Archive for the ‘September 26’ Category

Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 21, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Gathering of the Manna

Above:   The Gathering of the Manna, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

Artificial Scarcity and Human Needs

SEPTEMBER 26, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world.

Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 22:2-16

Psalm 146

2 Corinthians 8:8-15

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The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked.

–Psalm 146:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To profit by withholding what is due to the poor

Is like making gifts to the rich–pure loss.

–Proverbs 22:16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The lection for 2 Corinthians 8 follows a few verses in which St. Paul the Apostle lauded the Macedonian churches which, in the midst of great affliction, gave financially beyond their means for the benefit of the church at Jerusalem.  St. Paul advised the factious church at Corinth to follow that example, thereby proving the genuineness of their love.  Recalling the equitable distribution of manna in Exodus 16:18, he quoted the standard that

He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack.

Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

To help those who are less fortunate is a divine commandment, not a suggestion.  People of good will disagree on the best way to fulfill that mandate.  Sometimes I am uncertain of how to obey it in the moment, as I drive and see a beggar at an intersection in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.  There exists a social safety net, composed of public and private sector agencies, but it is insufficient to help all who need it.  Furthermore, not all of the beggars are really in need; they cast suspicion on those beggars who are needy.  And reports of aggressive panhandlers cast more suspicion on those who need help.  Knowing that one should help the less fortunate is easier than knowing how to help them most effectively.

Artificial scarcity is a feature of human economic systems, but, in God’s economics, this is not the case.  Those who have much do not have too much and those who have little still have enough.  That is a vision of the social reality of the Kingdom of God, in which hording is not a spiritual virtue.  Money is a useful tool and a morally neutral thing.  How one relates to it, however, is not.

As for how best to help those who are less fortunate, may God lead us (individually and collectively) in responding faithfully and effectively to human needs.  A leader, by definition, is someone whom others follow.  If one has no followers, one is simply taking a walk.  May we follow God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/artificial-scarcity-and-human-needs/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 20, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jeremiah Sistine Chapel

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel

Image in the Public Domain

Violence and Nonviolent People

SEPTEMBER 26, 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:

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 139:1-18

John 8:21-38

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How deep I find your thoughts, O God!

how great is the sum of them!

If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand;

to count them all, my lifespan would need to be like yours.

–Psalm 139:16-17, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Many people (especially those who opposed Jeremiah and Jesus) had a different opinion.  Both men had to contend with violence and threats thereof because of their faithful witness to God.  One died in exile; the other endured crucifixion, died, rose again, and returned to Heaven.  Their messages have endured, fortunately.

I have thought deeply about why so many people resort to violence in opposition to nonviolent adversaries.  Jeremiah, who lived in a theocratic puppet state of a foreign power, challenged the legitimate authorities of his realm.  He called them what they were.  Those authorities were politically legitimate, but they were proving ruinous to the kingdom, such as it was.  Jesus challenged a theocratic Temple system which exploited the poor, collaborated with the Roman Empire, and peddled a piety dependent upon prosperity.  He, by words, deeds, and mere existence, made clear that the Temple system was wrong.  In both cases authority figures depended upon their privileges.  To the extent that they excused their violence as righteous they belied their claims of righteousness.

President Abraham Lincoln cautioned against claiming that God was on one’s side.  A good question, he said, is whether one is on God’s side.  Determining the definition of God’s side is often easier after the fact than in the moment, however.  Many professing American Christians with orthodox Christology defended chattel slavery by quoting the Bible in the 1800s.  At the time many others quoted the same sacred anthology to make the opposite argument.  I know which group was on God’s side.  However, I also have the benefit of 150 years of hindsight since the end of the Civil War.

Arguments in which impassioned people who differ strongly with each other and invoke God continue.  Not all sides can be correct, of course.  May the invocation of God to justify bigotry cease.  May the use of allegedly sacred violence follow suit.  Such violence flows from heated rhetoric, which flows from hostile thoughts.  Peace (or at least a decrease of violence) begins between one’s ears.

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/violence-and-nonviolent-people/

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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 26 and 27 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

High Priest and Levite

Above:  A High Priest and a Levite

Image in the Public Domain

Malachi and Matthew, Part II:  Exploitative Priests

THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 26, 2019, and FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 27, 2010

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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 2:1-3:5 (September 26)

Malachi 3:6-24 (September 27–Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Malachi 3:6-4:6 (September 27–Protestant Versification)

Psalm 143 (Morning–September 26)

Psalm 86 (Morning–September 27)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–September 26)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–September 27)

Matthew 4:1-11 (September 26)

Matthew 4:12-25 (September 27)

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Show me a sign of your favor,

so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,

because you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

–Psalm 86:17, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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But you have turned away from the cause:  You have made many stumble through your rulings; you have corrupted the covenant of the Levites–said the LORD of Hosts.  And I, in turn, have made you despicable and vile in the eyes of all the people, because you disregard My ways and show partiality in your rulings.

–Malachi 2:8-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Malachi, speaking for God, condemned priests who abused their privileged positions by accepting unacceptable sacrifices from wealthy people and who ruled improperly against the less fortunate.  The imagery was quite vivid, for God would

strew dung

–2:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

upon the priests’ faces.  And God objected to other injustices, including cheating laborers, widows, orphans, and strangers.  These offenses concluded a thought which began with practicing sorcery, committing adultery, and swearing falsely.  (See 3:5.)

Malachi affirmed obeying the Law of Moses:

From the very days of your fathers you have turned from My laws and not observed them.  Turn back to Me and I will turn back to you–said the LORD of Hosts.

–3:6-7a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

One important reality to grasp when pondering the Law of Moses is that modern Classical Liberal notions of individualism were

not the ancient Israelite’s experience of freedom…because the Israelite was not his own master, but God’s slave.  His acknowledgement of the divine kingship gave him responsibilities to his fellow Israelites.

–Richard Bauckham, The Bible in Politics:  How to Read the Bible Politically, 2d. ed.  (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011, page 107)

The most basic of these responsibilities was to care for others actively and effectively.

The temptations of Jesus, which I interpret as mythic, do reflect a refusal to, among other things, behave in self-aggrandizing ways.  In fact, I understand the reality of the Incarnation as the opposite of self-aggrandizement.  Our Lord and Savior’s model of service to others reinforces this theme.  His call to follow him echoes down to today.

Despite the protests of Malachi and the example of Jesus many self-identified Christian leaders have exploited others, not served them in the name God, and/or condoned such exploitation or neglect.  This reality continues to be true, unfortunately.  May this cease, by divine grace and human free will.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MURIN OF FAHAN, LASERIAN OF LEIGHLIN, GOBAN OF PICARDIE, FOILLAN OF FOSSES, AND ULTAN OF PERONNE, ABBOTTS; AND OF SAINTS FURSEY OF PERONNE AND BLITHARIUS OF SEGANNE, MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALPHEGE OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF THE INCARNATION, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON BARSABAE, BISHOP; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/malachi-and-matthew-part-ii-exploitative-priests/

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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: Thursday, Year 1   6 comments

Above:  Icon of Haggai

Image in the Public Domain

Priorities, Temporal and Eternal

SEPTEMBER 26, 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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Haggai 1:1-8 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, this word of the LORD came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, the governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest:

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:  These people say, “The time has not yet come for rebuilding the House of the Lord.”

And the word of the LORD through the prophet Haggai continued:

Is it a time for you to dwell in your paneled houses, while this House is lying in ruins?  Now thus said the LORD of Hosts:  Consider how you have been faring!  You have sowed much and brought in little; you eat without being satisfied; you drink without getting your fill; you clothe yourselves, but no one gets warm; and he who earns anything earns it for a leaky purse.

Thus said the said the LORD of Hosts:

Consider how you have fared:  Go up to the hills and get timber, and rebuild the House; then I will look on it with favor and I will be glorified

–said the LORD.

Psalm 149 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker;

let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

3 Let them praise his Name in the dance;

let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.

4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people

and adorns the poor with victory.

5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph;

let them be joyful on their beds.

6 Let the praises of God be in their throat

and a two-edged sword in their hand;

7 To wreak vengeance on the nations

and punishment on the peoples;

8 To bind their kings in chains

and their nobles with links of iron;

9 To inflict on them the judgment decreed;

this is the glory for all his faithful people.

Hallelujah!

Luke 9:7-9 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Meanwhile Herod the tetrarch had heard all that was going on; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life.  But Herod said,

John?  I beheaded him.  So who is this that I hear such reports about?

And he was anxious to see him.

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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 leave the consideration of the reading from Luke to the related posts.  Instead, I focus on the lesson from Haggai here.

The oracle is dated August 29, 520 B.C.E., according to our Gregorian Calendar.  This date falls within the second year of the reign of King Darius I, who has just consolidated his power after a civil war.  Almost nineteen years have passed since King Cyrus II permitted Jews in Babylonia to return to their ancestral homeland, and the temple is still in ruins.

There are socio-political factors to consider.  For example, one did not just begin to construct a temple when one felt like it.  No, this was the responsibility of a king–in this case, Darius I.  Such an undertaking bestowed prestige on its sponsor.  Such subtleties may be lost on modern readers.  In fact, I had to look up all this information in The Jewish Study Bible.  One may assume that ancient Jewish readers of the text would have understood these facts.

The message of this text, however, is that the reconstruction of the Temple is essential to prosperity for the returned exiles.  It is a question of priorities, Haggai reports; do you value the temporal more than the eternal?

By eternal I mean “of God.”  This has nothing to do with time and is not restricted to the afterlife.  So eternal life, for example, is life in God.  As the Gospel of John defines it (in 17:3), eternal life is “to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent.”

That which we sow we also reap.  The Gospels tell us this.  So, with this thought in mind, reconsider these words from Luke 6:20b-26, the Beatitudes and Woes and from the Sermon on the Plain:

How happy are you who are poor:  yours is the kingdom of God.

Happy you who are hungry now:  you will be satisfied.

Happy you who weep now:  you shall laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

But alas for you who are rich:  you are having your consolation now.

Alas for you who have your fill now:  you shall go hungry.

Alas for you who laugh now:  you shall moun and weep.

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

(The Jerusalem Bible)

Then read the section from Haggai again, noticing the similarities.

I write these words during a time of global recession brought about by the  irresponsible fiscal policies of a relative few people.  Prosperity is good, especially when it is widespread, permitting people to be financially independent.  There is always plenty for everybody in God’s economy, but artificial scarcity seems to be part of human economic systems.  This is sinful; there is no other way to state the matter.

But let us look upon the current dire straights as opportunities for setting and pursuing righteous goals, for establishing eternal priorities.  And may our Lord and Savior, per Luke, be our guide.  May we seek what we need for ourselves and others, but not luxury.  May we take this opportunity to simplify our appetites and lifestyles, as God directs us.  May we seek that which lasts–that treasure which moth and rust can never destroy.  And may we find prosperity of a sort no economic downturn can affect, because this wealth is not of this world.

And so may we find true liberation.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/priorities-temporal-and-eternal/