary confinement is such a strong punishment.  Furthermore, empathy helps bind us to each other.  It is to empathy that Paul appeals in 2 Corinthians 8:7-15.  Nobody should have too much or too little, he wrote; there should be a “fair balance” between the abundance of one and the needs of another.

In other words, we ought to take care of each other.  Corporations with enough cash on hand to spend millions or billions or dollars to purchase patents for things they did not invent for the purpose of either suing other corporations for patent infringement or intimidating other corporations from suing them for patent infringement have enough cash on hand to hire actual human beings.  There is an imbalance between abundance and needs.  As Martin Luther King, Jr., said on April 4, 1967, people should matter more than things and other forms of wealth.  To value property more highly than people is to have an inverse moral order.

We read of Jesus healing a woman with a persistent hemorrhage.  This condition had afflicted her for twelve years, during which she could not earn money and she was ritually unclean.  Therefore she was marginal in her community.  But now she was once again whole.

The woman had to deal with stigma over a physical problem.  David had another difficulty:  an estranged father-in-law who wanted him dead and against whom he was leading a rebellion.  Despite these facts, David had spared Saul’s life when he had the chance to take it.  And David mourned both Saul and Jonathan, his brother-in-law and best friend, who had died recently.  He referred to both of them as “beloved and cherished.”

We should grieve when relationships break, and we ought to mourn the fact that there is no way to repair some interpersonal ruptures due to realities such as death.  We should also be discontented when unjust economic disparities persist.  What can we do about it, whether in a family, community, county, state, national, or international level.  Alone we might not be able to do anything, but what can we accomplish collectively?  That is a question with an answer worth finding.  For, as the author of the Wisdom of Solomon reminds us,

God created us for incorruption,

and made us in the image of his own eternity.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/community-beloved-and-broken/

Week of Proper 8: Monday, Year 1   9 comments

Above: Abraham and the Three Angels (1865), by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Honesty, Mercy, and Judgment

JULY 1, 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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Genesis 18:16-33 (An American Translation):

Setting out from there, the men directed their steps toward Sodom, while Abraham went with them to see them off.  Then the LORD thought,

Shall I hide what I am about to do from Abraham, seeing that Abraham is bound to become a great a powerful nation, and through him all the nations of the earth will invoke blessings on one another?  No, I will make it known to him, in order that he may give instructions to his sons and his family after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is good and right, so that the LORD may fulfill for Abraham what he promised them.

So the LORD said,

Because the outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and their sin is very grace, I must go down and see whether or not their conduct entirely answers to the outcry against them that has reached me; I would know.

So the men departed from there, and went off to Sodom, while the LORD remained standing before Abraham.  Abraham then went up to him, and said,

Wilt thou really sweep away good along with bad?  Suppose there are fifty good men in the city, wilt thou really sweep it away, and not spare the place for the sake of the fifty good men that are in it?  Far be it from thee to do such a thing as this, to make the good perish along with the bad, so that good and bad fare alike!  Far be it from thee!  Shall not the judge of the whole earth himself act justly?

So the LORD said,

If I find in Sodom fifty good men, within the city, I will spare the whole place for their sake.

Abraham rejoined,

Here I am venturing to speak to the LORD, and I mere dust ashes!  Suppose there are five short of the fifty good men; wouldst thou destroy the whole city by reason of the five?

He replied,

I will not destroy it, if I find forty-five there.

Once more he said to him,

Suppose only forty are to be found there?

He replied,

I will not do it for the sake of the forty.

Then he said,

Pray, let not my Lord be angry if I should say:  suppose only thirty are to be found there?

He said,

I will not do it, if I find thirty there.

He said,

Here I am venturing to speak to the LORD; suppose only twenty are to be found there?

He said,

I will not destroy it for the sake of the twenty.

Then he said,

Pray, let not my Lord be angry if I should speak just once more; suppose only ten are to be found there?

He said,

I will not destroy it for the sake of the ten.

As soon as he finished speaking to Abraham, the LORD went away, while Abraham returned home.

Psalm 103:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins

and heals all your infirmities;

4 He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

5 He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and all his works to the children of Israel.

8 The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

Matthew 8:18-22 (An American Translation):

Then Jesus, seeing a crowd about him, gave orders to cross over to the other side.  And a scribe came up and said to him,

Master, I will follow you wherever you are going!

And Jesus said to him,

Foxes have holes and wild birds have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head!

And another of his disciples said to him,

Let me first go, sir, and bury my father.

But Jesus said to him,

Follow me, and leave the dead to bury their own dead!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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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Divine judgment and mercy are intertwined, and an honest response to God is essential for a healthy relationship with God.  This is my theme for this post.

There is an oft-repeated stereotype about God, as depicted in the Old Testament:  This is a vengeful, angry deity.  A stereotype is, by definition, an overgeneralization.  A certain statement is true sometimes, perhaps much of the time, but not all of the time.  So God does destroy Sodom and Gomorrah in Genesis 19 (the next chapter) but not before Abraham, who has come to realize to whom he is speaking (El Shaddai), and convinces God not to destroy Sodom if twenty righteous men live there.  So actions have consequences, but grace is still present.

In the Gospel of Matthew, with Jesus have finished healing several people, our Lord and Savior is preparing to get away from the crowd.  A scribe addresses him respectfully, saying “Master, I will follow you wherever you are going!”  Jesus replies honestly that he has “nowhere to lay his head.”  The cost of discipleship can be high, and Jesus is honest about this fact.  A second man says that he must bury his father, in accordance with an obligation sacred in Judaism.  Jesus rebuffs him.  What are we supposed to make of this?

Commentaries disagree.  Was the man sincere or not?  Had his father just died or was the man saying that he would follow Jesus in a few years, after his father had died and he had buried him?  Or did the man have to bury his father or just see to it that someone buried his father?  I posit that the text is vague on all these points.  Nevertheless, I propose that it is wise to interpret this exchange in the context of Matthew 10:37-39:

No one who loves father or mother more than me is worthy of me, and no one who will not take up his cross and follow me is worthy of me.  Whoever gains his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will gain it.

How is that for honesty?

Without pretending to have God in a box I can understand completely (for nobody does), I propose that honesty is the best policy with God.  May we approach the throne of grace with our intercessions, concerns, doubts, fears, and thanksgivings.  Consider the Book of Job; God speaks to only one character, Job, who is the only person who asks God questions.  Earlier in Genesis 18, Sarah denies having laughed, and God says matter-of-factly that yes, she did.  Yet she still becomes a mother.  If we cannot be ourselves with God, with whom can be genuine?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/honesty-mercy-and-judgment/