Archive for the ‘Genesis 15’ Tag

Proper 14, Year C   12 comments

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964

Photograph by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegraph and Sun

Image Source = Library of Congress

Active, Abrahamic Faith

The Sunday Closest to August 10

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 11, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24

or 

Genesis 15:1-6 and Psalm 33:12-22

then 

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Luke 12:32-40

The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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/2011/03/21/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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We human beings use the same word in different ways, with a variety of meanings.  Consider, O reader, the word “day,” for example.  People say,

In my day…

and

Back in the day…,

as well as

There is a new day coming.

Or “day” might apply literally, as in when today separates yesterday from tomorrow.

The same principle applies to “faith” in the New Testament.  The Apostle Paul, in Romans, used it to mean something inherently active, which leads to works.  A Pauline formula is that as a person thinks, so he or she is.  The Letter of James contains a different definition, that of intellectual assent to a proposition or set of propositions.  So, according to that definition, faith without works is dead.  Both epistles agree on the imperative of active faith, so one need not imagine a discrepancy between their conclusions.

And there is the definition of faith from Hebrews 11:1-3:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is was made from things that are not visible.

New Revised Standard Version

In other words, faith applies in circumstances in which one can neither prove nor disprove a proposition according to scientific methods or documentary evidence.  That is an anachronistic definition, I know, but it works well.  Science can tell us much; I respect it and reject all anti-scientific sentiments and statements.  God gave us brains; may we use them as fully and critically as possible.  And documents form the basis of the study of history as I practice it.  Objective historical accuracy and the best scientific data available ought to override dogma, superstition, and bad theology.  So, no matter what the Gospels say, demon possession does not cause epilepsy, for example.  Yet there does exist truth which these twin standards of modernism (as opposed to postmodernism) cannot measure.  Such truth is good theology, which one can grasp by faith.

We read in Hebrews of the faithful example of Abram/Abraham (and by implication, of Sarai/Sarah), which harkens back to Genesis.  Theirs is a fantastical story, one which challenges understandings of biology.  But that is not the point.  The point is that God does unexpected things, and that the people of God should accept this reality.  And whether a certain unexpected thing is good news or bad news depends upon one’s spiritual state, as in Luke 12.

The reading from Isaiah 1 caught and held my attention most of all.  I, as an observant Episcopalian, am an unrepentant ritualist.  The text does not condemn ritualism itself.  No, the text damns insincere ritualism mixed with the neglect of vulnerable members of society:

Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil things

Away from my sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

–Isaiah 1:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Do it or else, the text says.  This is a call to society; Enlightenment notions of individualism do not apply here.  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, called for

…a true revolution of values

from a society focused on things to one which places the priority on people.  In the same speech, the one in which he opposed the Vietnam War without equivocation, he said:

A nation that continues to spend year after year more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.  (Edited by James M. Washington, 1986), page 241

The Prophet Isaiah would  have agreed.

Eternal God, heavenly Father,

you have graciously accepted us as living members

of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,

and you have fed us with spiritual food

in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.

Send us now into the world in peace,

and grant us strength and courage

to love and serve you

with gladness and singleness of heart;

through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 365

Do we have the Abrahamic faith to do that?  And how much better will our societies be for all their members if we do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/active-abrahamic-faith/

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Week of Proper 7: Wednesday, Year 1   20 comments

Above:  A 2000-Year-Old Olive Tree in Bar, Montenegro

Image Source = Bratislav Tabas

You Can Tell Them By Their Fruit

JUNE 26, 2019

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

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Genesis 15:1-21 (An American Translation):

After these events the word of the LORD came to Abram in a vision,

Do not be afraid, Abram; I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.

But Abram said,

O Lord GOD, what canst thou give me, seeing that I am childless, and that my heir is a Damascene, Eliezer?

Abram said,

Since you have given me no posterity, my household slave will be my heir.

But there came to him this message from the LORD,

No such person is to be your heir, but one born of your own body is to be your heir.

Then he took him outside, and said,

Now, look at the sky, and count the stars if you can.  So shall your descendants be,

he said to him.

And he trusted in the LORD, who counted it to his credit, and said to him,

I am the LORD, who brought you out of the Chaldean city of Ur to give you possession of this land.

But he said,

O Lord GOD, how am I to know that I shall possess it?

So he said to him,

Procure a three-year-old heifer, a three-year-old she-goat, a three-year-old he-goat, a dove, and a young pigeon.

Procuring all these, he cut them in two–but not the birds–and placed the pieces opposite each other.  The birds of prey swooped down on the carcasses, but Abram drove them off.  Then, as the sun was going down, a trance fell on Abram; indeed a great and awful gloom fell upon him.  Then the LORD said to Abram,

Know of a surety that your descendants shall be immigrants in a land not their own, where they shall be slaves, and be oppressed for four hundred years; but I will in turn bring judgment upon the nation that made slaves of them, after which they shall escape with great wealth.  (As for yourself, you shall join your fathers in peace, and be buried at a ripe old age.)  It will only be in the fourth generation, however, that they will return here; for the guilt of the Amorites is not yet complete.

When the sun had set and it was quite dark, there appeared a smoking fire-pot and a blazing torch that passed between the pieces.  That day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying,

To your descendants I give this land, from the River of Egypt as far as the Great River, the river Euphrates–that of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.

Psalm 47 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Clap your hands, all you peoples;

shout to God with a cry of joy.

2 For the LORD Most High is to be feared;

he is the great King over all the earth.

3 He subdues the peoples under us,

and the nations under out feet.

4 He chooses our inheritance for us,

the pride of Jacob whom he loves.

5 God has gone up with a shout,

the LORD with the shout of the ram’s-horn.

6 Sing praises to God, sing praises;

sing praises to our King, sing praises.

7 For God is King of all the earth;

sing praises with all your skill.

8 God reigns over the nations;

God sits enthroned upon his holy throne.

9 The nobles of the peoples have gathered together

with the people of the God of Abraham.

10 The rulers of the earth belong to God,

and he is highly exalted.

Matthew 7:15-20 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Beware of the false prophets, who come to you disguised as sheep but are ravenous wolves underneath.  You can tell them by their fruit.  Do people pick grapes off thorns, or figs off thistles?  Just so any sound tree bears good fruit, but a poor tree bears bad fruit.  No sound tree can bear bad fruit, and no poor tree can bear good fruit.  Any tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and burned.  So you can tell them by their fruit.

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The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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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As I have written before, deeds reveal creeds.

Let us begin with Genesis.  The lectionary skips over Chapter 14, and Chapter 15 begins with, “After these events….”  In Chapter 14, the following events transpired:

  1. The kings of Shinar (a.k.a. Babylon), Ellasar, Elam, and Goiim waged war on the kings of Sodom, Gomorrah, Adman, Zeboiim, and Bela (a.k.a. Zoar).  The latter alliance, subject to the king of Elam for twelve years, rebelled, so the Elamite king and his allies attacked.
  2. The attacking alliance of four kings conquered Rephaim, Zuzim, Emim, Horites, Amalekites, and Amorites along the way.
  3. The attacking alliance of four kings captured Lot, members of his household, and his possessions, and removed all of them from Sodom.
  4. Abram and members of his household defeated the attacking alliance of four kings and rescued Lot and all members of his household and retrieved Lot’s possessions.
  5. After the battle, Abram met the kings of Sodom and Salem.  Melchizedek, the priest-king of Salem, blessed El Shaddai for delivering Abram.
  6. Abram, consistent with his familial obligations and a promise to his God, declined to keep any of Lot’s possessions, although Aner, Eshcol, and Mamre, who had accompanied Abram, did claim their shares with Abram’s permission.

So, in Chapter 15, God repeated the previously stated promise that Abram would have many descendants.  After an animal sacrifice and advance notice of Hebrew slavery in Egypt, the Exodus, and the wandering in the wilderness, God established a covenant with Abram.  The patriarch trusted that God, whom he knew as El Shaddai, would keep divine promises, that is, Abram believed in God.  There would be rough patches and long, deep valleys, but the promises of God were–and are–trustworthy.

Abram, of course, did not always trust before Genesis 15:1-21 or after.  He was a mortal, not a flawless individual.  But he did well enough for biblical authors to look back on him as a role model of faithfulness.

The metaphor of good and bad trees and fruit is easy to understand.  We cannot hide who we are forever, no matter how good we are at playing parts in public life.  We are as we think, and the truth will emerge in time.  Abram was a good tree.  May we be good trees, too.

The Gospel of Matthew dates to approximately 85 C.E.  The original audience understood prophets well, as such men still roamed the roads and proclaimed messages they claimed came from God.  Some prophets were true; others were false.  The message for the audience in 85 C.E. was plain:  Consider the source.  This is a timeless lesson.  In my North American context, I can think of a murderous false prophet (Jim Jones) and numerous fraudulent false prophets (many televangelists, especially alleged faith healers who “heal” people planted in the audience).  A few years ago I received an unsolicited piece of mail from the Reverend Ike.  There was a paper “prayer cloth” featuring the outline of a hand.  The instructions said to put my hand in that hand, a stand-in for God’s hand, when praying.  I did no such thing.

I regret that many people mistake such confidence men as messengers from God.  Their fraud is well-documented, and they distract spiritually needy people from true shepherds who can provide guidance in person.  When I ponder Karl Marx’s famous statement that religion is the opiate of the masses, I wonder what he would have made of televangelism.

You shall know them by their fruits.

My parting thought is this:  What kind of tree are you?  Considering the reality of human imperfections and thus laying aside illusions of moral perfection, do you bear good fruit?  Do you lead people to God or do you distract them?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/you-can-tell-them-by-their-fruit/