Archive for the ‘Mark 11’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 16 (Year D)   1 comment

fig-tree-1930

Above:  Fig Tree Cleaving a Rock, Transjordan, Circa 1930-1933

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-14982

Prelude to the Passion, Part II

AUGUST 25, 2019

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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 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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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 3:1-7 (8-15) 16-24 or Jeremiah 8:4-13 or Jeremiah 24:1-10 or Habakkuk 3:1-19

Psalm 140

Matthew 21:12-22 or Mark 11:12-25 (26)

Colossians 1:29-2:5 (16-19) 20-23

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God is the only proper source of confidence, human philosophies and accomplishments are puny and transitory at best and deceptive at worst.  They are also seductive.  Consequences of giving into them in the assigned readings include exile, pestilence, famine, and destruction.

The readings from Matthew and Mark, despite their slight chronological discrepancy, are mostly consistent with each other.  In the narrative they follow the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem immediately.  We read that Jesus takes great offense to people profiting by converting Roman currency (technically idols, given the image of the Emperor, described as the “Son of God”) into money theologically suitable for purchasing sacrificial animals.  He also curses and kills a fig tree for not bearing figs.  We who read these accounts are supposed to ask ourselves if we are fruitful or fruitless fig trees.  One will, after all, know a tree by its fruits.

Are we the kind of people who would have followed Jesus all the way to Golgotha or are we the variety of people who would have plotted or ordered his execution or at least denied knowing him or would have shouted “Crucify him!”?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/prelude-to-the-passion-part-ii/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 22, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Figs

Above:   Figs

Image in the Public Domain

Overcoming the World

OCTOBER 7, 2019

OCTOBER 8, 2019

OCTOBER 9, 2019

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The Collect:

Benevolent, merciful God:

When we are empty, fill us.

When we are weak in faith, strengthen us.

When we are cold in love, warm us,

that we may love our neighbors and

serve them for the sake of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 1:5-17 (Monday)

Habakkuk 2:5-11 (Tuesday)

Habakkuk 2:12-20 (Wednesday)

Psalm 3 (All Days)

James 1:2-11 (Monday)

1 John 5:1-5, 13-21 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:12-14, 20-24 (Wednesday)

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LORD, how many adversaries I have!

how many there are who rise up against me!

How many there are who say of me,

“There is no help for him in his God.”

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me;

you are my glory, the one who lifts up my head.

–Psalm 3:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Earthly fortunes and military conquests are temporary, even if some are long-term.  Whatever material and financial assets we own, we cannot take them with us after we die.  History records that the Persian Empire conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and that the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great defeated the Persian Empire.  Furthermore, we know that successor empires of the Macedonian Empire competed with each other and fell to conquests in time.

There is God, whom no earthly power can conquer or come close to defeating.  We read at the end of John 16, shortly before the torture and execution of Jesus, these words placed in his mouth:

In the world you will have suffering.  But take heart!  I have conquered the world.

–Verse 3:3b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

We know by faith that Roman officials killed Jesus, but that a resurrection followed a few days later.  We also read the following in 1 John 5:

For to love God is to keep his commandments; and these are not burdensome, because every child of God overcomes the world.  Now, the victory by which the world is overcome is our faith, for who is victor over the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

–Verses 3-5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In the Biblical sense to believe in God is to trust in God.  Affirming a theological proposition intellectually is much easier than internalizing it and acting on it.  To settle for the former (mere intellectual assent) is to be like the barren fig tree of Mark 11.  Yes, the text of Mark 11 indicates that Jesus cursed a fig tree out of fig season, but out of season a healthy fig tree exhibits evidence of the ability to bear figs in season.  Furthermore, the context of Mark 11:12-14, 20-24, set during Holy Week and bookending the cleansing of the Temple, indicates that the story of the cursed fig tree pertains to Jesus’s displeasure with the management and operation of the Temple.

May we who claim to follow Jesus bear good fruits and otherwise show year-round evidence of our spiritual vitality in Christ.  May we trust in Jesus and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/overcoming-the-world/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 28, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Parable of the Wicked Servants

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servants

Image in the Public Domain

Humility and Arrogance

NOVEMBER 15, 16, and 17, 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 4:4-18 (Thursday)

Daniel 4:19-27 (Friday)

Daniel 4:28-37 (Saturday)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

1 Timothy 6:11-21 (Thursday)

Colossians 2:6-15 (Friday)

Mark 12:1-12 (Saturday)

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FYI:  Daniel 4:1-37 in Protestant Bibles equals Daniel 4:1-34 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox translations.

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Arrogance can be easy to muster and humility can be difficult to manifest.  I know this well, for

  1. I have been prone to intellectual arrogance, and
  2. humility can be painful.

To be fair, some people I have known have nurtured my intellectual arrogance via their lack of intellectual curiosity and their embrace of anti-intellectualism.  That reality, however, does nothing to negate the spiritual problem.  I am glad to report, however, that it is a subsiding problem, by grace.

The internal chronology of the Book of Daniel defies historical accuracy; I came to understand that fact years ago via close study of the text.  The Book of Daniel is folkloric and theological, not historical and theological.  The folktale for these three days concerns King Nebuchadrezzar II (a.k.a. Nebuchadnezzar II), King of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned from 605 to 562 B.C.E.  The arrogant monarch, the story tells us, fell into insanity.  Then he humbled himself before God, who restored the king’s reason.

So now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of Heaven, all of whose works are just and whose ways are right, and who is able to humble those who behave arrogantly.

–Daniel 4:34, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is folklore, not history, but the lesson regarding the folly of arrogance is true.

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12) exists in the context of conflict between Jesus and Temple authorities during the days immediately prior to his death.  In Chapter 11 our Lord and Savior cleansed the Temple and, in a symbolic act, cursed a fig tree as a sign of his rejection of the Temple system.  In Chapters 11 and 12 Temple authorities attempted to entrap Jesus in his words.  He evaded the traps and ensnared his opponents instead.  In this context Jesus told the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.  The vineyard was Israel, the slain slaves/servants were prophets, and the beloved son was Jesus.  The tenants were the religious leaders in Jerusalem.  They sought that which belonged to God, for Christ was the heir to the vineyard.

1 Timothy 6:11-21 continues a thread from earlier in the chapter.  Greed is bad, we read:

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

–6:9-10, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Faithful people of God, however, are to live differently, pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness (verse 11).  The wealthy are to avoid haughtiness and reliance on uncertain riches, and to trust entirely in God (verse 17).  Further instructions for them include being generous and engaging in good works (verse 18).

Complete dependence upon God is a Biblical lesson from both Testaments.  It is a pillar of the Law of Moses, for example, and one finds it in 1 Timothy 6, among many other parts of the New Testament.  Colossians 2:6-15 drives the point home further, reminding us that Christ has cancelled the debt of sin.

Forgiveness as the cancellation of debt reminds me of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35).  A king forgave a large debt–10,000 talents–a servant owed to him.  Given that one talent was fifteen years’ worth of wages for a laborer, and that the debt was therefore 150,000 years’ worth of wages, the amount of the debt was hyperbolic.  The point of the hyperbole in the parable was that the debt was impossible to repay.  The king was merciful, however.  Unfortunately, the servant refused to forgive debts other people owed to him, so the king revoked the debt forgiveness and sent the servant to prison.

So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

–Matthew 18:35, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Just as God forgives us, we have a responsibility to forgive others.  Doing so might require us to lay aside illusions of self-importance.  That has proven true in my life.

The path of walking humbly with God and acknowledging one’s total dependence upon God leads to liberation from illusions of grandeur, independence, and self-importance.  It leads one to say, in the words of Psalm 16:1 (Book of Common Worship, 1993):

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.”

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/humility-and-arrogance/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 27, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Fig Tree

Above:  A Fig Tree, 1915

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-01901

If Only

NOVEMBER 9 and 10, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, you show forth your almighty power

chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy.

Grant to us the fullness of your grace,

strengthen our trust in your promises,

and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 15:1-11 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 24:17-22 (Saturday)

Psalm 146 (Both Days)

Hebrews 9:15-24 (Friday)

Mark 11:12-14, 20-24 (Saturday)

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Blessed is the man whose help is the God of Jacob:

whose hope is in the Lord his God,

the God who made heaven and earth:

the sea and all that is in them,

who keeps faith forever:

who deals justice to those that are oppressed.

–Psalm 146:5-7, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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For there will never cease to be needy ones in your land, which is why I command you:  open your hand to the poor and needy kinsman in your land.

–Deuteronomy 15:11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Deuteronomy 15:11 follows two pivotal verses:

There shall be no needy among you–since the LORD your God will bless you in the land that the LORD your God is giving you as a hereditary portion–if only you heed the LORD your God and take care to keep all this instruction that I enjoin upon you this day.

–Deuteronomy 15:4-5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

“If only” is a major condition in that passage.

The readings from Deuteronomy acknowledge the reality of the presence of needy people and provide culturally specific ways to minimize the social problem.  These include:

  1. Forgiving debts of Hebrews (but not for foreigners) and the freeing of servants every seventh year;
  2. Refraining from exploiting strangers, widows, and orphans;
  3. Leaving olives on trees and grapes in vineyards for the poor to pick; and
  4. Leaving grain in the fields for the poor to glean.

Examples change according to the location and time, but the principle to care for the less fortunate on the societal and individual levels is constant.

Failure to obey these laws was among the charges Hebrews prophets made against their society.  The Temple system at the time of Jesus exploited the poor and promoted collaboration with the Roman Empire and a form of piety dependent upon wealth.  The story of the cursed fig tree in Mark 11 uses the fig tree as a symbol for Israel and the cursing of the plant as an allegory of our Lord and Savior’s rejection of the Temple system, for the two parts of the reading from Mark 11 function as bookends for the cleansing of the Temple.

And when the chief priests and scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.

–Mark 11:19, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Therefore I find a fitting segue to the pericope from Hebrews 9, with its theme of cleansing from sin by blood.  (Let us never give the Resurrection of Jesus short shrift, for, without the Resurrection, we have a perpetually dead Jesus.)  Jesus died because of, among other reasons, the threat he posed to the political-religious Temple system, the shortcomings of which he criticized.  The actual executioners were Romans, whose empire took the law-and-order mentality to an extreme.  Our Lord and Savior was dangerous in the eyes of oppressors, who acted.  God used their evil deeds for a redemptive purpose, however.  That sounds like grace to me.

If only more societies and governments heeded the call for economic justice.  If only more religious institutions sought ways to care effectively for the poor and to reduce poverty rates.  If only more people recognized the image of God in the marginalized and acted accordingly.  If only more governments and societies considered violence to be the last resort and refrained from using it against nonviolent people.  If only…, the world would be a better place.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

THE FEAST OF ISAIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF JAN HUS, PROTO-PROTESTANT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF OLUF HANSON SMEBY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/if-only/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 21, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Robinson's Arch

Above:  Robinson’s Arch, Jerusalem, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, Between 1898 and 1914

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07504

Money, Status, and Ego

SEPTEMBER 24-26, 2020

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The Collect:

God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings.

Give us your grace to overcome them,

keep us from those things that harm us,

and guide us in the way of salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 12:17-28 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 18:5-18 (Friday)

Ezekiel 18:19-24 (Saturday)

Psalm 25:1-9 (All Days)

James 4:11-16 (Thursday)

Acts 13:32-41 (Friday)

Mark 11:27-22 (Saturday)

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Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches he way to the lowly.

All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness

to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

–Psalm 25:7-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these days combine to form a tapestry about sin, righteousness, judgment (both human and divine), and forgiveness.  The lessons also overlap like circles in a Venn Diagram.  This richness of content from various sources explains why I have chosen to write from the Complementary Series of the daily lectionary attached to the (mostly Sunday) Revised Common Lectionary.  There is also a continuous reading track, but this one works better for me.

We humans make decisions every day.  As a poster I heard of years ago declares, “YOU CANNOT NOT DECIDE.”  We decide to take one course of action or another one.  Sometimes we decide to do nothing.  Thus, when we sin, we might do so via commission or omission.  There will be consequences of sins and sometimes even for proper deeds; one cannot evade their arrival forever.  No matter how much God approves or disapproves of certain deeds, some human beings will have a different opinion.  Thus divine judgment might seem to arrive late or not at all in some cases and those innocent of a great offense suffer for the sake of righteousness.

Ezekiel 18 makes clear the point that God evaluates us based on what we do and do not do, not on what any ancestor did (or has done) and did not do (or has not done.)  Yes, as I have mentioned in a recent post at this weblog, parts of the Torah either disagree with that point or seem to do so.  Why should the Bible not contradict itself in places, given the lengthy span on its composition?  To expect consistency on every point is to harbor unrealistic expectations.  This why we also need tradition and reason, not just scripture, when arriving at theological decisions.  Anyhow, Ezekiel 18 tells us God does not evaluate us based on what our grandparents did.  This is good news.  What they did might still affect us negatively and/or positively, however.  I can identity such influences reaching back to some of my great-grandparents, in fact.  But I am responsible for my sins, not theirs.  As James 4:17 (The Revised English Bible, 1989) tells us:

What it comes to is that anyone who knows the right thing to do and does not do it a sinner.

Sometimes we know right from wrong and choose the latter because it is easier than the former.  I think that this summary applies to our Lord’s questioners in Mark 11:27-33.  Jesus, already having entered Jerusalem triumphantly while looking like a victorious king en route to the peace negotiations after battle, had also scared the living daylights out of money changers exploiting the pious poor at the Temple.  Our Lord and Savior was challenging a religious system in league with the Roman Empire.  And he was doing so during the days leading up to the annual celebration of Passover, which was about God’s act of liberating the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  The man was not keeping a low profile.  He was doing the right things and his questioners were attempting to entrap him verbally.  I suspect that they knew that he was the genuine article and that they preferred to lie to themselves and to oppose him rather than to follow him.  They had matters of money, status, and ego to consider, after all.

Are they really quite different from many of us?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGIA HARKNESS, UNITED METHODIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF WALES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/money-status-and-ego/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 19, Year A   1 comment

31620v

Above:  Samuel Ryeschenski, Nine-Year-Old Chess Player, at the United States Capitol, April 6, 1922

Photographer = Harris & Ewing

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-hec-31620

Seeking the Common Good

SEPTEMBER 14-16, 2020

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The Collect:

O Lord God, merciful judge, you are the inexhaustible fountain of forgiveness.

Replace our hearts of stone with hearts that love and adore you,

that we may delight in doing your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 48:8-22 (Monday)

Genesis 49:29-50:14 (Tuesday)

Genesis 50:22-26 (Wednesday)

Psalm 133 (All Days)

Hebrews 11:23-29 (Monday)

Romans 14:13-15:2 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:20-25 (Wednesday)

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Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

For there the LORD has ordained the blessing:

life for evermore.

–Psalm 133, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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So then, let us be always seeking the ways which lead to peace and the ways in which we can support each other.  Do not wreck God’s work for the sake of food.

–Romans 14:19-20a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The ethic of building up the common good is part of the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  In the Law of Moses we have responsibilities to and for each other.  A healthy communitarianism respects individual consciences while avoiding rugged individualism on hand and the tyranny of the majority on the other hand.  Our human reality is that we depend on God for everything and on each other.  We are, therefore, dependent and interdependent.  May we behave toward each toward each other according to the ethic of seeking the best for each other.  Joseph sought the best for his family members, even those who had almost killed him.  He should have sought the best for the Egyptians instead of reducing them to a state of serfdom in Genesis 47, however.  (The man was not entirely heroic.)

Sometimes the common good works via authority figures; sometimes it works around them.  Joseph’s boss was sympathetic to him, but the Pharaoh whom Moses knew was hostile.  Under the best possible circumstances authority figures will function as agents of the common good, but often we humans must work around them or even replace them.  Such is life.  If we can muster enough faith we will discover that God’s grace is more than sufficient for our required tasks.

As we go about the work of seeking the common good and building each other up, may we avoid ridiculous extremes which function mainly as fodder for criticisms of religion.  I recall that, when I was quite young, my sister and I were not supposed to play in the parsonage yard on Sunday afternoons.  My father was the local United Methodist pastor in a conservative rural community, some members of which retained overly strict–Puritanical, even–notions regarding Sabbath-keeping.  I mention this example to make a point:  If we place too much emphasis on what others think, we will restrict our own range of options (and that of our children, if we have any) needlessly.  Spiritually uptight people will have to deal with the consequences of their own constipation of the soul for themselves, without cramping my style.  Besides, my personal life is quiet, quite boring by many standards of what is “interesting,” and nobody’s business.  So I will persist in my behaviors, which according to many killjoys through the ages, are sinful:  playing chess, reading novels, dancing on occasion, eating meat, drinking tea, watching movies, et cetera.  I like intellectual stimulation, artistic fulfillment, antioxidants, and the taste of meat, none of which cause moral harm to anyone.  So why should anyone object?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 16. 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DIEFENBAKER AND LESTER PEARSON, PRIME MINISTERS OF CANADA; AND TOMMY DOUGLAS, FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN JONES OF TALYSARN, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BROTHER ROGER OF TAIZE, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZE COMMUNITY

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY WOMEN OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

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Bloga Theologica version

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Week of Proper 3: Saturday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  A Bowl of Fruit

Image Source = Yosarian

It Is Not Really About the Me (“Me” Being the Speaker)

JUNE 2, 2018

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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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Jude 16-25 (Revised English Bible):

They [“certain individuals who have wormed their way” into the church and who “pour abuse on whatever they do not understand,”per verses 4 and 10] are a set of grumblers and malcontents.  They follow their lusts, and they court favour to gain their ends.  But you, my friends, should remember the predictions made by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They said to you:

In the final age there will be those who mock at religion and follow their own ungodly lusts.

These people create divisions; they are worldly and unspiritual.  But you, my friends, must make your most sacred faith the foundation of your lives.  Continue to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Keep yourselves in the love of God, and look forward to the day when our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy will give eternal life.

There are some doubting souls who need your pity.  Others you should save by snatching them from the flames.  For others your pity must be mixed with fear; hate the very clothing that is contaminated with sensuality.

Now to the One who can keep you from falling and set you in the presence of his glory, jubilant and above reproach, to the only God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all time, now, and for evermore.  Amen.

Psalm 63:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,

as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.

2  Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place,

that I might behold your power and your glory.

3  For your loving-kindness is better than life itself;

my lips shall give you praise.

4  So will I bless you as long as I live

and lift up my hands in your Name.

5  My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness,

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips.

6  When I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the night watches.

7  For you have been my helper,

and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.

8  My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast.

Mark 11:27-33 (Revised English Bible):

They came once more to Jerusalem.  As he was walking in the temple court the chief priests, scribes, and elders came to him and said,

By what authority are you acting like this?  Who gave you authority to act in this way?

Jesus said to them,

I also have a question for you, and if you give me an answer, I will tell you by what authority I act.  The baptism of John:  was it from God, or from men?  Answer me.

This set them arguing among themselves:

What shall we say?  If we say, “From God,” he will say, “Then why did you not believe him?”  Shall we say, “From men?”

–but they were afraid of the people, for all held that John was in fact a prophet.  So they answered,

We do not know.

And Jesus said to them,

Then I will not tell you either by what authority I act.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 3:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/week-of-proper-3-saturday-year-1/

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/week-of-8-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/week-of-8-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

Blest Are the Pure in Heart:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/blest-are-the-pure-in-heart/

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A spiritual mentor of mine from the 1990s asked one question of each passage from the Bible.  He said, “What is really going on here?”

That question cuts through minor material and steers one past distractions.  The author of Jude wrote the brief epistle to one congregation experiencing specific difficulty at a certain time.  The details of the heresy in question are relatively minor.  They might even qualify as distractions.  My goal in this post is to focus on the important details, those which echo today.

Two main ideas stand out in my mind.  First, the unnamed villains were not merely people who held heterodox ideas.  No, they were also selfish, quarrelsome, verbally abusive, and apparently prone to carousing.  As we read elsewhere in the New Testament, one will know the variety and health of a tree by its fruit.

The other main idea is that the orthodox believers to whom the author wrote should respond faithfully, trusting in God, acting in pity, being above reproach.  After all, to quote a separate New Testament thread, one will know the variety and health of a tree by its fruit.

Often we human beings err when we act out of psychological defensiveness or excessive egotism, thereby seeking our own gain at the expense of others.  And congregational office, which is supposed to be a sacred trust, becomes either an ego crutch for an insecure person or a vehicle for an egomaniac.  A congregation, however, is part of the body of Christ.  The exercise of spiritual gifts is properly for the building up of the body, not an individual.  And one ought to check one’s ego at the church door.

Furthermore, while resisting destructive heresies, may we not fall into the pit being insulting and verbally abusive, of grumbling and being malcontented.  May we speak and live truth in love, with the accent on “in love.”  Winning the argument ought not become an idol which distracts us from demonstrating the love of Christ to everyone, including the grumbling heretics.  After all, is a grumbling heretic any better or worse than a grumbling orthodox person?

KRT

Published in a nearly identical form as Week of 8 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 18, 2011

Posted July 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Canadian Anglican Lectionary Year 2, June 2

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