Archive for the ‘Psalm 126’ Tag

Devotion for Thanksgiving Day (U.S.A.)   Leave a comment

Above:  Thanksgiving Day–The Dance, by Winslow Homer

Image in the Public Domain

Gratitude

NOVEMBER 28, 2019

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Since antiquity and in cultures from many parts of the Earth harvest festivals have been occasions of thanksgiving.  In the United States of America, where the first national observance of Thanksgiving occurred in 1863, the November date has related to the harvest feast in Plymouth in 1621.  Prior to 1863 some U.S. states had an annual thanksgiving holiday, and there was a movement for the national holiday.  Liturgically the occasion has remained tied to harvest festivals, although the meaning of the holiday has been broader since 1863.  The Episcopal Church has observed its first Book of Common Prayer in 1789.  Nationwide Thanksgiving Day has become part of U.S. civil religion and an element of commercialism, which might actually be the primary sect of civil religion in the United States.  The Almighty Dollar attracts many devotees.

Too easily and often this holiday deteriorates into an occasion to gather with relatives while trying (often in vain) to avoid shouting matches about politics and/or religion, or to watch television, or to be in some other awkward situation.  The holiday means little to me; I find it inherently awkward.  This state of affairs is the result of my youth, when my family and I, without relatives nearby, witnessed many of our neighbors hold family reunions on the holiday.  Thanksgiving Day, therefore, reminds me of my lifelong relative isolation.

Nevertheless, I cannot argue with the existence of occasions to focus on gratitude to God.  The Bible teaches us in both Testaments that we depend entirely on God, depend on each other, are responsible to and for each other, and have no right to exploit each other.  The key word is mutuality, not individualism.  I embrace the focus on this ethos.

A spiritual practice I find helpful is to thank God throughout each day, from the time I awake to the time I go to bed.  Doing so helps one recognize how fortunate one is.  The electrical service is reliable.  The breeze is pleasant.  The sunset is beautiful.  Reading is a great pleasure.  The list is so long that one can never reach the end of it, but reaching the end of that list is not the goal anyway.  No, the goal is to be thankful and to live thankfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Almighty and gracious Father, we give you thanks for the fruits of the earth in their season,

and for the labors of those who harvest them.

Make us, we pray, faithful stewards of your great bounty,

for the provision of our necessities and the relief of all who are in need,

to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Deuteronomy 8:1-3, 6-10 (17-20)

Psalm 65 or Psalm 65:9-14

James 1:17-18, 21-27

Matthew 6:25-33

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 701

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Almighty God our Father, your generous goodness comes to us new every day.

By the work of your Spirit lead us to acknowledge your goodness,

give thanks for your benefits, and serve you in willing obedience,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Year A

Deuteronomy 8:7-18

Psalm 65

2 Corinthians 9:6-15

Luke 17:11-19

Year B

Joel 2:21-27

Psalm 126

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Matthew 6:25-33

Year C

Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Psalm 100

Philippians 4:4-9

John 6:25-35

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 61

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Deuteronomy 8:1-10

Philippians 4:6-20 or 1 Timothy 2:1-4

Luke 17:11-19

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Originally published at SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 25, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ in Majesty Icon

Above:  Icon of Christ in Majesty

Image in the Public Domain

Prejudices and Prophecy

OCTOBER 25, 26, and 27, 2018

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The Collect:

Eternal light, shine in our hearts.

Eternal wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance.

Eternal compassion, have mercy on us.

Turn us to seek your face, and enable us to reflect your goodness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 23:9-16 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 26:12-24 (Friday)

Jeremiah 29:24-32 (Saturday)

Psalm 126 (All Days)

Hebrews 7:1-10 (Thursday)

Hebrews 7:11-22 (Friday)

Mark 8:22-26 (Saturday)

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When the Lord turned again the fortunes of Zion:

then we were like men restored to life.

Then was our mouth filled with laughter:

and our tongue with singing.

Then said they among the heathen:

“The Lord has done great things for them.”

Truly the Lord has done great things for us:

and therefore we rejoiced.

Turn again our fortunes, O Lord:

as the streams return to the dry south.

Those that sow in tears:

shall reap with songs of joy.

He who goes out weeping bearing the seed:

shall come again in gladness, bringing his sheaves with him.

–Psalm 126, Alternative Prayer Book 1984

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The prophet Jeremiah labored faithfully for and argued with God during especially dangerous times.  The Kingdom of Judah was a vassal state, false prophets were numerous, and true prophets were targets of the theocratic royal regime.  The process of exiling populations had begun, and the full-scale Babylonian Exile had not started yet.  False prophets predicted a glorious future and condemned faithful prophets.  Yet even Jeremiah, who predicted doom and gloom, stated that divine deliverance and restoration would come in time.

The appearance of Melchizedek in Genesis 14:17-21 linked Abram/Abraham to the Davidic Dynasty, for Melchizedek was the King of Salem (Jerusalem).  Hebrews 7 linked Melchizedek to Jesus (“resembling the Son of God, he remains a priest forever”–verse 3b, The New Revised Standard Version).  At the end of the line of faithful Hebrew prophets (ending with St. John the Baptist) stands Jesus, greater than all of them.  He is, as Hebrews 7:22 states,

the guarantee of a better covenant.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Jesus, permanently a priest (7:24), is the Messiah (“Christ” in Greek) unbounded by time.  Now he exists beyond human capacity to harm him, but he did die via crucifixion.  There was a resurrection, fortunately.

Often we mortals desire to hear words which confirm our prejudices and belie hard truths.  Perhaps we know sometimes that what we want to hear is inaccurate, but we accept it anyway because doing so is bearable.  Or perhaps we are so deluded that we cannot distinguish between true and false prophecy, prophecy often having more to do with the present day and the near future than the more distant future.  Yet, even when we seek to distinguish between true and false prophecy, our ignorance can prove to be a major obstacle.  I know of no easy way out of this conundrum.  No, the best advice I can offer is to seek to live according to affirming human dignity and loving others as one loves oneself.  Following the Golden Rule is sound advice.  One might err in the execution of it, but I propose that God will not condemn one for loving one’s neighbors.  As for the details of prophecy, they will unfold according to course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/prejudices-and-prophecy/

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Proper 25, Year B   18 comments

Above:  Christ Healing the Blind Man, by Eustace Le Sueur

Restoration

The Sunday Closest to October 26

The Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 28, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Job 42:1-6, 10-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Job said in reply to the LORD:

I know that You can do everything,

That nothing you propose is impossible for You.

Who is this who obscures counsel without knowledge?

Indeed, I spoke without understanding

Of things beyond me, which I did not know.

Hear now, and I will speak;

I will ask, and You inform me.

I had heard You with my ears,

But now I see You with my eyes;

Therefore I recant and relent,

Being but dust and ashes.

The LORD restored Job’s fortunes when he prayed on behalf of his friends, and the LORD gave Job twice what he had before.

All his brothers and sisters and all his former friends came to him and had a meal with him in his house.  They consoled, and comforted him for all the misfortune that the LORD had brought upon him.  Each gave him one kesitah and each one gold ring.Thus the LORD blessed the latter years of Job’s life more than the former.  He had fourteen thousand sheep, six thousand camels, one thousand yoke of oxen, and one thousand she-asses.  He also had seven sons and three daughters.  The first he named Jemimah, the second Keziah, and the third Keren-happuch.  Nowhere in the land were women as beautiful as Job’s daughters to be found.  Their father gave them estates together with their brothers.  Afterward, Job lived one hundred and forty years to see four generations of sons and grandsons.  So Job died old and contented.

Psalm 34:1-8, (19-22) (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

2 I will glory in the LORD;

let the humble hear and rejoice.

3 Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;

let us exult his Name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me

and delivered me out of all my terror.

5 Look upon him and be radiant,

and let not your faces be ashamed.

6 I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me

and saved me from all my troubles.

The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him,

and he will deliver them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;

happy are they who trust in him.

19 Many are the troubles of the righteous,

but the LORD will deliver him out of them all.

20 He will keep all his bones;

not one of them shall be broken.

21 Evil shall slay the wicked,

and those who hate the righteous will be punished.

22 The LORD ransoms the life of his servants,

and none will be punished who trust in him.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Jeremiah 31:7-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

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.

I will bring them in from the northland,

Gather them from the ends of the earth–

The blind and the lame among them,

Those with child and those in labor–

In a vast throng they shall return here.

They shall come with weeping,

And with compassion will I guide them.

I will lead them to streams of water,

by a level road where they will not stumble.

For I am ever a Father to Israel,

Ephraim is My first-born.

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

SECOND READING

Hebrews 7:23-28 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever.  Consequently he is able for all time to save those who draw near God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.

For it was fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, blameless, unstained, separated from sinners, exalted above the heavens.  He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people; for he did this once for all when he offered up himself.  Indeed, the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been make perfect for ever.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 10:46-52 (Revised English Bible):

They came to Jericho; and as he was leaving the town, with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was seated at the roadside.  Hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout,

Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me!

Many of the people told him to hold his tongue; but he shouted all the more,

Son of David, have pity on me.

Jesus stopped and said,

Call him;

so they called the blind man:

Take heart,

they said.

Get up; he is calling you.

At that he threw off his cloak, jumped to his feet, and came to Jesus.  Jesus said to him,

What do you want me to do for you?

The blind man answered,

Rabbi, I want my sight back.

Jesus said to him,

Go; your faith as healed you.

At once he recovered his sight and followed him on the road.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 25, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/proper-25-year-a/

Job 42:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/week-of-proper-21-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-21-saturday-year-2/

Hebrews 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/week-of-2-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Mark 10:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/week-of-8-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-8-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/week-of-proper-3-thursday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-proper-3-thursday-year-2/

Luke 18 (Parallel to Mark 10):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/week-of-proper-28-monday-year-1/

Prayers for Inclusion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-inclusion/

A Prayer for the Blind:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-the-blind/

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The theme for Proper 25, Year B, is restoration.  Job, who had lost so much, got much more back.  Descendants of the original Judean exiles would return to their ancestral homeland.  And a blind man sought and received his sight back in the last healing by Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Mark.

Blindness was common in the ancient world, and it resulted from various causes.  It was, in Jewish custom of the time, a ritual blemish, rendering one unfit to serve as a priest (Leviticus 21:18).  And a blind animal was not suitable for ritual sacrifice (Leviticus 22:22 and Deuteronomy 15:21).  So the blind man was, in the estimation of many people in his culture, defective, perhaps even punished by God.  That must have taken an emotional toll on the man.  Yet the Law (in Leviticus 19:14) forbade placing an obstacle in the way of the blind, so those who told the blind man to be quiet violated the Law of Moses.

Healing stories involving Jesus are about more than correcting the physical, emotional, and psychological disorders of people.  They also speak of the restoration to society.  The blind man no longer had a ritual blemish; he was no longer allegedly defective or punished by God.

As I write these words, I belong to a culture which considers itself fairly enlightened.  It is, in many ways.  We even have the Americans with Disabilities Act.  And, based  on the architecture of certain church buildings in which I have worshiped, I recognize a lack of concern for handicapped access in the late 1800s and early 1900s yet a keen attention to this issue in structures from more recent decades.  Yet the disabled still face many challenges in getting from Point A to Point B, entering many buildings, and using many restrooms.  Our lack of concern for them forces many of them to the margins; we are not as enlightened as we like to think we are.

Jesus restored people to society; we ought to do the same, as we are able.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/restoration/

Week of Proper 25: Tuesday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  Dawn Over Greece, 2010

Image Source = Kat Hannaford

Great Expectations

OCTOBER 29, 2019

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

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Romans 8:18-25 (Revised English Bible):

For I reckon that the sufferings we now endure bear no comparison with the glory, as yet unrevealed, which is in store for us.  The created universe is waiting us with eager expectation for God’s sons to be revealed.  It was made subject to frustration, not of its own choice, but by the will of him who subjected it, yet with the hope that the universe itself is to freed from the shackles of mortality and is to enter upon the glorious liberty of the children of God.  Up to the present, as we know, the whole created universe in all its parts groans as if in the pangs of childbirth.  What is more, we also, to whom the Spirit is given as the firstfruits of the harvest to come, are groaning inwardly while we look forward eagerly to our adoption, our liberation from mortality.  It was with this hope that we were saved.  Now to see something is no longer to hope:  why hope for what is already seen?  But if we hope for something we do not yet see, then we look forward to it eagerly and with patience.

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

4 The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Luke 13:18-21 (Revised English Bible):

What is the kingdom of God like?

he [Jesus] continued.

To what shall I compare it?  It is like a mustard seed which a man took and sowed in his garden; and it grew to be a tree and the birds came to roost among its branches.

Again he said,

To what shall I compare the kingdom of God?  It is like yeast which a woman took and mixed with three measures of flour till it was all leavened.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; 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 reading from Romans 8 combines metaphysics with prose poetry quite nicely to speak of the remaking of the cosmic order by God.  This was an expectation that had dwelt within Judaism for centuries before Paul was even born.  Paul’s vision was an optimistic one in which God will win in the end, despite the mess which is the current reality.

Dare we hope for something better that which we see?  Or do we fear heartbreak?

Consider the mustard plant, which I have discussed in other posts, to which I have provided links.  It has humble origins in a tiny seed yet sprawls out and goes where it will.  The mustard plant is really a weed, if the truth be told.  So, according to Jesus, the kingdom of God is like a really big and unconquerable weed.  Many different types of creatures take up residence within that weed.  So this parable, as you, O reader, might see, also tells us that the kingdom of God is inherently diverse.  We do not need to be alike or to think identically; indeed, God seems not to care about many differences.  Variety is, as the cliché tells us, the spice of life.

We read also that the kingdom of God is like yeast, which begins its work unseen.  In due time, however, the influence of that yeast is impossible to miss, for the bread does rise.  Christianity began with Jesus of Nazareth and a relatively few disciples and Apostles.  Within just a few years after the crucifixion of Jesus, however, it had become impossible to ignore.  And, about a century later, Christianity had completed the process of breaking away from Judaism.  The rest is, as we say, history.

From small beginnings come great things.

The “eager expectation” of which Paul writes in Romans 8:19 is, as William Barclay describes it,

…the attitude of a man who scans the horizon with head thrust forward, eagerly searching the distance for the first signs for the first signs of the dawn break of glory.  (The Letter to the Romans, Revised Edition, 1975, page 110)

This is an appropriate passage to read in late October, as the Season after Pentecost nears its end–as early as November 26 and as late as December 2, depending on the calendar year–and Advent is near.  Beyond Advent, of course, is Christmas, that glorious season which spans December 25-January 5.  When the world seems to have gone to Hell in a handbasket and to have been there for a very long time, dare we hope for something better and trust God to redeem creation?   I hope so.

May the peace of God be with you today and always.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/great-expectations-2/

Week of Proper 20: Monday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  Map of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

Lamps of God–With Oil from Unexpected and Unlikely Sources

SEPTEMBER 23, 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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Ezra 1:1-6 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the first year of King Cyrus of Persia, when the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah was fulfilled, the LORD roused the spirit of King Cyrus of Persia to issue a proclamation throughout his realm by word of mouth and in writing as follows:

Thus said King Cyrus of Persia:  The LORD God of Heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and has charged me with building Him a house in Jerusalem, which is in Judah.  Anyone of you all His people–may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem that is in Judah and build the house of the LORD God of Israel, the God that is in Jerusalem; and all who stay behind, wherever he may be living, let the people of his place assist him with silver, gold, goods, and livestock, besides the freewill offering to the House of God that is in Jerusalem.

So the chiefs of the clans of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites, all whose spirit had been roused by God, got ready to go up to build the House of the LORD that is in Jerusalem.  All their neighbors supported them with silver vessels, with gold, with goods, with livestock, and with precious objects, besides what had been given as a freewill offering.

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

4 The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Luke 8:16-18 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or put it under a bed.  No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in.  For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light.  So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.

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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 united Kingdom of Israel divided in 928 B.C.E., with Jerusalem continuing as the capital city of Judah and a new, northern kingdom, becoming Israel.  The Assyrian Empire conquered the northern kingdom in 722 B.C.E.  Then, in 609 B.C.E., the Assyrians fell to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, which ended the existence of the Kingdom of Judah in 586 B.C.E.  The conquerors deported many–but not all–inhabitants of Judah to Babylon.

Decades passed.  Finally, in 539 B.C.E., the Persians and the Medes, led by King Cyrus II, conquered the Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians.  Cyrus had a policy of religious toleration, which he extended to the Jews.  For the Jews he did more, however; he allowed those Jews in Babylon to return to their ancestral homeland. Cyrus also sponsored the construction of the Second Temple.  He was not even a Jew.  The king was a Zoroastrian, an adherent of a faith system that influenced the course of Judaism, and therefore Christianity, in profound ways.  This ought not to bother a Biblical literalist or to give comfort or ammunition to a scoffer prowling around in search of evidence to discredit the Judeo-Christian traditions, for no single human religion has a monopoly on the truth.  Some just possess more of it than others, and Judaism and Christianity contain far more than any other religions–including Zoroastrianism.

The brief reading from Luke speaks of shedding light.  The image in that text is of an oil lamp on a lamp stand in the middle of a small and otherwise dark house.  Light is especially evident in the dark; how far it reaches becomes obvious.  The final lines in that lesson speak of the imperative of growing in faith, for the consequence of a lack of spiritual growth is atrophy.

So, how does Ezra relate to Luke?  Here is my answer:  It took Cyrus, one of the goyim, to help perpetuate the truth of the Jewish faith.  He provided oil for the Jewish lamps, if you will indulge my analogy.  That light continues to burn within Judaism and Christianity today.  Where might you find oil for your spiritual lamp?  The answers might surprise you.  Likewise, you might provide oil for lamps of people the identities of which might shock you.

There is an inclusive message here.  I note this and accent it because one of the unfortunate aspects of post-Exilic Judaism was exclusiveness.  The Book of Jonah is a powerful satire of that attitude.  We will get to that soon enough–in the Week of Proper 22.  So think about these questions:  Whose Cyrus are you?  And who is your Cyrus?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/lamps-of-god-with-oil-from-unexpected-and-unlikely-sources/

Week of Proper 16: Wednesday, Year 1   10 comments

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s)

Image in the Public Domain

A Living Power Among You Who Believe It

AUGUST 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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1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Let me remind you, brothers, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you.  You are witnesses, and so is God, that our treatment of you, since you became believers, has been impeccably right and fair.  You can remember how we treated every one of you as a father treats his children, teaching you what was right, encouraging you and appealing to you to live a life worthy of God, who is calling you to share the glory of his kingdom.

Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

4 The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Matthew 23:27-32 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption.  In the same way you appear to people from the outside like honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who build the sepulchres of the prophets and decorate the tombs of holy men, saying, ‘We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our fathers’ day.’  So!  Your own evidence tells against you!  You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets!  Very well then, finish off the work that your fathers began.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory 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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Contact with a corpse made one ritually unclean (Numbers 19:16).  So imagine that it is the month of Adar, and that you, O reader, are a pilgrim in Jesus’ day traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover.  You might become ritually unclean, and therefore ineligible to celebrate Passover, if you come into contact with a roadside tomb.  Fortunately for you, people have whitewashed the tombs in advance, so they will stand out, and pilgrims will not become ritually unclean by accident.

This is the reference to whitewashed tombs in Matthew 23.  But Jesus says that hypocritical professional religious people who lay needless burdens on the faithful are the whitewashed tombs; the scribes and Pharisees are themselves unclean.  How is that for a strong condemnation, one that hits home?  And these scribes and Pharisees are the spiritual heirs of those who have persecuted and killed prophets of God.  At this point in Matthew Jesus is nearing his own death, in which professional religious people were complicit.  (But let us not let the Romans off the hook, for the Procurator authorized the execution and soldiers carried it out.)

This day’s reading from 1 Thessalonians begins with Paul defending himself against unfounded criticisms.  Why else would he have pointed to his work ethic and his treatment of others?  Here we have an example of an old truth:  Whatever you do, somebody is likely to criticize you.  But the part of the reading that attracts my attention is verse 13:  God’s message is a living power among those who believe it.  Belief is trust; it indicates an influence in how one lives.  So belief becomes evident in actions.

The fault of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus criticized was that their belief was self-serving.  It made them look good to themselves and many others, but it was a disguise for spiritual rot.  Jesus calls us not to be tombs or spiritual memorials, but living testimonies to him.  Once in a while we might have to say something, but our actions ought to do most of the talking.

The aspect of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity that bothers me most is its preoccupation with individual salvation at the expense of the well-being of one’s community and society.  I have had conversations with people possessed of this spiritual understanding.  Many of them do not care if the world burns; they have Jesus.  (Someone expressed this sentiment to me a few years ago, without embarrassment.)  According to this point of view, social justice can take a back seat as long as a man’s hair is not too long, a woman’s skirt is not too short, and someone is learning that he or she will go to Hell unless he or she comes to Jesus.  Without dismissing the necessity of Jesus (I am a Christian.), I prefer a holistic gospel.  It is pointless to cure one person of spiritual sickness and not care about societal ills.  Indeed, we humans are not separate from our societies.  And love of God is more effective than fear of damnation in drawing one into a spiritually healthy relationship with God.

Disclaimer, for the sake of accuracy:  Many evangelical Christians are quite concerned about social justice and responsible ecology.  I applaud them.  Unfortunately, some of their co-religionists criticize them for the breadth of their concerns.

May we–you and I–exhibit the living power of God to all, so that all who seek it and cross paths with us will see it working within us.  And, to borrow a line from St. Francis of Assisi, may we preach the gospel at all times, using words when necessary.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/a-living-power-among-you-who-believe-it/