Archive for the ‘Psalm 139’ Tag

Week of Proper 22: Monday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 22: Tuesday, Year 2   20 comments

Above:  An Entrance to a Gated Community

Image Source = Pixeltoo

The Universality of the Gospel of Jesus

OCTOBER 3 AND 4, 2022

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

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Sometimes lectionaries, the useful tools that they are, chop up material too much.  The readings for Monday and Tuesday in the Week of Proper 22, Year 1, on the Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following, provide examples to support this generalization.

KRT

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COMBINED READING FOR MONDAY AND TUESDAY

Galatians 1:1-24 (Revised English Bible):

From Paul, an apostle commissioned not by any human authority or human act, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father who raised him from the dead.  I and all the friends now with me send greetings to the churches of Galatia.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ, who gave himself for our sins, to rescue us out of the present wicked age as our God and Father willed; to him be glory for ever and ever!  Amen.

I am astonished to find you turning away so quickly from him who called you by grace, and following a different gospel; only there are some who unsettle your minds by trying to distort the gospel of Christ.  But should anyone, even I myself or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel of Christ.  But should anyone, even I myself or an angel from heaven, preach a gospel other than the gospel I preached to you, let him be banned!  I warned you in the past and now I warn you again:  if anyone preaches a gospel other than the gospel you received, let him be banned!

Now do I  sound as if I were asking for human approval and not for God’s alone?  Am I currying favour with men?  If I were still seeking human favour, I should be no servant of Christ.

I must make it clear to you, my friends, that the gospel you heard me preach is not of human origin.  I did not take it over from anyone; no one taught it me; I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.

You have heard what my manner of life was when I was still a practising Jew:  how savagely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it; and how in the practice of our national religion I outstripped most of my Jewish contemporaries by my boundless devotion to the traditions of my ancestors.  But then in his good pleasure God, who from my birth had set me apart, and who had called me through his grace, chose to reveal his Son in and through me, in order that I might proclaim him among the Gentiles.  Immediately, without consulting a single person, without going up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before me, I went off to Arabia, and afterwards returned to Damascus.

Three years later I did go up to Jerusalem to get to know Cephas, and I stayed two weeks with him.  I saw none of the other apostles, except James, the Lord’s brother.  What I write is plain truth; God knows I am not lying!

Then I left for the regions of Syria and Cilicia.  I was still unknown by sight to the Christian congregations in Judaea; they had simply heard it said,

Our former persecutor is preaching the good news  of the faith which once he tried to destroy,

and they praised God for what had happened to me.

RESPONSE FOR MONDAY

Psalm 111:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

RESPONSE FOR TUESDAY

Psalm 139:1-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

10 If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,

and the light around me turn to night,”

11 Darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day;

darkness and light to you are both alike.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made;

your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you,

while I was being made in secret

and woven in the depths of the earth.

COMBINED GOSPEL READING FOR MONDAY AND TUESDAY

Luke 10:25-42 (The Jerusalem Bible):

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert him [Jesus], stood up and said to him,

Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life.

He said to him,

What is written in the Law”  What do you read there?

He replied,

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus said,

You have answered right; do this and life is yours.

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus,

And who is my neighbor?

Jesus replied,

A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead.  Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side.  But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him.  He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them.  He then lifted him on to his mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him.  Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper.  ”Look after him,” he said, “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.”

[Jesus continued,]

Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?

He replied,

The one who took pity on him.

Jesus said to him,

Go, and do the same yourself.

In the course of their journey he came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking.  Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said,

Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself?  Please tell her to help me.

But the Lord answered:

Martha, Martha,

he said,

you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one.  It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; 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 22:  Monday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-1/

Week of Proper 22:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-1/

The Feast of Saints Mary and Martha of Bethany, Friends of Jesus (July 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-sts-mary-and-martha-of-bethany-friends-of-jesus-july-29/

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There exists uncertainty as to whether St. Paul wrote the Letter to the Galatians to churches in a region called Galatia (perhaps 49 or 50 C.E.) or to ethnic Galatians, whom he had visited during his second and third missionary journeys, which would date the epistle to circa 55 C.E.  This is a matter for scholars to debate, and it has no bearing on my devotional use of the letter.

What matters is this:  Paul had visited these congregations then moved along.  And Jewish Christians who insisted that Gentiles must follow the Law of Moses–down to males undergoing circumcision–came after Paul and created confusion.  Paul then wrote this epistle, in which he labeled these other teachings

another gospel (1:7).

Those who teach that false gospel, he wrote, should be

banned (1:9),

for Paul understood his gospel as being of divine origin (1:12).  This message came from a man who had been a zealous persecutor of the nascent Jesus movement and a meticulous keeper of the Law of Moses (1:13-15).  But now he was a missionary to the Gentiles (1:16).

Comparing translations helps me understand a text more clearly.  Certainly any text loses something in translation; the Bible is no exception.  Yet consulting a series of versions does reveal a variety of meanings present in the original text.  And some renderings are more lively than others.  One of the better versions is the J. B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English (1972 revision), which refers to the other gospel as

a travesty of the gospel of Christ (1:7).

Indeed, as a Gentile, raised in a faith tradition which draws heavily from Paul’s influence, I am grateful that he won this argument.  Paul was correct; to insist upon imposing the old ways on Gentile believers is a travesty.  It would also have transformed Christianity into a perpetually small and marginal sect.

Challenging old ideas is a theme we find also in Luke 10.  I refer you, O reader, to the links I have provided, for I have covered that material already.  Yet, without repeating myself too much, I can say this:  Samaritans were despised heretics and women were subordinate to men in that society.  Yet Jesus told a story about a compassionate Samaritan and some religious figures who did not help a man in need.  And our Lord welcomed a female disciple.

Faith groups ought not to be gated communities.  Jews, Gentiles, men, women–all can hear the gospel Paul proclaimed.  Galatians is a glorious and justly quoted work, one which we begin to explore with this post.  For now, I offer this take-away message:  May we not, even out of piety, erect obstacles in the paths of those whom God has called.  The gospel of Jesus Christ is universal, so may we refrain from resisting that fact.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/the-universality-of-the-gospel-of-jesus/

Week of Proper 21: Friday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 21: Saturday, Year 2   12 comments

Above:  The Sacred Name “YHWH” in Stained Glass

Unanswered Questions

SEPTEMBER 30, 2022

OCTOBER 1, 2022

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

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FIRST READINGS FOR FRIDAY

Job 38:1, 12-21 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

Then the LORD replied to Job out of the tempest and said:

Have you ever commanded the day to break,

Assigned the dawn its place,

So that it seizes the corners of the earth

And shakes the wicked out of it?

It changes like clay under the seal

Till [its hues] are fixed like those of a garment.

Their light is withheld from the wicked,

And the upraised arm is broken.

Have you penetrated to the sources of the sea,

Or walked in the recesses of the deep?

Have the gates of death been disclosed to you?

Have you seen the gates of the deep darkness?

Have you surveyed the expanses of the earth?

If you know of these–tell Me.

Which path leads to where light dwells,

And where is the place of darkness,

That you may take it to its domain

And know the the way to its home?

Surely you know, for you were born then,

And the number of your years is many!

Job 40:1-5 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The LORD said in reply to Job:

Shall one who should be disciplined complain against Shaddai?

He who arraigns God must respond.

Job said in reply to the LORD:

See, I am of  small worth; what can I answer You?

I clap my hand to my mouth.

I have spoken once, and will not reply;

Twice, and will do so no more.

FIRST READING FOR SATURDAY

Job 42:1-6, 12-17 (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.

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.

RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 139:1-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

10 If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,

and the light around me turn to night,”

11 Darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day;

darkness and light to you are both alike.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made;

your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you,

while I was being made in secret

and woven in the depths of the earth.

15 Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;

all of them were written in your book;

they were fashioned day by day,

when as yet there was none of them.

16 How deep I find your thoughts, O God!

how great is the sum of them!

17 If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand;

to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

RESPONSE FOR SATURDAY

Psalm 119:169-176 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

169  Let my cry come before you, O LORD;

give me understanding, according to your word.

170  Let my supplication come before you;

deliver me, according to your promise.

171  My lips shall pour forth your praise,

when you teach me your statutes.

172  My tongue shall sing of your promise,

for all your commandments are righteous.

173  Let your hand be ready to help me,

for I have chosen your commandments.

174  I long for your salvation, O LORD,

and your law is my delight.

175  Let me live, and I will praise you,

and let your judgments help me.

176  I have gone astray like a sheep that is lost;

search for your servant,

for I do not forget your commandments.

GOSPEL READING FOR FRIDAY

Luke 10:13-16 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you, Chorazin!  Alas for you, Bethsaida!  For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  And still, it will not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon at the Judgement as with you.  And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high in heaven?  You shall be thrown down to hell.

Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.

GOSPEL READING FOR SATURDAY

Luke 10:17-24 (The Jerusalem Bible):

The seventy-two came back rejoicing.

Lord,

they said,

even the devils submit to us when we use your name.

He said to them,

I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you.  Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.

It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said,

I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.  Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.  Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private,

Happy are the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.

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The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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:

Job 38:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/proper-7-year-b/

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/god-does-not-fit-into-any-theological-box/

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/proper-7-year-b/

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Much of the material in the Book of Job is repetitive.  Bildad, Eliphaz, and Zophar repeat themselves and each other:  God is just, and therefore does not punish the innocent.  So Job must have done something wrong to bring these sufferings on himself.  And Job continues to protest that he is innocent.  Then Elihu comes out of nowhere, rehashes old theodicies for a few chapters, and goes away.  Finally, in Chapters 38-42, God speaks.  To be precise, God asks Job a series of rhetorical questions, after which Job admits that he is out of his depth.  He has spoken out of his ignorance, not his knowledge.  Then God accuses the three alleged friends of having spoken falsely.  And God restores Job’s fortunes and multiplies them.

We are left with unanswered questions, a state which summarizes the faith journeys of many people.  I do not find the conclusion of the Book of Job satisfying, for I assert that Job deserved an honest answer to his legitimate complaint.  Yet I neither reject God nor deny the reality of my doubts.  Rather, I incorporate these doubts into my faith life.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/27/unanswered-questions/

Week of Proper 18: Thursday, Friday, and Saturday, Year 2   19 comments

Above:  The Communion of Saints

Role Models

SEPTEMBER 8-10, 2022

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

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FIRST READING FOR THURSDAY

1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now about food sacrificed to idols:

We all have knowledge;

yes, that is so, but knowledge gives self-importance–it is love that makes the building grow.  A man may imagine he understands something, but still not understand anything in the way he ought to.  But any man who loves God is known by him.  Well then, about eating food sacrificed to idols:  we know that idols do not really exist in the world and that there is no god but the One.  And even if there were things called gods, either in the sky or on earth–where there certainly seem to be ‘gods’ and ‘lords’ in plenty–still for us there is one God, the Father, from whom all things come and for whom we exist; and there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things come and through whom we exist.

Some people, however, do not have this knowledge.  There are some who have been so long used to idols that they eat this food as though it really had been sacrificed to the idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled by it.  Food, of course, cannot bring us in touch with God:  we lose nothing if we refuse to eat, we gain nothing if we eat.  Only be careful that you do not make use of this freedom in a way that proves a pitfall for the weak.  Suppose someone sees you, a man who understands, eating in some temple to an idol; his own conscience, even if it is week, may encourage him to eat food which has been offered to idols.  In this way your knowledge could become the ruin of someone weak, of a brother for whom Christ died.  By sinning in this way against your brothers, and injuring their weak consciences, it would be Christ against whom you sinned.  That is why, since food can be the occasion of my brother’s downfall, I shall never eat meat again in case I am the cause of a brother’s downfall.

FIRST READING FOR FRIDAY

1 Corinthians 9:16-27 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Not that I boast of preaching the gospel, since it is a duty which has been laid on me; I should be punished if I did not preach it!  If I had chosen this work myself, I might have been paid for it, but as I have not, it is a responsibility which has been put into my hands.  Do you know what my reward is?  It is this:  in my preaching, to be able to offer the Good News free, and not insist on the rights which the gospel gives me.

So though I am not a slave of any man I have made myself the slave of everyone so as to win as many as I could.  I made myself a Jew to the Jews, to win the Jews; that is, I who am not a subject of the Law made myself subject to the Law.  To those who have no Law, I was free of the Law myself (though not free from God’s Law, being under the Law of Christ) to win those who have no Law.  For the weak I made myself weak.  I made myself all things to all men in order to save some at any cost; and I still do this, for the sake of the gospel, to have a share in its blessings.

All the runners at the stadium are trying to win, but only one of them gets the prize.  You must run in the same way, meaning to win.  All the fighters at the games go into strict training; they do this just to win a wreath which will wither away, but we do it for a wreath that will never wither.  That is how I run, intent on winning; that is how I fight, not beating the air.  I treat my body hard and make it obey me, for, having been an announcer myself, I should not want to be disqualified.

FIRST READING FOR SATURDAY

1 Corinthians 10:14-32 (The Jerusalem Bible):

This is the reason, my dear brothers, why you must keep clear of idolatry.  I say to you as sensible people:  judge for yourselves what I am saying.  The blessing-cup that we bless is a communion with the blood of Christ, and the bread that we break is a communion with the blood of Christ.  The fact that there is only one loaf means that we all have a share in this one loaf.  Look at the other Israel, the race, where those who eat the sacrifices are in communion with the altar.  Does this mean that the food sacrificed to idols has a real value, or that the idol itself is real?  Not at all.  It simply means that the sacrifices they offer they sacrifice to demons who are not God.  I have no desire to see you in communion with demons.  You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons.  You cannot take your share at the table of the Lord and at the table of demons.  Do we want to make the Lord angry; are we stronger than he is?

For me there are no forbidden things,

but not everything does good.  True, there are no forbidden things, but it is not everything that helps the building to grow.  Nobody should be looking for his own advantage, but everybody for the other man’s.  Do not hesitate to eat anything that is sold in butchers’ shops:  there is no need to raise questions of conscience; for the earth and everything that is in it belong to the Lord.  If an unbeliever invites you to his house, go if you want to, and eat whatever is put in front of you, without asking questions just to satisfy conscience.  But if someone says to you,

This food was offered in sacrifice,

then, out of consideration for the man that told you, you should not eat it, for the sake of his scruples; his scruples, you see, not your own.  Why should my freedom depend on somebody else’s conscience?  If I take my share with thankfulness, why should I be blamed for food for which I have thanked God?

Whatever you eat, whatever you drink, whatever you do at all, do it all for the glory of God.  Never do anything offensive to anyone–to Jews or Greeks or to the Church of God….

RESPONSE FOR THURSDAY

Psalm 139:1-19, 22, 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

22 Search me out, O God, and know my heart;

try me and know my restless thoughts.

23 Look well whether there be any wickedness in me

and lead me in the way that is everlasting.

RESPONSE FOR FRIDAY

Psalm 84 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house

and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;

by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

3 Happy are they who dwell in your house!

they will always be praising you.

4 Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

5 Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs,

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

6 They will climb from height to height,

and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

hearken, O God of Jacob.

8 Behold our defender, O God;

and look upon the face of your Anointed.

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,

and to stand in the threshold of the house of my God

than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

10 For the LORD is both sun and shield;

he will give grace and glory;

11 No good thing will the LORD withhold

from those who walk with integrity.

12 O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!

RESPONSE FOR SATURDAY

Psalm 116:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Hallelujah!

GOSPEL READING FOR THURSDAY

Luke 6:27-38 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But I say this to you who are listening:  Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you badly.  To the man who slaps you on one cheek, present the other cheek too; to the man who takes your cloak from you, do not refuse your tunic.  Give to everyone who asks you, and do not ask for your property back from the man who robs you.  Treat others as you would like them to treat you.  If you love those who love you, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what thanks can you expect?  For even sinners do that much.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what thanks can you expect?  Even sinners lend to sinners to get back the same amount.  Instead, love your enemies and do good, and lend without any hope of return.  You will have a great reward, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.

Be compassionate as your Father is compassionate.  Do not judge, and you will not be judged yourselves; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned yourselves; grant pardon, and you will be pardoned.  Give, and there will be gifts for you:  a full measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over, will be poured into your lap; because the amount you measure out is the amount you will be given back.

GOSPEL READING FOR FRIDAY:

Luke 6:39-42 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] also told a parable to them,

Can one blind man guide another?  Surely both will fall into a pit?  The disciple is not superior to this teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you cannot see the plank in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.

RESPONSE FOR SATURDAY

Luke 6:43-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit.  For every tree can be told by its own fruit; people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles.  A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness.  For a man’s words from what fills his heart.

Why do you call me, ‘Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say?

Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them–I will show you what he is like.  He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house  but could not shake it, it was so well built.  But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations:  as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!

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The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; 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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Once, when I was a youth, there was a famous basketball player who recorded a television spot in which he proclaimed that he was not a role model.  I understand his main point, for the fact that one is a talented and recognized athlete ought not to cause others (often young people) to look up to and emulate one.  There is a difference between heroism and athletic prowess.  Parents and/or guardians ought to instill good values in children, and there are plenty of excellent people (living and dead) who are excellent role models.  As a Christian, I look to Jesus of Nazareth.  As an amateur hagiographer, I point to the saints when I seek good examples from mere mortals.

Life in community requires us to accommodate each other.  So, if something otherwise harmless we do harms another person spiritually, we need (within reason, of course) to refrain from such behaviors.  I say “within reason” because anything any of us does might offend or confuse someone else spiritually.  So the principle, applied without reason, leads to us doing nothing.

Each of us is a role model, even if we do not want to be one.  So may we be the best role models we can be.  May we love our enemies, denying them any excuse for hating us.  May we live compassionately, performing as many good deeds as possible and forgiving others.  And may we avoid hypocrisy–all by the grace of God, of course.

God is watching, of course, and that fact matters very much.  And our fellow mere mortals are also watching.  What kind of messages are we sending to them via our deeds, words, and attitudes?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/role-models/

Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, Martyr (August 29)   3 comments

Above: The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, by Caravaggio, 1608

St. John the Baptist:  Forerunner of Jesus in Death

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The Assigned Readings for This Feast:

1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Psalm 139:7-12

Mark 6:17-29

The Collect:

God our Father, you called John the Baptist to be the herald of your Son’s birth and death.  As he gave his life in witness to truth and justice, so may we strive to profess our faith in your gospel.  Grant this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son.  Amen.

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Herod Antipas was a client ruler of the Roman Empire.  He governed the Galilee from 4 B.C.E. to 40 C.E., following the death of his grandfather, King Herod the Great.  Herod Antipas had entered into an incestuous marriage by wedding Herodias, the niece of his late half-brother, Alexander, and former wife of his brother, Philip Herod I.  The scene from the Gospel story is disturbing:  Herod Antipas leering at Salome, at the daughter of his new wife.  From this flowed a series of events which culminated in the beheading of St. John the Baptist.

Salome married her uncle, Philip Herod II.  After he died in 34 C.E., she wed Aristobolus of Chalcis, a son of Herod of Chalcis, another one of her uncles.  Aristobolus was the Roman client king of Armenia Minor from 55 to 72 C.E.  He ordered the minting of coins bearing Salome’s image.  An image follows:

St. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus.  He identified our Lord as the Messiah and prepared the way for him.  And St. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus in dying.  The literary term for all this is foreshadowing.  Remember that before the authors of the canonical gospels began to write they knew how the story ended.  Thus each wrote with a thesis in mind and selected details to mention within that context.

Another point comes to mind.  Often the world seems unfair.  Why do the righteous suffer and the unrighteous prosper?  Why did St. John the Baptist suffer and the members of the Herodian dynasty enjoy relatively prominent status, having the power to order executions?  I am not here to answer such questions, for I seek them, too.  But I know that we recall the names of of Herod Antipas, Herodias, and Salome in the context of St. John the Baptist, and that we praise the latter while condemning the former.  Perhaps there is a measure of justice in that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2010

THE THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

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Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Proper 4, Year B   21 comments

Above:  Corn

Regarding the Sabbath

The Sunday Closest to June 1

The Second Sunday after Pentecost

JUNE 3, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

1 Samuel 3:1-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli.  The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.  Then the LORD called,

Samuel, Samuel!

and he said,

Here I am!

and ran to Eli, and said,

Here I am, for you called me.

But he said,

I did not call, my son; lie down again.

Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.  The LORD called Samuel again, a third time.  And he got up and went to Eli, and said,

Here I am, for you called me.

Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy.  Therefore, Eli said to Samuel,

Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before,

Samuel! Samuel!

And Samuel said,

Speak, for your servant is listening.

Then the LORD said to Samuel,

See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears of it tingle.  On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.  For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restraint them.  Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.

Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD.  Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.  But Eli called Samuel and said,

Samuel, my son.

He said,

Here I am.

Eli said,

What was it that he told you?  Do not hide it from me.  May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.

So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him.  Then he said,

It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.

As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.  And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.  The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.

Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made;

your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you,

while I was being made in secret

and woven in the depths of the earth.

15 Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;

all of them were written in your book;

they were fashioned day by day,

when as yet there was none of them.

16 How deep I find your thoughts, O God!

how great is the sum of them!

17 If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand;

to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Deuteronomy 5:12-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Observe the sabbath day and keep it holy, as the LORD your God commanded you.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work–you, or your son or your daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or your donkey, or any of your livestock, or the resident alien in your towns, so that your male and female slave may rest as well as you.  Remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the LORD your God brought you out from there with a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; therefore the LORD your God commanded you to keep the sabbath day.

Psalm 81:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing with joy to God our strength

and raise a loud shout to the God of Jacob.

2 Raise a song and sound the timbrel,

the merry harp, and the lyre.

Blow the ram’s-horn at the new moon,

and at the full moon, the day of our fast.

For this is a statute for Israel,

a law of the God of Jacob.

He laid it as a solemn charge upon Joseph,

when he came out of the land of Egypt.

6 I heard an unfamiliar voice saying,

“I eased his shoulder from the burden;

his hands were set free from bearing the load.”

7 You called on me in trouble, and I saved you;

I answered you from the secret place of thunder

and tested you at the waters of Meribah.

8 Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you:

O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

There shall be no strange god among you;

you shall not worship a foreign god.

10 I am the LORD your God,

who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said,

“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

SECOND READING

2 Corinthians 4:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake.  For it is God who said,

Let light shine out of darkness,

who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in theface of Jesus Christ.

But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.  We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies.  For while we live, we are always being given up to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus may be made visible in our mortal flesh.  So death is at work in us, but life in you.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 2:23-3:6 (New Revised Standard Version):

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  The Pharisees said to him,

Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?

And he said to them,

Have you never read what David did when he and his companions were hungry and in need of food?    He entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest; and ate the bread of the Presence, which is not lawful for any but priests to eat, and he gave some to his companions.

Then he said to them,

The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath.

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.  They watched him to see whether he would cure him on the sabbath, so that they might accuse him.  And he said to the man who had the withered hand,

Come forward.

Then he said to them,

Is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to kill?

But they were silent.  He looked around at them with anger; he was grieved at their hardness of heart and said to the man,

Stretch out your hand.

He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out and immediately conspired with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

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:

Proper 4, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

1 Samuel 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/07/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

Exodus 29 (Parallel to Deuteronomy 5):

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

2 Corinthians 3:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/week-of-proper-5-wednesday-year-1/

Mark 2-3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/week-of-2-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

Matthew 12 (Parallel to Mark 2-3):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/29/week-of-proper-10-friday-year-1/

Luke 6 (Parallel to Mark 2-3):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/week-of-proper-17-saturday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/week-of-proper-18-monday-year-1/

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Lectionaries cycle around and overlap.  I have written a large number of lectionary-based posts to date.  In so doing I have already said what I want to say regarding the sabbath theme of the readings.  Therefore I reproduce two devotions, both based on the reading from Mark.  Links to the original posts are above.

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The Pharisees (most, not all of them) are among the bete noires of the canonical Gospels.  These very publicly pious people criticize Jesus, his Apostles, and even some people he healed again and again.  In all likelihood these critics did what they understood righteousness to require of them.  I prefer to extend to them the benefit of the doubt; they were wrong, but sincerely so.  They did not wake up each morning and plot how to be difficult spiritually, although much of what they did and the Gospels report to us constituted such.

Indeed, I think that we need to check ourselves for signs of being contemporary counterparts of the Pharisees.  Christian denominations have built up traditions over thousands and hundreds of years.  Many of these are functional and constructive, even beautiful.  Yet even something useful and beautiful can become an idol, if we transform it into that.  And ossification of tradition can occur easily, rendering us inflexible in the habits of our minds.  The stories of Jesus teach us many valuable lessons, including the importance of avoiding such ossification.

Consider this day’s reading from Mark.  Jesus and his Apostles violated many sabbath laws observant Pharisees kept.  There were many arcane sabbath laws, which split hairs more finely than any Philadelphia lawyer.  Taken together, the sabbath laws permitted preventing an emergency situation from getting worse yet forbade making it better.  For example, one could apply a plain bandage but not ointment to an injured finger on the sabbath.  So you should not be surprised to learn that plucking and eating corn was illegal on the sabbath.  Doing so remedied hunger, but that meant making something better.

This is a twisted way to think about the sabbath, is it not?  It transforms the sabbath, which is supposed to a gift and a marker of freedom (slaves did not get days off) into a burden and something to manage with the help of a very long checklist of forbidden activities.  Puritans did it too, and many observant self-professing Christians and Jews continue to treat the sabbath in this way.  We should not neglect the sabbath, of course, but we ought not treat it like a burden and an occasion of legalism, either.

Back to our story….

Jesus reminded his critics of scriptural precedents for what he had done.  In 1 Samuel 21:1-6, Exodus 25:23-30, and Leviticus 24:9 we find the relevant information about David and the showbread.  Mentioning David, the revered king, was powerful rhetorical tool, although it certainly did not impress hyper-critical Pharisees.  It did, however, point out the hypocrisy of Jesus’ critics, who were not the intended audience for the Gospel According to Mark.  So the comment finds its target even today, at least some of the time.  I wonder, though, how often well-intentioned Christians miss the power of this story, perhaps more out of a “I know that story already” attitude, if nothing else.

William Barclay, in his insightful commentary on the Gospel reading, points out that “Religion does not consist in rules and regulations” and “The best way to use sacred things is to use them for men.”  In other words, it is sinful to refuse to apply religious laws to prevent starving and very hungry people from eating–sabbath or not.  This principle applies to physical realities beyond hunger; it pertains to helping people with whatever distresses them.  Barclay concludes his section of the reading from Mark with this sentence:  “The final arbiter in the use of all things is love and not law.”

I could not have said it better.

We have a loving God and Lord.  The works of God are marvelous and utterly spectacular.  And Jesus became not only our priest but our passover lamb.  That demonstrates love, does it not?  So we ought to display love, as well, and not hide behind laws which reinforce self-righteousness and make excuses for oppressing people and not helping them.   We have a mandate from God to care for others and to love them as we love ourselves.  God has commanded us to care for the vulnerable among us.  We might make excuses for why we fail to do this, but that does not erase our sin in the eyes of God.

One of my favorite deceased people was the actor Andreas Katsulas (1946-2006).  He played the one-armed man in the film version of The Fugitive.  He also portrayed Commander Tomalok on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Ambassador G’Kar on Babylon 5.  Katsulas was a practicing Greek Orthodox and an excellent chef.  Part of his Sunday ritual involved cooking meals for homeless people.  This would have violated the Pharisees’ sabbath codes, but it did demonstrate love.

May we compete with one another in demonstrating love for our fellow human beings everyday of the week.  Let us lay aside tendencies toward one upsmanship, self-righteousness, and public displays of piety meant to make us look good.  May we listen to one another more and more often, and shout at each other less and less often.  May we love one another in attitudes, words, and deeds.  May that be our law.

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Is it lawful to perform a good and kind work on the sabbath?  Or, to state the matter another way, is it ever wrong to do something good and kind?  Jesus’ answer is that goodness and kindness are lawful in the eyes of God at all times and all places.  This seems obvious to me, but why was it not obvious to our Lord’s critics in the Gospel reading?

There is much depth and subtlety in the reading from Hebrews.  Part of  it is this:  Jesus is the great high priest because of who he is, not due to his lineage.  Thus he stands apart from human religious establishments, especially priesthoods.  The Gospels tell many stories of Jesus contradicting something one of the religious parties (or a representative thereof) of his time advocated or did.  He stood apart from them.  Many people become quite defensive about religion, and some take this mindset to malicious extremes.

Religion which is inherently self-defensive is negative, and can turn easily against any good soul who just happens to have another opinion.  In the case of these certain Pharisees, they turned against Jesus (truly a good person) and enlisted the help of Herodians, natural rivals.  But the enemy of my enemy is friend, as the old saying goes.  Even if one were not familiar with the Synoptic Gospel narrative, one reading Mark closely should pick up some foreboding hints about the fate of Jesus by now.

These Pharisees were holding onto their traditions and egos, and others be damned.  Jesus be damned, they said, in so many words.  The unfortunate man with a withered hand be damned, they said, in so many words.  The man with a withered hand could not use that hand to hold onto anything, so he had nothing to lose but everything to gain.  These Pharisees, however, had everything to lose.

Jesus taught by his words and his deeds that good works and simple human kindness are always righteous.  Today we have other cultural and legal restrictions against good works and simple human kindness.  Some basic facts never change, only the details, such as names, dates, places, and clauses.  Yet some facts remain constant.  God is love.  God commands us love God fully, and our neighbors as ourselves.  The Golden Rule still applies.  And good deeds and simple acts of kindness are righteous at any time and any place.

I encourage you, O reader, to devote yourself to ever increasing good and kind works for the benefit of others, especially those who will never be able to repay you in any way.  Do this for the others and for God.  And know that, along the way, you will attract criticism, sometimes from people who should know better.  Some things never change, but neither does the divine mandate to love each other.

KRT

Week of Proper 27: Monday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  Rays of Light

Image in the Public Domain

There is Good News and There is Bad News–And It is the Same News

NOVEMBER 8, 2021

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

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Wisdom of Solomon 1:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

Love justice, you rulers of the earth; set your mind upon the Lord in the right way, and seek him in singleness of heart; for he is to be found by those who trust him without question, and he makes himself known to those who never doubt him.  Dishonest thinking cuts people off from God, and if fools take liberties with his power he shows them up for what they are.  Wisdom will not enter a shifty soul, nor take her home in a body that is mortgaged to sin.  This holy spirit of discipline will shun falsehood; she cannot stay in the presence of unreason, and will withdraw at the approach of injustice.

The spirit of wisdom is kindly towards mortals, but she will not hold a blasphemer blameless for his words, because God, who sees clearly into his heart and hears every word he speaks, is a witness of his inmost being.  For the spirit of the Lord fills the whole earth, and that which holds all things together knows well everything that is said.

Psalm 139:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

Luke 17:1-6 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus said to his disciples,

There are bound to be causes of stumbling; but woe betide the person through whom they come.  It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round his neck than to cause the downfall of one of these little ones.  So be on your guard.

If your brother does wrong, reprove him; and if he repents, forgive him.  Even if he wrongs you seven times in a day and comes back to you seven times saying, “I am sorry,” you are to forgive him.”

The apostles said to the Lord,

Increase our faith;

and the Lord replied,

If you had faith no bigger than a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be rooted up and planted in the sea;’ and it would obey you.

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The Collect:

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

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There is good news and there is bad news.  It is all the same news:  God is watching us.

Consider this prayer:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

It is indeed daunting to stand in the presence of God, perfect in holiness, who knows us better than we know ourselves.  This is the God in whom judgment and mercy coexist.  This is the God who has overthrown empires and raised up nations.  This is also the God who has offered acted to offer us justification, and therefore the end of condemnation.

God is watching us.  God knows that we will stumble and fall and fail, even when we try not to do so.  It is important, however, to try not to stumble and fall and fail, for this indicates good will on our part.  It is a positive response, albeit a meager one compared to what God has done, to God.  And God accepts it graciously.

God forgives us and lifts us up.  May we therefore, by grace, forgive ourselves and each other, and encourage one another in following our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is very little compared to what God has done and is doing, but it is something–and God accepts it graciously.  Thanks be to God!

Yet let us not forget the other side of equation.  What if we do not try?  Judgment awaits us.  As Paul wrote in Romans, there is no condemnation for the justified.  Yet there is condemnation for those who are not justified.  Nevertheless, this matter falls within God’s domain, not ours.  Jesus prayed for forgiveness for those who crucified him and those who watched the execution approvingly.  They did not know what they were doing, he said.

Where does mercy end and judgment begin?  I do not know; God does.  I pray, anyway, that neither you nor I will wind up on the wrong side of that line.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/there-is-good-news-and-there-is-bad-news-and-it-is-the-same-news/

Week of Proper 16: Tuesday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  Bottle Feeding an Abandoned Kitten

Image Source = http://lovemeow.com/2010/03/men-rescued-abandoned-new-born-kittens/

Authentic Spirituality

AUGUST 24, 2021

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

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1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You know yourselves, my brothers, that our visit to you has not proved ineffectual.

We had, as you know, been given rough treatment and been grossly insulted at Philippi, and it was our God who gave us the courage to proclaim his Good News to you in the face of great opposition.  We have not taken to preaching because we are deluded, or immoral, or trying to deceive anyone; it was God who decided that we were fit to be entrusted with the Good News, and when we are speaking, we are not trying to please men but God, who can read our inmost thoughts. You know very well, and we can swear it before God, that never at any time have our speeches been simply flattery, or a cover for trying to get money; nor have we ever looked for any special honour from men, either from you or anybody else, when we could have imposed ourselves on you with the full weight, as apostles of Christ.

Instead, we were unassuming.  Like a mother feeding and looking after her own children, we felt so devoted and protective towards you, and had come to love you so much, that we were eager to hand over to you not only the Good News but our whole lives as well.

Psalm 139:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

2 You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

3 Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

4 You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

7 If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

8 If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

Matthew 23:23-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you , scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who pay tithe of mint and dill and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law–justice, mercy, good faith!  These you should have practised, without neglecting the others.  You blind guides!  Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. Blind Pharisee!  Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that the outside may become clean as well.

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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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What is the test of authentic spirituality?  Or, to phrase the question differently, what does God require of us?  We ought, when pondering this matter, realize that divinity exists in a realm beyond the limits of our ability to understand; God refuses to fit into our intellectual boxes.  So, as valuable as theology can be (which is to say, very), we need to avoid turning theological concepts into idols.

Karen Armstrong proposes the answer that makes the most sense to me.  Compassion, she says, is the test of authentic spirituality.  Compassion is at the heart of the reading from 1 Thessalonians.  Paul cared deeply for the people of Thessalonica, so he shared his life with them.  Compassion impelled Jesus, too.  This helps explain why he was so critical of those who, in the name of God, obsessed over small matters while neglecting what mattered most–that is, to love God with everything and each other as one self.

Compassion transcends species.  The most appropriate image I could find for this post is the one I have attached to it.  I have provided a link to its source, and the story is worth reading.  David Dixon and Paul Ortega, of Palm Springs, California, rescued four kittens from a trash bag in 2010.  Two survived.  Dixon and Ortega named the survivors Scooter and Dixie.  The men bottle fed the kittens until this was no longer necessary.  The kittens became well and the humans decided to keep them.

Admittedly I have a soft spot for cats, especially vulnerable kittens.  Felines are creatures of God and agents of grace, and human compassion ought to extend to all who are vulnerable, regardless of species.  Jesus would approve of what Dixon and Ortega have done for these cats.

In contrast I read about honor killings, sometimes by immigrants to the United States.  Those who perpetrate these crimes use religion to justify their actions.  But the God I worship does not approve of honor killings.  The God I worship teaches compassion, condemns honor killings, says to love my neighbor as I love myself, and adores kittens.  (Being part of creation, they fall under the description of “good.”) This God does not always agree me with me.  Indeed, I know that I am wrong about certain points, but remain unsure which ones those are.  But compassion matters more than fine points of theology.

May the hallmark of your faith life, O reader, be compassion.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/authentic-spirituality/

Week of Proper 15: Thursday, Year 1   13 comments

Above: Parable of the Great Banquet, by Jan Luyken (1649-1712)

Image in the Public Domain

We Cannot Thwart God’s Ultimate Will

AUGUST 19, 2021

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

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Judges 13:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The Israelites again did what was offensive to the LORD, and the LORD delivered them into the hands of the Philistines for forty years.

There was a certain man from Zorah, of the stock of Dan, whose name was Manoah.  His wife was barren and had borne no children.  An angel of the LORD appeared to the woman and said to her,

You are barren and have borne no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son.  Now be careful not to drink wine or other intoxicant, or eat anything unclean.  For you are going to conceive and bear a son; let no razor touch his head, for the boy is to be a nazirite to God from the womb on.  He shall be the first to deliver Israel from the Philistines.

The woman went and told her husband,

A man of God came to me; he looked like an angel of God, very frightening; I did not ask him where he was from, nor did he tell me his name.  He said to me, ‘You are going to conceive and bear a son.  Drink no wine or other intoxicant, and eat nothing unclean, for the boy is to be a nazirite to God from the womb to the day of his death!’

Psalm 139:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,

and the light around me turn to night,”

11 Darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day;

darkness and light to you are both alike.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made;

your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you,

while I was being made in secret

and woven in the depths of the earth.

15 Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;

all of them were written in your book;

they were fashioned day by day,

when as yet there was none of them.

16 How deep I find your thoughts, O God!

how great is the sum of them!

17 If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand;

to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

Matthew 22:1-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus began to talk to them again in parables.

The kingdom of Heaven,

he said,

is like a king who arranged a wedding-feast for his son.  He sent his servants to summon those who had been invited to the festivities, but they refused to come.  Then he tried again; he sent some more servants, saying to them, ‘Tell those who have been invited, “Here is my banquet all ready, by bullocks and fat cattle have been slaughtered and everything is prepared.  Come along to the wedding.”‘  But they took no notice of this and went off, one to his farm, and another to his business.  As for the rest, they got hold of the servants, treated them with insults, and finally killed them.  At this the king was very angry and sent his troops and killed those murderers and burned down their city.  Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding-feast is all ready, but those who were invited were not good enough for it.  So go off now to all the street corners and invite everyone you find there to the feast.’  So the servants went out on to the streets and collected together all those whom they found, bad and good alike.  And the hall became filled with guests.  But when the king came in to inspect the guests, he noticed among them a man not dressed for a wedding.  “How did you come in here, my friend,” he said to him, “without being properly dressed for the wedding?”  And the man had nothing to say.  Then the king said to the ushers, “Tie him up and throw him into the darkness outside, where there will be tears and bitter regret!”  For many are invited but few are chosen.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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It is customary in The Episcopal Church that, at when the priest or deacon finishes reading the Gospel lection, he or she says,

The Gospel of the Lord,

to which the congregation answers,

Praise to you, Lord Christ.

I recall a situation one Sunday evening at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia.  Beth Long, the Rector, read the assigned lesson from the Gospels for that day.  It was a disturbing and unpleasant text.  Then she said,

The Gospel of the Lord.

All of us in the congregation mumbled hesitantly,

Praise to you, Lord Christ.

I have the same response when pondering Matthew 22:1-14.

Tradition calls this text the Parable of the Great Banquet.  Yet William Barclay insists correctly that it is really two parables.  The first ends with the king rounding up wedding guests on street corners.  The subtext is clear; those who have rejected Jesus as Messiah are unworthy to attend the wedding banquet.  And the destruction in the story echoes the Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 C.E.  The Gospel of Matthew dates to the middle 80s C.E., in a Jewish Christian community on the margins of Jewish life.  Certain emotions tend to accompany marginal status, especially when one is marginalized involuntarily.  They are on full display in this text.

The second parable concerns the man who did not come to the wedding feast attired properly.  He did not care about the matter, a major breach of protocol in that society.  His disrespect led to his removal from the banquet.  My North American society is increasingly informal in matters of attire, and this is not entirely bad.  But sometimes it goes too far.  One student in a class for which I was a Teaching Assistant came to the classroom on the day of the Final Exam in his pajamas, slippers, and bathrobe.  How one presents oneself in public indicates how one regards others.  There is social etiquette and decorum to maintain; it makes public interactions go more smoothly.  So how much more true must showing respect toward God be?

Understand me correctly.  During my last year of high school I tutored a Middle Grades student after school.  Joe and his family attended a Southern Baptist church in Berrien County, Georgia.  He mentioned once that some elderly members of the congregation had criticized him for wearing tennis shoes to church.  Joe asked me what I thought.  I replied that God has concerns greater than whether Joe wore tennis shoes to church.  In fact, I wear tennis shoes to church sometimes.  But they are clean and presentable.

There is, however, great value in dressing up for certain occasions.  I feel one way when I wear a suit and a tie (often with a fedora) and another when I wear jeans and a tee-shirt.  I feel quite comfortable in both states, but I would never think of wearing jeans and a tee-shirt (no matter how clean and presentable they might be) to certain occasions.  This is simply a matter of decorum.

So the second parable teaches that we must approach God with our best.  This being from the Gospels, the meaning goes far deeper than wardrobe, although that is a matter for some people.  How does one live?  The king invited the good and the bad alike to the banquet, but all were expected to uphold certain standards after they arrived.  We can all come to God by route or another, but this is not cheap grace that demands nothing of us.  No, we must respond to God honestly and faithfully.  This will require something of us.

So the king filled the banquet hall one way or another.  Nothing could thwart his will–only require him to change tactics.

Then there is the story of Samson, the beginning of which is today’s reading from Judges.  I encourage everyone to read the whole thing again or for the first time; it is a very good story.  Samson was not the sharpest knife in the drawer, the brightest crayon in the box.  Neither was he self-disciplined, especially with regard to women, namely Delilah.  But, despite all these facts, God worked through Samson to deliver the Israelites from the Philistine oppression.  Samson died in the process, for the building fell down on top of him, along with many Philistines, but this end was not necessary.  Samson could have avoided it with some more intelligence and a dose of self-discipline.  He was weak, though, and he paid the price for that.

Yet God’s ultimate will came to fruition via Samson, despite Samson’s character.

Is it not better cooperate with God rather than abuse our free will and force God to change strategies?  Is not cooperating with God a sign of healthy respect?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/we-cannot-thwart-gods-ultimate-will/

Proper 11, Year A   31 comments

Above:  Tares

Image in the Public Domain

Leaving Divine Judgment to God

The Sunday Closest to July 20

The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 19, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 28:10-19a (New Revised Standard Version):

Jacob left Beer-sheba and went toward Haran. He came to a certain place and stayed there for the night, because the sun had set. Taking one of the stones of the place, he put it under his head and lay down in that place. And he dreamed that there was a ladder set up on the earth, the top of it reaching to heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending on it. And the LORD stood beside him and said,

I am the LORD, the God of Abraham your father and the God of Isaac; the land on which you lie I will give to you and to your offspring; and your offspring shall be like the dust of the earth, and you shall spread abroad to the west and to the east and to the north and to the south; and all the families of the earth shall be blessed in you and in your offspring. Know that I am with you and will keep you wherever you go, and will bring you back to this land; for I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.

Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said,

Surely the LORD is in this place– and I did not know it!

And he was afraid, and said,

How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.

So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it. He called that place Bethel.

Psalm 139:1-11, 22, 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

2 You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

3 Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

4 You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

7 If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

8 If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

10 If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,

and the light around me turn to night,”

11 Darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day;

darkness and light to you are both alike.

22 Search me out, O God, and know my heart;

try me and know my restless thoughts.

23 Look well whether there be any wickedness in me

and lead me in the way that is everlasting.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Wisdom of Solomon 12:13, 16-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

For neither is there any god besides you,

whose care is for all people,

to whom you should prove that you have judged unjustly….

For your strength is the source of righteousness,

and your sovereignty over all causes you to spare all.

For you show your strength when people doubt the completeness of your power,

and you rebuke any insolence among those who know it.

Although you are sovereign in strength, you judge with mildness,

and with great forbearance you govern us;

for you have power to act whenever you choose.

Through such works you have taught your people

that the righteous must be kind,

and you have filled your children with good hope,

because they give repentance for sins.

Or This First Reading:

Isaiah 44:6-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD, the king of Israel,

and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts;

I am the first and I am the last,

besides me there is no god.

Who is like me?  Let them proclaim it,

let them declare and and set if forth before me.

Who has announced from of old the things to come?

Let them tell us what is yet to be?

Do not fear, or be afraid;

have I not told you from of old and declared it?

You are my witnesses!

Is there any god besides me?

There is no other rock; I know not one.

Then This:

Psalm 86:11-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Teach me your way, O LORD,

and I will walk in your truth;

knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.

12 I will thank you, O LORD my God, with all my heart,

and glorify your Name for evermore.

13 For great is your love toward me;

you have delivered me from the nethermost Pit.

14 The arrogant rise up against me, O God,

and a band of violent men seeks my life;

they have not set you before their eyes.

15 But you, O LORD, are gracious, and full of compassion,

slow to anger, and full of kindness and truth.

16 Turn to me and have mercy upon me;

give your strength to your servant;

and save the child of your handmaid.

17 Show me a sign of your favor,

so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed;

because you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

SECOND READING

Romans 8:12-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

Brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh– for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry,

Abba! Father!

it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ– if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus put before the crowd another parable:

The kingdom of heaven may be compared to someone who sowed good seed in his field; but while everybody was asleep, an enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and then went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared as well. And the slaves of the householder came and said to him, “Master, did you not sow good seed in your field? Where, then, did these weeds come from?” He answered, “An enemy has done this”‘ The slaves said to him, “Then do you want us to go and gather them?” But he replied, “No; for in gathering the weeds you would uproot the wheat along with them. Let both of them grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Collect the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.”

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples approached him, saying,

Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.

He answered,

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man; the field is the world, and the good seed are the children of the kingdom; the weeds are the children of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are collected and burned up with fire, so will it be at the end of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will collect out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and they will throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. Let anyone with ears listen!

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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The tares were probably darnel, a species of plant parasitic to wheat.  Darnel looks very much like wheat, with the distinction becoming clear beyond a shadow of a doubt when the ear develops.  So premature weeding of a wheat field containing darnel will lead to the destruction of wheat.

During the First Crusade (1096-1099) against the Muslims, many Crusaders killed Jews in Europe and Christians in Asia, as well as Muslims in many cities.  These Crusaders did all this in the name of God and Jesus.  They had a “kill them all and let God sort them out” mentality,” which is antithetical to divine compassion.

In 2002, in Statesboro, Georgia, I saw a horrifying bumper sticker.  It said,

KILL THEM ALL AND LET ALLAH SORT THEM OUT.

Indignation over the attacks of September 11, 2001, was and is understandable, but nothing justifies the attitude in that bumper sticker.

Or shall I mention the Albigensian Crusade of 1209-1213, in which the Pope authorized mercenaries to slaughter the Cathar (Gnostic) heretics in France?  Men killed many people (not just Cathars and each other) and fought over land claims, to enrich themselves.  They did this in the name of God.

Who is darnel and who is wheat?  Do we even know which we are?  The parable from Matthew contains a powerful corrective lesson for those who presume to know the mind of God and to think they have the right to persecute and/or kill those they deem to be darnel.  Puritans in Seventeenth-Century New England hanged Quakers as a threat to society.  I think that the Quakers were the wheat and their executioners the darnel, but the Puritan authorities thought otherwise.  Alas, those who need to learn the lesson of this parable are the least likely to do so.

The Biblical texts, including those read this day, speak of divine judgment and mercy.  Both are attributes of God, who knows far more than we ever will.  And I dare say that God’s targeting is more exact than ours.  We tend to write people off when God gives them second, third, fourth, and fifth chances.  Consider Jacob, a schemer too clever for his own good and that of some people around him.  He had mystical encounters with God and matured spiritually, becoming the patriarch Israel, for whom the people and nation-state are named.  God did not write him off.  Jacob/Israel was wheat, not darnel, despite early appearances to the contrary.

There is great virtue in religious toleration and the separation of the state mechanisms and religious establishments.  When the church and the state (or the mosque and the state) become united, one becomes an arm of the other, which is detrimental.  James Madison, Father of the U.S. Constitution, believed fervently in the separation of church and state, mainly for the protection of the churches.  And theocracy is notoriously detrimental to dissenters, whom the establishment considers darnel.  But the theocrats act more like darnel than wheat–and always in the name of God.

As the Wisdom of Solomon 12:19 says,

…the righteous must be kind….

A great part of righteousness consists of loving our neighbors as ourselves and leaving divine judgments to God alone.  Otherwise, we run the risk of doing more harm than good.  We need not pretend to agree with others when we disagree with them, but civilized people can differ without resorting to persecution and bloodshed.  Besides, we are mistaken about some points, too, and those with whom we disagree are partially correct as well.  The judgment in this matter resides only with God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/18/leaving-divine-judgment-to-god/

Week of Proper 5: Saturday, Year 1   10 comments

Above:  Salvador Dali’s Painting of the Crucifixion (1954)

God Permeates the Created Order

JUNE 12, 2021

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

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2 Corinthians 5:14-21 (An American Translation):

It is Christ’s love that controls me, for I have become convinced that as one has died for all, all have died, and he died for all that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died for them and rose again.

So from that time on, I have estimated nobody at what he seemed to be outwardly; even though I once estimated Christ in that way, I no longer do so.  So if anyone is in union with Christ, he is a new being; the old state of things has passed away; there is a new state of things.  All this comes from God, who through Christ has reconciled me to himself, and has commissioned me to proclaim this reconciliation–how God through Christ reconciled the world to himself, refusing to count men’s offenses against them, and entrusted me with the message of reconciliation.

It is for Christ, therefore, that I am an envoy, seeing that God makes his appeal through me.  On Christ’s behalf I beg you to be reconciled to God.  He made him who knew nothing of sin to be sin, for our sake, so that through union with him we might become God’s uprightness.

Psalm 103:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins

and heals all your infirmities.

4 He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness.

5 He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and his works to the children of Israel.

8 The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,

so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our sins from us.

Matthew 5:33-37 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Again, you have heard that the men of old were told, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but you must fulfill your oaths to the Lord.’  But I tell you not to swear at all, either by heaven, for it is God’s throne, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great king.  You must not swear by your own head, for you cannot make one single hair white or black.  But your way of speaking must be ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’  Anything that goes beyond that comes from the evil one.

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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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I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

–The Presidential Oath of Office, verbatim form Article II, Section 1, of the Constitution of the United States of America

Some Christian traditions (such as the Quakers) take Jesus’ prohibition against swearing oaths literally.  So the Presidential Oath of Office, as the Constitution establishes it, grants the President the option of either swearing or affirming.  And, not to get off topic for long, “so help me God” at the end of the oath is a tradition, not a formal part of said oath.  Furthermore, Amendment XX, Section 1 (1933) establishes that the President’s term of office begins at Noon (regardless of what is happening on the dais at that time or how the Chief Justice delivers the oath) on January 20, which is Inauguration Day.  The Constitution is a treasure trove of fun civics facts.

Now, for my main idea:  God permeates creation.  We cannot evade God.

Swearing by God indicated that a person intended to fulfill a promise.  Swearing such an oath made God a party to the vow, and this was a serious matter.  Yet some wanted to preserve the appearance of seriousness without its substance.  Swearing by one’s head, for example, meant nothing, and swearing by Jerusalem or the heavens seemed to invoke God but did not; it was an evasion.  All of this superficial swearing constituted playing games.  Jesus cut to the chase, again; he said to be honest, to say what one means, and to mean what one says.

This is a timeless and valuable lesson.

Behind it lies a profound truth:  God is in Jerusalem, and the heavens, and everywhere else.  God permeates everything in creation.  And compartmentalization is a fool’s errand.  Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians that we must be reconciled to God and must live for Christ, who died for us.  So Christ is in everything for Paul.  We who claim to follow God must bless God with our attitudes, words, and deeds.

This is a difficult vocation, one possible to fulfill only by grace.  But God supplies that, fortunately.  The words of Psalm 139:6-11 fit this occasion:

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

7 If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

8 If I take the wings of the morning,

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

10 If I say, “Surely the darkness will cover me,

and the light around me turn to night,”

11 Darkness is not dark to you;

the night is as bright as the day;

darkness and light to you are both alike.

This indicates mercy, does it not?  We, then, ought not to play mind and word games with God.  Instead, we have an obligation to seek out God in ourselves, those around us, and in nature, and to treat ourselves, each other, and nature with all such respect.  These indicate reverence for God, whether or not we swear or affirm.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/god-permeates-the-created-order/