Archive for the ‘Dietrich Bonhoeffer’ Tag

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 18, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

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Above:  A Visual Protest Against Police Brutality and Corruption, June 11, 1887

Artist = Eugene Zimmerman (1862-1935)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-4792

Good Trees for God

SEPTEMBER 11, 12, and 13, 2017

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The Collect:

O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy.

Without your help, we mortals will fail;

remove far from us everything that is harmful,

and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 4:27-31; 5:14-16 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 17:2-13 (Tuesday)

Leviticus 16:1-5, 20-28 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:65-72 (All Days)

1 Peter 2:11-17 (Monday)

Romans 13:1-7 (Tuesday)

Matthew 21:18-22 (Wednesday)

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These readings present us with some difficult material.  In the Torah an animal sacrifice atoned for unintentional sins, offering an unauthorized sacrifice led to death, and idolatry carried the death penalty.

So you shall purge evil from your midst.

–Deuteronomy 17:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Also, in the readings from Romans and 1 Peter, resisting authority is a sin, regardless of the nature of that government.    I will address these matters in order.

I.

One was supposed to keep a distance from the holy and approach God in a certain way in the Law of Moses.  Thus one had instructions to offer sacrifices just so, for example.  And touching the Ark of the Covenant was deadly.  In contrast, Jesus, God incarnate, ate with people, many of whom had dubious moral histories and bad reputations.  I side with Jesus in this matter.

II.

One ought to be very careful regarding instructions to kill the (alleged) infidels.  Also, one should recognize such troublesome passages in one’s own scriptures as well as in those of others, lest one fall into hypocrisy regarding this issue.  Certainly those Puritans in New England who executed Quakers in the 1600s thought that they were purging evil from their midst.  Also, shall we ponder the Salem Witch Trials, in which paranoid Puritans trapped inside their superstitions and experiencing LSD trips courtesy of a bread mold, caused innocent people to die?  And, not that I am equating Puritans with militant Islamists, I have no doubt that those militant Islamists who execute Christians and adherents to other religions think of themselves as people who purge evil from their midst.  Violence in the name of God makes me cringe.

When does one, in the name of purging evil from one’s midst, become that evil?

III.

Speaking of removing evil from our midst (or at least trying to do so), I note that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, after struggling with his conscience, participated in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  I let that pass, for if one cannot kill (or at least plan to kill) a genocidal dictator in the name of morality….Sometimes life presents us with bad decisions and worse ones.  Choose the bad in very such circumstance, I say.  In the Hitler case, how many lives might have continued had he died sooner?

IV.

Christianity contains a noble and well-reasoned argument for civil disobedience.  This tradition reaches back to the Early Church, when many Christians (some of whom became martyrs) practiced conscientious objection to service in the Roman Army.  The tradition includes more recent figures, such as many heroes of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  Many of those activists suffered and/or died too.  And, in the late 1800s, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, hardly a bastion of liberalism at any point in its history, declared that the Ottoman imperial government, which had committed violence against the Armenian minority group, had no more moral legitimacy or right to rule.  Yet I read in the October 30, 1974, issue of The Presbyterian Journal, the midwife for the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973, that:

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the Lord’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

–page 11

That was an extreme law-and-order position the editor affirmed in the context of reacting against demonstrations of the 1960s and early 1970s.  A few years later, however, the PCA General Assembly approved of civil disobedience as part of protests against abortions.

V.

If one assumes, as St. Paul the Apostle and much of the earliest Church did, that Jesus would return quite soon and destroy the sinful world order, preparation for Christ’s return might take priority and social reform might move off the list of important things to accomplish.  But I am writing in 2014, so much time has passed without the Second Coming having occurred.  Love of one’s neighbors requires us to act and even to change society and/or rebel against human authority sometimes.

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The barren fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22 was a symbol of faithless and fruitless people.  If we know a tree by its fruits and we are trees, what kind of trees are we?  May we bear the fruits of love, compassion,and mere decency.  May our fruits be the best they can be, albeit imperfect.  May we be the kind of trees that pray, in the words of Psalm 119:68 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979):

You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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Bloga Theologica version

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Devotion for November 30 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

christ-with-beard

Above:  Christ with Beard

Image in the Public Domain

Subversive Compassion

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 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:

Isaiah 6:1-7:9

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

1 Peter 2:13-25

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I have covered the reading from Isaiah already, so I refer you, O reader, to the labeled links for them.  At this time and place I choose to say the following:  A pressing question for many Christians in the latter portion of the first century C.E. was whether one could be both a good Christian and a good Roman.  Also, the author of 1 Peter assumed that Jesus would be back quite soon to sort out the world order.  As I write these words, our Lord has not returned. The world order is what we have made it; may we exercise our agency responsibly to improve it.  This does involve resisting authority sometimes, as in the case of tyrannical governments.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer plotted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  Many faithful Christians–Protestants and Roman Catholics–sheltered Jews and resisted the Third Reich.  And, throughout church history, bishops have called monarchs to account.

We who read and interpret the Bible must be careful to read it as a whole, not to fixate so much on certain passages that we ignore inconvenient ones and distort the composite meaning of the texts.  There is something called confirmation bias, which means that we tend to pay attention to evidence which supports our opinions and ignore or dismiss that which does not.  I look for this in myself and try to safeguard against prooftexting, the confirmation bias method of misreading the Bible.

I keep returning to the example Jesus set.  (I am a professing Christian, literally a “partisan of Christ.”)  He violated many religious customs, some of them from the Law of Moses itself.  He seems to have favored compassion over any other factor when they came into conflict.  And he taught this ethic with his words.  So we have in our Lord the union of words and deeds favoring compassion above all else in guiding our actions toward others.  Compassion trumps all else.

As much as I disagree with those aspects of Christian traditions which deal favorably with tyrants and dictators, justify servitude, and smile upon gender inequality, I find Jesus to be the strong counterpoint to them.  Somewhere–very soon after our Lord’s time on the planet ended–the church began to accommodate itself–frequently in ways inconsistent with Christ–to the Roman Empire.  Jesus was a subversive.  I mean this as a compliment.  I follow the subversive, or at least I try to do so.  If I am to be an honest Christian, this is what I must do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

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Week of Proper 27: Tuesday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 27: Wednesday,Year 2   3 comments

Above:  A Nurse with Infant Orphans

Image Source = Michielvd

Proper Behavior and the Golden Rule

NOVEMBER 13 and 14, 2018

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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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COMPOSITE FIRST READING

Titus 2:1-3:15 (Revised English Bible):

For your part, you must say what is in keeping with sound doctrine.  The older men should be sober, dignified, and temperate, sound in faith, love, and fortitude.  The older women, similarly, should be reverent in their demeanour, not scandalmongers or slaves to excessive drinking; they must set a high standard, and so teach the younger women to be loving wives and mothers, to be temperate, chaste, busy at home, and kind, respecting the authority of their husbands.  Then the gospel will not be brought into disrepute.

Urge the younger men, similarly, to be temperate in all things, and set them an example of good conduct yourself.  In your teaching you must show integrity and seriousness, and offer sound instruction to which none can take exception.  Any opponent will be at a loss when he finds nothing to say to our discredit.

Slaves are to respect their masters’ authority in everything and to give them satisfaction; they are not to answer back, nor to pilfer, but are to show themselves absolutely trustworthy.  In all this they will add lustre to the doctrine of God our Saviour.

For the grace of God has dawned upon the world with healing for all mankind; and by it we are disciplined to renounce godless ways and worldly desires, and to live a life of temperance, honesty, and godliness in the present age, looking forward to the happy fulfillment of our hope when the splendour of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus will appear.  He it is who sacrificed himself for us, to set us free from all wickedness and to make us his own people, pure and eager to do good.

These are your themes; urge them and argue them with an authority which on one can disregard.

Remind everyone to be submissive to the government and the authorities, and to obey them; to be ready for any honourable work; to slander no one, to avoid quarrels, and always to show forbearance and a gentle disposition to all.

There was a time when we too were lost in folly and disobedience and were slaves to passions and pleasures of every kind.  Our days were passed in malice and envy; hateful ourselves, we loathed one another.

But when the kindness and generosity of God our Saviour dawned upon the world, then, not for any good deeds of our own, but because he was merciful, he saved us through the water of rebirth and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit, which he lavished upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, justified by his grace, we might in hope become heirs to eternal life.

That is a saying you may trust.

Such are the points I want to insist on, so that those who have come to believe in God may be sure to devote themselves to good works.  These precepts are good in themselves and useful to society.  But avoid foolish speculations, genealogies, quarrels, and controversies under the law; they are unprofitable and futile.

If someone is contentious, he should be allowed a second warning; after that, have nothing more to do with him, recognizing that anyone like that has a distorted mind and stands self-condemned in his sin.

Once I have sent Artemas or Tychicus to you, join me at Nicopolis as soon as you can, for that is where I have decided to spend the winter.  Do your utmost to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their travels, and see that they are not short of anything.  And our own people must be taught to devote themselves to good works to meet urgent needs; they must not be unproductive.

All who are with me send your greetings.  My greetings to our friends in the faith.  Grace be with you all!

RESPONSE FOR TUESDAY

Psalm 37:1-6, 28-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon whither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

28 Turn from evil, and do good,

and dwell in the land for ever.

29 For the LORD loves justice;

he does not forsake his faithful ones.

RESPONSE FOR WEDNESDAY

Psalm 91:9-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

9  Because you have made the LORD your refuge,

and the Most High your habitation,

10  There shall no evil happen to you,

neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

11  He shall give his angels charge over you,

to keep you in all his ways.

12  They shall bear you in their hands,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

13  You shall tread upon the lion and adder;

you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,

therefore I will deliver him;

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;

I am with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

16 With long life will I satisfy him,

and show him my salvation.

COMPOSITE GOSPEL READING

Luke 17:7-10 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said to his disciples,]

Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing or minding sheep.  When he comes in from the fields, will the master say, “Come and sit down straightway”?  Will he not rather say, “Prepare my supper; hitch up your robe, and wait on me while I have my meal.  You can have yours afterwards”?  Is he grateful to the servant for carrying out his orders?  So with you:  when you have carried out all you have been ordered to do, you should say, “We are servants and deserve no credit; we have only done our duty.”

In the course of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem he was travelling through the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee.  As he was entering a village he was met by ten men with leprosy.  They stood some way off, and called out to him,

Jesus, Master, take pity on us.

When he saw them he said,

Go and show yourselves to the priests;

and while they were on the way, they were made clean.  One of them, finding himself cured, turned back with shouts of praise to God.  He threw himself down at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.  And he was a Samaritan.  At this Jesus said:

Were not all then made clean?  The other nine, where are they?  Was  no one found returning to give praise to God except this foreigner?

And he said to the man,

Stand up and go on your way; your faith has cured you.

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 27:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-tuesday-year-1/

Week of Proper 27:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-wednesday-year-1/

Slavery:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/week-of-proper-25-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-25-thursday-year-2/

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Chapters 2 and 3 of Titus contain much practical advice and non-controversial administrative advice.  Some of the content is sexist by modern standards, but it did not seem so at the time.  Then there are really troublesome parts–slavery and submission to the government.  As I have already written, the failure to condemn slavery and to insist upon complete egalitarianism mars the Pauline tradition for me.  And, as for submission to the government, in the Pauline case, the Roman Empire, I have read some disturbing articles and editorials (as late as the middle 1970s) in arch-conservative, pro-law and order Christian magazines during the Vietnam War era, citing the Third Reich as an extreme example of a government to which one ought to submit.  What would Dietrich Bonhoeffer have said about that?

I propose that, as a Christian, my obligation is to follow the example of Jesus, who lived according to the Golden Rule.  So, regardless of the specific circumstances, may we treat others respectfully and act toward them compassionately.  This might entail some tough love, but so be it.  Each person bears the image of God; may we treat them with the dignity corresponding to the status of God-bearer.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/proper-behavior-and-the-golden-rule/

Week of Proper 17: Saturday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Dietrich Bonhoeffer (Died in 1945)

Who Am I?

SEPTEMBER 8, 2018

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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1 Corinthians 4:6-15 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now in everything I have said here, brothers, I have taken Apollos and myself as an example (remember the maxim:  “Keep to what is written”); it is not for you, so full of your own importance, to go taking sides for one man against another.  In any case, brother, has anybody given you some special right?  What do you have that was not given to you?  And if it was given, how can you boast as though it were not?  Is it that you have everything you want–that you are rich already, in possession of your kingdom, with us left outside?  Indeed I wish you were really kings, and we could be kings with you!  But instead, it seems to me, God has put us apostles at the end of his parade, with the men sentenced to death; it is true–we have put on show in front of the whole universe, angels as well as men.  Here we are, fools for the sake of Christ, while you are the learned men in Christ; we have no power, but you are influential; you are celebrities, we are nobodies.  To this day, we go without food and drink and clothes; we are beaten and have no homes; we work for our living with our own hands.  When we are cursed, we answer with a blessing; when we are hounded, we put with it; we are insulted and we answer politely.  We are treated as the offal of the world, still to this day, the scum of the earth.

I am saying this not just to make you ashamed but to bring you, as my dearest children, to your senses.  You might have thousands of guardians in Christ, but not more than one father and it was I who begot you in Christ Jesus by preaching the Good News.

Psalm 145:14-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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.

16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD,

and you give them their food in due season.

17 You open wide your hand

and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

18 The LORD is righteous in all his ways

and loving in all his works.

19 The LORD is near to those who call upon him,

to all who call upon him faithfully.

20 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;

he hears their cry and helps them.

21 The LORD preserves all those who love him,

but he destroys all the wicked.

22 My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD;

let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.

Luke 6:1-5 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now one sabbath he happened to be taking a walk through the cornfields, and his disciples were picking ears of corn, rubbing them in their hands and eating them.  Some of the Pharisees said,

“Why are you doing something that is forbidden on the sabbath day?”

Jesus answered them,

So you have not read what David did when he and his followers were hungry–how we went into the house of God, took the loaves which only the priests are allowed to eat?

And he said to them,

The Son of Man is master of the sabbath.

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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:

To Be Crafted By Christ:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/to-be-crafted-by-christ/

Be Thou My Vision:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/be-thou-my-vision/

My Faith Looks Up to Thee:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/16/my-faith-looks-up-to-thee-by-ray-palmer/

Take My Life and Let It Be Consecrated, Lord, to Thee:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/13/take-my-life-and-let-it-be-consecrated-lord-to-thee/

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Paul has an argument with certain Corinthian Christians.  Yes, he was nice in Chapter 1, but now he has removed his gloves.  He is even sarcastic.  Through it all, Paul reminds the hearers of the true costs of discipleship–in his case, suffering.  Following Jesus is about serving others, not seeking glory.  And the disciple is not above his master.  Consider what happened to Jesus; why should we expect to reign with him without suffering first?

The point of Paul’s tirade was not to tear down the hearers, but to correct their misapprehensions.  This was tough love mixed with disappointment.  Paul had sacrificed much for his Lord, so he took certain offenses personally.  If he erred in his sarcasm, it was understandable.  I take it, however, as entirely justifiable.  Some people had it coming.

Paul was, among other things, a man of passionate convictions.  This comes across clearly in his epistles.  He was brilliant, devout, and prone to outbursts of anger and sarcasm.  Ego struggles marked his spiritual development, so passages about humility meant quite a bit, coming from him.  Paul could be a tempestuous person–on whom I am glad channeled his passions, arguments, and tempests for God.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, while a prisoner of Nazi Germany (until the Nazis hanged him), wrote a famous poem called Who Am I?  In it he wrestled with his own contradictions and doubts.  Then he arrived at this conclusion:

Who am I?  They mock me, these lonely questions of mine.

Whoever I am, thou knowest, O God, I am thine.

(Source = Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Letters and Papers from Prison, Enlarged Edition, Edited by Eberhard Bethge, Touchstone, 1971, page 348)

Bonhoeffer was Christ’s.  So was Paul.  They were great men and martyrs.  I am also Christ’s, although I do not presume to be worthy of the company of such great men.  Yet I seek to bring all my contradictions to God and to glorify God.  I will succeed by grace.  May you, O reader, join me on this quest, if you have not done so already.  Or maybe I have joined you on the journey.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/who-am-i/

Week of Proper 4: Saturday, Year 2   12 comments

Above:  The Apostle Paul, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Sacrifices

JUNE 9, 2018

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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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2 Timothy 4:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Before God, and before Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, I charge you solemnly by his coming appearance and his reign, proclaim the message, press it home in season and out of season, use argument, reproof, and appeal, with all the patience that teaching requires.  For the time will come when people will not stand sound teaching, but each will follow his own whim and gather a crowd of teachers to tickle his fancy.  They will stop their ears to the truth and turn to fables.  But you must keep your head whatever happens; put up with hardship, work to spread the gospel, discharge all the duties of your calling.

As for me, my life is already being poured out on the altar, and the hour for my departure is upon me.  I have run the great race, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.  And now there awaits me the garland of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on the great day, and not to me alone, but to all who have set their hearts on his coming appearance.

Psalm 71:8-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8  Let my mouth be full of your praise

and your glory all the day long.

9  Do not cast me off in my old age;

forsake me not when my strength fails.

10  For my enemies are talking against me,

and those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together.

11  They say, “God has forsaken him;

go after him and seize him;

because there is none who will save.”

12  O God, be not far from me;

come quickly to help me, O my God.

13  Let those who set themselves against me to put to shame and be disgraced;

let those who seek to do me evil be covered with scorn and reproach.

14  But I shall always wait in patience,

and shall praise you more and more.

15  My mouth shall recount your mighty acts

and saving deeds all the day long;

though I cannot know the number of them.

16  I will begin with the mighty works of the Lord GOD;

I will recall your righteousness, yours alone.

17  O God, you have taught me since I was young,

and to this day I tell of your wonderful works.

Mark 12:38-44 (Revised English Bible):

There was a large crowd listening eagerly.  As he taught them, he said,

Beware of the scribes, who love to walk up and down in long robes and be greeted respectfully in the street, and to have the chief seats  in synagogues and places of honour at feasts.  Those who eat up the property of widows, while for appearance’s sake they say long prayers, will receive a sentence all the more severe.

As he was sitting opposite the temple treasury, he watched the people dropping their money into the chest.  Many rich people were putting in large amounts.  Presently there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins, together worth a penny.  He called his disciples to him and said,

Truly I tell you:  this poor widow has given more than all those giving to the treasury; for the others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all that she had to live on.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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:

Week of Proper 4:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/week-of-proper-4-saturday-year-1/

 Luke 21 (Parallel to Mark 12): 

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/week-of-proper-29-monday-year-1/

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/when-i-survey-the-wondrous-cross/

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Paul could have had a comfortable life until the end.  He had that kind of life when he persecuted the nascent Jesus movement.  But, when he changed the direction of his life after God intervened, he embarked on a path which entailed spending time in and out of various jails and prisons.   The end came via beheading.

The widow made a great sacrifice of a different sort.  Was her sacrifice necessary?  No.  Did Jesus praise or lament her offering?  As I discuss in the post on the Lukan parallel, I think that he lamented it.  But at least the widow was faithful.

Out of faithfulness people make sacrifices.  So those who tell them to do so have the obligation not to exploit the less fortunate and the the less educated.  Yet the piety of those who make these sacrifices is at least honest, which is more than I can say about the motivation of those who tell them that these sacrifices are necessary and proper.

As for martyrdom, this is the logical result of the combination of certain circumstances and faithful people.  Given the Roman imperial politics of the 60s C.E., Paul’s life could not have ended any other way.  Nero was seeking scapegoats, which he found in the form of Christians.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Father (now Saint) Maximilian Kolbe, by virtue of their active faith , were bound to run afoul of the Nazis in the 1940s.  Jonathan Myrick Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian taking a break from his studies to work for civil rights in Alabama in 1965, took a bullet and gave his life for an African-American young woman he did not know.  His love of God and his neighbors dictated nothing less in that circumstance.

Then there is the example of Jesus, who died on a cross.  “Take up your cross and follow me,” he said.  That was what Paul, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Father (Saint) Maximilian Kolbe, and Jonathan Myrick Daniels did.  It is what God calls us to do, each in the way(s) appropriate to our circumstances, to do.  Grace is free to us, but not cheap.

KRT