Archive for the ‘Psalm 106’ Tag

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 17, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Icon of Moses

Above:  Icon of Moses

Image in the Public Domain

Cleansing from Evil that Arises Within Ourselves, Part III

SEPTEMBER 3, 4, and 5, 2018

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The Collect:

O God our strength, without you we are weak and wayward creatures.

Protect us from all dangers that attack us from the outside,

and cleanse us from the outside,

and cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves,

that we may be preserved through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:9-14 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 4:15-20 (Tuesday)

Deuteronomy 4:21-40 (Wednesday)

Psalm 106:1-6, 13-23, 47-48 (All Days)

1 Timothy 4:6-16 (Monday)

1 Peter 2:19-25 (Tuesday)

Mark 7:9-23 (Wednesday)

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We have sinned like our forebears;

we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.

–Psalm 106:6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The contents of this post flows naturally from the previous one.  God, whom the Torah depicts vividly as compassionate yet prone to smite faithless people and blame many people for the sins of others, exceeds human comprehension and preconceptions.  Any impression to the contrary is mistaken.  Holding to divine commandments–sometimes despite the discouraging attitudes, words, and deeds of others–is a great virtue.

Yet we mere mortals interpret that law in our cultural contexts, so we excuse the unjustifiable in the name of God sometimes.  In 1 Peter 2:18-25, for example, we find instructions to slaves to obey their masters.  Verse 18, which the lectionary omits, reads:

Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I refuse to defend such a passage.

Other injustices have been conscious violations of divine law, not ones born out of cultural blindness.  The practice of Corban was the act of donating wealth or property to the religious establishment.  It was innocent and sincere sometimes, but mean-spirited much of the time.  A person, under the cover of holiness, could deprive his family of necessary financial resources.  Jesus knew this, and he said so.  That which defiles one, our Lord and Saviour said, comes from within, not without.  The metaphorical source of defilement is one’s heart, so, as in the previous post, entering the headquarters of Pontius Pilate would have defiled nobody.  No, those who handed Jesus over to Pilate had defiled themselves already.

May we not defile ourselves.  May we love each other as we love ourselves.  May we respect the image of God in others and in ourselves.  May we encourage each other in our vocations from God.  And may we refuse to shift the blame for that for which we are responsible.  Making scapegoats out of people solves no problems, creates more of them, and violates the moral imperative to respect the dignity of every human being.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET E. SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/cleansing-from-evil-that-arises-within-ourselves-part-iii/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 20, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jesus Blesssing Children

Above:  Jesus Blessing Children

Image Source = Father Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D., New Catholic Picture Bible:  Popular Stories from the Old and New Testaments (New York:  Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1955, 1960)

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

God, the Primary Actor

SEPTEMBER 23, 2020

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The Collect:

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

Because we cannot rely on our own abilities,

grant us your merciful judgment,

and train us to embody the generosity of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 41:1-13

Psalm 106:1-12

Matthew 18:1-5

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Hallelujah!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever.

Who can declare the mighty acts of the LORD

or show forth all his praise?

–Psalm 106:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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A child, at the time and place of the Gospels’ setting, was powerless and vulnerable.  Yet, according to Matthew 18:3, anyone who enters the Kingdom of Heaven/God must do so like a child.  Anyone who humbles himself accordingly and enters the Kingdom will be the greatest there, for the last will be first and the first will be last.

Other vulnerable and powerless people were exiles, such as those God was preparing to liberate in Isaiah 41.

God is the primary actor in the divine-human relationship.  Grace precedes us, walks beside us, carries us when necessary, and succeeds us.  How we respond to God matters greatly, of course, affecting not only us but those around us.  To recognize our complete dependence on God and our reliance on each other–to surrender the illusion of independence and abandon the lie of the ultimate importance of social status–is to embark on a healthy spiritual path, one which entails numerous and varied expressions of gratitude to God, who has done, is doing, and will do infinitely more than we can imagine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 15:  TENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF TIMOTHY CUTLER AND THOMAS BRADBURY CHANDLER, ANGLICAN PRIESTS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/god-the-primary-actor/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 20, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jacob's Ladder William Blake

Above:  Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Flawed Agents of Grace

SEPTEMBER 21 and 22, 2020

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The Collect:

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

Because we cannot rely on our own abilities,

grant us your merciful judgment,

and train us to embody the generosity of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 27:1-29 (Monday)

Genesis 28:10-17 (Tuesday)

Psalm 106:1-12 (Both Days)

Romans 16:1-16 (Monday)

Romans 16:17-20 (Tuesday)

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Remember me, O LORD, with the favor you have for your people,

and visit me with your saving help;

That I may see the prosperity of your elect

and be glad with the gladness of your people,

and I may glory with your inheritance.

–Psalm 106:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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One of the challenges one faces in reading the Bible intelligently is understanding cultural nuances.  What does it matter, for example, that a father imparts a blessing on his son?  That was important in the culture of Isaac, Jacob/Israel, and Esau/Edom, for the blessing or curse, in the minds of many people, determined the destiny of the recipient of the pronouncement.

Isaac was a pitiful character.  The fact that his father, Abraham, had tried to kill him once must have messed him up psychologically.  Wife Rebekah plotted to deceive him in order to promote her second son, Jacob.  She succeeded, and the promise flowed through the second son again, Isaac having been the second son of Abraham.  The confirmation of the promise came in a dream about angels on a ladder.  But Jacob remained a trickster, one whom Laban fooled.  The promise of God, this chain of events tells me, does not depend on purity of human character or motivation.  This is good news, for it the divine promise did depend on such factors, it would be vain hope.

St. Paul the Apostle, after a long list of commendations in Romans 16, advised people to avoid

those who stir up quarrels and lead others astray, contrary to the teaching you received

–Romans 16:17b, The Revised English Bible (1989).

The process of sorting out core Christian doctrines entailed centuries of debates among those who asked sincere questions.  Many of these seekers of the truth were objectively wrong about certain details, but at least they proceeded from a good motivation.  When they were wrong, their contribution led to the formulation of correct doctrines, so we Christians of the twenty-first century are indebted to them.  St. Paul the Apostle might have considered some of these individuals to be among “those who stir up quarrels and lead others astray,” for he was quite opinionated.  There were also actual mischief-makers.  Maybe you, O reader, have encountered the type–people who ask questions to provoke, not to seek an answer.

Those who sow the seeds of dissension seem to have great internal discord, for those at peace with themselves make peace and troubled people cause trouble.  I have witnessed these dynamics in congregations.  And I recognize it in family life, such as in the account in Genesis 27 and 28.  Much of the narrative of the Old Testament reads like a catalog of bad parenting and of sibling rivalry.  The texts are honest about character flaws, though, so we modern readers need not feel guilty about thinking of them as less than heroic all the time.  These were flawed people–as we are–and God worked through them as God works through us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 16. 2014 COMMON ERA

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

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

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

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY WOMEN OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/08/17/flawed-agents-of-grace/

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Proper 23, Year A   30 comments

Above: Parable of the Great Banquet, by Jan Luyken (1649-1712)

Of God, Banquets, and Guests

The Sunday Closest to October 12

The Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 11, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 32:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the people saw that Moses delayed to come down from the mountain, the people gathered around Aaron, and said to him,

Come, make gods for us, who shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us up out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.

Aaron said to them,

Take off the gold rings that are on the ears of your wives, your sons, and your daughters, and bring them to me.

So all the people took off the gold rings from their ears, and brought them to Aaron. He took the gold from them, formed it in a mold, and cast an image of a calf; and they said,

These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it; and Aaron made proclamation and said,

Tomorrow shall be a festival to the LORD.

They rose early the next day, and offered burnt offerings and brought sacrifices of well-being; and the people sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to revel.

The LORD said to Moses,

Go down at once! Your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have acted perversely; they have been quick to turn aside from the way that I commanded them; they have cast for themselves an image of a calf, and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it, and said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!”

The LORD said to Moses,

I have seen this people, how stiff-necked they are. Now let me alone, so that my wrath may burn hot against them and I may consume them; and of you I will make a great nation.

But Moses implored the LORD his God, and said,

O LORD, why does your wrath burn hot against your people, whom you brought out of the land of Egypt with great power and with a mighty hand? Why should the Egyptians say, “It was with evil intent that he brought them out to kill them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth”? Turn from your fierce wrath; change your mind and do not bring disaster on your people. Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, your servants, how you swore to them by your own self, saying to them, “I will multiply your descendants like the stars of heaven, and all this land that I have promised I will give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.”

And the LORD changed his mind about the disaster that he planned to bring on his people.

Psalm 106:1-6, 19-23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Halelujah!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever.

2  Who can declare the mighty acts of the LORD

or show forth all his praise>

3  Happy are those who act with justice

and always do what is right?

4  Remember me, O LORD, with the favor you have for your people,

and visit me with your saving help;

5  That I may see the prosperity of your elect

and be glad with the gladness of your people,

that I may glory with your inheritance.

6  We have sinned as our forebears did;

we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.

19  Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb

and worshiped a molten image;

20  And so they exchanged their Glory

for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.

21  They forgot God their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22  Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,

and fearful things at the Red Sea.

23  So he would have destroyed them,

had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,

to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 25:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

O LORD, you are my God;

I will exalt you, I will praise your name;

for you have done wonderful things,

plans formed of old, faithful and sure.

For you have made the city a heap,

the fortified city a ruin;

the palace of aliens is a city no more,

it will never be rebuilt.

Therefore strong peoples will glorify you;

cities of ruthless nations will fear you.

For you have been a refuge to the poor,

a refuge to the needy in their distress,

a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat.

When the blast of the ruthless was like a winter rainstorm,

the noise of aliens like heat in a dry place,

you subdued the heat with the shade of clouds;

the song of the ruthless was stilled.

On this mountain the LORD of hosts will make for all people

a feast of rich food, a feast of well-aged wines,

of rich food filled with marrow, of well-aged wines strained clear.

And he will destroy on this mountain

the shroud that is cast over all peoples,

the sheet that is spread over all nations;

he will swallow up death forever.

Then the Lord GOD will wipe away the tears from all faces,

and the disgrace of his people he will take away from all the earth,

for the LORD has spoken.

It will be said on that day,

Lo, this is our God; we have waited on him, so that he might save us.

This is the LORD for whom we have waited;

let us be glad and rejoice in his salvation.

Psalm 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not be in want.

2  He makes me lie down in green pastures

and leads me beside still waters.

3  He revives my soul

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

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

I shall fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

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

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

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

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

SECOND READING

Philippians 4:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

My brothers and sisters, whom I love and long for, my joy and crown, stand firm in the Lord in this way, my beloved.

I urge Euodia and I urge Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. Yes, and I ask you also, my loyal companion, help these women, for they have struggled beside me in the work of the gospel, together with Clement and the rest of my co-workers, whose names are in the book of life.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. Let your gentleness be known to everyone. The Lord is near. Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, and the God of peace will be with you.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 22:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Once more Jesus spoke to the people in parables, saying:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. Again he sent other slaves, saying, “Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.” But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. Then he said to his slaves, “The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.” Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, and he said to him, “Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?” And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, “Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” For many are called, but few are chosen.

The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Canaanite mythology held that, after the apocalypse, the storm god Baal will become king of the pantheon after defeating Yamm, the god of chaos waters.  So Baal will hold a great banquet on a mountain, but the forces of chaos will reassert themselves and Mot, the god of death, will swallow up Baal and take him to the underworld.

I repeat this story because it is the foundation upon which our reading from Isaiah 25 is based.  One of the strategies of Biblical authors was to rewrite the mythology of others.  We see it in the first creation story and in the Noah’s ark saga, for example.  In this case, YHWH hosts the banquet and destroys death on the mountain.  One way of making the case of YHWH’s supremacy and greatness was to contrast YHWH with weaker deities from the pantheons of the competition.

Paul and the author of Psalm 23 remind us that we have no reason to fear if we are on God’s side, for, as Paul writes, “God is near.”  The nearness of God can be frightening, too, depending on one’s self and one’s circumstances, but Paul, in this case at least, finds it ennobling.  Since God is near, we ought to trust in God, be gentle, and pursue noble enterprises.  We need not react defensively because God is our defender.  Often we commit our worst deeds out of anger and defensiveness.  In these circumstances we lash out against and insult each other.  We might even use violence against each other.  These are not loving and noble ways of acting.

I have been reading and struggling with Anabaptist Biblical ethics.  The Anabaptists are pacifists, of course.  My inner Menno Simons is a pacifist, but my inner Reinhold Niebuhr is a realist with an uneasy conscience.  Can I love my neighbor and rejoice in his execution or the bombing of his village or city?  No, of course not.  The late Robert S. McNamara, in The Fog of War, a brilliant documentary, says that we humans need to think seriously about how much evil we must do in order to do good.  Yet, I wonder, how much evil does one commit before one has condemned one’s self to Hell?  And what would Jesus do?  What would Jesus say about any given situation, based on what we have in the canonical gospels?  I leave myself and you, O reader, with questions, not answers, in these matters.  I intend to continue to struggle with these matters, and I invite you to do likewise.

The original audience of the Gospel of Matthew consisted of Jewish Christians (in the 80s C.E.) living at the margins of Judaism after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.  These were involuntarily marginal people, and the parable reflects their displeasure with their circumstances.  The social custom was to issue two invitations, the second of which consisted of, ” We are ready now, so come now.”  Know then, that everybody who refused to attend the wedding banquet had previously announced his or her intention to attend.  These are stand-ins for the Jews who have not become Christians.  The servants who round up people on the streets are missionaries and the replacement guests are Christians.  But some of these servants meet with martyrdom and murder.  Finally, at the banquet itself, one man has not attended in the proper attire.  This was a sign of disrespect, so the king had him removed.

This is a difficult story, but understanding the post-Jewish War context of the writing of the Gospel of Matthew helps explain much about it.  How much of the story comes from Jesus and how much comes from Matthew?  The scholars can sort out that question to their hearts’ content.  I, meanwhile, care about the devotional side of the text.

In Luke 9:51 Jesus “sets his face toward Jerusalem.”  Shortly afterward, in 9:57-62, unnamed people offer excuses why they will not follow him.  So, in 9:62, Jesus says,

No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

That was what the originally invited wedding guests did.  They said “yes” the first time but “no” the second.  They put their hands to the plow then looked back.  But the banquet would be full one way or another.

Here we have the intersection of judgment and mercy once again.  May we be on God’s side, by grace, without excuses, and lacking undue defensiveness which detracts from the love of Christ.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/of-god-banquetsand-guests/

Week of Proper 13: Wednesday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  The Sinai Peninsula (Gemini 11, 1966)

Image in the Public Domain

Consequences of a Slave Mentality

AUGUST 7, 2019

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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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Numbers 13:1-2, 25-14:1, 26-35 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Send men and let them scout the land of Canaan that I’m giving to the children of Israel.  You shall send one man for each tribe of his fathers, every one of them a chieftain.

And they came back from scouting the land at the end of forty days.  And they went and came to Moses and to Aaron and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, to the wilderness of Paran, at Kadesh; and they brought back word to them and all the congregation and showed them the land’s fruit.

And they told him and said,

We came to the land where you sent us, and also it’s flowing with milk and honey, and this is its fruit.  Nonetheless:  the people who live in the land are strong.  And the cities are fortified, very big.  And also we saw the offering of the giants there.  Amalek lives in the land of the Negeb, and the Hittite and the Jebusite and the Amorite live in the mountains, and the Canaanite lives by the sea and along the Jordan.

And Caleb quieted the people toward Moses and said,

Let’s go up, and we’ll take possession of it, because we’ll be able to handle it.

And the men who went up to him said,

We won’t be able to go up against the people, because they’re stronger than we are.

And they brought out a report of the land that they had scouted to the children of Israel, saying,

The land through which we passed to scout it:  it’s a land that eats those who live in it, and all the people whom we saw in it were people of size! And we saw the Nephilim there, sons of giants ffrom the Nephilim, and we were like grasshoppers in our eyes, and so we were in their eyes.

And all the congregation raised and let out their voices!  And the people wept that night.

And YHWH spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying,

How much farther for this bad congregation, that they’re complaining against me?  I’ve heard the complaints of the children of Israel that they’re making against me.  Say to them:  As I live–word of YHWH–what you have spoken in my ears, that is what I’ll do for you!  In this wilderness your carcasses will fall; and all of you who were counted, for all your number, from twenty years old and up, who complained against me, I swear that you won’t come to the land that I raised my hand to have you reside there–except Caleb son of Jephunneh and Joshua son of Nun.  And your infants, whom you said would become a spoil:  I’ll bring them, and they will know the land that you rejected!  And you:  your carcasses will fall in this wilderness.  And your children will be roving the wilderness forty years, and they’ll bear your whoring until the end of your carcasses in the wilderness.  For the number of days that you scouted the land, forty days, you shall bear your crimes a day for each year, forty years, and you shall know my frustratration!  I, YHWH, have spoken:  If I shall not do this to all the bad congregation who are gathered against me:  in this wilderness they shall end, and they shall die there!

Psalm 106:6-14, 21-23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 We have sinned as our forefathers did;

we have done wrong and dealt wickedly.

7 In Egypt they did not consider your marvelous works,

not remember the abundance of your love;

they defied the Most High at the Red Sea.

8 But he saved them for his Name’s sake,

to make his power known.

9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up,

and he led them through the deep as through a desert.

10 He saved them from the hand of those who hated them

and redeemed them from the hand of the enemy.

11 The waters covered their oppressors;

not one on them was left.

12 Then they believed his words

and sang him songs of praise.

13 But they soon forgot his deeds

and did not wait for his counsel.

14 A craving seized them in the wilderness,

and they put God to the test in the desert.

21 They forgot God their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22 Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,

and fearful things at the Red Sea.

23 So he would have destroyed them,

had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,

to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

Matthew 15:21-28 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

Jesus then left that place and retired into the Tyre and Sidon district.  There a Canaanite woman from those parts came to him crying at the top of her voice,

Lord, son of David, have pity on me!  My daughter is in a terrible state–a devil has got into her!

Jesus made no answer, and the disciples came up to him and said, “Do not send her away–she’s still following us and calling out.”

“I was only sent, ” replied Jesus, “to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Then the woman came and knelt at his feet.

Lord, help me,

she said.

It is not right, you know,

Jesus replied,

to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.

The woman replied,

Yes, Lord, I know, but even the dogs live on the scraps that fall from their master’s table!

Jesus returned,

You certainly don’t lack faith; it shall be as you wish.

And at that moment her daughter was healed.

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The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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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Sometimes I wish that biblical authors had noted the tone of voice in which a person, such as Jesus, spoke, when writing about certain incidents.  The story of the conversation between Jesus and the Gentile woman is such a case.  But some details in the account provide fascinating clues.

Most importantly, Jesus was in the district of Tyre and Sidon, which was Gentile central.  And he went there voluntarily.  If he had a serious attitude problem regarding Gentiles, he would not have gone there voluntarily.  It is also vital to note that he granted the woman’s request to heal her daughter, even after his comment about throwing table scraps to dogs, who were allegedly impure and unclean animals, not beloved furry family members, as many North Americans think of domesticated canines.  But the woman expected our Lord’s mercy and made her case for it to his face.  She had faith and was persistent in it, and she went away satisfied.  She passed the test.

The Gentile woman did not have a slave mentality.  But the generation of Israelites that escaped from Egypt did.

Professor Richard Elliott Friedman makes the case for the existence of this slave mentality in his Commentary on the Torah.  Time after time the children of Israel had waxed nostalgic about Egyptian table scraps and complained about how God provided for them in the wilderness.  Mentally, they were still in Egypt, where they depended upon their overlords.  But YHWH offered them something far better–freedom.  Alas, they were not ready for it.  They were afraid of so much, mostly that they would die in the desert.  So they reacted fearfully.  Those actions had consequences, including their death in the wilderness.  Those who lacked a slave mentality were destined to reach the promised land.

This is what is really going on the the reading from Numbers.  The origin of the Nephilim is an interesting intellectual and mythological knot to attempt to untie, but it serves no useful devotional purpose for me today.  The Nephilim scared many Israelites; that is the important detail about them today.  The lack of faith and prevalence of fear in this matter constituted the last straw for YHWH in Numbers 14.  That is vital in this account.

At this time my mind turns to James 4:1-6.  It reads:

What causes fighting and quarrels among you?  Is not their origin the appetites that war in your bodies?  You want what you cannot have, so you murder; you are envious, and cannot attain your ambition, so you quarrel and fight.  You do not get what you want, because you do not pray for it.  Or, if you do, your requests are not granted, because you pray from wrong motives, in order to squander what you get on your pleasures.  Unfaithful creatures!  Surely you know that love of the world means enmity to God?  Whoever chooses to be the world’s friend makes himself God’s enemy.  Or do you suppose that scripture has no point when it says that the spirit which God implanted in us is filled with envious longings?  But the grace he gives is stronger; thus scripture says, ‘God opposes the arrogant and gives grace to the humble.'”  (Revised English Bible, 1989)

Humility, contrary to a widespread misunderstanding, is not beating one’s breast and considering oneself a worthless excuse for a human being.  That is low self-esteem.  No, being humble is having a realistic self-image in relation to God.  So a healthy ego–one neither too small nor raging out of control–is part and parcel of humility.  We humans bear the image of God, and therefore have inherent dignity others are obligated to recognize and respect.  The Gentile woman knew that she and her daughter had inherent human dignity Jesus was obliged to recognize and respect.  She insisted on this, and Jesus granted her request.  She asked–properly–for a just cause, and she received what she requested.  She was humble.

On the other hand, those Israelites with a slave mentality were not humble.  And neither did they expect the best, which they did not receive.  It was a self-fulfilling prophecy.  They were responsible for what happened to them.

Which story more nearly describes you?  If the answer to that question is damning, you can rewrite the rest of your narrative.  The children of Israel had many such opportunities, and they wasted them.  Learn from these ancient accounts.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/consequences-of-a-slave-mentality/

Week of Proper 12: Monday, Year 1   7 comments

Above: Moses, by Rembrandt van Rijn (1659)

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Judgment, Patience, and Extravagance

JULY 29, 2019

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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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Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses turned and went down from the mountain.  And the two tablets of witness were in his hand, tablets written from their two sides:  from this side and from this side they were written.  And the tablets:  they were God’s doing.  And the writing:  it was God’s writing, inscribed on the tablets.

And Joshua heard the sound of the people in its shouting, and he said to Moses,

A sound of war is in the camp.

Above:  Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin (1633-1634)

Image in the Public Domain

And he said,

It’s not a sound of singing of victory, and it’s not a sound of singing of defeat.  It’s just the sound of singing I hear!

And it was when he came close to the camp, and he saw the calf and dancing: and Moses’ anger flared, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them below the mountain.  And he took the calf that they had made, and he burned it in fire and ground it until it was thin, and he scattered it on the face of the water, and he made the children of Israel drink!

And Moses said to Aaron,

What did this people do to you, that you’ve brought a big sin on it?!

And Aaron said,

Let my lord’s anger not flare.  You know the people, that it’s in a bad state.  And they said to me, “Make gods for us who will go in front of us, because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt; we don’t know what has become of him”  And I said to them, “Whoever has gold:  take it off.”  And they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out!”

And it was on the next day, and Moses said to the people,

You’ve committed a big sin.  And now I’ll go up to YHWH.  Perhaps I may make atonement for your sin.

And Moses went back to YHWH and said,

Please, this people has committed a big sin and made gods of gold for themselves.  And now, if you will bear their sin–and if not, wipe me out with your scroll that you’ve written.

And YHWH said to Moses,

The one who has sinned against me, I’ll wipe him out from my scroll.  And now, go.  Lead the people to where I spoke to you.  Here, my angel will go ahead of you.  And, in the day that I will take account, I’ll account their sin to them.

Psalm 106:19-23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19 Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb

and worshiped a molten image;

20 And so they exchanged their Glory

for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.

21 They forgot God their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22 Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,

and fearful things at the Red Sea.

23 So he would not have destroyed them,

had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,

to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

Matthew 13:31-35 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he put another parable before them,

The kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny grain of mustard-seed which a man took and sowed in his field.   As a seed it is the smallest of them all, but it grows to be the biggest of all plants.  It becomes a tree, big enough for birds to come and nest in its branches.

This is another of the parables he told them:

The kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, taken by a woman and put into three measures of flour until the whole had risen.

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowd in parables, and he did not speak to them at all without using parables–to fulfil the prophecy:

I will open my mouth in parables;

I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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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The Hebrews committed idolatry for centuries.  Prophets railed against this practice; their testimonies reside in the pages of the Bible.  The sin was not worshiping other gods instead of YHWH; the sin was to worship other gods along side YHWH.  Recall one of the Ten Commandments:  Have no other gods before the face of YHWH.

The reading from Exodus is set after those whom God had freed from Egyptian slavery had dedicated themselves to God and Moses had received many commandments, including the Ten Commandments.  But old habits of thinking persist easily and die hard.  Hence there were an attempted coup d’etat of Moses by Aaron and the adoration of the golden calf.  Moses was angry, as was God.  Moses, by reducing the golden calf to golden dust, sprinkling the dust into water flowing from a mountain spring, and making the people drink it, both punished the idolaters and reminded them of YHWH, the source of the water in the desert.

Moses argued with God, interceding on behalf of the people.  He survived without the promise of judgment because his loyalties were with God.  So one can argue with God faithfully and not sin.  I like this vision of God, who is in clearly in charge, who does not brook idolatry, but who permits an honest argument.  This reflects great mercy.

Traditional Jewish theology understood yeast to be a sign of corruption.  Consider the following texts, if you will:

  1. Exodus 12:15-20; 23:18; 34:25
  2. Leviticus 2:11; 6:10

So using yeast as a positive image for the Kingdom of God was unexpected; it attracted attention.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus has already spoken of a very large weed, the mustard plant, in positive terms and used it an analogy for the Kingdom of God.  This yeast is quite productive, producing enough to feed 100-150 people.  The Kingdom will spread around the world, much like those pesky mustard plants.  Human agency cannot prevent any of this.

So divine grace is extravagant.  The Kingdom will go where it will.  And, although people sin, God is patient.  This fact, however, does not indicate a lack of judgment and punishment.  Judgment and mercy sit alongside each other.  May we rejoice in divine mercy, but not try God’s patience.  Instead, may we cooperate with God–and even argue faithfully with God from time to time.  Above all, may we be faithful.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/divine-judgment-patience-and-extravagance/

Week of Proper 7: Thursday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  A Dutch House Subsiding Because of An Inadequate Foundation

Image Source = Vincent van Zeijst

Declaring the Mighty Acts of God–Or Not

JUNE 27, 2019

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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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Genesis 16:1-12, 15-16 (An American Translation):

Abram’s wife Sarai had borne him no children, but she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar.  So Sarai said to Abraham,

Seeing now that the LORD has prevented me from having children, suppose you marry my maid; I might perhaps build up a family through her.

Abram agreed to the suggestion of Sarai; so Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar, her Egyptian maid (it was after Abram had been living in the land of Canaan for ten years), and gave her in marriage to her husband Abram.  He had intercourse with Hagar, and she had conceived.  When she found that she had conceived, she looked with disdain upon her mistress.  So Sarai said to Abram,

May the wrong done me fall on you.  It was I who put my maid in your arms, but when she found that she had conceived, she looked with disdain upon me.  May the LORD judge between you and me!

Abram said to Sarai,

Your maid is in your power; do what you like with her.

Then Sarai treated her so cruelly that she ran away from her.  But the angel of the LORD came upon her beside a spring in the desert (the spring on the road to Shur) and said,

Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?

She said,

I am running away from my mistress Sarai.

The angel of the LORD said to her,

Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.

Further, the angel of the LORD said to her,

I will make your descendants so numerous that they will be too many to count.

The angel of the LORD also said to her,

You are with child, and are going to bear a son; you are to call his name Ishmael [God heard], because the LORD has heard of your ill-treatment.  He shall be a wild-ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; he shall live on the outskirts of all his kindred.

So Hagar bore a son to Abram, and Abram gave the name of Ishmael to his son, whom Hagar bore.  Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.

Psalm 106:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever.

2 Who can declare the mighty acts of the LORD

or show forth all his praise!

3 Happy are those who act with justice

and always do what is right!

4 Remember me, O LORD, with the favor you have for your people,

and visit me with your saving help;

5 That I may see the prosperity of your elect

and be glad with the gladness of your people,

that I may glory with your inheritance.

Matthew 7:21-29 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

It is not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ who will get into the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to me on that Day, ‘Lord! Lord!  Was it not in your name that we prophesied, and by your name that we drove out demons, and by your name that we did many mighty acts?’  Then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you!  Go away from me, you who do wrong!’

Everyone, therefore, who listens to this teaching of mine and acts upon it, will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.  And the rain fell, and the rivers rose, and the winds blew, and beat about that house, and it did not go down, for its foundations were on rock.  And anyone who listens to this teaching of mine and does not act upon it, will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  And the rain fell, and the rivers rose, and the winds blew and beat down that house, and it went down, and its downfall was complete.

When Jesus had finished this discourse, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them like one who had authority and not like their scribes.

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The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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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And Peter opened his mouth and said:  “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him….”

–Acts 10:34-35 (Revised Standard Version)

Deeds reveal creeds, but good deeds can reveal more than one creed.  This is one lesson from the finale of the Sermon on the Mount.  Let us look up and read Acts 10:34-35 again; one must act properly and fear, that is, have awe for, God in on order to be acceptable to God.  So, by the proper combination of words and deeds, one declares the mighty acts of God.  The ultimate goal for one’s life should be that it, by grace, will become prayer.

Consistent with this thought, one needs to build on a solid foundation.  As a Christian, I state that the solid foundation is God, specifically Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnated Second Person of the Trinity and the Word of God.  What greater authority can there be?  He did not need to cite learned scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures as authorities, for he predated the book.

Speaking of that sacred anthology, it is brutally honest about the shortcomings of heroes of faith.  Consider Abram and Sarai, for example.  For a season they did not trust God to fulfill the divine promise to make Abram the origin of a great nation.  So they took matters into their own hands.  Sarai became jealous of Hagar after Abram did what she (Sarai) had suggested, so she (Sarai) abused Hagar, her maid servant now pregnant with Abram’s (firstborn) child.  So Hagar ran away, only to receive divine assurance of favor and a promise parallel to that God had made to Abram.  God heard Hagar, who never asked for any of her afflictions to come upon her, yet remained faithful to Abram and Sarai.  Grace flows where it will.

This story is only part of the Abraham saga, of course, so we ought to read and ponder it within that context.  One lesson I derive by doing this and placing the reading from Genesis next to the end of the Sermon on the Mount is that our lives, warts and all, can declare the mighty acts of God (to steal a phrase from the psalm) by grace.  The operative question here is: What is the dominant pattern of our lives?  Moral perfection is impossible in this life, but that is no excuse for not trying more often than not to do the right thing and to live in an awestruck relationship with God, who knows that we are “but dust.”  Between single predestination and the witness of the Holy Spirit everyone has an opportunity to declare the mighty acts of God in words and deeds.  Will the dominant pattern in our lives indicate a positive or a negative reply?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/declaring-the-mighty-acts-of-god-or-not/