Archive for the ‘Psalm 131’ Tag

Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 9, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

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Above:  Slave Galleries, St. John’s Church, Providence, Rhode Island, 1937

Historic American Buildings Survey

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS RI,4-PROV, 104–3

Clinging Only to God

JULY 8, 2020

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The Collect:

You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised.

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 13:1-11

Psalm 131

John 13:1-17

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O Israel, wait upon the LORD,

from this time forth for evermore.

–Psalm 131:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Scene #1:  In a symbolic act the prophet Jeremiah makes a statement that the people of the Kingdom of Judah should have clung only to God.

Scene #2:  In another symbolic act Jesus, not standing on ceremony, acts as a servant.  Thus he sets a powerful example of mutuality consistent with the spirit of the best of the Law of  Moses:  we are all responsible to and for each other.

How often have we–you and I, O reader, clung not to God or only to God–perhaps to ego instead–and thought ourselves better than other people?  We are not all equal in abilities, of course, but the wide range of abilities allows for the meeting of many needs, so why should anyone object?  And how often have we clung to false ideas?  It is not wonder that we have missed the mark, sinned!

Jesus said and demonstrated that the greatest one in the Kingdom of God is the servant of all.  Biblical prophets condemned economic and judicial exploitation of people.  The underlying ethic of much of the Law of Moses was mutuality, which precluded exploitation.  Yet how often have people and corporations sought to improve their conditions by harming those of others?  And how often have other institutions, some of them religious, been complicit in exploiting vulnerable and powerless people?  How often, also, have religious institutions aided and abetted social injustices, such as racism and slavery?

But they would not listen.

–Jeremiah 13:11, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

May God have mercy on us all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/clinging-only-to-god/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 9, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Zedekiah

Above:  King Zedekiah

Image in the Public Domain

Righteousness, Justification, Justice, and Awe

JULY 6 and 7, 2020

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The Collect:

You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised.

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 27:1-11, 16-22 (Monday)

Jeremiah 28:10-17 (Tuesday)

Psalm 131 (Both Days)

Romans 1:18-25 (Monday)

Romans 3:1-8 (Tuesday)

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O LORD, I am not proud;

I have no haughty looks.

I do not occupy myself with great matters,

or with things that are too hard for me.

But I still my soul and make it quiet,

like a child upon its mother’s breast;

my soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, wait upon the LORD,

from this time forth for evermore.

–Psalm 131, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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“Righteousness” and “justification” are English translations of the same Greek word.  “Justification” refers to how we get right with God.  St. Paul the Apostle, understanding faith as something which comes with works as a component of it (as opposed to the author of the Letter of James, who comprehended faith as intellectual and therefore requiring the addition of works for justification), argued that faith alone was sufficient for justification.  The two men agreed in principle, but not their definition of faith.  They arrived at the same conclusion by different routes.  That conclusion was that actions must accompany thoughts if the the thoughts are to be of any good.

A note on page 2011 of The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) makes an excellent point:

In the OT, righteousness and justice repeatedly characterize God’s nature and activity, particularly in relationship  to the covenant with Israel.

Thus we arrive at the lections from Jeremiah, excerpts from a section of that book.  The prophet argued that God had made Judah a vassal state of the Babylonians, so rebellion against them would constitute a sin.  Hananiah was a false prophet who advocated for the opposite point of view.  The argument that a fight for national liberation is wrong might seem odd to many people, but it made sense to Jeremiah in a particular context.

Discerning the will of God in a given context can prove to be challenging at best.  Often the greatest obstacle to overcome is our penchant for confirmation bias–to reinforce what we think already.  Are we listening to God’s message or conducting an internal monologue?  But, when we succeed in discerning the divine will, we might realize that we do not understand or agree with it.  Honesty is the best policy with God; may we acknowledge truthfully where we stand spiritually and proceed from that point.  If divine justice confuses or frustrates us, may we tell God that.  If we argue, may we do so faithfully, and so claim part of our spiritual inheritance from the Jews, our elder siblings in faith.  Jeremiah, for example, argued with God often.

And may we trust in the faithfulness of God, the mysteries of whom we can never hope to explore completely.  Mystery can be wonderful, inspiring people with a sense of awe, the meaning of “the fear of God.”  Such awe provides us with proper context relative to God.  Such awe shows us how small we are relative to ultimate reality, God.  And such awe reinforces the wondrous nature of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/righteousness-justification-justice-and-awe/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 3, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Tissot

Above:  The Blind and Mute Man Possessed by Devils, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

The Sure Promises of God

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father, you never forget your children,

and you know already what we need.

In all our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 31:1-9

Psalm 131

Luke 11:14-23

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O Lord, my heart is not proud:

my eyes are not raised too high.

I do not occupy myself with matters too great for me:

or with marvels that are beyond me.

But I have stilled and made quiet my soul,

like a weaned child nestling to its mother:

so like a child, my soul is quieted within me.

O trust in the Lord:

from this time forth and for ever.

–Psalm 131, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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To place one’s trust in the wrong place is to commit a grave error. Egypt was not material for an ally, so the alliance to which Isaiah 31 refers was stupid, foolish, and other choice adjectives. And Jesus, by bypassing the healing function of religious authorities, made powerful enemies. They trusted in the power structure which collaborated with the Roman Empire—again not the cloth from which to create the garment of a good alliance.

Egypt and Rome acted according to form. The former was no ally and the latter brooked no opposition or the semblance thereof. The Roman Empire, as Tacitus wrote, made a desert and called it peace. This violence was the foundation of the Pax Romana.

But, as Jesus said,

…the kingdom of God has come to you.

–Luke 11:20, The New Revised Standard Version

That kingdom stands not on violence, but on love and righteousness. It stands upon God, the rock. It is the kingdom of the Beatitudes. And that kingdom is simultaneously present with us and not realized fully. Its unveiling remains an ongoing process.

The message of this day’s readings is to trust God, who is faithful. As Martin Luther affirmed in various theological debates and questions, the promises of God are sure, thus our spiritual emphasis belongs there.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE PARKER, ABOLITIONIST AND MAVERICK UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY PIEROZZI, A.K.A. ANTONINUS OF FLORENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS LUDWIG VON ZINZENDORF, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/the-sure-promises-of-god/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 3, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Paul

Above:  St. Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

Showing the Way

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father, you never forget your children,

and you know already what we need.

In all our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 12:22-28 (Thursday)

Isaiah 26:1-6 (Friday)

Psalm 131 (Both Days)

Philippians 2:19-24 (Thursday)

Philippians 2:25-30 (Friday)

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O Lord, I am not proud;

I have no haughty looks.

I do not occupy myself with great matters,

or with things that are too hard for me.

But I still my soul and make it quiet,

like a child upon its mother’s breast;

my soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, wait upon the LORD,

from this time forth forevermore.

–Psalm 131, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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If anyone had good reasons for being concerned and worried, St. Paul the Apostle did. He experienced beatings, a shipwreck, and incarcerations. Yet he was not worried about himself in Philippians 2. He was concerned, however, about the congregation at Phiippi. That assembly had to contend with a host of local opponents.

Timothy, the great Apostle wrote, was not like the others around the imprisoned Paul. They were

all wrapped up in their own affairs

and did

not really care for the cause of Jesus Christ.

–Philippians 2:21, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, 1972

Yet Timothy, like Paul, cared about the Philippian Christians. So Paul sent Timothy to them, to encourage them in their faith.

The ability to get outside oneself is the essence of compassion. To care about the other more than for onselef is a great moral state in which to reside. Furthermore, having confidence that God will stand with the oppressed people who trust in God helps one to care more about others when one is among the oppressed righteous population. This helps one to say, in the words of Isaiah 26:4 (The New Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition):

Trust in the LORD forever,

for in the LORD GOD

you have an everlasting rock.

And having such confidence helps one live according to the statement in Proverbs 12:26 (The New Jerusalem Bible):

The upright shows the way to a friend;

the way of the wicked leads them astray.

Challenges remain for churches. These challenges have existed since the birth of the Christian movement, in fact. They come from within and without. Positive challenges—to abandon prejudices, which injure others spiritually—often meet with strong opposition. But, to quote a frequently used statement,

I believe in the separation of church and hate.

Sometimes this opposition has proved sufficient to divide congregations and denominations, thereby weakening the body of Christ. It still does.

Other challenges have resulted from open hostility to the church from quarters outside it. Sometimes this has led to martyrdom and less extreme methods of persecution. Yet, as an old saying tell us,

The blood of the martyrs waters the church.

Then there have been the challenges which indifference has wrought and continues to create. In my nation-state, the United States of America, the fastest growing religious affiliation is none. This fact causes me great concern, but I know that the church has survived and re-emerged in the face of more daunting circumstances during its long history. After all, the Kingdom of God, Jesus said, is like a really big and persistent weed, for it will go where it will. The church might live underground for periods of time in certain places, but it will survive.

So I am confident that God will prevail despite all that we humans—apathetic, hostile, or misdirected yet well-intentioned—have done, do, and will do. And I hope that I am among those walking faithfully in the way of righteousness—at least more often than not—and that I am not leading anyone astray.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE PARKER, ABOLITIONIST AND MAVERICK UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY PIEROZZI, A.K.A. ANTONINUS OF FLORENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS LUDWIG VON ZINZENDORF, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/showing-the-way/

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Week of Proper 26: Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, Year 2   13 comments

Above:  St. James Episcopal Church, Cedartown, Georgia, May 1, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

“At the Name of Jesus….”

NOVEMBER 2-4, 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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COMPOSITE FIRST READING

Philippians 2:1-3:1a (Revised English Bible):

If then our common life in Christ yields anything to stir the heart, any consolation of love, any participation in the Spirit, any warmth of affection or compassion, fill up my cup of happiness by thinking and feeling alike, with the same love for one another and a common attitude of mind.  Leave no room for selfish ambition and vanity, but humbly reckon others better than yourselves.  Look to each other’s interests and not merely to your own.

Take to heart among yourselves what you find in Christ Jesus:

He was in the form of God; yet he laid no claim to equality with God, but made himself nothing, assuming the form of a slave.  Bearing the human likeness, sharing the human lot, he humbled himself, and was obedient, even to the point of death, death on a cross!  Therefore God raised him to the heights and bestowed on him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow–in heaven, on earth, and in the depths–and on every tongue acclaim, “Jesus Christ is Lord,” the glory of God the Father.

So you too, my friends, must be obedient, as always; even more, now that I am absent, than when I was with you.  You must work out your own salvation in fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you, inspiring both the will and the deed, for his own chosen purpose.

Do everything without grumbling or argument.  Show yourselves innocent and above reproach, faultless children of God in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in a dark world and proffer the word of life.  Then you will be my pride on the day of Christ, proof that I did run my race in vain or labour in vain.  But if my lifeblood is to be poured out to complete  the sacrifice and offering up of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all.  You too must rejoice and share your joy with me.

I hope, in the Lord Jesus, to send Timothy to you soon; it will cheer me up to have news of you.  I have no one else here like him, who has a genuine concern for your affairs; they are all bent on their own interests, not on those of Christ Jesus.  But Timothy’s record is known to you:  You know that he has been at my side in the service of the gospel like a son working under his father.  So he is the one I mean to send as soon as I see how things go with me; and I am confident, in the Lord, that I shall be coming myself before long.

I have decided I must also send our brother Epaphroditus, my fellow-worker and comrade, whom you commissioned to attend to my needs.  He has been missing you all, and was upset because you heard he was ill.  Indeed he was dangerously ill, but God was merciful to him; and not only to him but to me, to spare me one sorrow on top of another.  For this reason I am all the more eager to send him and give you the happiness of seeing him again; that will relieve my anxiety as well.  Welcome him then in the fellowship of the Lord with wholehearted delight.  You should honour people like him; in Christ’s cause he came near to death, risking his life to render me the service you could not give.  And now, my friends, I wish you joy in the Lord.

RESPONSE FOR MONDAY

Psalm 131 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

O LORD, I am not proud;

I have no haughty looks.

I do not occupy myself with great matters,

or with things that are too hard for me.

But I still my soul and make it quiet,

like a child upon its mother’s breast;

my soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, wait upon the LORD,

from this time forth for evermore.

RESPONSE FOR TUESDAY

Psalm 22:22-28 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

22 Praise the LORD, you that fear him;

stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;

all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;

neither does he hide his face from them;

but when they cry to him he hears them.

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly;

I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,

and those who seek the LORD shall praise him:

“May your heart love for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD,

and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the LORD;

he rules over the nations.

28 To him alone who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;

all who go down to the dust fall before him.

RESPONSE FOR WEDNESDAY

Psalm 62:6-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

10  Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath,

even those of low estate cannot be trusted.

11  On the scales they are lighter than a breath,

all of them together.

12  Put no trust in extortion;

in robbery take no empty pride;

though wealth increases, set not your heart upon it.

13  God has spoken once, twice have I heard it,

that power belongs to God.

14  Steadfast love is yours, O Lord,

for you repay everyone according to his deeds.

COMPOSITE GOSPEL READING

Luke 14:12-33 (Revised English Bible):

Then he [Jesus] said to his host,

When you are having guests for lunch or supper, do not invite your friends, your brothers or other relations, or your rich neighbours; they will only ask you back again and so you will be repaid.  But when you give a party, ask the poor, the cripples, the lame, and the blind.  That is the way to find happiness, because they have no means of repaying you.  You will be repaid on the day when the righteous rise from the dead.

Hearing this one of the company said to Jesus,

Happy are those who sit at the feast in the kingdom of God!

Jesus answered,

A man was giving a big dinner party and had sent out many invitations.  At dinner-time he sent his servant to tell his guests, “Come please, everything is now ready.”   One after another they all sent excuses. The first said, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go and inspect it; please accept my apologies.”  The second said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them out; please accept my apologies.”  The next said, “I cannot come; I have just got married.”  When the servant came back he reported this to his master.  The master of the house was furious and said to him, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.”  When the servant informed him that his orders had been carried out and there was still room, his master replied, “Go out on the highways and compel them to come in; I want my house full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited shall taste my banquet.”

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

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

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 26:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/week-of-proper-26-monday-year-1/

Week of Proper 26:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/17/week-of-proper-26-tuesday-year-1/

Week of Proper 26:  Wednesday, Year 1:

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

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1.  At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow,

every tongue confess him King of glory now;

’tis the Father’s pleasure we should call him Lord,

who from the beginning was the mighty Word.

2.  Humbled for a season, to receive a name

from the lips of sinners unto whom he came,

faithfully he bore it, spotless to the last,

brought it back victorious when from death he passed.

3.  Bore it up triumphant with its human light,

through the ranks of creatures to the central height,

to the throne of Godhead, to the Father’s breast;

filled it with the glory of that perfect rest.

4.  In your hearts enthrone him; there let him subdue

all that is not holy, all that is not true.

Crown him as your captain in temptation’s hour;

let his will enfold you in its light and power.

–Caroline M. Noel, 1870

Philippians 2:5-11 forms the basis of the great 1870 hymn, “At the Name of Jesus.”  I do not recall ever singing it prior to attending an Episcopal church.  The 1965 Methodist Hymnal and the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal contain the hymn, so it was at least a hypothetical option in the rural United Methodist congregations I attended as a youth.  More importantly, however, this hymn was not in the Cokesbury Worship Hymnal, so I guess that “At the Name of Jesus” did not pass muster for that reason.  Some of the churches I had to attend when young had quite limited knowledge of hymns, restricted mostly to the Cokesbury Worship Hymnal.  At least I am in a better place now.

The words of the glorious hymn speak of the humility of Jesus.  This theme echoes in Philippians 2,  of course.  And, if one reads the composite lesson from Luke 14, one finds Jesus teaching about humility.  True humility is knowing who one is and being comfortable with that.  Love, like humility, does insist on its own way; it is considerate of others and leads to self-sacrifice.

Take up your cross and follow me,

Jesus says.  These words fit nicely with Paul’s description of Jesus in Philippians 2.  (I adore how lectionaries work very well much of the time!)

I notice also the concern for the Philippians in the epistle.  Epaphroditus, when quite ill, was more concerned about the Philippians’ fears for him than about the fact he was seriously ill.  And Paul sought news from that church, saying that the updates would delight him.  Based on these readings, I propose that the first sacrifices we ought to make to God are apathy and anger toward one another, so that we will have only concern for each other.  That would be a wonderful way to live and become a walking billboard for Jesus.

In your hearts enthrone him; let him there subdue

all that is not holy, all that is not true.

Crown him as your captain in temptation’s hour;

let his will enfold you in its light and power.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/at-the-name-of-jesus/

Week of Proper 26: Tuesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  The Reconciliation Statue in the Nave of old Coventry Cathedral, Coventry, England, United Kingdom

Image Source = Rebecca Kennison

This is Really Hard…

NOVEMBER 5, 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 12:1-17a (Revised English Bible):

Therefore, my friends, I implore you by God’s mercy to offer your very selves to him:   a living sacrifice dedicated and fit for his acceptance, the worship offered by mind and heart.  Conform no longer to the pattern of the present world, but be transformed by the renewal of your minds.  Then you will be able to discern the will of God, and to know what is good, acceptable, and perfect.

By authority of the grace God has given me I say to everyone among you:  do not think too highly of yourself , but form a sober estimate on the measure of faith that God has dealt to each of you.  For just as in a single human body there are many limbs and organs, all with different functions, so we who are united with Christ, though many, form one body, and belong to one another as its limbs and organs.

Let us use the different gifts allotted to each of us by God’s grace:  the gift of inspired utterance, for example, let us use in proportion to our faith; the gift of administration to administer, the gift of teaching to teach, the gift of counselling to counsel.  If you give to charity, give without grudging; if you are a leader, lead with enthusiasm; if you help others in distress, do it cheerfully.

Love in all sincerity , loathing evil and holding fast to the good.  Let love of the Christian community show itself in mutual affection.  Esteem others more highly than yourself.

With unflagging zeal, aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.  Let hope keep you joyful; in trouble stand firm; persist in prayer; contribute to the needs of God’s people, and practise hospitality.  Call down blessings on your persecutors–blessings not curses.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in agreement with one another.  Do not be proud, but be ready to mix with humble people.  Do not keep thinking how wise you are.

Never pay back evil for evil.

Psalm 131 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

O LORD, I am not proud;

I have no haughty looks.

I do not occupy myself with great matters,

or with things that are too hard for me.

But I still my soul and make it quiet,

like a child upon its mother’s breast;

my soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, wait upon the LORD,

from this time forth for evermore.

Luke 14:15-24 (Revised English Bible):

(Still at the great dinner party at which Jesus was teaching…)

Hearing this one of the company said to Jesus,

Happy are those who sit at the feast in the kingdom of God!

Jesus answered,

A man was giving a big dinner party and had sent out many invitations.  At dinner-time he sent his servant to tell his guests, “Come please, everything is now ready.”   One after another they all sent excuses. The first said, “I have bought a piece of land, and I must go and inspect it; please accept my apologies.”  The second said, “I have bought five yoke of oxen, and I am on my way to try them out; please accept my apologies.”  The next said, “I cannot come; I have just got married.”  When the servant came back he reported this to his master.  The master of the house was furious and said to him, “Go out quickly into the streets and alleys of the town, and bring in the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.”  When the servant informed him that his orders had been carried out and there was still room, his master replied, “Go out on the highways and compel them to come in; I want my house full. I tell you, not one of those who were invited shall taste my banquet.”

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The reading from Luke flows nicely from what precedes it.  And what precedes it?  Follow this link:  https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/16/week-of-proper-26-monday-year-1/.  As for the rest concerning that teaching, I refer you, O reader, to the links I have posted above.

The passage that draws my attention is that from Romans.  The lectionary specifies Romans 12:1-16, but I have extended it by a half-verse, for how could I exclude 17a?  “Never pay back evil for evil,” it reads.  Try preaching that and count the seconds until someone accuses you of being soft on defense, terrorists, et cetera.  But, as Paul wrote, we ought not to be conformed to the pattern of this world any longer.  So what is still wrong with us, that we find excuses not to practice the Golden Rule and seek the best for each other, that we justify economic and other forms of injustice, and seek ways to legitimate discrimination?  Why do we not recognize and draw out the gifts each has to enrich and ennoble the whole?

The answer is quite simple, and in more than one part:

  1. The current pattern of the world benefits many of us.
  2. We do not want to surrender our ill-gotten gains.
  3. We have accepted the prejudices of those around us.
  4. We are quite sinful.
  5. We are very weak.

One piece of Pauline advice stands out in my mind.

Call down blessings on your persecutors–blessings, not curses.  (12:14)

I had a persecutor (some would say a prosecutor) on my back once.  It was an unjust charge–one dropped, fortunately.  Yet that persecutor (prosecutor, some would say) put me through four months of emotional hell on earth first.  Did I call down blessings, not curses, on him.  What do you think?  Do I call down curses on him now?  No.  Do I call down blessings on him now?  No.

The gospel points out many of my shortcomings, and I struggle with them.  This struggle does indicate something positive, though, for I might not recognize my sin.  If I struggle with it, at least I acknowledge its existence.  It is not a perfect or ideal state, but it is better than embracing it.  On the other hand, I should not have a struggle, for the sin should not exist in the first place.  But this is where I am now.  It is a better place than where I have been, and, by grace, an even better spiritual state awaits me.

So, O reader, here is my challenge for you:    Read the advice in Romans 12:1-17a and seek your own shortcomings.  Then take them to Jesus and seek his help in winning the struggle with them.  We need not be perfect; indeed, our Lord knows that we will stumble often.  We do need, however, to go to him, and to keep going back.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/this-is-really-hard/

Proper 3, Year A   10 comments

Above:  The Sermon on the Mount, from Ortesei, Italy

Worries, Arguments, and Struggles

The Sunday Closest to May 25

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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Isaiah 49:8-16a (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD:

In a time of favor I have answered you,

on a day of salvation I have helped you;

I have kept you and given you

as a covenant to the people,

to establish the land,

to apportion the desolate heritages;

saying to the prisoners,

Come out,

to those who are in darkness,

Show yourselves.

They shall feed along the ways,

on all the bare heights shall be their pasture;

they shall not hunger or thirst,

neither scorching wind nor sun shall strike them down,

for he who has pity on them will lead them,

and by springs of water will guide them.

And I will turn all my mountains into a road,

and my highways shall be raised up.

Lo, these shall come from far away,

and lo, these from the north and from the west,

and these from the land of Syene.

Sing for joy, O heavens and exult, O earth;

break forth, O mountains, into singing!

For the Lord has comforted his people,

and will have compassion on his suffering ones.

But Zion said,

The LORD has forsaken me,

my Lord has forgotten me.

Can a woman forget her nursing child,

or show no compassion for the child of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.

See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.

Psalm 131 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 O LORD, I am not proud;

I have no haughty looks.

2 I do not occupy myself with great matters,

or with things that are too hard for me.

3 But I still my soul and make it quiet,

like a child upon its mother’s breast;

my soul is quieted within me.

4 O Israel, wait upon the LORD,

from this time forth for evermore.

1 Corinthians 4:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries.  Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy.  But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court.  I do not even judge myself.  I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted.  It is the Lord who judges me.  Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart.  Then each one will receive commendation from God.

Matthew 6:24-34 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Jesus continued,]

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

Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear.  Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?  Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them.  Are you not of more value than they?  And can any of you by worrying add a single hour to your span of life?  And why do you worry about clothing?  Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these.  But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you–you of little faith?  Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?” or ‘What will we drink” or ‘What will we wear?’  For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.  But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own.  Today’s trouble is enough for today.

The Collect:

Grant, O Lord, that the course of this world may be peaceably governed by your providence; and that your Church may joyfully serve you in confidence and serenity; 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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As verily as God is our Father, so verily God is our Mother; and that shewed He in all, and especially these sweet words where He saith:  “I it am.  It I.  That is to say, I it am, the Might and Goodness of the Fatherhood; I it am, the Wisdom of Motherhood; I it am, the Light and Grace that is all blessed Love; I it am, the Trinity.  I it am, the Unity:  I am the sovereign Goodness in all manner of things.  I am that Maketh thee to love:  I am that maketh thee to long:  I it am, the endless fulfilling of all true desires.”

–From Chapter LIX of Revelations of Divine Love, by Dame Julian of Norwich (lived circa 1342-circa 1413)

I know better than to worry.  Yet I do it anyway.  Worrying accomplishes nothing productive.  It is better to plot and attempt strategies for solving one’s problems than to sit around and fret.  Yet I worry from time to time.

When I do this, I do not trust in God.  And to trust in God is to believe in God, as I use the word “believe,” as in whether one believes in God.  “Creed” comes from the Greek word for “trust.”  So the Apostles’ Creed should begin, “I trust…” and the Nicene Creed ought to start with, “We trust….”  As long as I have been conscious of religion, I have accepted intellectually the proposition that God exists.  But I believe in God only when I trust God.  And I need to believe more often than I do.

A few years ago I heard a radio interview with biologist Robert M. Sapolsky, author of Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers.   He pointed out that, from time to time, predators threaten zebras, so the striped creatures are at risk.  But the peril is over very shortly.  Either the zebra lives or dies, but the animal does not dwell on possible worst-case scenarios.  That is why zebras don’t get ulcers.  But we humans do worry, and we do get ulcers.  We do it to ourselves.

Let us return to Chapter LIX of Revelations of Divine Love, in which Dame Julian of Norwich writes of God, who possesses characteristics we think of as paternal, as well as those we categorize as maternal:

Our high Father, God Almighty, which is Being, He knew and loved us from afore any time:  of which knowing, in His marvellous deep charity and foreseeing counsel of all the blessed Trinity, He willed that the Second Person become our Mother.  Our Father willeth, our Mother worketh, our good Lord the Holy Ghost comfirmeth: and therefore it belongeth to us to love our God in whom we have our being:  Him reverently thanking and praising for our making, mightily praying to our Mother for mercy and pity, and to our Lord the Holy Ghost for help and grace.

For in these three is all our life:  Nature, Mercy, Grace:  whereof we have meekness and mildness; patience and joy; and hating of sin and of wickedness,–for it belongeth properly to virtue to hate sin and wickedness.  And thus is Jesus our Very Mother in Nature by virtue of our first making; and He is our Very Mother in Grace, by taking our nature made.  All the fair working, and all the sweet office of dearworthy Motherhood is inpropriated to the Second Person:  for in Him we have this Godly Will whole and safe without end, both in Nature and in Grace, of His own proper Goodness.  I understood three manners of beholding Motherhood in God:  the first is grounded in our Nature’s making; the second is taking our nature,–and there beginneth the Motherhood of Grace; the third is Motherhood of working,–and therein is a forthspreading by the same Grace, of length and breadth and height and of deepness without end.  And all is one Love.

None of this means, of course, that our lives in God will be spiritual easy street.  Study the lives of the saints; many of them are martyrs, and many more suffered for the faith but did not die for it.  And think about Jeusus, and what authorities did to him.  Today’s Gospel reading comes from the Sermon on the Mount.  So does this, which is Matthew 5:10-12:

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.  Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for int he same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

So risk comes with the walk of Christian faith, too.  The details vary according to where one is and when one is there.

The reading from Matthew 6 does raise an obvious question, though, does it not?  Why are so many people poorly clothed and/or fed and/or housed?  True, some individuals will make very bad decisions, such as drug use, and wind up on the street.  But many people are born in situations where opportunities to advance themselves are lacking and basic necessities are scarce.  What good is it to have dreams and the willingness to work hard to pursue them but not to have any opportunity to follow through?  This is the reality many of our fellow human beings face daily.  These situations are of human creation, so people in power can change them.  Nevertheless, I consider these realities and detect a disconnect between them and the reading from Matthew 6.  God is very much on the hook for this one, at least with me.

If I were a dualistic Zoroastrian, I could let God (er, Ahura Mazda) off the hook by blaming the evil one (Ahriman) for such matters.  But I am a Monotheist, and so I face the theological problem of God and suffering:  If God is all-powerful, then God is responsible for everything good and everything bad.

And I ponder my daily life and detect many ways I am more fortunate than many of my fellow mortals.  Let us consider some mundane blessings:  I sleep under a good roof each night.  My car takes me from Point A to Point B.  I have indoor plumbing, and can drink the water safely.  And I always know where I will find my next meal.  Why can’t more people make these statements honestly?  God is on the hook in this matter, at least with me.

Nevertheless, I write honestly that I trust in God.  We argue from time to time, but this is consistent with the Bible, especially the Old Testament.  My favorite aspect of Judaism is that it makes room to argue and struggle with God.  And God, who is parental in both maternal and paternal ways, cannot forget us and does not cease to care about us.  The arguments and struggles, handled correctly, only deepen the relationship.  That is a grace.

Thanks be to God!

KRT