Archive for the ‘Jeremiah 17’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 19 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  Christ and the Woman Taken in Adultery, by Guercino

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment, Mercy, Hope, and Repentance

SEPTEMBER 13, 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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Jeremiah 32:36-44

Psalm 119:73-80

2 Corinthians 1:3-11

John 7:53-8:11

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Judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  In Jeremiah 32:36-44, for example, we read that the Babylonian Exile will come yet will also end.  The author of Psalm 119 understands that God, whom he trusts, has humbled him.  In 2 Corinthians 1 the emphasis is on mercy, via Christ.

Judgment and mercy also coexist in John 7:53-8:11, a frequently misunderstood and subtle passage with some ambiguity.  It has been part of the Johannine Gospel since the 200s and is actually of Synoptic origin–probably from the Gospel of Luke.  It flows naturally in some manuscripts from Luke 21:37-38 and into Luke 22.  John 7:53-8:11 us a free-floating pericope; I treat it as such.  Indeed, one can skip over it, reading 7:52 then 8:12, and not miss a beat.

Certain religious leaders set a trap for Jesus.  This was quite a pastime in the canonical Gospels.  These particular officials, in setting this trap, violated the Law of Moses.  First, the man and woman involved in adultery were subject to the death penalty (Leviticus 20:10; Deuteronomy 22:22).  Where was the man?  Second, there were supposed to be witnesses (Deuteronomy 17:6 and 19:15).  The Roman authorities had deprived the Jewish authorities of the right to execute under the Law of Moses (John 18:31), so there was probably a political element to the trap–Rome or Torah?  (Those who set the trap were Roman collaborators.)  Jesus, being intelligent and perceptive, recognized the trap for what it was.  He reversed the trap.  What did he write with his finger?  Some Patristic exegetes suggested Jeremiah 17:13:

LORD, on whom Israel’s hope is fixed,

all who reject you will be put to shame,

those who forsake you will be inscribed in the dust,

for they have rejected the source of living water, the LORD.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

But we cannot be sure.

Also, the witnesses were to be the first to stone the adulteress (Deuteronomy 17:7):

Let anyone among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.

–John 8:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The woman’s accuser, of course, left the scene.  Jesus, instead of condemning her, instructed her to repent.

Then, if we accept the Lukan placement of the pericope, the chief priests and scribes plotted the death of Jess that fateful Passover week.

(Aside:  I have heard a Roman Catholic joke based on the pericope.  After John 8:11 Jesus and the woman were standing together.  Then a stone came, seemingly from nowhere.  Jesus exclaimed, “O, mother!”)

In God exists judgment and mercy.  Mercy includes opportunities to repent–to turn one’s back on sin.  God likes repentance, I keep reading in the Bible.  There is hope in repentance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LEES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/19/judgment-mercy-hope-and-repentance/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 17, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Appalachian Trail

Above:  The Appalachian Trail

Photographer = Carol M. Highsmith

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-highsm-13022

Devious Hearts and the Unpardonable Sin

SEPTEMBER 2, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, we thank you for your Son,

who chose the path of suffering for the sake of the world.

Humble us by his example,

point us to the path of obedience,

and give us strength to follow your commands,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 17:5-18

Psalm 17

Matthew 12:22-32

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Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me under the shadow of your wings,

From the wicked who assault me,

from my enemies who surround me to take away my life….

Arise, Lord; confront them and cast them down;

deliver me from the wicked by your sword.

–Psalm 17:8-9, 13, Common Worship (2000)

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That Psalmist and the prophet Jeremiah shared the sentiment.

Let my persecutors be shamed,

And let not me be shamed;

Let them be dismayed,

And let not me be dismayed.

Bring on them the day of disaster,

And shatter them with double destruction.

–Jeremiah 17:18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That reminds me of some of my prayers at severe periods of my life.  I am glad to report truthfully that I never arrived at the spiritual place of Psalm 137:

O daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy the one who repays you

for all you have done to us;

Who takes your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock.

–Verses 8 and 9, Common Worship (2000)

To be fair, some people were trying to kill Jeremiah.  And, regarding Psalm 137, vengeance is an emotion common to oppressed people.  Revenge is a seductive spiritual toxin.

Today we have readings about enemies and rejection.  YHWH, speaking in Jeremiah 17:11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures), says:

Most devious is the heart;

It is perverse–who can fathom it?

I the LORD probe the heat,

Search the mind–

To repay every man according to his ways,

With the proper fruit of his deeds.

This brings me to the lesson from Matthew.  In the Hellenistic world the widespread assumption regarding the causation of a variety of disorders and diseases was demonic possession.  Thus, most (if not all) of the demoniacs in the New Testament actually had conditions with down-to-earth causes–biological or just too much stress.  Brain science, which tells us much in 2014, did not exist two thousand years ago.  In fact, modern science is only about five hundred years old.  Nobody should, therefore, expect the Bible to function as a scientific text or a psychological or medical diagnostic manual.  Anyone who does is pursuing a fool’s errand.

Jesus, in his cultural context, conducted what people called exorcisms of “evil spirits” which had caused everything from epilepsy to multiple personalities.  In his cultural context this demonstrated power over evil itself.  Jesus, in his cultural context, faced opposition from people as being of divine origin.  Therefore they preferred to say (if not believe wholeheartedly) that he cast out demons by the power of Satan–a statement ridiculous inside its cultural context.  Their sin–blasphemy against the Holy Spirit–was being unable to tell the difference between good and evil when good stood in front of them and performed great and mighty acts.  Theirs was a voluntary spiritual blindness.

Why did they do it?  Perhaps they were so attached to their social status and religious traditions that admitting that which was manifest in their presence was the genuine article proved threatening.  At stake were matters of identity and livelihood, after all, and Jesus, by his mere presence, called those into question.  His words and deeds constituted even more of a threat.  So these Pharisaic opponents in the reading from Matthew decided to pursue an illogical and spiritually dangerous course.

Blasphemy against the Holy Spirit–a sin which requires much effort to commit–is the unpardonable sin because it is deliberate spiritual blindness.  For most of us all our sins flow from either ignorance or weakness.  We either do not know that what we do or do not do is wrong (perhaps due to cultural programming) or, like St. Paul the Apostle, we know what is right yet discover that we are too weak to do it.  In these cases we are either blind spiritually because of what others have taught us or we have clear vision of the moral variety.  But to see clearly in the moral sense, recognize intellectually that good is present, and choose to call it evil because that is the convenient course of action is worse.  One might even lie to oneself and persuade oneself that good is evil.  And how is one supposed to follow God then?

Following God can prove difficult under the best of circumstances.  It is possible by grace, however.  May each of us be willing to cooperate with God in the path God has established.  When God points to an area of spiritual blindness, may we accept the correction.  Such a walk with God will entail times of discomfort, but that is part of the growth process.  Our identity ought to be in God.  Our chief end, the Westminster Catechisms tell us correctly, is to enjoy and glorify God forever.  The specifics of pursuing that goal properly will vary from person to person.  May we support each other in our journeys.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL HANSON COX, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND ABOLITIONIST; AND HIS SON, ARTHUR CLEVELAND COXE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSEGIUS OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH CADY STANTON, AMELIA BLOOMER, SOJOURNER TRUTH, AND HARRIET ROSS TUBMAN, WITNESSES TO CIVIL RIGHTS FOR AFRICAN AMERICANS AND WOMEN

THE FEAST OF SAINTS FLAVIAN II OF ANTIOCH AND ELIAS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCHS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/devious-hearts-and-the-unpardonable-sin/

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Proper 1, Year C   4 comments

Above:  An Oasis in the Sahara Desert

Image Source = Library of Congress

Trusting in God

The Sunday Closest to May 11

NOT OBSERVED IN 2016

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Jeremiah 17:5-11 (Revised English Bible):

These are words of the LORD:

A curse on anyone who trusts in mortals and leans for support on human kind,

while his heart is far from the LORD!

He will be like a juniper in the steppeland;

when good comes he is unaware of it.

He will live among the rocks in the wilderness, in a salt, uninhabited land.

Blessed is anyone who trusts in the LORD, and rests his confidence on him.

He will be like a tree planted by the waterside,

that sends out its roots along a stream.

When the heat comes it has nothing to fear;

its foliage stays green.

Without care in a year of drought,

it does not fail to bear fruit.

The heart is deceitful above any other thing, desperately sick;

who can fathom it?

I, the LORD, search the mind and test the heart,

requiting each one for his conduct and as his deeds deserve.

Like a partridge sitting on a clutch of eggs which it has not laid,

so is he who amasses wealth unjustly.

Before his days are half done it will leave him, and he will be a fool at the last.

Psalm 1 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is the one who does not take the counsel of the wicked for a guide,

or follow the path that sinners tread, or take his seat in the company of scoffers.

His delight is in the law of the LORD; it is his meditation day and night.

He is like a tree planted beside water channels;

it yields its fruit in season and its foliage never fades.

So he too prospers in all he does.

The wicked are not like this; rather they are like chaff driven by the wind.

When judgment comes, therefore, they will not stand firm,

nor will sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

The LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked is doomed.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now if Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached, how can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless;  indeed, we are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he had raised Christ to life.  For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins.  And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished.  If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.

But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.

Luke 6:17-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.  People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.

Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he [Jesus] said:

How happy are you who are poor; yours is the kingdom of God.

Happy are you who are hungry now; you shall be satisfied.

Happy are you who weep now; you shall laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

But alas for you who are rich; you are having your consolation now.

Alas for you who have your fill now; you shall go hungry.

Alas for you who laugh now; you shall mourn and weep.

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; 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:

Proper 1, Year A:

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

Proper 1, Year B:

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

Jeremiah 17:

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

1 Corinthians 15:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-friday-year-2/

Luke 6:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/week-of-proper-18-tuesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/15/week-of-proper-18-wednesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/18/week-of-proper-18-tuesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-18-wednesday-year-2/

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The theme of trusting in God unites the readings.

When one is reviled and persecuted for the sake of righteousness, what does one have?  God.  When one is poor, hungry, and sorrowful, what does one have?  God.  In particular, in reference to 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, one has the Resurrected Christ, without whom we Christians

are of all people most to be pitied.  (19b, New Revised Standard Version)

Self-reliance will not suffice, for the wealthy, full, and laughing ones, plus those held in esteem all receive woes in our Lord’s Sermon on the Plain.

That is a profoundly counter-cultural message.  Woe to the respected, wealthy, full, and laughing?  Let me count the seconds before a Republican pundit or politician cries “class warfare!”  (I am flying my liberal flag.)  But reliance on God is the key, and such reliance contradicts conventions about self-made men and women.  All that we have comes from God.  All tat we can be is due to God.  Our stewardship of those resources is a great spiritual matter.

Trusting in God can be difficult; I know.  It is still hard for me much of the time.  On the other hand, it has become easier.  But it is all that I have, really.  Everything else is transitory, but God is everlasting.  Everything else is a collection of means to various ends, hopefully positive ones.  Yet God is the greatest end.  In that mystery called God I find my destiny, whatever that will entail.  May you, O reader, find your destiny there also, whatever that will entail.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMENEGILD, VISIGOTHIC PRINCE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN BISHOP OF TALLINN

Modified on June 23, 2012 Common Era