Archive for the ‘October 1’ Category

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 21, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler

Above:   Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

The Individual and the Collective

SEPTEMBER 30, 2019

OCTOBER 1, 2019

OCTOBER 2, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world.

Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 6:8-14 (Monday)

Hosea 9-15 (Tuesday)

Hosea 12:2-14 (Wednesday)

Psalm 62 (All Days)

Revelation 3:14-22 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:16-22 (Wednesday)

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For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

He alone is my rock and salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

In God is my safety and honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

Put your trust in him always, people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

–Psalm 62:6-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The assigned readings for these three days, taken together, condemn the following:

  1. Collective hubris (Amos 6),
  2. Collective iniquity, especially economic injustice (Hosea 10 and 12, James 5),
  3. Collective iniquity, especially idolatry (Hosea 12),
  4. Collective lukewarmness in relation to God (Revelation 3), and
  5. Trusting in wealth, not God (James 5, Matthew 19).

One might notice that four of the five sins are collective and that the fifth sin has both collective and individual elements.  This is a partial list of sins, of course, but it is a fine beginning to one’s process of spiritual self-examination or another stage in that process.  Does one have hubris?  If so, that is a sin.  Does one participate in collective hubris?  If so, one needs to confess and to repent of that sin.  One can repeat those forms of questions for the remaining four items on the list above.

Protestantism, for all of its virtues, does place too much emphasis on the individual and too little stress on the collective elements of spiritual life.  May we strive to seek the proper balance between the two and succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/the-individual-and-the-collective/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 21, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Zechariah

Above:  The Prophet Zechariah, from the Sistine Chapel

Image in the Public Domain

Fear Versus Loving Our Neighbors

OCTOBER 1, 2, and 3, 2018

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The Collect:

Generous God, your Son gave his life

that we might come to peace with you.

Give us a share of your Spirit,

and in all we do empower us to bear the name of

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 6:9-15 (Monday)

Zechariah 8:18-23 (Tuesday)

Zechariah 10:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 5 (All Days)

1 Peter 1:3-9 (Monday)

1 John 2:18-25 (Tuesday)

Matthew 18:6-9 (Wednesday)

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Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness,

because of those who lie in wait for me;

make your way straight before me.

–Psalm 5:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The pericopes for these three days indicate perilous uncertain circumstances.  Either the Persian Empire, the Seleucid Empire, or the Roman Empire is in charge.  The most optimistic hopes for the time after the Babylonian Exile have not come to fruition.  Nevertheless, calls for hope in God and faithfulness to God resound.

The historical record indicates that the Kingdom of God has yet to arrive in its fullness, and that Jesus did not return in the first century C.E.  Yet calls for hope in God and faithfulness to God remain valid, necessary, and proper.  Dashed expectations of the creation of paradise on Earth should lead one to question certain human predictions, not the fidelity of God to divine promises.  God and religion are different from each other, so disappointment with the latter ought not to lead to disillusionment with and/or rejection of the former.

As for human fidelity to God, the hyperbolic language of Matthew 18:6-9 agrees with the social ethics of Zechariah 8:18-23.  Just as Matthew 18:6-9 is not an order to maim and mutilate oneself, Zechariah’s message to have no fear (8:15) and to treat each other properly is timeless.

Have no fear!  These are the things you are to do:  Speak the truth to one another, render true and perfect justice in your gates.  And do not contrive evil against one another, and do not love perjury, because all those are things that I hate–declares the LORD….you must love honesty and integrity.

–Zechariah 8:15b-17, 19b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Often we human beings abuse, oppress, and/or exploit some among us out of fear.  Perhaps we fear that there will be too little of some commodity to provide for all sufficiently, so some of us protect the interests of “me and mine” at the expense of others.  Or maybe we fear for our safety and that of those dear to us, so we deprive strangers of security or approve of policies to do so.  Perhaps we merely fail to understand the “others,” so we fear those we do not comprehend.  Fear requires little effort to transform into hatred, and hatred expresses itself actively and passively.

Some fear is healthy.  I fear touching a hot oven, for example.  Fear of consequences of actions has prevented me from committing many sins when moral courage has failed.  I affirm well-placed fear which leads to good decision-making while rejecting fear which leads to actions harmful to innocent parties.

May love of our neighbors guide our decisions and actions relative to others.  May we act for their benefit, not their detriment, for that which we do to others, we do to ourselves.  May the joys of others cause us to rejoice and the sorrows of others prompt us to mourn.  May we remember that, in God’s economy, there is no scarcity, artificial or otherwise.  The mercantilist assumption that wealth is a zero-sum game does not apply to blessings, which God bestows generously.  May we–especially we who claim to follow God, or at least to attempt to do so–never assume that blessings are part of a zero-sum game.  May we therefore be generous of spirit when dealing with our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAULI MURRAY, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE WINKWORTH, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEECHER STOWE, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF JOHN CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, SCHOLAR, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/01/fear-versus-loving-our-neighbors/

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Devotion for October 1 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

NEW100FRONT

Above: The Front of the U.S. $100 Bill

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part IV:  God, Mammon, and Killing

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 1, 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:

Deuteronomy 2:16-37

Psalm 13 (Morning)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening)

Matthew 6:16-34

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How priceless is your love, O God!

Your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.

–Psalm 36:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Deuteronomy 2:16-37 seemed dull until I arrived at the end of that lection and found a reference to the supposedly divine-sanctioned killing of all men, women, and children and the complete destruction of property in war.  The Richard Elliott Friedman Commentary of the Torah (2001) informed me that

In contexts that do not have to do with war, the Hebrew word herem refers to something that is devoted to God (Lev. 27:21, 28-29; Num. 18:14).  In contexts of war, as in this verse, herem refers to the rule, in divinely commanded wars only, against taking spoils or slaves, but rather destroying all of these and thus dedicating them to the deity.  Then point:  the war is not for profit.

–page 569

That did not cause me to feel better or to think kindly about the text.

Yet the not-for-profit theme fits well with Matthew 6:16-34.  Fasting should not be for the purpose of amassing social capital.  One should value God more than wealth, can be a tool for good, bad, and neutral purposes.  As 6:21 (The Revised English Bible) tells us,

For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.

William Barclay wrote succinctly and correctly,

…wealth is always a subordinate good.

The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 (Chapters 1-10), Revised Edition (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1975, page 252)

But it can become an idol.  Anything can become an idol if one treats it accordingly.

One of the great principles of the Law of Moses is that everything belongs to God; we are merely stewards.  Yes, there is value in not becoming a moral hazard or an unnecessary burden upon others if possible.  That is one reason for purchasing various forms of insurance policies.  But a proper spiritual perspective on wealth and all that it can buy is that they belong to God.  Lasting profit is spiritual, for we cannot take our money and our possessions to the afterlife.  How effectively have we cared for others collectively and individually?  (To set one against the other is to create a false dichotomy.)

To bring this post back full circle, I propose that killing people then claiming to have dedicated to God is unacceptable at all times and places, Deuteronomy 2 not withstanding.  The Golden Rule overrides that understanding of herem.  And conducting a massacre is neither for one’s spiritual profit nor the benefit of the massacred.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-iv-god-mammon-and-killing/

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Week of Proper 21: Monday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  Parisian School Children

Dealing with the Unexpected

OCTOBER 1, 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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Job 1:6-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

One day the divine beings presented themselves before the LORD, and the Adversary came along with them.  The LORD said to the Adversary,

Where have you been?

The Adversary answered the LORD,

I have been roaming all over the earth.

The LORD said to the Adversary,

Have you noticed my servant Job?  There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil!

The Adversary answered the LORD,

Does Job not have good reason to fear God?  Why, is it You who have fenced him round, him and his household and all that he has.  You have blessed his efforts so that his possessions spread out in the land.  But lay Your hand upon all that he has and he will surely blaspheme You to Your face.

The LORD replied to the Adversary,

See, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on him.

The Adversary departed from the presence of the LORD.

One day, as his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, a messenger came to Job and said,

The oxen were plowing and the she-asses were grazing alongside them when Sabeans attacked them and carried them off, and put the boys to the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.

This one was still speaking when another came and said,

God’s fire fell from heaven, took hold of the sheep and the boys, and burned them up; I alone escaped to tell you.

This one was still speaking when another came and said,

A Chaldean formation of three columns made a raid on the camels and carried them off and put the boys to the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.

This one was still speaking when another came and said,

Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother when suddenly a mighty wind came from the wilderness.   It struck the four corners of the house so that it collapsed upon the young people and they died; I alone have escaped to tell you.

Then Job arose, tore his robe, cut off his hair, and threw himself on the ground and worshiped.  He said,

Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there; the LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

For all that, Job did not sin nor did he cast reproach on God.

Psalm 17:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear my plea of innocence, O LORD;

give heed to my cry;

listen to my prayer, which does not come from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

Weigh my heart, summon me by night,

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

I give no offence with my mouth as others do;

I have heeded the words of your lips.

My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law;

in your paths my feet shall not stumble.

I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me;

incline your ear to me and hear my words.

Show me your marvelous loving-kindness,

O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand

from those who rise up against them.

Luke 9:46-50 (The Jerusalem Bible):

An argument started between them [the Apostles] about which of them was the greatest.  Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and said to them,

Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.

John spoke up.

 Master,

he said,

we saw a man casting out devils in your name, and spoke because he is not with us we tried to stop him.

But Jesus said to him,

You must not stop him:  anyone who is not against you is for you.

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The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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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The Book of Job is an often quoted and frequently misunderstood text.  For example, the main character is quite impatient, with a few notable exceptions, yet the English language contains an inaccurate cliché,

the patience of Job.

And the book does not explain the cause of all suffering, so that cannot be its topic.  The text makes clear that Job’s suffering results from the actions of God’s loyalty tester, an employee called the Adversary or the Satan, with divine consent.  So God is on the hook for this one, according to the Bible itself.

More than one commentator has noted the theological difficulty of the Book of Job, which does not depict God in an entirely positive light.  Yet theological difficulty is par for the course in pondering the Bible.  May we who read the Bible do so carefully and honestly, not fearing to admit which passages and concepts make us uncomfortable.  More will cause discomfort as we progress through the Book of Job for a few more posts.

Speaking of discomfort…

The least among us is great, so social status means nothing to God.  And God has servants whom we do not recognize and of whom we do not know; anyone who is not against us is for us.  So we need to dispense with our exclusive club mentality.  This might threaten our identities, perhaps carefully crafted and well-honed ones.

So God works in various ways, including those we dislike and/or do not expect.  Few things are more disconcerting than the unexpected.  Do we then pretend that these realities do not exist, or do we admit that our knowledge is quite limited?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/dealing-with-the-unexpected/

Posted October 26, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2018, Canadian Anglican Lectionary Year 2, October 1

Tagged with , ,

Week of Proper 21: Tuesday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  Map of Galilee

Image in the Public Domain

Leaving Judgment to God

OCTOBER 1, 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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Zechariah 8:20-23 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:

Peoples and the inhabitants of many cities shall yet come–the inhabitants of one shall go to the other and say, “Let us go and entreat the favor the LORD, let us seek the LORD of Hosts; I will go, too.”  The many peoples and the multitude of nations shall come to seek the LORD of Hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the LORD.

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:

In those days, ten men from nations of every tongue will take hold–they will take hold of every Jew by a corner of his cloak and say, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.”

Psalm 87 (1979 Book of Common Prayer): 

1  On the holy mountain stands the city he has founded;

the LORD loves the gates of Zion

more than all the dwellings of Jacob.

2  Glorious things are spoken of you,

O city of our God.

3  I count Egypt and Babylon among those who know me;

behold Philistia, Tyre, and Ethiopia:

in Zion were they born.

4  Of Zion it shall be said, “Everyone was born in her,

and the Most High himself shall sustain her.”

5  The LORD will record as he enrolls the peoples,

“These also were born there.”

6  The singers and the dancers will say,

“All my fresh springs are in you.”

Luke 9:51-56 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now as the time drew near to be taken up to heaven, he resolutely took the road for Jerusalem and sent messengers ahead of him.  These set out, and they went into a Samaritan village to make preparations for him, but the people would not receive him because he was making for Jerusalem.  Seeing this, the disciples James and John said,

Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven to burn them up?

But he turned and rebuked them, and they went off to another village.

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The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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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Jerusalem figures prominently in all this day’s readings.  Psalm 87 speaks of God sustaining Jerusalem, a city, which, according to Zechariah 8, will become a magnet for international pilgrims. Then there is Jesus in Luke 9:51.  The standard English translation of that verse says that he set his face toward Jerusalem.  William Barclay renders that verse to say that Jesus “fixed his face firmly to go to Jerusalem,” while The Jerusalem Bible says that our Lord “resolutely took the road for Jerusalem.”  He and his Apostles were pilgrims, too, but their journey was no mere pilgrimage.  (I write these words on Monday in Holy Week 2011, so the culmination is very much on my mind.)

As Jesus and company set out they face immediate opposition from Samaritans.  Members of a previous generation of Samaritans obstructed the construction of the Second Temple, a fact of which many observant Jews in Jesus’ time were aware.  In fact, many Jews of our Lord’s time and place despised Samaritans, and many Samaritans reciprocated.  Jesus, however, spoke once of a Good Samaritan.  On another occasion he healed a Samaritan leper.  In the Gospel of John our Lord spoke at length to a Samaritan woman.  If he had a problem with Samaritans, he kept it to himself.

As Jesus  set out from Galilee and passed through Samaria en route to Jerusalem, he took a direct route to that holy city.  And he kept moving along when he and his Apostles faced rejection by some local Samaritans.   His actions are consistent with his instructions in Luke 10:11-12:  When a town does not welcome one of his disciples, that disciple ought to depart that town and leave judgment to God.

The Gospels record instances of Jesus condemning holier-than-thou religious figures and speaking ill of Roman puppet leaders.  Yet they also include a multitude of stories of our Lord associating with social outcasts and forgiving repentant sinners.  His mission was one primarily one of restoring people to wholeness (including in their community settings) rather than condemnation.  We who claim the label “Christian” need to keep this lesson in mind and to act accordingly.

So may we go about the business God has given us while leaving judgment to God.  There is much work to do, and there are many people forgive and help lead to wholeness.  We can stand up for what is right and good without uttering a harsh word.  I think of Father Joe, by Tony Hendra.  The eponynomous Catholic priest in that book never excused that of which he disapproved, but neither did he utter any derogatory words while expressing himself, at least in Hendra’s presence.

Jesus calls us to be positive influences where and when we are.  You might know or know of someone who self-identifies as Christian but who is prone to eruptions of spiritual negativity laced with presumptions of know-it-allism.  I do.  Without questioning the sincerity of these individuals, I propose that they, in their attitudes, hurt the cause they seek to advance.

I do not know what God’s judgment upon the residents of that Samaritan village was, but that is none of my business.  Nor was not the proper concern of James and John.  It is the proper concern of God, who is also prone to extravagant and scandalous mercy.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/leaving-judgment-to-god/

Proper 21, Year A   23 comments

Above:  Saint Francis of Assisi Kneeling (1635-1639), Painted by Francisco de Zubaran

Image in the Public Domain

Against All Pretenses

The Sunday Closest to September 28

The Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 1, 2017

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 17:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said,

Give us water to drink.

Moses said to them,

Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?

But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said,

Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?

So Moses cried out to the Lord,

What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.

The Lord said to Moses,

Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.

Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying,

Is the Lord among us or not?

Psalm 78:1-14, 12-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2  I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

3  That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

4  We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

12 He worked marvels in the sight of their forefathers,

in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

13  He split open the sea and let them pass through;

he made the waters stand up like walls.

14  He led them with a cloud by day,

and all the night through with a glow of fire.

15  He split the hard rocks in the wilderness

and gave them drink as from the great deep.

16  He brought streams out of the cliff,

and the waters gushed out like rivers.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to me:

What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.

Psalm 25:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

my God, I put my trust in you;

let me not be humiliated,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2  Let none who look to you be put to shame;

let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3  Show me your ways, O LORD,

and teach me your paths.

4  Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

in you have I trusted all the day long.

5  Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,

for they are from everlasting.

6  Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;

remember me according to your love

and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

7  Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8  He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches his way to the lowly.

SECOND READING

Philippians 2:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete:  be of the same mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death–

even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name

that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 21:23-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said,

By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?

Jesus said to them,

I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?

And they argued with one another,

If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin,” we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.

So they answered Jesus,

We do not know.

And he said to them,

Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?

They said,

The first.

Jesus said to them,

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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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I have become convinced that following a lectionary is one of the best, if not the best, way to study the Bible.  There is a place for studying just one text, but placing two or more of them side-by-side and identifying common threads is wonderful, too.  And that is one purpose of the orderly reading of scripture per a lectionary.

The common thread here is the necessity of obedience to God.  What stands in the way of that?  Various issues do.  Sometimes we misunderstand God, as did many of my Antebellum forebears who used the Bible to justify slavery, based on a literal reading of some passages (or parts of passages) but not others, as well as their own economic interests, racist views, and other cultural baggage.  They were sincerely wrong, which means that they were still wrong.  We have cultural blinders today, so we need not to content ourselves with condemning our benighted forebears, for each of us is severely mistaken in some ways, too.

Others do not try, at least as much as they ought to do.  Consider the case of the Israelites in the wilderness.  They focused on what they lacked, not what they had.  I have done a similar thing many times, and probably will do so again.  Or maybe the fault is that one operates out of selfish motivations.  I have seen this dynamic hobble more than one congregation.  When a person of influence, if not title, in a congregation, especially a small one, does not check his or ego at the church doors, the results are unfortunate.  Paul understood the assembly of the faithful to function much like the human body; everybody is necessary and the tasks differ according to each member.  What matters most is to identify one’s proper role, fulfill it, and to be content to do that–all for the improvement of the body and the glory of God.

We cannot and will not do this if we are taking ego trips and using our pretenses as crutches.  This is why Jesus said that some prostitutes would enter Heaven before certain Pharisees would.  The former had no pretenses, unlike the latter.  In another story, the wealthy young man relied on his money and possessions.  They insulated him from full knowledge of his reliance on God.  That was why Jesus told him to give them up.

We get one crutch–God.  This is the God who has become incarnate as Jesus, who, Paul tells us, did not let anything stand in the way of his faithful obedience.  Our Lord did not stand on ceremony, flaunt pretenses, or take his identity from others.  No, his identity was internal, as is yours, and as is mine.  Jesus was the Son of God.  I am, through Jesus, a member of the household of God.  You, O reader, are also one, I hope.  Knowing who we are–children of God–and whose we are–God’s–may we, using the one proper crutch, abandon our false egos and pretense.  May we journey toward God, supporting each other as our paths converge, for our individual and common good, and for the glory of God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/against-all-pretenses/