Archive for the ‘Matthew 15’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 7 (Year D)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Missing the Point, Part II

JUNE 21, 2020

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 29:1-24 or 59:1-21

Psalm 55

Matthew 15:1-20 or Mark 7:1-20

1 Timothy 4:1-6

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But you, O God, will make them descend to the sludgy Pit.

Let not men of idols and figurines live out their days.

For my part, I trust in you.

–Psalm 55:24, Mitchell J. Dahood, Psalms II (1968)

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A recurring theme in the Psalms is the sliminess of Sheol.  That is the kind of detail one can learn from Biblical scholars.

Those “men of idols and figurines” missed the point.  All evildoers who think vainly that God does not know their plans have missed the point.  Those who perpetuate social injustice and imagine that God has not noticed have missed the point.  Those who obsess over minor details of ritual purity laws while condoning the practice of denying necessary funds to people have missed the point.  (This is an echo of a theme from certain Hebrew prophets.)  Those who teach deceitful doctrines have missed the point.

One might miss the point for any one of a set of reasons.  One might be one of the blind led by other blind people and worse, leading other blind people, to borrow and expand upon a figure of speech from the Gospels.  One might be defending tradition as one understands God to have handed it down, as in 1 Timothy 4.  One might not care about not missing the point.  Or one might be self-serving and prone to interpreting morality through that distorted lens.

Heresies are legion, as they have been for a very long time.  A few generalizations regarding them are worth pondering:

  1. Objective religious truth exists.  For lack of a better name, let us call it God.
  2. The degree to which we can know doctrinal truth is restricted, due to the fact that we are mere mortals.
  3. The definition of orthodoxy changes over time, even within any given ecclesiastical institution.  Consider, for example, O reader, the evolution of theology in Roman Catholicism.  Some of the Ante-Nicene Fathers, who were orthodox in their time, became heretics ex post facto.
  4. Objective truth does not change.
  5. Many heresies began as attempts to pronounce orthodoxy in specific circumstances.
  6. Every person is somebody’s heretic.
  7. Every person is somewhat heretical.

We are left to do our best, trusting in God’s grace and commanded to love one another.  Christ is our Savior and exemplar.  The historical figure known as Jesus of Nazareth was the incarnate form of the Second Person of the Trinity, however that worked.  To be a Christian is to follow Christ, who not only spoke of loving one’s neighbors but modeled that behavior, even unto death.

Jesus did not miss the point.

By grace, may we not miss it either.

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/missing-the-point-part-ii/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 23, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

The Prophet Amos Gustave Dore

Above:  The Prophet Amos, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

The Impiety of Injustice

OCTOBER 13, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us your gift of faith,

that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead,

we may follow the way of your commandments

and receive the crown of everlasting joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 3:13-4:5

Psalm 90:12-17

Matthew 15:1-9

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So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

–Psalm 90:12, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The common thread in Amos 3:13-4:5 and Matthew 15:1-9 is the condemnation of defrauding the poor and robbing the needy, especially while maintaining the appearance of holiness.

Korban was a custom by which one gave money to the Temple, for the support of the priests.  Jesus accused some Pharisees and scribes of enriching themselves by accepting such donations.  The problem was that many such donations came at the expense of donors’ relatives, who needed that money.  Korban, therefore, became a means of committing impiety while maintaining the appearance of holiness.  Those who knowingly accepted such gifts were also guilty of a great offense.

A timeless lesson with many culturally specific examples is that attempting to cover up exploitation with the facade of piety neither fools nor impresses God, who commands the equitable treatment of people and condemns the exploitation and oppression thereof.  Rituals can prove to be beautiful and spiritually helpful, but one ought never to make a mockery of them by treating them like talismans in the service of shielding one from the consequences of one’s unjust acts for which one neither apologizes nor repents.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF IMMANUEL NITSCHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICIAN; HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, JACOB VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MORAVIAN BISHOP, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS SON, WILLIAM HENRY VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS BROTHER, CARL ANTON VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS DAUGHTER, LISETTE (LIZETTA) MARIA VAN VLECK MEINUNG; AND HER SISTER, AMELIA ADELAIDE VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/the-impiety-of-injustice/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 18, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Atlas Scan

Above:  Dougherty, Baker, and Mitchell Counties, Georgia

Image Source = Hammond’s Complete World Atlas (1951)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Nobility of Character

SEPTEMBER 6, 7, and 8, 2018

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The Collect:

Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform

sickness into health and death into life.

Openness to the power of your presence,

and make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the world,

through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 30:27-33 (Thursday)

Isaiah 32:1-18 (Friday)

Isaiah 33:1-9 (Saturday)

Psalm 146 (All Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Thursday)

Romans 2:12-16 (Friday)

Matthew 15:21-31 (Saturday)

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Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the Lord as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,

for there is no help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to the earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help:

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps faith forever;

who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

The LORD sets the prisoners free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

the LORD loves the righteous

and cares for the stranger;

the LORD sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked.

The LORD shall reign forever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 146, The Book of Common Worship (1993)

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When I was a graduate student in history at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, my thesis director asked me one day to help a friend and colleague of his who lived on the West Coast.  I was glad to do so.  The simple task entailed conducting some research there in town.  I learned what I could about a notorious law enforcement official (John Doe, for the purpose of this post) in an equally notorious county immediately south of Albany, Georgia, from the 1940s through the 1960s.  My answers came quickly.  Doe, whom his white-washed profile in the county history described as a devoted family man, a faithful Christian, and a deacon of the First Baptist Church in the county seat, was the sort of police officer who gave Southern law enforcement a bad name, especially among African Americans.  The federal government investigated him after he threw acid into the face of an African-American man, in fact.  No charges or disciplinary actions resulted, however, and Doe served locally until he retired and won a seat in the state General Assembly.  His offenses never caught up with him in this life.

A few years ago a student told a story in class.  He had been opening doors at his family’s church.  In the process he opened a closet door and found Ku Klux Klan robes.  Older members of the congregation preferred not to discuss why the robes were there.  I know, however, that the Klan had much support from many churchgoers a century ago and more recently than that.

A composite of the readings from Isaiah and Romans says that, among other things, character matters and becomes evident in one’s actions and inactions.  As we think, so we are and behave.  For example, do we really care for the vulnerable people around us, or do we just claim to do so?  To use other examples, do we profess “family values” while practicing serial infidelity or condemn gambling while playing slot machines?  Few offenses are more objectionable than hypocrisy.

Among my complaints about the Bible is the fact that it almost never mentions one’s tone of voice, a detail which can change the meaning of a statement.  Consider, O reader, the exchange between Jesus and the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:21-27.  Was he being dismissive of her?  I think not.  The text provides some clues to support my conclusion:

  1. Jesus had entered the region of Tyre and Sidon, Gentile territory, voluntarily.
  2. Later our Lord and Savior expressed his compassion for people outside that region via words and deeds.  Surely his compassion knew no ethnic or geographic bounds.

No, I propose that Jesus responded to the Canaanite woman to prompt her to say what she did, and that he found her rebuttal satisfactory.  Then he did as she requested.

Jesus acted compassionately and effectively.  Hebrew prophets condemned judicial corruption and the exploitation of the poor.  One function of the language of the Kingdom of God (in both Testaments) was to call the attention of people to the failings of human economic and political systems.  That function applies to the world today, sadly.

What does it say about your life, O reader?  In Isaiah 32 the standard of nobility is character, especially in the context of helping the poor, the hungry, and the thirsty–the vulnerable in society, more broadly.  Are you noble by that standard?  Do you love your neighbor as you love yourself?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF OLE T. (SANDEN) ARNESON, U.S. NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN HYMN TRANSLATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/nobility-of-character/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 8, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Good Samaritan

Above:  An Illustration from Ralph Kirby, The Bible in Pictures (1952), Page 82

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

That Which Defiles

JULY 2 and 3, 2018

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God,

we implore you to hear the prayers of your people.

Be our strong defense against all harm and danger,

that we may live and grow in faith and hope,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 21:1-15 (Monday)

Leviticus 15:19-31 (Tuesday)

Psalm 88 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 8:16-24 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 9:1-5 (Tuesday)

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But as for me, O LORD, I cry to you for help;

in the morning my prayer comes before you.

–Psalm 88:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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What makes one unclean?  What defiles a person?  To use the germane Greek idiom, what makes a person common?

The Law of Moses lists offenses which make a person common.  Today’s readings from Leviticus provide the following causes for defilement:

  1. Menstruation and contact with the discharge;
  2. Contact with discharged blood;
  3. Priestly contact with corpse, except that of a near relative;
  4. Priestly incest;
  5. Certain forms of grooming for priests;
  6. Priestly cutting of his own flesh;
  7. Priestly marriage to a harlot, a divorced woman, or a woman otherwise not a virgin on the day of the wedding to the priest;
  8. A priest’s daughter committing harlotry, thereby defiling her father and warranting her death; and
  9. Priestly baring of his head or rending of vestments.

The Law of Moses does not like female biology, does it?

The Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) includes a priest who refused to violate the third item on that list, for fear that the man lying by the side of the road might be dead.  That priest would have become ritually unclean, therefore not fit to perform sacred rituals for a few days, according to Leviticus 21.  The priest was not the hero of our Lord and Savior’s story.

What really makes one unclean, defiled?  Jesus answered that question in Matthew 15:18-19:

But the things that come out of a man’s mouth come from his heart and mind, and it is they that really make a man unclean.  For it is from a man’s mind that evil thoughts arise–murder, adultery, lust, theft, perjury, and slander.

–J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972)

Mark 7:15 contains a succinct statement:

There is nothing outside a man which can enter him and make him “common.”  It is the things which come out of a man that make him “common”!

–J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972)

The list from Matthew 15 describes how to harm others and oneself in the process.  Building up others (and therefore oneself in the process), as in the readings from 2 Corinthians, does the opposite of defiling one, therefore.  The priest in the Parable of the Good Samaritan should have thought of that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES VILLIERS SANFORD, COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HENRY BRENT, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK

THE FEAST OF JOHN MARRIOTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT RUPERT OF SALZBURG, APOSTLE OF BAVARIA AND AUSTRIA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/that-which-defiles/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday after Proper 26, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees James Tissot

Above:  Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

Neglecting Human Needs in the Name of God

NOVEMBER 2-4, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, generous and supreme, your loving Son lived among us,

instructing us in the ways of humility and justice.

Continue to ease our burdens, and lead us to serve alongside of him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 5:18-31 (Monday)

Lamentations 2:13-17 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 16:21-33 (Wednesday)

Psalm 5 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (Monday)

Acts 13:1-12 (Tuesday)

Matthew 15:1-9 (Wednesday)

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Braggarts cannot stand in your sight;

you hate all those who work wickedness.

You destroy those who speak lies;

the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O LORD, you abhor.

–Psalm 5:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The dominant theme of these days’ readings is that false prophets are bad people whom God will punish.  Related to that theme is another:  following false prophets leads to a bad end.  I have summarized that point, which the lessons state eloquently, so I will not dwell on it.  A side comment germane to the topic is that nobody who taught me in Sunday School when I was a child mentioned the story from Acts 13, in which St. Paul the Apostle blinds Elymas the sorcerer with only the power of words and the Holy Spirit.  I could have sworn also that Jesus said to love one’s enemies and that the Apostle wrote that people should overcome evil with good, so I have some unanswered questions about that story.  Maybe those in charge of my childhood Sunday School classes considered the tale too troublesome, assuming that they knew of it.  Many of my childhood Sunday School teachers seemed to know remarkably little about the Bible and much of what they did “know” was objectively wrong.  But I digress.

I choose to focus instead on Matthew 15:1-9.  Jesus chastises some Pharisees for obsessing over an extra-biblical point of ritual hand-washing–a matter of the theology of cleanliness and uncleanliness, of purity and impurity–while accepting gifts which should go instead to support the aging parents of the donors.  Donating wealth to the Temple for the support of professional religious people could be a pious act or a dodge of one’s obligation to honor one’s parents; motivation made all the difference.  Our Lord and Savior’s driving point remains relevant, for how we treat each other (especially within families) matters to God.  Related to that point is a second:  do not obsess about minor points and imagine that doing so makes one holy while one violates major points.

I, as an Episcopalian, embrace the Anglican Three-Legged Stool:  Scripture, tradition, and reason.  A better mental image is a tricycle, with Scripture as the big wheel.  My theology places tradition in a place of respect, where it belongs.  Thus I reject certain Protestant interpretations of Matthew 15:1-9 as a condemnation of all extra-biblical tradition.  My reasoning extends beyond the fact of my chosen denomination, for I understand that even those who criticize extra-biblical traditions of others for being extra-biblical have their own.  Such criticism reeks of hypocrisy.

No, I situate my criticism of those Pharisees where Jesus did:  neglecting human needs while providing theological cover for the practice.  Those who engage in such behaviors are truly false teachers who harm others.  And God is watching them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/neglecting-human-needs-in-the-name-of-god/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 13, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Gathering of the Manna

Above:  The Gathering of the Manna

Image in the Public Domain

The Extravagance of God

AUGUST 5, 2020

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The Collect:

Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness,

and you cover creation with abundance.

Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit,

and with this food fill all the starving world,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 16:2-15, 31-35

Psalm 78:1-8, 17-29

Matthew 15:32-39

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He rained down manna upon them to eat

and gave them grain from heaven.

So mortals ate the bread of angels;

he provided for them food enough.

–Psalm 78:24-25, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That manna was probably crystallized excrement of insects, but it was sufficient.  Such excrement is, to this day, a product which many people consume without harmful effects.  Perhaps the greatest barrier for Westerners such as myself is the “ick” factor, which results from knowing what something people from cultures quite different from ours consume on a regular basis.

There was enough manna, which people were forbidden to stockpile.  In Matthew 15:32-39, where Jesus fed four thousand men plus uncounted women and children, there were initially only seven loaves and a few small fish yet seven baskets full of leftovers at the end.  The extravagance of the story in the Gospel of Matthew is remarkable.  That which seemed woefully insufficient was actually more than enough in the hands of Jesus.

The spiritual lesson remains true regardless of the issue of historical accuracy.  I have known people who have insisted that they had no talents to use in service to God, as if the matter was about them.  No, their inferiority complex aside, the matter was always about God, who seems to expect relatively little of us–the offering of the metaphorical seven loaves of bread and a few small fish plus confidence in divine abilities–and calls that enough.  This little bit, compared to all that God has done, is doing, and will do, is quite small.  Yet it proves difficult for many people.  Sometimes it has been impossible for me.  At those times God supplied the necessary grace.  The light of God is constant, I suppose, but it seems brightest in the blackest darkness.

The extravagance of God astounds me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/the-extravagance-of-god/

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Devotion for October 20 and 21 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  The Canaanite Woman

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XV:  Jesus or Deuteronomy?

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 20, 2019, and MONDAY, OCTOBER 21, 2019

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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 19:1-20 (October 20)

Deuteronomy 20:1-20 (October 21)

Psalm 67 (Morning–October 20)

Psalm 51 (Morning–October 21)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–October 20)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–October 21)

Matthew 15:1-20 (October 20)

Matthew 15:21-39 (October 21)

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Jesus of Nazareth, our Lord and Savior, showed great compassion in the stories collected in Matthew 15.  He focused on inner purity or lack thereof (as opposed to ritual purity or impurity), healed a Gentile’s daughter and many suffering people then fed four thousand men plus uncounted women and children.  His heart went out to people (not just the 4000+).  So Jesus acted.

Meanwhile, back in Deuteronomy, we find the usual combination of mercy and proscribed violence. For the latter, O reader, see 20:10-14, where the alternative to death is forced labor.  Yes, I disagree with these laws which command killing or forced labor.  Why should I not do so?  Whom would Jesus kill or enslave?  After all, his heart went out to people.

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-xv-jesus-or-deuteronomy/

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