Archive for the ‘Psalm 78’ Tag

Proper 13, Year B   22 comments

Above:  Eucharistic Miracle of Lanciano

Image Source = Junior

The Bread of Life and the “Ick Factor”

The Sunday Closest to August 3

The Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 5, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

2 Samuel 11:26-12:13a (New Revised Standard Version):

When the wife of Uriah heard that her husband was dead, she made lamentation for him. When the mourning was over, David sent and brought her to his house, and she became his wife, and bore him a son.

But the thing that David had done displeased the LORD, and the LORD sent Nathan to David. He came to him, and said to him,

There were two men in a certain city, the one rich and the other poor. The rich man had very many flocks and herds; but the poor man had nothing but one little ewe lamb, which he had bought. He brought it up, and it grew up with him and with his children; it used to eat of his meager fare, and drink from his cup, and lie in his bosom, and it was like a daughter to him. Now there came a traveler to the rich man, and he was loath to take one of his own flock or herd to prepare for the wayfarer who had come to him, but he took the poor man’s lamb, and prepared that for the guest who had come to him.” Then David’s anger was greatly kindled against the man. He said to Nathan, “As the LORD lives, the man who has done this deserves to die; he shall restore the lamb fourfold, because he did this thing, and because he had no pity.

Nathan said to David,

You are the man! Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: I anointed you king over Israel, and I rescued you from the hand of Saul; I gave you your master’s house, and your master’s wives into your bosom, and gave you the house of Israel and of Judah; and if that had been too little, I would have added as much more. Why have you despised the word of the LORD, to do what is evil in his sight? You have struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword, and have taken his wife to be your wife, and have killed him with the sword of the Ammonites. Now therefore the sword shall never depart from your house, for you have despised me, and have taken the wife of Uriah the Hittite to be your wife. Thus says the LORD: I will raise up trouble against you from within your own house; and I will take your wives before your eyes, and give them to your neighbor, and he shall lie with your wives in the sight of this very sun. For you did it secretly; but I will do this thing before all Israel, and before the sun.

David said to Nathan,

I have sinned against the LORD.

Psalm 51:1-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak

and upright in your judgment.

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me,

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

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

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

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

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

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

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

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

What is it?

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

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

Psalm 78:23-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

23 So he commanded the clouds above

and opened the doors of heaven.

24 He rained down manna upon them to eat

and gave them grain from heaven.

25 So mortals ate the bread of angels;

he provided for them food enough.

26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens

and led out the south wind by his might.

27 He rained down flesh upon them like dust

and winged birds like the sand of the sea.

28 He let it fall in the midst of their camp

and round about their dwellings.

29 So they ate and were well filled,

for he gave them what they craved.

SECOND READING

Ephesians 4:1-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.  There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.

But each of us was given grace according to the measure of Christ’s gift.  Therefore it is said,

When he ascended on high he made captivity itself a captive;

he gave gifts to his people.

(When it says, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he also descended into the lower parts of the earth?  He who descended is the same one who ascended far above all the heavens, so that he might fill all things.)  The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.  We must no longer be children, tossed to and from and blown about by every wind of doctrine, by people’s trickery, by their craftiness in deceitful scheming.  But speaking the truth in love, we must grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by every ligament with which it is equipped, as each part is working properly, promotes the body’s growth in building itself up in love.

GOSPEL READING

John 6:24-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him,

Rabbi, when did you come here?

Jesus answered them,

Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.

Then they said to him,

What must we do to perform the works of God?

Jesus answered them,

This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.

So they said to him,

What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

Then Jesus said to them,

Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

They said to him,

Sir, give us this bread always.

Jesus said to them,

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

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:

Proper 13, Year A:

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

2 Samuel 11 and 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

Exodus 16:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/week-of-proper-11-wednesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

John 6:

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

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

Humbly I Adore Thee, Verity Unseen:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/humbly-i-adore-thee-verity-unseen/

Break Thou the Bread of Life:

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

I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/i-come-with-joy-to-meet-my-lord/

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There is an obvious link between the Exodus and the John readings.  The Israelites, needing food in the desert, received from God a sufficient amount of manna and quail.  Many people have wondered what manna was, in a scientific sense.  It was probably the crystalized excrement of scale insects and plant lice who had injested the sap of tamarisk trees.  (The Jewish Study Bible, page 140)  There is an “ick” factor to it.

There is also an “ick” factor to Jesus as the bread of life.  John 6, to Jewish sensibilities of the time, contained objectionable material, for consuming a person’s flesh and blood was (and is, in most cultures) taboo.  This being the Gospel of John, there is a highly symbolic layer to the text, but the text is not entirely figurative.  There is manna symbolism, indicating that God is the source of this bread of life.  Yet the manna was, as Father Raymond E. Brown wrote in his Anchor Bible commentary on the Johannine Gospel,

a foreshadowing of the real bread from heaven, which is Jesus own teaching.  (Volume 1, page 266)

So this bread of life is spiritual sustenance.  And Jesus himself, God incarnate, the living embodiment of these teachings, identifies himself as the bread of life in verse 35.  If one reads verses 51-58, one reads a text which identifies the flesh of our Lord as the bread of heaven itself.  Yet, as Father Brown documents in great detail, there has been disagreement about the precise meaning of “bread of life” in Christian tradition since the Patristic Era.  (Volume 1, page 272)  Should one focus more on the physicality of Jesus (as in the Eucharist) or on his teachings?  Or should one consider both equally?

I favor the latter option.  There is much playing out in the Greek text of John 6.  There are Passover and manna references, allusions to different types of bread of life, and a host (pardon the pun) of other details which brilliant scholars have poured over with excruciating attention.  The text is, simply put, subtle and rich in meaning, capable of meaning more than one thing simultaneously.  Being more of a “both and,” rather than an “either or” person much of the time, I ask,

Why not focus on both Jesus (as present in the bread and wine of Eucharist) and his teachings?

One misses a critical element in the absence of the other.

Jesus–the historical human being–was a great moral teacher.  He was more than that, of course, but he was that.  His teachings remain pertinent today.  It is also true that I encounter the Christ of my faith every time I take communion, which I consider to be the transubstantiated body and blood of Jesus.  As a Eucharistic Minister in The Episcopal Church, I hold a chalice containing consecrated wine.  I say,

The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation,

to those who come forward.  I mean it literally.  If I am what I eat and drink, may I become more like Jesus through the Eucharist.  And may you, O reader, do the same.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/the-bread-of-life-and-the-ick-factor/

Proper 27, Year A   17 comments

Above:  Niagara Falls

Image Source = sbittante

“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”–Amos 5:24

The Sunday Closest to November 9

The Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost

NOVEMBER 8, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people,

Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors– Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor– lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many.

Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

Then the people answered,

Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.

But Joshua said to the people,

You cannot serve the LORD; for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.

And the people said to Joshua,

No, we will serve the LORD!

Then Joshua said to the people,

You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.

And they said,

We are witnesses.

He said,

Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.

The people said to Joshua,

The LORD our God we will serve, and him we will obey.

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.

THEN

Psalm 78:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

4 We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

5 He gave his decrees to Jacob

and established a law for Israel,

which he commanded them to teach their children;

6 That the generations to come might know,

and the children yet unborn;

so that they in their turn might tell it to their children;

7 So that they might put their trust in God,

and not forget the deeds of God,

but keep his commandments.

OR

Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Wisdom is radiant and unfading,

and she is easily discerned by those who love her,

and is found by those who seek her.

She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.

One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty,

for she will be found sitting at the gate.

To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding,

and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care,

because she goes about seeking those worthy of her,

and she graciously appears to them in their paths,

and meets them in every thought.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Amos 5:18-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

Alas for you who desire the day of the LORD!

Why do you want the day of the LORD?

It is darkness, not light:

as if someone fled from a lion,

and was met by a bear;

or went into a house and rested a hand against the wall

and was bitten by a snake.

Is not the day of the LORD darkness, not light,

and gloom with no brightness in it?

I hate, I despise your festivals,

and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.

Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,

I will not accept them;

and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals

I will not look upon.

Take away from me the noise of your songs;

I will not listen to the melody of your harps.

But let justice roll down like waters,

and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

THEN

Psalm 70 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Be pleased, O God, to deliver me;

O LORD, make haste to help me.

2  Let those who seek my life be ashamed

and altogether dismayed;

let those who take pleasure in my misfortune

draw back and be disgraced.

3  Let those who say to me “Aha!” and gloat over me turn back,

because they are ashamed.

4  Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;

let those who love your salvation say to for ever,

“Great is the LORD!”

5  But as for me, I am poor and needy;

come to me speedily, O God.

6  You are my helper and my deliverer;

O LORD, do not tarry.

OR

Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction,

and concern for instruction is love of her,

and love of her is the keeping of her laws,

and giving heed to her laws is assurance of of immortality,

and immortality brings one near to God;

so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom.

SECOND READING

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 25:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The Collect:

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

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PART ONE

Above:  Sophia, Lady Wisdom

Image Source = Radomil

The Bible uses a variety of metaphors for God.  Most of these are masculine, but some are feminine.  God, in Deuteronomy, is the mother eagle who teaches the eaglets how to fly.  And Jesus likens himself to a mother hen when he laments over Jerusalem.  Then there is Sophia, the wisdom of God personified as a woman in Old Testament wisdom literature, from Proverbs to Sirach/Ecclesiasticus to the Wisdom of Solomon.

Deity, of course, exists beyond human concepts of sex and gender, terms I use in their sociological contexts.  Sex is the physical state, a matter of anatomy.  Gender is what that anatomy means for one.  Is there a glass ceiling?  Which professions does society consider fit and proper for one to pursue?  Does one receive equal pay for equal work?  Can one vote?  And does one carry a purse or a shoulder bag?

The authors of the Bible came from male-dominated societies, so it is not surprising that their vision of God was mainly masculine.  Had they been born into matriarchal societies, metaphors of God the Mother would seem like second nature to us.  My point is this:  Let us not become distracted by metaphors.  No, let us learn from them and focus on the divine reality behind them.

The love of wisdom, we read, leads to eternal life, or life in God.  The love of wisdom, we read, leads to the keeping of the law.  And what fulfills the law?  Love of one’s neighbors does.  See Romans 13:10 for details.

PART TWO

The (Western) Christian year always ends with Proper 29, Christ the King Sunday, in late November.  The readings for the Sundays immediately prior to Christ the King Sunday tend to take an eschatological tone, for Advent is near, with the twelve days of Christmas on its heels.

The reading from Joshua contains foreboding.  The people swear to serve and obey God, but Joshua knows better.  The prophet Amos, a few centuries later, warns of God’s judgments on their descendants.  And what have the people done?  They have practiced idolatry, economic exploitation, judicial corruption, and condoned rampant social inequality beyond that which exists in a simple meritocracy.  They have not loved their neighbors as themselves.  We read in Romans 13:10 that love of one’s neighbors fulfills the law of God.

There is hope, even in Amos.  The divine judgment has not come down yet, so there is still time to repent–to turn around, to change one’s mind.  And Paul, in 1 Thessalonians, does not look upon the return of Jesus with dread.  No, he thinks of it as an occasion to encourage people.  Those who have followed Jesus have no reason to dread the Second Coming, in Paul’ mind, for God has justified them.  And so there is no condemnation for them.  But, as the reading from Matthew cautions us, those who become lax at the wrong time will regret their inaction.

Church history contains many incidents of people predicting the Second Coming of Jesus.  He has not kept any of those dates yet.  One might think that, after a while, more people would learn not to place their trust in dates.  We–you and I–have an assignment from God.  It is to love our neighbors as ourselves and to honor the image of God in ourselves and others, whether or not they are similar to us.  How this translates into actions will vary from person to person, according to one’s time, place, gifts, abilities, and circumstances.  But, however God calls you to live this vocation, may you do so.  Then you will be like a bridesmaid with plenty of oil.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/but-let-justice-roll-down-like-a-river-and-righteousness-like-an-ever-flowing-stream-amos-524/

Proper 21, Year A   23 comments

Above:  Saint Francis of Assisi Kneeling (1635-1639), Painted by Francisco de Zubaran

Image in the Public Domain

Against All Pretenses

The Sunday Closest to September 28

The Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 27, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 17:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said,

Give us water to drink.

Moses said to them,

Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?

But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said,

Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?

So Moses cried out to the Lord,

What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.

The Lord said to Moses,

Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.

Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying,

Is the Lord among us or not?

Psalm 78:1-14, 12-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2  I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

3  That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

4  We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

12 He worked marvels in the sight of their forefathers,

in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

13  He split open the sea and let them pass through;

he made the waters stand up like walls.

14  He led them with a cloud by day,

and all the night through with a glow of fire.

15  He split the hard rocks in the wilderness

and gave them drink as from the great deep.

16  He brought streams out of the cliff,

and the waters gushed out like rivers.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to me:

What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.

Psalm 25:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

my God, I put my trust in you;

let me not be humiliated,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2  Let none who look to you be put to shame;

let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3  Show me your ways, O LORD,

and teach me your paths.

4  Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

in you have I trusted all the day long.

5  Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,

for they are from everlasting.

6  Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;

remember me according to your love

and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

7  Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8  He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches his way to the lowly.

SECOND READING

Philippians 2:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete:  be of the same mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death–

even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name

that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 21:23-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said,

By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?

Jesus said to them,

I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?

And they argued with one another,

If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin,” we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.

So they answered Jesus,

We do not know.

And he said to them,

Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?

They said,

The first.

Jesus said to them,

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

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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I have become convinced that following a lectionary is one of the best, if not the best, way to study the Bible.  There is a place for studying just one text, but placing two or more of them side-by-side and identifying common threads is wonderful, too.  And that is one purpose of the orderly reading of scripture per a lectionary.

The common thread here is the necessity of obedience to God.  What stands in the way of that?  Various issues do.  Sometimes we misunderstand God, as did many of my Antebellum forebears who used the Bible to justify slavery, based on a literal reading of some passages (or parts of passages) but not others, as well as their own economic interests, racist views, and other cultural baggage.  They were sincerely wrong, which means that they were still wrong.  We have cultural blinders today, so we need not to content ourselves with condemning our benighted forebears, for each of us is severely mistaken in some ways, too.

Others do not try, at least as much as they ought to do.  Consider the case of the Israelites in the wilderness.  They focused on what they lacked, not what they had.  I have done a similar thing many times, and probably will do so again.  Or maybe the fault is that one operates out of selfish motivations.  I have seen this dynamic hobble more than one congregation.  When a person of influence, if not title, in a congregation, especially a small one, does not check his or ego at the church doors, the results are unfortunate.  Paul understood the assembly of the faithful to function much like the human body; everybody is necessary and the tasks differ according to each member.  What matters most is to identify one’s proper role, fulfill it, and to be content to do that–all for the improvement of the body and the glory of God.

We cannot and will not do this if we are taking ego trips and using our pretenses as crutches.  This is why Jesus said that some prostitutes would enter Heaven before certain Pharisees would.  The former had no pretenses, unlike the latter.  In another story, the wealthy young man relied on his money and possessions.  They insulated him from full knowledge of his reliance on God.  That was why Jesus told him to give them up.

We get one crutch–God.  This is the God who has become incarnate as Jesus, who, Paul tells us, did not let anything stand in the way of his faithful obedience.  Our Lord did not stand on ceremony, flaunt pretenses, or take his identity from others.  No, his identity was internal, as is yours, and as is mine.  Jesus was the Son of God.  I am, through Jesus, a member of the household of God.  You, O reader, are also one, I hope.  Knowing who we are–children of God–and whose we are–God’s–may we, using the one proper crutch, abandon our false egos and pretense.  May we journey toward God, supporting each other as our paths converge, for our individual and common good, and for the glory of God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/against-all-pretenses/

Week of Proper 11: Wednesday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  Sinai Desert

Image in the Public Domain

What?????

JULY 24, 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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Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15, 19, 20 (An American Translation):

Setting out from Elim, the whole Israelite community came to the desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt.

Then the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the desert.

O that we would have died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of flesh and had plenty of food to eat,” the Israelites said to them; “for you you have brought us into this desert, to make this whole crowd die of famine.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain food out of the sky for you, but the people are to go out and gather only a day’s ration each day, in order that I may test them to see whether they will follow my instructions or not.  On every sixth day, however, when they measure what they bring home, it shall be twice as much as what they gather from day to day.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

Say to the whole Israelite community, “Present yourselves before the LORD; for he has heard your grumbling.”

When Aaron said this to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, whereupon the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall have flesh to eat, and in the morning plenty of bread to satisfy you; and thus shall you know that I am the LORD your God.”

So it came about at evening that quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a fall of dew around the camp; when the fall of dew evaporated, there, on the surface of the desert, there was a fine scaly substance, as fine as hoar-frost on the ground!  When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,

What is it?

–for they did not know what it was.

Then Moses said to them,

That is the bread which the LORD is giving you to eat….

Then Moses said to them,

No one is to leave any of them over until morning.

But they did not obey Moses; certain ones left some it over until morning, as it bred maggots and became foul.  So Moses became angry with them.

Psalm 78:18-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

18 They tested God in their hearts,

demanding food for their craving.

19 They railed against God and said,

“Can God set a table in the wilderness?”

20 True, he struck the rock, the waters gushed out, and the gullies overflowed;

but is he able to give bread

or to provide meat for his people?”

21 When the LORD heard this, he was full of wrath;

a fire was kindled against Jacob,

and his anger mounted against Israel;

22 For they had no faith in God,

nor did they put their trust in his saving power.

23 So he commanded the clouds above

and opened the doors of heaven.

24 He rained down manna upon them to eat

and gave them grain from heaven.

25 So mortals ate the bread of angels;

he provided for them food enough.

26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens

and led out the south wind by his might.

27 He rained down flesh upon them like dust

and winged birds like the sand of the sea.

28 He let it fall in the midst of their camp

and round about their dwellings.

29 So they ate and were well filled,

for he gave them what they craved.

Matthew 13:1-9 (An American Translation):

That same day Jesus went out of his house and was sitting on the seashore.  And such great crowds gathered about him that he got into a boat and sat down in it, while all the people stood on the shore.  And he told them many things in figures, and said to them,

A sower went to sow, and as he was sowing, some of the seed fell by the path and the birds came and ate it up, and some fell on rocky ground where there was not much soil and it sprang up at once, because the soil was not deep, but when the sun came up it was scorched and withered up, because it had no root.  And some of it fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it out.  And some fell on good soil, and yielded some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty-fold.  Let him who has ears listen!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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A desert can be a forbidding place.  Saints have gone into them to test their spiritual mettle and their willingness to rely on God.  Some of the more famous people of this sort are John the Baptist, Antony of Egypt, John Climacus, and, of course, Jesus of Nazareth.

Realization and acceptance of one’s reliance on God, a virtue, can terrify us.  This is especially true if one’s culture places great value on self-reliance, thereby stigmatizing dependency.  Yet we are all God’s dependents, and self-reliance is an illusion.

With all this mind, let us consider the reading from Exodus.

About a month has passed since the Exodus.  The great Israelite throng is in the desert, and the period of praising God for deliverance from slavery has ended.  Walter Brueggemann, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, provides an excellent analysis.  The plenteous, piled-up food in Egypt was the bread of coercion distributed according to the will of the Pharaoh.  Yet the manna and quail in the desert come from God, and the distribution is equitable.  There is just one caveat:  No hoarding is allowed.

This is God’s economy:  There is enough for everyone to have enough, but not an excessive amount.  Really, how much does one person need?  This lesson contradicts much of Western society and politics, not to mention the basest varieties of capitalism.  Human economies experience booms and busts, and rely on inequality in distribution of food and other necessities.  This is sinful.  So I prefer God’s economy.

So, due to God’s mercy, a forbidding wilderness becomes a place where there is enough.  People will neither starve nor grow fat on what is available.  This is not so bad, is it?

I love puns.  So imagine my delight in reading that the Hebrew text for “What is it?” is identical to that for “It is manna.”  Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah, likens this exchange in Exodus 16:15 to Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine.  The Bible contains much humor in the original languages and certain scenarios; may we not be so serious-minded that we cannot recognize this fact and enjoy the Scriptures in this way.

What was manna?  (Be prepared for a gross-out moment.)  It was almost certainly honey dew, the excretions of scale insects and plant lice who had injested sap of tamarisk trees then left “souvenirs” onto branches.  The “souvenirs” then crystalized and fell to the ground.  Bedouins use this as a sweetener, according to a note from The Jewish Study Bible.

There is a certain squeamishness about eating certain food, especially if one knows what it is.  On the other hand, ignorance is culinary bliss.  The Israelites had not seen manna before, so they did not know that it was solidified and crystalized insect excretions.  Yet it was enough, and it was good for the people.

The Israelites had begun to grumble really early, even immediately before the Exodus itself.  Then they continued.  They sound like the seed that fell among thorns in the Parable of the Sower; concerns choked off faith.  This might be my story or your tale, too.  May it not be so.  Rather, may as many people as possible be like the seed in fertile soil.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/04/19/what/

Week of Proper 8: Friday, Year 1   13 comments

Above: Rebecca and Eliezar, by Bartolome Esteban Perez Murillo (1600s)

Image in the Public Domain

Proper Forms of Inclusion

JULY 5, 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 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67 (An American Translation):

The length of Sarah’s life was one hundred and twenty-seven years.  Sarah died at Kirjath-arba (that is, Hebron), in the land of Canaan, and Abraham proceeded to wail and weep for Sarah.  Rising from the side of his dead, Abraham said to the Hittites,

Since I am an immigrant and a serf under you, give me some property with you as a burial ground, that I may inter my dead.

Following that Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre (that is Hebron), in the land of Canaan.

Now that Abraham was old and well advanced in life, having been blessed by the LORD in all things, Abraham said to the oldest slave of his household, who had charge of everything that belonged to him,

Put your hand under my thigh, while I make you swear by the LORD, the God of the heavens and the earth, that you will not marry my son to a daughter of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but that you will go to my own land and kindred to get a wife for my son Isaac.

The son said to him,

Suppose the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land; am I to take your son back to the land that you left?

Abraham said to him,

See to it that you do not take my son back there!  It was the LORD, the God of the heavens, who took me from my father’s home and the land of my birth, who spoke to me and made this promise, ‘It is to your descendants that I am going to give this land’–it is he who will send his angel ahead of you, so that you shall get a wife for my son there.  But if the woman should be unwilling to follow you, then you will be absolved from this oath to me; only you must never take my son back there.

Now Isaac had moved from the neighborhood of Beer-lahai-roi, and was living in the land of the Negeb.  One evening Isaac went out to stroll in the fields, and raising his eyes, he saw camels coming.  Rebekah too raised her eyes, and seeing Isaac, she dismounted from her camel, saying to the slave,

Who is the man yonder that is walking through the field toward us?

The slave said,

He is my master.

Then she took her veil, and covered herself.

The slave told Isaac all that he had done; so Isaac brought her into his tent.  He married Rebekah and she became his wife; and in loving her, Isaac found consolation for the death of his mother.

Psalm 78:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2 I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

3 That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

4 We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

5 He gave his decrees to Jacob

and established a law for Israel,

which he commanded them to teach their children;

6 That the generations to come might know,

and the children yet unborn;

so that they in their turn might tell it to their children;

7 So that they might put their trust in God,

and not forget the deeds of God,

but keep his commandments;

8 And not be like their forefathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Matthew 9:9-13 (An American Translation):

Afterward, as Jesus was passing along from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tollhouse, and he said to him,

Follow me!

And he got up and followed him.

While Jesus was at home at table, a number of tax-collectors and irreligious people came in joined Jesus and his disciples at table.  And the Pharisees observed it, and they said to his disciples,

Why does your master eat with tax-collectors and irreligious people?

But he heard it, and said,

It is not the well but the sick who have to have the doctor!  Go and learn what the saying means, ‘It is mercy, not sacrifice, that I care for.’  I did not come to invite the pious but the irreligious.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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 two readings for this day address the difficult issue of inclusion.

Abraham arranges the marriage of nearly forty-year-old son by sending Eliezar of Damascus to find a female cousin, who turns out to be Rebekah.  Abraham is clear in his instructions; the marriage must not be a religiously mixed one, with the other side being Canaanite.

Yet Abraham is living as foreigner among Hittites, with whom he has respectful relationships, so he is not xenophobic.

Meanwhile, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus dines with irreligious people and Jewish collaborators of the Roman Empire, thereby causing a scandal.  Eating with such people was not respectable, yet there Jesus was, in their company.

Nobody is beyond the reach of mercy, and many of those we consider outsiders are or can be insiders, according to God’s definition.

But where ought we to draw the line between including people, and in which social relationships?

I am single, never having married.  This is my preferred state.  So far be it from me to give marital advice to anyone.  But I know that if I were to marry, I would seek certain points of compatibility in the woman.  Among these would be spiritual and religious.  In other words, I would seek a wife with whom I could attend church comfortably and with whom I could engage in excellent religious discussion.  So Abraham’s choice makes sense to me.

One purpose of a home, as I understand it, is to propagate faith.  This has been my experience, and I am grateful for it.  So I argue affirmatively for marriage within a religion.

I also defend Jesus’ choice to associate repeatedly with the allegedly unclean, such as Gentiles, apostates, and collaborators, for nobody is beyond grace.  One never knows who can bring to God if one does not try. More people than we might suspect are insiders, according to the divine standard.  May we not judge them as being outsiders unjustly.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/proper-forms-of-inclusion/