Archive for the ‘September 18’ Category

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

God Speaking to Job

Above:   God Speaking to Job, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Humility, Sin, and Suffering

SEPTEMBER 18, 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:

Job 40:6-14; 42:1-6

Psalm 73

Luke 22:31-33, 54-62

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When I tried to understand these things it was too hard for me….

–Psalm 73:16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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We know why the titular character of the Book of Job suffered; a heavenly wager between God and his loyalty tester (the Satan) occurred in Chapters 1 and 2.  Alleged friends tormented Job by insisting (piously, from their perspective) that, since God is just, God does not permit the innocent to suffer, so Job must have sinned and therefore deserves his suffering and needs to confess and repent of his sins.  “For what?” Job replied repeatedly.  Along the way, from the point of view of the Book of Job, with its layers of authorship, Job and his alleged friends committed the same error; they presumed to know how God does and should work.

Jesus was about to suffer and die in Luke 22.  The cause of that suffering was not anything he had done wrong in the eyes of God.  Some years ago I heard Donald S. Armentrout advise reading the rest of the Bible through the lenses of the four Gospels.  He likened the Gospels to eyeglasses–the Gospel glasses.  From that point of view the suffering of Jesus has, among other things, reinforced the Book of Job in its refutation of Job’s alleged friends.

The caution against presuming to know more about God than we do remains also.  Humility before God is a virtue, is it not?

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/humility-sin-and-suffering/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 19, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jeroboam I

Above:  King Jeroboam I of Israel

Image in the Public Domain

Obeying Divine Instructions

SEPTEMBER 17 and 18, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, through suffering and rejection you bring forth our salvation,

and by the glory of the cross you transform our lives.

Grant that for the sake of the gospel we may turn from the lure of evil,

take up our cross, and follow your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 13:1-10 (Monday)

1 Kings 13:11-25 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:169-176 (Both Days)

Romans 3:9-20 (Monday)

Colossians 3:1-11 (Tuesday)

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Let my cry come before you, O LORD;

give me understanding, according to your word

–Psalm 119:169, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The anonymous man of God in 1 Kings 13 did well for a while.  He denounced King Jeroboam I of Israel to his face for erecting an altar at Bethel as an alternative to the Temple at Jerusalem.  The man of God also refused offers to eat and drink before returning to Judah.  Then he accepted and offer to do so.  The prediction that the altar at Bethel would become unsuitable for use came true, however.

One lesson of that story is the importance of obeying divine instructions.  Speaking of divine instructions, let us return to the law, which defines our actions and inactions as right and wrong.  The law convicts us of our sins.  Even Gentiles, who are outside the Law of Moses, have done much that is laudable and much that is worthy of condemnation.  Thus all people stand together under wrath.  The way out is via Jesus:

In that renewal there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all.

–Colossians 3:11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That is a profound statement, one which I suspect is deeper than any human being knows.  I dare not attempt to define the limits of divine mercy and judgment, or where the former ends and the latter begins.  I do affirm, however, that my measuring stick when I seek to determine whether something is holy is Jesus, whom I attempt to follow, with mixed results.  I trust in his faithfulness, not my own.  That is how I try to obey divine instructions.

JUNE 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/obeying-divine-instructions/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 19, Year A   1 comment

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Above:  Samuel Ryeschenski, Nine-Year-Old Chess Player, at the United States Capitol, April 6, 1922

Photographer = Harris & Ewing

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-hec-31620

Seeking the Common Good

SEPTEMBER 18, 19, and 20, 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 48:8-22 (Monday)

Genesis 49:29-50:14 (Tuesday)

Genesis 50:22-26 (Wednesday)

Psalm 133 (All Days)

Hebrews 11:23-29 (Monday)

Romans 14:13-15:2 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:20-25 (Wednesday)

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Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

For there the LORD has ordained the blessing:

life for evermore.

–Psalm 133, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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So then, let us be always seeking the ways which lead to peace and the ways in which we can support each other.  Do not wreck God’s work for the sake of food.

–Romans 14:19-20a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The ethic of building up the common good is part of the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In the Law of Moses we have responsibilities to and for each other.  A healthy communitarianism respects individual consciences while avoiding rugged individualism on hand and the tyranny of the majority on the other hand.  Our human reality is that we depend on God for everything and on each other.  We are, therefore, dependent and interdependent.  May we behave toward each toward each other according to the ethic of seeking the best for each other.  Joseph sought the best for his family members, even those who had almost killed him.  He should have sought the best for the Egyptians instead of reducing them to a state of serfdom in Genesis 47, however.  (The man was not entirely heroic.)

Sometimes the common good works via authority figures; sometimes it works around them.  Joseph’s boss was sympathetic to him, but the Pharaoh whom Moses knew was hostile.  Under the best possible circumstances authority figures will function as agents of the common good, but often we humans must work around them or even replace them.  Such is life.  If we can muster enough faith we will discover that God’s grace is more than sufficient for our required tasks.

As we go about the work of seeking the common good and building each other up, may we avoid ridiculous extremes which function mainly as fodder for criticisms of religion.  I recall that, when I was quite young, my sister and I were not supposed to play in the parsonage yard on Sunday afternoons.  My father was the local United Methodist pastor in a conservative rural community, some members of which retained overly strict–Puritanical, even–notions regarding Sabbath-keeping.  I mention this example to make a point:  If we place too much emphasis on what others think, we will restrict our own range of options (and that of our children, if we have any) needlessly.  Spiritually uptight people will have to deal with the consequences of their own constipation of the soul for themselves, without cramping my style.  Besides, my personal life is quiet, quite boring by many standards of what is “interesting,” and nobody’s business.  So I will persist in my behaviors, which according to many killjoys through the ages, are sinful:  playing chess, reading novels, dancing on occasion, eating meat, drinking tea, watching movies, et cetera.  I like intellectual stimulation, artistic fulfillment, antioxidants, and the taste of meat, none of which cause moral harm to anyone.  So why should anyone object?

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 18 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

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Above:  Forest Scene, 1900-1916

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-02185

Nehemiah and 1 Timothy, Part I:  A Wilderness of Words

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 18, 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 1:1-2:10

Psalm 15 (Morning)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening)

1 Timothy 1:1-20

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Lord, who may dwell in your holy tabernacle?

who may abide upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right,

who speaks the truth from his heart.

–Psalm 15:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Yahweh, who shall be a guest in your tent?

Who shall dwell upon your holy mountain?

He who walks with integrity and practices justice,

and speaks the truth from his heart.

–Psalm 15:1-2, The Anchor Bible

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This instruction has love as its goal, the love which springs from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a genuine faith.  Through lack of these some people have gone astray in a wilderness of words.  They set out to be teachers of the law, although they do not understand either the words or the subjects about which they are so dogmatic.

–1 Timothy 1:5-7, The Revised English Bible

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Psalm 15 reflects a dialogue between a priest and one seeking entrance to the Temple.  The requirements are ethical–acting with integrity and doing justice to others.  The portion of the psalm I chose not to reproduce contains details about what those entail, per the Law of Moses.

Not keeping that law, according to Nehemiah and other portions of the Hebrew Scriptures, led to the downfall of kingdoms and exiles of populations.  So one reading indicates one way to go wrong.  The other way to err we find in 1 Timothy:  losing sight of

a pure heart, a good conscience, and a genuine faith,

thereby becoming lost in

a wilderness of words

and stranded in legalistic dogmatism.  That is one of my main criticisms of all forms of fundamentalism.

Timeless principles have ever-changing practical applications, which are context-specific.  May we, by grace, not go astray in a wilderness of words.  Nor may we disregard these timeless principles of integrity and justice.  No, may we, by grace, love our neighbors where they are and as effectively as possible.  May neither indifference nor dogmatism stand in the way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 31, 2013 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA SKOBTSOVA, ORTHODOX MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENJAMIN, ORTHODOX DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS ASBURY, U.S. METHODIST BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHN DONNE, POET AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/nehemiah-and-1-timothy-part-i-a-wilderness-of-words/

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Week of Proper 19: Monday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 19: Tuesday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  A Table Set for the Celebration of the Holy Eucharist

Image Source = Jonathunder

Bad Corinthians!

SEPTEMBER 17 and 18, 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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FIRST READING FOR MONDAY

1 Corinthians 11:17-28, 33 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now that I am on the subject of instructions, I cannot say that you have done well in holding meetings that you do more harm than good.  In the first place, I hear that when you all come together as a community, there are separate factions among you, and I half believe it–since there must no doubt be separate groups among you, to distinguish those who are to be trusted.  The point is, when you hold these meetings, it is not the Lord’s Supper that you are eating, since when the time comes to eat, everyone is in such a hurry to start his own supper that one person goes hungry while another is getting drunk.  Surely you have homes for eating and drinking in?  Surely you have enough respect for the community of God not to make poor people embarrassed?  What am I to say to you?  Congratulate you?  I cannot congratulate you on this.

For this is what I received from the Lord, and in turn passed on to you:  that on the same night that he was betrayed, the Lord Jesus took some bread, and thanked God for it and broke it, and he said,

This is my body, which is for you; do this as a memorial of me.

In the same way he took the cup after supper, and said,

This cup is the new covenant in my blood.  Whenever you drink it, do this as a memorial of me.

Until the Lord comes, therefore, every time you eat this bread and drink this cup, you are proclaiming his death, and so anyone who eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will be behaving unworthily towards the body and blood of the Lord.

Everyone is to recollect himself eating this bread and drinking this cup….

So, to sum up, my dear brothers, when you meet for the Meal, wait for one another….

FIRST READING FOR TUESDAY

1 Corinthians 12:12-14, 27-31 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Just as a human body, though it is made up of many parts, is a single unit because of all these parts, though many, make one body, so it is with Christ.  In the one Spirit we were all baptised, Jews as well as Greeks, slaves as well as citizens, and the one Spirit was given to us all to drink.

Nor is the body to be identified with any one of its member parts.

Now you together are Christ’s body; but each of you is a different part of it.  In the Church, God has given the first place to apostles, the second to prophets, the third to teachers; after them, miracles, and after them the gift of healing; helpers, good leaders, those with many languages.  Are all of them apostles, or all of them prophets, or all of them teachers?  Do they all have the gift of miracles, or all have the gift of healing?  Do all speak strange languages, and all interpret them?

Be ambitious for the higher gifts.  And I am going to show you a way that is better than any of them.

RESPONSE FOR MONDAY

Psalm 40:8-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8  Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required,

and so I said, “Behold, I come.

9  In the roll of the book it is written concerning me:

‘I love to do your will, O my God;

your law is deep in my heart.’”

10  I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation;

behold, I did not restrain my lips;

and that, O LORD, you know.

11  Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart;

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance;

I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation.

12  You are the LORD;

do not withhold your compassion from me;

let your loving and your faithfulness keep me safe for ever.

RESPONSE FOR TUESDAY

Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and call upon his name.

4 For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

GOSPEL READING FOR MONDAY

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.

GOSPEL READING FOR TUESDAY

Luke 7:11-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now soon afterwards he [Jesus] went to a town called Nain, accompanied by his disciples and a great number of people.  When he was near the gate of the town it happened that a dead man was being carried out for burial, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow.  And a considerable number of the townspeople were with her.  When the Lord saw her he felt sorry for her.

Do not cry

he said.  Then he went up and put his hand on the bier and the bearers stood still, and he said,

Young man, I tell you to get up.

And the dead man sat up and began to talk, and Jesus gave him to his mother.  Everyone was filled with awe and praised God saying,

A great prophet has appeared among us; God has visited his people.

And this opinion of him spread throughout Judaea and all over his countryside.

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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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Some Related Posts:

Only Begotten, Word of God Eternal:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/only-begotten-word-of-god-eternal/

Bread of Heaven, On Thee We Feed:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/bread-of-heaven-on-thee-we-feed/

Thanksgiving after Communion, 1917:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/thanksgiving-after-communion-1917/

At the Lamb’s High Feast We Sing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/23/at-the-lambs-high-feast-we-sing/

Glory, Love, and Praise, and Honor:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/glory-love-and-praise-and-honor/

Humbly I Adore Thee, Verity Unseen:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/humbly-i-adore-thee-verity-unseen/

Deck Thyself, With Joy and Gladness:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/03/deck-thyself-with-joy-and-gladness/

I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/i-come-with-joy-to-meet-my-lord/

Here, O My Lord, I See Thee Face to Face:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/here-o-my-lord-i-see-thee-face-to-face/

Become to Us the Living Bread:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/01/become-to-us-the-living-bread/

Very Bread, Good Shepherd, Tend Us:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/very-bread-good-shepherd-tend-us/

Body of Jesus, O Sweet Food!:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/22/body-of-jesus-o-sweet-food/

Shepherd of Souls:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/shepherd-of-souls-by-james-montgomery/

Let Thy Blood in Mercy Poured:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/11/let-thy-blood-in-mercy-poured-by-john-brownlie/

The King of Love My Shepherd Is:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/the-king-of-love-my-shepherd-is/

I Am the Bread of Life:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/i-am-the-bread-of-life/

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Holy Eucharist:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/a-prayer-of-thanksgiving-for-the-holy-eucharist/

Prayer of Humble Access:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/31/prayer-of-humble-access/

Break Thou the Bread of Life:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/break-thou-the-bread-of-life/

After Receiving Communion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/after-receiving-communion/

Before Receiving Communion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/before-receiving-communion/

Novena Prayer in Honor of the Blessed Sacrament:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/20/novena-prayer-in-honor-of-the-blessed-sacrament/

O Bread of Life:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/o-bread-of-life/

A Eucharistic Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-eucharistic-blessing/

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The Corinthian church seems to have been a troubled congregation full of people who behaved quite badly.  Anyone who has read 1 Corinthians consecutively should know much of the contents of the catalog of sins, including backbiting, committing idolatry, failing to control one’s sexual impulses, and engaging in predatory sexual practices (sometimes with minors).  Why would anyone not already Christian become one of the faithful, based on these bad examples and role models?  As Ron Popeil says,

But wait, there’s more.

Instead of a rotisserie chicken machine or a nifty knife set, however, we get drunkenness at the Holy Eucharist and excessive pride in one’s own spiritual gifts combined with a dismissive attitude toward the spiritual gifts of others.

Our unity is in Christ, from whom we derive the label “Christian.”  Mutual support was supposed to mark the Corinthian church, but the opposite did.  Mutual support is supposed to mark us in the Christian Church today.  Sometimes it does.  I belong to a congregation where I feel accepted, but I have firsthand knowledge of some where I have not.

Now, to change the subject….

My usual purpose in these posts is to maintain a devotional tone and ponder practical lessons from readings.  Yet now I turn into a teacher.  There is a well-supported hypothesis which holds that the authors of the three Synoptic Gospels (Mark, Luke, and Matthew) drew from various sources, including Q, a collection of Jesus sayings.  Paul’s writing on the Holy Eucharist, in which he quotes Jesus, confirms that there was some source of Jesus sayings, for Paul could not have quoted any of the four canonical Gospels.  He died in 64, prior to the composition of Mark, the earliest of that genre in the canon of scripture.

Speaking of the Holy Eucharist…

Indeed, the altar is the table of God, and nobody ought to abuse its sacred elements or take it lightly.  Paul, writing regarding food sacrificed to imaginary deities, claimed that

Food, of course, cannot bring us in touch with God:  we lose nothing if we refuse to eat, we gain nothing if we eat.–1 Corinthians 8:8, The Jerusalem Bible

Here I must argue with Paul.  I have come in close contact with God at Holy Eucharist since I was a child.  My only complaint when I was growing up in rural United Methodist congregations in the South Georgia Conference was that I had these opportunities too infrequently.  Now, as an Episcopalian, that is no longer a problem.  Eucharist is, as The Book of Common Prayer (1979) tells us,

the central act of Christian worship.

So one should partake of it as frequently as possible, always with reverence.

God calls a wide variety of people with diverse spiritual gifts to form and maintain Christian communities in which people love and support each other.  We all have our foibles and other failings, so patience is a great virtue.  But together we can support each other in righteousness and be visible faces of Christ to each other.  That is our calling; may we embrace it and continue to do so.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/bad-corinthians/

Week of Proper 19: Wednesday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  An Icon of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

“For Every Action….”

SEPTEMBER 18, 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 3:14-16 (The Jerusalem Bible):

At the moment of writing to you, I am hoping that I may be with you soon; but in case I should be delayed, I wanted you to know how people ought to behave in God’s family–that is, in the Church of the living God, which upholds the truth and keeps it safe.  Without any doubt, the mystery of our religion is very deep indeed:

He was made visible in the flesh,

attested by the Spirit,

seen by angels,

proclaimed to the pagans,

believed in by the world,

taken up in glory.

Psalm 111:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

2 Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

4 He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

Luke 7:31-35 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

What description, then, can I find for the men of this generation?  What are they like?  They are like children shouting to one another while they sit in the market place:

‘We played the pipes for you,

and you wouldn’t dance;

we sang dirges,

and you wouldn’t cry.’

For John the Baptist comes, not eating bread, not drinking wine, and you say, ‘He is possessed.’  The Son of Man comes, eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’  Yet Wisdom has been proved right by all her children.

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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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There is a joke about an Episcopal congregation that had just received its first female priest.  The Senior Warden and the Junior Warden, although skeptical about their new pastor, took her on a fishing trip.  So the three of them got into a fishing boat and headed away from the shore.  Then the priest realized that she had left her fishing gear on the shore.  Therefore she apologized, excused herself, and walked across the water to retrieve it.  One warden turned to the other and said,

See, she can’t even swim.

As a sign says,

FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE CRITICISM.

I know from my study of history, especially that of U.S. politics, that more than one leading political figure (such as Thomas Jefferson) has criticized the ruling party from the perspective of a member of the opposition.  Yet these individuals (such as Jefferson) have changed their minds after coming to power.  Then they have faced criticism from their opposition, members of the former ruling party, for doing what members of the former ruling party advocated doing while in power.  Principles and politics diverge much of the time, but this is not always bad.  Had Jefferson stuck to his Strict Constructionist principles, he would not have approved of the Louisiana Purchase.  But he did approve of it, and he doubled the territorial size of the United States and did something great for his nation.

Perhaps you know or have known (or at least known of) someone impossible to please.  Nothing is ever good enough for that person.  Or maybe it was just true that you could never do anything to this individual’s satisfaction.  It was a frustrating experience, was it not?  I have had this experience.  I was glad when my path of life took me away from that person.

It was impossible for John the Baptist or Jesus to please many professional religious people in First Century C.E. Judea.  John and Jesus were revolutionaries who threatened the order in which the Sadducees, scribes, and Pharisees thrived.  So these religious elites grasped at any straw to criticize, and consistency was absent.  John was allegedly too ascetic, but Jesus allegedly ate and drank too much.  If he had been an ascetic, they would have criticized him for that.  So, regardless of what he did or did not do, the same people were going to criticize him for something.  This spoke volumes about them, and the sound was negative.

John and Jesus were not what their critics wanted them to be.  Rather, these men were what they were–and needed to be.  Here is the take-home message for this day:  Do you find Jesus threatening or disappointing?  If so, the fault is with you, not him.  He is who he is–and who he needs to be.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/for-every-action/