Archive for the ‘November 13’ Category

Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 27, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Hand Dryer

Above:   A Hand Dryer

Image in the Public Domain

Full of Hot Air

NOVEMBER 13, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, our eternal redeemer, by the presence of your Spirit you renew and direct our hearts.

Keep always in our mind the end of all things and the day of judgment.

Inspire us for a holy life here, and bring us to the joy of the resurrection,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 25:1-26:14

Psalm 123

John 5:19-29

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Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.

–Psalm 123:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Reading a portion of scripture from more than one translation can prove helpful.  The principle applies to Job 26 and 27.  The speech of Bildad the Shuhite encompasses all six verses of Chapter 25 as well as 26:5-14.  Job’s reply fills 26:1-4 and continues in Chapter 27.  The notes in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) recognize this, but the translation (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985) keeps the verses in numerical order, causing some confusion when the voice changes without any textual indication indicating that another character is speaking.  The Jerusalem Bible (1966), however, places 26:1-4 after 26:5-14 and immediately prior to 27:1, making the text coherent.

Job 24:25 concludes the main character’s rebuttal to Eliphaz the Temanite with:

Who can prove me a liar

or show that my words have no substance?

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Bildad attempts to do just that, arguing for the sovereignty of God by pointing to evidences of God in nature.  It is a pious-sounding speech–one not entirely false.  Nevertheless, it is one applied in the service of a false notion–that Job’s reply to Bildad.  Job, with much sarcasm, says:

To one so weak, what a help you are,

for the arm that is powerless, what a rescuer!

What excellent advice you give the unlearned,

never at a loss for a helpful suggestion!

But who are they aimed at, these speeches of yours,

and what spirit is this that comes out of you?

–Job 26:2-4, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Then, in Chapter 27, Job continues to condemn Bildad for spouting empty words.

The words placed in the mouth of Jesus in John 5 are far from empty.  They also extol the sovereignty of God, but in the context of a book in which the glorification of Jesus is his crucifixion (something which Bildad would have argued incorrectly was due to our Lord and Savior’s sins) and resurrection.  One might profit by reading the Book of Job together with the Gospel of John, for the entirety of the latter contradicts the major assumption of the alleged friends of Job.

One can derive many spiritually helpful and theologically correct lessons from the Book of Job.  Among them is this:  We need to realize that, regardless of how orthodox we might be or seem to ourselves, we might nevertheless be full of hot air.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILL CAMPBELL, AGENT OF RECONCILIATION

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/06/03/full-of-hot-air/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 27, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Boaz--Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:  Boaz, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Responsibilities, Insiders, and Outsiders

NOVEMBER 12, 13, and 14, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, you show forth your almighty power

chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy.

Grant to us the fullness of your grace,

strengthen our trust in your promises,

and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:1-22 (Monday)

Ruth 3:14-4:6 (Tuesday)

Ruth 4:7-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 94 (All Days)

1 Timothy 5:1-8 (Monday)

1 Timothy 5:9-16 (Tuesday)

Luke 4:16-30 (Wednesday)

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The Lord will not cast off his people:

nor will he forsake his own.

For justice shall return to the righteous man:

and with him to all the true of heart.

–Psalm 94:14-15, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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The composite pericope from 1 Timothy comes from a particular place and time, so some of the details do not translate well into contemporary Western settings.  May we, therefore, refrain from falling into legalism.  Nevertheless, I detect much of value in that reading, which acknowledges the existence of both collective and individual responsibilities and sorts out the boundary separating them in a particular cultural context.  One principle from that text is that relatives should, as they are able, take care of each other.  Another principle present in the reading is mutuality–responsibility to and for each other.

The lack of a support system, or at least an adequate one, is a major cause of poverty and related ills.  The support system might be any number of things, including:

  1. the social safety net (the maintenance and strengthening of which I consider to be a moral imperative),
  2. friends,
  3. relatives,
  4. neighbors,
  5. the larger community,
  6. a faith community,
  7. non-governmental organizations, or
  8. a combination of some of the above.

In the Book of Ruth Naomi and Ruth availed themselves of effective support systems.  They moved to Bethlehem, where Ruth was a foreigner but Naomi had relatives.  The women also gleaned in fields.  There Ruth met Boaz, a landowner and a kinsman of Naomi.  He obeyed the commandment from Deuteronomy 24:19 and left grain for the poor.  The story had a happy ending, for Ruth and Boaz married and had a son.  Naomi, once bitter, was thrilled.

One hypothesis regarding the Book of Ruth is that the text dates to the postexilic period.  If this is accurate, the story of the marriage of Ruth and Boaz functions as a criticism of opposition to intermarriage between Hebrews and foreigners and serves as a call for the integration of faithful foreigners into Jewish communities.  The Jewish support system, this perspective says, should extend to Gentiles.

Sometimes the call to exercise individual responsibility and to fulfill one’s role in collective responsibility becomes challenging, if not annoying.  One difficulty might be determining the line between the two sets of responsibilities.  Getting that detail correct is crucial, for we are responsible to and for each other.  The Pauline ethic (as in 2 Corinthians 8:7-15) which holds that those who have much should not have too much and that those who have little should not have too little is a fine goal toward which to strive, but who determines how much is too much and how little is too little?  And what is the best way to arrive at and maintain that balance?  These seem like communal decisions, given the communal ethos of the Bible.

If all that were not enough, we might have responsibilities to and for more people than we prefer or know we do.  John Donne wrote,

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were:

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

Do we dare to live according to the standard that anyone’s death diminishes us?  Do we dare to recognize foreigners and other “outsiders” as people whom God loves and whom we ought to love as we love ourselves?  Do we dare to think of “outsiders” as people to whom and for whom we are responsible?  If we do, how will we change the world for the better?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

THE FEAST OF ISAIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF JAN HUS, PROTO-PROTESTANT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF OLUF HANSON SMEBY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/responsibilities-insiders-and-outsiders/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 27, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Candle

Above:  A Candle

Image Source = Martin Geisler

A Light to the Nations

NOVEMBER 13, 14, and 15, 2017

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The Collect:

O God of justice and love,

you illumine our way through life with the words of your Son.

Give us the light we need, and awaken us to the needs of others,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:7-14 (Monday)

Joel 1:1-14 (Tuesday)

Joel 3:9-21 (Wednesday)

Psalm 63 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 14:20-25 (Monday)

1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (Tuesday)

Matthew 24:29-35 (Wednesday)

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The hit parade of judgment comes in these days’ readings.  Among the themes therein is the final judgment, which a glorious future for God’s people will follow.  First, however, one must survive the judgment, if one can.

A theme from the New Testament informs the Old Testament lessons nicely.  Faith–by which I mean active faith, in the Pauline sense of the word, not in sense of purely intellectual faith one reads about in the Letter of James–is not just for one’s benefit and that of one’s faith community.  No, faith is for the good of those whom one draws to God and otherwise encourages spiritually.  The people of God have the assignment to function as a light to the nations.  That was the mission in which many Hebrews failed in the days of the Old Testament.  They became so similar to other nations that they could not serve as a light to those nations.  The same holds true for much of Christianity, whether liberal, moderate, or conservative, for organized religion has a knack for affirming certain prejudices while confronting others.  Some denominations, especially in then U.S. South, formed in defense of race-based slavery.  Others, especially in the U.S. North, formed in opposition to that Peculiar Institution of the South.  Many nineteenth-century and twentieth-century U.S. Protestants recycled pro-slavery arguments to defend Jim Crow laws, and one can still identify bastions of unrepentant racism in churches.  Also, mysogyny and homophobia remain entrenched in much of organized Christianity.

To separate divine commandments from learned attitudes and behaviors can prove difficult.  It is, however, essential if one is to follow God faithfully and to function as a light to others.  May those others join us in praying, in the words of Psalm 63:8:

My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/a-light-to-the-nations/

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Devotion for November 12 and 13 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Última_Cena_-_Da_Vinci_5

Above:  The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

Image in the Public Domain

Jeremiah and Matthew, Part X:  Divine Deliverance–Sometimes Deferred, Sometimes Absent

TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 12, 2019, and WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 13, 2019

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 25:1-18 (November 12)

Jeremiah 26:1-19 (November 13)

Psalm 123 (Morning–November 12)

Psalm 15 (Morning–November 13)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–November 12)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–November 13)

Matthew 26:1-19 (November 12)

Matthew 26:20-35 (November 13)

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Thereupon the chief priests and the Pharisees convened a meeting of the Council.  “This man is performing many signs,” they said, “and what action are we taking?”  If we let him to on like this the whole populace will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and sweep away our temple and our nation.”  But one of them, Caiaphas, who was high priest that year, said, “You have no grasp of the situation at all; you do not realize that is more to your interest that one man should die for the people, than that the whole nation should be destroyed.”

–John 11:47-50, The Revised English Bible

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Eliakim, son of King Josiah, was the brother of King Jehoahaz (a.k.a. Shallum), who reigned for about three months in 609 BCE.  But the Pharaoh of Egypt deposed Jehoahaz/Shallum and replaced him with Eliakim, renamed Jehoiakim, who reigned for about eleven years (608-598 BCE).  Judah was under foreign domination, as 2 Kings 23:31-24:7 describes.

This was the context of the readings from Jeremiah 25 and 26:  Judah was flung between Egypt and Chaldea then under a solely Chaldean threat.  Jeremiah understood this as divine judgment–one which would, in time, turn on the agents of that judgment.  And agents of the puppet government tried to have the prophet executed for alleged treason.

Jeremiah survived that threat but Jesus went on to die.  The Gospel of John contexualizes the moment well:  Jesus was about to become a scapegoat.  Yet the perfidious plan of the high priest and others failed.  Not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but Roman forces did destroy Jerusalem, the Temple, and the nation in 70 CE, a generation later.  But I am getting ahead of the story in Matthew 26.

Jesus, surrounded by Apostles, all of whom would abandon him shortly and one of whom betrayed him immediately, faced mighty  forces determined to kill him.  They succeeded–for a few days.

So our eyes wait upon the Lord our God,

until he have mercy upon us.

Have mercy upon us, O Lord, have mercy upon us,

for we have had more than enough of contempt.

Our soul has had more than enough of the scorn of the arrogant,

and of thee contempt of the proud.

–Psalm 123, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness;

you set me at liberty when I was in trouble;

have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

–Psalm 4:1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Many Bible stories have unhappy endings.  Jeremiah, for example, died in exile.  Jesus did suffer greatly, but his story had a happy conclusion in the chronological, past-tense narrative.  The ultimate end of that tale remains for the future, however.  One bit of tissue which connects the Old and New Testament lections today is that tension, reflected in some of the appointed Psalms, between confidence in God and the absence of divine comfort and deliverance in the present tense.  It is a tension I do not presume to attempt to resolve all too conveniently and falsely.  The good and evil suffer.  The good and the evil prosper.  Sometimes deliverance does not occur on our schedule.  Other times it never happens.  This is reality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS CARACCIOLO, COFOUNDER OF THE MINOR CLERKS REGULAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/jeremiah-and-matthew-part-x-divine-deliverance-sometimes-deferred-sometimes-absent/

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Week of Proper 27: Tuesday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 27: Wednesday,Year 2   3 comments

Above:  A Nurse with Infant Orphans

Image Source = Michielvd

Proper Behavior and the Golden Rule

NOVEMBER 13 and 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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COMPOSITE FIRST READING

Titus 2:1-3:15 (Revised English Bible):

For your part, you must say what is in keeping with sound doctrine.  The older men should be sober, dignified, and temperate, sound in faith, love, and fortitude.  The older women, similarly, should be reverent in their demeanour, not scandalmongers or slaves to excessive drinking; they must set a high standard, and so teach the younger women to be loving wives and mothers, to be temperate, chaste, busy at home, and kind, respecting the authority of their husbands.  Then the gospel will not be brought into disrepute.

Urge the younger men, similarly, to be temperate in all things, and set them an example of good conduct yourself.  In your teaching you must show integrity and seriousness, and offer sound instruction to which none can take exception.  Any opponent will be at a loss when he finds nothing to say to our discredit.

Slaves are to respect their masters’ authority in everything and to give them satisfaction; they are not to answer back, nor to pilfer, but are to show themselves absolutely trustworthy.  In all this they will add lustre to the doctrine of God our Saviour.

For the grace of God has dawned upon the world with healing for all mankind; and by it we are disciplined to renounce godless ways and worldly desires, and to live a life of temperance, honesty, and godliness in the present age, looking forward to the happy fulfillment of our hope when the splendour of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus will appear.  He it is who sacrificed himself for us, to set us free from all wickedness and to make us his own people, pure and eager to do good.

These are your themes; urge them and argue them with an authority which on one can disregard.

Remind everyone to be submissive to the government and the authorities, and to obey them; to be ready for any honourable work; to slander no one, to avoid quarrels, and always to show forbearance and a gentle disposition to all.

There was a time when we too were lost in folly and disobedience and were slaves to passions and pleasures of every kind.  Our days were passed in malice and envy; hateful ourselves, we loathed one another.

But when the kindness and generosity of God our Saviour dawned upon the world, then, not for any good deeds of our own, but because he was merciful, he saved us through the water of rebirth and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit, which he lavished upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, justified by his grace, we might in hope become heirs to eternal life.

That is a saying you may trust.

Such are the points I want to insist on, so that those who have come to believe in God may be sure to devote themselves to good works.  These precepts are good in themselves and useful to society.  But avoid foolish speculations, genealogies, quarrels, and controversies under the law; they are unprofitable and futile.

If someone is contentious, he should be allowed a second warning; after that, have nothing more to do with him, recognizing that anyone like that has a distorted mind and stands self-condemned in his sin.

Once I have sent Artemas or Tychicus to you, join me at Nicopolis as soon as you can, for that is where I have decided to spend the winter.  Do your utmost to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their travels, and see that they are not short of anything.  And our own people must be taught to devote themselves to good works to meet urgent needs; they must not be unproductive.

All who are with me send your greetings.  My greetings to our friends in the faith.  Grace be with you all!

RESPONSE FOR TUESDAY

Psalm 37:1-6, 28-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon whither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

28 Turn from evil, and do good,

and dwell in the land for ever.

29 For the LORD loves justice;

he does not forsake his faithful ones.

RESPONSE FOR WEDNESDAY

Psalm 91:9-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

9  Because you have made the LORD your refuge,

and the Most High your habitation,

10  There shall no evil happen to you,

neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

11  He shall give his angels charge over you,

to keep you in all his ways.

12  They shall bear you in their hands,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

13  You shall tread upon the lion and adder;

you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,

therefore I will deliver him;

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;

I am with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

16 With long life will I satisfy him,

and show him my salvation.

COMPOSITE GOSPEL READING

Luke 17:7-10 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said to his disciples,]

Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing or minding sheep.  When he comes in from the fields, will the master say, “Come and sit down straightway”?  Will he not rather say, “Prepare my supper; hitch up your robe, and wait on me while I have my meal.  You can have yours afterwards”?  Is he grateful to the servant for carrying out his orders?  So with you:  when you have carried out all you have been ordered to do, you should say, “We are servants and deserve no credit; we have only done our duty.”

In the course of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem he was travelling through the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee.  As he was entering a village he was met by ten men with leprosy.  They stood some way off, and called out to him,

Jesus, Master, take pity on us.

When he saw them he said,

Go and show yourselves to the priests;

and while they were on the way, they were made clean.  One of them, finding himself cured, turned back with shouts of praise to God.  He threw himself down at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.  And he was a Samaritan.  At this Jesus said:

Were not all then made clean?  The other nine, where are they?  Was  no one found returning to give praise to God except this foreigner?

And he said to the man,

Stand up and go on your way; your faith has cured you.

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he 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 27:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-tuesday-year-1/

Week of Proper 27:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-wednesday-year-1/

Slavery:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/week-of-proper-25-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-25-thursday-year-2/

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Chapters 2 and 3 of Titus contain much practical advice and non-controversial administrative advice.  Some of the content is sexist by modern standards, but it did not seem so at the time.  Then there are really troublesome parts–slavery and submission to the government.  As I have already written, the failure to condemn slavery and to insist upon complete egalitarianism mars the Pauline tradition for me.  And, as for submission to the government, in the Pauline case, the Roman Empire, I have read some disturbing articles and editorials (as late as the middle 1970s) in arch-conservative, pro-law and order Christian magazines during the Vietnam War era, citing the Third Reich as an extreme example of a government to which one ought to submit.  What would Dietrich Bonhoeffer have said about that?

I propose that, as a Christian, my obligation is to follow the example of Jesus, who lived according to the Golden Rule.  So, regardless of the specific circumstances, may we treat others respectfully and act toward them compassionately.  This might entail some tough love, but so be it.  Each person bears the image of God; may we treat them with the dignity corresponding to the status of God-bearer.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/proper-behavior-and-the-golden-rule/

Week of Proper 27: Wednesday, Year 1   7 comments

Image Source = Infrogmation of New Orleans

Gratitude and Ingratitude

NOVEMBER 13, 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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Wisdom of Solomon 6:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

Hear then, you kings, take this to heart; lords of the wide world, learn this lesson; give ear, you rulers of the multitude, who take pride in myriads of your people.  Your authority was bestowed on you by the Lord, your power comes from the Most High.  He will probe your actions and scrutinize your intentions.  Though you are servants appointed by the King, you have not been upright judges; you have not maintained the law or guided your steps by the will of God.  Swiftly and terribly he will descend on you, for judgement falls relentlessly on those in high places.  The lowest may find pity and forgiveness, but those in power will be called powerfully to account; for he who is Master of all is obsequious to none, and shows no deference to greatness.  Small and great alike are of his making, and all are under his providence equally; but it is for those who wield authority that he reserves the sternest inquisition.  To you, then, who have absolute power I speak, in hope that you may learn wisdom and not go astray; those who in holiness have kept a holy course will be accounted holy, and those who have learnt that lesson will be able to make their defence.  Therefore be eager to hear me; long for my teaching, and you will learn.

Psalm 2 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Why are the nations in an uproar?

Why do the peoples mutter empty threats?

2  Why do the kings of the earth rise up in revolt,

and the princes plot together,

against the LORD and against his Anointed?

3  “Let us break their yoke,” they say;

“let us cast off their bonds from us.”

4  He whose throne is in heaven is laughing;

the LORD has them in derision.

5  Then he speaks to them in his wrath,

and his rage fills them with terror.

6  “I myself have set my king

upon my holy hill of Zion.”

7  Let me announce the decree of the LORD:

he said to me, “You are my Son;

this day I have begotten you.

8  Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance

and the ends of the earth for your possession.

9  You shall crush them with an iron rod

and shatter them like a piece of pottery.

10  And now, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

11  Submit to the LORD with fear,

and with trembling bow before him;

12  Lest he be angry and you perish;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

13  Happy are they all

who take refuge in him!

Luke 17:11-19 (Revised English Bible):

In the course of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem he was travelling through the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee.  As he was entering a village he was met by ten men with leprosy.  They stood some way off, and called out to him,

Jesus, Master, take pity on us.

When he saw them he said,

Go and show yourselves to the priests;

and while they were on the way, they were made clean.  One of them, finding himself cured, turned back with shouts of praise to God.  He threw himself down at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.  And he was a Samaritan.  At this Jesus said:

Were not all then made clean?  The other nine, where are they?  Was  no one found returning to give praise to God except this foreigner?

And he said to the man,

Stand up and go on your way; your faith has cured you.

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Leprosy, in the Bible, is a very broad term referring to a variety of skin diseases and to Hanson’s Disease.  I mention this for the sake of accuracy, with one caveat:  that is not germane to my main point.  Biblical leprosy, whatever we might call it today in medical terms, made one an outcast.  So, aside from the medical condition, there were serious emotional, spiritual, and psychological to consider.  It is difficult to be an outcast, given that we humans are inherently social beings.  To be cut off from one’s relatives, friends, and acquaintances because of a condition over which one has no control is a reality many people have had to face over time.

So Jesus, when he cured the ten lepers, did far more than heal them physically; he restored them to society.  This was a tremendous gift, so why did only one–and a Samaritan at that–return to render verbal thanks?  I propose that the other nine were so overjoyed that they were in a hurry to return to their homes, relatives, and friends.

The text does not state explicitly that the other nine lepers were Jews, but it does make a point of the one who said “thank you” being a Samaritan.  There had long been bad blood between Samaritans and Jews.  Samaritans were of mixed Hebrew-Assyrian ancestry, dating back centuries, when the Assyrian Empire conquered the northern kingdom, Israel.  The Samaritans used (and still use) a truncated Bible, the Torah, in fact.  And they prayed (and still do) on Mount Gerizim, not the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  Samaritans had opposed actively the construction of the Second Temple after the Persian Empire permitted exiled Jews to return to their ancestral homeland.

The original audience for the Gospel of Luke consisted of Gentiles, so it is no accident that an account favorable to a Samaritan is so prominent in that book.   The message is plain:  Whether one is a Jew, a Samaritan, or a member of a different group is irrelevant; what matters is how we respond to Jesus.  And we can start by saying “thank you.”  Then actions must follow.  They will vary according to who, when, and where we are, as well as the talents and skills we bring to our circumstances, which are not entirely under our control.  But God will have assignments for us; may we obey them.

Speaking of assignments…

There used to be a prominent political theory according to which kings ruled as demigods.  “I am related to the god or goddess (insert name here),” they said; “obey me.”  Think of the Pharaohs of Egypt, many of the Roman Emperors, the Merovingian Dynasty in France, for example.  The Merovingians had an especially audacious claim; they said they were descended from Jesus.  Then there was the Divine Right of Kings, by which monarchs asserted that God had given them power, with the same consequence:  “Obey me, or sin.  Do not try to overthrow the system.”  As an American, I am a happy heir to the Enlightenment understanding of political authority which John Locke explained after the Glorious Revolution of 1688:  The right to govern flows from the consent of the governed.

The author of the Wisdom of Solomon lived and died a very long time before the Enlightenment, so I do not expect to find a democratic treatise in his work.  Yet his basic point is timeless:  With great power comes great responsibility.  Wielding authority carries the duty to govern wisely, for the common good, and to work for social justice.  The kings of which the author of the Wisdom of Solomon writes have failed on all these counts.  The grateful action God requires of them is to govern well, and they have not done so.  God will therefore call them to account.

The author of the Wisdom of Solomon reminds us:

Small and great alike are of his [God’s] making, and all are under his providence equally.

Again and again in the Bible God becomes quite angry about mistreatment of the poor, the marginal, and other vulnerable people.  One way of responding to God out of gratitude is obeying the divine command to treat others as one would them to treat one’s self.  Or, as Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

I maintain my devotional blogs for several reasons.  Among them is this:  to contribute something, no matter how relatively small, positive and uplifting to the Internet.  God has blessed me in many ways, including my education, my intellect, and my spiritual inclinations.  They merge inside my brain and demand an outlet.  Yes, I tell God “thank you” often in private.  And, again and again, I return to my self-imposed devotional writing schedule.  I grow from the exercise and hope and pray that you, O reader, derive positive benefit, too.

Here is your takeaway:  What will gratitude require of you?  May you perceive God’s answer to that question and follow the instructions.

Pax vobiscum.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/gratitude-and-ingratitude/