Archive for the ‘Matthew 23’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 26, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

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

Image in the Public Domain

Respecting God

NOVEMBER 3, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Haggai 1:1-13 or Isaiah 62:1-5

Psalm 36

1 Corinthians 14:1-20

Matthew 23:1-39

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We can never repay God, upon whom we are completely dependent and who extends justice and demands it of us.  We can, however, revere and love God.  We can follow God and use spiritual gifts for the building up of faith and civil communities.  We, collectively and individually, can–and must–never overlook the weightier demands of divine law–justice, mercy, and good faith.  Many of these issues exist in the purviews of governments and corporations, of societal institutions.

I have not kept count of how often I have written of the moral relevance of how we treat our fellow human beings and of how my North American culture overemphasizes individual responsibility to the detriment of collective responsibility.  I choose not to delve into these points again here and now.

I choose, however, to focus on respect.  If we respect God, we will take care of our church buildings.  If we respect God, we will also respect the image of God in other people, and seek to treat them accordingly.  If we respect God, we will be social and political revolutionaries, for the ethics of Jesus remain counter-cultural.  If we respect God, we will be oddballs at best and existential threats at worst, according to our critics.

Do we dare to respect God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJÖLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY LASCALLES JENNER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF DUNEDIN, NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF JOHN CAMPBELL SHAIRP, SCOTTISH POET AND EDUCATOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/18/respecting-god/

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Devotion for Proper 15 (Year D)   1 comment

Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees James Tissot

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

Image in the Public Domain

Prelude to the Passion, Part I

AUGUST 18, 2019

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 22:1-9 or Zechariah 7:7-14

Psalm 58

Matthew 23:13-39 or Luke 11:37-54

1 Timothy 3:1-6

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In Timothy Matthew Slemmons’s Year D (2013) Propers 15-18 are the “Prelude to the Passion” of Jesus Christ.

The emphasis of the readings this Sunday is the moral responsibility of leaders to effect social justice–especially for widows, orphans, aliens, the poor, victims of evil plots, victims of judicial corruption, and the innocent killed.  Fasting and otherwise maintaining appearances of piety and respectability does not deceive God, who is righteously angry.  J. B. Phillips, in The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972), cuts to the point, as he usually does in that translation.  Instead of the customary

Woe to you,

we read Jesus thundering,

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you utter frauds!

–Matthew 23:23

and

What miserable frauds you are, you scribes and Pharisees!

–Matthew 23:27 and 29.

Those who dress up their impiety in righteousness are just that–utter and miserable frauds.  The job descriptions for bishops and deacons require officeholders to be the opposite of utter and miserable frauds.

Utter and miserable frauds in secular and religious settings continue to exist, of course.  So does divine judgment against them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/prelude-to-the-passion-part-i/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 28, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Icon of Ezekiel

Above:   Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

Limitless Goodness

NOVEMBER 18, 2019

NOVEMBER 19, 2019

NOVEMBER 20, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 11:14-25 (Monday)

Ezekiel 39:21-40:4 (Tuesday)

Ezekiel 43:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 141 (All Days)

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 (Tuesday)

Matthew 23:37-24:14 (Wednesday)

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But my eyes are turned to you, Lord GOD;

in you I take refuge;

do not strip me of my life.

–Psalm 141:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Matthew is apocalyptic and Psalm 141 is also bleak.  These texts come from difficult times.  Oppressed people pray for God to destroy their enemies.  The textual context in Matthew is the impending crucifixion of Jesus.  From the perspective of the composition of the Gospel itself, however, there is wrestling with fading expectations of Christ’s imminent Second Coming.  One also detects echoes of reality for Matthew’s audience, contending with persecution (or the threat thereof) and conflict with non-Christian Jews.

We read of mercy following judgment in Ezekiel 11, 39, 40, and 43.  Punishment for societal sins will ensue, but so will restoration.  In the end, God’s Presence returns to Jerusalem, which it departed in Chapters 10 and 11.

Those sins included not only idolatry but judicial corruption and economic injustice, which, of course, hurt the poor the most.  Not seeking the common good violated the Law of Moses.  Seeking the common good defined the assigned readings from Ephesians and 1 Corinthians.

“Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial.  “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds up.  No one should seek his own advantage, but that of his neighbor.

–1 Corinthians 10:23-24, The New American Bible (1991)

We also read, in the context of how we treat each other:

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, for that Spirit is the seal with which you were marked for the day of final liberation.

–Ephesians 4:30, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Those are fine guiding principles.  Some of the details in their vicinity in the texts might not apply to your circumstances, O reader, but such lists are not comprehensive and some examples are specific to cultures and settings.  Timeless principles transcend circumstances and invite us to apply them when and where we are.  May we live them in love of God and our fellow human beings, daring even to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48).  That is a difficult standard to meet, but it is possible via grace.

There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.

–Matthew 5:48, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

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

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/limitless-goodness/

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

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above:  Icon of Christ the Merciful

Image in the Public Domain

A Loving Orthodoxy

SEPTEMBER 20, 21, and 22, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, our teacher and guide,

you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children.

Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition,

that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding

as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 6:1-10 (Thursday)

1 Kings 22:22-40 (Friday)

2 Kings 17:5-18 (Saturday)

Psalm 54 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Romans 11:25-32 (Friday)

Matthew 23:29-39 (Saturday)

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Save me, O God, by your Name;

in your might, defend my cause.

Hear my prayer, O God;

give ear to the words of my mouth.

For the arrogant have risen up against me,

and the ruthless have sought my life,

those who have no regard for God.

Behold, God is my helper;

it is the Lord who sustains my life.

Render evil to those who spy on me;

in your faithfulness, destroy them.

I will offer you a freewill sacrifice

and praise your Name, O LORD, for it is good.

For you have rescued me from every trouble,

and my eye has seen the ruin of my foes.

–Psalm 54, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The prayer for divine destruction of enemies–hardly unique to Psalm 54–does violate the commandment to love one’s enemies as oneself, does it not?

Enemies exist.  In the pericopes for these three days alone we read of Midianites, monarchs, Assyrians, Arameans, and corrupt officials from the Temple at Jerusalem.  Furthermore, we, if we are to become properly informed, must know that many early Christians regarded Jews who rejected Jesus as enemies.  Christianity began as a Jewish sect, one which remained on the Jewish margins.  Frustrations over this reality became manifest in, among other texts, the Gospel of John, with its repeated references to “the Jews” in negative contexts.  Nevertheless, St. Paul the Apostle, who preached to Gentiles, was always Jewish.

Sometimes enemies are others.  On many occasions, however, one can find the enemy looking back at oneself in a mirror.  A recurring theological motif in the Hebrew Bible is that the exiles of Hebrew people resulted from rampant societal sinfulness; the collective was responsible.  That runs afoul of Western notions of individualism, but one finds it in the pages of the Bible.  There are at least two varieties of responsibility and sin–individual and collective.  We are responsible to God, for ourselves, and to and for each other.  Thus reward and punishment in the Hebrew Bible are both individual and collective.  Sometimes, the texts tell us, we bring destruction on ourselves.

But how does that translate into language regarding God?  May we take care not to depict God as a cosmic tyrant while investing that God is also merciful.  Yes, actions have consequences for ourselves and those around us.  Yes, God has sent many prophets, a large number of whom have endured the consequences of rejection.  Yes, both judgment and mercy exist in God.  I do not presume to know where the former ends and the latter begins; such matters are too great for me, a mere mortal.

No, I reject false certainty and easy answers.  No variety of fundamentalism is welcome here.  No, I embrace what St. Paul the Apostle called

the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God,

complete with

his judgments

and

inscrutable ways.–Romans 11:33, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I favor “the mystery of God,” as in 1 Corinthians 2:1, as well as a relationship with God, which depends on divine faithfulness, not on human wisdom.

Kenneth J. Foreman, writing in Volume 21 (1961) of The Layman’s Bible Commentary, noted in reference to 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:

One point to note is that Paul does not present Christianity as a set of dogmas or as a manual of advice.  It is a story, something that happened, something God has done.–Page 75

Orthodoxy can be healthy, so long as it is neither stale nor unloving.  Pietism, with its legalism, is quite unfortunate.  Pietism, a reaction against stale orthodoxy, is at least as objectionable as that which it opposes.

Some thoughts of Dr. Carl J. Sodergren (1870-1949), a theologian of the former Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church (1860-1962), from 1937 apply well in the context of these pericopes and many circumstances:

Orthodoxy is good.  It means adherence to the truth, and no sane man would willingly surrender that.  But orthodoxy without love is dangerous.  It provides fertile soil for bigotry, hatred, spiritual pride, self-conceit, and a score of other evils which hide the Holy One from the eyes of the world.  It turns men into merciless heresy hunters, the most contemptible vermin on earth.  It aligns us with the scribes and Pharisees, the priests and high priests of the time of Jesus.  Nobody ever questioned their orthodoxy, but because it was loveless, it blinded them to His divinity and made it easier to spike Him to a cross.  We are not worried about the trumpet calls to orthodoxy which for some reason have begun to blare may drown out in our hearts the still small voice which prays for unity and love among all Christ’s disciples.

–Quoted in G. Everett Arden, Augustana Heritage:  A History of the Augustana Lutheran Church (Rock Island, IL:  Augustana Press, 1963), pp. 287-288

May love of God and for each other be evident in our lives and social structures and institutions.  Wherever it is evident, may it increase.  May we obey the divine commandment to take care of each other, not to exploit anyone or to discriminate against any person.  The Golden Rule is difficult to live, but we have God’s grace available to us; may we avail ourselves of it.  We also have an example–Jesus–to follow.  May his love be evident (then more so) in us, especially those of us who claim to follow him or to attempt to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN OLAF WALLIN, ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR JAMES MOORE, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH LONAS, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND LITURGIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/a-loving-orthodoxy/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 26, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Hophni and Phinehas

Above:  Hophni and Phinehas

Image in the Public Domain

Taking God Seriously

OCTOBER 29-31, 2020

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The Collect:

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

instructing us in the ways of humility and justice.

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

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:27-36 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 13:1-16 (Friday)

Malachi 1:6-2:9 (Saturday)

Psalm 43 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-29 (Thursday)

2 Peter 2:1-3 (Friday)

Matthew 23:13-28 (Saturday)

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Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,

and bring me to your holy hill

and to your dwelling;

That I may go to the altar of God,

to the God of my joy and gladness;

and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.

–Psalm 43:3-4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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There are at least two ways to be wrong:  sincerely and insincerely.  Certainly there have always been those people who lead others astray knowingly.  The majority of false teachers and prophets over time, I propose, have not known of their error.  They have been the blind leading the blind, with disastrous results for all involved.

A brief catalog of named errors I have compiled from these days’ readings follows:

  1. Fixating on relatively minor points at the expense of relatively major ones,
  2. Acting disrespectfully of sacred rituals, and
  3. Acting disrespectfully of sacred places.

People of good faith disagree about what constitutes an example of the first point.  Is insisting on the circumcision of males an example of it?  St. Paul the Apostle, in his reformed state, thought so.  Yet the practice was a major point in the Old Testament and a mark of Jewish identity.  As you probably know, O reader, identity is a sensitive psychological issue.  That seems to be the reality for Jews of today who fall back upon identity and the theology of covenant when defending the practice against secular critics.  I am somewhat sympathetic to these faithful Jews.

In St. Paul’s day the question focused on the issue of whether a Gentile had to convert to Judaism before becoming a Christian.  At the time Christianity was still a Jewish sect, after all.  Thus issues of identity, inclusion, and exclusion collided.  The Apostle sided with inclusion, as I tend to do.  Reflecting on the readings for the previous post led to me to write about removing barriers to trusting in God, upon whom we depend completely.  In that spirit, then, should we not remove barriers to coming to God, who beckons us?

May we, while taking God and divine commandments seriously, do so in ways which smooth the path to salvation, not construct barriers to it.

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/taking-god-seriously/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 18, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

U-Turn

Above:  Diagram of a U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

Godly Imagination

SEPTEMBER 5, 2020

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The Collect:

O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy.

Without your help, we mortals will fail;

remove far from us everything that is harmful,

and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 33:1-6

Psalm 119:33-40

Matthew 23:29-36

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The route of transformation–a process which God initiates–is that of turning around.  Ezekiel 33, the beginning of which is an assigned reading for today, makes those two points clearly.  It also states, contrary either to Exodus 34:7 and Deuteronomy 5:9-10 or to interpretations thereof, that individuals are responsible only for their sins; they carry no responsibility for the sins of any of their ancestors.

Regardless of how nice we think we are, we are complicit in sins of society because of our roles in societal institutions.  Our hands might not be as clean as we imagine because others do our dirty work while we are either oblivious or we approve.  I think of that reality when I read Jesus from Matthew 23:36:

Truly I tell you:  this generation will bear the guilt of it all.

The Revised English Bible, 1989

To repent is to turn around and to change one’s mind.  Changing one’s mind is crucial and difficult, for we become accustomed to ways of being and thinking; we are creatures of habit.  I am convinced that more sin flows from lack of imagination than from cartoonish, mustache-twirling perfidy.  Yes, there are malicious people who seek out opportunities to harm others each day, but more negativity results from functional fixedness.  Those of us who are not malicious might not even be able at certain moments to imagine that what God has said ought be (A) is what God has said ought to be or (B) can come to pass, at least any time soon.  Our lack of imagination condemns us and injures others.

How might the world be a better place for more people if more of us had a more highly developed imagination in tune with God?  Many of us, in the words of Psalm 119:35 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979), pray:

Make me go in the path of your commandments,

for that is my desire.

How many of us, however, have the imagination to recognize that route?  May we see then follow it to the end, by grace and free will, itself a result of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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Bloga Theologica version

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Devotion for November 6 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Brooklyn_Museum_-_Woe_unto_You,_Scribes_and_Pharisees_(Malheur_à_vous,_scribes_et_pharisiens)_-_James_Tissot

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

Image in the Public Domain

Jeremiah and Matthew, Part V:  Hope Amid Judgment

WEDNESDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 2019

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 8:18-9:12

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening)

Matthew 23:13-39

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Why is the land in ruins,

Laid waste like a wilderness,

with none passing through?

The LORD replied, Because they forsook the teaching I had set before them.  They did not obey Me and they did not follow it, but followed their own heart and followed the Baalim, as their fathers had taught them.  Assuredly thus says says the LORD of Hosts, he God of Israel:  I am going to feed that people wormwood and make them drink a bitter draft.  I will scatter them among nations which their fathers never knew; and I will dispatch the sword after them until I have consumed them.

–Jeremiah 9:11b-15, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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The assigned Psalms speak of God as the defender of the righteous.  They also, like the lections from Jeremiah and Matthew, mention God’s destructive side.  One ethic–obey God’s rules and stay on the good side of God or disobey them and suffer the consequences–unites these readings.  There is suffering for righteous deeds sometimes, of course, as the examples of Jesus and uncounted martyrs attest, but it is better to suffer for being on God’s side.

We need to avoid false generalizations, such as those found in Prosperity Theology.  There is no metaphysical righteousness machine whereby one inserts the coins of holiness and receives an automatic reward, a sort of quid pro quo.  We cannot buy grace.  If we could do so, it would not be grace.  Also, bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people.  The strong element of human free will, applied for nefarious ends, has warped societies, cultures, and subcultures.

But nothing so warped lasts forever.  The readings from Jeremiah and Matthew come from cultures which ceased to exist a long time ago.  And people have changed, altering their societies, cultures, and subcultures with them.  The modern Civil Rights Movement in the United States of America comes to mind immediately.  Yes, many attitudes are slow to change in some circumstances, but hope for repentance remains.  From that fact I derive much hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/jeremiah-and-matthew-part-v-hope-amid-judgment/

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