Archive for the ‘Ezekiel 37’ Tag

Devotion for Wednesday After Pentecost Sunday, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Confessional

Above:  The Confessional Booth, the Church of the Nativity, Menlo Park, California

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS CAL,41-MENPA,2–15

Forgiving and Retaining Sins

MAY 23, 2018

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The Collect:

Mighty God, you breathe life into our bones,

and your Spirit brings truth to the world.

Send us this Spirit,

transform us by your truth,

and give us language to proclaim your gospel,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 37:1-14

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

John 20:19-23

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You send forth your Spirit, and they are created;

and so you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:31, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Vision of the Dry Bones, is an allegory of the restoration of the people Israel.  Subsequent interpretations include a literal reading regarding the physical resurrection of the dead, hence the pairing with John 20:19-23, an account of a post-Resurrection appearance of Jesus to ten of the eleven surviving Apostles.  There our Lord and Savior says:

Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

–John 20:22b-23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The use of the passive voice leaves room for ambiguity in that saying.  (The active voice is stronger and more definitive.)

If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them,…

is clear for the sentence identifies “them” as the forgiven party, but

…if you retain the sins of any, they are retained

is vague.  Who retains the unforgiven sins?  One might interpret the passage to mean that, via the Holy Spirit, the Church has the authority to forgive sins and to refuse to do so.  That might be accurate.  If so, the one who committed the sins retains them.  But what if refusing to forgive sins means that the one who refuses to forgive the sins retains them?

Forgiving can be quite difficult; I know this firsthand.  I also know that, according to the Gospels, there is a relationship between one’s willingness to forgive and God’s willingness to forgive one.  (The measure one gives will be the measure one gets.)  I am also aware that a grudge is too heavy a burden to carry.  It might not even lead to any harm of its target(s), but it injures the one who hauls it around like too much luggage.  I have retained the sins of others to my detriment, but letting those sins go has improved my life and been something I should have done much sooner.

According to an old story, two monks (Monk #1 and Monk #2, I call them) were traveling when they came to a river.  Waiting at the river was a prostitute, whom Monk #1 carried on his shoulders as he crossed the river.  On the other side of the river the monks and the prostitute parted company.  The monks continued their journey, during which Monk #2 complained repeatedly about Monk #1 having carried the woman.  Monk #1 replied,

I put her down at the river, but you are still carrying her.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/forgiving-and-retaining-sins-2/

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Week of Proper 15: Thursday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 15: Friday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, by Gustave Dore

Restoration

AUGUST 20 and 21, 2020

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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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THE FIRST READING FOR THURSDAY

Ezekiel 36:22-28 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[The word of the LORD came to me:]

Say to the House of Israel:  Thus said the Lord GOD:  Not for your sake will I act, O House of Israel, but for My holy name, which you have caused to be profaned among the nations–among whom you have caused it to be profaned.  And the nations shall know that I am the LORD

–declares the Lord GOD–

when I manifest my My holiness before their eyes through you.  I will take you from among the nations and gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you back to your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean:  I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your fetishes.  And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you:  I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh; and I will put My spirit into you.  Thus I will cause you to follow My laws and faithfully to observe My rules.  Then you shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers, and you shall be My people and I will be your God.

THE FIRST READING FOR FRIDAY

Ezekiel 37:1-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The hand of the LORD came upon me.  He took me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the valley.  It was full of bones.  He led me all around them; there were very many of them spread over the valley, and they were very dry.  He said to me,

O mortal, can these bones live again?

I replied,

O Lord GOD, only you know.

And He said to me,

Prophesy over these bones and say to them:  O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!  Thus said the Lord GOD to these bones:  I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live again.  I will lay sinews upon you, and cover you with flesh, and form skin over you.  And I will put breath into you, and you shall live again.  And you shall know that I am the LORD!

I prophesied as I had been commanded.  And while I was prophesying, suddenly there was a sound of rattling, and the bones came together, bone to matching bone.  I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had grown, and skin had formed over them; but there was no breath in them.  Then He said to me,

Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, O mortal!  Say to the breath:  Thus said the Lord GOD:  Come, O breath, from the four winds, and breathe into these slain, that they may live again.

I prophesied as He commanded me.  The breath entered them, and they came to life and stood up on their feet, a vast multitude.

And He said to me,

O mortal, these bones are the whole House of Israel.  They say, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone; we are doomed.”  Prophesy, therefore, and say to them:  Thus said the Lord GOD:  I am going to open your graves and lift you out of the graves, O My people, and bring you to the land of Israel.  You shall know, O My people, that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and lifted you out of your graves.  I will put My breath into you and you shall live again, and I will set you upon your own soil.  Then you shall know that I the LORD have spoken and have acted

–declares the LORD.

THE RESPONSE FOR THURSDAY

Psalm 51:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

THE RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 107:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

2  Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3  He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

4  Some wandered in desert wastes;

they found no way to a city where they might dwell.

5  They were hungry and thirsty;

their spirits languished within them.

6  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

7  He put their feet on a straight path

to a city where they might dwell.

8  Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy

and the wonders he does for his children.

THE GOSPEL READING FOR THURSDAY

Matthew 22:1-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus began to talk to them again in parables.

The kingdom of Heaven,

he said,

is like a king who arranged a wedding-feast for his son.  He sent his servants to summon those who had been invited to the festivities, but they refused to come.  Then he tried again; he sent some more servants, saying to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Here is my banquet all ready, by bullocks and fat cattle have been slaughtered and everything is prepared.  Come along to the wedding.”‘  But they took no notice of this and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business.  As for the rest, they got hold of the servants, treated them with insults, and finally killed them.  At this the king was very angry and sent his troops and killed those murderers and burned down their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding-feast is all ready, but those who were invited were not good enough for it.  So go off now to all the street corners and invite everyone you find there to the feast.’  So the servants went out on to the streets and collected together all those whom they found, bad and good alike.  And the hall became filled with guests.  But when the king came in to inspect the guests, he noticed among them a man not dressed for a wedding.  “How did you come in here, my friend,” he said to him, “without being properly dressed for the wedding?”  And the man had nothing to say.  Then the king said to the ushers, “Tie him up and throw him into the darkness outside, where there will be tears and bitter regret!”  For many are invited but few are chosen.

THE GOSPEL READING FOR FRIDAY

Matthew 22:34-40 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees they came up to him in a body, and one of them, an expert in the Law, put this test-question:

Master, what is the Law’s greatest commandment?

Jesus answered him,

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”  This is the first and great commandment.  And there is a second like it:  “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The whole of the Law and the Prophets depends on these two commandments.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The readings from Ezekiel speak of the restoration of the people of the former Kingdom of Judah.  God will do this, the people will benefit greatly, and God will receive the glory.  What seemed impossible will become reality.

To know helplessness is a terrible feeling.  And to experience God’s restorative power is magnificent.  I have done both.  And, from experience, I testify that the memory of hopelessness and pain do not fade, but that, fortunately, the awareness of what God is doing and has done fills one with awe, wonder, and gratitude.

Recently (relative to the composition and typing of this post) I realized (almost as an afterthought) that the fifth anniversary of my previous life beginning to crumble had passed.  Fortunately, this did not inspire deep ire in me–mostly it brought up surprise.  Was that five years ago?  It feels like longer than that.  I am a different person now, after having passed through the fire, by grace.

Yes, dry bones can live again.

KRT