Archive for the ‘Mark 12’ Tag

Week of Proper 4: Saturday, Year 2   12 comments

Above:  The Apostle Paul, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Sacrifices

JUNE 6, 2020

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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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2 Timothy 4:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Before God, and before Christ Jesus who is to judge the living and the dead, I charge you solemnly by his coming appearance and his reign, proclaim the message, press it home in season and out of season, use argument, reproof, and appeal, with all the patience that teaching requires.  For the time will come when people will not stand sound teaching, but each will follow his own whim and gather a crowd of teachers to tickle his fancy.  They will stop their ears to the truth and turn to fables.  But you must keep your head whatever happens; put up with hardship, work to spread the gospel, discharge all the duties of your calling.

As for me, my life is already being poured out on the altar, and the hour for my departure is upon me.  I have run the great race, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith.  And now there awaits me the garland of righteousness which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on the great day, and not to me alone, but to all who have set their hearts on his coming appearance.

Psalm 71:8-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8  Let my mouth be full of your praise

and your glory all the day long.

9  Do not cast me off in my old age;

forsake me not when my strength fails.

10  For my enemies are talking against me,

and those who lie in wait for my life take counsel together.

11  They say, “God has forsaken him;

go after him and seize him;

because there is none who will save.”

12  O God, be not far from me;

come quickly to help me, O my God.

13  Let those who set themselves against me to put to shame and be disgraced;

let those who seek to do me evil be covered with scorn and reproach.

14  But I shall always wait in patience,

and shall praise you more and more.

15  My mouth shall recount your mighty acts

and saving deeds all the day long;

though I cannot know the number of them.

16  I will begin with the mighty works of the Lord GOD;

I will recall your righteousness, yours alone.

17  O God, you have taught me since I was young,

and to this day I tell of your wonderful works.

Mark 12:38-44 (Revised English Bible):

There was a large crowd listening eagerly.  As he taught them, he said,

Beware of the scribes, who love to walk up and down in long robes and be greeted respectfully in the street, and to have the chief seats  in synagogues and places of honour at feasts.  Those who eat up the property of widows, while for appearance’s sake they say long prayers, will receive a sentence all the more severe.

As he was sitting opposite the temple treasury, he watched the people dropping their money into the chest.  Many rich people were putting in large amounts.  Presently there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins, together worth a penny.  He called his disciples to him and said,

Truly I tell you:  this poor widow has given more than all those giving to the treasury; for the others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all that she had to live on.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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:

Week of Proper 4:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/week-of-proper-4-saturday-year-1/

 Luke 21 (Parallel to Mark 12): 

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/week-of-proper-29-monday-year-1/

When I Survey the Wondrous Cross:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/17/when-i-survey-the-wondrous-cross/

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Paul could have had a comfortable life until the end.  He had that kind of life when he persecuted the nascent Jesus movement.  But, when he changed the direction of his life after God intervened, he embarked on a path which entailed spending time in and out of various jails and prisons.   The end came via beheading.

The widow made a great sacrifice of a different sort.  Was her sacrifice necessary?  No.  Did Jesus praise or lament her offering?  As I discuss in the post on the Lukan parallel, I think that he lamented it.  But at least the widow was faithful.

Out of faithfulness people make sacrifices.  So those who tell them to do so have the obligation not to exploit the less fortunate and the the less educated.  Yet the piety of those who make these sacrifices is at least honest, which is more than I can say about the motivation of those who tell them that these sacrifices are necessary and proper.

As for martyrdom, this is the logical result of the combination of certain circumstances and faithful people.  Given the Roman imperial politics of the 60s C.E., Paul’s life could not have ended any other way.  Nero was seeking scapegoats, which he found in the form of Christians.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Father (now Saint) Maximilian Kolbe, by virtue of their active faith , were bound to run afoul of the Nazis in the 1940s.  Jonathan Myrick Daniels, an Episcopal seminarian taking a break from his studies to work for civil rights in Alabama in 1965, took a bullet and gave his life for an African-American young woman he did not know.  His love of God and his neighbors dictated nothing less in that circumstance.

Then there is the example of Jesus, who died on a cross.  “Take up your cross and follow me,” he said.  That was what Paul, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Father (Saint) Maximilian Kolbe, and Jonathan Myrick Daniels did.  It is what God calls us to do, each in the way(s) appropriate to our circumstances, to do.  Grace is free to us, but not cheap.

KRT

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Week of Proper 4: Friday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  A Handwritten Bible in Latin

May We Revere the Bible, Not Make It An Idol

JUNE 5, 2020

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2 Timothy 3:10-17 (Revised English Bible):

But you, my son, have observed closely my teaching and manner of life, my resolution, my faithfulness, patience, and spirit of love, and my fortitude under persecution and suffering–all I went through at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra, and the persecutions I endured; and from all of them the Lord rescued me.  Persecution will indeed come to everyone who wants to live a godly life as a follower of Christ Jesus, whereas evildoers and charlatans will progress from bad to worse, deceiving and deceived.  But for your part, stand by the truths you have learned them; remember that from early childhood you have been familiar with the sacred writings which have power to make you wise and lead you to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.  All inspired scripture is has its use for teaching the truth and refuting error, or for reformation of manners and discipline in right living, so that the man of God may be capable and equipped for good work of every kind.

Psalm 119:161-168 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

161 Rulers have persecuted me without a cause,

but my heart stands in awe of your word.

162 I am as glad because of your promise

as one who finds great spoils.

163 As for lies, I hate and abhor them,

but your law is my love.

164 Seven times a day do I praise you,

because of your righteous judgments.

165 Great peace have they who love your law;

for them there is no stumbling block.

166 I have hoped for your salvation, O LORD,

and I have fulfilled your commandments.

167 I have kept your decrees

and I have loved them deeply.

168 I have kept your commandments and decrees,

for all my ways are before you.

Mark 12:35-37 (Revised English Bible):

As he taught in the temple, Jesus went on to say, “How can the scribes maintain that the Messiah is a son of David?  It was David himself who said, when inspired by the Holy Spirit,

The Lord said to my Lord,

‘Sit at my right hand until I put your enemies under your feet.’

David calls himself ‘Lord’; how can he be David’s son?”

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 4:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/week-of-proper-4-friday-year-1/

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Someone I met recently offered an observation:  Do not many public displays of the Ten Commandments constitute graven images, something one of those commandments forbids?  This thought had not occurred to me, but I conclude that he was correct.

Anything can be an idol if one makes it that.  A stone monument to the Ten Commandments is certainly graven, and it seems to be an image.  Indeed, one can focus so much on such a monument or even a cheap yard sign bearing the traditional English-language text of the Commandments that one transforms it into an idol, focusing on it instead of on God.

Likewise, the Bible can become an idol.  This was neither Paul’s intention nor a consequence of his actions.  In fact, he did not think of his writings as scriptural.  For him the Bible was the Hebrew Scriptures.  The Gospels and other texts now in the New Testament did not exist until after Paul died.  This is useful to recall when reading any part of the New Testament.  We who stand on tradition need to recall that there was a time when some of these traditions did not yet exist.

Pay attention:  I am about to do something quite rare–compliment the New International Version.  It does, however, offer the best translation of 2 Timothy 3:16:

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training and righteousness….

To inspire is to breathe.

As I read the Pauline epistles I find sublime passages, profound teachings (many of them rooted in particular cultural contexts), and statements one who knew he was writing scripture would not make.  Paul’s attitude toward marriage (full of grief–“I would spare you that,” he wrote–and better than fornication–consult 1 Corinthians 7:8-9, 28) does not sound like the ringing endorsement of that institution the Church proclaims.  Actually, those candid comments recommend Paul to me; he was not a poseur.

The bottom line is that God breathed through Paul and the other biblical authors.  God still breathes through their writings.  May we not ossify our traditions into idols, but rather embrace a living faith and relationship with the God who has embraced us.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/idolatry-and-the-ten-commandments/

Week of Proper 4: Thursday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  First Paragraph of the Shema in Hebrew

Finally, a Sincere Question!

JUNE 4, 2020

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2 Timothy 2:8-15 (Revised English Bible):

Remember the theme of my gospel:  Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, born of David’s line.  For preaching this I am exposed to hardship, even to the point of being fettered like a criminal; but the word of God is not fettered.  All this I endure for the sake of God’s chosen ones, in the hope that they too may attain the glorious and eternal salvation which is in Christ Jesus.

Here is a saying you may trust:

If we have died with him, we shall live with him;

if we endure, we shall reign with him;

if we disown him, he will disown us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful,

for he cannot disown himself.

Keep on reminding people of this, and charge them solemnly before God to stop disputing about mere words; it does not good, and only ruins those who listen.  Try hard to show yourself worthy of God’s approval, as a worker with no cause for shame; keep strictly to the true gospel….

Psalm 25:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

my God, I put my trust in you;

let me not be humiliated,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2  Let none who look to you be put to shame;

let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3  Show me your ways, O LORD,

and teach me your paths.

4  Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

in you have I trusted all the day long.

5  Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,

for they are from everlasting.

6  Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;

remember me according to your love

and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

7  Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8  He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches his way to the lowly.

9  All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness

to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

10  For your Name’s sake, O LORD,

forgive my sin, for it is great.

11  Who are they who fear the LORD?

he will teach them the way that they should choose.

12  They shall dwell in prosperity,

and their offspring shall inherit the land.

Mark 12:28-34 (Revised English Bible):

Then one of the scribes, who had been listening to these discussions and had observed how well Jesus answered, came forward and asked him,

Which is the first of all the commandments?

He answered,

The first is, “Hear, O Israel:  the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”   The second is this:  “You must love your neighbour as yourself.”  No other commandment is greater than these.

The scribe said to him,

Well said, Teacher.  You are right in saying that God is one and beside him there is no other.  And to love him with all your heart, all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself–that means far more than any whole-offerings and sacrifices.

When Jesus saw how thoughtfully he answered, he said to him,

You are not far from the kingdom of God.

After that nobody dared put any more questions to him.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 4:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/week-of-proper-4-thursday-year-1/

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This time I borrow the text of the devotion from myself, specifically the Year 1 counterpart to this post.

KRT

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THE SHEMA

Hear, Israel:  the LORD is our God, the LORD our one God; and you must love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments which I give you this day are to be remembered and taken to heart; repeat them to your children, and speak to them both indoors and out of doors, when you lie down and when you get up.  Bind them as a sign on your hand and wear them as a pendant on your forehead; write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.

–Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (Revised English Bible)

The recent arc of the Markan narrative in the lectionary has been one of Jesus fielding insincere questions.  But, at the end of this part of the story, a scribe asks an intelligent and sincere question:  What is the greatest commandment.  This man receives a reply unlike the one Jesus had for the Sadducees just a few verses ago:  “You are so far from the truth!”  In this case, Jesus quotes the Shema, a duly famous part of the Law of Moses, and amends it:  We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  The scribe agrees with the answer, and Jesus says that the man is near to the kingdom of God.  Did the scribe complete the journey?  The texts are silent on that point, but I hope the answer is affirmative.

Too often certain people and institutions who claim the Christian label become caught up in legalism and call this holiness.  For example, the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) began in the 1800s as a Restorationist body claiming the Bible alone as its source of authority in matters of doctrine and practice.  For a while men were not allowed to wear neckties to church; the denomination was that strict.  The Anderson, Indiana, group liberalized by 1910-1911, when it permitted men to wear neckties to church.  This was one issue that prompted the Church of God (Guthrie, Oklahoma) to break away; it opposed neckties.  (My source =Encyclopedia of American Religions)

In the 1960s, in rural Kathleen, Georgia, parents began to offer a regular Saturday night chaperoned dance at the fellowship hall of Andrew Chapel Methodist Church.  This was an event for local youth, so they would have something positive to do on the weekend.  One night, the pastor of a local Baptist church made an unfortunate scene at one of these dances when he complained loudly about all the allegedly sinful dancing taking place indoors.  Some of his parishioners were at that dance, and that pastor had to seek other employment shortly thereafter.  (My source = the United Methodist minister who had served as pastor of Andrew Chapel in the 1960s)

These are just two examples of what has happened when people seeking to obey God become so lost in the trees that they lose sight of the forest.  If we will focus on loving people as ourselves, for example, many details will fall into place.  It is laudable to love the Bible, but not to seek permission for every minute detail (such as whether it is proper to wear a necktie) in its pages.  And the denunciation of all dancing as sinful is an old saw, one that ought to die.

The scriptures say that God wants to be gracious to us.  May we respond favorably to God and extend grace to others, as we have opportunity.  Yesterday I had the chance to be extraordinarily kind to a student experiencing a medical situation.  It will not derail her progress in my course; I will not permit it to do so.  I mention this for one reason:  Everything I have learned from my formative years tells me that my decision was the only proper one.  So, when the opportunity to function as an agent of grace presented itself, I never considered doing anything else.  Yes, I broke rules to do this, but God has broken rules in order to extend grace to many of us again and again.  I have learned the meaning of the words of Jesus:  “Go and do likewise.”

All praise to the God of mercy!

KRT

Week of Proper 4: Wednesday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  St. Timothy

Sincerity of Faith

JUNE 3, 2020

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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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2 Timothy 1:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

From Paul, apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, whose promise of life is fulfilled in Christ Jesus, to Timothy his dear son.

Grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord.

I give thanks to the God of my forefathers, whom I worship with a clear conscience, when I mention you in my prayers as I do constantly night and day; when I remember the tears you shed, I long to see you again and so make my happiness complete.  I am reminded of the sincerity of your faith, a faith which was alive in Lois your grandmother and Eunice your mother before you, and which, I am confident, now lives in you.

That is why I remind you to stir into flame the gift from God which is yours through the laying on my hands.  For the spirit that God gave us is no cowardly spirit, but one to inspire power, love, and self-discipline.  So never be ashamed of your testimony to our Lord, nor of me imprisoned for his sake, but through the power that comes from God accept your share of suffering for the sake of the gospel.  It is he who has brought us salvation and called us to a dedicated life, not for any merit of ours but for his own purpose and of his own grace, granted to us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, and now at length disclosed by the appearance on earth of our Saviour Jesus Christ.  He has broken the power of death  and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.

Of this gospel I have been appointed herald, apostle, and teacher.  That is the reason for my present plight; but I am not ashamed of it, because I know whom I have trusted, and am confident of his power to keep safe what he has put into my charge until the great day.

Psalm 123 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 To you I lift up my eyes,

to you enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters,

and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

3 So our eyes look to the LORD our God,

until he show us his mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt,

5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,

and of the derision of the proud.

Mark 12:18-27 (Revised English Bible):

Next Sadducees, who maintain that there is no resurrection, came to him and asked:

Teacher, Moses laid it down for us that if there are brothers, and one dies leaving a wife but no child, then the next should marry the widow and provide an heir for his brother.  Now there were seven brothers.  The first took a wife and died without issue.  Then the second married her, and he too died without issue; so did the third; none of the seven left any issue.  Finally the woman died.  At the resurrection, when they rise from the dead, whose wife will she be, since all seven had married her?

Jesus said to them,

How far you are from the truth!  You know neither the scriptures nor the power of God.  When they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; they are like angels in heaven.

As for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the story of the burning bush, how God spoke to him and said, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob’?  He is not the God of the dead but the God of the living.  You are very far from the truth.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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:

Week of Proper 4:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/week-of-proper-4-wednesday-year-1/

Luke 20 (Parallel to Mark 12):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/week-of-proper-28-saturday-year-1/

Feast of Saints Timothy, Titus, and Silas (January 26):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/feast-of-sts-timothy-titus-and-silas-apostles-january-26/

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The Sadducees did not believe the resurrection of the dead.  Just in case the reader or listener did not know this fact already, the author of the Markan Gospel provided that information.  Their question, rooted in levirate marriage, about whose wife the woman would be in the resurrection, was insincere.  The query was therefore an example of sophistry.

Paul or whoever wrote 2 Timothy noted Timothy’s “sincerity of faith,” however.  This is the variety of faith for which many have suffered, died, and risked these fates.  This is the type of faith which has maintained social justice activists, such as U.S. civil rights workers of the 1950s and 1960s.

Faith, in the Pauline sense, is active;actions are part and parcel of it.  This is the faith which justifies us in the sight of God.  It comes by grace and empowers us to function as agents of God.  May we embrace this sincere faith, for the benefit of others and the glory of God.

KRT

Week of Proper 4: Tuesday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image Source = Edal Anton Lefterov

Divine Patience

JUNE 2, 2020

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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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2 Peter 3:11-18 (Revised English Bible):

Since the whole universe is to dissolve in this way, think what sort of people you ought to be, what devout and dedicated lives you should live!  Look forward to the day of God, and work to hasten it on; that day will set the heavens ablaze until they fall apart, and will melt the elements in flames.  Relying on his promise we look forward to new heavens and a new earth, in which justice will be established.

In expectation of all this, my friends, do your utmost to be found at peace with him, unblemished and above reproach.  Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience is an opportunity for salvation, as Paul, our dear friend and brother, said when he wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him.  He does the same in all his other letters, whenever he speaks about this, though they contain some obscure passages, which the ignorant and unstable misinterpret to their own ruin, as they do the other scriptures.

So, dear friends, you have been forewarned.  Take care not to let these unprincipled people seduce you with their errors; do not lose your own safe foothold.  But grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.  To him be the glory both now and for all eternity!

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

3 You turn us back to the dust and say,

“Go back, O child of earth.”

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

5 You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered.

13 Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry?

be gracious to your servants.

14 Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning;

so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

15 Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us

and the years in which we suffered adversity.

16 Show your servants your works

and your splendor to their children.

17 May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us;

prosper the work of our hands;

prosper our handiwork.

Mark 12:13-17 (Revised English Bible):

A number of the Pharisees and men of Herod’s party were sent to trap him with a question.  They came and said,

Teacher, we know you are a sincere man and court no one’s favour, whoever he may be; you teach in all sincerity the way of life that God requires.  Are we or are we not permitted to pay taxes to the Roman emperor?  Shall we pay or not?

He saw through their duplicity, and said,

Why are you trying to catch me out?  Fetch me a silver piece, and let me look at it.

They brought one, and he asked them,

Whose head is this, and whose inscription?

They replied,

Caesar’s.

Then Jesus said,

Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and God what belongs to God.

His reply left them completely taken aback.

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The Collect:

O God, who before the passion of your only­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; 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:

Week of Proper 4:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/week-of-proper-4-tuesday-year-1/

Week of Last Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1 (Shrove Tuesday):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/week-of-last-epiphany-tuesday-year-1-shrove-tuesday/

Week of Last Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 2 (Shrove Tuesday):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/week-of-last-epiphany-tuesday-year-2-shrove-tuesday/

Matthew 22 (Parallel to Mark 12):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/proper-24-year-a/

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I have covered the matter of the tax in the corresponding Year 1 devotion and in the post for Proper 24, Year A.  So, for full details, follow the links I have provided.  Nevertheless, I need to say that those who questioned Jesus were insincere.  They tried his patience.

The reading from 2 Peter occurs in the context of the expectation that Jesus would return very soon.  That was nearly two thousand years ago.  Yet the advice to work for justice, be at peace with God, be above reproach, and live dedicated and devout lives is as germane now as it was then.  This advice is timeless in its wisdom.  And so is this:

Bear in mind that our Lord’s patience is an opportunity for salvation….

God is patient, but not always.  But God is patient with us now.  God has been patient with us.  May we not try that patience very often, by grace.  May we enjoy our lives, not acting like Christians weaned on dill pickles.  Who likes a grumpy, humorless Christian?  May we enjoy our lives, live good lives (Doing good deeds is better than performing bad ones.), and live for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  May we preach the Gospel of Jesus at all times, using words only when necessary.  May our deeds speak louder than our words.

KRT

Published in a nearly identical form as Week of Last Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 2 (Shrove Tuesday), at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 23, 2011

Week of Proper 4: Monday, Year 2   4 comments

Above:  Mother Teresa, Who Loved Her Neighbors

Image Source = Turelio

Piety, Genuine and False

JUNE 1, 2020

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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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2 Peter 1:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

From Simon Peter, servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who share equally with us in the privileges of faith through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace be yours in fullest measure, through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

God’s divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and true religion, through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  In this way he was given us his promises, great beyond all price, so that through them you may escape this corruption with which lust has infected the world, and may come to share in the very being of God.

With all this in view, you should make every effort to add virtue to your faith, knowledge to virtue, self-control to knowledge, fortitude to self-control, piety to fortitude, brotherly affection to piety, and love to brotherly affection.

If you possess and develop these gifts, you will grow actively and effectively in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Whoever lacks them is willfully blind; he has forgotten that his past sins were washed away.  All the more often, my friends, do your utmost to establish that God has called and chosen you.  If you do this, you will never stumble, and there will be rich provision for your entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Psalm 91 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,

abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall say to the LORD,

“You are my refuge and my stronghold,

my God in whom I put my trust.”

He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter,

and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He shall cover you with his pinions,

and you shall find refuge under his wings.

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,

nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness,

nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

7  A thousand shall fall at your side

and ten thousand at your right hand,

but it shall not come near you.

8  Your eyes have only to behold

to see the reward of the wicked.

9  Because you have made the LORD your refuge,

and the Most High your habitation,

10  There shall no evil happen to you,

neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

11  For he shall give his angels charge over you,

to keep you in all your ways.

12  They shall bear you in their hands,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

13  You shall tread upon the lion and adder;

you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,

therefore I will deliver him;

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;

I am with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

16 With long life will I satisfy him,

and show him my salvation.

Mark 12:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

He went on to speak to them in parables:

A man planted a vineyard and put a wall round it, hewed out a winepress, and built a watch-tower; then he let it out to the wine-growers and went abroad.  When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce.  But they seized him, thrashed him, and sent him away empty-handed.  Again, he sent them another servant, whom they beat about the head and treated outrageously, and then another, whom they killed.  He sent many others and they thrashed and killed the rest.  He had now no one left to send except his beloved son, and in the end he sent him.  “They will respect my son,” he said; but the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir; come on, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”  So they seized him and killed him, and flung his body out of the vineyard.  What will the owner of the vineyard do?  He will come and put the tenants to death and give the vineyard to others.

Have you never read this text:  “The stone which the builders rejected has become the main corner-stone.  This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes”?

They saw that the parable was aimed at them and wanted to arrest him; but they were afraid of the people, so they left him alone and went away.

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The Collect:

O God, who before the passion of your only­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; 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:

Week of Proper 4:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/week-of-proper-4-monday-year-1/

Week of Last Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/week-of-last-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Week of Last Epiphany:  Monday, Year 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/23/week-of-last-epiphany-monday-year-2/

Mark 12:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/week-of-proper-4-monday-year-1/

Matthew 21 (Parallel to Mark 12):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/proper-22-year-a/

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There is an old, perhaps apocryphal story.  The elderly Apostle John was about to visit a congregation.  The people gathered and anticipated what pearls of wisdom might drop from his lips.  When John arrived, he was so frail that others had to carry him.  Seated in front of the rapt audience, the Apostle said, “My children, love one another.”  Then he summoned the men who had carried him in to carry him out.  One congregation member, disappointed with the brevity of the address, chased after John and said, in so many words, “That’s it?”  John replied, “When you have done that, I will tell you more.”

Too often we Christians misunderstand orthodoxy as merely being correct on doctrinal matters.  As 2 Peter 1 reminds us, there is a lived aspect of orthodoxy.  The most basic test of this is, “Do we love one another?”  The jealous vineyard tenants in our Lord’s parable did not, but perhaps they thought themselves doctrinally orthodox.  The tenants were stand-ins for professional religious people of our Lord’s time and place.  They lived according a version of piety which depended on separation from the great unwashed, a type of piety which the great majority of people could not afford to maintain. So this was a smug, condescending piety–a false piety.

Jesus, of course, scandalized the practitioners of such piety by doing things like dining with tax collectors and speaking with prostitutes.

False piety is more socially respectable, is it not?  And what does tell you, O reader?

May we love one another, however this appears to others.

KRT

Published in a nearly identical form as Week of Last Epiphany:  Monday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 23, 2011

Week of Proper 4: Saturday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  A Mite from the Reign of Alexander Jannaeus, Hasmonean Priest-King of Judea, 103-76 B.C.E.

In Praise of True Piety

NOT OBSERVED IN 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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Tobit 12:1, 5-15, 20 (Revised English Bible):

After the wedding celebrations were over, Tobit sent for Tobias.

My son,

he said,

when you pay for the man who went with you, see that you give him something extra, over and above his wages.

So Tobias called him and said,

Half of all that you have brought with you is to be yours for your wages; take it, and may you fare well.

Then Raphael called them both aside and said to them:

Praise God, and in the presence of all living creatures thank you for the good he has done you, so that they may sing hymns of praise to his name.  Proclaim to all the world what God has done; pay him honour and give him willing thanks.  A king’s secret ought to be kept, but the works of God should be publicly acknowledged.  Acknowledge them, therefore, and pay him honour.  Do good, and no evil will befall you.  Better prayer with sincerity, and almsgiving with righteousness, than wealth with wickedness.  Better give alms than hoard up gold.  Almsgiving preserves from death and wipes out every sin.  Givers of alms will enjoy long life; but sinners and wrongdoers are their own worst enemies.

I will tell you the whole truth, hiding nothing from you. I have already made it clear to you that while a king’s secret ought to be kept, the works of God should be glorified in public.  Now Tobit, when you and Sarah prayed, it was I who brought your prayers to be remembered in the glorious presence of the Lord.  So too when you buried the dead:  that day when without hesitation you got up from your meal to bury dead man, I was sent to test you.  At the same time God sent me cure both you and Sarah your daughter-in-law.  I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand in attendance of the Lord and enter his glorious presence….And now praise the Lord, give thanks to God here on earth; I am about to ascend to him who sent me.  Write down everything that has happened to you.

Psalm 65:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

2 To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come,

because of their transgressions.

3 Our sins are stronger than we are,

but you will blot them out.

4 Happy are they whom you choose

and draw to your courts to dwell there!

they will be satisfied by the beauty of your house,

by the holiness of your temple.

Mark 12:38-44 (Revised English Bible):

There was a large crowd listening eagerly.  As he taught them, he said,

Beware of the scribes, who love to walk up and down in long robes and be greeted respectfully in the street, and to have the chief seats  in synagogues and places of honour at feasts.  Those who eat up the property of widows, while for appearance’s sake they say long prayers, will receive a sentence all the more severe.

As he was sitting opposite the temple treasury, he watched the people dropping their money into the chest.  Many rich people were putting in large amounts.  Presently there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins, together worth a penny.  He called his disciples to him and said,

Truly I tell you:  this poor widow has given more than all those giving to the treasury; for the others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all that she had to live on.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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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The Bible does contradict itself.  For example, Tobit, Psalms, and Proverbs link piety and good fortune to each other, but Ecclesiastes is more realistic and Jesus and Paul recognize that suffering flows from righteousness much of the time.  Being a Christian, I side with Jesus.  This fact does not prevent me from enjoying the Book of Tobit, however, even if I reject the formulation that almsgiving atones for all sins.

I choose to focus on the positive instead.  The entire extended family of Tobit is now healed, thanks to divine actions.  And Raphael reveals his actual identity and returns to Heaven.  Before he departs, however, he utters timeless wisdom:

A king’s secret ought to be kept,

but the works of God should be publicly acknowledged.

Jesus, in Mark’s Gospel, tops off a series of conversations (mostly confrontations) by condemning scribes who display false piety in public for the sake of status.  They have honor because social rules say they do.  This honor is worthless in the eyes of God, Jesus says.  These honor seekers are really predators who “eat up the property of widows.”  This is an apt description of temple tithes imposed upon the poor.  Then Jesus observes wealthy people giving large amounts of money they would never miss and a widow depositing two mites, a much smaller sum.  Her offering impresses him the most.  She trusts God, and the others do not.

These offerings supported the Temple system, which of the Jesus of Mark opposed.  This point should be plain by now to anyone who has been reading this Gospel for twelve chapters.  The widow gave money because her society expected it of her and because this was the piety she had learned.  Her sincerity and trust impressed Jesus.  I read this story and come away with a second thought:  Why should anyone expect such a widow to support the corrupt Temple system?  She should have used the two mites for necessities.  God would not have held that decision against her, I think.

Besides, organized religion cannot contain all of true piety.  The widow already practiced this piety, for she trusted God to provide for her needs.  And she acknowledged it in public.  That impressed Jesus.

It is well and good to seek to understand the meaning of a Bible story first within the contexts of history, culture, and texts.  Indeed, we need to begin there.  Then we need to move to the next level, which is contemporary application.  So I leave you, O reader, with open-ended questions:

  • How much do you trust God?
  • Are you helping to support a modern counterpart to the corrupt Temple system of Jesus’ time?

In the name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   Amen.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/in-praise-of-true-piety/