Archive for the ‘Psalm 49’ Tag

Devotion for Proper 9, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, by Ludolf Backhuysen

Image in the Public Domain

Interdependence

JULY 5, 2020

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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

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Exodus 2:11-25 or 2 Samuel 5:1-3; 6:1-17

Psalm 49:1-12

2 Corinthians 3:1-11

Mark 4:35-41

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In this week’s assigned readings, we read that:

  1. Moses, raised as a prince in the Pharonic household, realized his place in the class struggle and acted accordingly.
  2. King David performed a lewd dance in public.
  3. Proximity to the holiness of God has proven fatal to some and positive for others.
  4. Socio-economic prestige has never impressed God.
  5. God’s policy has always been to quality the called, not to call the qualified.
  6. The Apostles, after spending much time with Jesus, were oddly oblivious to his nature for a long time.

Some things should remain hidden, at least in mixed company.

We need to shed delusions, such as the idea that God finds large bank balances, social prominence, and credentials impressive.  We have vocations from God, who equips us to fulfill them.

We depend entirely on God and lead interdependent lives.  May we understand these realities and act accordingly.  May we resist injustice, as we are able.  May we trust in God and help each other as we seek to leave the world or some portion of it better than we found it.  May the glory of God shine through our words and deeds.  And may we not be oblivious to that we ought to understand.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2019 COMMON ERA

PROPER 11:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ALBERT JOHN LUTHULI, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF AMALIE WILHEMINE SIEVEKING, FOUNDRESS OF THE WOMAN’S ASSOCIATION FOR THE CARE OF THE POOR AND INVALIDS

THE FEAST OF J. B. PHILLIPS, ANGLICAN PRIEST, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WASTRADA; HER SON, SAINT GREGORY OF UTRECHT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT; AND HIS NEPHEW, SAINT ALBERIC OF UTRECHT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/21/interdependence/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 13, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler

Above:  Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

Attachments

AUGUST 1, 2019

AUGUST 2, 2019

AUGUST 3, 2019

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The Collect:

Benevolent God, you are the source, the guide, and the goal of our lives.

Teach us to love what is worth loving,

to reject what is offensive to you,

and to treasure what is precious in your sight,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 23:1-11 (Thursday)

Proverbs 24:1-12 (Friday)

Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 (Saturday)

Psalm 49:1-12 (All Days)

Romans 11:33-36 (Thursday)

Ephesians 4:17-24 (Friday)

Mark 10:17-22 (Saturday)

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In prosperity people lose their good sense,

they become no better than dumb animals.

So they go on in their self-assurance,

right up to the end they are content with their lot.

–Psalm 49:12-13, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The assigned readings, taken together, caution against becoming attached to temporal and transitory things, trusting in one’s imagined self-sufficiency, and endangering the resources of orphans.  We should, rather, focus on and trust in God, whose knowledge is inscrutable and ways are unsearchable.  One of the timeless principles of the Law of Moses is complete human dependency upon God.  Related to that principle are the following ones:

  1. We are responsible to each other,
  2. We are responsible for each other, and
  3. We have no right to exploit each other.

In Mark 10 Jesus encounters a wealthy man who has led a moral life.  He has not killed, committed adultery, stolen, borne false witness, defrauded anyone, or dishonored his parents.  Yet the man is attached to his money and possessions.  Our Lord and Savior tells him to detach himself by ridding himself of his wealth.  The man, crestfallen, leaves.

I ponder that story and ask myself how it would be different had the man been poor.  He still would have had some attachment of which to rid himself.  The emphasis of the account, therefore, is attachments, not any given attachment.  These attachments are to appetites, whether physical, psychological, or spiritual.

The challenge is, in the words of Ephesians, to clothe ourselves

with the new self, created according to the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

–4:24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Fortunately, we have access to grace.  We also have a role model, Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEONIDES OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR; ORIGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN; SAINT DEMETRIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSELM II OF LUCCA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRIL OF JERUSALEM, BISHOP, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/18/attachments/

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Proper 13, Year C   8 comments

Above:  Some of the Possessions of Charles Foster Kane, from Citizen Kane

(A Screen Capture)

Proper Priorities

The Sunday Closest to August 3

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 4, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 11:1-11 and Psalm 107:1-9, 43

or 

Ecclesiastes 1:2, 12-14, 2:18-23 and Psalm 49:1-11

then 

Colossians 3:1-11

Luke 12:13-21

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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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-eleventh-sunday-after-pentecos/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-eleventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

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Citizen Kane is a wonderful film, one which many younger viewers, accustomed to a different, faster-paced style of cinema find intolerable.  That is their loss.  The movie ends with Charles Foster Kane having died recently.  His business empire is gone and his mansion is full of material goods which mean nothing to those burning them.

And the things you have prepared, whose will they be?

–Luke 12:20b, New Revised Standard Version

Night Prayer from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) contains the following words near the ritual’s beginning:

It is but lost labour that we haste to rise up early,

and so late take rest, and eat the bread of anxiety.

For those beloved of God are given gifts even while they sleep.

–page 167

Proper priorities matter.  Appropriate work provides one with an opportunity for self-fulfillment and economic independence while doing something beneficial to others.  It is about the “we,” not just “me.”  Such work is something worth enjoying.  And everything which destroys or damages that which is best in others and in oneself one must not nurture.  Or, as Rumi wrote in A Basket of Fresh Bread:

Stay bewildered in God,

and only that.

Those of you who are scattered,

simplify your worrying lives.  There is one

righteousness:  Water the fruit trees,

and don’t water the thorns.  Be generous

to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous

reason-light.  Don’t honor what causes

dysentery and knotted-up tumors.

Don’t feed both sides of yourself equally.

The spirit and the body carry different loads.

Too often

we put saddlebags on Jesus and let the donkey

run loose in the pasture.

Don’t make the body do

what the spirit does best, and don’t put a big load

on the spirit that the body could carry easily.

–Translated by Coleman Barks; from The Essential Rumi (1995), page 256

God, who loves us, longs to show us mercy.  Yet our actions will have consequences.  What we sow, we will also reap.  May we sow righteousness and focus on that which is positive and long-lasting.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDWARD THE CONFESSOR, KING OF ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WAYNE JUSTICE, JURIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/proper-priorities/

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Week of Proper 2: Thursday, Year 2   4 comments

Above:  Logo of Lehman Brothers, a Firm Defunct Since 2008

Bad Priorities and Good Priorities

MAY 24, 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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James 5:1-6 (Revised English Bible):

Now a word to you who are rich.  Weep and wail over the miserable fate overtaking you:  your riches have rotted away; your fine clothes are moth-eaten; your silver and gold have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and consume your flesh like fire.  You have piled up wealth  in an age that is near to its close.  The wages you never paid to the men who mowed your fields are crying aloud against you, and the outcry of the reapers has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts.  You have lived on the land in wanton luxury, gorging yourselves–and that on the day appointed for your slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who offers no resistance.

Psalm 49:12-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12  Such is the way of those who foolishly trust in themselves,

and the end of those who delight in their own words.

13  Like a flock of sheep they are destined to die;

Death is their shepherd;

they go down straightaway to the grave.

14  Their form shall waste away,

and the land of the dead shall be their home.

15  But God will ransom my life;

he will snatch me from the grasp of death.

16  Do not be envious when some become rich,

or when the grandeur of their house increases;

17  For they will carry nothing away at their death,

nor will their grandeur follow them.

18  Though they thought highly of themselves while they lived,

and were praised for their success,

19  They shall join the company of their forebears,

who will never see the light again.

Mark 9:42-50 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

If anyone causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck.  If your hand causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better for you to enter into life maimed than to keep both hands and go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  If your foot causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better to enter into life crippled than to keep both your feet  and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes your downfall, tear it out; it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.

Everyone will be salted with fire.

Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?

You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

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The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 2:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-thursday-year-1/

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/week-of-7-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/week-of-7-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

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What I wrote for the Year 1 counterpart of this post works well.  Besides, how many ways can I repackage the same thoughts?  So, without further ado, I offer those original thoughts.

KRT

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Self-reliance is a lie and an illusion.  It is one of the most cherished lies and illusions of my North American culture, where “self-made men” are ideals.  The truth, however, is that there is no such thing as a “self-made man” (or woman); everybody relies on God.  And we humans rely on each other.  What affects one affects another,  immediately or in time.  If we get greedy and reckless, this affects a great many people, hence the old Lehman Brothers logo at the top of this post.

So much for Gordon Gecko and Horatio Alger.  These signify bad priorities.

The reading from Mark is a continuation of the discourse of Jesus in which he states he who wants to the greatest must be the servant of all, and in which he says that anyone who receives a child (a vulnerable and powerless member of society) receives not only Jesus himself but YHWH God.  Then our Lord and Savior engages in hyperbole.  No part of the body causes one to sin, and he is not advocating self-mutilation.  Sin arises from inside ourselves, and the point of the hyperbole is to say to flee from sin.  As Ben Sira reminds us in the first reading, God’s patience does have limits.

And then there are lines about salt.  First we have, “Everyone will be salted with fire.”  This is a reference to salt used on a ritual sacrificial item or animal. As William Barclay observes in his commentary on the Gospel of Mark, the salt made the sacrifice acceptable to God.  And fire signifies that which purifies life.  Hence being salted with fire is obeying God and undergoing discipline and the risk (at least the risk) of persecution.

“Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?”

Salt, in proper quantities, improves the taste of food.  It also preserves food.  Salt was valuable in the ancient world.  Sometimes it was a form of currency, so an underperforming employee was “not worth his salt.”  We Christians, then, are supposed to give to our world a positive flavor and to preserve and promote goodness.  Are you worth your salt?  I cannot answer that question for you, no more than you can answer that question for me.

“You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Salt, in this case, is a metaphor the the purifying Spirit of Christ.  This is not purity of the ritual kind, as the Pharisees practiced.  No, this is the inner variety of purity.  Jesus said that nothing that enters a person defiles (or “makes common”) a person, but that what comes out a person does that.  Ritual purity was about making oneself a member of the spiritual elite, unlike the “impure” rabble.  But Jesus advocated a different understanding of purity:  love, forgiveness, altruism, et cetera.  There is no divine law against such things.  These are good priorities.

The fire will come to you and to me.  Will it consist of flames destroying treasures laid up on earth, or will it be the disciplining fire likened to salt?

KRT

Published in a nearly identical form as Week of 7 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 3, 2011

Week of Proper 2: Wednesday, Year 2   2 comments

Above:  The Doctor (1901), by Samuel Luke Fildes

Lasting Treasure

MAY 23, 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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James 4:13-17 (Revised English Bible):

Now a word with all who say,

Today or the next day we will go off to such and such a town and spend a year there trading and making money.

Yet you have no idea what tomorrow will bring.  What is your life after all?  You are no more than a mist, seen for a little while  and then disappearing.  What you ought to say is:

If it be the Lord’s will, we shall live to do so and so.

But instead, you boast and brag, and all such boasting is wrong.  What it comes to is that anyone who knows the right thing to do and does not do it is a sinner.

Psalm 49:1-9, 16-20 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear this, all you peoples;

hearken, all you who dwell in the world,

you of high degree and low, rich and poor together.

2 My mouth shall speak of wisdom,

and my heart shall meditate on understanding.

I will incline my ear to a proverb

and set forth my riddle upon the harp.

Why should I be afraid in evil days,

when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,

5 The wickedness of those who put their trust in their goods,

and boast of their great riches?

6 We can never ransom ourselves,

or deliver to God the price of our life;

7 For the ransom of our life is so great,

that we should never have enough to pay it,

8 In order to live for ever and ever,

and never to see the grave.

9 For we see that the wise die also;

like the dull and the stupid they perish

and leave their wealth to those who come after them.

16  Do not be envious when some become rich,

or when the grandeur of their house increases;

17  For they will carry nothing away at their death,

nor will their grandeur follow them.

18  Though they thought highly of themselves while they lived,

and were praised for their success,

19  They shall join the company of their forebears,

who will never see the light again.

20  Those who are honored, but have no understanding,

are like the beasts that perish.

Mark 9:38-41 (Revised English Bible):

John said to him,

Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and as he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.

Jesus said,

Do not stop him, for no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able the next moment to speak evil of me.  He is not against us is on our side.  Truly I tell you:  whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you are followers of the Messiah will certainly not go unrewarded.

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The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 2:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-wednesday-year-1/

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 1: 

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/week-of-7-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/week-of-7-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 9):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/week-of-proper-21-monday-year-1/

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Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

–Matthew 6:19-21, Revised Standard Version

Once, in Alapaha, Georgia, there lived a kindly elderly woman named Emily.  Her house was an unofficial museum of local history.  There one could find old maps and photographs, an antique telephone, et cetera.  Most impressive of all was her memory of the local past, though.  One day she told me a story about a doctor, a general practitioner who made house calls.  He kept track of who owed him how much.  The doctor died with people still owing him money, but they never had pay up because he destroyed those records.  His wife, he knew, would try to collect the money, and the patients probably could not pay.  The man had a good heart, and he acted accordingly.

He knew, as did St. Laurence of Rome, that people matter more than money.  The doctor also knew that, as Psalm 49 reminds us in eloquent words, we cannot take our earthly wealth with us when we die.

The biblical ethic concerning money is not anti-wealth.  It is, rather, opposed to the arrogance and presumption many wealthy people have.  We all depend on God for everything, but some people do not realize this because of their attitude toward their money and possessions.  Some people have dealt with this spiritual matter by shedding their wealth.  This an appropriate corrective action for many people.  Yet others can remain wealthy and have a proper attitude, with their philanthropy demonstrating their sincerity.  Proper attitude is essential in this spiritual matter, regardless of the action God calls one to take.

That proper attitude is recognition and acceptance of one’s total dependence on God for everything.  May this guide our actions toward ourselves, each other, and God.

KRT

Published originally in a nearly identical form as Week of 7 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 2, at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on July 2, 2011

Week of Proper 19: Friday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  U.S. $10,000 Bill, 1934

(Note:  $10,000 in 1934 = $163,000 in 2010.)

Images of U.S. currency, especially old banknotes, are in the public domain.

Greed, the Root of All Evil

SEPTEMBER 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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1 Timothy 6:1-12 (The Jerusalem Bible):

All slaves “under the yoke” must have unqualified respect for their masters, so that the name of God and our teaching are not brought into disrepute.  Slaves whose masters are believers are not to think any less of them because they are brothers; on the contrary, they should serve them all the better, since those who have the benefit of their services are believers and dear to God.

This [the contents of 1 Timothy prior to this paragraph] is what you are teach them to believe and persuade them to do.  Anyone who teaches anything different, and does not keep to the sound teaching, which is that of our Lord Jesus Christ, the doctrine which is in accordance with true religion, is simply ignorant and must be full of self-conceit–with a craze for questioning everything and arguing about words.  All that can come of this is jealousy, contention, abuse, and wicked mistrust of each other; and unending disputes by people who are neither rational nor informed and imagine that religion is a way of making a prophet.  Religion, of course, does not bring large profits, but only to those who are content with what they have.  We brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it; but as long as we have food and clothing, let us be content with that.  People who long to be rich are a prey to temptation; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and dangerous ambitions which eventually plunge them into ruin and destruction.  The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith, and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.

But, as a man dedicated to God, you must avoid all that.  You must aim to be saintly and religious, filled with faith and love, patient and gentle.  Fight the good faith of the faith and win for yourself the eternal life to which you were called when you made your profession and spoke up for the truth in front of many witnesses.

Psalm 49:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hear this, all you peoples;

hearken, all you who dwell in the world,

you of high degree and low, rich and poor together.

2 My mouth shall speak of wisdom,

and my heart shall meditate on understanding.

3 I will incline my ear to a proverb

and set forth my riddle upon the harp.

4 Why should I be afraid in evil days,

when the wickedness of those at my heels surrounds me,

5 The wickedness of those who put their trust in their goods,

and boast of their great riches?

6 We can never ransom ourselves,

or deliver to God the price of our life;

7 For the ransom of our life is so great,

that we should never have enough to pay it,

8 In order to live for ever and ever,

and never to see the grave.

9 For we see that the wise die also;

like the dull and the stupid they perish

and leave their wealth to those who come after them.

Luke 8:1-3 (The Jerusalem Bible):

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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“If you want to make a little money, write a book.  If you want to make a lot of money, create a religion.”

–L. Ron Hubbard, Founder of the Church of Scientology

Wealth and money, in and of themselves, are neither good nor bad.  The good and the bad originate from one’s motivations for seeking to acquire them and how one uses them when one has them.  Wealthy women financed the work of our Lord.  That was a good use of wealth, certainly.  Likewise, philanthropy is always a worthy cause.  But basing one’s identity on socio-economic status is foolish, for our identity ought to be in God alone.  And he who dies with the most toys does not win.  The haunting final scene of Citizen Kane returns to my memory at this time.  Charles Foster Kane had many possessions and a mansion, but nothing could make up for his lost childhood.  And his things, for lack of a better word, were useless to those cleaning up after him.

There is part of 1 Timothy 6 which I must address before moving forward.  The chapter opens with two verses concerning slavery but not condemning it.  Many Christians of the First Century C.E. expected Jesus to return any day, week, month, or year, so social reform took a back seat to personal holiness in the name of preparing for our Lord’s parousia.  Of course, he did not keep their schedule.  Another issue informing this chapter and much of the rest of the New Testament is how to be a good Christian and a good Roman.  Rocking the socio-economic boat by trying to abolish slavery, on which the Roman economy depended, was not on the agenda.

Here I must argue with more than one author of a New Testament text and side with Jesus.  Slavery is incompatible with following the Golden Rule.  I approach this issue from the perspective of a history buff.  For many centuries in Europe secular leaders oppressed the peasant majority of people while church leaders told the peasants that God had made them peasants.  So resisting the social order was allegedly a sin.  And, in the U.S. South, preachers used to quote the Old and New Testaments chapter and verse to defend racial slavery.  They said that those who used the Bible to condemn slavery were heretics.  Illustrative sermons are available at http://docsouth.unc.edu/, among other places.  There are also excellent books, such as In His Image, But…, by H. Shelton Smith, on the subject.  And the 1865 Journal of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church in the United States reflects honest confusion about how the Confederacy could have lost the Civil War, for many white Southern Christians believed that God condoned slavery, and perhaps even commanded it.

But the Golden Rule is concise and unambiguous.  And this slavery served to benefit the masters, not the slaves.

Saint Laurence of Rome (died 258) was a deacon who became a martyr during the Valerian persecution.  The Empire tried to confiscate the wealth of the Church.  So Laurence, the treasurer, distributed the funds to the poor.  When captured and questioned, he said that the poor were the wealth of the Church.  He was correct, not that this fact spared him from a gruesome death.

He understood the true value of wealth, which is that its best use is meeting the needs of people.  We came into the world with nothing, which is how much we will take with us when we die.  How we care for each other with the time and other resources we have matters far more than how much money or many “toys” we have.  Following the Golden Rule is far more valuable than any amount of gold.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/09/16/greed-and-the-golden-rule/