Archive for the ‘Psalm 107’ Tag

Week of Proper 15: Thursday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 15: Friday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  The Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, by Gustave Dore

Restoration

AUGUST 23 and 24, 2018

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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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THE FIRST READING FOR THURSDAY

Ezekiel 36:22-28 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[The word of the LORD came to me:]

Say to the House of Israel:  Thus said the Lord GOD:  Not for your sake will I act, O House of Israel, but for My holy name, which you have caused to be profaned among the nations–among whom you have caused it to be profaned.  And the nations shall know that I am the LORD

–declares the Lord GOD–

when I manifest my My holiness before their eyes through you.  I will take you from among the nations and gather you from all the countries, and I will bring you back to your own land.  I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean:  I will cleanse you from all your uncleanness and from all your fetishes.  And I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit into you:  I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a heart of flesh; and I will put My spirit into you.  Thus I will cause you to follow My laws and faithfully to observe My rules.  Then you shall dwell in the land which I gave to your fathers, and you shall be My people and I will be your God.

THE FIRST READING FOR FRIDAY

Ezekiel 37:1-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The hand of the LORD came upon me.  He took me out by the spirit of the LORD and set me down in the valley.  It was full of bones.  He led me all around them; there were very many of them spread over the valley, and they were very dry.  He said to me,

O mortal, can these bones live again?

I replied,

O Lord GOD, only you know.

And He said to me,

Prophesy over these bones and say to them:  O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD!  Thus said the Lord GOD to these bones:  I will cause breath to enter you and you shall live again.  I will lay sinews upon you, and cover you with flesh, and form skin over you.  And I will put breath into you, and you shall live again.  And you shall know that I am the LORD!

I prophesied as I had been commanded.  And while I was prophesying, suddenly there was a sound of rattling, and the bones came together, bone to matching bone.  I looked, and there were sinews on them, and flesh had grown, and skin had formed over them; but there was no breath in them.  Then He said to me,

Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, O mortal!  Say to the breath:  Thus said the Lord GOD:  Come, O breath, from the four winds, and breathe into these slain, that they may live again.

I prophesied as He commanded me.  The breath entered them, and they came to life and stood up on their feet, a vast multitude.

And He said to me,

O mortal, these bones are the whole House of Israel.  They say, “Our bones are dried up, our hope is gone; we are doomed.”  Prophesy, therefore, and say to them:  Thus said the Lord GOD:  I am going to open your graves and lift you out of the graves, O My people, and bring you to the land of Israel.  You shall know, O My people, that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and lifted you out of your graves.  I will put My breath into you and you shall live again, and I will set you upon your own soil.  Then you shall know that I the LORD have spoken and have acted

–declares the LORD.

THE RESPONSE FOR THURSDAY

Psalm 51:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

THE RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 107:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

2  Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3  He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

4  Some wandered in desert wastes;

they found no way to a city where they might dwell.

5  They were hungry and thirsty;

their spirits languished within them.

6  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

7  He put their feet on a straight path

to a city where they might dwell.

8  Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy

and the wonders he does for his children.

THE GOSPEL READING FOR THURSDAY

Matthew 22:1-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus began to talk to them again in parables.

The kingdom of Heaven,

he said,

is like a king who arranged a wedding-feast for his son.  He sent his servants to summon those who had been invited to the festivities, but they refused to come.  Then he tried again; he sent some more servants, saying to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Here is my banquet all ready, by bullocks and fat cattle have been slaughtered and everything is prepared.  Come along to the wedding.”‘  But they took no notice of this and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business.  As for the rest, they got hold of the servants, treated them with insults, and finally killed them.  At this the king was very angry and sent his troops and killed those murderers and burned down their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding-feast is all ready, but those who were invited were not good enough for it.  So go off now to all the street corners and invite everyone you find there to the feast.’  So the servants went out on to the streets and collected together all those whom they found, bad and good alike.  And the hall became filled with guests.  But when the king came in to inspect the guests, he noticed among them a man not dressed for a wedding.  “How did you come in here, my friend,” he said to him, “without being properly dressed for the wedding?”  And the man had nothing to say.  Then the king said to the ushers, “Tie him up and throw him into the darkness outside, where there will be tears and bitter regret!”  For many are invited but few are chosen.

THE GOSPEL READING FOR FRIDAY

Matthew 22:34-40 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees they came up to him in a body, and one of them, an expert in the Law, put this test-question:

Master, what is the Law’s greatest commandment?

Jesus answered him,

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.”  This is the first and great commandment.  And there is a second like it:  “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” The whole of the Law and the Prophets depends on these two commandments.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The readings from Ezekiel speak of the restoration of the people of the former Kingdom of Judah.  God will do this, the people will benefit greatly, and God will receive the glory.  What seemed impossible will become reality.

To know helplessness is a terrible feeling.  And to experience God’s restorative power is magnificent.  I have done both.  And, from experience, I testify that the memory of hopelessness and pain do not fade, but that, fortunately, the awareness of what God is doing and has done fills one with awe, wonder, and gratitude.

Recently (relative to the composition and typing of this post) I realized (almost as an afterthought) that the fifth anniversary of my previous life beginning to crumble had passed.  Fortunately, this did not inspire deep ire in me–mostly it brought up surprise.  Was that five years ago?  It feels like longer than that.  I am a different person now, after having passed through the fire, by grace.

Yes, dry bones can live again.

KRT

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Proper 7, Year B   22 comments

 A Box

God Does Not Fit Into Any Theological Box

The Sunday Closest to June 22

The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

JUNE 24, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

1 Samuel 17:(1a, 4-11, 19-23), 32-49 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Now the Philistines gathered their armies for battle. And there came out from the camp of the Philistines a champion named Goliath, of Gath, whose height was six cubits and a span. He had a helmet of bronze on his head, and he was armed with a coat of mail; the weight of the coat was five thousand shekels of bronze. He had greaves of bronze on his legs and a javelin of bronze slung between his shoulders. The shaft of his spear was like a weaver’s beam, and his spear’s head weighed six hundred shekels of iron; and his shield-bearer went before him. He stood and shouted to the ranks of Israel,

Why have you come out to draw up for battle? Am I not a Philistine, and are you not servants of Saul? Choose a man for yourselves, and let him come down to me. If he is able to fight with me and kill me, then we will be your servants; but if I prevail against him and kill him, then you shall be our servants and serve us.

And the Philistine said,

Today I defy the ranks of Israel! Give me a man, that we may fight together.

When Saul and all Israel heard these words of the Philistine, they were dismayed and greatly afraid.

Now Saul, and they, and all the men of Israel, were in the valley of Elah, fighting with the Philistines. David rose early in the morning, left the sheep with a keeper, took the provisions, and went as Jesse had commanded him. He came to the encampment as the army was going forth to the battle line, shouting the war cry. Israel and the Philistines drew up for battle, army against army. David left the things in charge of the keeper of the baggage, ran to the ranks, and went and greeted his brothers. As he talked with them, the champion, the Philistine of Gath, Goliath by name, came up out of the ranks of the Philistines, and spoke the same words as before. And David heard him.]

David said to Saul,

Let no one’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with this Philistine.

Saul said to David,

You are not able to go against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are just a boy, and he has been a warrior from his youth.

But David said to Saul,

Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and whenever a lion or a bear came, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after it and struck it down, rescuing the lamb from its mouth; and if it turned against me, I would catch it by the jaw, strike it down, and kill it. Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, since he has defied the armies of the living God.

David said,

The LORD, who saved me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will save me from the hand of this Philistine.

So Saul said to David,

Go, and may the LORD be with you!

Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a bronze helmet on his head and clothed him with a coat of mail. David strapped Saul’s sword over the armor, and he tried in vain to walk, for he was not used to them. Then David said to Saul,

I cannot walk with these; for I am not used to them.

So David removed them. Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the wadi, and put them in his shepherd’s bag, in the pouch; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

The Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him. When the Philistine looked and saw David, he disdained him, for he was only a youth, ruddy and handsome in appearance. The Philistine said to David,

Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?

And the Philistine cursed David by his gods. The Philistine said to David,

Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the field.

But David said to the Philistine,

You come to me with sword and spear and javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied. This very day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the Philistine army this very day to the birds of the air and to the wild animals of the earth, so that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD does not save by sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hand.

When the Philistine drew nearer to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine. David put his hand in his bag, took out a stone, slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell face down on the ground.

Psalm 9:9-20 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

9  The LORD will be a refuge for the oppressed,

a refuge in time of trouble.

10  Those who know your Name will put their trust in you,

for you never forsake those who seek you, O LORD.

11  Sing praise to the LORD who dwells in Zion;

proclaim to the peoples the things he has done.

12  The Avenger of blood will remember them;

he will not forget the cry of the afflicted.

13  Have pity on me, O LORD;

see the misery I suffer from those who hate me,

O you who lift me up from the gate of death;

14  So that I may tell of all your praises

and rejoice in your salvation

in the gates of the city of Zion.

15  The ungodly have fallen into the pit they dug,

and in the snare they set is their own foot caught.

16  The LORD is known by his acts of justice;

the wicked are trapped in the works of their own hands.

17  The wicked shall be given over to the grave,

and also all the people that forget God.

18  For the needy shall not always be forgotten,

and the hope of the poor shall not perish for ever.

19  Rise up, O LORD, let not the ungodly have the upper hand;

let them be judged before you.

20  Put fear upon them, O LORD;

let the ungodly know they are but mortal.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

1 Samuel 17:57-18:5, 10-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

On David’s return from killing the Philistine, Abner took him and brought him before Saul, with the head of the Philistine in his hand.  Saul said to him, “Whose son are you, young man?”  And David answered,

I am the son of your servant Jesse the Bethlehemite.

When David had finished speaking to Saul, the soul of Jonathan was bound to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as his own soul.  Saul took him that day and would not let him return to his father’s house.  Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.  Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that he was wearing, and gave it to David, and his armor, and even his sword and his bow and his belt.  David went out and was successful wherever Saul sent him; as a result, Saul set him over the army.  And all the people, even the servants of Saul, approved.

The next day an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day.  Saul had his spear in his hand; and Saul threw the spear, for he thought,

I will pin David to the wall.

But David eluded him twice.

Saul was afraid of David, because the LORD was with him but had departed from Saul.  So Saul removed him from his presence, and made him a commander of a thousand; and David marched out and came in, leading the army.  David had success in all his undertakings; for the LORD was with him.  When Saul saw that he had great success, he stood in awe of him.  But all Israel and Judah loved David; for it was he who marched out and came in leading them.

Psalm 133 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

2 It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

3 Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5 For there the LORD has ordained the blessing;

life for evermore.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #3

Job 38:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then the LORD answered Job out of the whirlwind:

Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge?

Gird up your loins like a man,

I will answer you, and you shall declare to me.

Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?

Tell me, if you have understanding.

Who determined its measurements–surely you know!

Or who stretched out the line upon it?

On what were its bases sunk,

or who laid its cornerstone

when the morning stars sang together

and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy?

Or who shut in the sea with doors

when it burst out from the womb?–

when I made the clouds its garment,

and thick darkness its swaddling band,

and prescribed bounds for it,

and set bars and doors,

and said, “Thus far shall you come, and no farther,

and here shall your proud waves be stopped?”

Psalm 107:1-3, 23-32 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

2  Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3  He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

23  Some went down to the sea in ships

and plied their trade in deep waters;

24  They beheld the works of the LORD

and his wonders in the deep.

25  Then he spoke, and a stormy wind arose,

which tossed high the waves of the sea.

26  They mounted up to the heavens and fell back to the depths;

their hearts melted because of their peril.

27  They reeled and staggered like drunkards

and were at their wits’ end.

28  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

29  He stilled the storm to a whisper

and quieted the waves of the sea.

30  Then were they glad because of the calm,

and he brought them to the harbor they were bound for.

31  Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy

and the wonders he does for his children.

32  Let them exalt him in the congregation of the people

and praise him in the council of the elders.

SECOND READING

2 Corinthians 6:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

As we work together with Christ, we urge you also not to accept the grace of God in vain. For he says,

At an acceptable time I have listened to you,

and on a day of salvation I have helped you.

See, now is the acceptable time; see, now is the day of salvation! We are putting no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we have commended ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, holiness of spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and for the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see– we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

We have spoken frankly to you Corinthians; our heart is wide open to you. There is no restriction in our affections, but only in yours. In return– I speak as to children– open wide your hearts also.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 4:35-41 (New Revised Standard Version):

When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples,

Let us go across to the other side.

And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him,

Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?

He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea,

Peace! Be still!

Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them,

Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?

And they were filled with great awe and said to one another,

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

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 loving­kindness; 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:

Proper 7, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/proper-7-year-a/

I have chosen to focus on the reading from Job, not that I have ignored other lessons.

David, Goliath, Jonathan, and Saul:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/08/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/09/week-of-2-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

Mark 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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False certainty is not helpful.

The Book of Job consists of poetry combined with some prose.  It is a work of literature and a fictional story containing deep theological truth.  In this old epic, Job, a wealthy and righteous man, suffers greatly not because of any sin he had committed but because God permitted it.  For much of the book Job argued with three alleged friends–Eliphaz, Bildad, and Zophar–who insisted, among other things, that Job’s suffering must have resulted from some sin or sins he had committed.

Thus the Book of Job refuted a popular idea in ancient theology.  Yes, sometimes we suffer the negative consequences of our actions, but this fact does not account for all our suffering.  In face, we cannot account for the causation of some suffering.  Uncertainty can be unnerving, so we might prefer the simple formula “sins lead to suffering.”

Job made his final verbal defense in Chapters 29-31.  Then, in the book as it exists today, Elihu, an arrogant young man began to speak.  He was proud of himself, what he thought he knew, and how well he said it.  He filled six chapters before departing the book’s narrative as suddenly as he entered it.

Elihu’s speeches stick out in the Book of Job because they were not part of the original text.  The book contains authorial and editorial layers.  It seems that God’s speech, beginning in Chapter 28, originally followed Job’s concluding statement in Chapters 29-31 immediately.

The summary of much of God’s speech in Chapters 38 and 39 is “I’m God and you’re not.”  The text tells us that God is speaking to Job.  Yet something strikes me as interesting and crucial to grasping the book and its message.  God’s audience could just as well be Elihu or Eliphaz or Bildad or Zophar, given the content.  Job and these men had all spoken as if they knew far more than they did.  Elihu and the alleged friends thought that they how God ran the world and Job thought that he know how God should run the world.

Job needed to admit that he knew little about God.  He needed to accept ambiguity in his theology.  And he did.  The lesson he learned was that relationship to the living God, who is beyond complete human comprehension, is the goal for which to strive.  We hold expectations of God, how God acts, or how God should behave, but sometimes (perhaps even often) our reality and our expectations do not match.

Unanswered questions make some people uncomfortable.  The failure of easy and inadequate yet neat theological formulas unnerves many of us.  Yet may we embrace the ambiguity of the unanswered question and the broken formula.  May we accept the uncertainty of “I don’t know.”

Often catastrophic events set the stage for people questioning the existence or justice of God.  “If there is a God, why did X happen?” people ask.  Or, “If God is just, why did X happen?”  X might be a massive storm or earthquake, the Holocaust, a war, or other terrible event.  Often the complaint regards something God did not do, something God permitted or allegedly permitted to happen.

Here a message from the Book of Job becomes helpful.  The most basic certainties are that God exists and that God does not fit into our theological boxes.  “I don’t know” is something a spiritually honest person will say often.  We can know much, but not nearly everything.  If we accept this fact, we continue on the path of wisdom.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/god-does-not-fit-into-any-theological-box/

Proper 26, Year A   17 comments

Above:  The Children of Israel Crossing the River Jordan, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Doman

God, Who Exalts

The Sunday Closest to November 2

The Twenty-Second Sunday After Pentecost

NOVEMBER 5, 2017

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Joshua 3:7-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD said to Joshua,

This day I will begin to exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they may know that I will be with you as I was with Moses. You are the one who shall command the priests who bear the ark of the covenant, `When you come to the edge of the waters of the Jordan, you shall stand still in the Jordan.’

Joshua then said to the Israelites,

Draw near and hear the words of the LORD your God.

Joshua said,

By this you shall know that among you is the living God who without fail will drive out from before you the Canaanites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites: the ark of the covenant of the Lord of all the earth is going to pass before you into the Jordan. So now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one from each tribe. When the soles of the feet of the priests who bear the ark of the LORD, the Lord of all the earth, rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan flowing from above shall be cut off; they shall stand in a single heap.

When the people set out from their tents to cross over the Jordan, the priests bearing the ark of the covenant were in front of the people. Now the Jordan overflows all its banks throughout the time of harvest. So when those who bore the ark had come to the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the ark were dipped in the edge of the water, the waters flowing from above stood still, rising up in a single heap far off at Adam, the city that is beside Zarethan, while those flowing toward the sea of the Arabah, the Dead Sea, were wholly cut off. Then the people crossed over opposite Jericho. While all Israel were crossing over on dry ground, the priests who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, until the entire nation finished crossing over the Jordan.

Psalm 107:1-7, 33-37 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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.

He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes;

they found no way to a city where they might dwell.

5  They were hungry and thirsty;

their spirits languised within them.

6  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

He put their feet on a straight path

to go to a city where they might dwell.

33  The LORD changed rivers into deserts,

and water-springs into thirsty-ground,

34  A fruitful land into salt flats,

because of the wickedness of those who dwell there.

35  He changed deserts into pools of water

and dry land into water springs.

36  He settled the hungry there,

and they founded a city to dwell in.

37  They sowed fields, and planted vineyards,

and brought in a fruitful harvest.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Micah 3:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD concerning the prophets who lead my people astray, who cry “Peace” when they have something to eat but declare war against those who put nothing in their mouths.

Therefore it shall be night to you, without vision,

and darkness to you, without revelation.

The sun shall go down upon the prophets,

and the day shall be black over them;

the seers shall be disgraced,

and the diviners put to shame;

they shall all cover their lips,

for there is no answer from God.

But as for me, I am filled with power, with the spirit of the LORD, and with justice and might, to declare to Jacob his transgression and to Israel his sin.

Hear this, you rulers of the house of Jacob

and chiefs of the house of Israel,

who abhor justice

and pervert all equity,

who build Zion with blood

and Jerusalem with wrong!

Its rulers give judgment for a bribe,

its priests teach for a price,

its prophets give oracles for money;

yet they lean upon the LORD and say,

“Surely the LORD is with us!

No harm shall come upon us.”

Therefore because of you

Zion shall be plowed as a field;

Jerusalem shall become a heap of ruins,

and the mountain of the house a wooded height.

Psalm 43 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O God,

and defend my cause against an ungodly people;

deliver me from the deceitful and the wicked.

2 For you are the God of my strength;

why have you put me from you?

and why do I go so heavily while the enemy oppresses me?

3 Sent out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,

and bring me to your holy hill

and to your dwelling;

4 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.

5 Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul?

and why are you so disquieted within me?

6 Put your trust in God;

for I will yet give thanks to him,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

SECOND READING

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

You remember our labor and toil, brothers and sisters; we worked night and day, so that we might not burden any of you while we proclaimed to you the gospel of God. You are witnesses, and God also, how pure, upright, and blameless our conduct was toward you believers. As you know, we dealt with each one of you like a father with his children, urging and encouraging you and pleading that you lead a life worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

We also constantly give thanks to God for this, that when you received the word of God that you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word but as what it really is, God’s word, which is also at work in you believers.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 23:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples,

The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; therefore, do whatever they teach you and follow it; but do not do as they do, for they do not practice what they teach. They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others; but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them. They do all their deeds to be seen by others; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long. They love to have the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues, and to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces, and to have people call them rabbi. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all students. And call no one your father on earth, for you have one Father– the one in heaven. Nor are you to be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Messiah. The greatest among you will be your servant. All who exalt themselves will be humbled, and all who humble themselves will be exalted.

The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; 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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Often we humans exalt ourselves or at least attempt to do so.  Frequently this comes at the expense of others.  Thus it is common to find gross income inequality and corresponding injustices rife in societies.  Often the wealthy can get away with almost anything because they can hire certain attorneys while prosecutors pressure innocent poor people into plea deals, prison time, and criminal records unjustly.  Those with great talents and the corresponding work ethic might not be able to make the most of those because they cannot afford to attend certain schools, even with the possibility of scholarships.  Much of this is the luck of the draw:  Where and when was one born?

It is all terribly unfair.

The Israelites were supposed to build a just society when they entered Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, son of Nun.  Yet, generation after generation, they failed.  Free from tyranny in Egypt, they followed their countrymen who imposed it on them.  God gives us freedom, but not so that we should abuse it, waste it, or surrender it.  We are free to love one another, care for each other in difficult times, and treat each other as people who bear the image of God.

God exalts us for these purposes, but we exalt ourselves for our advantage.  No wonder those exalt themselves will be humbled, and the humble exalted.

KRT

Labor Day (U.S.A.)   4 comments

matewan-1920-sign

Above:  A sign from Matewan, West Virginia, site of a massacre of miners in 1920

Image Source = West Virginia Archives

Affirming the Dignity of Work in Words and Deeds

SEPTEMBER 2, 2019

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Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 38:27-32a (New Revised Standard Version):

So it is with every artisan and master artisan

who labors by night as well as by day;

those who cut the signets of seals,

each is diligent in making a great variety;

they set their heart on painting a lifelike image,

and they are careful to finish their work.

So it is with the smith, sitting by the anvil,

intent on his iron-work;

the breath of the fire melts his flesh,

and he struggles with the heat of the furnace;

the sound of the hammer deafens his ears,

and his eyes are on the pattern of the object.

He sets his heart on finishing his handiwork,

and he is careful in its decoration.

So it is with the potter sitting at his work

and turning the wheel with his feet;

he is always deeply concerned over his products,

and he produces them in quantity.

He molds the clay with his arm

and makes it pliable with his feet;

he sets his heart to finish the glazing,

and he takes care in firing the kiln.

All these rely on their hands,

and all are skillful in their own work.

Without them no city can be inhabited,

and wherever they live, they will not go hungry.

AND

Psalm 107:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,

those he redeemed from trouble

and gathered in from the lands,

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,

finding no way to an inhabited town;

hungry and thirsty,

their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress;

he led them by a straight way,

until they reached an inhabited town.

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,

for his wonderful works to humankind.

For he satisfies the thirsty,

and the hungry he fills with good things.

OR

Psalm 90:1-2, 16-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Lord, you have been our dwelling place

in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or ever you had formed the earth and the world,

from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Let your work be manifest to your servants,

and your glorious power to their children.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,

and prosper for us the work of our hands–

O prosper the work of our hands!

THEN

1 Corinthians 3:10-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward.

THEN

Matthew 6:19-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

“The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

“No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; 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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All honest work has dignity.  I hear and read this sentiment from some politicians and business people whom I suspect do not believe it, for their deeds belie their words.  As I have indicated elsewhere on this blog, “Deeds reveal creeds.”  When a corporate CEO continues policies of not paying living wages I do not believe that he or she thinks that all work has dignity.  A corporate chief who exports jobs to the third world, where wages are lower and safety regulations are weak or non-extant, cares most about the bottom line.  And when miners in poor, rural regions of the United States die needlessly year after year because the mining corporations for which they work do not maintain the maximum possible level of safety, I know that those who occupy corner offices at headquarters do not think positively about the dignity of the work their employees do.  And politicians the soulless corporations have bought off or who have subscribed to the idolatry of the market as the arbiter of morality do not believe in the dignity of all honest work, either.

These are moral issues.  Living wages, sufficient benefits packages, workplace safety, and whistleblower protection are matters of morality.  My North American society is one in which those who make society function–teachers, social workers, police officers, and fire fighters, for example–earn much less than many professional athletes.  This fact tells me that society places higher value of what a relative few do with baseballs, basketballs, and footballs than on the crucial work of our educational, public safety, and social work professionals.

This a matter of values.  (I do not concede the issue of values to far-right wing theocrats, would-be theocrats, and union-busting governors and legislators.)  And it is an issue of my nation’s collective soul.  Life, Jesus said, does not consist of the abundance of possessions.  Our Lord and Savior was no Gordon Gecko, from Oliver Stone’s movie, Wall Street.  Do you remember that movie?  Gecko, who was indeed well-named (for he had the morality of a reptile), said, “Greed is good.”  No, people matter far more than wealth and material possessions.  That is a value I want to hear uttered more often and see demonstrated more frequently.

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on May 12, 2010

Revised on March 12, 2011

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/affirming-the-dignity-of-work-in-words-and-deeds/