Archive for the ‘Deuteronomy 4’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 12 (Year D)   1 comment

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD -- a painting by David Roberts (1796-1849).

Above:  The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts

Image in the Public Domain

The Apocalyptic Discourse, Part III

JULY 26, 2020

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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:

Deuteronomy 4:32:40 or Isaiah 65:10-16 (17-25) or Ezekiel 7:(1-9) 10-27 or Zechariah 14:(1-3) 4-9 (10-21)

Psalm 50:(7-8) 9-21 (22-23) or Psalm 105:(1-6) 12-15 (26) 27-36 (37, 43-45)

Matthew 24:15-22 or Mark 13:14-20 or Luke 21:20-24

1 Corinthians 10:(14-17) 18-11:1

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The ominous tone of judgment hangs over the readings for this Sunday.  How dare those who have witnessed the power and the mercy of God disregard Him?  Yet we find mercy combined with judgment.  Besides apocalyptic destruction of the corrupt human order, based on violence and exploitation, precedes the establishment of God’s new order on Earth.

I think it important to point out that offenses in the readings are not just personal peccadilloes.  Social injustice is a recurring theme in apocalyptic literature, which therefore emphasizes institutionalized sins.  The pericope from 1 Corinthians reminds us of the truth that whatever we do affects other people.  We should therefore act according to the moral obligation to consider the scruples of others.  I propose that this is a fine principle one can take too far, for, if we become too sensitive regarding the scruples of others, we will do little or nothing, certainly little or nothing good.  The guiding principle (from 10:31) is to behave for the glory of God.

There is no sin in glorifying God and effecting the common good.  There is no sin in not exploiting anyone.  There is no sin in loving one’s neighbors and recognizing one’s obligations to them in the societal web of interdependence.  There is no sin in making love the rule of life (2 John 5b-6).

Doing so does not prompt the judgment of God.

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/the-apocalyptic-discourse-part-iii/

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This is post #850 of ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS.

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Devotion for Monday After Proper 10, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jethro's Visit

Above:  Jethro’s Visit, by Gerard Jollain

Image in the Public Domain

Humility Before God

JULY 22, 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:

Exodus 18:1-12

Psalm 119:97-104

Colossians 1:27-2:7

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From your precepts I learn wisdom,

so I hate all deceptive ways.

–Psalm 119:104, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The liberation of the Israelites from Egypt had occurred in Exodus 14.  (The departure of Abram and Sarai from Egypt in Genesis 12 had foreshadowed that event.)  In Exodus 18 Moses reunited with his father-in-law (Jethro), and his wife (Zipporah), his two sons (Gershom and Eliezer), who left Midian to meet him.  Jethro acknowledged the superiority of YHWH to other deities.  He did not, however, become a monotheist.

This was not unusual.  As the notes in The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) inform me,

The Torah does not expect Gentiles to become monotheists (see Deut. 4.19), only to recognize the LORD’s superiority when he asserts it, as in the case of Egypt.  The idea of universal monotheism first appears in the later classical prophets (Jer. 16.19-20; Zech. 14.9).  Neither the prophets nor Jewish tradition call for Gentiles, even monotheistic ones, to convert to Judaism, though later Jewish tradition–characteristically reading the Bible through the prism of the prophets–believed that Jethro did abandon idolatry (Exod. Rab. 1.32) and, going even further, became a Jew (Tg. Ps.-J. Exod. 18.6, 27; Tanh. Buber Yitro, 5).

–Page 135

St. Paul the Apostle, himself a Jew, expected that Gentile converts to Christianity (A) need not become Jews first, and (B) renounce any allegiances to deities other than God (YHWH).  He recognized no compatibility of Christianity (then a small and young Jewish sect) and idolatry.

Psalm 119 speaks of the Law of Moses, something which did not exist at the time of Exodus 18.  (The Law of Moses began Chapter 20.)  Nevertheless, the timeless principles of the Law of Moses existed prior to that code.  Among these principles was acknowledging the greatness of YHWH then acting accordingly, that is, humbly before God.  That is possible via grace.

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/humility-before-god-3/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 17, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Icon of Moses

Above:  Icon of Moses

Image in the Public Domain

Cleansing from Evil that Arises Within Ourselves, Part III

SEPTEMBER 3, 4, and 5, 2018

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The Collect:

O God our strength, without you we are weak and wayward creatures.

Protect us from all dangers that attack us from the outside,

and cleanse us from the outside,

and cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves,

that we may be preserved through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:9-14 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 4:15-20 (Tuesday)

Deuteronomy 4:21-40 (Wednesday)

Psalm 106:1-6, 13-23, 47-48 (All Days)

1 Timothy 4:6-16 (Monday)

1 Peter 2:19-25 (Tuesday)

Mark 7:9-23 (Wednesday)

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We have sinned like our forebears;

we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.

–Psalm 106:6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The contents of this post flows naturally from the previous one.  God, whom the Torah depicts vividly as compassionate yet prone to smite faithless people and blame many people for the sins of others, exceeds human comprehension and preconceptions.  Any impression to the contrary is mistaken.  Holding to divine commandments–sometimes despite the discouraging attitudes, words, and deeds of others–is a great virtue.

Yet we mere mortals interpret that law in our cultural contexts, so we excuse the unjustifiable in the name of God sometimes.  In 1 Peter 2:18-25, for example, we find instructions to slaves to obey their masters.  Verse 18, which the lectionary omits, reads:

Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I refuse to defend such a passage.

Other injustices have been conscious violations of divine law, not ones born out of cultural blindness.  The practice of Corban was the act of donating wealth or property to the religious establishment.  It was innocent and sincere sometimes, but mean-spirited much of the time.  A person, under the cover of holiness, could deprive his family of necessary financial resources.  Jesus knew this, and he said so.  That which defiles one, our Lord and Saviour said, comes from within, not without.  The metaphorical source of defilement is one’s heart, so, as in the previous post, entering the headquarters of Pontius Pilate would have defiled nobody.  No, those who handed Jesus over to Pilate had defiled themselves already.

May we not defile ourselves.  May we love each other as we love ourselves.  May we respect the image of God in others and in ourselves.  May we encourage each other in our vocations from God.  And may we refuse to shift the blame for that for which we are responsible.  Making scapegoats out of people solves no problems, creates more of them, and violates the moral imperative to respect the dignity of every human being.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET E. SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/cleansing-from-evil-that-arises-within-ourselves-part-iii/

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Devotion for October 4 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

ChristCleansing

Above: Jesus Cleansing a Leper, by Jean-Marie Melchior Doze

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part VI:  Restoration to Wholeness

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4, 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:

Deuteronomy 4:21-40

Psalm 85 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening)

Matthew 8:1-17

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Lord, you were gracious to your land;

you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

You forgave the offence of your people

and covered their sins.

You laid aside all your fury

and turned from your wrathful indignation.

–Psalm 85:1-3 (The Book of Common Prayer, 2004)

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Lord, you were once gracious to your land:

you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

You forgave the offence of your people:

and covered all their sin.

You put away all your displeasure:

and turned from your bitter wrath.

–Psalm 85:1-3 (A New Zealand Prayer Book, 1989)

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For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, an impassioned God.

–Deuteronomy 4:24 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

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Deuteronomy 4:21-40 continues in the judgment-mercy balance vein of which I wrote in the previous post.  I see no need to write any more of that matter here.

As much as Deuteronomy 4:24 emphasizes what Richard Elliott Friedman calls the

harsh, frightening side of God

Commentary on the Torah, HarperCollins, 2001, page 577,

Matthew 8:1-17 focuses on the gentle, healing side of God.  Jesus heals a leper, a centurion’s servant, St. Peter’s mother-in-law, and many people with problems described at the time as demonic possession.  (Modern diagnoses would be mostly psychiatric and medication would follow.)  Jesus restored them to wholeness physically and/or psychiatrically plus socially.

May we, so far as we are able, function as agents of divine grace in the restoration of people to themselves, their friends, their relatives, and their society.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-vi-restoration-to-wholeness/

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Devotion for October 2 and 3 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

moses-views-the-promised-land

Above:  Moses Views the Holy Land, by Frederic Leighton

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part V:  Hearing and Doing, Judgment and Mercy

FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2 AND 3, 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:

Deuteronomy 3:1-29 (October 2)

Deuteronomy 4:1-20 (October 3)

Psalm 96 (Morning–October 2)

Psalm 116 (Morning–October 3)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–October 2)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–October 3)

Matthew 7:1-12 (October 2)

Matthew 7:13-29 (October 3)

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If you, Lord, were to mark what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you shall be feared.

–Psalm 130:2-3 (The Book of Common Prayer, 2004)

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If you should keep account of what is done amiss:

who then, O Lord, could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you:

therefore you shall be revered.

–Psalm 130:3-4 (A New Zealand Prayer Book, 1989)

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But the LORD was wrathful with me on your account and would not listen to me.  The LORD said to me, “Enough!  Never speak to Me of this matter again!….

–Deuteronomy 3:26 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

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Deuteronomy 3-4 functions well as one unit, as does Matthew 7.  Lectonaries are wonderful, helpful guides to reading the Bible intelligently, but sometimes they become too choppy.  They work well because one of the best ways to read one part of the Bible is in the context of other portions thereof, thereby reducing the risk of prooftexting.

There is much to cover, so let us begin.

I start with the violence–er, genocide–in Deuteronomy 3.  I notice the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12 also.  Genocide is, of course, inconsistent with doing to others that which one wants done to one’s self.  So I side with the Golden Rule over genocide.

The main idea which unites Deuteronomy 3-4 with Matthew 7 is the balance between divine judgment and divine mercy.  In simple terms, there is much mercy with God, but justice requires a judgment sometimes.  Mercy exists in Matthew 7:7-11 yet judgment takes central stage in 7:24-27.  And divine judgment is prominent in Deuteronomy 3:23-28 and chapter 4, mixed in with mercy.

One tradition within the Torah is that the sin which kept Moses out of the Promised Land was a lack of trust in God, for the leader had struck a rock twice–not once–to make water flow from it.  He had drawn attention and glory away from God in the process back in Numbers 20:6-12.  A faithless and quarrelsome generation had died in the wilderness.  Yet their children inherited the Promised Land.  Judgment and mercy coexisted.

Richard Elliott Friedman’s Commentary on the Torah informs me of textual parallels and puns.  For example, Moses imploring God for mercy is like Joseph’s brothers imploring the Vizier of Egypt for the same in Genesis 42.  And the Hebrew root for “Joseph” is also the root for the divine instruction to stop speaking to God about entering the Promised Land.  God is cross at Moses for asking to cross the River Jordan–the only time that a certain Hebrew word for anger occurs in the Torah.  That word becomes evident in Friedman’s translation of Deuteronomy 3:25-26 and 27b:

“Let me cross and see the good land that’s across the Jordan, this good hill country and the Lebanon.”  But YHWH was cross at me for your sakes and He would not listen to me.  “Don’t go on speaking to me anymore of this thing…..you won’t cross this Jordan.”

The TANAKH rendering is more stately, but Friedman’s translation does bring out the double entendres nicely.

I do not even pretend to understand how divine judgment and mercy work.  Both, I think, are part of divine justice.  I, as a matter of daily practice, try not to pronounce divine judgment o  others, for that is God’s task.  So I try to extend the assumption of mercy toward them with regard to this life and the next one, so as to avoid the sin of hypocrisy mentioned in Matthew 7:1-5 and to work toward living according t the Golden Rule more often.  For, as I think so I do.  As William Barclay wrote in his analysis of Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus demands hearing and doing (The Gospel of Matthew, Revised Edition, Volume 1, Westminster Press, 1975, pages 291-292).  That is the same requirement of the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 4.

Hearing and doing the commandments of God is difficult.  May we succeed by a combination of divine grace and human free will.  And, when we err, may we do so on the side of kindness, not cruelty, anger, and resentment.  May we leave the judgment to God.  I would rather err in forgiving the unforgivable than in being improperly wrathful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-v-hearing-and-doing-judgment-and-mercy/

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Proper 17, Year B   18 comments

Above:  Tanya Allen (as Audrey) and Ken Finkleman (as George Findlay) from Campaign (1997), Episode #13 of The Newsroom (1996-1997)

This image is a screen captures I took via PowerDVD and a legal, purchased disc.

Hearers and Doers of the Word

The Sunday Closest to August 31

The Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 2, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

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.

Psalm 45:1-2, 7-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  My heart is stirring with a noble song;

let me recite what I have fashioned for the king;

my tongue shall be the pen of a skilled writer.

2  You are the fairest of men;

grace flows from your lips,

because God has blessed you for ever.

7  You throne, O God, endures for ever and ever,

a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom;

you love righteousness and hate iniquity.

8  Therefore God, your God, has anointed you

with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

9  All your garments are fragrant with myrrh, aloes, and cassia,

and the music of strings from ivory palaces makes you glad.

10  Kings’ daughters stand among the ladies of the court;

on your right hand is the queen,

adorned with the gold of Ophir.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Deuteronomy 4:1-2, 6-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses said:

So now, Israel, give heed to the statutes and ordinances that I am teaching you to observe, so that you may live to enter and occupy the land that the LORD, the God of your ancestors, is giving you. You must neither add anything to what I command you nor take away anything from it, but keep the commandments of the LORD your God with which I am charging you.

You must observe them diligently, for this will show your wisdom and discernment to the peoples, who, when they hear all these statutes, will say, “Surely this great nation is a wise and discerning people!” For what other great nation has a god so near to it as the LORD our God is whenever we call to him? And what other great nation has statutes and ordinances as just as this entire law that I am setting before you today?

But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life; make them known to your children and your children’s children.

Psalm 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

who may abide upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right,

who speaks the truth from his heart.

3 There is no guile upon his tongue;

he does no evil to his friend;

he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.

In his sight the wicked is rejected,

but he honors those who fear the LORD.

5 He has sworn to do no wrong

and does not take back his word.

6 He does not give his money in hope of gain,

nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

shall never be overthrown.

SECOND READING

James 1:17-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.

You must understand this, my beloved: let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act-they will be blessed in their doing.

If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 7:1-8, 14-15, 21-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now when the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalemgathered around Jesus, they noticed that some of his disciples were eating with defiled hands, that is, without washing them. (For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they thoroughly wash their hands, thus observing the tradition of the elders; and they do not eat anything from the market unless they wash it; and there are also many other traditions that they observe, the washing of cups, pots, and bronze kettles.) So the Pharisees and the scribes asked him,

Why do your disciples not live according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?

He said to them,

Isaiah prophesied rightly about you hypocrites, as it is written,

“This people honors me with their lips,

but their hearts are far from me;

in vain do they worship me,

teaching human precepts as doctrines.”

You abandon the commandment of God and hold to human tradition.

Then he called the crowd again and said to them,

Listen to me, all of you, and understand: there is nothing outside a person that by going in can defile, but the things that come out are what defile. 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.

The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 17, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/proper-17-year-a/

Deuteronomy 4:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/nineteenth-day-of-lent/

James 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/week-of-6-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/week-of-proper-1-tuesday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/week-of-proper-1-wednesday-year-2/

Mark 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/week-of-5-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/week-of-5-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

Matthew 15 (Parallel to Mark 7):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/week-of-proper-13-tuesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/proper-15-year-a/

1 Peter 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-8-epiphany-friday-year-2/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fortieth-day-of-lent-holy-saturday/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-proper-3-friday-year-2/

New Every Morning is the Love:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/new-every-morning-is-the-love-by-john-keble/

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Consider this:

…for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness….But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves….Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this:  to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world.–James 1:20a, 22, 27, New Revised Standard Version

and this:

For it is 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 7:21-23, New Revised Standard Version

and this:

But take care and watch yourselves closely, so as neither to forget the things that your eyes have seen nor to let them slip from your mind all the days of your life….–Deuteronomy 4:9a, New Revised Standard Version

and this:

Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins.–1 Peter 4:8, New Revised Standard Version

Among my favorite television series is The Newsroom, all of which I own of DVDs.  Set in a Toronto, Ontario, television newsroom, the series focuses on George Findlay, an amoral (if not immoral) News Director, and his staff, most of which is also weak.  People lie to each other constantly, stab each other in the back, and put out a nightly news broadcast with mostly sensational content.  If it bleeds, it leads.  If it scares, it leads.  If it is mindless, it leads.  The writing of the series is sharp (drawing even from European art films), there is (mercifully) no laugh track, and the acting is spectacular.

The Newsroom presents a (hopefully) exaggerated view of human foibles, including some of those which contribute to one’s self-defilement.  One, alas, does not need to resort to fiction to find examples of destructive and defiling behaviors.  Sometimes all one has to do is review one’s own past or even one’s own present.

Checklist morality is the easy and bad way out.  Moral living consists of far more than doing X, Y, and Z, and not not doing A, B, and C.  Jesus boiled the Law of Moses down to two commandments, both about how we think, and therefore how we act.  If we love God fully and love our neighbors as ourselves, we will keep the law.  We will want to do right by our neighbors and by God, so we will act accordingly.  And, as we read in 1 Peter,

Love covers a multitude of sins.

If we nurture love, we will not feed unrighteous anger.

Anger is a powerful emotion.  Sometimes it sustains us in the short term, but it becomes spiritually toxic as time passes.  I have reached a point in my spiritual development that anger repels me most of the time.  Yes, there is righteous anger, the sort which Jesus expressed and which propels social reform movements.  (One should be angry about the denial of basic human rights, for example.)  But the anger which fuels much of alleged news programming on television and radio repels me, so I choose not to consume it.  I do this in a positive way, not an angry one.

The most effective way to be a hearer and a doer of the word of God in Jesus is to love God fully and and to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  This is active, not theoretical.  This is something we must do daily.  What tone of voice, for example, do we use?  What do we say, and what do we leave unsaid?   What do we write, and what do we leave unwritten?  And do we leave our corner of the world a better place, or do we opt for sensationalism and inanity?  Do we respect others with our words and deeds?

It is that simple–and that challenging.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/hearers-and-doers-of-the-word/

Week of Proper 13: Friday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  No Right Turn Sign (U.S.A.)

Image in the Public Domain

True Life

AUGUST 9, 2019

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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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Deuteronomy 4:32-40 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

Because ask of the earliest days that were before you, from the day that God created a human on the earth, and from one end of the skies to the other end of the skies:  has there been anything like this great thing?  or has anything like it been heard of?  Has a people heard God’s voice speaking from inside a fire the way you heard–and lived?  Or has God put it to the test, to come to take for Himself a people from among people with tests, with signs, and with wonders and with war and with a strong hand and with and outstretched arm and with great fears like everything that YHWH, your God, has done for you in Egypt before your eyes?  You have been shown in order to know that YHWH:  He is God.  There is no other outside of Him.  From the skies He had you hear His voice in order to discipline you, and on the earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words from inside the fire.  And because He loved your fathers He chose their seed after them, so He brought you out in front of Him from Egypt by His great power, to dispossess bigger and more powerful nations than you in front of you, to bring you, to give you their land as a legacy as it is today.  And you shall know today and store it in in your heart from YHWH:  He is God in the skies above and on earth below.  And you shall observe His laws and His commandments that I command you today so it will be good for you and for your children after you, and so that you’ll extend days on the land that YHWH, your God, is giving you forever.

Psalm 105:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

Matthew 16:24-28 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus said to his disciples,

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his real life?  What could a man offer to buy back that life once he has lost it?

“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father and in the company of his angels and then he will repay every man for what he has done.  Believe me, there are some standing here today who will know nothing of death till they have seen the Son of Man coming as king.

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The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The proper direction in life comes from listening closely to God.  Living successfully is doing so in God, as God directs us.  For what has God called us, specifically?  Doing that is the road to success.  So what is popular, what others expect of us, what our culturally-defined roles might be, and what we want for ourselves might lead away from our proper destination.

Consider the words of Jesus.  A person who seeks to save his or her life will lose it, and one who loses it will gain it.  This runs contrary to conventional wisdom, does it not?  But consider the source.  Jesus was frequently on the outs with authority figures, and the Roman Empire executed him as an insurrectionist.  The Imperium subjected him to crucifixion, a method reserved for those it considered the worst of the worst.  But who would argue with a straight face that Jesus was a failure?  Are we not still speaking of him after nearly 2,000 years?

(An Aside:  What about the end of the excerpt from Matthew?  By the time of the writing of the Gospel of Matthew, probably circa 85 C.E., Christianity was a vital young religion.  Certainly many people had “seen the Son of Man coming in his kingdom,” as William Barclay translates that verse.  That is, the Kingdom of God, which Jesus inaugurated, was spreading out across the world.  In the canonical gospels Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God in the present tense.  Did it go away after the Ascension?  I think not.)

The passage from Deuteronomy is explicitly monotheistic.  If Professor Richard Elliott Friedman is correct in his insistence that this passage comes from the 600s B.C.E. at the latest, a strong monotheistic strain existed in Judaism prior to the return from Babylonian Exile (500s B.C.E.).  This is old news.  Here is some more old news:  Many Jews did not practice monotheism until after the return from the Babylonian Exile.  Archaeology and the witness of the Hebrew prophets affirm this statement.  Some ancient places of worship in Israel have survived, for archaeologists have excavated many of them.  At some of these sites the archaeologists found two altars–one for YHWH and the other for Astarte, his presumed wife.

Yet the reading from Deuteronomy stands as a defense of worshiping YHWH alone–without Astarte.  Atheism was extremely rare in that part of the world in the 600s-400s BCE, and monotheism was scarce, too.  Polytheism prevailed, so resisting it was difficult for many.  Yet that is what the Deuteronomist (or at least one Deuteronomist), inserting words into the mouth of Moses, says they must do.  This principle holds true today.  You might not be a polytheist, but what are your idols, those things distracting you from God?  Their identities might surprise you.

The rat race is bad for the rats, and keeping up with the Joneses is no good, either.  Seeking status is pursuing something shallow.  This day’s readings say that we must act contrary to all these standards.  Each of us needs to focus on the one God, take up our cross, and follow Jesus–perhaps at the cost of physical life itself.  Maybe the price will slightly less steep, but it will cost us something we value.  But what we receive in return will be of infinitely greater value.

Most of Christ’s Apostles died violently as martyrs.  St. Paul suffered greatly for the Christian faith after his conversion.  During the succeeding centuries countless numbers of Christians have suffered for their faith.  And martyrdom continues into the present day.  “Take up your cross and follow me,” Jesus says.  This is the path to life in God, whatever form the cross takes.  For Dietrich Bonhoeffer it was a noose.  For others it is a destroyed reputation or a prison sentence or both.  Members of an angry mob killed St. Josaphat Kuntsevych with bullets and an ax.  All these are terrible and unjust, but the Kingdom of God is still here, after nearly two thousand years.  It is spread out across the earth, and many of us do not see it.  But those who take up their crosses point to it, and no temporal power can overcome it.

May we follow and love the God who cares for us and guides us.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/true-life/