Archive for the ‘Psalm 90’ Tag

Devotion for August 30 and 31 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Elijah

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Window with Elijah

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part VII:  The Face of God

SUNDAY AND MONDAY, AUGUST 30 AND 31, 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 everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 12:20-13:5, 33-34 (August 30)

1 Kings 16:29-17:24 (August 31)

Psalm 86 (Morning–August 30)

Psalm 122 (Morning–August 31)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–August 30)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening–August 31)

2 Corinthians 8:1-24 (August 30)

2 Corinthians 9:1-15 (August 31)

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The political narratives of the royal houses of Israel and Judah continue in 1 Kings 12-16.  In the northern Kingdom of Israel, as the story goes, old habits of faithlessness continued and dynasties came and went.  One of the more common means of becoming king was assassinating the previous one.

The narratives build up to the Omri Dynasty and the stories of the prophet Elijah.  Today’s Elijah story concerns a drought, a desperately poor widow, and the raising of her son from the dead.  God, via Elijah, provided for the widow.  That story dovetails nicely with 2 Corinthians 8-9, with its mention of fundraising for Jerusalem Christians and exhortation to generosity, cheerful giving, and trusting in God to provide that which one can give to help others.  In other words, we are to be the face of God to each other.  When God helps others, one of us might be a vehicle for that aid.

To whom is God sending you, O reader?  And which person or persons is God sending to you?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/1-kings-and-2-corinthians-part-vii-the-face-of-god/

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Devotion for August 3 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Malta, August 12, 2009

Image Source = Jet Propulsion Laboratory

1 Samuel and Acts, Part VIII:  Divine Favor

MONDAY, AUGUST 3, 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 everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 17:48-18:9

Psalm 122 (Morning)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening)

Acts 27:9-26

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I have observed mental illness up close.  Its effects upon those it afflicts are such that I understand why ancients, lacking an understanding of brain chemistry, ascribed it to possession.  Saul, I think, was mentally ill and under great stress, which aggravated the mental illness.

That, however, is not the point of 1 Samuel 18:1-9.  The point there is that God favored and protected David, having shifted that favor and protection from Saul.  So we read of Saul living outside of divine favor.  Yet, in Acts 27, we read of Paul (born Saul, by the way), trusting in God and announcing calmly that he and his shipmates will be stranded for a time on an island (Malta, actually) soon, but that they will be safe and will reach Rome eventually.

Indeed, it is good to be able to say honestly with the author of Psalm 90:17 (The New Jerusalem Bible),

May the sweetness of the Lord be upon us,

to confirm the work we have done!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972 

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/1-samuel-and-acts-part-viii-divine-favor/

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Devotion for July 5 and 6 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  King Herod Agrippa I

Image in the Public Domain

Joshua and Acts, Part VII:  Giving Glory to God

SUNDAY AND MONDAY, JULY 5 AND 6, 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 everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 23:1-16 (July 5)

Joshua 24:1-31 (July 6)

Psalm 86 (Morning–July 5)

Psalm 122 (Morning–July 6)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–July 5)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening–July 6)

Acts 12:1-25 (July 5)

Acts 13:1-12 (July 6)

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Joshua’s farewell, with its emphasis on keeping the covenant with God (or else…), sets up the Book of Judges and summarizes the theology of much of the Old Testament.  I admit to continuing to struggle with this God concept, which depicts God as one of whom to be terrified and not with whom to have a positive relationship.  “Fear of God,” a healthy attitude, is one of awestruck respect, not terror.  Despite my struggles with a certain God concept, I grasp the point that, by keeping the covenant, people were glorifying God.  So, by doing the opposite, they were not glorifying God.

Herod Agrippa I (lived 110 BCE-44 CE, reigned 37-44 CE) was a mean person.  He, a grandson of the infamous Herod the Great, was also a client ruler for the Roman Empire.  Agrippa I was also a close friend of Emperor Caligula and an energetic persecutor of Christianity.  (My source = The Oxford Companion to the Bible, 1993, page 283)

Acts 12 confirms a negative portrait of Herod Agrippa I.  He ordered the execution of the prison guards whom God had thwarted.  And he ordered the beheading of James Bar-Zebedee, brother of St. John the Apostle and first cousin of Jesus.  And who knows what Agrippa I might have done to Peter?

The Romans and their allies, for all the persecution they unleashed on the church, could not kill it?  Successive waves of persecution elsewhere have also failed.  In fact, persecution has usually backfired, leading to more conversions.  Herod Agrippa I and his ilk failed.  For that I give glory to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

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

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

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/joshua-and-acts-part-vii-giving-glory-to-god/

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Devotion for June 7 and 8 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem

Proverbs and John, Part II:  Spiritual Obliviousness and Self-Deception

SUNDAY AND MONDAY, JUNE 7 AND 8, 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 everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 4:1-27 (June 7)

Proverbs 5:1-23 (June 8)

Psalm 86 (Morning–June 7)

Psalm 122 (Morning–June 8)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–June 7)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening–June 8)

John 12:1-19 (June 7)

John 12:20-36a (June 8)

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The readings from Proverbs pertain to how to glorify God.  Love wisdom, hate evil, pursue the path of righteousness, and choose one’s lover well, they say.  Indeed, to do the opposite of any of these does not glorify God.

Those who plotted to kill Jesus (since John 11) and Lazarus (in Chapter 12) did not love wisdom, hate evil, and pursue the path of righteousness.  Yet their violent perfidy did not thwart the glorification of God.  In fact, in the Gospel of John, the crucifixion of Jesus is our Lord’s glorification.  And his resurrection from the dead was most glorious.

I derive great comfort from the knowledge that, despite human efforts, much of the time, God wins.  And I think it better to function as one of God’s willing partners on the path or righteousness rather than as one through whom God works in spite of one’s wishes and actual purposes.

I suspect that none of those who plotted to kill Jesus and Lazarus woke up on any day and asked themselves,

What can I do today to thwart God’s will?  Let me count the ways.

We humans justify ourselves to ourselves quite often, do we not?  So I wonder how often I do not function as one of God’s wiling partners on the path of righteousness while thinking that I am.  This is a question of spiritual obliviousness and self-deception.  To point it out among the long-dead is easier than to diagnose it in the person one sees in the mirror.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BETTY FORD, U.S. FIRST LADY AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GRIMWALD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Other Devotions for Today:

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/proverbs-and-john-part-ii-spiritual-obliviousness-and-self-deception/

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Proper 23, Year B   16 comments

Above:  Front of the 1934 U.S. $100,000 Bill  (Worth $1,630,000 in 2010 Currency)

Images of U.S. banknotes are in the public domain.

God, Injustice, Wealth, and Misplaced Attachments

The Sunday Closest to October 12

The Twenty-First Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 14, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Job 23:1-9, 16-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then Job answered:

Today my complaint is bitter;

his hand is heavy despite my groaning.

Oh, that I knew where I might find him,

that I might come even to his dwelling!

I would lay my case before him,

and fill my mouth with arguments.

I would learn what he would answer me,

and understand what he would say to me.

Would he contend with me in the greatness of his power?

No, but he would give heed to me.

There an upright person could reason with him,

and I should be acquitted forever by my judge.

God has made my heart faint;

the Almighty has terrified me;

If only I could vanish in darkness,

and thick darkness would cover my face!

Psalm 22:1-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

and are so far from my cry

and from the words of my distress?

2  O my God, I cry in the daytime, but you do not answer;

by night as well, but I find no rest.

3  Yet you are the Holy One,

enthroned upon the praises of Israel.

4  Our forefathers put their trust in you;

they trusted, and you delivered them.

5  They cried out to you and were delivered;

they trusted in you and were not put to shame.

6  But as for me, I am a a worm and no man,

scorned by all and despised by the people.

7  All who see me laugh me to scorn;

they curl their lips and wag their heads, saying,

8  “He trusted in the LORD; let him deliver him;

let him rescue him, if he delights in him.”

9  Yet you are he who took me out of the womb,

and kept me safe upon my mother’s breast.

10  I have been entrusted to you ever since I was born;

you were my God when I was still in my mother’s womb.

11  Be not far from me, for trouble is near,

and there is none to help.

12  Many young bulls encircle me;

strong bulls of Bashan surround me.

13  They open wide their jaws at me,

like a ravening and roaring lion.

14  I am poured out like water;

all my bones are out of joint;

my heart within my breast is melting wax.

15  My mouth is dried out like a pot-sherd;

my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth;

and you have laid me in the dust of the grave.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Amos 5:6-7, 10-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Seek the LORD and live,

or he will break out against the house of Joseph like fire,

and it will devour Bethel, with no one to quench it.

Ah, that you will turn justice to wormwood,

and bring righteousness to the ground!

They hate the one who reproves in the gate,

and they abhor the one who speaks the truth.

Therefore because you trample on the poor

and take from them levies of grain,

you have built houses of hewn stone,

but you shall not live in them;

you have planted pleasant vineyards,

but you shall not drink their wine.

For I know how many are your transgressions,

and how great are your sins–

you who afflict the righteous, who takes a bribe,

and push aside the needy in the gate.

Therefore the prudent will keep silent in such a time;

for it is an easy time.

Seek good and not evil,

that you may live;

and so the LORD, the God of hosts, will be with you,

just as you have said.

Hate evil and love good,

and establish justice in the gate;

it may be that the LORD, the God of hosts,

will be gracious to the remnant of Joseph.

Psalm 90:12-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12 So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

13 Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry?

be gracious to your servants.

14 Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning;

so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

15 Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us

and the years in which we suffered adversity.

16 Show your servants your works

and your splendor to their children.

17 May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us;

prosper the work of our hands;

prosper our handiwork.

SECOND READING

Hebrews 4:12-16 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the yes of him with whom have to do.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 10:17-31 (Revised English Bible):

As he was starting out on a journey, a stranger ran up, and, kneeling before him, asked,

Good Teacher, what must I do to win eternal life?

Jesus said to him,

Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments:  ‘Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not give false evidence; do not defraud; honour your father and your mother.’

He replied,

But Teacher, I have kept all these since I was a boy.

As Jesus looked at him, his heart warmed to him.

One thing you lack,

he said.

Go, sell everything you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.

At these words his face fell and he went away with a heavy heart; for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round at his disciples and said to them,

How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!

They were amazed that he should say this, but Jesus insisted.

Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

They were more astonished than ever, and said to one another,

Then who can be saved?

Jesus looked at them and said,

For men it is impossible, but not for God; everything is possible for God.

Peter said,

What about us?  We have left everything to follow you.

Jesus said,

Truly I tell you:  there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother, father, or children, or land, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much–houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and land–and persecutions besides; and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; 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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Some Related Posts:

Proper 23, Year A:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/proper-23-year-a/

Amos 5:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/week-of-proper-8-wednesday-year-2/

Hebrews 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/week-of-1-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

Mark 10:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/week-of-8-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/week-of-8-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/week-of-8-epiphany-monday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/week-of-proper-3-monday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/week-of-proper-3-tuesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-proper-3-monday-year-2/

Matthew 19 (Parallel to Mark 10):

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/week-of-proper-15-monday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/week-of-proper-15-tuesday-year-1/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/07/week-of-proper-15-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-15-tuesday-year-2/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

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

A Prayer for Humankind:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-for-humankind/

For the Right Use of Possessions:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/for-the-right-use-of-possessions-i/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/for-the-right-use-of-possessions-ii/

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Job sought God and, in Chapter 23, did not find him.  In the next chapter he complained about rampant injustice, a subject which also vexed the prophet Amos.  The rich man in Mark 10 also sought God, yet his attachment to his wealth got in the way.

Do not rely on your money and say, “This makes me sufficient.”

Do not yield to every impulse you can gratify

or follow the desires of your heart.

Do not say, “I have no master”;

the Lord, you may be sure, will call you to account.

–Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 5:1-3, Revised English Bible

Both economic injustice and idolization of wealth are sins which go hand-in-hand.  Indeed, the idolization of wealth and one’s corresponding social status can lead to more economic injustice by way of Social Darwinism, which is an unfortunate and misleading label, for Darwin wrote about animal species, not human socio-economic status.  It is easier to cling to wealth in lieu of God when one has much money than when one is quite poor, but both the rich and the poor can cling to a great variety of false security blankets.

We–regardless of status–need to have just one security blanket.

As the author of Hebrews reminds us, we can

approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.–4:16, New Revised Standard Version

Our worthiness is in Christ, who died by an unjust act and was therefore acquainted with human inhumanity.  So, where is God in the midst of injustice?  God is in the midst of if with us, suffering with us.  God, who identifies and suffers with us, is our legitimate security blanket.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/god-injustice-wealth-and-misplaced-attachments/

Week of Proper 20: Saturday, Year 2   3 comments

Above:  An Elderly Woman

Photograph by Chalmers Butterfield

Never Alone

SEPTEMBER 26, 2020

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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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Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

O youth, enjoy yourself while you are young!  Let your heart lead you to enjoyment in the days of your youth.  Follow the desires of your heart and the glances of your eyes–but know well that God will call you to account for all such things–and banish care from your mind, and pluck sorrow out of your flesh!  For youth and black hair are fleeting.

So appreciate your vigor in the days of your youth, before those days of sorrow come and those years arrive of which you will say,

I have no pleasure in them;

before sun and light and moon and stars grow dark, and the clouds come back again after the rain:

When the guards of the house become shaky,

And the men of valor are bent,

And the maids that grind, grown few, are idle,

And the ladies that peer through the windows grow dim,

And the doors to the street are shut–

With the noise of the hand mill growing fainter,

And the song of the bird growing feebler,

And all the strains of music dying down;

When one is afraid of heights

And there is terror on the road.–

For the almost tree may blossom,

The grasshopper be be burdened,

And the caper bush may bud again;

But man sets out for his eternal abode,

With mourners all around in the street.–

Before the silver cord snaps

And the golden bowl crashes,

The jar is shattered at the spring,

And the jug is smashed at the cistern.

And the dust returns to the ground

As it was,

And the lifebreath returns to God

Who bestowed it.

Utter futility–said Koheleth–

All is futile!

Psalm 90:1-2, 12-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

 Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

12 So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

13 Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry?

be gracious to your servants.

14 Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning;

so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

15 Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us

and the years in which we suffered adversity.

16 Show your servants your works

and your splendor to their children.

17 May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us;

prosper the work of our hands;

prosper our handiwork.

Luke 9:43b-45 (The Jerusalem Bible):

At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he [Jesus] did, he said to his disciples,

For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind:  The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.

But they did not understand him when he said this; it was hidden from them so that they should not see the meaning of it, and they were afraid to ask him about what he had just said.

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The Collect:

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

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This day’s readings pertain to death.  Youth, Koheleth tells us, is fleeting, old age is full of terrors, and death will come for everyone.  Life is transitory; we are born, we live, and we die.  All of this plays out in the context of the sovereignty of God.  The world will continue without us, and we will fade anonymously into the past in time.  Some of us will fade anonymously into the past sooner than others will, but the ravages of time and ignorance will erase memories of even the most famous.

The reading from Luke contains another prediction of the suffering and execution of Jesus.  The text does not tell us of our Lord’s state of mind.  I suspect that the text cannot fill in that blank, not that this absence of information detracts from the text.  Yet I do suspect that Jesus might have had a disquieted tone of voice.  Why not?  It was troubling news.

There is no inherent fault in having a disquieted spirit.  Much of life consists of disturbing events, so inappropriate joy and apathy are legitimate reasons for concern.  And aging is not for the faint of heart, as many people know directly or indirectly.  I wonder how specialists in geriatrics can handle their work and maintain their mental health.

Difficult times are when our faith lives meet perhaps their stiffest tests.  A story (recounted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu) comes to mind.  A Nazi guard forced a Jew to clean an especially nasty toilet.  He taunted the prisoner,

Where is your God now?

The Jew replied,

Here, beside me in the muck.

That God is beside us through our terrors and travails is a wonderful truth.  For some people at certain times, it might be their only comfort.  I have known this feeling, and it did not negate the bad situation I was in.  But at least I was never alone.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/never-alone/

Week of Proper 20: Thursday, Year 2   1 comment

Above:  Herod Antipas, by James Tissot

Image Source = Brooklyn Museum

That Which Has Significance

SEPTEMBER 24, 2020

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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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Ecclesiastes 1:1-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The words of Koheleth son of David, king in Jerusalem.

Utter futility!–said Koheleth–

Utter futility!  All is futile!

What real value is there for a man

In all the gains he makes beneath the sun?

One generation goes, another comes,

But the earth remains the same forever.

The sun rises, the sun sets–

And glides back to where it riese.

Southward blowing,

Turning northward,

Ever turning blows the wind;

On its rounds the wind returns.

All streams flow into the sea,

Yet the sea is never full;

To the place [from] which they flow

The streams flow back again.

All such things are wearisome:

No man can ever state them;

The eye never has enough of seeing,

Nor the ear enough of hearing.

Only that shall happen

Which has happened,

Only that occur

Which has occurred;

There is nothing new

Beneath the sun!

Sometimes there is a a phenomenon of which they say,

Look, this one is new!

–it occurred long since, in ages that went by before us.  The earlier ones are not remembered; so too those that will occur later will no more be remembered than those that will occur at the very end.

Psalm 90:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

 Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

3  You turn us back to the dust and say,

“Go back, O child of earth.”

 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

 You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

 In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered.

Luke 9:7-9 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Meanwhile Herod the tetrarch had heard all that was going on; and he was puzzled, because some people were saying that John had risen from the dead, others that Elijah had reappeared, still others that one of the ancient prophets had come back to life.  But Herod said,

John?  I beheaded him.  So who is this that I hear such reports about?

And he was anxious to see him.

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The Collect:

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

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Great ambition without contribution is insignificant.

–William Hundert in The Emperor’s Club (2003)

The Hebrew word often translated “vanity” or “futility” means “air” or “breath,” therefore something transient.  This linguistic background is essential to grasping correctly the passage from Ecclesiastes.  But what is futile?  Does nothing have real meaning and purpose?  A note from page 1606 of The Jewish Study Bible has helped my understanding.  It reads:

Within Jewish commentary, one emphasis applies futility to actions of humans for themselves alone, since actions can last and be worthwhile only if they are involved with Torah and labor for God.

Herod Antipas, of whom we read in Luke 8:19-21, was a bad character.  He, a son of the notorious Herod the Great, had entered into an incestuous marriage, ordered the arrest of John the Baptist for decrying said marriage, and ordered John’s execution to save face at a party.  This man acted for his own self-interest, so his ambitions lacked significance.  John the Baptist, however, acted for God, so his deeds were significant.

The deeds of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth were for God; they were significant.  May we–you, O reader, and I–lead lives of significance, matters lasting and worthwhile.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/that-which-has-significance/