Archive for the ‘Psalm 31’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 23, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Burying the Body of Joseph

Image in the Public Domain

Hypocrisy

OCTOBER 13, 2019

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 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.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 50:14-26 or Isaiah 58:1-14

Psalm 31:19-24

1 Corinthians 12:1-13

Matthew 21:10-27

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Avoiding hypocrisy entirely is impossible, but one can avoid it more often than not, by grace.  One can avoid it more today than tomorrow, by grace.

Hypocrisy is the topic that unites the assigned readings.

  1. Joseph’s brothers feared he might have been a hypocrite when he said he forgave them in Chapter 45.  He was no hypocrite.
  2. God, speaking through Third Isaiah, condemned the hypocrisy of fasting (as to appear pious) yet exploiting and otherwise harming people.
  3. The author of Psalm 31 feared lying, wicked people.
  4. Jesus took offense at the hypocrisy of the Temple establishment and Israel in general, hence the Temple Incident (as Biblical scholars call it) and the cursing of the fig tree.

May we of the current generation refrain from a variety of sins, such as anti-Semitism (per the account in Matthew 21) and self-righteousness.  Appearing pious yet exploiting people applies to many people in every time and place.  Hypocrisy is never the sole province of any group of people.

1 Corinthians 12 tells us that the gifts of the Holy Spirit exist to build up the body of Christ.  Yet how often do many of us seek to use the body of Christ or a portion thereof to build up ourselves?  Is that not hypocrisy?  God occupies the center; we do not.  If we think otherwise, we are mistaken.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA, SEPTEMBER 15, 1963

THE FEAST OF CHARLES EDWARD OAKLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES CHISHOLM, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIBERT AND AICARDUS OF JUMIEGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/15/hypocrisy/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for Proper 22, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Joseph Reveals His Identity, by Peter von Cornelius

Image in the Public Domain

Inclusion and Exclusion

OCTOBER 6, 2019

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 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.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 45 or Isaiah 56:1-8

Psalm 31:9-18

1 Corinthians 11:17-34

Matthew 18:15-35

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Dealing with people can be difficult for various reasons, not the least of which is that some people are difficult.  Many are toxic, emotionally and spiritually.

Consider the family of Jacob, O reader.  The happy turn of events does not negate the perfidy of previous chapters.  Do you not, O reader, know that eventually Jacob confronted those sons of his who had told him years prior that Joseph was dead?  That is not a conversation recorded in Genesis.

Yet forgiveness carried the day.  And why not?  How often have we prayed to God for forgiveness and not been forgiving, of others or ourselves?  The hyperbolic debt of 10,000 talents (150,000 years’ worth of wages for a laborer) was impossible to repay.  Those who have received forgiveness have always incurred the obligation to forgive.  Forgiving others and self has always been the best policy for another reason also; grudges have always hurt those who have nurtured them.

God, in Isaiah 56:1-8, is quite inclusive, abolishing many barriers.  All those who believe in God and keep the divine commandments may participate in the future messianic salvation.  Foreigners may participate.  Eunuchs (excluded in Deuteronomy 23:2) may participate.

But we human beings tend to like exclusionary categories God rejects, do we not?  Divine grace seeks people like us and dissimilar from us.  It welcomes those who, regardless of any one of a set of factors, we might exclude, but whom God also loves.  The standard is a faithful response.

I have long been a churchy person.  Yet I have felt more spiritual kinship with refugees from organized religion than with certain other churchy people.  Many of the former group have been more receptive to grace than many of the latter group, the ones who made them feel unwelcome in the church.  These refugees from church have included homosexuals and people who have asked too many questions.  I, as a churchy heterosexual who enjoys questions, have sat among them and shown them that many Christians harbor attitudes that welcome them.

Eucharist in the Corinthian Church in the 50s C.E. was apparently not always welcoming.  It was a potluck meal upon which many of the poorer members depended.  Yet some of the more prosperous members ate ahead of time, did not contribute to the common meal, and took the occasion to become intoxicated.  All of these practices were abuses.

From the beginning of Christianity the Church has been rife with abuses.  Human nature has not changed over time, after all.  Ecclesiastical partisanship has not ceased.  Exploitation has not ceased.  However, God has not ceased to bely our ecclesiastical sins either.

May we pay closer attention to that last point.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF BIRMINGHAM, ALABAMA, SEPTEMBER 15, 1963

THE FEAST OF CHARLES EDWARD OAKLEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES CHISHOLM, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIBERT AND AICARDUS OF JUMIEGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/09/15/inclusion-and-exclusion-part-v/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for Proper 26 (Year D)   1 comment

simon-of-cyrene-carrying-the-cross

Above:  Simon of Cyrene Carrying the Cross

Image in the Public Domain

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part VIII

NOVEMBER 1, 2020

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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 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.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Nahum 1:9-15 or Ezekiel 20:32-49

Psalm 31:(1-5) 6-14 (15-16) 17-24 or Psalm 40:(1-11) 12-17

Luke 23:26-32

Romans 15:1-3, 14-33

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The holy mountain in Ezekiel 20 is where the restoration of Israel will become manifest.  The hill of Golgotha is where Roman soldiers executed an innocent man.  One would be hard pressed to identify two hills more different from each other.

The example of Jesus Christ, who did not think of himself, is one of, among other things, love, self-sacrifice, service, humility, and forgiveness.  The Psalms appointed for this Sunday fit well with the theme of the crucifixion of Jesus except for the animosity present in the speakers’ voices.  The example of Jesus is challenging.  It commands each one of us to take up his or her cross and follow him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/the-passion-of-our-lord-jesus-christ-part-viii/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 4, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

GFS_7888

Above:  Bishop Robert C. Wright (Episcopalian) and Archbishop Wilton Gregory (Roman Catholic) at the Good Friday Pilgrimage for Immigrants, April 18, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Of Externals and Internals

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O God our rock, you offer us a covenant of mercy,

and you provide the foundation of our lives.

Ground us in your word, and strengthen our resolve to be your disciples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-8 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 30:1-5 (Friday)

Amos 2:6-11 (Saturday)

Psalm 31:1-5, 19-24 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-29 (Thursday)

Romans 9:6-13 (Friday)

Matthew 7:1-6 (Saturday)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me,

for you are my rock and my stronghold;

guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake.

–Psalm 31:3, Common Worship (2000)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

One of the faults of certain varieties of Protestantism is overemphasizing the internal and unseen while underemphasizing the external and the seen. Pietists, for example, dismiss “externals” frequentlu, as if “externals” are meaningless. They are not necessarily so.

No, a ritual (such as a sacrifice or circumcision) can matter quite a lot, for we humans need visible signs and rites of passage. How else are we to mark the difference between one stage of life and another or to note a covenant to God? We need externals beause we see, touch, feel, hear, and smell; we are not disembodied sentients. The scriptures command many rituals in particular settings, in fact.

The scriptures also make clear that rituals are not supposed to be talismans which protect us from punishment for sins of which we have not repented, individually or collectively. Rituals one performs piously have meaning, but those one performs while disobeying divine commandments, such as how to treat people, offend God.

For crime after crime of Israel

I shall grant them no reprieve,

because they sell honest folk for silver

and the poor for a pair of sandals.

They grind the heads of the helpless into the dust

and push the humble out of their way.

Father and son resort to the temple girls,

so profaning my holy name.

–Amos 2:6-7, The Revised English Bible

God, the Bible tells us, cares deeply about how we act toward our fellow human beings. We ought to seek God’s best for them, not exploit them for our own gain and pleasure. We should seek to raise the status of the powerless, the less powerful, and the marginalized among us. Each of us bears the image of God and therefore deserves respect. When we seek to do those things may we succeed by grace. And may we engage in rituals which create holy atmospheres for our spiritual benefit and glorify—not mock—God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE PARKER, ABOLITIONIST AND MAVERICK UNITARIAN PASTOR

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

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

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/of-externals-and-internals/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Week of Proper 6: Wednesday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Elijah’s Departure

For the Glory of God

JUNE 17, 2020

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2 Kings 2:1, 6-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

When the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven in a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha had set out from Gilgal.

Elijah said to him,

Stay here, for the LORD has sent me on to the Jordan.

Elisha said,

As the LORD lives and you live, I will not leave you,

and the two of them went on.  Fifty men of the disciples of the prophets followed and stood by at a distance from them as the two of them stopped at the Jordan.  Thereupon Elijah took his mantle and, rolling it up, he struck the water; it divided to the right and left, so that the two of them crossed over on dry land.  As they were crossing, Elijah said to Elisha,

Tell me, what can I do for you before I am taken from you?

Elisha answered,

Let a double portion of your spirit pass on to me.

He said,

If you see me as I am being taken from you, this will be granted to you; if not, it will not.

As they kept on walking and talking, a fiery chariot with fiery horses suddenly appeared and separated one from another; and Elijah went up to heaven in a whirlwind.  Elisha saw it, and he cried,

Oh, father, father! Israel’s chariots and horsemen!

When he could no longer see him, he grasped his garments and rent them in two.

He picked up Elijah’s mantle, which had dropped from him; and he went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan.  Taking the mantle which had dropped from Elijah, he struck the water and said,

Where is the LORD, the God of Elijah?

As he too struck the water, it parted to the right and to the left, and Elisha crossed over.

Psalm 31:19-24 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19 How great is your goodness, O LORD!

which you have laid up for those who fear you;

which you have done in the sight of all

for those who put their trust in you.

20 You hide them in the covert of your presence from those who slander them;

you keep them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the LORD!

for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.

22 Yet I said in my alarm,

“I have been cut off from the sight of your eyes.”

Nevertheless, you heard the sound of my entreaty when I cried to you.

23 Love the LORD, all you who worship him;

the LORD protects the faithful,

but repays to the full those who act haughtily.

24 Be strong and let your heart take courage,

all you who wait for the LORD.

Matthew 6:1-18 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,] “But take care not to do your good deeds in public for people to see, for, if you do, you will get no reward from your Father in heaven.  So when you are going to give to charity, do not blow a trumpet before yourself, as the hypocrites do, in the synagogues and the streets, to make people praise them.  I tell you, that this is all the reward they will get!  But when you give to charity, your own left hand must now know what your right hand is doing, so that your charity may be secret, and your Father who sees what is secret will reward you.

When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites, for they like to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the squares, to let people see them.  I tell you, that is all the reward they will get!  But when you pray, go into your own room, and shut the door, and pray to your Father who is unseen, and your Father who sees what is secret will reward you.  And when you pray, do not repeat empty phrases as the heathen do, for they imagine that their prayers will be heard if they use words enough.  You must not be like them.  For God, who is your Father, knows what you need before you ask him.  This, therefore, is the way you are to pray:

Our Father in heaven,

Your name be revered!

Your kingdom come!

Your will be done

On earth as well as in heaven!

Give us today bread for the day,

And forgive us our debts, as we have forgiven our debtors.

And do not subject us to temptation,

But save us from the evil one.

For if you forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will forgive you too.  But if you do not forgive others when they offend you, your heavenly Father will not forgive you for your offenses.

When you fast, do not put on a gloomy look, like the hypocrites, for they neglect their personal appearance to let people see that they are fasting.  I tell you, that is all the reward they will get.  But when you fast, perfume your hair and wash your face, that no one may see that you are fasting, except your Father who is unseen, and your Father who sees what is secret, will reward you.”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Keep, O Lord, your household the Church in your steadfast faith and love, that through your grace we may proclaim your truth with boldness, and minister your justice with compassion; for the sake of our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Related Post:

Week of Proper 6:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/week-of-proper-6-wednesday-year-1/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Canadian Anglican lectionary skips over some material, so here is a summary of what we have not avoided on the way to Elijah’s departure:

  1. Ahab died in battle against the forces of King Jehoshapat of Judah in 852 B.C.E.
  2. Ahaziah, son of Ahab, became King of Israel.
  3. Ahaziah had a brief reign.  In the second and final year of that reign the king fell suffered a severe injury when he fell through a wooden lattice window at his palace.  He sent messengers to make inquiries of Baal, not Yahweh.  Elijah intercepted three groups of fifty messengers, each commanded by a captain.  Groups #1 and #2 died when the prophet called down fire from heaven upon them.  The captain of Group #3 had the good sense to beg for mercy.  Then Elijah visited the king and predicted his death.
  4. Ahaziah died childless, so his brother Jehoram became King of Israel.

This concludes the summary.

The stories of Elijah and Elisha contain wonders and miracles.  Elijah, we read, called down fire from heaven, parted water, and raised the dead.  We will go on to read also about Elisha parting water and raising the dead.  Such stories defy modern scientific thinking, of which I try to be a practitioner.  But, as a mentor of mine liked to ask of biblical texts, “What is really going on here?’

The reading from Matthew’s version of the Beatitudes reminds us to seek God’s glory, not ours.  The accounts of Elijah and Elisha tell us that these prophets lived by that rule.  There is a useful life lesson.

We have not read of Elisha since his calling in 1 Kings 19:19-21.  Now he becomes prominent in the story.  First, however, Elijah must exit the narrative, which he does in spectacular fashion.  His parting gift to Elisha is a double portion of his spirit.  As Hebrew Bible scholars have pointed out, the texts record eight miracles Elijah performed, but sixteen by the hand of Elisha.  So the “double” part of the double portion of Elijah’s spirit was literal.

Elijah, in 1 Kings 19, had found Elisha working behind a plow in a field.  The plowman became a great prophet after an apprenticeship and the departure of his mentor.  Elisha made the most of his calling, for the glory of God.  Your calling, O reader, is probably not as dramatic, but it is important.  May you make the most of it, for the glory of God.

KRT

Proper 4, Year A   32 comments

Above:  The Sermon on the Mount Window, Stanford Memorial Church, Stanford, California

Beginning Again

The Sunday Closest to June 1

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 6:9-22; 7:24; 8:14-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

These are the descendants of Noah.  Noah was a righteous man, blameless in his generation:  Noah walked with God.  And Noah had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth.

Now the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence.  And God saw that the earth was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted its ways upon the earth.  And God said to Noah,

I have determined to make an end of all flesh, for the earth is filled with violence because of them; now I am going to destroy them along with the earth.  Make yourself an ark of cypress wood; make rooms in the ark, and cover it inside and out with pitch.  This is how you are to make it:  the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.  Make a roof for the ark, and finish it to a cubit above; and put the door of the ark in its side; make it with lower, second, and third decks.  For my part, I am going to bring a flood of waters on the earth, to destroy from under heaven all flesh in which is the breath of life, everything that is on the earth shall die.  But I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall come into the ark, you, your sons, your wife, and your sons’ wives with you.  And of every living thing, of all flesh, you shall bring two of every kind into the ark, to keep them alive with you; they shall be male and female.  Of the birds according to their kinds, of every creeping things of the ground according to its kind, two of every kind shall come in to you, to keep them alive.  Also take with you every kind of food that is eaten, and store it up; and it shall serve as food for you and for them.

Noah did this; he did all that God commanded him.

And the waters swelled on the earth for one hundred fifty days.

In the second month, on the twenty-seventh day of the month, the earth was dry.  Then God said to Noah,

Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.  Bring out with you every living thing that is with you of all flesh–birds and animals and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth–so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth.

So Noah went out with his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives.  And every animal, every creeping thing, and every bird, everything that moves on the earth, went out of the ark by families.

Psalm 46 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

2 Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be moved,

and though the mountains be toppled into the depths of the sea;

3 Though its waters rage and foam,

and though the mountains tremble at its tumult.

4 The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

5 There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God,

the holy habitation of the Most High.

6 God is in the midst of her;

she shall not be overthrown;

God shall help her at the break of day.

7 The nations make much ado, and the kingdoms are shaken;

God has spoken, and the earth shall melt away.

8 The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

9 Come now and look upon the works of the LORD,

what awesome things he has done on earth.

10 It is he who makes war to cease in all the world;

he breaks the bow, and shatters the spear,

and burns the shields with fire.

11 “Be still, then, and know that I am God;

I will be exalted among the nations;

I will be exalted in the earth.”

12 The LORD of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

You shall put these words of mine in your heart and soul, and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and fix them as an emblem on your forehead.  Teach them to your children, talking about them when you are at home and when you are away, when you lie down and when you rise.  Write them on the doorposts of your house and and on your gates, so that your days and the days the days of your children may be multiplied in the land that the LORD swore to your ancestors to give them, as long as the heavens are above the earth.

See, I am setting before you today a blessing and a curse:  the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today; and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the LORD your God, but turn from the way that I am commanding you today, to follow other gods that you have not known.

Psalm 31:1-5, 19-24 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 In you, O LORD, have I taken refuge;

let me never be put to shame;

deliver me in your righteousness.

2 Incline your ear to me;

make haste to deliver me.

3 Be my strong rock, a castle to keep me safe,

for you are my crag and my stronghold;

for the sake of your Name, lead me and guide me.

4 Take me out of the net that they have secretly set for me,

for you are my tower of strength.

5 Into your hands I commend my spirit,

for you have redeemed me,

O LORD, O God of truth.

19 How great is your goodness, O LORD!

which you have laid up for those who fear you;

which you have done in the sight of all

for those who put their trust in you.

20 You hide them in the covert of our presence from those who slander them;

you keep them in your shelter from the strife of tongues.

21 Blessed be the LORD!

for he has shown me the wonders of his love in a besieged city.

22 Yet I said in my alarm,

“I have never been cut off from the sight of your eyes.”

Nevertheless, you heard the sound of my entreaty

when I cried out to you.

23 Love the LORD, all you who worship him;

the LORD protects the faithful,

but repays to the full those who act haughtily.

24 Be strong and let your heart take courage,

all you who wait for the LORD.

SECOND READING

Romans 1:16-17; 3:22b-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

For I am not ashamed of the gospel; it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.  For in it the righteousness of God is revealed through faith for faith; as it is written,

The one who is righteous will live by faith.

For there is no distinction, since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; they are now justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a sacrifice of atonement by his blood, effective through faith.  He did this to show his righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over the sins previously committed; it was to prove at the present time that he himself is righteous and that he justifies  the one who has faith in Jesus.

Then what becomes of boasting?  It is excluded.  By what law?  By that of works?  No, but by the law of faith.  For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.  Or is God the God of Jews only?  Is he not the God of Gentiles also?  Yes, of Gentiles also, since God is one; and he will justify the circumcised on the ground of faith and the uncircumcised through the same faith.  Do we then overthrow the law by this faith?  By now means!  On the contrary, we uphold the law.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 7:21-29 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Jesus said,]

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.  On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?’  Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me, you evildoers.’

Everyone who hears these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock.  The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on rock.  And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  The fain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat against that house, and it fell–and great was its fall!

Now when Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority, and not as their scribes.

The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Beginning with Proper 4, the Revised Common Lectionary provides options for the First Reading and the Psalm.  As I ponder these choices for Proper 4, Year A, I detect some common ground.  It consists of the following elements:

  1. God prepares chosen people for a new beginning, whether in the case of Noah’s Ark or of the Israelites on the verge of entering Canaan.
  2. God is a refuge, strength, and stronghold.

I propose that God grants new beginnings out of mercy while imposing certain obligations.  This is where the reading from Deuteronomy applies:  obey God.  My thinking, with its emphasis on higher biblical criticism, tells me that the Deuteronomist was not Moses, and that this speech postdates Moses by centuries.  So this speech, put into the mouth of Moses, functioned as a criticism of the Kingdom of Judah late in its life.  My paraphrase of the Deuteronomist’s agenda:  “That is where we went wrong so long ago; we disobeyed God.  We have become at least as corrupt as was the generation in the time of Noah.  We have squandered an opportunity God has granted us.”

The readings from the New Testament remind us in prose and parable that the righteous live by faith.  We must build on the rock, Jesus says.  And Jesus himself is the rock.  The storms of life will come, but the house of faith built with a solid foundation will survive intact.  It is important to have a firm foundation, but also to possess sufficient flexibility, though.  The storms of life include strong winds, and, if one cannot sway with the winds, one will snap in two.  And what good is that?  Have you ever watched tall pine trees during a strong wind?  They remain standing because they are rooted firmly, but they remain whole because they sway with the wind.

Holiness is not abstract.  Much of it consists of how we treat each other.  Do we respect one another, or do we seek to exploit each other?  Do we love one another, or do we demonize each other?  In the name of God, do we extend helping hands to each other, or do we turn into cynical, Social Darwinian, every man, woman, and child-for-himself-and-herself types?  Is justice truly blind, or is it on the dole?  Do we nurture beauty, or do we nourish that which is coarse?  I could continue, but I trust that I have made my point clearly.

Thanks to grace, we get to start over periodically.  But this is not cheap grace, that which costs us nothing.  No, this grace demands something of us.  We must love God and each other if we are to make the most of each new beginning.  We must live by faith and practice good religion, that built on love, not hatred.

In grace we have a firm foundation.  Let us build on it, or continue to do so.

KRT