Archive for the ‘Matthew 16’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 20, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Sunlight Through Trees with Building Ruins

Photographer = Theodor Horydczak

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-H824-T-1927-005

A Light to the Nations

SEPTEMBER 22, 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 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 42:1-26 or Isaiah 49:1-13

Psalm 26

1 Corinthians 10:1-17

Matthew 16:13-28

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God raises the stakes.  One would think (in Isaiah 49) that, for the people of Israel, identified as the servant of God, restoring the survivors of Israel after the Babylonian Exile would be a sufficiently daunting challenge.  But no!  The mission of the people of Israel in Isaiah 49 is to be a light to the nations.  In Matthew 16 we read of the Confession of St. Peter (yes, the rock upon which Christ built the Church) and Jesus’s immediate rebuke of St. Peter, who failed to understand the meanings of messiahship and discipleship.  Each of us has a calling to take up his or her cross and follow Jesus.  One who does not do that is not a follower of Jesus.  In Genesis 42 we read of most of Joseph’s brothers.  Their challenge, we read, is really to face themselves.  That is our greatest challenge, is it not?  Can each of us deal effectively with the person in the mirror?

The main words in 1 Corinthians 10:1-17 are “idols” and “idolatry.”  Idols, for us, are whatever we treat as such.  Everyone has a set of them.  The test of idolatry is whether an object, practice, idea, et cetera distracts one from God, who calls us to lay idols aside.  How can we follow Christ and be lights of God when pursuing idols instead?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AMBROSE OF MILAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT MONICA OF HIPPO, MOTHER IF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO; AND SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF HIPPO REGIUS

THE FEAST OF DENIS WORTMAN, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LAURA S. COPERHAVER, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND MISSIONARY LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES THE BLACK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/08/28/a-light-to-the-nations-viii/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 13, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Agape Feast

Above:  Agape Feast

Image in the Public Domain

Insensitivity to Human Needs

JULY 29-31, 2021

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The Collect:

O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love,

you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied.

Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 12:33-42 (Thursday)

Exodus 12:43-13:2 (Friday)

Exodus 13:3-10 (Saturday)

Psalm 78:23-29 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 11:17-22 (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 11:27-34 (Friday)

Matthew 16:5-12 (Saturday)

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So mortals ate the bread of angels;

he provided for them food enough.

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

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The Passover meal, from which we Christians derive the Holy Eucharist, originates from the context of divine liberation of slaves from an empire founded upon violence, oppression, and exploitation.  The Passover meal is a communal spiritual exercise, a rite of unity and a reminder of human dependence on God.

The readings from 1 Corinthians 11 refer to abuses of the agape meal, or the love feast, from which the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist evolved.  There was a sacred potluck meal inside house churches.  The idea was that people gave as they were able and received as they had need to do so.  There was enough for everybody to have enough–a spiritual principle of the Kingdom of God–when all went was it was supposed to do.  Unfortunately, in the Corinthian church, some of the wealthy members were eating at home prior to services, thus they chose not to share with less fortunate, who did not have access to enough good meals.  This bad attitude led to the love feast becoming a means of division–especially of class distinctions–not of unity, and therefore of unworthy consumption of the sacrament by some.  Is not becoming drunk at a love feast an example of unworthy consumption?  And is not partaking of the sacrament with a selfish attitude toward one’s fellow church members an example of unworthy consumption?

“The leaven of the Pharisees and the Sadducees” (Matthew 16:6) refers to forms of piety which depend upon wealth, thereby writing off the poor “great unwashed” as less pious and defining the self-proclaimed spiritual elites as supposedly holier.  The Pharisees and the Sadducees, who collaborated with the Roman occupiers, could afford to pay religious fees, but most people in Judea lived a hand-to-mouth existence.  The combination of Roman and local taxes, fees, and tolls was oppressive.  And keeping the purity codes while struggling just to survive was impossible.  Jesus argued against forms of piety which perpetuated artificial inequality and ignored the reality that all people depend entirely on God, rely on each other, and are responsible to and for each other.

To this day teaching that we depend entirely upon God, rely on each other, and are responsible to and for each other will get one in trouble in some churches.  I recall some of the congregations in which I grew up.  I think in particular of conversations between and among parishioners, many of whom considered such ideas too far to the theological and political left for their comfort.  Many of them labored under the illusion of rugged individualism and embraced the “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” mentality.  Those ideas, however, were (and remain) inconsistent with the biblical concepts of mutuality and recognition of total dependence upon God.  May we put those idols away and love our neighbors as we love ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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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Adapted from this post:

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/insensitivity-to-human-needs/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 16, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Foundation of the Tower of Antonia

Above:  Foundation of the Tower of Antonia, Jerusalem, Palestine, 1921

Image Creators = Jamal Brothers

Image Source = Library of Congress

Exile and Restoration

AUGUST 22, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, with all your faithful followers in every age, we praise you, the rock of our life.

Be our strong foundation and form us into the body of your Son,

that we may gladly minister to all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 36:33-38

Psalm 138

Matthew 16:5-12

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All the kings of the earth shall praise you, O Lord,

for they have heard the words of your mouth.

They shall sing of the ways of the Lord,

that great is the glory of the Lord.

–Psalm 138:4-5, Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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That was part of the vision of the Book of Ezekiel.  The theology of that text held that exile was divine punishment for persistent national sins and that God would act mightily to restore the fortunes of Israel for the glory of the divine name and the benefit of the people.  Surely such an impressive act would convince many skeptical people that God (YHWH) was not only real but great.  It was a hopeful vision, but life in post-exilic Judea fell far short of those expectations.  At the time of Christ the Roman Empire ruled in military might and with economic exploitation, with the collaboration of Jerusalem Temple officials in Jerusalem.  The exilic experience persisted, with the ironic twist that the exiles were home.

We human beings have a tendency to use logic to confirm our opinions.  Thus we tend to seek prooftexts, cherry-pick evidence, and seek not to become “confused by the facts.”  This reality helps to explain much political discord, especially when disputing partisans cannot agree even on the definition of objective reality.

Sadducees and Pharisees disagreed on many substantive issues, but members of both camps were in league with the Roman Empire and challenged Jesus.  Of course their stations in life and their theological opinions reinforced each other in a repeating feedback loop, but I suspect that many Sadducees and Pharisees were sincere in their doctrine.  They followed the Law of Moses as they understood it and recalled lessons from Hebrew tradition about the relationship between national sin and fortunes.  And certainly they understood our Lord and Savior as a threat in the overlapping realms of economics, politics, and religion.

I know which side I support, for I am a Christian, a partisan of Christ.  Both the Pharisees and Sadducees sought to perpetuate forms of piety dependent on wealth.  Peasants could not find enough time to keep all the Pharisaic rules and regulations, for they had to work for so many hours.  And Sadducees, who rejected the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, channeled considerable efforts into maintaining aristocratic status and estates for the next generation to inherit.  That brought them into disagreement with Jesus.

Exile can assume many forms.  People can be in exile at home or abroad, physically or spiritually.  Exiles might not even know that they are in exile and therefore in need of restoration.  Informing such exiles of their actual status might prompt not return, restoration, and gratitude but hostility and even violence.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you will preserve me;

you will stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand will save me.

The Lord shall make good his purpose for me;

your loving-kindness, O Lord, endures for ever;

forsake not the work of your hands.

–Psalm 138:7-8, Book of Common Prayer (2004)

The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VI (1956), page 266, offers a germane analysis:

God does not impose his gracious purpose on us, but waits until we ourselves desire it of him.  We sometimes hear it argued that if God is really eager to bless us, he will give up now what we need and not wait till we ask him.  But is that so?  Surely God is never concerned merely to give us things, but only in and through what he gives us to train to be his children, true men and women.  He can adequately bless us only when we ourselves are ready and eager for his blessing.  Thus some of us discover for the first time what if it really means to relish our food–because we come to it hungry.  It is as simple as that.

So, how eager are you, O reader, to receive the grace God has for you and the responsibilities which come with it?  Grace is free to us; we cannot purchase it.  But it is not cheap, for it costs us much.  Many have even died in faithful response.  They have died as free people–not exiles–in Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 16, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY MAGDALEN POSTEL, FOUNDER OF THE POOR DAUGHTERS OF MERCY

THE FEAST OF JOHN MOORE WALKER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE RIGHTEOUS GENTILES

THE FEAST OF WALTER CRONKITE, JOURNALIST

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This post owes much to the scholarship of Richard Horsley.  Perhaps the most compact book in his oeuvre is Jesus and Empire:  The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder (Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 2003).

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/exile-and-restoration/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 14, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Signs

AUGUST 6-8, 2020

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The Collect:

O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid.

Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons daughters from fear,

and preserve us in the faith of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 18:1-16 (Thursday)

1 Kings 18:17-19, 30-40 (Friday)

1 Kings 18:41-46 (Saturday)

Psalm 85:8-13 (All Days)

Acts 17:10-15 (Thursday)

Acts 18:24-28 (Friday)

Matthew 16:1-4 (Saturday)

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Favor your land, Yahweh,

restore the fortunes of Jacob!

Forgive the guilt of your people,

remit all their sin!

Withdraw all your fury,

abate your blazing wrath!

–Psalm 85:2-4, Mitchell Dahood, The Anchor Bible, Volume 17:  Psalms II:  51-100 (1968)

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The theology of the narrative in 1 Kings 18 holds that God is in control of nature and that the long drought is a form of divine punishment for idolatry.  At the beginning of the chapter the drought has entered its third year.  At the end of the chapter, after the slaughter of the priests of Baal, the drought is over.  1 Kings 18 contains at least three signs–drought, the consumption of Elijah’s offering, and the end of the drought.

The greatest sign in all of the Bible was the incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  Our Lord and Savior performed many miracles, some even over long distances.  Were those signs insufficient?  Some Pharisees and Sadducees, whose sects were traditional adversaries, acted as if these impressive signs were irrelevant and insufficient.  Maybe they chose not to believe because of the high costs to them in the realms of economics, politics, psychology, and social status.  Whatever their reasons for rejecting Jesus, their question was insincere.  Not even the sign of Jonah–a reference to the death and Resurrection of Jesus–convinced them, for they had made up their minds.  They did not want facts to confuse them.  St. Paul the Apostle got into legal trouble with such people within living memory of the Resurrection.

God, it seems, send signs at the times and in the ways of God’s own choosing.  Often these times and methods are far from those we expect, so that reality upsets us.  Furthermore, the content of these signs upsets our apple carts, threatens our identities, and calls into question some of our most beloved establishments much of the time.  Consider Jesus, O reader.  His mere newborn existence proved sufficient to unnerve a tyrant, Herod the Great.  Later, when Jesus spoke and acted, he called into question the Temple system, which exploited the masses economically and aided and abetted the Roman imperial occupation.  In so doing Our Lord and Savior crossed paths with Roman authorities and questioned a system which gave some people economic benefits, psychological reinforcement, and social status, none of which they wanted to surrender.

The signs of Jesus continue to challenge us in concrete examples from daily life.  Have we excluded or marginalized anyone wrongly?  The words and deeds of Jesus confront us with our sin.  Have we exploited others economically or made excuses for an economically exploitative or related practices?  The words and deeds of Jesus confront us with our sin.  Have we favored the security of empire and/or military might over the freedom which comes from trusting God?  The words and deeds of Jesus confront us with our sin.  They also call us to repent–to change our mind, to turn around–and offer forgiveness when we do, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BETTY FORD, U.S. FIRST LADY AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GRIMWALD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/signs/

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Week of Proper 13: Friday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 13: Saturday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  Habakkuk

God is Sufficient

AUGUST 7 and 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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FIRST READING FOR FRIDAY

Nahum 2:1-3 and 3:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

(YHWH speaking)

Behold on the hills

The footsteps of a herald

Announcing good fortune!

A shatterer has come up against you.

Man the guard posts,

Watch the road;

Steady your loins,

Brace all your strength!

For the LORD has restored the Pride of Jacob

As well as the Pride of Israel,

Though marauders have laid them waste

And ravaged their branches.

Ah, city of crime,

Utterly treacherous,

Full of violence,

Where killing never stops!

Crack of whip

And rattle of wheel,

Galloping steed

And bounding chariot!

Charging horsemen,

Flashing swords,

And glittering spears!

Hosts of slain

And heaps of corpses,

Dead bodies without number–

They stumble over bodies.

Because of the countless harlotries of the harlot,

The winsome mistress of sorcery,

Who ensnared nations with her harlotries

And peoples with her sorcery,

I am going to deal with you

–declares the LORD of Hosts.

I will lift up your skirts over your face

And display your nakedness to the nations

And your shame to kingdoms.

I will throw loathsome things over you

And disfigure you

And make a spectacle of you.

All who see you will recoil from you

And will say,

“Nineveh has been ravaged!”

Who will console her?

Where shall I look for

Anyone to comfort you?

FIRST READING FOR SATURDAY

Habakkuk 1:12-2:4 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

(Habakkuk speaking)

You, O LORD, are from everlasting;

My holy God, You never die.

O LORD, You have made them a subject of contention;

O Rock, You have made them a cause for complaint.

You whose eyes are too pure to look upon evil,

Who cannot countenance wrongdoing,

Why do You countenance treachery,

And stand by idle

While the one in the wrong devours

The one in the right?

You have made mankind like the fish of the sea,

Like creeping things that have no ruler.

He has fished them all up with a line,

Pulled them up in his trawl,

And gathered them in his net.

That is why he rejoices and is glad.

That is why he sacrifices in his trawl

And makes offerings to his net;

For through them his portion is rich

And his nourishment fat.

Shall he then keep emptying his trawl,

And slaying nations without pity?

I will stand on my watch,

Take up my station at the post,

And wait to see what He will say tome,

What He will reply to my complaint.

The LORD answered me and said:

Write the prophecy down,

Inscribe it clearly on tablets,

So that it can be read easily.

For there is yet a prophecy for a set term,

A truthful witness for a time that will come.

Even if it tarries, wait for it still;

For it will surely come, without delay:

Lo his spirit within him is puffed up, not upright,

But he righteous man is rewarded with life

For his fidelity….

RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say;

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

Then would they have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then the waters would have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

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.

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

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

RESPONSE FOR SATURDAY

Psalm 9:7-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7  But the LORD is enthroned for ever;

he has set up his throne for judgment.

8  It is he who rules the world with righteousness;

he judges the peoples with equity.

9  The LORD will be a refuge for the oppressed,

a refuge in time of trouble.

10  Those who know your Name will put their trust in you,

for you never forsake those who seek you, O LORD.

11  Sing praise to the LORD who dwells in Zion;

proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.

12  The Avenger of blood will remember them;

he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.

GOSPEL READING FOR FRIDAY

Matthew 16:24-28 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus said to his disciples,

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his real life?  What could a man offer to buy back that life once he has lost it?

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father and in the company of his angels and then he will repay every man for what he has done.  Believe me, there are some standing here today who will know nothing of death till they have seen the Son of Man coming as king.

GOSPEL READING FOR SATURDAY

Matthew 17:14-20 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When they returned to the crowd again a man came and knelt in front of Jesus.

Lord, have pity on my son,

he said,

for he is a lunatic and suffers terribly.  He is always falling into the fire or into the water.  I did bring him to your disciples but they couldn’t cure him.

Jesus returned,

You really are an unbelieving and difficult people.  How long must I be with you, and how long must I put up with you?  Bring him here to me!

Then Jesus spoke sternly to the evil spirit and it went out of the boy, who was cured from that moment.

Afterwards the disciples approached Jesus privately and asked,

Why weren’t we able to get rid of it?

Jesus replied

Because you have so little faith.  I assure you that if you have faith the size of a mustard-seed you can say to this hill, ‘Up you get and move over there!” and it will move–and you will find nothing is impossible.

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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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For a while now I have been reading and writing a series of lessons from the theologically-oriented histories and from certain prophetic books of the Hebrew Bible.  Some themes have repeated in the arrangement of texts, in close proximity to each other, so I have run out of new things to say, hence my more frequent practice of combining texts from two consecutive days.  The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following will move along to Ezekiel next, before returning to the Pauline epistles for the first reading.  I will welcome new and different material, for variety is the spice of life, especially with regard to the Bible.

We read in Nahum that God will destroy the foreign powers who impose exile on the ancient Jews.  And God, we read, is with the humble, not the puffed up.  And Jesus tells each of us to take up his or her cross and follow him, and to focus primarily on spiritual matters, not temporal pursuits.  Furthermore, we read, we need not have much faith, but we ought not have too little of it.  We must, above all, have the proper orientation–toward God.

Certain themes repeat in the Bible.  A few of them follow:

  1. God dislikes haughtiness.
  2. God likes humility.
  3. Obedience to God leads to suffering sometimes.
  4. Disobedience to God leads to suffering sometimes.
  5. God can use our few resources to great effect.

May we walk humbly with God, trusting God to be sufficient.  This difficult much of the time for many of us.  We fret because we do not know and because we know this be true.  Planning becomes impossible after a point, and panic can set in.  Yet God is more faithful than we can imagine.  So may we walk humbly with God, trusting God to be sufficient.

KRT

Week of Proper 13: Wednesday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 13: Thursday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Nicodemus and Jesus, by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov

Born from Above

AUGUST 5 and 6, 2020

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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FIRST READING FOR WEDNESDAY

Jeremiah 31:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

At that time

–declares the LORD–

I will be God to all the clans of Israel, and they shall be My people.

Thus said the LORD:

The people escaped from the sword,

Found favor in the wilderness;

When Israel was marching homeward

The LORD revealed Himself to me of old.

Eternal love I conceived for you then;

Therefore I continue My grace to you.

I will build you firmly again,

O Maiden Israel!

Again you shall take up your timbrels

And go forth to the rhythm of the dancers.

Again you shall plant vineyards

On the hills of Samaria;

Men shall plant and live to enjoy them.

For the day is coming when watchmen

Shall proclaim on the heights of Ephraim:

Come, let us go up to Zion,

To the LORD our God!

For thus said the LORD:

Cry out in joy for Jacob,

Shout at the crossroads of the nations!

Sing aloud in praise, and say:

Save, O LORD, Your people,

The remnant of Israel.

FIRST READING FOR THURSDAY

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

See, a time is coming

–declares the LORD–

when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers, when I took them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, though I espoused them

–declares the LORD.

But such is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel after these days

–declares the LORD:

I will put My Teaching into their inmost being and inscribe it upon their hearts.  Then I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  No longer will they need to teach one another and say to one another, “Heed the LORD”; for all of them, from the least of them to the greatest, shall heed Me

–declares the LORD.

For I will forgive their iniquities,

And remember their sins no more.

RESPONSE FOR WEDNESDAY

Psalm 121 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

2  My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

3  He will not let your foot be moved

and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

4  Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber nor sleep;

5  The LORD himself watches over you;

the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

6  So that the sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.

7  The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;

it is he who shall keep you safe.

8  The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in,

from this time forth for evermore.

RESPONSE FOR THURSDAY

Psalm 51:11-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17  Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,

but you take no pleasure in burnt-offerings.

18  The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

GOSPEL READING FOR WEDNESDAY

Matthew 15:21-28 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

Jesus then left that place and retired into the Tyre and Sidon district.  There a Canaanite woman from those parts came to him crying at the top of her voice,

Lord, son of David, have pity on me!  My daughter is in a terrible state–a devil has got into her!

Jesus made no answer, and the disciples came up to him and said,

Do not send her away–she’s still following us and calling out.

Jesus replied,

I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Then the woman came and knelt at his feet.

Lord, help me,

she said.

It is not right, you know,

Jesus replied,

to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

She returned,

Yes, Lord, I know, but even the dogs live on the scraps that fall from their master’s table!

Jesus returned,

You certainly don’t lack faith; it shall be as you wish.

And at that moment her daughter was healed.

GOSPEL READING FOR THURSDAY

Matthew 16:13-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When Jesus reached the Caesarea-Philippi district he asked his disciples a question.

Who do people say the Son of Man is?

They told him,

Well, some say John the Baptist.  Some say Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

He said to them,

But what about you?  Who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered,

You?  You are Christ, the Son of the Living God!

Jesus said,

Simon, son of Jonah, you a fortunate man indeed!  For it was not your own nature but my Heavenly Father who revealed this truth to you!  Now I tell you that you are Peter the rock, and it is on this rock that I am going to found my Church, and the powers of death will never have the power to destroy it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in Heaven and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven!

Then he impressed on his disciples that they should not tell anyone that he was Christ.

From that time onwards Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he would have to go to Jerusalem, and endure much suffering from the elders, chief priests and scribes, and finally be killed; and be raised to life again on the third day.

Then Peter took him on one side and started to remonstrate with him over this.

God bless you, Master!  Nothing like this must happen to you!

Then Jesus turned round and said to Peter,

Out of my way, Satan!…you stand right in my path, Peter, when you think the thoughts of man and not those of God.

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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 solemnly assure you,

no one can see the kingdom of God

without being begotten from above.

–John 3:3, The Anchor Bible

Jeremiah 31 speaks of, among other things, an internalized relationship and covenant with God.  Words will cease to be necessary, for the relationship will be intrinsic.  Both passages from that chapter remind me of an often misunderstood concept from John 3.  The Evangelical misapprehension of “born from above,” thereby transforming it into “born again,” as in the perceived necessity of a dramatic or defined conversion experience, is an error.  There are many of us who lack such an experience yet who are close to God, and who are hopefully getting nearer.

The Gentile woman understood something profound.  So did Simon Peter, although he had no idea of the full implication of what he confessed.  At least it was a start.  We humans are spiritual beings having physical experiences, so how can we not brush up against God?

And it is no wonder to me that God slips into our minds, bypassing our five senses.  I have assumed this for years, and circumstances (inside my cranium) have confirmed my conclusion.  If we are open to God, we will learn quite a bit just by being quiet.  And not all of us will require metaphorical conks over the heard to draw nearer and nearer to God.  Yes, some people do have dramatic experiences with God, and therefore clearly defined conversions.  Yet one ought not to assume that one cannot be a Christian without such an experience.

Perhaps Single Predestination applies to this theme.  Some of us come to God via the witness of the Holy Spirit, which works in many ways, some of them subtle.  Others of us are among the predestined to Heaven.  There is no need for a conversion experience in such cases, is there?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/born-from-above/

Proper 17, Year A   33 comments

Above:  The Burning Bush Logo of the Church of Scotland

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God

The Sunday Closest to August 31

The Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 30, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 3:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said,

I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.

When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush,

Moses, Moses!

And he said,

Here I am.

Then he said,

Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.

He said further,

I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the LORD said,

I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.

But Moses said to God,

Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

He said,

I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.

But Moses said to God,

If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?

God said to Moses,

I AM Who I AM.

He said further,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’

God also said to Moses,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,

and this is my title for all generations.

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c (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.

23 Israel came into Egypt,

and Jacob became a sojourner in the land of Ham.

24 The LORD made his people exceedingly fruitful;

he made them stronger than their enemies;

25 Whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people,

and dealt unjustly with his servants.

26 He sent Moses his servant,

and Aaron whom he had chosen.

45c Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Jeremiah 15:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

O LORD, you know;

remember me and visit me,

and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.

In your forbearance do not take me away;

know that on your account I suffer insult.

Your words were found, and I ate them,

and your words became to me a joy

and the delight of my heart;

for I am called by your name,

O LORD, God of hosts.

I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,

nor did I rejoice;

under the weight of your hand I sat alone,

for you had filled me with indignation.

Why is my pain unceasing,

my wound incurable,

refusing to be healed?

Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,

like waters that fail.

Therefore thus says the LORD:

If you turn back, I will take you back,

and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,

you shall serve as my mouth.

It is they who will turn to you,

not you who will turn to them.

And I will make you to this people

a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,

but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you

to save you and deliver you, says the LORD.

I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,

and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

Psalm 26:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and not faltered.

2 Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully with you.

4 I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

7 Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.

SECOND READING

Romans 12:9-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 16:21-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying,

God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.

But he turned and said to Peter,

Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

Then Jesus told his disciples,

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

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The prophet Jeremiah was having a very bad day.  He had been preaching the word of God for awhile.  And, for all his trouble, he had faced rejection and persecution.

Be honest.  Have you not turned to God and complained bitterly?  Have you not accused God of being absent in your time of need?  I have.  So did Jeremiah.  There is nothing wrong with this, for a relationship with God, if it is healthy, is honest.

And God answered Jeremiah’s lament.  Get beyond yourself, God said.  Get busy, God said.  And I will be with you, God said.

This was also God’s message to Moses, a fugitive murderer on the run from Egyptian authorities.  Moses received a straight-forward mandate:  to return to Egypt, speak for God, and play a vital part in the divine plan to liberate the Hebrews from slavery.  This was a daunting task, and Moses was a poor speaker.  But Aaron was a better orator, and God would be with them.

God does not call the qualified; God qualifies the called.

Jeremiah had asked God to undertake vengeance upon his enemies.  Paul, in Romans, reflects the opposite point of view.  Vengeance, he says, is purely a matter for God.  Followers of God are supposed to love their enemies, as well as their friends and other like-minded people.  Vengeance is a natural desire, one I know well.  But it does not help one glorify and enjoy God forever.  Revenge is not Christ-like.

Speaking of Jesus…

Last week, https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/proper-16-year-a/, Peter had just become the first rock of human faith on the rock mass of God, and Jesus had just said how blessed the Apostle was.  Then, in this week’s installment, Jesus predicted his own arrest, torture, execution, and resurrection.  Peter, horrified, protested.  Then Jesus rebuked the man he had just blessed.  Jesus understood his own divine call, which was to atone for sin.  This purpose came at a high cost to him.  The mission of the Apostles was to follow their Lord, and most of them became martyrs.

God challenges us to move beyond ourselves, serve others, love others as ourselves–created in the divine image, and take on difficult tasks for a greater purpose.  This is truly risky business, but Moses, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Simon Peter chose to remain faithful and to endure.  Two of them died for it, one died in exile, and the fourth spent a generation in the Sinai Desert with a horde of grumblers.  And all four are heroes of faith.

Jesus, of course, was and is far more than a hero of faith.  And he calls us to assume risks.  Each of us ought to take up a cross and follow him.  We need to be the best disciples we can be.  That is the call of God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/the-call-of-god/

Proper 16, Year A   31 comments

Above:  Saint Peter, by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

Upon This Rock…

The Sunday Closest to August 24

The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 23, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 1:8-2:10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people,

Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.

Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah,

When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.

But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them,

Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?

The midwives said to Pharaoh,

Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.

So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people,

Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him,

This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,

she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter,

Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?

Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,

Yes.

So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her,

Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.

So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses,

because,

she said,

I drew him out of the water.

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 they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

4 Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right 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.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 51:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,

you that seek the LORD.

Look to the rock from which you were hewn,

and to the quarry from which you were dug.

Look to Abraham your father

and to Sarah who bore you;

for he was but one when I called him,

but I blessed him and made him many.

For the LORD will comfort Zion;

he will comfort her waste places,

and will make her wilderness like Eden,

her desert like the garden of the LORD;

joy and gladness will be found in her,

thanksgiving and the voice of song.

Listen to me, my people,

and give heed to me, my nation;

for a teaching will go out from me,

and my justice for a light to the peoples.

I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,

my salvation has gone out

and my arms will rule the peoples;

the coastlands wait for me,

and for my arm they hope.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,

and look at the earth beneath;

for the earth will wear out like a garment,

and those who live on it will die like gnats;

but my salvation will be forever,

and my deliverance will never be ended.

Psalm 138 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

before the gods I will sing your praise.

2 I will bow down toward your holy temple

and praise your Name,

because of your love and faithfulness;

3 For you have glorified your Name

and your word above all things.

4 When I called, you answered me;

you increased my strength within me.

5 All the kings of the earth will praise you, O LORD,

when they have heard the words of your mouth.

6 They will sing of the ways of the LORD,

that great is the glory of the LORD.

7 Though the LORD be high, he cares for the lowly;

he perceives the haughty from afar.

8 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;

you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand shall save me.

9 The LORD will make good his purpose for me;

O LORD, your love endures for ever;

do not abandon the works of your hands.

SECOND READING

Romans 12:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 16:13-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples,

Who do people say that the Son of Man is?

And they said,

Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

He said to them,

But who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered,

You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.

And Jesus answered him,

Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.

Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; 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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What is the rock upon which Jesus built his Church?  I have read various analyses, and the one that makes the most sense to me is God.  Simon Peter was the first pebble upon this rock, and each subsequent believer and follower is another pebble.  The pebbles are the Church.  So God is the foundation of the Church.

God is also the rock from Isaiah 51.  God is the rock from which we are hewn, the quarry from which we are cut.  So our lives and identities derive from God.  We Christians  stand in a long tradition that stretches back to Abraham and Sarah; the Jews are, as Pope John Paul II said, our elder brothers and sisters in faith.  God, the rock, was the strength of the Hebrews when they were slaves in Egypt.  God, the rock, provided the means of their political liberation.  And God, the rock, provides the means of our spiritual liberation.  As Paul reminds us in Romans, this liberation will be evident in our attitudes and relationships.

Next Sunday’s Gospel Reading will pick up where this one leaves off.  In it Jesus predicts his capture, torture, death, and resurrection.  Then Peter, horrified, protests.  But Jesus says to the Apostle he just praised highly a few breaths previously,

Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

Peter did not understand yet.  Maybe only Jesus did.  So let us take comfort in the fact that one does not need to achieve spiritual mountainhood to be an effective and important pebble in the rock mass that is the Christian Church.  We have to begin somewhere, so why not where we are?  But let us move on from there to where Jesus wants us to go.

KRT

Week of Proper 13: Friday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  No Right Turn Sign (U.S.A.)

Image in the Public Domain

True Life

AUGUST 6, 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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Deuteronomy 4:32-40 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

Because ask of the earliest days that were before you, from the day that God created a human on the earth, and from one end of the skies to the other end of the skies:  has there been anything like this great thing?  or has anything like it been heard of?  Has a people heard God’s voice speaking from inside a fire the way you heard–and lived?  Or has God put it to the test, to come to take for Himself a people from among people with tests, with signs, and with wonders and with war and with a strong hand and with and outstretched arm and with great fears like everything that YHWH, your God, has done for you in Egypt before your eyes?  You have been shown in order to know that YHWH:  He is God.  There is no other outside of Him.  From the skies He had you hear His voice in order to discipline you, and on the earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words from inside the fire.  And because He loved your fathers He chose their seed after them, so He brought you out in front of Him from Egypt by His great power, to dispossess bigger and more powerful nations than you in front of you, to bring you, to give you their land as a legacy as it is today.  And you shall know today and store it in in your heart from YHWH:  He is God in the skies above and on earth below.  And you shall observe His laws and His commandments that I command you today so it will be good for you and for your children after you, and so that you’ll extend days on the land that YHWH, your God, is giving you forever.

Psalm 105:1-6 (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.

Matthew 16:24-28 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus said to his disciples,

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his real life?  What could a man offer to buy back that life once he has lost it?

“For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father and in the company of his angels and then he will repay every man for what he has done.  Believe me, there are some standing here today who will know nothing of death till they have seen the Son of Man coming as king.

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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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The proper direction in life comes from listening closely to God.  Living successfully is doing so in God, as God directs us.  For what has God called us, specifically?  Doing that is the road to success.  So what is popular, what others expect of us, what our culturally-defined roles might be, and what we want for ourselves might lead away from our proper destination.

Consider the words of Jesus.  A person who seeks to save his or her life will lose it, and one who loses it will gain it.  This runs contrary to conventional wisdom, does it not?  But consider the source.  Jesus was frequently on the outs with authority figures, and the Roman Empire executed him as an insurrectionist.  The Imperium subjected him to crucifixion, a method reserved for those it considered the worst of the worst.  But who would argue with a straight face that Jesus was a failure?  Are we not still speaking of him after nearly 2,000 years?

(An Aside:  What about the end of the excerpt from Matthew?  By the time of the writing of the Gospel of Matthew, probably circa 85 C.E., Christianity was a vital young religion.  Certainly many people had “seen the Son of Man coming in his kingdom,” as William Barclay translates that verse.  That is, the Kingdom of God, which Jesus inaugurated, was spreading out across the world.  In the canonical gospels Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God in the present tense.  Did it go away after the Ascension?  I think not.)

The passage from Deuteronomy is explicitly monotheistic.  If Professor Richard Elliott Friedman is correct in his insistence that this passage comes from the 600s B.C.E. at the latest, a strong monotheistic strain existed in Judaism prior to the return from Babylonian Exile (500s B.C.E.).  This is old news.  Here is some more old news:  Many Jews did not practice monotheism until after the return from the Babylonian Exile.  Archaeology and the witness of the Hebrew prophets affirm this statement.  Some ancient places of worship in Israel have survived, for archaeologists have excavated many of them.  At some of these sites the archaeologists found two altars–one for YHWH and the other for Astarte, his presumed wife.

Yet the reading from Deuteronomy stands as a defense of worshiping YHWH alone–without Astarte.  Atheism was extremely rare in that part of the world in the 600s-400s BCE, and monotheism was scarce, too.  Polytheism prevailed, so resisting it was difficult for many.  Yet that is what the Deuteronomist (or at least one Deuteronomist), inserting words into the mouth of Moses, says they must do.  This principle holds true today.  You might not be a polytheist, but what are your idols, those things distracting you from God?  Their identities might surprise you.

The rat race is bad for the rats, and keeping up with the Joneses is no good, either.  Seeking status is pursuing something shallow.  This day’s readings say that we must act contrary to all these standards.  Each of us needs to focus on the one God, take up our cross, and follow Jesus–perhaps at the cost of physical life itself.  Maybe the price will slightly less steep, but it will cost us something we value.  But what we receive in return will be of infinitely greater value.

Most of Christ’s Apostles died violently as martyrs.  St. Paul suffered greatly for the Christian faith after his conversion.  During the succeeding centuries countless numbers of Christians have suffered for their faith.  And martyrdom continues into the present day.  “Take up your cross and follow me,” Jesus says.  This is the path to life in God, whatever form the cross takes.  For Dietrich Bonhoeffer it was a noose.  For others it is a destroyed reputation or a prison sentence or both.  Members of an angry mob killed St. Josaphat Kuntsevych with bullets and an ax.  All these are terrible and unjust, but the Kingdom of God is still here, after nearly two thousand years.  It is spread out across the earth, and many of us do not see it.  But those who take up their crosses point to it, and no temporal power can overcome it.

May we follow and love the God who cares for us and guides us.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/true-life/

Week of Proper 13: Thursday, Year 1   18 comments

Above: Moses Striking the Rock, by Pieter de Grebbel (1630)

Image in the Public Domain

Of Faith and Rocks

AUGUST 5, 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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Numbers 20:1-13 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And the children of Israel, all the congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh.  And Miriam died there and was buried there.  And there was no water for the congregation, and they assembled against Moses and against Aaron.  And the people quarreled with Moses, and they said, saying,

If only we had expired in front of YHWH!  And why have you brought YHWH’s community to this wilderness to die there, we and our cattle?  And why did you bring us up from Egypt to bring us to this bad place?  It’s not a place of seed and fig and vine and pomegranate, and there’s no water to drink!

And Moses and Aaron came in front of the community to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and they fell on their faces.  And YHWH’s glory appeared to them.  And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Take the staff and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron, your brother.  And you shall speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will give its water.  So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give a drink to the congregation and their cattle.

And Moses took the staff in front of YHWH as He commanded him.  And Moses and Aaron assembled the community opposite the rock.  And he said to them, “Listen, rebels, shall we bring water out of this rock for you?”  And Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock with his rock twice.  And much water came out!  And the congregation and their cattle drank.

And YHWH said to Moses and Aaron,

Because you did not trust in me, to make me holy before the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this community to the land that I have given them!

They are the waters of Meribah, over which the children of Israel quarreled with YHWH, and He was made holy among them.

Psalm 95:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

2 Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

4 In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

6 Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

8 Harden not your hearts,

as your forebears did in the wilderness,

at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,

when they tempted me.

9 They put me to the test,

though they had seen my works.

Matthew 16:13-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When Jesus reached the Caesarea-Philippi district he asked his disciples a question.

Who do people say the Son of Man is?

They told him,

Well, some say John the Baptist.  Some say Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

He said to them,

But what about you?  Who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered,

You?  You are Christ, the Son of the Living God!

Jesus said,

Simon, son of Jonah, you a fortunate man indeed!  For it was not your own nature but my Heavenly Father who revealed this truth to you!  Now I tell you that you are Peter the rock, and it is on this rock that I am going to found my Church, and the powers of death will never have the power to destroy it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in Heaven and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven!

Then he impressed on his disciples that they should not tell anyone that he was Christ.

From that time onwards Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he would have to go to Jerusalem, and endure much suffering from the elders, chief priests and scribes, and finally be killed; and be raised to life again on the third day.

Then Peter took him on one side and started to remonstrate with him over this.

God bless you, Master!  Nothing like this must happen to you!

Then Jesus turned round and said to Peter,

Out of my way, Satan!…you stand right in my path, Peter, when you think the thoughts of man and not those of God.

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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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Israelite grumbling continues, even after the episode from Numbers 13, which I covered in the previous day’s devotion.  Already God has informed the people that most of them will die before Canaan.  If they were humble before God, they would have moved toward repentance.  Rather, we have this incident, with more grumbling.  It is the same song, only another verse.  This took a toll on Moses.  (How could it not?)

God promised to provide water for the people and their cattle, and did so.  There is water in many desert rocks, so Moses received instructions to gather the people and cattle before a very big rock, stand with Aaron in front of them, hold Aaron’s staff, and speak to the rock.  Moses did all of this except speak to it.  He struck it instead.  Regardless of his motivation, he had called attention to himself and away from God.  The people and cattle drank water while Moses and Aaron learned that, for their lack of faith, which is to say, trust in God, they would not enter Canaan.  Perhaps Aaron’s sin leading to the penalty was not related to Moses striking the rock with his staff.  I propose that Aaron’s cumulative faithlessness caught up with him.  More than once he had plotted against Moses over the years.  And Aaron was deeply involved in the infamous Golden Calf incident.

So God was angry, announcing penalties for sin, but God had not forsaken either Moses, Aaron, or any of the Israelites.  All had the promised water to drink, but they still had to pay the price for failing to trust God.  So, once again, divine judgment and mercy intermingled.

Another kind of rock figures prominently in the reading from the Gospel of Matthew.  Simon Peter becomes the first Apostle to confess Jesus as the living Son of God.  This is a momentous event in Christian history; there is even a feast day (The Confession of St. Peter the Apostle, January 18) for it.  Yet Peter’s understanding was partial.  Out of good intentions, he protested against the coming torture, execution, and resurrection of Jesus.  As we say in the U.S. South, I say of Peter, “God bless him.”

“You are Peter,” Jesus says to him, “and upon this rock I will build my Church.”  What is “this rock”?  I have read what various commentators have said about this and pondered the germane ecclesiastical traditions.  William Barclay, the great Scottish Presbyterian Bible scholar, proposes the best answer.  The foundational rock of the Church is God, and Peter is the first stone.  In the Greek, Jesus says, “You are Petros, and upon this petra I will will build my Church.”  A petra is a rock mass, so Barclay’s interpretation makes sense.  Many stones have joined the rock mass sense then, and continue to do so.

Peter wavered after this incident.  He denied Jesus publicly three times shortly before the crucifixion.  And he hid shortly after his leader’s execution.  Yet he became a bold leader in the Acts of the Apostles, and, according to tradition, died of crucifixion.  Peter insisted that he was unworthy to die as Jesus had, so he was crucified upside-down.

Thus the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24-26 take on added meaning:

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all rights to himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his real life?  What could a man offer to buy back that life once he has lost it?  (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

Our “real life,” as J. B. Phillips translates the text, is in God.  More traditional renderings include “soul,” but “real life” gets to the point nicely.  Our real life is in God.  Do we realize this fact?  This is the God in whom we can trust, that is, have faith.  This is the God in whom judgment and mercy co-mingle.  This is the God in who was patient with Moses, Aaron, the Israelites, and Simon Peter.  This is the God who recognized the great potential within Simon Peter and never gave up on the impetuous Apostle.  This is the God who gives us water and manna in our spiritual deserts.  This is the God who is the rock upon which we are stones in the rock mass.

More Than Words, Revised Edition, is a 1958 Christian Education resource The Episcopal Church published for “Church School Teachers and for Students in Junior High School Classes.”  I quote part of the entry for “A Saint,” from page 167:

But the saints were not heroes all their lives.  When they started they were just like you and me.  James and John had fiery tempers.  Peter cursed and swore.  Matthew bled the people for money.  Peter disowned Jesus three times.  Yet Jesus made them into saints.  He can also do it with us.

How so we start?  By letting our Lord love us and forgive us.  If we start again, we must let Him forgive us again, even if He has to do it a million times.  For the joy of being forgiven is our first taste of heaven.

How we respond to God matters.  Will we be grateful?  Will we trust?  Will we accept forgiveness?  Will we accept transformation?  Or will we persist in slave mentalities, expecting nothing while grumbling?  The choice is ours to make.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/of-faith-and-rocks/