Archive for the ‘Matthew 17’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 21, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  St. Peter Paying the Temple Tax

Image in the Public Domain

Living in Community

SEPTEMBER 29, 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 43:1-15, 26-30 or Isaiah 55:1-13

Psalm 28

1 Corinthians 10:19-33

Matthew 17:22-18:5

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We have obligations to each other.  Even what we do (or do not do) in private affects other people.  We should, for example, want scoundrels and wicked people to repent (as in Isaiah 55:7), not give up on them (as in Psalm 28:4).  We should seek reconciliation, as Joseph was preparing to instigate, in Genesis 43.  We should not abuse our freedom to the detriment of others.  In Christ we are free to become our best selves.

The story in Matthew 17:24-27 requires unpacking.

The tax in question was the Temple tax of one didrachmon–a half-shekel.  Every Jewish male was to pay it annually, although enforcement was not rigorous.  The scriptural basis of the Temple tax was Exodus 30:13.  It was a controversial tax for more than one reason.  For the poor the tax–two days’ wages of a laborer–was a burden.  Essenes argued that the tax was properly a once-in-a-lifetime payment.  Sadducees thought that the tax should be voluntary.  Jesus, who seemed to have a low opinion of taxation (see also Matthew 22:15-22), nevertheless decided not to cause offense.

I have no difficulty accepting this story as genuine.  Yet it, like so many stories, carries more than one meaning, depending on the time of the reading or hearing of it.  Consider, O reader, the year of the composition of the Gospel of Matthew–85 C.E. or so.

There was no more Temple yet a version of tax remained.  Roman forces had destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  A two-drachma tribute to Rome was due annually, and Roman authorities enforced tax laws.  In the Christian context giving to the church was properly voluntary.  For Jewish Christians, marginal within Judaism, their identity remained Jewish; they did not seek to offend.

In my cultural-political setting–North America in 2018–the culture is moving in more than one direction simultaneously.  On one hand politics and culture are coarsening.  On the other hand efforts to avoid causing offense are become more prominent, sometimes to ridiculous extremes.  Meanwhile, people from various points on the spectrum have become more likely to take offense.  “Snowflakes” come in various political stripes.  Everything is controversial; there is probably nothing that does not offend somebody, somewhere.

I, as a human being, have responsibilities to my fellow human beings, who have responsibilities to me.  I, for example, have no moral right to spout racial and ethnic slurs and/or stereotypes, not that I would ever do that.  Quoting them in certain contexts, in which one’s disapproval is plain, is justifiable, however.  I have a responsibility to consider the sensibilities of others–to a reasonable point.  Yet I know that, whatever I do, I will offend someone, for somebody will be of a mind to take offense.  I am responsible for doing my best to be respectful.  I am also responsible to others not to be ridiculously sensitive, thereby doing nothing or too little.

Where should one draw the line separating responsible self-restraint in the name of not offending the consciences of others from overdoing it and still failing in not causing offense because some people are snowflakes?  The answer to that question varies according to circumstances.  One, relying on grace, should do one’s best.  If one needs to do better, one can do that, by grace.  One is not responsible for the thin skins of others.

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/living-in-community-part-iii/

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Devotion for Proper 5 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Paying the Tax with a Coin from the Fish

Image in the Public Domain

The Sovereignty of God

JUNE 6, 2021

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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 27:1-10, 18-19, 26-33, 38-40

Psalm 12

Acts 4:23-31

Matthew 17:24-27

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O LORD, watch over us

and save us from this generation for ever.

The wicked prowl on every side,

and that which is worthless is highly prized by everyone.

–Psalm 12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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One of the primary challenges understanding the Bible is the fact that we moderns come from different cultural and intellectual backgrounds than the ancients did.  The Biblical texts leave much unwritten because members of the original audiences did not require the explanation of every germane assumption.  Consider, O reader, blessings and curses.  By curses I refer not to profane and coarse language, but to the opposite of blessings.  One assumption in the Hebrew Bible is that spoken blessings and curses have power.  Oral blessings and curses are motifs in the Old Testament.  In this case the second son steals the blessing (due to the first son) by fooling an aging and blind father.  The stolen blessing, however, still has power.  Furthermore, God works through the blessing and the act of stealing it.

The theme of the sovereignty of God continues in the readings.  The promises of God are sure in Psalm 12, even though people exalt vileness.  In Acts 4 religious persecution becomes an opportunity certain early Christians, filled with the Holy Spirit, to proclaim the faith boldly.

The Gospel reading requires much explanation.  A standard exegesis is that the tax in question was the Temple tax.  However, Father Raymond E. Brown questions this conclusion in his magisterial An Introduction to the New Testament (1997).  He proposes that, since Matthew 17:24-27 does not identify the tax as the Temple tax, it might have been a different tax–perhaps the census tax mentioned in Matthew 22:15-22.  Or, if one assumes that the tax in Matthew 17:24-27 was the Temple tax, one might surmise that post-70 C.E. realities inform the telling of the story.  With the destruction of the Temple and the continuation of the Temple tax, the purpose of said tax had shifted to support the temple of Jupiter on the Temple Mount.

The real issue is the sovereignty of God.  The Roman destruction of the Temple could not overcome the sovereignty of God.  Imperial power might extend even to fish, but God could place the coin to pay the tax inside a fish.  For the sake of avoiding public scandal Jesus pays the tax with money God has provided, but God is still more powerful than the Roman Empire.

We who follow God should acknowledge divine sovereignty.  Our relations to the state might be strained.  I acknowledge the moral legitimacy of political revolution sometimes, especially when the system oppresses those who seek to change it peaceably.  In all circumstances, we ought to, in the words of Jesus,

Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar–and God what belongs to God.

–Matthew 22:21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God, who is sovereign over empires and republics, wants us.  That is fair.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/the-sovereignty-of-god/

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Devotion for Proper 4 (Year D)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  The Exorcism

Image in the Public Domain

Faithfulness and Faithlessness

NOT OBSERVED IN 2019

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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:

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:27 or Isaiah 5:8-17

Psalm 142

Matthew 17:9-20 or Mark 9:9-29 or Luke 9:18-27 (28-36) 37-45

Philippians 2:14-30

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A typically Jewish way of speaking and writing about God is to recall what God has done.  After all, God is like what God has done.  Furthermore, we are like what we have done, although we are far more than the worst deeds we have committed.  The relevant issue is the pattern of what we have done and of what we are doing.  Repentance is possible, after all, and the past is not necessarily accurate in predicting the future.

Consider with me, O reader, the assigned readings for this Sunday.  The two options for the First Reading proclaim divine judgment upon the faithless, for whom God has done much.  The faithless should know better.  Perhaps they do know better, but they are not acting as if they do.  The lection from Isaiah 5 follows the famous passage likening rebellious Israel to a well-tended vineyard that yields wild grapes.  God will judge that vineyard, we read.  Likewise, we read of faithless Israel in Deuteronomy.  If Richard Elliott Friedman is correct, lurking in the background of the text is a condemnation of polytheism.  God is, after all, insistent upon monotheism in the Hebrew Bible.  If Dr. Friedman is correct, faithlessness to YHWH entails turning to supposedly subordinate deities, members of the divine council–a concept Hebrew prophets opposed vigorously.

In contrast to those lections we read Psalm 142, the lament of a dying man whom other mortals have abandoned.  This man, contemplating the imminent unknown, turns to God alone.  One may assume safely that God is faithful to those who demonstrate fidelity.

The passage from Philippians belongs to a section of that epistle in which one finds advice regarding how to live faithfully in community.  People are to think about each other and model their lives after Jesus, whose humility and selflessness is certainly challenging to emulate.  In this context the customary verses about people with polysyllabic names take on more importance than they might otherwise; these verses model the attitudes and behaviors the preceding verses extol.  People are like what they do.

The three options for the Gospel reading are parallel versions of the same story, set immediately after the Transfiguration of Jesus.  One might fixate on the typically Hellenistic diagnosis of epilepsy as demonic possession, but to do so would be to miss the point.  In the narrative the Apostles have just learned of Christ’s true identity in all of its glory, yet they have not grasped this revelation, and were therefore ineffective.  The lesson for we who read these stories thousands of years later is to ponder whether we grasp who Jesus is and whether we are as effective as we can be in our discipleship.

Our challenge in this regard is to render proper thanksgiving to God in our lives.  We can do this only be grace, of course, but our desire to pursue this course of action is also essential.  Obstacles include laziness, fear, selfishness, cultural conditioning, the pressure to conform, and simple obliviousness.  If we are to grow into our full spiritual stature, however, we must seek to follow and honor God and to trust in divine grace.

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/faithfulness-and-faithlessness/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 18, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Exorcising a Boy Possessed by a Demon

Image in the Public Domain

Glorifying God, Not Ourselves

SEPTEMBER 8, 2021

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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:

Judges 15:9-20

Isaiah 38:10-20

Matthew 17:14-21

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The LORD is at hand to save me;

so let the music of our praises resound

all our life long in the house of the LORD.

–Isaiah 38:20, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The story in Isaiah 38 is that God has extended the life of King Hezekiah of Judah by fifteen years.  The monarch, grateful that he is no longer at death’s door, writes a poem (the end of which I have quoted above).  Unfortunately, in the next chapter, he shows off to an emissary of the king of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (not yet a threat to Judah), prompting the ire of God and Isaiah:

Isaiah said to Hezekiah:  “Hear the word of the LORD of Hosts:  The time is coming, says the LORD, when everything is your palace, and all that your forefathers have amassed till the present day, will be carried away to Babylon; not a thing will be left.  And some of your sons, your own offspring, will be taken to serve as eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”  Hezekiah answered, “The word of the LORD is good,” for he was thinking to himself that peace and security would last his lifetime.

–Isaiah 39:5-8, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Book of Judges speaks of Samson’s connection to God.  The vivid translation in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) refers to the spirit of the LORD gripping him immediately prior to a feat of physical strength.  Such is the case in Judges 15:9-20.  The spirit of the LORD grips Samson in verse 14.  Samson kills a thousand Philistine men with the jawbone of an ass in verse 15.  In verse 16, however, Samson fails to give credit to God:

Then Samson said:

“With the jaw of an ass,

Mass upon mass!

With the jaw of an ass

I have slain a thousand men.”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Samson was, as the Book of Judges presents him, a dolt who lived to satisfy his id.  Nevertheless, God worked through him, and he was aware of that reality.  Would giving credit to God when credit was due have been so difficult?

The pericope from Matthew 17 became more interesting the deeper I delved into its background.  The Gospel of Mark is the oldest of the canonical Gospels, dating to no earlier than 67 C.E.  It is one of the sources for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, both of which contain the “Markan spine,” elaborate upon it, and add material from other sources.  Thus a version of a story from Mark is usually pithier than a version of the same story from Matthew or Luke.  That statement does not apply to Matthew 17:14-21, which is abbreviated from Mark 9:14-29.  It is as if the author of Matthew wanted to get to the point.  He has also changed the meaning of the story from a statement to Christology to the background for a pronouncement regarding the power of faith, faith meaning trust in divine power, in this case.

The pericope from Matthew 17 indicates that the Apostles could not heal the boy, whom the culture said was moonstruck, or afflicted by the moon goddess Selene, because they had insufficient trust in the power of God, which was available to them.  They could have done more, via divine power, of course, had they been more confident in God.

Martin Luther, a morally troublesome character in many ways, was correct much of the time.  For example, his advice when baptized people questioned their salvation was to trust in the faithfulness of God.  That counsel applies to other circumstances also.  And, as we trust in divine faithfulness, may we glorify God, not ourselves.

JUNE 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/glorifying-god-not-ourselves/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 24, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Daniel's Answer to the King

Above:  Daniel’s Answer to the King, by Briton Riviere

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Sovereignty

OCTOBER 21, 2020

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts.

Created by you, let us live in your image;

created for you, let us act for your glory;

redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 6:1-28

Psalm 98

Matthew 17:22-27

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In 539 B.C.E. King Cyrus II (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.) of the Persians and the Medes conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  Yet the author of Daniel 6 wrote of one “Darius the Mede,” whom he listed as a king who reigned between the fall of Babylon and the time of Cyrus II.  As I wrote in the previous post, the chronology of the Book of Daniel makes no sense.  Evangelical-oriented resources in my Biblical studies library struggle to explain this historical discrepancy.  One even suggests that “Darius the Mede” might have been the regnal name of Cyrus II in the former Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, but Daniel 6 lists “Darius the Mede” and Cyrus II as separate people.  Yet I, unlike the author of those works, do not labor under the false notion of Biblical inerrancy or infallibility.  So “Darius the Mede,” most likely (at least partially) a backward projection of Darius I (reigned 522-486 B.C.E.), a successor of Cyrus II, never existed as the Book of Daniel presents him.  The application of Ockham’s Razor to this issue leads one to avoid needless intellectual gymnastics based on a false assumption.

Here is a summary of the story:  Daniel, who had worked for the Chaldeans, went to work for the Persians, the text tells us.  (He must have been really old!)  Daniel was loyal, but court intrigue led to a charge of treason, hence the lion’s den.  Our hero survived unscathed (as had Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in Chapter 3), of course.  And, as in Chapter 3, the monarch changed his mind and recognized the power of Yahweh.

The main point of this story, I suppose, is to trust God, who is sovereign over nations, kingdoms, empires, and rulers.  That, at least, is the point of the tale of Daniel in the lions’ den shares with the pericope from Matthew 17.  There God provided the money for a tax payable to the Roman Empire.  The display of divine power in both stories was the unmistakable.

To trust God in mundane circumstances can prove difficult.  To do so in dire and extreme circumstances might seem impossible or nearly so.  Yet the latter context is when grace becomes more obvious.  Grace is always present, of course, but it is like a lamp in a room; the light is more obvious in the darkness.  That has been my experience.  Deliverance did not arrive immediately, but at least I had excellent company while I waited.  And that company, present before darkness fell, remained with me.  And I have been more conscious of it since then.  Trusting God has become much easier for me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2014 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR MACARTHUR, COFOUNDER OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/divine-sovereignty/

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Devotion for October 24, 25, and 26 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

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Above:  Jesus Blessing Little Children

Created by Currier & Ives, Circa 1867

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-2693

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XVII:  Mutual Responsibility

SATURDAY-MONDAY, OCTOBER 24-26, 2020

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 25:17-26:19 (October 24)

Deuteronomy 27:1-26 (October 25)

Deuteronomy 28:1-22 (October 26)

Psalm 143 (Morning–October 24)

Psalm 86 (Morning–October 25)

Psalm 122 (Morning–October 26)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–October 24)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–October 25)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening–October 26)

Matthew 17:1-13 (October 24)

Matthew 17:14-27 (October 25)

Matthew 18:1-20 (October 26)

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We are all responsible for each other.  And God will provide.  Both statements flow from the assigned readings from Deuteronomy and Matthew.  In some circumstances they merge into the following statement:  Sometimes God provides via human agents.  Thus there are blessings upon those who defend the rights of strangers, widows, and orphans, just as there are curses upon those who violate those rights.  Curses in Deuteronomy 28 include drought, unsuccessful enterprises, and epidemics of hemorrhoids.  Anyone who comes to God must do so without pretense—as a small child—and woe unto anyone who causes one to stumble!  What one person does affects others.

We are responsible for each other.  So may we put aside selfishness.  May our ambitions build others and ourselves up, not elevate ourselves to the detriment of others.  May we treat others as we want others to treat us.  May we act confidently, assured that God will provide, which is the point of Matthew 17:27.  May we recognize and treat others as bearers of the image of God and therefore worthy of respect and human dignity.  By helping them we aid ourselves.  By harming them we hurt ourselves.

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-xvii-mutual-responsibility/

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Week of Proper 14: Monday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Ezekiel

And the Glory of the Lord Will Be Revealed

AUGUST 10, 2020

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

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Ezekiel 1:1-5, 24-28 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the thirteenth year, on the fifth day of the fourth month, when I was in the community of exiles by the Chebar Canal, the heavens opened and I saw visions of God.  On the fifth day of the month–it was the fifth year of the exile of King Jehoiachin–the word of the LORD came to the priest Ezekiel son of Buzi, by the Chebar Canal, in the land of the Chaldeans.  And the hand of the LORD came upon him there.

I looked, and lo, a stormy wind came sweeping out of the north–a huge cloud and flashing fire, surrounded by a radiance; and in the center of it, in the center of the fire, a gleam as of amber.  In the center of it were also the figures of four creatures.

When [the creatures] moved, I could hear the sound of Shaddai, a tumult like the din of an army.  When they stood still, they would let their wings droop.  From above the expanse over their heads came a sound.  When they stood still, they would let their wings droop.

Above the expanse over their heads was the semblance of a throne, in appearance like sapphire; and on top, upon this semblance of a human form.  From what appeared as his loins up, I saw a gleam of amber–what looked like a fire encased in a frame; and from what appeared as his loins down, I saw what looked like fire.  That was a radiance all about him.  Like the appearance of the brow which shines in the clouds on a day of rain, such was the appearance of the surrounding radiance.  That was the appearance of the semblance of the Presence of the LORD.  When I beheld it, I flung myself down on my face.  And I heard the voice of someone speaking.

Psalm 148:1-4, 13-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD from the heavens;

praise him in the heights.

2 Praise him, all you angels of his;

praise him, all his host.

3 Praise him, sun and moon;

praise him, all you shining stars.

Praise him, heaven of heavens,

and you waters above the heavens.

13 Let them praise the Name of the LORD,

for his Name only is exalted,

his splendor is over earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up strength for his people

and praise for all his loyal servants,

the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

Hallelujah!

Matthew 17:22-27 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

As they went together in Galilee, Jesus told them,

The Son of Man is going to be handed over to the power of men, and they will kill him.  And on the third day he will be raised to life again.

This greatly distressed the disciples.

Then when they arrived at Capernaum the Temple tax-collectors came up and said to Peter,

Your master doesn’t pay Temple-tax, we presume?

Peter replied,

Oh, yes, he does!

Later when he went into the house, Jesus anticipated what he was going to say.

What do you think, Simon?

he said.

Whom do the kings of this world get their tolls and taxes from–their own family or from others?

Peter replied,

From others.

Jesus told him,

Then the family is exempt.  Yet we don’t want to give offence to these people, so go down to the lake and throw in your hook.  Take the first fish that bites, open his mouth and you’ll find a silver coin.  Take that and give it to them, for both of us.

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The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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There was a common belief in the ancient Near East:  When Nation A defeated Nation B, Nation A’s gods defeated Nation B’s gods.  In 593 B.C.E. (as The Jewish Study Bible tells me), in the final years of the Kingdom of Judah, already a vassal kingdom with a puppet monarch, the priest and prophet Ezekiel had a stunning vision of divine glory for which, I suspect, human words–even the best ones–written or spoken, were insufficient.  YHWH was not defeated.

Now we turn to the reading from Matthew.  Jesus predicted his crucifixion and resurrection.  He would suffer and die painfully, but this would not constitute a defeat, for he would live again–very shortly.  And, in the Gospel of John, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus constituted his glorification.  The Roman Empire did its worst, but God reversed their actions.

When all seems lost, when the enemies of God seem to have won, may we remember that God remains undefeated.  This fact might not seem obvious yet, but it is no less true.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/and-the-glory-of-the-lord-will-be-revealed/

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 14: Monday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  Jessica Lange as Angelique in All That Jazz (1979)

(The image is a screen capture from a DVD of the movie.)

God, Who Is Attracted To Us

AUGUST 9, 2021

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

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Deuteronomy 10:12-21 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

Moses said,

And now, Israel, what is YHWH, your God, asking from you except to fear YHWH, your God, to go in all His ways, and to love Him with all your heart and soul, to observe YHWH’s commandments and His laws that I command you today to be good for you.  Here, YHWH, your god, has the skies–and the skies of the skies!–the earth and everything that’s in it.  Only, YHWH was attracted to your fathers, to love them, and He chose their seed after them:  you, out of all the peoples, as it is this day.  So you shall circumcise the foreskin of your heart, and you shall not harden your necks anymore.  Because YHWH, your God:  He is the God of gods and the Lord of lords, the great, the mighty; and the awesome God, who won’t be partial and won’t take a bribe, doing judgment for an orphan and a widow and loving an alien, to give him bread and a garment.  So you shall love the alien, because you were aliens in the land of Egypt.  You shall fear YHWH, your God, you shall serve Him, and you shall cling to Him, and you shall swear by His name.  He is your splendor, and He is your God, who did these great and awesome things for you that your eyes have seen.  Your fathers went down to Egypt with seventy persons, and now YWHH your God, has made you  like the stars of the skies for multitude.

Psalm 148 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD from the heavens;

praise him in the heights.

2 Praise him, all you angels of his;

praise him, all his host.

3 Praise him, sun and moon;

praise him, all you shining stars.

4 Praise him, heaven of heavens,

and you waters above the heavens.

5 Let them praise the Name of the LORD;

for he commanded, and they were created.

6 He made them stand fast for ever and ever;

he gave them a law which shall not pass away.

7 Praise the LORD from the earth,

you sea-monsters and all deeps;

8 Fire and hail, snow and fog,

tempestuous wind, doing his will;

9 Mountains and all hills,

fruit trees and cedars;

10 Wild beasts and all cattle,

creeping things and winged birds;

11 Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the world;

12 Young man and maidens,

old and young together.

13 Let them praise the Name of the LORD,

for his Name only is exalted,

his splendor is over earth and heaven.

14 He has raised up strength for his people

and praise for all his loyal servants,

the children of Israel, a people who are near him.

Hallelujah!

Matthew 17:22-27 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

As they went together in Galilee, Jesus told them,

The Son of Man is going to be handed over to the power of men, and they will kill him.  And on the third day he will be raised to life again.

This greatly distressed the disciples.

Then when they arrived at Capernaum the Temple tax-collectors came up and said to Peter,

Your master doesn’t pay Temple-tax, we presume?

Peter replied,

Oh, yes, he does!

Later when he went into the house, Jesus anticipated what he was going to say.

What do you think, Simon?

he said.

Whom do the kings of this world get their tolls and taxes from–their own family or from others?

Peter replied,

From others.

Jesus told him,

Then the family is exempt,.  Yet we don’t want to give offence to these people, so go down to the lake and throw in your hook.  Take the first fish that bites, open his mouth and you’ll find a silver coin.  Take that and give it to them, for both of us.

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The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The word “awesome” has lost much of its power in my North American culture. It is, in its older English form, related to “awful,” which used to mean “full of awe.”   Hence “awesome” means “inspiring awe.”  So the word is far more profound than one might think after hearing “Totally awesome, dude!” too many times.

The speaker in Deuteronomy is Moses, at least in literature.  He reminds the Israelites, who are about to enter the promised land, of the greatness, mercy, and power of God, who has made them what they are.  And God asks that they obey him, for his commands are for their own good.  This is God, who, as Professor Richard Elliott translates a verse, “was attracted to your fathers, to love them…and their seed after them.”

Much of Christian tradition has not dealt well with even the hint of human sexuality.  So the idea of God being attracted to people might seem jarring.  But I find it rather comforting.  When I read that verse while typing it, my mind turned to All That Jazz (1979) and Father Andrew Greeley’s analysis of it in his 1990 book, The Catholic Myth:  The Behavior and Beliefs of American Catholics (New York:  Charles Scribner’s Sons).  The late Roy Scheider plays Joe Gideon, a Broadway show producer.  Joe is also a shallow man drinks too much, takes too many pills, and has troubled relationships with women and his daughter.  Through it all, Angelique, whose true identity is vague, speaks to him–sometimes in comfort, other times in reproof, and still other times mockingly.  But she is there at the end, as Joe, now dead, travels down the tunnel, toward the light, where she is waiting.  Is she God? She might be.  She is certainly attracted to Joe Gideon.

Father Greeley has a wonderful footnote on page 252:

I take consolation in the hope that God, when finally encountered, will be even more spectacular than Jessica Lange.   She’d better be.

As God is attracted to us, we ought to reciprocate.  Saints, especially female ones whose writings have come down to us, have understood this principle well.  This becomes easier for men when using a female image of God.  And why not?  God exists beyond human concepts of sex and gender; let us not become distracted by metaphors.  As for me, I will be content if God is only as spectacular as Jessica Lange.

The laws of God speak of our obligations to each other.  Honoring these is part of demonstrating one’s love for God.  The text from Deuteronomy singles out the treatment of aliens and reminds the Israelites that they used to be aliens in Egypt.  So they ought to treat the aliens in their midst with great respect.  This is a timeless principle, one that all people would do well to honor with words and deeds.  I wonder how better the debates over immigration policies in more than one nation (such as my own, the United States of America) would be if this principle set the tone.  God is attracted to the foreigners, too.

Speaking of obligations to each other, the text from Matthew addresses a specific tax.  The temple tax had its origin in Exodus 30:11-16.  Each Jew at least twenty years old had to pay half a shekel per year.  Subsequent time and tradition altered the amount and led to disagreements about whether the Temple tax ought to be voluntary or mandatory, and whether was supposed to an annual payment or a one-time gift.  Pharisees understood it as a mandatory annual tax; Sadducees thought it was voluntary, and Essenes understood it as a one-time donation.  Jesus paid the tax miraculously in the story, but not before making a point about a king’s tribute, and the fact the royal family does not pay such a tax.

This is a vital clue.  History tells us that Roman forces destroyed the Temple at Jerusalem in 7o C.E., but that the Empire imposed a new tax in the place of the Temple tax afterward, for the purpose of supporting the new Temple of Jupiter, which took the place of the former Jewish Temple.  And the writing of the Gospel of Matthew postdates that event.  So the original audience of that Gospel would have thought of that Roman tax.  Paul had written about freedom in Christ as well as the necessity to avoid abusing one’s spiritual freedom so as to harm others.  For example, he knew that other gods did not exist, so it might seem to be a shame to let perfectly good food dedicated to said deities go uneaten.  But others did not know that there is only one God.  So, for their sake, Paul advocated not eating such food.

So this is a difficult passage.  Does it mean that the Hebrew Christians after 70 C.E. had an obligation to pay the new, odious Roman tax?  Is this a hard teaching about the obligations of citizenship, even under occupation?  There are layers of Biblical analysis, and the purpose of this weblog is devotional.  So I choose to remain focused on that.  In this case, this mandate entails thinking about mutual obligations.

We humans have obligations to each other, and our freedoms are not absolute.  Think about traffic laws; they serve the common good.  This is a mundane example, but it makes a point.  A healthy spiritual ethic balances individual freedom and the common good; it tramples neither.  After all, God is attracted to all of us.

It is easy to grasp this concept when pondering people one likes, with whom one agrees, and who are like one.  But this can be challenging when thinking and speaking of those who do not fit any of those descriptions.  I find it challenging much of the time.  You, O reader, might not be so different from me in this regard.  But let us think more about what happened to Thomas Merton one day.  While standing on an urban sidewalk, he looked around and realized that he loved everybody.  This ethic defined his life from that moment forward.  May it define ours, too.  After all, God is attracted to us.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/god-who-is-attracted-to-us/

Week of Proper 13: Saturday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  The Shema in Hebrew

Image in the Public Domain

God, Known Through Acts in History

AUGUST 7, 2021

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

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Deuteronomy 6:4-13 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

Listen, Israel:  YHWH is our God.  YHWH is one.  And you shall love YHWH, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  And you shall impart them to your children, and you shall speak about them when you sit in your house and when you go in the road and when you lie down and when you get up.  And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall become bands between your eyes.  And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and in your gates.

And it will be when YHWH, your God, will bring you to the land that He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you big and good cities that you didn’t build, and houses filled with everything good that you didn’t fill, and cisterns hewed that you didn’t hew, vineyards and olives that you didn’t plant, and you’ll eat and be satisfied, watch yourself in case you’ll forget YHWH, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from a house of slaves.  It’s YHWH, your God, whom you’ll fear, and it’s He whom you’ll serve, and it in His name that you’ll swear….

Psalm 18:1-2, 48-50 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I love you, O LORD my strength,

O LORD my stronghold, my crag, and my haven.

2 My God, my rock in whom I put my trust,

my shield, the horn of my salvation, and my refuge;

you are worthy of praise.

48 You rescued me from the fury of my enemies;

you exalted me above those who rose against me;

you saved me from my deadly foe.

49 Therefore will I extol you among the nations, O LORD,

and sing praises to your Name.

50 He multiplies the victories of his king;

he knows loving-kindness to his anointed,

to David and his descendants for ever.

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 reading from Deuteronomy contains the Shema, an oft-quoted passage within the Bible.  Jesus quotes in the canonical Gospels, for example, and pairs it with the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  On these two commands, he says, hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah, says this about the Shema:

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

Even more revolutionary is the Incarnation of Jesus, fully human and fully divine.  This is God in both physical and visible forms, as Messiah, but not according to the prevailing expectations along the lines of national liberation.  This is the one in whom I place faith, and in whom I can do more than many might think possible.

Think about the implications:  God loves us and directs us in paths for our own good and that of those around us.  So we have an obligation to reciprocate and to love our neighbors as ourselves–with great respect.  We need to stand up for and help each other as we are able, and we need to act according to a principle that Martin Luther King, Jr., stated eloquently:  “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”  We have an obligation to help each other become what God wants each to become.  How we act toward each other is part and parcel of how we respond to God.

So this matter is far from abstract.  Both trust in God and the lack thereof are observable.  Compassion, kindness, and love are far more than warm, fuzzy feelings; they lead to observable deeds.  May we show our love and regard for the God of history through our own actions toward each other.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/god-known-through-acts-in-history/