Archive for the ‘Elijah’ Tag

Proper 9, Year C   14 comments

Above:  House of Naaman, Damascus, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Humility, Judgment, Mercy, and Enemies

The Sunday Closest to July 6

Fourth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 3, 2022

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 and Psalm 30

or 

Isaiah 66:10-14 and Psalm 66:1-8

then 

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/seeds-of-destruction/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

A Prayer for Our Enemies:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/for-our-enemies/

Prayers for Forgiveness, Mercy, and Trust:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-forgiveness-mercy-and-trust/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-prayer-to-embrace-love-empathy-and-compassion-and-to-eschew-hatred-invective-and-willful-ignorance/

A Prayer for Humility:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-humility/

2 Kings 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

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

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/proper-1-year-b/

Isaiah 66:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-6-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Galatians 6:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/week-of-proper-23-wednesday-year-2/

Luke 10:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/devotion-for-the-twenty-fifth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/week-of-proper-21-thursday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/week-of-proper-21-friday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/week-of-proper-21-saturday-year-1/

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I propose, O reader, a thought experiment:

Name two countries, A and B, with a recent history of warfare against each other and a current climate of mutual hostility.  Then imagine a general from B in search of a cure visiting a prominent religious figure from A.

The politics of the situation would be sensitive, would they not?    That is a partial summary of the Naaman and Elijah story.

The main intertwining threads I choose to follow today are:

  • humility (in 2 Kings 5, Galatians 6, and Luke 10),
  • judgment and mercy (in all four readings), and
  • enemies (in 2 Kings 5, Isaiah 66, and Luke 10).

Humility is having a realistic estimate of oneself; it recognizes both strengths and weaknesses.  This theme fits the Naaman story well, for he had to overcome his notions of self-importance and national pride, the latter of which informed the former, before God healed him.  In humility and a Christ-based identity we Christians are supposed to carry each other’s burdens and help each other through temptation and error; that is what Galatians 6 says.  And humility is part of curriculum for the disciples in Luke 10.

Judgment is for God.  The theme of judgment overlaps with that of enemies.  And who is an enemy of God?  I suspect that many, if not most, enemies of God think of themselves as disciples and friends of God.  Militant Islamists in western Africa are destroying allegedly un-Islamic buildings–architectural treasures–in the name of Allah.  Neither pluralism nor religious toleration are among the values of these individuals.  These militants think of themselves as faithful to God and of people such as me as not faithful to God.  I think that I am correct, obviously.

(Aside:  I have taught practicing Muslims and found them to be delightful human beings.  None have been militants.  Anyone who thinks that I condemn all Muslims when I criticize militant Islamists fails to grasp my meaning.)

Although judgment resides with God, so does mercy.  So Naaman became a follower.  Divine mercy extended even to enemies of Elisha’s people.  That is easy to say about the politics of antiquity, but what about today?  So I propose another thought experiment:

Name a hostile foreign government.  Can you, O reader, warm up to the idea that God loves agents of that regime?  Would you, in Christ, accept such agents as brothers and sisters in faith?

Mercy can prove difficult.  Often we prefer judgment for others–our enemies–and mercy for ourselves because this arrangement reinforces our egos.  Yet humility before God requires us, among other things, to move past those categories and our concepts of where we stand in relation to God.  That person whom we think of as an enemy might be a friend of God.  And we might not be as right with God as we imagine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALBERT JOHN LUTHULI, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF J. B. PHILLIPS, BIBLE TRANSLATOR AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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

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Proper 7, Year C   12 comments

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

Terrifying Grace

The Sunday Closest to June 22

Second Sunday After Pentecost

JUNE 19, 2022

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:1-4 (5-7), 8-15a and Psalms 42 and 43

or 

Isaiah 65:1-9 and Psalm 22:18-27

then 

Galatians 3:23-29

Luke 8:26-39

The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/prayer-of-confession-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-pentecost/

1 Kings 19:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/week-of-proper-5-friday-year-2/

Isaiah 65:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-4-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

Galatians 3:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/week-of-proper-22-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

Luke 8:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-nineteenth-twentieth-and-twenty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

The Remnant:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/the-remnant/

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As I took notes on the readings then pondered connections the first unifying thread I noticed was fear.  To begin with the Old Testament options, Elijah was a fugitive  from the wrath of Queen Jezebel after the contest with the priests of Baal.  Yet God, who was present in the silence, not the storm, encouraged the prophet and gave him more tasks to complete.  Third Isaiah reminded his audience that a remnant of the faithful would survive the destruction of the wicked.  So the faithful needed not to fear, although the wicked did.

In the Gospel of Luke Jesus healed a demoniac (whatever his modern psychiatric label would be) and killed a herd of swine.  Then fearful locals asked our Lord to depart the premises.  What scared them?  The loss of the swine, economic assets, disturbed some obvious reasons.  And the demonstration of such power certainly disturbed others.  But the healing was the scariest part of the sequence of events.  Who were the locals relative to the man if he, once ill, was now well?

Change disturbs many people profoundly.  We become accustomed to the status quo, even if we know that it is imperfect.  But at least it is familiar.  Some things, of course, should remain constant, so discomfort with some change is healthy and proper.  But resistance to change in general constitutes a spiritual dysfunction.  Besides, life is replete with change.  One who likes things just so and constant will not cope well with life.  And an organism that is not changing is dead.

Speaking of change, Christ Jesus overrides a variety of distinctions, such as slave and free person, male and female, and Jew and Gentile. Opposites such as these cease to matter in the context of our Lord.   That causes me great joy.  Yet many others find that breaking down barriers frightening.  If we define ourselves by who and what we are not rather than by who and what we are, it is terrifying news.

Grace scandalizes many of us.  It calls us as we are and leads us to become a new creation.  Grace ignores categories we use to make sense of the world and destroys our illusion that we know more than we do.  Grace tell sus that we need not hide from our enemies if God is with us.  We still might die–the Romans did crucify Jesus–but divine power remains unrivaled.  And God will preserve a remnant of the faithful as the wicked perish.  The members of that remnant will have a responsibility to minister grace to others, for grace is free, not cheap.

Dare we embrace this potentially upsetting and terrifying grace?  Or do we prefer the comfortable fictions and realities which comfort us while afflicting others?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/terrifying-grace/

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Proper 5, Year C   12 comments

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Window for Bogart Community Church in Bogota, New Jersey, with a Text, “A Light to Lighten the Gentiles,” Showing the Presentation in the Temple

Image Source = Library of Congress

God, Who Surprises Us and Crosses Barriers

The Sunday Closest to June 8

The Third Sunday after Pentecost

JUNE 5, 2016

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 17:8-16 (17-24) and Psalm 146

or 

1 Kings 17:17-24 and Psalm 30

then 

Galatians 1:11-24

Luke 7:11-17

The Collect:

O God, from whom all good proceeds: Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-third-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-confession-for-the-third-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-third-sunday-after-pentecost/

1 Kings 17:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/week-of-proper-5-tuesday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/proper-27-year-b/

Galatians 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/

Luke 7:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-sixteenth-and-seventeenth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-tuesday-year-1/

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Widows were among the most vulnerable members of society in biblical times.  So the sons raised from the dead in 1 Kings 17 and Luke 7 were crucial because they were males.  Each son had to support his mother financially and protect her from other threats.

I detect another thread in the assigned readings.  Elijah received help from a widow at Zarephath, in Gentile territory.  She was quite poor yet God provided for the widow, her son, and the prophet. Then the prophet raised her son from the dead.  And Paul was the great Apostle to Gentiles.  Who would have expected someone with his background to accept that mission?  In modern parlance, he had been more Catholic than the Pope, so to speak.  God is full of wonderful surprises.

And we play parts in many of those surprises.  Dare we obey God’s call on our lives to become willing instruments of blessing upon others?  Will that call send us into what (for us) is Gentile territory?  If we define ourselves as this and others as that, what will such assignments mean for our identity?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BETTY FORD, U.S. FIRST LADY AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GRIMWALD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/god-who-surprises-us-and-crosses-barriers/

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Proper 4, Year C   14 comments

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained Glass for Memorial Window with Centurion for Church of the Good Shepherd in Raleigh, North Carolina

Image Source = Library of Congress

Divine Inclusion and Human Exclusion

The Sunday Closest to June 1

The Second Sunday after Pentecost

MAY 29, 2016

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 18:20-21 (22-29), 30-39 and Psalm 96

or 

1 Kings 8:22-23, 41-43 and Psalm 96:1-9

then 

Galatians 1:1-12

Luke 7:1-10

The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 4, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

Proper 4, Year B:

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

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-confession-for-the-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

Luke 7:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-sixteenth-and-seventeenth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-monday-year-1/

Galatians 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/30/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-2/

1 Kings 8:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/proper-16-year-b/

1 Kings 18:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/week-of-proper-5-wednesday-year-2/

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A summary of the readings follows:  There is only one God, from whom people (including Elijah and Paul) have received revelations.  The message of God is for all people, who are supposed to revere the deity.  And sometimes one finds deep faith in unexpected quarters.

That last statement, a reference to the Gospel reading, appeals to me on one level and humbles me on another.  I have spent much of my life feeling like a heretic in the Bible Belt.  (I AM A HERETIC IN THE BIBLE BELT.)  Sometimes even Episcopal Church congregations–where I, one who enjoys asking probing questions, exploring possibilities, and becoming comfortable with uncertainty and ambiguity, should find a safe haven–have not always provided safe havens. And so I have been as the Roman centurion–a goy one way another.  Yet God accepts me, however heretical I might be.

Nevertheless I also find a reason for caution and humility.  Which populations do I mark unjustly (without knowing that I am doing this unjustly) as beyond the pale theologically?  Whom do I mistake as a member of a den of heretics?  I am clearly not a Universalist; there are theological lines which  God has established.  There is truth–revealed truth–and many people occupy the wrong side of it.  But do I know where those lines are?  How much do I really know, and how much do I just think I know?  And who will surprise me by being present in Heaven?

I tell myself to mind my own business, to be the best and most conscientious person I can be.  I tell myself to practice compassion and to leave judgment to God.  Sometimes I do.  And I know better the rest of the time.  Thus, aware of this failing of mine, I read Luke 7:1-10 with humility.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2012 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/divine-inclusion-and-human-exclusion/

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Week of Proper 6: Thursday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  Elisha

“Your Kingdom Come!”

JUNE 16, 2022

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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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Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 48:1-14 (An American Translation):

Then the prophet Elijah arose like fire,

And his word burned like a torch;

He brought a famine upon them,

And made them few by his zeal,

By the word of the Lord he shut up heaven;

In the same way, he brought down fire three times.

How glorified you were, Elijah, in your wonderful acts,

And who can glory like you?

You who raised one who was dead, from death,

And from Hades, by the word of the Most High;

Who brought kings down to destruction,

And distinguished men from their beds.

Who heard rebukes at Sinai,

And judgments of vengeance at Horeb;

Who anointed kings to exact retribution,

And prophets to succeed him;

Who were taken up in a whirlwind of fire,

In a chariot with fiery horses;

Who, it is written, is to come in rebuke at the appointed time,

To quiet anger before it becomes wrath,

To turn the heart of the father to his son,

And to reform the tribes of Jacob.

Happy are those who saw you,

And those who fell asleep in love;

For we will surely live.

When Elijah was sheltered by the whirlwind,

Elisha was filled with his spirit.

In all his days he was not shaken by any ruler

And no one overmastered him.

Nothing was too wonderful for him,

And when he had fallen asleep, his body prophesied.

In life he did signs,

And after his death he worked wonders.

Psalm 97 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the earth rejoice;

let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him,

righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

A fire goes before him

and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees it and is afraid.

The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

Confounded be all who worship carved images

and delight in false gods!

Bow down before him, all you gods.

Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O LORD.

For you are the LORD,

most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The LORD loves those who hate evil;

he preserves the lives of the saints

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous,

and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy Name.

Matthew 6:7-15 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,] “And when you pray, do not repeat empty phrases as the heathen do, for they imagine that their prayers will be heard if they use words enough.  You must not be like them.  For God, who is your Father, knows what you need before you ask him.  This, therefore, is the way you are to pray:

Our Father in heaven,

Your name be revered!

Your kingdom come!

Your will be done

On earth as well as in heaven!

Give us today bread for the day,

And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

And do not subject us to temptation,

But save us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will forgive you too.  But if you do not forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will not forgive you for your offenses.”

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The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 6:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/03/week-of-proper-6-thursday-year-1/

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There is a famous roll call of faith in the Epistle to the Hebrews.  Many of my coreligionists might not know, however, that Sirach/Ecclesiasticus offers a more extensive and an older honor roll of the righteous, beginning in Chapter 44 and terminating in Chapter 50.  There we read summaries of the careers of Elijah and Elisha, praised for bringing glory to God, even though idolatry persisted in the land.  That, however, was not their fault.

I have found this recent line of Old Testament lessons increasingly tedious.  “More Baal worshipers are dead?  This is old news.  Same song, fifth verse!” I exclaim to myself within my cranium.  The only way I can make any spiritually helpful sense of all this is focusing now on this day’s reading from Sirach/Ecclesiasticus and connecting it to Matthew 6:9:

Our Father in heaven,

Your name be revered!

Your kingdom come!

Elijah and Elisha had their faults, as all of us do.  Yet they served YHWH, the only deity.  They sought, albeit unsuccessfully, to end the worship of other gods so that people in the Kingdom of Israel would worship only YHWH.  We must not bow down to idols and imaginary gods, which distract us from God.  May anyone who takes note of us say that we worship God alone, love God fully, and love our neighbors as ourselves.  That is a difficult calling, one we can accomplish by grace.

KRT

Week of Proper 6: Wednesday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Elijah’s Departure

For the Glory of God

JUNE 15, 2022

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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 Kings 2:1, 6-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha had set out from Gilgal.

Elijah said to him,

Stay here, for the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan.

Elisha said,

As the LORD lives and you live, I will not leave you,

and the two of them went on.  Fifty men of the disciples of the prophets followed and stood by at a distance from them as the two of them stopped at the Jordan.  Thereupon Elijah took his mantle and, rolling it up, he struck the water; it divided to the right and left, so that the two of them crossed over on dry land.  As they were crossing, Elijah said to Elisha,

Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?

Elisha answered,

Let a double portion of your spirit pass on to me.

He said,

If you see me as I am being taken from you, this will be granted to you; if not, it will not.

As they kept on walking and talking, a fiery chariot with fiery horses suddenly appeared and separated one from another; and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.  Elisha saw it, and he cried,

Oh, father, father! Israel’s chariots and horsemen!

When he could no longer see him, he grasped his garments and rent them in two.

He picked up Elijah’s mantle, which had dropped from him; and he went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.  Taking the mantle which had dropped from Elijah, he struck the water and said,

Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?

As he too struck the water, it parted to the right and to the left, and Elisha crossed over.

Psalm 31:19-24 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19 How great is your goodness, O LORD!

which you have laid up for those who fear you;

which you have done in the sight of all

for those who put their trust in you.

20 You hide them in the covert of your presence from those who slander them;

you keep them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the LORD!

for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.

22 Yet I said in my alarm,

“I have been cut off from the sight of your eyes.”

Nevertheless, you heard the sound of my entreaty when I cried to you.

23 Love the LORD, all you who worship him;

the LORD protects the faithful,

but repays to the full those who act haughtily.

24 Be strong and let your heart take courage,

all you who wait for the LORD.

Matthew 6:1-18 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,] “But take care not to do your good deeds in public for people to see, for, if you do, you will get no reward from your Father in heaven.  So when you are going to give to charity, do not blow a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues and the streets, to make people praise them.  I tell you, that this is all the reward they will get!  But when you give to charity, your own left hand must now know what your right hand is doing, so that your charity may be secret, and your Father who sees what is secret will reward you.

When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they like to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the squares, to let people see them.  I tell you, that is all the reward they will get!  But when you pray, go into your own room, and shut the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen, and your Father who sees what is secret will reward you.  And when you pray, do not repeat empty phrases as the heathen do, for they imagine that their prayers will be heard if they use words enough.  You must not be like them.  For God, who is your Father, knows what you need before you ask him.  This, therefore, is the way you are to pray:

Our Father in heaven,

Your name be revered!

Your kingdom come!

Your will be done

On earth as well as in heaven!

Give us today bread for the day,

And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

And do not subject us to temptation,

But save us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will forgive you too.  But if you do not forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will not forgive you for your offenses.

When you fast, do not put on a gloomy look, like the hypocrites, for they neglect their personal appearance to let people see that they are fasting.  I tell you, that is all the reward they will get.  But when you fast, perfume your hair and wash your face, that no one may see that you are fasting, except your Father who is unseen, and your Father who sees what is secret, will reward you.”

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The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 6:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/week-of-proper-6-wednesday-year-1/

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The Canadian Anglican lectionary skips over some material, so here is a summary of what we have not avoided on the way to Elijah’s departure:

  1. Ahab died in battle against the forces of King Jehoshapat of Judah in 852 B.C.E.
  2. Ahaziah, son of Ahab, became King of Israel.
  3. Ahaziah had a brief reign.  In the second and final year of that reign the king fell suffered a severe injury when he fell through a wooden lattice window at his palace.  He sent messengers to make inquiries of Baal, not Yahweh.  Elijah intercepted three groups of fifty messengers, each commanded by a captain.  Groups #1 and #2 died when the prophet called down fire from heaven upon them.  The captain of Group #3 had the good sense to beg for mercy.  Then Elijah visited the king and predicted his death.
  4. Ahaziah died childless, so his brother Jehoram became King of Israel.

This concludes the summary.

The stories of Elijah and Elisha contain wonders and miracles.  Elijah, we read, called down fire from heaven, parted water, and raised the dead.  We will go on to read also about Elisha parting water and raising the dead.  Such stories defy modern scientific thinking, of which I try to be a practitioner.  But, as a mentor of mine liked to ask of biblical texts, “What is really going on here?’

The reading from Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes reminds us to seek God’s glory, not ours.  The accounts of Elijah and Elisha tell us that these prophets lived by that rule.  There is a useful life lesson.

We have not read of Elisha since his calling in 1 Kings 19:19-21.  Now he becomes prominent in the story.  First, however, Elijah must exit the narrative, which he does in spectacular fashion.  His parting gift to Elisha is a double portion of his spirit.  As Hebrew Bible scholars have pointed out, the texts record eight miracles Elijah performed, but sixteen by the hand of Elisha.  So the “double” part of the double portion of Elijah’s spirit was literal.

Elijah, in 1 Kings 19, had found Elisha working behind a plow in a field.  The plowman became a great prophet after an apprenticeship and the departure of his mentor.  Elisha made the most of his calling, for the glory of God.  Your calling, O reader, is probably not as dramatic, but it is important.  May you make the most of it, for the glory of God.

KRT

Week of Proper 6: Tuesday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  King Ahab

Actions Have Consequences

JUNE 14, 2022

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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 Kings 21:17-29 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The the word of the LORD came to Eljah the Tishbite:

Go down and confront King Ahab of Israel who [resides] in Samaria.  He is now in Naboth’s vineyard; he has gone down there to take possession of it.  Say to him, “Thus said the LORD:  Would you murder and take possession?  Thus said the LORD:  In the very place where the dogs lapped up Naboth’s blood, the dogs will lap up your blood too.”

Ahab said to Elijah,

So you have found me, my enemy?

He replied,

Yes, I have found you.  Because you have committed yourself to doing what is evil in the sight of the LORD, I will bring disaster upon you.  I will make a clean sweep of you, I will cut off from Israel every male belonging to Ahab, bond and free.  I will make your house like the House of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah, because of the provocation you have caused by leading Israel to sin.  And the LORD has spoken concerning Jezebel:  “The dogs shall devour Jezebel in the field of Jezreel.  All of Ahab’s line who die in the town shall be devoured by dogs, and all who die in the town shall be devoured by dogs, and all who die in the open country shall be devoured by the birds of the sky.”

(Indeed, there never was anyone like Ahab, who committed himself to doing what was displeasing to the LORD, at the instigation of his wife Jezebel.  He acted most abominably, straying after the fetishes just like the Amorites, whom the LORD had dispossessed before the Israelites.)

When Ahab heard these words, he rent his clothes and put sackcloth on his body.  He fasted and lay in sackcloth and walked about subdued.  Then the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite:

Have you seen how Ahab has humbled himself before Me?  Because he has humbled himself before Me, I will not bring the disaster in his lifetime; I will bring the disaster upon his house in his son’s time.

Psalm 51:1-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak

and upright in your judgment.

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me,

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

Matthew 5:43-48 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

You have heard that they were told, “You must love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for your persecutors, true sons of your Father in heaven, for he makes his sun to rise on bad and good alike, and makes the rain fall on the upright and the wrongdoers.  For if you love only those who love you, what reward can you expect?  Do not the very tax-collectors do that?  And if you are polite to your brothers and no one else, what is there remarkable in that?  Do not the very heathen do that?  So you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is.

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The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 6:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/week-of-proper-6-tuesday-year-1/

Matthew 5:

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

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Actions have consequences.

Two important features of the Law of Moses were (A) a certain amount of reciprocity, as in “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” and (B) the lack of class distinctions in determining sentences.  Jezebel had arranged for perjury and so manipulated the court system so that Naboth, an innocent man, would die and Ahab would acquire the desired vineyard.  God, through Elijah, pronounced that the Queen would die.  She could shield herself from the courts, but not God.

Elijah, in this account, does his job; he relay’s God’s words.  Jezebel had tried to have the prophet killed, so she was an enemy.  And Ahab had not stopped any of her murderous plans, so he was also a foe.  Yet there is no hint in the text that Elijah took delight in the divine judgments.

There is a great and valuable lesson in this.  The powerful evil people, even the banal ones, must face the consequences of their actions.  Perhaps these cannot come soon enough for our satisfaction sometimes, but they will arrive.  But we need not rejoice when the wrath of God befalls them, for such an attitude does not reflect love.  We ought to resist evil, not become it.  We need to hold forth against our enemies, not become like them.

KRT

Week of Proper 5: Saturday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Elisha

Unexpected Vocations

JUNE 11, 2022

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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 Kings 19:19-21 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[Elijah] set out from there and came upon Elisha son of Shaphat as he was plowing.  There were twelve yoke oxen ahead of him, and he was with the twelfth.  Elijah came over to him and threw his mantle over him.  He left the oxen and ran after Elijah, saying:

Let me kiss my father and mother good-by, and I will follow you.

And he answered him,

Go back.  What have I done to you?

He turned back from him and took the yoke of oxen and slaughtered them; he boiled their meat with the gear of the oxen and gave it to the people, and they ate.  Then he arose and followed Elijah and became his attendant.

Psalm 16:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”

All my delight is upon the godly that are in the land,

upon those who are noble among the people.

But those who run after other gods

shall have their troubles multiplied.

4 Their libations of blood I will not offer,

nor take the names of their gods upon my lips.

O LORD, you are my portion and my cup;

it is you who uphold my lot.

6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

I will bless the LORD who gives me counsel;

my heart teaches me, night after night.

Matthew 5:33-37 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Again, you have heard that the men of old were told, “You shall not swear falsely, but you must fulfill your oaths to the Lord.”  But I tell you not to swear at all, either by heaven, for it is God’s throne, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king.  You must not swear by your own head, for you cannot make one single hair white or black.  But your way of speaking must be “Yes” or “No.”  Anything that goes beyond that comes from the evil one.

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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 5:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/week-of-proper-5-saturday-year-1/

Matthew 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/week-of-proper-5-saturday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

I Have Chosen Thee, My Savior:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/i-have-chosen-thee-my-savior/

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There is a difficult-to-translate passage in 1 Kings 19:20.  Elisha is willing to leave his parents and follow Elijah.  First, however, he wants to say a proper farewell.  This is reasonable and respectful with regard to the parents.  Elijah responds,

Go back.  What have I done to you?

The text is vague.  Elijah either objected or did not object to Elisha saying goodbye to his parents.  The text does not indicate whether Elisha said farewell to his parents, but it does record that he made a clear break with his past and became Elijah’s servant and disciple. Elisha, of course, became a great prophet and a wonder-worker, like his mentor.  None of those details and narratives would be in the Bible if he had remained behind the plow.

Elisha did not wake up that morning anticipating what happened, but his life took a turn with this call of God on his life.  Sometimes life-changing events occur without advance notice.  Elisha recognized this call for what it was and responded accordingly.  May we do the same when God calls us, regardless of how the call comes and what the details of it are.

KRT

Week of Proper 5: Friday, Year 2   11 comments

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

There Is No Such Thing as Sacred Violence

JUNE 10, 2022

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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 Kings 19:9-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[At Horeb Elijah, on the run from Queen Jezebel] went into a cave, and there he spent the night.

Then the word of the LORD came to him.  He said to him,

Why are you here, Elijah?

He replied,

I am moved by zeal for the LORD, the God of Hosts, for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and put Your prophets to the sword.  I alone am left, and they are out to take my life.

[The LORD called,]

Come out and stand on the mountain before the LORD.

And lo, the LORD passed by.  There was a great and mighty wind, splitting mountains and shattering rocks by the power of the LORD; but the LORD was not in the wind.  After the wind–an earthquake; but the LORD was not in the earthquake.  After the earthquake–fire; but the LORD was not in the fire.  And after the fire–a soft murmuring sound.  When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his mantle about his face and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave.  Then a voice addressed him:

Why are you here Elijah?

He answered,

I am moved by zeal for the LORD, the God of Hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars, and put your prophets to the sword.  I alone am left, and they are out to take my life.

The LORD said to him,

Go back by the way you came, [and] on to the wilderness of Damascus.  When you get there, anoint Hazael as king of Aram.  Also anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king of Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah to succeed you as prophet.

Psalm 27:10-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

11 You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”

Your face, LORD, will I seek.

12 Hide not your face from me,

nor turn away your servant in displeasure.

13 You have been my helper;

cast me not away;

do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.

14  Though my father and my mother forsake me,

the LORD will sustain me.

15  Show me your way, O LORD;

lead me on a level path, because of my enemies.

16  Deliver me not into the hand of my adversaries,

for false witnesses have risen up against me,

and also those who speak malice.

17 What if I had not believed

that I should see the goodness of the LORD

in the land of the living!

18 O tarry and await the LORD’s pleasure;

be strong, and he shall comfort your heart;

wait patiently for the LORD.

Matthew 5:27-32 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

You have heard that men were told, “You shall not commit adultery.”  But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman with desire has already committed adultery with her in his heart.  But if your right eye makes you fall, tear it out and throw it away, for you might better lose one part of your body than have it all thrown into the pit!  If your right hand makes you fall, cut it off and throw it away, for you might better lose one part of your body than have it all go down to the pit!

They were told, “Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.”  But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife on any ground, except unfaithfulness, makes her commit adultery, and anyone who marries her after she is divorced commits adultery.

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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 5:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/week-of-proper-5-friday-year-1/

1 Kings 19:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/proper-14-year-a/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/week-of-proper-1-monday-year-2/

Jesus, Women, and Divorce:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-friday-year-1/

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This post follows the devotion you, O reader, will find here:  https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/week-of-proper-5-thursday-year-2/.  Much of the content fits nicely with what I have written below.

Elijah, on the run for his life from Queen Jezebel, was discouraged.  So God encouraged him and showed him that he was not alone.  Then God gave Elijah other tasks to complete–to choose Elisha (who was to become a prophet also) as a disciple and to anoint new monarchs for Aram and Israel.  If one keeps reading one learns that, between the two new kings, many adherents of Baal will die, with divine approval, according to the author of this part of 1 Kings.

I understand why many people, especially those outside the Judeo-Christian fold, find the Bible disturbing.  Parts of the book are quite violent.  Some of its authors portray Yahweh as bloodthirsty, pronouncing death for those who choose not to worship him.  There are also death sentences for getting caught in adultery, losing a battle, showing great disrespect for a parent, and committing many other offenses.  Such passages help explain why I reject both biblical inerrancy and infallibility, for this divine bloodlust is incompatible with the love I see in Jesus.

I try to understand such bloody passages in context.  Elijah, under the threat of violence from devotees of pagan deities, was a radical monotheist who understood himself to be a soldier in a cosmic war.  People kill in war.  This is, however, the mindset which contributed to the Crusades and the Inquisition, and which provides much fuel to Islamic terrorism.  “Those are not merely misguided people; they are moral threats.  I can kill a moral threat and still be moral.”  That is the misguided logic of holy war.  There is no such thing as sacred violence or holy war.  If God is love, these cannot exist.

I own the two-disc set of the Terry Jones documentary miniseries Crusades.  In it Karen Armstrong explains simply the moral inconsistency of holy war, in this case, for Christians:  Jesus commanded his followers to love their enemies, not exterminate them.  Jesus was wise.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/allegedly-sacred-violence-part-two/

Week of Proper 5: Thursday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  Ricardo Montalban as Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek II:  The Wrath of Khan (1982)

Image = A screen capture from a DVD

Revenge and Violence

JUNE 9, 2022

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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 Kings 18:40-46 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then Elijah said to them,

Seize the prophets of Baal, let not a single one of them get away.

They seized them, and Elijah too, took them down to the Wadi Kishon and slaughtered them there.

Elijah said to Ahab,

Go up, eat and drink, for there is a rumbling of [approaching] rain,

and Ahab went up to eat and drink.  Elijah meanwhile climbed to the top of Mount Carmel, crouched on the ground, and put his face between his knees.  And he said to his servant,

Go up and look toward the Sea.

He went up and looked and reported,

There is nothing.

Seven times [Elijah] said,

Go back,

and the seventh time, [the servant] reported,

A cloud as small as a man’s hand is rising in the west.

Then [Elijah] said,

Go say to Ahab, “Hitch up [your chariot] and go down before the rain stops you.”

Meanwhile the sky grew black with clouds; there was wind, and a heavy downpour fell; Ahab mounted his chariot and drove off to Jezreel.  The hand of the LORD had come upon Elijah.  He tied up his skirts and ran in front of Ahab all the way to Jezreel.

Psalm 65:1, 8-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

Those who dwell at the ends of the earth will tremble at your marvelous signs;

you make the dawn and the dusk to sing for joy.

You visit the earth and water it abundantly;

you make it very plenteous;

the river of God is full of water.

10 You prepare the grain,

for so you provide for the earth.

11 You drench the furrows and smooth out the ridges;

with heavy rain you soften the ground and bless its increase.

12 You crown the year with your goodness,

and your paths overflow with plenty.

13 May the fields of the wilderness be rich for grazing,

and the hills be clothed with joy.

14 May the meadows cover themselves with flocks,

and the valleys cloak themselves with grain;

let them shout for joy and sing.

Matthew 5:20-26 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

For I tell you that unless your uprightness is far superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never even enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

You have heard that men of old were told “You shall not murder,” and “Whoever murders will have to answer to the court.”  But I tell you that any one who gets angry with his brother will have to answer to the court, and anyone who speaks abusively to his brother will have to answer to the great council, and anyone who says to his brother “You cursed fool!” will have to answer for it in the fiery pit!  So when you are presenting your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother has any grievance against you, leave your gift right there before the altar and go and make up with your brother; then come back and present your gift.  Be quick and come to terms with your opponent while you are on the way to court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.  I tell you, you will never get out again until you have paid the last penny!

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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 5:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/week-of-proper-5-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

Bring Peace to Earth Again:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/bring-peace-to-earth-again/

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Jesus quoted the commandment forbidding murder.  Then he took the principle further.  A good understanding of this requires the explanation of some technical details.

“Raca,” or “empty-headed fool” or “airhead,” was a very strong insult in Jesus’ culture.  As we say in the U.S. South, “Them is fightin’ words.”  To call someone a “raca” was to express extreme contempt.

Just as there is more than one type of love in the New Testament, there is more than one variety of anger there.  The anger Jesus condemns is that which leads one to plot revenge.  Violent acts, such as murder, flow from such anger.  So Jesus says not even to think about murdering, committing any other violent deed, or causing harm of any sort to anyone.

Revenge, a common plot element in many works of fiction (including Star Trek II), and the desire for it are ubiquitous in real life.  All one has to do to hear of them is follow the news closely.  Yet revenge can never restore life to the dead, undo injuries which have resulted in amputations or paralysis, or erase psychological damage.  We need justice, not revenge, but many of us confuse the two categories.

Jesus, of course, did not, according to the canonical Gospels, refrain from all anger.  He did expel money changers from part of the Jerusalem Temple and excoriate certain religious leaders.  But he did not plot revenge on anybody.  He even asked divine forgiveness for those who crucified him and looked on approvingly.

So far the texts seem holy.  Then we return to 1 Kings 18, where, in verse 40, Elijah kills the 450 prophets of Baal.  This is the conclusion of the “My God can set fire to this altar” showdown.  The lectionary skips verse 40, beginning with verse 41 and the end of the drought.  The chapter itself devotes only one verse to the slaughter of the prophets of Baal, an event which might slip unnoticed between the dramatic contest and the end of the drought.  But let us not look away from uncomfortable Bible verses.

How should we understand the slaughter of Baal’s prophets? I found comments in three study Bibles I checked.  The note in The Jerusalem Bible reads:

In this war between Yahweh and Baal those who serve Baal suffer the fate of the conquered in the warfare of the time.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible notes that Elijah was “faithful to the deuteronomistic perspective” by ordering the execution of false prophets, per Deuteronomy 13:1-18.  (Read the verses for yourself, O reader; they do command violence.)  Then there is the note from The NIV Study Bible:

Elijah, acting on the authority of the Lord, who sent him, carried out the sentence pronounced in the Mosaic law for prophets of pagan deities (Dt 13:13-18; 17:2-5).

I have a t-shirt I wear from time to time.  “Who would Jesus bomb?” it asks.  (I know; it should say “Whom would Jesus bomb?”)  The question, regardless of whether one uses the objective case, answers itself, does it not?  As an intellectually honest Christian, I seek to follow Jesus more nearly each day.  My success is mixed, but I persist in the effort.  So, to paraphrase the t-shirt, “Whom would Jesus slaughter?”  Nobody, of course; he might use justifiably harsh words, but he would neither condone nor commit the taking of anyone’s life.  And he would neither condone nor commit revenge either.  And Jesus is the Master.  So I side with my Lord.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/allegedly-sacred-violence-part-one/