Archive for the ‘Jonah 4’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 22, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Effects of Acid Rain on a Forest in the Czech Republic, 2006

Photographer = Lovecz

The Sins of the Fathers

OCTOBER 4, 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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Exodus 34:1-10 or 1 Kings 22:29-43

Psalm 62:1-8, 11-12

Hebrews 5:12-6:12

Mark 9:30-37

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The key mark of discipleship is servanthood.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394)

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Some themes recur in the readings for this week:

  1. God is faithful.
  2. Trust in God.
  3. Do not commit apostasy.
  4. People reap what they sow.
  5. Christ is the exemplar of the type of service that defines greatness.

Genesis 34:7 requires unpacking.  The principle that God punishes or forgives members of subsequent generations based on the sins of an ancestor exists also in 1 Kings 21:29, Nehemiah 9:17, Deuteronomy 5:9, Numbers 14:18, Psalm 103:8, Joel 2:13, and Jonah 4:2.  Yet we read the opposite view–individual moral responsibility–in Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31:29-30.  The Bible contradicts itself sometimes.

The best explanation for the opinion we read in Exodus 34:7 comes from Professor Richard Elliot Friedman:  effects of one’s actions are apparent generations later.  I recognize ways in which actions of two of my paternal great-grandfathers influence me indirectly.  This is one example of something, that, from a certain point of view, looks like intergenerational punishment and reward by God.

The decisions of others influence us.  Some of them even restrict our options.  We may suffer because of the decisions of those who have preceded us; we may suffer because of their sins.  This is the way of the world.  Yet we are morally responsible for ourselves and each other, not those who have died.  No, they are responsible for their sins, just as we are responsible for ours.

May we–individually and collectively–refrain from visiting the consequences of our sins on those who will succeed us.  We owe them that much, do we not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/the-sins-of-the-fathers-part-ii/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 26, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Lot and His Daughters

Above:   Lot and His Daughters, by Lucas van Leyden

Image in the Public Domain

The Good Society

NOVEMBER 4 and 5, 2019

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-31 (Monday)

Zechariah 7:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 50 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (Monday)

Jude 5-21 (Tuesday)

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“When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast your lot in with adulterers.

You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

You are always speaking evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

–Psalm 50:18-21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Law of Moses teaches that, among other things:

  1. We humans depend on God for everything,
  2. We depend on each other also,
  3. We have no right to exploit each other,
  4. We are responsible to each other, and
  5. We are responsible for each other.

Thus hospitality is a great virtue, for it can make the difference between someone coming to harm or avoiding harm, as well as the difference between someone dying or living.

My summary of the forbidden behaviors in these days’ readings is that they are generally activities that harm others.  I note that, in post-exilic zeal to obey the Law of Moses, many people went too far with regard to the treatment of foreigners.  The Book of Jonah pushes back against such excesses.  The Book of Ruth, in which a Moabite woman marries a Hebrew man and becomes an ancestor of King David, is probably another protest against such zealousness-turned-xenophobia, such as that praised in Nehemiah 13:1.

As for homosexual behavior (as opposed to homosexuality as a sexual preference, an understanding which did not exist until recent centuries), Jude 7 is the only verse in the Bible to make explicit the link between homosexual conduct and the story of Sodom in Genesis 19.  In that chapter Lot, who has lived in the city since Genesis 13, presumably knows his neighbors well enough to understand what they like.  Lot has taken in two angels.  A mob gathers outside his door and demands that he send them outside to that they can gang rape the angels.  Lot refuses the demands and offers to send his two virgin daughters out instead.  (Bad father!)  Fortunately for Lot’s daughters, the mob is not interested and the angels have a plan to save Lot and his family from the imminent destruction of the city.  In the context of Genesis 19 the planned sexual activity is rape, not anything consensual; may nobody miss that point.  The standard Biblical condemnations of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are like those in Ezekiel 16:48-50 and 3 Maccabees 2:5-6, where one reads that the cities’ sins were notorious and the people were arrogant and brazen in their iniquity.  Ezekiel 16 adds to that description the neglect of the poor and the hungry–a lack of hospitality.

Zechariah 7:8-14 states that the pre-exilic Kingdoms of Israel and Judah violated the basic requirements of the Law of Moses, and paid the price.  The societies, generally speaking, did not administer true justice and act kindly and compassionately.  No, it oppressed widows, orphans, the poor, and resident aliens.  The societies were unrepentant, and divine patience ran out.

Society is people.  It shapes its members, who also influence it.  May we–you, O reader, and I–influence society for the better–to care for the vulnerable, to resist bullying and corruption, to favor kindness and compassion, and to seek and find the proper balance between individual and collective responsibility.  May we eschew bigotry in all forms, for we have a divine mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  May we seek to love God and each other fully, manifesting respect for the image of God in each other, seeking to build each other up, for that is not only the path to the common good but is also godly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/the-good-society/

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Devotion for Tuesday After Proper 19, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jonah Preaching to the Ninevites

Above:   Jonah Preaching to the Ninevites, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

The Call to Repent

SEPTEMBER 17, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion,

you lead back to yourself all those who go astray.

Preserve your people in your loving care,

that we may reject whatever is contrary to you

and may follow all things that sustain our life in

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Jonah 3:1-10

Psalm 73

2 Peter 3:8-13

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When my mind became embittered,

I was sorely wounded in my heart.

–Psalm 73:21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To alter a familiar quote slightly, I have resembled that remark.  So did the authors of many of the Psalms, such as number 137:

Remember the day of Jerusalem, O LORD, against the people of Edom,

who said, “Down with it! down with it! even to the ground!”

O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy the one who pays you back for what you have done to us!

Happy shall he be who takes your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock!

–Psalm 137:7-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

That remark from Psalm 73 also described Jonah, a fictional and satirical character who wanted to see the great enemy of his nation destroyed by God, not to repent–to turn around, literally.  He was the most reluctant of prophets.  Jonah did not understand that, in the words of 2 Peter 3:9b,

It is not his [God’s] will that any should be lost, but that all should come to repentance.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The rest of the story is that Jonah completed his mission successfully, against his will and to his consternation.  (Read Chapter 4.)  He went off to sulk and became fond of a plant that provided shade.  God killed the plant, making Jonah even more unhappy.  Then God chastised him for caring about the plant yet not the people of Nineveh.

That is how the book ends–on an ambiguous note.  The story invites us to ask ourselves if we are like Jonah and tells us, if we are, to repent.  Not all of us will, unfortunately, but at least we have the opportunity to do so.  That is evidence of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/the-call-to-repent/

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Devotion for Monday After Proper 4, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Baptism of the Eunuch--Rembrandt

Above:   The Baptism of the Eunuch, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Comfort and Discomfort with Divine Love

MAY 30, 2016

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The Collect:

Merciful Lord God, we do not presume to come before you

trusting in our own righteousness,

but in your great and abundant mercies.

Revive our faith, we pray; heal our bodies, and mend our communities,

that we may evermore dwell in your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Jonah 4:1-11

Psalm 5

Acts 8:26-40

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The lection from the Book of Jonah challenges audiences.  The main character is a fool who resists God’s call on a part of his life–to give Assyria, the archenemy, one last chance to repent.  Jonah, of course, cannot flee from God (Who can?), and he eventually accepts the vocation reluctantly.  He succeeds, much to his dismay.  He, like the author of Psalm 5, wants the evil to suffer for their sins.  Yet God loves the Assyrians also, and chastises Jonah.  The Book of Jonah.  The Book of Jonah ends without revealing the reluctant prophet’s reply to God.  The ambiguous ending of the great work of religious satire challenges all of us who like to think of ourselves as godly while clinging to resentments.

St. Philip the Deacon (not the apostle) became an instrument in the life of the Ethiopian eunuch, who desired to understand the Bible yet lacked a good teacher.  St. Philip, unlike Jonah, answered the call of God obediently and readily.  To do just that is a challenge for each of us.  Will we answer and act affirmatively or will we prefer that those hostile to us perish than repent?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 29, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEMIMA THOMPSON LUKE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND JAMES EDMESTON, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BERNHARDT SEVERIN INGEMANN, DANISH LUTHERAN AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HOPPER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CASSIAN, DESERT FATHER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/comfort-and-discomfort-with-divine-love/

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Week of Proper 22: Wednesday, Year 1   10 comments

Lord's Prayer in Greek

Above:  The Lord’s Prayer in Greek

Image in the Public Domain

The Difficulty of Forgiveness

OCTOBER 9, 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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Jonah 4:1-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

This displeased Jonah greatly, and he was grieved.  He prayed to the LORD, saying,

O LORD! Isn’t this just what I said when I was still in my own country?  That is why I fled beforehand to Tarshish.  For I know that You are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in kindness, renouncing punishment.  Please, LORD, take my life, for I would rather die than live.

The LORD replied,

Are you that deeply grieved?

Now Jonah had left the city and found a place east of the city.  He made a booth there and found a place east of the city.  The LORD God provided a ricinus plant, which grew up over Jonah, to provide shade for his head and save him from discomfort.  Jonah was very happy about the plant.  But the next day at dawn God provided a worm, which attacked the plant so that it withered.  And when the sun rose, God provided a sultry east wind; the sun beat down on Jonah’s head, and he became faint.  He begged for death, saying,

I would rather die than live.

Then God said to Jonah,

Are you so deeply grieved about the plant?

He replied,

Yes, so deeply that I want to die.

Then the LORD said:

You cared about the plant, which you did not work for and which you did not grow, which appeared overnight and perished overnight.  And should I not care about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and many beasts as well?

Psalm 86:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Bow down your ear, O LORD, and answer me,

for I am poor and in misery.

2  Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful;

save your servant who puts his trust in you.

3  Be merciful to me, O LORD, for you are my God;

I call upon you all the day long.

4  Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

5  For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving,

and great is your love toward all who call upon you.

6  Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer,

and attend to the voice of my supplications.

7  In the time of my trouble I call upon you,

for you will answer me.

8  Among the gods there is none like you, O LORD,

nor anything like your works.

9  All nations you have made will come and worship you, O LORD,

and glorify your name.

10  For you are great;

you do wondrous things;

for you alone are God.

Luke 11:1-4 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now once he [Jesus] was in a certain place praying, and when had finished one of his disciples said,

Lord, teach us to pray, just as John taught his disciples.

He said to them,

Say this when you pray:

“Father, may your name be held holy,

your kingdom come;

give us each day our daily bread,

and forgive us our sins,

for we ourselves forgive each one of us who is in debt to us.

And do not put us to the test.”

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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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Some Related Posts:

A New Zealand Paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/the-lords-prayer-a-new-zealand-paraphrase/

A Prayer for Grace to Forgive:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/a-prayer-for-grace-to-forgive/

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Jonah could not forgive the people of Nineveh, whom he had just met and did not know, for being of that place.  So he was angry that God had forgiven them.  The Lord’s Prayer is just one passage in which Jesus establishes the link between God’s forgiveness of us and our forgiveness of others.  Consider this passage (Matthew 7:1-5) also:

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give are the judgements you will get, and the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?  How dare you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the splinter out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a plank in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.

I had planned to write about the link between Jonah’s prayer and Elijah’s similar yet different plea in 1 Kings 19:4.  It is a fascinating aspect of Jonah 4 and one worth pondering.  Yet a more personal and to-the-point aspect of the readings occupies my mind while I type these words.

I was a doctoral student in the Department of History at The University of Georgia from Fall 2005 to Fall 2006.  Those were sixteen mostly difficult months.  They were only sixteen months because, in Fall Semester 2006, I received written notice that the faculty would not permit a third year.  Certain professors asked me take an M.A. instead.  But I already have one, I said.  Get another one, they said.  No, I replied.  Goodbye at the end of this semester, I told them in so many words.

My major professor had blackballed me without justification.  I need to forgive him.  Am I like Jonah in any way?  I am weak; may God forgive me for that.

KRT

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ADDENDUM:

Forgiveness occurred some time ago.  I became conscious of it only after the fact.

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 17, 2013 COMMON ERA

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[Update: Those negative emotions washed out of my system years ago.  I would not have been human had I not had such emotions, but I would have been foolish not to drop that burden years ago.–2017]

Proper 20, Year A   27 comments

Above:  Map of Ancient Nineveh

Image Source = Fredarch

Scandalous Generosity

The Sunday Closest to September 21

The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 16:2-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them,

If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites,

In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For what are we, that you complain against us?

And Moses said,

When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him– what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.”

And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said,

I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,

What is it?

For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them,

It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

37 He led out his people with silver and gold;

in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.

38 Egypt was glad of their going,

because they were afraid of them.

39 He spread out a cloud for a covering,

and a fire to give light in the night season.

40 They asked, and quails appeared,

and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water flowed,

so the river ran in the dry places.

42 For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43 So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44 He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil.

45 That they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.

Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Jonah 3:10-4:11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said,

O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.

And the LORD said,

Is it right for you to be angry?

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The LORD God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said,

It is better for me to die than to live.

But God said to Jonah,

Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?

And he said,

Yes, angry enough to die.

Then the LORD said,

You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?

Psalm 145:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

5 I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

6 They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of your greatness.

7 They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

SECOND READING

Philippians 1:21-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well– since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 20:1-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; 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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We like grace when we benefit from it, as in the case of the children of Israel, whom God fed in the wilderness.  Yet often we object when others–especially our enemies and others unlike us–benefit from it, too.

Consider Jonah, one of the most interesting literary creations in the Bible.  He was a satirical figure who epitomized the worst of post-Exilic Judaism, which had a strong dose of exclusivity about it.  So, in the short book bearing the name “Jonah” the titular character receives a mandate from God to offer the people of Nineveh–traditional enemies–a chance to repent.  Jonah runs away, but cannot escape from God.  Finally, Jonah does as God demands, and finds success in this effort disappointing.  Who is he without his traditional enemy?  What is his identity now?  This man cares more for a plant than for fellow human beings who are different from him, but whom God loves and to whom God reaches out.

This not merely about the scandal of grace extended to our enemies.  Jesus told a parable about a vineyard owner who hired people during various times of day then paid everybody the same amount–the standard daily wage at the time and place.  Those who had worked all day were upset, but the vineyard owner had not cheated them.

Why does God’s generosity scandalize us, or at least bother us?  Perhaps we think that we are deserving, but those people over there are not.  I have seen a sticker which reads,

GOD LOVES EVERYBODY, BUT I’M HIS FAVORITE.

This is supposed to be funny, which is how I interpret it.  But some people believe it.  In reality, however, we are just as deserving as those people are, which is to say that we are not deserving at all.  This, however, is not how many of us like to think of ourselves.

Too often we define ourselves according to what we are not.  We are not like those people.  We are not those people.  We are better than them, we tell ourselves.  In reality, however, my identity, your identity, and the identity of the person least like us all exist in the context of God.  We are children of God, and therefore siblings.  So our quarrels exist within a family context.  God, our Father-Mother (Metaphors relative to God are imperfect, and the Bible contains both masculine and feminine images for God.), loves us and does not give up on any of us.  So we ought not to write anyone off.  Yet we do.

We can be instruments of God voluntarily–like, Moses dealing with the ever-grumbling children of Israel, or Paul, bringing the message of Jesus to the Gentiles–or involuntarily–like Jonah, weeping over a dead plant while bemoaning the repentance of a population.  If divine grace and generosity scandalize us, the fault is with us, not with God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/scandalous-generosity/