Archive for the ‘September 10’ Category

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 18, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Shalmaneser V

Above:   Shalmaneser V

Image in the Public Domain

Attachments and Idolatry

SEPTEMBER 9, 2019

SEPTEMBER 10, 2019

SEPTEMBER 11, 2019

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The Collect:

Direct us, O Lord God, in all our doings by your continual help,

that all our works, begun, continued, and ended in you,

may glorify your holy name; and finally, by your mercy,

bring us to everlasting life, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 17:24-41 (Monday)

2 Kings 18:9-18 (Tuesday)

2 Kings 18:19-25; 19:1-7 (Wednesday)

Psalm 101 (All Days)

1 Timothy 3:14-4:5 (Monday)

1 Timothy 4:6-16 (Tuesday)

Luke 18:18-30 (Wednesday)

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Those who in secret slander their neighbors I will destroy;

those who have a haughty look and a proud heart I cannot abide.

My eyes are upon the faithful in the land, that they may dwell with me,

and only those who lead a blameless life shall be my servants.

Those who act deceitfully shall not dwell in my house,

and those who tell lies shall not continue in my sight.

I will soon destroy all the wicked in the land,

that I may root out all evildoers from the city of the LORD.

–Psalm 101:5-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That depiction of God is consistent with the one in 2 Kings 17:25, in which, after the fall of the Kingdom of Israel to kill the Assyrians, God sent lions to kill some of the godless settlers.  That story troubles me, for, although I do not mistake God for a divine warm fuzzy, I do not confuse God for a vengeful thug either.

The emphasis in the composite pericope from 2 Kings, however, is on King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.) and the predicament of his realm.  Judah had to pay tribute to Assyria, after all.  Furthermore, Rabshakeh, the envoy of King Shalmaneser V of Assyria (reigned 727-722 B.C.E.), blasphemed, claiming that God was on the side of Assyria and that the people should disregard Hezekiah, who advised trusting in God for deliverance.  In 2 Kings 19 God saved Judah from Assyrian forces.

We should trust in God, laying aside our attachments to fear, political power, military might, false teaching, and wealth, among other things.  In that list the only inherently negative item is false teaching.  Fear can save one’s life and protect one’s health, but it can also lead to violence, hatred, bigotry, and insensitivity to human needs.  Wealth is morally neutral, but how one relates to it is not.  The same principle applies to political power and military might.

Each of us has attachments which distract from God.  These attachments are therefore idols in so far as they distract from God.  We might not need to abstain from certain behaviors or goods to get closer to God, but we do need at least to redefine our relationships to them.  That is difficult, but it is possible via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/18/attachments-and-idolatry/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 18, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jericho, 1925

Above:  Jericho, 1925

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-14127

Jesus and Genocide

SEPTEMBER 10 and 11, 2018

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The Collect:

Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform

sickness into health and death into life.

Openness to the power of your presence,

and make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the world,

through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 6:1-21 (Monday)

Joshua 8:1-23 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 38:10-20 (Both Days)

Hebrews 11:29-12:2 (Monday)

Hebrews 12:3-13 (Tuesday)

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I twitter as if I were a swallow,

I moan like a dove.

My eyes are raised to heaven:

“Lord, pay heed; stand surety for me.”

–Isaiah 38:14, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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One principle of allegedly holy war in the Torah is to kill entire populations and to destroy all property–for the glory of God, not for one’s own gain.  This was the principle which Achan, a Hebrew warrior, violated when he claimed some souvenirs from Jericho, hence the trouble in Joshua 7.  That chapter tells us that the Israelites did not conquer Ai until they had executed Achan and his family (what had they done?) and burned the souvenirs.  The effect of these deeds, according to Joshua 7, was to nip the contagion of sin in the bud.

The author of Hebrews 11:29-12:13 seemed to have a mixed attitude toward violence in the name of God, for he glossed over the violence of the conquest of Canaan while condemning the violence of those who oppressed Jews and Christians.  That author invited his audience to follow the example of Christ in enduring trials.  We should, the author wrote, endure suffering for the sake of discipline–a nice tie-in to Isaiah 38, part of the story of King Hezekiah of Judah.  Nevertheless, discipline is not mass murder or the killing of innocent people who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I consider the example of Jesus and apply it to Joshua 6-8.  What would Jesus do?  Would he have impaled the King of Ai on a stake, as in Joshua 8:29?  Against which population would our Lord and Savior authorized genocide?

I am a realist.  Yes, some violence becomes necessary for positive purposes because some people have made it so.  Likewise, some violence becomes inevitable for the same reason.  Nevertheless, I suspect that most violence is both avoidable and needless.  It flows from sinful human nature, not the decrees of God, and many people seek to justify their sinful violence by dressing it up as righteousness.  May we–you, O reader, and I–prove to be innocent of that offense all our days.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF OLE T. (SANDEN) ARNESON, U.S. NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/jesus-and-genocide/

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Devotion for September 10 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Jehu

Above:  Jehu

Image in the Public Domain

2 Kings and Philippians, Part III:  Violence in the Name of God

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 10, 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:

2 Kings 9:1-13; 10:18-29

Psalm 42 (Morning)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening)

Philippians 2:12-30

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For the whole house of Ahab shall perish:  and I will cut off from Ahab him that pisseth against the wall, and him that is shut up and left in Israel….

–II Kings 9:9, Authorized Version

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A few years ago someone showed me a YouTube video of a portion of a sermon from an Independent Baptist church in Arizona.  The minister quoted the above part of 2 Kings 9 and, instead of focusing on the narrative context of the verse, fixated on the word “pisseth” and preached about the meaning of manhood.  Apparently this meaning, according the reverend, involved urinating while standing up.  The sermon excerpt has, for me, functioned as comic relief (pun intentional).  I, unlike that preacher, have a college degree-three of them, in fact.  Yet one does not need formal education to read the Bible and place its passages in narrative context.

The violence ascribed to God’s command to Jehu in the fall of the House of Ahab troubles me.  In the previous post in this series sworn foreign enemies received kind treatment.  Those aliens went home safely after enjoying good food.  Did God cease to be merciful in 2 Kings 9 and 10?  The narrative of those chapters is inconsistent with the ethic of Philippians 2:15-16a:

Show yourselves innocent and above reproach, faultless children of God in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in a dark world and proffer the word of life.

–Revised English Bible

May we be as stars, not as Jehus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS KASATKIN, ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP OF ALL JAPAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSKAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA PALESTRINA, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF MILLARD FULLER, FOUNDER OF HABITAT FOR HUMANITY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/2-kings-and-philippians-part-iii-violence-in-the-name-of-god/

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Week of Proper 18: Monday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  Jesus Healing the Man with the Withered Hand

Regarding Scandals and Church Discipline

SEPTEMBER 10, 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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1 Corinthians 5:1-8 (The Jerusalem Bible):

I have been told as an undoubted fact that one of you is living with his father’s wife.  This is a case of sexual immorality among you that must be unparalleled even among pagans.  How can you be so proud of yourselves?  You should be in mourning.  A man who does a thing like that ought to have been expelled from the community.  Though I am far away in body, I am with you in spirit, and have already condemned the man who did this thing as if I were actually present.  When you are assembled together in the name of the Lord Jesus, and I am spiritually present with you, then with the power of our Lord Jesus he is to be handed over to Satan so that his sensual body may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

The pride that you take in yourselves is hardly to your credit.  You must know how even a small amount of yeast is enough to leaven all the dough, so get rid of all the old east, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be.  Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed; let us celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Psalm 5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give ear to my words, O LORD;

consider my meditation.

2  Hearken to my cry for help, my King and my God,

for I will make my prayer to you.

3  In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;

early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you.

4  For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,

and evil cannot dwell with you.

5  Braggarts cannot stand in your sight;

you hate all those who work wickedness.

6  You destroy those who speak lies;

the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O LORD, you abhor.

7  But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy I will go into your house;

I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.

8  Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness,

because of those who lie in wait for me;

make your way straight before me.

9  For there is no truth in their mouth;

there is destruction in their heart;

10  Their throat is an open grave;

they flatter with their tongue.

11  Declare them guilty, O God;

let them fall, because of their schemes,

12  Because of their many transgressions cast them out,

for they have rebelled against you.

13  But all who take refuge in you will be glad;

they will sing out their joy for ever.

14  You will shelter them,

so that those who love your Name may exult in you.

15  For you, O LORD, will bless the righteous;

you will defend them with your favor as with a shield.

Luke 6:6-11 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now on another sabbath he [Jesus] went into the synagogue and began to teach, and a man was there whose hand was withered.  The scribes and the Pharisees were watching him to see if he would cure a man on the sabbath, hoping to find something to use against him.  But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man with the withered hand,

Stand up!  Come out into the middle.

And he came out and stood there.  Then Jesus said to them,

I put it to you; it is against the law on the sabbath to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to destroy it?

Then he looked round at them all and said to the man,

Stretch out your hand.

He did so, and his hand was better.  But they were furious, and began to discuss the best way of dealing with Jesus.

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The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Mark 3:1-6 (Parallel to Luke 6:6-11):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/proper-4-year-b/

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Before I proceed to my text proper, I acknowledge my dependence upon the excellent commentary in The Anchor Bible volume (especially pages 184-188) on 1 Corinthians, by William F. Orr and James Arthur Walther.

The text in 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 leaves certain questions unanswered.  Was the man cohabitating with or married to his stepmother?  Was she divorced from his father?  Was the man’s father alive or dead?  May we not rush to assumptions, which are, in any event, small fries relative to what we do know:  The unmarried man was engaged in an immoral relationship with a woman (not his mother) who was also his stepmother.  Roman law forbade this practice, although it was common among many Gentiles.  Paul rejected the Corinthian church’s lax attitude and favored handing the man over to authorities, so that the offender might become aware of his error and repent of it one day.

We have freedom in Christ, but this fact does not exempt us from certain rules.  So incest, in the example from 1 Corinthians 5:1-8, is always forbidden.  And there is need for church discipline sometimes.

There can be excessive church discipline, of course.  Reading histories of old (often Protestant) congregations (in my experience, in the U.S. South) can provide many examples of this generalization.  Once, while pouring over a history of a rural Methodist congregation (founded in the 1840s) in Southwest Georgia, I came across an account of a case of church discipline in the late 1800s.  A young woman had danced in public one Saturday night.  That was all she had done.  This was a case of unjustified church discipline.  Yet we read of a case of an unjustified lack of church discipline in 1 Corinthians 5:1-8.

The reading mentions pride, a topic repeated from earlier in the epistle.  Did some in the Corinthian congregation think that their toleration for the man’s sexual relationship with his stepmother placed them on a higher spiritual plane?  They seem to have done so.  We must always guard against pride, regardless of that of which we are or might be proud.  May we also recall that, for Paul, the only acceptable boast was one in God in Christ, not in ourselves.

Social contexts change over time, and this day we read 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 in various places quite different from middle-First Century C.E. Corinth.  So, as we seek to understand and apply this text to our contemporary contexts, may we always remember two essential details:

  1. Paul’s emphasis was communal, not individualistic.  The unnamed man’s behavior affected the Corinthian church negatively.
  2. Paul advised discipline for the sake of both the community and the unnamed man.  The man might yet repent; he should have that opportunity.  And the local congregation would no longer have a scandal darkening its reputation.

Not all scandals are bad, of course.  Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath.  He created a scandal by committing a good deed.  So, if we offend and scandalize others, may we do so via our good deeds.  May the reality of the scandal speak well of us and poorly of our critics.  If, for example, we create a scandal by reaching out to the poor, the despised, and the marginalized as opportunities present themselves, we follow in the esteemed example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  And, if we claim the label “Christian,” such activities ought to be part of our discipleship.

May good deeds proliferate and bad deeds become less common–all for the common good and the glory of God.  And, if our good deeds scandalize others, we will be in good company.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/of-scandals-and-church-discipline/

Week of Proper 18: Tuesday, Year 1   19 comments

Above:  Crucifixion Nail

http://www.ablogabouthistory.com/2010/03/03/crucifixion-nail-found-with-templar-bodies/

Jesus Lifted Burdens.  Why Do We Impose Them?

SEPTEMBER 10, 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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Colossians 2:6-15 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You must live your whole life according to the Christ you have received–Jesus the Lord; you must be rooted in him and built on him and held firm by the faith you have been taught, and full of thanksgiving.

Make sure that no one traps you and deprives you of your freedom by some secondhand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ.

In his body lives the fulness of divinity, an din him you too find your own fulfilment, in the one who is the head of every Sovereignty and Power.

In him you have been circumcised, with a circumcision not performed by the human hand, but by the complete stripping of your body of flesh.  This is circumcision according to Christ.  You have been buried with him, when you were baptised; and by baptism, too, you have been raised with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead.  You were dead, because you were sinners and had not been circumcised:  he has brought you to life with him, he has forgiven us all our sins.

He has overridden the Law, and cancelled every record of the debt that we had to pay; he has done away with it by nailing it to the cross; and so he got rid of the Sovereignties and the Powers, and paraded them in public, behind him in his triumphal procession.

Psalm 145:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day I will 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.

9 The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

Luke 6:12-19 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now it was about this time that he [Jesus] went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God.  When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; the called them “apostles”:  Simon, whom he called Peter, and his brother, Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealon, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.  People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.

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The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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There were bad influences in the Colossian church.  There was pressure to embrace Gnosticism, which incorporated astrology, hence Paul’s reference to “some secondhand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ.”  And there were those who sought to impose circumcision on the men in the church.  Circumcision, an ancient Jewish tradition, served as a reminder that life comes from God.  But insisting that Gentile men undergo the procedure would have deterred many from joining.

Paul wrote that Jesus lifted burdens at the cross and cancelled old debts there.  So anyone who would impose or reimpose them is wrong.  In Christ, Paul wrote, there is freedom, not spiritual bondage or tyranny.  The grace is free, but not cheap, however.  Paul’s life testified to that fact.  The grace was free and transformative, but his positive response to let to imprisonments, attempted murders, and his martrydom.  Yet he was free in Christ.

Likewise, ten of the twelve original Apostles died as martyrs.  But they were free in Christ.

May we refrain from imposing undue burdens (especially spiritual ones) on each other.  This means shunning legalism and embracing freedom in Christ, wherever it leads.  We are free in Christ to serve and follow him.  The cost might be high, but therein one finds the path to true life.

So why do we impose and reimpose these burdens?  Perhaps we do not know better, for we are mired in our native or adopted traditions.  People do have spiritual blind spots, after all.  Maybe the idea of grace, as radical as it is, frightens us.  Certainly, we might say to ourselves, it cannot be that simple; people ought to jump through some hoops first.  Such attitudes ignore the truth that Jesus took the hoops away, that it is that simple, and that simplicity does not translate into spiritual laziness.  Spiritual simplicity in Christ is rigorous indeed, minus the hoops through which to jump.  If any of this disturbs us, we need to take it to the cross and leave it there.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/jesus-lifts-burdens-why-do-we-impose-them/

Proper 18, Year A   28 comments

Above: The Israelites Leaving Egypt, by David Roberts (1828)

Image in the Public Domain

Of Sin and Repentance

The Sunday Closest to September 7

The Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 10, 2017

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 12:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Psalm 149 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker;

let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

3 Let them praise his Name in the dance;

let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.

4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people

and adorns the poor with victory.

5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph;

let them be joyful on their beds.

6 Let the praises of God be in their throat

and a two-edged sword in their hand;

7 To wreak vengeance on the nations

and punishment on the peoples;

8 To bind their kings in chains

and their nobles with links of iron;

9 To inflict on them the judgment decreed;

this is the glory for all his faithful people.

Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 33:7-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

You, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.

Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” Say to them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Psalm 119:33-40 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes,

and I shall keep it to the end.

34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law;

I shall keep it with all my heart.

35 Make me go in the path of your commandments,

for that is my desire.

36 Incline my heart to your decrees

and not to unjust gain.

37 Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless;

give me life in your ways.

38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,

which you make to those who fear you.

39 Turn away the reproach which I dread,

because your judgments are good.

40 Behold, I long for your commandments;

in your righteousness preserve my life.

SECOND READING

Romans 13:8-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments,

You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet;

and any other commandment, are summed up in this word,

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 18:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.

The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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This Sunday’s readings pertain to sin, especially with in a faith community.  The community context is appropriate, for however appealing Western notions of individualism, especially when paired with Horatio Alger-like stories, are, people tend to overestimate them.  In reality, all of us live in community, for what one person does or does not do affects another and others directly and/or indirectly, for good or for ill.  We rise together and we fall together; we need to support each other for the common good.  The economic debacle arising from subprime mortgages has taught many lessons, including that one.

Sometimes we need deliverance from the sins of others.  That was the function of the blood of a Passover lamb in Exodus.  And the reading from Matthew discusses how to handle grievances among members of a faith community.  The offender receives more than one chance to restore peace before facing the penalty, which is ecclesiastical exile.  The common good is the chief end, with attempts to rehabilitate the offending party.

And sometimes the sin is one’s own.  Fortunately, God is present, offering forgiveness in exchange for repentance, that is the act of changing one’s mind, or, to state the matter differently, turning around.  Repentance is far more than apologizing, although nobody ought to underestimate the value of a sincere apology.  No, repentance is active.  And we humans ought to welcome repentance at least as much as God does.

Dare we try it?

KRT