Archive for the ‘Psalm 121’ Tag

Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 24, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jacob and Esau Are Reconciled

Above:   Jacob and Esau Are Reconciled, by Jan Van den Hoecke

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up Others

OCTOBER 18 and 19, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people,

you are always ready to hear our cries.

Teach us to rely day and night on your care.

Inspire us to seek your enduring justice for all the suffering world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 31:43-32:2 (Friday)

Genesis 32:3-21 (Saturday)

Psalm 121 (Both Days)

2 Timothy 2:14-26 (Friday)

Mark 10:46-52 (Saturday)

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He will not let your foot be moved and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD himself watches over you; the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

So that the sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; it is he who shall keep you safe.

The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore.

–Psalm 121:3-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Here is a saying you may trust:

“If we died with him, we shall live with him;

if we endure, we shall reign with him;

if we disown him, he will disown us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful,

for he cannot disown himself.”

Keep on reminding people of this, and charge them solemnly before God to stop disputing about mere words; it does no good, and only ruins those who listen.

–2 Timothy 2:11-14, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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God seeks to build us up; we should strive to the same for each other.  That is the unifying theme of these lessons.

Distracting theological arguments constitute “mere words” (2 Timothy 2:14).  Of course, many people do not think that such theological arguments are distracting and destructive.  Partisans certainly understand them to be matters of fidelity to God.  Such arguments help to explain the multiplicity of Christian denominations.  I think in particular of the Church of God (Guthrie, Oklahoma), which separated from the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) in 1910-1911 over, in part, the parent body’s liberalization with regard to Sola Scriptura (or, more to the point, that which the Reformed churches call the Regulative Principle of Worship) and worldliness.  The Anderson Church began to (gasp!) permit the wearing of neckties!  (Shock horror)  Granted, the original, narrow meaning of Sola Scriptura, especially in Lutheran theology, applies only to requirements for salvation, but certain schools of Christianity have expanded its scope to matters beyond salvation–from liturgy to the presence or absence of neckties.

Legalism does not build up the body of Christ.  Reconciliation, however, does.  We read a prelude to the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau (effected in Genesis 33) in Chapter 32.  Jacob, who had, with the help of his mother, cheated his brother out of his birthright in Genesis 27, had gone on to become a recipient of trickery in Chapter 29.  He parted company with his father-in-law, Laban, with whom he had a difficult relationship, in Genesis 31, and was nervous about what might happen at a reunion with Esau, who proved to be conciliatory.

The healing of blind Bartimaeus (literally, son of Timaeus) is familiar.  Jesus, unlike many people in the account, has compassion for the blind man calling out to him.  Those others, we might speculate with little or no risk of being wrong, thought of Bartimaeus as a nuisance at worst and an irritant at best.  One need not use one’s imagination much to grasp the application of this story in daily life.  Do we see people, or do we see irritants and nuisances?

A moral law of the universe is that, whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves also.  This challenges us all, does it not?  Tearing others down might be in one’s short-term interests, but, in the long term, those who injure others do so to their detriment.

How is God calling you to build up others today, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/building-up-others-2/

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Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 24, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

St. Paul Preaching in Athens

Above:   St. Paul Preaching in Athens, by Raphael

Image in the Public Domain

The Age of Divine Patience

OCTOBER 17, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people,

you are always ready to hear our cries.

Teach us to rely day and night on your care.

Inspire us to seek your enduring justice for all the suffering world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 54:11-17

Psalm 121

Acts 17:22-34

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I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

–Psalm 121:1-2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Isaiah 54, echoing Jeremiah 31:33-35 in verse 13, offers high hopes for the future of post-exilic Jerusalem.  Divine anger has come and gone, it says, and the day of extravagant mercy is at hand.  The reality of Jerusalem and Judea after the Babylonian Exile did not match high expectations, as history tells us, but one might hope for that bright future in days to come.

That theme of the balance of divine judgment and mercy continues in Acts 17:29-31.  Mennonite theology has done much with the concept that this is the time of divine patience, with the understanding that such patience, with the understanding that such patience will come to an end.  St. Paul the Apostle, we read, understood the time of divine patience to have ended already and the end times to have begun.  You, O reader, and I know, however, that from the perspective of 2016, nearly 2000 years have transpired since the events of the Acts of the Apostles.  We have nearly 2000 reasons for disagreeing with St. Paul’s assumptions regarding the timing of the parousia.

We live in the age of God’s patience.  May we, by grace, not try or exploit it much more often than we have already.  May our relationship to God be like the one described in Psalm 121 instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/the-age-of-divine-patience/

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Proper 24, Year C   7 comments

Rembrandt_-_Jacob_Wrestling_with_the_Angel_-_Google_Art_Project

Above:  Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

The Efficacy of Prayer

The Sunday Closest to October 19

Nineteenth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 20, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 31:27-34 and Psalm 119:97-104

or 

Genesis 32:22-31 and Psalm 121

then 

2 Timothy 3:14-4:5

Luke 18:1-8

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twenty-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twenty-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twenty-second-sunday-after-pentecost/

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You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice.  You shall not judge unfairly:  you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.  Justice, justice you shall pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving to you.

–Deuteronomy 16:18-20, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Through your commandments I gain understanding;

Therefore I hate every lying way.

–Psalm 119:104, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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A judge was supposed to issue impartial rulings, but the woman in the parable from Luke 18:1-8 had to resort to threats of physical violence (slapping the judge in the face or giving him a black eye), to get justice.  Extraordinary circumstances required extraordinary methods.  But God, as Jesus tells us, is impartial.  Deuteronomy 10:17-19 agrees and imposes a set of obligations on the people:

For the LORD your God is God supreme and Lord supreme, the great, the mighty, and the awesome God, who shows no favor and takes no bribe, but upholds the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and befriends the stranger, providing him with food and clothing.  You too must befriend the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.  (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

There is a profound link between how we regard God and how we act toward one another, not that Atheists cannot be moral people and agents of what the Lutheran confessions of faith call civic righteousness.  Yet, if we love God, we will love one another actively.

Another theme in the readings for this Sunday is persistence in prayer.  But what is prayer?  The Book of Common Prayer (1979) defines it as

…responding to God, by thought and deeds, with or without words.  (page 856)

Christian prayer, according to the same page of the same volume, is

…response to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, in the power of the Holy Spirit.

Prayer is a state of being.  It is how we think and therefore act.  Prayer is far more than the definition I heard in children’s Sunday School:

talking to God.

No, prayer is really about the covenant God has written on our hearts.

So, according to that definition, how is your prayer life?  You might struggle with God, O reader, but that is fine.  In Islam people submit to Allah, but in Judaism they struggle and argue with God.  I, being a strong-minded person, enjoy that part of my religious heritage.  At least there is a relationship with God through all that struggling.  And a transformed state awaits each of us at the end.  A trickster came to play a prominent role in salvation history.  And one gains much valuable understanding through the struggles.

May we persist in our struggles with God and in our efforts to behave justly, for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  The process will transform us, making us better.  That is one valid way to understand the efficacy of prayer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT II, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF DAME JULIAN OF NORWICH, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDALENA OF CANOSSA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY AND THE SONS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/the-efficacy-of-prayer/

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Week of Proper 13: Wednesday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 13: Thursday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Nicodemus and Jesus, by Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov

Born from Above

AUGUST 5 and 6, 2020

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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 WEDNESDAY

Jeremiah 31:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

At that time

–declares the LORD–

I will be God to all the clans of Israel, and they shall be My people.

Thus said the LORD:

The people escaped from the sword,

Found favor in the wilderness;

When Israel was marching homeward

The LORD revealed Himself to me of old.

Eternal love I conceived for you then;

Therefore I continue My grace to you.

I will build you firmly again,

O Maiden Israel!

Again you shall take up your timbrels

And go forth to the rhythm of the dancers.

Again you shall plant vineyards

On the hills of Samaria;

Men shall plant and live to enjoy them.

For the day is coming when watchmen

Shall proclaim on the heights of Ephraim:

Come, let us go up to Zion,

To the LORD our God!

For thus said the LORD:

Cry out in joy for Jacob,

Shout at the crossroads of the nations!

Sing aloud in praise, and say:

Save, O LORD, Your people,

The remnant of Israel.

FIRST READING FOR THURSDAY

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

See, a time is coming

–declares the LORD–

when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah.  It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers, when I took them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, though I espoused them

–declares the LORD.

But such is the covenant I will make with the House of Israel after these days

–declares the LORD:

I will put My Teaching into their inmost being and inscribe it upon their hearts.  Then I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  No longer will they need to teach one another and say to one another, “Heed the LORD”; for all of them, from the least of them to the greatest, shall heed Me

–declares the LORD.

For I will forgive their iniquities,

And remember their sins no more.

RESPONSE FOR WEDNESDAY

Psalm 121 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

2  My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

3  He will not let your foot be moved

and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

4  Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber nor sleep;

5  The LORD himself watches over you;

the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

6  So that the sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.

7  The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;

it is he who shall keep you safe.

8  The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in,

from this time forth for evermore.

RESPONSE FOR THURSDAY

Psalm 51:11-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

17  Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,

but you take no pleasure in burnt-offerings.

18  The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

GOSPEL READING FOR WEDNESDAY

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

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

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

Jesus made no answer, and the disciples came up to him and said,

Do not send her away–she’s still following us and calling out.

Jesus replied,

I was only sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

Then the woman came and knelt at his feet.

Lord, help me,

she said.

It is not right, you know,

Jesus replied,

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

She returned,

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

Jesus returned,

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

And at that moment her daughter was healed.

GOSPEL READING FOR THURSDAY

Matthew 16:13-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When Jesus reached the Caesarea-Philippi district he asked his disciples a question.

Who do people say the Son of Man is?

They told him,

Well, some say John the Baptist.  Some say Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

He said to them,

But what about you?  Who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered,

You?  You are Christ, the Son of the Living God!

Jesus said,

Simon, son of Jonah, you a fortunate man indeed!  For it was not your own nature but my Heavenly Father who revealed this truth to you!  Now I tell you that you are Peter the rock, and it is on this rock that I am going to found my Church, and the powers of death will never have the power to destroy it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in Heaven and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven!

Then he impressed on his disciples that they should not tell anyone that he was Christ.

From that time onwards Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he would have to go to Jerusalem, and endure much suffering from the elders, chief priests and scribes, and finally be killed; and be raised to life again on the third day.

Then Peter took him on one side and started to remonstrate with him over this.

God bless you, Master!  Nothing like this must happen to you!

Then Jesus turned round and said to Peter,

Out of my way, Satan!…you stand right in my path, Peter, when you think the thoughts of man and not those of God.

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The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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I solemnly assure you,

no one can see the kingdom of God

without being begotten from above.

–John 3:3, The Anchor Bible

Jeremiah 31 speaks of, among other things, an internalized relationship and covenant with God.  Words will cease to be necessary, for the relationship will be intrinsic.  Both passages from that chapter remind me of an often misunderstood concept from John 3.  The Evangelical misapprehension of “born from above,” thereby transforming it into “born again,” as in the perceived necessity of a dramatic or defined conversion experience, is an error.  There are many of us who lack such an experience yet who are close to God, and who are hopefully getting nearer.

The Gentile woman understood something profound.  So did Simon Peter, although he had no idea of the full implication of what he confessed.  At least it was a start.  We humans are spiritual beings having physical experiences, so how can we not brush up against God?

And it is no wonder to me that God slips into our minds, bypassing our five senses.  I have assumed this for years, and circumstances (inside my cranium) have confirmed my conclusion.  If we are open to God, we will learn quite a bit just by being quiet.  And not all of us will require metaphorical conks over the heard to draw nearer and nearer to God.  Yes, some people do have dramatic experiences with God, and therefore clearly defined conversions.  Yet one ought not to assume that one cannot be a Christian without such an experience.

Perhaps Single Predestination applies to this theme.  Some of us come to God via the witness of the Holy Spirit, which works in many ways, some of them subtle.  Others of us are among the predestined to Heaven.  There is no need for a conversion experience in such cases, is there?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/born-from-above/

Week of Proper 11: Friday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  A Shepherd

Hope in God

JULY 24, 2020

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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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Jeremiah 3:14-18 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Turn back, rebellious children–

declares the LORD.

Since I have espoused you, I will take you, one from a town and two from a clan, and bring you to Zion.  And I will give you shepherds after My own heart, who will pasture you with knowledge and skill.

And when you increase and are fertile in the land, in those days

–declares the LORD–

men shall no longer speak of the Ark of the Covenant of the LORD, nor shall it come to mind.  They shall not mention it, or miss it, or make another.  At that time, they shall call Jerusalem “Throne of the LORD,” and all nations shall assemble there, in the name of the LORD, at Jerusalem.  They shall no longer follow the willfulness of their evil hearts.  In those days, the House of Judah shall go with the House of Israel; they shall come together from the land of the north to the land I gave your fathers as a possession.

Psalm 121 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

2  My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

3  He will not let your foot be moved

and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

4  Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber nor sleep;

5  The LORD himself watches over you;

the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

6  So that the sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.

7  The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;

it is he who shall keep you safe.

8  The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in,

from this time forth for evermore.

Matthew 13:18-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,]

Now listen to the parable of the sower.  When a man hears the message of the kingdom and does not grasp it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart.  This is like the seed sown by the road-side.  The seed sown on the stony patches represents the man who hears the message and eagerly accepts it.  But it has not taken root in him and does not last long–the moment trouble or persecution arises through the message he gives up his faith at once.  The seed sown among the thorns represents the man who hears the message, and then the worries of this life choke it to death and so it produces no “crop” in his life.  But the seed sown on good soil is the man who both hears and understands the message.  His life shows a good crop, a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son 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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A Related Post:

Week of Proper 11:  Friday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/week-of-proper-11-friday-year-1/

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I have pondered the reading from Jeremiah 3 and sought something new to say.  What can I write that I have not written four or more times already?  Jeremiah speaks of the future return of the Jews from exile and their abandonment of idolatry.  There will be judgment, but mercy will follow.  I have written this many times already.

We read that YHWH has espoused the chosen people.  This speaks of a marital relationship.  Yet the chosen people are also likened to children.  Prophets mixed their metaphors.  I have also tilled this ground.

On a historical level, I note that the Ark of the Covenant was missing from Jerusalem by the final years of the Kingdom of Judah.  But that does not make for a useful devotional point, at least not today.

So I emphasize the hopeful nature of the reading from Jeremiah 3.  There is hope in God.  There is restoration–and better than that–in God.  This is the Lord’s doing.  May we respond to such great love and return that affection as best we can.

KRT

Week of Proper 5: Monday, Year 2   8 comments

baal

Above:  Baal 

Yahweh:  Accept No Substitutes

JUNE 8, 2020

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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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1 Kings 17:1-6 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Elijah the Tishbite, an inhabitant of Gilead, said to Ahab,

As the LORD lives, the God of Israel whom I serve, there will be no dew or rain except at my bidding.

The word of the LORD came to him:

Leave this place; turn eastward and go into hiding by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.  You will drink from the wadi, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.

He proceeded to do as the LORD had bidden:  he went, and he stayed by the Wadi Cherith, which is east of the Jordan.  The ravens brought him bread and meat every morning and every morning, and he drank from the wadi.

Psalm 121 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

2  My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

3  He will not let your foot be moved

and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

4  Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber nor sleep;

5  The LORD himself watches over you;

the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

6  So that the sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.

7  The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;

it is he who shall keep you safe.

8  The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in,

from this time forth for evermore.

Matthew 5:1-12 (An American Translation):

When Jesus saw the crowds of people he went up on the mountain.  There he seated himself, and when his disciples had come up to him, he opened his lips to teach them.  And he said,

Blessed are those who feel their spiritual need, for the Kingdom of God belongs to them!

Blessed are the mourners, for they will be consoled!

Blessed are the humble-minded, for they will possess the land!

Blessed are those who are hungry and thirsty for uprightness, for they will be satisfied!

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy!

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God!

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called God’s sons!

Blessed are those who have endured the persecution for their uprightness, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them!

Blessed are you when people abuse you and persecute you, and falsely say everything bad of you, on my account.  Be glad and exult over it, for you will be richly rewarded in heaven, for that is the way they persecuted the prophets who went before you!

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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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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 5:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/week-of-proper-5-monday-year-1/

Matthew 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Remember Your Servants, Lord:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/11/09/remember-your-servants-lord/

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HISTORICAL INFORMATION:

With this post the Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following returns to 1 Kings.  The last time I was here via this reading plan was at this URL:  http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/22/week-of-5-epiphany-saturday-year-2/.  So it is appropriate to begin with grounding in the narrative.  The dates come from The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004), page 2111.

Reigns of the Kings of Judah (Davidic Dynasty):

Rehoboam (928-911 B.C.E.)–17 years

Abijam, a.k.a. Abihah (911-908 B.C.E.)–3 years

Asa (908-867 B.C.E.)–41 years

The text criticizes all these monarchs, frequently for idolatry.

Reigns of the King of Israel:

House of Jeroboam:

Jeroboam I (928-907 B.C.E.)–22 years

Nadab (907-906 B.C.E.)–2 years–overthrown in a palace coup

House of Baasha:

Baasha (906-883 B.C.E.)–23 years

Elah (883-882 B.C.E.)–2 years–overthrown by a chariot commander, Zimri

House of Zimri:

Zimri (882 B.C.E.)–1 week–overthrown by the army commander, Omri

House of Omri:

Omri (882-871 B.C.E.)–12 years

Ahab (873-852 B.C.E.)–22 years

The text criticizes all these monarchs, frequently for idolatry.

Now we are ready to begin the devotional text.

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Baal, a Canaanite deity, was allegedly responsible for sending the rains.  So what better way, according to the narrative in 1 Kings, for Yahweh to demonstrate the imaginary nature of Baal than to impose a drought upon Israel, where Baal worship was widespread?  This Yahweh, by the way, also protected and fed his prophet, Elijah, who delivered the prophesy of the drought.

The Matthew version of the Beatitudes, in Edgar Goodspeed’s An American Translation, includes this line:

Blessed are those who feel their spiritual need, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to them.

But perhaps the New Living Translation (first edition, 1996) offers the best rendering:

God blesses those who realize their need for him,

for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.

(The second edition (2004) of the New Living Translation, by the way, has a different rendering of the first Beatitude, an odd hybrid of the first line of Matthew and Luke Beatitudes.)

We human beings are inherently religious.  Even varieties of Atheism are merely types of Fundamentalism.  Just listen to militant Fundamentalists, who are evangelical in their unbelief.  For much of human history polytheism was the nearly universal default mode.  Monotheism, a great moral and theological advance, did not gain immediate and widespread acceptance in the corners where it existed.  For much of the Old Testament most Hebrews were polytheists, a reality against which biblical prophets inveighed.  The worship of Yahweh was widespread, but many of his devotees also bowed down to Baal, Astarte, and other deities.  The message of the prophets was to worship Yahweh alone.  The fault with the great bulk of spiritual seekers was that they sought to fill their spiritual needs at too many venues. The blessed spiritual seekers of Matthew’s first Beatitude are those who, if you will pardon my analogy, fill up their gas tanks at God’s gas station only.

May the first Beatitude, not the condemnations from 1 Kings, describe us. May we love and honor the one God who loves us.  There is a God-shaped hole inside each of us; may we fill it with God alone.  May we accept no substitutes.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/yahweh-accept-no-substitutes/

Week of Proper 20: Saturday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Zechariah from the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo Buonarroti

Image in the Public Domain

In Days to Come, Sooner or Later…

SEPTEMBER 28, 2019

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

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Zechariah 2:1-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

I looked up, and I saw four horns.  I asked the angel who talked with me,

What are those?

He replied,

Those are the horns that tossed Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.

Then the LORD showed me four smiths.

What are they coming to do?

I asked.  He replied:

Those are the horns that tossed Judah, so that no man could raise his head; and these men have come to throw them into a panic, to hew down the horns of the nations that raise a horn against the land of Judah, to toss it.

I looked up, and I saw a man holding a measuring line.

Where are you going?

I asked.

To measure Jerusalem,

he replied,

to see how long and wide it used to be.

But the angel who talked with me came forward, and another angel came forward to meet him.  The former said to him,

Run to that young man and tell him:

‘Jerusalem shall be prepared as a city without walls, so that many shall be the men and cattle it contains.  And I Myself–declares the LORD–though I swept you [there] like the four winds of heaven–declares the LORD.’

Away, escape, O Zion, you who dwell in Fair Babylon!  For thus said the LORD of Hosts–He who sent me after glory–concerning the nations that have taken you as spoil:

Whoever touches you touches the pupil of his own eye.  For I will lift My hand against them, and they shall be the spoil for those they enslaved.

–Then you shall know that I was sent by the LORD of Hosts.

Psalm 121 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  I lift up my eyes to the hills;

from where is my help to come?

2  My help comes from the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

3  He will not let your foot be moved

and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

4  Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel

shall neither slumber nor sleep;

5  The LORD himself watches over you;

the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

6  So that the sun shall not strike you by day,

nor the moon by night.

7  The LORD shall preserve you from all evil;

it is he who shall keep you safe.

8  The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in,

from this time forth for evermore.

Luke 9:43b-45 (The Jerusalem Bible):

At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he [Jesus] did, he said to his disciples,

For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind:  The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.

But they did not understand him when he said this; it was hidden from them so that they should not see the meaning of it, and they were afraid to ask him about what he had just said.

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The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; 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 Zechariah exists in two sections written by different people at separate times.  This book bears the marks of apocalyptic literature.  These include visions, symbols, and numerology.  In order to make sense of this day’s reading from Zechariah, then, one needs to understand its historical context first.

Zechariah 2 is contemporary to the Book of Haggai, being set only two months later.  The returned Jewish exiles live in their homeland, yet within a foreign empire.  They live among ruins and poverty, yet know of the glorious past of their nation.  And they long for national restoration.

A horn symbolized power, and the number four indicated totality and the points of the compass.  Powerful nations of the earth have tossed Judah to and fro, but God will toss those nations to and fro, Zechariah says.  Furthermore, Jerusalem will not have defensive walls as people think of them; God will be the walls of the greatly-expanded city.  The prophet sets all this in the future.  In the meantime, reality remains unchanged.

(Aside:  One ought not to misconstrue this reading as a Zionist text that excuses any human rights violation by the government of the State of Israel or exempts it from criticism.  Biblical commands to love one’s neighbor as oneself apply to all people at all times and all places, regardless of what one thinks about a particular nation-state or its government.)

Back to our main idea…

Jesus, in Luke 9:51, “set his face toward Jerusalem,” and therefore his arrest, torture, execution, and resurrection.  Difficult times were in his short-term future, but there was only so much that human authorities could do to him.  Yes, torturing and executing a man slowly are terrible, but once he has died and risen again, that man exists beyond their reach.  Our Lord’s deliverance from the reach of his adversaries came only after a series of ordeals.  Likewise, many Christian martyrs have suffered much.  But, after their enemies have killed them, the faith has lived on. They have killed people, not a religion.  They have failed, and all they have to show for their efforts is a collection of corpses.  Meanwhile, the martyrs have gone to Heaven.

Jesus died of violence in the name of God and an empire.  Yet God is love, so there is no such thing as sacred violence or holy war.  This might be difficult to understand when one is the aggrieved party seeking divine retribution upon those who have committed violence.  The author of Zechariah 2 did not understand this.  At times I have not grasped this either.  The desire for revenge is natural yet destructive, and we ought not to feed it.

Rather, we should do the more difficult thing and pursue the constructive path:  love and forgiveness.  This is consistent with the Golden Rule, the greatest moral commandment.  Then we will liberate ourselves from the power of our oppressors.  True, they might be able to kill us, but then all they will have to show for their efforts is a corpse.  But they have no power to destroy one’s soul.

In days to come, Zechariah wrote, God will restore the Jewish people to glory, and this glory will surpass that which preceded it.  God himself will be that glory.  Until then, however, the people must put up with indignities.

In days to come, Jesus knew, he would be triumph over his foes, who were plotting to entrap and kill him.  First, however, they would seem to win.  And he would suffer terribly.  But he would triumph.

But what are we to do in the present and the future, until those days come?  We are called to trust in God and act accordingly.  This is the God who, as Psalm 121 says, “keeps watch over Israel” and “shall neither slumber nor sleep.”  Sometimes God, whom the psalm also says “shall keep you safe,” seems to be napping or at least turning a blind eye, but let us not be unduly critical.  The consequences of our actions still play out and backfire on us.  The rain falls on the just as well as on the unjust.  Life is not fair, and the existence of the caring deity does not preclude suffering.  But we are not alone, and God, balancing judgment and mercy, is never far away.

We do not need to defend God.  Besides, any deity who requires a human defense is pitiful and weak.  Yet we do need to witness to God with our lives–as well as our words, when those are appropriate.  More important, though, is the witness via one’s life, for words without the corresponding life ring hollow.  And we need to remember that God’s time moves at a different pace than ours, so patience is par for the course.  This can be very difficult, but it is essential.  We need to trust in God, not get in the way while trying to help.

In the days to come, sooner or later, the victory of God will be more complete.  Until then, we must deal with daily life, no matter how much we dislike this fact.  But we have a calling to live faithfully, in trust.  God grants us the grace to do this, so we need not fret about doing this on our own power (which is inadequate anyway).  In the meantime, may we not nurture frustration, hatred, bigotry, and violence.  Rather, may we seek to love and support each other; it is what Jesus would do.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/in-days-to-come-sooner-or-later/