Archive for the ‘October 15’ Category

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 23, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

World Map 1570

Above:   World Map 1570

Image in the Public Domain

Nationality and Discipleship

OCTOBER 14, 2019

OCTOBER 15, 2019

OCTOBER 16, 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:

2 Kings 5:15-19a (Monday)

2 Kings 5:19b-27 (Tuesday)

2 Kings 15:1-7 (Wednesday)

Psalm 61 (All Days)

Acts 26:24-29 (Monday)

Ephesians 6:10-20 (Tuesday)

Matthew 10:5-15 (Wednesday)

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So I will always sing he praise of your Name,

and day by day I will fulfill your vows.

–Psalm 61:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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In the assigned readings for these three days we read of people accepting and recognizing God or doing the opposite.  Jews and Gentiles alike accept and recognize God.  Jews and Gentiles alike do the opposite.  The standard of acceptability before God has nothing to do with national identity.

This principle occurs elsewhere in scripture.  Off the top of my head, for example, I think of the Book of Ruth, in which a Moabite woman adopts the Hebrew faith and marries into a Hebrew family.  I recall also that Matthew 1:5 lists Ruth as an ancestor of Jesus.  That family tree also includes Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:1-21 and 6:22-25), who sheltered Hebrew spies in Jericho.  I think also of St. Simon Peter, who, at the home of St. Cornelius the Centurion, said:

The truth I have now come to realize is that God does not have favorites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears God and does what is right is acceptable to him.

–Acts 10:34-35, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Nationalism is inherently morally neutral.  What people do with it is not morally neutral, however.  These applications can be positive or negative.  Nationalism seems to be a human concern, not a divine one.  As we seek to build up our communities and nations may we not label those who are merely different as dangerous because of those differences.  Many of them might be people of God, after all.  Others might become followers of God.  Furthermore, many within our own ranks might not be devout.

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/nationality-and-discipleship/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 23, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Rich Man and Lazarus Gustave Dore

Above:  The Rich Man and Lazarus, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Making a Positive Difference

OCTOBER 15, 16, and 17, 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:

Obadiah 1-9 (Monday)

Obadiah 10-16 (Tuesday)

Obadiah 17-21 (Wednesday)

Psalm 26 (All Days)

Revelation 7:9-17 (Monday)

Revelation 8:1-5 (Tuesday)

Luke 16:19-31 (Wednesday)

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Give judgment for me, O Lord,

for I have walked with integrity;

I have trusted in the Lord and have not faltered.

–Psalm 26:1, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Edom, according to the Book of Obadiah, is far more than the nation descended from Esau; it refers to all nations other than Israel.  Edom will fall, the text says.  Edom has trusted erroneously in its terrain and human allies.  It will fall by the hand of God, which will restore Israel and initiate the Kingdom of God on Earth.

That prophecy dates from after the destruction of Jerusalem and the fall of the Kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C.E., a time when that hope seemed no less a pipe dream than it does today.  Over time Jewish reinterpretations of the identity of Edom in the Book of Obadiah came to include the Roman Empire and Christendom.  I, as a Christian, choose not to condemn any who read the prophecy as a denunciation of Christendom, given the indefensible record of persecution of Jews by professing Christians and by Christian institutions.  Such hatred and violence harmed many and brought no glory to God.

Another theme common to the pericopes is suffering.  Some suffering results from sins, but other suffering consists of the temporal consequences of obeying God.  The saints in white robes in Revelation had suffered because of their fidelity to God.  On the other hand, the deceased rich man in Luke never cared about the beggar at his gate.  Divies, as tradition calls that rich man, accepted artificial scarcity, did nothing to help even the poor man at his gate, and thought of that man with disdain.  None of the rich man’s bad attitudes changed after his unpleasant afterlife began.

Yes, the fully realized Kingdom of God remains for the future, but that reality does not absolve any of us of moral responsibility.  Unjust social and political systems and structures exist.  People created them, so people can change or destroy and replace them.  And each of us can, as opportunities present themselves, choose to support injustice by active or passive means or to oppose it.

There are reasons for supporting injustice by active or passive means.  These include:

  1. Moral blindness, due perhaps to socialization;
  2. Laziness,
  3. Apathy, perhaps borne out of hopelessness; and a related issue,
  4. Compassion fatigue.

Nobody can do everything, but most people can do something constructive to oppose some form of injustice and to address some social problem.  We humans have the capacity to leave the world better than we found it, if only we will try.  No effort or project is insignificant toward this end.  Fortunately, many people have lived according to this ethic and a host of them continue to do so.  May their numbers increase.

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/making-a-positive-difference/

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Devotion for October 15, 16, and 17 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Pieter_Bruegel_d._Ä._030

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XIII:  Loyalty and Identity

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 15, 2019

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 16, 2019

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 17, 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 13:1-18 (October 15–Protestant Versification)

Deuteronomy 13:2-19 (October 15–Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Deuteronomy 14:1-2, 22-23; 14:28-15:15 (October 16)

Deuteronomy 15:19-16:22 (October 17)

Psalm 123 (Morning–October 15)

Psalm 15 (Morning–October 16)

Psalm 36 (Morning–October 17)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–October 15)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–October 16)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–October 17)

Matthew 13:1-23 (October 15)

Matthew 13:24-43 (October 16)

Matthew 13:44-58 (October 17)

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Here is a summary of the contents of Deuteronomy 13:1-16:22:

  1. Execute any false prophet or dream-diviner.  (13:1-6/2-7)
  2. Execute anyone who entices another person to commit idolatry.  (13:6-11/7-12)
  3. Execute the inhabitants of idolatrous towns, burn those towns, and destroy all spoil.  Do not rebuild at any of those sites.  (13:12-18/13-19)
  4. Avoid mourning rituals associated with pagan peoples.  (14:1-2)
  5. Eat only ritually clean foods.  (14:3-21)
  6. Pay a tenth of your crops and livestock to God.  (14:22-26)
  7. Provide for the needy and the Levites.  (14:27-29)
  8. Provide debts and free slaves every seventh year.  (15:1-18)
  9. Sacrifice all male firstlings born into your flock to God, assuming that it is a proper physical specimen.  (15:19-23)
  10. Keep a detailed festival calendar and the accompanying instructions.  (16:1-17)
  11. Appoint magistrates who will govern honestly and justly, taking no bribes.  (16:18-20)
  12. Erect no posts, as in honor to Astarte.  (16:21-22)

I have mixed feelings about that material.  On one hand, I approve of the social justice imperative parts of it.  I find even the acceptance of any form of slavery offensive and the command to execute people intolerable.  I know that one theme of the Law of Moses is absolute loyalty to God, so idolatry equaled treason, but some commands seem barbaric to me.  So far as dietary laws are concerned, I note that I have never cared about them.  Proper refrigeration negates some health concerns, as does thorough cooking.  One analysis of the forbidden list says that those animals did not fit nearly into certain categories.  Assuming that the analysis is correct, what was the problem?  Besides, I like to eat ham and intend to continue to do so.

In Matthew 13 we read a series of mostly agricultural parables:  the sower and the seed, the darnel and the mustard seed, the treasure in the field, the merchant and the pearls, and the fish of mixed quality.  And, at the end of the chapter, people in Nazareth lack faith him.  Perhaps they know too much to realize even more.

From those parables I glean certain lessons:

  1. One should remain focused on God, not allowing anything or anyone to function as a distraction.
  2. The good and the bad will grow up together and come mixed together.  God will sort everything into the correct categories at the right time.  That task does not fall to us, mere mortals.
  3. Nothing is more important than seeking, finding, and keeping the Kingdom of God.

I detect much thematic overlap between that material and Deuteronomy 13:1-16:22, with the notable absence of commands about when to execute or destroy.  Yes, Matthew is more riveting reading than Deuteronomy.

I read the Law of Moses as a Gentile, specifically an Episcopalian who grew up a United Methodist.  The Law was like a household servant who raised children, St. Paul the Apostle tells us.  Now that Christ has arrived on the scene, I have only two commandments, not over 600.  So, as long as I am growing via grace into loving God fully and my neighbor as myself, that ham sandwich should not bother my conscience.  And I refuse to execute anyone, for I serve an executed and resurrected Lord and Savior.  To him I am loyal.  In him, not a law code, do I find my identity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMITIAN OF HUY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARRIET STARR CANNON, COFOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITYN OF SAINT MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE VENERINI, FOUNDER OF THE VENERINI SISTERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODARD OF NARBONNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP; AND SAINTS JUSTUS AND PASTOR, MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-xiii-loyalty-and-identity/

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Week of Proper 23: Monday, Year 2   11 comments

Above:  A Chart of the Western Christian Year

Image Source = Patnac

Rituals and Their Value

OCTOBER 15, 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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Galatians 4:1-5:1 (Revised English Bible):

This is what I mean:  so long as the heir is a minor, he is no better off than a slave, even though the whole estate is his; he is subject to guardians and trustees until the date set by his father.  So it is with us:  during our minority we were slaves, subject to the elemental spirits of the universe, but when the appointed time came, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to buy freedom for those who were under the law, in order that we might attain the status of sons.

To prove that you are sons, God has sent into our hearts the Spirit of his Son, crying,

Abba, Father!

You are therefore no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, an heir by God’s own act.

Formerly, when you did not now God, you were slaves to gods to gods who are not gods at all.  But now that you do acknowledge God–or rather, now that he has acknowledged you–how can you turn back to those feeble and bankrupt elemental spirits?  Why do you propose to enter their service all over again?  You keep special days and months and seasons and years.  I am afraid that all my hard work on you may have been wasted.

Put yourselves in my place, my friends, I beg you, as I put myself in yours.  You never did me any wrong:  it was bodily illness, as you will remember, that originally led to my bringing you the gospel, and you resisted any temptation to show scorn or disgust at my physical condition; on the contrary you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as you might have welcomed Christ Jesus himself.  What has become of the happiness you felt then?  I believe you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me, had that been possible!  Have I now made myself your enemy by being frank with you?

Others are lavishing attention on you, but without sincerity:  what they really want is to isolate you so that you may lavish attention on them.  To be the object of sincere attentions is always good, and not just when I am with you.  You are my own children, and I am in labour with you all over again until you come to have the form of Christ.  How I wish I could be with you now, for then I could modify my tone; as it is, I am at my wits’ end with you.

Tell me now, you that are so anxious to be under the law, will you not listen to what the law says?  It is written there that Abraham had two sons, the one by a slave, the other by a free-born woman.  The slave’s son was born in ordinary course of nature, but the free woman’s through God’s promise.  This is an allegory:  the two women stand for two covenants.  The one covenant comes from Mount Sinai; that is Hagar, and her children are born into slavery.  Sinai is a mountain in Arabia and represents the Jerusalem of today, for she and her children are in slavery.  But the heavenly Jerusalem is a free woman; she is our mother.  For scripture says,

Rejoice, O barren woman who never bore a child; break into a shout of joy, you who have never been in labour; for the deserted wife will have more children than she who lives with her husband.

Now you, my friends, like Isaac, are children of God’s promise, but just as in those days the natural-born son persecuted the spiritual son, so it is today.  Yet what does the scripture say?

Drive out the slave and her son, for the son of the slave shall not share the inheritance with the son of the free woman.

You see, then, my friends, we are no slave’s children; our mother is the free woman.  It is for freedom that Christ set us free.  Stand firm, therefore, and refuse to submit to the yoke of slavery.

Psalm 138 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

before the gods I will sing your praise.

I will bow down toward your holy temple

and praise your Name,

because of your love and faithfulness;

3 For you have glorified your Name

and your word above all things.

4 When I called, you answered me;

you increased my strength within me.

All the kings of the earth will praise you, O LORD,

when they have heard the words of your mouth.

They will sing of the ways of the LORD,

that great is the glory of the LORD.

7 Though the LORD be high, he cares for the lowly;

he perceives the haughty from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;

you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand shall save me.

9 The LORD will make good his purpose for me;

O LORD, your love endures for ever;

do not abandon the works of your hands.

Luke 11:29-32 (Revised English Bible):

With the crowds swarming round him [Jesus] he went on to say:

This is a wicked generation.  It demands a sign, and the only sign that will be given it is the sign of Jonah.  For just as Jonah was a sign to the Ninevites, so will the Son of Man to this generation.  The queen of the south will appear in court when the men of this generation are on trial, and ensure their condemnation; for she came up from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and what is here is greater than Solomon.  The men of Nineveh will appear in court when this generation is on trial, and ensure its condemnation; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and what is here is greater than Jonah.

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Christian liberty is a theme which runs through the Letter to the Galatians.  This liberty frees us to fulfill our spiritual potential as heirs, not servants, and as children of God.  That is the context for Paul’s words which follow:

Your religion is beginning to be a matter of observing special days and months and seasons and years.–Galatians 4:10, The New Testament in Modern English, J. B. Phillips, 1972

Paul referred to the legalistic observance of Jewish fasts and feasts, as well as to certain Gentile (Pagan) celebrations.  The key word in the previous sentence is “legalistic.”  Many rituals are inherently neutral; the good or bad of them comes from those who observe them.

I am an Episcopalian and an unrepentant ritualist.  I remember a conversation from the early 1990s.  Some students from the Baptist Student Union at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia, criticized formal worship, saying that it consisted of merely going through the motions.  The wording they used suggested that they understood the most sincere worship to be the simplist worship.  They did not grasp that one can go through the motions regardless of whether one has two or thirty-two of them.  And, as Father Peter Ingeman, Rector of Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, has said correctly, a liturgy is simply an agreed-upon, regular, and predictable pattern of worship.  So anyone who attends a church with an agreed-upon, regular, and predictable pattern of worship goes to a liturgical church.

There is a story, which might be true.  The pastor of First Baptist Church in a county seat town in the U.S. South hosted a community Thanksgiving service.  The local Episcopal priest participated.  At the appointed time, the host pastor introduced the priest:

Now Father Jones from the Episcopal Church will say one of his…written prayers.

The priest walked to the pulpit and said,

Let us pray.  Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name….

Paul did not write that Christians should no longer observe festivals and keep the Sabbath, although an inaccurate reading of the passage can point in that direction.  Indeed, the interpretation of Galatians 4:9-11 has led to the condemnation of the religious observance of Christmas and Easter.  A textbook example of one variety of Calvinist Jure Divino theology is the following resolution, which the 1899 General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old “Southern Presbyterian Church,” passed:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv.9-11; Colossians ii.16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

The Journal of the General Assembly, 1899, page 430

Rituals mark time and transitions.  This time differs from that time, and a certain ritual divides them.  One can argue convincingly, for example, that a couple is (or ought to be) spiritually married prior to the marriage ceremony, but the ritual does define the moment they become married in the eyes of the church, the state, or both.  This is an important distinction in law and society.  And I had become a de facto Episcopalian prior to my confirmation, but now I have a date to observe every year.  (The anniversary of my confirmation is December 22.)  Rituals help with regard to social cohesion.  What separates boys from men, informal couples from married people, lay people from clergy, and students from graduates?  Rituals.  And what gives unique characters to the seasons of Advent, Christmas, the Season after Epiphany, Lent, Easter, and the Season after Pentecost?  Rituals.

Paul meant that one ought not observe certain days then think that one has fulfilled one’s duties.  Religion ought not to consist entirely of such occasions, but they can enrich it.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/rituals-and-their-value/

Week of Proper 23: Tuesday, Year 1   33 comments

Above:  James Tissot’s (Public Domain) Depiction of Saint Paul

Image in the Public Domain

Of Faith and Works

OCTOBER 15, 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 1:16-25 (Revised English Bible):

For I am not ashamed of the gospel.  It is the saving power of God for everyone who has faith–the Jew first, but the Greek also–because in it the righteousness of God is seen at work, beginning in faith and ending in faith; as scripture says,

Whoever is justified through faith shall gain life.

Divine retribution is to be seen at work, falling from heaven on all the impiety and wickedness of men and women who in their wickedness suppress the truth.  For all that can be known of God lies plain before their eyes; indeed God himself has disclosed it to them.  Ever since the world began God himself has disclosed it to them.  Ever since the world began his invisible attributes, that is to say his everlasting power and deity, have been visible to the eye of reason, in the things he has made.  Their conduct, therefore, is indefensible; knowing God, they have refused to honour him as God, or to render him thanks.  Hence all their thinking has ended in futility, and their misguided minds are plunged in darkness.  They boast of their wisdom, but they have made fools of themselves, exchanging the glory of  the immortal God for an image shaped like mortal man, even for images like birds, beasts, and reptiles.

For this reason God has given them up to their own vile desires, and the consequent degradation of their bodies.  They have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and have offered reverence and worship to created things instead of to the Creator.  Blessed is he for ever, Amen.

Psalm 19:1-4 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

Luke 11:37-41 (Revised English Bible):

When he [Jesus] had finished speaking, a Pharisee invited him to a meal, and he came in and sat down.  The Pharisee noticed that he had not begun by washing before the meal.  But the Lord said to him,

You Pharisees clean the outside of the cup and plate; but inside you are full of greed and wickedness.  You fools!  Did not he who made the outside make the inside too?  But let what is inside be given to charity, and all is clean.

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The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; 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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“Faith” is a word with more than one meaning.  In Hebrews 11, for example, it means “conviction issuing in action,” as Volume IX of The Interpreters’ Bible (1954) describes it.  Such faith empowers one to endure suffering rather than deny a proposition one cannot prove empirically.  The author of James understood faith to mean intellectual acceptance of a proposition, hence most of James 2.  Faith of that sort is insufficient alone; one needs works, too.

Paul, however, understood faith differently.  For him faith was “the attitude of condition of perfect trust in God’s mercy or ‘grace,’ complete reliance on it–rather than one’s own effort or merit–for one’s salvation, and eager receptivity.”  (The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume IX, 1954, page 392).   So, when Paul wrote of the sufficiency of faith, he meant this–not what James did when the author of that short epistle wrote,

You see then it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified….As the body is dead when there is no breath left in it, so faith divorced from action is dead.  (James 2:24 and 26, Revised English Bible)

Yet for Paul, writing in Romans 1, faith and action could not be divorced from each other.  Rather, his understanding was close to that in Hebrews 11.  These are examples of fine distinctions that merely casual readers and not-so-casual scoffers do not consider important.  Yet such details matter greatly.  I begin with them because starting with an accurate grasp of the text increases my probability of arriving at a correct understanding of what it means.

Let us consider the portion from Luke 11.  (We will continue the story with the post for the next day’s readings.)  Ceremonial washing of hands, pots, and other items was part of Judaism.  It still is, especially if one is Orthodox.  There is nothing wrong with this, for all of us, in our religious traditions, engage in certain acts which make no or little sense to those who believe and practice differently.  The problem was legalism, however.  Insisting on ritual washing while ignoring the Biblical imperatives for social and economic justice annoyed Jesus.  First Century C.E. Palestinian Jewish orthodoxy of the sort Jesus condemned was the kind that one could not afford to practice if one were poor, as were most Jews at that time and place.  So our Lord and Savior condemned an exclusive, self-congratulatory system of religious practice.

Now let us consider Paul’s understanding of faith again.  It is a complete reliance on divine mercy, not one’s merit.  Do see the link between the readings in your life?  In matters of faith–as Paul understood it in Romans 1–are you more like Jesus or his dinner host?  And where ought your answer to that question to lead you spiritually?  I cannot answer that for you.  May you be responsive to God’s leading in your life with regard to this and all other questions.  And may I be likewise responsive to divine guidance in mine.

May the peace of God be with you now and forever.  Amen.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/of-faith-and-works/

Proper 23, Year A   30 comments

Above: Parable of the Great Banquet, by Jan Luyken (1649-1712)

Of God, Banquets, and Guests

The Sunday Closest to October 12

The Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 15, 2017

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 32:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him,

Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.

Aaron said to them,

Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.

So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said,

These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said,

Tomorrow shall be a festival to the LORD.

They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

The LORD said to Moses,

Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

The LORD said to Moses,

I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.

But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said,

O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.”

And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Halelujah!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever.

2  Who can declare the mighty acts of the LORD

or show forth all his praise>

3  Happy are those who act with justice

and always do what is right?

4  Remember me, O LORD, with the favor you have for your people,

and visit me with your saving help;

5  That I may see the prosperity of your elect

and be glad with the gladness of your people,

that I may glory with your inheritance.

6  We have sinned as our forebears did;

we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.

19  Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb

and worshiped a molten image;

20  And so they exchanged their Glory

for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.

21  They forgot God their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22  Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,

and fearful things at the Red Sea.

23  So he would have destroyed them,

had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,

to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 25:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

O LORD, you are my God;

I will exalt you, I will praise your name;

for you have done wonderful things,

plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

For you have made the city a heap,

the fortified city a ruin;

the palace of aliens is a city no more,

it will never be rebuilt.

Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;

cities of ruthless nations will fear you.

For you have been a refuge to the poor,

a refuge to the needy in their distress,

a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.

When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,

the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,

you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;

the song of the ruthless was stilled.

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people

a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,

of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.

And he will destroy on this mountain

the shroud that is cast over all peoples,

the sheet that is spread over all nations;

he will swallow up death forever.

Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces,

and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the LORD has spoken.

It will be said on that day,

Lo, this is our God; we have waited on him, so that he might save us.

This is the LORD for whom we have waited;

let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Psalm 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not be in want.

2  He makes me lie down in green pastures

and leads me beside still waters.

3  He revives my soul

and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

4  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I shall fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5  You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

6  Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

SECOND READING

Philippians 4:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 22:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.

The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; 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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Canaanite mythology held that, after the apocalypse, the storm god Baal will become king of the pantheon after defeating Yamm, the god of chaos waters.  So Baal will hold a great banquet on a mountain, but the forces of chaos will reassert themselves and Mot, the god of death, will swallow up Baal and take him to the underworld.

I repeat this story because it is the foundation upon which our reading from Isaiah 25 is based.  One of the strategies of Biblical authors was to rewrite the mythology of others.  We see it in the first creation story and in the Noah’s ark saga, for example.  In this case, YHWH hosts the banquet and destroys death on the mountain.  One way of making the case of YHWH’s supremacy and greatness was to contrast YHWH with weaker deities from the pantheons of the competition.

Paul and the author of Psalm 23 remind us that we have no reason to fear if we are on God’s side, for, as Paul writes, “God is near.”  The nearness of God can be frightening, too, depending on one’s self and one’s circumstances, but Paul, in this case at least, finds it ennobling.  Since God is near, we ought to trust in God, be gentle, and pursue noble enterprises.  We need not react defensively because God is our defender.  Often we commit our worst deeds out of anger and defensiveness.  In these circumstances we lash out against and insult each other.  We might even use violence against each other.  These are not loving and noble ways of acting.

I have been reading and struggling with Anabaptist Biblical ethics.  The Anabaptists are pacifists, of course.  My inner Menno Simons is a pacifist, but my inner Reinhold Niebuhr is a realist with an uneasy conscience.  Can I love my neighbor and rejoice in his execution or the bombing of his village or city?  No, of course not.  The late Robert S. McNamara, in The Fog of War, a brilliant documentary, says that we humans need to think seriously about how much evil we must do in order to do good.  Yet, I wonder, how much evil does one commit before one has condemned one’s self to Hell?  And what would Jesus do?  What would Jesus say about any given situation, based on what we have in the canonical gospels?  I leave myself and you, O reader, with questions, not answers, in these matters.  I intend to continue to struggle with these matters, and I invite you to do likewise.

The original audience of the Gospel of Matthew consisted of Jewish Christians (in the 80s C.E.) living at the margins of Judaism after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  These were involuntarily marginal people, and the parable reflects their displeasure with their circumstances.  The social custom was to issue two invitations, the second of which consisted of, ” We are ready now, so come now.”  Know then, that everybody who refused to attend the wedding banquet had previously announced his or her intention to attend.  These are stand-ins for the Jews who have not become Christians.  The servants who round up people on the streets are missionaries and the replacement guests are Christians.  But some of these servants meet with martyrdom and murder.  Finally, at the banquet itself, one man has not attended in the proper attire.  This was a sign of disrespect, so the king had him removed.

This is a difficult story, but understanding the post-Jewish War context of the writing of the Gospel of Matthew helps explain much about it.  How much of the story comes from Jesus and how much comes from Matthew?  The scholars can sort out that question to their hearts’ content.  I, meanwhile, care about the devotional side of the text.

In Luke 9:51 Jesus “sets his face toward Jerusalem.”  Shortly afterward, in 9:57-62, unnamed people offer excuses why they will not follow him.  So, in 9:62, Jesus says,

No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

That was what the originally invited wedding guests did.  They said “yes” the first time but “no” the second.  They put their hands to the plow then looked back.  But the banquet would be full one way or another.

Here we have the intersection of judgment and mercy once again.  May we be on God’s side, by grace, without excuses, and lacking undue defensiveness which detracts from the love of Christ.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/of-god-banquetsand-guests/