Archive for the ‘Psalm 112’ Tag

Devotion for July 21, 22, and 23 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Air Views of Palestine.  Air Route Over Cana of Galilee, Nazareth, Plain of Sharon, etc.  Ashdod.  Home of Dagon.  Encroaching Sand Waves in Distance.  1932.

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and Acts, Part III:  The Hand of God

JULY 21-23, 2022

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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:

1 Samuel 4:1-22 (July 21)

1 Samuel 5:1-6:3, 10-16 (July 22)

1 Samuel 6:19-7:17 (July 23)

Psalm 19 (Morning–July 21)

Psalm 136 (Morning–July 22)

Psalm 123 (Morning–July 23)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–July 21)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–July 22)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–July 23)

Acts 16:23-40 (July 21)

Acts 18:1-11, 23-28 (July 22)

Acts 19:1-22 (July 23)

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The Ark of the Covenant was a mysterious and fearsome object.  It was, in the minds of some Israelites, the presence of God made tangible.  So, of course, they reasoned, its presence at a battlefield would guarantee military victory against the Philistine forces.  Wrong!  Yet God was not defeated.  Humiliations befell an idol of Dagon.  And, according to the narrative, Bubonic Plague befell many Philistines.  Eventually the Philistines returned the Ark, but those who had looked into the sacred object died.

This story, which I have kept unified across The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s daily lectionary of 2006’s daily divisions, contains some troubling aspects.  Would a loving God give anyone Bubonic Plague?  (The internal evidence, down to tumors and rodents, indicates Bubonic Plague.)  And the element of death for looking into the Ark indicates a God concept foreign to me, a Christian.  God, for me, is approachable; what is more approachable than the Incarnation?  Chronology aside, I reject the idea that God had a personality transplant.  We are, I propose, dealing with changing human understandings.

Speaking of changing human understandings, I have caused some controversy in college classrooms in Georgia (U.S.A.) when teaching World Civilization I by pointing out that lived Judaism used to be polytheistic.  This fact of history should come as no surprise to anyone who has studied the Old Testament (including 1 Samuel 7) and/or biblical archaeology and/or ancient comparative religion.  But some people become irrational, defensive, and oblivious to facts relative to religion; this is an unfortunate tendency.  I have nothing to fear from a verified fact about ancient theology.  Anyhow, Samuel was correct in 1 Samuel 7:3:

If you mean to return to the LORD with all your heart, you must remove the alien gods and the Ashteroth from your midst and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him alone….

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Paul, Silas, and Timothy served God alone.  Along the way they suffered beatings, imprisonments, and a lawsuit.  They also founded churches, converted people, and encountered fellow Christians who helped them.  The hand of God, which the Philistines could not defeat, also triumphed over the forces opposed to Paul and company.

Being on God’s side does not mean that no hardships will befall one.  Eli had to suffer the loss of his sons.  And Paul and company had to cope with the aforementioned difficulties, among others.  Also, not being on God’s side does not mean that one will face an unbroken series of hardships.  But, when one is on God’s side, one will never be alone in those difficulties; the hand of God will never be far away.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, CARDINAL

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/1-samuel-and-acts-part-iii-the-hand-of-god/

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Devotion for June 23, 24, and 25 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  The Edicule, Church of Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, Palestine, 1878-1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Proverbs and John, Part IX:  Resurrection and Vocation

JUNE 23-25, 2022

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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:

Proverbs 27:1-24 (June 23)

Proverbs 30:1-9, 18-33 (June 24)

Proverbs 31:10-31 (June 25)

Psalm 19 (Morning–June 23)

Psalm 136 (Morning–June 24)

Psalm 123 (Morning–June 25)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–June 23)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–June 24)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–June 25)

John 20:1-18 (June 23)

John 20:19-31 (June 24)

John 21:1-25 (June 25)

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The readings from Proverbs cover a variety of topics, from friendship to flock management to the imperative of championing the poor and the needy to the virtues of a capable wife.  One can establish links between some of these unites and John 20-21, and I will hint at a few of them.

After one has seen Jesus die and meet him afterward, what is one supposed to do?  He did die as an insurrectionist (that was the charge), so following him was dangerous.  An initial and not unreasonable lack of understanding of the Resurrection faded and made way for mission.  A woman told men that Jesus was alive, thereby becoming the first post-Resurrection evangelist.  (St. Mary Magadalene, as the Eastern Orthodox say, was an equal of the Apostles.)  Returning to  fishing was a momentary lapse; the time had come for people after Christ’s Ascension (or whatever form the departure took according to the laws of Nature.)  Christ changed everything in the lives of those who went on to proclaim him after he left.

Some understanding comes best by experience, for words, although necessary, are woefully inadequate on some occasions.  An author of some proverbs did not grasp how an eagle could fly or a ship navigate.  These were (are remain) natural and technological issues, respectively.  Such matters one can explain well via facts.  The Resurrection of Jesus, however, is more mysterious in its mechanics, and I embrace the mystery.  Besides, the post-Resurrection reality really interests me, for it is my reality.  It has been human reality for nearly two thousand years.  And what that reality will require of me is not necessarily (in technical details) a match for what it will require of you, O reader.  Our circumstances are different, and we are not identical.  There is plenty of work to do for Jesus; may each of us do our part faithfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/proverbs-and-john-part-ix-resurrection-and-vocation/

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Devotion for May 27 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  General Winfield Scott Hancock, United States Army

Image Source = Library of Congress

Ecclesiastes and John, Part III:  Ethics and Loyalty

MAY 27, 2021

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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:

Ecclesiastes 4:1-16

Psalm 136 (Morning)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening)

John 7:32-53

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Recently, in the wake of a financial scandal related to a large British investment bank, I listened to a BBC World Service radio program which provided analysis.  I heard an interview with an anthropologist who studies the cultures of large investment banks.  These, according to him, tend to foster dog-eat-dog attitudes, for the quests to earn large bonuses and not to lose one’s job due to perceived redundancy override the ethical drive to work toward the best interests of one’s clients.  There is little or no loyalty in the workplace.  I thought about that interview while reading Ecclesiastes 4:1-16.

 Loyalty can be a precious and rare commodity.  And it is something which one ought not to give away like candy on Halloween.  Some people deserve it; others do not.  The test, I suppose, is reciprocity.  My favorite Civil War general was Winfield Scott Hancock.  He knew that his job entailed risking the lives of the men under his command, but he put himself at risk next to the lowest-ranking men.  He was loyal to them, and they to him.  General Hancock earned their loyalty.

When oppression comes people need to act out of loyalty to each other and fidelity to the truth.  That is no time to have an “every man for himself” attitude.  Nicodemus, in John 7, had legal procedure on his side.  He wanted to see his peers follow their own rules.  These were the same people who were accusing Jesus of breaking the rules, so should they not have followed theirs?  Would that not have been ethical?

When we must answer to God, may unethical behavior not be among our offenses.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/ecclesiastes-and-john-part-iii-ethics-and-loyalty/

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Week of Proper 27: Friday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 27: Saturday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  Mother Teresa Plaque

Image Source = Michal Manas

Being of God

NOVEMBER 11 and 12, 2022

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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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FIRST READING FOR FRIDAY

2 John 1-13 (Revised English Bible):

The Elder to the Lady chosen by God and her children whom I love in the truth, and not I alone but all who know the truth.  We love you for the sake of the truth that dwells among us and will be with us for ever.

Grace, mercy, and peace will be with us from God the Father and from Jesus Christ the Son of the Father, in truth and love.

I was very glad to find that some of your children are living by the truth, in accordance with the command we have received from the Father.  And now, Lady, I have a request to make of you.  Do not think I am sending a new command; I am recalling the one we have had from the beginning:  I ask that we love one another.  What love means is to live according to the commands of God.  This is the command that was given you from the beginning, to be your rule of life.

Many deceivers have gone out into the world, people who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.  Any such person is the deceiver and antichrist.  See to it that you do not lose what we have worked for, but receive your reward in full.

Anyone who does not stand by the teaching about Christ, but goes beyond it, does not possess God; he who stands by it possesses both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you who does not bring this teaching, do not admit him to your house or give him any greeting; for he who greets him becomes an accomplice in his evil deeds.

I have much to write to you, but I do not care to put it down on paper.  Rather, I hope to visit you and talk with you face to face, so that our joy may be complete.  The children of your Sister, chosen by God, send your greetings.

FIRST READING FOR SATURDAY

3 John 1-14 (Revised English Bible):

The Elder to dear Gaius, whom I love in the truth.

Dear friend, above all, I pray that things may go well with you, and that you may enjoy good health; I know it is well with your soul.  I was very glad when some fellow-Christians arrived and told me of your faithfulness to the truth; indeed you live by the truth.  Nothing gives me greater joy than to hear that my children are living by the truth.

Dear friend, you show a fine loyalty in what you do for our fellow-Christians, though they are strangers to you.  They have testified to your kindness before the congregation here.  Please help them on their journey in a manner worthy of the God we serve.  It was for love of Christ’s name that they went out; and they would accept nothing from unbelievers.  Therefore we ought to support such people, an so play our part in spreading the truth.

I wrote to the congregation, but Diotrephes, who enjoys taking the lead, will have nothing to do with us.  So when I come, I will draw attention to the things he is doing; he lays nonsensical and spiteful charges  to receive follow-Christians himself, and interferes with those who would receive them, and tries to expel them from the congregation.

Dear friend, follow good examples, not bad ones.  The well-doer is a child of God; the evildoer has never seen God.

Demetrius is well spoken of by everyone, and even by the truth itself.  I add my testimony, and you know that my testimony is true.

I had much to write to you, but I do not care to set it down with pen and ink.  I hope to see you very soon, when we will talk face to face.  Peace be with you.  Your friends here send you greetings.  Greet each of our friends by name.

RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

RESPONSE FOR SATURDAY

Psalm 112 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments!

2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches will be in their house,

and their righteousness will last for ever.

4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

6 For they will never be shaken;

the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.

7 They will not be afraid of any evil rumors;

their heart is right;

they put their trust in the Lord.

8 Their heart is established and will not shrink,

until they see that desire upon their enemies.

9 They have given freely to the poor,

and their righteousness stands fast for ever;

they will hold up their head with honor.

10 The wicked will see it and be angry;

they will gnash their teeth and pine away;

the desires of the wicked will perish.

COMPOSITE GOSPEL READING

Luke 17:26-18:18 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said to his disciples,]

As it was in the days of Noah, will it be in the days of the Son of Man.  They ate and drank and married, until the day that Noah went into the ark and the flood came and made an end of them all.  So too in the days of Lot, they ate and drank, they bought and sold, they planted and built; but on the day that Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained from the sky and made an end of them all.  it will be like that on  the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

On that day if anyone is on the roof while his belongings are in the house, he must not go down to fetch them; and if anyone is in the field, he must not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife.  Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life will gain it.

I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed:  one will be taken, the other left.  There will be two women grinding corn:  one will be taken, the other left.

When they heard this they asked,

Where, Lord?

He said,

Where the carcass is, there will the vultures gather.

Jesus told them a parable to show that they should keep on praying and never lose heart.

In a certain city there was a judge who had no fear of God or respect for man, and in the same city there was a widow who kept coming before him to demand justice against her opponent.  For a time he refused; but in the end he said to himself, “Although I have no fear of God or respect for man, yet this widow is so great a nuisance that I will give her justice before she wears me out with her persistence.”  The Lord said, “You hear what the unjust judge says.  Then will not God give justice to his chosen, to whom he listens day and night?  I tell you, he will give them justice soon enough.  But when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 27:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/week-of-proper-27-friday-year-1/

Week of Proper 27:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/23/week-of-proper-27-saturday-year-1/

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The authorship of 2 John and 3 John is a matter of scholarly debate; did John the Evangelist compose them?  The answer is irrelevant for my purposes, but the epistles are, by the way, indisputably products of the Johannine tradition.

The brief epistles, taken together, address to related problems:  heretical, wandering preachers and power-hungry local elders.  Wandering preachers were commonplace, and some, such as Demetrius (in 3 John 12) were orthodox.  Yet many others were not.  These were the “deceivers” who “have gone out into the world” and did not “acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh” (2 John 7).  As for power-hungry local elders, Diotrephes, who did not welcome and who interfered with Demetrius, was especially troublesome.  Diotrephes exhibited an especially malicious streak.

I ask that we love one another.  What loves means is to live according to the commands of God.  This is the command that was given you from the beginning, to be your rule of life.–2 John 5b-6, Revised English Bible

Yes, one can commit good deeds for bad reasons, and one can be a moral Atheist.  One can feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and visit the imprisoned without acknowledging God or commit all of the above good deeds while acknowledging God.  It is also true that history and current events contain instances of people who have slaughtered others in the name of God.  To do the right thing for the right reason is essential, and to add the dimension of faith to this equation brings credit to religion and hopefully to God.  I contend that, if one is really of God, one will act out of love, not hatred.  All who do otherwise yet claim to be otherwise are imposters, some of whom lie even to themselves.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/being-of-god/

Week of Proper 26: Saturday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  Johannes Brahms

Excellent and Admirable Things

NOVEMBER 5, 2022

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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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Philippians 4:2-23 (Revised English Bible):

Euodia and Syntyche, I appeal to you both:  agree together in the Lord.  Yes and you too, my loyal comrade, I ask you to help these women, who shared my struggles in the cause of the gospel, with Clement and my other fellow-workers, who are enrolled in the book of life.

I wish you all joy in the Lord always.  Again, I say:  all joy be yours.

Be known to everyone for your consideration of others.

The Lord is near; do not be anxious, but in everything make your requests known to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving.  Then the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

And now, my friends, all that is true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure, all that is lovable and attractive, whatever is excellent and admirable–fill your thoughts with these things.

Put into practice the lessons I taught you, the tradition I have passed on, all that you heard me say or saw me do; and the God of peace will be with you.

It is a great joy to me in the Lord that after so long your care for me has now revived.  I now you always cared; it was opportunity you lacked.  Not that I am speaking of want, for I have learned to be self-sufficient whatever my circumstances.  I know what it is to have nothing, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have been thoroughly initiated into fullness and hunger, plenty and poverty.  I am able to face anything through him who gives me strength.  All the same, it was kind of you to share the burden of my troubles.

You Philippians are aware that, when I set out from Macedonia in the early days of my mission, yours was the only church to share with me in the giving and receiving; more than once you contributed to my needs, even at Thessalonica.  Do not think I set my heart on the gift; all I care for is the interest mounting up in your account.  I have been paid in full; I have all I need and more, now that I have received from Epaphroditus what you sent.  It is a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.  And my God will supply all your needs out of the magnificence of his riches in Christ Jesus.  To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever!  Amen.

Give my greetings, in the fellowship of Christ Jesus, to each one of God’s people.  My colleagues send their greetings to you, and so do all God’s people here, particularly those in the emperor’s service.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Psalm 112 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments!

2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches will be in their house,

and their righteousness will last for ever.

4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

6 For they will never be shaken;

the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.

7 They will not be afraid of any evil rumors;

their heart is right;

they put their trust in the Lord.

8 Their heart is established and will not shrink,

until they see that desire upon their enemies.

9 They have given freely to the poor,

and their righteousness stands fast for ever;

they will hold up their head with honor.

10 The wicked will see it and be angry;

they will gnash their teeth and pine away;

the desires of the wicked will perish.

Luke 16:9-15 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

So I say to you, use your worldly wealth to win friends for yourselves, so that when money is a thing of the past you may be received into an eternal home.

Anyone who can be trusted in small matters can be trusted also in great; and anyone who is dishonest in small matters is dishonest also in great.  If, then, you have not proved trustworthy with the wealth of this world, who will trust you with the wealth that is real?  And if you have proved untrustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you anything of your own?

No slave can serve two masters; for either he will hate the first and love the second, or he will be devoted to the first and despise the second.  You cannot serve God and Money.

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and scoffed at him.  He said to them,

You are the people who impress others with your righteousness; but God sees through you; for what is considered admirable in human eyes is detestable in the sight of God.

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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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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 26:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-1/

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Enjoyment of Music:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/a-prayer-of-thanksgiving-for-the-enjoyment-of-music/

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About ten years ago, in Statesboro, Georgia, I heard a secondhand story about an unnamed homeschooling parent in Bulloch County.  She objected to soccer because, as she said, it was “too worldly.”  This was an extreme case, for many homeschooling parents approve of a variety of sporting activities, including soccer, for their children.  Yet the story does highlight an unduly narrow understanding of what is proper.

I find that the boundary between the sacred and the secular is porous.  Brahms symphonies constitute sacred and ennobling music for me.  On the other hand, much popular music is vacuous and a great deal of religious music (especially Southern Gospel and contemporary Christian) is annoying.  And there is a great chasm between the sophistication of Cole Porter lyrics and those of many current popular songs.

Paul advised the Philippians to fill their thoughts with true, noble, pure, lovable, admirable, attractive, and excellent things.  This covers a wide range of material, from Johannes Brahms to Franz Schubert, from John Coltrane to Charlie Parker, from William Shakespeare to John Milton.   Yet I recall that Charles Finney, an evangelist of the Second Great Awakening, in the early 1800s, expressed disbelief

that a person who has ever known the love of God can relish a secular novel

or make book space for

Byron, Scott, Shakespeare, and a host of triflers and blasphemers of God.

(Finney quoted in Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution:  Jacksonian America, 1815-1846, New York:  Oxford University Press, 1991, page 230)  As one who relishes quoting Shakespeare, I oppose Finney in this regard.

I wrote the rough draft of this post in a composition book while listening to the Symphony #1 by Johannes Brahms.  I type this final draft while listening to classical music on the radio.  Such music is truly noble, excellent and admirable.  I prefer, in fact, to listen to such quality music in lieu of engaging in other activities, such as watching television.  (I live without cable television, something I do not miss.)  My spiritual journey entails entertaining the better angels of my nature.  Brahms fits the bill nicely, as does Shakespeare.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/excellent-and-admirable-things/

Week of Proper 1: Friday, Year 2   4 comments

Above:  U.S. Navy Personnel Assisting at a Soup Kitchen

Image Source = Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson, U.S.N.

Deeds and Creeds

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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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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James 2:14-26 (Revised English Bible):

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Suppose a fellow-Christian, whether man or woman, is in rags with not enough food for the day, and one of you says,

Goodbye, keep warm, and have a good meal,

but does nothing to supply their bodily needs, what good is that?  So with faith; if it does not lead by action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

But someone may say:

One chooses faith, another action.

To which I reply:

Show me this faith you speak of with no actions to prove it, while I by my actions will prove to you my faith.

You have faith and believe that there is one God.  Excellent!  Even demons have faith like that, and it makes them tremble.  Do you have to be told, you fool, that faith divorced from action is futile?  Was it not by his action, in offering his son Isaac upon the altar, that our father Abraham was justified?  Surely you can see faith was at work in his actions, and by these actions his faith was perfected?  Here was the fulfillment of the words of scripture:

Abraham put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness,

and he was called

God’s friend.

You can see then it was by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.  The same is also true of the prostitute Rahab.  Was she not justified by her action in welcoming the messengers into her house and sending them away by a different route?  As the body is dead when there is no breath in it, so faith divorced from action is dead.

Psalm 112 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments!

Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches will be in their house,

and their righteousness will last for ever.

4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

6 For they will never be shaken;

the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.

They will not be afraid of any evil rumors;

their heart is right;

they put their trust in the Lord.

Their heart is established and will not shrink,

until they see their desire upon their enemies.

They have given freely to the poor,

and their righteousness stands fast for ever;

they will hold up their head with honor.

10 The wicked will see it and be angry;

they will gnash their teeth and pine away;

the desires of the wicked will perish.

Mark 8:34-9:1 (Revised English Bible):

Then he called the people to him, as well as his disciples, and said to them,

Anyone who wants to be a follower of mine must renounce self; he must take up his cross and follow me.  Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel’s will save it.  What does anyone gain by winning the whole world at the cost of his life?  What can he give to buy his life back?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this wicked and godless age, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

He said to them,

Truly I tell you:  there are some of those standing here who will not taste death before they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

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The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; 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:

Week of Proper 1:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-friday-year-1/

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/week-of-6-epiphany-friday-year-1/

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/week-of-6-epiphany-friday-year-2/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

My Critique of the Near-Sacrifice of Isaac:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-thursday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/proper-8-year-a/

Behind the Lines/Regeneration (1997):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/behind-the-lines-a-k-a-regeneration-1997/

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Today’s devotional consists of a story, one which might actually be accurate, but which does communicate a truth.  I heard this story in a sermon over a decade ago.

Once, at a seminary attached to a historic U.S. university, a professor of homiletics, that is, preaching, assigned his students to preach about the importance of helping the less fortunate, a major theme in the Bible.  He did not tell them that their words inside the classroom were irrelevant.  Rather, each seminarian’s grade depended on his action or inaction on the day he was supposed to deliver this sermon.  The seminary professor, you see, O reader, had contacted a drama professor, who had arranged for acting students to play beggars and to intercept the seminarians.  Most of the seminarians failed.

Here ends the lesson.  All other comments I might have made here are accessible by following the links embedded in this post.

KRT

Published in a nearly identical form as Week of 6 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 26, 2011

Week of Proper 26: Wednesday, Year 1   17 comments

Above:  Dead Judas Confronts Jesus in Jesus Christ Superstar (2000)

(The image is a screen capture from the DVD.)

Love, the Fulfillment of the Law of God

NOVEMBER 3, 2021

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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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Romans 13:8-10 (Revised English Bible):

Leave no debt outstanding, but remember the debt of love you owe one another.  He who loves this neighbour  has met every requirement of the law.  The commandments,

You shall not commit adultery, you shall not commit murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,

and any other commandment there may be, are all summed up by the one rule,

Love your neighbour as yourself.

Love cannot wrong a neighbour; therefore love is the fulfilment of the law.

Psalm 112 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments!

2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches will be in their house,

and their righteousness will last for ever.

4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

6 For they will never be shaken;

the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.

7 They will not be afraid of any evil rumors;

their heart is right;

they put their trust in the Lord.

8 Their heart is established and will not shrink,

until they see that desire upon their enemies.

9 They have given freely to the poor,

and their righteousness stands fast for ever;

they will hold up their head with honor.

10 The wicked will see it and be angry;

they will gnash their teeth and pine away;

the desires of the wicked will perish.

Luke 14:25-33 (Revised English Bible):

Once when great crowds were accompanying Jesus, he turned to them and said:

If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life, he cannot be a disciple of mine.  No one who does not carry his cross and come with me can be a disciple of mine.  Would any of you think of building a tower without first sitting down and calculating the cost, to see whether he could afford to finish it?  Otherwise, if he has laid its foundation and then is unable to complete it, everyone who sees it will laugh at him.  “There goes the man,” they will say, “who started to build and could not finish.”  Or what king will march to battle against another king, without first sitting down to consider whether with ten thousand men he can face an enemy coming to meet him with twenty thousand?  If he cannot, then, long before the enemy approaches, he sends envoys and asks for terms.  So also, if you are not prepared to leave all your possessions behind, you cannot be my disciples.

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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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The traditional English use of “hate” in this day’s reading from Luke 14 is unfortunate, for it does not convey the actual meaning of the text.  No, the translation should be “loves less than.”

If anyone comes to me and does not love his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, even his own life, less than me, he cannot be a disciple of mine.

That is how the text ought to read.

Paul tells us that love fulfills all the commandments.

He who loves his neighbour has met very requirement of the law.

And who is my neighbor?  Who is your neighbor?  According to Jesus, everybody is everybody else’s neighbor.  He died for you, me, and all our neighbors.  And how do we treat our neighbors?  Over time, we human beings have murdered many of them, imprisoned many falsely, despised, looked down upon, enslaved, tortured, maimed, and discriminated against a great many of them, or otherwise consented to some of these actions.  And we are still committing these sins.  These terrible deeds do not indicate love of one’s neighbors.  We would not act this way if we loved Jesus and each other, but mainly Jesus, whom members of a previous generation tortured and executed unjustly.

May God have more mercy on us than we do on each other.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/love-the-fulfillment-of-the-law-of-god/

Week of Proper 6: Wednesday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  A Trappist Monk Praying

Image Source = Daniel Tibi

Not For the Sake of Appearances

JUNE 16, 2021

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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2 Corinthians 9:6-11 (An American Translation):

Remember this:  The man who sows sparingly will reap sparingly, and the man who sows generously will reap generously.  Everyone must give what he has made up his mind to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion; God loves a man who is glad to give.  God is able to provide with every blessing in abundance so that you will always have enough for every situation, and ample means for every good enterprise:  as the Scripture says,

He scatters his gifts to the poor;

His uprightness will never be forgotten.

He who supplies the sower with seed and so with bread to eat will supply you with seed, and multiply it and enlarge the harvest of your uprightness.  You will grow rich in every way, so that through me you can show perfect liberality that will make men thank God for it.

Psalm 112:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments!

2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches will be in their house,

and their righteousness will last for ever.

4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

5 It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

6 For they will never be shaken;

the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.

7 They will not be afraid of any evil rumors;

their heart is right;

they put their trust in the Lord.

8 Their trust is established and will not shrink,

until they see their desire upon their enemies.

9 They have given freely to the poor,

and their righteousness stands fast for ever;

they will hold up their head with honor.

Matthew 6:1-18 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,] “But take care not to do your good deeds in public for people to see, for, if you do, you will get no reward from your Father in heaven.  So when you are going to give to charity, do not blow a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues and the streets, to make people praise them.  I tell you, that this is all the reward they will get!  But when you give to charity, your own left hand must now know what your right hand is doing, so that your charity may be secret, and your Father who sees what is secret will reward you.

When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they like to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the squares, to let people see them.  I tell you, that is all the reward they will get!  But when you pray, go into your own room, and shut the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen, and your Father who sees what is secret will reward you.  And when you pray, do not repeat empty phrases as the heathen do, for they imagine that their prayers will be heard if they use words enough.  You must not be like them.  For God, who is your Father, knows what you need before you ask him.  This, therefore, is the way you are to pray:

Our Father in heaven,

Your name be revered!

Your kingdom come!

Your will be done

On earth as well as in heaven!

Give us today bread for the day,

And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

And do not subject us to temptation,

But save us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will forgive you too.  But if you do not forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will not forgive you for your offenses.

When you fast, do not put on a gloomy look, like the hypocrites, for they neglect their personal appearance to let people see that they are fasting.  I tell you, that is all the reward they will get.  But when you fast, perfume your hair and wash your face, that no one may see that you are fasting, except your Father who is unseen, and your Father who sees what is secret, will reward you.”

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The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Sincerity is the heart of this day’s readings.  It is not enough to do the right thing, such as to pray, fast, or give alms; no, one must do these for the right reason(s).  These include the following:

  1. One is grateful and devoted to God.
  2. One seeks to obey God’s commands faithfully.
  3. One is filled with genuine concern for others.
  4. One seeks one’s own spiritual improvement.

And none of this praying, fasting, and giving of alms must be for show.

Multiple Hebrew texts teach the divine imperative of caring for the less fortunate.  Aside from this day’s psalm, I think immediately of Deuteronomy 15:7-11, which Paul references.  There are also too many passages from the Hebrew prophets to quote here and to remain succinct.  The Bible does teach a divine preference for the poor and condemnation of those who keep them that way and exploit them.

Many or most of us can recall incidents of politicians who rarely attend church becoming Sunday morning regulars during weeks preceding an election.  Attending church is good, of course, but we must do this sincerely, not for show.  Going to keep up appearances is inadequate.  I have never sought public office, but I can recall a few times I have attended church out of habit but, for my sake and that of others, should have stayed home that day.  My heart was not in it.  To refer to a line from the previous day’s reading from Matthew, I was not ready to make offering to God.

Neither should prayer be for show, or vain.  The Reverend Roger Williams, Puritan minister, founder of Rhode Island, and founder of the oldest Baptist congregation in the United States, objected strenuously to anyone (especially, in his case, the government of the Massachusetts Bay colony) compelling someone to pray involuntarily.  The only prayers worth anything, he said, are those offered sincerely and voluntarily.

Praying and fasting had become outward signs of respectability for certain professional religious people in Jesus’ day.  These men did not sacrifice anything when they fasted, which they did often.  Oddly enough, fasting was a luxury for them.  And one might recall the parable of Jesus in which two men pray in the Temple.  One is a humble tax collector beseeching God for mercy, and the other is a Pharisee who boasts of his deeds and who has contempt on the tax collector.  Jesus favored the prayer of the tax collector.

As to the matter of vain words, let us not think that simplicity of worship equals sincerity of it.  Anyone can go through the motions, regardless of the number of them.  If you attend a church with a regular pattern of Sunday worship, no matter how simple it might be, you go to a liturgical church.  I attend an Episcopal parish, so I go through a fairly elaborate weekly pattern of worship.  I would use a Prayer Book except for the fact that I have memorized Holy Eucharist Rite II over the years.  My words have been vain only on those days that I, for personal reasons, would have been better off staying home.  My heart has not always been in it.

Consider the following twice-told story:

There was a community worship service in a county seat town in the U.S. South.  The host congregation for this service was the First Baptist Church, and most of the local ministers helped lead the worship.  When the host pastor introduced the local Episcopal priest, who was to say a prayer, the Southern Baptist minister said, “Now Father Jones will say one of his written prayers.”  The priest walked to the pulpit and said, “Let us pray.  Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed by thy name….”

Sincerity in prayer expresses itself in many ways.  I know through reading that different styles of prayer appeal to various personality types, for example.  So one size does not fit all.  And the South Georgia Baptist cadence I heard while growing up does not appeal to me.  No, give me a Prayer Book any day.  I mean that sincerely.

All of these lessons from Matthew flow naturally out of the end of Chapter 5 and the command of Jesus to be perfect (that is, suited to one’s intended purpose), just as God is.  Think about it:  What does ostentation benefit anyone spiritually?  Can it prepare one for service to God and others?  No, of course not!  So let us be sensitive and sincere.  May we think more about others and God than ourselves.  Sincere and sensitive actions will from such attitudes.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/16/not-for-the-sake-of-appearances/

Week of Proper 4: Tuesday, Year 1   8 comments

Above:  A Coin, from 36 C.E., Bearing the Image of the Emperor Tiberius

What Belongs to Caesar and What Belongs to God

JUNE 1, 2021

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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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Tobit 2:9-14 (Revised English Bible):

That night, after bathing myself, I went into my courtyard and lay down to sleep by the courtyard wall, leaving my face uncovered because of the heat.  I did not know that there were sparrows in the wall above me, and their droppings fell, still warm, right into my eyes and produced white patches.  I went to the doctors to be cured, but the more they treated me with their ointments, the more my eyes became blinded by the white patches, until I lost my sight.  I was blind for four years; my kinsmen grieved for me, and for two years Ahikar looked after me, until he moved to Elymais.

At that time Anna my wife used to earn money by women’s work, spinning and weaving, and her employees would pay her when she took them what she had done.  One day, on the seventh of Dystrus, after she had cut off the piece she had woven and delivered it, they not only paid her wages in full, but also gave her a kid from her herd of goats to take home.  When my wife came into the house to me, the kid began to bleat, and I called out to her:

Where does that kid come from?  I hope it was not stolen.

But she assured me:

It was given me as a present, over and above my wages.

I did not believe her and insisted that she return it, and I blushed with shame for what she had done.  Her rejoinder was:

So much for all your acts of charity and all your good works!  Everyone can now see what you are really like.

Psalm 112:1-2, 7-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and who have great delight in his commandments!

2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

7 They will not be afraid of any evil rumors;

their heart is right;

they put their trust in the Lord.

8 Their heart is established and will not shrink,

until they see their desire upon their enemies.

9 They have given freely to the poor,

and their righteousness stands fast for ever;

they will hold up their head with honor.

Mark 12:13-17 (Revised English Bible):

A number of the Pharisees and men of Herod’s party were sent to trap him with a question.  They came and said,

Teacher, we know you are a sincere man and court no one’s favour, whoever he may be; you teach in all sincerity the way of life that God requires.  Are we or are we not permitted to pay taxes to the Roman emperor?  Shall we pay or not?

He saw through their duplicity, and said,

Why are you trying to catch me out?  Fetch me a silver piece, and let me look at it.

They brought one, and he asked them,

Whose head is this, and whose inscription?

They replied,

Caesar’s.

Then Jesus said,

Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and God what belongs to God.

His reply left them completely taken aback.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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 story of Tobit continues.  He goes blind due to natural causes and begins to feel helpless.  He lashes out verbally at his wife, accusing her of stealing a young goat, and she rebukes him, understandably.  But, if one continues to read, Tobit realizes that he has accused her unjustly, and prays immediately for forgiveness.   He is imperfect, but he does the right thing more often than not.  And Tobit understands his duties to God.

Duties to God, especially versus those to the occupying Roman Empire, reside at the heart of the reading from Mark.  Jewish religious and political elites collaborating with the empire ask Jesus a question meant to entrap him.  Is it lawful to pay the small annual poll tax to the Roman Emperor, Tiberius?  This was not a major source of imperial revenue, but it did remind the Jews living under occupation in their homeland who was in charge, at least in the temporal realm.  This poll tax was payable in a coin bearing the image of the emperor and a written reminder of the official line, which was he was the “Divine Caesar.”  Such a coin was a purposeful affront to Jewish sensibilities.  The tax was in the amount a denarius, or one day’s wage, and men aged 14-65 years and women aged 12-65 had to pay it.  This was a despised tax, and the Romans were rubbing the Jews’ noses in it.

This was a dicey political situation for Jesus.  If he said, “No, this is unjust taxation,” he would be in trouble with the Romans.  And many soldiers were in town during the days leading up to the Passover, the annual commemoration of God’s deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.  Some of them could arrest Jesus at a moment’s notice.  But if he said, “Yes, Tiberius is our emperor, and he deserves our respect, too,” Jesus would lose much public support.   Our Lord and Savior, being perceptive and intelligent, delivered a faultless answer:  The coin belongs to Tiberius; pay it.  But give to God what is due to God.  And what is due to God?  We owe God the pattern of our daily living.

Simply put, the goal of life should be that it will consist increasingly of prayer.  How we live ought to be a prayer.  Too often we think of prayer only as “talking to God.”  There is nothing wrong with oral prayer, but the words we address to God need to be only part of prayer life.  A sense of the sacred ought to inform even the simplest, most mundane actions.  The character Tobit understood this, and repented when he went astray.  So should we.

For none of us has life in himself,

and none becomes his own master when he dies.

For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord,

and if we die, we die in the Lord.

So, then, whether we live or die,

we are the Lord’s possession.

–From The Burial of the Dead:  Rite Two, The Book of Common Prayer (1979), quoting Romans 14:7-8

Amen.

KRT

Published Originally as Week of Last Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1 (Shrove Tuesday) at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 9, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/what-belongs-to-caesar-and-what-belongs-to-god/

Posted November 15, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Canadian Anglican Lectionary Year 1, June 1

Tagged with , ,

Week of Proper 4: Monday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  The Wicked Husbandmen, by Jan Luyken

Holiness, Actual and Imagined

MAY 31, 2021

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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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Tobit 1:1-2 and 2:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

This is the story of Tobit son of Tobiel, son of Hananiel, son of Aduel, son of Gaguel, of the family of Asiel, of the tribe of Naphtali.  In the time of King Shalmaneser of Assyria he was taken captive from Thisbe which is south of Kedesh-naphtali in Upper Galilee above Hazor, beyond the road to the west, north of Peor.

During the reign of Esarhaddon, I retuned to my house, and my wife Anna and my son Tobias were restored to me.  At our festival of Pentecost, that is the feast of Weeks, a fine meal was prepared for me and I took my place.  The table being laid and food in plenty put before me, I said to Tobias,

My son, go out and, if you find among our people captive here in Nineveh some poor man who is wholeheartedly mindful of God, bring him back to share my meal.  I shall wait for you, son, till you return.

Tobias went to look for a poor man of our people, but came straight back and cried,

Father!

I replied,

Yes, my son.

He answered,

Father, one of our nation has been murdered!  His body is lying in the market-place; he has just been strangled.

I jumped up and left my meal untasted.  I took the body from the square and put it in one of the outbuildings until sunset when I could bury it; then I went indoors, duly bathed myself, and ate my food in sorrow.  I recalled the words of the prophet Amos in the passage about Bethel:

Your festivals shall be turned into mourning,

and all your songs into lamentation,

and I wept.  When the sun had gone down, I went and dug a grave and buried the body.  My neighbours jeered.

Is he no longer afraid?

they said.

He ran away last time, when they were hunting him to put him to death for this very offence; and here he is again burying the dead!

Psalm 112:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments!

2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches will be in their house,

and their righteousness will last for ever.

4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

5 It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

6 For they will never be shaken;

the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.

Mark 12:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

He went on to speak to them in parables:

A man planted a vineyard and put a wall round it, hewed out a winepress, and built a watch-tower; then he let it out to the wine-growers and went abroad.  When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce.  But they seized him, thrashed him, and sent him away empty-handed.  Again, he sent them another servant, whom they beat about the head and treated outrageously, and then another, whom they killed.  He sent many others and they thrashed and killed the rest.  He had now no one left to send except his beloved son, and in the end he sent him.  “They will respect my son,” he said; but the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir; come on, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”  So they seized him and killed him, and flung his body out of the vineyard.  What will the owner of the vineyard do?  He will come and put the tenants to death and give the vineyard to others.

Have you never read this text:  “The stone which the builders rejected has become the main corner-stone.  This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes”?

They saw that the parable was aimed at them and wanted to arrest him; but they were afraid of the people, so they left him alone and went away.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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 Book of Tobit, part of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox canons of scripture, is, like Jonah, religious fiction.  Tobit is a pious Jew living in exile in the Assyrian Empire.  He loves God, his wife, Anna, and his son, Tobias.  And Tobit observes the Jewish faith as much as possible, given the circumstances.  He cannot, for example, observe the harvest festival of Pentecost in Jerusalem, but he does seek to share his Pentecost meal with a less fortunate Jew.  One year Tobit’s son informs his father that the body of a recently murdered Jew is on public display, not buried.  So, in violation of civic law but in accordance with Jewish law, Tobit takes and buries the body.  And he bathes himself ritually afterward, for touching a corpse made one unclean.

Thus Tobit sets in motion the action of the book bearing his name.  I will get to that in subsequent posts, but it is sufficed to say here that Tobit is a model of sincere Jewish piety, and that this holiness brings about both suffering and rewards.  Real life is like that, and the Book of Tobit, although a work of fiction, teaches this lesson.

Now, for the other side…..

Let us ground ourselves in the narrative within the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus is in Holy Week.  He is also engaged in a series of confrontations with Jewish religious leaders headquartered at the Temple at Jerusalem.  The “them” in Mark 12:1 consists of chief priests, scribes, and elders.  Jesus tells them a parable about an absentee landlord (YHWH), a vineyard (the Jewish people), murdered servants (prophets), wicked, selfish tenants (chief priests, scribes and elders) who hope to become heirs by killing the son, and the son (Jesus) of the absentee landlord.  The son will die, but he will become the chief cornerstone, and the God will win despite the best efforts of the wicked tenants, who will lose their position in the vineyard.

Brendan Byrne, S.J., in A Costly Freedom:  A Theological Reading of Mark’s Gospel (Collegeville, MN:  Liturgical Press, 2008), describes this parable as an encapsulation of the Gospel of Mark.  This makes sense:  Jesus lives, suffers, dies, and still triumphs.

The piety of these religious leaders served to build them up and set them apart from the “great unwashed,” who lacked the financial resources to achieve the standards of holiness the religious elite held up as the goal.  This was self-serving religion, not true seeking after God and identifying with the poor.  The fictional Tobit personified true holiness, and, by grace, so can we.  The religious elite Jesus stared down in the telling of the parable could have repented and come to personify true holiness, but they entrenched themselves in defensive positions.

May God reckon us as being more like Tobit than these chief priests, scribes, and elders, who lost their stake in the vineyard when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E., during the First Jewish War.

KRT

Published Originally as Week of Last Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 8, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/holiness-actual-and-imagined/