Archive for the ‘Matthew 10’ Tag

Devotion for September 19 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Persian Empire 500 BCE

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire Circa 500 B.C.E.

Nehemiah and 1 Timothy, Part II:  Overcoming Opposition the Godly Way

SATURDAY, SEPTEMBER 19, 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 everlasting 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:

Nehemiah 2:11-20

Nehemiah 4:1-6 (Protestant Versification)/3:33-38 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 36 (Morning)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening)

1 Timothy 2:1-15

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Restore us, O God of hosts:

show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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I doubt that St. Paul wrote 1 Timothy.  Consider, O reader, 2:9-15.  Allowing for culturally specific conditions regarding hair, jewelry, and clothing, I still detect the stench of patriarchy.  Although St. Paul was a product of his patriarchal context, I contrast 1 Timothy 2:9-15 with the case of Prisca/Priscilla, who taught with the Apostle’s approval.  (See Acts 18:2, 18, and 26; Romans 16:3; and 1 Corinthians 16:19).  That is not my main point, but I feel the need to articulate it first.

Now, for the main idea….

Jewish exiles residing in their ancestral homeland lived within the Persian Satrapy of Beyond the River.  The complicated politics of rebuilding the walls of and Temple at Jerusalem, as told in the Books of Ezra and Nehemiah, lived up to the joke that politics consists of many small, bloodsucking creatures.  Although King Artaxerxes I (reigned 464-424 B.C.E.) had authorized Nehemiah for a set of tasks, our hero faced opposition from local interests.  Sanballat (the governor of Samaria), Tobiah (the governor of Ammon), and Geshem (the governor of Edom) knew of Nehemiah’s authorization yet tried to stop him anyway.  Did our hero’s role threaten their power, at least in their minds?  That was a likely scenario.  So they resorted to lies and other forms of interference.  Yet they failed for divine and human forces (some of the latter armed with lances, shields, swords, and bows) acted.  The construction workers did need guards, after all.

First of all, then, I urge that petitions, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for sovereigns and for all in high office so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life, free to practise our religion with dignity.

–1 Timothy 2:1-2, The Revised English Bible

Yes, it is right to pray for everyone, especially those in authority.  I note the difference between praying for someone and praying about that person.  To pray for a person indicates confidence that he or she can change for the better and remain steadfast in the good.  But to pray about a person can reflect an attitude of hopelessness regarding him or her.  As good as we who claim to follow God ought to be, we should not be naive because, despite the power of prayer, some people will not change their negative attitudes and corresponding actions.  So it is wise to obey our Lord and Savior’s advice to his Apostles:

…be wary as serpents, innocent as doves.

–Matthew 10:16b, The Revised English Bible

May each of us, by grace, maintain that balance.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF ALBRECHT DURER, MATTHIAS GRUNEWALD. AND LUCAS CRANACH THE ELDER, ARTISTS

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/nehemiah-and-1-timothy-part-ii-overcoming-opposition-the-godly-way/

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Week of Proper 10: Monday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  A Homeless Man Living in the Sewers of Vienna, Austria-Hungary, 1900

Loving God Most of All

JULY 13, 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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Isaiah 1:10-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Hear the word of the LORD,

You chieftains of Sodom;

Give ear to our God’s instruction,

You folk of Gomorrah!

What need have I of all your sacrifices?

Says the LORD.

I am sated with burnt offerings of rams,

And suet of fatlings,

And blood of bulls;

And I have no delight

In lambs and he-goats.

That you come to appear before Me–

Who asked that of you?

Trample my courts no more;

Bringing oblations is futile,

Incense is offensive to Me.

New moon and sabbath,

Proclaiming of solemnities,

Assemblies with iniquity,

I cannot abide.

Your new moons and fixed seasons

Fill Me with loathing;

They are become a burden to Me,

I cannot endure them.

And when you lift up your hands,

I will turn My eyes away from you;

Though you pray at length,

I will not listen.

Your hands are stained with crime–

Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil doings

Away from My sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

Psalm 50:7-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear, O my people, and I will speak:

“O Israel, I will bear witness against you;

for I am God, your God.

8 I do not accuse you because of your sacrifices;

your offerings are always before me.

9 I will take no bull-calf from your stalls,

nor he goats out of your pens;

10 For all the beasts of the forest are mine,

the herds in their thousands upon the hills.

11 I know every bird in the sky,

and the creatures of the fields are in my sight.

12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the whole world is mine and all that is in it.

13 Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls,

or drink the blood of goats?

14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and make good your vows to the Most High.

15 Call upon me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.

Matthew 10:34-11:1 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be in his own household.  No one who loves father or mother more than me is worthy of me, and no one who will not take up his cross and follow me is worthy of me.  Whoever gains his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for mysake will gain it.

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes him who has sent me.  Whoever welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have the same reward as a prophet, and whoever welcomes an upright man because he is upright will have the same reward as an upright man.  And no one who will give the humblest of my disciples even a cup of cold water because he is my disciple, I tell you, can never fail of his reward.

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The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 10:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/week-of-proper-10-monday-year-1/

O Young and Fearless Prophet:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/o-young-and-fearless-prophet/

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The Bible, especially the Hebrew Scriptures, spends much time on the topic of economic justice.  It devotes more attention to this than to various sexuality-related issues, yet one (especially in North America, my context) is more likely to hear a hellfire-and-damnation sermon against pre-marital sex, adultery, or homosexuality than against the exploitation of the poor in politics, economics, courts, jails, and prisons.  My theory of why this is true is simple:  It is easier and more comfortable to condemn the physical offenses–real or merely perceived–of others, and therefore to seem righteous, than to confront societal sins in which one might be complicit.

We read in Isaiah 1 that conducting seemingly pious rituals while not confronting the denial of justice to widows and orphans, among the most vulnerable members of Isaiah’s society, does not satisfy God.  Twice–once in the excerpt I typed out–the chapter specifies maltreatment of widows and orphans as the grave offense du chapitre.  God cares deeply about how people treat each other, notably the poor and other vulnerable persons.

Matthew 10:34-41 gives us further advice on how to relate to each other.  Christianity and the message of Jesus have divided families for nearly 2,000 years.  When that happens to one, Jesus says, remember to love him more than one’s family.  Family still matters, of course, but certainly one should remain more loyal to Jesus than to one who disowns or turns a believer over to authorities.  Such rejection by one’s relatives is unfortunate, but there is a spiritual family, some members of which belong to the Church Militant and others to the Church Triumphant.  Many of them have faced similar hardships and heartaches.

The unifying message binding these two passages is that we must love God most of all, and that how we treat others reveals whether or not we do this.  Those rulers who “are rogues and cronies and thieves”  and who are “greedy for gifts” and “do not judge the case of the orphan” or hear “the widow’s cause (Isaiah 1:23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures) do not love God most of all.  And those fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters who turn against their family members because of the other’s conversion to Christianity do not love God most of all either.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/loving-god-most-of-all/

Week of Proper 9: Saturday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Isaiah’s Vision

Image Source = Cadetgray

Tough Rooms

JULY 11, 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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Isaiah 6:1-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the year that King Uzziah died, I beheld my Lord seated on a high and lofty throne; and the skirts of His robe filled the Temple.  Seraphs stood in attendance on Him.  Each of them had six wings:  with two he covered his face, with two he covered his legs, and with two he would fly.

And one would call to the other,

Holy, holy, holy!

The LORD of Hosts!

His presence fills all the earth!

The doorposts would shake at the sound of the one who called, and the House kept filling with smoke.  I cried,

Woe is me; I am lost!

For I am a man of unclean lips

And I live among a people

Of unclean lips;

Yet my own eyes have beheld

The King LORD of Hosts.

Then one of the seraphs flew over to me with a live coal, which he had taken from the altar with a pair of tongs.  He touched it to my lips and declared,

Now that this has touched your lips,

Your guilt shall depart

And your sin be purged away.

Then I heard the voice of my Lord saying,

Whom shall I send?  Who will go for us?

And I said,

Here am I; send me.

And He said,

Go, say to that people:

“Hear, indeed, but do not understand;

See, indeed, but do not grasp.”

Dull that people’s mind,

Stop its ears,

And seal its eyes–

Lest, seeing with its eyes

And hearing with its ears,

It also grasp with its mind,

And repent and save itself.

I asked,

How long, my Lord?

And He replied:

Till towns lie waste without inhabitants

And houses without people,

And the ground lies waste and desolate–

For the LORD will banish the population–

And deserted sites are many

In the midst of the land.

But while a tenth part yet remains in it, it shall repent.  It shall be ravaged like the terebinth and the oak, of which stumps are left even when they are felled; its stump shall be a holy seed.

Psalm 93 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is King;

he has put on splendid apparel;

the LORD has put on his apparel

and girded himself with strength.

He has made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

Ever since the world began, your throne has been estabished;

you are from everlasting.

4 The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

for ever and for evermore.

Matthew 10:24-33 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued instructing his disciples,]

A pupil is not better than his teacher, nor a slave better than his master.  A pupil should be satisfied to come to be like his teacher, or a slave, to come to be like his master.  If men have called the head of the house Beelzebub, how much worse names will they give to the members of his household!  So do not be afraid of them.  For there is nothing covered up that is not going to be uncovered, nor secret that is going to be known.  What I tell you in the dark you must say in the light, and what you hear whispered in your ear, you must proclaim from the housetops.  Have no fear of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.  You had better be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in the pit.  Do not sparrows sell two for a cent?  And yet not one of them can fall to the ground against your Father’s will!  But the very hairs of your heads are all counted.  You must not be afraid; you are worth more than a great many sparrows!  Therefore everyone who will acknowledge me before men I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven, but anyone who disowns me before men, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

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The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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 9:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/week-of-proper-9-saturday-year-1/

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Stand-up comedians speak of “tough rooms,” or audiences which do not laugh at their jokes.  That seems like an apt analogy for what Isaiah faced, only he was not telling jokes.  He experienced a majestic vision of God with the divine retinue, during which he perceived a commission.  Whether his mission was supposed to result in the hardening of hearts or that was merely the unintended consequence is a knot which Jewish and Christian scholars have been trying to untangle for a very long time.  This post will not settle that argument, nor do I attempt to do so with it.  What is beyond dispute, however, is that the result was far from mass bewailing of sins, repentance, and conversion from idolatry.

Meanwhile, in Matthew 10, Jesus told his Apostles that they would face great opposition and perhaps even martyrdom.  Most of them, according to ecclesiastical tradition, did die for the faith.  Yet, as we read, in 10:28a,

Never be afraid of those who can kill the body but are powerless to kill the soul!  (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

It can be difficult to stand seemingly alone or with little company for the sake of righteousness.  Often those who stand for what is moral are unpopular.  Abolitionists, for example, never gained enough support to end the slavery before the U.S. Civil War.  This was not due to their lack of effort.  Today, nearly universally, even in the South, where slavery was concentrated, modern Americans agree that the Abolitionists were correct.  Yet, in their day, many white Southern Evangelicals regarded the Abolitionists as heretics for opposing slavery, an institution which, according to white Southern Evangelical orthodoxy of much of the 1800s, the Bible supported and even mandated.

Attitudes can change slowly, especially when they are ingrained deeply in society and culture.  Those who tell us that we have gotten something terribly wrong might seem less than reliable, even when they are correct.  Yet, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, God calls us to be faithful, not successful.  The victory, when it comes, will be God’s.  May our labors contribute to, not resist that triumph.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/tough-rooms/

Week of Proper 9: Thursday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 9: Friday, Year 2   4 comments

The Return of the Prodigal Son

Image Source = FranzMayerstainedglass

Divine Love

JULY 9 and 10, 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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I have decided to combine the posts for Thursday and Friday, Year 2, of the Week of Proper 9 because, upon reading and considering the texts for Friday, I have concluded that I have nothing new to say about them.  The biblical themes keep repeating themselves.

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THE FIRST READING:  THURSDAY

Hosea 11:1-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

I fell in love with Israel

When he was still a child;

And I have called [him] My son

Ever since Egypt.

Thus were they called,

But they went their own way;

They sacrifice to Baalim

And offer to carved images.

I have pampered Ephraim,

Taking them in My arms;

But they have ignored

My healing care.

I drew them with human ties,

With cords of love;

But I seemed to them as one

Who imposed a yoke on their jaws,

Though I was offering them food.

No!

They return to the land of Egypt,

And Assyria is their king.

Because they refuse to repent,

A sword shall descend upon their towns

And consume their limbs

And devour [them] because of their designs.

For My people persists

In its defection from Me;

When it is summoned upward,

It does not rise at all.

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?

How surrender you, O Israel?

How can I make you like Admah,

Render you like Zeboiim?

I have had a change of heart,

All My tenderness is stirred.

I will not act on My wrath,

Will not turn to destroy Ephraim.

For I am God, not man,

The Holy One in your midst:

I will not come in fury.

The LORD will roar like a lion,

And they shall march behind Him;

When he roars, His children shall come

Fluttering out of the west.

They shall flutter from Egypt like sparrows,

From the land of Assyria like doves;

And I will settle them in their homes

–declares the LORD.

THE FIRST READING:  FRIDAY

Hosea 14:2-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,

For you have fallen because of your sin.

Take words with you

And return to the LORD.

Say to Him:

Forgive all guilt

And accept what is good;

Instead of bulls we will pay

[The offering of] our lips.

Assyria shall not save us,

No more will we ride on steeds,

Nor ever again will we call

Our handiwork our god,

Since in You alone orphans find pity!

I will heal their affliction,

Generously will I take them back in love;

For My anger has turned away from them.

I will be to Israel like dew;

He shall blossom like the lily,

He shall strike root like a Lebanon tree.

His boughs shall spread out far,

His beauty shall be like the olive tree’s,

His fragrance like that of Lebanon.

They who sit in his shade shall be revived:

They shall bring to life new grain,

They shall blossom like the vine;

His scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Ephraim [shall say]:

What more have I to do with idols?

When I respond and look to Him,

I become like a verdant cyprus.

Your fruit is provided by Me.

He who is wise will consider these words,

He who is prudent will take note of them.

For the paths of the LORD are smooth;

The righteous can walk on them,

While sinners stumble on them.

THE RESPONSE:  THURSDAY

Psalm 80:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2  In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,

stir up your strength and come to help us.

3  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

4  O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angered

despite the prayers of your people?

5  You have fed them with the bread of tears;

you have given them bowls of tears to drink.

6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors,

and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

7  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

THE RESPONSE:  FRIDAY

Psalm 51:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak

and upright in your judgment.

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me,

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

THE GOSPEL READING

Matthew 10:7-23 (An American Translation):

[Jesus said to his disciples,]

And as you go about, preach and say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”  Cure the sick, raise the dead, heal lepers, drive out demons.  Give without payment, just as you received without payment.  Do not take gold or silver or copper money in your purses, and do not take a bag for your journey, nor two shirts, nor shoes, nor a staff, for the workman deserves his food!  Whatever town or village you come to, inquire for some suitable person, and stay with him till you leave the place.  And as you go into his house, wish it well.  If the house deserves it, the peace you wish it will come over it, but if it does not deserve it, let your blessing come back upon yourselves.  And where no one will welcome you, or listen to you, leave that house or town and shake off its very dust from your feet.  I tell you, the land of Sodom and Gomorrah will fare better on the Day of Judgment than that town.

Here I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  So you must be wise as serpents, and guileless like doves.  But be on your guard against men, for they will give you up to their courts, and have you flogged in their synagogues, and you will be brought before governors and kings on my account, to bear your testimony before them and the heathen.  But when they give you up, you must have no anxiety about how to speak or what to say, for you will be told at the very moment what you ought to say, for it is not you who will speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father that will speak through you.  One brother will give up another to death, and a father his child, and children will turn against their parents, and have them put to death.  You will be hated by everybody on my account, but the man who holds out to the very end will saved.  But when they persecute you in one town, make your escape to another, for I tell you, you will have not gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man arrives.

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The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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 9:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/week-of-proper-9-thursday-year-1/

Week of Proper 9:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/week-of-proper-9-friday-year-1/

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In Hosea we have another metaphor for the relationship between God and the rebellious people:  parent and child.  Despite the ingratitude on one side and anger on the other, divine love remains.  Elsewhere in Hosea we read of God as the jilted husband.  The constant factor, however, is divine love.

So the rebellious people must face the consequences of their actions yet will not face annihilation.  This stands in contrast to other groups, which perished utterly.  As a Christian, I accept that God loved them also.  Yes, the violent depictions of God in the Bible disturb me; I will neither excuse nor ignore them.  My understanding of God comes from the person of Jesus, who said to love one’s enemies and to pray for one’s persecutors.

Nevertheless the main point remains the love of God (expressed via various metaphors) for us.  May we reciprocate.  May we love the image of God in our fellow human beings. This is often difficult, for anger is a powerful emotion.  Yet love is more powerful, not to mention much healthier.

I can think of a few people I need to contemplate in compassionate and loving ways, not with wrath and indignation.  You, O reader, can probably do the same within your context.  Empowered by grace, may we love not only God and those we like, but also those we dislike, perhaps intensely.  God is also their parent.

I think also of the Prodigal Son’s father.  The father, a stand-in for God, permits the foolish son to make his mistakes then to come home.  The father watches for his son, whom he welcomes back into the fold.  Then the other son, the dutiful one who stayed home, did not welcome his brother back, however.  Who are you in this story?  Are you resentful, not greeting those who have amended their ways?  Or have you come to your senses and corrected your ways?  Maybe the parental role fits better.

Divine love does not prevent us from making mistakes or suffering certain consequences of our misdeeds, but it does welcome us home.  May we, who have benefited from such love, extend it to others.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/reading-and-pondering-hosea-part-four/

Week of Proper 9: Wednesday, Year 2   1 comment

Gallery of the Apostles, Temmenhausen Nikolauskirche

Teachers of Righteousness

JULY 8, 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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Hosea 10:1-15 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Israel is a ravaged vine

And its fruit is like it.

When his fruit was plentiful,

He made altars aplenty;

When his land was bountiful,

Cult pillars abounded.

Now that his boughs are broken up,

He feels his guilt;

He himself pulls apart his altars,

Smashes his pillars.

Truly, now they say,

We have no king;

For, since we do not fear the LORD,

What can a king do to us?

So they conclude agreements and make covenants

With false oaths,

And justice degenerates into poison weeds,

Breaking out on the furrows of the fields.

The inhabitants of Samaria fear

For the calf of Beth-aven;

Indeed, its people and priestlings,

Whose joy it once was,

Mourn over it for the glory

That is departed from it.

It too shall be brought to Assyria

As tribute to a patron king;

Ephraim shall be chagrined,

Israel shall be dismayed

Because of his plans.

Samaria’s monarchy is vanishing

Like foam upon water,

Ruined shall be the shrines of [Beth-]aven,

That sin of Israel.

Thorns and thistles

Shall grow on their altars.

They shall call to the mountains,

Bury us!

To the hills,

Fall on us!

You have sinned more, O Isreal,

Than in the days of Gibeah.

They shall stand [as] at Gibeah!

Shall not they be overtaken

By a war upon scoundrels

As peoples gather against them?

When I chose [them], I broke them in,

Harnessing them for two furrows.

Ephraim became a trained heifer,

But preferred to thresh;

I placed a yoke

Upon her sleek neck.

I will make Ephraim do advance plowing;

Judah shall do [main] plowing!

Jacob shall do final plowing!

Sow righteousness for yourselves;

Reap the fruits of goodness;

Break for yourselves betimes fresh ground

Of seeking the LORD,

So that you may obtain a teacher of righteousness.

You have plowed wickedness,

You have reaped iniquity–

[And] you shall eat the fruits of treachery–

Because you relied on your way,

On your host of warriors.

But the din of war shall arise in your own people,

And all your fortresses shall be ravaged

As Beth-arbel was ravaged by Shalman

On a day of battle,

When mourners and babes were dashed to death together.

This is what Bethel has done to you

For your horrible wickedness:

At dawn shall Israel’s monarch

Utterly perish.

Psalm 105:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

Remember the marvels he has done;

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O childrenof Jacob his chosen.

He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

Matthew 10:1-7 (An American Translation):

Then he [Jesus] called his twelve disciples to him, and gave them power over the foul spirits so that they could drive them out, and so that they could heal any disease or illness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles:  first, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James the son of Zebedee and his brother John, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector, James the son of Alpheus and Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot who afterward betrayed him.

James sent these twelve out, after giving them these directions:

Do not go among the heathen, or to any Samaritan town, but proceed instead to the lost sheep of Israel’s house.  As you go about, preach and say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

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The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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 9:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/week-of-proper-9-wednesday-year-1/

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The pronouncements of judgment continue in Hosea.  Much of the content is familiar and repetitive to a student of the Hebrew Scriptures, so I will not rehash it here.

I am, however, following a lectionary, one which pairs this reading with Matthew 10,  which tells of Jesus empowering his twelve Apostles and sending them out on a mission.  The Apostles were diverse, including two cousins of Jesus, a former Roman tax collector, and a violent revolutionary against the Roman occupation.

Hosea 10:12, in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, commands people to sow righteousness for themselves, to reap the fruits of goodness, and break the fallow ground of seeking YHWH “So that you may obtain a teacher of righteousness.”  This is apparently a passage which lends itself to various translations, so that, in the New Revised Standard Version, the command concludes with “that he [YHWH] may come and rain righteousness upon you.”

Teachers of righteousness can come in various shapes and sizes and from various backgrounds. And, when God comes to rain righteousness upon us, the divine methodology might surprise us.  Do we dare even to attempt to look past our preconceived notions and to recognize the methods of God and the identities of teachers of righteousness?

Righteousness is far from an abstract idea.  It is lived, as is orthodoxy.  Theology of a certain variety tells me that orthodoxy is right belief and that orthopraxy is right practice.  But, if Paul was correct regarding faith, faith is active, not just intellectual, and is therefore lived.  Ergo the proper situation is for orthopraxy and orthodoxy to be one and the same.  Do I love my neighbor?  My actions will tell, will they not?  After all, we will know a tree by its fruits.

So, where do we find teachers of righteousness to lead us down the orthodoxy-orthopraxy trail?  The union of these is righteousness.  This righteousness is not individualistic, so that we can feel good and holy while the world around us goes to hell in a handbasket.  No, this righteousness is socially transformative.

Our mission as Christians is to be salt and light–the best salt and the brightest light we can be by grace.  What one person does affects others, and we are God’s, not our own.  May we leave our corner of creation better than we found them.  May we work in the corners of creation God has assigned to each of us.  And may we be teachers of righteousness by words and deeds.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/reading-and-pondering-hosea-part-three/

Week of Proper 10: Monday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Granite Head of Pharoah Amenhotep III Wearing the Double Crown of Egypt

Image in the Public Domain

Injustice in the Name of Security

JULY 12, 2021

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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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Exodus 1:8-14, 22 (An American Translation):

Then a new king rose over Egypt, who had no knowledge of Joseph; he said to his people,

See, the Israelite people have become too numerous and too strong for us; come, let us take precautions against them lest they become so numerous that in the case of war they should join forces against us, and so escape from the land.

Accordingly, gang-foremen were put in charge of them, to oppress them with their heavy labor; and they built Pithom and Raamses as store-cities for Pharaoh.  But the more they oppressed them, the more they multiplied, so that they became apprehensive about the Israelites.

The Egyptians reduced the Israelites to rigorous slavery; they made life bitter for them in hard work with morter and bricks, and in all kinds of work in the fields, all the work that they exacted of them being rigorous.

(Egyptian midwives permitted Hebrew male children to live, in defiance of royal orders.)

So Pharaoh commanded all his people,

Every boy that is born to the Hebrews, you must throw into the Nile, but you are to let all the girls live.

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say;

2 If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then would they have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

4 Then the waters would have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

7 We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

8 Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

Matthew 10:34-11:1 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be in his own household.  No one who loves father or mother more than me is worthy of me, and no one who will not take up his cross and follow me is worthy of me.  Whoever gains his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will gain it.

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes him who has sent me.  Whoever welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have the same reward as a prophet, and whoever welcomes an upright man because he is upright will have the same reward as an upright man.  And no one who will give the humblest of my disciples even a cup of cold water because he is my disciple, I tell you, can never fail of his reward.

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The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Fear, manufactured or not, based in facts or manufactured, often provides pretexts for tyranny and religious persecution and intolerance.  This is an ancient story as contemporary as today’s headlines.  Let us examine two past examples from this day’s lectionary readings.

Egyptologist David Rohl has prepared a controversal New Chronology for ancient Egypt.  He argues that the Pharaoh under whom Joseph worked was Amenemhat III, of the Twelfth Dynasty.  Rohl states also that the Pharaoh from Exodus 1:8 was Sobekhotep III, of the Thirteenth Dynasty.  The Thirteenth Dynasty came to power because the Twelfth Dynasty died out.  A transition from one dynasty to another would explain why the new regime did not “know Joseph.”

The Pharaoh (whatever his name was) stirred up fear of the Hebrews.  This fits historically if Rohl is correct, for the Thirteenth Dynasty was weaker than its predecessor.  This was a time of political, military, and climatic difficulties greater than during the Twelfth Dyansty.  Perhaps the Pharaoh sought to strengthen his power by subjugating and scapegoating the Hebrews.  But midwives with respect the for the lives of newborn Hebrew boys disobeyed orders to kill said male children.  Let us praise their civil disobedience.

It is easy to target those who are different from ourselves and to heap scorn on them.  There is an unfortunate human tendency to seek easy answers when they are inadequate.  How else can I explain the popularity of fundamentalism and other woes?

Religious persecution was a real threat to the Christians of the Roman Empire.  Most persecutions were regional, not empire-wide, and not constant.  None of these facts, of course, reduced the impact of persecutions when they occurred.  Aside from official actions, there were family issues.  The words in Matthew 10:34 and following describe what many people–especially in the original audience of the Gospel of Matthew–experiened and what numerous Christians have to deal with today.  I write from North America, where I enjoy freedom of religion, but many of my coreligionists elsewhere in the world place their lives at risk if they accept water baptism.

The Emperor Nero scapegoated Christians for the fire that ravaged Rome.  The fire could have started by accident, but Nero had political problems and Christians were unpopular, widely misunderstood, and most importantly, a distinct minority.  So blaming them shifted the blame from Nero.  This was convenient for him.

Scapegoating can be based on religion, ethnicity, race, culture, and other factors.  But it never solves the problems from which people are trying to detract attention.  The Hebrews escaped Egypt, and the Hyksos, foreigners, toppled the Thirteenth Dynasty.  And Roman imperial stability and social decay had nothing to do with the rise of Christianity.  Yet the official line held that the empire would prosper as long as the gods blessed it, which they would do as long as people worshipped them.  So the rise of Christianity was a perceived threat to the stability of the imperium.  In the Egyptian and Roman cases the quest for easy answers won the moment.  God, however, won in time.

Our lectionary journey through Exodus begins here as our trek through Matthew continues.  Let us continue together as we explore these texts and seek meanings in them.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/injustice-in-the-name-of-security/

Week of Proper 9: Saturday, Year 1   6 comments

Above: Jacob Blessing His Sons, by Francois Maitre

Image in the Public Domain

Do Not Worry

JULY 10, 2021

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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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Genesis 49:29-33 (An American Translation):

Then he [Jacob/Israel] gave them a charge.

I am about to be gathered to my fathers,

he said to them;

bury me with my fathers in the cave which is the field of Ephron, the Hittite, the cave in the field of Machpelah, which faces Mamre, in the land of Canaan, which along with the field Abrahm bought from Ephron, the Hittite, for use as a burial-ground of his own.  It was there that Abraham and his wife Sarah were buried; it was there that Isaac and his wife Rebekah were buried; it was there that I buried Leah–the field with the cave in it having been purchased from the Hittites.

After Jacob had finished giving his instructions to his sons, he drew his feet into the bed, breathed his last, and was gathered to his fathers.

Psalm 105:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done;

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O childrenof Jacob his chosen.

7 He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

Matthew 10:24-33 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued instructing his disciples,]

A pupil is not better than his teacher, nor a slave better than his master.  A pupil should be satisfied to come to be like his teacher, or a slave, to come to be like his master.  If men have called the head of the house Beelzebub, how much worse names will they give to the members of his household!  So do not be afraid of them.  For there is nothing covered up that is not going to be uncovered, nor secret that is going to be known.  What I tell you in the dark you must say in the light, and what you hear whispered in your ear, you must proclaim from the housetops.  Have no fear of those who kill the body, but cannot kill the soul.  You had better be afraid of the one who can destroy both soul and body in the pit.  Do not sparrows sell two for a cent?  And yet not one of them can fall to the ground against your Father’s will!  But the very hairs of your heads are all counted.  You must not be afraid; you are worth more than a great many sparrows!  Therefore everyone who will acknowledge me before men I will acknowledge before my Father in heaven, but anyone who disowns me before men, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

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The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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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Jacob, after a lifetime of strife, much of which he brought on himself by scheming, died in peace, surrounded by family members.  He met a good end, thanks to God.  And the instructions from Jesus, as reported by the author of the Gospel of Matthew, include good news and bad news.  Bad News:  There are very real physical (even lethal) and spiritual threats.  One might even die for one’s faith.  Good News:  Stick close to God, and find a spiritual home in Heaven.  So do not be afraid of the merely physical threats, just the spiritual ones.

I add the following:  Do not worry.  There are legitimate reasons for concern, but concern, channeled properly, has the potential to lead to good solutions.  But what can worry accomplish, other than such negative consequences as ulcers, stress, high blood pressure, shorter lifespan, and a diminished quality of life?  If we are on God’s side, God is for us.  So let us eschew worrying.

This is easier said than done, and I write from experience when typing these words.  But worrying also makes one unpleasant, a fact which affects others negatively.  And who enjoys the company of a negative person?  God is good, as is the created order.  May we focus on the positive habitually, thank God more often than we complain, and lay worrying aside.  Until we can lay worrying aside, may we worry less and less often and be thankful more and more often.  Most importantly, may we trust God, who loves us.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/do-not-worry/

Week of Proper 9: Friday, Year 1   3 comments

Above:  Christ in Majesty, from a Gospel Book, Circa 1220

Image in the Public Domain

God is With the Faithful

JULY 9, 2021

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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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Genesis 46:1-7, 28-30 (An American Translation):

So Israel set out with all that belonged to him.  On reaching Beersheba he offered sacrifices to the God of his father Isaac.  In a vision by night God spoke to Israel.

Jacob! Jacob!

he said.

Here I am,

he said.

I am El, the God of your father,

he said;

do not be afraid to go down to Egypt; for there I will make you a great nation.  I will myself go down to Egypt with you–yes, and I will bring you up again, when Joseph’s hand shall close your eyes.

Then Jacob set out from Beersheba; and the sons of Israel conveyed their father Jacob, with their little ones and their wives, in wagons which Pharaoh had sent to convey him.  Taking their live stock and the property which they had acquired in the land of Canaan, Jacob and all his family migrated to Egypt; his sons and his grandsons accompanied him, as well as his grand-daughters; he brought all his family with him into Egpyt.

Israel sent Juday ahead of him to Joseph in Goshen, to appear before him.  On their arrival in the land of Goshen Joseph hitched the horses to his chariot, and went up to meet his father Israel in Goshen.  When he presented himself to him, he fell on his neck, weeping again and again on his neck.

Now at last I may die,

Israel said to Joseph,

after having seen from your very self that you are still alive.

Psalm 37:3-4, 19-20, 28-29, 41-42 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good;

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

4 Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

19 The LORD cares for the lives of the godly,

and their inheritance shall last for ever.

20 They shall not be ashamed in bad times,

and in days of famine they shall have enough.

28 Turn from evil, and do good,

and dwell in the land for ever.

29 For the LORD loves justice;

he does not forsake his faithful ones.

41 But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the LORD;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

42 The LORD will help them and rescue them;

he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them,

because they seek refuge in him.

Matthew 10:16-23 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued to address his disciples,]

Here I am sending you out like sheep among wolves.  So you must be wise as serpents, and guileless like doves.  But be on your guard against men, for they will give you up to their courts, and have you flogged in their synagogues, and you will be brought before governors and kings on my account, to bear your testimony before them and the heathen.  But when they give you up, you must have no anxiety about how to speak or what to say, for you will be told at the very moment what you ought to say, for it is not you who will speak, but it is the Spirit of your Father that will speak through you.  One brother will give up another to death, and a father his child, and children will turn against their parents, and have them put to death.  You will be hated by everybody on my account, but the man who holds out to the very end will saved.  But when they persecute you in one town, make your escape to another, for I tell you, you will have not gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man arrives.

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The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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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God is with the faithful, a fact that does not mean bad things will not happen to them because of this faithfulness.  So fidelity to God is not the road to Easy Street.  Jesus died as a criminal.  Almost all of his Apostles died painfully, as martyrs.  St. Paul died of decapitation.  St. Stephen died of stoning.  And, throughout the generations since the time of Jesus, countless saints have entered heaven through the gates of martyrdom and persecution.  Those gates remain open today.

The Gospel of Matthew comes from a time and place of religious persecution.  So the words placed in the mouth of Jesus were as contemporary in 85-90 as they were before the crucifixion.  Most of these sayings are straight-forward and easy to understand, but one does require some explanation.  In Matthew 10:23, the author makes Jesus say, “…for I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man arrives.”

Compare this to Matthew 16:28, in which the author makes Jesus say that some standing in his presence will not die before the coming of the Son of Man in his Kingdom.  And consider Mark 9:1, which quotes Jesus as saying that some in his presence will not die before seeing the coming of the Kingdom of God with power.  Luke 9:27 is quite similar to Mark 9:1.  I write these devotions in a series, so I refer now to an entry from a few days ago:  The Gospel of Matthew establishes that the Kingdom of God/Kingdom of Heaven predates the beginning of the ministry of Jesus. By the time of the writing of the Gospels the Christian message had begun to take root.  So this was the Kingdom of God coming with power.  It is also true that many Christians of the first generation expected Jesus to return within their lifetimes; even the Apostle Paul did.  So the persecuted Church during the 85-90 timeframe grasped at this hope, and this is the best explanation as to why Matthew (or whoever wrote this gospel) quotes Jesus as he does.

Now, for the Hebrew Scriptures….

Joseph did not get into trouble because of his faithfulness, but the Joseph Epic tells of how God used the evil plans of most of his brothers to help Joseph, those brothers, the people of Egypt, and many people in neighboring lands.  The faithful person on whom I focus now is Jacob/Israel, who suffered for years under the lie that his son Joseph was dead.  So imagine his joy when he learned that Joseph was alive and when he met his long-lost son again.  This is an emotional and beautiful scene.

The Bible’s treatment of Gentiles varies from text to text.  Sometimes they are the undesirable people, and frequently persecutors of the Jews.  But many Gentiles receive favorable treatment in both Testaments.  Consider Cyrus the Great of Persia and Cornelius the Centurion, for example.  And think about the unnamed Pharaoh who welcomed Joseph’s family into Egypt, even sending the ancient equivalents of moving vans.

Sometimes Gentiles are allies of the Hebrews/Jews, and sometimes they are pagans and heathens.  By the way, the English words “pagan” and “heathen” have fascinating etymologies.  “Pagan” comes from the Latin word for villager.  And “heathen” is related to “heath,” or field.  So pagans lived in villages and heathens in the boondocks.  Nascent Christianity spread most rapidly in urban centers, and occupants of rural areas tended to cling to old religous ideas.  (Here ends the word history lesson.)

The ultimate good news to take away from these readings is that, through it all and despite how our ordeals end, God is ever-present.  We cannot escape from the presence of God.  So, are we on God’s side?  If we are, God will be on ours.  We will not suffer alone.

I write this devotion on Christmas Eve 2010, so the Navitity of Our Lord is very much on my mind.  This is a joyous occasion, but one not unmarred by foreshadowing of terrible events.  Christmas leads to Good Friday, which yields to Easter.  God was with Jesus, of course.  The Trinity defies human logic (perhaps one purpose of it), but Jesus was God.  (Just appreciate and enjoy the mystery.)  If fidelity to God were the road to Easy Street, the life of Jesus would have been quite different, not including an execution.  But God was with him, just as God was with Jacob/Israel and Joseph, his son.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/god-is-with-the-faithful/

Week of Proper 9: Thursday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Gallery of the Apostles, Temmenhausen, Nikolauskirche, Bergische Gladbach, Germany

Image in the Public Domain

Grace:  Pass It On

JULY 8, 2021

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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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Genesis 44:18-45:5 (An American Translation):

Then Judah went back to him [Joseph], and said,

If you please, my lord, let your servant speak a word in the ear of my lord, and  your anger not blaze against your servant; for you are the equal of Pharaoh himself.  My lord asked his servants, ‘Have you a father or a brother?’  And we said to my lord, ‘We have an aged father, and a young brother, the child of his old age; his brother is dead, so that he alone is left of mother’s children, and his father loves him.’  Then you said to your servants, ‘Bring him down to me that I may see him.’  But we told my lord, ‘The boy cannot leave his father; his father would die if he were to leave him.’  Whereupon you said to your servants, ‘Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you cannot have audience with me again.’

When we went back to your servant, my father, we reported to him the words of my lord.  Then our father said, ‘Go again and buy a little food for us.’  But we said, ‘We cannot go down; if our youngest brother accompanies us, we can go down; for we shall not be allowed to have audience with the man unless our youngest brother is with us.’  Then your servant, my father, said to us, ‘You know that my wife bore me only two children; then one of them left me, and I think that he must surely have been torn to pieces; for I have never seen him since.  If then you take this one with me too, and harm befall him, you will bring down my gray hairs to Sheol in trouble.’

And now, when I rejoin your servants, my father, and the boy not with us, his life is so bound up with the boy’s that will die when he sees that there is no boy, and your servants will bring down the gray hairs of your servant, our father, to Sheol in sorrow; for your servant went suretly for the boy to my father, saying, ‘If I do not bring him back to you, let my father blame me for it all my life.’  Now then, pray let your servant remain in the boy’s place as my lord’s slave, but let the boy go back with his brothers; for how can I go back to my father unless the boy is with me, and witness the agony that would come to my father?’

Joseph could no longer control himself before all his attendants, so he cried out,

Have everyone withdraw from me.

So there was no one with Joseph when he made himself known to his brothers; but he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and Pharaoh’s household heard it.  Joseph said to his brothers,

I am Joseph.  Is my father still living?

But his brothers could not answer him, because they were so dismayed at being in his presence.  So Joseph said to his brothers,

Come nearer to me.

When they came nearer, he said,

I am your brother Joseph whom you sold into Egypt.  Now do not be distressed nor angry with yourselves that you sold me here….

Psalm 105:7-21 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

8 He has always been mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made for a thousand generations:

9 The covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath that he swore to Isaac,

10 Which he established as a statute for Jacob,

and everlasting covenant for Israel,

11 Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan

to be your allotted inheritance.”

12 When they were few in number,

of little account, and sojourners in the land,

13 Wandering from nation to nation

and from one kingdom to another,

14 He let no one oppress them

and rebuked kings for their sake,

15 Saying, “Do not touch my anointed

and do my prophets no harm.”

16 Then he called for a famine in the land

and destroyed the supply of bread.

17 He sent a man before them,

Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

18 They bruised his feet in fetters;

his neck they put in an iron collar.

19 Until his prediction came to pass,

the word of the LORD tested him.

20 The king sent and released him;

the ruler of the peoples set him free.

21 He set him as a master over his household,

as a ruler over all his possessions.

Matthew 10:7-15 (An American Translation):

[Jesus said to his disciples,]

And as you go about, preach and say, ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!’  Cure the sick, raise the dead, heal lepers, drive out demons.  Give without payment, just as you received without payment.  Do not take gold or silver or copper money in your purses, and do not take a bag for your journey, nor two shirts, nor shoes, nor a staff, for the workman deserves his food!  Whatever town or village you come to, inquire for some suitable person, and stay with him till you leave the place.  And as you go into his house, wish it well.  If the house deserves it, the peace you wish it will come over it, but if it does not deserve it, let your blessing come back upon yourselves.  And where no one will welcome you, or listen to you, leave that house or town and shake off its very dust from your feet.  I tell you, the land of Sodom and Gomorrah will fare better on the Day of Judgment than that town.

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The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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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Freely you have received; freely give.

–Matthew 10:8b, Translated by William Barclay

I got slightly ahead of the story from Genesis in the previous day’s devotional post.  That is fine, for, in so doing, I made a pertinent point.  Here, in this post, we have the great reveal:  Joseph tells his brothers who he is then forgives them to their faces.  Joseph had received grace freely; freely he extended it to his brothers.

This is one of the great scenes from the Bible.  Joseph had been through varieties of hell on earth due to the jealousy of brothers.  Yet this evil intent let to Joseph being in place to save Egypt, complete with foreign strangers, and his family members, including said brothers.  It all worked out well in the end.  Holding a grudge against the brothers would have hurt them, but it would have caused greater spiritual injury to Joseph.

Letting go is often hard to do.  Believe me, I know this well.  As I write these words, I feel unpleasant emotions when thinking of the names of certain people.  They did serious harm to me in 2006, putting me through academic hell.  But they are beyond my reach, and their own karma will catch up with them in time unless they change their ways, just as mine will pursue me unless take a route other than anger and fantasies of revenge.  I have decided to have nothing to do with what happens to them, not even to mention their names here.  It is a safe course, and my anger has been fading for years, by grace.    One day I might even find cause to thank them, out of recognition of the fact that what they did put me on the road to something far better than my original destination.

The Twelve Apostles  received grace freely.  So Jesus instructed them to impart it freely.  Is this not how we ought to act toward each other?  Indeed, it is.  This can prove controversial, depending upon the identityof the beneficiary or the recipient.  Consider the Parable of the Good Samaritan.  Samaritans were half-breeds and heretics.  Many respectable Jews of Jesus’ time spoke of Samaritans in disparaging terms.  Yet a Samartian was the hero of the story, and the respectable religious figures did nothing to help.  I suppose that, if Jesus were telling that parable today in the North American context, he would speak of the Good Illegal Immigrant.  Would not that scandalize many people?  So did the concept of a Good Samaritan in Jesus’ time.

Grace is scandalous.  It prevents us from getting what we deserve or what others think we deserve.  We, of course, like this when grace spares us.  But we tend to take great offense when it rescues someone we do not like, with whom we disagree strongly, or someone we otherwise consider unworthy.  I guarantee that someone considers me unworthy of grace, and that somebody has the same opinion of you, O reader.  All of us are unworthy, of course, but God extends grace anyway.  Should we not just be grateful for it and look for ways to treat people kindly?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/grace-pass-it-on/

Week of Proper 9: Wednesday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator, an Icon from the 500s

Image in the Public Domain

The Kingdom of God is At Hand; It Has Been Here for Some Time

JULY 7, 2021

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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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Genesis 41:55-57; 42:5-7a, 17-24a (An American Translation):

When all the land of Egypt became famished, the people cried to Pharaoh for food; so Pharaoh announced to all Egypt,

Go to Joseph, and do what he tells you.

The famine spread all over the land, so Joseph threw open all that he had locked up, and sold grain to the Egyptians, since the famine was severe in the land of Egypt.  People from all lands came to Joseph in Egypt to buy grain; for the famine was severe all over the earth.

Thus the Israelites came with the rest to buy grain; for the famine was in the land of Canaan.

Now Joseph was the vizier of the land; it was he who sold the grain to all the people of the land.  So Joseph’s brothers came and prostrated themselves before him, with their faces to the ground.  When Joseph saw his brothers, he recognized them, but he treated them as if he were a stranger, and spoke harshly to them.

So he bundled them off to prison for three days, but on the third day Joseph said to them,

“Since I am one who fears God, you may save your lives, if you do this:  if you are honest men, let one of your brothers remain confined in your prison and then the rest of you, go and take grain home to your starving households; but you must bring me your youngest brother.  Thus your words shall be verified, and you shall not die.”

They proceeded to do so, saying to one another,

Unfortunately, we were to blame about our brother, upon whose distress, when he pleaded with us for mercy, we gazed unmoved; that is why this disaster has come to us.

Then Reuben spoke up and said to them,

Did I not say to you, ‘Do not sin against the lad’?  But you paid no attention; so now comes a reckoning for his blood!

They did not know that Joseph heard them; for the intermediary was between them.  He turned from them, and wept.

Psalm 33:1-4, 18-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous;

it is good for the just to sing praises.

2 Praise the LORD with the harp;

play to him upon the psaltery and lyre.

3 Sing for him a new song;

sound a fanfare with all your skill upon the trumpet.

4 For the word of the LORD is right,

and all his works are sure.

18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon those who fear him,

on those who wait upon his love,

19 To pluck their lives from death,

and to feed them in time of famine.

20 Our soul waits for the LORD;

he is our help and our shield.

21 Indeed, our heart rejoices in him,

for in his holy Name we put our trust.

22 Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us,

as we have put our trust in you.

Matthew 10:1-7 (An American Translation):

Then he [Jesus] called his twelve disciples to him, and gave them power over the foul spirits so that they could drive them out, and so that they could heal any disease or illness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles:  first, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James the son of Zebedee and his brother John, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector, James the son of Alpheus and Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot who afterward betrayed him.

James sent these twelve out, after giving them these directions:

Do not go among the heathen, or to any Samaritan town, but proceed instead to the lost sheep of Israel’s house.  As you go about, preach and say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

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The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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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Joseph had been an annoying brat bothering his brothers, most of them his elders, with his favored status and reports of dreams.  So most of his brothers conspired to sell him into slavery into Egypt and to tell Jacob/Israel, their father, that Joseph was dead.  They were really bad brothers.  After years of servitude and imprisonment in Egypt, Joseph rose to power just beneath that of the Pharaoh and put in place policies that paid off nicely a few years later.  Egypt had surplus grain during a severe drought.

Thus Joseph saw most of his brothers again and proceeded to test them.  After the events from this day’s Genesis lection, Joseph revealed his true identity to his brothers and reconciled with them, and even reunited with his father.  Most importantly, Joseph forgave his brothers.

Forgiveness is an essential element of the Kingdom of God/Heaven, which Jesus proclaims in the Synoptic Gospels is near, or at hand.  In simpler terms, it is here; it has been here for some time.  Following a set of lectionaries, I cover old terrain from time to time.  So, as I read and typed Matthew 10:1-7, I recalled having covered Jesus announcing the presence of the Kingdom of God in Mark and Luke.  In Mark 1:15, Jesus says that the Kingdom of God “has come near.”  The Greek tense indicates present tense, an action begun previously and continuing in the present.  So the inauguration of the ministry of Jesus postdates the beginning of the Kingdom of God.

What is this Kingdom of God?  It is the reign of God.  It is in the here and now.  The Kingdom of God in inside of us and outside of us.  And it did not go away when Jesus left the Earth, despite any appearances to the contrary.  In fact, according to certain standards, the Kingdom of God was not evident during the earthly lifespan of Jesus.  Yet Jesus says at the beginning of his ministry that the Kingdom of God has come near, is at hand.  This is the same man the Gospel of John (16:33) quotes as saying that he has “conquered the world”–immediately before his arrest, torture, and execution.  Should we not lay outward appearances aside?

The presence of Jesus, God incarnate, was a great sign of extravagant divine forgiveness.  God enabled Joseph, Vizier of Egypt, to forgive his brothers.  Most of us have lesser offenses to forgive, but even those can difficult to release.  I know this very well, so I address myself first when writing of the necessity of forgiveness.  But this is the best way to live–free of resentments and grudges, which hurt the one who carries them.  The Kingdomof God is about the active love of God for the created order, of which people are part.  And we ought to be so busy demonstrating our love and concern for each other that we have no time for resentments, grudges, and petty arguments.  We have a kingdom to build up.  May we get to work.

This kingdom includes Jews and Gentiles, of course, thanks largely to the Apostle Paul.  But consider the context of the reading from Matthew:  The Apostles were beginning their work.  They started by preaching to people like themselves.  One must hone one’s tactics with a smaller, more homogeneous group before preaching to a more larger, more diverse one.  This plan might apply when we begin to do our part to build up the Kingdom.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/the-kingdom-of-god-is-at-hand-it-has-been-here-for-some-time/