Archive for the ‘October 26’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 25, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Above:   The Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Image in the Public Domain

The Balance of Judgment and Mercy

OCTOBER 24, 2019

OCTOBER 25, 2019

OCTOBER 26, 2019

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The Collect:

Holy God, our righteous judge, daily your mercy

surprises us with everlasting forgiveness.

Strengthen our hope in you, and grant that all the

peoples  of the earth may find their glory in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 9:1-16 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 9:17-26 (Friday)

Jeremiah 14:1-6 (Saturday)

Psalm 84:1-7 (All Days)

2 Timothy 3:1-9 (Thursday)

2 Timothy 3:10-15 (Friday)

Luke 1:46-55 (Saturday)

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Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

–Psalm 84:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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And woe to those who hearts are not set on the pilgrims’ way.  They are deceitful, advancing from evil to evil.  They cheat each other and lie.  They wear themselves out by working iniquity.  Those of them who claim to be religious preserve an empty, outward shell of religion.  God, who scatters the proud in their conceit and casts the mighty from their thrones, is not impressed with such people:

Speak thus–says the LORD:

The carcasses of men shall lie

Like dung upon the fields,

Like sheaves behind the reaper,

With none to pick them up.

–Jeremiah 9:21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Yet this same deity is also God the merciful.  In the midst of judgment we read the following words:

For what else can I do because of My poor people?

–Jeremiah 9:6c, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Later we read:

Thus said the LORD:

Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom;

Let not the strong man glory in his strength;

Let not the rich man glory in his riches.

But only in this should one glory:

In his earnest devotion to Me.

For I the LORD act with kindness,

Justice, and equity n the world;

For in these I delight–declares the LORD.

–Jeremiah 9:22-23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Furthermore, as Luke 1:46-55 (the Magnificat), echoing the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, reminds us, God has filled hungry people with good things, sent the rich away empty, and remained faithful to divine promises.

What is one supposed to make of this seeming contradiction between divine judgment and mercy?  I propose, as I have written repeatedly in weblog posts, that good news for the oppressed is frequently bad news for the unrepentant oppressors.  Furthermore, one should consider the issue of discipline, for a responsible parent does not permit a child to get away with everything.  Judgment and mercy exist in balance with each other; God is neither an abuser nor a warm fuzzy.  God is God.

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/the-balance-of-judgment-and-mercy/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 25, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ in Majesty Icon

Above:  Icon of Christ in Majesty

Image in the Public Domain

Prejudices and Prophecy

OCTOBER 25, 26, and 27, 2018

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The Collect:

Eternal light, shine in our hearts.

Eternal wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance.

Eternal compassion, have mercy on us.

Turn us to seek your face, and enable us to reflect your goodness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 23:9-16 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 26:12-24 (Friday)

Jeremiah 29:24-32 (Saturday)

Psalm 126 (All Days)

Hebrews 7:1-10 (Thursday)

Hebrews 7:11-22 (Friday)

Mark 8:22-26 (Saturday)

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When the Lord turned again the fortunes of Zion:

then we were like men restored to life.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter:

and our tongue with singing.

Then said they among the heathen:

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

Truly the Lord has done great things for us:

and therefore we rejoiced.

Turn again our fortunes, O Lord:

as the streams return to the dry south.

Those that sow in tears:

shall reap with songs of joy.

He who goes out weeping bearing the seed:

shall come again in gladness, bringing his sheaves with him.

–Psalm 126, Alternative Prayer Book 1984

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The prophet Jeremiah labored faithfully for and argued with God during especially dangerous times.  The Kingdom of Judah was a vassal state, false prophets were numerous, and true prophets were targets of the theocratic royal regime.  The process of exiling populations had begun, and the full-scale Babylonian Exile had not started yet.  False prophets predicted a glorious future and condemned faithful prophets.  Yet even Jeremiah, who predicted doom and gloom, stated that divine deliverance and restoration would come in time.

The appearance of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:17-21 linked Abram/Abraham to the Davidic Dynasty, for Melchizedek was the King of Salem (Jerusalem).  Hebrews 7 linked Melchizedek to Jesus (“resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever”–verse 3b, The New Revised Standard Version).  At the end of the line of faithful Hebrew prophets (ending with St. John the Baptist) stands Jesus, greater than all of them.  He is, as Hebrews 7:22 states,

the guarantee of a better covenant.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Jesus, permanently a priest (7:24), is the Messiah (“Christ” in Greek) unbounded by time.  Now he exists beyond human capacity to harm him, but he did die via crucifixion.  There was a resurrection, fortunately.

Often we mortals desire to hear words which confirm our prejudices and belie hard truths.  Perhaps we know sometimes that what we want to hear is inaccurate, but we accept it anyway because doing so is bearable.  Or perhaps we are so deluded that we cannot distinguish between true and false prophecy, prophecy often having more to do with the present day and the near future than the more distant future.  Yet, even when we seek to distinguish between true and false prophecy, our ignorance can prove to be a major obstacle.  I know of no easy way out of this conundrum.  No, the best advice I can offer is to seek to live according to affirming human dignity and loving others as one loves oneself.  Following the Golden Rule is sound advice.  One might err in the execution of it, but I propose that God will not condemn one for loving one’s neighbors.  As for the details of prophecy, they will unfold according to course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/prejudices-and-prophecy/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 25, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

New Novel Winslow Homer

Above:  The New Novel, by Winslow Homer

Image in the Public Domain

Upright and Religious Lives

OCTOBER 26 and 27, 2017

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you are the holy lawgiver, you are the salvation of your people.

By your Spirit renew us in your covenant of love,

and train us to care tenderly for all our neighbors,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 5:5-10 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 9:25-10:5 (Friday)

Psalm 1 (Both Days)

Titus 1:5-16 (Thursday)

Titus 2:7-8, 11-15 (Friday)

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Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;

everything they do shall prosper.

It is not so with the wicked;

they are like the chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

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

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Psalm 1 is excessively optimistic in places, for not everything the righteous do prospers.  Indeed, many of the wicked do quite well for themselves in this life.  That quibble aside, I note the recognition of ultimate justice, for all of us will answer to the same God, in whom dwell both judgment and mercy.

Thea assigned readings from the Old and New Testaments focus on how to live on this plane of reality.  We learn about consequences of sins also.  Sometimes those consequences assume the form of restitution  to the wronged person or the wronged person’s next of kin.  Or they might assume the form of a donation to a priest if there is no next of kin.  But what about the situation in which the collective sins?  Moses interceded with God to avoid the destruction of the people, who were stubborn, grumbling ingrates who had not surrendered their slave mentalities.  Many members of that first generation of partially liberated people died due to their sins and the second generation entered the Promised Land.  Words from Titus could have applied to that first generation:

They claim to know God but by their works they deny him; they are outrageously rebellious and quite untrustworthy for any good work.

–1:16, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Speaking of slavery, God had liberated that first generation physically from servitude in Egypt.  Thus the birth of the Hebrew nation was its passage through the parted waters of the Sea of Reeds.  Those who designed the lectionary I am following skipped Titus 2:9-10:

Slaves must be obedient to their masters in everything, and do what is wanted without argument, and show complete honesty at all times, so that they are in every way a credit to the teaching of God our Saviour.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

I side with God in Exodus, not with St. Paul the Apostle, in this matter.  Slavery is wrong in all its forms at all times and in all places.

Another portion of the Letter of Titus is less troublesome, although not without a history of excessively rigorous interpretation and enforcement:

[God’s grace] has taught us that we should give up everything contrary to true religion and all our worldly passions; we must be self-restrained and live upright lives in this present world, waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

–2:12-14, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Off the top of my head I can repeat a list of allegedly self-indulgent and therefore sinful deeds:

  1. Attending plays,
  2. Reading novels,
  3. Playing dominoes,
  4. Playing chess,
  5. Playing cards,
  6. Playing soccer,
  7. Wearing fashionable clothes,
  8. Wearing ribbons in one’s hair (sorry, ladies),
  9. Drinking coffee,
  10. Drinking tea,
  11. Eating meat,
  12. Eating pastries,
  13. Dancing,
  14. Hosting a dance at home,
  15. Attending circuses,
  16. Watching television, and
  17. Watching television.

I have found references to all of these in various sources, which have dated the condemnations from centuries ago the present day.  On the other hand, would not opposing slavery constitute part of leading an upright and religious life at any time.  One might think so.

May we who profess to follow God do so in reality, forsaking petty nonsense and pursuing love of our fellow human beings and seeking the best for them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 3, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CARL LICHTENBERGER, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF JIMMY LAWRENCE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PRUDENCE CRANDALL, EDUCATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/upright-and-religious-lives/

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Devotion for October 24, 25, and 26 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

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Above:  Jesus Blessing Little Children

Created by Currier & Ives, Circa 1867

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-2693

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XVII:  Mutual Responsibility

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 24, 2019

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2019

SATURDAY, OCTOBER 26, 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 25:17-26:19 (October 24)

Deuteronomy 27:1-26 (October 25)

Deuteronomy 28:1-22 (October 26)

Psalm 143 (Morning–October 24)

Psalm 86 (Morning–October 25)

Psalm 122 (Morning–October 26)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–October 24)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–October 25)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening–October 26)

Matthew 17:1-13 (October 24)

Matthew 17:14-27 (October 25)

Matthew 18:1-20 (October 26)

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We are all responsible for each other.  And God will provide.  Both statements flow from the assigned readings from Deuteronomy and Matthew.  In some circumstances they merge into the following statement:  Sometimes God provides via human agents.  Thus there are blessings upon those who defend the rights of strangers, widows, and orphans, just as there are curses upon those who violate those rights.  Curses in Deuteronomy 28 include drought, unsuccessful enterprises, and epidemics of hemorrhoids.  Anyone who comes to God must do so without pretense—as a small child—and woe unto anyone who causes one to stumble!  What one person does affects others.

We are responsible for each other.  So may we put aside selfishness.  May our ambitions build others and ourselves up, not elevate ourselves to the detriment of others.  May we treat others as we want others to treat us.  May we act confidently, assured that God will provide, which is the point of Matthew 17:27.  May we recognize and treat others as bearers of the image of God and therefore worthy of respect and human dignity.  By helping them we aid ourselves.  By harming them we hurt ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT II, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF DAME JULIAN OF NORWICH, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDALENA OF CANOSSA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY AND THE SONS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-xvii-mutual-responsibility/

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Week of Proper 24: Friday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 24: Saturday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Bishop Neil Alexander at Christ Episcopal Church, Norcross, Georgia, on January 16, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Building Up the Body of Christ (II)

OCTOBER 26 and 27, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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COMPOSITE FIRST READING

Ephesians 4:1-32 (Revised English Bible):

I implore you then–I, a prisoner for the Lord’s sake:  as God has called you, live up to your calling.  Be humble always and gentle, and patient too, putting up with one another’s failings in the spirit of love.  Spare no effort to make fast with bonds of peace the unity which the spirit gives.  There is one body and one spirit, just as there is one hope held out in God’s call to you; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all.

But each of us has been given a special gift, a particular share in the bounty of Christ.  That is why the scripture says:

He ascended into the heights;

he took captives into captivity;

he gave gifts to men.

Now the word “ascended” implies that he also descended to the lowest level, down to the very earth.  He who descended is none other than he who ascended far above all heavens, so that he might fill the universe.  And it is he who has given some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip God’s people for work in his service, for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity inherent in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God–to mature manhood, measured by nothing less than the full stature of Christ.  We are no longer to be children, tossed about by waves and whirled around by every fresh gust of teaching, dupes of cunning rogues and their deceitful schemes.  Rather we are to maintain the truth in a spirit of love; so shall we fully grow up into Christ.  He is the head, and on him the whole body depends.  Bonded and held together by every constituent joint, the whole frame grows through the proper functioning of each part, and builds itself up in love.

Here then is my word to you, and urge it on you in the Lord’s name:  give up living as pagans do with their futile notions.  Their minds are closed, they are alienated from the life that is in God, because ignorance prevails among them and their hearts have grown hard as stone.  Dead to all feeling, they have abandoned themselves to vice, and there is no indecency that they do not practise.  But that is not how you learned Christ.  For were you not told about him, were you not as Christians taught the truth as it is in Jesus?  Renouncing your former way of life, you must lay aside the old human nature which, deluded by its desires, is in process of decay:  you must be renewed in mind and spirit, and put on the new nature created in God’s likeness, which shows itself in the upright and devout life called for by the truth.

Then have done with falsehood and speak the truth to each other, for we belong to one another as parts of one body.

If you are angry, do not be led into sin; do not let sunset find you nursing your anger; and give no foothold to the devil.

The thief must give up stealing, and work hard with his hands to earn an honest living, so that he may have something to share with the needy.

Let no offensive talk pass your lips, only what is good and helpful to the occasion, so that it brings a blessing to those who hear it.  Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, for that Spirit is the seal with which you were marked for the day of final liberation.  Have done with all spite and bad temper, with rage, insults, and slander, with evil of any kind.  Be generous to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another as God in Christ forgave you.

RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

RESPONSE FOR SATURDAY

Psalm 122 (New Revised Standard Version):

I was glad when they said to me,

Let us go to the house of the LORD!

Our feet are standing

within your gates, O Jerusalem.

Jerusalem–built as a city

that is bound firmly together.

To it the tribes go up,

the tribes of the LORD,

as was decreed for Israel,

to give thanks for the name of the LORD.

For there the thrones of judgment were set up,

the thrones of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:

May they prosper who love you.

Peace be within your walls,

and security within your towers.

For the sake of my relatives and friends

I will say,

Peace be within you.

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

I will seek your good.

COMPOSITE GOSPEL READING

Luke 12:54-13:9 (Revised English Bible):

He [Jesus] also said to the people,

When you see clouds gathering in the west, you say at once, “It is going to rain,” and rain it does.  And when the wind is from the south, you say, “It will be hot,” and it is.  What hypocrites you are!  You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but cannot interpret the faithful hour.

Why can you not judge for yourselves what is right?  When you are going with your opponent to court, make an effort to reach a settlement with him while you are still on the way; otherwise he may drag you before the judtge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into jail.  I tell you, you will not be let out until you have paid the very last penny.

At that time some people came and told him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  He answered them:

Do you suppose that, because these Galileans suffered this fate, they must have been greater sinners than anyone else in Galilee?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all of you come to the same end.  Of the eighteen people who were killed when the tower fell on them at Siloam–do you imagine they must have been more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all come to an end like theirs.

He told them this parable:

A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none.  So he said to the vine-dresser, “For the last three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any.  Cut it down.  Why should it go on taking goodness from the soil?”  But he replied, “Leave it, sir, for this one year, while I did round it and manure it.  And it it bears next season, well and good; if not, you shall have it down.”

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 24:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/week-of-proper-24-friday-year-1/

Week of Proper 24:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/week-of-proper-24-saturday-year-1/

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The readings from Luke 12-13 and Ephesians 4 speak of how to live and not to live, but Ephesians 4 provides the succinct summary:

Let there be no more bitter resentment or anger, no more shouting or slander, and let there be no bad feeling of any kind among you.  Be kind to each other, be compassionate.  Be as ready to forgive others as God for Christ’s sake has forgiven you.–Verses 31-32, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, 1972

Not letting go of resentment, anger, shouting, slander, and bad feeling tears down the body, of which we Christians are part–with Christ himself as the cornerstone, but practicing kindness, compassion, and forgiveness has a positive effect on said body, not to mention oneself.  Living according to the latter standard reduces stress, but acting according the former one increases it–certainly for oneself.  And one’s anger toward another might not even affect him or her, for he or she might not be aware of it.

Pauline thought includes the concept of the Church as the body of Christ.  So, accordingly, what one member does or refuses to do affects the other members.  Whatever part we are, we need to be the best one possible.  Jesus and Paul, just to name two relevant people, sacrificed themselves for that body.  And we Christians of today benefit greatly from what they did.  And we have no warrant for selfishness.

Our fellow human beings do not exist for us to manipulate or destroy, no more than we exist for them to use us in the same ways.  Rather, we all bear the image of God.  So may we cherish one another, build each other up, work for the common good without harming each other, love one another, and, as much as possible, enjoy each other’s company–all in Christ, of course.  All that we do should be in Christ.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/building-up-the-body-of-christ-ii/

Week of Proper 24: Saturday, Year 1   10 comments

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

Image in the Public Domain

Yet Another Chance

OCTOBER 26, 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 8:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

It follows that there is now no condemnation for those who are united with Christ Jesus.  In Christ Jesus the life-giving law of the Spirit has set you free from the law of sin and death.  What the law could not do, because human weakness robbed it of all potency, God has done:  by sending his own Son in the likeness of our sinful nature and to deal with sin, he has passed judgement against sin within that very nature, so that the commandment of the law may find fulfillment in us, whose conduct is no longer controlled by the old nature, but by the Spirit.

Those who live on the level of the old nature have their outlook formed by it, and that spells death; but those who live on the level of the spirit have the spiritual outlook, and that is life and peace.  For the outlook of the unspiritual nature is enmity with God; it is not subject to the law of God and indeed it cannot be; those who live under its control cannot please God.

But you do not live like that.  You live by the spirit, since God’s Spirit dwells in you; and anyone who does not possess the Spirit of Christ does not belong to Christ.  But if Christ is in you, then although the body is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit is your life because you have been justified.  Moreover, if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, then the God who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give new life to your mortal bodies through his indwelling Spirit.

Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is he who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend to the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

5 They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

Luke 13:1-9 (Revised English Bible):

At that time some people came and told him [Jesus] about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices.  He answered them:

Do you suppose that, because these Galileans suffered this fate, they must have been greater sinners than anyone else in Galilee?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all of you come to the same end.  Of the eighteen people who were killed when the tower fell on them at Siloam–do you imagine they must have been more guilty than all the other people living in Jerusalem?  No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all come to an end like theirs.

He told them this parable:

A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none.  So he said to the vine-dresser, “For the last three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any.  Cut it down.  Why should it go on taking goodness from the soil?”  But he replied, “Leave it, sir, for this one year, while I did round it and manure it.  And it it bears next season, well and good; if not, you shall have it down.”

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The passage from Luke contains a historical reference which requires explanation.  Pontius Pilate, the Roman imperial Procurator in the region, had decided to finance improvements to the Jerusalem water supply infrastructure with Temple monies.  A riot ensued, as did the predictable violence of Roman soldiers with orders to suppress the uprising.  A common idea at the time assumed that those who died must have been greater sinners than the rest, for such a terrible fate befell them but not others.  Jesus rejected this automatic link between sin and suffering.  Apparently he had paid close attention to the Book of Job.

The writing of the Gospel of Luke occurred circa 85-90 C.E., within recent memory of the First Jewish War and the destruction of Jerusalem and Herod’s Temple.  This historical fact must inform our interpretation of this passage, as that reality influenced its writing.  Presumably the message was that those who had rejected Jesus and the Christian message after his crucifixion and Resurrection suffered the wrath of God–a wrath they had a chance to avoid.

Such ancient logic lends itself too easily to hatred of the Jews, and I reject Anti-Semitism.

The non-Anti-Semitic takeaway from Luke 13:1-9 common to Romans 8:1-11 is that God has given us second, third, fourth, et cetera chances.  To the extent that we have life, that is in and through God–notably Jesus and the Holy Spirit.  This changes our way of understanding the world.  It changes mine.  I consider my response to the death of Osama bin Laden.  Yes, the man was a mass murderer and a terrorist, but would Jesus rejoice at the man’s death?  No, I think not; so I cannot rejoice at it either.

Yet I know that there is much room left for personal transformation within me.  May it continue.

We see also in this day’s readings the conjunction of mercy and judgment.  As I have written before in other blogs, one is meaningless without the other.  That is a sobering thought.  Yet let us leave vengeance to God, with whom there is also extravagant mercy.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/yet-another-chance/