Archive for the ‘Mark 4’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 9, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, by Ludolf Backhuysen

Image in the Public Domain

Interdependence

JULY 5, 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 2:11-25 or 2 Samuel 5:1-3; 6:1-17

Psalm 49:1-12

2 Corinthians 3:1-11

Mark 4:35-41

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In this week’s assigned readings, we read that:

  1. Moses, raised as a prince in the Pharonic household, realized his place in the class struggle and acted accordingly.
  2. King David performed a lewd dance in public.
  3. Proximity to the holiness of God has proven fatal to some and positive for others.
  4. Socio-economic prestige has never impressed God.
  5. God’s policy has always been to quality the called, not to call the qualified.
  6. The Apostles, after spending much time with Jesus, were oddly oblivious to his nature for a long time.

Some things should remain hidden, at least in mixed company.

We need to shed delusions, such as the idea that God finds large bank balances, social prominence, and credentials impressive.  We have vocations from God, who equips us to fulfill them.

We depend entirely on God and lead interdependent lives.  May we understand these realities and act accordingly.  May we resist injustice, as we are able.  May we trust in God and help each other as we seek to leave the world or some portion of it better than we found it.  May the glory of God shine through our words and deeds.  And may we not be oblivious to that we ought to understand.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2019 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ALBERT JOHN LUTHULI, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF AMALIE WILHEMINE SIEVEKING, FOUNDRESS OF THE WOMAN’S ASSOCIATION FOR THE CARE OF THE POOR AND INVALIDS

THE FEAST OF J. B. PHILLIPS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WASTRADA; HER SON, SAINT GREGORY OF UTRECHT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT; AND HIS NEPHEW, SAINT ALBERIC OF UTRECHT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/interdependence/

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Devotion for Proper 8, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  A Light Bulb in Darkness

Image in the Public Domain

Disclosing and Bringing Out into the Open

JUNE 28, 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 1:8-2:10 or 2 Samuel 1

1 Samuel 2:1-10

2 Corinthians 1:3-22

Mark 4:21-34

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Nothing is hidden except to be disclosed, and nothing concealed except to be brought into the open.

–Mark 4:22, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That timeless truth, contrary to what some argue, is not “fake news.”  No, it is the Gospel.  The Gospel is much like proper journalism; both exist to comfort the afflicted and to afflict the comfortable.  So be it.

What do the assigned readings disclose and bring into the open?

  1. Exodus 1:8-2:10 exposes the perfidy of the Pharaoh, who ordered infanticide.  The text also reveals the morality and bravery of Shiphrah and Puah, Egyptian midwives and the the only women the passage names.  Exodus 1:8-2:10 affirms civil disobedience.
  2. 2 Samuel 1, read in the context of 1 Samuel 31, reveals that the man who claimed to kill King Saul was lying.  One may assume reasonably that this unnamed man was trying to gain David’s favor.  The text also reveals that David probably believed the man.  Some lies prove fatal.
  3. 1 Samuel 2:1-10, or the Song of Hannah, an influence on the much later Magnificat, reveals the faith of Hannah, mother of Samuel, and speaks of the terrifying judgment and mercy of God.
  4. 2 Corinthians 1:3-22 reveals St. Paul the Apostle’s spiritual maturity and his troubled relationship with the congregation in Corinth.
  5. The parables in Mark 4:21-34 reveal, among other things, that the Kingdom of God, simultaneously present and future, defies expectations by being invisible yet eventually public and by coming in small packaging.

We cannot hide from God, who knows everything, glorifies disobedient Egyptian midwives, aids distraught and faithful people, and who uses the death and resurrection of Jesus to effect new spiritual life in Christians.  We cannot flee from God, who often works in ways we do not expect.  We cannot hide from God, from whom both judgment and mercy flow.  We cannot hide from from God, who shines a flood light on secrets we hope to keep.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/18/disclosing-and-bringing-out-into-the-open/

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Devotion for Proper 7, Year B (Humes)   Leave a comment

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

Grace

JUNE 21, 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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Job 42:1-17 or Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Psalm 48

James 5:12-20

Mark 4:1-20

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At the end of the Season After the Epiphany or the beginning of the Season After Pentecost (depending on the year), we finish hopping and skipping through three books–Job, Deuteronomy, and James.  If we pay attention, we notice that Job granted his daughters the right to inherit from his estate–a revolutionary move at that time and place.

Overall, when we add Psalm 48 and Mark 4:1-20 to the mix, we detect a thread of the goodness of God present in all the readings.  Related to divine goodness is the mandate to respond positively to grace in various ways, as circumstances dictate.  The principle is universal, but the applications are circumstantial.

Consider, O reader the parable in our reading from Mark 4.  The customary name is the Parable of the Sower, but the Parable of the Four Soils is a better title.  The question is not about the effectiveness of the sower but about the four soils.  Are we distracted soil?  Are we soil that does not retain faith in the face of tribulation or persecution?  Are we soil into which no roots sink?  Or are we good soil?  Do we respond positively to grace, which is free yet not cheap, or do we not?

Job 42:11 tells that all Job’s “friends of former times” visited him and “showed him every sympathy.”  (Job is a literary character, of course, so I do not mistake him for a historical figure.)  I imagine Zophar, Bildad, Eliphaz, and even Elihu, who went away as quickly as he arrived, having realized their errors, dining with Job in shalom.  That is indeed a scene of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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

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

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Originally published at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS

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Devotion for Proper 6 (Year D)   1 comment

Parable of the Sower

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

Being Good Soil

JUNE 14, 2020

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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:

Isaiah 6:(8) 9-13 or Ezekiel 17:22-24 or Daniel 4:1-37

Psalm 7

Matthew 14:10-17 (18-33) 34-35 or Mark 4:1-25 or Luke 8:4-25; 13:18-21

Ephesians 4:17-24 (26-32; 5:1-2) 3-7 or 2 Peter 2:1-22

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Your mind must be renewed by a spiritual revolution so that you can put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth.

–Ephesians 4:23-24, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Much of the content of the assigned readings, with their options, functions as commentary on that summary statement.  To borrow a line from Rabbi Hillel, we ought to go and learn it.

The commission of (First) Isaiah might seem odd.  Does the text indicate that God is commanding Isaiah to preach to the population but not to help them avoid the wrath of God?  Or, as many rabbis have argued for a long time, should one read imperative verbs as future tense verbs and the troublesome passage therefore as a prediction?  I prefer the second interpretation.  Does not God prefer repentance among sinners?  The pairing of this reading with the Parable of the Sower and its interpretation seems to reinforce this point.  I recall some bad sermons on this parable, which is not about the sower.  The sower did a bad job, I remember hearing certain homilists say.  To fixate on the sower and his methodology is to miss the point.  The name of the story should be the Parable of the Four Soils, a title I have read in commentaries.  One should ask oneself,

What kind of soil am I?

Am I the rocky soil of King Zedekiah (in Ezekiel 17:11-21) or the fertile soil of the betrayed man in Psalm 7?  A mustard seed might give rise to a large plant that shelters many varieties of wildlife, and therefore be like the Davidic dynastic tree in Ezekiel 17:22-24 and Nebuchadnezzar II in Daniel 4, but even a mustard seed needs good soil in which to begin the process of sprouting into that plant.

One might be bad soil for any one of a number of reasons.  One might not care.  One might be oblivious.  One might be hostile.  One might be distracted and too busy.  Nevertheless, one is bad soil at one’s own peril.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/being-good-soil-2/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 6, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Amaziah of Judah

Above:  Amaziah

Image in the Public Domain

Learning to Walk Humbly with God

JUNE 15 and 16, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, you are the tree of life, offering shelter to the world.

Graft us into yourself and nurture our growth,

that we may bear your truth and love to those in need,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 10:26-11:8 (Friday)

2 Kings 14:1-14 (Saturday)

Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15 (Both Days)

Hebrews 11:4-7 (Friday)

Mark 4:1-20 (Saturday)

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The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,

and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.

Such as are planted in the house of the Lord

shall flourish in the courts of our God.

They shall still bear fruit in old age;

they shall be vigorous and in full leaf;

That they may show that the Lord is true;

he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.

–Psalm 92:12-15, Common Worship (2000)

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The readings for these two days are not entirely comforting and consistent with a Christian ethic.  Psalm 92 is straight-forward in its affirmation of divine righteousness and fidelity.  Hebrews 11 defines faith as

the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen

(Verse 1, The New Revised Standard Version, 1989)

then provides examples of people who, by acting out of trust in God, pleased God.  We know some deeds which displease God.  The Hebrew Bible tells us, for example, that God disapproves of idolatry and human explanation, so the condemnations of Solomon and Amaziah do not surprise me.  At least Amaziah disregarded custom and obeyed the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 24:16, to be precise) by not executing the children of his father’s assassins.  Nevertheless, Amaziah became arrogant when he should have been humble before God.  The same statement applied to Solomon.

Being humble before God enabled many people to follow Jesus, for they knew of their need for him and were not ashamed of it.  Many others who encountered our Lord and Savior, however, were haughty and opposed him.  Their spiritual blindness prevented them from understanding his parables then following him or continuing to do so.  The truth of God was in front of them plainly, but they did not recognize it as such.  Perhaps the main reason for this reality was that it threatened their status and egos.

We see what we want to see much of the time, for we walk around with spiritual blinders we have inherited or learned from others and those we have imposed on ourselves.  Many of us claim to follow God when God knows the opposite to be true.  May God forgive us for our spiritual blindness, may we recognize that blindness, and may we walk with God instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/learning-to-walk-humbly-with-god/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Trinity Sunday, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Slum DC 1937

Above:  A Slum in Washington, D.C., November 1937

Photographer = John Vachon

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF33-T01-001048-M3

Reaping What One Sows

MAY 30, 2018

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth,

before the foundation of the universe and the beginning of time

you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of creation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide us to all truth by your Spirit,

that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed

and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 6:22-27

Psalm 20

Mark 4:21-25

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Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we will call upon the Name of the LORD our God.

They will collapse and fall down,

but we will arise and stand upright.

–Psalm 20:7-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The rich rule the poor,

And the borrower is a slave to the lender.

He who sows injustice shall reap misfortune;

His rod of wrath shall fail.

The generous man is blessed,

For he gives of his bread to the poor.

–Proverbs 22:7-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.  That statement applies today; it has done so since antiquity.  This is not a matter as simple as hard work leading to prosperity and sloth leading to poverty, for some of the hardest workers have been and are poor.  No, certain rich people have developed and maintained systems which perpetuate income inequality and favor some people yet not most.

In the Kingdom of God, however, spiritual principles work differently than much of human economics:

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.  If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

–Galatians 6:7-10, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Present conduct determines the future.  A positive relationship with God is a wonderful thing, but sitting on it, as if one has a “Jesus and me” relationship, is negative.  Sharing one’s faith is the only way to gain more, but hoarding it will lead to losing it.  In other words, the more one gives away spiritually, the more one will receive.

A related text comes from 2 Esdras 7:21-25:

For the Lord strictly commanded those who come into the world, when they come, what they should do to live, and what they should do to avoid punishment.  Nevertheless they were not obedient and spoke against him:

they devised for themselves vain thoughts,

and proposed to themselves wicked frauds;

they even declared that the Most High does not exist,

and they ignored his ways.

They scorned his law,

and denied his covenants;

they have been unfaithful to his statutes,

and have not performed his works.

That is the reason, Ezra, that empty things are for the empty, and full things are for the full.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The atheism mentioned in the passage is practical atheism, that which acknowledges the existence of God while rejecting the ideas that God has an active and effective role in the world and that God’s commandments should have any influence on one’s life.  It is, quite simply, Deism.  Atheism, in the sense that one hears of it frequently in modern Western societies, was rare in antiquity.  That which Reza Aslan calls anti-theism, or hostility to theism (not just the rejection of it), was even more rare.  Thus, when we consider Psalm 14, the most accurate rendering of the opening lines is not that fools say “there is no God” (the standard English translation), but that fools say, “God does not care,” as TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders the passage.

For more verses about the consequences of disobedience, consult Matthew 13:12 and Luke 8:18.

The Aaronic Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26), a familiar text and an element of many liturgies, precedes an important verse:

Thus they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them.

–Numbers 6:27, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Receiving blessings from God obligates one to function as a vehicle for others to receive blessings from God.  Grace is free (for us), but never cheap.  In the context of Numbers 6, there is also a mandate to obey the Law of Moses, which contains an ethic of recognizing one’s complete dependence on God, one’s dependence upon other human beings, one’s responsibility to and for others, and the absence of the right to exploit anyone.

Thus the conclusion of this post echoes the beginning thereof.  We have a mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Obeying that commandment can prove to be difficult and will lead us to change some of our assumptions and related behaviors, but that is part of the call of God upon our lives.  We ought to respond positively, out of love for God and our neighbors, but the principle that our present conduct will determine our future hangs over us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/reaping-what-one-sows/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 12, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

King Solomon's Court

Above:  King Solomon’s Court

Image in the Public Domain

The Kingdom of Solomon Versus the Kingdom of God

JULY 27-29, 2020

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The Collect:

Beloved and sovereign God,

through the death and resurrection of your Son

you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy.

By your Spirit, give us your wisdom,

that we may treasure the life that comes from

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Monday)

1 Kings 4:29-34 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 1:1-7, 20-33 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:121-128 (All Days)

James 3:13-18 (Monday)

Ephesians 6:10-18 (Tuesday)

Mark 4:30-34 (Wednesday)

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I am your servant; grant me understanding,

that I may know your decrees.

–Psalm 119:125, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Biblical authors, although usually honest about the faults of heroic or allegedly heroic figures, nevertheless created a tapestry of ancient texts which sometimes overplays the virtues of certain people.  If David really was, for example, a man after God’s own heart, I have a major problem with the nature of God.  And, although the narrative of 1 Kings turned against Solomon after Chapter 4, Chapter 2 contained troubling information about the methods by which the new monarch consolidated his power and eliminated his rivals.  Thus the positive discussion of Solomon’s wisdom in Chapters 3 and 4 rings hollow for me.  Nevertheless, the much vaunted wisdom won him such a reputation that tradition has credited him with writing Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, historically dubious claims.

Perhaps nostalgia from a time after the division of the united monarchy–a split due in large part to Solomon’s own domestic policies–accounted primarily for the minimization of the acknowledged faults of David and Solomon.  I consider what the Bible tells me of those two kings and ponder Proverbs 1:7 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Then I consider incidents from their lives and interpret the verse as a negative commentary on them.  I arrive at the same conclusion regarding this passage:

The wisdom that comes from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, approachable, full of merciful thoughts and kindly actions, straight forward, with no hint of hypocrisy.  And the peacemakers go on quietly sowing for a harvest of righteousness.

–James 3:17-18, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, 1972

I think also of the large plant which grows from a mustard seed.  (The mustard seed is not actually the smallest seed, but Jesus did not attend school to study horticulture.  Besides, there is a rhetorical device called hyperbole, which we find in the Bible.)  From that very small seed comes a large, pesky plant–a weed–to which the parable likens the Kingdom of God.  The kingdom, like the mustard plant, provides shelter for a variety of creatures and goes where it will.  One knows that not everyone in the Kingdom of God gets along well with each other, so this analogy is worth considering with regard to how we think of those who differ from us and are also of God.

David and Solomon presided over a kingdom built on force and compulsion, as political states are by nature.  Their Kingdom of Israel also sat on a foundation composed partially of economic injustice, evident partly in artificial scarcity.  In the weed-like Kingdom of God, however, there is no scarcity; everybody has enough.  The Kingdom of God functioned partially as a negative commentary on political-religious-economic realities within the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus and the early Church, contributing to his crucifixion.  The Kingdom of God continues to indict all forms of exploitation and injustice, including those which people have institutionalized.

The purpose of the Gospel, I have heard, is to comfort the afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted.  Are we among the comfortable or the afflicted?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/the-kingdom-of-israel-and-the-kingdom-of-god/

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