Archive for the ‘Psalm 17’ Tag

Week of Proper 21: Monday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  Parisian School Children

Dealing with the Unexpected

OCTOBER 1, 2018

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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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Job 1:6-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

One day the divine beings presented themselves before the LORD, and the Adversary came along with them.  The LORD said to the Adversary,

Where have you been?

The Adversary answered the LORD,

I have been roaming all over the earth.

The LORD said to the Adversary,

Have you noticed my servant Job?  There is no one like him on earth, a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil!

The Adversary answered the LORD,

Does Job not have good reason to fear God?  Why, is it You who have fenced him round, him and his household and all that he has.  You have blessed his efforts so that his possessions spread out in the land.  But lay Your hand upon all that he has and he will surely blaspheme You to Your face.

The LORD replied to the Adversary,

See, all that he has is in your power; only do not lay a hand on him.

The Adversary departed from the presence of the LORD.

One day, as his sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother, a messenger came to Job and said,

The oxen were plowing and the she-asses were grazing alongside them when Sabeans attacked them and carried them off, and put the boys to the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.

This one was still speaking when another came and said,

God’s fire fell from heaven, took hold of the sheep and the boys, and burned them up; I alone escaped to tell you.

This one was still speaking when another came and said,

A Chaldean formation of three columns made a raid on the camels and carried them off and put the boys to the sword; I alone have escaped to tell you.

This one was still speaking when another came and said,

Your sons and daughters were eating and drinking wine in the house of their eldest brother when suddenly a mighty wind came from the wilderness.   It struck the four corners of the house so that it collapsed upon the young people and they died; I alone have escaped to tell you.

Then Job arose, tore his robe, cut off his hair, and threw himself on the ground and worshiped.  He said,

Naked I came out of my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there; the LORD has given, and the LORD has taken away; blessed be the name of the LORD.

For all that, Job did not sin nor did he cast reproach on God.

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

Hear my plea of innocence, O LORD;

give heed to my cry;

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

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

Weigh my heart, summon me by night,

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

I give no offence with my mouth as others do;

I have heeded the words of your lips.

My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law;

in your paths my feet shall not stumble.

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

incline your ear to me and hear my words.

Show me your marvelous loving-kindness,

O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand

from those who rise up against them.

Luke 9:46-50 (The Jerusalem Bible):

An argument started between them [the Apostles] about which of them was the greatest.  Jesus knew what thoughts were going through their minds, and he took a little child and set him by his side and said to them,

Anyone who welcomes this little child in my name welcomes me; and anyone who welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  For the least among you all, that is the one who is great.

John spoke up.

 Master,

he said,

we saw a man casting out devils in your name, and spoke because he is not with us we tried to stop him.

But Jesus said to him,

You must not stop him:  anyone who is not against you is for you.

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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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The Book of Job is an often quoted and frequently misunderstood text.  For example, the main character is quite impatient, with a few notable exceptions, yet the English language contains an inaccurate cliché,

the patience of Job.

And the book does not explain the cause of all suffering, so that cannot be its topic.  The text makes clear that Job’s suffering results from the actions of God’s loyalty tester, an employee called the Adversary or the Satan, with divine consent.  So God is on the hook for this one, according to the Bible itself.

More than one commentator has noted the theological difficulty of the Book of Job, which does not depict God in an entirely positive light.  Yet theological difficulty is par for the course in pondering the Bible.  May we who read the Bible do so carefully and honestly, not fearing to admit which passages and concepts make us uncomfortable.  More will cause discomfort as we progress through the Book of Job for a few more posts.

Speaking of discomfort…

The least among us is great, so social status means nothing to God.  And God has servants whom we do not recognize and of whom we do not know; anyone who is not against us is for us.  So we need to dispense with our exclusive club mentality.  This might threaten our identities, perhaps carefully crafted and well-honed ones.

So God works in various ways, including those we dislike and/or do not expect.  Few things are more disconcerting than the unexpected.  Do we then pretend that these realities do not exist, or do we admit that our knowledge is quite limited?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/dealing-with-the-unexpected/

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Posted October 26, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Canadian Anglican Lectionary Year 2, October 1

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

Above:  St. Mary Magdalene at the Foot of the Cross (Circa 1528-1530), a Detail from a Pieta by Angelo Bronzino (1503-1572)

Misreading Scripture Due to Hearsay

SEPTEMBER 20 and 21, 2018

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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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COMBINED FIRST READING FOR THURSDAY AND FRIDAY

1 Corinthians 15:1-20 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, the gospel that you received  and in which you are firmly established; because the gospel will save you only if you keep believing exactly what I preached to you–believing anything else will not lead to anything.

Well then, in the first place, I taught you what I had been taught myself, namely that Christ died for our sins, in accordance with the scriptures; that he was buried; and that he was raised to life on the third day, in accordance with the scriptures; that he appeared first to Cephas and secondly to the Twelve.  Next he appeared to more than five thousand of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died; then he appeared to James, and then to all the apostles; and last of all he appeared to me too; it was as though I was born when no one expected it.

I am the least of the apostles; in fact, since I persecuted the Church of God, I hardly deserve the name apostle; but by God’s grace that is what I am, and the grace that he gave me has not been fruitless.  On the contrary, I, or rather the grace of God that is with me, have worked harder than any of the others; but what matters is that I preach what they preach, and this is what you all believed.

Now if Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached, how can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless;  indeed, we are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he had raised Christ to life.  For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins.  And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished.  If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.

But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.

RESPONSES

Psalm 118:14-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

14  The LORD is my strength and my song,

and he has become my salvation.

15  There is a sound of exultation and victory

in the tents of the righteous:

16  “The right hand of the LORD has triumphed!

the right hand of the LORD is exalted!

the right hand of the LORD has triumphed!”

17  I shall not die, but live,

and declare the works of the LORD.

18  The LORD has punished me sorely,

but he did not hand me over to death.

19  Open for me the gates of righteousness;

I will enter them;

I will offer thanks to the LORD.

20  “This is the gate of the LORD;

he who is righteous may enter.”

21  I will give thanks to you, for you answered me

and have become my salvation.

22  The same stone which the builders rejected

has become the chief cornerstone.

23  This is the LORD’s doing,

and it is marvelous in our eyes.

24  On this day the LORD has acted;

we will rejoice and be glad in it.

25  Hosanna, LORD, hosanna!

LORD, send us now success.

26  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord;

we bless you from the house of the LORD.

27  God is the LORD; he has shined upon us;

form a procession with branches up to the horns of the altar.

28  “You are my God, and I will thank you;

you are my God, and I will exalt you.”

29  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

his mercy endures for ever.

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

Hear my plea of innocence, O LORD;

give heed to my cry;

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

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

Weigh my heart, summon me by night,

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

I give no offence with my mouth as others do;

I have heeded the words of your lips.

My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law;

in your paths my feet shall not stumble.

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

incline your ear to me and hear my words.

Show me your marvelous loving-kindness,

O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand

from those who rise up against them.

COMBINED GOSPEL READING FOR THURSDAY AND FRIDAY

Luke 7:36-8:3 (The Jerusalem Bible):

One of the Pharisees invited him to a meal.  When he arrived at the Pharisee’s house and took his place at table, a woman came in, who had a bad name in the town.  She had heard he was dining with the Pharisee and had brought with her an alabaster jar of ointment.  She waited behind him at his feet, weeping, and her tears fell on his feet, and she wiped them away with her hair; then she covered his feet with kisses and anointed them with the ointment.

When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself,

If this man were a prophet, he would know who this woman is who is touching him and what a bad name she has.

Then Jesus took him up and said,

Simon, I have something to say to you.

He replied,

Speak, Master.

Jesus said,

There was once a creditor who had two men in his debt; one owed him five hundred denarii, the other fifty.  They were unable to pay, so he pardoned them both.  Which of them will love him more?

Simon answered,

The one who was pardoned more, I suppose.

Jesus said,

You are right.

Then he turned to the woman.

Simon,

he said,

do you see this woman?  I came into your house, and you poured no water over my feet, but she has poured out her tears over my feet and wiped them away with her hair.  You gave me no kiss, but she has been covering my feet with kisses ever since I came in.  You did not anoint my head with oil, but she has anointed my feet with ointment.  For this reason I tell you that her sins, her many sins, must have been forgiven her, or she would not have shown such great love.  It is the man who is forgiven little who  shows little love.

Then he said to her,

Your sins are forgiven.

Those who were with him at table began to say to themselves,

Who is this man, that he even forgives sins?

But he said to the woman,

Your faith has saved you; go in peace.

Now after this he [Jesus] made his way through towns and villages preaching, and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom of God.  With him went the Twelve, as well as certain women who had been cured of evil spirits and ailments:  Mary surnamed the Magdalene, form whom seven demons had gone out, Joanna the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, Susanna, and several others who had provided for them out of their own resources.

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The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; 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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Regarding the reading from 1 Corinthians, I have little to write.  What can I say that Paul did not express more eloquently?  So I leave that as it stands and move along.

Each canonical Gospel contains an account–each quite similar, by the way–of a woman anointing Jesus.  The citations, for the record, are:

  • Luke 7:36-50
  • Matthew 26:9-13
  • Mark 14:3-9
  • John 12:1-8

In the Lukan account, an unnamed prostitute anoints the feet of our Lord at the home of Simon the Pharisee.  In the accounts from Mark and Matthew, however, an unnamed woman (without hint of bad reputation) anoints our Lord’s head at the home of Simon the Leper.  And, in the Johannine Gospel, Mary of Bethany anoints our Lord’s feet at her home.  There is certainly no hint of a bad reputation in John 12:1-8.

In the Lukan Gospel, immediately after 7:36-50, we read of various female disciples and financial backers of Jesus, among them St. Mary of Magdala, a.k.a. St. Mary Magdalene.  Tradition, begun by Pope St. Gregory I (“the Great”) associates the prostitute at the end of Luke 7 with St. Mary Magdalene.  This association is erroneous.  Yet many readers and students of the Bible insist that the Good Book labels St. Mary Magdalene a reformed prostitute.

We who grew up with the Bible and Bible stories learned a great deal, some of it erroneous.  If we are to learn accurately what the Bible says about any given topic, we need to turn off the proverbial tapes running inside our heads, stop skipping ahead in a “I already know this part” fashion, and pay very close attention.  I endeavor to do this, with mixed results, I am sure.  I invite you, O reader, to join me in striving to improve.  May our expectations not prevent us from learning what we need to learn in the canonized texts.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/misreading-scripture-due-to-hearsay/

Week of Proper 28: Wednesday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  Herod Archelaus

Image in the Public Domain

A Foretaste of the Feast of Christ the King

NOVEMBER 20, 2019

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

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2 Maccabees 7:1, 20-31, 39-42 (Revised English Bible):

Another incident concerned the arrest of seven brothers along with their mother.  They were being tortured by the king with whips and thongs to force them to eat pork, contrary to the law.

The mother was the most remarkable of all, and she deserves to be remembered with special honour.  She watched her seven sons perish within the space of a single day, yet she bore it bravely, for she trusted in the Lord.  She encouraged each in turn in her native language; filled with noble resolution, her woman’s thoughts fired by a manly spirit, she said to them:

You appeared in my womb, I know not how; it was not I who gave you life and breath, not I who set in order the elements of your being.  The Creator of the universe, who designed the beginning of mankind and devised the origin of all, will in his mercy give you back again breath and life, since now you put his laws above every thought of self.

Antiochus felt that he was being treated with contempt and suspected an insult in her words.  As the youngest brother was still left, the king, not content with appealing to him, even assured him on oath that once he abandoned his ancestral customs he would make him rich and enviable by enrolling him as a king’s Friend and entrusting him with high office.  Since the youth paid no regard whatsoever, the king summoned the mother and urged her to advise her boy to save his life.  After much urging from the king, she agreed to persuade her son.  She leant towards him and, flouting the cruel tyrant, said in her native language:

Son, take pity on me, who carried you nine months in the womb, nursed you for three years, reared you and brought you up to your present age.  I implore you, my child, to look at the heavens and the earth; consider all that is in them, and realize that God did not create them from what already existed and that a human being comes into existence in the same way.  Do not be afraid of this butcher; accept death willingly and prove yourself worthy of your brothers, so that by God’s mercy I may receive back you and them together.

She had barely finished when the young man spoke out:

What are you all waiting for?  I will not submit to the king’s command; I obey the command of the law given through Moses to our forefathers.  And you, King Antiochus, who have devised all manner of atrocities for the Hebrews, you will not escape God’s hand….

Roused by this defiance, the king in his fury used him worse than the others, and the young man, putting his whole trust in the Lord, died without having incurred defilement.

Last of all, after her sons, the mother died.

Then must conclude our account of the eating of entrails and the monstrous tortures.

Psalm 17:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear my plea of innocence, O LORD;

give heed to my cry;

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

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

Weigh my heart, summon me by night,

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

I give no offence with my mouth as others do;

I have heeded the words of your lips.

My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law;

in your paths my feet shall not stumble.

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

incline your ear to me and hear my words.

Show me your marvelous loving-kindness,

O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand

from those who rise up against them.

Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me under the shadow of your wings.

Luke 19:11-28 (Revised English Bible):

While they were listening to this, Jesus went on to tell them a parable, because he was now close to Jerusalem and they [the crowd who disapproved of him eating with Zacchaeus] thought the kingdom of God might dawn at any moment.  He said,

A man of noble birth went on a long journey abroad, to have himself appointed king and then return.  But first he called then of his servants and gave each a sum of money, saying, “Trade with this while I am away.”  His fellow-citizens hated him and sent a delegation after him to say, “We do not want this man as our king.”  He returned however as king, and sent for the servants to whom he had given the money, to find out what profit each had made.  The first came and said, “Your money, sir, has increased tenfold.”  “Well done,” he replied, “you are a good servant, trustworthy in a very small matter, you shall have charge of ten cities.”  The second came and said, “Here is your money, sir; I kept it wrapped up in a handkerchief.  I was afraid of you because you are a hard man:  you draw out what you do not put in and reap what you do not sow.”  “You scoundrel!”  he replied.  “I will condemn you out of your own mouth.  You knew me to be a hard man, did you, drawing out what I never put in, and reaping what I did not sow?  Then why did you not put my money on deposit, and I could have claimed it with interest when I came back?”  Turning to his attendants he said, “Take the money from him and give it to the man with the most.”  “But sir,” they replied, “he has ten times as much already.”  “I tell you,” he said, “everyone one has will be given more; but whoever has nothing will forfeit even what he has.  But as for those enemies of mine who did not want me for their king, bring them here and slaughter them in my presence.”

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning: Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

This is My Father’s World:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/31/this-is-my-fathers-world/

Torture:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-are-tortured/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-inflict-torture/

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U.S. Presbyterian minister and humanitarian Maltbie Davenport Babcock adored nature and wrote many poems.  He died in 1901, after which his widow arranged for the publication of many of these works.  Among them was the text of the great hymn, “This is My Father’s World.”  One verse is especially germane to this day’s readings:

This is my Father’s world,

O let me ne’er forget

That though the wrong seems oft so strong

God is the ruler yet.

This is my Father’s world:

The battle is not done;

Jesus who died shall be satisfied,

And earth and heaven be one.

Antiochus Epiphanes was a tyrant, as was Herod the Great, a Roman client king who died in 4 B.C.E.  Three sons took up their father’s role, each in his own district, with Roman approval, of course.  Herod Archelaus governed much of the territory the modern State of Israel covers, with his capital at Jerusalem.  He was the basis of the parable Jesus told, for a delegation of fifty men from the region traveled to Rome to ask they Archelaus not become the client ruler.

The Parable of the Pounds in Luke 19 is similar to the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25.  For more about latter, follow the germane links I have provided.  In Luke 19, however, there is a unique twist; the king is clearly the villain, and one identified with a member of the notorious Herodian Dynasty.  This parable is set as Jesus nears his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, and therefore his crucifixion a few days later.  The tyranny of the Roman Empire and its rule, whether direct or indirect, was on his mind.

The 1920s were difficult.  Democracies were few and far between in Europe, and some of those were weak.  The Weimar Republic teetered in Germany and the Fascists reigned supreme in Italy.  Japan was on the militaristic and imperialistic path in the Pacific Basin, and Stalin was consolidating his power in the Soviet Union.  In this context, in 1925, Pope Pius XI instituted the Feast of Christ the King, meant, among other things, to serve as a reminder that, as Babcock wrote,

God is the ruler yet.

This is a timeless lesson.

There is a wonderful song, which, according to some sources, is an old Quaker hymn:  “How Can I Keep from Singing?”

1.  My life flows on in endless song,

Above earth’s lamentation;

I hear the real though far-off song

That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear that music ringing;

It sounds an echo in my soul,

How can I keep from singing?

2.  What though the tempest loudly roars,

I hear the truth, it liveth;

What though the darkness round me close,

Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm

While to that rock I’m clinging,

Since love is Lord of heaven and earth,

How can I keep from singing?

3.  When tyrants tremble when they hear

The bells of freedom ringing;

When friends rejoice both far and near

How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile

Our thoughts to them are winging,

When friends by shame are undefiled,

How can I keep from singing?

–From Songs of the Spirit (1978), of the Friends General Conference

Christ the King Sunday is Proper 29, the last Sunday of the Western Christian year.  I am close to writing the devotion for that day, given where I am in the lectionary cycle.  But, despite the heavy tone of the readings for this day, Wednesday in the Week of Proper 28, Year 1, we have a foretaste of the Feast of Christ the King.

Here ends the lesson.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/10/a-foretaste-of-the-feast-of-christ-the-king/

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 6, 2017

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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/

Week of Proper 9: Tuesday, Year 1   19 comments

Above: Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Wrestling with God

JULY 9, 2019

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

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Genesis 32:22-32 (An American Translation):

That same night he [Jacob] arose, and taking his two wives, his two female slaves, and his eleven children, he sent them across the ford of the Jabbok.  He took them, and sent them across the stream, and everything that belonged to him across.  Jacob himself was left behind all alone.  Then a man wrestled with him until daybreak, and when he found that he could not master him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s thigh, so that the socket of Jacob’s thigh was dislocated as he wrestled him.  Then he said,

Let me go; for the dawn is breaking.

But he replied,

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

He said to him,

What is your name?

He replied,

Jacob.

Then he said,

Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel [wrestler with God], because you have wrestled with God and man, and have been the victor.

Jacob requested,

Please tell me your name.

He replied,

Why is it that you ask for my name?

nevertheless he blessed him there.

So Jacob called the name of that place Peniel (face of God];

For,

said he,

I have seen God face to face, and yet my life has been spared.

The sun rose on him just as he passed Penuel, limping because of his thigh.  That is why to this day the Israelites do not eat the hip muscle which is on the socket of the thigh; for the socket of Jacob’s thigh was touched on the hip muscle.

Psalm 17:1-8 (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 offence 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 them.

8 Keep me as the apple of your eye;

hide me under the shadow of your wings.

Matthew 9:32-38 (An American Translation):

But just as they were going out, some people brought to him a dumb man who was possessed by a demon, and as soon as the demon was driven out, the dumb man was able to speak.  And the crowds were amazed, and said,

Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel!

But the Pharisees said,

It is by the prince of demons that he drives them out.

Jesus went round among all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.

But the sight of the crowds of people filled him with pity for them, because they were bewildered and dejected, like sheep that have no shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples,

The harvest is abundant enough, but the reapers are few.  So pray to the owner of the harvest to send reapers to gather it.

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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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Jacob, literally the “supplanter,” was on his way to meet with Esau, his estranged brother.  Jacob had spent the previous three chapters and over 14 years in the shadow of Laban, his father-in-law, who had tricked him and whom he had manipulated.  With that dispute settled, there was older unfinished business to settle.  Jacob did not know what Esau’s mood would be.

So, one night, Jacob faced God in the flesh.  Sometimes certain Hebrew texts use “God” and “angel” interchangeably, but the meaning in Genesis 32:22-32 is that Jacob wrestled with God incarnate.  He held on and persisted through the night and received a new name, Israel (meaning “wrestler with God,” “contender with God,” “God rules,” et cetera), and a limp, but he survived mostly intact.  Jacob was a changed man in more than one way.

We ought to take comfort in such stories.  Jacob, despite his flaws, was a chosen instrument of God.  Note also that God instigated the wrestling match.

Submission to God is the chief moral virtue in Islam.  Yet one of the pivotal stories in the Hebrew Bible is one of a man and God wrestling, with God starting the match.  Struggling and arguing with God is a key element in multiple Hebrew Bible stories; consider Job, for example.  He argued with God until God answered.  Whoever coined the cliche “the patience of Job” did not understand that book well.

And, although our flaws might not be as dramatic as those of Jacob, our imperfections do have consequences for ourselves and others.  Yet God can work through us, too.

I posit that a vital detail in the account from Genesis is that Jacob grasped God and refused to let go.  The man who struggled with God did so while grasping God; there was a relationship with the deity.

I contrast this with the response of Pharisees to Jesus’ healing of a mute man.  Demon possession was a common diagnosis for muteness, epilepsy, and many other conditions, so who knows what caused the man’s inability to speak?  But, whatever it was, Jesus cured it.  And some tradition-moribund religious people chose not to wrestle (metaphorically) with this incarnation of God.  If they had, they might have discovered answers and changed their lives and those of others.

After reading and studying the Bible for most years of my life, and after years of attempts (of varying degrees of effort and success) of faithful living, I have learned many lessons.  Among them is this:  God is frequently surprising.  God does not fit into our artificial theological boxes.  We never have God figured out.  Yes, we can understand partially, but that is as far as we can go.  So, as useful as traditions can be, a spiritual wrestling match now and then can prove much more helpful.

By the way, Jacob and Esau reconciled then parted company;  Jacob’s fears proved false.  And Jacob became the father of the men whose names continue as Hebrew tribes.  There is no tribe of Joseph, but two tribes carry the names of his sons, Ephraim and Manasseh.  And there was no tribal land allotment to the Levites.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/26/wrestling-with-god/