Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians 3’ Tag

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/

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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