Archive for the ‘October 16’ 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 Monday and Tuesday After Proper 23, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Paul Writing His Epistles

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

Godly Desires

OCTOBER 16 and 17, 2017

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The Collect:

Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples

and poured out your life with abundance.

Call us again to your banquet.

Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure,

and transform us into a people or righteousness and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 19:7-20 (Monday)

Amos 9:5-15 (Tuesday)

Psalm 34 (Both Days)

Jude 17-25 (Monday)

Philippians 3:13-4:1 (Tuesday)

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The troubles of the righteous are many:

but the Lord sets them free from them all.

The Lord guards every bone in the body of the righteous:

and so not one of them is broken.

Evil brings death to the wicked:

and those who hate the righteous are brought to ruin.

–Psalm 34:19-21, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Psalm 34 is a prayer of thanksgiving by one whom God had delivered from great difficulty.  Much of the text constitutes timeless truth, but I detect a level of optimism which many people from Jeremiah to Jesus might have called excessive.  I, as one who has studied Christian history, add to that list nearly two thousand years’ worth of suffering Christians, many of them martyrs, from St. Stephen to contemporary martyrs.

Nevertheless, the text does provide the unifying theme for this devotion:

Turn away from evil and do good:

seek peace and steadily pursue it.

–Verse 14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

The reading from Jude speaks of the duties of love.  Among these is practicing compassion, something one can do only if self does not occupy the throne of one’s life.  In that lesson we read also that there will be mockers who follow their godless desires.  That description fits the rape gang at Sodom in Genesis 19.  Lot, who offers his two virgin daughters to that gang, is also of dubious character.  The reading from Amos reminds us that divine favor does not function as a talisman protecting people from the consequences of their sins.  And St. Paul the Apostle, in Philippians, mentions the suffering of many of the faithful (including himself) and the different fates of the righteous and the unrighteous in the afterlife, thereby bringing the readings back around to Psalm 34, but with a more sober and realistic tone.

 May we, following the Apostle’s advice, stand firm in the Lord, walking compassionately in the way of divine love and disregarding the humiliation which enemies of the cross of Christ heap upon those who are of our Lord and Savior.  And may we strive properly

toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 3:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/godly-desires/

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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: Tuesday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  St. Nicholas Episcopal Church, Hamilton, Georgia, June 19, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Building Up the Body of Christ (I)

OCTOBER 16, 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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Lately I have been extending readings and even combining days’ worth of assigned devotional readings to preserve the unity of chapters in Galatians as much as possible.  I learn more from the texts when I type them out word for word.  I have, over time, typed out the Gospel lessons and the psalms, so I can copy and paste them from other blog posts I have produced, with just a few exceptions now and again.  But now, that I am focusing on the First Reading, I have decided to reproduce the full text of the Letter to the Galatians, despite the toll this effort takes on my fingers.  I can compensate for that (by spacing out the times I type out of a Bible and my notes in a composition book), and the cost, a mild one, is worth it.  Pondering, planning, and producing these posts constitute devotional acts themselves, and I hope, O reader, that you derive some benefit from them.–KRT

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Galatians 5:1-25 (Revised English Bible):

It is for freedom that Christ set us free.  Stand firm, therefore, and refuse to submit again to the yoke of slavery.

Mark my words:  I, Paul, say to you that if you get yourself circumcised Christ will benefit you no more.  I will impress on you once again that every man who accepts circumcision is under obligation to keep the entire law.  When you seek to be justified by way of law, you are cut off from Christ:  you have put yourselves outside God’s grace.  For it is by the Spirit and through faith that we hope to attain that righteousness which we eagerly await.  If we are in union with Christ Jesus, circumcision makes no difference at all, nor does the lack of it; the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

You were running well; who was it hindered you from following the truth?  Whatever persuasion was used, it did not come from God who called you.

A little leaven,

remember,

leavens all the dough.

The Lord gives me confidence that you will not adopt the wrong view; but whoever is unsettling your minds must bear God’s judgement.  As for me, my friends, if I am still advocating circumcision, then why am I still being persecuted?  To do that would be to strip the cross of all offence.  Those agitators had better go the whole way and make eunuchs of themselves!

You, my friends, were called to be free; only beware of turning your freedom into licence for you unspiritual nature.  Instead, serve one another in love; for the whole law is summed up in a single commandment:

Love your neighbor as yourself.

But if you go on fighting one another, tooth and nail, all you can expect is mutual destruction.

What I mean is this:  be guided by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of your unspiritual nature.  That nature sets its desires against the Spirit, while the Spirit fights against it.  They are in conflict with one another so that you cannot do what you want.  But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not subject to law.

Anyone can see the behaviour that belongs to the unspiritual nature:  fornication, indecency, and debauchery; idolatry and sorcery; quarrels, a contentious temper, envy, fits of rage, selfish ambitions, dissensions, party intrigues, and jealousies; drinking bouts, orgies, and the like.  I warn you, as I warned you before, that no one who behaves like that will ever inherit the kingdom of God.

But the harvest of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.  Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the old nature with its passions and desires.  If the Spirit is the source of our life, let the Spirit also direct its course.

Psalm 119:41-48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

41  Let your loving kindness come to me, O LORD,

and your salvation, according to your promise.

42  Then shall I have a word for those who taunt me,

because I trust in your words.

43  Do not take the word of truth out of my mouth,

for my hope is in your judgments.

44  I shall continue to keep your aw;

I shall keep it for ever and ever.

45  I will walk at liberty,

because I study your commandments.

46  I will tell of your decrees before kings

and will not be ashamed.

47  I delight in your commandments,

which I have always loved.

48  I will lift up my hands to your commandments,

and I will meditate on your statutes.

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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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 23:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

In Remembrance of Me:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/in-remembrance-of-me/

Hostility Fractures the Body:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/hostility-fractures-the-body/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-prayer-to-embrace-love-empathy-and-compassion-and-to-eschew-hatred-invective-and-willful-ignorance/

I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/i-come-with-joy-to-meet-my-lord/

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I belong to a Historical Jesus reading group.  Thus I am almost finished with The Founder of Christianity, by C. H. Dodd, in which Dodd makes the following point:  For many Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ, keeping the minutae of the Law of Moses formed the basis of their identity.  The keeping of the minutae of the Law defined them as not being Gentiles (especially Romans).  So, when Jesus said and did much of what he said and did, he questioned the basis of their identity.  This helps to explain why our Lord stirred up so much animosity in religious circles.  Religion had become mixed up in identity politics so much that simple calls to act compassionately–even on the Sabbath–became occasions for controversy.

This helps to explain much opposition to Paul, as well as Paul’s opposition to Judaizers.  Dodd’s analysis provides a useful societal backdrop to the Pauline epistles, not just the Gospels.  Keep that in mind as I proceed.

Love of one’s neighbor, we read, fulfills the Law of Moses.  (I have covered this idea in a previous post:  https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/week-of-proper-22-wednesday-year-2/.  If we love our neighbors as we love ourselves, we will act toward them properly, avoiding deeds which exploit them and tear them down.  And we will exhibit actions which help them and build them up.  Trademarks of these deeds are

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control. –5:23, Revised English Bible

Here I must reiterate the theme of Christian liberty to fulfill one’s spiritual potential.  This potential is not individual and separate from others.  We rise and fall together, for what one person does affects others.  To borrow an analogy from elsewhere in the Pauline epistles, we are individually body parts, and the building up of the body is crucial.

May we show

love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control

to each other for the common good, our own good, and (most importantly) for the glory of God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/building-up-the-body-of-christ-i/

Week of Proper 23: Wednesday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  A Torah Scroll

Image Source = Merlin

“Everything else is commentary.”–Hillel

OCTOBER 16, 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 2:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

You have no defence, then, whoever you may be, when you sit in judgement–for in judging others you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, are equally guilty.  We all know that God’s judgement on those who commit such crimes is just; and do you imagine–you that pass judgement on the guilty while committing the same crimes yourself–do you imagine that you, any more than they, will escape the judgement of God?  Or do you despise the the wealth of kindness and tolerance and patience, failing to see that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  In the obstinate impenitence of your heart you are laying up for yourself a store of retribution against the day of retribution, when God’s just judgement will be revealed, and he will pay everyone for what he has done.  To those who pursue glory, honour, and immortality by steady persistence in well-doing, he will give eternal life; but the retribution of his wrath awaits those who are governed by selfish ambition, who refuse obedience to truth and take evil for their guide.  There will be affliction and distress for every human being who is a wrongdoer, for the Jew first and the Greek also; but for everyone who does right there will be glory, honour, and peace, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  God has no favourites.

Psalm 62:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

from him comes my salvation.

2  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.

3  How long will you assail me to crush me,

all of you together,

as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall?

4  They seek only to bring me down from my place of honor;

lies are their chief delight.

5  They bless with their lips,

but in their hearts they curse.

6  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

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

Luke 11:42-46 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you Pharisees!  You pay tithes of mint and rue and every garden herb, but neglect justice and the love of God.  It is these you should have practised, without overlooking the others.

Alas for you Pharisees!  You love to have the chief seats in synagogues, and to be greeted respectfully in the street.

Alas, alas, you who are like unmarked graves, which people walk over unawares.

At this one of the lawyers said,

Teacher, when you say things like this you are insulting us too.

Jesus rejoined,

Alas for you lawyers also!  You load men with intolerable burdens, and will not lift a finger to lighten the load.

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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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Numbers 19:16 reads:

In the open, anyone who touches someone killed with a weapon or someone killed with a weapon or touches a human bone or a grave, is unclean for seven days.

This applied especially to those who did this accidentally.  This detail matters because Jesus refers to it in Luke 11:44, the verse about walking over an unmarked grave.  The Pharisees and their accompanying experts in the Law of Moses were bad influences even if they did not wake up each day plotting how to be bad influences, Jesus said.  They were certainly sincere, but they were sincerely wrong and destructive.

They were so because they became and remained lost in the details.  They had reduced morality to a checklist when it is more a matter of proper attitudes.  The details tend to fall into place when one has proper priorities.  If I say, for example, that I will endeavor, with the help of God, to do unto others as I would want them to do unto me, I do not need to carry a checklist of forbidden and acceptable actions.  “Is it lawful?” is not a question on which I need to spend much time when love of my neighbor defines my actions.

This is a profoundly Jewish attitude.  The great Rabbi Hillel, who died when Jesus was a young man, once fielded a question from a scoffer who demanded a very brief summary of the Torah–one he could listen to in its entirely while standing on one foot.  Hillel’s replied with the Golden Rule, to love one’s neighbor as one’s self.  He continued,

Everything else is commentary.  Now, if you’re really interested, to and study the commentary.

It is vital that, when studying the commentary, one ought not forget the main idea, which is the Golden Rule.  One can be a wrongdoer while trying to do that which is moral.  I think of many of my Antebellum Southern forebears in the Christian faith, who used the Bible to defend chattel slavery, a dehumanizing institution.  Then, after the Civil War and through the Civil Rights Movement, many professing Christians used many old pro-slavery arguments to support de jure segregation.  They looked at the details–the commentary–but did not stay focused on the main idea, the Golden Rule.  The commentary contains many useful ideas about how to observe the Golden Rule, but one can pervert and twist the commentary and contradict the Golden Rule easily and without trying to do so.

Sometimes our cultural, subcultural, and religious programming blinds us to our sins.  Other times we blind ourselves to our sins out of selfish interests.  Yet the guiding principle, which is the Golden Rule, remains clear and succinct.  Why are so many of us so confused so much of the time?

Yet, as James 1:27 reads,

A pure and faultless religion in the sight of God the Father is this:  to look after orphans and widows in trouble and to keep oneself untarnished by the world.

This is all the checklist I need.  “Is it lawful?” If it cares effectively for the vulnerable, it is.  If not, it is not.  If it values people more than possessions and other forms of wealth, it is lawful.  If it does not, it is not.  As Saint Laurence of Rome understood well, the poor are treasure of the Church.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/everything-else-is-commentary-hillel/