Archive for the ‘Ezekiel 33’ Tag

Devotion for the Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  A Vineyard

Image in the Public Domain

Individual and Collective Responsibility

OCTOBER 8, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32

Psalm 25:1-9 (LBW) or Psalm 27:1-10 (LW)

Philippians 2:1-5 (6-11)

Matthew 21:28-32

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God of love, you know our frailties and failings. 

Give us your grace to overcome them;

keep us from those things that harm us;

and guide us in the way of salvation;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 28

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O God, the Strength of all who put their trust in you;

mercifully accept our prayer,

and because through the weakness of our mortal nature

we can do no good thing without your aid,

grant us the help of your grace that,

keeping your commandments,

we may please you in both will and deed;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 83

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Ezekiel 18 is one of the texts (along with Ezekiel 3:16-21; 14:12-23; 33:30, beyond others outside Ezekiel) that teach individual responsibility before God, therefore divine reward and punishment for how one has acted.  These texts contradict Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9, which teach intergenerational reward and punishment.

The theme of collective responsibility occurs in the readings from Philippians and Matthew.  This theme and individual responsibility before God are mutually consistent.

A man had two sons.

–Matthew 21:28, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

A careful reader of the Hebrew Bible should read or hear those words and think,

Uh-oh!

Such a person will start with Cain and Abel then take the grand tour of stories of feuding brothers in the Hebrew Bible.

Deeds matter more than intentions.  Deeds reveal creeds.  Rather than condemn some long-dead Pharisees and feel spiritually smug, I acknowledge an uncomfortable truth.  I admit that I, as one of the churchiest people alive, have more in common with the Pharisees than not.  I confess to uncertainty whether, had I been a Palestinian Jew during the time of Christ, I would have followed him.  The parable, transferred to contemporary times, confronts me.

Clarence Jordan (1912-1969), in his Cotton Patch Version of Matthew, set the parable in a peach orchard.  Jesus decreed tat

the hippies and the whores

would take precedence in that version.

If you, O reader, were to update Matthew 21:31, which group would you substitute for tax collectors? Make it a shocking, scandalous reference.

The Parable of the Two Sons warns against spiritual complacency.  The textual context of the parable is early in the week of Passover, shortly prior to the crucifixion of Jesus.  This setting helps to explain why the tone is so intense.  Anyway, warnings against spiritual complacency–whether individual or collective–may need to be intense to attract our attention sometimes.

In the 1990s, I read an editorial in U.S. Catholic magazine.  The title was,

Get Off Your Values and Get to Work.

The point was that people should minimize statements of principles and maximize living those principles.  This cogent lesson remains relevant sadly.  Politicians who have the power to act constructively after a preventable mass shooting or other unfortunate event yet content themselves to offer “thoughts and prayers” engage in copping out.  I recall a lesson my father taught me:  we need to put feet to our prayers.

That is hard work.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, PRESIDENT OF KING’S COLLEGE, “FATHER OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN CONNECTICUT,” AND “FATHER OF AMERICAN LIBRARY CLASSIFICATION;” TIMOTHY CUTLER, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, AND RECTOR OF YALE COLLEGE; DANIEL BROWNE, EDUCATOR, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST; AND JAMES WETMORE, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE BAPTISMS OF MANTEO AND VIRGINIA DARE, 1587

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUSEBIUS OF ROME, BISHOP OF ROME, AND MARTYR, 310

THE FEAST OF GEORGE CROLY, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, HISTORIAN, NOVELIST, DRAMATIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JAMES EARLY BENNETT, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

SEPTEMBER 17, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Ezekiel 33:7-9

Psalm 119:33-40 (LBW) or Psalm 119:113-120 (LW)

Romans 13:1-10

Matthew 18:15-20

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Almighty and eternal God,

you know our problems and our weaknesses

better than we ourselves. 

In your love and by your power help us in our confusion,

and, in spite of our weaknesses, make us firm in faith;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 27

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Grant, merciful Lord, to your faithful people pardon and peace

that they may be cleansed from all their sins

and serve you with a quiet mind;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 79

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Context is crucial.  Any given text originates within a particular context.  To read that text without the context in mind is to distort that text.

Consider the relationship of the people to human authority, O reader.  Romans 13:1-7, which commands submission to the government, comes from a particular time and place.  That text also comes from the mind of a citizen of the Roman Empire.  On the other hand, Exodus 1 praises the midwives Shiphrah and Puah for disobeying the Pharaoh’s orders.  Likewise, the Apocalypse of John assumes that resistance to the Roman Empire, an agent of Satan, is mandatory for Christians.  In history, one may point to the Underground Railroad, the conductors of which were, according to United States federal law, criminals, at least part of the time.  Does anyone want to go on record as condemning the Underground Railroad?  I also know that, in the context of the Third Reich, many Christian theologians teach that one must oppose the government sometimes.  For the obvious reason, this teaching is especially strong among German theologians.

The caveat in Romans 13:1-7 is that any civil authority not responsive to the will of God is not a true authority.  Therefore, one may validly resist that government for the sake of conscience.  The examples of resisting slavery and Nazism certainly apply under this principle.

Now that I have gotten that out of the way….

One purpose of prophetic pronouncements of divine punishment is to encourage repentance.  Repentance, in turn, cancels punishment.  One who is supposed to warn people is not responsible for their fate if one warns them.  However, if one does not warn them, one is accountable for their fate.  The commandments of God impart life, but people must know what they are.

Love does no evil to the neighbor; hence love is the fulfillment of the law.

–Romans 13:10, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

In context, “you” (Matthew 18:18-19) is plural.

I covered Matthew 18:18 in the post for the Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A.

Love confronts when necessary.  Love confronts in these contexts, for the benefit of the person confronted.  Many people understand this in the context of addiction interventions.  Obeying the Golden Rule sometimes entails practicing tough love, offering what someone needs, not what that person wants.  How one responds becomes one’s responsibility, for those who have confronted have done their jobs.

Although one may desire to rescue someone, doing so may prove impossible.  I know this from experience.  Some people cannot or will not do what they need to do.  I leave judgment in these matters to God, who frequently shows more mercy than many people do.  If I must err, I prefer to do so on the side of mercy.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 17, 2022 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF BENNETT J. SIMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE CARMELITE MARTYRS OF COMPIÈGNE, 1794

THE FEAST OF CATHERINE LOUISA MARTHENS, FIRST LUTHERAN DEACONESS CONSECRATED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, 1850

THE FEAST OF SAINT NERSES LAMPRONATS, ARMENIAN APOSTOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF TARSUS

THE FEAST OF STEPHEN THEODORE BADIN, FIRST ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST ORDAINED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for Proper 4, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Abraham

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Faithful Servants of God, Part II

NOT OBSERVED IN 2023; TRINITY SUNDAY TAKES ITS PLACE

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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 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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Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 or Ecclesiastes 6 or Ezekiel 33:1-11

Psalm 7:1, 11-18

Galatians 3:19-29

Matthew 5:21-37

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Words matter, for they have power.  Today we read this in Ecclesiastes 5 and Matthew 5.  We have a moral obligation to refrain from all abusive language (such as Raqa, in the context of the culture of Matthew 5) and evasive language purposefully devoid of meaning (such as clever oaths in Matthew 5).

Actions matter also.  As much as God desires that the wicked repent, we mere mortals ought to seek reconciliation in disputes.  Accomplishing this is not always possible, for reconciliation requires more than one conciliatory party.  In such a case the desire to reconcile is laudable, at least.

The prayer from Psalm 7:9 that the wicked would cease to do harm and the reign of righteousness would begin is a timeless one.  I pray it often, for that would be a welcome change of reality.  Such a radical restructuring of the world requires an act of God, whose law Christ fulfills.

These admonitions can prove difficult to keep in one’s life.  We cannot succeed by our own strength of will.  Yes, our good intentions are laudable; God can work with them.  Yet we require grace to succeed in this noble endeavor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 29, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Responding to God

NOVEMBER 29, 2023

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The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 33:7-20

Psalm 7

John 5:19-40

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God is my shield and defense;

he is the savior of the true in heart.

God is a righteous judge;

God sits in judgment everyday.

If they will not repent, God will whet his sword;

he will bend his bow and make it ready.

–Psalm 7:11-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Striving to be a merely decent human being is a worthy goal, one which falls into the Lutheran category of civic righteousness–that is, good yet incapable of saving one from the consequences of sin.  Yet the standard of mere human decency evaded our Lord and Savior’s critics in John 5.  He was healing people on the Sabbath.  His critics complained about the timing, as if there were ever a bad day to commit a good deed.  His identification of God as his Father seemed blasphemous to them also.  In the Law of Moses the penalty for committing blasphemy is death.

The call to repent–to change one’s mind, to turn around–exists in both main pericopes today.  There is good news for the penitent and bad news for the impenitent, for judgment and mercy coexist.  God keeps offering opportunities to change course for the better and to receive forgiveness, but some people reject the offer.  This point fits well with the rest of Ezekiel, which proceeds from the assumption that sin led to the Babylonian Exile.

That call to repent repeats.  Striving to be a merely decent human being is a good beginning of a positive response to God.  That little bit is possible only via grace, which bestows the free will with which we respond to God positively or negatively.  Shall we reply positively?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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Responding to God

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 18, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

U-Turn

Above:  Diagram of a U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

Godly Imagination

SEPTEMBER 9, 2023

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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:

Ezekiel 33:1-6

Psalm 119:33-40

Matthew 23:29-36

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The route of transformation–a process which God initiates–is that of turning around.  Ezekiel 33, the beginning of which is an assigned reading for today, makes those two points clearly.  It also states, contrary either to Exodus 34:7 and Deuteronomy 5:9-10 or to interpretations thereof, that individuals are responsible only for their sins; they carry no responsibility for the sins of any of their ancestors.

Regardless of how nice we think we are, we are complicit in sins of society because of our roles in societal institutions.  Our hands might not be as clean as we imagine because others do our dirty work while we are either oblivious or we approve.  I think of that reality when I read Jesus from Matthew 23:36:

Truly I tell you:  this generation will bear the guilt of it all.

The Revised English Bible, 1989

To repent is to turn around and to change one’s mind.  Changing one’s mind is crucial and difficult, for we become accustomed to ways of being and thinking; we are creatures of habit.  I am convinced that more sin flows from lack of imagination than from cartoonish, mustache-twirling perfidy.  Yes, there are malicious people who seek out opportunities to harm others each day, but more negativity results from functional fixedness.  Those of us who are not malicious might not even be able at certain moments to imagine that what God has said ought be (A) is what God has said ought to be or (B) can come to pass, at least any time soon.  Our lack of imagination condemns us and injures others.

How might the world be a better place for more people if more of us had a more highly developed imagination in tune with God?  Many of us, in the words of Psalm 119:35 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979), pray:

Make me go in the path of your commandments,

for that is my desire.

How many of us, however, have the imagination to recognize that route?  May we see then follow it to the end, by grace and free will, itself a result of grace.

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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Proper 18, Year A   28 comments

Above: The Israelites Leaving Egypt, by David Roberts (1828)

Image in the Public Domain

Of Sin and Repentance

The Sunday Closest to September 7

The Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 10, 2023

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 12:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt:

This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Psalm 149 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker;

let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

3 Let them praise his Name in the dance;

let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.

4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people

and adorns the poor with victory.

5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph;

let them be joyful on their beds.

6 Let the praises of God be in their throat

and a two-edged sword in their hand;

7 To wreak vengeance on the nations

and punishment on the peoples;

8 To bind their kings in chains

and their nobles with links of iron;

9 To inflict on them the judgment decreed;

this is the glory for all his faithful people.

Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 33:7-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

You, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.

Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” Say to them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Psalm 119:33-40 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes,

and I shall keep it to the end.

34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law;

I shall keep it with all my heart.

35 Make me go in the path of your commandments,

for that is my desire.

36 Incline my heart to your decrees

and not to unjust gain.

37 Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless;

give me life in your ways.

38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,

which you make to those who fear you.

39 Turn away the reproach which I dread,

because your judgments are good.

40 Behold, I long for your commandments;

in your righteousness preserve my life.

SECOND READING

Romans 13:8-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments,

You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet;

and any other commandment, are summed up in this word,

Love your neighbor as yourself.

Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 18:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.

The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; 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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This Sunday’s readings pertain to sin, especially with in a faith community.  The community context is appropriate, for however appealing Western notions of individualism, especially when paired with Horatio Alger-like stories, are, people tend to overestimate them.  In reality, all of us live in community, for what one person does or does not do affects another and others directly and/or indirectly, for good or for ill.  We rise together and we fall together; we need to support each other for the common good.  The economic debacle arising from subprime mortgages has taught many lessons, including that one.

Sometimes we need deliverance from the sins of others.  That was the function of the blood of a Passover lamb in Exodus.  And the reading from Matthew discusses how to handle grievances among members of a faith community.  The offender receives more than one chance to restore peace before facing the penalty, which is ecclesiastical exile.  The common good is the chief end, with attempts to rehabilitate the offending party.

And sometimes the sin is one’s own.  Fortunately, God is present, offering forgiveness in exchange for repentance, that is the act of changing one’s mind, or, to state the matter differently, turning around.  Repentance is far more than apologizing, although nobody ought to underestimate the value of a sincere apology.  No, repentance is active.  And we humans ought to welcome repentance at least as much as God does.

Dare we try it?

KRT