Archive for the ‘Matthew 14’ Tag

Devotion for the Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  St. Peter Walking on Water, by Alessandro Allori

Image in the Public Domain

Love One Another

AUGUST 20, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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1 Kings 19:9-18

Psalm 85:8-13 (LBW) or Psalm 28 (LW)

Romans 9:1-5

Matthew 14:22-33

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Almighty and everlasting God,

you are always more ready to hear than we are to pray,

and to give us more than we either desire or deserve. 

Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid,

and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask,

except through the merit of your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Almighty and everlasting God,

always more ready to hear than we to pray

and always ready to give more than we either desire or deserve,

pour down upon us the abundance of your mercy,

forgiving us the good things we are not worthy to ask

but through the merits and mediation

of Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 74

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I am listening.  What is Yahweh saying?

–Psalm 85:8a, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Quaker theology includes the Inner Light–the Holy Spirit within each person.  God speaks.  Quakers listen.

I assume that God is a chatterbox in search of an attentive audience.  We are busy and/or distracted.  God gives us assignments.  Like Elijah, we do not complete most of them.  Like St. Simon Peter, we look down at the chaos, not up at Jesus.  We lose faith and sink into that chaos without Jesus, without God.

St. Paul the Apostle believed that the covenant had passed to Christians.  His argument has not convinced me; the Jewish covenant has held.  God has established a separate covenant for faithful Gentiles.  Unfortunately, anti-Semitic misinterpretations of St. Paul’s words have fueled hatred and violence for nearly 2000 years.

What is God saying?  One may experience difficulty knowing the answer to that question even when one is listening carefully.  Assumptions and cultural programming get in the way.  Distractions mean that we miss some messages, even repeated ones.  Ego-defense mechanisms bristle against some messages.  Even when we know the words, we need to interpret them in contexts.

In the middle 1980s, at one of the United Methodist congregations of which my father was the pastor, there was a man named Don.  Don was hard of hearing.  He heard parts of what my father said in sermons.  Don frequently became incensed regarding what he did hear.  He missed contexts and misheard certain words and passages.  He heard (somewhat) and did not understand.  And he assumed that my father was in the wrong.  And Don frequently confronted my father.

Many of us are like Don; we hear partially, misunderstand greatly, and assume that we are correct.  We are, of course, correct some of the time.  A cliché says that even a broken clock is right twice a day.  But why be content to be a broken clock?

Rabbi Hillel and Jesus were correct.  The summary of the Law of Moses is to love God fully and one’s neighbor as oneself.  Gentiles often neglect the second half of Rabbi Hillel’s statement, in full:

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

We Gentiles often stop after,

The rest is commentary.

Many of us tend not to want to study the Law of Moses.  And when many of us do study it, we frequently misinterpret and misunderstand it.  Well-meaning piety may mistake culturally-specific examples for timeless principles, resulting in legalism.

The most basic Biblical commandment is to love self-sacrifically.  If we mean what we say when we affirm that all people bear the image of God, we will treat them accordingly.  We will love them.  We will seek the best for them.  We will not treat them like second-class or third-class citizens.  We will not discriminate against them.  We will not deny or minimize their humanity.  In Quaker terms, we will see the Inner Light in them.

According to a story that may be apocryphal, the aged St. John the Evangelist was planning to visit a house church somewhere.  At the appointed time, the Apostle’s helpers carried him into the space where the congregation had gathered.  The helpers sat St. John down in front of the people.  The Apostle said:

My children, love one another.

Then St. John signaled for his helpers to take him away.  As they did, one member of the congregation ran after St. John.  This person asked an ancient equivalent of,

That’s it?

St. John replied:

When you have done that, I will tell you more.

The message is simple yet difficult.  Yahweh tells us to love one another.  The news tells us all we need to know about how poorly or well we are doing, based on that standard.  We are selfish bastards more often than not, sadly.  Or, like Don, we may be hard of hearing.  Or maybe we have selective memories and attention spans.

Do not imagine, O reader, that I exempt myself from these criticisms.  Rather, I know myself well enough to grasp my sinfulness.  I confess that I am a flawed human being.  I am “but dust.”  I depend on grace.

We all do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF CARL BERNHARD GARVE, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1598 AND 1600

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Cross and Crown

Image in the Public Domain

A Royal Nation

AUGUST 13, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 55:1-5

Psalm 104:25-31 (LBW) or Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26 (LW)

Romans 8:35-39

Matthew 14:13-21

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Gracious Father,

your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread which gives life to the world. 

Give us this bread,

that he may live in us and we in him,

Christ Jesus our Lord.  Amen.

OR

Almighty God, judge of us all,

you have placed in our hands the wealth we call our own. 

Give us such wisdom by your Spirit

that our possessions may not be a curse in our lives,

but an instrument for blessing;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 26

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Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church;

and because it cannot continue in safety without your help,

protect and govern it always by your goodness;

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 73

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The story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, present in all four canonical Gospels, is a topic about which I have written many times during the years I have been composing lectionary-based posts.  I refer you, O reader, to those posts for more about that event.

Second Isaiah applied the Davidic Covenant to the people of Judah, delivered from the Babylonian Exile.  He wrote that the Jewish people had royal status, not a human king.  This transformation of the Davidic Covenant accounted for the fall of the Davidic Dynasty in 587/586 B.C.E.  Historically, that dynasty never returned to power.  Second Isaiah, having democratized the Davidic Covenant, did not include an idealized future king–the Messiah–in his theology.  This vision of the future contrasted with Second Zechariah, who wrote of such a Davidic monarch in Zechariah 9:9-12.

God provided for that royal nation.  The authors of Psalms 104 and 136 also understood God as being active in nature and history.  The theme of God feeding people carried over into the Feeding of the Five Thousand.

For I am certain of this:  neither death nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nothing already in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power in the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:38-39, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

This is excellent news!  Do you, O reader, trust that this is true?

Psalm 23 tells us that divine kindness and faithful love either pursue or accompany (depending on the translation) us, even in the presence of our enemies.  God is on our side.  Are we on God’s side?

The people of God are a royal nation.  May we think and act accordingly, loving God fully and our neighbors (all people) as ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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

THE FEAST OF BERNARD ADAM GRUBE, GERMAN-AMERICAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, COMPOSER, AND MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN SPARROW-SIMPSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND PATRISTICS SCHOLAR

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for Proper 19, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Joseph Interprets Pharaoh’s Dreams, by Peter von Cornelius

Image in the Public Domain

Qualifying the Called

SEPTEMBER 17, 2023

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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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Genesis 41 (portions) or Isaiah 45:1-8

Psalm 25:7-22

1 Corinthians 9:16-27

Matthew 14:22-36

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The common thread uniting Genesis 41 and Isaiah 45:1-8 is a foreigner as a divine agent of deliverance–from famine in Genesis 41 and the Babylonian Exile in Isaiah 45:108.  God is apparently neither a nativist nor a xenophobe.

A spiritual mentor of mine in the 1990s asked one question about any passage of scripture he read.  Gene asked,

What is really going on here?

Water (as in a lake, as in the Sea of Galilee), symbolized chaos, hence the lack of a sea in the New Jerusalem (Revelation 21:3).  The author of the Gospel of Matthew was making a point about the power of Christ over chaos.  That was not the only point he was making.  There was also a point about fear undermining faith and what one might otherwise do in Christ.

The beginning of evil is the mistaken belief that we can–and must–act on our own power, apart from God.  God calls us to specific tasks.  God equips us for them.  God qualifies us for them.  God does not call the qualified; no, God calls qualifies the called, as St. Paul the Apostle knew well.

Integrity and generosity are marks of Yahweh,

for he brings sinners back to the path.

Judiciously he guides the humble,

instructing the poor in his way.

–Psalm 25:8-9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Our greatest strengths and best intentions are good, but they are woefully inadequate to permit us to complete our vocations from God.  If we admit this, we are wise, to that extent, at least.  God might not call many of us to ease a famine or end an exile, but God has important work for all of us.  May we succeed in it, for divine glory, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 27, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS GALLAUDET AND HENRY WINTER SYLE, EPISCOPAL PRIESTS AND EDUCATORS OF THE DEAF

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMADEUS OF CLERMONT, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK; AND HIS SON, SAINT AMADEUS OF LAUSANNE, FRENCH-SWISS ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC BARBERI, ROMAN CATHOLIC APOSTLE TO ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF HENRIETTE LUISE VAN HAYN, GERMAN MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/08/27/qualifying-the-called-part-ii/

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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 18, 2023

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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 Wednesday After Proper 26, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Archelaus

Above:   Archelaus

Image in the Public Domain

Deeds and Creeds

NOVEMBER 2, 2022

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

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

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

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

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 5:12-14

Psalm 50

Luke 19:11-27

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“Consider this well, you who forget God,

lest I rend you and there be none to deliver you.

Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me;

but to those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God.”

–Psalm 50:23-24, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The traditional title for the pericope from Luke 19 is the Parable of the Pounds.  That reading is superficially similar to the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30), which teaches the imperative of diligence in the work of God.  In the case of Luke 19:11-27, however, the real point is quite different.

Textual context matters.  Immediately prior to the parable we read of our Lord and Savior’s encounter with Zacchaeus, a man who worked as a tax collector for the Roman Empire.  He was a literal tax thief, although, as we read, he changed his ways and made more restitution than the Law of Moses required.  Immediately after the parable Jesus enters Jerusalem at the beginning of that fateful Holy Week.  The story of Zacchaeus explains verse 11a (“As they were listening to this”); the context of the impending Triumphal Entry is crucial to understanding the pericope which Volume IX (1995) of The New Interpreter’s Bible calls “The Parable of the Greedy and Vengeful King.”

The nobleman in the parable resembles members of the Herodian Dynasty, especially Archelaus (reigned 4 B.C.E.-6 C.E.), son of Herod the Great (reigned 47-4 B.C.E.), Governor of Galilee then the client king of the Jews.  Herod the Great, who traveled to Rome to seek the title of king, reigned as one because the Roman Republic then Empire granted him that title.  He was also a cruel man.  Biblical and extra-Biblical sources agree on this point, constituting a collection of stories of his tyranny and cruelty.  In Matthew 2 he ordered the Massacre of the Innocents, for example.  Archelaus, a son of Herod the Great, ruled as the Roman-appointed ethnarch of Idumea, Judea, and Samaria, after traveling to Rome.  Archelaus sought the title of King, which the Emperor Augustus denied him after meeting with a delegation of Jews.  Archelaus, mentioned by name in Matthew 2:22, was also cruel and tyrannical, victimizing Jews and Samaritans alike.  On one day alone he ordered the massacre of 3000 people at the Temple precinct in Jerusalem.  Eventually Augustus deposed him.  Herod Antipas, full brother of Archelaus, ruled on behalf of the Roman Empire as the tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E., when he sought the title of King and found himself banished to Gaul instead.  Antipas, a chip off the old block, ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist (Matthew 14:3-10) and sought to kill Jesus, who called the tetrarch “that fox” (Luke 13:32).

A trope in the interpretation of parables of Jesus is that one of the characters represents God.  That does not apply accurately to the parable in Luke 19:11-27.  In fact, the unnamed nobleman, who orders the execution of his political opponents, is an antitype of Jesus, who enters Jerusalem triumphantly in the next pericope and dies on the cross a few days later, at the hands of Roman officials.  The Kingdom of God is quite different from the Roman Empire, built on violence and exploitation.  The kingship of Jesus is quite different from the model that the Roman Empire offers.

Amos 5 condemns those in the Kingdoms of Israel and Judah who profess to follow Yahweh, yet oppose the establishment of justice, especially for the needy.  There is nothing wrong with religious rituals themselves, but engaging in them while perpetuating injustice makes a mockery of them.  God is unimpressed, we read.

God, in Psalm 50, addresses those who recite divine statutes yet do not keep them, who think wrongly that God is like them.  They will not find deliverance in God, we read.  That Psalm fits well with Amos 5, of course.  Then there are the evildoers who do not even pretend to honor God and do not change their ways.  Their path is doomed in the long run also.

One must reject the false dichotomy of deeds versus creeds.  In actuality, I argue, deeds reveal creeds.  One might detect a dichotomy between deeds and words, but, barring accidents, no dichotomy between deeds and creeds exists.

What do your deeds reveal about your creeds, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/06/01/deeds-and-creeds/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 15, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Crucifix II July 15, 2014

Above:  One of My Crucifixes

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Suffering and Triumph

AUGUST 17-19, 2023

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The Collect:

God of all peoples, your arms reach out to embrace all those who call upon you.

Teach us as disciples of your Son to love the world with compassion and constancy,

that your name may be known throughout all the earth,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 45:20-25 (Thursday)

Isaiah 63:15-19 (Friday)

Isaiah 56:1-5 (Saturday)

Psalm 67 (All Days)

Revelation 15:1-4 (Thursday)

Acts 14:19-28 (Friday)

Matthew 14:34-36 (Saturday)

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Be gracious to us, O God, and bless us:

and make the light of your face to shine upon us,

that your ways may be known upon earth:

your saving power among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God:

let all the peoples praise you.

–Psalm 67:1-3, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Why do people suffer?  The Book of Job refutes one traditional argument, the one that all suffering constitutes the consequences of sin.  Yet that argument remained alive and well in the time of Christ, who fielded questions based on this false assumption.  And that traditional argument lives today.  Often the assumption is that, if we suffer, we must have done something wrong.  The other side of that assumption is that, if we prosper, we must have done something right.  Related to this assumption are Prosperity Theology (an old heresy) and the Positive Thinking Theology (also a heresy) of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller.  If, as Schuller has said, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me,” the verdict on those who strive and fail is devastating and judgmental.  No, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, God calls us to be faithful, not successful.  To the proponents of these named heresies old and new I say,

Tell that to Jesus and all the faithful martyrs who have suffered and died for the sake of righteousness.  Also tell that, if you dare, to those who have suffered (although not fatally) for the faith.  And stop spouting such false clichés.

Yes, sometimes we suffer because of something or the accumulation of things we have done wrong.  Reality requires a nuanced explanation, however, for circumstances are more complicated than clichés.  Sometimes one suffers for the sake of righteousness as in Acts 14:22 and Revelation 15:1.  On other occasions one is merely at the wrong place at the wrong time, suffering because of the wrong desires of someone or of others who happen to be in the area.  For example, I have read news reports of people dying of gang violence while in their homes, minding their own business.  These were innocent victims not safe from bullets flying through windows.  These were non-combatants stuck in a bad situation.

A timeless message from the Book of Revelation is to remain faithful to God during times when doing so is difficult and costly, even unto death.  When we follow our Lord and Savior, who suffered and died partly because he confronted powerful people and threatened their political-economic basis of power and their social status, we follow in dangerous footsteps.  Yet he triumphed over his foes.  We can also prove victorious via him.  That victory might come at a time and in a manner we do not expect or even desire, but it is nevertheless a positive result.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUTH, ANCESTOR OF KING DAVID

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONAVENTURE, THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SWITHUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF WINCHESTER

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Suffering and Triumph

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Devotion for October 18 and 19 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

05555v

Above:  Northern Views, Site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-05555

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XIV:  Violence and Compassion

OCTOBER 18 AND 19, 2022

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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:

Deuteronomy 17:1-20 (October 18)

Deuteronomy 18:1-22 (October 19)

Psalm 13 (Morning–October 18)

Psalm 56 (Morning–October 19)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–October 18)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening–October 19)

Matthew 14:1-21 (October 18)

Matthew 14:22-36 (October 19)

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I have become convinced that the best way to read the Law of Moses is in small doses, usually in reference to narrative Bible stories.  Yet the main purpose of a lectionary is to guide the orderly reading of the Bible, even books one might avoid otherwise.  So I continue.

These days in Deuteronomy we read about court procedures.  There must be at least two witnesses, in a capital case, for a person who has committed idolatry must die.  Levites will settle baffling cases, and the king will have no role in justice.  We read also of Levites and prophets, whose authority came from God, not any other source.

Speaking of prophets—yes, more than a prophet—we read of Jesus feeding the five thousand men plus an uncounted number of women and children with a small amount of food and ending up with more leftovers than the original supply of food.  Then we read of Jesus walking on water then curing many people.  That material completes a chapter which begins with the execution of St. John the Baptist due to a rash promise made at a tawdry party.  The sublime grace and a great power of God at work in Jesus exists among violent men and women.  That is the story I detect uniting Matthew 14.

There is also violence—albeit carefully regulated violence—in Deuteronomy 17.  I continue to object to executing people for committing idolatry either.  But, if human life is as valuable as some parts of the Law of Moses indicate, why is so much stoning demanded there?  I read of how Jesus helped people from various backgrounds (often marginalized individuals) and think of his great compassion.  Surely executing someone for working on the Sabbath or committing idolatry is inconsistent with that ethic.

But at least the Levites got to eat.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT II, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF DAME JULIAN OF NORWICH, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDALENA OF CANOSSA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY AND THE SONS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-xiv-violence-and-compassion/

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Week of Proper 13: Monday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 13: Tuesday, Year 2   2 comments

Above:  Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire

Bad News and Good News

AUGUST 1 and 2, 2022

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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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FIRST READING FOR MONDAY

Jeremiah 28:1-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

That year, early in the reign of King Zedekiah of Judah, in the fifth month of the fourth year, the prophet Hananiah son of Azzur, who was from Gibeon, spoke to me in the House of the LORD, in the presence of the priests and all the people.  He said:

Thus said the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel:  I hereby break the yoke of the king of Babylon.  In two years, I will restore to this place all the vessels of the House of the LORD which King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon took from this place and brought to Babylon.  And I will bring back to this place King Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim of Judah, and all the Judean exiles who went to Babylon

–declares the LORD.

Yes, I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.

Then the prophet Jeremiah answered the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and of all the people who were standing in the House of the LORD.  The prophet Jeremiah said:

Amen!  May the LORD do so!  May the LORD fulfill what you have prophesied and bring back from Babylon to this place the vessels of the House of the LORD and all the exiles!  But just listen to this word which I address to you and to all the people:  The prophet who lived before you and me from ancient times prophesied war, disaster, and pestilence against many lands and great kingdoms.  So if a prophet prophesies good fortune, then only when the word of the prophet comes true can it be known that the LORD really sent him.

But the prophet Hananiah removed the bar from the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, and broke it, and Hananiah said in the presence of all the people,

Thus said the LORD:  So will I break the yoke of King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon from off the necks of all the nations, in two years.

And the prophet Jeremiah went on his way.

After the prophet Hananiah had broken the bar from off the neck of the prophet Jeremiah, the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah:

Go say to Hananiah:  Thus said the LORD:  You broke bars of wood, but you shall make bars of iron instead.  For thus said the LORD of Hosts, the God of Israel:  I have put an iron yoke upon the necks of all those nations, that they may serve King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon–and serve him they shall!  I have even given the wild beasts to him!

And the prophet Jeremiah said to the prophet Hananiah,

Listen, Hananiah!  The LORD did not send you, and you have given the people lying assurances.  Assuredly, thus said the LORD:  I am going to banish you from off the earth.  This year you shall die, for you have urged disloyalty to the LORD.

And the prophet Hananiah died that year, in the seventh month.

FIRST READING FOR TUESDAY

Jeremiah 30:1-2, 22-30 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD:

Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel:  Write down in a scroll all the words that I have spoken to you.

For thus said the LORD:

Your injury in incurable,

Your wound severe;

No one pleads for the healing of your sickness,

There is no remedy, no recovery for you.

All your lovers have forgotten you,

They do not seek you out;

For I have struck you as an enemy strikes,

With cruel chastisement,

Because your iniquity was so great

And your sins so many.

Why cry out over your injury,

That your wound in incurable?

I did these things to you

Because your iniquity was so great

And your sins so many.

Assuredly,

All who wanted to devour you shall be devoured,

And every one of your foes shall go into captivity;

Those who despoiled you I will give up to pillage.

But I will bring healing to you

And cure you of your wounds

–declares the LORD.

Though they called you, “Outcast,

That Zion whom no one seeks out,”

Thus said the LORD:

I will restore the fortunes of Jacob’s tents

And have compassion upon his dwellings.

The city shall be rebuilt on its mound,

And the fortress in its proper place.

From there shall issue thanksgiving

And the sound of dancers.

I will multiply them,

And they shall not be few;

I will make them honored,

His children shall be as of old,

And his community shall be established by My grace;

And I will deal with all his oppressors.

His chieftain shall be one of his own,

His ruler shall come from his midst;

I will bring him near, that he may approach Me

–declares the LORD–

For who would otherwise dare approach me?

You shall be My people,

And I will be your God.

RESPONSE FOR MONDAY

Psalm 119:89-96 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

89  O LORD, your word is everlasting;

it stands firm in the heavens.

90  Your faithfulness remains from one generation to another;

you established the earth, and it abides.

91  By your decree these continue to this day;

for all things are your servants.

92  If my delight had not been in your law,

I should have perished in my affliction.

93  I will never forget your commandments,

because by them you give me life.

94  I am yours; oh, that you would save me!

for I study your commandments.

95  Though the wicked lie in wait for me to destroy me,

I will apply my mind to your decrees.

96  I see that all things come to an end,

but your commandment has no bounds.

RESPONSE FOR TUESDAY

Psalm 102:16-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

16 For the LORD will build up Zion,

and his glory will appear.

17 He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless;

he will not despise their plea.

18 Let this be written for a future generation,

so that a people yet unborn may praise the LORD.

19 For the LORD looked down from his holy place on high;

from the heavens he beheld the earth;

20 That he might hear the groan of the captive

and set free those condemned to die;

21 That they may declare in Zion the Name of the LORD,

and his praise in Jerusalem;

22 When the peoples are gathered together,

and the kingdoms also, to serve the LORD.

THE GOSPEL READING FOR MONDAY

Matthew 13:13-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said,

This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.

Jesus said to them,

They need not go away; you give them something to eat.

They replied,

We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.

And he said,

Bring them here to me.

Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

THE GOSPEL READING FOR TUESDAY

Matthew 14:22-36 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

Directly after this Jesus insisted on his disciples’ getting aboard their boat and going on ahead to the other side, while he himself sent the crowds home.  And when he had sent them away he sent up the hill-side quite alone, to pray.  When it grew late he was there by himself while the boat was by now a good way from the shore at the mercy on the waves, for the wind was dead against them.  In the small hours Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples caught sight of him walking on water they were terrified.

It’s a ghost!

they said, and screamed with fear.  But at once Jesus spoke to them.

It’s all right!  It’s I myself, don’t be afraid!

Peter said,

Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you on the water.

Jesus replied,

Come on, then.

Peter stepped down from the boat and began to walk on the water, making for Jesus.  But when he saw the fury of the wind he panicked and began to sink, calling out,

Lord save me!

At once Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying,

You little-faith!  What made you lose you nerve like that?

Then, when they were both aboard the boat, the wind dropped.  The whole crew came and knelt down before Jesus, crying,

You are indeed the Son of God!

When they had crossed over to the other side of the lake, they landed at Gennesaret, and when the men of that place had recognised him, they sent word to the whole surrounding country and brought all the diseased to him.  They implored him to let them “touch just the edge of his cloak”, and all those who did so were completely cured.

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The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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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I have written a devotional post covering two days because I cannot think of anything new to say about the Monday readings, the themes of which I have covered recently.  Joining the two Jeremiah readings, however, does yield something I hope will prove edifying.

Hananiah might have believed what he said.  Even if we assume the best about him, he was incorrect, and his words offered false assurance.  Sometimes we lie to ourselves first then proclaim what we believe to be true.  But we are still wrong and inaccurate in such circumstances.  Hananiah said that God would break the yoke the Babylonian king in two years.  A few years later, that monarch took over the Kingdom of Judah, already a vassal state.  Yet, God told Jeremiah, there would be a return from exile.  Chaldea/Neo-Babylonia, which devoured Judah, fell to the Persians and the Medes.  And the relationship between YHWH and the Jews became stronger.

You shall be My people,

And I will be your God.

–Jeremiah 30:22, TANAKH

There was good news after all, but it followed the bad news.

Sometimes we might feel forsaken by God.  Indeed, the Bible does, in places, speak of God forsaking and destroying entire empires.  Yet we might not be forsaken.  The feeling might be purely in our imagination.  Or we might face a chastisement before restoration.

May we keep in mind that those who wrote certain texts and edited their final drafts did so with certain perspectives–sometimes owing to hindsight–in mind.  Sometimes YHWH comes across as abusive and otherwise cruel then alternatively loving, exhibiting manic-depressive-style mood swings.  Those who wrote the Bible experienced God powerfully and expressed their experiences the best way they could.  Our sensibilities might not mesh well with theirs, and that fact does not necessarily speak poorly of us.  Our object should be to seek God, not to transform the Bible into an idol with which we seek to agree on every point.

The YHWH of the Jewish Bible was passionate for the chosen people.  This same God, I say, is passionate about you, O reader, and about me.  May we return the love, as best we can, by grace.

KRT

Week of Proper 12: Saturday, Year 2   4 comments

Above: The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, by Caravaggio, 1608

Risks of Prophesy

JULY 30, 2022

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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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Jeremiah 26:11-16, 24 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The priests and prophets said to the officials and to all the people,

This man deserves the death penalty, for he has prophesied against this city, as you yourselves have heard.

Jeremiah said to the officials and to all the people,

It was the LORD who sent me to prophesy against this House and this city all the words you heard.  Therefore mend your ways and your acts, and heed the LORD your God, that the LORD may renounce the punishment He has decreed for you.  As for me, I am in your hands:  do to me what seems good and right to you.  But know that if you put me to death, you and this city and its inhabitants will be guilty of shedding the blood of an innocent man.  For in truth the LORD has sent me to you, to speak all these words to you.

Then the officials and all the people said to the priests and prophets,

This man does not deserve the death penalty, for he spoke to us in the name of the LORD our God.

However, Ahikam son of Shapan protected Jeremiah, so that he was not handed over to the people for execution.

Psalm 140:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Deliver me, O LORD, from evildoers;

protect me from the violent,

2  Who devise evil in their hearts

and stir up strife all day long.

3  They have sharpened their tongues like a serpent;

adder’s poison is under their lips.

4  Keep me, O LORD, from the hands of the wicked;

protect me from the violent,

who are determined to trip me up.

5  The proud have hidden a snare for me

and stretched out a net of cords;

they have set traps for me along the path.

Matthew 14:1-13 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

About this time Herod, governor of the province, heard the reports about Jesus and said to his men,

This must be John the Baptist:  he has risen from the dead.  That is why miraculous powers are at work in him.

For previously Herod had arrested John and had him bound and put in prison, all on account of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip.  For John had said to him,

It is not right for you to have this woman.

Herod wanted to kill him for this, but he was afraid of the people, since they all thought John was a prophet.  But during Herod’s birthday celebrations Herodias’ daughter delighted him by dancing before his guests, so much that he swore to give her anything she liked to ask.  And she, prompted by her mother, said,

I want you to give me, here and now, on a dish, the head of John the Baptist!

Herod was appalled at this, but because he had sworn in front of his guests, he gave orders that she should be given what she had asked.  So he sent men and had John beheaded in the prison.  Then his head was carried in on a dish and presented to the young girl who handed it to her mother.  Later, John’s disciples came, took his body and buried it.  Then they went and told the news to Jesus.  When he heard it he went away by boat to a deserted place, quite alone.

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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 12:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/week-of-proper-12-saturday-year-1/

Feast of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist (August 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-martyr-august-29/

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Jeremiah was just one prophet proclaiming the word of YHWH.  Another one was Uriah son of Shemaiah from Kiriath-jearim, who, like Jeremiah, faced the possibility of execution.  Uriah had fled to Egypt, but officials of King Jehoiakim had brought him back, killed him, and thrown his body into “the burial place of the common people” (26:23).  Yet Jeremiah lived, thanks to protection from Ahikam, son of King Josiah’s scribe, Shaphan.

Saint John the Baptist had condemned Herod Antipas, a client ruler for the Roman Empire, for entering into an incestuous marriage.  Antipas, a man of bad character, allowed the execution of John rather than lose face.  Contrast this behavior with Old Testament depictions of God as one who prefers mercy to an inexorable pronouncement of judgment.

Saint John the Baptist lacked a human protector, but one such person saved Jeremiah’s life.  May we, if opportunity presents itself, save the prophets among us, or at least refuse to be silent when we can speak up for them.

KRT

Proper 14, Year A   31 comments

Above:  A Scroll of the Book of Esther

Image in the Public Domain

“The Word is Near You….”

The Sunday Closest to August 10

The Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 13, 2023

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph,

Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.

He answered,

Here I am.

So he said to him,

Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.

So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him,

What are you seeking?

He said,

I am seeking my brothers; tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.

The man said,

They have gone away, for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.”

So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another,

Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying,

Let us not take his life.

Reuben said to them,

Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him

— that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers,

What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.

And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

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,

22 To instruct his princes according to his will

and to teach his elders wisdom.

45b Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

1 Kings 19:9-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

At Horeb, the mount of God, Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying,

What are you doing here, Elijah?

He answered,

I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.

He said,

Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said,

What are you doing here, Elijah?

He answered,

I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.

Then the LORD said to him,

Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.

Psalm 85:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

SECOND READING

Romans 10:5-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that

the person who does these things will live by them.

But the righteousness that comes from faith says,

Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”

(that is, to bring Christ down)

or

“Who will descend into the abyss?”

(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

The word is near you,

on your lips and in your heart

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says,

No one who believes in him will be put to shame.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For,

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written,

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 14:22-33 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying,

It is a ghost!

And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said,

Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

Peter answered him,

Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.

He said,

Come.

So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out,

Lord, save me!

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him,

You of little faith, why did you doubt?

When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying,

Truly you are the Son of God.

The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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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I have chosen to take my focus from Romans.  Thus I refer you, O reader, to the following links, for further details:

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

For Matthew–https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/week-of-proper-13-monday-year-1/

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Consider these words, put into the mouth of Moses toward the end of the Israelite sojourn in the wilderness:

For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say ‘Who will go over to the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil.   If you obey commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, they you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it.  But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish….  (Deuteronomy 30:11-18a, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

Paul was obviously familiar with this passage, for he channeled it in this day’s excerpt from Romans.  God’s message is not remote, he says; it is near us.  Indeed, the Hebrew prophets proclaimed this word, and many Jewish scriptures, originally oral tradition, did as well.  So did Jesus, God incarnate.  How much more concrete could God get than that?  So, yes, the word is very near us.  If we do not perceive it, we need to pay closer attention.

The reading from Deuteronomy describes following God as the path to life and the alternative as the route to death.  Life and death are both physical and spiritual in this context.  I typed only part of the germane passage; a portion I chose not to type concludes, “therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live….” (Deuteronomy 30:19)  But we know how the story unfolded, do we not?  Read the excerpt from 1 Kings; pious advocacy of monotheism by a portion of the population did not prevent the widespread practice of polytheism.  Thus hindsight, in the wake of the Babylonian Exile, informs the theology of final, edited version of much of the Hebrew Bible:  Spiritual infidelity led to the decline, division, and extinction of the Jewish kingdoms.

YHWH was a different kind of deity relative to the alleged members of pantheons.  As Professor Richard Elliott Friedman writes in his Commentary on the Torah:

In comparing Israel’s monotheism to pagan religion, we must appreciate that the difference between one and many is not the same sort of thing as the difference between two and three or between six and twenty.  It is not numerical.  It is a different concept of what a god is.  A God who is outside of nature, known through acts of history, a creator, unseeable, without a mate, who makes legal covenants with humans, who is one, is a revolution in religious conception. (Page 586)

The account from 1 Kings reinforces this point.  Adherents of other deities believed that they made themselves known in forces of nature, such as earthquakes, fire,  and mighty winds.  But YHWH did the opposite.  God does that often.  We find God in silence, not noise.  And we Christians worship God, who took on human form and became both fully human and fully divine.  (I have given up trying to explain this mystery and chosen to revel in it instead.)  God refuses to fit into our theological boxes.  If we cannot deal with this reality in a healthy way, then we need to read the great J. B. Phillips book, Your God is Too Small.

The word is near us.  It is present in the silence around us, as well as in any place we read or hear God speaking–certainly in the Bible, but not just there.  The word can also be present in other literature, as well as in nature.  The word is present anywhere the Holy Spirit speaks to us, including our minds.  So the word is around us and inside us.  Do we hear it?  Do we really hear it?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/the-word-is-very-near-you/