Archive for the ‘September 30’ Category

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 21, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler

Above:   Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

The Individual and the Collective

SEPTEMBER 30, 2019

OCTOBER 1, 2019

OCTOBER 2, 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:

Amos 6:8-14 (Monday)

Hosea 9-15 (Tuesday)

Hosea 12:2-14 (Wednesday)

Psalm 62 (All Days)

Revelation 3:14-22 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:16-22 (Wednesday)

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For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

He alone is my rock and salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

In God is my safety and honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

Put your trust in him always, people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

–Psalm 62:6-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The assigned readings for these three days, taken together, condemn the following:

  1. Collective hubris (Amos 6),
  2. Collective iniquity, especially economic injustice (Hosea 10 and 12, James 5),
  3. Collective iniquity, especially idolatry (Hosea 12),
  4. Collective lukewarmness in relation to God (Revelation 3), and
  5. Trusting in wealth, not God (James 5, Matthew 19).

One might notice that four of the five sins are collective and that the fifth sin has both collective and individual elements.  This is a partial list of sins, of course, but it is a fine beginning to one’s process of spiritual self-examination or another stage in that process.  Does one have hubris?  If so, that is a sin.  Does one participate in collective hubris?  If so, one needs to confess and to repent of that sin.  One can repeat those forms of questions for the remaining four items on the list above.

Protestantism, for all of its virtues, does place too much emphasis on the individual and too little stress on the collective elements of spiritual life.  May we strive to seek the proper balance between the two and succeed, by grace.

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/the-individual-and-the-collective/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 21, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Robinson's Arch

Above:  Robinson’s Arch, Jerusalem, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, Between 1898 and 1914

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07504

Money, Status, and Ego

SEPTEMBER 28, 29, and 30, 2017

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The Collect:

God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings.

Give us your grace to overcome them,

keep us from those things that harm us,

and guide us in the way of salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 12:17-28 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 18:5-18 (Friday)

Ezekiel 18:19-24 (Saturday)

Psalm 25:1-9 (All Days)

James 4:11-16 (Thursday)

Acts 13:32-41 (Friday)

Mark 11:27-22 (Saturday)

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Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches he way to the lowly.

All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness

to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

–Psalm 25:7-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these days combine to form a tapestry about sin, righteousness, judgment (both human and divine), and forgiveness.  The lessons also overlap like circles in a Venn Diagram.  This richness of content from various sources explains why I have chosen to write from the Complementary Series of the daily lectionary attached to the (mostly Sunday) Revised Common Lectionary.  There is also a continuous reading track, but this one works better for me.

We humans make decisions every day.  As a poster I heard of years ago declares, “YOU CANNOT NOT DECIDE.”  We decide to take one course of action or another one.  Sometimes we decide to do nothing.  Thus, when we sin, we might do so via commission or omission.  There will be consequences of sins and sometimes even for proper deeds; one cannot evade their arrival forever.  No matter how much God approves or disapproves of certain deeds, some human beings will have a different opinion.  Thus divine judgment might seem to arrive late or not at all in some cases and those innocent of a great offense suffer for the sake of righteousness.

Ezekiel 18 makes clear the point that God evaluates us based on what we do and do not do, not on what any ancestor did (or has done) and did not do (or has not done.)  Yes, as I have mentioned in a recent post at this weblog, parts of the Torah either disagree with that point or seem to do so.  Why should the Bible not contradict itself in places, given the lengthy span on its composition?  To expect consistency on every point is to harbor unrealistic expectations.  This why we also need tradition and reason, not just scripture, when arriving at theological decisions.  Anyhow, Ezekiel 18 tells us God does not evaluate us based on what our grandparents did.  This is good news.  What they did might still affect us negatively and/or positively, however.  I can identity such influences reaching back to some of my great-grandparents, in fact.  But I am responsible for my sins, not theirs.  As James 4:17 (The Revised English Bible, 1989) tells us:

What it comes to is that anyone who knows the right thing to do and does not do it a sinner.

Sometimes we know right from wrong and choose the latter because it is easier than the former.  I think that this summary applies to our Lord’s questioners in Mark 11:27-33.  Jesus, already having entered Jerusalem triumphantly while looking like a victorious king en route to the peace negotiations after battle, had also scared the living daylights out of money changers exploiting the pious poor at the Temple.  Our Lord and Savior was challenging a religious system in league with the Roman Empire.  And he was doing so during the days leading up to the annual celebration of Passover, which was about God’s act of liberating the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  The man was not keeping a low profile.  He was doing the right things and his questioners were attempting to entrap him verbally.  I suspect that they knew that he was the genuine article and that they preferred to lie to themselves and to oppose him rather than to follow him.  They had matters of money, status, and ego to consider, after all.

Are they really quite different from many of us?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGIA HARKNESS, UNITED METHODIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF WALES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/money-status-and-ego/

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Devotion for September 30 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

ArchUGA1

Above: The Arch, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Image Source = Josh Hallett

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part III:  For the Benefit of Others

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 30, 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:

Deuteronomy 1:37-2:15

Psalm 62 (Morning)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening)

Matthew 6:1-15

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Jesus, in Matthew 6:1-15, sets the tone with the first verse:

Be careful not to parade your religion before others; if you do, no reward awaits you with your Father in heaven.

The Revised English Bible

This does not mean that religion is or should be a purely private matter, for the truth remains that as one thinks, so one behaves.  The point pertains to motivation.

Aside:  Purely private religion is the opposite of theocracy, of which I am also very critical.  

Evangelicalism, as I have experienced it, is very extroverted.  I, on the other hand, am introverted.  So I have felt out of place around many Evangelicals  much of the time for this and other reasons, including rampant anti-intellectualism (not on my part) and discomfort (also not on my part) with the number and nature of theological questions I am fond of asking and exploring.  I am an Episcopalian, so I like to ask questions.  And I, as an introvert, am especially loathe to wear my religion on my sleeve, but am obviously not reluctant to be openly religious in public.  I do prefer, however, to be so in a generally quiet manner.  And I will not knock on doors as part of an effort to convert others, for I dislike it when others knock on my door for that purpose.  Besides, many people whom I have encountered do not know how to take “no” for an answer; their bad manners offend me.  (Certain Mormons have been especially guilty of such rudeness at my front door.)  That which I do not like others to do to me I try not to do them.  How is that for attempting to live according to the Golden Rule?

One problem of which we read in Deuteronomy 1:37-2:15 is flouting the commandments of God.  There was no public-private distinction in this case, for the the flouting was both public and private.

Doing good deeds in secret, for the benefit of another or others, not for one’s own glory, is righteous and selfless.  It is pure, or at least as close to pure as a human act of kindness can be.  Being sincere before God and not showing off one’s religiosity is honest.  And it does not constitute flouting the commandments of God.

I choose to write about one more aspect of the Matthew lection.  One command of God I have experienced great difficulty in not flouting is forgiving certain people.  It is easy to forgive some yet not others.  But my mandate is is not to make such distinctions.  This struggle continues for me, but spiritual progress has occurred, by grace.  I detect much room for further progress, but I take this opportunity to rejoice in that spiritual progress which has taken place.

It can be difficult to forgive those who have harmed us.  I have my own list of such people; it includes a small group of professors at the Department of History of The University of Georgia.  Their deeds were perfidious; I will not claim otherwise and nothing can change the reality of their perfidy.  But they have only as much power over me now, years after the fact, as I grant them.  And I grant them none.  I refuse to carry grudges against them, for the burdens have proved too heavy for me to shoulder.  I do hope and pray that these professors have, for their sake and those of others, abandoned their perfidious ways.  If they have not done so, that is a matter for God and others to address; my own issues fill my time.

As I think so I am.  As I think, so I behave.  As you think, O reader, so you are and behave.  May we, by grace, be and behave as God approves, for the benefit of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-iii-for-the-benefit-of-others/

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/

Proper 21, Year B   12 comments

Above:  Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Responsibility for Others

The Sunday Closest to September 28

The Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 30, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Esther 7:1-6, 9-10; 9:20-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

The king and Haman went in to feast with Queen Esther. On the second day, as they were drinking wine, the king again said to Esther,

What is your petition, Queen Esther? It shall be granted you. And what is your request? Even to the half of my kingdom, it shall be fulfilled.

Then Queen Esther answered,

If I have won your favor, O king, and if it pleases the king, let my life be given me– that is my petition– and the lives of my people– that is my request. For we have been sold, I and my people, to be destroyed, to be killed, and to be annihilated. If we had been sold merely as slaves, men and women, I would have held my peace; but no enemy can compensate for this damage to the king.

Then King Ahasuerus said to Queen Esther,

Who is he, and where is he, who has presumed to do this?” Esther said, “A foe and enemy, this wicked Haman!

Then Haman was terrified before the king and the queen.

Then Harbona, one of the eunuchs in attendance on the king, said,

Look, the very gallows that Haman has prepared for Mordecai, whose word saved the king, stands at Haman’s house, fifty cubits high.

And the king said,

Hang him on that.

So they hanged Haman on the gallows that he had prepared for Mordecai. Then the anger of the king abated.

Mordecai recorded these things, and sent letters to all the Jews who were in all the provinces of King Ahasuerus, both near and far, enjoining them that they should keep the fourteenth day of the month Adar and also the fifteenth day of the same month, year by year, as the days on which the Jews gained relief from their enemies, and as the month that had been turned for them from sorrow into gladness and from mourning into a holiday; that they should make them days of feasting and gladness, days for sending gifts of food to one another and presents to the poor.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say;

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then the waters would have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

Then would the raging waters

have gone over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Numbers 11:4-6, 10-16, 24-29 (New Revised Standard Version):

The rabble among them had a strong craving; and the Israelites also wept again, and said,

If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.

Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the LORD became very angry, and Moses was displeased. So Moses said to the LORD,

Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, “Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,” to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, “Give us meat to eat!” I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once–if I have found favor in your sight–and do not let me see my misery.

So the LORD said to Moses,

Gather for me seventy of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; bring them to the tent of meeting, and have them take their place there with you.

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the LORD; and he gathered seventy elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the LORD came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses,

Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.

And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said,

My lord Moses, stop them!

But Moses said to him,

Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the LORD’s people were prophets, and that the LORD would put his spirit on them!

Psalm 19:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

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

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

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

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

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

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

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults?

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

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

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

SECOND READING

James 5:13-20 (Revised English Bible):

Is anyone among you in trouble?  Let him pray.  Is anyone in good heart?  Let him sing praises.  Is one of you ill?  Let him send for the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord; the prayer offered in faith will heal the sick man, the Lord will restore him to health, and if he has committed sins they will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  A good man’s prayer is very powerful and effective.  Elijah was a man just like us; yet when he prayed fervently that there should be no rain, the land had no rain for three and a half years; when he prayed again, the rain poured down and the land bore crops once more.

My friends, if one of you strays from the truth and another succeeds in bringing him back, you may be sure of this:  the one who brings a sinner back from his erring ways will be rescuing a soul from death and cancelling a multitude of sins.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 9:38-41 (Revised English Bible):

John said to him,

Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and as he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.

Jesus said,

Do not stop him, for no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able the next moment to speak evil of me.  He is not against us is on our side.  Truly I tell you:  whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you are followers of the Messiah will certainly not go unrewarded.

If anyone causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck.  If your hand causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better for you to enter into life maimed than to keep both hands and go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  If your foot causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better to enter into life crippled than to keep both your feet  and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes your downfall, tear it out; it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.

Everyone will be salted with fire.

Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?

You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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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Some Related Posts:

Proper 21, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/proper-21-year-a/

Numbers 11:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/week-of-proper-13-monday-year-1/

James 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-7-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-proper-2-saturday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-wednesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-thursday-year-1/

Mark 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/week-of-7-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/week-of-7-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Luke 17 (Parallel to Mark 9):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-monday-year-1/

For the Canadian Federal Election (2011):

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/for-the-canadian-federal-election-2011/

For the Prime Minister of Japan:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/16/for-the-prime-minister-of-japan/

O Canada!:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/23/o-canada/

For the President and Prime Minister of France:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/for-the-president-and-the-prime-minister-of-france/

For the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/for-the-prime-minister-of-the-united-kingdom-of-great-britain-and-northern-ireland/

For the President of the United States and All in Civil Authority:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/for-the-president-of-the-united-states-and-all-in-civil-authority/

For the Prime Minister of Canada:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/for-the-prime-minister-of-canada/

Thanksgiving for New Zealand:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/08/thanksgiving-for-new-zealand/

For Canada:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/for-canada/

God Save the Queen/King:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/god-save-the-queenking/

Jerusalem:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/jerusalem-by-william-blake/

A Prayer for Those Who Influence Public Opinion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-those-who-influence-opinion/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

A Prayer for All Who Seek or Hold Public Office in Any Land at Any Time:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/for-all-who-seek-or-hold-public-office-in-any-land-at-any-time/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/13/for-all-who-seek-or-hold-public-office-in-any-land-at-any-time/

A Prayer for Shalom:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-for-shalom/

Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/where-cross-the-crowded-ways-of-life/

O Lord, You Gave Your Servant John:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

Prayers for Cities, Neighborhoods, Communities, and Those Who Serve Them:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

God Bless Our Native Land:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/god-bless-our-native-land/

A Prayer for Our Country:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-for-our-country/

Independence Day (U.S.A.):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2009/10/18/independence-day-july-4/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/independence-day-u-s-a-july-4/

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We are responsible for ourselves and for others.  That is the theme which unifies the readings for Proper 21, Year B.

We begin with the options for the first reading. Haman had plotted to destroy the Jews, and had seemed to be near achieving success.  Yet the intervention–at the risk of her own life–of Queen Esther foiled Haman’s evil plans.  And what about Numbers 11?  Israelites, bored with the monotony of manna (probably crystalized insect excrement), complained about the lack of meat.  If one reads more than the assigned portions of this chapter, one finds that they got meat until they stood hip-deep in quails.  As some grammatically-challenged people might have said,

That’ll learn ’em.

In the meantime, Moses complained to God that the burden of leadership was too heavy for him to bear alone.  So he got a council of seventy elders to help.  One moral of the story, I suppose, is to be careful about one’s complaints to God.

James and Jesus, the latter in Mark, remind us in positive and negative terms of the principle that we are responsible for each other spiritually.  And, in Mark, we read some hyperbolic language about removing one’s own stumbling blocks.  Our Lord did not advocate mutilation.  Rather, the principle is simple and not unique to Mark 9:  Whatever stands between you and God, get rid of it.  Besides, how can you avoid being a stumbling block to others if you are so severely spiritually errant?  Can the blind lead the blind to safety?  What we do affects others.  What we do not do affects others.

May we act responsible, whether alone or collectively.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/responsibility-for-others/

Week of Proper 21: Monday, Year 1   18 comments

Above:  President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (In Office 1933-1945)

Image in the Public Domain

Having Hope When That is Difficult

SEPTEMBER 30, 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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Zechariah 8:1-8 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD of Hosts came [to me]:

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:

I am very jealous for Zion; I am fiercely jealous for her.

Thus said the LORD:

I have returned to Zion, and I will dwell in Jerusalem.  Jerusalem will be called the city of Faithfulness, and the mount of the LORD of Hosts the Holy Mount.

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:

There shall yet be of old men and women in the squares of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of their great age.  And the squares of the city shall be crowded with boys and girls playing in the squares.

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:

Though it will seem impossible to the remnant of this people in those days, shall it also be impossible to Me?

–declares the LORD of Hosts.

Thus said the LORD of Hosts:

I will rescue My people from the lands of the east and from the lands of the west, and I will bring them home to dwell in Jerusalem.  They shall be My people, and I will be their God–in truth and sincerity.

Psalm 102:11-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11  My days pass away like a shadow,

and I wither like grass.

12  But you, O LORD, endure for ever,

and your Name from age to age.

13  You will arise and have compassion on Zion,

for it is time to have mercy upon her;

indeed, the appointed time has come.

14  For your servants love her very rubble,

and are moved to pity even for her dust.

15  The nations shall fear your Name, O LORD,

and all the kings of the earth your glory.

16  For the LORD will build up Zion,

and his glory will appear.

17  He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless;

he will not despise their plea.

18  Let this be written for a future generation,

so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD.

19  For the LORD looked down from his holy place on high;

from the heavens he beheld the earth;

20  That he might hear the groan of the captive

and set free those condemned to die;

21  That they may declare in Zion the Name of the LORD,

and his praise in Jerusalem;

22  When the peoples are gathered together,

and the kingdoms also, to serve the LORD.

Luke 9:46-50 (The Jerusalem Bible):

An argument started between them [the Apostles] about which of them was the greatest.  Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and said to them,

Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.

John spoke up.

 Master,

he said,

we saw a man casting out devils in your name, and spoke because he is not with us we tried to stop him.

But Jesus said to him,

You must not stop him:  anyone who is not against you is for you.

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The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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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Franklin Delano Roosevelt, former Assistant Secretary of the Navy and Democratic nominee for Vice President of the United States in the 1920 election, came down with polio in 1921.  The disease carried a great stigma in those days, so FDR’s career seemed over.  Surely he would spend the rest of his days as a wealthy and paralyzed person.  But his future held the following events:

  • Election as Governor of New York in 1928
  • Re-election in 1930
  • Election as President of the United States in 1932
  • Re-election in 1936, 1940, and 1944
  • Leadership of the nation during the Great Depression and almost all of World War II

All of this was the lot of a man who could not pick himself off the floor when he fell out of his wheelchair.  Yet none of it would have occurred if he had not pursued higher office and others, especially his wife, Eleanor, had not supported him.

Sometimes it is difficult to have hope, for the darkness seems overwhelming.  (I know this fact from a time in my life, albeit a period far less dramatic than 1921-1928 for FDR.)  But there is always hope, if we will grasp it.  And we are not alone; we have God and fellow human beings to help us.  We are not lone wolves and we need not pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.  Rather, we need to do the best we can and rely on our support systems for the rest.  The dependence is mutual, for we lean on others, who, in turn, rely on us.

The reading from Zechariah and the matching portion of Psalm 102 speak of future hope.  Nothing is impossible with God, Zechariah tells us.  In the meantime, the process of restoration, aided by Persian kings and their agents, had begun.  There was a long way yet to go, but at least the process had begun.  So the imperative was to be patient and remain faithful, confident that members of a subsequent generation would witness the fulfillment of the prophecy.

This ethic requires one to think past the desire for instant gratification and the quick fix.  There is no quick fix in this situation, Zechariah says, but there is a fix.  It is in God’s hands, so people ought to leave it there.

Franklin Roosevelt never walked on his own power again, but he helped the United States survive the Great Depression without a revolution.  He gave hope to many people, thereby enabling them to keep going during difficult times.  Hope is a valuable commodity, and hopelessness is devastating.  The latter is, in fact, a major cause of suicide.

Of course, I write these words in a condition of relative comfort.  This sentiment of hopefulness is easy for me to espouse, some might say.  And it is, but I have known very dark times and suicidal feelings, on which I was too terrified to act.  By grace, including human support, I have emerged from the darkness.  My time in darkness strengthened my faith and reminded me that life is a precious gift.  There is always hope, I have learned; all I need to do is grasp it while trusting in God and following this hope in community.

This hope, channeled via people, comes from God, in whom those society considers the least are the greatest.  This hope comes from God, who disregards distinctions to which we gravitate and according to which we define ourselves.  So this hope threatens many people.  This fact indicates the presence of a sin and impels the necessity of repentance–the act of turning around and changing one’s mind.

This hope, however, appeals to those who need it most and who do not hold on to erroneously-based identifications.  It appeals to those who cling to God, who is the only acceptable crutch.

Yes, there is always hope, but we cannot carry our illusions when we walk with the aid of the crutch that is God.  We must lighten our loads during our pilgrimages of faith.  May we do so.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/having-hope-when-that-is-difficult/