Archive for the ‘October 11’ Category

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 23, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Tabernacle

Above:   The Tabernacle

Image in the Public Domain

Of Ritual Purity and Impurity

OCTOBER 10 and 11, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty and most merciful God, your bountiful goodness fills all creation.

Keep us safe from all that may hurt us,

that, whole and well in body and spirit,

we may with grateful hearts accomplish all that you would have us to do,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 14:33-53 (Thursday)

Numbers 4:34-5:4 (Friday)

Psalm 111 (Both Days)

2 Timothy 1:13-18 (Thursday)

2 Timothy 2:1-7 (Friday)

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Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

–Psalm 111:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Merely approaching the place of worship is impossible for some people in Numbers 5.  The precincts of the Tabernacle are to be ritually pure, excluding

anyone with an eruption or a discharge and anyone defiled by a corpse.

–Verse 2a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This rule reflects the fear of ritual impurity as a contagion, albeit a temporary one.  A build up of ritual impurity would, the prevailing voice of Numbers 5:2a feared, endangered the Presence of God in the community.  That contagion even spread to walls affected by mildew or rot (Leviticus 14:33-53).  In Numbers 5, however, the carriers of ritual impurity were those with skin diseases, sexual discharges, and those defiled by a corpse.

When I consider healing stories in the Bible, especially those involving Jesus, the first criterion of ritual impurity is frequently germane; the second criterion is relevant at least once.  The healing of the afflicted person is in part a restoration of him or her to wholeness, community, and centers of worship.

I, as a Gentile, seldom think about ritual purity or purity in general, except in negative terms.  The self-proclaimed theologically pure seem always to define people of my perspective as impure, after all.  And, when I think deeply about ritual purity, I find that the concept offends me.  Why, for example, should a gynecological or dermatological condition render one ritually impure?  I know that the purpose of the ritual purity system in the Torah is to separate human matters of sex and death from the experience of encountering God.  To restate that, the purpose of the Biblical ritual purity system is to heighten one’s God-like state temporarily, therefore making one temporarily eligible to enter the Presence of God in the designated place of worship.  Yet what about the spiritual anguish of the good people among the ritually impure?

As much as I approve of the practice of approaching God with full reverence (including in one’s attire at worship) and therefore appreciate the sense of awe with which the Law of Moses treats the Tabernacle, I also detect an exclusionary tone.  That bothers me, for the grounds for exclusion seem to be biological and medical, not moral.  They seem immoral to me, therefore.  I have none of the conditions which might render me ritually impure, but I am nevertheless always ineligible to enter the Presence of God in worship, except by grace.  I, as a Christian, understand this grace to have much to do with Jesus of Nazareth.  That is a sound teaching.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/of-ritual-purity-and-impurity/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 23, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Return of the Spies from the Land of Promise Gustave Dore

Above:  Return of the Spies from the Land of Promise, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Rest in God

OCTOBER 11 and 12, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us your gift of faith,

that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead,

we may follow the way of your commandments

and receive the crown of everlasting joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 5:1-21 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 5:22-33 (Friday)

Psalm 90:12-17 (Both Days)

Hebrews 3:17-19 (Thursday)

Hebrews 4:1-11 (Friday)

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FYI:  Those of you who compare and contrast versification in translations of the Bible might notice that Deuteronomy 5:1-30 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versions equals 5:1-33 in Protestant translations.

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So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

–Psalm 90:12, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Trust and obedience to God undergird the readings for these two days.

Deuteronomy 5, which contains the Ten Commandments, concludes with these words:

Be careful, then, to do as the LORD your God has commanded you.  Do not turn aside to the right or to the left:  follow only the path that the LORD your God has enjoined upon you, so that you may thrive and that it may go well with you and that you may long endure in the land you are to possess.

–Verses 29-30, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

One had to arrive first, however.  In Numbers 14, after spies had returned from their mission to Canaan, fear and faithlessness spread through the population.

I the LORD have spoken:  Thus will I do to all that wicked band that has banded together against Me:  in this very wilderness they shall die to the last man.

–Numbers 14:35, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews, who assumed that David had written Psalm 95, referred to that text:

Forty years I was provoked by that generation;

I thought, “They are a senseless people;

they would not know my ways.”

Concerning them I swore in anger,

“They shall never come to my resting-place!”

–Verses 10-11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The Promised Land is the resting-place in Psalm 95, as is one meaning of the Greek word katapausis in the readings from Hebrews.  There are two words for “rest” in them; the other refers to sabbath rest.  Katapausis has two other meanings in the Letter to the Hebrews:

  1. The rest God took after the sixth day of creation; this definition has eschatological overtones; and
  2. The peace of God.

The latter is the ultimate meaning of katapausis in the readings from Hebrews.  Entrance into the peace of God requires trust and obedience.

But what does that mean in practical terms?  Many voices compete to answer that question.  Many of them horrify me.  Those, for example, who argue that fidelity to God requires mutilating offenders and killing heretics and unbelievers appall me.  (Some of those sources quote the Bible word-for-word while ignoring inconvenient passages.)  Those who justify their violence by placing a false stamp of divine approval on it offend me.  I do not pretend to know the mind of God, for I affirm the mystery of the divine.  Yet I state clearly that one can, by considering the example of Jesus, learn much about the requirements for being a Christian.  Loving one’s neighbors as one loves oneself (presuming, of course, that one loves oneself) is part of obeying God, I affirm.

The author of Hebrews referred to Joshua, son of Nun, in 4:8.  May we who call ourselves Christians follow our Joshua–Jesus–into the peace of God.  May we lay aside the fear which leads to disobedience to and lack of trust in God.  May we, by grace, come into that divine rest and lead others to it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF IMMANUEL NITSCHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICIAN; HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, JACOB VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MORAVIAN BISHOP, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS SON, WILLIAM HENRY VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS BROTHER, CARL ANTON VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS DAUGHTER, LISETTE (LIZETTA) MARIA VAN VLECK MEINUNG; AND HER SISTER, AMELIA ADELAIDE VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/rest-in-god/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 22, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Candle Flame

Above:  A Candle Flame

Image in the Public Domain

Unquenchable Love

OCTOBER 11, 2017

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The Collect:

Beloved God, from you come all things that are good.

Lead us by the inspiration of your Spirit to know those things that are right,

and by your merciful guidance, help us to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs/Song of Solomon 8:5-14

Psalm 144

John 11:45-57

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Rescue me from the hurtful sword

and deliver me from the hand of foreign peoples,

Whose mouths speak deceitfully

and whose right hand is raised in falsehood.

–Psalm 144:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Song of Songs/Song of Solomon/Canticle of Canticles is a composite love poem.  The main characters are two lovers of unmentioned marital status.  Their love has placed them at great physical risk, for some seek to commit violence to end the relationship.  Nevertheless, as we read in 8:7 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

Many waters cannot quench love,

neither can floods drown it.

If one offered for love

all the wealth of one’s house,

it would be utterly scorned.

We read of great physical risk in John 11 also.  In that lesson some Temple officials plot to kill Jesus and to scapegoat him for the nation.  They succeeded in killing him, of course, but God resurrected him.  And the scapegoating proved ineffective, as it tends to do time after time.  Some people not only scorned divine love incarnate but tried to quench it.  The flame of love, however, proved to be unquenchable.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

–John 1:5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

One way to experience the love of God is via our human beings–friends, neighbors, church members, relatives, spouses, et cetera.  May we extend and receive such divine gifts when God provides the opportunities to do so.  Everyone involved will be better off for it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL FARADAY, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF BAYARD RUSTIN, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/unquenchable-love/

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Devotion for October 10 and 11 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

GoldCalf

Above:  The Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part X:  Stiff-Necked People

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2019, and FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11, 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 9:1-22 (October 10)

Deuteronomy 9:23-10:22 (October 11)

Psalm 97 (Morning–October 10)

Psalm 51 (Morning–October 11)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–October 10)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening–October 11)

Matthew 11:1-19 (October 10)

Matthew 11:20-30 (October 11)

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Dark clouds surround the readings for these days.  In Deuteronomy 9:6 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures) Moses tells the Israelites:

Know then that it is not for any virtue that your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Subsequently described events confirm that statement.  And only the intercessions of Moses, who suffered for the people, spare them from destruction by God.

Speaking of suffering intercessors, we have Jesus in Matthew 11.  He fasts and critics accuse him of excessive asceticism.  He eats and drinks and critics allege that he is a glutton and a drunkard.  What is a Son of God and Son of Man to do?  Whatever he does, someone criticizes him.  Yet he finds a more responsive audience among many Gentiles.  At least St. John the Baptist, distressed at the end of his life, had an honest question, not a predisposition to carping and to finding fault.

Many people are impossible to please.  Others are merely extremely difficult to please.  Still others are more persuadable via good evidence and are therefore less likely to prove unpleasant.  I hope that I fall into the last category, not either of the first two, in God’s estimation.  What more than that what God has done already must God do to persuade?  Was liberating the Israelites insufficient?  Was feeding them and providing water in the desert not enough?  Is the Incarnation not to our liking?  How stiff are our necks?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-x-stiff-necked-people/

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Week of Proper 22: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Year 2   13 comments

Above:  Hadrian’s Wall

No Outsiders in Jesus

OCTOBER 11, 12, and 13, 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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I have chosen to preserve the unity of Galatians 3, instead of breaking it up into three parts, per the lectionary.–KRT

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COMPOSITE FIRST READING

Galatians 3:1-29 (Revised English Bible):

You stupid Galatians!  You must have been bewitched–you before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly displayed on the cross!  Answer me one question:  did you receive the Spirit by keeping the law or by believing the gospel message?  Can you really be so stupid?  You started with the spiritual; do you now look to the material to make you perfect?  Is all you have experienced to come to nothing–surely not?  When God gives you the Spirit and works miracles among you, is it because you keep the law, or is it because you have faith in the gospel message?

Look at Abraham:  he put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness.  You may take it, then, that it is those who have faith who are Abraham’s sons.  And scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles through faith, declared the gospel to Abraham beforehand:

In you all nations shall find blessing.

Thus  it is those with faith who share the blessing with faithful Abraham.

On the other hand, those who rely on obedience to the law are under a curse; for scripture says,

Cursed is everyone who does not persevere in doing everything that is in the book of the law.

It is evident that no one is ever justified before God by means of the law, because we read,

He shall gain life who is justified through faith.

Now the law does not operate on the basis of faith, for we read,

He who does this shall gain life by what he does.

Christ brought us freedom from the curse of the law by coming under the curse for our sake; for scripture says,

Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a gibbet.

The purpose of this was that the blessing of Abraham should in Jesus Christ be extended to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.

My friends, let me give you an illustration.  When a man’s will and testament has been duly executed, no one else can set it aside or add a codicil.  Now, the promises to pronounced to Abraham and his “issue.”  It does not say “issues” in the plural, but “your issue” in the singular; and by “issue” is meant Christ.  My point is this:  a testament, or covenant, has already been validated by God; a law made four hundred and thirty years later cannot invalidate it and so render its promises ineffective.  If the inheritance is by legal right, then it is not by promise; but it was by promise that God bestowed it as a free gift on Abraham.

Then what of the law?  It was added to make wrongdoing a legal offence; it was an interim measure pending the arrival of the “issue” to whom the promise was made.  It was promulgated through angels, and there was an intermediary; one party acting alone, and God is one.

Does the law, then, contradict the promises?  Of course not!  If a law had been given which had power to bestow life, then righteousness should indeed have come from keeping the law.  But scripture has declared the whole world to be prisoners in subjection to sin, so that faith in Jesus Christ should be the ground on which the promised blessing is given to those who believe.

Before this faith came, we were close prisoners in the custody of the law, pending the revelation of faith.  The law was thus put in charge of us until Christ should come, when we should be justified through faith; and now that faith has come, its charge is at an end.

It is through faith that you are all sons of God in union with Christ Jesus.  Baptized into union with him, you have all put on Christ like a garment.  There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female;  for you are all one person in Christ Jesus, you are the “issue” of Abraham and heirs by virtue of the promise.

RESPONSES FOR THURSDAY:  OPTIONS

Psalm 89:19-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19  You spoke once in a vision and said to your faithful people:

“I have set the crown upon a warrior

and have exalted one chosen out of the people.

20  I have found David my servant;

with my holy oil have I anointed him.

21  My hand will hold him fast

and my arm will make him strong.

22  No enemy shall deceive him,

nor any wicked man bring him down.

23  I will crush his foes before him

and strike down those who hate him.

24  My faithfulness and love shall be with him,

and he shall be victorious through my Name.

25  I shall make his dominion extend

from the Great Sea to the River.

26  He will say to you, ‘You are my Father,

my God, and the rock of my salvation.’

27  I will make him my firstborn

and higher than the kings of the earth.

28  I will keep my love for him for ever,

and my covenant will stand firm for him.

29  I will establish his line for ever

and his throne as the days of heaven.

Canticle 16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The Song of Zechariah (Luke 1:68-79) plus the Trinitarian formula

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;

he has come to his people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty savior,

born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old,

that he would save us from our enemies,

from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers

and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,

to set us free from the hands of our enemies,

Free to worship him without fear,

holy and righteous in his sight

all he days of our life.

You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,

for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,

To give his people knowledge of salvation

by the forgiveness of their sins.

In the tender compassion of our God

the dawn from on high shall break upon us,

To shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,

and to guide our feet into the way of peace.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 111:4-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

4 He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

7 The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

8 They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

He sent redemption to his people;

he commanded his covenant for ever;

holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.

RESPONSE FOR SATURDAY

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.

COMPOSITE GOSPEL READING

Luke 11:5-28 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] also said to them,

Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, ‘ My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him;’ and the man answers from inside the house, ‘Do not bother me.  The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.’  I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

So I say to you:  Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.  For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will have the door opened to him.  What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread?  Or hand him a snake instead of a fish?  Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

He [Jesus] was casting out a devil and it was dumb; but when the devil had gone out the dumb man spoke, and the people were amazed.  But some of them said,

It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.

Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them,

Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses.  So too with Satan:  if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?–Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils.  Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out?  Let them be your judges, then.  But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you.  So long a a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, ‘I will go back to the home I came from.’  But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and bring seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they god in an set up house there, so that the man ends up being worse than he was before.

Now as he [Jesus] was speaking, a woman in the crowd raised her voice and said,

Happy is the womb that bore you and the breasts you sucked!

But he replied,

Still happier those who hear the word of God and keep it!

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who 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 22:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/week-of-proper-22-thursday-year-1/

Week of Proper 22:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/week-of-proper-22-friday-year-1/

Week of Proper 22:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/01/week-of-proper-22-saturday-year-1/

Prayers for Inclusion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-inclusion/

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Edmond Browning, a retired Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church, advocated a church without outsiders.  He did not mean to expel the marginalized; rather, he spoke and wrote of expanding the margins.  Everyone in the church, he said, ought therefore to be an insider.  That was his inclusive vision of the church.  It was a vision consistent with Galatians 3:26-29:

It is through faith that you are all sons of God in union with Christ Jesus.  Baptized into union with him, you have all put on Christ like a garment.  There is no such thing as Jew and Greek, slave and freeman, male and female;  for you are all one person in Christ Jesus, you are the “issue” of Abraham and heirs by virtue of the promise.  (Revised English Bible)

In other words, to quote a great hymn:

In Christ there is no East or West,

in him no South or North,

but one great fellowship of love

throughout the whole wide earth.

–John Oxenham, 1913

This is radical grace and inclusion, the breaking down of barriers and erasing of separate identities, some of them quite old and revered, even comfortable.  So the removal of them quite old and revered, even comfortable.  So the removal of them makes many of us uncomfortable, even within the Christian Church.  So we fortify our walls and stand by our ramparts, so to speak.  Sometimes we even commit schism to maintain these barriers which grace tears down.  We like having a sense of who is an outsider (those other people) and who is an outsider (people like us).

I confess that I am not immune to this tendency.  I catch myself in it more often than my conscience likes.  So, when I condemn such exclusionary tendencies, I refer to mine as well as those of others.  May God deliver us from this sin.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/no-outsiders-in-jesus/

Week of Proper 22: Friday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

OCTOBER 11, 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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Joel 1:13-2:2 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel.]

…Gird yourselves and lament, O priests,

Wail, O ministers of the altar;

Come, spend the night in sackcloth,

O ministers of my god.

For offering and libation are withheld

From the House of your God.

Solemnize a fast,

Proclaim an assembly;

Gather the elders–all the inhabitants of the land–

In the House of the LORD your God,

And cry out to the Lord.

Alas for the day!

For the day of the LORD is near;

It shall come like havoc from Shaddai.

Blow a horn in Zion,

Sound an alarm on My holy mount!

Let all dwellers on earth tremble,

For the day of the LORD has come!

It is a close–

A day of darkness and gloom,

A day of densest cloud

Spread like soot over the hills.

A vast, enormous horde–

Nothing like it has ever happened,

And it shall never happen again

Through the years and ages.

Psalm 9:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

I will tell of all your marvelous works.

2  I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing to your Name, O Most High.

3  When my enemies are driven back,

they will stumble and perish at your presence.

4  For you have maintained my right and my cause;

you sit upon your throne judging right.

5  You have rebuked the ungodly and destroyed the wicked;

you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.

6  As for the enemy, they are finished, in perpetual ruin,

their cities plowed under, the memory of them perished;

7  But the LORD is enthroned for ever;

he has set up his throne for judgment.

8  It is he who rules the world with righteousness;

he judges the peoples with equity.

Luke 11:14-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] was casting out a devil and it was dumb; but when the devil had gone out the dumb man spoke, and the people were amazed.  But some of them said,

It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.

Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them,

Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses.  So too with Satan:  if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?–Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils.  Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out?  Let them be your judges, then.  But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you.  So long a a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, ‘I will go back to the home I came from.’  But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and bring seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they god in an set up house there, so that the man ends up being worse than he was before.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Hellenistic world was a spirit-haunted one.  This was a time of pre-scientific thinking, when the common understanding held that demon possession caused epilepsy and a variety of other conditions.  I, as a product of the Scientific Revolution of the 1600s and the ensuing Enlightenment, as well of subsequent developments, understand the workings of the world differently.  The cause of epilepsy is organic, not demonic.

Yet one must understand the cultural background to grasp the reading from Luke.  Consider, for example, the section about the unclean spirit who leaves a man, wanders about, finds company, and returns.  It did not stay home because something good had filled the void there, so the spirit went back where nothing had filled the vacancy it had created.  The lesson is that good must replace evil, or else evil will take up residence.  Nature abhors a vacuum, in other words.

And the charge that Jesus worked by the power of Satan was a slander, of course.  Our Lord and Savior, by his existence and work, called into question the religious authorities of pre-70 C.E. Jewish Palestine.  Frightened people might embrace change now and then, but usually they fight back, often irrationally and blindly, grabbing on to any straw they can find.

They need to fill their voids with good–and God.  This is what Joel says to do.  This day’s reading from Joel makes more sense when one reads not only it but what precedes and follows it.  The judgment is upon Judah itself, due to its sins.  Yet, later in Chapter 2, we find evidence of repentance.  Then we read these words, credited to God:

Yet even now

Turn back to Me with all your hearts,

And with fasting, weeping, and lamenting.

(2:12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

Then, beginning with 2:19, we have these words, also attributed to God:

I will grant you the new grain,

The new wine, and the new oil,

And you shall have them in abundance.

Nevermore will I let you be

A mockery among the nations….

So, once again, we see the juxtaposition of divine judgment and mercy.  Actions lead to consequences.  Sometimes God intervenes, other times not.  And, sometimes, after negative consequences have run their course, God steps in to show extravagant mercy.  It is better, of course, to follow God faithfully more often than not, to reap the harvest of righteousness, not bitterness and the gnashing of teeth.

May Jesus fill all our voids, present and future.  And may he displace that which ought not be present.  In other words, may we cooperate with God, not cast unfounded accusations.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/judgment-and-mercy-3/