Archive for the ‘Richard Elliott Friedman’ Tag

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

Above:  Effects of Acid Rain on a Forest in the Czech Republic, 2006

Photographer = Lovecz

The Sins of the Fathers

OCTOBER 4, 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 34:1-10 or 1 Kings 22:29-43

Psalm 62:1-8, 11-12

Hebrews 5:12-6:12

Mark 9:30-37

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The key mark of discipleship is servanthood.

St. Gregory of Nyssa (335-394)

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Some themes recur in the readings for this week:

  1. God is faithful.
  2. Trust in God.
  3. Do not commit apostasy.
  4. People reap what they sow.
  5. Christ is the exemplar of the type of service that defines greatness.

Genesis 34:7 requires unpacking.  The principle that God punishes or forgives members of subsequent generations based on the sins of an ancestor exists also in 1 Kings 21:29, Nehemiah 9:17, Deuteronomy 5:9, Numbers 14:18, Psalm 103:8, Joel 2:13, and Jonah 4:2.  Yet we read the opposite view–individual moral responsibility–in Ezekiel 18 and Jeremiah 31:29-30.  The Bible contradicts itself sometimes.

The best explanation for the opinion we read in Exodus 34:7 comes from Professor Richard Elliot Friedman:  effects of one’s actions are apparent generations later.  I recognize ways in which actions of two of my paternal great-grandfathers influence me indirectly.  This is one example of something, that, from a certain point of view, looks like intergenerational punishment and reward by God.

The decisions of others influence us.  Some of them even restrict our options.  We may suffer because of the decisions of those who have preceded us; we may suffer because of their sins.  This is the way of the world.  Yet we are morally responsible for ourselves and each other, not those who have died.  No, they are responsible for their sins, just as we are responsible for ours.

May we–individually and collectively–refrain from visiting the consequences of our sins on those who will succeed us.  We owe them that much, do we not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/the-sins-of-the-fathers-part-ii/

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Devotion for Proper 18 (Year D)   1 comment

absalom-conspires-against-david

Above:  Absalom Conspires Against David

Image in the Public Domain

Prelude to the Passion, Part IV

SEPTEMBER 6, 2020

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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:

Exodus 28:15-30 or 2 Samuel 15:30-37; 16:15-19, 23; 17:1-23 or 2 Chronicles 30:1-27

Psalm 141

John 11:(45) 46-57

1 Corinthians 16:1-24

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The tone of the readings, taken together, darkens.  However, the lesson from 1 Corinthians, part of the continuous reading of that epistle, stands apart from the other readings.  Exodus 28:15-30, a description of Aaron’s priestly vestments, makes sense in the context of 28:2, which specifies that the purpose of vestments is “for glory and beauty,” as Richard Elliott Friedman translates in Commentary on the Torah (2001).  As Dr. Friedman writes:

Beauty inspires.  Building beautiful places for the practice of religion is a valuable thing.  Of course this does not mean building great edifices at the expense of the starving masses, nor does it mean focusing on the outer trappings and missing the content and spirit that they serve.  There must be balance–wisdom.  But we must recognize the value of art and beauty:  the building, the priests’ clothing, the music, the smells, the tastes.  Religion is not the enemy of the senses.

–Page 266

At least religion should not be the enemy of the senses.  I have had some unfortunate discussions with Southern Baptists who have disagreed with Dr. Friedman and me.

Part of the beauty of ritual played out at the Temple at Jerusalem during Passover each year.  Passover was the annual celebration of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt.  At the time of Jesus this commemoration took place under the observant eyes of agents of the occupying Roman Empire, with Temple officials in cohorts with the Romans.  Something was out of balance.

The desperate tone of Psalm 141 fits the Passion narrative well.  It also suits the plight of King David, on the run from Absalom, his son.  David won that conflict and mourned his son, who died when his hair became caught in a tree.  Absalom was not innocent, but Jesus was.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT:  THE TWENTY-SECOND DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/prelude-to-the-passion-part-iv/

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Devotion for Proper 4 (Year D)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  The Exorcism

Image in the Public Domain

Faithfulness and Faithlessness

NOT OBSERVED IN 2019

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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:

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:27 or Isaiah 5:8-17

Psalm 142

Matthew 17:9-20 or Mark 9:9-29 or Luke 9:18-27 (28-36) 37-45

Philippians 2:14-30

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A typically Jewish way of speaking and writing about God is to recall what God has done.  After all, God is like what God has done.  Furthermore, we are like what we have done, although we are far more than the worst deeds we have committed.  The relevant issue is the pattern of what we have done and of what we are doing.  Repentance is possible, after all, and the past is not necessarily accurate in predicting the future.

Consider with me, O reader, the assigned readings for this Sunday.  The two options for the First Reading proclaim divine judgment upon the faithless, for whom God has done much.  The faithless should know better.  Perhaps they do know better, but they are not acting as if they do.  The lection from Isaiah 5 follows the famous passage likening rebellious Israel to a well-tended vineyard that yields wild grapes.  God will judge that vineyard, we read.  Likewise, we read of faithless Israel in Deuteronomy.  If Richard Elliott Friedman is correct, lurking in the background of the text is a condemnation of polytheism.  God is, after all, insistent upon monotheism in the Hebrew Bible.  If Dr. Friedman is correct, faithlessness to YHWH entails turning to supposedly subordinate deities, members of the divine council–a concept Hebrew prophets opposed vigorously.

In contrast to those lections we read Psalm 142, the lament of a dying man whom other mortals have abandoned.  This man, contemplating the imminent unknown, turns to God alone.  One may assume safely that God is faithful to those who demonstrate fidelity.

The passage from Philippians belongs to a section of that epistle in which one finds advice regarding how to live faithfully in community.  People are to think about each other and model their lives after Jesus, whose humility and selflessness is certainly challenging to emulate.  In this context the customary verses about people with polysyllabic names take on more importance than they might otherwise; these verses model the attitudes and behaviors the preceding verses extol.  People are like what they do.

The three options for the Gospel reading are parallel versions of the same story, set immediately after the Transfiguration of Jesus.  One might fixate on the typically Hellenistic diagnosis of epilepsy as demonic possession, but to do so would be to miss the point.  In the narrative the Apostles have just learned of Christ’s true identity in all of its glory, yet they have not grasped this revelation, and were therefore ineffective.  The lesson for we who read these stories thousands of years later is to ponder whether we grasp who Jesus is and whether we are as effective as we can be in our discipleship.

Our challenge in this regard is to render proper thanksgiving to God in our lives.  We can do this only be grace, of course, but our desire to pursue this course of action is also essential.  Obstacles include laziness, fear, selfishness, cultural conditioning, the pressure to conform, and simple obliviousness.  If we are to grow into our full spiritual stature, however, we must seek to follow and honor God and to trust in divine grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/faithfulness-and-faithlessness/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 5, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above:  Christ and His Apostles, 1890

Image in the Public Domain

Doing the Right Thing

MONDAY-WEDNESDAY, JUNE 8-10, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, you are the source of life and the ground of our being.

By the power of your Spirit bring healing to this wounded world,

and raise us to the new life of your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 15:25-31; 22:1-19 (Monday)

Hosea 8:11-14; 10:1-2 (Tuesday)

Hosea 14:1-9 (Wednesday)

Psalm 40:1-8 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:2 (Monday)

Hebrews 13:1-16 (Tuesday)

Matthew 12:1-8 (Wednesday)

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Blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,

who does not turn to the proud that follow a lie.

–Psalm 40:4, Common Worship (2000)

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Turning is of the essence.

The Kingdom of Israel was prosperous and militarily strong under King Jeroboam II. Yet all was far from well. Idolatry and economic exploitation were commonplace and the alliance with Assyria was dangerous. God, through the prophet Hosea, called the populaton to repent—to change their minds, to turn around. They did not do this, of course, and fearful consequences came to pass. Yet there was also the assurance of forgiveness.

Other assigned radings also concern unwise associations and those perceived to be thus. The lesson from Leviticus 15 demonstrates the antipathy of the Law of Moses toward female biology—in the context of ritual impurity. There were many causes of ritual impurity in that law code. Touching a corpse, coming into contact with a bodily emissions, et cetera, rendered one impure and therefore unfit to fulfill various holy functions. Not doing certain acts just so also resulted in ritual impurity, something contagious. As Jewish Bible scholar Richard Elliott Friedman wrote regarding Leviticus 15:23:

…This tells us something about the nature of impurity. It spreads throughout a person or object. And it is not any kind of creature, like bacteria. It is a pervasive condition.

Commentary on the Torah (2001), page 365

The fear of bad influences present in Hosea and Leviticus exists also in the New Testament readings. Indeed, we ought to care deeply about the nature of our peer groups and our intimate partners, for they do influence us. But we should never forget that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, scandalized respectable people by associationg with marginalized and disreputable people. The sick need a doctor, he said. If we who call ourselves Christians mean what our label indicates, how many respectable people will we offend and scandalize?

We ought also to avoid using piety (such as keeping the Sabbath in Matthew 12:1-8) as an excuse for missing the point. Human needs mater. Sometimes they prove incompatible with a form of piety which only those of a certain socio-economic status can afford to keep. And we should never use piety as an excuse not to commit a good deed, as one character in the Parable of the Good Samaritan did. If the man lying by the side of the raod had been dead, the priest would have become ritually impure by touching him. Then the cleric would have been unfit to conduct certain rites. Human needs matter more, or at least they should.

May we repent of using any excuse for not doing the right thing. May our active love for each other spread like a contagion—a good one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF U.S. PRESBYTERIANISM

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HENRY BICKERSTETH, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF EXETER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS/IEUAN GWYLLT, FOUNDER OF WELSH SINGING FESTIVALS

THE FEAST OF NGAKUKU, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/doing-the-right-thing/

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Devotion for October 5 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part VII:  Loyalty and Discipleship

MONDAY, OCTOBER 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 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:

Deuteronomy 5:1-21

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Matthew 8:18-34

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I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart;

before the gods will I sing praise to you.

I will bow down toward your holy temple and praise your name,

because of your love and faithfulness;

for you have glorified your name and your word above all things.

In the day I called to you, you answered me;

you put new strength in my soul.

–Psalm 138:1-3 (The Book of Common Prayer, 2004)

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I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart:

before the gods I will sing your praises.

I will bow down toward your holy temple,

and give thanks because of your love and faithfulness:

for you have exalted your name and your word above all things.

On the day I called, you answered me:

and put new strength within me.

–Psalm 138:1-3 (A New Zealand Prayer Book, 1989)

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You shall not have other gods before my face.

–Deuteronomy 5:7 (Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah)

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Scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures argue whether Deuteronomy 5:7 and its counterpart, Exodus 20:3, are monotheistic statements.  Does the command mean to worship only YHWH yet to acknowledge the existence of other deities?  Or does it mean that one should worship only YHWH because there is only YHWH?  In other words, is it monotheistic (as Richard Elliott Friedman insists) or monolatric (as The Jewish Study Bible and The New Interpreter’s Study Bible argue).  The Bible is an anthology of texts from various periods and perspectives, so if it did indicated monolatry (my historical position) could it not mean monotheism now?  The widespread practice of monotheism did come relatively late (about 25,000 years ago) to the Hebrew people.  The theology existed long before that, of course, but the widespread practice, as the texts of the Hebrew Bible attest, came fairly late.

Psalm 138 seems to be the work of an Israelite (perhaps King David) present where people worship heathen deities.  He affirms his loyalty to YHWH.

Jesus, in Matthew 8:18-34, performs mighty acts and demands total loyalty.  He did have a house at Capernaum, but frequently lacked a place to lay his head; he did travel often.

There is only one deity, the one I know as God, YHWH, Adonai, etc.  Human theology on that topic has changed yet the reality has remained constant.  And Christian discipleship is following Jesus, not just affirming his ethics.  The demand from YHWH in Deuteronomy 5 and from Jesus in Matthew 8 is the same:  follow me.  That is a call to do something active.  May we obey it.  And, if we have begun to do so, may we remain on that spiritual path.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-vii-loyalty-and-discipleship/

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Devotion for October 4 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

ChristCleansing

Above: Jesus Cleansing a Leper, by Jean-Marie Melchior Doze

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part VI:  Restoration to Wholeness

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 4, 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:

Deuteronomy 4:21-40

Psalm 85 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening)

Matthew 8:1-17

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Lord, you were gracious to your land;

you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

You forgave the offence of your people

and covered their sins.

You laid aside all your fury

and turned from your wrathful indignation.

–Psalm 85:1-3 (The Book of Common Prayer, 2004)

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Lord, you were once gracious to your land:

you restored the fortunes of Jacob.

You forgave the offence of your people:

and covered all their sin.

You put away all your displeasure:

and turned from your bitter wrath.

–Psalm 85:1-3 (A New Zealand Prayer Book, 1989)

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For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, an impassioned God.

–Deuteronomy 4:24 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

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Deuteronomy 4:21-40 continues in the judgment-mercy balance vein of which I wrote in the previous post.  I see no need to write any more of that matter here.

As much as Deuteronomy 4:24 emphasizes what Richard Elliott Friedman calls the

harsh, frightening side of God

Commentary on the Torah, HarperCollins, 2001, page 577,

Matthew 8:1-17 focuses on the gentle, healing side of God.  Jesus heals a leper, a centurion’s servant, St. Peter’s mother-in-law, and many people with problems described at the time as demonic possession.  (Modern diagnoses would be mostly psychiatric and medication would follow.)  Jesus restored them to wholeness physically and/or psychiatrically plus socially.

May we, so far as we are able, function as agents of divine grace in the restoration of people to themselves, their friends, their relatives, and their society.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-vi-restoration-to-wholeness/

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Devotion for October 2 and 3 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

moses-views-the-promised-land

Above:  Moses Views the Holy Land, by Frederic Leighton

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part V:  Hearing and Doing, Judgment and Mercy

FRIDAY AND SATURDAY, OCTOBER 2 AND 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:

Deuteronomy 3:1-29 (October 2)

Deuteronomy 4:1-20 (October 3)

Psalm 96 (Morning–October 2)

Psalm 116 (Morning–October 3)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–October 2)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–October 3)

Matthew 7:1-12 (October 2)

Matthew 7:13-29 (October 3)

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If you, Lord, were to mark what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you shall be feared.

–Psalm 130:2-3 (The Book of Common Prayer, 2004)

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If you should keep account of what is done amiss:

who then, O Lord, could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you:

therefore you shall be revered.

–Psalm 130:3-4 (A New Zealand Prayer Book, 1989)

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But the LORD was wrathful with me on your account and would not listen to me.  The LORD said to me, “Enough!  Never speak to Me of this matter again!….

–Deuteronomy 3:26 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

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Deuteronomy 3-4 functions well as one unit, as does Matthew 7.  Lectonaries are wonderful, helpful guides to reading the Bible intelligently, but sometimes they become too choppy.  They work well because one of the best ways to read one part of the Bible is in the context of other portions thereof, thereby reducing the risk of prooftexting.

There is much to cover, so let us begin.

I start with the violence–er, genocide–in Deuteronomy 3.  I notice the Golden Rule in Matthew 7:12 also.  Genocide is, of course, inconsistent with doing to others that which one wants done to one’s self.  So I side with the Golden Rule over genocide.

The main idea which unites Deuteronomy 3-4 with Matthew 7 is the balance between divine judgment and divine mercy.  In simple terms, there is much mercy with God, but justice requires a judgment sometimes.  Mercy exists in Matthew 7:7-11 yet judgment takes central stage in 7:24-27.  And divine judgment is prominent in Deuteronomy 3:23-28 and chapter 4, mixed in with mercy.

One tradition within the Torah is that the sin which kept Moses out of the Promised Land was a lack of trust in God, for the leader had struck a rock twice–not once–to make water flow from it.  He had drawn attention and glory away from God in the process back in Numbers 20:6-12.  A faithless and quarrelsome generation had died in the wilderness.  Yet their children inherited the Promised Land.  Judgment and mercy coexisted.

Richard Elliott Friedman’s Commentary on the Torah informs me of textual parallels and puns.  For example, Moses imploring God for mercy is like Joseph’s brothers imploring the Vizier of Egypt for the same in Genesis 42.  And the Hebrew root for “Joseph” is also the root for the divine instruction to stop speaking to God about entering the Promised Land.  God is cross at Moses for asking to cross the River Jordan–the only time that a certain Hebrew word for anger occurs in the Torah.  That word becomes evident in Friedman’s translation of Deuteronomy 3:25-26 and 27b:

“Let me cross and see the good land that’s across the Jordan, this good hill country and the Lebanon.”  But YHWH was cross at me for your sakes and He would not listen to me.  “Don’t go on speaking to me anymore of this thing…..you won’t cross this Jordan.”

The TANAKH rendering is more stately, but Friedman’s translation does bring out the double entendres nicely.

I do not even pretend to understand how divine judgment and mercy work.  Both, I think, are part of divine justice.  I, as a matter of daily practice, try not to pronounce divine judgment o  others, for that is God’s task.  So I try to extend the assumption of mercy toward them with regard to this life and the next one, so as to avoid the sin of hypocrisy mentioned in Matthew 7:1-5 and to work toward living according t the Golden Rule more often.  For, as I think so I do.  As William Barclay wrote in his analysis of Matthew 7:24-27, Jesus demands hearing and doing (The Gospel of Matthew, Revised Edition, Volume 1, Westminster Press, 1975, pages 291-292).  That is the same requirement of the children of Israel in Deuteronomy 4.

Hearing and doing the commandments of God is difficult.  May we succeed by a combination of divine grace and human free will.  And, when we err, may we do so on the side of kindness, not cruelty, anger, and resentment.  May we leave the judgment to God.  I would rather err in forgiving the unforgivable than in being improperly wrathful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-v-hearing-and-doing-judgment-and-mercy/

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Devotion for October 1 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

NEW100FRONT

Above: The Front of the U.S. $100 Bill

Image in the Public Domain

Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part IV:  God, Mammon, and Killing

THURSDAY, OCTOBER 1, 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:

Deuteronomy 2:16-37

Psalm 13 (Morning)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening)

Matthew 6:16-34

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How priceless is your love, O God!

Your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.

–Psalm 36:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Deuteronomy 2:16-37 seemed dull until I arrived at the end of that lection and found a reference to the supposedly divine-sanctioned killing of all men, women, and children and the complete destruction of property in war.  The Richard Elliott Friedman Commentary of the Torah (2001) informed me that

In contexts that do not have to do with war, the Hebrew word herem refers to something that is devoted to God (Lev. 27:21, 28-29; Num. 18:14).  In contexts of war, as in this verse, herem refers to the rule, in divinely commanded wars only, against taking spoils or slaves, but rather destroying all of these and thus dedicating them to the deity.  Then point:  the war is not for profit.

–page 569

That did not cause me to feel better or to think kindly about the text.

Yet the not-for-profit theme fits well with Matthew 6:16-34.  Fasting should not be for the purpose of amassing social capital.  One should value God more than wealth, can be a tool for good, bad, and neutral purposes.  As 6:21 (The Revised English Bible) tells us,

For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.

William Barclay wrote succinctly and correctly,

…wealth is always a subordinate good.

The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 (Chapters 1-10), Revised Edition (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1975, page 252)

But it can become an idol.  Anything can become an idol if one treats it accordingly.

One of the great principles of the Law of Moses is that everything belongs to God; we are merely stewards.  Yes, there is value in not becoming a moral hazard or an unnecessary burden upon others if possible.  That is one reason for purchasing various forms of insurance policies.  But a proper spiritual perspective on wealth and all that it can buy is that they belong to God.  Lasting profit is spiritual, for we cannot take our money and our possessions to the afterlife.  How effectively have we cared for others collectively and individually?  (To set one against the other is to create a false dichotomy.)

To bring this post back full circle, I propose that killing people then claiming to have dedicated to God is unacceptable at all times and places, Deuteronomy 2 not withstanding.  The Golden Rule overrides that understanding of herem.  And conducting a massacre is neither for one’s spiritual profit nor the benefit of the massacred.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/28/deuteronomy-and-matthew-part-iv-god-mammon-and-killing/

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Week of Proper 7: Saturday, Year 1   15 comments

Above:  Terebinth Trees (Such as Those at Mamre)

Image in the Public Doman

Nothing is Too Wonderful for God

JUNE 26, 2021

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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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FIRST READING:  Genesis 18:1-15 (An American Translation):

The LORD appeared to him [Abraham] at the terebinth of Mamre, as he was sitting at the doorway of his tent in the heat of the day.  Raising his eyes, he saw three men standing near him.  On seeing them, he ran from the door of his tent to meet them, and bowing to the earth, said,

O sirs, if perchance I find favor with you, please do not pass by without stopping with your servant.  Let a little water be brought to wash your feet, and stretch yourselves out under the tree, while I fetch a bit of food that you may refresh yourselves.  Afterward you may proceed on your way, since you will then have paid your servant a visit.

They said,

Do as you propose.

So Abraham hurried into the tent to Sarah and said,

Quick, three seahs of the best flour!  Knead it, and make it into cakes.

Abraham then ran to the heard, and picked out a bullock, tender and plump, which he gave to a servant, who quickly prepared it.  Then, taking curds and milk and the bullock that he had prepared, he set them before them, and as he waited on them under the tree, they ate.

Where is your wife Sarah?

they said to him.

Inside the tent there,

said he.

Then he said,

I will come back to you at the time for life to appear, when your wife Sarah shall have a son.

Now Sarah was behind the door of the tent listening.  Since both Abraham and Sarah were old, being well advanced in life, and women’s periods had ceased with Sarah, Sarah laughed to herself, saying,

Now that I am worn out and my husband old, can there be marriage pleasure for me?

The LORD said to Abraham,

Why is it that Sarah laughs, saying, ‘Can I really bear a child when I am so old?’  Is anything too wonderful for the LORD?  I will come back to you at the appointed time, at the time for life to appear, and Sarah will have a son.

Because she was afraid, Sarah denied it, saying,

I did not laugh.

He said,

No, but you did laugh.

RESPONSE, OPTION #1:  Canticle 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(The Magnificat, Luke 1:46-55)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed;

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and his lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit;

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

RESPONSE, OPTION #2:  Psalm 123 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 To you I lift up my eyes,

to you enthroned in the heavens.

2 As the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters,

and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

3 So our eyes look to the LORD our God,

until he show us his mercy.

4 Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt,

5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,

and of the derision of the proud.

GOSPEL READING:  Matthew 8:5-17 (An American Translation):

When he [Jesus] got back to Capernaum, a Roman captain came up and appealed to him,

My servant, sir, is lying sick with paralysis at my house, in great distress.

He said to him,

I will come and cure him.

But the captain answered,

I am not a suitable person,sir, to have you come under my roof, but simply say the word, and my servant will be cured.  For I am myself under the orders of others and I have soldiers under me, and I tell one to go, and he comes, and my slave to do something, and he does it.

When Jesus heard this he was astonished, and said to his followers,

I tell you, I have not found anyone in Israel with such faith as this.  And I tell you, many will come from the east and from the west and take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, in the Kingdom of of Heaven, while the heirs to the kingdom will be driven into the darkness outside, there to weep and grind their teeth!

Then Jesus said to the captain,

Go!  You shall find it just as you believe!

And the servant was immediately cured.

Jesus went into Peter’s house, and there he found Peter’s mother-in-law sick in bed with fever.  And he touched her hand and the fever left her, and she got up and waited on him.

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The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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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First, a technical note:  There is much similarity between the content of Genesis 17 (from the previous post) and that of Genesis 18 (from this post).  The most likely reason for this is that the two chapters come from different sources.  Professor Richard Elliott Friedman identifies Genesis 17 as coming from the Priestly source and Genesis 18 as having Yahwistic origin.  I have no reason to doubt these conclusions.

But let us not become so preoccupied with higher biblical criticism that we forget to read the Bible for formation, not just information.  The purpose of this post is devotional, after all.  So, without further ado, I turn to my theme for today.  That theme is “Nothing is too wonderful for God.”

In Genesis 18, God, whom Abraham knows as El Shaddai, or God of the Mountains, appears in the flesh.  This is a mysterious incarnation; whether the author (J) means to say that God is all three men or that God and two angels visit, is vague.  Anyhow, God appears to Abraham in the flesh and delivers good news to Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham extends his visitors the hospitality his culture requires, thereby demonstrating great respect.  And Sarah, eavesdropping, laughs when she hears that she will be a mother.  It is a laugh of doubt, one God does not seem to hold against her.

The pairing of the Magnificat with Genesis 18:1-15 is appropriate.  Although Mary and Sarah were at different stages of life, the pregnancy of each was a profound grace for each and for succeeding generations.  Both lives demonstrate the grace is the great leveler, and that God is very generous.

With that thought fresh in mind, let us continue to Matthew 8:5-17.  The Roman Centurion was, by profession, an agent of the oppression and occupation of the Jews.  Yet Jesus found great faith in the man, who asked healing for his paralyzed servant, not for himself.  Then our Lord and Savior healed the mother-in-law of Simon Peter.  Jesus extended grace to Jews and Gentiles alike.  The text does not indicate whether the servant believed in the healing power of Jesus, or if the mother-in-law did.  It does say, however, that the centurion believed and implies that Peter did, also.

Nothing is too wonderful for God.  Sometimes we doubt this, given our circumstances and our interpretation of them.  God can break through our doubts and confirm the faith of others, however.  God’s best plan for us is more wonderful than anything we can imagine.  By grace, may we embrace the divine imagination and dream with God.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/nothing-is-too-wonderful-for-god/