Archive for the ‘Prosperity Theology’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 7, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Beheading of St. Paul

Above:  The Beheading of St. Paul, by Enrique Simonet

Image in the Public Domain

The Problem of Suffering

JUNE 21 and 22, 2018

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The Collect:

O God of creation, eternal majesty,

you preside over land and sea, sunshine and storm.

By your strength pilot us,

by your power preserve us,

by your wisdom instruct us,

and by your hand protect us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 29:1-20 (Thursday)

Job 29:21-30:15 (Friday)

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 (Both Days)

Acts 20:1-16 (Thursday)

Acts 21:1-16 (Friday)

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Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

–Psalm 107:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Placing that Psalm in the lectionary for these two days seems ironic, especially when considering the other two pericopes.

The titular character of the Book of Job suffered, but not because of any sin he committed.  Compounding his plight was the fact that he had to endure alleged friends, who blamed him for his plight.  They insisted that, since God does not punish the innocent, Job must have sinned, thus prompting his extreme suffering.  They advised him to repent of his sins, therefore.  Actually, the text tells us, God permitted the suffering as a test of loyalty.  Job protested his innocence and lamented his fate.  Anyone who speaks of the “patience of Job,” as if he had any, ought to pay better attention to the story.

Meanwhile, in the Acts of the Apostles, St. Paul the Apostle was traveling to Jerusalem.  He hoped to arrive in time for the first day of Pentecost.  At Caesarea the Apostle learned that his journey would take him to a bad fate.  He accepted the prophecy calmly, saying,

…I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.

–Acts 21:13c, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

He went on to die for the name of the Lord Jesus Christ at Rome “off-camera,” so to speak, after the end of the Acts of the Apostles.

The alleged friends of Job thought that suffering resulted necessarily from sins.  Yet St. Paul the Apostle suffered for the sake for the sake of righteousness.

Nevertheless, the assumption that we suffer solely or primarily because of our wrongdoing persists.  Also commonplace is a related assumption which says that, if we live righteously, we will prosper and be safe and well.  This is the heresy of Prosperity Theology.

Tell that heresy to Jesus and to the Christian martyrs, if you dare,

I say.  I conclude that false ideas live on because too many people pay little or no attention to the evidence around them.  Perhaps these individuals are merely incurious.  (Many people are not very inquisitive, intellectually or otherwise.)  Or maybe they are distracted among the other details of life.  Regardless of the reason(s), they need to pay better attention and respond to the situation that is, not the situation they imagine exists.

To claim that God never punishes the innocent or permits them to suffer is to make a pious comment–one which is false.  What is the functional difference between permitting innocent people to suffer and punishing them?  I recognize none.  One is passive and the other is active, but the results are the same.  The problem of suffering is complicated for we monotheists, for we lack the luxury of blaming an evil deity for misfortune while letting a good deity off the hook.  Yes, how we live on this plane of reality affects the afterlife, but the rain still falls on the just and on the unjust in this life.  Wicked people still prosper and righteous people still suffer on this side of Heaven.  All of this can be difficult to reconcile with the idea of a loving and just God, hence bad theology in defense of God.  I prefer an honest question to a false certainty, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2015 COMMON ERA

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, ECUMENTIST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/25/the-problem-of-suffering/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 15, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Crucifix II July 15, 2014

Above:  One of My Crucifixes

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Suffering and Triumph

AUGUST 17, 18, and 19, 2017

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The Collect:

God of all peoples, your arms reach out to embrace all those who call upon you.

Teach us as disciples of your Son to love the world with compassion and constancy,

that your name may be known throughout all the earth,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 45:20-25 (Thursday)

Isaiah 63:15-19 (Friday)

Isaiah 56:1-5 (Saturday)

Psalm 67 (All Days)

Revelation 15:1-4 (Thursday)

Acts 14:19-28 (Friday)

Matthew 14:34-36 (Saturday)

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Be gracious to us, O God, and bless us:

and make the light of your face to shine upon us,

that your ways may be known upon earth:

your saving power among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God:

let all the peoples praise you.

–Psalm 67:1-3, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Why do people suffer?  The Book of Job refutes one traditional argument, the one that all suffering constitutes the consequences of sin.  Yet that argument remained alive and well in the time of Christ, who fielded questions based on this false assumption.  And that traditional argument lives today.  Often the assumption is that, if we suffer, we must have done something wrong.  The other side of that assumption is that, if we prosper, we must have done something right.  Related to this assumption are Prosperity Theology (an old heresy) and the Positive Thinking Theology (also a heresy) of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller.  If, as Schuller has said, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me,” the verdict on those who strive and fail is devastating and judgmental.  No, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, God calls us to be faithful, not successful.  To the proponents of these named heresies old and new I say,

Tell that to Jesus and all the faithful martyrs who have suffered and died for the sake of righteousness.  Also tell that, if you dare, to those who have suffered (although not fatally) for the faith.  And stop spouting such false clichés.

Yes, sometimes we suffer because of something or the accumulation of things we have done wrong.  Reality requires a nuanced explanation, however, for circumstances are more complicated than clichés.  Sometimes one suffers for the sake of righteousness as in Acts 14:22 and Revelation 15:1.  On other occasions one is merely at the wrong place at the wrong time, suffering because of the wrong desires of someone or of others who happen to be in the area.  For example, I have read news reports of people dying of gang violence while in their homes, minding their own business.  These were innocent victims not safe from bullets flying through windows.  These were non-combatants stuck in a bad situation.

A timeless message from the Book of Revelation is to remain faithful to God during times when doing so is difficult and costly, even unto death.  When we follow our Lord and Savior, who suffered and died partly because he confronted powerful people and threatened their political-economic basis of power and their social status, we follow in dangerous footsteps.  Yet he triumphed over his foes.  We can also prove victorious via him.  That victory might come at a time and in a manner we do not expect or even desire, but it is nevertheless a positive result.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUTH, ANCESTOR OF KING DAVID

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONAVENTURE, THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SWITHUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF WINCHESTER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/07/20/suffering-and-triumph/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 6, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

3d02329v

Above:  The Civil Rights March from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama, 1965

Photographer = Peter Pettus

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ6-2329

Righteousness and Results

JUNE 19, 2017

JUNE 20, 2017

JUNE 21, 2017

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The Collect:

God of compassion, you have opened the way for us and brought us to yourself.

Pour your love into our hearts, that, overflowing with joy,

we may freely share the blessings of your realm and faithfully proclaim

the good news of your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 1:1-11 (Monday)

1 Samuel 3:1-9 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 4:10-27 (Wednesday)

Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 3:1-5 (Monday)

2 Thessalonians 2:13-3:5 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:12-19 (Wednesday)

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Seek the Lord and his strength;

seek his face continually.

–Psalm 105:4, Common Worship (2000)

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The Psalm tells us to seek God and divine strength continually. That is good advice at all times and in all places. It is also advice consistent with the rest of the assigned readings.

The lections from Joshua and Proverbs are overly optimistic. They follow a certain formula: Obey God and good results will follow; one will prosper, et cetera. This is the overly optimistic viewpoint which leads to the heresy of Prosperity Theology: love God, do the right things, and get rich.

Tell that to Jesus (crucified), St. Paul the Apostle (beheaded after many years of troubles), and most of the original twelve Apostles (the majority of whom died violently). Tell that to the Thessalonian Christians. Tell that to nearly 2000 years’ worth of Christian martyrs and about 5000 years’ worth of faithful Hebrews.

When we challenge social institutions and systems which violate th law of love we confront powerful forces. In so doing we challenge people who might even cite God in attempts to justify their unjustifiable actions and attitudes. And we place ourselves at great risk. We need divine strength to live faithfully and to avoid the pitfalls of hatred, vengeance, and misdirected anger. We should be angry sometimes, for righteous anger does exist. But we ought to channel it properly, lest it corrupt our cause and compromise us.

We can succeed only by the power of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF U.S. PRESBYTERIANISM

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HENRY BICKERSTETH, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF EXETER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS/IEUAN GWYLLT, FOUNDER OF WELSH SINGING FESTIVALS

THE FEAST OF NGAKUKU, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/righteousness-and-results/

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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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Devotion for September 15, 16, and 17 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

King Josiah

Above:  King Josiah

Image in the Public Domain

2 Chronicles and Colossians, Part III:  Suffering and the Glory of God

SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 15, 2019

MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 16, 2019

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 17, 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:

2 Chronicles 34:1-4, 8-11, 14-33 (September 15)

2 Chronicles 35:1-7, 16-25 (September 16)

2 Chronicles 36:1-23 (September 17)

Psalm 19 (Morning–September 15)

Psalm 136 (Morning–September 16)

Psalm 123 (Morning–September 17)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–September 15)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–September 16)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–September 17)

Colossians 2:8-23 (September 15)

Colossians 3:1-25 (September 16)

Colossians 4:1-18 (September 17)

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In the readings from 2 Chronicles we find good news followed by bad news succeeded by worse news followed by good news again.  The tradition which produced those texts perceived a link between national righteousness and national strength and prosperity.  That sounds too much like Prosperity Theology for my comfort, for, as other passages of the Bible (plus the record of history) indicate, good things happen to bad people, bad things happen to good people, good things happen to good people, and bad things happen to bad people.  The fictional character of Job, in the book which bears his name, suffered, but not because of any sin he had committed.  And Jesus, being sinless, suffered, but not for anything he had done wrong.

Many of the instructions from Colossians are comforting and not controversial–or at least should not be.  Living according to

…compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience

–3:12, Revised English Bible

seems like something almost everyone would applaud, but it did lead to controversies during our Lord and Savior’s lifetime and contribute to his execution.  I, as a student of history, know that many people have suffered for following that advice.  When society favors the opposite,

compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience

lead to trouble for those who enact them.

Other advice is culturally specific.  Colossians 2:16-21 comes to mind immediately.  It, taken outside of its context, becomes a distorted text.  In 1899, for example, the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (PCUS), the old Southern Presbyterian Church, cited it to condemn observing Christmas and Easter as holy occasions:

There is no warrant for the observance of Christmas and Easter as holy days, but rather contrary (see Galatians iv. 9-11; Colossians ii. 16-21), and such observance is contrary to the principles of the Reformed faith, conducive to will-worship, and not in harmony with the simplicity of the gospel in Jesus Christ.

Journal of the General Assembly, page 430

Still other advice should trouble us.  I will not tell a slave to obey his or her master, for no form of slavery should exist.  And I, as a feminist, favor the equality of men and women.  So 3:18-25 bothers me.  4:1 does, however, level the slave-master playing field somewhat, however.

Suffering flows from more than one cause.  If we are to suffer, may we do so not because of any sin we have committed.  No, may we suffer for the sake of righteousness, therefore bringing glory to God.  May virtues define how we love, bringing glory to God in all circumstances.  And may we not become caught up in the legalistic minutae of theology and condemn those who seek only to glorify God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE ELDER, SAINT NONNA, AND THEIR CHILDREN:  SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE YOUNGER, SAINT CAESARIUS OF NAZIANZUS, AND SAINT GORGONIA OF NAZIANZUS

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FEDDE, LUTHERAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS, EPISCOPAL MISSIONARY TO THE SHOSHONE AND THE ARAPAHOE

THE FEAST OF SAINT TARASIUS, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/2-chronicles-and-colossians-part-iii-suffering-and-the-glory-of-god/

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Proper 17, Year C   9 comments

Christ Pantocrator Moody

Above:  Christ Pantocrator, Daphni, Greece

Duties to God and Each Other

The Sunday Closest to August 31

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 1, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 2:4-13 and Psalm 81:1, 10-16

or 

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 10:12-18 or Proverbs 25:6-7 and Psalm 112

then 

Hebrews 13:1-8, 15-16

Luke 14:1, 7-14

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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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fifteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-confession-for-the-fifteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fifteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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Let mutual love continue.

–Hebrews 13:1, New Revised Standard Version

Thus I find my theme for this post.  That theme unites the assigned readings for Proper 17, Year C.  The rest of the Hebrews lection speaks of our obligations to God and each other.  These duties exist in the context of mutual love.

I am, among other things, intellectually honest.  The readings from Jeremiah 2, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 10, and Psalm 81 speak of divine judgment for faithlessness among people for God has done much.  These lections do not seem loving.  And Psalm 112 sounds too much like Prosperity Theology for my comfort.  I can think of parts of both Testaments which contradict it.  If you, O reader, expect me to provide simple answers to these, I will disappoint you.  I could provide such answers, but I would do so insincerely and they would be useless.

I write these words during Advent 2012.  (I like to write ahead of schedule.)  During this time the words attributed to Hannah in 1 Samuel 2 and Mary in Luke 1 ring in my head.

The LORD makes poor and makes rich,

he brings low, he also exalts.

He raises up the poor from the dust;

he lifts up the needy from the ash heap,

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of great honor.

–1 Samuel 2:7-8a, New Revised Standard Version

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He has routed the proud and all their schemes;

he has brought down monarchs from their thrones,

and raised high the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and sent the rich empty away.

–Luke 1:51b-53, Revised English Bible

Those beloved passages are consistent with Jeremiah 2, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 10, and Psalm 81.  Whether this reversal of fortune is good news depends on who one is.

The context for this reversal of fortune is faithlessness to God, who has done much for us.  It is polite to be grateful to one who delivers, is it not?  So attitudes occupy the heart of the matter.  And we cannot love God, whom we cannot see, unless we love people, whom we can see.  Our deeds will reveal our creeds.  That much I know for certain.  As for the rest, ask God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/duties-to-god-and-each-other/

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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 Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 19, 2018

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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/