Archive for the ‘October 7’ Category

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 22, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Figs

Above:   Figs

Image in the Public Domain

Overcoming the World

OCTOBER 7, 2019

OCTOBER 8, 2019

OCTOBER 9, 2019

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The Collect:

Benevolent, merciful God:

When we are empty, fill us.

When we are weak in faith, strengthen us.

When we are cold in love, warm us,

that we may love our neighbors and

serve them for the sake of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 1:5-17 (Monday)

Habakkuk 2:5-11 (Tuesday)

Habakkuk 2:12-20 (Wednesday)

Psalm 3 (All Days)

James 1:2-11 (Monday)

1 John 5:1-5, 13-21 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:12-14, 20-24 (Wednesday)

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LORD, how many adversaries I have!

how many there are who rise up against me!

How many there are who say of me,

“There is no help for him in his God.”

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me;

you are my glory, the one who lifts up my head.

–Psalm 3:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Earthly fortunes and military conquests are temporary, even if some are long-term.  Whatever material and financial assets we own, we cannot take them with us after we die.  History records that the Persian Empire conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and that the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great defeated the Persian Empire.  Furthermore, we know that successor empires of the Macedonian Empire competed with each other and fell to conquests in time.

There is God, whom no earthly power can conquer or come close to defeating.  We read at the end of John 16, shortly before the torture and execution of Jesus, these words placed in his mouth:

In the world you will have suffering.  But take heart!  I have conquered the world.

–Verse 3:3b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

We know by faith that Roman officials killed Jesus, but that a resurrection followed a few days later.  We also read the following in 1 John 5:

For to love God is to keep his commandments; and these are not burdensome, because every child of God overcomes the world.  Now, the victory by which the world is overcome is our faith, for who is victor over the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

–Verses 3-5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In the Biblical sense to believe in God is to trust in God.  Affirming a theological proposition intellectually is much easier than internalizing it and acting on it.  To settle for the former (mere intellectual assent) is to be like the barren fig tree of Mark 11.  Yes, the text of Mark 11 indicates that Jesus cursed a fig tree out of fig season, but out of season a healthy fig tree exhibits evidence of the ability to bear figs in season.  Furthermore, the context of Mark 11:12-14, 20-24, set during Holy Week and bookending the cleansing of the Temple, indicates that the story of the cursed fig tree pertains to Jesus’s displeasure with the management and operation of the Temple.

May we who claim to follow Jesus bear good fruits and otherwise show year-round evidence of our spiritual vitality in Christ.  May we trust in Jesus and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

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

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/overcoming-the-world/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 22, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Above:  Map of the Kingdoms of Judah and Israel

Image in the Public Domain

Apostasy and Idolatry

OCTOBER 5, 6, and 7, 2017

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The Collect:

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

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

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

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 2:14-22 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 2:23-37 (Friday)

Jeremiah 6:1-10 (Saturday)

Psalm 80:7-15 (All Days)

Colossians 2:16-23 (Thursday)

Philippians 2:14-18; 3:1-4a (Friday)

John 7:40-52 (Saturday)

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Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading for these three days overlap nicely, focusing on the themes of idolatry and apostasy.  To commit apostasy is to fall away from grace.  (Thus grace is not irresistible.  Strict Calvinism is therefore mistaken about that fifth of the TULIP formula.  I am also dubious of the Perseverance of the Saints, which relates to Irresistible Grace.)  An idol is anything which takes the place of God in one’s life.  Thus an idol might be a false deity, an activity, or even a sacred text.  Function in one’s life determines that thing’s status relative to idolatry.  Among the most popular idols is the Bible, which is supposed to function instead as an icon–through which people see God.  But, if one treats it as an idol, that is what it is for that person.

The lessons from Jeremiah condemn idolatry which has led to national apostasy, evident in ill-advised alliances with foreign, predatory empires.

What then do you gain by going to Egypt,

to drink the waters of the Nile?

or what do you gain by going to Assyria,

to drink the waters of the Euphrates?

Your wickedness will punish you,

and your apostasies will convict you.

Know and see that it is evil and bitter

for you to forsake the LORD your God;

the fear of me is not in you,

says the LORD GOD of hosts.

–Jeremiah 2:18-19, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

From the gloom of Jeremiah 2 and 6 we turn to the Pauline tradition, which emphasizes Christ crucified and resurrected.  St. Paul the Apostle rejects, among other things, Gnostic asceticism, a form of Jewish ritualism, and the practice of worshiping angels as methods as obtaining the spiritual upper hand.  Christ is sufficient, the ever-Jewish Paul tells us through the ages.

I understand the Apostle’s objection to Gnosticism, with its reliance on secret knowledge and belief that matter is evil.  If salvation comes from having secret knowledge, as Gnostics insisted, the death and resurrection of Jesus were pointless.  In fact, in Gnostic thought, he did not die because he was not even corporeal, for, in Gnosticism, he could not have had a body, a body being material and therefore evil.  Thus Gnosticism was not Christian.  The exclusion of Gnostic texts from the Bible was not, as some “documentaries” on the History Channel claim, a conspiracy of Church leaders to suppress truth and crush dissent.  No, it was a proper course of action.

As for rituals (especially Jewish ones), I approach the text from Colossians differently than do the authors of some of the commentaries I consulted.  A high proportion of these writers were Presbyterians with little use for ritual.  Their paragraphs screamed between the lines “This is why I am not a Papist!”  I, as an Episcopalian, know the value of ritual and of approaching it properly.  It should be an icon, not an idol, although it functions as the latter for many people.  But so does the Bible, and I do not heap scorn on that sacred anthology either.

Apostasy, a theme from the Jeremiah readings, recurs in John 7.  Temple officials accuse some Temple policemen of it for refusing to arrest Jesus, who had impressed them.  These officials also accuse Nicodemus of the same offense.  I realize that much of the Gospel of John reflects late first-century C.E. Jewish Christian invective, for Jewish Christians had found themselves marginalized within Judaism.  Nevertheless, the stories in John 7:40-52 have the ring of truth, for fearful people in positions of power have attempted to retain it in many places and at numerous times.

Idols come in many varieties, shapes, sizes, and ages.  As I have written in this post, function in one’s life determines status relative to idolatry in that life.  Among the more common idols is attachment to the status quo ante, especially if one benefits from it.  Thus we become upset when God does something we do not expect.  This might threaten just our sense of order (hardly a minor issue), but also our identity (also a major consideration) and socio-economic-political or socio-economic standing (of which we tend to be quite protective).  But when was religion supposed to function as a defense against God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL FARADAY, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF BAYARD RUSTIN, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/apostasy-and-idolatry/

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Devotion for October 7, 8, and 9 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

John_Martin_-_Sodom_and_Gomorrah

Above:  The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part IX:  God’s Wrath

MONDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2019

TUESDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2019

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 9, 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 6:10-25 (October 7)

Deuteronomy 7:1-19 (October 8)

Deuteronomy 8:1-20 (October 9)

Psalm 5 (Morning–October 7)

Psalm 42 (Morning–October 8)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–October 9)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–October 7)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–October 8)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–October 9)

Matthew 9:18-38 (October 7)

Matthew 10:1-23 (October 8)

Matthew 10:24-42 (October 9)

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The God of Deuteronomy 6-8 is a fearsome warrior, one who tells people in stern tones to obey–OR ELSE.  And, to complicate matters further, genocide (allegedly approved of by God) is part of the mix.  So destruction for godless ways is a prominent theme there.  I choose not to repeat my detailed disapproval of such material as being inconsistent with the Golden Rule, for I have written of it many times.

Jesus, in Matthew 9:18-10:42, heals people, raises a girl from the dead, sends his twelve Apostles on a mission (with detailed instructions), and tells them to leave unbelievers to God’s wrath.  I notice that they are not do anything to those who reject them.  And I cannot escape mention of God’s wrath in the material for these days.

Jesus,as I think of him automatically, was a generally jolly fellow who used humor to cope with great stresses and sorrows.  He was fully human, I affirm, and we humans need humor.  So I imagine him and his Apostles sharing jokes, perhaps the following one among them:

Q:  How many Pharisees does it take to change oil lamp?

A:  One one, but he never does it on the Sabbath.

Yet I know that the darker, more serious side of the Gospel message was always there.  I affirm this also, without the genocide and with more forgiveness than in Deuteronomy 6-8.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-ix-gods-wrath/

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Proper 22, Year B   18 comments

Above:  The Scapegoat, By William Holman Hunt

Scapegoating and Suffering

The Sunday Closest to October 5

The Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 7, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Job 1:1; 2:1-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

There was once a man in the land of Uz whose name was Job. That man was blameless and upright, one who feared God and turned away from evil.

One day the heavenly beings came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them to present himself before the LORD. The LORD said to Satan,

Where have you come from?

Satan answered the LORD,

From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it.

The LORD said to Satan,

Have you considered my servant Job? There is no one like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and turns away from evil. He still persists in his integrity, although you incited me against him, to destroy him for no reason.

Then Satan answered the LORD,

Skin for skin! All that people have they will give to save their lives. But stretch out your hand now and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.

The LORD said to Satan,

Very well, he is in your power; only spare his life.

So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and inflicted loathsome sores on Job from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. Job took a potsherd with which to scrape himself, and sat among the ashes.

Then his wife said to him,

Do you still persist in your integrity? Curse God, and die.

But he said to her,

You speak as any foolish woman would speak. Shall we receive the good at the hand of God, and not receive the bad?

In all this Job did not sin with his lips.

Psalm 26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.

Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully before you.

I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.

Do not sweep me away with sinners,

nor my life with those who thirst for blood,

10 Whose hands are full of evil plots,

and their right hand full of bribes.

11 As for me, I will live with integrity;

redeem me, O LORD, and have pity on me.

12 My foot stands on level ground;

in the full assembly I will bless the LORD.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Genesis 2:18-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD God said,

It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.

So out of the ground the LORD God formed every animal of the field and every bird of the air, and brought them to the man to see what he would call them; and whatever the man called every living creature, that was its name. The man gave names to all cattle, and to the birds of the air, and to every animal of the field; but for the man there was not found a helper as his partner. So the LORD God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and he slept; then he took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh. And the rib that the LORD God had taken from the man he made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said,

This at last is the bone of my bones

and flesh of my flesh;

this one shall be called Woman,

for out of Man this one was taken.

Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife, and they become one flesh.

Psalm 8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 O LORD our Governor,

how exalted is your Name in all the world!

2 Out of the mouths of infants and children,

your majesty is praised above the heavens.

You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries,

to quell the enemy and the avenger.

When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

What is man that you should be mindful of him?

the son of man that you should seek him out?

You have made him but little lower than the angels;

you adorn him with glory and honor;

You give him mastery over the works of your hands;

you put all things under his feet;

All sheep and oxen,

even the wild beasts of the field,

The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,

and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

10 O LORD our Governor,

how exalted is your Name in all the world!

SECOND READING

Hebrews 1:1-4; 2:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Now God did not subject the coming world, about which we are speaking, to angels. But someone has testified somewhere,

What are human beings that you are mindful of them,

or mortals, that you care for them?

You have made them for a little while lower than the angels;

you have crowned them with glory and honor,

subjecting all things under their feet.

Now in subjecting all things to them, God left nothing outside their control. As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to them, but we do see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings. For the one who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one Father. For this reason Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying,

I will proclaim your name to my brothers and sisters,

in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 10:2-16 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus was asked,

Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?

The question was put to test him.  He responded by asking,

What did Moses command you?

They answered,

Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife by a certificate of dismissal.

Jesus said to them,

It was because of your stubbornness that he made this rule for you.  But in the beginning, at the creation, ‘God made them male and female.’  ‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother, and is united to his wife, and the two become one flesh.’  It follows that they are no longer two individuals:  they are one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.

When they were indoors again, the disciples questioned him about this.  He said to them,

Whoever divorces his wife and remarries commits adultery against her; so too, if she divorces her husband and remarries, she commits adultery.

They brought children for him to touch.  The disciples rebuked them, but when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them,

Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you:  whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.

And he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

The Collect:

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

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 22, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/proper-22-year-a/

Job 1 and 2:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/week-of-proper-21-monday-year-2/

Genesis 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/week-of-5-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/trinity-sunday-year-a/

Hebrews 1 and 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

Mark 10:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-friday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-saturday-year-1/

Matthew 19 (Parallel to Mark 10):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-friday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-saturday-year-1/

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Easy answers for the problem of suffering prove inadequate, as the Book of Job demonstrates.  Not all suffering flows from one’s sins.  And the crucifixion of Jesus provides more refutation of the arguments of Bildad, Eliphaz, Zophar, and Elihu.  Jesus was the best man (and far more) ever, yet ye suffered greatly.  He was, in fact, a scapegoat.  Consider John 11:47-50, verses 49 and 50 of which follow.  Caiaphas is speaking:

You have no grasp of the situation at all; you do not realize that it is more to your interest that one man should die for the people, than that the whole nation should be destroyed.  (Revised English Bible, 1989)

We still scapegoat people, some of whom are not entirely innocent.  In so doing we let guilty people off the hook.  And, when we scapegoat the wholly innocent, we cause needless suffering.  Sometimes people suffer because of the sins of others.  May we, by grace, find forgiveness for the suffering we inflict on others and desist forever from causing harm to others, for, as we read in Romans 13:9-10:

The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and other commandments there may be, are all summed up in the one rule, “Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Love cannot wrong a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.  (Revised English Bible, 1989)

I write these words on October 27, 2011.  A few years ago, I designated October 27 as the Feast of the Victims of the Salem Witch Trials (http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2009/09/02/feast-of-the-victims-of-the-salem-witch-trials-october-27/), so to write against scapegoating on this day is more appropriate than on some other occasions, not that there is a bad time to condemn that practice.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/scapegoating-and-suffering/

Week of Proper 22: Monday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Gustave Dore’s engraving of Jonah at the end Chapter 2

(The Dore engravings are in the public domain.)

Who is My Neighbor?  Who is Your Neighbor?

OCTOBER 7, 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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Jonah 1:1-2:1, 11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The Word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai:

Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim judgment upon it; for their Wickedness has come before Me.

Jonah, however, started out to flee to Tarshish from the LORD’s service.  He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish.  He paid the fare and went aboard to sail with the others to Tarshish, away from the service of the LORD.

But the LORD cast a mighty wind upon the sea, and such a great tempest came upon the sea that the ship was in danger of breaking up.  In their fright, the sailors cried out, each to his own god; and they flung the ship’s cargo overboard to make it lighter for them.  Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the vessel where he lay down and fell asleep.

How can you be sleeping so soundly!  Up, call upon your god!  Perhaps the god will be kind to us and we will not perish.

The men said to one another,

Let us cast lots and find out on whose account this misfortune has come upon us.

They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.  They said to him,

Tell us, you who have brought this misfortune upon us, what is your business? Where have you come from?  What is your country, and of what people are you?

He replied,

I am a Hebrew.  I worship the LORD, the God of Heaven, who made both sea and land.

The men were greatly terrified, and they asked him,

What have you done?

And when the men learned that that he was fleeing from the service of the LORD–for so he told them–they said to him,

What must we do to make the sea calm around us?

For the sea was growing more and more stormy.  He answered,

Heave me overboard, and the sea will calm down for you; for I know that this terrible storm came upon you on my account.

Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to regain the shore, but could not, for the sea was growing more and more stormy about them.  Then they cried out to the LORD:

Oh, please, LORD, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life.  Do not hold us guilty of killing an innocent person!  For You, O LORD, by Your will, have brought this about.

And they heaved Jonah overboard, and the sea stopped raging.

The men feared the LORD greatly; they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and they made vows.

The LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah; and Jonah remained in the fish’s belly three days and three nights.

The LORD commanded the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon dry land.

Psalm 130 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;

LORD, hear my voice;

let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2  If you , LORD, were to note what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

3  For there is forgiveness with you;

therefore you shall be feared.

4  I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him;

in his word is my hope.

5  My soul waits for the LORD,

more than watchmen in the morning,

more than watchmen in the morning.

6  O Israel, wait for the LORD,

for with the LORD there is mercy;

7  With him there is plenteous redemption,

and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

Luke 10:25-37 (The Jerusalem Bible):

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert him [Jesus], stood up and said to him,

Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

He said to him,

What is written in the Law”  What do you read there?

He replied,

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus said,

You have answered right; do this and life is yours.

Above:  Old Jerusalem-Jericho Road

Image Source = he.wiki

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus,

And who is my neighbor?

Jesus replied,

A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead.  Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side.

Above:  Rembrandt Van Rijn’s Painting of the Good Samaritan

(Also in the Public Domain)

But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him.  He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them.  He then lifted him on to his mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him.  Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper.  “Look after him,” he said, “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.”

Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?

He replied,

The one who took pity on him.

Jesus said to him,

Go, and do the same yourself.

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The Collect:

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

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I learn from Newtonian physics that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  This rule explains much of history, as well.  Thus it came to pass that, in the Persian period of Judean history, a measure of exclusivism and hyper-legalism characterized much of Palestinian Judaism.  This was the opposite of pre-Exilic laxity.

The Book of Jonah, a work of religious fiction, contains much truth.  It is a satire on Persian period exclusivism and hyper-legalism.  On its face it is set in when there were still two Jewish kingdoms and an Assyrian Empire.  God tells Jonah to pronounce judgment on Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire.  As the narrative progresses we learn that the judgment leads to repentance then God relenting, but let us return to Chapter 1.  Jonah does not want to travel to Nineveh and pronounce judgment, so he attempts unsuccessfully to flee from God and the mission God has for him.

I will return to the story of Jonah in Chapters 1 and 2 after I deal with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Jeusalem-Jericho road in Jesus’ day was a dangerous, meandering road over terrain which dropped greatly in elevation relative to sea level (from 2,300 feet above sea level to 1,300 feet below that standard) in less than twenty miles.  Thus it provided many natural hiding places for robbers to hide.  Sometimes a thief played dead while his fellow brigands waited for a kind-hearted person to stop.  So the safest way to travel this road was as part of a group.  Many commentators have remarked about how foolish the man was to travel this road alone.  Yet, if he was a fool, the same criticism ought to apply to the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan traveler, too.

Yet a Samaritan–a somewhat successful one at that–who knew a certain innkeeper helped the man.  A Samaritan, a member of a despised group, acted out of compassion and placed himself at risk for someone he did not know.  He acted as a neighbor.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said in his final speech that the priest and Levite were too afraid to help the man.  (A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings of Martin Luther, King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington, 1986, pages 284-285)  He was correct in this analysis.  They were afraid of criminals, justifiably.  (Yet why were they traveling alone?  Am I overanalyzing this parable?)  They also feared the inability to fulfill the Temple functions to which they had devoted their lives.  But what about the man’s life?

Jesus, by making his hero a Samaritan, scandalized many listeners.  Samaritans were heretics and half-breeds.  Many orthodox Palestinian Jews of our Lord’s time despised Samaritans en masse.  So, to grasp the full flavor of the parable, replace the word “Samaritan” with something else.  Many Europeans harbor prejudices against Gypsies, so imagine the Parable of the Good Gypsy.  It is popular in many U.S. political circles to despise immigrants (especially illegal ones) and people of obviously foreign extraction.  So imagine the Parable of the Good Hispanic, the Good Latino, or the Good Illegal Immigrant.  Islamophobia is on the rise in West, so imagine the Parable of the Good Muslim.  During World War II in the United States the Parable of the Good Japanese-American would have angered many people.  My point is this:  Every person, including one who belongs to a despised group, is my neighbor–and yours, too.  Jesus says to act like a good neighbor.

What did Jonah fear?  Perhaps he feared the loss of identity.  Assyria was a great and feared foe of the Kingdom of Israel.  Imagine a twentieth-century retelling of the Book of Jonah.  God tells Jonah, an American, to travel to Moscow, capital city of the Soviet Union, to pronounce judgment and grant the Soviets a chance to avoid divine retribution.  Would not some professing American Christians, including Jonah, have said, “Let them burn”?

Who are we without our enemies?  How do we understand ourselves in the absence of the others, those who are unlike us?  Are we still good guys when the bad guys repent?  This delicate politics of identity plays a part in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, too.  Yet Jesus offers a new identity:  neighbor.  May we embrace it.  And, when Jesus makes us uncomfortable, may we embrace that discomfort, too.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/who-is-my-neighbor-who-is-your-neighbor/