Archive for the ‘June 22’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 7, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Stone Retaining Wall

Above:  Stone Retaining Wall, October 1979

Photographer = Carl Fleischhauer

Image Source = Library of Congress

Barriers

JUNE 20, 2019

JUNE 21, 2019

JUNE 22, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord God, we bring before you the cries of a sorrowing world.

In your mercy set us free from the chains that bind us,

and defend us from everything that is evil,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 56:9-12 (Thursday)

Isaiah 57:1-13 (Friday)

Isaiah 59:1-8 (Saturday)

Psalm 22:19-28 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-19 (Thursday)

Galatians 3:15-22 (Friday)

Matthew 9:27-35 (Saturday)

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Yahweh, do not hold aloof!

My strength, come quickly to my help,

rescue my soul from the sword,

the one life I have from the grasp of the dog!

Save me from the lion’s mouth,

my poor life from the wild bulls’ horns!

–Psalm 22:19-21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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No, the LORD’s arm is not too short to save,

Or His ear too dull to hear;

But your iniquities have been a barrier

Between you and your God,

Your sins have made Him to turn His face away

And refuse to hear you.

–Isaiah 59:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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That passage from Isaiah goes on to say that God will

…repay fury to His foes;

He shall make requital to His enemies,

Requital to the distant lands.

–Isaiah 59:18b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Then justice and righteousness will prevail, and the words of God will be in the mouths of the people

from now on, for all time.

–Isaiah 59:21d, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

God establishes no barriers between himself and us.  No, we erect and maintain such walls.  We even become attached to them and defend some of them as righteous.  Our moral blind spots prevent us from recognizing every example of this in which we have participated and take part.  Therefore sometimes we mistake the work of God for evil, or at least as negative.  There is frequently an element of the self-defensive in such reactions, for recognizing acts of God as what they are would require us to admit that we are not as holy as we imagine ourselves to be.  It would also require us to question certain “received wisdom,” to which we have become attached and by which we define ourselves.

We would do much better to embrace divine offers of love and reconciliation, and to accept the freedom Christ brings, as well as the accompanying demands of grace upon our lives.  Grace is free, but not cheap.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 5, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUPHRASIA OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HORNBLOWER GILL, ENGLISH UNITARIAN THEN ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/barriers/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 7, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Beheading of St. Paul

Above:  The Beheading of St. Paul, by Enrique Simonet

Image in the Public Domain

The Problem of Suffering

JUNE 21 and 22, 2018

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The Collect:

O God of creation, eternal majesty,

you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm.

By your strength pilot us,

by your power preserve us,

by your wisdom instruct us,

and by your hand protect us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 29:1-20 (Thursday)

Job 29:21-30:15 (Friday)

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 (Both Days)

Acts 20:1-16 (Thursday)

Acts 21:1-16 (Friday)

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Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

–Psalm 107:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Placing that Psalm in the lectionary for these two days seems ironic, especially when considering the other two pericopes.

The titular character of the Book of Job suffered, but not because of any sin he committed.  Compounding his plight was the fact that he had to endure alleged friends, who blamed him for his plight.  They insisted that, since God does not punish the innocent, Job must have sinned, thus prompting his extreme suffering.  They advised him to repent of his sins, therefore.  Actually, the text tells us, God permitted the suffering as a test of loyalty.  Job protested his innocence and lamented his fate.  Anyone who speaks of the “patience of Job,” as if he had any, ought to pay better attention to the story.

Meanwhile, in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul the Apostle was traveling to Jerusalem.  He hoped to arrive in time for the first day of Pentecost.  At Caesarea the Apostle learned that his journey would take him to a bad fate.  He accepted the prophecy calmly, saying,

…I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

–Acts 21:13c, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

He went on to die for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ at Rome “off-camera,” so to speak, after the end of the Acts of the Apostles.

The alleged friends of Job thought that suffering resulted necessarily from sins.  Yet St. Paul the Apostle suffered for the sake for the sake of righteousness.

Nevertheless, the assumption that we suffer solely or primarily because of our wrongdoing persists.  Also commonplace is a related assumption which says that, if we live righteously, we will prosper and be safe and well.  This is the heresy of Prosperity Theology.

Tell that heresy to Jesus and to the Christian martyrs, if you dare,

I say.  I conclude that false ideas live on because too many people pay little or no attention to the evidence around them.  Perhaps these individuals are merely incurious.  (Many people are not very inquisitive, intellectually or otherwise.)  Or maybe they are distracted among the other details of life.  Regardless of the reason(s), they need to pay better attention and respond to the situation that is, not the situation they imagine exists.

To claim that God never punishes the innocent or permits them to suffer is to make a pious comment–one which is false.  What is the functional difference between permitting innocent people to suffer and punishing them?  I recognize none.  One is passive and the other is active, but the results are the same.  The problem of suffering is complicated for we monotheists, for we lack the luxury of blaming an evil deity for misfortune while letting a good deity off the hook.  Yes, how we live on this plane of reality affects the afterlife, but the rain still falls on the just and on the unjust in this life.  Wicked people still prosper and righteous people still suffer on this side of Heaven.  All of this can be difficult to reconcile with the idea of a loving and just God, hence bad theology in defense of God.  I prefer an honest question to a false certainty, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR; AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENTIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/the-problem-of-suffering/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 7, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Love, Not Vengeance

JUNE 22 and 23, 2017

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The Collect:

Teach us, good Lord God, to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

except that of knowing that we do your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 18:12-17 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 18:18-23 (Friday)

Psalm 69:7-10 [11-15], 16-18 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:5-9 (Thursday)

Acts 5:17-26 (Friday)

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For your sake I have suffered reproach;

shame has covered my face.

–Psalm 69:8, Common Worship (2000)

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The desire for vengeance—directly by one’s own efforts or indirectly by those of God—is commonplace and frequently predictable and understandable. One finds it in the readings from Jeremiah and the Book of Psalms today, in fact. But it also poisons one’s soul. I have known that desire and the accompanying spiritual toxins. I have also known the grace to let go of that dark feeling. I recall what some people have done to me and refuse to deny objective reality regarding the past, but if anything bad happens to those individuals and I hear of it, I will have had nothing to do with it and I will take no delight in their misfortune. I have set my focus on the future.

Each of us is present on the planet to do great things for God and each other. Whether we fulfill that vocation is a separate question, of course. Sts. John the Evangelist and Simon Peter suffered as innocents for their good deeds, which upset the apple carts of some people. The Apostles, broken out of jail by the hand of God, simply returned to the tasks to which God had called them. And Jesus, another innocent—one which a legal system executed—not only rose from the dead but rejected vengeance. He returned to the work of God—the work of love.

That is our work also. May we, by grace, succeed more often than we fail.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/love-not-vengeance/

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Devotion for June 21 and 22 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Above:  Pilgrims at the Edicule, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, 1941

Image Source = Library of Congress

Proverbs and John, Part VIII:  The Violence of the Wicked

FRIDAY, JUNE 21, and SATURDAY, JUNE 22, 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 24:1-22 (June 21)

Proverbs 25:1-22 (June 22)

Psalm 51 (Morning–June 21)

Psalm 104 (Morning–June 22)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening–June 21)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening–June 22)

John 19:1-22 (June 21)

John 19:23-42 (June 22)

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Proverbs 24 speaks of the violence which the wicked plot and perpetrate.  They will meet their ultimate fate, it says.  And they will, but why do so many of them prosper for so long on the earth?  I wonder about that point as I read John 19, which contains an account of our Lord’s crucifixion.  The Roman Empire persisted in some form or another until 1453.  Even after it became officially Christian, it was a state founded on violence.  Then it fell to another state founded on violence.  The Ottoman Empire arrived at its end only after World War I.

One lesson I draw from history in general and the life of Jesus in particular is that the violence of wicked flows from a place of fear and insecurity.  A scared dictator or agent thereof persecutes and/or executes those who call the legitimacy of the state founded on violence into question.  Jesus, by his talk of the Kingdom of God, had described the opposite of the Roman Empire and questioned its legitimacy.  And he had not kept a low profile during the last Passover week, for he had confronted the Temple leadership, composed of collaborators.

A fearful and nervous government authorizes torture, denies civil liberties, and rules by intimidation.  This is an old truth, one as germane today and it was in antiquity.  The fact that this truth remains relevant concerns me greatly, for we humans should have learned more than we have.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/proverbs-and-john-part-viii-the-violence-of-the-wicked/

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Week of Proper 6: Friday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  King Joash (Jehoash) of Judah

Examples, Good and Bad

JUNE 22, 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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2 Kings 11:1-4, 9-20 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

When Athaliah, the mother of Ahaziah, learned that her son was dead, she promptly killed off all who were of royal stock.  But Jehosheba, daughter of King Joram and sister of Ahaziah, secretly took Ahaziah’s son Joash away from among the princes who were being slain, and [put] him and his nurse in a bedroom.  And they kept him hidden from Athalian so that he was not put to death.  He stayed with her for six years, hidden in the House of the LORD, while Athaliah reigned over the land.

The chiefs of hundreds did just as Jehoiada ordered:  Each took his men–those who were off duty that week–and they presented themselves to Jehoiada the priest.  The priest gave the chiefs of hundreds of King David’s spears and quivers that were kept in the House of the LORD.  The guards, each with his weapons at the ready, stationed themselves–from the south end of the House to the north end of the House, at the altar and the House–to guard the king on every side.  [Jehoiada] then brought out the king’s son, and placed upon him the crown and insignia.  They anointed him and proclaimed him king; they clapped their hands and shouted,

Long live the king!

When Athaliah heard the shouting of the guards [and] the people, she came out to the people in the House of the LORD.  She looked about and saw the king, standing by the pillar, as was the custom, the chiefs with their trumpets beside the king, and all the people of the land rejoicing and blowing trumpets.  Athaliah rent her garments and cried out,

Treason, treason!

Then the priest Jehoiada gave the command to the army officers, the chiefs of hundreds, and said to them,

Take her out between the ranks and, if anyone follows her, put her to the sword.

For the priest thought:

Let her not be put to death in the House of the LORD.

They cleared a passageway for her and she entered the royal palace  through the horses’ entrance; there she was put to death.

And Jehoiada solemnized the covenant between the LORD, on the one hand, and the king and the people, on the other–as well as between the king and the people–and they should be the people of the LORD.  Thereupon all the people of the land went up to the temple of Baal.  They tore it down and smashed its altars and images to bits, and they slew Mattan, the priest of Baal, in front of the altars.  [Jehoiada] the priest then placed guards over the House of the LORD.  He took the chiefs of hundreds, the Carites, the guards, and all the people of the land, and they escorted the king from the House of the LORD into the royal palace by the gate of the guards.  And he ascended the royal throne.  All the people of the land rejoiced, and the city was quiet.  As for Athaliah, she had been put to death in the royal palace.

Psalm 132:11-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11  The LORD has sworn an oath to David;

in truth, he will not break it:

12  ”A son, the fruit of your body

will I set upon your throne.

13  If your children keep my covenant

and my testimonies that I shall teach them,

their children will sit upon your throne for evermore.”

14  For the LORD has chosen Zion;

he has desired her for his habitation:

15  ”This shall be my resting-place for ever;

here will I dwell, for I delight in her.

16  I will surely bless her provisions,

and satisfy her poor with bread.

17  I will clothe her priests with salvation,

and her faithful people will rejoice and sing.

18  There will I make the horn of David flourish;

I have prepared a lamp for my Anointed.

19  As for his enemies, I will clothe them with shame;

but as for him, his crown will shine.”

Matthew 6:19-23 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not store up your riches on earth, where moths and rust destroy them, and where thieves break in and steal them, but store up your riches in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy them, and where thieves cannot break in and steal them.  But wherever your treasure is, your heart will be also.  The eye is the lamp of the body.  So if your eye is sound, your whole body will be light, but if your eye is unsound, your whole body will be dark.  If, therefore, your very light is darkness, how deep the darkness will be!

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The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 6:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/week-of-proper-6-friday-year-1/

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Since the Canadian Anglican lectionary skips eight chapters, I begin with a summary of them:

  1. Elisha worked wonders.
  2. Elisha anointed Jehu as King of Israel, thereby completing a task God had assigned to Elijah.
  3. Jehu overthrew King Ahaziah, son of Ahab.  Ahaziah of Israel died.  Jezebel died.  Many other members of that dynasty died.  Jehu ordered the killing of many followers of Baal and the destruction of the temple of Baal in his kingdom.  Yet, according to the text, he did not go far enough in combating idolatry.  Jehu died after reigning for 28 years.  His son Jehoahaz succeeded him as king in 814 B.C.E.
  4. In the Kingdom of Judah King Jehoram (Joram) reigned from 851 to 843 B.C.E.  He married Athaliah, a sister of King Ahab of Israel.  The text says that Jehoram (Joram) “followed the practices of the kings of Israel” and displeased God.  Judah also lost territory during the reign of Jehoram (Joram).
  5. His son Ahaziah (Jehoahaz) reigned for one year, ending with his death.

That brings us to the reading in 2 Kings 11, set in 842-836 B.C.E.

The authors of 1-2 Samuel and 1-2 Kings did not envision a multicultural western liberal democracy with freedom of religion.  I, of  course, support the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.  Yet I understand that it is a product of political thought subsequent to the time of the biblical writers.

History demonstrates that theocracy is detrimental to the alleged heretics.  Certain post-Constantinian Roman emperors persecuted the adherents of schools of Christian theology they considered heretical.  Later, in Europe, some Protestant potentates persecuted Roman Catholics, many Roman Catholic potentates did the same to Protestants, and both despised the Anabaptists actively.  And, in Puritan New England, authorities hanged Quakers and exiled other dissenters, notably Roger Williams and Anne Hutchinson.

The Bible is many things, but not an authoritative treatise on political science.  The Kings of Judah and Israel (except for the few who were puppets of foreign powers) were absolute monarchs. They lived in a pre-Enlightenment world, one which had not enshrined the principle of liberty of conscience.  So we ought not to apply the worldview of the authors from the Old Testament times to today, for to so is to advocate theocracy, the murder or execution of religious dissidents, the suppression of alleged heresy, and the union of church and state.

Books such as 1-2 Kings did not exist in their current form until centuries after the events they describe.  The final editing of these texts occurred in the wake of the Babylonian Exile and the return from it.  Those who produced the final drafts believed that idolatry had been the downfall of the Jewish kingdoms.  So it is no wonder that 1-2 Kings, originally one book, tell the story this way.

I propose that the failing of many of these monarchs with regard to idolatry was to encourage it.  They were not solely responsible for the worship of other deities, a practice embedded deeply in the culture.  They could have, however, modeled good behavior and sound practice.

As for we commoners today, we can, each in his or her own setting, model good behavior and sound practice.  May we do so.  If we are already doing this, may we continue to do so.

KRT

Week of Proper 6: Saturday, Year 1   8 comments

Above:  Tall Wild Grass

Sufficient Grace

JUNE 22, 2019

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

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2 Corinthians 12:1-10 (An American Translation):

I have to boast.  There is nothing to be gained by it, but I will go on to visions and revelations given to me by the Lord.  I know of a man fourteen years ago–whether in the body or out of it, I do not know, God knows–being actually caught up into the third heaven.  And I know that this man–I do not know whether it was in the body or out of it, God knows–was caught up into Paradise, and heard things that must not be told, which no human being can repeat.  On this man’s account I am ready to boast, but about myself I will boast only of my weaknesses.  Thought if I do choose to boast, I will not be such a fool, for I will only be telling the truth.  But I will refrain from it, for I do not want anyone to be influenced by the wonderful character of these revelations to think more of me than is justified by my words or conduct.  So to keep me from being too much elated a bitter physical affliction was sent to me, a very messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too much elated.  Three times I have prayed to the Lord about this, begging that it might leave me, and he said to me,

My favor is enough for you, for only where there is weakness is perfect strength developed.

So I am perfectly willing to boast of all my weakness, so that the strength of Christ may shelter me.  That is why I am pleased with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and difficulties, when they are endured for Christ’s sake, for it is when I am weak that I am strong.

Psalm 34:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The angel of the LORD encompasses all those who fear him,

and he will deliver them.

8 Taste and see that the LORD is good;

happy are they who trust in him!

9 Fear the LORD, you that are his saints,

for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger,

but those who seek the LORD lack nothing that is good.

11 Come, children, and listen to me;

I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

12 Who among you loves life

and desires long life to enjoy prosperity?

13 Keep your tongue from evil-speaking

and your lips from lying words.

14 Turn from evil and do good;

seek peace and pursue it.

Matthew 6:24-34 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

No slave can serve two masters, for he will either hate the one and love the other, or stand by the one and make light of the other.  You cannot serve God and money.  Therefore, I tell you, do not worry about your life, wondering what you will have to eat or drink, or about your body, wondering what you will have to wear.  Is not life more important than food, and the body than clothes.  Look at the wild birds.  They do not sow or reap, or store their food in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more account than they?  But which of you with all his worry can add a single hour to his life?  Why should you worry about clothing?  See how the wild flowers grow.  They do not toil or spin, and yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his splendor was never dressed like one of them.  But if God so beautifully dresses the wild grass, which is alive today and is thrown into the furnace tomorrow, will he not much more surely clothe you, you who have so little faith?  So do not worry and say, ‘What shall we have to eat?’ or ‘What shall we have to drink?’ or ‘What shall we have to wear?’ For these are all things the heathen are in pursuit of, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need all this.  But you must make his kingdom, and uprightness before him, you greatest care, and you will have all these other things besides.  So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will have worries of its own.  Let each be day be content with its own ills.

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The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Following lectionaries on this devotional blog and its two companion blogs, I notice repetition in certain readings and themes.  The excerpt from Matthew has come up before, and I have addressed it at least once prior to this post.  Some of the content of this post will therefore be repetitive, but so is the Bible.

Edgar J. Goodspeed’s An American Translation (complete in 1939) avoids many of the phrases familiar to those of us reared in the Authorized/King James-Revised Standard-New Revised Standard Version tradition.  So “My grace is sufficient for you” becomes “My favor is enough for you,” and the thorn in Paul’s  side becomes “a bitter physical affliction.”  Not being a traditionalist, much less a knee-jerk one, I welcome a good alternative rendering of familiar phrases, terms, and passages, for familiarity with one translation can obscure its meaning sometimes.  Paul, displaying humility, boasts in his weaknesses and writes of a man he knows.  This man, who was actually Paul, experienced mystical visions fourteen years prior to the writing of the epistle.  (I hope that Paul was acquainted with himself.)  Paul received not just these ecstatic visions, but also an unidentified physical affliction, from God.  No matter how much Paul prayed for the removal of this figurative thorn in his side, God did not answer in the affirmative.  But God did say that grace (that is, unearned favor) is sufficient for Paul.  So Paul understood that he was strong in God when he was weak in himself.

The reading from Matthew follows directly that for the Week of Proper 6:  Friday, Year 1.  (By the way, the best way to read these devotions is in sequence, for reasons such as this one.)  We read in the previous Matthew lection that one’s proper treasure does not consist of earthly wealth.

Continuing, Jesus says that nobody can serve both God and money, that we ought not to worry about basic needs, and that God will make these necessities available to us.  Worrying does lead to finding solutions to problems.  As far as I can tell, it does increase stress and blood pressure, decrease the quality of life, make one very bad company, shorten one’s lifespan, and distract one from finding a solution to a real problem.  So, of course, we should not worry.  Neither should we confuse needs and wants.  I suspect that we need much less than we might suspect.  I write from the United States, the home of progressively larger food portions since the Nixon Administration.  This context frames my understanding of hunger.  But how much do we really need?

And recall Acts 4:32-36.  Christians shared their bounty with each other, so that nobody had too much or too little.  We humans are supposed to help each other; God uses us (that is, when we cooperate with God) to supply necessities to each other.  Furthermore, we need to make good decisions, as well, for sometimes our bad fortunes flow from our bad decision making.  All of these statements are true.

So, will we cherish each other and ourselves enough to cooperate with God?  One truth I know is this one:  The social ethic of the self-made man or woman is a lie.  You see, we are all dependent on God and each other.

I have owned, at different times, two tee-shirts bearing the words “GRACE HAPPENS.”  It does, indeed, and it is much better than the implied alternative.  (For those of you not familiar with certain English-language expressions, we say that manure happens, although we use a four-letter word for manure.  I try to maintain a certain positive tone and linguistic standard on this blog, however, so I will stick with “manure.”)  Grace is everywhere, and it is God’s answer to our manure.  We are adept at messing up the world, each other, and ourselves, but only God, by grace, can clean up our messes and work through them to work deeds of mercy.  May we be instruments of that mercy for each other.  Together, in the midst of the muck, grime, and manure, may we witness God’s goodness and sing, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.”

KRT