Archive for the ‘Abram’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 11, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Parable of the Sower

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

Grace and Character Flaws

JULY 18, 2019

JULY 19, 2019

JULY 20, 2019

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The Collect:

Eternal God, you draw near to us in Christ, and you make yourself our guest.

Amid the cares of our lives, make us attentive to your presence,

that we may treasure your word above all else,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:10-20 (Thursday)

Genesis 13:1-18 (Friday)

Genesis 14:1-16 (Saturday)

Psalm 15 (All Days)

Hebrews 5:1-6 (Thursday)

Ephesians 3:14-21 (Friday)

Luke 8:4-10 (Saturday)

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Yahweh, who can find a home in your tent,

who can dwell on your holy mountain?

Whoever lives blamelessly,

who acts uprightly,

who speaks the truth from the heart,

who keeps the tongue under control,

who does not wrong a comrade,

who casts no discredit on a neighbour,

who looks with scorn on the vile,

but honours those who fear Yahweh,

who stands by an oath at any cost,

who asks no interest on loans,

who takes no bribe to harm the innocent.

No one who so acts can ever be shaken.

–Psalm 15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Abram (later Abraham) was a fascinating, contradictory, and frequently puzzling figure, for he was a human being.  In Genesis 12-14 alone he pretended that Sarai (his wife) was his sister, lied to the Pharaoh (who, unlike Abram, suffered because of the lie), prospered (in large part due to that lie), remained in Canaan and engaged in warfare while Lot, his nephew, moved to Sodom.  At the end of Chapter 14 Abram encountered Melchizedek, hence one reason for the reading from Hebrews 5, I suppose.

The traditional name of the reading from Luke 8 is the Parable of the Sower.  Nevertheless, the emphasis in the story is the soils, so, as some commentators I have read have argued, we should refer to the Parable of the Four Soils.  Each of us is, under the best circumstances, good soil, albeit not entirely so.  That is a fact of human nature.  Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah had serious defects of character, as did St. Paul the Apostle.  Likewise, you, O reader, and I have character flaws.  Nevertheless, may the lovely prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 be others’ prayer for us and our prayer for others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBALD OF OSTEVANT, RICTRUDIS OF MARCHIENNES, AND THEIR RELATIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ABRAHAM KIDUNAIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT, AND MARY OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/grace-and-character-flaws/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 25, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ in Majesty Icon

Above:  Icon of Christ in Majesty

Image in the Public Domain

Prejudices and Prophecy

OCTOBER 25, 26, and 27, 2018

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The Collect:

Eternal light, shine in our hearts.

Eternal wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance.

Eternal compassion, have mercy on us.

Turn us to seek your face, and enable us to reflect your goodness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 23:9-16 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 26:12-24 (Friday)

Jeremiah 29:24-32 (Saturday)

Psalm 126 (All Days)

Hebrews 7:1-10 (Thursday)

Hebrews 7:11-22 (Friday)

Mark 8:22-26 (Saturday)

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When the Lord turned again the fortunes of Zion:

then we were like men restored to life.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter:

and our tongue with singing.

Then said they among the heathen:

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

Truly the Lord has done great things for us:

and therefore we rejoiced.

Turn again our fortunes, O Lord:

as the streams return to the dry south.

Those that sow in tears:

shall reap with songs of joy.

He who goes out weeping bearing the seed:

shall come again in gladness, bringing his sheaves with him.

–Psalm 126, Alternative Prayer Book 1984

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The prophet Jeremiah labored faithfully for and argued with God during especially dangerous times.  The Kingdom of Judah was a vassal state, false prophets were numerous, and true prophets were targets of the theocratic royal regime.  The process of exiling populations had begun, and the full-scale Babylonian Exile had not started yet.  False prophets predicted a glorious future and condemned faithful prophets.  Yet even Jeremiah, who predicted doom and gloom, stated that divine deliverance and restoration would come in time.

The appearance of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:17-21 linked Abram/Abraham to the Davidic Dynasty, for Melchizedek was the King of Salem (Jerusalem).  Hebrews 7 linked Melchizedek to Jesus (“resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever”–verse 3b, The New Revised Standard Version).  At the end of the line of faithful Hebrew prophets (ending with St. John the Baptist) stands Jesus, greater than all of them.  He is, as Hebrews 7:22 states,

the guarantee of a better covenant.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Jesus, permanently a priest (7:24), is the Messiah (“Christ” in Greek) unbounded by time.  Now he exists beyond human capacity to harm him, but he did die via crucifixion.  There was a resurrection, fortunately.

Often we mortals desire to hear words which confirm our prejudices and belie hard truths.  Perhaps we know sometimes that what we want to hear is inaccurate, but we accept it anyway because doing so is bearable.  Or perhaps we are so deluded that we cannot distinguish between true and false prophecy, prophecy often having more to do with the present day and the near future than the more distant future.  Yet, even when we seek to distinguish between true and false prophecy, our ignorance can prove to be a major obstacle.  I know of no easy way out of this conundrum.  No, the best advice I can offer is to seek to live according to affirming human dignity and loving others as one loves oneself.  Following the Golden Rule is sound advice.  One might err in the execution of it, but I propose that God will not condemn one for loving one’s neighbors.  As for the details of prophecy, they will unfold according to course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/prejudices-and-prophecy/

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Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 24, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Abraham and Melchizedek Dieric Bouts the Elder

Above:  Abraham and Melchizedek, by Dieric Bouts the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

Jews, Gentiles, and Gentiles’ Gentiles

OCTOBER 18, 2018

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you turn your greatness into goodness for all the peoples on earth.

Shape us into willing servants of your kingdom,

and make us desire always and only your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 14:17-24

Psalm 91:9-16

Romans 15:7-13

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Because they have set their love upon me,

therefore will I deliver them;

I will lift them up, because they know my name.

They will call upon me, and I will answer them;

I am with them in trouble,

I will deliver them and bring them to honour.

–Psalm 91:14-15, Common Worship (2000)

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Who was Melchizedek?  He was a mysterious figure, the King of Salem (Jerusalem) and a “priest of the Most High” (Genesis 14:18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures).  “The God Most High” might have been Yahweh; the text is ambiguous.  So Melchizedek, to whom the victorious warrior and patriarch Abram (Abraham) paid a tithe might have belonged to a pagan cult.  If so, the patriarch paid homage to a pagan deity.  On the other hand, Melchizedek might have been a Gentile devotee of Yahweh.  Sometimes one wishes that certain Biblical texts were unambiguous.

Interpreting “the God Most High” to mean Yahweh meshes well with Romans 15:7-13.  St. Paul the Apostle, who quoted, in order, Psalm 18:49, Deuteronomy 32:43, Psalm 117:1, and Isaiah 11:10 (all from the Septuagint; sometimes that translation contains some words crucial to his point and absent from other versions), argued that God calls both Jews and Gentiles.  The Gospel is therefore inclusive.

Romans 15:7-13 brings up issues far beyond Jewish-Christian relations.  During the time of St. Paul Christianity was a Jewish sect, albeit one open to Gentiles.  Furthermore, the Apostle was always Jewish.  He dealt with issues of identity, some of which went back to the time of Abraham.  Would permitting uncircumcised Gentile men to convert to Christianity without first becoming Jews threaten Jewish identity?  Many Jews (including Christians) thought so.  Passages such as the pericope from Romans took on greater and different significance after the formal split of Christianity from Judaism during the Second Jewish War in 135 C.E.

Within Christianity the pericope remains significant.  We, the Gentiles, have our own “Gentiles,” whom we define according to a variety of standards, including race, ethnicity, gender, language, culture, and physical capabilities.  Labeling as outsiders those whom God calls insiders is sinful.  It harms them and hinders the community of faith while making those who label narrowly feel good about themselves in the context of their imagined exclusive status.  And most of us who call ourselves Christians have engaged in this unfortunate behavior or will do so, given sufficient time.

May God forgive us, help us to do better, and create a more inclusive community of faith, for the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF IMMANUEL NITSCHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICIAN; HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, JACOB VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MORAVIAN BISHOP, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS SON, WILLIAM HENRY VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS BROTHER, CARL ANTON VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS DAUGHTER, LISETTE (LIZETTA) MARIA VAN VLECK MEINUNG; AND HER SISTER, AMELIA ADELAIDE VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/jews-gentiles-and-gentiles-gentiles/

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Devotion for August 16 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant, from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

(A Screen Capture)

2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part III:  God, Undomesticated

FRIDAY, AUGUST 16, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 6:1-19

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

1 Corinthians 9:1-23

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Sometimes I argue with Bible stories.  The Bible, which people wrote, comes from antiquity, a time which predates many of the events which have shaped my world view.  I am, for example, a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment, and I have access to more knowledge than those who wrote the Bible could ever know about certain topics.  So I reject the idea that demon possession causes epilepsy, for example.

Yet other influences on my thought which cause me to argue with certain Bible stories come from the Bible itself.  God, depending on the part of the Old Testament one reads, is either approachable (as in the case of Abram/Abraham) or fearsome to be near (as in death for touching the Ark of the Covenant).  But God was most approachable in the person of Jesus of Nazareth; people not only touched him but had him over for dinner.

The stories of the power and menace of the Ark of the Covenant speak of God as an undomesticated force.  Jesus died for several reasons, among them the fact that he challenged domesticated views of God.  The study of the past uncovers examples of people who faced violence (often fatal) because they challenged beloved organizing ideas in society.  They include Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, Mohandas Gandhi, and numerous civil rights martyrs in the United States.  Violence, part of the darkness of human nature, rears its ugly head in defense of the indefensible and the merely traditional alike.  But one fact remains unchanged:  We cannot domesticate God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL MANZ, DEAN OF LUTHERAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, RENEWER OF SOCIETY

THE FEAST OF JAMES HANNINGTON AND HIS COMPANIONS, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN BUCKMAN WALTHOUR, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/2-samuel-and-1-corinthians-part-iii-god-undomesticated/

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Proper 14, Year C   12 comments

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964

Photograph by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegraph and Sun

Image Source = Library of Congress

Active, Abrahamic Faith

The Sunday Closest to August 10

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 11, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24

or 

Genesis 15:1-6 and Psalm 33:12-22

then 

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Luke 12:32-40

The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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We human beings use the same word in different ways, with a variety of meanings.  Consider, O reader, the word “day,” for example.  People say,

In my day…

and

Back in the day…,

as well as

There is a new day coming.

Or “day” might apply literally, as in when today separates yesterday from tomorrow.

The same principle applies to “faith” in the New Testament.  The Apostle Paul, in Romans, used it to mean something inherently active, which leads to works.  A Pauline formula is that as a person thinks, so he or she is.  The Letter of James contains a different definition, that of intellectual assent to a proposition or set of propositions.  So, according to that definition, faith without works is dead.  Both epistles agree on the imperative of active faith, so one need not imagine a discrepancy between their conclusions.

And there is the definition of faith from Hebrews 11:1-3:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is was made from things that are not visible.

New Revised Standard Version

In other words, faith applies in circumstances in which one can neither prove nor disprove a proposition according to scientific methods or documentary evidence.  That is an anachronistic definition, I know, but it works well.  Science can tell us much; I respect it and reject all anti-scientific sentiments and statements.  God gave us brains; may we use them as fully and critically as possible.  And documents form the basis of the study of history as I practice it.  Objective historical accuracy and the best scientific data available ought to override dogma, superstition, and bad theology.  So, no matter what the Gospels say, demon possession does not cause epilepsy, for example.  Yet there does exist truth which these twin standards of modernism (as opposed to postmodernism) cannot measure.  Such truth is good theology, which one can grasp by faith.

We read in Hebrews of the faithful example of Abram/Abraham (and by implication, of Sarai/Sarah), which harkens back to Genesis.  Theirs is a fantastical story, one which challenges understandings of biology.  But that is not the point.  The point is that God does unexpected things, and that the people of God should accept this reality.  And whether a certain unexpected thing is good news or bad news depends upon one’s spiritual state, as in Luke 12.

The reading from Isaiah 1 caught and held my attention most of all.  I, as an observant Episcopalian, am an unrepentant ritualist.  The text does not condemn ritualism itself.  No, the text damns insincere ritualism mixed with the neglect of vulnerable members of society:

Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil things

Away from my sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

–Isaiah 1:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Do it or else, the text says.  This is a call to society; Enlightenment notions of individualism do not apply here.  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, called for

…a true revolution of values

from a society focused on things to one which places the priority on people.  In the same speech, the one in which he opposed the Vietnam War without equivocation, he said:

A nation that continues to spend year after year more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.  (Edited by James M. Washington, 1986), page 241

The Prophet Isaiah would  have agreed.

Eternal God, heavenly Father,

you have graciously accepted us as living members

of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,

and you have fed us with spiritual food

in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.

Send us now into the world in peace,

and grant us strength and courage

to love and serve you

with gladness and singleness of heart;

through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 365

Do we have the Abrahamic faith to do that?  And how much better will our societies be for all their members if we do?

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/active-abrahamic-faith/

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Proper 12, Year C   9 comments

Above:  The Missal, by John William Waterhouse

Judgment, Mercy, and Deliverance

The Sunday Closest to July 27

Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 28, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 1:2-10 and Psalm 85

or 

Genesis 18:20-32 and Psalm 138

then 

Colossians 2:6-15, (16-19)

Luke 11:1-13

The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-tenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-tenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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For though the LORD is high,

he regards the lowly;

but the haughty he perceives from far away.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble,

you preserve me against the wrath of my enemies;

you stretch out your hand,

and your right hand delivers me.

–Psalm 138:6-7, New Revised Standard Version

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Except when it does not.

Focusing mainly on examples from this Sunday’s readings, I write about the following.

  1. In Genesis 18 Abram talked God down to a minimum number of righteous inhabitants of Sodom to stave off divine destruction of that city.  Yet, a few chapters later, the patriarch did not argue for the life of his own son.  He argued for the lives of strangers but not that of his own son.  Sodom, of course, faced destruction; there were too few righteous people in a city with many equal-opportunity rapists.  And God did spare Isaac in Genesis 22.
  2. What did Hosea’s children do to deserve such names?  Jezreel means “God sows.”  Lo-ruhamah translates as “Not pitied.”  And Lo-ammi means “Not my people.”  Their names were, of course, symbolic of divine rejection of a people who had turned their backs on God.  Destruction of the unfaithful and the wicked is a biblical theme.  But I wonder what psychological harm the children of Hosea and Gomer suffered.
  3. There are, of course, numerous instances of martyrdoms and genocides from ancient times to current events.  Many of those who perished were righteous.  Often they died because of their fidelity to God.  And what about Jesus, sinless yet crucified?
  4. The Book of Job refutes (correctly) the simplistic formula whereby suffering results from one’s own sin and God spares all the righteous from harm.  The example of Jesus confirms this.

Speaking of Jesus, we read in Colossians that he overrides our assumptions regarding a number of issues.  Some of them do not apply one with a Western scientific worldview in the twenty-first century.  I do not, for example, share the Hellenistic assumption (referenced in Colossians) that elemental spirits govern the world.  No, I am a product of the Scientific Revolution and the Enlightenment.  But other worldviews persist and I carry my own assumptions in my head.  Christ, we read in Colossians, overrides much–from schools of philosophy to erroneous cosmology.  It is Christ who, as we read in Luke 11, spoke of prayer and God’s attentiveness.

There is also judgment, of course.  That abounds in both Testaments.  So one ought not to focus so much on mercy and judgment as to minimize or ignore its opposite.  Besides, mercy for one party does mean judgment for another much of the time.  So, if one perceives that God has not delivered one, one might be in the wrong camp.  Or one might be impatient.  Or one might have a legitimate complaint against God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972 

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/judgment-mercy-and-deliverance/

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Proper 9, Year A   29 comments


Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s C.E. Painting)

Image in the Public Domain

The Victory Belongs to God Alone

The Sunday Closest to July 6

The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 5, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 (New Revised Standard Version):

The servant said to Laban,

I am Abraham’s servant. The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, `You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’

I came today to the spring, and said, `O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also” — let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.’

Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, `Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, `Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, `Whose daughter are you?’ She said, `The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.

And they called Rebekah, and said to her,

Will you go with this man?

She said,

I will.

So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.

Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant,

Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?

The servant said,

It is my master.

So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

AND

Psalm 45:11-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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.

16 With joy and gladness they are brought,

and enter into the palace of the king.

17 “In place of fathers, O king, you shall have sons;

you shall make them princes over all the earth.

18 I will make your name to be remembered

from one generation to another;

therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever.”

OR

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

The voice of my beloved!

Look, he comes,

leaping upon the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle

or a young stag.

Look, there he stands

behind our wall,

gazing in at the windows,

looking through the lattice.

My beloved speaks and says to me:

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away;

for now the winter is past,

the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth;

the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove

is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,

and the vines are in blossom;

they give forth fragrance.

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Zechariah 9:9-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!

Lo, your king comes to you;

triumphant and victorious is he,

humble and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim

and the war-horse from Jerusalem;

and the battle bow shall be cut off,

and he shall command peace to the nations;

his dominion shall be from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;

today I declare that I will restore to you double.

For I have bent Judah as my bow;

I have made Ephraim its arrow.

I will arouse your sons, O Zion,

against your sons, O Zion,

and wield you like a warrior’s sword.

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

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 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 They make known the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your power;

12 That the peoples may know of your power

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;

your dominion endures throughout all ages.

14 The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in all his deeds.

15 The LORD upholds all those who fall;

he lifts up those who are bowed down.

SECOND READING

Romans 7:15-25a (New Revised Standard Version):

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.  But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law oat war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will rescue from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to the crowd,

To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;

we wailed, and you did not mourn.”

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.

At that time Jesus said,

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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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Sometimes I can tie all lectionary readings for a day together neatly via a common thought.  This unifying theme might be easy or difficult to locate, but I can find it–much of the time.  Proper 9, Year A, is an exception to this rule.  So I state quickly that genuine romantic love between adult human beings, especially those bound to each other by the sacrament of marriage, is beautiful and that God is present there.  Now I move along to Zechariah, Paul, and Matthew.

I take these readings in chronological order.

The Book of Zechariah exists in two parts:  Chapters 1-8 and 9-14, each section having separate authorship.  Zechariah 9-14 contains prophesies about how God will deal with the Jewish people from the time of Hellenistic domination of the Holy Land to the coming of the Messiah.  The texts say that God will act, so the victory will belong to God.  Worthless shepherds will not obstruct these deeds, for God will replace them with a worthy shepherd, the Messiah.

Jesus, of course, was (and is) that Messiah.  People criticized him for many reasons:  he ate and drank too much or he fasted too much; he healed on the Sabbath; the man could not satisfy some people regardless of how good he was.  Some people will find fault with anyone, even Jesus.  But he was (and is) the Good Shepherd, and through him God has made atonement for sins.

Speaking of sins, Paul struggled with them.  I know this feeling, but I take it as more positive than negative.  The term “immoral” indicates that one knows the difference between right and wrong, and chooses the latter.  But “amoral” indicates that one cannot make the distinction.  At least the person who is immoral at least some to the time knows the difference, and God can work with that.  It is vital to try and to want to do the right thing.  We humans are deeply flawed, “but dust” as the Book of Psalms says, but we also bear the image of God (Genesis 1).  So we need to honor the divine image within ourselves and each other, and to trust God to help us distinguish between right and wrong, and to believe that God will help us choose what is correct.

Culture can affect our perceptions of morality, sometimes for the worse.  As a student of U.S. history, I know that many Antebellum Southerners thought that keeping slaves was moral, and that anyone who said or thought otherwise did not understand the Bible correctly.  Also, I have a book containing a 1954 sermon from Texas entitled “God the Original Segregationist.”  The pastor continued to sell copies of this sermon via the mail through at least 1971.  It is easy for me to point out these moral misunderstandings, but I am blind to my own.

So I read Paul’s confession and identify with it.  And I take comfort that the victory is God’s work, and that neither I nor anyone else will stand in its way.  But I hope I am not and will never be a would-be obstacle God must sweep aside.  No, I want to be on God’s side.  By grace, may as many of us as possible be there.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/the-victory-belongs-to-god-alone/