Archive for the ‘Matthew 20’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 21, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Golden Rule

Above:   The Golden Rule, by Norman Rockwell

Image in the Public Domain

The Golden Rule

OCTOBER 3, 2019

OCTOBER 4, 2019

OCTOBER 5, 2019

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The Collect:

Benevolent, merciful God:

When we are empty, fill us.

When we are weak in faith, strengthen us.

When we are cold in love, warm us,

that we may love our neighbors and

serve them for the sake of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 18:1-8, 28-36 (Thursday)

2 Kings 19:8-20, 35-37 (Friday)

Isaiah 7:1-9 (Saturday)

Psalm 37:1-9 (All Days)

Revelation 2:8-11 (Thursday)

Revelation 2:12-29 (Friday)

Matthew 20:29-34 (Saturday)

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Put your trust in the LORD and do good;

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

–Psalm 37:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these three days tell of the mercy–pity, even–of God.  In 2 Kings and Isaiah God delivers the Kingdom of Judah from threats.  The core message of Revelation is to remain faithful during persecution, for God will win in the end.  Finally, Jesus takes pity on two blind men and heals them in Matthew 20.

On the other side of mercy one finds judgment.  The Kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians in 2 Kings 17 and 2 Chronicles 32.  The Kingdom of Judah went on to fall to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 2 Kings 25 and 2 Chronicles 36.  The fall of Babylon (the Roman Empire) in Revelation was bad news for those who had profited from cooperation with the violent and economically exploitative institutions thereof (read Chapter 18).

In an ideal world all would be peace and love.  We do not live in an ideal world, obviously.  Certain oppressors will insist on oppressing.  Some of them will even invoke God (as they understand God) to justify their own excuse.  Good news for the oppressed, then, will necessarily entail bad news for the oppressors.  The irony of the situation is that oppressors.  The irony of the situation is that oppressors hurt themselves also, for whatever they do to others, they do to themselves.  That is a cosmic law which more than one religion recognizes.  Only victims are present, then, and some victims are also victimizers.

Loving our neighbors is much better, is it not?

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-golden-rule-2/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 17, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Hope flows through a new canal

Above:  Canal

Image in the Public Domain

Service and Glory

AUGUST 31, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 21:1-4, 24-26

Psalm 112

Matthew 20:20-28

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How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,

who delights in his commandments!

–Psalm 112:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The reading from Matthew 20 concerns the misguided quest for glory in lieu of service.  In Matthew 20:20-28 St. Mary Salome, sister of St. Mary of Nazareth, asks her nephew (Jesus) to grant her sons (Sts. James and John) places of honor in the Kingdom of God.  In Mark 10:35-45, however, Sts. James and John make the request instead.  In each account our Lord and Savior’s reply is the same:

  1. “You do not understand what you are asking.”–The Revised English Bible (1989);
  2. That is not a decision for Jesus to make; and
  3. The request is misguided.

As the lection from Proverbs 21 reminds us,

Haughty looks–a proud heart–

The tillage of the wicked is sinful.

–Verse 4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

May we seek instead to be like the channeled water of Proverbs 21:1–directed toward whatever God wishes.  May we seek to glorify God and benefit our fellow human beings, not to glorify ourselves.  Jesus has provided a fine example of service for us to emulate in our circumstances.  If we are really Christians, we will seek to follow him more than we do already.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/service-and-glory-2/

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

Icon of Elisha 02

Above:  Icon of Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

Trusting in God

OCTOBER 26 and 27, 2021

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The Collect:

Eternal light, shine in our hearts.

Eternal wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance.

Eternal compassion, have mercy on us.

Turn us to seek your face, and enable us to reflect your goodness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 6:8-23 (Tuesday)

Jeremiah 33:1-11 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:17-24 (Both Days)

Acts 9:32-35 (Tuesday)

Matthew 20:29-34 (Wednesday)

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Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good….Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves has fulfilled the law.

–Romans 12:17-21; 13:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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This is an interesting set of readings.  The pericopes from the New Testament are stories of individual healing, the portion of Psalm 119 expresses respect for and delight in divine law, the lesson from Jeremiah 33 promises divine healing of the Hebrew people after divine punishment thereof, and the account in 2 Kings 6 is odd.  Somehow Elisha is a clairvoyant who has God’s ear, delivers a force of Aramean raiders into the hands of the King of Israel, and advises giving them food and drink before releasing them.  (There is an interesting military tactic.)

A few thoughts come to mind:

  1. The motif of healing, both individual and collective, is strong. Even individual healing has a collective component, for it restores one to wholeness in his or her family, community, network of friends, et cetera.
  2. The humane treatment of the Aramean raiders demonstrates strength and reduces tensions.  The equivalent of stuffing one’s adversaries with tea and crumpets (if I may be British) is certainly unexpected and provides no incentive for further violence, at least in the short-term future.  It is also consistent with the ethics of Romans 12:17-21.
  3. The balance of judgment and mercy in God is a mystery I cannot even begin to unravel, so I more along to matters not too great for me.
  4. One should have a healthy sense of awe of and gratitude to God.  One can be confident in the faithfulness of God and therefore act boldly and properly, not foolishly and out of fear.

Perhaps the theme which unites these lessons best begins with the faithfulness of God to divine promises.  We, assured of that fidelity, will, by grace, act out of confidence in and obedience to God, in whom exist both judgment and mercy.  We will reap what we sow, either positive or negative.  If we trust God, we will feel sufficiently secure to act righteously, even to extend kindness to our enemies.  That ethic is consistent with the following passage from 1 Peter 3:

Finally, be united, all of you, in thought and feeling; be full of brotherly affection, kindly, and humble.  Do not repay wrong with wrong, or abuse with abuse; on the contrary, respond with a blessing, for a blessing is what God intends you to receive.

–Verses 8-9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

We humans make many of our worst decisions out of fear.  Often we make bad situations worse in so doing.  This generalization holds true in individual and collective settings.  Yet proper confidence in the faithfulness of God strips away the misconception that we must do something when we ought to get out of God’s way.  Letting go and letting God when doing that is appropriate precludes making foolish, fear-based decisions which reveal our lack of trust.  Ignorance is frequently a complicating factor in making good decisions, for how are we to know when to be active and when to be passive?

May we decide wisely, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/trusting-in-god-5/

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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 Monday and Tuesday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Balaam and the Angel

Numbers and Luke, Part X:   Obedience to Our Sovereign God

MAY 24 and 25, 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 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:

Numbers 22:1-20 (Monday)

Numbers 22:21-23:3 (Tuesday)

Psalm 5 (Morning–Monday)

Psalm 42 (Morning–Tuesday)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–Monday)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–Tuesday)

Luke 22:1-23 (Monday)

Luke 22:24-46 (Tuesday)

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Parts of the readings from the Book of Numbers prove to be inconsistent with my Western and scientific worldview and mindset, which I have inherited from my post-Enlightenment culture.  What influence might one non-Israelite prophet’s curse have upon them?  And we all know that donkeys lack the capacity for human language.  But these details are trivial matters; the main point of the Balak and Balaam narrative is to affirm the sovereignty of God.  Balaam, hired to curse the Israelites on behalf of Balak, the King of Moab, disobeys God by setting with Balak’s agents.  The the prophet receives divine permission to continue on the journey but only to speak as God, not Balak wishes.

To digress briefly, who stops Balaam and his donkey in their tracks?  The narrative, in 22:22-26, uses a Hebrew term for “the adversary,” or the Satan.  The theology of Satan changed from the beginning of the Bible to the New Testament.  Here, in the Book of Numbers, as in the Book of Job, the Satan was an angel who worked for God.  Free agency, such as we see in the New Testament, came later.  This is a well-documented pattern of facts, one which serious study of the texts reveals.  There are even entire books on just this subject.

While I am wearing my higher criticism hat….

Luke 22:24-27, set immediately after our Lord’s betrayal by Judas Iscariot and the institution of the Holy Eucharist and the Last Supper, bears a striking resemblance to Matthew 20:25-28 and Mark 10:42-45, both of which follow on the heels of James and John, sons of Zebedee, asking for high status for themselves (or their mother, our Lord’s aunt, asking for them, depending on the account one reads) in the Kingdom of God.  And the passages from Matthew and Mark precede the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem almost immediately.  Such discrepancies did not trouble the Church Fathers who approved the New Testament canon, so I will not permit them to disturb me either.  Besides, I know that the Gospels are not documentaries.

Anyhow, the theme of obedience we find in Numbers 22 runs through Luke 22 also.  Jesus obeys God.  Those who defy the Greco-Roman system of age and patronage, a system which oppressed people while impressing them with moments of generosity, obey God.  Those who stand by Jesus obey God.  Even Judas Iscariot played his part in salvation history.  If nobody had betrayed Jesus, would he have suffered, died, and risen?  Again we see the sovereignty of God playing out in the texts.

Sometimes agents in these dramas of the sovereignty of God are less than savory characters.  Consider the Numbers and Luke readings for examples of this, O reader.  Balaam, for example, obeyed God until he did not; consult Numbers 31:16.  And, elsewhere in the Bible, the narrative presents the Assyrians and the Babylonians as agents of divine sovereignty and punishment–agents those texts also condemn.  The fact that you, O reader, and I have roles to play in divine plans does not necessarily bode well for us.  Yet may we be on God’s side.  It is better for us, and I propose that God prefers it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-x-obedience-to-our-sovereign-god/

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Week of Proper 15: Wednesday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  A Vineyard

God’s Generosity

AUGUST 19, 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 34:1-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel.  Prophesy, and say to them:

To the shepherds:  Thus said the Lord GOD:  Ah, you shepherds of Israel, who have been tending yourselves!  Is it not the flock that the shepherds ought to tend?  You partake of the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, and you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not tend the flock.  You have not sustained the weak, healed the sick, or bandaged the injured; you have not brought back the strayed, or looked for the lost; but you have driven them with harsh rigor, and they have been scattered, they have become prey for every wild beast.  My sheep stray through all the mountains and over every lofty hill; My flock is scattered all over the face of the earth, with none to take thought of them and none to seek them.  Hear then, O shepherds, the word of the LORD!  As I live

–declares the Lord GOD:

Because My flock has been a prey for all the wild beasts, for want of anyone to tend them since My shepherds have not taken thought of My flock, for the shepherds tended themselves instead of tending the flock–hear indeed, O shepherds, the word of the LORD:  Thus said the Lord GOD:  I am going to deal with the shepherds!  I will demand a reckoning of them for My flock, and I will dismiss them from tending the flock.  The shepherds shall not tend themselves any more; for I will rescue My flock from their mouths, and it shall not be their  prey.

Psalm 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not be in want.

2  He makes me lie down in green pastures

and leads me beside still waters.

3  He revives my soul

and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

4  Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I shall fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

5  You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

6  Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

Matthew 20:1-16a (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus said,]

For the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder going out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. He agreed with them on a wage of a silver coin a day and sent them to work.  About nine o’clock he went and saw some others standing about in the market-place with nothing to do.  “You go to the vineyard too,” he said to them, “and I will pay you a fair wage.”  And off they went.  As about mid-day and again at three o’clock in the afternoon he went out and did the same thing.  Then about five o’clock he went out and found some others standing about.  “Why are you standing about here all day doing nothing?” he asked them. “Because no one has employed us,” they replied.  “You go off into the vineyard as well, then,” he said.

When evening came the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, “Call the labourers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last and ending with the first.”  So those who were engaged at five o’clock came up and each man received a silver coin.  But when the first to be employed came they reckoned they would get more; yet they also received a silver coin each.  As they took their money they grumbled at the householder and said, “These last fellows have only put in one hour’s work and you’ve treated them exactly the same as us who have gone through all the hard work and heat of the day!”

But he replied to one of them, “My friend, I’m not being unjust to you.  Wasn’t our agreement for a silver coin a day?  Take your money and go home.  It is my wish to give the late-comers as much as I give you.  May I not do what I like with what belongs to me?  Must you be jealous because I am generous?”

So, many who are the last now will be first then and the first last.

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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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God seems generous again in these readings.  In Matthew 20 we find a parable about a vineyard owner who hires day laborers throughout one day and pays every worker for a full day’s work.  And God promises to seek out and to rescue his sheep from bad shepherds.  It will not go well for the bad shepherds, though.

Ezekiel 34:1-1 is about divine mercy for the people of Judah (recently exiled) and the need for new leadership.  The old leadership led people into the current mess (national destruction), after all.  The new leaders, we learn as we keep reading, will come from the Davidic line.

For the chosen people, at least, it is never too late to start over.  And, in the parable of the generous vineyard owner, it is never too late to start working in the vineyard of God.  May we welcome our fellow laborers, not grumbling about divine generosity.  Rather, may God’s generosity inspire us to generosity of spirit and, when possible, of earthly wealth, no matter how insignificant it might seem to us.

KRT

Proper 15, Year B   24 comments

Above:  The Right Reverend Keith Whitmore, Assistant Bishop of Atlanta, Celebrating the Holy Eucharist at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia,  October 31, 2010

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Living Wisely, Maturely, and In the Ways of Insight

The Sunday Closest to August 17

The Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 15, 2021

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.

Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said,

Ask what I should give you.

And Solomon said,

You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him,

Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.

Psalm 111 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

2 Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

4 He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

7 The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

8 They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

He sent redemption to his people;

he commanded his covenant for ever;

holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Proverbs 9:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Wisdom has built her house,

she has hewn her seven pillars.

She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine,

she has also set her table.

She has sent out her servant girls, she calls

from the highest places in the town,

You that are simple, turn in here!

To those without sense she says,

Come, eat of my bread

and drink of my wine I have mixed.

Lay aside immaturity and live,

and walk in the way of insight.

Psalm 34:9-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Fear the LORD, you that are his saints,

for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger,

but those who seek the LORD lack nothing that is good.

11 Come, children, and listen to me;

I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

12 Who among you loves life

and desires long life to enjoy prosperity?

13 Keep your tongue from evil-speaking

and your lips from lying words.

14 Turn from evil and do good;

seek peace and pursue it.

SECOND READING

Ephesians 5:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

GOSPEL READING

John 6:51-58 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying,

How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

So Jesus said to them,

Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.

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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Some Related Posts:

Proper 15, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/proper-15-year-a/

1 Kings 2 and 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/16/week-of-4-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/19/week-of-4-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

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In the Gospel of John, the Last Supper is implicit, but Eucharistic language and imagery pervade the book.  The combination of such language and imagery in John 6 and Proverbs 9 unifies this Sunday’s readings.

We read in Ephesians 5 not to “be foolish,” but to “understand what the will of the Lord is.”  Likewise, in 1 Kings 3, King Solomon (in a dream) asks God for wisdom.  And, in Proverbs 9, we see Sophia, divine wisdom personified, setting her table, inviting people to eat of her bread, drink her wine, and “lay aside immaturity, and live and walk in the way of insight.”  Then, in John 6, we read of the imperative to eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus, so that we will have life in us.

I have already (https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/proper-13-year-b/) covered much of the Eucharistic content in John 6.  So some other thoughts follow:

  1. It is not enough to start well.  One must also finish well.  Solomon started well yet lost his way.
  2. We must imitate our Lord’s example, his holy life.  He came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28).  He acted compassionately on many occasions; this was his pattern.  And he did not shrink back from confronting those who imposed needless burdens, especially economic ones, on others, especially the pious poor (Matthew 21:12-13, for example).
  3. It can be relatively easy to identify ancient examples of foolishness and immaturity, but more difficult (not to mention politically loaded) to do the same for contemporary times.  I have my list; you, O reader, probably have yours.  I share an easy, generally non-controversial item from my list:  Televangelists and pastors who give away or sell prayer cloths and/or “healing” spring water, pretend to be able to heal people, and/or teach the heresy called Prosperity Theology.  This kind of hokum is a variety of religion which deserves Karl Marx’s label “the opiate of the masses.”  And here is another item:  I oppose all who use religion to incite or encourage any form of bigotry or to distract people from the imperative to take care of each other in various ways.  This post is not a proper venue to name names, so I refrain from doing so.

By grace may we succeed in living wisely, maturely, and in the ways of insight that, after we die, God will say to each us,

Well done, good and faithful servant.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/living-wisely-maturelyand-in-the-ways-of-insight/

Proper 20, Year A   27 comments

Above:  Map of Ancient Nineveh

Image Source = Fredarch

Scandalous Generosity

The Sunday Closest to September 21

The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 16:2-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them,

If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites,

In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For what are we, that you complain against us?

And Moses said,

When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him– what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.”

And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said,

I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,

What is it?

For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them,

It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

37 He led out his people with silver and gold;

in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.

38 Egypt was glad of their going,

because they were afraid of them.

39 He spread out a cloud for a covering,

and a fire to give light in the night season.

40 They asked, and quails appeared,

and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water flowed,

so the river ran in the dry places.

42 For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43 So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44 He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil.

45 That they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.

Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Jonah 3:10-4:11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said,

O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.

And the LORD said,

Is it right for you to be angry?

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The LORD God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said,

It is better for me to die than to live.

But God said to Jonah,

Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?

And he said,

Yes, angry enough to die.

Then the LORD said,

You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?

Psalm 145:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

5 I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

6 They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of your greatness.

7 They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

SECOND READING

Philippians 1:21-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well– since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 20:1-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; 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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We like grace when we benefit from it, as in the case of the children of Israel, whom God fed in the wilderness.  Yet often we object when others–especially our enemies and others unlike us–benefit from it, too.

Consider Jonah, one of the most interesting literary creations in the Bible.  He was a satirical figure who epitomized the worst of post-Exilic Judaism, which had a strong dose of exclusivity about it.  So, in the short book bearing the name “Jonah” the titular character receives a mandate from God to offer the people of Nineveh–traditional enemies–a chance to repent.  Jonah runs away, but cannot escape from God.  Finally, Jonah does as God demands, and finds success in this effort disappointing.  Who is he without his traditional enemy?  What is his identity now?  This man cares more for a plant than for fellow human beings who are different from him, but whom God loves and to whom God reaches out.

This not merely about the scandal of grace extended to our enemies.  Jesus told a parable about a vineyard owner who hired people during various times of day then paid everybody the same amount–the standard daily wage at the time and place.  Those who had worked all day were upset, but the vineyard owner had not cheated them.

Why does God’s generosity scandalize us, or at least bother us?  Perhaps we think that we are deserving, but those people over there are not.  I have seen a sticker which reads,

GOD LOVES EVERYBODY, BUT I’M HIS FAVORITE.

This is supposed to be funny, which is how I interpret it.  But some people believe it.  In reality, however, we are just as deserving as those people are, which is to say that we are not deserving at all.  This, however, is not how many of us like to think of ourselves.

Too often we define ourselves according to what we are not.  We are not like those people.  We are not those people.  We are better than them, we tell ourselves.  In reality, however, my identity, your identity, and the identity of the person least like us all exist in the context of God.  We are children of God, and therefore siblings.  So our quarrels exist within a family context.  God, our Father-Mother (Metaphors relative to God are imperfect, and the Bible contains both masculine and feminine images for God.), loves us and does not give up on any of us.  So we ought not to write anyone off.  Yet we do.

We can be instruments of God voluntarily–like, Moses dealing with the ever-grumbling children of Israel, or Paul, bringing the message of Jesus to the Gentiles–or involuntarily–like Jonah, weeping over a dead plant while bemoaning the repentance of a population.  If divine grace and generosity scandalize us, the fault is with us, not with God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/scandalous-generosity/

Week of Proper 15: Wednesday, Year 1   7 comments

Above: The Death of Abimelech, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

What You Get Might Not Be What You Expect–For Good or For Ill

AUGUST 18, 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 9:6-15 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

All the citizens of Shechem and all Beth-millo convenend, and they proclaimed Abimelech king at the terebinth of the pillar at Shechem.  When Jothan was informed, he went and stood up on top of Mount Gerizim and called out to them in a loud voice.

Citizens of Shechem!

he cried,

listen to me, that God may listen to you.

Once the trees went to anoint a king over themselves.  They said to the olive tree, ‘Reign over us.’  But the olive tree replied, ‘Have I, through whom God and men are honored, stopped yielding my rich oil, that I should go and wave above the trees?’  So the trees said to the vine, ‘You come and reign over us.’  But the vine replied, ‘Have I stopped yielding my new wine, which gladdens God and men, that I should go and wave above the trees?’  Then all the trees said to the thornbush, ‘You come and reign over us.’  And the thornbush said to the trees, ‘If you are acting honorably in anointing me king over you, come and take shelter in my shade; but if not, may fire issue from the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!’

Psalm 21:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The king rejoices in your strengh, O LORD;

how greatly he exults in your victory!

2 You have given him his heart’s desire;

you have not denied him the request of his lips.

3 For you meet him with blessings of prosperity,

and set a crown of fine gold upon his head.

4 He asked you for life, and you gave it to him:

length of days, for ever and ever.

5 His honor is great, because of your victory;

splendor and majesty have you bestowed upon him.

6 For you will give him everlasting felicity

and will make him glad with the joy of your presence.

Matthew 20:1-16a (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Jesus said,

For the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder going out early in the morning to hire labourers for his vineyard. He agreed with them on a wage of a silver coin a day and sent them to work.  About nine o’clock he went and saw some others standing about in the market-place with nothing to do.  ‘You go to the vineyard too,’ he said to them, ‘and I will pay you a fair wage.’  And off they went.  As about mid-day and again at three o’clock in the afternoon he went out and did the same thing.  Then about five o’clock he went out and found some others standing about.  ‘Why are you standing about here all day doing nothing?” he asked them. ‘Because no one has employed us,’ they replied.  ‘You go off into the vineyard as well, then,’ he said.

When evening came the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman, ‘Call the labourers and pay them their wages, beginning with the last and ending with the first.’  So those who were engaged at five o’clock came up and each man received a silver coin.  But when the first to be employed came they reckoned they would get more; yet they also received a silver coin each.  As they took their money they grumbled at the householder and said, ‘These last fellows have only put in one hour’s work and you’ve treated them exactly the same as us who have gone through all the hard work and heat of the day!’

But he replied to one of them, ‘My friend, I’m not being unjust to you.  Wasn’t our agreement for a silver coin a day?  Take your money and go home.  It is my wish to give the late-comers as much as I give you.  May I not do what I like with what belongs to me?  Must you be jealous because I am generous?’

So, many who are the last now will be first then and the first last.

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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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Standing out from the crowd can be difficult, for conformity is relatively easy.  So Israelites desired to have a king.  But, to paraphrase the extremely old knight from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in a different context, they chose poorly.  They opted for Abimelech, the amoral son of Gideon.  Abimelech was willing to kill anyone–including brothers–to advance himself.  Not even Jotham’s cautionary tale dissuaded the people.  So they got a king, one who sparked a civil war and reigned for three years, give or take a few months, weeks, and days.  And, in Judges 9, as he lay dying because a woman had cracked his skull by dropping a millstone upon it, Abimelech ordered his arms-bearer to kill him, saying “Draw your dagger and finish me off, that they may not say of me, ‘A woman killed him!'”  (9:54, TANAKH)  Women were not equal to men in that society, so dying because of  a woman was a mark of ignominy, not that Abimelech was a glorious figure.

God was supposed to be the king of Israelites.  Each judge served his or her time in a leadership capacity, with the charge to do the work God intended.  But Israel was supposed to be different, and it wanted to be same.  This was a big mistake, the beginning of its downfall.  Yet the Biblical narrative speaks of how God gave the people what they wanted, and they got Saul, David, Solomon, and their political heirs.  Along with political glory came increased social inequality and economic exploitation.  The people got more than they bargained for, and it included a large dose of unpleasantness.

In contrast, consider the generosity of the vineyard owner, a stand-in for God, in the parable of Jesus.  Everyone received the standard wage for one day’s work.  Everybody–even the people whom the vineyard owner had recruited two hours before the end of work–received one day’s wage.  But the vineyard owner cheated nobody; he paid nobody less than he had promised.  The people who worked a day received what they expected at the beginning of the day, and those who worked for a shorter period of time received more than they expected.  It was only when the men who had worked a full day saw the wages of the others that they expected more, and were therefore disappointed.

Let us never begrudge the generosity of God to anyone.  And may we be careful what we wish for, for we might get it–and more.  The first sentence is a happy spiritual thought, while the second is disturbing.  The first sentence indicates grace and the second speaks of discipline, the intention of which is correction.  So, when we pray, may we seek only that which is consistent with God’s best for us and others.  May we be sufficiently humble to realize that God knows far more than we do, and act accordingly.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/03/what-you-get-might-not-be-what-you-expect-for-good-or-for-ill/