Archive for the ‘Romans 5’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 3, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Grace Church, Gainesville, GA, September 20, 2015

Above:   Grace Episcopal Church, Gainesville, Georgia, September 20, 2016

Image in the Public Domain

Humility Before God

MAY 19, 2016

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The Collect:

O God our rock, your word brings life to the whole creation

and salvation from sin and death.

Nourish our faith in your promises, and ground us in your strength,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 13:1-12

Psalm 92:104, 12-15

Romans 5:12-6:2

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Certain passages of scripture are unduly optimistic.  The lection from Proverbs 13 makes no allowance for the hard-working poor, for example.  It also offers this statement:

Righteousness protects him whose way is blameless;

Wickedness subverts the sinner.

–Verse 6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The second part has the ring of accuracy but the examples of Jesus and of Christian martyrs contradict any interpretation of the first part that holds that righteousness is like a shield from harm.  The reading from Romans paints to the crucifixion of Jesus, an event that occurred because of the lack of righteousness of other people.

The lection from Romans builds to one point:

How can we who died to sin go on living in it?

–6:2b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

We remain sinners, of course, for that is who we are.  We can, however, strive to do the right thing from moment to moment, day to day, and year to year.  That is imperative if we are to follow God.  Fortunately, grace is available to us in copious amounts, for our ability to accomplish this goal is woefully inadequate.  A healthy sense of humility before God is part of this effort.  As Proverbs 13:10 tells us,

Arrogance yields nothing but strife;

Wisdom belongs to those who seek advice.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Humility is the knowledge of who what one is.  It leads to a balanced ego, which avoids the extremes of an inferiority complex on one hand and arrogance on the other.  Humility before God translates into a sense of awe and wonder, that which, in traditional English translation, is “fear of God.”  (I wish that more translators of the Bible would replace “fear of God” with language that expresses its meaning accurately.)

The totality of God is a vast mystery we mere mortals can never understand completely.  We can grasp certain aspects of divinity, but the whole reality remains gloriously mysterious.  May we accept that fact, embrace the mystery, and recognize it as the thing of beauty it is.  And may we be humble before it and resist the lure of easy and inadequate answers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 27, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE LINE AND ROGER FILCOCK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BALDOMERUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE HERBERT, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTOR THE HERMIT

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/02/27/humility-before-god-2/

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Devotion for Thursday Before Proper 27, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Twelve Tribes Map

Above:  The Twelve Tribes of Israel

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

Giving Sacramentally of Oneself

NOVEMBER 8, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, you show forth your almighty power

chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy.

Grant to us the fullness of your grace,

strengthen our trust in your promises,

and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 36:1-13

Psalm 146

Romans 5:6-11

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Blessed is the man whose help is the God of Jacob:

whose hope is in the Lord his God,

the God who made heaven and earth:

the sea and all that is in them,

who keeps faith forever:

who deals justice to those that are oppressed.

–Psalm 146:5-7, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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Numbers 36:1-13 is a sequel to Numbers 27:1-11.  Zelophehad, of the tribe of Manasseh, had five daughters and no sons.  The old man was dead, and his daughter requested and received the right to inherit.

Let not our father’s name be lost to his clan just because he had no sons!  Give us a holding among our father’s kinsmen!

–Numbers 27:4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The rule became universal among the Hebrews (verse 8).  Yet regulations governing the inheritance of property (such as land) continued to favor males, so, if a daughter of Zelophehad were to marry a man from another tribe, her inheritance would become her husband’s property and remain with his tribe in perpetuity.  The transfer of land from one tribe to another was a major concern, for, as James L. Mays wrote,

each tribe’s share of the Promised Land was the visible reality which constituted its portion in the Lord’s promise and blessing.

The Layman’s Bible Commentary, Volume 4 (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1963), p. 143

The solution to the problem was to restrict the marriage options of the daughters of Zelophehad to men of his tribe.  The rule became universal among the Hebrews.

A second issue involved in the matter of ownership of land in Numbers 36 was the link between people and property.  To give away a possession was, in that culture, to give something sacramental of oneself.

To give something sacramental of oneself was what God did via Jesus.  That the great gift and sacrifice was for people–many of whom, once informed of it, would still not care–was remarkable.  Furthermore, when we move beyond the timeframe of Jesus of Nazareth and consider all the people born since then, the scope of the divine gift and sacrifice increases, as does the scale of the acceptance, rejection, and ignorance of it.  Nevertheless, the divine love evident in Jesus, being a form of grace, is free yet not cheap.  No, it requires much of those who accept it.  Many have paid with their lives.  Such sacrifices continue.  The fact that people create and maintain circumstances in which martyrdom becomes the most faithful response to grace is unfortunate.

Most Christians, however, will not have to face the option of martyrdom.  We who are so fortunate must make other sacrifices, however.  They will depend on circumstances, such as who, when , and where we are.  To love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves can require much of us.  Sometimes it might cause us to become criminals.  I think, for example, of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which made helping a slave get to freedom illegal.  Those who risked a prison term to help slaves become free people were brave.  I think also of all those (including many Christians and Muslims) who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust.  Nazis captured many of these brave rescuers who violated the law to protect their neighbors.  Mere decency should never place one in peril, legal or otherwise, but it does that sometimes.

On a mundane level, giving of oneself to others and giving oneself to God requires abandoning certain habits, changing certain attitudes, and thinking more about others and God than about oneself.  Doing those things can prove to be daunting, can they not?  Yet giving something sacramental of oneself requires no less than that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

THE FEAST OF ISAIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF JAN HUS, PROTO-PROTESTANT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF OLUF HANSON SMEBY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/giving-sacramentally-of-oneself/

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

Kings (2009)

Above:  Captain David Shepherd and King Silas Benjamin of Gilboa, from Kings (2009)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD

Judgment, Mercy, and God

JUNE 11 and 12, 2018

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The Collect:

All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory.

Increase our faith and trust in him,

that we may triumph over all evil in the strength

of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 16:14-23 (Monday)

1 Kings 18:17-40 (Tuesday)

Psalm 74 (Both Days)

Revelation 20:1-6 (Monday)

Revelation 20:7-15 (Tuesday)

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Till when, O God, will the foe blaspheme,

will the enemy forever revile Your name?

Why do you hold back Your hand, Your right hand?

Draw it out of Your bosom!

–Psalm 74:10-11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.

–Revelation 20:12b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.

–James 2:24, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.

–Romans 5:1-2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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If you, O LORD, should mark iniquities,

Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you may be revered.

–Psalm 130:3-4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Where does judgment end and mercy begin with God?  I do not know, for (A) the mind of God is above me, and (B) the scriptural witnesses contradict each other.  How could they not do so, given the human authorship of the Bible and the range of human perspectives on the topic of divine judgment and mercy.  I am not a universalist, so I affirm that our works have some influence on the afterlife, but I also rejoice in divine forgiveness.  And, as for works, both James and St. Paul the Apostle affirmed the importance of works while defining faith differently.  Faith was inherently active for Paul yet purely intellectual for James.

What we do matters in this life and the next.  Our deeds (except for accidents) flow from our attitudes, so our thoughts matter.  If we love, we will act lovingly, for example.  Our attitudes and deeds alone are inadequate to deliver us from sin, but they are material with which God can work, like a few loaves and fishes.  What do we bring to God, therefore?  Do we bring the violence of Elijah, who ordered the slaughter of the priests of Baal?  Or do we bring the desire that those who oppose God have the opportunity to repent?  Do we bring the inclination to commit violence in the name of God?  Or do we bring the willingness to leave judgment to God?  And do we turn our back on God or do we seek God?

May we seek God, live the best way we can, by grace, and rely upon divine grace.  May we become the best people we can be in God and let God be God, which God will be anyway.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 18, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF CYPRUS, EASTERN ORTHODOX MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/18/judgment-mercy-and-god/

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Trinity Sunday, Year C   13 comments

Above:  A Tango Postcard

May God Have This Dance?

FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

JUNE 16, 2019

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The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 8 or Canticle 13 from The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Romans 5:1-5

John 16:12-15

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given to us your servants grace, by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity, and in the power of your divine Majesty to worship the Unity: Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship, and bring us at last to see you in your one and eternal glory, O Father; who with the Son and the Holy Spirit live and reign, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-trinity-sunday/

Prayer of Confession for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-confession-for-trinity-sunday-2/

Prayer of Dedication for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-trinity-sunday/

Alta Trinita Beata:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/alta-trinita-beata/

Trinitarian Benedictions:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/trinitarian-benedictions/

Prayer of Confession for Trinity Sunday:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayer-of-confession-for-trinity-sunday/

Ancient of Days:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/05/08/ancient-of-days/

Thou, Whose Almighty Word:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/thou-whose-almighty-word/

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Wisdom literature, from Proverbs to Sirach/Ecclesiasticus and the Wisdom of Solomon, personifies divine wisdom as feminine.  Much of this imagery influenced the prologue to the Gospel of John, in which Jesus is the Logos of God; the Logos resembles divine wisdom.  Thus, in Proverbs 8, we read a premonition of the Second Person of the Trinity.  The  Second and Third Persons come up in Romans 5 and John 16.  And both possible responses address the First Person of the Trinity.

The doctrine of the Trinity is a fine example of theology.  The doctrine has no single, definitive passage of scripture to attest to it.  Rather, it is the product of deep Christian thinkers who pondered a number of passages carefully and put them together.  Some professing Christians disapprove of that process of doctrine-making; it is, to them, like sausage-making in the simile of laws and sausages:  it is better not to know how they are made.  But that comparison does not apply to sound doctrine, a category in which I file the Trinity.  Those who object to the process of sound doctrine-making are living ironies, for they are more attached to such doctrines than I am.  Yet the process by which the Church itself–a human institution–arrived at them–offends such people.  Such doctrines, they prefer to imagine, fall from Heaven fully formed.  Karen Armstrong is correct:

…fundamentalism is ahistorical….

A History of God:  The 4000-Year Quest of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (New York:  Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), page xx

(I, alas, have had some unfortunate conversations with some rather doctrinaire and less than intellectually and historically inquisitive professing Christians.  They have rendered me even more allergic to Fundamentalism than I already was.)

I propose that the best way to understand as much as possible about God is through poetry and other art forms.  We humans, I have heard, danced our religion before we thought it.  And the doctrine of the Trinity is at least as much artistry as it is theology.  The nature of God is a mystery to embrace and experience, not to attempt to understand.  So, O reader, dance with God, who seeks you as a partner on the dance floor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CORNELIUS HILL, ONEIDA CHIEF AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GEORGIAN, ABBOT; AND SAINTS EUTHYMIUS OF ATHOS AND GEORGE OF THE BLACK MOUNTAIN, ABBOTS AND TRANSLATORS

THE FEAST OF PHILIP MELANCHTON, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN [WITH THE PRESENTATION OF THE AUGSBURG CONFESSION]

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/may-god-have-this-dance/

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Week of Proper 24: Tuesday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  St. Martin and the Beggar, by El Greco

Being Ready for Jesus–In Whatever Form He Arrives

OCTOBER 22, 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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Romans 5:6-21 (Revised English Bible):

It was while we were still helpless that, at the appointed time, Christ died for the wicked.  Even for a just man one of us would hardly die, though perhaps for a good man one might actually brave death; but Christ died for us while we were yet sinners, and that is God’s proof of his love towards us.  And so, since we have now been justified by Christ’s sacrificial death, we shall all the more certainly be saved through him from final retribution.  For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, now that we have been reconciled, shall we be saved by his life!  But that is not all; we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus, through whom we have been granted reconciliation.

What does this imply?  It was through one man that sin entered the world, and through sin death, and thus death pervaded the whole human race, inasmuch as all have sinned.  For sin was already in the world before there was law; and although in the absence of law no reckoning is kept of sin, death held sway from Adam to Moses, even over those who had not sinned as Adam did, by disobeying a direct command–and Adam foreshadows the man who was to come.  But God’s act of grace is out of all proportion to Adam’s wrongdoing.  For if the wrongdoing of that one man brought death upon so many, its effect is vastly exceeded by the grace of God and the gift that came to so many by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ.  And again, the gift of God is not to be compared in its effect with that one man’s sin; for the judicial action, following on the one offence, resulted in a verdict of condemnation, but the act of grace, following on so many misdeeds, resulted in a verdict of acquittal.  If, by the wrongdoing of one man, death established its reign through that one man, much more shall those who in far greater measure receive grace and the gift of righteousness live and reign through the one man, Jesus Christ.

If follows, then, that as the result of one misdeed was condemnation for all people, so the result of one righteous act is acquittal and life for all.  For as through the disobedience of one man many were made sinners, so through the obedience of one man many will be made righteous.

Law intruded into this process to multiply law-breaking.  But where sin was multiplied, grace immeasurably exceeded it, in order that, as sin established its reign by way of death, so God’s grace might establish its reign in righteousness, and result in eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Psalm 40:8-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8  Burnt-offering and sin-offering you have not required,

and so I said, “Behold, I come.

9  In the roll of the book it is written concerning me:

‘I love to do your will, O my God;

your law is deep in my heart.'”

10  I proclaimed righteousness in the great congregation;

behold, I did not restrain my lips;

and that, O LORD, you know.

11  Your righteousness have I not hidden in my heart;

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your deliverance;

I have not concealed your love and faithfulness from the great congregation.

Luke 12:35-38 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Be ready for action, with your robes hitched up and your lamps alight.  Be like people who wait for their master’s return from a wedding party, ready to let him in the moment he returns and knocks.  Happy are those servants whom the master finds awake when he comes.  Truly I tell you:  he will hitch up his robe, seat them at table, and come and wait on them.  If in the middle of the night or before dawn when he comes he still finds them awake, and they are happy indeed.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; 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 reading from Romans 5 is one of the most influential passages in New Testament.  I leave it to speak for itself, with one major exception:  Let us not stop with the death of Jesus, for, without the Resurrection, we have dead Jesus, who cannot redeem us from anything.

Speaking of of living Jesus…

The parable in Luke 12 contains elements of stories from Matthew.  Instead of repeating myself here, I refer you, O reader to the links I have embedded in this post while I follow another thread.  Among the expectations in very early Christianity was that Jesus would return next week or next year or sometime soon–probably before one died.  He did not.  And, when our Lord did not keep the schedule that many early Christians thought he might, the canonical gospels, with their origins in the oral tradition (and probably a Q document) began to take shape as writings in Christian communities.  Tradition has identified the authors as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, although many scholars and I harbor doubts about certain claims of authorship.

As you, O reader, might imagine, the question of the Second Coming of Jesus occupied the minds of many early Christians.  If he had not arrived yet, when might he?  Is he late, or does he merely keep a different schedule than we do?  The parable from Luke 12 says that our Lord does not operate according to our schedule, so we ought to remain busy with that work which God has given us to do.  He will come when he comes.

I write these words on Monday, May 9, 2011.  One Harold Camping says that Jesus will return in just under two weeks, on Saturday, May 21.  If you are reading these words after May 21, you know how his prediction turned out.  I do not accept Mr. Camping’s prediction, but you, O reader probably guessed that fact, based on the date for which I have intended it originally–October 18, 2011.

I heard a National Public Radio story about Camping’s prediction two days ago.  One of Camping’s true believers volunteered an unfortunate statement:  He (the true believer) refuses to entertain any doubts as to the May 21, 2011, date because, if he does, he will go to Hell.  That was what he said.  As an Episcopalian, I do not fear doubts; I embrace them.  They prompt me to ask more questions and seek more answers.  I want to honor God with my brain, a process which does not entail shutting down critical thinking.

I choose to leave the details of eschatology to sort themselves out.  What will happen, will happen whenever and however it will occur.  So I will not attend any prophecy conferences ever, most likely.  Instead, I focus on the here and the now.  What work does God have for me to do where I am now?  How is Jesus coming to me now?  Consider the story of St. Martin of Tours (died 397), a Roman soldier and a bishop in what we call France today.  While a catechumen, Martin met a beggar who asked for alms.  The soldier gave the poor man part of his military cloak instead.  Two nights later, Martin had a dream in which he saw Jesus, who wore a half-cloak.  Our Lord said to the saint,

Martin, a simple catechumen, covered me with this garment.

May we demonstrate our faithfulness to the God who has redeemed us at great personal cost by following him.  This is a concrete process, one visible aspect of which is how we treat others, especially those less fortunate than ourselves.  When we do it for the least of our Lord’s brothers and sisters, we do it for him.  And when we do not do it for the least of them, we do not do it for him (Matthew 25:31-46).  It is nothing compared to what he did, but it is what God expects of us.  May we, by grace, not disappoint him.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/05/09/being-ready-for-jesus-in-whatever-form-he-arrives/

Proper 6, Year A   30 comments

Above:  Terebinth Trees (Such as Those at Mamre)

The Juxtaposition of Mercy and Judgment

The Sunday Closest to June 15

The Second Sunday After Pentecost

JUNE 14, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 18:1-15, (21:1-7) (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD appeared to Abraham by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the entrance of his tent in the heat of the day.  He looked up and saw three men standing near him.  When he saw them, he ran from the tent entrance to meet them, and bowed down to the ground.  He said,

My lord, if I find favor with you, do not pass by your servant.  Let a little water be brought, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree.  Let me bring a little bread, that you may refresh yourselves, and after that you may pass on–since you have come to your servant.

So they said,

Do as you have said.

And Abraham hastened into the tent to Sarah, and said,

Make ready quickly three measures of choice flour, knead it, and make cakes.

Abraham ran to the herd, and took a calf, tender and good, and gave it to the servant, who hastened to prepare it.  Then he took curds and milk and the calf that he had prepared, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree while they ate.

They said to him,

Where is your wife Sarah?

And he said,

There, in the tent.

Then one said,

I will surely return to you in due season, and your wife Sarah will have a son.

And Sarah was listening at the tent entrance behind him.  Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.  So Sarah laughed to herself, saying,

After I have grown old, and my husband is old, shall I have pleasure?

The LORD said to Abraham,

Why did Sarah laugh, and say, ‘Shall I have indeed bear a child, now that I am old?’ Is anything too wonderful for the LORD?  At the set time I will return to you, in due season, and Sarah shall have a son.

But Sarah denied, saying,

I did not laugh;

for she was afraid.  He said,

Oh yes, you did laugh.

The LORD dealt with Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did for Sarah as he had promised.  Sarah conceived and bore Abraham a son in his old age, at the time of which God had spoken to him.  Abraham gave the name Isaac to his son whom Sarah bore him.  And Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him.  Abraham was a hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him.  Now Sarah said,

God has brought laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.

And she said,

Who would ever said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children?  Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.

Psalm 116:1, 10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I love the LORD, because he has heard the voice of my supplication,

because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I call upon him.

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant,

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people,

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Exodus 19:2-8a (New Revised Standard Version):

They had journeyed from Rephidim, entered the wilderness of Sinai, and camped in the wilderness; Israel camped there in front of the mountain.  Then Moses went up to God; the LORD called to him from the mountain, saying,

Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the Israelites:  You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself.  Now therefore, if you obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession out of all the peoples.  Indeed, the whole earth is mine, but you shall be for me a priestly kingdom and a holy nation.  These are the words that you shall speak to the Israelites.

So Moses came, summoned the elders of the people, and set before them all these words that the LORD had commanded him.  The people all answered,

Everything that the LORD has spoken we will do.

Moses reported the words of the people to the LORD.  Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to come to you in a dense cloud, in order that the people may hear when I speak with you and so trust you ever after.

Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

2 Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and call upon his name.

4 For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

SECOND READING

Romans 5:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Therefore, since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God.  And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.  Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person–though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die.  But God proves his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 9:35-10:8 (9-23) (New Revised Standard Version):

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.  When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples,

The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.

Then Jesus summoned his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to cure every disease and every sickness.  These are names of the twelve apostles:  first, Simon, also known as Peter, and his brother Andrew; James son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot, the one who betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions:

Go nowhere among the Gentiles, and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the Gentiles, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.   As you go, proclaim the good news, “The kingdom of God has come near.”  Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons.  You received without payment, give without payment. (Take no gold, or silver, or two tunics, or sandals, or a staff; for laborers deserve their food.  Whatever town or village you enter, find out who in it is worthy, and stay there until you leave.  As you enter the house, greet it.  If the house is worthy, let your peace come upon it; but if it is not worthy, let your peace return to you.  If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake off the dust from your feet as you leave that house or town.  Truly I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.

See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.  Beware of them, for they will hand you over to councils and flog you in their synagogues; and you will be dragged before governors and kings because of me, as a testimony to them and the Gentiles.  When they hand you over, do not worry about how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you at that time; for it is not you who will speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.  Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; and you will be hated by all because of my name.  But the one who endures to the end will be saved.  When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next; for truly I tell you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.)

The Collect:

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

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Nothing is too wonderful or difficult for God, who is faithful to promises, even though we are not always mindful of ours or or God.  Therein lies the juxtaposition of mercy and judgment.  This is my theme for this devotional writing.

Let us begin with the reading from Genesis.  Abraham welcomes three visitors and extends to them full hospitality, according to his culture.  The patriarch does not know that one of them is YHWH, who has come to make a shocking announcement.  Sarah is post-menepausal, or as the formal euphemism states, “it had ceased to be with Sarah after the manner of women.”  Yet she will have a son, which is what she and her husband have wanted for years and thought impossible by now.  She laughs incredulously and silently to herself when she overhears the prophesy, but laughs with delight when she sees her newborn son.  She names him Yitzhak, or Isaac in English.  This names means, “He will laugh.”  And now others will laugh with Sarah.

Sometimes laughter of joy is appropriate after considering what God has done.  In the case of Sarah, God was merciful, and the laughter constituted high praise.  And although God refused to accept Sarah’s denial that she had laughed, God did not seem to hold either the initial laugh or her lie against her.  Really, who could blame Sarah?  Had anyone ever heard of such a thing as a woman of her years giving birth?

God was faithful in Genesis 18 and 21.  And, in Exodus 19, God (via Moses) challenged the Israelites to obey divine commandments.  They said they would, but their subsequent actions belied their words.  God did not destroy them (That was merciful.), but God did not permit them to enter Canaan.  (That was judgment.)  The next generation entered the Promised Land.  Read the accounts of the wanderings in the wilderness, if you have not done so already.  And if you have, you might want to read them again.  It is no wonder that Moses and God became angry with such behaviors as many Israelites exhibited.

Jesus and Paul remind us of suffering for the sake of righteousness.  The manners of their deaths give their words credibility:  The Roman Empire beheaded Paul and crucified Jesus.  And almost all of the twelve Apostles died as martyrs.  The incarnation of Jesus was itself an indication of great mercy, the message of which Paul took to the Gentile world.  Empires have executed messengers of the Kingdom of God, which had “come near” with Jesus, but the work of God is unstoppable.  Those who persecute such messengers will face judgment, but the faithful–those who endure–will live with God, regardless of what anyone does to their bodies.

I grew up in a Christian home.  This fact contributes greatly to the fact that I remain a Christian.  But other factors have contributed to this choice.  Among these factors is the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Read ancient comparative religion; few claims are original to Christianity.  Older religions featured a Son of God who died for the sins of the world, for example.  But these alleged Sons of God never walked the face of the earth; they were figments of imaginations.  Jesus was real, however.  He was, as I say, the genuine article.

God has come near.  The Kingdom of God has come near.  We have seen it in human flesh, in the form of Jesus.  And, in his own way, Abraham had an incarnational experience.  God seems to like us, sometimes despite ourselves.   Divine mercy does not preclude us suffering consequences of our actions, however.  But judgment does not necessarily connote divine hostility, for discipline is part of love.

Not only does God seem to like us, God loves us.  Should we not love God back?  Should we not laugh in delight for God has done, is doing, and will do out of love for us?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/05/the-juxtaposition-of-mercy-and-judgment/