Archive for the ‘November 9’ Category

Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 27, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Moses and the Burning Bush

Above:   Moses and the Burning Bush

Image in the Public Domain

Human Traditions and Divine Authority

NOVEMBER 9, 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:

Exodus 3:13-20

Psalm 17:1-9

Luke 20:1-8

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Weigh my heart, summon me by night,

melt me down, you will find no impurity in me.

–Psalm 17:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Moses had been a fugitive from Egyptian justice from Exodus 2.  Egyptian juris prudence frowned upon killing taskmasters in charge of slaves (2:11-15).  Moses was safely distant from Egypt and hopefully happily married when God called him to return to Egypt, to participate in the liberation of the Hebrews.  In reply to the request for a name, God provided a non-name, indicating the absence of human control over the divine.

Throughout the long narrative of the Bible prophets were frequently inconvenient to people in authority.  There were false prophets who agreed with the monarchs who favored them, but prophets of God were often in the faces of kings.  St. John the Baptist, standing in this tradition, ran afoul of religious authorities and Herod Antipas.  Jesus, greater than the prophets, had many confrontations with religious authorities and proved to be a better debater than any of them.  God was doing a new thing via Jesus, and religious authorities, wedded to their traditions and collaborating with the Roman Empire, found it threatening.

Tradition itself is not bad; neither is it inherently good.  Tradition is simply that which one generation passes down to another.  The best question to ask in this context is the one which evaluates any given tradition on its merits.  May we avoid becoming so attached to our traditions that we oppose the work of God, who is beyond our control.

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/human-traditions-and-divine-authority/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 27, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Fig Tree

Above:  A Fig Tree, 1915

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01901

If Only

NOVEMBER 9 and 10, 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:

Deuteronomy 15:1-11 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 24:17-22 (Saturday)

Psalm 146 (Both Days)

Hebrews 9:15-24 (Friday)

Mark 11:12-14, 20-24 (Saturday)

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Blessed is the man whose help is the God of Jacob:

whose hope is in the Lord his God,

the God who made heaven and earth:

the sea and all that is in them,

who keeps faith forever:

who deals justice to those that are oppressed.

–Psalm 146:5-7, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you:  open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman in your land.

–Deuteronomy 15:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Deuteronomy 15:11 follows two pivotal verses:

There shall be no needy among you–since the LORD your God will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a hereditary portion–if only you heed the LORD your God and take care to keep all this instruction that I enjoin upon you this day.

–Deuteronomy 15:4-5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

“If only” is a major condition in that passage.

The readings from Deuteronomy acknowledge the reality of the presence of needy people and provide culturally specific ways to minimize the social problem.  These include:

  1. Forgiving debts of Hebrews (but not for foreigners) and the freeing of servants every seventh year;
  2. Refraining from exploiting strangers, widows, and orphans;
  3. Leaving olives on trees and grapes in vineyards for the poor to pick; and
  4. Leaving grain in the fields for the poor to glean.

Examples change according to the location and time, but the principle to care for the less fortunate on the societal and individual levels is constant.

Failure to obey these laws was among the charges Hebrews prophets made against their society.  The Temple system at the time of Jesus exploited the poor and promoted collaboration with the Roman Empire and a form of piety dependent upon wealth.  The story of the cursed fig tree in Mark 11 uses the fig tree as a symbol for Israel and the cursing of the plant as an allegory of our Lord and Savior’s rejection of the Temple system, for the two parts of the reading from Mark 11 function as bookends for the cleansing of the Temple.

And when the chief priests and scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.

–Mark 11:19, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Therefore I find a fitting segue to the pericope from Hebrews 9, with its theme of cleansing from sin by blood.  (Let us never give the Resurrection of Jesus short shrift, for, without the Resurrection, we have a perpetually dead Jesus.)  Jesus died because of, among other reasons, the threat he posed to the political-religious Temple system, the shortcomings of which he criticized.  The actual executioners were Romans, whose empire took the law-and-order mentality to an extreme.  Our Lord and Savior was dangerous in the eyes of oppressors, who acted.  God used their evil deeds for a redemptive purpose, however.  That sounds like grace to me.

If only more societies and governments heeded the call for economic justice.  If only more religious institutions sought ways to care effectively for the poor and to reduce poverty rates.  If only more people recognized the image of God in the marginalized and acted accordingly.  If only more governments and societies considered violence to be the last resort and refrained from using it against nonviolent people.  If only…, the world would be a better place.

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/if-only/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 27, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse--Albrecht Durer

Above:  The Four Riders of the Apocalypse, by Albrecht Durer

Image in the Public Domain

Leaving Judgment to God

NOVEMBER 9, 10, and 11, 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 1:1-2:5 (Thursday)

Amos 3:1-12 (Friday)

Amos 4:6-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 70 (All Days)

Revelation 8:6-9:12 (Thursday)

Revelation 9:13-21 (Friday)

Matthew 24:1-14 (Saturday)

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Be pleased, God, to rescue me,

Yahweh, come quickly and help me:

Shame and dismay to those who seek my life!

Back with them! Let them be humiliated

who delight in my misfortunes!

Let them shrink away covered with shame,

those who say, “Aha, aha!”

But joy and happiness in you to all who seek you.

Let them ceaselessly cry, “God is great,”

who love your saving power.

Poor and needy as I am,

God, come quickly to me!

Yahweh, my helper, my Saviour, do not delay!

–Psalm 70, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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As I read the lessons I wondered what I could write that I have not covered many times already.  The tone of the assigned passages fits the them of the church year well, for lectionaries tend to take an apocalyptic turn the last three or four weeks before Advent.  The theme of God destroying the sinful old order before replacing it with the Kingdom of God fully realized is quite old, as is the call to repent.  But how many times can one repeat the theology of repenting–turning around or changing one’s mind–without sounding like the most scratched of records and tiring of saying the same old thing again and again?

Here is something to consider:  we Christians need to accept the reality that Jesus was not always nice.  He seems so nice in illustrations from Bibles for children, but the canonical Gospels attribute many harsh words to him.  And judgment is as much a part of spiritual reality as is forgiveness.  Most of the readings for these days focus on judgment, but the possibility of forgiveness is present in some of them.  A plea for divine judgment against one’s adversaries, such as we find in Psalm 70 and many other psalms, is an understandable and familiar prayer.  I have uttered something like it many times.  Yet such attitudes will not aid or abet the arrival of the fully realized Kingdom of God or the partially realized one.

God is not always nice.  Jesus was not always nice.  And we are not always nice.  Furthermore, we do not understand God or Jesus much of the time, but doing so is not necessary.  We can, however, leave the judging to God and strive, by grace, to live mercifully and compassionately.  That proves quite difficult often, does it not?

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/leaving-judgment-to-god-2/

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Devotion for November 8 and 9 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Destruction of Jerusalem by Ercole de' Roberti

Above:  The Siege and Destruction of  Jerusalem by the Romans Under the Command of Titus, A.D. 70 (1850), by David Roberts (1796-1864)

Jeremiah and Matthew, Part VII:  Mercy and Repentance

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 8, 2019, and SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 9, 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 20:1-18 (November 8)

Jeremiah 22:1-23 (November 9)

Psalm 51 (Morning–November 8)

Psalm 104 (Morning–November 9)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening–November 8)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening–November 9)

Matthew 24:29-51 (November 8)

Matthew 25:1-13 (November 9)

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The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod daily lectionary I am following provides a table for selecting Psalms for each day.  During Ordinary Time there is a rotation over a period of four weeks.  Then the cycle begins again.  So sometimes the appointed Psalms (or at least some of them) seem not to fit with the main readings.

God is mad in the Jeremiah and Matthew lections.  The Kingdom of Judah will rise.  The current king will go first, however.  When God acts many–evildoers–will have an ample supply of reasons for laments.  When God becomes the king in such a way that people recognize the divine kingship many people will consider this fact bad news, for it will be bad news for them.  But how else is God supposed to clean the slate and to rescue the oppressed righteous when evildoers refuse to change their minds and ways, to cease from oppressing?

The assigned Psalms range from a confession of sin to praises of God for being merciful and bountiful in dispensing blessings.  Actually, all of them fit the main readings well, for:

  1. One should confess sins, especially in the face of judgment;
  2. Confession of sins can lead to repentance, something God encourages in the Bible; and
  3. Judgment and mercy coexist–judgment for some and mercy for others, according to the absence or presence of repentance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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This is post #550 of this weblog.–KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/jeremiah-and-matthew-part-vii-mercy-and-repentance/

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Week of Proper 26: Thursday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 26: Friday, Year 2   11 comments

Above:  The Pieta, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Image Source = Stanislav Traykov

The Christ and the Body

NOVEMBER 8 and 9, 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

Philippians 3:1b-4:1 (Revised English Bible):

To repeat what I have written to you before is no trouble to me, and it is a safeguard for you.  Be on your guard against those dogs, who do nothing but harm and who insist on mutilation–“circumcision” I will not call it; we are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, whose pride is in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the physical.  It is not that I am myself without grounds for such confidence.  If anyone makes claims of that kind, I can make a stronger case for myself:  circumcised on the eighth day, Israelite by race, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born and bred; in the practice of the law a Pharisee, in zeal for religion a persecutor of the church, by the law’s standard of righteousness without fault.  But all such assets I have written off because of Christ.  More than that, I count everything sheer loss, far outweighed by the gain of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I did in fact forfeit everything.  I count it so much rubbish, for the sake of gaining Christ and finding myself in union with him, with no righteousness of my own based on the law, nothing but the righteousness which comes from faith in Christ, given by God in response to faith.  My own desire is to know Christ and the power of his resurrection, and to share his sufferings in growing conformity with his death, in hope of somehow attaining the resurrection from the dead.

It is not that I have already achieved this.   I have not yet reached perfection, but I press on, hoping to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus once took hold of me.  My friends, I do not claim to have hold of it yet.  What I do say is this:  forgetting what is behind and straining towards what lies ahead, I press towards the finishing line, to win the heavenly prize to which God has called me in Christ Jesus.

We who are mature should keep to this way of thinking.  If on any point you think differently, this also God will make plain to you.  Only let our conduct be consistent with what we have already attained.

Join together, my friends, in following my example.  You have us for a model; imitate those whose way of life conforms to it.  As I have often told you, and now tell you with tears, there are many whose way of life makes them enemies of the cross of Christ.  They are heading for destruction, they make appetite their god, they take pride in what should bring shame; their minds are set on earthly things.  We, by contrast, are citizens of heaven, and from heaven we expect our deliverer to come, the Lord Jesus Christ.  He will transfigure our humble bodies, and give them a form like that of his own glorious body, by that power which enables him to make all things subject to himself.  This, my dear friends, whom I live and long for, my joy and crown, this is what it means to stand firm in the Lord.

RESPONSE FOR THURSDAY

Psalm 105:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

Remember the marvels he has done;

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O childrenof Jacob his chosen.

He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 122 (New Revised Standard Version):

I was glad when they said to me,

Let us go to the house of the LORD!

Our feet are standing

within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem–built as a city

that is bound firmly together.

To it the tribes go up,

the tribes of the LORD,

as was decreed for Israel,

to give thanks for the name of the LORD.

For there the thrones of judgment were set up,

the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls,

and security within your towers.

For the sake of my relatives and friends

I will say,

Peace be within you.

For the sake of the house of the LORD our God,

I will seek your good.

GOSPEL READING FOR THURSDAY

Luke 15:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Another time, the tax-collectors and sinners were all crowding in to listen to Jesus; and the Pharisees and scribes began murmuring their disapproval:

This fellow,

he said,

welcomes sinners and eats with them.

He answered them with this parable:

If one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them, does he not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness and go after the one that is missing until he finds it?  And when he does, he lifts it joyfully on to his shoulders, and goes home to call his friends and neighbours together.  ”Rejoice with me!” he cries.  ”I have found my lost sheep.”  In the same way, I tell you, there will be greater joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who do not need to repent.

Or again, if a woman has ten silver coins and loses one of them, does she not light the lamp, sweep out the house, and look in every corner till she finds it?  And when she does, she calls her friends and neighbours together, and says, “Rejoice with me!  I have found the coin that I lost.”  In the same way, I tell you, there is joy among the angels of God over one sinner who repents.

GOSPEL READING FOR FRIDAY

Luke 16:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus said to his disciples,

There was a rich man who had a steward, and he received complaints that this man was squandering his property.  So he sent for him, and said, “What is this that I hear about you?  Produce your accounts, for you cannot be steward any longer.”  The steward said to himself, “What am I to do now that my master is going to dismiss me from my post?  I am not strong enough to dig, and I am too proud to beg.  I know what I must do, to make sure that, when I am dismissed, there will be people who will take me into their homes.”  He summoned his master’s debtor’s one by one.  To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?”  He replied, “A hundred jars of olive oil.”  He said, “Here is your account.  Sit down and make it fifty, and be quick about it.”  Then he said to another, “And you, how much do you owe?”  He said, “A hundred measures of wheat,” and was told, “Here is your account; make it eighty.”  And the master applauded the dishonest steward for acting so astutely.  For in dealing with their own kind the children of this world are more astute than the children of light.

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 26:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-thursday-year-1/

Week of Proper 26:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-friday-year-1/

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/when-i-survey-the-wondrous-cross/

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Paul’s critique of the Judaizers is a recurring theme in his writing, as in the cases of Philippians 3 and the Letter to the Galatians.  Having covered Galatians already (beginning with https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/), I move along.

Others who troubled the church at Philippi were proto-Gnostics.  They taught that material things were evil.  So, according to them, the body, being composed of matter, was evil, so one could indulge a variety of unhealthy appetites without need for apology or repentance. These were those who, according to Philippians 3:19, made “appetite their god” and were headed for destruction.

Paul taught that one need neither mutilate the body through circumcision nor harm it via bad behavior.  No, he said, he wanted to

know Christ in the power of his resurrection, and to share in his sufferings in growing conformity with his death, in hope of somehow attaining the resurrection from the dead.–3:10-11, Revised English Bible

This was not a goal of the proto-Gnostics, who denied that Jesus could have died on the cross, since, according to them, flesh was evil.  So, if Jesus could not die, he could not be resurrected, and theology of atonement was null and void.  They were wrong, of course.

The power of the resurrection is, among other things, the transformation of shame and disgrace into glory, death in renewed life, and suffering into a cause for rejoicing.  It is a great mystery, one well worth exploring.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/the-christ-and-the-body/

Week of Proper 26: Saturday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Boat of Purity and Ease, Summer Palace, Beijing, China–Restored and Expanded in the 1890s by Order of the Dowager Empress Cixi Via Embezzled Funds Intended Originally for the Chinese Navy

Image Source = Corymgrenier

The Insufficiency of Materialism and Greed

NOVEMBER 9, 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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Romans 16:1-9, 16, 21-27 (Revised English Bible):

I commend to you, Phoebe, a fellow-Christian who is a minister in the church at Cenchrae.  Give her, in the fellowship of the Lord, a welcome worthy of God’s people, and support her in any business in which she may need your help, for she has herself been a good friend to many, including myself.

Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow-workers in Christ Jesus.  They risked their necks to save my life, and not I alone but all the gentile churches are grateful to them.  Greet also the church that meets at their house.

Give my greetings to my dear friend Epanetus, the first convert to Christ in Asia, and to Mary, who worked so hard for you.  Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow-countrymen and comrades in captivity, who are eminent among the apostles and were Christians before I was.

Greetings to Anpliatus, my dear friend in the fellowship of the Lord, to Urban my comrade in Christ, and to my dear Stachys….

Greet one another with the kiss of peace.  All Christ’s churches send you their greetings.

Greetings to you from my colleague Timothy, and from Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater my fellow-countrymen.  (I Tertius, who took this letter down, add my Christian greetings.)  Greetings also from Gaius, my host and host of the whole congregation, and from Erastus, treasurer of this city, and our brother Quartus.

To him who has power to make you stand firm, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of that divine secret kept in silence for long ages but now disclosed, and by the eternal God’s command made known to all nations through prophetic scriptures, to bring them to faith and obedience–to the only wise God through Jesus Christ be glory for endless ages!  Amen.

Psalm 145:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

5  I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

6  They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of our greatness.

7  They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

Luke 16:9-15 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

So I say to you, use your worldly wealth to win friends for yourselves, so that when money is a thing of the past you may be received into an eternal home.

Anyone who can be trusted in small matters can be trusted also in great; and anyone who is dishonest in small matters is dishonest also in great.  If, then, you have not proved trustworthy with the wealth of this world, who will trust you with the wealth that is real?  And if you have proved untrustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you anything of your own?

No slave can serve two masters; for either he will hate the first and love the second, or he will be devoted to the first and despise the second.  You cannot serve God and Money.

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and scoffed at him.  He said to them,

You are the people who impress others with your righteousness; but God sees through you; for what is considered admirable in human eyes is detestable in the sight of God.

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a certain way of seeking social status and, depending on one’s finances, a probable way of wasting money better spent in other ways or saved.  We humans like to keep up appearances at least some of the time, but many of us know of the futility of this pattern of behavior.  Maybe this fact helps explain our admiration for real people and fictional characters who do not even try to keep up with the Joneses or to impress others in empty matters.

Jesus, at the end of this day’s lesson from Luke, says that nobody can serve God and mammon simultaneously.  Mammon refers not to money itself, which is morally neutral, but to materialism and greed.  Our lives, as we read elsewhere in the Bible, do not consist in the abundance of our possessions.  Our wealth here on earth is subject to rust and decay, so making the accumulation of an end, not a means to an end, is foolish decision.   (For more, read: https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-friday-year-1/.)

The prophet Samuel, when he anointed David as King of Israel, said that people look on exteriors, but God looks inside people.  The reading from Luke fits neatly with this incident.   Of course we cannot serve both God and greed; the two are incompatible.

Paul, while concluding the Epistle to the Romans, commended various people, many of whom are quite obscure.  But they served God faithfully.  God knows who they were (and are); they are at rest in our Lord.  That matters more than anything else.  Furthermore, I observe that you and I are almost certain to spend our lives and our afterlives is earthly obscurity.  We will die.  And, in time, all those who have known us will die also.  Then it will be as if we had not lived.  When that time, comes, how will we stand in relation to God?  That is what matters most.  Our money will go away; indeed, money is mostly fictitious, consisting of numbers flowing back and forth between computers.  Our possessions will break or burn or go to the dump or a thrift store.  Our lives are not located in our possessions and money.  No, they have meaning in relationships and in God.

May we focus our energies on that which is most important.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/the-insufficiency-of-materialism-and-greed/