Archive for the ‘July 7’ Category

Devotion for Proper 9, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Isaac Upon Esau’s Return, by Giotto di Bondone

Image in the Public Domain

The Scandal of Grace

JULY 7, 2019

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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Genesis 27:1-42 or Isaiah 2:11-22

Psalm 12

1 Corinthians 1:18-31

Matthew 8:1-17

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The scandal of grace is especially notorious.  Yes, practicing deceit does have consequences for people–not just the deceitful ones.  Nevertheless, God can use deceit to spread grace.  One can be a vehicle of grace despite oneself.  Divine grace is all around us, but we miss much of it because we are not looking for it from the sources it approaches us.

To sit in judgment on those religious authorities who rejected Jesus is easy in 2018.  Yet one should be cautious when doing so, for one might proceed from a standard according to which one, if intellectually honest, must condemn oneself.  We churchy people of 2018 are heirs to an ancient tradition, just as the religious authorities with whom Jesus tangled were.  If we are honest, we might have to admit that the characters most like us in many of the stories of Jesus worked in the Temple and fussed whenever Jesus healed on the Sabbath.  We are defenders of what we understand to be orthodoxy, just as the Pharisees and Sadducees were defenders of orthodoxy, as they understood it.

Getting into heaven is mostly about grace, so may we, while seeking to respond faithfully to God, refrain from the heresy of works-based righteousness.  Our doctrine is important, but admission to heaven does not depend on passing a canonical examination.  If were like a canonical examination, admission to Heaven would depend on the work of believing the proper doctrines.  Affirming correct doctrine is positive, of course, but it is not a saving work.

May we, by grace, receive and retain salvation–not just for ourselves and our selfish reasons, but for the benefit of other people and the glory of God.  And may we, by grace, recognize grace, rejoice in it, and never find it scandalous or offensive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR; AND HER DAUGHTER, SAINT CATHERINE OF SWEDEN, SUPERIOR OF THE ORDER OF THE MOST HOLY SAVIOR

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE TEAGUE CASE, PROFESSOR OF RELIGIOUS EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP EVANS AND JOHN LLOYD, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF THEODOR LILEY CLEMENS, ENGLISH MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, AND COMPOSER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/07/23/the-scandal-of-grace/

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Devotion for Proper 9 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Christ Healing, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Compassion and the Sabbath

JULY 7, 2019

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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Numbers 12:1-15

Psalm 53

Acts 12:6-19

Luke 14:2-6

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The standard English-language translation of the opening line of Psalms 14 and 53 is that a fool thinks that there is no God.   However, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) has the benighted man thinking that God does not care.   This gets to the point of practical atheism, not the modern, widespread reality of theoretical atheism, rare in the ancient Middle East.  Indeed, God cares jealously in the Bible.  God objects strenuously whenever someone challenges Moses.  God also sends an angel to break St. Simon Peter out of prison.

The portion from Luke 14 exists within a larger narrative context–the eschatological banquet, symbolic of the Kingdom of God.  Jesus is at a banquet at the home of a leading Pharisee on the Sabbath.   In the reading assigned for today our Lord and Savior heals a man afflicted with dropsy, or severe retention of fluid.  The fact that he does this on the Sabbath becomes controversial immediately.  Jesus rebuts that even they rescue a child or an ox from a well on the Sabbath.  They cannot argue against him.

Father Raymond E. Brown, in his magisterial Introduction to the New Testament (1997), wrote the following:

Actually at Qumran there was a prohibition of pulling a newborn animal our of a pit on the Sabbath (CD 11:13-14).

–Page 248

Every day is a proper day to act out of compassion, according to Jesus, although not the community at Qumran.

In the great eschatological banquet the blind, the lame, the poor, and the crippled are welcome–even preferred guests.   One ought to invite them because it is the right thing to do.  One should commit good deeds out of compassion and piety, not the desire for reciprocal treatment.  Grace is not transactional.

The temptation to relate to God in transactional terms is a powerful one.  It is, among other things, a form of works-based righteousness, a major theological error.  Keeping the Covenant, at its best, is a matter of faithful response to God.  (“If you love me, keep my commandments.”–John 14:15)  However useful having a list of instructions can be, that list can easily become for one a checklist to manipulate, until one violates major tenets while honoring minor facets.  In the Jewish tradition one finds longstanding recognition of a summary of the Law of Moses:  Love God fully and one’s neighbor as oneself.

So healing a man on the Sabbath should not be controversial, should it?  (John 7:22-24)

But what about Sabbath laws?  There is a death penalty for working on the Sabbath (Numbers 15:32-36), except when there is not (Leviticus 12:3).  If the eighth day of a boy’s life falls on the Sabbath, the circumcision of the child must, according to the Law of Moses, occur on the Sabbath.  But do not dare to collect sticks on the Sabbath!   Removing part of a male on the Sabbath is permissible, so why not making someone whole?

Every day is a good day to act compassionately, according to Jesus.  God cares about the needs of people each day.  So should we.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDITH BOYLE MACALISTER, ENGLISH NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF JANE CROSS BELL SIMPSON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS TERESA AND MAFALDA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESSES, QUEENS, AND NUNS; AND SANCHIA OF PORTUGAL, PRINCESS AND NUN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/17/compassion-and-the-sabbath-2/

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Devotion for Proper 9 (Year D)   1 comment

penitent-magdalene

Above:  Detail from The Penitent Magdalene, by Georges de La Tour

Image in the Public Domain

Loving Our Enemies and Praying for Our Persecutors

JULY 7, 2019

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The Collect:

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 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:

2 Kings 6:8-23

Psalm 57 or 3

Matthew 12:38-50 or Luke 11:24-36

1 Corinthians 5:1-6a (6b-8) 9-13; 6:1-11

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To seek deliverance from enemies and evildoers is understandable and justifiable; to seek revenge against them is understandable and unjustifiable.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

–Matthew 5:43-48, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Perfection, in this case, indicates suitability for one’s tasks and purpose.  We who claim to follow Jesus and hopefully do more than claim to do so have the commandment to live according to love (2 John 5b-6).  If those who are negative influences among us will not change their ways, we may remove them from our faith community (1 Corinthians 5), but that is different from committing or condoning violence against them.  Consider, O reader, the treatment of the Aramean raiders in 2 Kings 6; making them guests at a lavish feast before repatriating them is far from being harsh toward them.

How we treat others–especially enemies and oppressors–is about who we are, not who they are.  We are supposed to be children of light, those who love God and our fellow human beings not because of signs and wonders but because of who God is and because to do so is the right thing to do.  We ought to dwell on a moral plain higher than the lowest common denominator.  This is frequently difficult, but it is possible, via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/loving-our-enemies-and-praying-for-our-persecutors/

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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

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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

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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)

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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)

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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

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

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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

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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

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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)

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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)

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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

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

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Devotion for July 7 and 8 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Othneil

Image in the Public Domain

Judges and Acts, Part I:  Identity and Tradition

SUNDAY, JULY 7, and MONDAY, JULY 8, 2019

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 2:6-23 (July 7)

Judges 3:7-31 (July 8)

Psalm 110 (Morning–July 7)

Psalm 62 (Morning–July 8)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening–July 7)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening–July 8)

Acts 13:13-41 (July 7)

Acts 13:42-52 (July 8)

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Many of the Israelites had habitually short memories , for they fell back into idolatry.  The prevention of the this was a major reason for repeating the stories of what God had done.  Yet the majority of the people fell into idolatry.  And, according to the Book of Judges, this led to Canaanite oppression of the Israelites. Periodically a judge–a chieftain–arose and delivered the people.  Then the cycle repeated.

Paul, in Acts 13, recounted what God had done.  In so doing he and his missionary companions converted many Jews and Gentiles.  Paul and company also made enemies, so they had to move along.  Those who opposed Paul and his partners probably considered themselves guardians of holy traditions, which their forebears had abandoned long before, in Judges 3.

Traditions can be tricky, for one should neither abandon a healthy tradition lightly nor ossify any tradition.  No, traditions are properly living things.  We human ought to adapt them to new circumstances and distinguish between what has outlived its usefulness and what ought to remain.

Paul challenged a version of Judaism which had adapted to a new reality while not embracing Hellenism.  The precise circumstances which were current when the Law of Moses was new had ceased to exist.  So, scholars asked, how ought Jews to live according to the Law of Moses in changed circumstances?  Paul did not object to adaptation per se; no his innovation was to add atonement and justification via Jesus to the list of God’s mighty acts.

But place yourself, O reader, in the seat of one who opposed Paul’s message.  What did Paul’s theology mean for Jewish identity–one based on remaining distinct–in the Hellenistic context?  In this way Paul’s opponents at Antioch in Pisidia were in tune with the theology of the Book of Judges.

Questions of identity strike at a vulnerable spot for many people, including me.  One can approach these questions positively or negatively, focusing on what and who one is rather than on what and who one is not.

I wonder how I would have responded to Paul and Barnabas had I been an observant Jew at Antioch in Pisidia.  I suspect that I might have sided with my tradition and rejected Paul’s message.  I would have been wrong in such a hypothetical situation.  Where might you, O reader, have stood in this hypothetical situation?  And where might your answer to this question lead you to go spiritually?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/judges-and-acts-part-i-identity-and-tradition/

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Proper 9, Year C   14 comments

Above:  House of Naaman, Damascus, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Humility, Judgment, Mercy, and Enemies

The Sunday Closest to July 6

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 7, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 and Psalm 30

or 

Isaiah 66:10-14 and Psalm 66:1-8

then 

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/seeds-of-destruction/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

A Prayer for Our Enemies:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/for-our-enemies/

Prayers for Forgiveness, Mercy, and Trust:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-forgiveness-mercy-and-trust/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-prayer-to-embrace-love-empathy-and-compassion-and-to-eschew-hatred-invective-and-willful-ignorance/

A Prayer for Humility:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-humility/

2 Kings 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

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

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/proper-1-year-b/

Isaiah 66:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-6-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Galatians 6:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/week-of-proper-23-wednesday-year-2/

Luke 10:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/devotion-for-the-twenty-fifth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/week-of-proper-21-thursday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/week-of-proper-21-friday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/week-of-proper-21-saturday-year-1/

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I propose, O reader, a thought experiment:

Name two countries, A and B, with a recent history of warfare against each other and a current climate of mutual hostility.  Then imagine a general from B in search of a cure visiting a prominent religious figure from A.

The politics of the situation would be sensitive, would they not?    That is a partial summary of the Naaman and Elijah story.

The main intertwining threads I choose to follow today are:

  • humility (in 2 Kings 5, Galatians 6, and Luke 10),
  • judgment and mercy (in all four readings), and
  • enemies (in 2 Kings 5, Isaiah 66, and Luke 10).

Humility is having a realistic estimate of oneself; it recognizes both strengths and weaknesses.  This theme fits the Naaman story well, for he had to overcome his notions of self-importance and national pride, the latter of which informed the former, before God healed him.  In humility and a Christ-based identity we Christians are supposed to carry each other’s burdens and help each other through temptation and error; that is what Galatians 6 says.  And humility is part of curriculum for the disciples in Luke 10.

Judgment is for God.  The theme of judgment overlaps with that of enemies.  And who is an enemy of God?  I suspect that many, if not most, enemies of God think of themselves as disciples and friends of God.  Militant Islamists in western Africa are destroying allegedly un-Islamic buildings–architectural treasures–in the name of Allah.  Neither pluralism nor religious toleration are among the values of these individuals.  These militants think of themselves as faithful to God and of people such as me as not faithful to God.  I think that I am correct, obviously.

(Aside:  I have taught practicing Muslims and found them to be delightful human beings.  None have been militants.  Anyone who thinks that I condemn all Muslims when I criticize militant Islamists fails to grasp my meaning.)

Although judgment resides with God, so does mercy.  So Naaman became a follower.  Divine mercy extended even to enemies of Elisha’s people.  That is easy to say about the politics of antiquity, but what about today?  So I propose another thought experiment:

Name a hostile foreign government.  Can you, O reader, warm up to the idea that God loves agents of that regime?  Would you, in Christ, accept such agents as brothers and sisters in faith?

Mercy can prove difficult.  Often we prefer judgment for others–our enemies–and mercy for ourselves because this arrangement reinforces our egos.  Yet humility before God requires us, among other things, to move past those categories and our concepts of where we stand in relation to God.  That person whom we think of as an enemy might be a friend of God.  And we might not be as right with God as we imagine.

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

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/humility-judgment-mercy-and-enemies/

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