Archive for the ‘July 6’ Category

Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 9, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ruins of Corinth, 1898

Above:  Ruins of Corinth, Greece, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07406

Generosity and Grace

JULY 5, 2019, and JULY 6, 2019

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

The Collect:

O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus,

you are the city that shelters us, the mother who comforts us.

With your Spirit accompany us on our life’s journey,

that we may spread your peace in all the world,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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

The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 51:47-58 (Thursday)

Zechariah 14:10-21 (Friday)

Psalm 66:1-9 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 8:1-7 (Thursday)

Luke 9:1-6 (Friday)

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

Nations, bless our God,

let the sound of his praise be heard;

he brings us to life

and keeps our feet from stumbling.

–Psalm 66:8-9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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

That is the vision in Zechariah 14.  God is the king of the earth in that vision, but many people continue to resist.  Their fate, which verses 12-14 describe vividly, will be unpleasant.  Yet those who follow God will have a different fate.  Judgment and mercy exist in balance in this reading, as well as in Jeremiah 51:47-58, which predicted God’s judgment on the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire for its idolatry, violence, and hubris yet deliverance for exiles.

Certain judgments always remain in the purview of God, who knows far more than any of we mere mortals can ever aspire to comprehend.  Our Lord and Savior instructed his Apostles to leave places where they encountered rejection, for God would handle the situation from that time forward.  That advice applies to messengers of God today.  We should proclaim the good news of Christ.  Those who reject this message of grace are worse off for the rejection, but that is a matter for God to handle.  We have good news to proclaim; may we focus on that task, wherever it takes us.

As St. Francis of Assisi said, “Proclaim the gospel at all times; use words when necessary.”  One way of preaching grace is demonstrating it, as in 2 Corinthians 8:1-7.  There was a collection for the church at Jerusalem.  Macedonian churches, afflicted with poverty, had given generously.  The challenge to the Corinthian church was to give generously also.  Doing so would prove the genuineness of their love for strangers and fellow Christians.

I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your want, that there may be equality.  As it is written, “He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered had no lack.”

–Chapter 8, verses 13-15, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Hubris goes before the fall, but active compassion builds up others.  There is more than enough for everyone to have enough; scarcity is a human creation.  In the divine order abundance, not scarcity, is the rule.  Grace, for example, is abundant.  Do we really affirm that truth?  If we do, we will not seek to horde it for ourselves, but we will share it selflessly, and we will find that we always have more to give, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/12/generosity-and-grace/

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

Advertisements

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 9, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

March on Washington 1963

Above:  The March on Washington, August 28, 1963

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number =  LC-DIG-ds-04411

Beloved Community

JULY 5, 6, and 7, 2018

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

The Collect:

God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us

to proclaim the coming of your kingdom.

Give us the courage you gave the apostles,

that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace

in every circumstance of life,

in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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

The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 7:1-15 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 7:16-26 (Friday)

Jeremiah 7:27-34 (Saturday)

Psalm 123 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 4:8-13 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 10:7-11 (Friday)

Matthew 8:18-22 (Saturday)

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

To you I lift up my eyes,

to you that are enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master,

or the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress.

So our eyes wait upon the Lord our God,

until he have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.

Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of the arrogant,

and of the contempt of the proud.

–Psalm 123, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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

The composite of the readings from Jeremiah speaks of the importance of treating people properly and refraining from committing idolatry.  This is a societal, not an individual issue.  The text refers to social institutions, in which individuals are complicit.  The divine call to repentance–one which the text indicates will fall on deaf ears and hard hearts–says that sacred rituals and houses of God do not function as talismans, protecting the society and individuals from the consequences of sinful actions and inactions.  There is nothing wrong with the rituals when people participate in them with reverence, but hiding behind them while committing idolatry and perpetuating or condoning injustice makes a mockery of those rites.

Often certain people suffer because of the sinful actions and/or inactions of others.  That theme exists also in the pericope from 1 Corinthians.  There St. Paul the Apostle wrote from a spiritually healthy attitude:

When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we speak kindly.

–1 Corinthians 4:12b-13a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As multiple passages of scripture, not to mention the historical record, attest, following Jesus might, depending on the circumstances, lead to persecution and suffering.  Offering excuses as part of an effort to avoid following Jesus is an inadequate substitute for making a commitment to him.  Our words and deeds, when they are more or less consistent with a Christian pilgrimage (the best we will be able to achieve via grace, given our human nature), will glorify God and draw others to God and improve our societies.

Society is  not an abstraction.  No, it is people.  Societies have become what they have become because of human decisions.  Not only can they change, they have changed and are changing.  May they change to increase justice and decrease injustice.  May rates of discrimination go down and rates of mutual respect go up.  May the shedding of the blood of the innocent cease.  May oppression of the strangers, the orphans, and the widows among us come to an end.  May we put away our idols, which include greed, insensitivity to human needs, and attachments to racial and ethnic prejudices and hatreds.  May we act on the recognition that all of us are in the same boat, therefore whatsoever we do to another, we do to ourselves.

God has the power to save the world, but we can leave it better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER

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

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/beloved-community/

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

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 9, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Candle Flame

Above:  Candle Flame

Image in the Public Domain

Lights in the Darkness

JULY 6 and 7, 2017

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

The Collect:

You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised.

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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

The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 1:1-6 (Thursday)

Zechariah 2:6-13 (Friday)

Psalm 145:8-14 (Both Days)

Romans 7:1-6 (Thursday)

Romans 7:7-20 (Friday)

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

All your works praise you, O LORD,

and your faithful servants bless you.

They make known the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your power;

That the peoples may know of your power

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

–Psalm 145:10-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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

The readings from First Zechariah encourage societal repentance.  The remnant of the Hebrews consisted of descendants of members of a society which had rebelled against God–to the extent of engaging in ritual child sacrifice–and paid terribly for its actions.  The repentance to which God called the Hebrews was not for their sake alone.  No, they were to become a light to the nations; that was their calling.

Each of us, likewise, has a vocation to function as an instrument of God in the midst of those around us at any given moment.  This point brings me to Romans 7.  The law, St. Paul the Apostle reminds us, provides labels for and convicts us of our sins.  We ought to do better, but we cannot succeed on our own power.  As the best part of the chapter, which our lections omit, tells us:

I discover this principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self, I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law that my mind that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible (1989)

And, since society is just people, this principle applies on the societal level also.  As A Brief Statement of Belief (1962) of the former Presbyterian Church in the United States (1861-1983), the old “Southern Presbyterian Church,” summarizes total depravity so well, with a Neo-Orthodox twist:

Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us more and more with fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive power so that even men of good will are unconsciously and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

The Confession of Faith of The Presbyterian Church in the United States (Richmond, VA:  Board of Christian Education, 1973), page 332

That quote summarizes many social problems past and present well, does it not?

As for me, I read St. Paul’s words about not doing what he wants to do and doing what he does not want to do and identify with them.  I have, for example, known that God has called me to forgive certain people.  I have wanted to obey that command, but I have been unable to do so on my own power.  I have, in fact, been of two minds on the subject.  But at least I have wanted to obey God; that has been a fine start.  And God has empowered me to do the rest.  So thanks to God, I have found the freedom of forgiveness, which only one who has struggled to forgive can know.

Our duty is to respond favorably to God, who will empower us to do the rest.  Our free will, by which we can say “yes” to God is itself evidence of grace, so we live in the midst of divine graciousness.  May we therefore say with the author of Psalm 145:

The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

–Verse 8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Then may we endeavor to act graciously, compassionately, and kindly, becoming be grace beacons of the light of God, seeking to change unjust social and political structures (in which many of us are unwittingly complicit) and inspiring others to do the same.  Hebrew prophets would certainly approve.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

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

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

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/lights-in-the-darkness/

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

Devotion for July 5 and 6 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  King Herod Agrippa I

Image in the Public Domain

Joshua and Acts, Part VII:  Giving Glory to God

FRIDAY, JULY 5, and SATURDAY, JULY 6, 2019

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

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

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

The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 23:1-16 (July 5)

Joshua 24:1-31 (July 6)

Psalm 86 (Morning–July 5)

Psalm 122 (Morning–July 6)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–July 5)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening–July 6)

Acts 12:1-25 (July 5)

Acts 13:1-12 (July 6)

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

Joshua’s farewell, with its emphasis on keeping the covenant with God (or else…), sets up the Book of Judges and summarizes the theology of much of the Old Testament.  I admit to continuing to struggle with this God concept, which depicts God as one of whom to be terrified and not with whom to have a positive relationship.  “Fear of God,” a healthy attitude, is one of awestruck respect, not terror.  Despite my struggles with a certain God concept, I grasp the point that, by keeping the covenant, people were glorifying God.  So, by doing the opposite, they were not glorifying God.

Herod Agrippa I (lived 110 BCE-44 CE, reigned 37-44 CE) was a mean person.  He, a grandson of the infamous Herod the Great, was also a client ruler for the Roman Empire.  Agrippa I was also a close friend of Emperor Caligula and an energetic persecutor of Christianity.  (My source = The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993, page 283)

Acts 12 confirms a negative portrait of Herod Agrippa I.  He ordered the execution of the prison guards whom God had thwarted.  And he ordered the beheading of James Bar-Zebedee, brother of St. John the Apostle and first cousin of Jesus.  And who knows what Agrippa I might have done to Peter?

The Romans and their allies, for all the persecution they unleashed on the church, could not kill it?  Successive waves of persecution elsewhere have also failed.  In fact, persecution has usually backfired, leading to more conversions.  Herod Agrippa I and his ilk failed.  For that I give glory to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALBERT JOHN LUTHULI, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF J. B. PHILLIPS, BIBLE TRANSLATOR AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/joshua-and-acts-part-vii-giving-glory-to-god/

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

Week of Proper 8: Friday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  A U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

Too Late to Repent?

JULY 6, 2018

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

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.

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

Amos 8:1-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

This is what my Lord GOD showed me:  There was a basket of figs.  He said,

What do you see, Amos?

I replied,

A basket of figs.

And the LORD said to me:

The hour of doom has come for my people Israel; I will not pardon them again.  And the singing women of the palace shall howl on that day

–declares my Lord GOD:

So many corpses

Left lying everywhere!

Hush!

Listen to his, you who devour the needy, annihilating the poor of the land, saying,

If only the new moon were over, so that we could sell grain; the sabbath, so that we could offer wheat for sale, using an ephah that is too small, and a shekel that is too big, tilting a dishonest scale, and selling grain refuse as grain!  We will buy the poor for silver, the needy for a pair of sandals.

The LORD swears by the Pride of Jacob:

I shall never forget any of their doings.

Shall not the earth shake for this

And all that dwell on it mourn?

Shall it not all rise like the Nile

And surge like the Nile of Egypt?

And in that day

–declares my Lord God–

I will make the sun set at noon,

I will darken the earth on a sunny day.

I will turn your festivals into mourning

And all your festivals into mourning

And all your songs into dirges;

I will put sackcloth on all loins

And tonsures on every head.

I will make it mourn as for an only child,

All of it as on a bitter day.

A time is coming

–declares my Lord GOD–

when I will send a famine upon the land:  not a hunger for bread or a thirst for water, but for the hearing of the words of the LORD.  Men shall wander from sea t sea and from north to east to seek the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it.

In that day, the beautiful maidens and the young men shall faint with thirst–

Those who swear by the guilt of Samaria,

Saying, “As your God lives, Dan,”

And “As the way to Beer-sheba lives”–

They shall fall to rise no more.

Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

Matthew 9:9-13 (An American Translation):

Afterward, as Jesus was passing along from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tollhouse, and he said to him,

Follow me!

And he got up and followed him.

While Jesus was at home at table, a number of tax-collectors and irreligious people came in joined Jesus and his disciples at table.  And the Pharisees observed it, and they said to his disciples,

Why does your master eat with tax-collectors and irreligious people?

But he heard it, and said,

It is not the well but the sick who have to have the doctor!  Go and learn what the saying means, “It is mercy, not sacrifice, that I care for.”  I did not come to invite the pious but the irreligious.

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

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.

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

A Related Post:

Week of Proper 8:  Friday,  Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-1/

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

I enjoy wordplay.  I eve have my own blog devoted to puns.  So imagine, if you, O reader, will, my interest in noting the Hebrew-language pun early in Amos 8.  “Kayitz,” the Hebrew word for “summer fruit” or “figs”,” sounds like “ketz,” the Hebrew word for “the end.”  Amos sees a basket of figs or summer fruit, a sign that the end is near.  This pun is serious.

And why was the end near?  As Amos keeps repeating–just in case we have missed it for the previous seven chapters–cheating, exploitation, systemic corruption–angered God.  And this had been going on for some time.  Those who benefited to the detriment of others showed no signs of changing their ways.  So God declared that the time for forgiveness had ended and that judgment day was near.

Now for the Gospel reading.

The Jewish men who collected taxes for the occupying Roman Empire cheated others.  These men lived–often quite comfortably–off the difference between what Rome required them to collect and what they collected.  Matthew/Levi was a tax collector before becoming an Apostle.  He repented and followed Jesus, with whom he shared a scandalous meal.  And Matthew/Levi invited some others who sought to reform their lives.

To repent, of course, is to turn around and change one’s mind.  That was what would have made glad the heart of God in much of the Old Testament, including the Book of Amos.  What we do affects others for good or for ill.  There, of course, is nothing morally objectionable about earning a just profit, but the economic exploitation of people is a sin.  To base one’s economic good fortunes on gouging people financially is wrong at all times and at all places.  And it makes God angry.

Maybe those who practice this sin still have time to repent.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/reading-and-pondering-amos-part-five/

Week of Proper 8: Saturday, Year 1   11 comments

Above: Isaac Blessing Jacob, by Govert Flinck (1638)

Image in the Public Domain

God Works Through Unexpected Means Sometimes

JULY 6, 2019

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

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.

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

Genesis 27:1-9, 15-29 (An American Translation):

One day, when Isaac was old and his eyes so dim that he could not see, he called his older son Esau.

My son!

he said to him.

Here I am,

he replied.

He said,

Here I am an old man, not knowing what day I may die.  Get your weapons, then, your quiver and bow, and go out into the fields, and hunt some game for me.  Then make me a tasty dish, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, that I may give you my blessing before I die.

Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac when Isaac spoke to his son Esau; so when Esau went off to the fields to hunt game for his father, Rebekah said to her son Jacob,

I have just heard your father say to your brother Esau, ‘Bring me some game, and make me a tasty dish to eat, that I may bless you before the LORD before I die.’  Now then, my son, obey me in the charge that I give you.  Go to the flock and get two fat kids for me there, that I may make them into a tasty dish for your father, such as he likes….

…and taking the best clothes of her older son Esau, which she had in the house, Rebekah dressed her younger son Jacob in them; she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth parts of his neck, and committed the tasty dish and bread which she had made into the hands of her son Jacob.  Then he went in to his father, and said,

Father!

He said,

Yes, who are you, my son?

Jacob said to his father,

I am Esau, your first-born; I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat once more of my game, that you may give me your blessing.

But Isaac said to his son,

How ever did you come to find it so quickly, my son?

He said,

Because the LORD your God brought it in my path.

Isaac then said to Jacob,

Come up close that I may feel you, my son, to see whether you really are my son Esau or not.

So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him, and said,

The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are those of Esau.

Hence he did not detect him, because his hands were hairy, like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him.

Are you really my son Esau?

he said.

I am,

he replied.

So he said,

Bring me some of your game to eat, my son, that I may give you my blessing.

So he brought it to him, and he ate; he also brought him wine, and he drank.  Then his father Isaac said to him,

Come here and kiss me, my son.

So he went up and kissed him; and when he smelt his clothes, he blessed him, saying,

Ah, my son’s smell is like that of a field tht the LORD has blessd.

May God give you of the heaven’s dew,

Of earth’s fatness, with plenty of grass and wine!

Nations shall serve you,

And peoples bow down to you.

Be master of your brothers,

And let your mother’s sons bow down to you!

Cursed be they who curse you,

And blessed b they who bless you!

Psalm 135:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Praise the Name of the LORD;

give praise, you servants of the LORD.

2 You who stand in the house of the LORD,

in the courts of the house of our God.

3 Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;

sing praises to his Name, for it is lovely.

4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself

and Israel for his own possession.

5 For I know that the LORD is great,

and that our Lord is above all gods.

6 The LORD does whatever pleases him, in heaven and on earth,

in the seas and all the deeps.

Matthew 9:14-17 (An American Translation):

Then the disciples of John came up to him [Jesus] and said,

Why is it that we and the Pharisees are keeping the fast, while your disciples are not keeping it?

Jesus said to them,

Can wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?  But a time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and they will fast then.  But no one sews a patch of unshrunken cloth on an old coat, for the patch will tear away from the coat, and make the hole worse than ever.  And people do not put new wine into old wine-skins, or if they do, the skins burst, and the wine runs out and the skins are spoiled.  But people put new wine into fresh wine skins, and so both are saved.

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

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.

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

The Bible is brutally honest about many major figures with whom the reader is supposed to sympathize.  Jacob, who becomes Israel, for whom the Jewish nation is named, is an opportunist.  Rebekah, his mother, is a schemer.  Isaac, his aged and blind father, seems not to be at the peak of his mental powers in Genesis 27.  And Esau, the trouble-maker, is twice an aggrieved party at the hand of his brother Jacob in Genesis.  Yet, according to an oracle in Genesis 25:33, Jacob is supposed to take precedence, and he does.  This happens by underhanded methods, but it comes true.

I dislike all these characters by Genesis 27, but Biblical writers want me to pick a side.  The Bible is a complicated volume.

In Matthew 9:14-17 we have a variation of the Markan teaching about wineskins and wine (Mark 2:18-22).  Matthew adds the “so both are saved” element.  So, in Matthew, there is value in traditions and innovations, but not all traditions and all innovations.  Consider the theology of the Gospel of Matthew:  Jesus praises Torah piety, but not many of those who claim to practice it; they get it wrong.  So Jesus (both old and new) breaks many traditions while keeping others.  His innovative variety of Torah piety is what people should have been keeping all along.  He scandalizes many respectable religious establishment types by eating with irreligious people and Roman collaborators, and by not fasting when others do.

Consider the Apostles of Jesus, too.  These were imperfect men.  They spent most of the timeframe of the Gospels squabbling and failing to understand even basic teachings.  Yet God worked through them, as much as God worked through Rebekah and Jacob.  And God works through us, who are quite flawed.

God is sovereign.  That is good news.  Are we willing to recognize both the old and new ways in which God works?

I have particular take on the old-new debate.  I belong to The Episcopal Church, which replaces its Book of Common Prayer from time to time.  To be precise, this has happened previously in 1789, 1892, 1928, and 1979.  Liturgical revision immediately prior to 1979 began in 1967, the proposed Prayer Book arrived in 1976, and the General Convention approved it three years later, but still some of my fellow Episcopalians refer to it as the “new” Prayer Book.  As I heard a catechist in the Diocese of Georgia ask in 2000, how old does the 1979 Prayer Book have to be before it ceases to be new?

We humans like our traditions, but we ought not transform them into idols.  No, they should be icons.  The difference is that an idol replaces God and distracts our attention from God.  But an icon is a visible representation of God, who is invisible; we see God through an icon.  A Prayer Book, like any tradition, ought to be a means to an end, not an end.  From time to time a new one arrives; there is room for both innovation and tradition.

As for me, the 1928 Prayer Book is a relic, a volume from which I have never worshiped.  I am a 1979 Prayer Booker.  It contains the best of its predecessor volumes while incorporating many pleasant innovations, not least of which is Eucharistic Prayer C from Holy Eucharist Rite II.  The book, like all products of human hands and minds, is imperfect.  But it is excellent, and through it God nourishes my spiritual life.  For that I am grateful.

It is an excellent wineskin.

This might surprise those oppose such formal liturgies, but so be it.  God works through them and their prayers, too.

God works in many ways, through many vehicles of various types.  Thanks be to God!

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/god-works-through-unexpected-means-sometimes/