Archive for the ‘September 25’ Category

Devotion for Tuesday and Wednesday After Proper 20, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Paul Writing His Epistles

Above:   Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

Freedom in God

SEPTEMBER 24 and 25, 2019

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 17:1-5 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 21:10-16 (Wednesday)

Psalm 12 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (Tuesday)

Luke 20:45-21:4 (Wednesday)

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“Because the needy are oppressed,

and the poor cry out in misery,

I will rise up,” says the LORD,

“and give them the help they long for.”

–Psalm 12:5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Justice done is a joy to the righteous,

To evildoers, ruination.

–Proverbs 21:15, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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He who mocks the poor affronts his Maker;

He who rejoices over another’s misfortune will not go unpunished.

–Proverbs 17:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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If the reading from Luke 20 and 21 seems familiar, O reader who has also read the last few posts attentively, it is.  That pericope is, in fact, a retelling of Mark 12:38-44.  My comments about the story of the widow’s mite remain unchanged.

As for the reading from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul the Apostle reminds us in Chapter 9 that our freedom in God is for the purposes of God–not to glorify oneself or to obstruct or ignore God.  As my Presbyterian brethren state correctly, the chief and highest end of people is to glorify and enjoy God forever.  How we treat our fellow human beings, especially those who are vulnerable, is telling.  Whenever we help them, we help Jesus.  Whenever we do not help them, we do not help Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46).

How do you, O reader, use your freedom in God?

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/freedom-in-god-3/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 20, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

House of Naaman, Damascus

Above:  House of Naaman, Damascus, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Humility Before God

SEPTEMBER 24 and 25, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, our teacher and guide,

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

Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition,

that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 (Monday)

2 Kings 11:21-12:16 (Tuesday)

Psalm 139:1-18 (Both Days)

James 4:8-17 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

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LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

–Psalm 139:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Temple at Jerusalem was approximately 140 years old.  The Ark of the Covenant was there.  Repairing the structure of the Temple, which, like all buildings, required maintenance, should have been a priority long before King Jehoash made it one.  The lack of upkeep indicated an improper attitude toward God.

The proper attitude toward God includes humility.  God is God; none of us is God.  We depend entirely upon God (and rely upon each other), so any thought to the contrary is mistaken.  Our interdependence and mutual responsibility (to and for each other) leaves no room for sins such as oppression, exploitation, and gossiping.  Our total dependence on God leaves no room for excessive pride.

Naaman learned humility and monotheism.  Unfortunately, the narrative ended with the beginning of his journey back home.  I wonder how the experience at the River Jordan changed him and how that altered reality became manifest in his work and daily life.  I also wonder if that led to any negative consequences for him.

Martin Luther referred to James as an “epistle of straw.”  The letter’s emphasis on works (including justification by them) offended the reformer, who was reacting, not responding, to certain excesses and abuses of the Roman Catholic Church.  The epistle’s emphasis on works was–and remains–necessary, however.  The book’s condemnations of exploitation and hypocrisy have called proper attention to injustices and other sins for millennia.

I am not a wealthy landowner exploiting impoverished workers (James 5:1-6), but part of these days’ composite reading from the epistle speaks to me.  The condemnation of judging others (4:1-11) hits close to home.  My estimate is that judging others is the sin I commit most often.  If I am mistaken, judging others is one of the sins I commit most frequently.  I know better, of course, but like St. Paul the Apostle, I know well the struggle with sin and my total dependence upon God.  Knowing that one has a problem is the first step in the process of resolving it.

Caution against moral perfectionism is in order.  Public statements by relatives of victims of the White supremacist gunman who killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina, have been impressive.  The capacity for forgiveness has come quickly to some.  I rejoice that divine grace is so richly evident in their lives.  For some of us (including the author), however, the capacity to forgive those who have committed lesser offenses has arrived later rather than sooner.  For others it remains in transit.  In any circumstance may it arrive in God’s time.  May the rest of us refrain from judging those struggling with that (and other) issues.

The Didache, an essential Christian text from the second century of the Common Era, opens with an explanation of the Way of Life (filling a page and a half in my copy) and the Way of Death (just one paragraph–about one-third of a page).  The accent on the positive aspect of morality is laudable.  The section on the two Ways ends with two sentences:

Take care that nobody tempts you away from the path of this Teaching, for such a man’s tuition can have nothing to do with God.  If you can shoulder the Lord’s yoke in its entirety, then you will be perfect; but if that is too much for you, do as much as you can.

Early Christian Writings:  The Apostolic Fathers (Penguin Books, 1987), p. 193

We, to succeed, even partially, depend on grace.  Even so, I am still trying to do as much as I can, to borrow language from the Didache, for human efforts are not worthless.  I am imperfect; there is much room for improvement.  Much has improved already, by grace.  The potential for spiritual growth excites me.  The only justifiable boast will be in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/humility-before-god/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 20, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jacob's Ladder William Blake

Above:  Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Flawed Agents of Grace

SEPTEMBER 25 and 26, 2017

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The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants.

Because we cannot rely on our own abilities,

grant us your merciful judgment,

and train us to embody the generosity of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 27:1-29 (Monday)

Genesis 28:10-17 (Tuesday)

Psalm 106:1-12 (Both Days)

Romans 16:1-16 (Monday)

Romans 16:17-20 (Tuesday)

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Remember me, O LORD, with the favor you have for your people,

and visit me with your saving help;

That I may see the prosperity of your elect

and be glad with the gladness of your people,

and I may glory with your inheritance.

–Psalm 106:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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One of the challenges one faces in reading the Bible intelligently is understanding cultural nuances.  What does it matter, for example, that a father imparts a blessing on his son?  That was important in the culture of Isaac, Jacob/Israel, and Esau/Edom, for the blessing or curse, in the minds of many people, determined the destiny of the recipient of the pronouncement.

Isaac was a pitiful character.  The fact that his father, Abraham, had tried to kill him once must have messed him up psychologically.  Wife Rebekah plotted to deceive him in order to promote her second son, Jacob.  She succeeded, and the promise flowed through the second son again, Isaac having been the second son of Abraham.  The confirmation of the promise came in a dream about angels on a ladder.  But Jacob remained a trickster, one whom Laban fooled.  The promise of God, this chain of events tells me, does not depend on purity of human character or motivation.  This is good news, for it the divine promise did depend on such factors, it would be vain hope.

St. Paul the Apostle, after a long list of commendations in Romans 16, advised people to avoid

those who stir up quarrels and lead others astray, contrary to the teaching you received

–Romans 16:17b, The Revised English Bible (1989).

The process of sorting out core Christian doctrines entailed centuries of debates among those who asked sincere questions.  Many of these seekers of the truth were objectively wrong about certain details, but at least they proceeded from a good motivation.  When they were wrong, their contribution led to the formulation of correct doctrines, so we Christians of the twenty-first century are indebted to them.  St. Paul the Apostle might have considered some of these individuals to be among “those who stir up quarrels and lead others astray,” for he was quite opinionated.  There were also actual mischief-makers.  Maybe you, O reader, have encountered the type–people who ask questions to provoke, not to seek an answer.

Those who sow the seeds of dissension seem to have great internal discord, for those at peace with themselves make peace and troubled people cause trouble.  I have witnessed these dynamics in congregations.  And I recognize it in family life, such as in the account in Genesis 27 and 28.  Much of the narrative of the Old Testament reads like a catalog of bad parenting and of sibling rivalry.  The texts are honest about character flaws, though, so we modern readers need not feel guilty about thinking of them as less than heroic all the time.  These were flawed people–as we are–and God worked through them as God works through us.

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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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/flawed-agents-of-grace/

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Devotion for September 25 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Baptism_of_Christ_by_Tiffany

Above:  Baptism of Christ, by Louis Comfort Tiffany

Image Source = James G. Howes

Original text : © by James G. Howes, July 26, 2007.

Malachi and Matthew, Part I:  Proper Attitudes Toward God

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 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:

Malachi 1:1-14

Psalm 65 (Morning)

Psalms 125 and 91 (Evening)

Matthew 3:1-17

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We read of substandard, scornfully offered sacrifices at the Second Temple in Malachi 1.  These anger God, who, speaking through a messenger, accuses people of degrading the table to the Lord with blind animals and other indications of misplaced priorities.  I notice the Lamb of God (not called that in Matthew 3) in the Gospel lection and the deferential attitude of St. John the Baptist.  His was a proper mindset.

I do not have Jesus standing in front of me or the Temple to visit in Jerusalem, but I do see people as I drive, walk, and look around.  The Temple of God is within each of them and me, for all of us bear the image of God.   Therefore how I think of other people and act toward them indicates my spiritual state.  Those are forms of ritual sacrifice, in a way.  Sometimes I offer unblemished animals.  Yet I have offered blind ones too.  And I do not always see Jesus in those around me.  I do not always recognize the image of God in them.

There is grace, fortunately, so we can improve.  May we want to do so and behave accordingly.  Sometimes altering one’s actions changes one’s mind.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY EUPHRASIA PELLETIER, FOUNDER OF THE CONTEMPLATIVES OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

THE FEAST OF PARDITA MARY RAMABAI, SOCIAL REFORMER IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF CHAISE DIEU, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/malachi-and-matthew-part-i-proper-attitudes-toward-god/

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Week of Proper 20: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  Sherman Booth, U.S. Abolitionist (Died in 1904)

Legacies

SEPTEMBER 24, 25, and 26, 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

Proverbs 3:27-35 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Do not withhold good from one who deserves it

When you have the power to do it [for him].

Do not say to your fellow,

Come back again;

I’ll give it to you tomorrow,

when you have it with you.

Do not quarrel with a man for no cause,

When he has done you no harm.

Do not envy a lawless man,

Or choose any of his ways;

For the devious man is an abomination to the LORD,

But He is intimate with the straightforward.

The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked,

But He blesses the abode of the righteous.

At scoffers He scoffs,

But to the lowly He shows grace.

The wise shall obtain honor,

But dullards get disgrace as their portion.

FIRST READING FOR TUESDAY

Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Like channeled water is the mind of the king in the LORD’s hand;

He directs it to whatever He wishes.

All the ways of a man seem right to him,

But the LORD probes the mind.

To do what is right and just

Is more desired by the LORD than sacrifice.

Haughty looks, a proud heart–

The tillage of the wicked is sinful.

The plans of the diligent make only for gain;

All rash haste makes only for loss.

Treasures acquired by a lying tongue

Are like driven vapor, heading for extinction.

The desire of the wicked is set upon evil;

His fellowman finds no favor in his eyes.

When a scoffer is punished, the simple man is edified;

When a wise man is taught, he gains insight.

The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked man;

He subverts the wicked to their ruin.

Who stops his ears at the cry of the wretched,

He too will call and not be answered.

FIRST READING FOR WEDNESDAY

Proverbs 30:5-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Every word of God is pure,

A shield to those who take refuge in Him.

Do not add to His words,

Lest He indict you and you be proved a liar.

Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die;

Keep lies and false words far from me;

Give me neither poverty nor riches,

But provide me with my daily bread,

Les, being sated, I renounce, saying,

Who is the LORD?

Or, being impoverished, I take to theft

And profane the name of my God.

RESPONSE FOR MONDAY

Psalm 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, who may dwell in your 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.

3 There is no guile upon his tongue;

he does no evil to his friend;

he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.

In his sight the wicked is rejected,

but he honors those who fear the LORD.

5 He has sworn to do no wrong

and does not take back his word.

6 He does not give his money in hope of gain,

nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

shall never be overthrown.

RESPONSE FOR TUESDAY

Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

RESPONSE FOR WEDNESDAY

Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

GOSPEL READING FOR MONDAY

Luke 8:16-18 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or put it under a bed.  No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in.  For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light.  So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.

GOSPEL READING FOR TUESDAY

Luke 8:19-21 (The Jerusalem Bible):

His [Jesus’] mother and his brothers came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd.  He was told,

Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.

But he said in answer,

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.

GOSPEL READING FOR WEDNESDAY

Luke 9:1-6 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.  He said to them,

Take nothing the journey; neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.  Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there.  As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave the town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.

So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.

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The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Feast of Sherman Booth (August 10):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2009/12/11/feast-of-sherman-booth-august-10/

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To do what is right and just

Is more desired by the LORD than sacrifice.

–Proverbs 21:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

As a student of history, I know well that secrets (the documented ones, at least), emerge in time.  Our lives contain patterns, and we will not be able to conceal our true selves forever.  So it is best, from a purely selfish point of view, not to have deep, dark secrets.  Rather, if we are to go down to scorn or risk doing so, may we do so for doing the right thing, for acting justly and righteously.  Then the scorn will reflect harshly on the ones who heap scorn, not on the scorned.

There are many cases of this in the Bible.  A few–Tobit, Jeremiah, Elijah, Jesus, and John the Baptist–come to mind immediately.  A more recent example is Sherman Booth (see a link above), who made himself a criminal to free a fugitive slave.  Booth has obtained honor while those who persecuted (and prosecuted) him him have earned disgrace.  All this is appropriate.

May we–you, O reader, and I–live in such a way as to obtain honor.

The wise shall obtain honor,

But dullards get disgrace as their portion.

–Proverbs 3:35, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/legacies/

Week of Proper 20: Wednesday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Bypass Near Mecca, Saudi Arabia (So Non-Muslims Will Not Enter Mecca)

Image Source = Saicome

Legalism Versus Compassion

SEPTEMBER 25, 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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Ezra 9:5-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

At the time of the evening offering I ended my self-affliction; still in my torn garment and robe, I got down on my knees and spread out my hands to the LORD my God, and said,

O my God, I am too ashamed and mortified to lift my face to You, O my God, for our iniquities are overwhelming and our guilt has grown high as heaven.  From the time of our fathers to this very day we have been deep in guilt.  Because of our iniquities, we, our kings, and our priests have been handed over to foreign kings, to the sword, to captivity, to pillage, and to humiliation, as is now the case.

But now, for a short while, there has been a reprieve from the LORD our God, who has granted us a surviving remnant and given us a stake in His holy place; our God has restored the luster of our eyes and furnished us with a little sustenance in our bondage.  For bondsmen we are, though even in our bondage God has not forsaken us, but has disposed the king of Persia favorably toward us, to furnish us with sustenance and to raise again the House of our God, repairing its ruins and giving us a hold in Judah and Jerusalem….

then:

Canticle 11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Isaiah 60:1-3, 11a, 14c, 18-19, followed by the Trinitarian formula:

Arise, shine, for your light has come,

and the glory of the Lord has dawned upon you.

For behold, darkness covers the land;

deep gloom enshrouds the peoples.

But over you the Lord will rise,

and his glory will appear upon you.

Nations will stream to your light,

and kings to the brightness of our dawning.

Your gates will always be open;

by day or night they will never be shut.

They will call you, The City of the Lord,

The Zion of the Holy One of Israel.

Violence will no more be heard in your land,

ruin or destruction within your borders.

You will call your walls, Salvation,

and all your portals, Praise.

The sun will no more be your light by day;

by night you will not need the brightness of the moon.

The Lord will be your everlasting light,

and your God will be your glory.

Glory to the Father, and the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

or this:

Psalm 48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised;

in the city of our God is his holy hill.

2 Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion,

the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

3 God is in her citadels;

he is known to be her sure refuge.

4 Behold, the kings of the earth assembled

and marched forward together.

5 They looked and were astonished;

they retreated and fled in terror.

6 Trembling seized them there;

they writhed like a woman in childbirth,

like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.

7 As we have heard, so have we seen,

in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God;

God has established her for ever.

8 We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God,

in the midst of your temple.

9 Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end;

your right hand is full of justice.

10 Let Mount Zion be glad

in the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments.

11 Make the circuit of Zion;

walk round about her;

count the number of her towers.

12 Consider well her bulwarks;

examine her strongholds;

that you may tell those who come after.

13 This God is our God for ever and ever;

he shall be our guide for ever more.

then:

Luke 9:1-6 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.  He said to them,

Take nothing the journey; neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.  Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there.  As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave the town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.

So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.

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The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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I suppose that the planners of this lectionary paired the Ezra and Luke readings with the intention that the reader would focus on depending on God and giving thanks for divine patience in the face of protracted human disobedience.  Following that plan is not my intention today.

I do not like the Chronicles-Ezra-Nehemiah books, for they are too nationalistic and prone to whitewashing for my comfort.  In contrast, the books of Samuel and Kings are brutally honest. There we read about the sins of King David, for example.  And there we learn of a civil war between the forces of Saul (and his successor) and those of David.  But there is no civil war after Saul’s death, at least in Chronicles.

And then there is the matter of intermarriage in the Book of Ezra.  This is why Ezra is beside himself.  And, after the reading ends, the expulsion of Gentile wives and children ensues.  This is a profoundly disturbing episode in the Bible, and the Book of Ezra presents it in a positive light.

Maybe my current preoccupation with the importance of family, due in part to my awareness of my family and the fragility of some of members thereof, accounts primarily for the extent of my objection to the episode from Ezra.  Yet I have long been uncomfortable with this text, and I refuse to think that I must believe certain ugly ideas because somebody who wrote part of the Bible espoused them.  Compassion, as I have written before on the blog, is the trump card.  And, if we cannot show compassion for our relatives, for whom can we do this?

In other words, what about the feelings and needs of the expelled wives and children?

Do not misunderstand me.  I grasp the concept that family ought to be where one hands down the faith.  If ever I leave my bachelorhood behind, I will seek a woman with spiritual values similar to my own.  But God loves Jews and Gentiles, people like “us” and people different from “us,” domestic-born and foreign-born–all alike.  Jesus, our Lord, cut through pure-impure distinctions during his ministry, making enemies along the way.  I seek to follow in his footsteps, not those of Ezra.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/legalism-versus-compassion/