Archive for the ‘September 16’ Category

Devotion for Monday After Proper 19, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Shipwreck

Above:   Shipwreck

Image in the Public Domain

Our Decision to Make

SEPTEMBER 16, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion,

you lead back to yourself all those who go astray.

Preserve your people in your loving care,

that we may reject whatever is contrary to you

and may follow all things that sustain our life in

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 7:1-6

Psalm 73

1 Timothy 1:18-20

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You will guide me by your counsel,

and afterwards receive me with glory.

–Psalm 73:24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  The reading from Amos 7 emphasizes mercy, but, just a few verses later, God promises to destroy the dynasty of King Jeroboam II of Israel (reigned 788-747 B.C.E.), without relenting.  Judgment and mercy are collective in Amos 7, but judgment is individual in 1 Timothy 1.

By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.

–verse 19b, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

In both instances rejecting divine counsel leads to negative consequences.  God might relent in, for example, sending fire or a plague of locusts, as in Amos 7, but consequences will arrive consequently.  On the other hand, we can love God fully and our neighbors as ourselves.  That will not mean that nothing bad will happen to us, but we will please God and help many people.

The choice is ours, for we have the free will to decide.

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/our-decision-to-make/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 19, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Joseph Made Ruler in Egypt Genesis 41:41-43

Above:  Joseph Made Ruler of Egypt

Image in the Public Domain

Forgiveness

SEPTEMBER 14, 15, and 16, 2017

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The Collect:

O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness.

Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you,

that we may delight in doing your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 37:12-36 (Thursday)

Genesis 41:53-42:17 (Friday)

Genesis 45:1-20 (Saturday)

Psalm 103:[1-7] 8-13 (All Days)

1 John 3:11-16 (Thursday)

Acts 7:9-16 (Friday)

Matthew 6:7-15 (Saturday)

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He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns your with mercy and loving-kindness;

He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

–Psalm 103:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The lectionary-based romp through the Joseph Epic from Genesis begins here, in this post.  It is an excellent tale–in act, the first portion of scripture I really read, back in the Summer of 1988.  In today’s installments we focus on the transformation of Joseph from annoying twit and boaster to a powerful figure in the Egyptian government who forgives his would-be murderous relatives and showers kindness on his family.  Unfortunately, in Genesis 47, he reduces the Egyptian population to serfdom in exchange for food (which they had grown anyway), but that is another story, one which many people miss.  (I missed it the first few times I read the epic.)

The New Testament lessons speak of forgiving each other and meeting each other’s needs, even (when necessary) dying for each other.  The reading from Matthew 6 makes plain the link between forgiving others and receiving divine forgiveness.  The measure one applies to others, the Sermon on the Mount tells us, is the one God applies to us.  That makes much sense to me.

To forgive can prove quite difficult.  To want to forgive is easier, I have found, but both are possible only by grace.  Through experiences I have no desire to recall in vivid details I have learned that to stop nursing a grudge is the best one can do at some moments.  The rest will follow in time; forgiveness will come.  One day one will realize that much or most or all of the old anger is gone.  The process starts with a prayer for Got to take all the anger away.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 16. 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DIEFENBAKER AND LESTER PEARSON, PRIME MINISTERS OF CANADA; AND TOMMY DOUGLAS, FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN JONES OF TALYSARN, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BROTHER ROGER OF TAIZE, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZE COMMUNITY

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY WOMEN OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

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Bloga Theologica version

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Devotion for September 15, 16, and 17 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

King Josiah

Above:  King Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

2 Chronicles and Colossians, Part III:  Suffering and the Glory of God

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2019

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2019

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 34:1-4, 8-11, 14-33 (September 15)

2 Chronicles 35:1-7, 16-25 (September 16)

2 Chronicles 36:1-23 (September 17)

Psalm 19 (Morning–September 15)

Psalm 136 (Morning–September 16)

Psalm 123 (Morning–September 17)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–September 15)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–September 16)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–September 17)

Colossians 2:8-23 (September 15)

Colossians 3:1-25 (September 16)

Colossians 4:1-18 (September 17)

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In the readings from 2 Chronicles we find good news followed by bad news succeeded by worse news followed by good news again.  The tradition which produced those texts perceived a link between national righteousness and national strength and prosperity.  That sounds too much like Prosperity Theology for my comfort, for, as other passages of the Bible (plus the record of history) indicate, good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people.  The fictional character of Job, in the book which bears his name, suffered, but not because of any sin he had committed.  And Jesus, being sinless, suffered, but not for anything he had done wrong.

Many of the instructions from Colossians are comforting and not controversial–or at least should not be.  Living according to

…compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience

–3:12, Revised English Bible

seems like something almost everyone would applaud, but it did lead to controversies during our Lord and Savior’s lifetime and contribute to his execution.  I, as a student of history, know that many people have suffered for following that advice.  When society favors the opposite,

compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience

lead to trouble for those who enact them.

Other advice is culturally specific.  Colossians 2:16-21 comes to mind immediately.  It, taken outside of its context, becomes a distorted text.  In 1899, for example, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), the old Southern Presbyterian Church, cited it to condemn observing Christmas and Easter as holy occasions:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv. 9-11; Colossians ii. 16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

Journal of the General Assembly, page 430

Still other advice should trouble us.  I will not tell a slave to obey his or her master, for no form of slavery should exist.  And I, as a feminist, favor the equality of men and women.  So 3:18-25 bothers me.  4:1 does, however, level the slave-master playing field somewhat, however.

Suffering flows from more than one cause.  If we are to suffer, may we do so not because of any sin we have committed.  No, may we suffer for the sake of righteousness, therefore bringing glory to God.  May virtues define how we love, bringing glory to God in all circumstances.  And may we not become caught up in the legalistic minutae of theology and condemn those who seek only to glorify God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE ELDER, SAINT NONNA, AND THEIR CHILDREN:  SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER, SAINT CAESARIUS OF NAZIANZUS, AND SAINT GORGONIA OF NAZIANZUS

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FEDDE, LUTHERAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY TO THE SHOSHONE AND THE ARAPAHOE

THE FEAST OF SAINT TARASIUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/2-chronicles-and-colossians-part-iii-suffering-and-the-glory-of-god/

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Proper 19, Year B   12 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Heeding Wisdom’s Call

The Sunday Closest to September 14

The Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 16, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Proverbs 1:20-33 (New Revised Standard Version):

Wisdom cries out in the street;

in the squares she raises her voice.

At the busiest corner she cries out;

at the entrance of the city she speaks;

How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?

How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?

Give heed to my reproof;

I will pour out my thoughts to you;

I will make my words known to you.

Because I have called you and you refused,

have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,

and because you have ignored all my counsel

and would have none of my reproof,

I also laugh at your calamity;

I will mock when panic strikes you,

when panic strikes you like a storm,

and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,

when distress and anguish come upon you.

They will not call upon me, but I will not answer;

they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.

Because they hated knowledge

and did not choose the fear of the LORD,

would have none of my counsel,

and despised all my reproof,

therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way

and be sated with their devices.

For waywardness kills the simple,

and the complacency of fools destroys them;

but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults?

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

or

Wisdom of Solomon 7:26-8:1 (Revised English Bible):

She [Wisdom] is the radiance that streams from everlasting light, the flawless mirror of the active power of God, and the image of his goodness.  She is but one, yet can do all things; herself unchanging, she makes all things new; age after age she enters into holy souls, and makes them friends of God and prophets, for nothing is acceptable to God but the person who makes his home with wisdom.  She is more beautiful than the sun, and surpasses every constellation.  Compared with the light of day, she is found to excel, for day gives place to night, but against wisdom no evil can prevail.  She spans the world in power from end to end, and gently orders all things.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 50:4-9a (New Revised Standard Version):

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher,

that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.

Morning by morning he wakens–

wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.

The Lord GOD has opened my ear,

and I was not rebellious,

I did not turn backward.

I gave my back to those who struck me,

and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;

I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.

The Lord GOD helps me;

therefore I have not been disgraced;

therefore I have set my face like flint,

and I know that I shall not be put to shame;

he who vindicates me is near.

Who will contend with me?

Let us stand up together.

Who are my adversaries?

Let them confront me.

It is the Lord GOD who helps me;

who will declare me guilty?

Psalm 116:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I love the LORD, because he has heard the voice of my supplication,

because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him.

2 The cords of death entangled me;

the grip of the grave took hold of me;

O came to grief and sorrow.

3 Then I called upon the Name of the LORD;

“O LORD, I pray you, save my life.”

Gracious is the LORD and righteous;

our God is full of compassion.

5 The LORD watches over the innocent;

I was brought very low, and he helped me.

Turn again to your rest, O my soul,

for the LORD has treated you well.

7 For you have rescued my life from death,

my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling.

8 I will walk in the presence of the LORD

in the land of the living.

SECOND READING

James 3:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

My friends, not many of you should become teachers, for you may be certain that we who teach will ourselves face severer judgement.  All of us go wrong again and again; a man who never says anything wrong is perfect and is capable of controlling every part of his body.  When we put a bit into a horse’s mouth to make it obey our will, we can direct the whole animal.  Or think of a ship:  large though it may be and driven by gales, it can be steered by a very small rudder on whatever course the helmsman chooses.  So with the tongue; it is small, but its pretensions are great.

What a vast amount of timber can be set ablaze by the tiniest spark!  And the tongue is a fire, representing in our body the whole wicked world.  It pollutes our whole being, it sets the whole course of our existence alight, and its flames are fed by hell. Beasts and birds of every kind, creatures that crawl on the ground or swim in the sea, can be subdued and have been subdued by man; but no one can subdue the tongue.  It is an evil thing, restless and charged with deadly venom.  We use it to praise our Lord and Father; then we use it to praise our Lord and Father; then we use it to invoke curses on our fellow-men, though they are made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and curses.  This should not be so, my friends.  Does a fountain flow with both fresh and brackish water from the same outlet?  My friends, can a fig tree produce olives, or a grape vine produce figs?  No more can salt water produce fresh?

GOSPEL READING

Mark 8:27-38 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi, and on the way he asked his disciples,

Who do people say that I am?

They answered,

Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others one of the prophets.

He asked,

And you, who do you say that I am?

Peter replied,

You are the Messiah.

Then he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him; and he began to teach them that the Son of Man had to endure great suffering, and to be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes; to be put to death, and to rise again three days afterwards.  He spoke about it plainly.  At this Peter took hold of him and began to rebuke him.  But Jesus, turning and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter.

Out of my sight, Satan!

he said.

You think as men think, not as God thinks.

Then he called the people to him, as well as his disciples, and said to them,

Anyone who wants to be a follower of mine must renounce self; he must take up his cross and follow me.  Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel’s will save it.  What does anyone gain by winning the whole world at the cost of his life?  What can he give to buy his life back?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this wicked and godless age, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; 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:

Proper 19, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/proper-19-year-a/

Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle (January 18):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/feast-of-the-confession-of-st-peter-the-apostle-january-18/

Isaiah 50:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-seventh-day-of-lent-wednesday-in-holy-week/

Wisdom of Solomon 7-8:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/week-of-proper-27-thursday-year-1/

James 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/week-of-6-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/week-of-proper-1-saturday-year-2/

Mark 8:

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

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

Matthew 16 (Parallel to Mark 8):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-1/

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 8):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/week-of-proper-20-friday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/second-day-of-lent/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/week-of-proper-20-friday-year-1/

Thou Art the Way:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/thou-art-the-way/

Be Thou My Vision:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/be-thou-my-vision/

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The lessons from Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon personify divine wisdom as a woman.  The Greek word for wisdom gives us a female name, Sophia.  As one who admires (yet does not understand) womankind, I find the idea of wisdom as feminine (while sheer might is masculine) sensible.  These are metaphors, of course, so we ought to look through them to the truth behind them.  God exists beyond our notions of sexuality and gender, but we do not.

Anyhow, the theology of Sophia did influence that of the Logos, which the Johannine Gospel identifies with Jesus.  That is a summary of part of the history of Christian thought.  Just making objectively lineage does not interest me, however.  The implications of the Sophia-Logos connection do fascinate me, but I leave those for another day.  The existence of that connection does provide me with a beginning point for theological rumination.

If people knew what was good for them and acted accordingly, they obeyed the words of divine wisdom, a figure which the Wisdom of Solomon describes as

a reflection of eternal light,

a spotless mirror of the working of God,

and an image of his goodness.

–7:26, New Revised Standard Version

Thus we read, for example, of the afflictions of the suffering servant in Isaiah 50, the dangers of the wrong uses of the tongue in James 3, and the impending suffering and execution of Jesus in Mark 8.  If more people knew what is good for them and were to act accordingly, they would heed the words and example of Jesus, the Logos of God.  If more historical figures, long since dead, had known what was good for them and acted accordingly, they would not have crucified Jesus or consented to his execution.  There would have been less suffering.  The suffering servant did not have to suffer, but the combination of his fidelity and the perfidy of others caused that suffering.

I like to study the lives of the saints, canonized and/or beatified or not.  In my tradition, Anglicanism, history makes saints.  And, as the keeper of my own Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, I do not depend on even my own ecclesiastical authorities to define who is a saint worthy of recognition.  So, as I research church history, I read about many people I have come to admire.  A vast number of them are martyrs and many others have suffered greatly due to their Christian faith.  Often the persecutors have belonged to other religions or have been Atheists, but sometimes professing Christians have oppressed and even killed each other.  I wonder how I would have acted had I been in the places of the saints I admire.  The honest answer in my conscience troubles me; I would most likely have used my tongue to curse, not bless.  I have done done so in less trying situations.

I have much yet to learn from divine wisdom and the Logos.  In this I am far from alone.  So, setting aside all recrimination, especially self-condemnation, may we, aware that we are in the same boat, support each other in our journeys toward lives of increased wisdom.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/heeding-wisdoms-call/

Week of Proper 19: Monday, Year 1   17 comments

Above:  Rosary Beads

Image in the Public Domain

Proper Attitudes in Prayer

SEPTEMBER 16, 2019

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

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1 Timothy 2:1-8 (The Jerusalem Bible):

My advice is that, first of all, there should be prayers offered for everyone–petitions, intercessions, and thanksgiving–and especially for kings and others in authority, so that we may be able to live religious an reverent lives in peace and quiet.  To do this is right, and will please God our saviour; he wants everyone to be saved and reach full knowledge of the truth.  For there is only one God, and there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself as a ransom for them all.  He is the evidence of this, sent at the appointed time, and I have been named a herald and apostle of it and–I am telling the truth and no lie–a teacher of the faith and the truth to the pagans.

In every place, then, I want the men to lift their hands up reverently in prayer, with no anger or argument.

Psalm 28 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 O LORD, I call to you;

my Rock, do not be deaf to my cry;

lest, if you do not hear me,

I become like those who go down to the Pit.

2 Hear the voice of my prayer when I cry to you,

when I lift up my hands to your holy of holies.

3 Do not snatch me away with the wicked or with the evildoers,

who speak peaceably with their neighbors,

while strife is in their hearts.

4 Repay them according to their deeds,

and according to the wickedness of their actions.

5 According to the work of their hands repay them,

and give them their just deserts.

6 They have no understanding of the LORD’s doings

nor of the works of his hands;

therefore he will break them down and not build them up.

7 Blessed is the LORD!

for he has heard the voice of my prayer.

8 The LORD is my strength and my shield;

my heart trusts in him, and I have been helped;

9 Therefore my heart dances for joy;

and in my song I will praise him.

10 The LORD is the strength of his people,

a safe refuge for his anointed.

11 Save your people and bless your inheritance;

shepherd them and carry them for ever.

Luke 7:1-10 (The Jerusalem Bible):

When he [Jesus] had come to the end of all he wanted the people to hear, he went into Capernaum.  A centurion there had a servant, a favourite of his, who was sick and near death.  Having heard  about Jesus he sent some Jewish elders to ask him to come and heal his servant.  When they came to Jesus they pleaded earnestly with him.

He deserves this of you,

they said,

because he is friendly towards our people; in fact, he is the one who built the synagogue.

So Jesus went with them, and was not very far from the house when the centurion sent word to him by some friends:

Sir,

he said,

do not put yourself to trouble; because I am not worthy to have you under my roof; and for this same reason I did not presume to come to you myself; but give the word and let my servant be cured.  For I am under authority myself, and have soldiers under me; and I say to one man:  Go, and he goes; to another:  Come here, and he comes; to my servant:  Do this, and he does it.

When Jesus heard these words he was astonished at him and, turning around, said to the crowds following him,

I tell you, not even in Israel have I found faith like this.

And when the messengers got to the house they found the servant in perfect health.

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The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; 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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A comparison of the reading from Luke and its counterpart in Matthew is interesting.  The author of Luke-Acts includes details his Matthew counterpart omits.  The Lukan account tells us that the Roman centurion was friendly to the Jews, going so far as to supervise the construction of the synagogue at Capernaum.  Yet in both versions of the story the centurion is a good man who displays care for his servant and humility with regard to Jesus.  There is one difference:  In Matthew the centurion asks Jesus to heal his servant.  But in Luke he sends some Jewish elders to make the request.  This might bother a scriptural literalist, which I am not.  Yet the canonical Gospels are not documentaries; they are documents which speak of the Good News of Jesus.  And they do this well.

The author of 1 Timothy writes that one ought to pray reverently, “with no anger or argument.”  Certainly the Roman centurion was reverent toward Jesus, but the author of Psalm 28 disobeyed the rule regarding “anger or argument.”  I know angry prayer well; I have said many of them over the years.  They constituted an emotional release for me, but I doubt that they were a good use of prayer time.  They were not worthy of the standard of Jesus, who prayed for the forgiveness of those who executed him.  If my choice of the label “Christian” is to mean what it should, I need to become more like the Lord I claim to follow.  This includes backing away from the desire for God to punish my enemies or just people I dislike.

And what about praying for those in authority?  The author of 1 Timothy does not say to pray for only those authority figures one likes.  This makes sense, for we ought to pray for those in authority because they are in authority.  What we think of them is irrelevant to whether we ought to pray for them.  What kind of people they are has no bearing on whether we should pray for them.  We need to be careful to pray for them, not about them.  We ought to pray for them without judging them, for our Lord has commanded us to leave judgment to God, with whom the sole right of vengeance resides.  But this is the same God who extends lavish and scandalous grace, too.

So, what is prayer?  Growing up, the most frequent definition I heard was “talking to God.”  That is part of it, certainly.  But there is far more to it than that.  The Catechism from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer defines prayer as “responding to God, by thought and by deeds, with or without words,” and Christian prayer as “response to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.”  (page 856)

When, with or without words, we pray for–not about–another person, we open the door for God to change how we think about that individual.  We open ourselves up to perceive him or her in a more positive, sympathetic way than we do already.  We might even end up identifying with this person and understanding that he or she is not as different from us than we once thought.  If praying honestly and non-judgmentally does nothing else, it makes us better than we were before.   Besides, we need grace as much as anyone else.  Do we understand this–really?

If we do not, may we embark on the prayer journey to that realization.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/proper-attitudes-in-prayer/