Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians 3’ Tag

Devotion for Labor Day (U.S.A.)   Leave a comment

Above:  Labor Day, by Samuel D. Ehrhart

Published in Puck Magazine, September 1, 1909

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-26406

Affirming the Dignity of Work in Words and Deeds

SEPTEMBER 6, 2020

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) contains a collect and assigned readings for Labor Day.

Interdependence is a cardinal virtue in the Law of Moses.  Interdependence is also obvious, or should be.  Somehow, especially in the global West, the idea of rugged individualism persists.  Yet, no matter how hard or well one works, one drives on roads other people built, relies on technology other people invented or maintain, and depends on many other people might guess at first thought.  Anyone who can read this post with comprehension relies on hosts of educators, for example.

As I affirm that I depend on the work of others, just as others depend on my work, I also affirm the dignity of work.  Therefore, I argue for certain propositions:

  1. Nobody should have to work in a death trap or a sweatshop;
  2. All wages should be living wages;
  3. People should work to live, not live to work;
  4. Union organizing and collective bargaining should be inviolable rights; and
  5. Access to affordable, quality health care is an inalienable right.

Nobody has a moral right to exploit anyone else.  No institution has a moral right to exploit any person.  After all, people should be more important than profits.

Furthermore, all work should benefit societies or communities.  By this standard most jobs pass the test.  We need plumbers and bus drivers, for example, but we also need actors, poets, and novelists.  In a just world teachers, librarians, police officers, and fire fighters would be some of the best paid professionals, but that is not the world in which we live, unfortunately.  It can be, however.  A society is what its members make it.  Sufficient force of public opinion, applied well, changes policies.  The major obstacle to positive social change is resignation to the current reality.

Furthermore, the best kind of work is also indistinguishable from play.  Work ought not only to provide financial support for one but also fulfill intangible needs.  Work, at its best, is something one who performs it enjoys.  Work should improve, not detract from, one’s quality of life.

Work does, of course, assume many forms, at home and out like the home.  One should never forget that a stay-at-home parent is a working parent.  One should never forget that one who leaves the labor force to become a caregiver for a relative is still working, just without wages.  One should acknowledge that those who, for various reasons, cannot join the labor force, are valuable members of society, and that many of them can contribute greatly to society, if others will permit them to do so.  Whenever a society holds back any of its members, it prevents itself from achieving its potential.

May we remember also that, as valuable as work is, rest and leisure are vital also.  Ideally one will balance the three properly.  We know that the brain requires a certain amount of sleep–especially REM sleep–to function properly.  We know that the correct amount of rest is necessary for the body to function properly.  We know that leisure makes for better employees.

Work, at its best, is a gift from God.  It is a gift for divine glory and the meeting of human needs.  Work, at its best, builds up (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively) individuals, families, communities, societies, nation-states, and the world.  One’s work, at its best, is a vocation from God; it occupies the intersection of one’s greatest joys and the world’s deepest needs.

May you, O reader, find your work fulfilling in every way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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Almighty God, you have so linked our lives with one another

that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives:

So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good;

and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor,

make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers,

and arouse our concern for those who are out of work;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ecclesiasticus/Wisdom of Sirach 38:27-32

Psalm 107:1-9 or 90:1-2, 16-17

1 Corinthians 3:10-14

Matthew 6:19-24

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), 261, 932

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We invoke thy grace and wisdom, O Lord, upon all men of good will

who employ and control the labor of men.

Amid the numberless irritations and anxieties of their position,

help them to keep a quite and patient temper,

and to rule firmly and wisely, without harshness and anger.

Since they hold power over the bread, the safety, and the hopes of the workers,

may they wield their power justly and with love,

as older brothers and leaders in the great fellowship of labor.

Suffer not the heavenly light of compassion for the weak and the old to be quenched in their hearts.

When they are tempted to sacrifice human health and life for profit,

do thou strengthen their will in the hour of need,

and bring to nought the counsels of the heartless.

May they not sin against thee by using the bodies and souls of men as mere tools to make things.

Raise up among us employers who shall be makers of men as well as of goods.

Give us men of faith who will look beyond the strife of the present,

and catch a vision of a nobler organization of our work,

when all shall still follow the leadership of the ablest,

no longer in fear, but by the glad will of all,

and when all shall stand side by side in a strong and righteous brotherhood of work;

according to thy will in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Evangelical and Reformed Church, Book of Worship (1947) 382-383

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Ecclesiasticus/Wisdom of Sirach 38:24-34 or Nehemiah 2:1-18

Psalms 124 and 125 or 147

2 Timothy 2:1-15 or Matthew 7:15-27

–General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, A Book of Worship for Free Churches (1948), 409

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Originally published at SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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Devotion for Proper 12, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Jacob Struggles with the Angel, from the Gutenberg Bible

Image in the Public Domain

Wrestling with God

JULY 28, 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 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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Genesis 32:3-31 or Isaiah 14:5-20

Psalm 15

1 Corinthians 3:10-23

Matthew 10:1-15

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Jacob had been wrestling all his life.  In the womb he and his brother Esau had struggled with each other.  Jacob had, so to speak, wrestled with Esau during childhood and adulthood.  Jacob had also been wrestling with himself.  On the eve of what turned out to be reconciliation with Esau, Jacob literally wrestled with God or an angel in human form and received a blessing, as well as a limp.  Jacob, literally “supplanter,” also became Israel, literally “may God rule.”

I admire Judaism, from which I learn much.  One aspect of Judaism I find especially helpful is struggling with God as part of a relationship with God.  One finds evidence of that collective struggle throughout the Hebrew Bible.  One also finds evidence of divine judgment and mercy, hence restoration following exile.  The reading from Isaiah 14 is a song of taunting against the defeated Babylonian/Neo-Chaldean monarch.

According to the high standards of Psalm 15, not one of we mere mortals has any hope, except via grace.  Moral perfectionism is an impossible standard, but we should still strive to be the best versions of ourselves we can be.

St. Paul the Apostle wrote to the quarrelsome Corinthian church that it was God’s temple.  (The “you” is plural in the reading.)  That congregation needed to shape up and come closer to its spiritual potential.  Unfortunately, as anyone who has studied the (First) Letter to the Corinthians from St. Clement (I) of Rome (circa 100) should know, the congregation remained quarrelsome and troublesome for at least a generation after St. Paul’s demise.

As my father taught me, troubled people cause trouble..  They are like Jacob.  They are wrestling, metaphorically, with themselves and others.  Perhaps they are wrestling with God also.  In the meantime, in the context of congregational life, are holding a church back, and other members of that community are permitting them to do so.  This is a dynamic present in come congregations I have observed.

One progression in the Gospel of Matthew is the expansion of the audience for the message.  The audience in 7:6 consists of Jews.  Yet, in 28:19, the audience is

all nations.

I, as a Gentile, am grateful for this expansion of the audience.  Through it the wisdom of Judaism, has come to me.  As I struggle with God, others, and myself, I hope that I cause no trouble in churches.  I hope that I am improving spiritually.  I hope that people will recognize the light of Christ in me.  To the extent any of this comes true, God deserves all the glory.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS À KEMPIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEWTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/wrestling-with-god-part-ii/

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Devotion for Proper 11, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Jacob and Rachel, by Palma Vecchio

Image in the Public Domain

God Cares

JULY 21, 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 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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Genesis 29:1-6, 10-28 or Isaiah 13:6-16

Psalm 14

1 Corinthians 3:1-9

Matthew 9:9-13, 27-34

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A recurring theme in the Hebrew Bible is people tricking tricksters–in this case, Laban tricking Jacob.  What comes around, comes around.

The condemnations of evil and the predictions of divine wrath on the day of the LORD continue in Isaiah 13:6-16.  Passages such as these belie the claim of the benighted, evil, foolish people who tell themselves in Psalm 14 that God does not care, a translation more to the point than the standard

There is no God.

Practical atheism, not theoretical atheism, is the matter in Psalm 14.

The Incarnation confirms that God cares.  The Church is the building of God, metaphorically; God is the builder; Jesus is the foundation.  Jesus seeks out sinners to reform and heals blindness.  Yet there is more than one variety of blindness; spiritual blindness seems more stubborn than literal blindness in some stories of Christ healing people.

What comes around, goes around, and God cares.  God cares enough to let us learn from our mistakes.  God cares enough to grant us opportunities to reform.  God cares enough to invite us take messages of God to others.  God cares enough to tend to physical needs.  God cares enough to reintegrate us into community life.

God cares.  Do we?  Do we care enough?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS À KEMPIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEWTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/god-cares-part-vi/

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Devotion for Proper 8 (Year D)   1 comment

christ-and-the-two-blind-men

Above: Christ and the Two Blind Men, by Julius Schnorr

Image in the Public Domain

Love, the Rule of Life

JUNE 27, 2021

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The Collect:

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 life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 20:1-21 or Amos 4:1-13 or Malachi 3:5-18; 4:(1-2a) 2b-6

Psalm 56

Matthew 9:27-34 or John 5:31-47

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 (3:16-4:5) 4:6-21 or 2 John 1-13

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Do not think that I am sending a new command; I am recalling the one we have had from the beginning:  I ask that we love one another.  What love means is to live according t the commands of God.  This is the command that was given you from the beginning, to be your rule of life.

–2 John 5b-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That rule of life includes commandments such as do not be haughty (2 Kings 20), swear falsely, commit adultery or sorcery, deny workers their proper wages, thrust aliens aside, oppress widows and orphans (Malachi 3), rob God (Malachi 4), oppress the poor and the needy (Amos 4), mistake good for evil (Matthew 9) or good for evil (Matthew 9) or become so legalistic as to complain about someone committing good works on the Sabbath, to the point of wanting to kill one who does that (John 5).  This is, of course, a woefully incomplete list.

Sometimes people who violate these and other commandments of God flourish and the righteous suffer.  One finds recognition of this reality in the Bible, which tells us that this might be true temporally, but the picture is more complex than that (see Malachi 4).

Vengeance is properly God’s alone.  Temporal justice, which is, when it is what it ought to be, is not revenge.  Life does not present us with morally complicated situations sometimes, but the commandment to make love the rule of life applies always.  May we, by grace, succeed in living accordingly, to the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings, as well as ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/love-the-rule-of-life/

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Devotion for August 9 and 10 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Palestinian Barrier

Image Source = Marc Venezia

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part III:  Power and the Abuses Thereof

SUNDAY AND MONDAY, AUGUST 9 AND 10, 2020

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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:

1 Samuel 25:1-22 (August 9)

1 Samuel 25:33-44 (August 10)

Psalm 85 (Morning–August 9)

Psalm 61 (Morning–August 10)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–August 9)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening–August 10)

1 Corinthians 3:1-23 (August 9)

1 Corinthians 4:1-21 (August 10)

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1 Samuel 25 consists of one story, one which context brings alive.  Saul was killing people who helped David.  The monarch missed some of them, but anyone who aided David risked his or her life.  The kingdom was in a state of civil war.  And Nabal, a rich, churlish, boorish, and disreputable fool, was, according to social conventions, supposed to extend hospitality to David and his men.  Yet, under the threat from Saul, this was a great risk.  And Nabal was a lout anyway.  So he acted like the lout he was.  Abigail, his wife, prevented violence.  And Nabal suffered a stroke and died.  Then Abigail married David, who already had another wife, Ahinoam.

David, of course, had married Michal before any of the events, but Saul, in violation of law, had given his daughter to another man.  Michal, The Jewish Study Bible notes tell me, was the only woman the Hebrew Bible describes as loving a man, in this case, David.

The social status of women is of the essence here.  They were chattel, to be given to men.  Yet Abigail’s shrewdness prevents bloodshed.  She might be chattel, but she is a crucial actor in the story.  And Michal’s mistreatment at the hands of powerful men continues, as it will persist.

Power is necessary in certain concentrations, for, without it, chaos results.  But power can also exist in excessive concentrations; that results in tyranny.  The proper exercise of power lifts up the weak, the marginalized, and those labeled chattel; it does not exploit them.  The Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 4 that he, working for God, had suffered and was suffering.  Powerful people who abused their authority caused that suffering.  And other people consented to it.

May all of us who claim to be on God’s side aid others to the best of our ability and support those who suffer from abuses of power.  May we side with the victims, not those who victimize them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN EDUCATORS AND INTELLECTUALS

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HERRICK, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT TERESA OF AVILA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/1-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-iii-power-and-the-abuses-thereof/

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Week of Proper 17: Thursday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 17: Friday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  A Bullseye

Image Source = Alberto Barbati

A Different Standard

SEPTEMBER 3 and 4, 2020

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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 THURSDAY

1 Corinthians 3:1-23 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Make no mistake about it:  if any one of you thinks of himself as wise, in the ordinary sense of the word, then he must learn to be a fool before he can be wise.  Why?  Because the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God.  As scripture says:

The Lord knows wise men’s thoughts:  he knows how useless they are;

or again:

God is not convinced by the arguments of the wise.

So there is nothing to boast about in anything human:  Paul, Apollos, Cephas, the world, life and death, the present and the future, are all your servants; but you belong to Christ and Christ belongs to God.

FIRST READING FOR FRIDAY

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (The Jerusalem Bible):

People must think of themselves as Christ’s servants, stewards entrusted with the mysteries of God.  What is expected of stewards is that each one should be found worthy of his trust.  Not that it makes the slightest difference to me whether you, or indeed any human tribunal, find me worthy or not.  I will not even pass judgement on myself.  True, my conscience does not reproach me at all, but that does not prove that I am acquitted:  the Lord alone is my judge.  There must be no passing of premature judgement.  Leave that until the Lord comes:  he will light up all that is hidden in the dark and reveal the secret intentions of men’s hearts.  Then will be the time for each one to have whatever praise he deserves, from God.

RESPONSE FOR THURSDAY

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.

RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 37:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon wither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

Be still and wait for the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

8  Do not fret yourselves over the one who prospers,

the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

9  Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;

do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

10 For evildoers shall be cut off,

but those who wait upon the LORD shall possess the land.

11  In a little while the wicked shall be no more;

you shall search out their place, but they will not be there.

12  But the lowly shall possess the land;

they will delight in abundance of peace.

GOSPEL READING FOR THURSDAY

Luke 5:1-11 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now he was standing one day by the Lake of Gennesaret, with the crowd pressing round him listening to the word of God, when he caught sight of two boats close to the bank.  The fishermen had gone out of them and were washing their nets.  He got into one of the boats–it was Simon’s–and asked him to put out a little from the shore.  Then he sat down and taught the crowds from the boat.

When he had finished speaking he said to Simon,

Put out into deep water and pay out your nets for a catch.

Simon replied,

Master, we worked hard all night long and caught nothing, but if you say so, I will pay out the nets.

And when they had done this they netted such a huge number of fish that their nets began to tear, so they signalled to their companions in the other boat to come and help them; when these came, they filled the two boats to sinking point.

When Simon Peter saw this he fell at the knees of Jesus saying,

Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man.

For he and all his companions were completely overcome by the catch they had made; so also were James and John, sons of Zebedee, who were Simon’s partners;  But Jesus said to Simon,

Do not be afraid; from now on it is men you will catch.

Then, bringing their boats back to land, they left everything and followed him.

GOSPEL READING FOR FRIDAY

Luke 5:33-39 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Then they [the Pharisees and their scribes] said to him [Jesus],

John’s disciples are always fasting and the disciples of the Pharisees too, but yours go on eating and drinking.

Jesus replied,

Surely you cannot make the bridegroom’s attendants fast while the bridegroom is still with them?  But the time will come, the time for the bridegroom to be taken away from them; that will be the time when they will fast.

He also told them this parable,

No one tears a piece from a new cloak to put it on an old cloak; if he does, not only will he have torn the new one, but the piece taken from the new will not match the old.

And nobody puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and then run out, and the skins will be lost.  No; new wine must be put into fresh skins.  And nobody who has been drinking old wine wants new. “’The old is good” he says.

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The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; 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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We human beings are social creatures.  So what others think of us affects us.  Some of us care about these matters more than others do, and I suspect that the person who does not care at all is rare.  If the opinions of certain of our fellow humans are sufficiently negative, we might face criminal sanctions, justifiably or not.  Paul, by 53-54 C.E., had arrived at a spiritual point at which he wrote a text which translates as the following in English:

…the Lord alone is my judge.–1 Corinthians 4:4c

He was still subject to earthly tribunals and penalties, of course, but God alone was the only judge which really mattered.

That is true for each of us, is it not?  If you, O reader, have read continuously in 1 Corinthians to the point of Paul’s line about having only for God for a judge, you should know that it flows naturally and logically from what precedes it.  Human “wisdom” is nothing compared to divine wisdom.  Even divine foolishness is superior to human “wisdom.”  The message of Christ crucified (and resurrected) is therefore either a portal to eternal life or a stumbling block to one, depending on whether one has the mind of Christ.  So yes, it is true that God is the only judge which really matters.

Each of us has secrets.  Each of us commits sins unawares.  Each of us mistakes some activities as being sinful.  Each of us mistakes certain activities as not being sinful.  Often our standards are grounded (at least partially) in our societies, cultures, and subcultures.  And often we miss the mark so much that we are not even close to the bullseye.  Yet with God there is mercy.  There is also judgment, of course.  May we, however, trust God, do the best we can by grace, follow the example of Jesus as best we can by grace, love our neighbors as we love ourselves, and leave the rest to God.

One of the advantages to following a lectionary is that it provides structure to my Bible study.  And one of the joys is that I reread passages I have not encountered in years.  Once, many moons ago, I read every book in the Jewish, Protestant, and Roman Catholic, and Russian Orthodox canons of scripture.  Yet I find myself reading passages now as if it were the first time.  This rediscovery of the Bible is an ongoing process, one which I hope will continue for a long time.  This day’s rediscovered gem comes from 1 Corinthians 4:3.

I will not even pass judgement on myself.

Too often I judge myself, probably more harshly than do many others.  Yet Paul invited the Corinthians to live in liberation from even that verdict.  The invitation stands for us today; dare we accept it?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/a-different-standard/

Week of Proper 17: Tuesday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 17: Wednesday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  The Old Main Building at Andrew College, Cuthbert, Georgia

Image Source = Robbie Honerkamp

Jealousy and Wrangling

SEPTEMBER 1 and 2, 2020

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NOTE:

Andrew College takes its name from Bishop James Osgood Andrew, a slaveholder.  His case triggered the 1844-1845 schism in the Methodist Episcopal Church and the 1845 formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, which allowed its bishops to own slaves, at least until 1865 and the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The Southern denomination reunited with its parent body in 1939, however, and both groups are predecessor bodies of The United Methodist Church (1968-present).

I grew up United Methodist, steeped in that denomination’s history.

KRT

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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 TUESDAY:

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 (The Jerusalem Bible):

These are the very things that God has revealed to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.  After all, the depths of a man can only be known by his own spirit, not by any other man, and in the same way the depths of God can only be known by the Spirit of God.  Now instead of the spirit of the world, we have received the Spirit that comes from God, to teach us to understand the gifts that he has given us.  Therefore we teach, not in the way which philosophy is taught, but in the way that the Spirit teaches us:  we teach spiritual things spiritually.  An unspiritual person is one who does not accept anything of the Spirit of God:  he sees it all as nonsense; it is beyond his understanding because it can only be understood by means of the Spirit.  A spiritual man, on the other hand, is able to judge the value of everything, and his own value is not to be judged by other men.  As scripture says:

Who can know the mind of the Lord, so who can teach him?

But we are those who have the mind of Christ.

FIRST READING FOR WEDNESDAY

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Brothers, I myself was unable to speak to you as people of the Spirit:  I treated you as sensual men, still infants in Christ.  What I fed you with was milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it; and indeed, you are still not ready for it since you are still unspiritual.  Isn’t that obvious from all the jealousy and wranglin that there is among you, from the way that you go on behaving like ordinary people?  What could be more unspiritual than your slogans,

I am for Paul

and

I am for Apollos?

After all, what is Apollos and what is Paul?  They are servants who brought the faith to you.  Even the difficult ways in which they brought it were assigned to them by the Lord.  I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God made things grow.  Neither the planter nor the waterer matters:  only God, who makes things grow.  It is all one who does the planting and who does the watering, and each will duly be paid according to his share in the work.  We are fellow workers with God; you are God’s farm, God’s building.

RESPONSE FOR TUESDAY

Psalm 145:8-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

10  All your works praise you, O LORD,

and your faithful servants bless you.

11 “Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely;

forget your people and your father’s house.

12 The king will have pleasure in your beauty;

he is your master; therefore do him honor.

13 The people of Tyre are here with a gift,

the rich among the people seek your favor.”

14 All glorious is the princess as she enters;

her gown is cloth-of-gold.

15 In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king;

after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.

RESPONSE FOR WEDNESDAY

Psalm 62 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

from him comes my salvation.

2  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.

3  How long will you assail me to crush me,

all of you together,

as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall?

4  They seek only to bring me down from my place of honor;

lies are their chief delight.

5  They bless with their lips,

but in their hearts they curse.

6  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

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

10  Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath,

even those of low estate cannot be trusted.

11  On the scales they are lighter than a breath,

all of them together.

12  Put no trust in extortion;

in robbery take no empty pride;

though wealth increases, set not your heart upon it.

13  God has spoken once, twice have I heard it,

that power belongs to God.

14  Steadfast love is yours, O Lord,

for you repay everyone according to his deeds.

GOSPEL READING FOR TUESDAY

Luke 4:31-37 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath.  And his teaching made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority.

In the synagogue there was a man who was possessed by the spirit of an unclean devil, and it shouted at the top of its voice,

Ha!  What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are:  the Holy One of God.

But Jesus said sharply,

Be quiet!  Come out of him!

And the devil, throwing the man in front of everyone, went out of him without hurting him at all.  Astonishment seized them and they were all saying to one another,

What teaching!  He gives orders to unclean spirits with authority and power and they come out.

And reports of him went all through the surrounding countryside.

GOSPEL READING FOR WEDNESDAY

Luke 4:38-44 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Leaving the synagogue he went to Simon’s house.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever and they asked him to do something for her.  Leaning over her he rebuked the fever and it left her.  And she immediately got up and began to wait on them.

At sunset  all those who had friends suffering from diseases of one kind or another brought them to him, and laying his hands on each he cured them.  Devils too came out of many people, howling,

You are the Son of God.

But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ.

When daylight came he left the house and made his way to a lonely place.  The crowds went to look for him, and when they had caught up with him they wanted to prevent him leaving them, but he answered,

I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, because that is what I was sent to do.

And he continued his preaching in the synagogues of Judaea.

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The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; 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 Corinthian church suffered from factionalism.  This, Paul wrote, was unspiritual.  Factionalism persists, as the existence of denominations and “non-denominational” traditions persists.  I belong to a denomination–one I have chosen–and I am satisfied with my choice.  As an Episcopalian, I notice the lack of a well-developed liturgy and the too-infrequent celebration of the Holy Eucharist in many congregations of other traditions.  So, although I am an ecumenist–breaking bread gladly with other types of Christians, I retain my affiliation affirmatively.  I do all of this I know that my coreligionists and I have more in common than not.  Yes, I belong to a tribe, but that does not lead me to pursue intertribal warfare.  So, when I recognize deceased Christians as saints on my calendar of saints’s days and holy days at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR, the blog from which I spun this one off, I have Baptists, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Calvinists, Moravians, Anabaptists, and even a few Unitarians sharing the calendar year.

Often the arguments do seem to concern major and spiritual points, at least from the point of view of partisans.  Consider the following examples.:

  1. Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and other Christians in the U.S. South formed regional denominations in support of slavery from 1845 to 1861.  (The Methodists reunited in 1939 and the Presbyterians in 1983, by the way.  The Southern Baptist Convention, formed in 1845 on the proposition that slaveholders should be able to serve as missionaries, apologized in 1995, at the urging of Billy Graham.  The probability of a Baptist reunion is nihl.)
  2. In the 1700s, Presbyterians argued about the theological validity of hymns–not any given hymns–but hymns themselves, in lieu of settings of psalms.  (This is mostly a non-issue these days.)
  3. The Oxford Movement within Anglicanism won in the 1800s and 1900s, but not before some opponents of it went so far as to consider it of the Devil.

As time passes, one might wonder how anyone could defend slavery from the Bible, argue against hymns themselves, or object to lighting a few more candles, but people did–vehemently.  I wonder how time will shape reflections on our current spats, hissy fits, and schisms.  Not favorably, I predict.

All of us who claim the label “Christian” should focus on Christ first and other religious leaders second, and therefore be genuine.  We need to have the mind of Christ, which is available only via God.  “Jealousy and wrangling” (1 Corinthians 2:3) do not bring glory to God and attract people to Jesus.  Those through whom we have come to God and deepened our spiritual development have played their parts; may we likewise play ours.  This work can take many forms; all of them, if of God, are valid.  May we remember that and act accordingly, supporting and encouraging one another in our spiritual vocations and eschewing “jealousy and wrangling.”

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/jealousy-and-wrangling/

Labor Day (U.S.A.)   4 comments

matewan-1920-sign

Above:  A sign from Matewan, West Virginia, site of a massacre of miners in 1920

Image Source = West Virginia Archives

Affirming the Dignity of Work in Words and Deeds

SEPTEMBER 6, 2020

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Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 38:27-32a (New Revised Standard Version):

So it is with every artisan and master artisan

who labors by night as well as by day;

those who cut the signets of seals,

each is diligent in making a great variety;

they set their heart on painting a lifelike image,

and they are careful to finish their work.

So it is with the smith, sitting by the anvil,

intent on his iron-work;

the breath of the fire melts his flesh,

and he struggles with the heat of the furnace;

the sound of the hammer deafens his ears,

and his eyes are on the pattern of the object.

He sets his heart on finishing his handiwork,

and he is careful in its decoration.

So it is with the potter sitting at his work

and turning the wheel with his feet;

he is always deeply concerned over his products,

and he produces them in quantity.

He molds the clay with his arm

and makes it pliable with his feet;

he sets his heart to finish the glazing,

and he takes care in firing the kiln.

All these rely on their hands,

and all are skillful in their own work.

Without them no city can be inhabited,

and wherever they live, they will not go hungry.

AND

Psalm 107:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,

those he redeemed from trouble

and gathered in from the lands,

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,

finding no way to an inhabited town;

hungry and thirsty,

their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress;

he led them by a straight way,

until they reached an inhabited town.

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,

for his wonderful works to humankind.

For he satisfies the thirsty,

and the hungry he fills with good things.

OR

Psalm 90:1-2, 16-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Lord, you have been our dwelling place

in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or ever you had formed the earth and the world,

from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Let your work be manifest to your servants,

and your glorious power to their children.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,

and prosper for us the work of our hands–

O prosper the work of our hands!

THEN

1 Corinthians 3:10-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward.

THEN

Matthew 6:19-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; 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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All honest work has dignity.  I hear and read this sentiment from some politicians and business people whom I suspect do not believe it, for their deeds belie their words.  As I have indicated elsewhere on this blog, “Deeds reveal creeds.”  When a corporate CEO continues policies of not paying living wages I do not believe that he or she thinks that all work has dignity.  A corporate chief who exports jobs to the third world, where wages are lower and safety regulations are weak or non-extant, cares most about the bottom line.  And when miners in poor, rural regions of the United States die needlessly year after year because the mining corporations for which they work do not maintain the maximum possible level of safety, I know that those who occupy corner offices at headquarters do not think positively about the dignity of the work their employees do.  And politicians the soulless corporations have bought off or who have subscribed to the idolatry of the market as the arbiter of morality do not believe in the dignity of all honest work, either.

These are moral issues.  Living wages, sufficient benefits packages, workplace safety, and whistleblower protection are matters of morality.  My North American society is one in which those who make society function–teachers, social workers, police officers, and fire fighters, for example–earn much less than many professional athletes.  This fact tells me that society places higher value of what a relative few do with baseballs, basketballs, and footballs than on the crucial work of our educational, public safety, and social work professionals.

This a matter of values.  (I do not concede the issue of values to far-right wing theocrats, would-be theocrats, and union-busting governors and legislators.)  And it is an issue of my nation’s collective soul.  Life, Jesus said, does not consist of the abundance of possessions.  Our Lord and Savior was no Gordon Gecko, from Oliver Stone’s movie, Wall Street.  Do you remember that movie?  Gecko, who was indeed well-named (for he had the morality of a reptile), said, “Greed is good.”  No, people matter far more than wealth and material possessions.  That is a value I want to hear uttered more often and see demonstrated more frequently.

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on May 12, 2010

Revised on March 12, 2011

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/affirming-the-dignity-of-work-in-words-and-deeds/

Proper 2, Year A   12 comments

Above: Sermon on the Mount

Everyone’s Vocation = To Grow Into One’s Full Spiritual Stature

The Sunday Closest to May 18

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 9-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

Speak to all the congregations of the people of Israel and say to them:  You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not reap to the very edges of your field, or gather the gleanings of your harvest.  You shall not strip  your vineyard bare, or gather the fallen grapes of your vineyard; you shall leave them for the poor and the alien:  I am the LORD your God.

You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; and you shall not lie to one another.  And you shall not swear falsely by my name, profaning the name of your God:  I am the LORD.

You shall not defraud your neighbor; you shall not steal; and you shall not keep for yourself the wages of a laborer until morning.  You shall not revile  the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God:  I am the LORD.

You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great; with justice you shall judge your neighbor.  You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor:  I am the LORD.

You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall not reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself.  You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:  I am the LORD.

Psalm 119:33-40 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes,

and I shall keep it to the end.

34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law;

I shall keep it with all my heart.

35 Make me go in the path of your commandments,

for that is my desire.

36 Incline my heart to your decrees

and not to unjust gain.

37 Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless;

give me life in your ways.

38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,

which you make to those who fear you.

39 Turn away the reproach which I dread,

because your judgments are good.

40 Behold, I long for your commandments;

in your righteousness preserve my life.

1 Corinthians 3:10-11, 16-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and some one else is building on it.  Each builder must choose with care how to build on it.  For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ.

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?  If anyone destroy’s God’s temple, God will destroy that person.  For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.

Do not deceive yourselves.  If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise.  For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God.  For it is written,

He catches the wise in their craftiness,

and again,

The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,

that they are futile.

So let no one boast about human leaders.  For all things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future–all belong to you, and you belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God.

Matthew 5:38-48 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Jesus continued,]

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’  But I say to you, Do not resist an evildoer.  But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; and if anyone wants to sue you and take your coat, give your cloak as well; and if anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile.  Give to you everyone who begs from you, and do not refuse anyone who wants to borrow from you.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, in your goodness keep us, we pray, from all things that may hurt us, that we, being ready both in mind and body, may accomplish with free hearts those things which belong to your purpose; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, says, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  The word “perfect” catches my attention immediately.  And I make the connection with Leviticus:  “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.”  These two passages form the axis on which this devotional turns.

I being with “perfect.”  The Greek word here is teleios, which means to grow into one’s full stature, or to be fit for sacrifice.  So a perfect person, by this standard, fulfills his or her God-defined purpose.

Holiness/perfection is functional, not abstract.  Reread the verses in Matthew preceding the command to be perfect.  They contain precise instructions, including the following:

  1. Control your anger. (5:21-26)
  2. Control your lust.  (5:27-30)
  3. Care for your spouse, if you have one. More broadly speaking, do not expose anyone to economic risk needlessly.  (5:31-32)
  4. Do not play semantic games with oaths. (5:33-37)
  5. Do not take revenge.  (5:38-42)
  6. Love your neighbors and your enemies.  (5:43-47)

The list continues with material from the next chapter, but I leave that for you, O reader, to examine.

Meanwhile, Leviticus 19 is a catalog of Mosaic holiness.  We read part of it today, but the elements not quoted are perhaps more interesting.  There are laws also about shaving facial hair, consulting mediums and sorcerers, behaving properly around one’s elders, not sowing two kinds of seed in one field, not pushing one’s daughter into prostitution, et cetera.  My favorite, however, is this one from verses 33 and 34:

When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien.  The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt:  I am the LORD your God.

This is timeless and still provocative.

My proposed composite of today’s readings is thus:  The wisdom of God operates on a different level than does human wisdom.  Divine wisdom entails loving one’s enemies and choosing not to take revenge.  It means caring more for others, especially the poor, the marginalized, and the different, than for oneself.  The wisdom of God teaches honesty and integrity.  Divine wisdom says to treat others with respect.  To repeat a cliche, we cannot love God, whom we cannot see, unless we love people, whom we can see.  Whatever else God wants us to do, God commands us to do these things.  That is holiness.  That is the purpose for which God has created us, and therein we find our full spiritual stature.

Hear what God is saying to the Church and to all human societies.

KRT

Proper 1, Year A   20 comments

Above:  A Street in Ancient Corinth

Summarizing the Law:  The Path of Life

The Sunday Closest to May 11

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses said,

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity.  If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess.  But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess.  I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses.  Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

OR

Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 15:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

If you choose, you can keep the commandments,

and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.

He has placed before you fire and water;

stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.

Before each person are life and death,

and whichever one chooses will be given.

For great is the wisdom of the Lord;

he is mighty in power and sees everything;

his eyes are on those who fear him,

and he knows every human action.

He has not commanded anyone to be wicked,

and he has not given anyone permission to sin.

THEN

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

1 Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

2 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.

5 Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

6 Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

7 I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

8 I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

THEN

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ.  I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food.  Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh.  For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations?  For when one says,

I belong to Paul,

and another,

I belong to Apollos,

are you not merely human?

What then is Apollos?  What is Paul?  Servants through whom you have come to believe, as the Lord assigned to each.  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.  So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.  The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each.  For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

THEN

Matthew 5:21-37 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Jesus continued,]

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not murder’; and ‘whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.’  But I say that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the hell of fire.  So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift.  Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison.  Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell.  And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’  But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Again, you have heard it said to those of ancient times, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.’  But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or the earth, for it is his footstool.  And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black.  Let your word be ‘Yes, Yes’ or ‘No, No’; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

The Collect:

Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us and not what we deserve; and, as you have called us to your service, make us worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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These readings (especially Matthew) cover much territory.  One could choose just one of these lessons and write extensively about it.  But the combination of them is far richer than just one of them.

A clever legalist can find a way to obey the letter of the law while violating the spirit thereof.  For example, the Law of Moses permits a husband to divorce his wife for a good but poorly defined cause.  For her protection, however, the law requires him to give her a certificate of divorce so she can remarry.

But some husbands divorced their wives for trivial reasons, such as bad cooking, and rendered the women economically vulnerable.  So Jesus advocated protecting the rights of married women.

And, to use another example, some people made worthless oaths, therefore mocking the purpose of an oath.  So Jesus said to say what one means.

The basic message of the readings, especially from Matthew, is that how and what we think defines us.  We are what we think.  Jesus chose not to become focused on legal minutae; he cut to the chase.  So, as Jesus presented it, love defined the Kingdom of Heaven.  Love was (and is) antithetical to hostility, predation, exploitation, and obfuscation.

And love of Jesus was (and is) antithetical to out-of-hand factionalism.  Sometimes we mere mortals have difficulty seeing past the messenger of God to God.  An icon shows us God, but an idol takes the place of God.  Paul and Apollos never sought to become idols, but merely to function as messengers.  They tried, in the fullest sense of the word, to be icons of God.  Thus they expressed their understanding of what Ben Sira and the Deuteronomist said about the path of life and the path of death.

May we understand this, too.  Instead of losing ourselves purposefully or accidentally in religious minutae, may we grasp that we are what we think.  If we have proper priorities, many details will fall into place, and we will choose the path of spiritual life.  We will focus on Jesus, and not excessively on any human messenger of his, and we will not exploit or hate one another.  Love in God yields good works.

Which fruits do you bear?  And what motivates you?

KRT