Archive for the ‘Hebrews 10’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 25, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

Grace

OCTOBER 25, 2020

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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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Numbers 11:4-29 or 2 Kings 4:8-37

Psalm 70

Hebrews 10:16-25

Mark 10:17-31

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Grace, who is good, works in a variety of ways to meet human needs, tangible and intangible.  Gratitude is always an appropriate response.  Gratitude assumes a range of expressions.  One may choose the form of gratitude that best suits any given circumstance, but gratitude is not optional; it is far more than a merely good idea.

One form of gratitude is keeping commandments.  If we love God, we will keep divine commandments.  If we love Jesus, we will keep his commandments.  Depending entirely on God is one of those commandments.  Practicing humility is another one.

These are extremely difficult commandments to keep.  They are impossible to keep if one relies on human agency.  We do not have to do that, fortunately.  We cannot do that under any set of circumstances, anyway.  We can, however, succeed by relying on grace.  Will we accept it and the responsibilities that accompany it?

I used to have a shirt that read,

GRACE HAPPENS.

(The garment wore out after too many washings, as garments do.)

Terrible and other unfortunate events happen, of course, but so does grace.  We can never escape grace, happily.  If we accept it, we also accept certain obligations to extend it to others.  Therefore, it alters people around us.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM, PARENTS OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/26/grace-part-ii/

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Devotion for Proper 24, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Engagement and Wedding Rings, 1922

Image in the Public Domain

Good Society, Part II

OCTOBER 18, 2020

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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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Numbers 6:22-27 or 2 Kings 4:1-7

Psalm 69:1-3, 7-18

Hebrews 9:1-14; 10:19-31

Mark 10:1-15

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Four of the five readings occur in the context of adversity.  Two of these mention women and children.

Women and children were often the most vulnerable people in the Bible.  This was especially true if the women were widows and the children were minors and/or orphans.  The test/trap question about divorce in Mark 10:1-12 brought divorced women into the mix.

One of the greatest contributions of Richard Horsley to Biblical scholarship is focusing on practical considerations in the teachings of Jesus.   In this case, consider the economic hardships of Jewish peasants in Roman-occupied Palestine.  Horsley’s work on Christ’s thoughts about divorce in that cultural context informs my thinking.

Divorce was a leading cause of dire poverty among women, most of whom were already poor.  Without the protection of marriage, their options were bad.  Most widows knew that situation, too, unless they had a male relative (perhaps an adult son) to protect them.  The family unit provided security.

The juxtaposition of the teaching on divorce and the statement about children and humility is not accidental.  It tells another way the divine order differs from human societies.

Divorce remains a leading cause of poverty in the female population.  Divorce is necessary or preferable sometimes, as in cases of domestic violence, alcoholism, attempted murder, et cetera.  Nevertheless, it and marriage are matters to take seriously, for the good of all involved and for the good of society.

If more people practiced the Golden Rule more often, the world would be a better place and fewer people would suffer physical and/or emotional damage.  May we deal graciously with each other as we pray that God will do the same to us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM, PARENTS OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/26/good-society-part-vii/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 15, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Dagon

Above:  The Ark of the Covenant in the Temple of Dagon

Image in the Public Domain

Keeping Faith

AUGUST 15, 2019

AUGUST 16, 2019

AUGUST 17, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, judge eternal, you love justice and hate oppression,

and you call us to share your zeal for truth.

Give us courage to take our stand with all victims of bloodshed and greed,

and, following your servants and prophets, to look to the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,

your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 7:1, 10-26 (Thursday)

1 Samuel 5:1-12 (Friday)

1 Samuel 6:1-16 (Saturday)

Psalm 82 (All Days)

Hebrews 10:26-31 (Thursday)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Friday)

Matthew 24:15-27 (Saturday)

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God takes his stand in the divine assembly,

surrounded by the gods he gives judgement.

–Psalm 82:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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In 1 Samuel 5 and 6 Philistines captured the Ark of the Covenant, which proved to be more than they knew how to handle.  Idols bowed down to the Ark.  The Ashdodites came down with what was most likely venereal disease, although other translations include hemorrhoids and the bubonic plague.  The Philistines returned the Ark promptly.

God is more than we mere mortals can handle or contain.  Some of our theological propositions are true (at least partially), but the combination of these does not equal the truth of God.  There is always a glorious mystery of divinity; one should accept and embrace it.  We ought to persevere in faith and good works, especially when doing so is difficult.  Doing the right thing during good times is easy, and every day is a good day for faith and good works.  Yet keeping faith during challenging times is when, as an old saying tells us, the rubber meets the road.  When we fail, we have an obligation to express remorse and to repent.

Writing these words and creating this post is easy.  Living these words is more difficult, however.  I have to work on that task daily.  The results vary from day to day and from time of day to time of day.  To keep trying is crucial.  To do so while trusting in God, who is always somewhat mysterious, and in the existence of grace makes succeeding more likely.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH VON LAUFENBERG, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/keeping-faith/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 28, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Above:  Antiochus IV Epiphanes

Image in the Public Domain

Faithfulness and Faithlessness, Part I

NOVEMBER 19 and 20, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your sovereign purpose bring salvation to birth.

Give us faith amid the tumults of this world,

trusting that your kingdom comes and your will is done

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 8:1-14 (Monday)

Daniel 8:15-27 (Tuesday)

Psalm 13 (Both Days)

Hebrews 10:26-31 (Monday)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Tuesday)

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How long, O LORD?

Will you forget me forever?

how long will you hide your face from me?

How long shall I have perplexity of mind,

and grief in my heart, day after day?

how long shall my enemy triumph over me?

Look upon me and answer me, O LORD my God;

give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;

lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed,”

and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.

But I trust in your mercy;

my heart is joyful because of your saving help.

I will sing to you, O LORD,

for you have dealt with me richly;

I will praise the name of the Lord Most High.

–Psalm 13, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Hebrews 10:26-39 cautions against committing apostasy, that is, falling away from God.  The consequences will be dire, the pericope tells us.

Daniel 8, dating from the second century B.C.E., contains references to the Hasmonean rebellion in Judea and to the evil Seleucid monarch Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164 B.C.E.).  Antiochus IV took the name “Epiphanes,” meaning “God manifest.”  The author of 1 Maccabees referred to him as “a sinful root” (1:10).  The author of 2 Maccabees wrote of Antiochus IV’s indolence and arrogance in Chapter 9 and called him “the ungodly man” (9:9) and “the murderer and blasphemer” (9:28).  The monarch had, after all, desecrated the Temple at Jerusalem and presided over a bloody persecution of Jews.  Certainly many faithful Jews prayed the text of Psalm 13, wondering how long the persecution would continue while anticipating its end.  Antiochus IV died amid disappointment over military defeat (1 Maccabees 6:1-13 and 2 Maccabees 9:1-29).  The author of 2 Maccabees, unlike the writer of 1 Maccabees, mentioned details about how physically repulsive the king had become at the end (2 Maccabees 9:9-12).

By his cunning, he will use deceit successfully.  He will make great pans, will destroy many, taking them unawares, and will rise up against the chief of chiefs, but will be broken, not by [human] hands.

–Daniel 8:25, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The “chief of chiefs” was God, and, according to 2 Maccabees 9, God struck down Antiochus IV.  The monarch, who never fell away from God because he never followed God, faced dire circumstances.

I acknowledge the existence of judgment and mercy in God while admitting ignorance of the location of the boundary separating them.  That is a matter too great for me, so I file it under the heading “divine mystery.”  Hebrews 10:31 tells us that

It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Yet, if we endure faithfully, as many Jews did during the reign of Antiochus IV Epiphanes, and the author of the Letter to the Hebrews encouraged Jewish Christians to do, God will remain faithful to us.  Many Christians have endured violent persecutions and political imprisonments with that hope keeping them spiritually alive.  Many still do.  Many Christians have become martyrs, never letting go of that hope.  Today tyrants and their servants continue to make martyrs out of faithful people.  May we, who are fortunate not to have to endure such suffering for the sake of righteousness, not lose faith either.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/faithfulness-and-faithlessness-part-i/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 3, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

3b08208r

Above:  Lillies, 1597

Illustrator = John Gerard

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-60476

Confidence, Struggles, and Altruism

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father, you never forget your children,

and you know already what we need.

In all our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuternonomy 32:1-14 (Monday)

1 Kings 17:1-16 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 66:7-13 (Wednesday)

Psalm 104 (All Days)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 4:6-21 (Tuesday)

Luke 12:22-31 (Wednesday)

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O Lord, how manifold are your works!

In wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

There is the sea, spread far and wide,

and there move creatures beyond number, both small and great.

There go the ships, and there is that Leviathan

which you have made to play in the deep.

All of these look to you

to give them their food in due season.

When you give it to them, they gather it;

you open your hand and they are filled with good.

When you hide your face they are troubled;

when you take away their breath,

they die and return again to the dust.

When you send forth your spirit they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:26-32, Common Worship (2000)

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Monotheism I affirm while acknowledging a difficulty inherent in it: God is responsible for both good and bad—at least the existence of the bad and the evil as well as the positive. Others—such as polytheists—have no such problem, for they can blame bad deities for evil while affirming the pure goodness of others. But Yahweh is on the hook. That is part of my tradition. This is an issue with which I struggle. Yet an honest theological and spiritual struggle can be a sign of a healthy faith.

We read in the Psalm and in 1 Kings that sometimes God causes misfortunes to happen. Yet they also tells us that God sends aid. Sometimes that help comes via unexpected means, so we ought to avoid becoming fixated on certain criteria.

Another theme unifying these readings is maintaining faithfulness during difficult times. God will provide, we read, so we ought to avoid thinking too much about ourselves and our needs at the expense of other people. And we should recall that which God has done. Sometimes we become so caught up in the moment that we lose perspective, assuming that we ever had any.

I, as a student of history, know that many of the worst instances of human cruelty have come in the context of conflict related to resources. These resources have been either scarce or perceived to be scarce. Other such instances have occurred during times of a threat, real or perceived. In all such circumstances of human cruelty people have harmed each other—sometimes by passive neglect, other times via actions—all while seeking to preserve oneself. Altruism has been absent.

Yet our Lord and Savior told us plainly that, whenever we aid the least of those among us, we do so to him. Likewise the negative form of the previous sentence is true. By our selfishness, fear, and lack of altuism we condemn ourselves. By wise altruism—the variety rooted in confidence in God and in the quest to do for people what they need (not necessarily what they want)–we respond faithfully in difficult times. We thereby function as vehicles of grace to others and act in accordance with the moral mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves.

That can prove quite challenging. It is, actually, possible only via grace. Sometimes merely trying to do the right thing in a difficult circumstance eludes us, so we fail. Yet I know that I ought to try again and that God knows that I am but dust. Moral perfection is not among my goals, but striving for moral improvement is.

As for God being on the hook for the problems of suffering (sometimes) and the existence of evil (always), such matters are too great for me. Perhaps the most to which I can aspire are intellectual and spiritual honesty, as unsatisfactory as they might prove.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE PARKER, ABOLITIONIST AND MAVERICK UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY PIEROZZI, A.K.A. ANTONINUS OF FLORENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS LUDWIG VON ZINZENDORF, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/confidence-struggles-and-altruism/

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Proper 28, Year B   19 comments

Above:  United States Navy Personnel Staffing a Soup Kitchen

Image Source = Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson

Devotion to Good Works

The Sunday Closest to November 16

The Twenty-Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

NOVEMBER 18, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

1 Samuel 1:1-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.  He had two wives; the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other was Peninnah.  And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD.  On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Penninah his wife and to all her sons and daughters; and, although he loved Hannah, he would give Hannah only one portion, because the LORD had closed her womb.  So it went on year by year; as often she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her.  Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.  And Elkanah, her husband, said to her,

Hannah, why do you weep?  And why do you not eat?  And why is your heart sad?  Am I not more to you than ten sons?

After they had eaten and drunk in Shiloh, Hannah rose.  Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat beside the doorpost of the temple of the LORD.  She was deeply distressed and prayed to the LORD, and wept bitterly.  And she vowed a vow and said,

O LORD of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your maidservant, but will give to your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and no razor shall touch his head.

As she continued praying before the LORD, Eli observed her mouth.  Hannah was speaking in her heart; only her lips moved, and her voice was not heard; therefore Eli took her to be a drunken woman.  And Eli said to her,

How long will you be drunken?  Put away your wine from you.

But Hannah answered,

No, my lord, I am a woman sorely troubled; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have been pouring out of my soul before the LORD.  Do not regard your maidservant as a base woman, for all along I have been speaking out of my great anxiety and vexation.

Then Eli answered,

Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant your petition which you have made to him.

And she said,

Let your maidservant find favor in your eyes.

Then the woman went her way and ate, and her countenance was no longer sad.

They rose early in the morning and worshiped before the LORD; then they went back to their house at Ramah.  And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the LORD remembered her; and in due time Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel, for she said,

I have asked him of the LORD.

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Then Hannah offered this prayer:

My heart exults in the LORD,

in the LORD I now hold my head high;

I gloat over my enemies;

I rejoice because you have saved me.

There is none but you,

none so holy as the LORD,

none so righteous as our God.

Cease your proud boasting,

let no word of arrogance pass our lips,

for the LORD is a God who knows;

he governs what mortals do.

Strong men stand in mute dismay,

but those who faltered put on new strength.

Those who had plenty sell themselves for a crust,

and the hungry grow strong again.

The barren woman bears seven children,

and the mother of many sons is left to languish.

The LORD metes out both death and life:

he sends down to Sheol, he can bring the dead up again.

Poverty and riches both come from the LORD;

he brings low and he raises up.

He lifts the weak out of the dust

and raises the poor from the refuse heap

to give them a place among the great,

to assign them seats of honour.

The foundations of the earth are the LORD’s,

and he has set the world upon them.

He will guard the footsteps of his loyal servants,

while the wicked will be silenced in darkness;

for it is not by strength that a mortal prevails.

Those who oppose the LORD will be terrified

when from the heavens he thunders against them.

The LORD is judge even to the ends of the earth;

he will endow his king with strength

and raise high the head of his anointed one.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Daniel 12:1-3 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

The Lord spoke to Daniel in a vision and said,

At that time Michael, the great prince, the protector of your people, shall arise. There shall be a time of anguish, such as has never occurred since nations first came into existence. But at that time your people shall be delivered, everyone who is found written in the book. Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt. Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.

Psalm 16 (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.

8 I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall rest in hope.

10 For you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor let your holy one see the Pit.

11 You will show me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy,

and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

SECOND READING

Hebrews 10:11-25 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.  But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, then to wait until his enemies should be made a stool for his feet.  For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.  And the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us; for after saying,

This is the covenant that I will make with them

after those days, says the Lord:

I will put my laws on their hearts,

and write them on their minds,

then he adds,

I will remember their sins and their misdeeds no more.

Where there is forgiveness for these, there is no longer any offering for sin.

Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the sanctuary by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way which he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.  Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see Day drawing near.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 13:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

As Jesus came out of the temple, one of his disciples said to him,

Look, Teacher, what large stones and what large buildings!

Then Jesus asked him,

Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left here upon another; all will be thrown down.

When he was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple, Peter, James, John, and Andrew asked him privately,

Tell us, when will this be, and what will be the sign that all these things are about to be accomplished?

Then Jesus began to say to them,

Beware that no one leads you astray. Many will come in my name and say, “I am he!” and they will lead many astray. When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed; this must take place, but the end is still to come. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom; there will be earthquakes in various places; there will be famines. This is but the beginning of the birthpangs.

The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Links:

Proper 28, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/proper-28-year-a/

1 Samuel 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/week-of-1-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

Hebrews 10:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/03/week-of-3-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/week-of-3-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/week-of-3-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-ninth-day-of-lent-good-friday/

Luke 21 (Parallel to Mark 13):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/week-of-proper-29-tuesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-wednesday-year-1/

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The church year is almost over, with one Sunday remaining in Year B and Advent, Year C, starting one week after that.  (I am, by the way, typing these words almost one year ahead of Proper 28, Year B, and two days ahead of Proper 28, Year A.  I seem to have jumped ahead in my devotional writing a few months ago.)  Anyhow, by this time each church year, some Sunday readings have become apocalyptic.  We see this in the lessons from Hebrews, Mark, and Daniel.  The reading from Mark 13 speaks of the end of the Temple system and the coming of Roman imperial wrath over a Jewish rebellion.  The writing of the Gospel of Mark occurred somewhere in the vicinity of the First Jewish War and the year 70 C.E., a fact which certainly influenced the telling of the contents of Mark 13:1-8.  We humans tell the past through the lens of our present.  Yet apocalypses need not be entirely dark; there is hope in Daniel 12:1-3.

That said, I prefer to focus on one verse:

We ought to see how each of us may best arouse others to love and active goodness.–Hebrews 10:24, Revised English Bible

The New Revised Standard Version offers this translation:

And let us consider how to provoke one another to love and good deeds….

J. B. Phillips, in the 1972 revision of The New Testament in Modern English, renders that verse as follows:

…and let us think of one another and how we can encourage each other to love and do good deeds.

And the New Jerusalem Bible offers this lovely phrasing:

Let us be concerned for each other, to stir a response in love and good works.

Many people seek to humiliate others, shout others down, or do violence to them.  This does not improve society.  I wonder how much better society would be if more people competed with each other to perform good deeds, such as feeding others or helping others become what they ought to be.  Good works, the Bible tells us, are important.  This principle runs through Judaism and Christianity, as evident in the following:

  1. the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself
  2. the Golden Rule.

And let us not forget the Golden Rule, 1 Corinthians 13, the Letter of James, Titus 2:14, and the life of Jesus.

So, instead of trying to demonstrate orthodoxy by arguing about theology, may we demonstrate orthopraxy by acting affirmatively from our faith.  Then, when someone wants to know why we do what we do, our words will have force.  A member of my congregation tells a true story about the aftermath of a natural disaster in Virginia years ago.  A group of Mennonites traveled to the affected area, where they spent their time working to help the people there.  They did this until they had done all that they could.  Then the Mennonites returned to their home.  Some locals, impressed by the Mennonites, wanted to know more about those helpful people.  There is now a Mennonite presence in that area; locals demanded it.

Here ends the lesson.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/devotion-to-good-works/