Archive for the ‘Psalm 145’ Tag

Week of Proper 17: Tuesday, Year 2, and Week of Proper 17: Wednesday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  The Old Main Building at Andrew College, Cuthbert, Georgia

Image Source = Robbie Honerkamp

Jealousy and Wrangling

AUGUST 30 and 31, 2022

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NOTE:

Andrew College takes its name from Bishop James Osgood Andrew, a slaveholder.  His case triggered the 1844-1845 schism in the Methodist Episcopal Church and the 1845 formation of the Methodist Episcopal Church, South, which allowed its bishops to own slaves, at least until 1865 and the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.  The Southern denomination reunited with its parent body in 1939, however, and both groups are predecessor bodies of The United Methodist Church (1968-present).

I grew up United Methodist, steeped in that denomination’s history.

KRT

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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 TUESDAY:

1 Corinthians 2:10-16 (The Jerusalem Bible):

These are the very things that God has revealed to us through the Spirit, for the Spirit reaches the depths of everything, even the depths of God.  After all, the depths of a man can only be known by his own spirit, not by any other man, and in the same way the depths of God can only be known by the Spirit of God.  Now instead of the spirit of the world, we have received the Spirit that comes from God, to teach us to understand the gifts that he has given us.  Therefore we teach, not in the way which philosophy is taught, but in the way that the Spirit teaches us:  we teach spiritual things spiritually.  An unspiritual person is one who does not accept anything of the Spirit of God:  he sees it all as nonsense; it is beyond his understanding because it can only be understood by means of the Spirit.  A spiritual man, on the other hand, is able to judge the value of everything, and his own value is not to be judged by other men.  As scripture says:

Who can know the mind of the Lord, so who can teach him?

But we are those who have the mind of Christ.

FIRST READING FOR WEDNESDAY

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Brothers, I myself was unable to speak to you as people of the Spirit:  I treated you as sensual men, still infants in Christ.  What I fed you with was milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for it; and indeed, you are still not ready for it since you are still unspiritual.  Isn’t that obvious from all the jealousy and wranglin that there is among you, from the way that you go on behaving like ordinary people?  What could be more unspiritual than your slogans,

I am for Paul

and

I am for Apollos?

After all, what is Apollos and what is Paul?  They are servants who brought the faith to you.  Even the difficult ways in which they brought it were assigned to them by the Lord.  I did the planting, Apollos did the watering, but God made things grow.  Neither the planter nor the waterer matters:  only God, who makes things grow.  It is all one who does the planting and who does the watering, and each will duly be paid according to his share in the work.  We are fellow workers with God; you are God’s farm, God’s building.

RESPONSE FOR TUESDAY

Psalm 145:8-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

10  All your works praise you, O LORD,

and your faithful servants bless you.

11 “Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely;

forget your people and your father’s house.

12 The king will have pleasure in your beauty;

he is your master; therefore do him honor.

13 The people of Tyre are here with a gift,

the rich among the people seek your favor.”

14 All glorious is the princess as she enters;

her gown is cloth-of-gold.

15 In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king;

after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.

RESPONSE FOR WEDNESDAY

Psalm 62 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

from him comes my salvation.

2  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.

3  How long will you assail me to crush me,

all of you together,

as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall?

4  They seek only to bring me down from my place of honor;

lies are their chief delight.

5  They bless with their lips,

but in their hearts they curse.

6  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

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

10  Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath,

even those of low estate cannot be trusted.

11  On the scales they are lighter than a breath,

all of them together.

12  Put no trust in extortion;

in robbery take no empty pride;

though wealth increases, set not your heart upon it.

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

that power belongs to God.

14  Steadfast love is yours, O Lord,

for you repay everyone according to his deeds.

GOSPEL READING FOR TUESDAY

Luke 4:31-37 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] went down to Capernaum, a town in Galilee, and taught them on the sabbath.  And his teaching made a deep impression on them because he spoke with authority.

In the synagogue there was a man who was possessed by the spirit of an unclean devil, and it shouted at the top of its voice,

Ha!  What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are:  the Holy One of God.

But Jesus said sharply,

Be quiet!  Come out of him!

And the devil, throwing the man in front of everyone, went out of him without hurting him at all.  Astonishment seized them and they were all saying to one another,

What teaching!  He gives orders to unclean spirits with authority and power and they come out.

And reports of him went all through the surrounding countryside.

GOSPEL READING FOR WEDNESDAY

Luke 4:38-44 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Leaving the synagogue he went to Simon’s house.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a high fever and they asked him to do something for her.  Leaning over her he rebuked the fever and it left her.  And she immediately got up and began to wait on them.

At sunset  all those who had friends suffering from diseases of one kind or another brought them to him, and laying his hands on each he cured them.  Devils too came out of many people, howling,

You are the Son of God.

But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak because they knew that he was the Christ.

When daylight came he left the house and made his way to a lonely place.  The crowds went to look for him, and when they had caught up with him they wanted to prevent him leaving them, but he answered,

I must proclaim the Good News of the kingdom of God to the other towns too, because that is what I was sent to do.

And he continued his preaching in the synagogues of Judaea.

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The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God for ever and ever. Amen.

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\The Corinthian church suffered from factionalism.  This, Paul wrote, was unspiritual.  Factionalism persists, as the existence of denominations and “non-denominational” traditions persists.  I belong to a denomination–one I have chosen–and I am satisfied with my choice.  As an Episcopalian, I notice the lack of a well-developed liturgy and the too-infrequent celebration of the Holy Eucharist in many congregations of other traditions.  So, although I am an ecumenist–breaking bread gladly with other types of Christians, I retain my affiliation affirmatively.  I do all of this I know that my coreligionists and I have more in common than not.  Yes, I belong to a tribe, but that does not lead me to pursue intertribal warfare.  So, when I recognize deceased Christians as saints on my calendar of saints’s days and holy days at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR, the blog from which I spun this one off, I have Baptists, Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, Methodists, Calvinists, Moravians, Anabaptists, and even a few Unitarians sharing the calendar year.

Often the arguments do seem to concern major and spiritual points, at least from the point of view of partisans.  Consider the following examples.:

  1. Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, and other Christians in the U.S. South formed regional denominations in support of slavery from 1845 to 1861.  (The Methodists reunited in 1939 and the Presbyterians in 1983, by the way.  The Southern Baptist Convention, formed in 1845 on the proposition that slaveholders should be able to serve as missionaries, apologized in 1995, at the urging of Billy Graham.  The probability of a Baptist reunion is nihl.)
  2. In the 1700s, Presbyterians argued about the theological validity of hymns–not any given hymns–but hymns themselves, in lieu of settings of psalms.  (This is mostly a non-issue these days.)
  3. The Oxford Movement within Anglicanism won in the 1800s and 1900s, but not before some opponents of it went so far as to consider it of the Devil.

As time passes, one might wonder how anyone could defend slavery from the Bible, argue against hymns themselves, or object to lighting a few more candles, but people did–vehemently.  I wonder how time will shape reflections on our current spats, hissy fits, and schisms.  Not favorably, I predict.

All of us who claim the label “Christian” should focus on Christ first and other religious leaders second, and therefore be genuine.  We need to have the mind of Christ, which is available only via God.  “Jealousy and wrangling” (1 Corinthians 2:3) do not bring glory to God and attract people to Jesus.  Those through whom we have come to God and deepened our spiritual development have played their parts; may we likewise play ours.  This work can take many forms; all of them, if of God, are valid.  May we remember that and act accordingly, supporting and encouraging one another in our spiritual vocations and eschewing “jealousy and wrangling.”

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/jealousy-and-wrangling/

Week of Proper 16: Thursday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Second Coming Icon

Great Expectations

AUGUST 25, 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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1 Corinthians 1:1-9 (The Jerusalem Bible):

I, Paul, appointed by God to be an apostle, together with brother Sosthenes, send greetings to the church of God in Corinth, to the holy people of Jesus Christ, who are called to take their place among the saints everywhere who pray to our Lord Jesus Christ; for he is their Lord no less than ours.  May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ send you grace and peace.

I never stop thanking God for all the graces you have received through Jesus Christ.  I thank him that you have been enriched in so many ways, especially in your teachers and preachers; the witness to Christ has indeed been strong among you so that you will not be without any of the gifts of the Spirit while you are waiting for our Lord Jesus Christ to be revealed; and he will keep you steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ, because God by calling you has joined you to his Son, Jesus Christ; and God is faithful.

Psalm 145:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

Every day I will bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of your greatness.

They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

Matthew 24:42-51 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

So stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming.  You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house.  Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

What kind of servant, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give him their food at the proper time?  Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment.  I tell you solemnly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the dishonest servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time,” and sets about beating his fellow servants and drinking with drunkards, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know.  The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

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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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Some Related Posts:

O Lord, You Gave Your Servant John:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

Where Cross the Crowded Ways of Life:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/where-cross-the-crowded-ways-of-life/

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The sources I have consulted date the composition of 1 Corinthians to Fall 53-Winter 54 C.E.  Paul and many other early Christians expected that Jesus would return very shortly–probably within their lifetimes.  This fact functions as invaluable context for much of the Pauline tradition.  Why did Paul not advocate the abolition of slavery, for example?  Maybe it was because of the expectation that God would take care of such details quite soon.

Paul did, however, advocate remaining active in communal life (1 Thessalonians 5:14) while living in watchfulness for the parousia of Jesus.  Furthermore, as we read in the introduction to 1 Corinthians, Paul encouraged his fellow Christians to be “steady and without blame until the last day, the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

Jesus had not returned by 85 C.E.  The first generation of Christians was almost entirely dead, the Temple at Jerusalem was gone, and the Roman Empire was firmly in control.  Old expectations had not predicted the new reality.  In that context, “Matthew” told his congregation that

the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

So one ought not, “Matthew” says, mistake the Lord’s perceived tardiness as an excuse to shirk one’s duty.

As I write these words in late 2011, expect to die (whenever that will happen) without witnessing the parousia.  It has been almost two thousand years since the original expectations.  Yet the advice from Paul and “Matthew” remain germane to me:  I have work to do–skills and talents to use for the common good and  a life to live for the glory of God.  There are people to whom I ought to reach out.  God will attend to matters of prophesy; I have people to love int he name of God.  This is the work of all of us who claim the label “Christian.”  May we never shirk that duty.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/great-expectations/

Proper 12, Year B   18 comments

Above:  The Miracle of the Loaves and Fishes, by James Tissot

Christ, Our Passover

The Sunday Closest to July 27

The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 25, 2021

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

2 Samuel 11:1-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

(In Chapters 8-10, David fights wars and shows kindness to Jonathan’s son.)

In the spring of the year, the time when the kings go forth to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah.  But David remained at Jerusalem.

It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking upon the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful.  And David sent and inquired about the woman.  And one said,

Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?

So David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her.  (Now she was purifying herself form her uncleanness.)  Then she returned to her house.  And the woman conceived; and she sent and told David,

I am with child.

So David sent word to Joab.

Send me Uriah the Hittite.

When Uriah came to him, David asked how Joab was doing, and how the people fared, and how the war prospered.  Then David said to Uriah,

Go down to your house, and wash your feet.

And Uriah went out of the king’s house, and there followed him a present from the king.  But Uriah slept  at the door of the king’s house with all the servants of his lord, and did not go down to his house.  When they told David,

Uriah did not go down to his house,

David said to Uriah,

Have you not come from a journey?  Why did you not go down to your house?

Uriah said to David,

The ark and Israel and Judah dwell in booths; and my lord Joab and the servants of my lord are camping in the open field; shall I then go to my house, to eat and to drink, and to lie with my wife?  As you live, and as your soul lives, I will not do this thing.

Then David said to Uriah,

Remain here today also, and tomorrow I will let you depart.

So Uriah remained in Jerusalem that day, and the next.  And David invited him, and he ate in his presence and drank, so that he made him drunk; and in the evening he went out to lie on his couch with the servants of his lord, but did not go down to his house.

In the morning David wrote a letter to Joab, and sent it by the hand of Uriah.  In the letter he wrote,

Set Uriah in the forefront of the hardest fighting, and then draw back from him, that he may be struck down, and die.

And as Joab was besieging the city, he assigned Uriah to the place where he knew there were valiant men.  And men of the city came out and fought with Joab; and some of the servants of David among the people fell.  Uriah the Hittite was slain also.

Psalm 14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

All are corrupt and commit abominable acts;

there is none who does any good.

2  The LORD looks down from heaven upon us al,

to see if there is any who is wise,

if there is one who seeks after God.

3  Every one has proved faithless;

all alike have turned bad;

there is none who does good; no, not one.

4  Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers

who eat up my people like bread

and do not call upon the LORD?

5  See how they tremble with fear,

because God is in the company of the righteous.

6  Their aim is to confound the plans of the afflicted,

but the LORD is their refuge.

7  Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come out of Zion!

When the LORD restored the fortunes of his people,

Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

2 Kings 4:42-44 (New Revised Standard Version):

A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing food from the first fruits to the man of God: twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain in his sack. Elisha said,

Give it to the people and let them eat.

But his servant said,

How can I set this before a hundred people?

So he repeated,

Give it to the people and let them eat, for thus says the LORD, “They shall eat and have some left.”

He set it before them, they ate, and had some left, according to the word of the LORD.

Psalm 145:10-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 All your works praise you, O LORD,

and all your faithful servants bless you.

11 They make known the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your power;

12 That the peoples may know of your power

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;

your dominion endures throughout all ages.

14 The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in all his deeds.

15 The LORD upholds all those who fall;

he lifts up those who are bowed down.

16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD,

and you give them their food in due season.

17 You open wide your hand

and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

18 The LORD is righteous in all his ways

and loving in all his works.

19 The LORD is near to those who call upon him,

to all who call upon him faithfully.

SECOND READING

Ephesians 3:14-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth takes its name.  I pray that, according to the riches of his glory, he may grant that you may be strengthened in your inner being with power through his Spirit, and that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith, as you are being rooted and grounded in love.  I pray that you may have the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, so that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Now to him who by the power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than we can ask or imagine, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever.  Amen.

GOSPEL READING

John 6:1-21 (Anchor Bible):

Later on Jesus crossed the Sea of Galilee [to the shore] of Tiberias, but a large crowd kept following him because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.  So Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples.  The Jewish feast of Passover was near.

When Jesus looked up, he caught sight of a large crowd coming toward him; so he said to Philip,

Where shall we ever buy bread for these people to eat?

(Actually, of course, he was perfectly aware of what he was going to do, but he asked this to test Philip’s reaction.)  He replied,

Not even with two hundred days’ wages could we buy enough loaves to give each of them a mouthful.

One of Jesus’ disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, remarked to him.

There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and a couple of dried fish, but what good is that for so many?

Jesus said,

Get the people to sit down.

Now the men numbered about five thousand, but there was plenty of grass there for them to find a seat.  Jesus then took the loaves of bread, gave thanks, and passed them around to those sitting there; and he did the same with the dried fish–just as much as they wanted.  When they had enough, he told his disciples,

Gather up the fragments that are left over so that nothing will perish.

And so they gathered twelve baskets full of fragments left over by those who had been fed with the five barley loaves.

Now when the people saw the sign[s] he had performed, they began to say,

This in undoubtedly the Prophet who is to come into the world.

With that Jesus realized that they would come and carry him off to make him king, so he fled back to the mountain alone.

As evening drew on, his [Jesus’] disciples came down to the sea.  Having embarked, they were trying to cross the sea to Capernaum.  By this time it was dark, and still Jesus had not joined them; moreover, with a strong wind blowing, the sea was becoming rough.  When they had rowed about three or four miles, they sighted Jesus walking upon the sea, approaching the boat.  They were frightened, but he told them,

It is I; do not be afraid.

So they wanted to take him into the boat, and suddenly the boat reached the shore toward which they had been going.

The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 12, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/proper-12-year-a/

Break Thou the Bread of Life:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/break-thou-the-bread-of-life/

2 Samuel 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/week-of-3-epiphany-friday-year-2/

John 6:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirteenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fourteenth-day-of-easter/

Matthew 14 (Parallel to John 6):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/proper-13-year-a/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/week-of-proper-13-monday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/proper-14-year-a/

Mark 6 (Parallel to John 6):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-4-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/proper-11-year-b/

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Only one miracle story occurs on all four canonical Gospels.  That is the feeding of the Five Thousand, with slight variations.  Were there, for example, five thousand men (as Mark and Luke record the miracle), five thousand people (as John indicates), or five thousand men plus an uncounted number of women and children (as Matthew says)?  All that is beside the point, for the accounts describe a staggering act of divine power and mercy.

Afterward, in John’s Gospel, the astonished crowd recognizes Jesus as a political messiah, so he and the Apostles leave the area.  This (in the Johannine Gospel) sets the stage for Jesus walking on water, much to the astonishment of his Apostles.  There is an accompanying storm for Jesus to calm in the Matthew and Mark accounts, but not here.  Rather, the Johannine account emphasizes that Jesus is the incarnate I AM, not a political messiah.

Before I proceed further, I must acknowledge that I am drawing heavily from Father Raymond E. Brown’s Anchor Bible commentary on the Gospel of John.  His depth of knowledge and extreme attention to details (He gets to John 6 on page 231 of Volume I.) are staggering.  I can feast on this material for a long time to come.

Back to the Gospel of John….

There are obvious Eucharistic overtones in the Johannine account of the mass feeding.  But how should we understand the walking on water?  Brown, citing other sources, suggests a Passover image.  Think about it:  In both the Book of Exodus and in John 6 we find a water passage and the presence of unexpected food in close proximity to each other.  And, in John, there is an explicit point of profound theology:  JESUS IS THE PASSOVER LAMB.  Thus we find Jesus dying on the cross as the sacrifice of animals occurs at the Temple.  (In the Synoptic Gospels, however, Jesus is crucified on the next day.)  The Last Supper, in the Synoptic Gospels, is a Passover meal.  Yet, in the Johannine Gospel, JESUS IS THE PASSOVER MEAL.  (See John 19:16b following.)

We encounter astounding theology in John 6.  Who do we want Jesus to be, and why might we follow him?  Do we week a national liberator or a Passover lamb?  And what does our expectation indicate about us?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/christ-our-passover/

Week of Proper 26: Saturday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Boat of Purity and Ease, Summer Palace, Beijing, China–Restored and Expanded in the 1890s by Order of the Dowager Empress Cixi Via Embezzled Funds Intended Originally for the Chinese Navy

Image Source = Corymgrenier

The Insufficiency of Materialism and Greed

NOVEMBER 6, 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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Romans 16:1-9, 16, 21-27 (Revised English Bible):

I commend to you, Phoebe, a fellow-Christian who is a minister in the church at Cenchrae.  Give her, in the fellowship of the Lord, a welcome worthy of God’s people, and support her in any business in which she may need your help, for she has herself been a good friend to many, including myself.

Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow-workers in Christ Jesus.  They risked their necks to save my life, and not I alone but all the gentile churches are grateful to them.  Greet also the church that meets at their house.

Give my greetings to my dear friend Epanetus, the first convert to Christ in Asia, and to Mary, who worked so hard for you.  Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow-countrymen and comrades in captivity, who are eminent among the apostles and were Christians before I was.

Greetings to Anpliatus, my dear friend in the fellowship of the Lord, to Urban my comrade in Christ, and to my dear Stachys….

Greet one another with the kiss of peace.  All Christ’s churches send you their greetings.

Greetings to you from my colleague Timothy, and from Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater my fellow-countrymen.  (I Tertius, who took this letter down, add my Christian greetings.)  Greetings also from Gaius, my host and host of the whole congregation, and from Erastus, treasurer of this city, and our brother Quartus.

To him who has power to make you stand firm, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of that divine secret kept in silence for long ages but now disclosed, and by the eternal God’s command made known to all nations through prophetic scriptures, to bring them to faith and obedience–to the only wise God through Jesus Christ be glory for endless ages!  Amen.

Psalm 145:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

5  I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

6  They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of our greatness.

7  They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

Luke 16:9-15 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

So I say to you, use your worldly wealth to win friends for yourselves, so that when money is a thing of the past you may be received into an eternal home.

Anyone who can be trusted in small matters can be trusted also in great; and anyone who is dishonest in small matters is dishonest also in great.  If, then, you have not proved trustworthy with the wealth of this world, who will trust you with the wealth that is real?  And if you have proved untrustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you anything of your own?

No slave can serve two masters; for either he will hate the first and love the second, or he will be devoted to the first and despise the second.  You cannot serve God and Money.

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and scoffed at him.  He said to them,

You are the people who impress others with your righteousness; but God sees through you; for what is considered admirable in human eyes is detestable in the sight of God.

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The Collect:

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

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“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a certain way of seeking social status and, depending on one’s finances, a probable way of wasting money better spent in other ways or saved.  We humans like to keep up appearances at least some of the time, but many of us know of the futility of this pattern of behavior.  Maybe this fact helps explain our admiration for real people and fictional characters who do not even try to keep up with the Joneses or to impress others in empty matters.

Jesus, at the end of this day’s lesson from Luke, says that nobody can serve God and mammon simultaneously.  Mammon refers not to money itself, which is morally neutral, but to materialism and greed.  Our lives, as we read elsewhere in the Bible, do not consist in the abundance of our possessions.  Our wealth here on earth is subject to rust and decay, so making the accumulation of an end, not a means to an end, is foolish decision.   (For more, read: https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-friday-year-1/.)

The prophet Samuel, when he anointed David as King of Israel, said that people look on exteriors, but God looks inside people.  The reading from Luke fits neatly with this incident.   Of course we cannot serve both God and greed; the two are incompatible.

Paul, while concluding the Epistle to the Romans, commended various people, many of whom are quite obscure.  But they served God faithfully.  God knows who they were (and are); they are at rest in our Lord.  That matters more than anything else.  Furthermore, I observe that you and I are almost certain to spend our lives and our afterlives is earthly obscurity.  We will die.  And, in time, all those who have known us will die also.  Then it will be as if we had not lived.  When that time, comes, how will we stand in relation to God?  That is what matters most.  Our money will go away; indeed, money is mostly fictitious, consisting of numbers flowing back and forth between computers.  Our possessions will break or burn or go to the dump or a thrift store.  Our lives are not located in our possessions and money.  No, they have meaning in relationships and in God.

May we focus our energies on that which is most important.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/the-insufficiency-of-materialism-and-greed/

Proper 20, Year A   27 comments

Above:  Map of Ancient Nineveh

Image Source = Fredarch

Scandalous Generosity

The Sunday Closest to September 21

The Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 16:2-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them,

If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites,

In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For what are we, that you complain against us?

And Moses said,

When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him– what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.”

And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said,

I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,

What is it?

For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them,

It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

37 He led out his people with silver and gold;

in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.

38 Egypt was glad of their going,

because they were afraid of them.

39 He spread out a cloud for a covering,

and a fire to give light in the night season.

40 They asked, and quails appeared,

and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water flowed,

so the river ran in the dry places.

42 For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43 So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44 He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil.

45 That they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.

Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Jonah 3:10-4:11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said,

O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.

And the LORD said,

Is it right for you to be angry?

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The LORD God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said,

It is better for me to die than to live.

But God said to Jonah,

Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?

And he said,

Yes, angry enough to die.

Then the LORD said,

You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?

Psalm 145:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

5 I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

6 They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of your greatness.

7 They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

SECOND READING

Philippians 1:21-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well– since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 20:1-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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We like grace when we benefit from it, as in the case of the children of Israel, whom God fed in the wilderness.  Yet often we object when others–especially our enemies and others unlike us–benefit from it, too.

Consider Jonah, one of the most interesting literary creations in the Bible.  He was a satirical figure who epitomized the worst of post-Exilic Judaism, which had a strong dose of exclusivity about it.  So, in the short book bearing the name “Jonah” the titular character receives a mandate from God to offer the people of Nineveh–traditional enemies–a chance to repent.  Jonah runs away, but cannot escape from God.  Finally, Jonah does as God demands, and finds success in this effort disappointing.  Who is he without his traditional enemy?  What is his identity now?  This man cares more for a plant than for fellow human beings who are different from him, but whom God loves and to whom God reaches out.

This not merely about the scandal of grace extended to our enemies.  Jesus told a parable about a vineyard owner who hired people during various times of day then paid everybody the same amount–the standard daily wage at the time and place.  Those who had worked all day were upset, but the vineyard owner had not cheated them.

Why does God’s generosity scandalize us, or at least bother us?  Perhaps we think that we are deserving, but those people over there are not.  I have seen a sticker which reads,

GOD LOVES EVERYBODY, BUT I’M HIS FAVORITE.

This is supposed to be funny, which is how I interpret it.  But some people believe it.  In reality, however, we are just as deserving as those people are, which is to say that we are not deserving at all.  This, however, is not how many of us like to think of ourselves.

Too often we define ourselves according to what we are not.  We are not like those people.  We are not those people.  We are better than them, we tell ourselves.  In reality, however, my identity, your identity, and the identity of the person least like us all exist in the context of God.  We are children of God, and therefore siblings.  So our quarrels exist within a family context.  God, our Father-Mother (Metaphors relative to God are imperfect, and the Bible contains both masculine and feminine images for God.), loves us and does not give up on any of us.  So we ought not to write anyone off.  Yet we do.

We can be instruments of God voluntarily–like, Moses dealing with the ever-grumbling children of Israel, or Paul, bringing the message of Jesus to the Gentiles–or involuntarily–like Jonah, weeping over a dead plant while bemoaning the repentance of a population.  If divine grace and generosity scandalize us, the fault is with us, not with God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/scandalous-generosity/

Week of Proper 18: Wednesday, Year 1   18 comments

Above:  Infant Baptism

Photograph by Tom Adrianssen

Being Heavenly-Minded in Daily Life

SEPTEMBER 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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Colossians 3:1-11 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Since you have been brought back to true life with Christ, you must look for the things that are in heaven, where Christ is, sitting at God’s right hand.  Let your thoughts be on heavenly things, not on the things that are on the earth, because you have died, and now the life you have is hidden with Christ in God.  But when Christ is revealed–and he is your life–you too will be revealed in all your glory with him.

That is why you must kill everything in you that belongs only to earthly life:

  • fornication,
  • impurity,
  • guilty passion, evil desires
  • and especially greed,

which is the same thing as worshipping a false god; all this is the sort of behaviour that makes God angry.  And it is the way in which you used to live when you were surrounded by people doing the same thing, but now you, of all people, must give all these things up:

  • getting angry,
  • being bad-tempered,
  • spitefulness,
  • abusive language and dirty talk;
  • and never tell each other lies.

You have stripped off our old behaviour with your old self, and you have put on a new self which will progress towards true knowledge the more it is renewed in the image of its creator; and in that image there is no room for distinction

  • between Greek and Jew,
  • between the circumcised or the uncircumsised,
  • or between barbarian and Scythian,
  • slave and free man.

There is only Christ:  he is everything and he is in everything.

(I reformatted the text to include bullet lists.)

Psalm 145:10-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 All your works praise you, O LORD,

and all your faithful servants bless you.

11 They make known the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your power;

12 That the peoples may know of your power

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;

your dominion endures throughout all ages.

Luke 6:20-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he [Jesus] said:

How happy are you who are poor; yours is the kingdom of God.

Happy are you who are hungry now; you shall be satisfied.

Happy are you who weep now; you shall laugh.

“Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

“But alas for you who are rich; you are having your consolation now.

Alas for you who have your fill now; you shall go hungry.

Alas for you who laugh now; you shall mourn and weep.

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

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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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The reading from Colossians exists within the context of baptism.  Christ was everything for Paul, so the Apostle wrote that following Christ would dictate one’s choices in daily life.  The “thou shall not” rules out much of politics and popular culture, from including AM talk radio, and Cinemax, and the euphemistically named FOX News Channel.

Baptism is one of the seven sacraments.  The brief act involving water is supposed to function as a visible and outward sign of divine and inward grace in a person’s life.  The ceremony is beautiful, but the hard work follows it.  But as the Scriptures, quoted in the funeral service from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, say:

For none of us has life in himself,

and none becomes his own master when he dies.

For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord,

and if we die, we die in the Lord.

So, then, whether we live or die,

we are the Lord’s possession.

(Page 491)

The Lukan version of the Beatitudes and subsequent woes (in Luke but not Matthew) comes from the Sermon on the Plain, that gospel’s counterpart of the Sermon on the Mount.  The Beatitudes and Woes from Luke contrast value systems.  Those who choose the values of the Beatitudes will go from spiritual height to height.  There is a physical element, too.  The poor are the poor, not the “poor in spirit,” as in Matthew.  The hungry seek food; they are not hungry for righteousness.  Those who value money, possessions, temporary happiness, and public acclaim might get them, but their gains will prove unsatisfactory in the long term.

So, without resorting to persistent grumpiness, of which Paul was disapprove, may we cling to Christ and value him above all else.  Christ does not need our defense; he can defend himself.  His gospel stands forever, withstanding all assaults of scoffers.  But he needs our witness.  May we witness with our ingrained attitudes, which will dictate our actions.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/being-heavenly-minded-in-daily-life/

Week of Proper 18: Tuesday, Year 1   19 comments

Above:  Crucifixion Nail

http://www.ablogabouthistory.com/2010/03/03/crucifixion-nail-found-with-templar-bodies/

Jesus Lifted Burdens.  Why Do We Impose Them?

SEPTEMBER 7, 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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Colossians 2:6-15 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You must live your whole life according to the Christ you have received–Jesus the Lord; you must be rooted in him and built on him and held firm by the faith you have been taught, and full of thanksgiving.

Make sure that no one traps you and deprives you of your freedom by some secondhand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ.

In his body lives the fulness of divinity, an din him you too find your own fulfilment, in the one who is the head of every Sovereignty and Power.

In him you have been circumcised, with a circumcision not performed by the human hand, but by the complete stripping of your body of flesh.  This is circumcision according to Christ.  You have been buried with him, when you were baptised; and by baptism, too, you have been raised with him through your belief in the power of God who raised him from the dead.  You were dead, because you were sinners and had not been circumcised:  he has brought you to life with him, he has forgiven us all our sins.

He has overridden the Law, and cancelled every record of the debt that we had to pay; he has done away with it by nailing it to the cross; and so he got rid of the Sovereignties and the Powers, and paraded them in public, behind him in his triumphal procession.

Psalm 145:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day I will bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

5 I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

6 They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of your greatness.

7 They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

Luke 6:12-19 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now it was about this time that he [Jesus] went out into the hills to pray; and he spent the whole night in prayer to God.  When day came he summoned his disciples and picked out twelve of them; the called them “apostles”:  Simon, whom he called Peter, and his brother, Andrew; James, John, Philip, Bartholomew, Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon called the Zealon, Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot who became a traitor.

He then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.  People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.

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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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There were bad influences in the Colossian church.  There was pressure to embrace Gnosticism, which incorporated astrology, hence Paul’s reference to “some secondhand, empty, rational philosophy based on the principles of this world instead of on Christ.”  And there were those who sought to impose circumcision on the men in the church.  Circumcision, an ancient Jewish tradition, served as a reminder that life comes from God.  But insisting that Gentile men undergo the procedure would have deterred many from joining.

Paul wrote that Jesus lifted burdens at the cross and cancelled old debts there.  So anyone who would impose or reimpose them is wrong.  In Christ, Paul wrote, there is freedom, not spiritual bondage or tyranny.  The grace is free, but not cheap, however.  Paul’s life testified to that fact.  The grace was free and transformative, but his positive response to let to imprisonments, attempted murders, and his martrydom.  Yet he was free in Christ.

Likewise, ten of the twelve original Apostles died as martyrs.  But they were free in Christ.

May we refrain from imposing undue burdens (especially spiritual ones) on each other.  This means shunning legalism and embracing freedom in Christ, wherever it leads.  We are free in Christ to serve and follow him.  The cost might be high, but therein one finds the path to true life.

So why do we impose and reimpose these burdens?  Perhaps we do not know better, for we are mired in our native or adopted traditions.  People do have spiritual blind spots, after all.  Maybe the idea of grace, as radical as it is, frightens us.  Certainly, we might say to ourselves, it cannot be that simple; people ought to jump through some hoops first.  Such attitudes ignore the truth that Jesus took the hoops away, that it is that simple, and that simplicity does not translate into spiritual laziness.  Spiritual simplicity in Christ is rigorous indeed, minus the hoops through which to jump.  If any of this disturbs us, we need to take it to the cross and leave it there.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/04/jesus-lifts-burdens-why-do-we-impose-them/

Proper 13, Year A   29 comments

Above: Byzantine Mosaic of John the Baptist, from Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Image in the Public Domain

Called to Bring People to God

The Sunday Closest to August 3

The Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 2, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 32:22-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said,

Let me go, for the day is breaking.

But Jacob said,

I will not let you go, unless you bless me.

So he said to him,

What is your name?

And he said,

Jacob.

Then the man said,

You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.

Then Jacob asked him,

Please tell me your name.

But he said,

Why is it that you ask my name?

And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying,

For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.

The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Psalm 17:1-7, 16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hear my plea of innocence, O LORD;

give heed to my cry;

listen to my prayer, which does not come from lying lips.

2 Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

3 Weigh my heart, summon me by night,

melt me down; you will find no impurity in me.

4 I give no offense with my mouth as others do;

I have heeded the words of your lips.

5 My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law;

in your paths my feet shall not stumble.

6 I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me;

incline your ear to me and hear my words.

7 Show me your marvelous loving-kindness,

O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand

from those who rise up against me.

16 But at my vindication I shall see your face;

when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 55:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

Ho, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters;

and you that have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without price.

Why do you spend money for that which is not bread,

and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food.

Incline your ear, and come to me;

listen, so that you may live.

I will make with you an everlasting covenant,

my steadfast, sure love for David.

See, I made him a witness to the peoples,

a leader and commander for the peoples.

See, you shall call nations that you do not know,

and nations that do not know you shall run to you,

because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,

for he has glorified you.

Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

15 The LORD upholds all those who fall;

he lifts up those who are bowed down.

16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD,

and you give them their food in due season.

17 You open wide your hand

and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

18 The LORD is righteous in all his ways

and loving in all his works.

19 The LORD is near to those who call upon him,

to all who call upon him faithfully.

20 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;

he hears their cry and helps them.

21 The LORD preserves all those who love him,

but he destroys all the wicked.

22 My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD;

let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.

SECOND READING

Romans 9:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

I am speaking the truth in Christ– I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit– I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 14:13-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said,

This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.

Jesus said to them,

They need not go away; you give them something to eat.

They replied,

We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.

And he said,

Bring them here to me.

Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

The Collect:

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

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The call of God transformed a schemer named Jacob into a the patriarch Israel.  That mandate was to be a light to the nations, and it applied to the Israelite people as a whole.  (It still does.)  To be set aside as chosen is to receive a great responsibility.  This is a matter of duty, not prestige.

That duty is to bring diverse peoples to God.  Read Matthew 13, which contains parables of inclusion.  The mustard plant was inclusive in so far as animals of various species took shelter within it.  This mustard plant was an allegory for the Kingdom of God.  And, when we turn to the wheat field infected with tares and the net full of good and bad fish, we read that God will sort out the good and the bad, the wheat and the weeds, later.

We read also in Matthew 13 that the Kingdom of God is precious, worthy of single-minded devotion.  Consider the brief parables of the pearl and the treasure.

So here we are in Matthew 14, following those parables and the execution of John the Baptist.  He drew people to God.  But lest we oversimplify, and say that we must always be nice, consider the examples of Jesus and John the Baptist.  They used harsh words when appropriate, and they contributed greatly to these holy men going to their deaths.  Read the prophets, also.  Was Jeremiah habitually polite and respectable?  No, of course not.  All these men suffered because of the ways they brought people to God.

Even being nice scared people and put Jesus at risk.  Few actions are nicer than feeding people.  But this and other miracles scared certain individuals who had the power to execute Jesus or to arrange such a death.

Why do we fear good, holy people at any time, in any place?  Sometimes their examples reveal our own shortcomings.  So, instead of seeking to correct our errors, we react defensively.  Or, in the case of Jeremiah, Jesus, and John the Baptist, they threaten power structures–such as domestic and foreign potentates and religious hierarchies.  And, in a society lacking the separation of religion and state, powerful political figures can label theological dissent as treason, or at least a moral threat to society.  This happened in the Byzantine Empire, too, and, in North America, in colonial New England.  (Puritans hanged Quakers.)

So being a light to the nations is a perilous vocation.  But it is God’s call.  It is the way to life, even if death is a stop along the way.  Countless saints, many of them martyrs, continue to teach this lesson by the example of their lives, even many years after their earthly journeys ended.  And contemporary martyrs and other saints do the same.  Potentates who persecute think that they can eradicate a message they fear.  But, time after time, history proves that the blood of the martyrs waters the church.  Persecution usually has the effect of increasing the brightness of the light the persecutors seek to extinguish.  These persecutors do not learn quickly or at all, do they?

And so the Kingdom of God continues unabated, much like the mustard plant Jesus used as a parable illustration.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:5 (Revised Standard Version)

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/20/called-to-bring-people-to-god/

Proper 9, Year A   29 comments


Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s C.E. Painting)

Image in the Public Domain

The Victory Belongs to God Alone

The Sunday Closest to July 6

The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 5, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 (New Revised Standard Version):

The servant said to Laban,

I am Abraham’s servant. The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, `You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’

I came today to the spring, and said, `O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also” — let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.’

Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, `Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, `Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, `Whose daughter are you?’ She said, `The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.

And they called Rebekah, and said to her,

Will you go with this man?

She said,

I will.

So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.

Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant,

Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?

The servant said,

It is my master.

So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

AND

Psalm 45:11-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 “Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely;

forget your people and your father’s house.

12 The king will have pleasure in your beauty;

he is your master; therefore do him honor.

13 The people of Tyre are here with a gift,

the rich among the people seek your favor.”

14 All glorious is the princess as she enters;

her gown is cloth-of-gold.

15 In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king;

after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.

16 With joy and gladness they are brought,

and enter into the palace of the king.

17 “In place of fathers, O king, you shall have sons;

you shall make them princes over all the earth.

18 I will make your name to be remembered

from one generation to another;

therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever.”

OR

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

The voice of my beloved!

Look, he comes,

leaping upon the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle

or a young stag.

Look, there he stands

behind our wall,

gazing in at the windows,

looking through the lattice.

My beloved speaks and says to me:

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away;

for now the winter is past,

the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth;

the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove

is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,

and the vines are in blossom;

they give forth fragrance.

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Zechariah 9:9-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!

Lo, your king comes to you;

triumphant and victorious is he,

humble and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim

and the war-horse from Jerusalem;

and the battle bow shall be cut off,

and he shall command peace to the nations;

his dominion shall be from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;

today I declare that I will restore to you double.

For I have bent Judah as my bow;

I have made Ephraim its arrow.

I will arouse your sons, O Zion,

against your sons, O Zion,

and wield you like a warrior’s sword.

Psalm 145:8-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

10 All your works praise you, O LORD,

and your faithful servants bless you.

11 They make known the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your power;

12 That the peoples may know of your power

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;

your dominion endures throughout all ages.

14 The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in all his deeds.

15 The LORD upholds all those who fall;

he lifts up those who are bowed down.

SECOND READING

Romans 7:15-25a (New Revised Standard Version):

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.  But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law oat war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will rescue from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to the crowd,

To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;

we wailed, and you did not mourn.”

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.

At that time Jesus said,

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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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Sometimes I can tie all lectionary readings for a day together neatly via a common thought.  This unifying theme might be easy or difficult to locate, but I can find it–much of the time.  Proper 9, Year A, is an exception to this rule.  So I state quickly that genuine romantic love between adult human beings, especially those bound to each other by the sacrament of marriage, is beautiful and that God is present there.  Now I move along to Zechariah, Paul, and Matthew.

I take these readings in chronological order.

The Book of Zechariah exists in two parts:  Chapters 1-8 and 9-14, each section having separate authorship.  Zechariah 9-14 contains prophesies about how God will deal with the Jewish people from the time of Hellenistic domination of the Holy Land to the coming of the Messiah.  The texts say that God will act, so the victory will belong to God.  Worthless shepherds will not obstruct these deeds, for God will replace them with a worthy shepherd, the Messiah.

Jesus, of course, was (and is) that Messiah.  People criticized him for many reasons:  he ate and drank too much or he fasted too much; he healed on the Sabbath; the man could not satisfy some people regardless of how good he was.  Some people will find fault with anyone, even Jesus.  But he was (and is) the Good Shepherd, and through him God has made atonement for sins.

Speaking of sins, Paul struggled with them.  I know this feeling, but I take it as more positive than negative.  The term “immoral” indicates that one knows the difference between right and wrong, and chooses the latter.  But “amoral” indicates that one cannot make the distinction.  At least the person who is immoral at least some to the time knows the difference, and God can work with that.  It is vital to try and to want to do the right thing.  We humans are deeply flawed, “but dust” as the Book of Psalms says, but we also bear the image of God (Genesis 1).  So we need to honor the divine image within ourselves and each other, and to trust God to help us distinguish between right and wrong, and to believe that God will help us choose what is correct.

Culture can affect our perceptions of morality, sometimes for the worse.  As a student of U.S. history, I know that many Antebellum Southerners thought that keeping slaves was moral, and that anyone who said or thought otherwise did not understand the Bible correctly.  Also, I have a book containing a 1954 sermon from Texas entitled “God the Original Segregationist.”  The pastor continued to sell copies of this sermon via the mail through at least 1971.  It is easy for me to point out these moral misunderstandings, but I am blind to my own.

So I read Paul’s confession and identify with it.  And I take comfort that the victory is God’s work, and that neither I nor anyone else will stand in its way.  But I hope I am not and will never be a would-be obstacle God must sweep aside.  No, I want to be on God’s side.  By grace, may as many of us as possible be there.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/the-victory-belongs-to-god-alone/

Week of Proper 1: Saturday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  An Illustrated Manuscript from 1300:  The Account of the Transfiguration of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark

Spiritual Blindness and Deafness Resulting from Erroneous Assumptions

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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

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Hebrews 11:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see.

It was for our faith that the people old won God’s approval.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed by God’s command, so that the visible came forth from the invisible.

By faith Abel offered a greater sacrifice than Cain’s; because of his faith God approved his offerings and attested his goodness; and through his faith, though he is dead, he continues to speak.

By faith Enoch was taken up to another life without passing through death; he was not to be found, because God had taken him, and it is the testimony of scripture that before he was taken he had pleased God.  But without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever comes to God must believe that he exists and rewards those who seek him.

By faith Noah took good heed of the divine warning about the unseen future, and built an ark to save his household.  Through his faith he put the whole world in the wrong, and made good this own claim to the righteousness which comes of faith.

Psalm 145:1-4, 10-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

10 All your works praise you, O LORD,

and all your faithful servants bless you.

11 They make known the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your power;

12 That the peoples may know of your power

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;

your dominion endures throughout all ages.

Mark 9:2-13 (Revised English Bible):

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And in their presence he was transfigured; his clothes became dazzling white, with a whiteness no bleacher on earth could equal.  They saw Elijah appear and Moses with him, talking with Jesus.  Then Peter spoke:

Rabbi,

he said,

it is good that we are here!  Shall we make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah?

For he did not know what to say; they were so terrified.  Then a cloud appeared, casting its shadow over them, and out of the cloud came a voice:

This is my beloved Son; listen to him.

And suddenly, when they looked around, only Jesus was with them; there was no longer anyone else to be seen.

On their way down the mountain, he instructed them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  They seized upon those words, and discussed among themselves what this “rising from the dead” could mean.  And they put a question to him:

Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?

He replied,

Elijah does come first to set everything right.  How is it, then, that the scriptures say of the Son of Man that he is to endure great suffering and be treated with contempt?  However, I tell you, Elijah has already come and they have done to him what they wanted, ans the scriptures say of him.

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The Collect:

Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us and not what we deserve; and, as you have called us to your service, make us worthy of our calling; 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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Hebrews 11:1-7 speaks of faith.  The author of this text defines faith as that which “gives substance to our hopes and convictions of realities we do not see.”  Furthermore, we read, the faithful dead continue to speak (after a fashion) because of their faith.  And faith makes it possible to please God, “for whoever comes to God must believe that he exists and rewards those who seek him.”

Here I feel the need to make a distinction.  Believing in God and accepting the the existence of God are separate.  The latter is a merely intellectual jump; the former is a leap of faith.  An Agnostic accepts that God exists, for example, but is still agnostic, literally “without knowledge.”

And it is not just Agnostics who lack knowledge.  We who profess to follow Jesus are just as prone to spiritual ignorance as anyone else.  We see the evidence of nature, but do we understand what it means?  And Apostles spent time with Jesus and heard his words repeatedly, but they remained confused for a very long time.  They were neither stupid nor physically blind or deaf.  No, they labored under misconceptions of Messiahship, that the Messiah would be a national liberator.  But Jesus did not drive out the Romans, nor did he attempt to do so.  He suffered, died, and rose again; before that, he said he would suffer, die, and rise again.  There was a great display of power involved in the Resurrection, but the Romans were still present as occupying power in Judea.

The author of the Gospel of Mark wrote the earliest canonical Gospel in part to dispel false expectations of Messiahship, but, as I have written in previous devotions in this series, some of us have not paid attention.  On the positive side, however, many of us have learned this Markan lesson.

Let us consider the Transfiguration.  I suspect that the most eloquent words are inadequate to the experience.  Yet all accounts agree that there was a spectacular display of Jesus in his divine glory, that God approved of him, and that Jesus is consistent with the Law and the Prophets.  Peter, duly awed, wanted to institutionalize the moment, but that was the wrong response.  Jesus had work to do; he was preparing to die.  And his Apostles needed to be at his side.  We know how that turned out, do we not?

Sadly, we mere mortals today remain blind to many spiritual realities about which Jesus and the Prophets before him were quite plain.  What is wrong with us?  Why are we so dense?  Why do cling to false assumptions?  Why do we not see what is in front of us?

Lord, have mercy.

KRT

Published originally as Week of 6 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 28, 2010