Archive for the ‘June 25’ Category

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 7, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Job Speaks with His Friends Dore

Above:  Job Speaks With His Friends, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

“Received Wisdom”

JUNE 24, 2019, and JUNE 25, 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:

Job 18:1-21 (Monday)

Job 19:1-22 (Tuesday)

Psalm 64 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 1:18-31 (Monday)

Ephesians 2:11-22 (Tuesday)

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They sharpen their tongues like a sword,

aim their arrows of poisonous abuse,

shoot at the innocent from cover,

shoot suddenly, with nothing to fear.

–Psalm 64:3-4, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Blaming victims is among the oldest of human practices.  Consider the Book of Job, O reader.  Chapters 1 and 2 explain why the eponymous character suffers; God allows it.  Job is upright; he suffers not because of any sins he has committed but because he has become a pawn in a heavenly wager.  Job protests repeatedly that he is innocent.  Bildad the Shuhite, however, will hear nothing of it.  The righteous flourish and the wicked suffer, according to Bildad.  This does not lift Job’s spirits, of course.

Sometimes “received wisdom” is actually foolishness.  The example of Jesus of Nazareth belies the theology of Bildad the Shuhite, a system of thought which has staying power, unfortunately.  Sometimes innocent and righteous people suffer, even die unjustly.  Jesus was not only innocent but the most righteous person ever, and he died unjustly.

I wonder how much “received wisdom” we assume to be valid and true is actually invalid and false.  I also wonder how often we, acting on that erroneous assumption, harm others when we should help them.  May God show us the errors of our ways and forgive us for them.  And may we, by grace, succeed in changing them so that we will become agents of divine healing, comfort, and reconciliation for all who need them and whose paths cross ours.

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/received-wisdom/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 7, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Seventh Plague John Martin

Above:  The Seventh Plague, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

The Kingdom of This World

JUNE 25 and 26, 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:

Exodus 7:14-24 (Monday)

Exodus 9:13-35 (Tuesday)

Psalm 65 (Both Days)

Acts 27:13-38 (Monday)

Acts 27:39-44 (Tuesday)

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You still the roaring of the seas,

the roaring of the waves,

and the clamor of the peoples.

Those who dwell at the ends of the earth

will tremble at your marvelous signs;

you make the dawn and dusk to sing for joy.

–Psalm 65:7-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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God, the biblical authors affirmed, controls nature.  This theme occurs in the plagues upon Egypt, Jesus walking on water, droughts in ancient Israel and Judah, et cetera.  The pericopes from Exodus, in which the theme of God being in control of nature occur, constitute a narrative which contrasts with the storm at sea then the shipwreck in Acts 27.  Innocent Egyptians suffered and/or died in the plagues, but all hands survived in Acts 27.  The plagues led to the freedom of the Hebrew slaves, but the voyage of the prison ship took St. Paul the Apostle to his trial, house arrest, and execution at Rome.  I can only wonder about the fates of the other prisoners.  Drowning at sea might have been a more merciful way of dying.

The Exodus pericopes remind me that sometimes a divine rescue operation comes with a body count.  When oppressors insist on oppressing the end of their oppression is good news for their victims yet bad news for them.  Sometimes innocent people become casualties in the conflict, unfortunately.

I wish that all were joy, love, and happiness.  I wish that nobody would ever oppress anyone.  Violence would be absent from my utopia.  Yet Utopia is nowhere, potentates are often prideful and not concerned with the best interests of their people, and circumstances escalate to the point that some people will suffer from violence one way or another.  This proves (as if anyone needs confirmation) that the Kingdom of God is not fully realized in our midst.

May we pray for the day that it will become fully realized on this plane of existence.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/the-kingdom-of-this-world/

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Devotion for June 23, 24, and 25 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  The Edicule, Church of Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Palestine, 1878-1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Proverbs and John, Part IX:  Resurrection and Vocation

SUNDAY, JUNE 23, 2019

MONDAY, JUNE 24, 2019

TUESDAY, JUNE 25, 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 27:1-24 (June 23)

Proverbs 30:1-9, 18-33 (June 24)

Proverbs 31:10-31 (June 25)

Psalm 19 (Morning–June 23)

Psalm 136 (Morning–June 24)

Psalm 123 (Morning–June 25)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–June 23)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–June 24)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–June 25)

John 20:1-18 (June 23)

John 20:19-31 (June 24)

John 21:1-25 (June 25)

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The readings from Proverbs cover a variety of topics, from friendship to flock management to the imperative of championing the poor and the needy to the virtues of a capable wife.  One can establish links between some of these unites and John 20-21, and I will hint at a few of them.

After one has seen Jesus die and meet him afterward, what is one supposed to do?  He did die as an insurrectionist (that was the charge), so following him was dangerous.  An initial and not unreasonable lack of understanding of the Resurrection faded and made way for mission.  A woman told men that Jesus was alive, thereby becoming the first post-Resurrection evangelist.  (St. Mary Magadalene, as the Eastern Orthodox say, was an equal of the Apostles.)  Returning to  fishing was a momentary lapse; the time had come for people after Christ’s Ascension (or whatever form the departure took according to the laws of Nature.)  Christ changed everything in the lives of those who went on to proclaim him after he left.

Some understanding comes best by experience, for words, although necessary, are woefully inadequate on some occasions.  An author of some proverbs did not grasp how an eagle could fly or a ship navigate.  These were (are remain) natural and technological issues, respectively.  Such matters one can explain well via facts.  The Resurrection of Jesus, however, is more mysterious in its mechanics, and I embrace the mystery.  Besides, the post-Resurrection reality really interests me, for it is my reality.  It has been human reality for nearly two thousand years.  And what that reality will require of me is not necessarily (in technical details) a match for what it will require of you, O reader.  Our circumstances are different, and we are not identical.  There is plenty of work to do for Jesus; may each of us do our part faithfully.

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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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/proverbs-and-john-part-ix-resurrection-and-vocation/

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Week of Proper 7: Monday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  A Chart of the Kings of Israel and Judah

Needlessly Sad Stories

JUNE 25, 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 17:5-18 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then the king of Assyria marched against the whole land; he came to Samaria and besieged it for three years.  In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured of Samaria.  He deported the Israelites to Assyria and settled them in Halah, at the [River] Habor, at the River Gozan, and in the towns of Media.

This happened because the Israelites sinned against the LORD their God, who had freed them from the land of Egypt, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.  They worshiped other gods and followed the customs of the nations which the LORD had dispossessed before the Israelites and the customs which the kings of Israel had practiced.  The Israelites committed against the LORD their God acts which were not right.  They built for themselves shrines in all their settlements, from watchtowers to fortified cities; they set up pillars and sacred posts for themselves on every lofty hill and under every leafy tree, and they offered sacrifices there, at all the shrines, like the nations whom the LORD had driven into exile before them.  They committed wicked acts to vex the LORD, and they worshiped fetishes concerning which the LORD had said to them,

You must not do this thing.

The LORD warned Israel and Judah by every prophet [and] every seer, saying:

Turn back from your wicked ways, and observe My commandments and My laws, according to all the Teaching that I commanded your fathers and that I transmitted to you through My servants the prophets.

But they did not obey; they stiffened their necks, like their fathers who did not have faith in the LORD their God; they spurned His laws and the covenant that He had made with their fathers, and the warnings He had given them.  They went after delusion and were deluded; [they imitated] the nations that were about them, which the LORD had forbidden them to emulate.  They rejected all the commandments of the LORD their God; they made molten idols for themselves–two calves–and they made a sacred post and they bowed down to all the host of heaven, and they worshiped Baal.  They consigned their sons and daughters to the fire; they practiced augury and divination, and gave themselves over to what was displeasing to the LORD and vexed Him.  The LORD was incensed at Israel and He banished them from His presence; none was left but the tribe of Judah alone.

Psalm 60 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, you have cast us off and broken us;

you have been angry;

oh, take us back to you again.

2  You have shaken the earth and split it open;

repair the cracks in it, for it totters.

3  You have made your people know hardship;

you have given us wine that makes us stagger.

4  You have set up a banner for those who fear you,

to be a refuge from the power of the bow.

5  Save us by your right hand and answer us,

that those who are dear to you may be delivered.

6  God spoke from his holy place and said:

“I will exult and parcel out Shechem;

I will divide the valley of Succoth.

7  Gilead is mine and Manasseh is mine;

Ephraim is my helmet and Judah my scepter.

8  Moab is my wash-basin,

on Edom I throw down my sandal to claim it,

and over Philistia will I shout in triumph.”

9  Who will lead me into the strong city?

who will bring me into Edom?

10  Have you not cast us off, O God?

you no longer go out, O God, with our armies.

11  Grant us your help against the enemy,

for vain is the help of man.

12  With God we will do valiant deeds,

and he shall tread our enemies under foot.

Matthew 7:1-5 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Pass no more judgments upon other people, so that you may not have judgment passed upon you.  For you will be judged by the standard you judge by, and men will pay you back with the same measure you have used with them.  Why do you keep looking at the speck in your brother’s eye, and pay no attention to the beam that is in your own?  How can you say to your brother, “Just let me get that speck out of your eye,” when all the time there is a beam in your own?  You hypocrite!  First get the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see to get the speck out of your brother’s eye.

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The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 7:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/week-of-proper-7-monday-year-1/

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The Canadian Anglican Lectionary has skipped over many details to arrive at the summary, so follow the bouncing balls with me while I summarize those parts of 2 Kings over which the lectionary has skipped.

We begin in the Kingdom of Judah.

  • Jehoash/Joash (836-798 B.C.E.)
  • Amaziah (798-769 B.C.E.)
  • Azariah/Uzziah (785-733 B.C.E.)
  • Jotham (759-743 B.C.E.)
  • Ahaz (743/735-727/715 B.C.E.)
  • Hezekiah (727/715-698/687 B.C.E.)

(Dates from page 2111 of The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004)

We have already part of the account of the reign of Jehoash/Joash of Judah from 2 Chronicles.  So we can move along to his son and successor, Amaziah.  He generally pleased God but did not remove the idolatrous shrines and altars.  The text criticizes him for killing just his father’s assassins but sparing their children.  (See 2 Kings 14:5-6 and Deuteronomy 24:16.)  He also lost a war to King Jehoash/Joash of Israel.

Azariah/Uzziah, Amaziah’s son, reigned for 52 years.  Like his father, he generally pleased God yet did not remove the places of idolatry.  The text says that God struck him with leprosy as punishment for this sin of omission.  So his son Jotham reigned as regent then king.  Jotham, the text tells us, displeased God and did not remove the shrines and altars either.

The narrator condemns Ahaz, Jotham’s son.  Ahaz, the text tells us, practiced idolatry openly.  He

even consigned his son to the fire,

which might indicate a rite of passage, not a child sacrifice, but does not sound good, whatever it was, and

sacrificed and made offerings at the shrines, on the hills, and under every leafy tree.

And Ahaz, while a captive of King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel, bribed the Assyrian king to deliver him.  The bribe consisted of the gold and silver at the Jerusalem Temple.   Ahaz also ordered the construction of a new pagan altar–a replica of one at Damascus–at Jerusalem then made a public offering at it.

Hezekiah succeeded his father, Ahaz, as king.  We will read about him another day.

A note about dating the reigns of ancient kings is in order.  I have checked various study Bibles and found slightly different regnal dates for the same monarchs.  The B.C./A.D. or, if you prefer, B.C.E./C.E. dating system is about 1500 years old.  So it obviously did not exist at the time of the events of which we are reading.  Converting dates from one calendar to another can also be tricky.  And ancient documents provided relativistic dates, such as

In the twelfth year of King Ahaz of Judah….

If one does not know when King Ahaz of Judah reigned, this does not help.  Furthermore, taking a literal reading of all these relativistic dates leads to chronological inconsistencies.  So sometimes an honest historian or student of history must plead confusion.

Now I move along to the Kingdom of Israel.

  • Jehoahaz (817-800 B.C.E.)
  • Jehoash/Joash (800-784 B.C.E.)
  • Jeroboam II (788-747 B.C.E.)
  • Zechariah (747 B.C.E.)
  • Shallum (747 B.C.E.)
  • Menachem (747-737 B.C.E.)
  • Pekahiah (737-735 B.C.E.)
  • Pekah (735-732 B.C.E.)
  • Hoshea (732-722 B.C.E)

(Dates from page 2111 of The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004)

The last Kings of Israel came in for bad reviews from the narrator.  A recurring condemnation is that they persisted in the sins of their predecessors.  Among these sins was idolatry.  The last strong monarch of Israel was Jeroboam II, who reigned for 41 years and expanded his kingdom’s borders.  Then everything went downhill.  Zechariah was the last king of the Jehu Dynasty.  His reign ended because Shallum assassinated him.  Shallum reigned for one month before Menahem killed him.

Menahem was an especially bad character.  He attacked the territory of Tiphsah.  The people did not surrender, so he

massacred [its people] and ripped open all its pregnant women.

Like his predecessors, Menahem persisted in the traditional sins of the Kings of Israel.  He also paid tribute to the Assyrian king after an Assyrian invasion.  Pekahiah succeeded his father, persisted in the sins of the Kings of Israel, and reigned for two years, dying of an assassination.

Pekah, the next king, was the assassin.  The text says that he reigned for twenty years, but he ruled from Samaria for closer to two years.  The only way to avoid a contradiction between these two facts is to say that he was running a parallel government for the rest of the time.  The Assyrian conquest of Israel began during his reign, for the first part of the forced exile commenced.  Hoshea assassinated Pekah and became the last King of Israel.  He was really a vassal of the Assyrian king, however.

Here ends the history lesson and begins the rest of my text.

I admit it:  I have little new to say.  “Idolatry is bad.”  There is a post about that in this series.  “Theocracy is also a bad idea.”  I have written that in at least two posts, one of them in this recent series.  “Let us be quick to comfort, not cast blame, in difficult times.”  There is also a recent post about that.  So, instead of repeating myself in this post, I conclude with the preceding recap and move along.

The ten northern tribes lost their identities religiously before they lost them politically.  But their descendants live on the planet.   The populations are spread out across the Old World.  Their cultural markers have not faded entirely.  But the ten tribes did not return home.

The recent stories from 1-2 Kings have been sad.  They did not have to be this way, however.  May our choices work out better.

KRT

Week of Proper 7: Tuesday, Year 1   7 comments

Above: Golden Rule, by Norman Rockwell (1961)

Images of this painting are plentiful online, but I took it from http://gardenofpraise.com/art12.htm.

The Golden Rule

JUNE 25, 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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Genesis 13:2, 5-18 (An American Translation):

Abram was now very rich in cattle, silver, and gold.

Lot, who accompanied Abram, also had flocks and herds, as well as tents.  The land could not support them both; for their possessions were so great that they could not live together.  Trouble arose accordingly between the herdsmen of Abram’s stock and those of Lot’s.  (The Canaanites and the Perizzites were living in the land at that time.)

There simply must be no quarrel between you and me,

Abram said to Lot,

nor between your herdsmen and mine; for we are kinsmen.  The whole land is open to you, is it not?  Please part from me then.  If you go to the left, I will go the right; or if you go to the right, I will go to the left.

Then Lot looked out, and saw that the whole basin of the Jordan was well watered everywhere (this was before the LORD destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah) like the LORD’s own garden, like the land of Egypt in the vicinity of Zoar.  So lot chose the whole Jordan basin.  Lot set off eastward, and thus they parted from each other.  Abram settled in the land of Canaan, while Lot settled in the cities of the Basin, extending his tents as far as Sodom.  (Now the men of Sodom were wicked, being great sinners against the LORD.)

After Lot had parted from him, the LORD said to Abram,

Raise your eyes now, and look out from the place where you are, north, south, east, and west; for all the land that you see, I am going to give to you and your descendants for all time.  I am going to make your descendants like the dust of the earth, so that it will be as possible to count the dust of the earth as to count your descendants.  Go and travel the length and breadth of the land; for I am giving it to you.

So Abram moved his tent, and went to live beside the terebinth of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.

Psalm 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

who may abide upon your holy hill?

2 Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right,

who speaks the truth from his heart.

3 There is no guile upon his tongue;

he does no evil to his friend;

he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.

4 In his sight the wicked is rejected,

but he honors those who fear the LORD.

5 He has sworn to do no wrong

and does not take back his word.

6 He does not give his money in hope of gain,

nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

7 Whoever does these things

shall never be overthrown.

Matthew 7:6, 12-14 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not give what is sacred to dogs, and do not throw your pearls before pigs, or they will trample them under their feet and turn and tear you in pieces….Therefore you must always treat other people as you would like them to have them treat you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.

Go in at the narrow gate.  For the road that leads to destruction is broad and spacious, and there are many who go in by it.  But the gate is narrow the road is hard that leads to life, and there are few that find it.

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The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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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Many readers of the Bible (especially novices to the sacred anthology) become bogged down in the Hebrew Scriptures.  My experience was different, for my first real reading of of any part of the Old Testament was the Joseph epic from Genesis.  There are so many wonderful and epic stories in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Among these is the Abraham epic, through which the Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following guides a reader.  Since our previous lection, famine has forced Abram (later to renamed Abraham) and his family into fertile Egypt.  No sooner had they gone to collect on a divine promise than circumstances had forced them to delay claiming it.  Abram was concerned that royal officials might kill him and claim his lovely wife, Sarai (later to be renamed Sarah), so he claimed that she was actually his sister.  (This was partially true, for she was his half-sister.  But a half-truth is still a half-truth.) Most English versions of the Bible use a euphemism for what happened next, for they claim that the Pharaoh took Sarai into his palace, his house, or his household.  Kenneth N. Taylor’s The Living Bible, which cuts through euphemisms like a knife through butter, gets to the point:

…and she was taken into the harem.  (12:15)

In exchange, the Pharaoh bestows upon Abram much livestock, silver, and gold.

Let us pause here.  There are Bible stories and portions thereof that one does not find discussed often (or at all) in children’s Bible story books and in juvenile Sunday School classes.  I understand why, for the Bible does not carry a “G” rating.  But we are adults here, and we should be able to discuss the R-rated portions of the Bible intelligently and maturely.  This portion of the story of Abram and Sarai has an unsavory taste about it.  He benefited financially (as did she in the medium term and the long term, despite immediate risks) from her compromising situation.

This is an early example of Abram not trusting God to fulfill divine promises.  It is not the most notable one.  Even Abram, a great man of faith, was imperfect.  And God still protected and blessed him.  We can take comfort from that.

Genesis 12 tells us that God caused “great plagues” to befall the Phaoronic household, so the Egyptian monarch deported Abram, Sarai, and company–along with the livestock, silver, and gold.  They returned (in Genesis 13) to Bethel, where there was too little space for Abram, his nephew Lot, and their livestock and herdsmen.  So Abram and Lot parted company and relocated, so that each would have sufficient space and harmony might be preserved.   Then God reiterated the divine promise to Abram.

Genesis 13 contains foreboding foreshadowing regarding Lot, but I will not discuss it here and now.  I intend to follow the events of the Abraham epic in sequentially in this lectionary series.

Now I turn toward the excerpt from Matthew.

Matthew 7:6 is a difficult saying.  Swine were unclean beasts, and dogs were wild scavengers, not beloved pets.  So who among the humans were supposed to be the swine and dogs?

Reading in textual context is especially useful here.  Matthew 7:6 follows 7:1-5, the “do not judge” teaching.  Jesus reminds us that the standard we apply to others will apply to us, as well, and that we ought to notice and deal with our own faults before focusing on those of others.  Then we have this admonition not to throw pearls before swine and to give dogs what is sacred.

I have consulted various books with regard to this verse.  The best interpretation comes from W. Clyde Tilley in The Surpassing Righteousness:  Evangelism and Ethics in the Sermon on the Mount (Smyth & Helwys, 1992).  Tilley writes:

We cannot simply assume that all the beneficiaries of our good deeds, all of the hearers of our treasured teachings, will receive them with equal gratitude.  We cannot even assume that they will be received at all….Now we are being reminded in this case that one’s own perception can be so distorted that the sharing of the sharing of true values with that person can may be hopeless for him and harmful to ourselves….Maybe the only certainty we can have here is that such persistent and final rejecters do exist, even if we must ever defer to God for the final judgment about who these are.  (pages 149-150)

This interpretation is consistent with 7:13-14, the teaching about the narrow gate and the wide road.

In the middle of all this we have 7:12, the Golden Rule.  God is the final judge, and we are not to judge others.  We are called to love one another and ourselves actively, treating others at all times in ways we would want them to treat us.  I recall the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3b-9, 18-23):  many seeds will come to naught.  But we have to try, do we not?

And, by the way, would not the world be a vastly better place if many more people went about practicing the Golden Rule?  Try it on a smaller scale; practice the Golden Rule among all those with whom you come into contact.  Witness the results, in full knowledge that, in a “do unto others before they do unto you” world, you might experience what state intelligence agents call blowback, or unintended negative consequences.  But God is the final judge about who is worthy.  Let us not play God.

Chiefly, may we trust God.  Abram trusted God some of the time, as do we.  Decisions he made when he did not trust God had bad consequences–sometimes for himself and other times for others.  And, as we attempt to live according to the Golden Rule, may we trust that God is just, that our judgment and knowledge are limited, and that loving God and respecting human dignity are always good standards of ethical behavior.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/the-golden-rule/

Proper 7, Year A   22 comments

Above: The Scapegoat, by William Holman Hunt (1954)

No More Scapegoating

The Sunday Closest to June 22

The Third Sunday After Pentecost

JUNE 25, 2017

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 21:8-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

The child grew, and was weaned; and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned.  But Sarah saw the son of Hagar the Egyptian, whom she had borne to Abraham,

Cast out this slave woman with her son; for the son of this slave woman shall not inherit along with my son Isaac.

The matter was very distressing to Abraham, on account of his son.  But God said to Abraham,

Do not be distressed because of your slave woman; whatever Sarah does to you, do as she tells you, for it is through Isaac that offspring shall be named for you.  As for the son of the slave woman, I will make a nation of him also, because he is your offspring.

So Abraham rose early in the morning, and took bread and a skin of water, and gave it to Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, along with the child, and sent her away.  And she departed, and wandered about in the wilderness of Beersheba.

When the water in the skin was gone, she cast the child under one of the bushes.  Then she went and sat down opposite him a good way off, about the distance of a bowshot; for she said,

Do not let me look on the death of the child.

And as she sat opposite him, she lifted up her voice and wept.  And God heard the voice of the boy; and the angel of God called to Hagar from heaven, and said to her,

What troubles you, Hagar?  Do not be afraid; for God has heard the voice of the boy where he is.  Come, lift up the boy and hold him fast with your hand, for I will make a great nation of him.

Then God opened her eyes and she saw a well of water.  She sent, and filled the skin with water, and gave the boy a drink.

God was with the boy, and he grew up; he lived in the wilderness, and became an expert with the bow.  He lived in the wilderness of Paran; and his mother got him a wife from the land of Egypt.

Psalm 86:1-10, 16-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bow down your ear, O LORD, and answer me,

for I am poor and in misery.

2 Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful;

save your servant who puts his trust in you.

3 Be merciful to me, O LORD, for you are my God;

I call upon you all the day long.

4 Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

5 For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving,

and great is your love toward all who call upon you.

6 Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer,

and attend to the voice of my supplications.

7 In the time of trouble I will call upon you,

for you will answer me.

8 Among the gods there is none like you, O LORD,

nor anything like your works.

9 All nations you have made will come and worship you, O LORD,

and glorify your Name.

10 For you are great;

you do wondrous things;

and you alone are God.

16 Turn to me and have mercy upon me;

give your strength to your servant;

and save the child of your handmaid.

17 Show me a sign of your favor,

so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed;

because you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Jeremiah 20:7-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

O LORD, you have enticed me,

and I was enticed;

you have overpowered me,

and you have prevailed.

I have become a laughingstock all day long;

everyone mocks me.

For whenever I speak, I must cry out,

I must shout, “Violence and destruction!”

For the word of the LORD has become for me

a reproach and derision all day long.

If I say, “I will not mention him,

or speak any more in his name,”

then within me there is something like a burning fire

shut up in my bones;

I am weary with holding it in,

and I cannot.

For I hear many whispering:

“Terror is all around!

Denounce him!  Let us denounce him!”

All my close friends

are watching for me to stumble.

“Perhaps he can be enticed,

and we can prevail against him,

and take our revenge on him.”

But the LORD is with me like a dread warrior;

therefore my persecutors will stumble,

and they will not prevail.

They will be greatly shamed,

for they will not succeed.

Their eternal dishonor

will never be forgotten.

O LORD of hosts, you test the righteous,

you see the heart and the mind;

let me see your retribution upon them,

for to you I have committed my cause.

Sing to the LORD;

praise the LORD!

For he has delivered the life of the needy

from the hands of evildoers.

Psalm 69:8-11 (12-17), 18-20 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 Surely, for your sake have I suffered reproach,

and shame has covered my face.

9 I have become a stranger to my own kindred,

an alien to my mother’s children.

10 Zeal for your house has eaten me up;

the scorn of those who scorn you has fallen upon me.

11 I humbled myself with fasting,

but that was turned to my reproach.

12 I put on sack-cloth also,

and became a byward among them.

13 Those who sit at the gate murmur against me,

and the drunkards make songs about me.

14 But as for me, this is my prayer to you,

at the time you have set, O LORD;

15 “In your great mercy, O God,

answer me with your unfailing help.

16 Save me from the mire; do not let me sink;

let me be rescued from those who hate me

and out of the deep waters.

17 Let not the torrent of waters wash over me,

neither let the deep pit swallow me up;

do not let the Pit shut its mouth upon me.

18 Answer me, O LORD, for your love is kind;

in your great compassion, turn to me.”

SECOND READING

Romans 6:1b-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound?  By no means!  How can we who died to sin go on living in it?  Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into his death?  Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his.  We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might no longer be enslaved to sin.  For whoever has died is freed from sin.  But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.   We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  So you must also consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 10:24-39 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Jesus said,] “A disciple is not above the teacher, nor a slave above the master; it is enough for the disciple to be like the teacher, and the slave like the master.  If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household!

So have no fear of them; for nothing is covered up that will not be uncovered, and nothing secret that will not become known.  What I say to you in the dark, tell in the light; and what you hear whispered, proclaim from the housetops.  Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.  Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  And even the hairs of your head are all counted.  So do not be afraid; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Everyone therefore who acknowledges me before others, I also will acknowledge before my Father in heaven; but whoever denies me before others, I also will deny before my Father in heaven.

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.

For I have come to set a man against his father,

and a daughter against her mother,

and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law;

and one’s foes will be members of one’s own household.

Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up the cross and follow me is not worthy of me.  Those who find their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.

The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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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Problems are real.  When faced with the necessity of facing a difficult or awkward situation  honestly and resolving a it, one might do so, or one might find a scapegoat instead.  Often we humans scapegoat.  This day’s readings concern scapegoating.

Abraham and Sarah had known for years that he would have many descendants.  First, however, he needed one.  So they decided to act, and Sarah granted her permission for Abraham to sire his heir via Hagar, her Egyptian slave.  Ishmael was the result.  His existence became awkward after the birth of Isaac.

Whatever else the Bible is, it is honest about the faults of figures the reader is supposed to admire.  Abraham, for example, comes across as a really bad father.  In Genesis 21 he consents to the expulsion of Hagar and Ishmael.  And he tries to kill Isaac in the next chapter.  That story disturbs me deeply, but I get ahead of myself; that tale will wait until Proper 8, Year A.

Note, anyway, the sympathetic tone in the text with regard for the plight of Hagar and her son.  These two were not responsible for what was happening, yet they bore the brunt of the circumstances of Sarah’s jealousy.  This jealousy created a new problem in time, for ethnic tensions arose from it.  Jewish tradition links Ishmael to the origin of Arab bedouin tribes, and the Koran states that Muhammad is descended from Abraham’s firstborn son.  People still use the tale of Ishmael and Isaac to justify hatred.

The prophet Jeremiah spent years speaking unpopular truths and behaving bizarrely.  He ate a scroll, walked around naked, and said that the Kingdom of Judah was doomed.  The latter point was fairly obvious by his time, for the Chaldean (a.k.a. Babylonian) Empire menaced the kingdom.  Furthermore, the two Kings of Judah were puppets of foreigners–one of Egypt and the other of Babylonia.  Jeremiah faced scorn and persecution for his efforts.  This day’s reading from the book bearing his name (The actual author of the book was the scribe Baruch.) contains one of the prophet’s understandable complaints to God.  Jeremiah had become a scapegoat.  What he said would happen did occur, of course, so scapegoating him did not resolve the national crisis.

Jesus was a scapegoat, too.  As some religious authorities said, they preferred to sacrifice him to the Roman Empire than for the imperium to kill many people.  Both happened, of course, just about a generation apart.  As the reading from Matthew acknowledges, the mere existence of Jesus was divisive.  And it still is, especially in families where someone has converted to Christianity and religious law and/or cultural custom requires the convert’s death on the charge of apostasy.  But, as Paul wrote far better than I can, the death of Jesus bestows spiritual life in God.  So, as Jesus said, one should not fear those who can kill only the body.  No, spiritual death is what one ought to fear and avoid.

God cares for us.  God cared for Hagar and Ishmael, for Jeremiah, and for Jesus and Paul.  All of them suffered, but God was with them through it all and provided for them.  And God cares for us, too.  Will we reciprocate and trust God to provide for us, or will we seek convenient, easy solutions, which will only complicate the issue?  Will we listen to God and to God’s prophets, or will we engage in scapegoating?

The death and resurrection of Jesus were profound events packed with meanings.  Among them is this:  Scapegoating is destructive and ineffective.  Why do we continue to scapegoat?  I think the answer is that we like the seemingly easy way out.  May God have mercy on us.

KRT