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 16, 2020

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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 16-18, 2021

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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

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 6, 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:

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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Devotion for November 5 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

First Temple

Above:  The First Temple

Image in the Public Domain

Jeremiah and Matthew, Part IV:  False Talismans

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 5, 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:

Jeremiah 7:1-29

Psalm 42 (Morning)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening)

Matthew 23:1-12

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Don’t put your trust in illusions and say, “The Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the Lord are those [buildings].”  No, if you mind your ways and your actions; if you execute justice between one man and another; if you do not oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; if you do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place; if you do not follow other gods, to your own hurt–then only will you dwell in this place….

–Jeremiah 7:4-7a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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I have eaten ashes for bread

and mingled my drink with weeping,

Because of your indignation and wrath,

for you have taken me up and cast me down.

My days fade away like a shadow,

and I am withered like grass.

–Psalm 102:10-12, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Jeremiah’s Temple sermon condemned idolatry, economic injustice, judicial corruption, and insensitivity toward the needs of others.  It cited these as reasons for God’s wrath against the kingdom.  It picked up a theme from Deuteronomy 28 and 30, especially 30:15-20.  But Jeremiah’s words fell on deaf ears.

One of Jeremiah’s main criticisms was that people treated the Temple and its rituals as talismans–that people thought they could therefore do as they wanted and that the Temple and its rituals would protect them.  Jesus criticized Temple authorities who acted hypocritically and imposed needless burdens on sincere people while seeking opportunities for prestige, not service.  Their alleged talismans did not protect them from the wrath of the Roman Empire in 70 CE.

Yes, there is divine mercy.  Yes, there is divine judgment.  And often that judgment is simply the consequences of our misdeeds backfiring on us.  We err when we forget that each of us is here on the planet to, among other things, care actively and deeply for each other–to serve each other in the name of God and to respect the Image of God in each other.  This ethic is inconsistent with violence and exploitation, whether one commits them or merely consents to them passively.  This ethic is inconsistent with such deeds and their root attitudes regardless of whether they flow from the political left wing or right wing.

God is watching us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF IDA SCUDDER, REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KENNEDY “DUKE” ELLINGTON, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WISCONSIN

THE FEAST OF MOTHER EDITH, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/06/06/jeremiah-and-matthew-part-iv-false-talismans/

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Week of Proper 16: Wednesday, Year 2   4 comments

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s)

Idleness and Industriousness

AUGUST 26, 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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2 Thessalonians 3:1-18 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Finally, brothers, pray for us; pray that the Lord’s message may spread quickly, and be received with honour as it was among you; and pray that we may be preserved from the interference of bigoted and evil people, for faith is not given to everyone.  But the Lord is faithful, and he will give you strength and guard you from the evil one, and we, in the Lord, have every confidence that you are doing and will go on doing all that we tell you.  May the Lord turn your hearts toward the love of God and the fortitude of Christ.

In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we urge you, brothers, to keep away from any of the brothers who refuses to work or to live according to the tradition we passed on to you.

You know how you are supposed to imitate us: now we were not idle we were with you, nor did we ever have our meals at anyone’s table without paying for them; no, we worked night and day, slaving and straining, so as not to be a burden on any of you.  This was not because we had no right to be, but in order to make ourselves an example for you to follow.

We gave you a rule when we were with you:  not to let anyone have any food if he refused to do any work.  Now we hear that there are some of you who are living in idleness, doing no work themselves but interfering with everyone else’s.  In the Lord Jesus Christ, we order and call on people of this kind to go on quietly working and earning the food that they eat.

My brothers, never grow tired of doing what is right.  If anyone refuses to obey what I have written in this letter, take note of him and have nothing to do with him, so that he will feel that he is in the wrong; though you are not to regard him as an enemy but as a brother in need of correction.

May the Lord of peace himself give you peace all the time in every way.  The Lord be with with you all.

From me, PAUL, these greetings in my own handwriting, which is the mark of genuineness in very letter; this is my own writing.  May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.

Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who fear the LORD,

and who follow in your ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus be blessed.

The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.

Matthew 23:27-32 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption.  In the same way you appear to people from the outside like honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who build the sepulchres of the prophets and decorate the tombs of holy men, saying, ‘We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our fathers’ day.’  So!  Your own evidence tells against you!  You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets!  Very well then, finish off the work that your fathers began.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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In real estate, I hear, the three most important features of property are location, location, and location.  Likewise, with regard to the Bible, we need to stress the three most important aspects of any text:  context, context, and context.  Too often (to my great annoyance), I have heard people quote the “if a man will not work, he should not eat” rule out of context.  They have made the passage seem almost, if not out right, Social Darwinian in nature.

When we read the New Testament epistles we eavesdrop on one side of ancient correspondence.  There was no need for any writer to rehash every aspect of local circumstances, for the intended audience knew those well.  If any epistle author had rehashed every such aspect, the result would have been a letter written with the clunkiness and gracelessness style of dialogue from any 1970s SuperFriends episode.  Fortunately, there exist Bible scholars who have write and have written useful commentaries.  (I could not write these posts without commentaries.)  Many early Christians, we know, expected the return of Jesus any day or week or month or year.  Most of these continued with their private and public lives, as they should have done.  Yet some believers devoted themselves full-time to preparing for the return of Jesus, dropped out of the workforce, and made nuisances of themselves.  They did not just drop out; they interfered with others.  The message of 2 Thessalonians 3:9 is clear:  Be both heavenly-minded and of earthly good.

Indeed, one can be both contemplative and productive.  Monks and nuns have modeled this fact for nearly two thousand years.  They have done nothing less than to preserve civilization itself.  They have also provided health care as well as pharmaceutical products, offered education, given shelter to orphans and to children whose parents could not care for them properly, and modeled lives of single-minded devotion to God.  Their work continues; may their numbers increase.

As for the rest of us, may we go about doing the work God has assigned to us.  And may we not think mistakenly that all idleness is bad.  The human body requires sleep, and Jesus needed quiet time alone.  The brain is not wired for multitasking; some brains do it better than others, we cannot do too much simultaneously and well.  We need to slow down, move at a proper and sustainable pace, and remain focused on our own goal:  To enjoy and glorify God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/idleness-and-industriousness/

Week of Proper 16: Tuesday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Dill

Traditions

AUGUST 25, 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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2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

To turn now, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him:  please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived.  Never let anyone deceive you in this way.

It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and the Rebel, the Lost One, has appeared.  This is the Enemy, the one who claims to be so much greater than all that men call ‘god’, so much greater than anything that is worshipped, that he enthrones himself in God’s sanctuary and claims that he is God.  Surely you remember me telling you this when I was with you?  And you know, too, what is still holding back from appearing before his appointed time.  Rebellion is at work already, but in secret, and the one who is holding it back has first to be removed before the Rebel appears openly.  The Lord will kill him with the breath of his mouth and will annihilate him with his glorious appearance at his coming.

But when the Rebel comes, Satan will set to work:  there will be all kinds of miracles and a deceptive show of signs and portents, and everything evil that can deceive those who are bound for destruction because they would not grasp the love of the truth which could have saved them.  The reason why God is sending a power to delude them and make them believe what is untrue is to condemn all who refused to believe in the truth and choose wickedness instead.

But we feel we must be continually thanking God for you, brothers whom the Lord loves, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved by the sanctifying Spirit and by faith in the truth.  Through the Good News that we brought he called you to this so that you should share the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.  May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God the Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.

Psalm 96:7-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  ”The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

Matthew 23:23-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you , scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who pay tithe of mint and dill and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law–justice, mercy, good faith!  These you should have practised, without neglecting the others.  You blind guides!  Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. Blind Pharisee!  Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that the outside may become clean as well.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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There are traditions then there are traditions.

Deuteronomy 14:22 and Leviticus 27:30 required the tithing of major edible agricultural products for the support of the Levites, dedicated to religious duties.  Yet Pharisees, just one sect in the diverse landscape of First Century C.E. Palestinian Judaism, applied this rule to garden herbs, such as mind, dill, and cummin.  They were overly meticulous in the letter of the law and insisted on a form of piety most people could not afford to maintain.  Jesus valued “justice, mercy, and good faith” more highly than legalistic minutae.

We–especially those of us with personalities which make us prone to fixate on details–sometimes stare at proverbial trees so much that we forget to look up and think about the forest.  The Levites had to eat, and God had set them apart for full-time religious duties.  So Jesus did not object to the tithe on major crops for their benefit.  Yet the scale of a field is much greater than that of a garden in a small yard.  Herbs were not main crops, so the tithe law did not apply to them.  These Pharisees were fixating on a detail which did not exist as if it did, and simultaneously they failed to give sufficient attention to “justice, mercy, and good faith.”  These were traditions worth keeping.

We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 to stand firm in certain traditions.  This exhortation follows a reminder not to commit apostasy–in this case, to follow evil which God will defeat.  Often those who commit deeds think that they are righteous; their actions are malicious and those who commit them are terribly deluded.  Frequently a form of religion provides justification for such evil.  Most of the major religions in the world include the principle we Christians call the Golden Rule:  Do to others as you want them to do to you.  Yet the history of these religions is replete with allegedly sacred violence and holy wars.

The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus occupy the heart of Pauline Christology.  With the resurrection we see God demonstrating the extent of divine power to overcome the works of evil.  People could kill Jesus unjustly, but God could resurrect him.  This ought to indicate the end of “sacred violence” and of scapegoating, but we humans (some of us, anyway) continues these erroneous traditions.  Instead, may we abandon such traditions and practice the traditions of loving one another, comforting each other, giving each other reasons for legitimate hope, and practicing “justice, mercy, and good faith” daily.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/traditions/