Archive for the ‘September 20’ Category

Devotion for Proper 20, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

Image in the Public Domain

Signs

SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

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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 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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Exodus 32:1-14 or 1 Kings 19:1-15

Psalm 59:1-5, 16-17

Hebrews 4:1-13

Mark 8:22-33

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Yahweh, God of Hosts, God of Israel!

Awake to punish all the nations,

show no mercy to wicked traitors.

–Psalm 59:6, Mitchell J. Dahood (1968)

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That attitude is consistent with God’s Plan A in Exodus 32, after the idolatry and apostasy at the base of the mountain.  Aaron’s poor excuse still makes me laugh, though.

So I said to them, “Whoever has gold, take it off!  They gave it to me and I hurled it into the fire and out came this calf!

–Exodus 32:24, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Exodus and Mark contain stories of dramatic, powerful encounters with God.  We read of visual and tactile experiences. We also read of short-lived faithfulness, of much grumbling, of obliviousness, of recognition followed by official denial, and of fidelity.

The juxtaposition of the formerly blind man (Mark 8:22-26) and the obliviousness of St. Simon Peter (Mark 8:32-33) highlights the spiritual blindness of the latter man.  The stories also challenge us to ponder our spiritual blindness.

Even Elijah, who had recently confronted the prophets of Baal Peor then presided over their slaughter (1 Kings 18), had to deal with his spiritual blindness.  While hiding from Queen Jezebel and feeling sorry for himself, he encountered God, who, in that context, revealed self not in dramatic ways (as Baal Peor would have done), but in a still, small voice, or, as The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) renders the text,

a light murmuring sound.

Do we fail to notice messages from God because we seek dramatic signs?

Sometimes, in the Gospels, one reads of Jesus performing a miracle, followed by people demanding a sigh.  One’s jaw should drop.  One should seek God for the correct reasons and not become attached to dramatic signs.  God whispers sometimes.  God whispers to us, to those similar to us, and to those quite different from us.  God judges and forgives.  Signs are abundant.  How many do we notice?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/signs-part-ii/

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Devotion for Friday Before Proper 20, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Sky with clouds sunny day

Above:   Sky with Clouds

Image in the Public Domain

Grace and Judgment

SEPTEMBER 20, 2019

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The Collect:

God among us, we gather in the name of your Son

to learn love for one another.  Keep our feet from evil paths.

Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace

revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 22:17-31

Psalm 113

Romans 8:31-39

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Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes, with the princes of his people.

–Psalm 113:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Ezekiel 22 is full of divine judgment on the unrighteous, notably false prophets who have stolen from people, destroyed lives, and taken lives, among other offenses.

I will repay them for their conduct–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 22:31b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Good news for the oppressed is frequently bad news for their unrepentant oppressors.

St. Paul the Apostle made a wonderful point about the love of God in Christ:

For I am certain of this:  neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:38-39, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

That passage reminds me of Psalm 139, in which the author praises God for being omnipresent:

Where could I go to escape your spirit?

Where could I flee from your presence?

If I climb the heavens, you are there,

there too, if I lie in Sheol.

If I flew to the point of sunrise,

or westward across the sea,

your hand would still be guiding me,

your right hand holding me.

If I asked darkness to cover me,

and light to become night around me,

that darkness would not be dark to you,

night would be as light as day.

–Psalm 139:7-12, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

On the other hand, the author of Psalm 139 prays that God will kill the wicked and announces his hatred of those who hate God in verses 19-22.  Does not the love of God extend to them?  Does not God desire that they confess their sins and repent?  Does not God prefer that oppressors cease their oppression and become godly?  In Psalm 23 God prepares a banquet for the author in the presence of the author’s enemies, who are powerless to prevent the banquet.  Furthermore, only divine goodness and kindness pursue the author; his enemies fall away, unable to keep up with divine love and might.

God does not separate us from divine love, grace, kindness, and mercy.  No, we choose to acknowledge it and to act accordingly or to do the opposite.  Love comes with the possibility of rejection and the duty of acceptance.  Grace is free yet definitely not cheap, for it changes its recipients; it comes with obligations.  God liberates us to love, glorify, and enjoy Him forever.  Will we accept that grace and its accompanying duties, especially those regarding how we treat our fellow human beings?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/grace-and-judgment/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 20, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above:  Icon of Christ the Merciful

Image in the Public Domain

A Loving Orthodoxy

SEPTEMBER 20, 21, and 22, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, our teacher and guide,

you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children.

Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition,

that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding

as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 6:1-10 (Thursday)

1 Kings 22:22-40 (Friday)

2 Kings 17:5-18 (Saturday)

Psalm 54 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Romans 11:25-32 (Friday)

Matthew 23:29-39 (Saturday)

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Save me, O God, by your Name;

in your might, defend my cause.

Hear my prayer, O God;

give ear to the words of my mouth.

For the arrogant have risen up against me,

and the ruthless have sought my life,

those who have no regard for God.

Behold, God is my helper;

it is the Lord who sustains my life.

Render evil to those who spy on me;

in your faithfulness, destroy them.

I will offer you a freewill sacrifice

and praise your Name, O LORD, for it is good.

For you have rescued me from every trouble,

and my eye has seen the ruin of my foes.

–Psalm 54, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The prayer for divine destruction of enemies–hardly unique to Psalm 54–does violate the commandment to love one’s enemies as oneself, does it not?

Enemies exist.  In the pericopes for these three days alone we read of Midianites, monarchs, Assyrians, Arameans, and corrupt officials from the Temple at Jerusalem.  Furthermore, we, if we are to become properly informed, must know that many early Christians regarded Jews who rejected Jesus as enemies.  Christianity began as a Jewish sect, one which remained on the Jewish margins.  Frustrations over this reality became manifest in, among other texts, the Gospel of John, with its repeated references to “the Jews” in negative contexts.  Nevertheless, St. Paul the Apostle, who preached to Gentiles, was always Jewish.

Sometimes enemies are others.  On many occasions, however, one can find the enemy looking back at oneself in a mirror.  A recurring theological motif in the Hebrew Bible is that the exiles of Hebrew people resulted from rampant societal sinfulness; the collective was responsible.  That runs afoul of Western notions of individualism, but one finds it in the pages of the Bible.  There are at least two varieties of responsibility and sin–individual and collective.  We are responsible to God, for ourselves, and to and for each other.  Thus reward and punishment in the Hebrew Bible are both individual and collective.  Sometimes, the texts tell us, we bring destruction on ourselves.

But how does that translate into language regarding God?  May we take care not to depict God as a cosmic tyrant while investing that God is also merciful.  Yes, actions have consequences for ourselves and those around us.  Yes, God has sent many prophets, a large number of whom have endured the consequences of rejection.  Yes, both judgment and mercy exist in God.  I do not presume to know where the former ends and the latter begins; such matters are too great for me, a mere mortal.

No, I reject false certainty and easy answers.  No variety of fundamentalism is welcome here.  No, I embrace what St. Paul the Apostle called

the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God,

complete with

his judgments

and

inscrutable ways.–Romans 11:33, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I favor “the mystery of God,” as in 1 Corinthians 2:1, as well as a relationship with God, which depends on divine faithfulness, not on human wisdom.

Kenneth J. Foreman, writing in Volume 21 (1961) of The Layman’s Bible Commentary, noted in reference to 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:

One point to note is that Paul does not present Christianity as a set of dogmas or as a manual of advice.  It is a story, something that happened, something God has done.–Page 75

Orthodoxy can be healthy, so long as it is neither stale nor unloving.  Pietism, with its legalism, is quite unfortunate.  Pietism, a reaction against stale orthodoxy, is at least as objectionable as that which it opposes.

Some thoughts of Dr. Carl J. Sodergren (1870-1949), a theologian of the former Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church (1860-1962), from 1937 apply well in the context of these pericopes and many circumstances:

Orthodoxy is good.  It means adherence to the truth, and no sane man would willingly surrender that.  But orthodoxy without love is dangerous.  It provides fertile soil for bigotry, hatred, spiritual pride, self-conceit, and a score of other evils which hide the Holy One from the eyes of the world.  It turns men into merciless heresy hunters, the most contemptible vermin on earth.  It aligns us with the scribes and Pharisees, the priests and high priests of the time of Jesus.  Nobody ever questioned their orthodoxy, but because it was loveless, it blinded them to His divinity and made it easier to spike Him to a cross.  We are not worried about the trumpet calls to orthodoxy which for some reason have begun to blare may drown out in our hearts the still small voice which prays for unity and love among all Christ’s disciples.

–Quoted in G. Everett Arden, Augustana Heritage:  A History of the Augustana Lutheran Church (Rock Island, IL:  Augustana Press, 1963), pp. 287-288

May love of God and for each other be evident in our lives and social structures and institutions.  Wherever it is evident, may it increase.  May we obey the divine commandment to take care of each other, not to exploit anyone or to discriminate against any person.  The Golden Rule is difficult to live, but we have God’s grace available to us; may we avail ourselves of it.  We also have an example–Jesus–to follow.  May his love be evident (then more so) in us, especially those of us who claim to follow him or to attempt to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN OLAF WALLIN, ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR JAMES MOORE, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH LONAS, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND LITURGIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/a-loving-orthodoxy/

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Devotion for September 20 and 21 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

20156v

Above:  Vineyards and Gazebo, 1905-1915

Photographed by Sergei Mikhailovich Prokudin-Gorskii

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-prokc-20156

Image Source = Library of Congress

Nehemiah and 1 Timothy, Part III:  Leadership and Economic Justice

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 20, 2019, and SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 21, 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:

Nehemiah 4:7-23 (September 20–Protestant Versification)

Nehemiah 4:1-17 (September 20–Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Nehemiah 5:1-16 (September 21)

Nehemiah 6:1-6, 15-16 (September 21)

Psalm 130 (Morning–September 20)

Psalm 56 (Morning–September 21)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–September 20)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening–September 21)

1 Timothy 3:1-6 (September 20)

1 Timothy 4:1-16 (September 21)

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Whenever I call upon you, my enemies will be put to flight;

this I know, for God is on my side.

–Psalm 56:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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1 Timothy 3 and 4 concern themselves with the trust which is leadership and the imperative of true teaching in the context of the church.  Those matters relate to Nehemiah, who led by example for the common good in Jerusalem centuries before the author of 1 Timothy wrote.  Nehemiah faced stiff opposition in rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, but he succeeded with divine help.  And, in response to economic injustice, he declared a jubilee, something out of Leviticus 25 and Deuteronomy 15.  He even set an example by denying himself his legal portion of the governor’s food allowance.

Economic justice is among the great preoccupations of the Bible.  How one ought to practice it differs according to one’s individual circumstances as well as one’s time and societal setting, but the imperative is timeless.  Those who exercise authority have an obligation to think of the common good and to act for it.  May they not only seek to do so, but, by grace, succeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY VAN DYKE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF HOWARD THURMAN, PROTESTANT THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAW, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/nehemiah-and-1-timothy-part-iii-leadership-and-economic-justice/

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Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, SHEPHERD OF LUTHERANISM IN THE AMERICAN COLONIES

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

Posted October 7, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2020, August 1, August 10, August 11, August 12, August 13, August 14, August 15, August 16, August 17, August 18, August 19, August 2, August 20, August 21, August 22, August 23, August 24, August 25, August 26, August 27, August 28, August 29, August 3, August 30, August 31, August 4, August 5, August 6: Transfiguration, August 7, August 8, August 9, Christ the King Sunday, December 1, December 2, July 1, July 10, July 11, July 12, July 13, July 14, July 15, July 16, July 17, July 18, July 19, July 2, July 20, July 21, July 22, July 23, July 24, July 25, July 26, July 27, July 28, July 29, July 3, July 30, July 31, July 4, July 5, July 6, July 7, July 8, July 9, June 1, June 10, June 11, June 12, June 13, June 14, June 15, June 16, June 17, June 18, June 19, June 2, June 20, June 21, June 22, June 23, June 24, June 25, June 26, June 27, June 28, June 29, June 3, June 30, June 4, June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8, June 9, Labor Day, May 18, May 19, May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, May 24, May 25, May 26, May 27, May 28, May 29, May 30, May 31: Visitation, November 10, November 11, November 12, November 13, November 14, November 15, November 16, November 17, November 18, November 19, November 1: All Saints, November 20, November 21, November 22, November 23, November 24, November 25, November 26, November 27, November 28, November 29, November 2: All Souls, November 3, November 30, November 4, November 5, November 6, November 7, November 8, November 9, October 1, October 10, October 11, October 12, October 13, October 14, October 15, October 16, October 17, October 18, October 19, October 2, October 20, October 21, October 22, October 23, October 24, October 25, October 26, October 27, October 28, October 29, October 3, October 30, October 31: All Hallows' Eve/Reformation, October 4, October 5, October 6, October 7, October 8, October 9, September 1, September 10, September 11, September 12, September 13, September 14: Holy Cross, September 15, September 16, September 17, September 18, September 19, September 2, September 20, September 21, September 22, September 23, September 24, September 25, September 26, September 27, September 28, September 29, September 3, September 30, September 4, September 5, September 6, September 7, September 8, September 9, Thanksgiving Day, Trinity Sunday

Prayers of the People for the Season After Pentecost   Leave a comment

Above:  The Missal (1902), by John William Waterhouse (1849-1917)

Image in the Public Domain

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Here I share with everyone a proposed form of the Prayers of the People, for congregational use, for the Season After Pentecost.  Anyone may modify this form to fit local needs and update it as people leave or enter office.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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The congregational response to “We pray to you, O God” is “Hear our prayer.”

As God’s people, sanctified by the Holy Spirit, we ask that our lives may become prayer pleasing to you, and that all people and institutions which profess to follow our Lord, may express God’s love and grace to others.

We pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

That

  • Barack, our President;
  • Nathan, our Governor;
  • Nancy, our Mayor;
  • And all other government officials and all influential persons

may exercise their power and authority wisely and for the common good, so that all people everywhere may be treated with dignity and respect, dwell in safety, and have everything they need,

we pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

That we may love you with our whole heart and life and strength, and love our neighbors as ourselves,

we pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

That we may be good stewards of Mother Earth,

we pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

We intercede for

  • (first names here);
  • And our men and women in the armed forces, especially (names here);
  • And all people struggling with vocational and career issues.

I invite your prayers, silent or aloud.

(Pause)

We pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

We thank you for

  • (names here), who celebrate their birthdays this week;
  • And (names here), who celebrate their wedding anniversaries this week.

I invite your thanksgivings, silent or aloud.

(Pause)

We pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

That all who have passed from this life to the next will know the boundless joy and peace of eternal rest,

we pray to you, O God,

Hear our prayer.

The celebrant concludes with a collect.

Posted June 1, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 2020, August 1, August 10, August 11, August 12, August 13, August 14, August 15, August 16, August 17, August 18, August 19, August 2, August 20, August 21, August 22, August 23, August 24, August 25, August 26, August 27, August 28, August 29, August 3, August 30, August 31, August 4, August 5, August 6: Transfiguration, August 7, August 8, August 9, Christ the King Sunday, December 1, December 2, July 1, July 10, July 11, July 12, July 13, July 14, July 15, July 16, July 17, July 18, July 19, July 2, July 20, July 21, July 22, July 23, July 24, July 25, July 26, July 27, July 28, July 29, July 3, July 30, July 31, July 4, July 5, July 6, July 7, July 8, July 9, June 1, June 10, June 11, June 12, June 13, June 14, June 15, June 16, June 17, June 18, June 19, June 2, June 20, June 21, June 22, June 23, June 24, June 25, June 26, June 27, June 28, June 29, June 3, June 30, June 4, June 5, June 6, June 7, June 8, June 9, Labor Day, May 18, May 19, May 20, May 21, May 22, May 23, May 24, May 25, May 26, May 27, May 28, May 29, May 30, May 31: Visitation, November 10, November 11, November 12, November 13, November 14, November 15, November 16, November 17, November 18, November 19, November 1: All Saints, November 20, November 21, November 22, November 23, November 24, November 25, November 26, November 27, November 28, November 29, November 2: All Souls, November 3, November 30, November 4, November 5, November 6, November 7, November 8, November 9, October 1, October 10, October 11, October 12, October 13, October 14, October 15, October 16, October 17, October 18, October 19, October 2, October 20, October 21, October 22, October 23, October 24, October 25, October 26, October 27, October 28, October 29, October 3, October 30, October 31: All Hallows' Eve/Reformation, October 4, October 5, October 6, October 7, October 8, October 9, September 1, September 10, September 11, September 12, September 13, September 14: Holy Cross, September 15, September 16, September 17, September 18, September 19, September 2, September 20, September 21, September 22, September 23, September 24, September 25, September 26, September 27, September 28, September 29, September 3, September 30, September 4, September 5, September 6, September 7, September 8, September 9, Thanksgiving Day, Trinity Sunday

Proper 20, Year A   27 comments

Above:  Map of Ancient Nineveh

Image Source = Fredarch

Scandalous Generosity

The Sunday Closest to September 21

The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 16:2-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them,

If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites,

In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For what are we, that you complain against us?

And Moses said,

When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him– what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.”

And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said,

I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,

What is it?

For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them,

It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

37 He led out his people with silver and gold;

in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.

38 Egypt was glad of their going,

because they were afraid of them.

39 He spread out a cloud for a covering,

and a fire to give light in the night season.

40 They asked, and quails appeared,

and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water flowed,

so the river ran in the dry places.

42 For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43 So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44 He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil.

45 That they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.

Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Jonah 3:10-4:11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said,

O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.

And the LORD said,

Is it right for you to be angry?

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The LORD God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said,

It is better for me to die than to live.

But God said to Jonah,

Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?

And he said,

Yes, angry enough to die.

Then the LORD said,

You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?

Psalm 145:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

5 I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

6 They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of your greatness.

7 They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

SECOND READING

Philippians 1:21-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well– since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 20:1-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; 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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We like grace when we benefit from it, as in the case of the children of Israel, whom God fed in the wilderness.  Yet often we object when others–especially our enemies and others unlike us–benefit from it, too.

Consider Jonah, one of the most interesting literary creations in the Bible.  He was a satirical figure who epitomized the worst of post-Exilic Judaism, which had a strong dose of exclusivity about it.  So, in the short book bearing the name “Jonah” the titular character receives a mandate from God to offer the people of Nineveh–traditional enemies–a chance to repent.  Jonah runs away, but cannot escape from God.  Finally, Jonah does as God demands, and finds success in this effort disappointing.  Who is he without his traditional enemy?  What is his identity now?  This man cares more for a plant than for fellow human beings who are different from him, but whom God loves and to whom God reaches out.

This not merely about the scandal of grace extended to our enemies.  Jesus told a parable about a vineyard owner who hired people during various times of day then paid everybody the same amount–the standard daily wage at the time and place.  Those who had worked all day were upset, but the vineyard owner had not cheated them.

Why does God’s generosity scandalize us, or at least bother us?  Perhaps we think that we are deserving, but those people over there are not.  I have seen a sticker which reads,

GOD LOVES EVERYBODY, BUT I’M HIS FAVORITE.

This is supposed to be funny, which is how I interpret it.  But some people believe it.  In reality, however, we are just as deserving as those people are, which is to say that we are not deserving at all.  This, however, is not how many of us like to think of ourselves.

Too often we define ourselves according to what we are not.  We are not like those people.  We are not those people.  We are better than them, we tell ourselves.  In reality, however, my identity, your identity, and the identity of the person least like us all exist in the context of God.  We are children of God, and therefore siblings.  So our quarrels exist within a family context.  God, our Father-Mother (Metaphors relative to God are imperfect, and the Bible contains both masculine and feminine images for God.), loves us and does not give up on any of us.  So we ought not to write anyone off.  Yet we do.

We can be instruments of God voluntarily–like, Moses dealing with the ever-grumbling children of Israel, or Paul, bringing the message of Jesus to the Gentiles–or involuntarily–like Jonah, weeping over a dead plant while bemoaning the repentance of a population.  If divine grace and generosity scandalize us, the fault is with us, not with God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/scandalous-generosity/