Archive for the ‘Matthew 19’ Tag

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 21, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler

Above:   Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

The Individual and the Collective

SEPTEMBER 30, 2019

OCTOBER 1, 2019

OCTOBER 2, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world.

Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 6:8-14 (Monday)

Hosea 9-15 (Tuesday)

Hosea 12:2-14 (Wednesday)

Psalm 62 (All Days)

Revelation 3:14-22 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:16-22 (Wednesday)

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For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

He alone is my rock and salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

In God is my safety and honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

Put your trust in him always, people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

–Psalm 62:6-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The assigned readings for these three days, taken together, condemn the following:

  1. Collective hubris (Amos 6),
  2. Collective iniquity, especially economic injustice (Hosea 10 and 12, James 5),
  3. Collective iniquity, especially idolatry (Hosea 12),
  4. Collective lukewarmness in relation to God (Revelation 3), and
  5. Trusting in wealth, not God (James 5, Matthew 19).

One might notice that four of the five sins are collective and that the fifth sin has both collective and individual elements.  This is a partial list of sins, of course, but it is a fine beginning to one’s process of spiritual self-examination or another stage in that process.  Does one have hubris?  If so, that is a sin.  Does one participate in collective hubris?  If so, one needs to confess and to repent of that sin.  One can repeat those forms of questions for the remaining four items on the list above.

Protestantism, for all of its virtues, does place too much emphasis on the individual and too little stress on the collective elements of spiritual life.  May we strive to seek the proper balance between the two and succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/the-individual-and-the-collective/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 25, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ramparts of Constantinople

Above:  Ramparts of Constantinople, Ottoman Empire, Between 1900 and 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-15141

Spiritual Barriers

OCTOBER 26-28, 2020

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you are the holy lawgiver, you are the salvation of your people.

By your Spirit renew us in your covenant of love,

and train us to care tenderly for all our neighbors,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20-25 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 10:10-22 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 119:41-48 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:41-48 (All Days)

James 2:8-13 (Monday)

James 2:14-26 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:16-22 (Wednesday)

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I shall continue to keep your law;

I shall keep it for ever and ever.

I will walk at liberty,

because I study your commandments.

–Psalm 119:44-45, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Rabbi Hillel summarized the Law of Moses by quoting the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), the order to love Yahweh with all one’s heart, soul, and might.  Then he said,

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

We humans require “hooks” onto which to “hang” information.  Hillel pointed to an excellent one.  Much of the information, in the Law of Moses, consists of culturally specific examples of timeless principles.  Many interpreters of that code miss this point, hence continued legalism while missing the point.  Some have become lost in the trees and cannot see the forest.

The readings for these three days combine to reinforce a few theological points:

  1. How we think of God influences how we think of people;
  2. How we think influences how we act;
  3. How we treat people matters to God;
  4. To have only abstract theology is insufficient;
  5. As I heard growing up, “our prayers must have feet;” and
  6. We must eliminate spiritual barriers to trusting God.

These six points overlap, for, if we fear scarcity, for example, we might hoard in our self-interest and thereby deprive others of necessities.  God will notice that reality.

All of us have spiritual barriers.  One barrier for the man in Matthew 19:16-22 was wealth, which has functioned in that capacity for many people for a long time.  Fear of vulnerability is among the most common barriers.  This applies to the rich man in Matthew 19 because his wealth insulated him from certain stresses and other problems.  To overcome this fear is a great challenge, especially if one has acculturated in a setting which encourages rugged individualism.  The truth, of course, is that we all rely on each other and depend entirely on God.  Yet the illusion of independence and self-sufficiency remains as a major obstacle to trusting in God.  May we, by grace, find liberation from all barriers which separate us from a deeper relationship with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF ALBERT SCHWEITZER, MEDICAL MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND WITNESS FOR PEACE

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/spiritual-barriers/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 20, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Neo-Assyrian Empire Map

Above:  Map of the Neo-Assyrian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

Warnings and Judgments

SEPTEMBER 17-19, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants.

Because we cannot rely on our own abilities,

grant us your merciful judgment,

and train us to embody the generosity of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Nahum 1:1, 14-2:2 (Thursday)

Nahum 2:3-13 (Friday)

Zephaniah 2:13-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 145:1-8 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 13:1-4 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 13:5-10 (Friday)

Matthew 19:23-30 (Saturday)

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The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

–Psalm 145:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Death, desolation and destruction.

–Nahum 2:10a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Those four words summarize the Old Testament readings for these days.  The (Neo-)Assyrian Empire, notorious for its violence, had fallen.  The Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians, who had conquered them, were almost as bad, but two Biblical authors rejoiced at the fall of Assyria and declared that event to be God’s judgment.

Warnings precede judgments much of the time, especially in the Bible.  2 Corinthians 13, for example, contains a warning (verse 2) and calls for repentance.  The Corinthian congregation was a notoriously troublesome assembly.  Indeed, it remained so for decades (at least).  You, O reader, might wish to consult the (First) Letter to the Corinthians (circa 100 C.E.) of St. Clement I of Rome (died circa 101 C.E.), which is authentic, for evidence of continued difficulties.  A major problem was factionalism, one variety of attachment.

Attachments are of the essence in this post.  The Assyrian rulers were attached to violence.  One man in Matthew 20 was attached to money and possessions.  Others were attached to relationships.  No attachment should interfere with recognizing one’s total dependence on God and one’s reliance on other human beings and responsibilities to them.

These texts, among others, function as warnings to us today.  Will we heed the notice and amend our ways as necessary and proper?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 16. 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DIEFENBAKER AND LESTER PEARSON, PRIME MINISTERS OF CANADA; AND TOMMY DOUGLAS, FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN JONES OF TALYSARN, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BROTHER ROGER OF TAIZE, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZE COMMUNITY

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY WOMEN OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/warnings-and-judgments/

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Devotion for October 29, 30, and 31 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Rembrandt_-_Parable_of_the_Laborers_in_the_Vineyard

Above:  Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XX:  Mutual Responsibility

THURSDAY-SATURDAY, OCTOBER 29-31, 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 31:1-29 (October 29)

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:27 (October 30)

Deuteronomy 32:28-52 (October 31)

Psalm 13 (Morning–October 29)

Psalm 96 (Morning–October 30)

Psalm 116 (Morning–October 31)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening–October 29)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–October 30)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–October 31)

Matthew 19:16-30 (October 29)

Matthew 20:1-16 (October 30)

Matthew 20:17-34 (October 31)

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So the last will be first, and the first last.

–Matthew 20:16, The Revised English Bible

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All who enter the Kingdom of God must do so as powerless children.  All who labor for God will receive the same reward regardless of tenure.  He who serves is greater than he who does not.  The Messiah is the servant of all and the ransom for many, not a conquering hero.  All this content points to one unifying theme:  the first will be last, and the last will be first.

This is a description of a social world turned upside-down.  Prestige is worthless, for God does not recognize such distinctions.  Even the great Moses died outside of the Promised Land, for justice took precedence over mercy.  Prestige, honor, and shame are socially defined concepts anyway, so they depend upon what others think of us.  And the Song of Moses refers to what happens when God disapproves of a people.

The last can take comfort in the seemingly upside down Kingdom of God.  Likewise, the first should tremble.  Good news for some can constitute bad news for others.  This reversal of fortune occurs elsewhere in the Gospels—in the Beatitudes and Woes (Matthew 5:3-13 and Luke 6:20-26), for example.  This is a subversive part of the Christian tradition, not that I am complaining.  I do, after all, follow Jesus, the greatest subversive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FEAST OF THOMAS TOKE LYNCH, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA LAETITIA WARING, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER; AND HER UNCLE, SAMUEL MILLER WARING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, BISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS WILLIBALD OF EICHSTATT AND LULLUS OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT WALBURGA OF HEIDENHELM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; SAINTS PETRONAX OF MONTE CASSINO, WINNEBALD OF HEIDENHELM, WIGBERT OF FRITZLAR, AND STURMIUS OF FULDA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS; AND SAINT SEBALDUS OF VINCENZA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-xx-mutual-responsibility/

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Devotion for October 28 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

01427v

Above:  Jesus Blessing the Children

An Image from 1891

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01427

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XIX:  The Kingdom of the Powerless

WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 28, 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 30:1-20

Psalm 62 (Morning)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening)

Matthew 19:1-15

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Women and children were among the most vulnerable members of our Lord’s society.  Widows and orphans especially at risk.  Thus in Matthew 19:1-15, Jesus affirmed the dignity of women and children and the importance of commitments.  Some men divorced their wives for casual reasons, thereby placing the divorced women at great risk of falling through the cracks of society.  And, as Richard Horsley has taught me, some Pharisees permitted elites to divorce and remarry for reasons of consolidating control over land and other resources.  (Source = Jesus and Empire:  The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder, Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 2003, page 122).  Jesus frowned upon people making a mockery of solemn commitments to God and each other.

Children were powerless.  So Jesus, of course, spoke highly of such socially invisible people.  The man who dined with notorious sinners, spoke at length about profound topics with women, and scandalized the defenders and guardians of ritual purity codes said:

Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

–Matthew 19:14, The Revised English Bible

Welcome, O reader, to the Kingdom of God, where the meek inherit the earth, the hungry eat, the thirsty drink, and the powerless and socially invisible people are role models.  This is consistent with the best of the Law of Moses and the commandments of God in our mouths and hearts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FEAST OF THOMAS TOKE LYNCH, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA LAETITIA WARING, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER; AND HER UNCLE, SAMUEL MILLER WARING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, BISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS WILLIBALD OF EICHSTATT AND LULLUS OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT WALBURGA OF HEIDENHELM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; SAINTS PETRONAX OF MONTE CASSINO, WINNEBALD OF HEIDENHELM, WIGBERT OF FRITZLAR, AND STURMIUS OF FULDA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS; AND SAINT SEBALDUS OF VINCENZA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-xix-the-kingdom-of-the-powerless/

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Week of Proper 15: Monday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 15: Tuesday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  The Front of the 1934 U.S. $10,000 Dollar Bill, worth $163,000 in 2010 Currency

Image in the Public Domain

Security Blankets

AUGUST 17 and 18, 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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THE FIRST READING FOR MONDAY

Ezekiel 24:15-24 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, I am about to take away the delight of your eyes from you through pestilence; but you shall not lament or let your tears flow.  Moan softly; observe no mourning for the dead:  Put on your turban and put your sandals on your feet; do not cover over your upper lip, and do not eat the bread of comforters.

In the evening my wife died, and in the mourning I did as I had been commanded.  And when I spoke to the people that morning, the people asked me,

Will you not tell us what these things portend for us, that you are acting so?

I answered them,

The word of the LORD has come to me:  Tell the House of Israel:  “I am going to desecrate My Sanctuary, your pride and glory, the delight of your eyes and the desire of your heart; and the sons and daughters you have left behind shall fall by the sword.  And Ezekiel shall become a portent for you:   you shall do just as he has done, when it happens; and you shall know that I am the Lord GOD.”  Accordingly, you shall do as I have done:  you shall not cover over your upper lips or eat the bread of comforters, and your turbans shall remain on your heads, and your sandals on your feet.  You shall not lament or weep, but you shall be heartsick because of your iniquities and shall moan to one another.

THE FIRST READING FOR TUESDAY

Ezekiel 28:1-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, say to the prince of Tyre:  Thus said the Lord GOD:

Because you have been so haughty and said, “I am a god; I sit enthroned like a god in the heart of the seas,” whereas you are not a god but a man, though you deemed your mind equal to a god’s–

Yes, you are wiser than Daniel;

Is no hidden matter can anyone

Compare to you.

By your shrewd understanding

You have gained riches,

And you have amassed gold and silver

In your treasuries.

By your great shrewdness in trade

You have increased your wealth,

And you have grown haughty

Because of your wealth.

Assuredly, thus said the Lord GOD:  Because you have deemed your mind equal to a god’s,

I swear that I will bring against you

Strangers, the most ruthless of nations.

They shall unsheathe their swords

Against your prized shrewdness,

And they shall strike down your splendor.

They shall bring you down to the Pit;

In the heart of the sea you shall die

The death of the slain.

Will you still say, “I am a god”

Before your slayers,

When you are proved a man, not a god,

At the hands of those who strike you down?

By the hands of strangers you shall die

The death of the uncircumcised;

For I have spoken

–declares the Lord GOD.

THE RESPONSE FOR MONDAY

Psalm 79:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, the heathen here come into your inheritance;

they have profaned your holy temple;

they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

2  They have given the bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the air,

and the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the field.

3  They have shed their blood like water on every side of Jerusalem,

and there was no one to bury them.

4  We have become a reproach to our neighbors,

an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5  How long will you be angry, O LORD?

will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

6  Pour out your wrath upon the heathen who have not known you

and upon kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7  For they have devoured Jacob

and made his dwelling a ruin.

8  Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

THE RESPONSE FOR TUESDAY

Psalm 60:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, you have cast us off and broken us;

you have been angry;

oh, take us back to you again.

2  You have shaken the earth and split it open;

repair the cracks in it, for it totters.

3  You have made your people know hardship;

you have given us wine that makes us stagger.

4  You have set up a banner for those who fear you,

to be a refuge from the power of the bow.

5  Save us by your right hand and answer us,

that those who are dear to you may be delivered.

THE GOSPEL READING (COMBINED FOR BOTH DAYS)

Matthew 19:16-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then it happened that a man came up  to him and said,

Master, what good thing must I do to secure eternal life?

Jesus answered him,

I wonder why you ask me what is good?  Only One is good.  But if you want to enter that life you must keep the commandments.

He asked,

Which ones?

Jesus replied,

Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother; and Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.

The young man returned,

I have carefully kept all these.  What is still missing in my life?

Then Jesus told him,

If you want to be perfect, go now and sell your possessions and give the money to the poor–you will have riches in Heaven.  The come and follow me!

When the young man heard that he turned away crestfallen, for he was very wealthy.

Then Jesus remarked to his disciples,

Believe me, a rich man will find it very difficult to enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Yes, I repeat, a camel could more easily squeeze through the eye of a needle than a rich man get into the kingdom of God!

The disciples were simply amazed to hear this, and said,

Then who can possibly be saved?

Jesus looked steadily at them and replied,

Humanly speaking it is impossible; but with God anything is possible!

At this Peter exclaimed,

Look, we have left everything and followed you.  What will that be worth to us?

Jesus said,

Believe me when I tell you that in the new world, when the Son of Man shall take his seat on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also be seated on twelve thrones as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Every man who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or land for my sake will get them back many times over, and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last then–and the last first!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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My journey through Samuel, Kings, and various prophets is almost over, and I am glad for that fact.  These are horrendous readings from Ezekiel.  God takes the prophet’s wife away from him and uses the incident as an object lesson for others.  And a foreign prince who has deified himself dies–another object lesson.  I do not pretend to understand how to grasp and make anything useful of Ezekiel 24:15-24.  As for Ezekiel 28:1-10, all I can do is repeat a recently covered theme:  God, in the Bible, despises hubris.  One might contrast Ezekiel 28 with Mathew 19, in which Jesus offers a rich man (for whom wealth is a spiritual impediment–his security blanket, if you will) an opportunity to let go of that impediment.

The rich man could not bring himself to follow our Lord’s advice, so he was, as J. B. Phillips translated the text, “crestfallen.”  Jesus probably was, too.  Whatever our impediments are, Jesus offers us opportunities to stop carrying them around.  And, when we refuse, we break his heart.  I prefer that understanding of God to the one I see in Ezekiel 24 and 28.

KRT

Week of Proper 14: Saturday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:   The Favorite, by Georgios Jakobides 

The Sins of the Fathers

AUGUST 15, 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 18:1-13, 30-32 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

What do you mean by quoting this proverb upon the soil of Israel:  “Parents eat sour grapes and their children’s teeth is blunded”?  As I live

–declares the Lord GOD–

this proverb shall no longer be current among you in Israel.  Consider, all lives are Mine; the life of the parent and the life of the child are both Mine.  The person who sins, only he shall die.

Thus, if a man is righteous and does what is just and right:  If he has not eaten on the mountains or raised his eyes to the fetishes of the House of Israel; if he nost defiled another man’s wife or approached a menstrous woman; if he has not wronged anyone; if he has returned the debtor’s pledge to him and has taken nothing by robbery; if he has given bread to the hungry and clothed the naked; if has not lent at advance interest or exacted accrued interest; if he has abstained from wrongdoing and executed true justice between man and man; if he has followed My ways and kept My rules and acted honestly–he is righteous.  Such a man shall live

–declares the Lord GOD.

Suppose, now that he has begotten a son who is a ruffian, a shedder of blood, who does any of these things, whereas he himself did none of these things.  That is, [the son] has eaten on the mountains, has defiled another man’s wife, has wronged the poor and the needy, has taken by robbery, has not returned a pledge, has raised his eyes to the fetishes, has committed abomination, has lent at advance interest, or exacted accrued interest–shall he live?  He shall not live!  If he has committed any of these abominations, he shall die; he has forfeited his life.

Be assured, O House of Israel, I will judge each one of you according to his ways

–declares the Lord GOD.

Repent and turn back from your transgressions; let them not be a stumbling block of guilt for you.  Cast away all the transgressions by which you have offended, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit, that you may not die, O House of Israel.  For it is not My desire that anyone should die

–declares the Lord GOD.

Repent, therefore, and live!

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.

Matthew 19:13-15 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then some little children were brought to him, so that he could put his hands on them and pray for them.  The disciples strongly disapproved of this but Jesus said,

You must let little children come to me, and you must never stop them.  The kingdom of Heaven belongs to little children like these!

Then he laid his hands on them and walked away.

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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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Some Related Posts:

Children:

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/the-kingdom-of-god-belongs-to-such-as-these/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-saturday-year-1/

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You shall not bow down to them [idols] or serve them.  For I the LORD your God am an impassioned God, visiting the guilt of the parents upon the children, upon the third and fourth generation of those who reject Me, but showing kindness to the thousandth generation of those who love Me and keep My commandments.

–Exodus 20:5-6 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

and

Now suppose that he, in turn, has begotten a sun who has seen all the sins that his father committed, but has taken heed and has not imitated them….he shall not die for the iniquity of his father, but shall live.

–Ezekiel 18:14, 17c (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

Do these passages contradict each other?  That is the matter I will explore in this post.  I know that the Bible contradicts itself in places, so I am prepared to accept the possibility of another contradiction.  Yet I seek to avoid mistaking a seeming contradiction for an actual one.

We begin with Exodus 20:5, a passage which a note in The Jewish Study Bible brings to my attention.  The relevant note for the Exodus passage states that this “punishment” of descendants is intended as a deterrent to , and punishment of “the sinful ancestors,” “not a transfer of guilt  to the descendants in their own right.”  (page 149)  This is still hard to swallow; would a just God punish a mere mortal for something for which he or she is not guilty?  “Ezekiel” agrees with my point.  The people of his generation suffered, he said, the consequences of their actions, not those of the deeds of their parents, grandparents, etc.  So repentance had real meaning for the living, hence the invitation to repent in Ezekiel 18:32.

What, then, are we to make of Exodus 20:5-6?  Do we misunderstand it on its face?  We might.  It is a proven fact that there are patterns–including destructive ones–in families.  Many children of alcoholics become alcoholics themselves, many children of abusive parents grow up and abuse their children, and many other negative behaviors cross generational lines.  We learn what we live, do we not?  Perhaps this is what the author of Exodus 20:5-6 (Let us call him “Moses” for the sake of convenience.) tried to convey.  Maybe he lacked our psychological understanding, and therefore perceived God as playing a part in that reality.

As an Anglican/Episcopalian, I understand that I need to consider scripture in the context of tradition and reason, tradition through the lenses of scripture and reason, and reason in the light of scripture and tradition.  And, as I once heard a Lutheran minister say, I need to read the rest of the Bible through the lenses of the four Gospels–through my Gospel glasses.  So I have no theological difficulty considering human psychology to be a factor useful in interpreting scripture or the words attributed to Jesus when pondering a passage from elsewhere in the Bible.  And Jesus did not hesitate to treat each person according to his or her potential–without regard to what his mother or father had done–or even to what that person had done years ago.  An impetuous fisherman became the “rock” and chief Apostle.  Some of those who exploited their fellow countrymen in service to the occupying Roman Empire changed their ways and followed our Lord.  And, perhaps most scandalously, Jesus said that certain prostitutes would enter Heaven before some respected religious leaders.

Yes, the attitudes and ensuing actions of others shape us, but so do other factors.  And we are ultimately responsible for our won actions and decisions.  Granddad might have set something positive or negative in action, and we might still feel its influence, but this fact does not deprive us of our moral agency.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/the-sins-of-the-fathers/

Week of Proper 14: Friday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  A Depiction of the Chaldean/Ne0-Babylonian Destruction of Jerusalem

No More Shame–Just Freedom, Love, and Gratitude

AUGUST 14, 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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THE FIRST READING

Ezekiel 16:1-15, 59-63 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, proclaim Jerusalem’s abominations to her, and say:  Thus said the Lord GOD to Jerusalem:  By origin and birth you are from the land of the Canaanites–your father was an Amorite and your mother a Hittite.  As for your birth, when you were born your navel cord was not cut, and you were not bathed in water to smooth you; you were not rubbed with salt, nor were you swaddled.  No one pitied you enough to do any one of these things for you out of compassion for you; on the day you were born, you were left lying, rejected, in the open field.  When I passed by you and saw you wallowing in your blood, I said to you:  “Live in spite of your blood.”  Yea, I let you grow like the plants of the field; and you continued to grow up until you attained to womanhood, until your breasts became firm and your hair sprouted.

You were still naked and bare when I passed by you [again] and saw that your time for love had arrived.  So I spread My robe over you and covered your nakedness, and I entered into a covenant with you by oath

–declares the Lord GOD;

thus you became Mine.  I bathed you in water, and washed the blood off you, and anointed you with oil.  I clothed you with embroidered garments, and gave you sandals of dolphin leather to wear, and wound fine linen about your head, and dressed you in silks.  I decked you out in finery and put bracelets on your arms and a chain around your neck.  I put a ring in your nose, and earrings in your ears, and a splendid crown on your head.  You adorned yourself with gold and silver, and your apparel was of fine linen, silk, and embroidery.  Your food was choice flour, honey, and oil.  You grew more and more beautiful, and became fit for royalty.  Your beauty won you fame among the nations, for it was perfected through the splendor which I set upon you

–declares the Lord GOD.

But confident in your beauty and fame, you played the harlot:  you lavished your favors on every passerby; they were his.

Truly, thus said the Lord GOD:

I will deal with you as you have dealt, for you have spurned the pact and violated the covenant.  Nevertheless, I will remember the covenant I have made with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish it with you as an everlasting covenant.  You shall remember your ways and feel ashamed, when you receive your older sisters and younger sisters, and I gave them to you as daughters, though they are not of your covenant.  I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD.  Thus you shall remember and feel shame, and you shall be too abashed to open your mouth again, when I have forgiven you for all that you did

–declares the Lord GOD.

THE RESPONSE:  OPTION #1

Psalm 11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  In the LORD have I taken refuge;

how then can you say to me,

“Fly away like a bird to the hilltop;

2  For see how the wicked bend the bow

and fit their arrows to the string,

to shoot from ambush at the true of heart.

3  When the foundations are being destroyed,

what can the righteous do?”

4  The LORD is in his holy temple;

the LORD’s throne is in heaven.

5  His eyes behold the inhabited world;

his piercing eye weighs our worth.

6  The LORD weighs the righteous as well as the wicked,

but those who delight in violence he abhors.

7  Upon the wicked he shall rain coals of fire and burning sulphur;

a scorching wind shall be their lot.

8  For the LORD is righteous;

he delights in righteous deeds;

and the just shall see his face.

THE RESPONSE:  OPTION #2

Canticle 10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Isaiah 55:6-11 plus the Trinitarian formula

Seek the Lord while he wills to be found;

call upon him when he draws near.

Let the wicked forsake their ways

and the evil ones their thoughts;

And let them turn to the Lord, and he will have compassion,

and to our God, for he will richly pardon.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,

nor your ways my ways, says the Lord.

For as the heavens are higher than the earth,

so are my ways higher than your ways,

and my thoughts than your thoughts.

For as rain and snow fall from the heavens

and return not again, but water the earth,

Bringing forth life and giving growth,

seed for sowing and bread for eating,

So is my word that goes forth from my mouth;

it will not return to me empty;

But it will accomplish that for which I have purposed,

and prosper in that for which I sent it.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

THE GOSPEL READING

Matthew 19:3-12 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then the Pharisees arrived with a test-question.

Is it right,

they asked,

for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds whatever?

He answered,

Haven’t you read that the one who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two separate people but one.  No man therefore must separate what God has joined together.

They retorted,

Then why did Moses command us to give a written divorce notice and dismiss the woman?

He answered,

It was because you knew so little about the meaning of love that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives!  But that was not the original principle.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife on any grounds except her unfaithfulness and marries some other woman commits adultery.

His disciples said to him,

If that is a man’s position with his wife, it is not worth getting married!

Jesus replied,

It is not everybody who can accept this principle–only those who have a special gift.  For some are incapable of marriage from birth, some are made incapable by the action of men, and some have made themselves so for the kingdom of Heaven.  Let the man who can accept what I have said accept it.

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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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Some Related Posts:

Regarding Divorce:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

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The Kingdom of Judah, according to Ezekiel 16, was like an abandoned baby girl.  God had adopted her, raised her to womanhood, adorned her, and treated her like a queen.  Yet she turned to prostitution, that is, entered into alliances with dangerous foreign nations, and even paid her lovers, that is, paid tribute to those nations.  As one continues reading, one reads of the resulting punishment and public humiliation.  And, among her sins, was not supporting the poor and needy (verse 49).  Yet, despite everything, God will establish a covenant with Judah and forgive her:

I will establish My covenant with you, and you shall know that I am the LORD.  Thus you shall remember and feel shame, and you shall be too abashed to open your mouth again, when I have forgiven you for all that you did–declares the Lord GOD.–Ezekiel 16:62-63

Shame is a social construct.  One has only the amount of shame others assign to one.  We humans, being social animals, often internalize such standards.  Thus one must, in order to feel shame, have a sense of honor, another social construct.  Often honor overlaps with a sense of morality, definitions of which owe their shapes partly to social norms.  (In the Antebellum U.S. South, for example, many professing Christians did not consider owning slaves to be immoral.  There was even a prevailing orthodoxy which said that God condoned or commended the practice.)  It is true that sometimes–perhaps much or most of the time–when we sin, we know that we are doing that.  We have our reasons–bad ones, granted–for our actions, but we still know what we are doing.  Or we should know better, if we do not.

There are consequences of actions, but there is also the possibility of forgiveness.  The forgiven should know that they need it.  And there ought to be remorse.  But–here I differ with “Ezekiel”–there is no need to wallow in remorse or shame.  Writing as a Christian, I come from the perspective of one who acknowledges that God has taken the burden of sin away from us.  We impose it on ourselves and each other, but God first took it away from us.

So, liberated from that heavy burden, may we live in freedom and in gratitude to God.  May we love God fully, love our neighbors as ourselves, enjoy God, and glorify our Redeemer.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/no-more-shame-just-freedom-love-and-gratitude/

Week of Proper 14: Wednesday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 14: Thursday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  A Hook

God, On the Hook

AUGUST 12 and 13, 2020

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

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FIRST READINGS FOR WEDNESDAY

Ezekiel 9:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then He called loudly in my hearing, saying,

Approach, you men in charge of the city, each bearing his weapons of destruction!

And six men entered by way of the upper gate that faces north, each with his club in hand; and among them was another, clothed in linen, with a writing case at his waist.  They came forward and stopped at the bronze altar.  Now the Presence of the God of Israel had moved from the cherub on which it had rested to the platform of the House.  He called to the man clothed in linen with the writing case at his waist; and the LORD said to him,

Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who moan and groan because of all the abominations that are committed in it.

To the others He said in my hearing,

Follow him through the city and strike; show no pity or compassion.  Kill off graybeard, youth, and maiden, women and children; but do not touch any person who bears the mark.  Begin here at My Sanctuary.

So they began with the elders who were in front of the House.  And He said to them,

Defile the House and fill the courts with the slain.  Then go forth.

So they went forth and began to kill in the city.

Ezekiel 10:18-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then the presence of the LORD left the platform of the House and stopped above the cherubs.  And I saw the cherubs lift their wings and rise from the earth, with the wheels beside them as they departed; and they stopped at the entrance of the eastern gate of the House of the LORD, with the Presence of the God of Israel above them.  They were the same creatures that I had seen below the God of Israel at the Chebar Canal; so now I know that they were cherubs.  Each one had four faces and each had four wings.  As for the form of their faces, they were the very faces I had seen by the Chebar Canal–their appearance and their features–and each could move in the direction of any of its faces.

FIRST READING FOR THURSDAY

Ezekiel 12:1-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, you dwell among the rebellious breed.  They have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but hear not; for they are a rebellious breed.  Therefore, mortal, get yourself gear for exile, and go into exile before their eyes.  Go into exile from your home to another place before their very eyes; perhaps they will take note, even though they are a rebellious breed.  Carry out your gear for exile by day before their very eyes, as one who goes out into exile.  Before their eyes, break through the wall and carry [the gear] out through it; before their eyes, carry it on your shoulder.  Take it out in the dark, and cover your face that you may not see the land; for I will make you a portent to the House of Israel.

I did just as I was ordered:  I took out my gear by day as gear for exile, and in the evening I broke through the wall with my own hands.  In the darkness I carried [the gear] out on my shoulder, carrying it before their eyes.

In the morning, the word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, did not the House of Israel, that rebellious breed, as, you, “What are you doing?”  Say to them:  “Thus said the Lord GOD:  This pronouncement concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the House of Israel who are in it.”  Say:  “I am a portent for you:  As I have done, so shall it be done to them; they shall go into exile, into captivity.  And the prince among them shall carry his gear on his shoulder as he goes out in the dark.  He shall break through the wall in order to carry [his gear] out through it; he shall cover his face, because he himself shall not see the land with his eyes.”  I will spread My net over him, and he shall be caught in My snare.  I will bring him to Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, but he shall not see it; and there he shall die.  And all those around him, his helpers and all his troops, I will scatter in every direction; and I will unsheathe the sword after them.  Then, when I have scattered them among the nations and dispersed them through the countries, they shall know that I am the LORD.  But I will spare a few of them from the sword, from famine, and from pestilence; that they may recount all their abominable deeds among the nations to which they come; and they shall know that I am the LORD!

RESPONSE FOR WEDNESDAY

Psalm 113 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Give Praise, you servants of the LORD;

praise the Name of the LORD.

2 Let the Name of the LORD be blessed,

from this time forth for evermore.

3 From the rising of the sun to its going down

let the Name of the LORD be praised.

The LORD is high above all nations,

and his glory above the heavens.

Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust

and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

7 He sets them with the princes,

with the princes of his people.

He makes the woman of a childless house

to be a joyful mother of children.

RESPONSE FOR THURSDAY

Psalm 39:11-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11  Take your affliction from me;

I am worn down by the blows of your hand.

12  With rebukes for sin you punish us;

like a moth you eat away all that is dear to us;

truly, everyone is but a puff of wind.

13  Hear my prayer, O LORD,

and give ear to my cry;

hold not your peace at my tears.

14  For I am but a sojourner with you,

a wayfarer, as all my forebears were.

15  Turn your gaze from me, that I may be glad again,

before I go my way and am no more.

GOSPEL READING FOR WEDNESDAY

Matthew 18:15-20 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,] “

But if your brother wrongs you, go and have it out with him at once–just between the two of you.  If he will listen to you, you have won him back as your brother.  But if he will not listen to you, take one or two others with you so that everything that is said may have the support of two or three witnesses.  And if he still won’t pay attention, tell the matter to the church.  And if he won’t even listen to the church then he must be to you like a pagan–or a tax-collector!

Believe me, whatever you forbid upon earth will be what is forbidden in Heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven.

And I tell you once more that if two of you on earth agree in asking for anything it will be granted to you by my Heavenly Father.  For wherever two or three people have come together in my name, I am there, right among them!

GOSPEL READING FOR THURSDAY

Matthew 18:21-19:1 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Peter approached him [Jesus] with the question,

Master, if my brother goes on wronging me how often should I forgive him?  Would seven times be enough?

Jesus replied,

No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!  For the kingdom of Heaven is like a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants.  When he had started calling in his accounts, a man was brought to him who owed him millions of pounds.  As he had no means of repaying the debt, his master gave orders for him to be sold as a slave, and his wife and children and all his possessions as well, and the money to be paid over.  At this the servant fell on his knees before his master.  “Oh, be patient with me!” he cried, “and I will pay you back every penny!”  Then his master was moved with pity for him, set him free and cancelled his debt.

But when this same servant had left his master’s presence, he found one of his fellow-servants who owed him a few shillings.  He grabbed him and seized him by the throat, crying, “Pay up what you owe me!”  At this his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and implored him, “Oh, be patient with me, and I will pay you back!”  But he refused and went out and had him put in prison until he should repay the debt.

When the other fellow-servants saw what had happened, they were horrified and went and told their master the whole incident.  This his master called him in.

“You wicked servant!” he said.  “Didn’t I cancel all that debt when you begged me to do so?  Oughtn’t you to have taken pity on your fellow-servant as I, your master, took pity on you?”  And his master in anger handed him over to the jailers till he should repay the whole debt.  This is how my Heavenly Father will treat you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.

When Jesus had finished talking on these matters, he left Galilee and went on to the district of Judea on the far side of the Jordan.

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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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This is bleak material.  The readings from Matthew speak of forgiveness and how, important it is, but the lections from Ezekiel are harsh.  Idolatrous abominations have polluted the Temple, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian forces will destroy the Temple and slaughter much of the population (including young children), the divine Presence will depart the city, King Zedekiah will go blinded into exile, and Ezekiel will also go into exile.  God will spare from death those who had objected to the sinfulness, but apparently this protection will not extend to young children.  And the texts depict God as being in charge of all these events.

As an intellectually honest Monotheist, I acknowledge the main problem of Monotheism:  There is no good and honest way to let God off the hook.  If I a were to accept the existence of multiple deities, I could blame one or more for evil and other events I do not like.  Yet Monotheism requires me to accept that God is responsible for good and for bad, for what I like and for what I consider detestable.  Brains older, wiser, and better educated than mine have pondered this quandary, which remains, so I will not untangle it today or any other day.

Father Robert Farrar Capon offers the following analysis:

Just remember that what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the liver fluke, the killer whale, and the loan shark–that if God is holding all things in being right now, he’s got some explaining to do if he hopes to maintain his reputation as the original Good Guy.  Or, more accurately (since God steadfastly refuses to show up and explain anything, except by announcing mysteries and paradoxes) we’ve got a lot of explaining to do if we are to go on thinking of him in terms of his creation.

The Third Peacock:  The Problem of God and Evil, 2d. Edition (Minneapolis, MN:  Winston Press, 1986) , page 11

A few pages later, we find these words:

God is still firmly on the hook.  (That he is actually on the hook, of course, is God’s own final answer to the whole matter.  According to the Gospel, he himself hangs on the cross with the rest of his free creation.  If you believe that, it is great comfort; it is not, however, one whit less a mystery.–page 14

The greatest fault of Fundamentalism is its pretense of knowing more than it does.  My theology, in contrast, flees from the false comfort of easy and pat answers.  I embrace the unknown, claim the mystery, and catalog the questions I want to ask God one day, in another life.  Until that day, however, I choose not to refrain from recognizing that there is only one God and seeking a deeper relationship with God.  Certain matters are too great for me, not that my acknowledgement of this fact prevents me from remaining inquisitive.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/god-on-the-hook/

Week of Proper 15: Tuesday, Year 1   10 comments

Deborah, by Gustave Dore

With God All Things Are Possible

AUGUST 17, 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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Judges 5:9-23 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

My heart is with Israel’s leaders,

With the dedicated of the people–

Bless the LORD!

You riders on tawny she-asses,

You who sit on saddle rugs,

And you wayfarers, declare it!

Louder than the “sound of archers,

There among the watering places

Let them chant the gracious acts of the LORD,

His gracious deliverance of Israel.

Then did the people of the LORD

March down to the gates!

Awake, awake, O Deborah!

Awake, awake, strike up the chant!

Arise, O Barak;

Take your captives, O son of Abinoam!

Then was the remnant made victor over the mighty,

The LORD’s people won my victory over the warriors.

From Ephraim came they whose roots are in Amalek;

After you, your kin Benjamin;

From Machir came down leaders,

From Zebulon such as hold the marshal’s staff.

And Isaachar’s chiefs were with Deborah;

As Barak, so was Isaachar–

Rushing after him into the valley.

Among the clans of Reuben

Were great decisions of heart.

Why then did you stay among the sheepfolds

And listen as they pipe for the flocks?

Among the clans of Reuben

Were great searchings of heart!

Gilead tarried beyond the Jordan;

And Dan–why did he linger by the ships?

Asher remained at the seacoast

And tarried at his landings.

Zebulon is a people that mocked at death,

Naphtali–on the open heights.

Then the kings came, they fought:

The kings of Canaan fought

At Taanach, by Megiddo’s waters–

They got no spoil of silver.

The stars fought from heaven,

From their courses they fought against Sisera.

The torrent Kishon swept them away,

The raging torrent, the torrent Kishon.

March on, my soul, with courage!

Then the horses’ hoofs pounded

As headlong galloped the steeds.

Curse Meroz!

said the angel of the LORD.

Bitterly curse its inhabitants,

Because they came not to the aid of the LORD,

To the aid of the LORD among the warriors.

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

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

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

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

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Matthew 19:23-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus remarked to his disciples,

Believe me, a rich man will find it very difficult to enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Yes, I repeat, a camel could more easily squeeze through the eye of a needle than a rich man get into the kingdom of God!

The disciples were simply amazed to hear this, and said,

Then who can possibly be saved?

Jesus looked steadily at them and replied,

Humanly speaking it is impossible; but with God anything is possible!

At this Peter exclaimed,

Look, we have left everything and followed you.  What will that be worth to us?

Jesus said,

Believe me when I tell you that in the new world, when the Son of Man shall take his seat on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also be seated on twelve thrones as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Every man who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or land for my sake will get them back many times over, and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last then–and the last first!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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An understanding of Judges 5 depends on a grasp of the previous chapter in that book.  The prophetess Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, was the judge of the Israelites.  She held court under a tree, where people came “to her for decisions” (4:5, TANAKH).  Barak was her army commander.  Deborah informed him that God had commanded her to tell him to take ten thousand men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulon to confront the military forces of Jabin, a Canaanite king, commanded by Sisera.  God would deliver Sisera’s forces into Barak’s hands.  Barak did as Deborah said, on the condition that she accompany him.  She agreed, saying, “Very well, I will go with you.  However there will be no glory for you in the course you are taking, for then the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”

So Barak, Deborah, and the ten thousand men set out to confront the forces that have oppressed the Israelites for two decades.  They did, and Sisera fled to the tent of Jael, wife of Heber.  She concealed him long enough to kill him by driving a pin through his temple.

So, as the narrative says, God had delivered the Israelites through the actions of women.  The message of this story in a deeply patriarchal culture is that there is no human glory here; all glory belongs to God.  The role of the feminine as opposed to that of the masculine in the story is foreign to me, a product of North American feminism.  Within my memory women have always had the right to vote, as well as to seek and hold public office.  And, as far as my memory has been stable (roughly since I was seven or eight years old), I have known of female clergy and not thought twice about them holding this status.  So the sexism of parts of the Bible rankles me.  These books are products of their times and the cultures of the people who wrote and edited them.

But let us not lose sight of the main point:  All glory belongs to God.  With God all things are possible.  In God is liberation, which is always spiritual and sometimes temporal.

The reading from Matthew proceeds from the immediately preceding verses, in which Jesus has conversed with a rich young man too attached to his wealth.  This man’s wealth was a barrier to a proper relationship with God because it (the wealth) blinded him to his dependence of God.  The glory is God’s alone; none of it is human.

Thus we have the famously hyperbolic statement about a camel passing through the eye of a needle.  It is similar to an older Jewish maxim about an elephant attempting the same feat.  The meaning is not complicated, for the narrative makes it plain:  Salvation is possible only with God.  All the glory belongs to God.  This does not mean that our sacrifices are meaningless, for these indicate our faithfulness and sincerity.

The famous line about the first being last and the last being first is consistent with other portions of the canonical gospels.  Consider Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, for example.  The neglected poor man goes to a happy afterlife.  The Kingdom of God operates on different principles than does the dominant human order on the Earth.

With God all things are possible.  Thanks be to God!

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/with-god-all-things-are-possible/