Archive for the ‘1 Corinthians 5’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 14, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Seduction of Dinah, Daughter of Leah, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

Trusting in God, Part I

AUGUST 11, 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 34 or Isaiah 29:13-24

Psalm 18:1-15

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

Matthew 10:34-11:1

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We have some unpleasant content this week–rape, deceit, and murder in Genesis 34 and incest in 1 Corinthians 5.

The rape of Dinah is one of those stories that makes people squirm.  Dinah is the only completely sympathetic character.  Jacob, her father, is indifferent to her plight.  Her brothers Simeon and Levi are sympathetic until they entrap and massacre Canaanite men still recuperating from circumcision.  Shechem the rapist is not sympathetic at all; neither is his father Hamor.  Still, Simeon and Levi, avengers of their sister, are somewhat sympathetic characters.

At least they cared about what had happened to her, what was happening to her, and might happen to her.

As for Dinah, given the realities of her situation in a patriarchal culture that shamed raped women, her future seemed bleak.  Who would marry her now?  And marrying her rapist was not a good option either.  She almost dropped out of the narrative; her name recurred in the census in Genesis 46.  She had no descendants.

Her brothers’ vengeance brought them material gain and ego boosts, but wounded their souls and diminished them as human beings.  It made a bad situation worse.

Trust in God, most of the assigned readings tell us.  Trust in God when doing so is difficult.  Trust in God and live accordingly.  Trust in God, take up one’s cross, follow Jesus, and take care of each other.  Trust in God when one’s family abandons one.

Trusting in God can prove challenging during the best of times, especially if one insists on self-reliance.  Trusting in God when one is in dire straits can therefore be more difficult.  Yet I know from experience that trusting in God might be easier in times of dire straits if, for perhaps no other reason, one is acutely aware of one’s dependence on God and of God’s presence.  God is always with us.  If one likens God to a lamp turned on, one might understand my point.  One might notice the light during daylight, but the light is more noticeable at night.

Trusting in God also entails leaving desires for revenge unfulfilled.  Vengeance might prove satisfying in the short term, but it devours those who have committed it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/trusting-in-god-part-vii/

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Devotion for Proper 20 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  Baruch, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Repentance and Restoration

SEPTEMBER 20, 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 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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Jeremiah 36:1-4, 20-32

Psalm 119:81-88

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11

John 8:21-30

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Restoration is one purpose of repentance; after judgment follows mercy, if one is fortunate.  This depends on repentance, of course.  We read of a rejected opportunity for repentance in Jeremiah 36.  We also read of Jeremiah (already a fugitive) and his scribe (newly a fugitive) continuing to be faithful to God.  One might imagine them repeating the lament in Psalm 119:81-88.

Repentance and restoration are also available in 2 Corinthians 2.  There must be discipline for the man (from 1 Corinthians 5) in a relationship with his stepmother, but the punishment must not be excessive.  The time for restoration has arrived.

Jesus, as did Jeremiah and Baruch before him, speak the words of God and suffer the consequences from hostile earthly authorities.  Yet he experienced the restoration of resurrection, through which the rest of us have much hope.  The display of the power of God at the resurrection of Jesus was astounding yet not convincing for some in Jerusalem at the time.  How oblivious they were!

May we not be oblivious when God acts to bring us to repentance and restoration.  May we not burn the scroll.  No, may we accept the offer gratefully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT BAIN OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, MONK, MISSIONARY, AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/repentance-and-restoration-2/

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Devotion for Proper 14 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Amnon and Tamar, by Jan Steen

Image in the Public Domain

The Way of Faithfulness

AUGUST 9, 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 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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2 Samuel 13:1-20, 27b-29

Psalm 119:25-32

1 Corinthians 5:1-5

John 7:1-9

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I have chosen the way of faithfulness;

I set your ordinances before me.

–Psalm 119:30, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If certain characters in today’s readings had acted according to Psalm 119:30, those lessons would have turned out differently.  There would have been no rape of Tamar by her half-brother, Amnon.  Absalom would not have murdered Amnon in revenge.  Certain Corinthian Christians would not have engaged in pagan sexual practices.  The life of Jesus would never have been in peril.  In the case of Jesus, his opponents in question probably considered him guilty of blasphemy, a capital offense, according to the Law of Moses.  They thought they were righteous.

Is not it frequently true that villains imagine themselves to be heroes and the wicked mistake themselves for the righteous?  Much of the time we do not know what we are doing.  Nevertheless, the consequences of our actions speak for themselves.  We should learn from them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:   THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DELPHINUS OF BORDEAUX, AMANDUS OF BORDEAUX, SEVERINUS OF BORDEAUX, VENERIUS OF MILAN, AND CHROMATIUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ANSON DODGE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/the-way-of-faithfulness/

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Devotion for Proper 7 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Give Us This Our Daily Bread Print, Currier & Ives, 1872

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-2453

Spiritual Nutrition

JUNE 20, 2021

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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 41:9-40

Psalm 37:23-28a

Acts 6:1-7

Mark 8:14-21

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Depart from evil, and do good,

so you shall abide forever.

For the LORD loves justice;

he will not forsake his faithful ones.

The righteous shall be kept safe forever,

but the children of the wicked shall be cut off.

–Psalm 37:27-28, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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David Ackerman omits the second part (the passage contrasting the righteous and the children of the wicked) in Beyond the Lectionary (2013).

On another topic, the Psalmist might not have seen the children of the righteous begging for bread, but I have.  I am not alone in this.

The Joseph of the Book of Genesis bears little resemblance to the figure of whom I have read in many a book of Bible stories retold for children.  I read Genesis 37 and 39-50 (the Joseph Epic) and encounter a spoiled brat who grew up because he had no choice.  I also meet an interpreter of dreams who rose to a position of prominence, reunited his family, and in Chapter 47, fed the Egyptian population during a time of severe drought by returning their food (which he had ordered confiscated) to them in exchange for serfdom.   Joseph is an imperfect protagonist.

The surviving Apostles (plus St. Matthias) feed the hungry then decide to focus on preaching and teaching.  So they appoint deacons to wait tables.  This is the origin of the Christian diaconate.  There is no insistence upon serfdom here.  No, we find quite the opposite.

When we turn to the reading from Mark 8 it is useful to understand that we pick up immediately following Jesus feeding “about four thousand people” with seven loaves and a few small fish.  There are many leftovers.  Then some Pharisees demand, of all things, a sign.  Jesus warns his Apostles against the yeast–a metaphor for diffused or veiled evil (see Luke 12:1; 1 Corinthians 5:6; and Galatians 5:9) of the Pharisees.  The literal-minded Apostles, confused, think that Christ refers to bread.  Jesus is angry with them.

The depiction of the Apostles in the Gospel of Mark is interesting and part of a larger theme.  The earliest canonical Gospel argues that those who think they are insiders might not be that.  There are the condemnations of the religious establishment, of course.  Furthermore, those closest to Jesus do not understand him.  To the contrary, evil spirits recognize him immediately.  This depiction of the twelve Apostles as being clueless is stronger in Mark than in Luke-Acts, for narrative reasons.

A sufficient supply of food is essential to sustaining life.  Too little food leads to starvation, just as an excess of it leads to obesity.   Furthermore, the wrong type of food leads to health problems.  Likewise, improper spiritual nutrition leads to negative consequences.  Do we not yet understand this?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE BERKELEY, IRISH ANGLICAN BISHOP AND PHILOSOPHER; AND JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NORMAN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS COUSIN, JOHN MACLEOD, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/16/spiritual-nutrition/

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Devotion for Proper 9 (Year D)   1 comment

penitent-magdalene

Above:  Detail from The Penitent Magdalene, by Georges de La Tour

Image in the Public Domain

Loving Our Enemies and Praying for Our Persecutors

JULY 4, 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 6:8-23

Psalm 57 or 3

Matthew 12:38-50 or Luke 11:24-36

1 Corinthians 5:1-6a (6b-8) 9-13; 6:1-11

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To seek deliverance from enemies and evildoers is understandable and justifiable; to seek revenge against them is understandable and unjustifiable.

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 sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the just and the unjust.  For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

–Matthew 5:43-48, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

Perfection, in this case, indicates suitability for one’s tasks and purpose.  We who claim to follow Jesus and hopefully do more than claim to do so have the commandment to live according to love (2 John 5b-6).  If those who are negative influences among us will not change their ways, we may remove them from our faith community (1 Corinthians 5), but that is different from committing or condoning violence against them.  Consider, O reader, the treatment of the Aramean raiders in 2 Kings 6; making them guests at a lavish feast before repatriating them is far from being harsh toward them.

How we treat others–especially enemies and oppressors–is about who we are, not who they are.  We are supposed to be children of light, those who love God and our fellow human beings not because of signs and wonders but because of who God is and because to do so is the right thing to do.  We ought to dwell on a moral plain higher than the lowest common denominator.  This is frequently difficult, but it is possible, via grace.

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/loving-our-enemies-and-praying-for-our-persecutors/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 26, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Lot and His Daughters

Above:   Lot and His Daughters, by Lucas van Leyden

Image in the Public Domain

The Good Society

NOVEMBER 4 and 5, 2019

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-31 (Monday)

Zechariah 7:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 50 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (Monday)

Jude 5-21 (Tuesday)

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“When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast your lot in with adulterers.

You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

You are always speaking evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

–Psalm 50:18-21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Law of Moses teaches that, among other things:

  1. We humans depend on God for everything,
  2. We depend on each other also,
  3. We have no right to exploit each other,
  4. We are responsible to each other, and
  5. We are responsible for each other.

Thus hospitality is a great virtue, for it can make the difference between someone coming to harm or avoiding harm, as well as the difference between someone dying or living.

My summary of the forbidden behaviors in these days’ readings is that they are generally activities that harm others.  I note that, in post-exilic zeal to obey the Law of Moses, many people went too far with regard to the treatment of foreigners.  The Book of Jonah pushes back against such excesses.  The Book of Ruth, in which a Moabite woman marries a Hebrew man and becomes an ancestor of King David, is probably another protest against such zealousness-turned-xenophobia, such as that praised in Nehemiah 13:1.

As for homosexual behavior (as opposed to homosexuality as a sexual preference, an understanding which did not exist until recent centuries), Jude 7 is the only verse in the Bible to make explicit the link between homosexual conduct and the story of Sodom in Genesis 19.  In that chapter Lot, who has lived in the city since Genesis 13, presumably knows his neighbors well enough to understand what they like.  Lot has taken in two angels.  A mob gathers outside his door and demands that he send them outside to that they can gang rape the angels.  Lot refuses the demands and offers to send his two virgin daughters out instead.  (Bad father!)  Fortunately for Lot’s daughters, the mob is not interested and the angels have a plan to save Lot and his family from the imminent destruction of the city.  In the context of Genesis 19 the planned sexual activity is rape, not anything consensual; may nobody miss that point.  The standard Biblical condemnations of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are like those in Ezekiel 16:48-50 and 3 Maccabees 2:5-6, where one reads that the cities’ sins were notorious and the people were arrogant and brazen in their iniquity.  Ezekiel 16 adds to that description the neglect of the poor and the hungry–a lack of hospitality.

Zechariah 7:8-14 states that the pre-exilic Kingdoms of Israel and Judah violated the basic requirements of the Law of Moses, and paid the price.  The societies, generally speaking, did not administer true justice and act kindly and compassionately.  No, it oppressed widows, orphans, the poor, and resident aliens.  The societies were unrepentant, and divine patience ran out.

Society is people.  It shapes its members, who also influence it.  May we–you, O reader, and I–influence society for the better–to care for the vulnerable, to resist bullying and corruption, to favor kindness and compassion, and to seek and find the proper balance between individual and collective responsibility.  May we eschew bigotry in all forms, for we have a divine mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  May we seek to love God and each other fully, manifesting respect for the image of God in each other, seeking to build each other up, for that is not only the path to the common good but is also godly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/the-good-society/

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Devotion for August 12 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Peter’s Vision of the Sheet with Animals

Image in the Public Domain

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part V:  Food and Fellowship

WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 12, 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 28:3-25

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 8 and 29 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 6:1-20

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When [Jesus] had left the crowd and entered the house, his disciples asked him about the parable.  He said to them, “Then do you also fail to understand?  Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile, since it enters, not the heart but the stomach, and goes out into the sewer.”  (Thus he declared all foods clean.)  And he said, “It is what comes out of a person that defiles.  For it is from within, from the human heart, that evil intentions come:  fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.

–Mark 7:17-23, New Revised Standard Version

The  politics of food in the Bible interests me.  Some foods are unclean in the Law of Moses yet God declares them clean in the Acts of the Apostles.  The Apostle Paul dealt with the issue of food in passing in 1 Corinthians 6 yet at length in the context of food offered to imaginary deities elsewhere.  Paul could not have been aware of Mark 7:19b, in which Jesus declared all foods clean, for he died before the Gospel of Mark came into existence.  But, if he was aware of the oral tradition or a written version of that teaching, he did not indicate that he was.  There is also the matter of whom one eats and refuses to eat (as in 1 Corinthians 5:11 and elsewhere.)  But the witch at Endor offered even the unsympathetic King Saul food.

There is a Russian proverb which states that one’s company, not the menu, makes for a good meal.  By that definition Jesus considered prostitutes, Roman collaborators, and other notorious sinners to be good company.  At least they knew of their need for forgiveness.  And he did not condemn them.

“For me everything is permissible,” maybe, but not everything does good.  True, for me everything is permissible, but I am determined not to be dominated by anything.

–1 Corinthians 6:12, The New Jerusalem Bible

That last clause is crucial.  Any behavior or thing can become addictive under certain circumstances.  Modern scientific knowledge regarding the pleasure center of the human brain explains the difference between the brain of an addict and the brain of someone not addicted.  So we know that addiction is a matter of brain chemistry (affected by life circumstances, quite often), not one’s weak will.  Yet the principle that we ought to master our appetites rather than be mastered by them is a timeless one.  And we should also master our prejudices regarding who constitutes good company for table fellowship.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/1-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-v-food-and-fellowship/

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Devotion for August 11 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Saul and David, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part IV:  Mercy and Discipline

TUESDAY, AUGUST 11, 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 26:1-25

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 5:1-13

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1 Samuel 26 resembles Chapter 24 closely.  The two are probably variants of the same incident, actually.  1 Samuel and some other books of the Hebrew Bible, being composed of documentary sources edited together, contain such doublets.  Anyhow, it is good to read another account (or variant of a story) of mercy.

In contrast, we have 1 Corinthians 5, in which we read of idolatry, greed, incest, slander, drunkenness, and dishonesty–all within the Corinthian church.  Paul orders the banishment of the offenders.  Indeed, those behaviors destroy self and others, unlike sparing the life of a person who has tried to kill one.  And it is true that negative influences in a group can grow if one does not remove them, just as positive influences can spread.

Once I heard of a United Methodist congregation in Columbus, Georgia.  Membership had not increased in years because of the negative activities of a small number of people, who had been chiefly responsible for a series of short pastorates.  In the 1980s or 1990s the newly appointed minister managed to compel most of these trouble makers to leave the congregation.  Membership and attendance increased substantially and the remaining (former) trouble makers became rather quiet.

Sometimes one must remove from fellowship (for the sake of the group) those who will not reform.  Yet one must never forget the imperative of showing mercy to those who have changed their negative and destructive ways.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/1-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-iv-mercy-and-discipline/

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Week of Proper 18: Monday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  Jesus Healing the Man with the Withered Hand

Regarding Scandals and Church Discipline

SEPTEMBER 7, 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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1 Corinthians 5:1-8 (The Jerusalem Bible):

I have been told as an undoubted fact that one of you is living with his father’s wife.  This is a case of sexual immorality among you that must be unparalleled even among pagans.  How can you be so proud of yourselves?  You should be in mourning.  A man who does a thing like that ought to have been expelled from the community.  Though I am far away in body, I am with you in spirit, and have already condemned the man who did this thing as if I were actually present.  When you are assembled together in the name of the Lord Jesus, and I am spiritually present with you, then with the power of our Lord Jesus he is to be handed over to Satan so that his sensual body may be destroyed and his spirit saved on the day of the Lord.

The pride that you take in yourselves is hardly to your credit.  You must know how even a small amount of yeast is enough to leaven all the dough, so get rid of all the old east, and make yourselves into a completely new batch of bread, unleavened as you are meant to be.  Christ, our passover, has been sacrificed; let us celebrate the feast, then, by getting rid of all the old yeast of evil and wickedness, having only the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

Psalm 5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give ear to my words, O LORD;

consider my meditation.

2  Hearken to my cry for help, my King and my God,

for I will make my prayer to you.

3  In the morning, LORD, you hear my voice;

early in the morning I make my appeal and watch for you.

4  For you are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness,

and evil cannot dwell with you.

5  Braggarts cannot stand in your sight;

you hate all those who work wickedness.

6  You destroy those who speak lies;

the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O LORD, you abhor.

7  But as for me, through the greatness of your mercy I will go into your house;

I will bow down toward your holy temple in awe of you.

8  Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness,

because of those who lie in wait for me;

make your way straight before me.

9  For there is no truth in their mouth;

there is destruction in their heart;

10  Their throat is an open grave;

they flatter with their tongue.

11  Declare them guilty, O God;

let them fall, because of their schemes,

12  Because of their many transgressions cast them out,

for they have rebelled against you.

13  But all who take refuge in you will be glad;

they will sing out their joy for ever.

14  You will shelter them,

so that those who love your Name may exult in you.

15  For you, O LORD, will bless the righteous;

you will defend them with your favor as with a shield.

Luke 6:6-11 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now on another sabbath he [Jesus] went into the synagogue and began to teach, and a man was there whose hand was withered.  The scribes and the Pharisees were watching him to see if he would cure a man on the sabbath, hoping to find something to use against him.  But he knew their thoughts; and he said to the man with the withered hand,

Stand up!  Come out into the middle.

And he came out and stood there.  Then Jesus said to them,

I put it to you; it is against the law on the sabbath to do good, or to do evil; to save life, or to destroy it?

Then he looked round at them all and said to the man,

Stretch out your hand.

He did so, and his hand was better.  But they were furious, and began to discuss the best way of dealing with Jesus.

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The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; 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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Some Related Posts:

Mark 3:1-6 (Parallel to Luke 6:6-11):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/proper-4-year-b/

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Before I proceed to my text proper, I acknowledge my dependence upon the excellent commentary in The Anchor Bible volume (especially pages 184-188) on 1 Corinthians, by William F. Orr and James Arthur Walther.

The text in 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 leaves certain questions unanswered.  Was the man cohabitating with or married to his stepmother?  Was she divorced from his father?  Was the man’s father alive or dead?  May we not rush to assumptions, which are, in any event, small fries relative to what we do know:  The unmarried man was engaged in an immoral relationship with a woman (not his mother) who was also his stepmother.  Roman law forbade this practice, although it was common among many Gentiles.  Paul rejected the Corinthian church’s lax attitude and favored handing the man over to authorities, so that the offender might become aware of his error and repent of it one day.

We have freedom in Christ, but this fact does not exempt us from certain rules.  So incest, in the example from 1 Corinthians 5:1-8, is always forbidden.  And there is need for church discipline sometimes.

There can be excessive church discipline, of course.  Reading histories of old (often Protestant) congregations (in my experience, in the U.S. South) can provide many examples of this generalization.  Once, while pouring over a history of a rural Methodist congregation (founded in the 1840s) in Southwest Georgia, I came across an account of a case of church discipline in the late 1800s.  A young woman had danced in public one Saturday night.  That was all she had done.  This was a case of unjustified church discipline.  Yet we read of a case of an unjustified lack of church discipline in 1 Corinthians 5:1-8.

The reading mentions pride, a topic repeated from earlier in the epistle.  Did some in the Corinthian congregation think that their toleration for the man’s sexual relationship with his stepmother placed them on a higher spiritual plane?  They seem to have done so.  We must always guard against pride, regardless of that of which we are or might be proud.  May we also recall that, for Paul, the only acceptable boast was one in God in Christ, not in ourselves.

Social contexts change over time, and this day we read 1 Corinthians 5:1-8 in various places quite different from middle-First Century C.E. Corinth.  So, as we seek to understand and apply this text to our contemporary contexts, may we always remember two essential details:

  1. Paul’s emphasis was communal, not individualistic.  The unnamed man’s behavior affected the Corinthian church negatively.
  2. Paul advised discipline for the sake of both the community and the unnamed man.  The man might yet repent; he should have that opportunity.  And the local congregation would no longer have a scandal darkening its reputation.

Not all scandals are bad, of course.  Jesus healed a man with a withered hand on the Sabbath.  He created a scandal by committing a good deed.  So, if we offend and scandalize others, may we do so via our good deeds.  May the reality of the scandal speak well of us and poorly of our critics.  If, for example, we create a scandal by reaching out to the poor, the despised, and the marginalized as opportunities present themselves, we follow in the esteemed example of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  And, if we claim the label “Christian,” such activities ought to be part of our discipleship.

May good deeds proliferate and bad deeds become less common–all for the common good and the glory of God.  And, if our good deeds scandalize others, we will be in good company.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/of-scandals-and-church-discipline/