Archive for the ‘June 14’ 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 Thursday Before Proper 6, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Garden of Eden Thomas Cole

Above:  The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

Image in the Public Domain

Responsibilities and Consequences

JUNE 14, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, you are the tree of life, offering shelter to the world.

Graft us into yourself and nurture our growth,

that we may bear your truth and love to those in need,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 3:14-24

Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15

Hebrews 2:5-9

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It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord

and to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

To tell of your love early in the morning

and of your faithfulness in the night-time,

Upon the ten-stringed instrument, upon the harp,

and to the melody of the lyre.

For you, Lord, have made me glad by your acts,

and I will sing aloud at the works of your hands.

–Psalm 92:1-4, Common Worship (2000)

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I have yet to grasp what is wrong with knowing good from evil.  The mythic tale from Genesis teaches, however, that blissful ignorance of that distinction was somehow God’s original purpose for the human race.  The myth’s core is something I reject, for I have no obligation to accept something as true just because certain people affirmed it in antiquity.

It is a myth about the origin of human alienation from God.  In the story unbridled curiosity partnered with disobedience and the tendency to blame others for one’s errors prompts the alienation from God and the expulsion from paradise.  “Passing the buck” is bad, of course, as is disobeying God.  I reject the underlying assumptions about what God commands that we find in the myth.

Those who created the lectionary I am following and using as a tool for Bible study put three passages of scripture together in a most interesting manner.  The expulsion from paradise is an expression of divine judgment, but mercy is also present.  Judgment does not preclude kindness in this myth.  That tale rubs shoulders with the jubilant Psalm 92, in which the Psalmist proclaims that God, in whom no unrighteousness is present, is his rock.  That mood of jubilation clashes with Genesis 3:14-24.  Then, in Hebrews 2:5-9, which quotes Psalm 8, we read that people are slightly lower than the angels.  The author of Hebrews informs us of human dominance on the planet.  With that power comes great responsibility, of course.  What a bad job our species has done and continues to do!  Another important point is that Jesus’s life (including his death and resurrection) indicates, among other things, divine solidarity with people.

The Christian Bible (73 books long for half of Christianity and 66 books long for only about a quarter of the religion) begins with the creation and loss of paradise and ends with the restoration of paradise.  God creates paradise, people ruin it, and God restores it.  Likewise, as Jewish biblical scholars note, the Torah begins with an act of kindness (God clothing the naked) and ends with an act of kindness (God burying Moses).  Mixed in with that divine power and kindness is judgment, for we will reap what we sow.  If that combination seems less than “warm and fuzzy,” that is because it is less than “warm and fuzzy.”  My concept of God is certainly inadequate compared to the real thing, but a “warm and fuzzy” God concept is more inadequate.

Wrestling with biblical texts is a proper activity in which to engage.  It involves interacting with assumptions which are not our own and many of which are inaccurate, such as demonic possession causing mental illness.  Others, however, lead us to question our assumptions and condemn elements of our societies as well as some of our attitudes.  We ought to know also that a text might not mean what we think it means.  Often we who are steeped in the Bible do not know it as well as we imagine we do, for we approach texts with preconceptions and lapse into autopilot easily.  This reality prevents us from engaging with the texts as they are.

I wrestle with the combination of these pericopes for today.  The myth from Genesis 3 bothers me, a person with an inquisitive mind, but I recognize much truth in it.  Reading the Genesis pericope in the context of Psalm 92 and Hebrews 2:5-9 and Hebrews 2:5-9 and Psalm 92 in the context of the Genesis pericope creates a tapestry of judgment, mercy, responsibility, and gratitude, with those elements interacting with each other.  Doing so also provides much food for thought and prompts me to ask myself how often I am behaving responsibly and how I am acting irresponsibly.  God will save the world, but each of us has a responsibility to leave it better than we found it.  Any amount of improvement helps.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/responsibilities-and-consequences/

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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 14 and 15 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Gender Equality Sign

Proverbs and John, Part V:  Loving One Another While God Watches Us

FRIDAY, JUNE 14, and SATURDAY, JUNE 15, 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 14:1-27 (June 14)

Proverbs 15:1-29 (June 15)

Psalm 85 (Morning–June 14)

Psalm 61 (Morning–June 15)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–June 14)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening–June 15)

John 15:1-11 (June 14)

John 15:12-27 (June 15)

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We read the following caution in Proverbs 15:3 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The eyes of the LORD are everywhere,

Observing the bad and the good.

And, in John 15, we read of great love–the kind which motivates one to die for his friends.  Jesus, who had that love, knew the hatred of people whom he had not wronged.  The mandate of the Apostles

to love one another

–John 15:17b, The New Jerusalem Bible

applies to we Christians today.  We will not always get along; personalities will prove mutually incompatible.  Cultural, educational, and intellectual chasms will exist.  And major disagreements will arise.  Yet we can avoid hating one another or consigning the other to Hell rhetorically.

I, as one considered a heretic so often that I have adopted the label as an affirmative one, am used to the

You will go to Hell

sentence and attitude.  I have chosen not to engage those who scorned me thus in further conversation beyond friendly “Hi” and “Bye” dialogue; what else was there to say?  I sought to explore questions, but the other wanted to spout blind dogma as if on automatic pilot.

My default setting is to regard my fellow human beings–regardless of how annoying I find some of them–as fellow bearers of the Image of God.  And my fellow and sister Christians–including those with whom I have little in common theologically–are my coreligionists.  I accept with great ease many who differ from me.  Others I tolerate, but that is more than some of them do in regard to me.  I wish that friendlier theological cohabitation could occur more often that it does, for all of us know very little of God, whose mysteriousness exists beyond the bounds of human comprehension thereof.  But I try–usually successfully–to eschew hostility in my own mind.

And I try to live and think according to the standard of equality before God.  I take great offense at ecclesiastical acceptance of the tendency to block off women and homosexuals as groups, membership in which makes them second-class members to whom ordination is off-limits.  I was born both male and heterosexual; these were not my choices, not that I argue with them.  Many of the people with whom I worship were born female and/or homosexual; those were not their choices either.  All of us stand equal before God.  Any ecclesiastical body which baptizes females yet refuses to ordain because they are women commits hypocrisy, as does one which baptizes homosexuals yet refuses to ordain them because of that identity.  Such hypocrisy ought to cease.  This is a civil rights issue, a matter of loving one another.  And God is watching us.

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-v-loving-one-another-while-god-watches-us/

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Devotion for Friday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  The Edicule, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, 1898-1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Numbers and Luke, Part XII:  Two Joshuas

FRIDAY, JUNE 14, 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 27:12-23

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

Luke 23:26-56

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The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Daily Lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006) skipped Numbers 25:1-27:11.  For the record, idolatry with Moabite prostitutes led to a plague.  A census followed.  And daughters of a deceased man who had no son received full property rights.  Then, in the assigned portion for today, Moses saw the Promised Land the commissioned Joshua, son of Nun, as his successor.

We read of a different Joshua–Jesus–in Luke 23:26-56.  He died via crucifixion, after which Joshua of Arimathea buries him.  For most crucified people, that manner of execution equaled eradication.  It was slow, painful, and humiliating.  then animals devoured the corpse.  This constituted capital punishment at its most Foucaultian extent.

Was Jesus the great leader whom people were supposed to follow?  After all, one who died on a tree was cursed, according to the Law of Moses.  The crucifixion of Jesus constituted a scandal on several fronts.  Yet there was good news:  the story was not over.  And this Joshua would open the portals to the Promised Land yet.

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-xii-two-joshuas/

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Week of Proper 5: Thursday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Image = A screen capture from a DVD

Revenge and Violence

JUNE 14, 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 18:40-46 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then Elijah said to them,

Seize the prophets of Baal, let not a single one of them get away.

They seized them, and Elijah too, took them down to the Wadi Kishon and slaughtered them there.

Elijah said to Ahab,

Go up, eat and drink, for there is a rumbling of [approaching] rain,

and Ahab went up to eat and drink.  Elijah meanwhile climbed to the top of Mount Carmel, crouched on the ground, and put his face between his knees.  And he said to his servant,

Go up and look toward the Sea.

He went up and looked and reported,

There is nothing.

Seven times [Elijah] said,

Go back,

and the seventh time, [the servant] reported,

A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising in the west.

Then [Elijah] said,

Go say to Ahab, “Hitch up [your chariot] and go down before the rain stops you.”

Meanwhile the sky grew black with clouds; there was wind, and a heavy downpour fell; Ahab mounted his chariot and drove off to Jezreel.  The hand of the LORD had come upon Elijah.  He tied up his skirts and ran in front of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.

Psalm 65:1, 8-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs;

you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.

You visit the earth and water it abundantly;

you make it very plenteous;

the river of God is full of water.

10 You prepare the grain,

for so you provide for the earth.

11 You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges;

with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.

12 You crown the year with your goodness,

and your paths overflow with plenty.

13 May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing,

and the hills be clothed with joy.

14 May the meadows cover themselves with flocks,

and the valleys cloak themselves with grain;

let them shout for joy and sing.

Matthew 5:20-26 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

For I tell you that unless your uprightness is far superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never even enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

You have heard that men of old were told “You shall not murder,” and “Whoever murders will have to answer to the court.”  But I tell you that any one who gets angry with his brother will have to answer to the court, and anyone who speaks abusively to his brother will have to answer to the great council, and anyone who says to his brother “You cursed fool!” will have to answer for it in the fiery pit!  So when you are presenting your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother has any grievance against you, leave your gift right there before the altar and go and make up with your brother; then come back and present your gift.  Be quick and come to terms with your opponent while you are on the way to court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.  I tell you, you will never get out again until you have paid the last penny!

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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:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/week-of-proper-5-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

Bring Peace to Earth Again:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/bring-peace-to-earth-again/

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Jesus quoted the commandment forbidding murder.  Then he took the principle further.  A good understanding of this requires the explanation of some technical details.

“Raca,” or “empty-headed fool” or “airhead,” was a very strong insult in Jesus’ culture.  As we say in the U.S. South, “Them is fightin’ words.”  To call someone a “raca” was to express extreme contempt.

Just as there is more than one type of love in the New Testament, there is more than one variety of anger there.  The anger Jesus condemns is that which leads one to plot revenge.  Violent acts, such as murder, flow from such anger.  So Jesus says not even to think about murdering, committing any other violent deed, or causing harm of any sort to anyone.

Revenge, a common plot element in many works of fiction (including Star Trek II), and the desire for it are ubiquitous in real life.  All one has to do to hear of them is follow the news closely.  Yet revenge can never restore life to the dead, undo injuries which have resulted in amputations or paralysis, or erase psychological damage.  We need justice, not revenge, but many of us confuse the two categories.

Jesus, of course, did not, according to the canonical Gospels, refrain from all anger.  He did expel money changers from part of the Jerusalem Temple and excoriate certain religious leaders.  But he did not plot revenge on anybody.  He even asked divine forgiveness for those who crucified him and looked on approvingly.

So far the texts seem holy.  Then we return to 1 Kings 18, where, in verse 40, Elijah kills the 450 prophets of Baal.  This is the conclusion of the “My God can set fire to this altar” showdown.  The lectionary skips verse 40, beginning with verse 41 and the end of the drought.  The chapter itself devotes only one verse to the slaughter of the prophets of Baal, an event which might slip unnoticed between the dramatic contest and the end of the drought.  But let us not look away from uncomfortable Bible verses.

How should we understand the slaughter of Baal’s prophets? I found comments in three study Bibles I checked.  The note in The Jerusalem Bible reads:

In this war between Yahweh and Baal those who serve Baal suffer the fate of the conquered in the warfare of the time.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that Elijah was “faithful to the deuteronomistic perspective” by ordering the execution of false prophets, per Deuteronomy 13:1-18.  (Read the verses for yourself, O reader; they do command violence.)  Then there is the note from The NIV Study Bible:

Elijah, acting on the authority of the Lord, who sent him, carried out the sentence pronounced in the Mosaic law for prophets of pagan deities (Dt 13:13-18; 17:2-5).

I have a t-shirt I wear from time to time.  “Who would Jesus bomb?” it asks.  (I know; it should say “Whom would Jesus bomb?”)  The question, regardless of whether one uses the objective case, answers itself, does it not?  As an intellectually honest Christian, I seek to follow Jesus more nearly each day.  My success is mixed, but I persist in the effort.  So, to paraphrase the t-shirt, “Whom would Jesus slaughter?”  Nobody, of course; he might use justifiably harsh words, but he would neither condone nor commit the taking of anyone’s life.  And he would neither condone nor commit revenge either.  And Jesus is the Master.  So I side with my Lord.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/allegedly-sacred-violence-part-one/