Archive for the ‘Psalm 119 Teth’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 18 (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:   The Parsonage of Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia, 1980-1982

Photograph by John Dodson Taylor, III

Humanity, Community, and Christian Liberty

SEPTEMBER 9, 2018

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Jeremiah 28:1-4, 10-17

Psalm 119:65-72

Romans 14:13-23

John 7:45-52

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The difference between a true prophet and a false one becomes evident after he or she has prophesied.  For example, if he or she states that X will happen and the opposite of X happens, he or she is a false prophet.  That is the standard Jeremiah cites in Jeremiah 28 with regard to Hananiah.  Jeremiah, however, does not judge Hananiah; God does that.

The theme of humility unites the assigned readings for this day.  Jeremiah is sufficiently humble to leave judgment to God.  The Psalmist is humble before God.  Certain Pharisees–Nicodemus excepted–manifest a lack of humility toward Jesus and the possibility of him being the Messiah and of God.  St. Paul the Apostle urges humility toward each other.

I recall that, in June 1980-June 1982, when my father was the pastor of the Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia, I was not to play in the yard on Sunday afternoons because, as my father said, someone might get the wrong idea.  That was ridiculous, of course.  God gave us the Sabbath as a blessing, not as a time to ponder dourly what we ought not to do.  Besides, anyone who would have taken offense at me getting exercise and fresh air in the yard on Sunday afternoons should have removed the pole from his or her rectum.  Doing so would have made siting down more comfortable for such a person.

If we permit others to prevent us from doing too much for the sake of avoiding causing offense, we will do little or nothing.  Then what good will we be?  Nevertheless, I understand the principle that we, living in community as we do, are responsible to and for each other.  We ought to live with some respect for certain responsibilities without losing the proper balance between self-restraint and Christian liberty.  Busy bodies should attend to their own business.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:   THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DELPHINUS OF BORDEAUX, AMANDUS OF BORDEAUX, SEVERINUS OF BORDEAUX, VENERIUS OF MILAN, AND CHROMATIUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ANSON DODGE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/humility-community-and-christian-liberty/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 17, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Urban Traffic at Night

Above:  Urban Traffic at Night

Image in the Public Domain

Too Busy for God

AUGUST 31, 2016

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 57:14-21

Psalm 119:65-72

Luke 14:15-24

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You have been generous to your servant, Yahweh,

true to your promise.

–Psalm 119:65, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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In Isaiah 57:14-21 we read of God, who revives the spirits of the lowly and the contrite and who removes all obstacles from the road of the people of God.  Thus God is laying out the welcome mat for everyone, but many people will refuse the invitation.

Luke 14:15-24 tells the story of a banquet, its host, those invited to attend it, and those who actually attended it.  When the time of the banquet nears, some of those who had accepted the invitation make excuses and stay away instead.  The annoyed host sends his servant to fill the empty places with

the poor and crippled and blind and lame.

–Verse 21c, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972)

The servant does that, but empty places remain.  The host sends him out again to find more guests.

The heading of this passage in The New Testament in Modern English (1972) is

Men who are “too busy” for the kingdom of God.

That fits well and applies to my point.  God is the host in the parable.  He obviously has no qualms about violating social standards of propriety regarding socio-economic status.  The host is knocking down barriers, not erecting them.  Some of the invited guests construct barriers with regard to themselves, however.  The host seeks to include them yet they exclude themselves.

Many people drop out of church because they declare themselves atheists or agnostics.  Others, citing perceived doctrinal drift and alleged apostasy, leave some churches for other congregations.  Others drop out of church because they are too busy, they say.  They are not protesting any heresy, alleged or actual; they are simply distracted.  To be too busy for God is negative.  If one is too busy, one should remove something else from one’s schedule.  (Many people do lead overly programmed lives.)  After all, we all depend entirely on God.  Should we not respond to God faithfully and joyfully?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

GOOD FRIDAY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/too-busy-for-god/

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

Rehoboam

Above:  Rehoboam, by Hans Holbein the Younger

Image in the Public Domain

Timeless Principles of Righteousness

AUGUST 29 and 30, 2016

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 12:1-12 (Monday)

Isaiah 2:12-17 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:65-72 (Both Days)

Hebrews 13:7-21 (Monday)

Titus 1:1-9 (Tuesday)

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Teach me judgement and knowledge,

for I rely on your commandments.

–Psalm 119:66, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Leaders should obey God and be worthy of respect, the readings tell us.  This principle applies to religious leaders in the New Testament lections and to monarchs (in a system lacking the separation of religion and state) in the Old Testament lessons.  In all of the readings the theme of praising humility and condemning hubris, present in previous posts, continues.  As I have noted more than once, one might commit error while trying to obey divine commandments, as one understands them.  Sometimes we mistake God’s voice for our own.

As I have written in the context of the Law of Moses, scripture provides us with timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof.  The examples fall away, but the principles persist.  Much legalism results from becoming attached to now-irrelevant examples, not the timeless principles behind them.  There is, in contrast, a wonderful Jewish practice of pondering the principles and how to act according to them in current circumstances.

May we, like the author of Psalm 119, rely on divine commandments without fixating on now-irrelevant, culturally specific examples.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2016 COMMON ERA

GOOD FRIDAY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/25/timeless-principles-of-righteousness/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 18, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

3g04792v

Above:  A Visual Protest Against Police Brutality and Corruption, June 11, 1887

Artist = Eugene Zimmerman (1862-1935)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-4792

Good Trees for God

SEPTEMBER 11, 12, and 13, 2017

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The Collect:

O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy.

Without your help, we mortals will fail;

remove far from us everything that is harmful,

and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 4:27-31; 5:14-16 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 17:2-13 (Tuesday)

Leviticus 16:1-5, 20-28 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:65-72 (All Days)

1 Peter 2:11-17 (Monday)

Romans 13:1-7 (Tuesday)

Matthew 21:18-22 (Wednesday)

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These readings present us with some difficult material.  In the Torah an animal sacrifice atoned for unintentional sins, offering an unauthorized sacrifice led to death, and idolatry carried the death penalty.

So you shall purge evil from your midst.

–Deuteronomy 17:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Also, in the readings from Romans and 1 Peter, resisting authority is a sin, regardless of the nature of that government.    I will address these matters in order.

I.

One was supposed to keep a distance from the holy and approach God in a certain way in the Law of Moses.  Thus one had instructions to offer sacrifices just so, for example.  And touching the Ark of the Covenant was deadly.  In contrast, Jesus, God incarnate, ate with people, many of whom had dubious moral histories and bad reputations.  I side with Jesus in this matter.

II.

One ought to be very careful regarding instructions to kill the (alleged) infidels.  Also, one should recognize such troublesome passages in one’s own scriptures as well as in those of others, lest one fall into hypocrisy regarding this issue.  Certainly those Puritans in New England who executed Quakers in the 1600s thought that they were purging evil from their midst.  Also, shall we ponder the Salem Witch Trials, in which paranoid Puritans trapped inside their superstitions and experiencing LSD trips courtesy of a bread mold, caused innocent people to die?  And, not that I am equating Puritans with militant Islamists, I have no doubt that those militant Islamists who execute Christians and adherents to other religions think of themselves as people who purge evil from their midst.  Violence in the name of God makes me cringe.

When does one, in the name of purging evil from one’s midst, become that evil?

III.

Speaking of removing evil from our midst (or at least trying to do so), I note that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, after struggling with his conscience, participated in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  I let that pass, for if one cannot kill (or at least plan to kill) a genocidal dictator in the name of morality….Sometimes life presents us with bad decisions and worse ones.  Choose the bad in very such circumstance, I say.  In the Hitler case, how many lives might have continued had he died sooner?

IV.

Christianity contains a noble and well-reasoned argument for civil disobedience.  This tradition reaches back to the Early Church, when many Christians (some of whom became martyrs) practiced conscientious objection to service in the Roman Army.  The tradition includes more recent figures, such as many heroes of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  Many of those activists suffered and/or died too.  And, in the late 1800s, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, hardly a bastion of liberalism at any point in its history, declared that the Ottoman imperial government, which had committed violence against the Armenian minority group, had no more moral legitimacy or right to rule.  Yet I read in the October 30, 1974, issue of The Presbyterian Journal, the midwife for the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973, that:

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the Lord’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

–page 11

That was an extreme law-and-order position the editor affirmed in the context of reacting against demonstrations of the 1960s and early 1970s.  A few years later, however, the PCA General Assembly approved of civil disobedience as part of protests against abortions.

V.

If one assumes, as St. Paul the Apostle and much of the earliest Church did, that Jesus would return quite soon and destroy the sinful world order, preparation for Christ’s return might take priority and social reform might move off the list of important things to accomplish.  But I am writing in 2014, so much time has passed without the Second Coming having occurred.  Love of one’s neighbors requires us to act and even to change society and/or rebel against human authority sometimes.

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The barren fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22 was a symbol of faithless and fruitless people.  If we know a tree by its fruits and we are trees, what kind of trees are we?  May we bear the fruits of love, compassion,and mere decency.  May our fruits be the best they can be, albeit imperfect.  May we be the kind of trees that pray, in the words of Psalm 119:68 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979):

You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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Bloga Theologica version

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Week of Proper 28: Friday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 28: Saturday, Year 2   15 comments

Above:  The Expulsion of the Money Changers from the Temple, by Giotto di Bondone

Divine Judgment and Human Discomfort

NOVEMBER 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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FIRST READING FOR FRIDAY

Revelation 10:8-11 (Revised English Bible):

The voice which I had heard from heaven began speaking to me again; it said,

Go and take the scroll which is open in the hand of the angel who stands on the sea and the land.

I went to the angel and asked him to give me the little scroll.  He answered,

Take it, and eat it.  It will turn your stomach sour, but in your mouth it will taste as sweet as honey.

I took the scroll from the angel’s hand and ate it, and in my mouth it did taste as sweet as honey, but when I swallowed it my stomach turned sour.

Then I was told,

Once again you must utter prophecies over many nations, races, languages, and kings.

FIRST READING FOR SATURDAY

Revelation 11:1-14 (Revised English Bible):

I was given a long cane to use as a measuring rod, and was told:

Go and measure the temple of God and the altar, and count the worshippers.  But leave the outer court of the temple out of your measurements; it has been given over to the Gentiles, and for forth-two months they will trample the Holy City underfoot.  I will give my two witnesses authority to prophesy, dressed in sackcloth, for those twelve hundred and sixty days.

They are the two olive trees and the two lamps that stand in the presence of the Lord of the earth.  If anyone tries to injure them, fire issues from their mouths and consumes their enemies; so shall anyone die who tries to do them injury.  These two have the power to shut up the sky, so that no rain falls during the time of their prophesying; and they have power to turn water into blood and to afflict the earth with every kind of plague whenever they like.  But when they have completed their testimony, the beast that comes up from the abyss will wage war on them and will overcome and kill them.  Their bodies will lie in the street of the great city, whose name in prophetic language is Sodom, or Egypt, where also their Lord was crucified.  For three and a half days people from every nation and tribe, language, and race, gaze on their corpses and refuse them burial.  The earth’s inhabitants gloat over them; they celebrate and exchange presents, for these two prophets were a torrent to them.  But at the end of the three and a half days the breath of life of God came into their bodies, and they rose to their feet, to the terror of those who saw them.  A loud voice from heaven was heard saying to them,

Come up here!

and they ascended to heaven in a cloud, in full view of their enemies.  At that moment there was a silent earthquake, and a tenth of the city collapsed.  Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake; the rest, filled with fear, did homage to the God of heaven.

The second woe has now passed; but the third is soon to come.

RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 119:65-72 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

65  O LORD, you have dealt graciously with your servant,

according to your word.

66  Teach me discernment and knowledge,

for I have believed in your commandments.

67  Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I keep your word.

68  You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

69  The proud have smeared me with lies,

but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.

70  Their heart is gross and fat,

but my delight is in your law.

71  It is good for me that I have been afflicted,

that I might learn your statutes.

72  The law of your mouth is dearer to me

than thousands in gold and silver.

RESPONSE FOR SATURDAY

Psalm 144:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Blessed be the LORD my rock!

who trains my hands to fight and my fingers to battle;

2  My help and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield in whom I trust,

who subdues the peoples under me.

3  O LORD, what are we that you should care for us?

mere mortals that you should think of us?

4  We are like a puff of wind;

our days like a passing shadow.

5  Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down;

touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

6  Hurl the lightning and scatter them;

shoot out your arrows and rout them.

7  Stretch out your hand from on high;

rescue me and deliver me from the great waters,

from the hand of foreign peoples,

8  Whose mouths speak deceitfully

and whose right hand is raised in falsehood.

9  O God, I will sing to you a new song;

I will play to you on a ten-stringed lyre.

10  You give victory to kings

and have rescued David your servant.

GOSPEL READING FOR FRIDAY

Luke 19:45-48 (Revised English Bible):

(Set shortly after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem; the Last Supper occurs in Chapter 22)

Then Jesus went into the temple and began driving out the traders, with these words:

Scriptures says, “My house shall be a house of prayer;” but you have made it a bandits’ cave.

Day by day he taught in the temple.  The chief priests and scribes, with the support of the leading citizens, wanted to bring about his death, but found that they were helpless, because the people all hung on his words.

GOSPEL READING FOR SATURDAY

Luke 20:27-40 (Revised English Bible):

Then some Sadducees, who deny that there is a resurrection, came forward and asked:

Teacher, Moses, laid it down for us that if there are brothers, and one dies leaving a wife but not child, then the next should marry the widow and provide an heir for his brother.  Now there seven brothers:  the first took a wife and died childless, then the second married her, then the third.  In this way the seven of them died leaving no children.  Last of all the woman also died. At the resurrection, whose wife is she to be, since all seven had married her?

Jesus said to them,

The men and women of this world marry; but those who have been judged who have been judged worthy of a place in the other world, and of the resurrection from the dead, do not marry, for they are no longer subject to death.  They are like angels; they are children of God, because they share in his resurrection.  That the dead are raised to life again is shown by Moses himself in the story of the burning bush, when he calls the Lord “the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, the God of Jacob.”  God is not the God of the living; in his sight all are alive.

At this some of the scribes said,

Well spoken, Teacher.

And nobody dared put any further question to him.

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 28:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/week-of-proper-28-friday-year-1/

Week of Proper 28:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/week-of-proper-28-saturday-year-1/

The Church’s One Foundation:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/the-churchs-one-foundation/

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As I have written already in at least one blog post, there is a difference between a negotiation and a rescue operation.  There is justice, which mercy serves sometimes.  Other times, however, punishment must fall.  That is the context for Revelation 7-10, which, in vivid imagery, describes God, whose power reaches from the land to the sea to the waterways to the stars, sheltering the martyrs and inflicting punishment on the wicked.  The sense of doom upon the wicked is palpable in the symbolic language, the details of which I will not unpack here.  Rather, I choose to focus on the main idea, which I have stated already.

We read of John of Patmos eating a scroll containing words of judgment.  (This is similar to Ezekiel 2:8-3:3–follow this link:  https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-2/.  John agrees with doom upon the Roman Empire yet regrets the fact that Christians will continue to suffer.  Speaking of suffering, the two witnesses in Revelation 11 indicate the continuation of martyrdom.  (I suspect, by the way, that memories of the First Jewish War and the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple influenced Revelation 11.)

Jesus, in Luke’s Gospel confronts the money changers, who used religious sensibilities to create opportunities to enrich themselves at the expense of the poor.  He used words and force.  Nevertheless, I support that money changers were not absent for long.

Why do the good suffer?  Why does God not prevent it?  Why does not God not stop all economic exploitation?  Ask God, not me.  But John of Patmos offers some comfort:  The wicked will suffer the consequences of their actions in time.  Furthermore, God will hear the cry of those who suffer.

I write hagiographies.  My most recent one tells the story of St. James Intercisus, who became a martyr circa 421 C.E. because he confessed his faith to the Persian monarch.  The king’s men tortured, dismembered, and killed the saint slowly and painfully, hence his posthumous surname, Intercisus, or “cut into pieces.  (Follow this link:  http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/11/16/feast-of-st-james-intercisus-november-27/)  His death was unnecessary; the king could have decided differently.

Ultimate judgment belongs to God.  May we mere mortals acknowledge this reality, accept it, and act accordingly.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/divine-judgment-and-human-discomfort/

Week of Proper 14: Tuesday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  A Shepherd

There is Hope Yet

AUGUST 14, 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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Ezekiel 2:8-3:4 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[And He said to me,]–per 2:1

And you, mortal, heed what I say to you:  Do not be rebellious like that rebellious breed.  Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.

As I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me, holding a written scroll.  He unrolled it before me, and it was inscribed on the front and the back; on it were written lamentations, dirges, and woes.

He said me,

Mortal, eat what is offered you; eat this scroll, and go speak to the House of Israel.

So I opened my mouth, and He gave me this scroll to eat, as He said to me,

Mortal, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll that I give you.

I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey.

Then He said to me,

Mortal, go to the House of Israel and repeat My very words to them…..

Psalm 119:65-72 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

65  O LORD, you have dealt graciously with your servant,

according to your word.

66  Teach me discernment and knowledge,

for I have believed in your commandments.

67  Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I keep your word.

68  You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

69  The proud have smeared me with lies,

but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.

70  Their heart is gross and fat,

but my delight is in your law.

71  It is good for me that I have been afflicted,

that I might learn your statutes.

72  The law of your mouth is dearer to me

than thousands in gold and silver.

Matthew 18:1-6, 10-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

It was at this time that the disciples came to Jesus with the question,

Who is really greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?

Jesus called a little child to his side and set him on his feet in the middle of them all.

Believe me,

he said,

unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.  It is the man who can be as humble as this little child who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.

Anyone who welcomes one child like this for my sake is welcoming me.  But if anyone leads astray one of these little children who believe in me he would be better off thrown into the depths of the sea with a mill-stone round his neck!…

Be careful that you never despise a single one of these little ones–for I tell you that they have angels who see my Father’s face continually in Heaven.

What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep and one wanders away from the rest, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hill-side and set out to look for the one who has wandered away?  Yes, and if he should chance to find it I assure you he is more delighted over that one than he is over the ninety-nine who never wandered away.  You can understand then that it is never the will of your Father in Heaven that a single one of these little ones should be lost.

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The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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 unifying theme for this day is hope.  In Ezekiel, God commissions the prophet to preach to a rebellious people.  The people might be rebellious, but they are not beyond repentance and forgiveness.  There is hope yet.  And the lost sheep is valuable to the shepherd.  There is hope yet.

In Handel’s Messiah, in the chorus, “For we, like sheep, have gone astray,” the voice parts wander and roam at the word “astray.”  It is a nice touch in that oratorio.  When we, as individuals, have gone astray, God seeks us out.  When we, as groups of various sizes, have gone astray, God seeks us out.  It is not too late to return.

The reading from Ezekiel does contain a fascinating detail, one worth exploring here.  The words of God were “lamentations, dirges, and woes,” yet Ezekiel reports that they “tasted as sweet as honey.”  My mind turns from this point to Psalm 19:9-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,

more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey,

than honey in the comb.

By them is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 19:9-11 complements Ezekiel 2:8-3:4 nicely.

We might not understand the decrees of God.  And, if we do, we might find them (or at least some of them) shocking and uncomfortable.  If so, may we become like Ezekiel, who considered them “as sweet as honey.”  Then, by words and deeds, may we proclaim the means of repentance and forgiveness to others.  There is hope yet.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/there-is-hope-yet/

Week of Proper 1: Monday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Enron Logo

Enron, of course, has ceased to exist, but here is where I found the image:  link

Trust in God; All Else is Transitory

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 1:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

From James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Greetings to the twelve tribes dispersed throughout the world.

My friends, whenever you have to face all sorts of trials, count yourselves supremely happy in the knowledge that such testing of your faith makes for strength to endure.  Let endurance perfect its work in you that you may become perfected, sound throughout, lacking in nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God and it will be given him, for God is a generous giver who neither grudges nor reproaches anyone.  But he who asks must ask in faith, with never a doubt in his mind; for the doubter is like a wave of the sea tossed hither and thither by the wind.  A man like that should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.  He is always in two minds and unstable in all he does.

The church member in humble circumstances does well to take pride in being exalted; the wealthy member must find his pride in being brought low, for the rich man will disappear like a wild flower; once the sun is up with its scorching heat, it parches the plant, its flower withers, and what was lovely to look at is lost for ever.  So shall the rich man fade away as he goes about his business.

Psalm 119:65-72 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

65  O LORD, you have dealt graciously with your servant,

according to your word.

66  Teach me discernment and knowledge,

for I have believed in your commandments.

67  Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I keep your word.

68  You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

69  The proud have smeared me with lies,

but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.

70  Their heart is gross and fat,

but my delight is in your law.

71  It is good for me that I have been afflicted,

that I might learn your statutes.

72  The law of your mouth is dearer to me

than thousands in gold and silver.

Mark 8:11-13 (Revised English Bible):

Then the Pharisees came out and began to argue with him.  To test him they asked for a sign from heaven.  He sighed deeply and said,

Why does generation ask for a sign?  Truly I tell you:  no sign shall be given to this generation.

With that he left them, re-embarked, and made for the other shore.

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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:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-monday-year-1/

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-2/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

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

Finding God in Silence:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/finding-god-in-silence/

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One of the recurring themes in the Bible is the imperative of trusting in God first and foremost.  This does not preclude making good decisions; indeed, it leads to doing this.  Hebrew prophets counseled leaders to trust in God, not international alliances with double-dealing empires, and not to become overly confident in military strength.  Such things, they said, were idols.  And, like all other idols, they come and they go.

Jesus, in Mark 8, complained about yet another demand for a dramatic sign.  We humans like signs and wonders, for they are easy to identify.  Yet Elijah, in 1 Kings 19:12, found God in “a faint murmuring sound,” not an earthquake, a strong wind, or a fire.  That was not very dramatic, was it?  We ought to trust God because God is God, not because of signs and wonders.

In James 1 we read about becoming “perfected.”  The original Greek word maturity.  And completeness refers to a blemishless state, as in that present in a sacrificial animal.  So, in context, endurance produces spiritual maturity, suitability in service to God, and a continuing state of spiritual growth.  Other factors, such as wealth and prestige (or lack thereof) are transient, so we ought not become attached to them and define ourselves according to them.

Maybe Douglas Adams said it best on page 1 of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979):

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

The planet has–or rather had–a problem, which was this:  most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.  Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

And so the problem remained; lots of people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.

Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place.  And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how how the world could be made a good and happy place.  This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.

Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terrible, stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost for ever.

This is not her story.

Our identity, my theology tells me, ought to have its root in God alone.  Each human being bears the image of God, who loves, who woos, and who has sacrificed for everyone.  This is God, whom we can trust.  Money, when it is physical, is pieces of paper and metal, used properly for paying our bills, purchasing our necessities, and helping others–but not functioning as a barrier between us and God.

Here ends the lesson.

KRT

Published in a nearly-identical form as Week of 6 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 23, 2012