Archive for the ‘June 13’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 6, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Death of Absalom

Above:  The Death of Absalom

Image in the Public Domain

The Parental Love of God

JUNE 13, 2019

JUNE 14, 2019

JUNE 15, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, throughout the ages you judge your people with mercy,

and you inspire us to speak your truth.

By your Spirit, anoint us for lives of faith and service,

and bring all people into your forgiveness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 13:23-39 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 15:1-12 (Friday)

2 Samuel 18:28-19:8 (Saturday)

Psalm 32 (All Days)

James 4:1-7 (Thursday)

Romans 11:1-10 (Friday)

Luke 5:17-26 (Saturday)

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Countless troubles are in store for the wicked,

but the one who trusts in Yahweh is enfolded in his faithful love.

–Psalm 32:10, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Absalom rejected his father, King David, who mourned for him after he died.  According to 2 Samuel, David brought the troubled life of his family upon himself via the incidents involving Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11 and 12).  Absalom also brought his death upon himself by means of his ambition, pride, and variety.  Nevertheless, the grief David felt upon losing another son was real.

People rejected God in the readings from the New Testament.  Rejecting Jesus–especially accusing him of committing blasphemy–was–and remains–a bad idea.  Those negative figures in the story from Luke 5 did not think of themselves as bete noires; they could not fit Jesus into their orthodoxy.  There were also questions regarding our Lord and Savior’s credentials, so the issue of pride came into play.  Attachment to tradition in such a way as to make no room for Jesus was also a relevant factor.

But, as the Letter of James reminds us, God opposes the proud and bestows grace upon the humble:

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind.  Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection.  Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.

–James 4:8-10, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

I propose that the grief of God over errant human beings is somewhat like that of David over Absalom.  God loves us selflessly and unconditionally.  Such love warrants reciprocation, but reality is frequently otherwise.  Consequences of that rejection of grace unfold as they will.  Yet abuses and misuses of free will, a gift of God, cannot override divine love, which permits us to decide how to respond to it.  Yes, Hell is real, but no, God sends nobody there.  Those in Hell sent themselves there.

May we not grieve God, who is our Father and our Mother, who, like the mother eagle in Deuteronomy, teaches us to fly and, like Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem, yearns to shelter us under henly wings.  May we succeed in rejoicing God’s proverbial heart, by grace and free will.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL CUFFEE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO THE SHINNECOCK NATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT CASIMIR OF POLAND, PRINCE

THE FEAST OF EMANUEL CRONENWETT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARINUS OF CAESAREA, ROMAN SOLDIER AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR, AND ASTERIUS, ROMAN SENATOR AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/the-parental-love-of-god/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Trinity Sunday, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Roman Gateway of Ephesus

Above:   The Roman Gateway of Ephesus

J157836 U.S. Copyright Office

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ds-00984

Shooting the Spiritually Wounded

JUNE 13 and 14, 2019

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe

and the beginning of time you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide is to all truth by your Spirit, that we may

proclaim all that Christ has revealed and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 3:13-18 (Thursday)

Proverbs 3:19-26 (Friday)

Psalm 8 (Both Days)

Ephesians 1:17-19 (Thursday)

Ephesians 4:1-6 (Friday)

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I look up at your heavens, shaped by your fingers,

at the moon and the stars you set firm–

what are human beings that you spare a thought for them,

or the child of Adam that you care for him?

–Psalm 8:3-4, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That is among the mysteries of the universe.  I ponder human nature, with its complexities, virtues, and vices, and come away dismayed yet not surprised more often than pleased.  We are capable of great compassion yet of hatred and apathy.  We respond to messages of hope yet also to bigotry, fear, and xenophobia.  Often we favor the latter more than the former.  We are messes.  Human depravity makes sense to me.  It is not even an article of faith for me.  No, I need no faith to affirm human depravity, for I have ample evidence.

Yet we can, when we choose to pay attention, heed divine wisdom, that proverbial tree of life by which we find ultimate peace.  That wisdom was at work in the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth.  That same wisdom instructs those of us who claim to follow Jesus to follow him and to support each other in our spiritual pilgrimages, to build each other up, not to tear each other down.  Fortunately, many congregations do just that–build up people in Christ.  Others, however, shoot many of the wounded, so to speak.  They cause much spiritual harm to vulnerable people.  I have, over the years, engaged in conversations with some of those wounded people precious to God.  Almost all of them have wanted nothing to do with organized religion.  To be fair, if I had experienced what they had, I might agree with them.

Do you, O reader, seek to build up others in Christ, for the glory of God, or do you participate in shooting the wounded?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 26, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EMILY MALBONE MORGAN, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF THE COMPANIONS OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF FRED ROGERS, EDUCATOR AND U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/02/26/shooting-the-spiritually-wounded/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 5, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator--Greece

Above:  Christ Pantocrator Moody

Image in the Public Domain

Calling Good Evil

JUNE 13, 2018

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The Collect:

All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory.

Increase our faith and trust in him,

that we may triumph over all evil in the strength

of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 26:16-27:1

Psalm 74

Luke 11:14-28

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Bestir Yourself because of the perpetual tumult,

all the outrages of the enemy in the sanctuary.

–Psalm 74:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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O LORD:  In their distress they sought You;

Your chastisement reduced them

To anguished whispered prayer.

–Isaiah 26:16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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But [Jesus] said, “Blessed are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

–Luke 11:28, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The Bible, being of human authorship and containing texts reflecting changing perspectives over a long period of time, contradicts itself on points small, medium, and large.  This fact does not trouble me, for (A) I am not a biblical literalist, and (B) I worship God, not the Bible.  I do detect much biblical consistency, however.  Again and again biblical texts tell us, for example, to obey the commandments of God and agree that these include social and economic justice.  Texts tell us consistently of divine preference for the poor and disapproval of the exploitation of people.  Pure doctrine alone is insufficient, for justice matters to God.

The people in Isaiah 26 had committed idolatry, as had our Lord and Savior’s accusers in Luke 11.  The idols in Luke 11 were ideas about God and how God works.  Jesus exposed these ideas as false, but ideologies clung to their doctrines and attempted to explain away the evidence they saw.  The enemies in the sanctuary were among the professional religious people.

Lest we, you and I, O reader, congratulate ourselves on our fidelity to God (unlike those people of Judah in Isaiah 26 and like those religious officials in Luke 11), may we avoid the sin of self-righteousness.  God remains active and continues to refuse to fit into the God-shaped boxes we call theology.  Do we see God’s actions then call them evil?  We might.  Have we confused our opinions for God’s facts?  Certainly, at least part of the time.  May we be and remain open to spiritual correction and recognize good when we see it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/calling-good-evil/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Trinity Sunday, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Snapshot_20140516_1

 

Above:  One of the Commentaries in My Library

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The Gifts of the Spirit and the Mystery of God

JUNE 12, 13, and 14, 2017

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The Collects:

Almighty Creator and ever-living God: we worship your glory, eternal Three-in-One,

and we praise your power, majestic One-in-Three.

Keep us steadfast in this faith, defend us in all adversity,

and bring us at last into your presence, where you live in endless joy and love,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

or

God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe

and the beginning of time you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide us to all truth by your Spirit, that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed

and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 38:39-39:12 (Monday)

Job 39:13-25 (Tuesday)

Job 39:26-40:5 (Wednesday)

Psalm 29 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 12:1-3 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 12:4-13 (Tuesday)

John 14:25-26 (Wednesday)

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Ascribe to the Lord, you powers of heaven,

ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.

Ascribe to the Lord the honour to his name;

worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness.

–Psalm 29:1-2, Common Worship (2000)

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I do not like the portrayal of God in the Book of Job. There God permits a faithful man, Job, to suffer—not for anything Job did, however. Then, after a series of alleged friends has made Job’s life more miserable by blaming him for his suffering and Job has complained of his mistreatment, God gives him his

I’m God and you’re not

speech. The character of Job deserves a better answer than that.

We find a pleasant depiction of part of the mystery of God in the other readings. The Holy Spirit is our Advocate or Comforter—our defense attorney, more or less. The Holy Spirit imparts a variety of spiritual gifts—all

to be used for the general good.

–1 Corinthians 12:7b, The New Jerusalem Bible

The best description of the inspiration of scripture I have heard is that people had powerful encounters with God then had to write from them. Thus human perspectives shaped the development and contents of the sacred canon. Thus the Bible is a very human book—one to which we can relate powerfully. The Biblical authors and editors were not secretaries taking dictation, as in,

Put a comma there.

This human influence contributes to the variety of perspectives in that sacred anthology, parts of which I argue with from time to time. But I have faith that God seeks to build us up for good purposes, is much greater than we are, and expects us to work for the common good as we love our neighbors.

Somewhere in there I feel free to argue with God, true to my spiritual inheritance from my elder siblings in faith, the Jews. I note that, in the Book of Job, God speaks at length to only one character, the only one who had asked intelligent questions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW FOURNET AND ELIZABETH BICHIER, COFOUNDERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS; AND SAINT MICHAEL GARICOITS, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE SACRED HEART OF BETHARRAM

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF SUDAN

THE FEAST OF TE WARA HAURAKI, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/the-gifts-of-the-spirit-and-the-mystery-of-god/

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Devotion for June 12 and 13 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  A Crown of Thorns

Proverbs and John, Part IV:  Excessive Optimism II

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, and THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 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:

Proverbs 10:1-23 (June 12)

Proverbs 13:1-25 (June 13)

Psalm 96 (Morning–June 12)

Psalm 116 (Morning–June 13)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–June 12)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–June 13)

John 14:1-17 (June 12)

John 14:18-31 (June 13)

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Some Related Posts:

TECHNICAL NOTE:

June 13 is the latest possible date for Pentecost Sunday.  So, some years, June 14 will be the first day in Ordinary Time/the Season after Pentecost.

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 Jesus is about to die in John 14.  With that context in mind, how am I supposed to read Proverbs 10 and 13?  Two passages attracted my attention:

Blessings light upon the head of the righteous,

But lawlessness covers the mouth of the wicked….

He who lives blamelessly lives safely,

But he whose speech is foolish comes to grief.

–Proverbs 10:6, 9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

and

Righteousness protects him whose way is blameless;

wickedness subverts the sinner.

–Proverbs 13:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Roman soldiers were about to light a crown of thorns upon our blameless Lord’s head.

The Christian Gospel, consistent with some parts (notably the examples of several prophets and the Book of Tobit) of the Old Testament–yet in contrast to Proverbs 10 and 13, tells us that suffering results sometimes from proper actions–godly deeds–not sinful ones.  The Christian Gospel subverts a certain notion of suffering shame.  The Christian emblem, a cross, refers to a means of capital punishment, one by which the Roman Empire sought to annihilate a person.  Yet, as a Christian symbol, the cross indicates victory over death and the empire.  That is not excessive optimism.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 12, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DESIDERIUS ERASMUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN GUALBERT, FOUNDER OF THE VALLOMBROSAN BENEDICTINES

THE FEAST OF NATHAN SODERBLOM, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/proverbs-and-john-part-iv-excessive-optimism-ii/

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Devotion for Wednesday and Thursday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Pieta, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Numbers and Luke, Part XI:   Atonement

WEDNESDAY, JUNE 12, 2019, and THURSDAY, JUNE 13, 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:

Numbers 23:4-28 (Wednesday)

Numbers 24:1-25 (Thursday)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–Wednesday)

Psalm 97 (Morning–Thursday)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–Wednesday)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–Thursday)

Luke 22:47-71 (Wednesday)

Luke 23:1-25 (Thursday)

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How can I damn whom God has not damned,

How doom when the LORD has not doomed?

–Numbers 23:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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It would have been nice (per Numbers 31:16) if Balaam had maintained that attitude.

Balaam, in Numbers 23 and 24, did as God instructed him, to King Balak’s dismay.  This was risky in the short term, I suppose, but the two merely parted company. Thus that part of the story ended.

Among my essential books is A Short History of Christian Thought, Revised and Expanded Edition (Oxford University Press, 1996), by Linwood Urban.  Father/Professor Urban’s volume is a wonderful resource for reading about Christian theological development.  These doctrines which we Christians affirm, refute, or discuss did not fall fully formed from Heaven.  No, theologians wrote and debated.  Bishops gathered at council and synods.  And, more often than not, they got it right.

Urban devotes a chapter to the doctrine of the Atonement.  He contextualizes it in Scripture and theology.  And he traces three understandings of the Atonement in the Bible and the writings of Church Fathers.  To summarize:

Reconciliation or atonement is said to be accomplished by the Incarnation itself, by the sacrificial death of Christ on Calvary, and by the conquest and defeat of the Devil.

–page 106

I recommend reading Urban’s chapter for full citations to the Bible and named Church Fathers.  These are matters of theological history.  Thus the existence of more than one ancient interpretation of the mechanics of the Atonement in Christian theology is a matter of objectively correct and confirmed history, not opinion.  As the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, everybody is entitled to his own opinions, but not his own facts.

As for me, I grew up learning St. Anselm of Canterbury’s theory of Penal Substitutionary Atonement.  Jesus took my place on the cross, people told me.  This does not satisfy me, for it makes God seem like a vindictive thug.

I will not be satisfied until I see my son tortured and executed,

I imagine such a deity saying or thinking.  I recognize the Conquest of Satan theory in the Scriptures, and I hear echoes of the Incarnation-as-Atonement in the Gospels before their Passion narratives begin.  But we must come to terms with the death of Jesus.  That even played a vital role in the Atonement process.  Yet me must not stop there, for dead Jesus did not redeem us; resurrected Jesus did.

My conclusion follows:  The entire earthly life of Jesus was necessary for the Atonement to occur.  The Incarnation was vital, as were the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.  And Jesus was one whom God had neither damned nor doomed.  No, his death pointed out the futility and cruelty of scapegoating people.  And his Resurrection from the dead showed God’s power, which God had demonstrated many times.  Now and again, however, we mere mortals seem to need reminders.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-xi-atonement/

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Week of Proper 5: Wednesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Elijah’s Sacrifice Consumed by Fire

Image Source = Cadetgray

Choices, Real and Imagined

JUNE 13, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Kings 18:20-39 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Ahab sent orders to all Israelites and gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel.  Elijah approached all the people and said,

How long will you keep hopping between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; and if Baal, follow him!

But the people answered him not a word.  Then Elijah said to the people,

I am the only prophet of the LORD left, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty men.  Let two young bulls be given to us.  Let them choose one bull, cut it up, and lay it on the wood, but let them not apply fire; I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, and will not apply fire.  You will then invoke your god by name, and I will invoke the LORD by name; and let us agree:  the god who responds with fire, that one is God.

And all the people answered,

Very good!

Elijah said to the prophets of Baal,

Choose one bull and prepare it first, for you are the majority; invoke your god by name, but apply no fire.

They took the bull that was given them; they prepared it, and invoked Baal by name from morning until noon, shouting,

O Baal, answer us!

But there was no sound, and none who responded; so they performed a hopping dance about the altar that had been set up.  When noon came, Elijah mocked them, saying,

Shout louder!  After all, he is a god.  But he may be in conversation, he may be detained, or he may be on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and will wake up.

So they shouted louder, and gashed themselves with knives and spears, according to their practice, until the blood streamed over them.  When noon passed, they kept raving until the hour of presenting the meal offering.  Still there was no sound, and none who responded or heeded.

Then Elijah said to all the people,

Come closer to me;

and all the people came closer to him.  He repaired the damaged altar of the LORD.  Then Elijah took twelve stones, corresponding to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob–to whom the word of the LORD had come:

Israel shall be your name

–and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD.  Around the altar he made a trench large enough for the two seahs of seed.  He laid out the wood, and he cut up the bull and laid it on the wood.  And he said,

Fill four jars with water and pour it over the burnt offering and the wood.

Then he said,

Do it a second time;

and they did it a second time.

Do it a third time,

he said; and they did a third time.  The water ran down around the altar, and even the trench was filled with water.

When it was time to present the meal offering, the prophet Elijah came forward and said,

O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel!  Let it be known today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your bidding.  Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God; for You have turned their hearts backward.

Then fire from the LORD descended and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the earth; and it licked up the water that was in the trench.  When they saw this, the people flung themselves on their faces and cried out,

The LORD alone is God, The LORD alone is God!

Psalm 16:1, 6-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”

6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

I will bless the LORD who gives my counsel;

my heart teaches me, night after night.

I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9 My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall rest in hope.

10 For you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor will your holy one see the Pit.

11 You will show me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy,

and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Matthew 5:17-19 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not suppose that I have come to do away with the Law or the Prophets.  I have not come to do away with them but to complete them.  For I tell you, as long as heaven and earth endure, not one dotting of an i or crossing of a will be dropped from the Law until it is all observed.  Anyone, therefore, who weakens one of the slightest of these commands, and teaches others to do so, will be ranked lowest in the Kingdom of Heaven; but anyone who observes them and teaches others to do so will be ranked high in the Kingdom of Heaven.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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:

Week of Proper 5:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/week-of-proper-5-wednesday-year-1/

O Thou to Whom in Ancient Time:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/29/o-thou-to-whom-in-ancient-time/

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I took notes for this post and drafted my comments a few days ago.  Now, as I type the final version, I have the first part of Mendelssohn’s Elijah playing.  It is appropriate timing, for the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is about to begin.

There was a real choice between Yahweh and Baal.  This day we have part of the account of the account of the duel of a sort between Elijah, speaking for Yahweh, and 450 prophets of Baal.  Yahweh wins despite seemingly improbable odds.  A fire on a drenched altar? Who had heard of such a thing?

The prophets of Baal, for all their pleading, dancing, and bloodletting, failed.  How could they not?  Baal was imaginary.  This was an unambiguous victory for Yahweh.  Yet the idolatry continued for centuries.  Some people are just stubborn, apparently.

“The Law,” in the context of the Gospels, has layers and aspects.  There are, for starters, the letter (economically and culturally specific to circumstances, which change and therefore fail to apply after a while) of the law and there is the spirit (not tied to circumstances) thereof.  There is the Law of Moses and then there are elaborations upon it which people have added over time.  Jesus is consistent with the best of these traditions (the spirit of the law), not the persnickety details the Gospel writers quote him as contradicting.

The audience for Matthew was Jewish Christian, so this was an important point for the author of that text to make clear.  Jesus was an observant Jew, albeit neither a Pharisee nor a Sadducee.  For Jesus performing merciful deeds was legal and commendable on every day of week.  In contrast, strict Pharisees allowed only the most basic first aid on the Sabbath, delaying more advanced medical attention until the next day.  “Do the most good you can everyday,” Jesus said with this words and deeds, “including on the Sabbath.”

There is nothing sinful about that.

The choice between goodness and the Law and the Prophets, when one interprets the latter correctly, is an illusion.  When one follows our Lord and Savior’s admonition to love God fully and one’s neighbor as one’s self, the two commandments on which all the Law and the Prophets hang, one keeps the Law.

It is that simple–and that challenging.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/idolatry-again-elijah-versus-prophets-of-baal/