Archive for the ‘Joel 2’ Tag

Devotion for Thanksgiving Day (U.S.A.), Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Healing of Ten Lepers, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

Gratitude

NOVEMBER 28, 2019

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Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season,

and for the labors of those who harvest them.

Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty,

for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need,

to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 701

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Joel 2:21-27

Psalm 150

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Matthew 6:25-33

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Since antiquity and in cultures from many parts of the Earth harvest festivals have been occasions of thanksgiving.  In the United States of America, where the first national observance of Thanksgiving occurred in 1863, the November date has related to the harvest feast in Plymouth in 1621.  Prior to 1863 some U.S. states had an annual thanksgiving holiday, and there was a movement for the national holiday.  Liturgically the occasion has remained tied to harvest festivals, although the meaning of the holiday has been broader since 1863.  The Episcopal Church has observed its first Book of Common Prayer in 1789.  Nationwide Thanksgiving Day has become part of U.S. civil religion and an element of commercialism, which might actually be the primary sect of civil religion in the United States.  The Almighty Dollar attracts many devotees.

Too easily and often this holiday deteriorates into an occasion to gather with relatives while trying (often in vain) to avoid shouting matches about politics and/or religion, or to watch television, or to be in some other awkward situation.  The holiday means little to me; I find it inherently awkward.  This state of affairs is the result of my youth, when my family and I, without relatives nearby, witnessed many of our neighbors hold family reunions on the holiday.  Thanksgiving Day, therefore, reminds me of my lifelong relative isolation.

Nevertheless, I cannot argue with the existence of occasions to focus on gratitude to God.  The Bible teaches us in both Testaments that we depend entirely on God, depend on each other, are responsible to and for each other, and have no right to exploit each other.  The key word is mutuality, not individualism.  I embrace the focus on this ethos.

A spiritual practice I find helpful is to thank God throughout each day, from the time I awake to the time I go to bed.  Doing so helps one recognize how fortunate one is.  The electrical service is reliable.  The breeze is pleasant.  The sunset is beautiful.  Reading is a great pleasure.  The list is so long that one can never reach the end of it, but reaching the end of that list is not the goal anyway.  No, the goal is to be thankful and to live thankfully.

Too often we forget to be grateful.  Too often we are like the nine lepers in Luke 17:11-19 who neglected to thank Jesus for healing them.  Too seldom we are like the sole former leper who expressed gratitude to Jesus.

I refrain from reducing piety to more good manners, but good manners, expressed to God, are healthy spiritual practices.  Certainly thanking God throughout each day will improve one’s life in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/gratitude-part-iii/

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Devotion for Thanksgiving Day (U.S.A.)   Leave a comment

Above:  Thanksgiving Day–The Dance, by Winslow Homer

Image in the Public Domain

Gratitude

NOVEMBER 28, 2019

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Since antiquity and in cultures from many parts of the Earth harvest festivals have been occasions of thanksgiving.  In the United States of America, where the first national observance of Thanksgiving occurred in 1863, the November date has related to the harvest feast in Plymouth in 1621.  Prior to 1863 some U.S. states had an annual thanksgiving holiday, and there was a movement for the national holiday.  Liturgically the occasion has remained tied to harvest festivals, although the meaning of the holiday has been broader since 1863.  The Episcopal Church has observed its first Book of Common Prayer in 1789.  Nationwide Thanksgiving Day has become part of U.S. civil religion and an element of commercialism, which might actually be the primary sect of civil religion in the United States.  The Almighty Dollar attracts many devotees.

Too easily and often this holiday deteriorates into an occasion to gather with relatives while trying (often in vain) to avoid shouting matches about politics and/or religion, or to watch television, or to be in some other awkward situation.  The holiday means little to me; I find it inherently awkward.  This state of affairs is the result of my youth, when my family and I, without relatives nearby, witnessed many of our neighbors hold family reunions on the holiday.  Thanksgiving Day, therefore, reminds me of my lifelong relative isolation.

Nevertheless, I cannot argue with the existence of occasions to focus on gratitude to God.  The Bible teaches us in both Testaments that we depend entirely on God, depend on each other, are responsible to and for each other, and have no right to exploit each other.  The key word is mutuality, not individualism.  I embrace the focus on this ethos.

A spiritual practice I find helpful is to thank God throughout each day, from the time I awake to the time I go to bed.  Doing so helps one recognize how fortunate one is.  The electrical service is reliable.  The breeze is pleasant.  The sunset is beautiful.  Reading is a great pleasure.  The list is so long that one can never reach the end of it, but reaching the end of that list is not the goal anyway.  No, the goal is to be thankful and to live thankfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season,

and for the labors of those who harvest them.

Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty,

for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need,

to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 8:1-3, 6-10 (17-20)

Psalm 65 or Psalm 65:9-14

James 1:17-18, 21-27

Matthew 6:25-33

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 701

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Almighty God our Father, your generous goodness comes to us new every day.

By the work of your Spirit lead us to acknowledge your goodness,

give thanks for your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Year A

Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Psalm 65

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Luke 17:11-19

Year B

Joel 2:21-27

Psalm 126

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Matthew 6:25-33

Year C

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Psalm 100

Philippians 4:4-9

John 6:25-35

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Philippians 4:6-20 or 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Luke 17:11-19

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Originally published at SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Pentecost Sunday, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Pentecost Dove May 24, 2015

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Image Source = St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, May 24, 2015

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Listening to the Holy Spirit

JUNE 10 and 11, 2019

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The Collect:

God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all peoples of the earth.

By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love,

empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise,

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:

Joel 2:18-29 (Monday)

Ezekiel 11:14-25 (Tuesday)

Psalm 48 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 2:1-11 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 2:12-16 (Tuesday)

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We reflect on your faithful love, God,

in your temple!

Both your name and your praise, God,

are over the whole wide world.

–Psalm 48:9-10a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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I teach a Sunday School class in my parish.  We adults discuss the assigned readings for each Sunday.  I recall that, one day, one of the lections was 1 Corinthians 13, the famous love chapter in which the form of love is agape–selfless and unconditional love.  I mentioned that St. Paul the Apostle addressed that text to a splintered congregation that quarreled within itself and with him.  A member of the class noted that, if it were not for that troubled church, we would not have certain lovely and meaningful passages of scripture today.

That excellent point, in its original form, applies to the lection from 1 Corinthians 2 and, in an altered form, to the readings from Joel and Ezekiel.  A feuding congregation provided the context for a meditation on having a spiritual mindset.  The Babylonian Exile set the stage for a lovely message from God regarding certain people with hearts of stone:

Then they shall be my people, and I will be their God.

–Ezekiel 11:20b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As for those who refuse to repent–change their minds, turn around–however,

I will bring their deeds upon their own heads, says the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 11:21b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

And, in the wake of natural disaster and repentance new grain, wine, and oil will abound in Joel 2.  Divine mercy will follow divine judgment for those who repent.  That reading from Joel 2 leads into one of my favorite passages:

After that,

I will pour out My spirit on all flesh;

Your sons and daughters shall prophesy;

Your old men shall dream dreams,

And your young men shall see visions.

I will even pour out My spirit

Upon male and female slaves in those days.

–Joel 3:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is a devotion for the first two days after the day of Pentecost.  The assigned readings fit the occasions well, for they remind us of the necessity of having a spiritual mindset if we are able to perceive spiritual matters properly then act accordingly.  The Holy Spirit speaks often and in many ways.  Are we listening?  And are we willing to act faithfully?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE ELDER, NONNA, AND THEIR CHILDREN:  SAINTS GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER, CAESARIUS OF NAZIANZUS, AND GORGONIA OF NAZIANZUS

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FEDDE, LUTHERAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY TO THE SHOSHONE AND ARAPAHOE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/02/25/listening-to-the-holy-spirit/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Pentecost, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Metropolis Tower of Babel

Above:  The Ruins of the Tower of Babel, from Metropolis (1927)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

Unity in God

MAY 21 and 22, 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:

Joel 2:18-29 (Protestant versification)/Joel 2:18-3:2 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versification) (Monday)

Genesis 11:1-9 (Tuesday)

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 12:12-27 (Tuesday)

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May the glory of the LORD endure for ever;

may the LORD rejoice in all his works.

–Psalm 104:32, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The story of the Tower of Babel is a myth, a fictitious tale which contains much truth.  In the brief narrative all humans speak one language and live in one city, which they consider to be impressive.  Hubris is ubiquitous, but God is so far above (literally and figuratively) that God must descend to see the city.  The divine will is that people spread out across the planet and not seek to glorify themselves.  God, therefore, causes languages to arise and people to disperse.  Their vainglorious goal becomes a dashed hope.

One of the principles of the Law of Moses is that people depend upon God for everything and upon each other.  Teachings regarding human dependence on God and about interdependence contradict cherished American cultural ideas about self-made people and leave no room for human boasting.  As St. Paul the Apostle wrote, the only proper boast is in God.

Placing the pericope from Genesis 11 on the day after Pentecost Sunday makes sense, for the narrative regarding that day in the Acts of the Apostles, with all of its poetic language (the sort of language best suited to convey the truth of day’s events), speaks of the reversal of the curse at the end of the Tower of Babel story.  People remained scattered across the face of the planet, but they can understand the message of God in their languages.  The multitude of languages persists, but confusion (at least on that day in Jerusalem) ends.  And all this happens for the glory of God, not people.

The author of the Book of Joel, writing in the Persian period of Hebrew history, predicted a time when God would cease to send punishments and would extend extravagant mercy on the people of Judah again.  Shame among the nations of the Earth would end and the divine spirit would fall upon all flesh.  It is a promise not yet fully realized, but hopes for it are valid.  Such unity in God remains for the future; Pentecost is just the beginning.

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/unity-in-god/

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

Paul

Above:  St. Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

God With Us

JUNE 1 and 2, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people by sending into us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit, that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace, through Jesus Christ, your Son and our 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:

Joel 2:18-29 (Monday)

Ezekiel 39:7-8, 21-29 (Tuesday)

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b (Both Days)

Romans 8:18-24 (Monday)

Romans 8:26-27 (Tuesday)

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May the glory of the Lord endure for eer;

may the Lord rejoice in his works;

He looks on the earth and it trembles;

he touches the mountains and they smoke.

I will sing to the Lord as long as I live;

I will make music to my God while I have my being.

–Psalm 104:33-35, Common Worship (2000)

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I have read the Bible sufficiently closely long enough to detect some recurring patterns. Among them is this one: persistent societal sin in Israel or Judah (in a particular circumstance or pericope) leads to consequences of actions—an exile, for example. The prophet Joel interpreted locusts as instruments of divine wrath. After a while, though, divine pity and mercy take center stage. This pattern repeats in Joel and Ezekiel—less cryptically in the former than in the latter. No nation—Hebrew or Gentile—may mock God persistently without facing consequences, Joel and Ezekiel say, but the same deity who judges also extends great mercy to the chosen people. Their status as chosen does not protect them from the consequences of their actions, but a remnant will survive.

That was one way of making sense of suffering. St. Paul the Apostle, in Romans 8, offered a complementary one. His live after his conversion was one filled with suffering—imprisonments, beatings, et cetera. His experience was one with which many of his contemporaries identified. Many Christians today identify with it, in fact.

For I reckon that the sufferings we now endure bear no comparison with the glory, as yet unrealized, which is in store for us.

–Romans 8:18, The Revised English Bible

In the meantime, God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, abides with us. We might not even know how to pray, but that does not constitute an impediment between God and us.

All this might feel like “hurry up and wait,” a situation which leads to understandable and predictable frustration and impatience. I resemble that remark, in fact. But at least God is with us. That is wonderful news. May we think and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF COMMON WORSHIP, 1906

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF PIRIPI TAUMATA-A-KURA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/god-with-us-3/

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Proper 25, Year C   5 comments

04792r

Above:  Design Drawing for a Stained -Glass Window with the Publican

Image Source = Library of Congress

Designed by J. & R. Lamb Studios between 1857 and 1999

Grace, Divine and Human

The Sunday Closest to October 26

Twentieth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 27, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:23-32 and Psalm 65

or 

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 35:12-17 or Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22 and Psalm 84

then 

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

Luke 18:9-14

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; 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/2011/03/30/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twenty-third-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twenty-third-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twenty-third-sunday-after-pentecost/

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The biblical texts contain many repeated themes.  Among them is the command to obey God’s laws coupled with warnings of the consequences for not doing so followed by those consequences.  The Prophet Jeremiah, aware of those sins and their consequences, asked God for mercy on the people in Chapter 14.  In Jeremiah 15, however, God paid “no” in many words.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 35, which speaks of the divine preference for the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the wronged, begins with:

To keep the law is worth many offerings;….—35:1, The Revised English Bible

Much of the Old Testament tradition agrees with that statement.  So does the Pharisee from the parable in Luke 18:9-14.  He has kept the Law of Moses as best he knows how, as his tradition has told him to do.  But he misses one thing, another element of the Old Testament tradition:  humility before God.

You desire no sacrifice, or I would give it:

But you take no delight in burnt offerings.

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit:

A broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

–Psalm 54:16-17, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

St. Paul the Apostle understood all this well.  What admirers wrote in his name after he died the Apostle could have said during his lifetime:

I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith;….—2 Timothy 4:7, The New Jerusalem Bible

The crown of righteousness is a matter of grace; we do not earn it.  Yes, James 2:24 (The Revised English Bible) tells us:

You seen then it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.

But faith, in that formulation, is intellectual, so words are necessary for justification to God.  In the Pauline tradition, however, faith is inherently active, so:

For all alike have sinned, and are justified by God’s free grace alone, through his act of liberation in the person of Christ Jesus.

–Romans 3:23-24, The Revised English Bible

Therefore:

What room then is left for human pride?  It is excluded.  And on what principle?  The keeping of the law would not exclude it, but faith does.  For our argument is that people are justified by faith quite apart from any question of keeping the law.

–Romans 3:27-28, The Revised English Bible

According to St. Paul, the Law of Moses did its job until Christ did his, so Jesus has fulfilled the Law.

Even in judgment there can be hope, hence the lection from Joel.  The judgment which Jeremiah hoped would not come did arrive.  Later, however, so did mercy in extravagant doses.  Grace indeed!

Grace is also something we are supposed to extend to each other.

In January 2013 Jim McGown, a friend (now deceased), gave me a good book, the last of a sequence of fine volumes he imparted to me.  The last book is a daily devotional guide for Lent, Year C, by Bishop N. T. Wright.  The following lines come from Wright’s discussion of the parable from Luke:

Wasn’t the poor chap [the Pharisee] simply doing what God had told him to do?

Well, from one point of view, yes.  But Jesus was constantly nudging people, or positively shoving them, towards seeing everything differently.  Prayer is about loving God, and the deepest Jewish traditions insist that loving God is something you do with your hart, mind, soul and strength, and your neighbour as yourself, not calculating whether you’ve done everything just right and feeling smug because your neighbour hasn’t managed it so well.

Lent for Everyone:  Luke, Year C—A Daily Devotional (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2012, pages 77-78; published originally in the United Kingdom in 2009 by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge)

So I extend to you, O reader, a small portion of grace which a friend, at God’s prompting, gave to me.  Each of us is called to respond positively to God, who has done much for us.  Part of this sacred vocation is extending grace to our fellow human beings.  We have an excellent role model:  Jesus of Nazareth.  May we follow him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT II, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF DAME JULIAN OF NORWICH, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDALENA OF CANOSSA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY AND THE SONS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/grace-human-and-divine/

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Week of Proper 22: Friday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

OCTOBER 11, 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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Joel 1:13-2:2 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[The word of the LORD that came to Joel son of Pethuel.]

…Gird yourselves and lament, O priests,

Wail, O ministers of the altar;

Come, spend the night in sackcloth,

O ministers of my god.

For offering and libation are withheld

From the House of your God.

Solemnize a fast,

Proclaim an assembly;

Gather the elders–all the inhabitants of the land–

In the House of the LORD your God,

And cry out to the Lord.

Alas for the day!

For the day of the LORD is near;

It shall come like havoc from Shaddai.

Blow a horn in Zion,

Sound an alarm on My holy mount!

Let all dwellers on earth tremble,

For the day of the LORD has come!

It is a close–

A day of darkness and gloom,

A day of densest cloud

Spread like soot over the hills.

A vast, enormous horde–

Nothing like it has ever happened,

And it shall never happen again

Through the years and ages.

Psalm 9:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

I will tell of all your marvelous works.

2  I will be glad and rejoice in you;

I will sing to your Name, O Most High.

3  When my enemies are driven back,

they will stumble and perish at your presence.

4  For you have maintained my right and my cause;

you sit upon your throne judging right.

5  You have rebuked the ungodly and destroyed the wicked;

you have blotted out their name for ever and ever.

6  As for the enemy, they are finished, in perpetual ruin,

their cities plowed under, the memory of them perished;

7  But the LORD is enthroned for ever;

he has set up his throne for judgment.

8  It is he who rules the world with righteousness;

he judges the peoples with equity.

Luke 11:14-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] was casting out a devil and it was dumb; but when the devil had gone out the dumb man spoke, and the people were amazed.  But some of them said,

It is through Beelzebul, the prince of devils, that he casts out devils.

Others asked him, as a test, for a sign from heaven; but, knowing what they were thinking, he said to them,

Every kingdom divided against itself is heading for ruin, and a household divided against itself collapses.  So too with Satan:  if he is divided against himself, how can his kingdom stand?–Since you assert that it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils.  Now if it is through Beelzebul that I cast out devils, through whom do your own experts cast them out?  Let them be your judges, then.  But if it is through the finger of God that I cast out devils, then know that the kingdom of God has overtaken you.  So long a a strong man fully armed guards his own palace, his goods are undisturbed; but when someone stronger than he is attacks and defeats him, the stronger man takes away all the weapons he relied on and shares out his spoil.

He who is not with me is against me; and he who does not gather with me scatters.

When an unclean spirit goes out of a man it wanders through waterless country looking for a place to rest, and not finding one it says, ‘I will go back to the home I came from.’  But on arrival, finding it swept and tidied, it then goes off and bring seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they god in an set up house there, so that the man ends up being worse than he was before.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Hellenistic world was a spirit-haunted one.  This was a time of pre-scientific thinking, when the common understanding held that demon possession caused epilepsy and a variety of other conditions.  I, as a product of the Scientific Revolution of the 1600s and the ensuing Enlightenment, as well of subsequent developments, understand the workings of the world differently.  The cause of epilepsy is organic, not demonic.

Yet one must understand the cultural background to grasp the reading from Luke.  Consider, for example, the section about the unclean spirit who leaves a man, wanders about, finds company, and returns.  It did not stay home because something good had filled the void there, so the spirit went back where nothing had filled the vacancy it had created.  The lesson is that good must replace evil, or else evil will take up residence.  Nature abhors a vacuum, in other words.

And the charge that Jesus worked by the power of Satan was a slander, of course.  Our Lord and Savior, by his existence and work, called into question the religious authorities of pre-70 C.E. Jewish Palestine.  Frightened people might embrace change now and then, but usually they fight back, often irrationally and blindly, grabbing on to any straw they can find.

They need to fill their voids with good–and God.  This is what Joel says to do.  This day’s reading from Joel makes more sense when one reads not only it but what precedes and follows it.  The judgment is upon Judah itself, due to its sins.  Yet, later in Chapter 2, we find evidence of repentance.  Then we read these words, credited to God:

Yet even now

Turn back to Me with all your hearts,

And with fasting, weeping, and lamenting.

(2:12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

Then, beginning with 2:19, we have these words, also attributed to God:

I will grant you the new grain,

The new wine, and the new oil,

And you shall have them in abundance.

Nevermore will I let you be

A mockery among the nations….

So, once again, we see the juxtaposition of divine judgment and mercy.  Actions lead to consequences.  Sometimes God intervenes, other times not.  And, sometimes, after negative consequences have run their course, God steps in to show extravagant mercy.  It is better, of course, to follow God faithfully more often than not, to reap the harvest of righteousness, not bitterness and the gnashing of teeth.

May Jesus fill all our voids, present and future.  And may he displace that which ought not be present.  In other words, may we cooperate with God, not cast unfounded accusations.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/judgment-and-mercy-3/