Archive for the ‘Deuteronomy 10’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 20, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Scroll

Above:   Scroll

Image in the Public Domain

Go and Learn It

SEPTEMBER 19, 2019

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

God among us, we gather in the name of your Son

to learn love for one another.  Keep our feet from evil paths.

Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace

revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 23:1-9

Psalm 113

Romans 3:1-8

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes, with the princes of his people.

–Psalm 113:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures one reads of the importance of obeying divine law faithfully.  God commands obedience to the law and warns of the dire consequences of disobedience.  Two kingdoms fall and, after the fact, the Jewish tradition repeats the theme of the importance of obedience to the law.  I wonder, then, how to read St. Paul the Apostle in his Letter to the Romans.  Perhaps his target was the legalistic interpretation and keeping of the Law of Moses.  In Romans 2, for example, we read of the necessity of the circumcision of the heart.  As a note in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011) informs me, that is consistent with Deuteronomy 10:16 and 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4, 9:25-26, and 38:33; and Ezekiel 44:7.

As for the portion of the Law of Moses we find in Exodus 23:1-9, it is timeless, with some culturally specific examples of principles.

  1. One must not bear false witness, commit perjury, or spread false rumors.
  2. One must speak the truth and act impartially, showing deference to nobody because of wealth or the lack thereof.
  3. One must return wandering livestock belonging to an enemy.  (This commandment’s principle extends beyond livestock.)
  4. One must help and enemy raise his beast of burden which has collapsed.  (This commandment’s principle also extends beyond livestock.)
  5. One must not subvert the rights of the poor.
  6. One must not make or support a false allegation.
  7. One must not send the innocent to execution.
  8. One must not accept bribes.
  9. One must not oppress strangers.

These are commandments, not suggestions.

I think of the famous story of Rabbi Hillel (110 B.C.E.-10. C.E.), who summarized the Torah by citing the commandment to love God fully (the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and the Golden Rule (Leviticus 19:18).  Then he concluded,

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

That statement applies well to Exodus 23:1-9, some of the provisions of which are politically sensitive.  Justice, however, is what it is.  May we learn it and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/go-and-learn-it/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 25, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ramparts of Constantinople

Above:  Ramparts of Constantinople, Ottoman Empire, Between 1900 and 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-15141

Spiritual Barriers

OCTOBER 26-28, 2020

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O Lord God, you are the holy lawgiver, you are the salvation of your people.

By your Spirit renew us in your covenant of love,

and train us to care tenderly for all our neighbors,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20-25 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 10:10-22 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 119:41-48 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:41-48 (All Days)

James 2:8-13 (Monday)

James 2:14-26 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:16-22 (Wednesday)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I shall continue to keep your law;

I shall keep it for ever and ever.

I will walk at liberty,

because I study your commandments.

–Psalm 119:44-45, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Rabbi Hillel summarized the Law of Moses by quoting the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), the order to love Yahweh with all one’s heart, soul, and might.  Then he said,

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

We humans require “hooks” onto which to “hang” information.  Hillel pointed to an excellent one.  Much of the information, in the Law of Moses, consists of culturally specific examples of timeless principles.  Many interpreters of that code miss this point, hence continued legalism while missing the point.  Some have become lost in the trees and cannot see the forest.

The readings for these three days combine to reinforce a few theological points:

  1. How we think of God influences how we think of people;
  2. How we think influences how we act;
  3. How we treat people matters to God;
  4. To have only abstract theology is insufficient;
  5. As I heard growing up, “our prayers must have feet;” and
  6. We must eliminate spiritual barriers to trusting God.

These six points overlap, for, if we fear scarcity, for example, we might hoard in our self-interest and thereby deprive others of necessities.  God will notice that reality.

All of us have spiritual barriers.  One barrier for the man in Matthew 19:16-22 was wealth, which has functioned in that capacity for many people for a long time.  Fear of vulnerability is among the most common barriers.  This applies to the rich man in Matthew 19 because his wealth insulated him from certain stresses and other problems.  To overcome this fear is a great challenge, especially if one has acculturated in a setting which encourages rugged individualism.  The truth, of course, is that we all rely on each other and depend entirely on God.  Yet the illusion of independence and self-sufficiency remains as a major obstacle to trusting in God.  May we, by grace, find liberation from all barriers which separate us from a deeper relationship with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF ALBERT SCHWEITZER, MEDICAL MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND WITNESS FOR PEACE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/spiritual-barriers/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

New Novel Winslow Homer

Above:  The New Novel, by Winslow Homer

Image in the Public Domain

Upright and Religious Lives

OCTOBER 22 and 23, 2020

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O Lord God, you are the holy lawgiver, you are the salvation of your people.

By your Spirit renew us in your covenant of love,

and train us to care tenderly for all our neighbors,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 5:5-10 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 9:25-10:5 (Friday)

Psalm 1 (Both Days)

Titus 1:5-16 (Thursday)

Titus 2:7-8, 11-15 (Friday)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;

everything they do shall prosper.

It is not so with the wicked;

they are like the chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

–Psalm 1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Psalm 1 is excessively optimistic in places, for not everything the righteous do prospers.  Indeed, many of the wicked do quite well for themselves in this life.  That quibble aside, I note the recognition of ultimate justice, for all of us will answer to the same God, in whom dwell both judgment and mercy.

Thea assigned readings from the Old and New Testaments focus on how to live on this plane of reality.  We learn about consequences of sins also.  Sometimes those consequences assume the form of restitution  to the wronged person or the wronged person’s next of kin.  Or they might assume the form of a donation to a priest if there is no next of kin.  But what about the situation in which the collective sins?  Moses interceded with God to avoid the destruction of the people, who were stubborn, grumbling ingrates who had not surrendered their slave mentalities.  Many members of that first generation of partially liberated people died due to their sins and the second generation entered the Promised Land.  Words from Titus could have applied to that first generation:

They claim to know God but by their works they deny him; they are outrageously rebellious and quite untrustworthy for any good work.

–1:16, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Speaking of slavery, God had liberated that first generation physically from servitude in Egypt.  Thus the birth of the Hebrew nation was its passage through the parted waters of the Sea of Reeds.  Those who designed the lectionary I am following skipped Titus 2:9-10:

Slaves must be obedient to their masters in everything, and do what is wanted without argument, and show complete honesty at all times, so that they are in every way a credit to the teaching of God our Saviour.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

I side with God in Exodus, not with St. Paul the Apostle, in this matter.  Slavery is wrong in all its forms at all times and in all places.

Another portion of the Letter of Titus is less troublesome, although not without a history of excessively rigorous interpretation and enforcement:

[God’s grace] has taught us that we should give up everything contrary to true religion and all our worldly passions; we must be self-restrained and live upright lives in this present world, waiting in hope for the blessing which will come with the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

–2:12-14, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Off the top of my head I can repeat a list of allegedly self-indulgent and therefore sinful deeds:

  1. Attending plays,
  2. Reading novels,
  3. Playing dominoes,
  4. Playing chess,
  5. Playing cards,
  6. Playing soccer,
  7. Wearing fashionable clothes,
  8. Wearing ribbons in one’s hair (sorry, ladies),
  9. Drinking coffee,
  10. Drinking tea,
  11. Eating meat,
  12. Eating pastries,
  13. Dancing,
  14. Hosting a dance at home,
  15. Attending circuses,
  16. Watching television, and
  17. Watching television.

I have found references to all of these in various sources, which have dated the condemnations from centuries ago the present day.  On the other hand, would not opposing slavery constitute part of leading an upright and religious life at any time.  One might think so.

May we who profess to follow God do so in reality, forsaking petty nonsense and pursuing love of our fellow human beings and seeking the best for them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 3, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CARL LICHTENBERGER, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF JIMMY LAWRENCE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PRUDENCE CRANDALL, EDUCATOR

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/upright-and-religious-lives/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Proper 24, Year C   7 comments

Rembrandt_-_Jacob_Wrestling_with_the_Angel_-_Google_Art_Project

Above:  Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

The Efficacy of Prayer

The Sunday Closest to October 19

Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 20, 2019

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:27-34 and Psalm 119:97-104

or 

Genesis 32:22-31 and Psalm 121

then 

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Luke 18:1-8

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twenty-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twenty-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twenty-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice.  You shall not judge unfairly:  you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.  Justice, justice you shall pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving to you.

–Deuteronomy 16:18-20, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Through your commandments I gain understanding;

Therefore I hate every lying way.

–Psalm 119:104, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A judge was supposed to issue impartial rulings, but the woman in the parable from Luke 18:1-8 had to resort to threats of physical violence (slapping the judge in the face or giving him a black eye), to get justice.  Extraordinary circumstances required extraordinary methods.  But God, as Jesus tells us, is impartial.  Deuteronomy 10:17-19 agrees and imposes a set of obligations on the people:

For the LORD your God is God supreme and Lord supreme, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who shows no favor and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing.  You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

There is a profound link between how we regard God and how we act toward one another, not that Atheists cannot be moral people and agents of what the Lutheran confessions of faith call civic righteousness.  Yet, if we love God, we will love one another actively.

Another theme in the readings for this Sunday is persistence in prayer.  But what is prayer?  The Book of Common Prayer (1979) defines it as

…responding to God, by thought and deeds, with or without words.  (page 856)

Christian prayer, according to the same page of the same volume, is

…response to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer is a state of being.  It is how we think and therefore act.  Prayer is far more than the definition I heard in children’s Sunday School:

talking to God.

No, prayer is really about the covenant God has written on our hearts.

So, according to that definition, how is your prayer life?  You might struggle with God, O reader, but that is fine.  In Islam people submit to Allah, but in Judaism they struggle and argue with God.  I, being a strong-minded person, enjoy that part of my religious heritage.  At least there is a relationship with God through all that struggling.  And a transformed state awaits each of us at the end.  A trickster came to play a prominent role in salvation history.  And one gains much valuable understanding through the struggles.

May we persist in our struggles with God and in our efforts to behave justly, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  The process will transform us, making us better.  That is one valid way to understand the efficacy of prayer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT II, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF DAME JULIAN OF NORWICH, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDALENA OF CANOSSA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY AND THE SONS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/the-efficacy-of-prayer/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for October 10 and 11 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

GoldCalf

Above:  The Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part X:  Stiff-Necked People

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 10, 2019, and FRIDAY, OCTOBER 11, 2019

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 9:1-22 (October 10)

Deuteronomy 9:23-10:22 (October 11)

Psalm 97 (Morning–October 10)

Psalm 51 (Morning–October 11)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–October 10)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening–October 11)

Matthew 11:1-19 (October 10)

Matthew 11:20-30 (October 11)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Dark clouds surround the readings for these days.  In Deuteronomy 9:6 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures) Moses tells the Israelites:

Know then that it is not for any virtue that your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Subsequently described events confirm that statement.  And only the intercessions of Moses, who suffered for the people, spare them from destruction by God.

Speaking of suffering intercessors, we have Jesus in Matthew 11.  He fasts and critics accuse him of excessive asceticism.  He eats and drinks and critics allege that he is a glutton and a drunkard.  What is a Son of God and Son of Man to do?  Whatever he does, someone criticizes him.  Yet he finds a more responsive audience among many Gentiles.  At least St. John the Baptist, distressed at the end of his life, had an honest question, not a predisposition to carping and to finding fault.

Many people are impossible to please.  Others are merely extremely difficult to please.  Still others are more persuadable via good evidence and are therefore less likely to prove unpleasant.  I hope that I fall into the last category, not either of the first two, in God’s estimation.  What more than that what God has done already must God do to persuade?  Was liberating the Israelites insufficient?  Was feeding them and providing water in the desert not enough?  Is the Incarnation not to our liking?  How stiff are our necks?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-x-stiff-necked-people/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week of Proper 14: Monday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  Jessica Lange as Angelique in All That Jazz (1979)

(The image is a screen capture from a DVD of the movie.)

God, Who Is Attracted To Us

AUGUST 12, 2019

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Deuteronomy 10:12-21 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

Moses said,

And now, Israel, what is YHWH, your God, asking from you except to fear YHWH, your God, to go in all His ways, and to love Him with all your heart and soul, to observe YHWH’s commandments and His laws that I command you today to be good for you.  Here, YHWH, your god, has the skies–and the skies of the skies!–the earth and everything that’s in it.  Only, YHWH was attracted to your fathers, to love them, and He chose their seed after them:  you, out of all the peoples, as it is this day.  So you shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and you shall not harden your necks anymore.  Because YHWH, your God:  He is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty; and the awesome God, who won’t be partial and won’t take a bribe, doing judgment for an orphan and a widow and loving an alien, to give him bread and a garment.  So you shall love the alien, because you were aliens in the land of Egypt.  You shall fear YHWH, your God, you shall serve Him, and you shall cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.  He is your splendor, and He is your God, who did these great and awesome things for you that your eyes have seen.  Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now YWHH your God, has made you  like the stars of the skies for multitude.

Psalm 148 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD from the heavens;

praise him in the heights.

2 Praise him, all you angels of his;

praise him, all his host.

3 Praise him, sun and moon;

praise him, all you shining stars.

4 Praise him, heaven of heavens,

and you waters above the heavens.

5 Let them praise the Name of the LORD;

for he commanded, and they were created.

6 He made them stand fast for ever and ever;

he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

7 Praise the LORD from the earth,

you sea-monsters and all deeps;

8 Fire and hail, snow and fog,

tempestuous wind, doing his will;

9 Mountains and all hills,

fruit trees and cedars;

10 Wild beasts and all cattle,

creeping things and winged birds;

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the world;

12 Young man and maidens,

old and young together.

13 Let them praise the Name of the LORD,

for his Name only is exalted,

his splendor is over earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up strength for his people

and praise for all his loyal servants,

the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

Hallelujah!

Matthew 17:22-27 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

As they went together in Galilee, Jesus told them,

The Son of Man is going to be handed over to the power of men, and they will kill him.  And on the third day he will be raised to life again.

This greatly distressed the disciples.

Then when they arrived at Capernaum the Temple tax-collectors came up and said to Peter,

Your master doesn’t pay Temple-tax, we presume?

Peter replied,

Oh, yes, he does!

Later when he went into the house, Jesus anticipated what he was going to say.

What do you think, Simon?

he said.

Whom do the kings of this world get their tolls and taxes from–their own family or from others?

Peter replied,

From others.

Jesus told him,

Then the family is exempt,.  Yet we don’t want to give offence to these people, so go down to the lake and throw in your hook.  Take the first fish that bites, open his mouth and you’ll find a silver coin.  Take that and give it to them, for both of us.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The word “awesome” has lost much of its power in my North American culture. It is, in its older English form, related to “awful,” which used to mean “full of awe.”   Hence “awesome” means “inspiring awe.”  So the word is far more profound than one might think after hearing “Totally awesome, dude!” too many times.

The speaker in Deuteronomy is Moses, at least in literature.  He reminds the Israelites, who are about to enter the promised land, of the greatness, mercy, and power of God, who has made them what they are.  And God asks that they obey him, for his commands are for their own good.  This is God, who, as Professor Richard Elliott translates a verse, “was attracted to your fathers, to love them…and their seed after them.”

Much of Christian tradition has not dealt well with even the hint of human sexuality.  So the idea of God being attracted to people might seem jarring.  But I find it rather comforting.  When I read that verse while typing it, my mind turned to All That Jazz (1979) and Father Andrew Greeley’s analysis of it in his 1990 book, The Catholic Myth:  The Behavior and Beliefs of American Catholics (New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons).  The late Roy Scheider plays Joe Gideon, a Broadway show producer.  Joe is also a shallow man drinks too much, takes too many pills, and has troubled relationships with women and his daughter.  Through it all, Angelique, whose true identity is vague, speaks to him–sometimes in comfort, other times in reproof, and still other times mockingly.  But she is there at the end, as Joe, now dead, travels down the tunnel, toward the light, where she is waiting.  Is she God? She might be.  She is certainly attracted to Joe Gideon.

Father Greeley has a wonderful footnote on page 252:

I take consolation in the hope that God, when finally encountered, will be even more spectacular than Jessica Lange.   She’d better be.

As God is attracted to us, we ought to reciprocate.  Saints, especially female ones whose writings have come down to us, have understood this principle well.  This becomes easier for men when using a female image of God.  And why not?  God exists beyond human concepts of sex and gender; let us not become distracted by metaphors.  As for me, I will be content if God is only as spectacular as Jessica Lange.

The laws of God speak of our obligations to each other.  Honoring these is part of demonstrating one’s love for God.  The text from Deuteronomy singles out the treatment of aliens and reminds the Israelites that they used to be aliens in Egypt.  So they ought to treat the aliens in their midst with great respect.  This is a timeless principle, one that all people would do well to honor with words and deeds.  I wonder how better the debates over immigration policies in more than one nation (such as my own, the United States of America) would be if this principle set the tone.  God is attracted to the foreigners, too.

Speaking of obligations to each other, the text from Matthew addresses a specific tax.  The temple tax had its origin in Exodus 30:11-16.  Each Jew at least twenty years old had to pay half a shekel per year.  Subsequent time and tradition altered the amount and led to disagreements about whether the Temple tax ought to be voluntary or mandatory, and whether was supposed to an annual payment or a one-time gift.  Pharisees understood it as a mandatory annual tax; Sadducees thought it was voluntary, and Essenes understood it as a one-time donation.  Jesus paid the tax miraculously in the story, but not before making a point about a king’s tribute, and the fact the royal family does not pay such a tax.

This is a vital clue.  History tells us that Roman forces destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem in 7o C.E., but that the Empire imposed a new tax in the place of the Temple tax afterward, for the purpose of supporting the new Temple of Jupiter, which took the place of the former Jewish Temple.  And the writing of the Gospel of Matthew postdates that event.  So the original audience of that Gospel would have thought of that Roman tax.  Paul had written about freedom in Christ as well as the necessity to avoid abusing one’s spiritual freedom so as to harm others.  For example, he knew that other gods did not exist, so it might seem to be a shame to let perfectly good food dedicated to said deities go uneaten.  But others did not know that there is only one God.  So, for their sake, Paul advocated not eating such food.

So this is a difficult passage.  Does it mean that the Hebrew Christians after 70 C.E. had an obligation to pay the new, odious Roman tax?  Is this a hard teaching about the obligations of citizenship, even under occupation?  There are layers of Biblical analysis, and the purpose of this weblog is devotional.  So I choose to remain focused on that.  In this case, this mandate entails thinking about mutual obligations.

We humans have obligations to each other, and our freedoms are not absolute.  Think about traffic laws; they serve the common good.  This is a mundane example, but it makes a point.  A healthy spiritual ethic balances individual freedom and the common good; it tramples neither.  After all, God is attracted to all of us.

It is easy to grasp this concept when pondering people one likes, with whom one agrees, and who are like one.  But this can be challenging when thinking and speaking of those who do not fit any of those descriptions.  I find it challenging much of the time.  You, O reader, might not be so different from me in this regard.  But let us think more about what happened to Thomas Merton one day.  While standing on an urban sidewalk, he looked around and realized that he loved everybody.  This ethic defined his life from that moment forward.  May it define ours, too.  After all, God is attracted to us.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/god-who-is-attracted-to-us/