Archive for the ‘Sarah’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 11, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Parable of the Sower

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

Grace and Character Flaws

JULY 18, 2019

JULY 19, 2019

JULY 20, 2019

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The Collect:

Eternal God, you draw near to us in Christ, and you make yourself our guest.

Amid the cares of our lives, make us attentive to your presence,

that we may treasure your word above all else,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:10-20 (Thursday)

Genesis 13:1-18 (Friday)

Genesis 14:1-16 (Saturday)

Psalm 15 (All Days)

Hebrews 5:1-6 (Thursday)

Ephesians 3:14-21 (Friday)

Luke 8:4-10 (Saturday)

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Yahweh, who can find a home in your tent,

who can dwell on your holy mountain?

Whoever lives blamelessly,

who acts uprightly,

who speaks the truth from the heart,

who keeps the tongue under control,

who does not wrong a comrade,

who casts no discredit on a neighbour,

who looks with scorn on the vile,

but honours those who fear Yahweh,

who stands by an oath at any cost,

who asks no interest on loans,

who takes no bribe to harm the innocent.

No one who so acts can ever be shaken.

–Psalm 15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Abram (later Abraham) was a fascinating, contradictory, and frequently puzzling figure, for he was a human being.  In Genesis 12-14 alone he pretended that Sarai (his wife) was his sister, lied to the Pharaoh (who, unlike Abram, suffered because of the lie), prospered (in large part due to that lie), remained in Canaan and engaged in warfare while Lot, his nephew, moved to Sodom.  At the end of Chapter 14 Abram encountered Melchizedek, hence one reason for the reading from Hebrews 5, I suppose.

The traditional name of the reading from Luke 8 is the Parable of the Sower.  Nevertheless, the emphasis in the story is the soils, so, as some commentators I have read have argued, we should refer to the Parable of the Four Soils.  Each of us is, under the best circumstances, good soil, albeit not entirely so.  That is a fact of human nature.  Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah had serious defects of character, as did St. Paul the Apostle.  Likewise, you, O reader, and I have character flaws.  Nevertheless, may the lovely prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 be others’ prayer for us and our prayer for others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBALD OF OSTEVANT, RICTRUDIS OF MARCHIENNES, AND THEIR RELATIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ABRAHAM KIDUNAIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT, AND MARY OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/grace-and-character-flaws/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 22, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

March on Washington 1963

Above:  The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963

Photographer = Warren K. Leffler

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ds-04411

Looking Upon the Heart

OCTOBER 4, 5, and 6, 2018

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, you have created us to live

in loving community with one another.

Form us for life that is faithful and steadfast,

and teach us to trust like little children,

that we may reflect the image of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 20:1-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 21:22-34 (Friday)

Genesis 23:1-20 (Saturday)

Psalm 8 (All Days)

Galatians 3:23-29 (Thursday)

Romans 8:1-11 (Friday)

Luke 16:14-18 (Saturday)

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When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars that you have ordained,

What are mortals, that you should be mindful of them;

mere human beings, that you should seek them out?

You have made them little lower than the angels

and crown them with glory and honour.

–Psalm 8:4-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The Book of Genesis is honest about the vices and virtues of Abraham and Sarah.  Abraham was a man who valued his relationship with God so much that he acted to the detriment of his family sometimes.  Sarah knew jealousy and acted accordingly.  Abraham, who preferred that people deal honestly with him, dealt dishonestly with others on occasion, telling lies.  These were not the

No, that dress does not make you look fat

variety of lies.  No, these were lies with negative consequences for people.  Yet Abraham and Sarah were instruments of divine grace in their time.  Their legacy has never ceased to exist.

Grace is radical and frequently disturbing.  It ignores human-created distinctions (as in the pericope from Galatians) and calls us to live according to a higher purpose.  We are free from the shackles we have accepted, those which others have imposed upon us, and those we have imposed upon ourselves.  We are free to love God and our fellow human beings as fully as possible, via grace.  We are free to follow Jesus, our Lord and Savior, who taught us via words and deeds how to live according to the Kingdom of God.

Recently I watched a sermon by Michael Curry, soon to become the Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church.  He spoke of an incident in the Gospels in which our Lord and Savior’s relatives, convinced that Jesus was crazy, sought to take him away and control him.  Seeking to control Jesus is what much of the Christian Church has sought to do for a long time, Curry stated accurately.  Our Lord and Savior was–and remains–beyond control, fortunately.  Yet elements of institutionalized Christianity have retained human-created distinctions (such as those St. Paul the Apostle listed in the pericope from Galatians) and have labeled doing so orthodoxy.  Fortunately, other elements of institutionalized Christianity have behaved properly in that regard.

Boundaries provide order, hence definition and psychological security.  Some of them are necessary and proper.  Other boundaries, however, exclude improperly, labeling members of the household of God as outsiders, unclean persons, et cetera.  Jesus, as the Gospels present him, defied social conventions and broke down boundaries relative to, among other factors, gender, ritual impurity, and economic status.  Erroneous distinctions regarding gender and economic status remain in societies, of course.  Many of us lack the concept of ritual impurity, but we have probably learned from our cultures or subcultures that certain types of people are somehow impure, that contact with them will defile us.  Often these are racial or ethnic distinctions.

The example of Jesus commands us to, among other things, lay aside erroneous standards of judging and to consider only the proverbial heart.  That is a difficult spiritual vocation, but it is a matter of obedience to God.  It is also possible via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, WASHINGTON GLADDEN, AND JACOB RIIS, ADVOCATES OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ALBERT DICKINSON, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE DUFFIELD, JR., AND HIS SON, SAMUEL DUFFIELD, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS

THE FEAST OF HENRY MONTAGU BUTLER, EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/07/02/looking-upon-the-heart/

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Devotion for Monday After Proper 12, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Abraham and the Three Angels

Above:   Abraham and the Three Angels, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

God’s Surprises

JULY 30, 2018

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The Collect:

Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children

a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth.

Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven

and share this bread with all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 18:1-15

Psalm 111

Philippians 4:10-20

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Reverence for the LORD is the first step to wisdom,

good success comes to all who obey his laws.

His people will never stop praising him.

–Psalm 111:10, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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Sometimes, however, distress comes to those who obey God’s laws.  Consider, O reader, St. Paul the Apostle, who suffered death threats, incarceration, beatings, a shipwreck, and an execution.  Consider also, O reader, the church he planted at Philippi.  That congregation had to contend with internal and external threats, from anti-Christian authorities to Gnostics.  Yet the Philippian church, for all its struggles, was generous of spirit and helped St. Paul in tangible ways.

Depending on our expectations, some of God’s methods might surprise us.  One might expect a persecuted and struggling community to be preoccupied with its own troubles.  And, as for Abraham and Sarah in Genesis 18, a pregnancy certainly falls into the category of the unexpected.  The spiritual lesson I offer based on these readings is that we ought to open our minds and move beyond our usual expectations regarding what God might do and how God might do it.  We have certainly missed some blessings because we have not been looking in the right place at the right time.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/gods-surprises/

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Proper 14, Year C   12 comments

Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964

Photograph by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegraph and Sun

Image Source = Library of Congress

Active, Abrahamic Faith

The Sunday Closest to August 10

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 11, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24

or 

Genesis 15:1-6 and Psalm 33:12-22

then 

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Luke 12:32-40

The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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We human beings use the same word in different ways, with a variety of meanings.  Consider, O reader, the word “day,” for example.  People say,

In my day…

and

Back in the day…,

as well as

There is a new day coming.

Or “day” might apply literally, as in when today separates yesterday from tomorrow.

The same principle applies to “faith” in the New Testament.  The Apostle Paul, in Romans, used it to mean something inherently active, which leads to works.  A Pauline formula is that as a person thinks, so he or she is.  The Letter of James contains a different definition, that of intellectual assent to a proposition or set of propositions.  So, according to that definition, faith without works is dead.  Both epistles agree on the imperative of active faith, so one need not imagine a discrepancy between their conclusions.

And there is the definition of faith from Hebrews 11:1-3:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is was made from things that are not visible.

New Revised Standard Version

In other words, faith applies in circumstances in which one can neither prove nor disprove a proposition according to scientific methods or documentary evidence.  That is an anachronistic definition, I know, but it works well.  Science can tell us much; I respect it and reject all anti-scientific sentiments and statements.  God gave us brains; may we use them as fully and critically as possible.  And documents form the basis of the study of history as I practice it.  Objective historical accuracy and the best scientific data available ought to override dogma, superstition, and bad theology.  So, no matter what the Gospels say, demon possession does not cause epilepsy, for example.  Yet there does exist truth which these twin standards of modernism (as opposed to postmodernism) cannot measure.  Such truth is good theology, which one can grasp by faith.

We read in Hebrews of the faithful example of Abram/Abraham (and by implication, of Sarai/Sarah), which harkens back to Genesis.  Theirs is a fantastical story, one which challenges understandings of biology.  But that is not the point.  The point is that God does unexpected things, and that the people of God should accept this reality.  And whether a certain unexpected thing is good news or bad news depends upon one’s spiritual state, as in Luke 12.

The reading from Isaiah 1 caught and held my attention most of all.  I, as an observant Episcopalian, am an unrepentant ritualist.  The text does not condemn ritualism itself.  No, the text damns insincere ritualism mixed with the neglect of vulnerable members of society:

Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil things

Away from my sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

–Isaiah 1:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Do it or else, the text says.  This is a call to society; Enlightenment notions of individualism do not apply here.  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, called for

…a true revolution of values

from a society focused on things to one which places the priority on people.  In the same speech, the one in which he opposed the Vietnam War without equivocation, he said:

A nation that continues to spend year after year more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.  (Edited by James M. Washington, 1986), page 241

The Prophet Isaiah would  have agreed.

Eternal God, heavenly Father,

you have graciously accepted us as living members

of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,

and you have fed us with spiritual food

in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.

Send us now into the world in peace,

and grant us strength and courage

to love and serve you

with gladness and singleness of heart;

through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 365

Do we have the Abrahamic faith to do that?  And how much better will our societies be for all their members if we do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/27/active-abrahamic-faith/

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Proper 11, Year C   18 comments

Above:  Convent at Mamre Near Hebron, Palestine (Abraham’s Oak), 1944

Image Source = Library of Congress

Divine Promises

The Sunday Closest to July 20

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 21, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52

or 

Genesis 18:1-10a and Psalm 15

then 

Colossians 1:15-28

Luke 10:38-42

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; 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:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-confession-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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Divine promises turn our worlds upside-down and defy expectations.

Reconciliation, in Colossians 1, is related to justification, a legal concept.  So God is the judge, each of us is the accused, and Jesus is the defense attorney.  These are inexact metaphors, for

  1. Elsewhere in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is the defense attorney, and
  2. The judge is in cahoots with the defense attorney.

But there is more.  In Christ our estrangement from God ends.  And we have an avenue via Christ to end our estrangements from one another.  Why not?  If we love God, whom we cannot see, how then ought we to think about our fellow human beings, whom we can see?  This is a noble and high vocation, one attainable by grace.  And, if we strive yet fall short, God knows that we are but dust.

Such divine generosity requires an affirmative response.  St. Mary of Bethany understood this, as did Abraham and Sarah (although the latter needed a little time to grasp it) before her.  And one cannot respond affirmatively to God while exploiting people economically.  Although Colossians 1 contains a promise of deliverance from sins via God, Amos 8 tells us of doom because of the sin of economic exploitation.  The Law of Moses condemned such practices and mandated ways of helping the poor, yet some people manipulated it to make their exploitative deeds seem respectable and proper.

The Bible says more about money, greed, and economic exploitation than about sexual activities, yet many professing Christians are quicker to condemn aspects of the latter than of the former.  I have also noticed that condemnations of the latter tend to be more vocal and visible than those of the former.  If we who call ourselves Christians are to avoid rank hypocrisy, we ought to realize that many of us are invested in economic realities which place many others at an undue disadvantage.  We ought to ask God to help us see or blind spots.  We ought to be willing to confront the social structures which grant us advantages at the expense of others.  And we ought not to settle for condemning just (or primarily) the low-hanging fruit.  Then we will hear what God tells us because we will listen closely.  And something unexpected will be born to us via divine power and bring us closer to God, the main agent of bringing about this reconciliation and justification.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, CARDINAL

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/divine-promises/

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Proper 9, Year A   29 comments


Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s C.E. Painting)

Image in the Public Domain

The Victory Belongs to God Alone

The Sunday Closest to July 6

The Fifth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 5, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 (New Revised Standard Version):

The servant said to Laban,

I am Abraham’s servant. The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, `You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’

I came today to the spring, and said, `O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also” — let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.’

Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, `Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, `Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, `Whose daughter are you?’ She said, `The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.

And they called Rebekah, and said to her,

Will you go with this man?

She said,

I will.

So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.

Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant,

Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?

The servant said,

It is my master.

So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

AND

Psalm 45:11-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 “Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely;

forget your people and your father’s house.

12 The king will have pleasure in your beauty;

he is your master; therefore do him honor.

13 The people of Tyre are here with a gift,

the rich among the people seek your favor.”

14 All glorious is the princess as she enters;

her gown is cloth-of-gold.

15 In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king;

after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.

16 With joy and gladness they are brought,

and enter into the palace of the king.

17 “In place of fathers, O king, you shall have sons;

you shall make them princes over all the earth.

18 I will make your name to be remembered

from one generation to another;

therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever.”

OR

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

The voice of my beloved!

Look, he comes,

leaping upon the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle

or a young stag.

Look, there he stands

behind our wall,

gazing in at the windows,

looking through the lattice.

My beloved speaks and says to me:

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away;

for now the winter is past,

the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth;

the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove

is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,

and the vines are in blossom;

they give forth fragrance.

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Zechariah 9:9-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!

Lo, your king comes to you;

triumphant and victorious is he,

humble and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim

and the war-horse from Jerusalem;

and the battle bow shall be cut off,

and he shall command peace to the nations;

his dominion shall be from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;

today I declare that I will restore to you double.

For I have bent Judah as my bow;

I have made Ephraim its arrow.

I will arouse your sons, O Zion,

against your sons, O Zion,

and wield you like a warrior’s sword.

Psalm 145:8-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

10 All your works praise you, O LORD,

and your faithful servants bless you.

11 They make known the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your power;

12 That the peoples may know of your power

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;

your dominion endures throughout all ages.

14 The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in all his deeds.

15 The LORD upholds all those who fall;

he lifts up those who are bowed down.

SECOND READING

Romans 7:15-25a (New Revised Standard Version):

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.  But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law oat war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will rescue from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to the crowd,

To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;

we wailed, and you did not mourn.”

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.

At that time Jesus said,

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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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Sometimes I can tie all lectionary readings for a day together neatly via a common thought.  This unifying theme might be easy or difficult to locate, but I can find it–much of the time.  Proper 9, Year A, is an exception to this rule.  So I state quickly that genuine romantic love between adult human beings, especially those bound to each other by the sacrament of marriage, is beautiful and that God is present there.  Now I move along to Zechariah, Paul, and Matthew.

I take these readings in chronological order.

The Book of Zechariah exists in two parts:  Chapters 1-8 and 9-14, each section having separate authorship.  Zechariah 9-14 contains prophesies about how God will deal with the Jewish people from the time of Hellenistic domination of the Holy Land to the coming of the Messiah.  The texts say that God will act, so the victory will belong to God.  Worthless shepherds will not obstruct these deeds, for God will replace them with a worthy shepherd, the Messiah.

Jesus, of course, was (and is) that Messiah.  People criticized him for many reasons:  he ate and drank too much or he fasted too much; he healed on the Sabbath; the man could not satisfy some people regardless of how good he was.  Some people will find fault with anyone, even Jesus.  But he was (and is) the Good Shepherd, and through him God has made atonement for sins.

Speaking of sins, Paul struggled with them.  I know this feeling, but I take it as more positive than negative.  The term “immoral” indicates that one knows the difference between right and wrong, and chooses the latter.  But “amoral” indicates that one cannot make the distinction.  At least the person who is immoral at least some to the time knows the difference, and God can work with that.  It is vital to try and to want to do the right thing.  We humans are deeply flawed, “but dust” as the Book of Psalms says, but we also bear the image of God (Genesis 1).  So we need to honor the divine image within ourselves and each other, and to trust God to help us distinguish between right and wrong, and to believe that God will help us choose what is correct.

Culture can affect our perceptions of morality, sometimes for the worse.  As a student of U.S. history, I know that many Antebellum Southerners thought that keeping slaves was moral, and that anyone who said or thought otherwise did not understand the Bible correctly.  Also, I have a book containing a 1954 sermon from Texas entitled “God the Original Segregationist.”  The pastor continued to sell copies of this sermon via the mail through at least 1971.  It is easy for me to point out these moral misunderstandings, but I am blind to my own.

So I read Paul’s confession and identify with it.  And I take comfort that the victory is God’s work, and that neither I nor anyone else will stand in its way.  But I hope I am not and will never be a would-be obstacle God must sweep aside.  No, I want to be on God’s side.  By grace, may as many of us as possible be there.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/06/the-victory-belongs-to-god-alone/

Week of Proper 8: Friday, Year 1   13 comments

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

Image in the Public Domain

Proper Forms of Inclusion

JULY 5, 2019

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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

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

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

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

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

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

The son said to him,

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

Abraham said to him,

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

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

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

The slave said,

He is my master.

Then she took her veil, and covered herself.

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

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

1 Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2 I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

3 That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

4 We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

5 He gave his decrees to Jacob

and established a law for Israel,

which he commanded them to teach their children;

6 That the generations to come might know,

and the children yet unborn;

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

7 So that they might put their trust in God,

and not forget the deeds of God,

but keep his commandments;

8 And not be like their forefathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

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

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

Follow me!

And he got up and followed him.

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

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

But he heard it, and said,

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

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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The two readings for this day address the difficult issue of inclusion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KRT

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