Archive for September 2010

Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A   21 comments

Above:  A Map of the Known World, According to Posidonius, dated 150-130 B.C.E.

“That salvation may reach to the ends of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6c, NRSV)

JANUARY 19, 2020

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Isaiah 49:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Listen to me, O coastlands,

pay attention, you peoples from far away!

The LORD called me before I was born,

while I was still in my mother’s womb he named me.

He made my mouth like a sharp sword,

in the shadow of his hand he hid me;

he made me a polished arrow,

in his quiver he hid me away.

And he said to me,

You are my servant,

Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

But I said,

I have labored in vain,

I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;

yet surely my cause is with the LORD,

and my reward is with my God.

And now the LORD says,

who formed me in the womb to be his servant,

to bring Jacob back to him,

and that Israel might be gathered to him,

for I am honored in the sight of the LORD,

and my God has become my strength–

he says,

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob

and to restore the survivors of Israel;

I will give you as a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Thus says the LORD,

the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,

to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations,

the slave of rulers.

Kings shall see and stand up,

princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,

because of the LORD, who is faithful,

the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.

Psalm 40:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

I waited patiently for the LORD;

he inclined his ear tome and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the desolate pit,

out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the LORD.

Happy are those who make

the LORD their trust,

who do no turn to the proud,

to those who go astray after false gods.

You have multipied, O LORD my God,

your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;

none can compare with you.

Were I to proclaim and tell of them,

they would be more than can be counted.

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,

but you have given me an open ear.

Burnt offering and sin offering

you have not required.

Then I said,

Here I am;

in the scroll of the book it is written of me.

I delight to do your will, O my God;

your law is within my heart.

I have told the glad news of deliverance

int he great congregation;

see, I have not restrained my lips,

as you know, O LORD.

I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;

I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness

from the great congregation.

Do not, O LORD, withhold

your mercy from me;

let your steadfast love and your faithfulness

keep me safe forever.

For evils have encompassed me without number;

my iniquities have overtaken me,

until I cannot see;

they are more than the hairs of my head,

and my heart fails me.

1 Corinthians 1:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind– just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you– so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

John 1:29-42 (New Revised Standard Version):

John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared,

Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.

And John testified,

I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed,

Look, here is the Lamb of God!

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them,

What are you looking for?

They said to him,

Rabbi

(which translated means Teacher),

where are you staying?

He said to them,

Come and see.

They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him,

We have found the Messiah

(which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said,

You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas

(which is translated Peter).

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The reading from Deutero-Isaiah is the Second Servant Song.  Here the servant is the Jewish nation, still in exile, yet about to go home, albeit as part of the Persian Empire.  The soon-to-return Jews’ mission was to be a spiritual light to the nations.  Religious history records that Jewish monotheism (practiced, not merely preached) did not flower fully until after the return from Babylonian Exile, and that this flowering did not occur immediately.  But it did happen.  Monotheism is a great advance in religious thought.  (I make this statement while taking the risk of seeming like a theological chauvinist to some, but so be it.)

Just as God delivered a seemingly insignificant population and bestowed upon them the great responsibility of being a light to the nations, Jesus recognized much potential in an impetuous fisherman we know as St. Peter, or literally “rock.”  The Bible is honest about the heroes within its pages, portraying these individuals as flawed human beings.  So it is with St. Peter, who misunderstood and misspoke often, and even denied Jesus three times shortly before our Lord’s crucifixion.  Yet St. Peter became the leader of  the Apostles.  Through efforts such as those of this transformed fisherman the Christian message, which began with a few people, has become the largest faith system on the planet.

I remember the pianist at a church my father pastored when I was in high school.  Angela (not her real name) was deeply insecure, partially due to guilt over an indiscretion of a few years past.  I have no doubt that God had forgiven her, but she had not forgiven herself for her own weakness.  Angela said to me one Sunday morning that she had nothing to offer.  She was wrong, of course; she had much to offer that was beautiful and necessary.  She was no more or less flawed than any of us, than St. Peter or any of the exiled Jews awaiting return to a homeland in which they had never lived.

Maybe you, O reader, are not called to be a light to the nations.  Perhaps God has called you to be a light merely to your community.  But God has given you the great responsibility of being a positive influence and a light.  Do not hide it under a bushel.

KRT

Written on June 15, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/that-salvation-may-reach-to-the-ends-of-the-earth/

Week of 1 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 1   16 comments

Above: The Calling of St. Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen (1621)

Jesus and the Outcast

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

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

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

Psalm 19:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is clean and endures forever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Mark 2:13-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them.  And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him,

Follow me.

And he rose and followed him.

And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him.  And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples,

Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them,

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you all secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

One way of defining oneself as pure is labeling the “other” as impure.  Thus purity codes are inherently exclusive.  And how many of us grew up hearing the Benjamin Franklin aphorism that those who lie down with dogs will rise with fleas?  Jesus, being Jesus, ignored this convention, which religious orthopraxy and orthodoxy had enshrined.  Pharisees were careful with whom they ate, restricting this activity to those on the approved list.

Matthew (Levi), his fellow tax collectors, and others who refused flagrantly obey the Law of Moses, at least as the Pharisees said people should, were not on the approved list.  Yet Jesus broke bread and drank wine with such people.  And he recruited Matthew, who was a literal tax thief working for the occupying Roman Empire, to join his inner circle.  Jesus saw the potential within people and worked to bring it out in them.

I invite you, O reader, to ask yourself who you are in this story.  Are you Jesus, disregarding purity codes?  Or are you one of the impure.  Perhaps you are one our Lord’s critics, a person concerned greatly with respectability and the maintenance of tradition above all else.

We are all broken, sinful, and incapable of pleasing God on our own power.  So, in truth, each of us is impure.  But do we recognize this fact and approach the throne of grace in proper humility?  The word of God (in the Hebrews reading, simply God speaking) exposes all. It cuts through all distinctions and lays bare what we are.  We cannot hide from God, even by being “properly” religious.

Nevertheless, Jesus would invite you to dinner.  He does; today we call it the Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, Mass, or the Divine Liturgy, depending on one’s tradition.  There we meet the living Savior and take him into our bodies in the forms of mystically transformed bread and wine.  Nobody among us is worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under Jesus’ table, but we receive the invitation anyhow.  Our worthiness comes from Christ.

Therefore, being aware of our own unworthiness, may we refrain from labeling others “outcast,” “impure,” and “unworthy.”

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/jesus-and-the-outcast/

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-matthew-the-evangelist-apostle-and-martyr-september-21/

Week of 1 Epiphany: Friday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  Paralytic at Capernaum

The Paralysis of Unbelief

JANUARY 15, 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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Hebrews 4:1-5, 11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it.  For good news came to us just as to them; but the message which they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith in the hearers.  For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

As I swore in my wrath,

‘They shall never enter my rest,’

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.  For he has somewhat spoken of the seventh day in this way.  “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”

And again in this place he said,

They shall never enter my rest.

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience.

Psalm 78:3-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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 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 to their children;

6 That the generation to come might know,

and the children yet unborn;

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.

Mark 2:1-12 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.  And many were gathered together , so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them.  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,

Child, your sins are forgiven.

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,

Why does this man speak like this?  It is blasphemy!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?

And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit what they questioned like this within themselves, said to them,

Why do you question like this in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk’?  But that you too may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins

–he said to the paralytic–

I say to you, rise, take up your pallet, and go home.

And he rose, and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying,

We never saw anything like this!

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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He who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him; the sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

Leviticus 24:16 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

This is the passage the critics of Jesus had on their minds when they accused him of blasphemy for forgiving sins.

Let us pause and catch up with the narrative in the Gospel According to Mark.  Jesus had healed a leper and instructed to follow the germane rituals of the Law of Moses.  Instead the man had told everyone he could what Jesus had done for him.  So Jesus had to remain in the wilderness for a while until the excitement died down.  Then he returned to his home at Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  And people flocked to him there, in his house.  Four men had to cut out a portion of the flat roof of Jesus’ house and lower a paralyzed friend on a pallet, so Jesus could heal him.  We have no account of the paralyzed man’s faith, but that of the four friends is obvious.

Jewish orthodoxy of the time held that physical suffering, such as paralysis, flowed from sin.  One needed forgiveness from God before healing could occur.  Jesus, who had divine authority his critics did not recognize, forgave the man first then healed him.  Whatever the mechanics of how this happened, the story describes that is occurred.  William Barclay, in is volume on this Gospel, suggests a psychological cause of both the paralysis and the healing.  The man, Barclay writes, may have been paralyzed because he knew he was a sinner, and Jesus’ forgiveness was all the man needed to be whole again.  Maybe so, but I think the result more important than the process or the cause.

And, as Barclay writes in his commentary on this passage from Mark, “The experts in the law were hoist on their own petard.”  Jesus had forgiven and healed.  The man’s healed state was evidence of forgiveness of sin, in the standard theology of the time.  So could the elders of the Sanhedrin claim that God had not forgiven him and that Jesus was a blasphemer who deserved death by stoning without being hypocrites?

The men who wrote the canonical Gospels did so decades after the life of Jesus.  They know how the story ended, and so they planted foreshadowing in these documents.  They emphasized details they deemed germane to the development of the narrative.  We have such foreshadowing here.  It is about to get dangerous for Jesus.

These religious experts were rebelling against God, perhaps without knowing it.  The guardians of tradition were the disobedient ones.  God was doing a new thing, and they either did not perceive it or welcome it, or both.  They were frozen in place, stuck in the paralysis of their own tradition.  Sometimes trust in God requires us to abandon tradition and to accept the evidence we see with our own eyes.

I have watched all episodes of a 2002-2004 series called Jeremiah.  The events of the series occur in 2020-2021, 15 and 16 years after “The Big Death,” a virus that killed almost all post-pubescent humans within half a year.  Our heroes, headquartered at Cheyenne Mountain, are competing with other factions to rebuild the United States politically and otherwise.  Jeremiah, for whom the show is named, is angry with God, blaming the deity for letting all the unfortunate events occur.  One of the most interesting characters is Mister Smith, who claims that God speaks to him.  One day, Mister Smith passes along an invitation from God.  Those who to a certain place on a certain date and who wait long enough will receive a miracle of their choosing.  Jeremiah refuses to go along, but a few others agree to go with Mister Smith to the designated place.  Yet only Mister Smith remains long enough to receive his miracle.  He asked for the restoration of the use of one arm, paralyzed in a recent accident.  And only Mister Smith receives his miracle.  He tells the others that they should have stayed.

God might not make sense to us, but that is our problem, not God’s.

Here ends the lesson, for now.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/the-paralysis-of-unbelief/

Week of 1 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Moses

Image Source = Billy Hathorn

Moses, Faithfulness, and Unbelief

JANUARY 14, 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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Hebrews 3:1-19 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Therefore, holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.  He was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in God’s house.  Yet Jesus has been counted worthy as much more glory than Moses as builder of the house has more honor than the house.  (For every house is built by some one, but the builder of all things is God. )  Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ was faithful over God’s house as a son.  And we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

Today, when you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

on the day of testing in the wilderness,

where your fathers put me to the test

and saw my works for forty years.

Therefore I was provoked with that generation,

and said, ‘they always go astray in their hearts;

they have not known my ways.’

As I swore in my wrath,

‘They shall never enter my rest.

Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end, while it is said,

Today, when you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

Who were they that heard and yet were rebellious?  Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses?  And with whom was he provoked forty years?  Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did he swear that they should never enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?  So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Above:  Moses Striking the Rock

Image Source = UpstateNYer

Psalm 95:6-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

8 Harden not your hearts,

as your forebears did in the wilderness,

at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,

when they tempted me.

9 They put me to the test,

though they had seen my works.

10 Forty years long I detested that generation and said,

“This people are wayward in their hearts;

they do not know my ways.”

11 So I swore in my wrath,

“They shall not enter into my rest.”

Mark 1:40-45 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And a leper came to him begging him, and kneeling said to him,

If you will, you can make me clean.

Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him,

I will; be clean.

And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him,

See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.

But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Consider the following:

And all the congregation of the children of Israel traveled from the wilderness of Sin on their travels by YHWH’s word, and they camped in Rephidim.  And there was no water for the people to drink.  And the people quarreled with Moses.  And they said, “Give us water, and let us drink.”

And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you test YHWH?”

And the people thirsted for water there, and the people complained at Moses and said, “Why is this that you brought us up from Egypt, to kill me, and my children and my cattle with thirst?!”

And Moses called to YHWH, saying, “What shall I do with this people?  A little more and they’ll stone me!”

And YHWH said to Moses, “Pass in front of the people and take some of Israel’s elders with you, and take your staff with which you struck the Nile in your hand, and you’ll go.  Here, I’ll be standing in front of you there on a rock at Horeb.  And you’ll strike the rock, and water will come out of it, and the people will drink.”  And Moses did so before the eyes of Israel’s elders.  And he called the place’s name Massah and Meribah becaus of the quarrel of the children of Israel and the because of their testing YHWH, saying, “Is YHWH among us or not?”

Exodus 17:1-7 (Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text, 2001)

And, in Numbers 20, Moses was supposed to speak to the rock, but he struck with his staff instead.  For this lack of faithfulness God forbade him to enter the Promised Land, as the narrative indicates.

Testing and Quarreling.  Those terms, English translations of Massah and Meribah, summarize much of the biblical story of the wandering in the desert following the Exodus.  Moses was flawed, but faithful most of the time.  For that his name is one of honor in the Bible.

The miracle of the Exodus was the liberation of the Hebrews.  The biblical text attempts a sort of scientific explanation for the parting of waters; Exodus 14:21 mentions a “strong east wind” (Richard Elliott Friedman’s translation).  The Everett Fox translation refers to a “fierce east wind.”  In the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula God continued to provide enough for the former slaves.  Water was available, as was a sufficient food supply.  Yet people grumbled and waxed nostalgically about Egyptian table scraps.  Ingratitude prevailed, and it came with consequences.

The conjunction of the three passages of scripture on the Canadian Anglican lectionary this day makes clear that there is a continuity from Moses to Jesus.  God is the builder of the household of faith, which consists of those who trust in and follow God.  Moses was a faithful servant in this household, and thus received due respect.  But Jesus is the Son, and therefore he is greater than Moses (no disrespect to Moses).

Leviticus 14 contains detailed instructions about what to do when presenting oneself to a priest as cleansed of leprosy, a generic term for several skin diseases which rendered one ritually impure and a social outcast.  The process included animal sacrifices, animal blood, and the shaving of the leper’s head.  For full details, read Leviticus 14.  These are the motions Jesus commands the healed leper to go through in Mark.  His order is to follow the Law of Moses, indicating a continuity from Moses to Jesus.  Yet the healed leper chose the understandable action–he told everyone he could about what Jesus had done for him.  So Jesus had to hide out in the wilderness for a while.  He was, in the Markan narrative, still keeping his Messianic Secret.

There is a time to tell what God has done for one, and a time to follow rituals and keep quiet.  Knowing which is which constitutes part of wisdom.

So does recognizing what God has done and being grateful for it.  The trap of nostalgia is at least two-fold.  First, the “good old days” were not as good as they look through our rose-colored glasses.  Furthermore, we are not looking at current blessings closely enough when living in the past.  God is the God of present blessings; we need to focus on these.  Do we have enough for today?  Let us give thanks for this. Many problems arise from mistaking desires for necessities.  Money, material possessions, and other potential idols can never fill the God-shaped hole in each of us.  By themselves, these are not idols.  Yet many of us transform them into such.

May we lay aside all our idols, whatever they are.  If we have turned anything good into an idol, may we reverse that process and enjoy this good thing as what it can be, at its best.  And may we live in full awareness of how good God is today, and act accordingly.  This God is the God of Moses and Jesus, of mercy and judgment.  This is the God who cares deeply and passionately about us.  May we reciprocate, as best we can, by grace.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/moses-faithfulness-and-unbelief/

Week of 1 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Temptations of Jesus, from St. Mark’s, Venice

Jesus, Who Identifies With Us

JANUARY 13, 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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Hebrews 2:14-18 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Since therefore the children share in the flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.  For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham.  Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people.  For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Psalm 105:1-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

7 He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

8 He has always been mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made for a thousand generations;

9 The covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath he swore to Isaac,

10  Which he established as a statute for Jacob,

an everlasting covenant for Israel,

11 Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan,

to be your allotted inheritance.”

12 When they were few in number,

of little account, and sojourners in the land,

13 Wandering from nation to nation

and from one kingdom to another,

14 He let no one oppress them

and rebuked kings for their sake,

15 Saying, “Do not touch my anointed

and do my prophets no harm.”

Above:  Ruins of Capernaum

Image Source = David Shankbone

Mark 1:29-39 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her.  And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered together about the door.  And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak because they knew him.

And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and those who were with him followed him, and they found him and said to him,

Every one is searching for you.

And he said to them,

Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.

And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Below:  A Map of Galilee During Roman Times

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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If you have been paying sufficient attention to certain details, you have noticed that the readings from Mark and Hebrews have been sequential; one follows another according to chapter and verse.  Much of the value of a lectionary resides in this pattern.  I find more value in following a lectionary by identifying common threads in different readings assigned for the same day.  Among the greatest errors in biblical interpretation is reading a text outside of context, literary or historical.

Parts of the readings for this day, although prose by form, are more like poetry.  They communicate great truth without containing historical and scientific accuracy.  Writing from the context of 2010, I know the biological and psychosocial causes and contributing factors of physical diseases and mental illnesses.  Demonic possession is not among them.  Remember though, that the people of Jesus’ day had no way of knowing what I do.  They did the best with what they had.  And Jesus worked within that context.

Our Lord and Savior cared deeply for people, with whom he identified.  Indeed, as the author of Hebrews informs us, Jesus is able to help us through temptation because he knows how powerful that force is.  Temptation is a mighty force.  You know this at least as well as I do.  It is important, I think, to know the difference between the imperative to ask forgiveness and to repent and the unhelpful practice of being unduly self-critical.  We are all broken; God knows this.  We need to recognize our brokenness, take it to Jesus, and leave it there.  Beating up on ourselves, literally or spiritually, accomplishes no good purpose.

I have known powerful and deep anger.  My cause has been just, and the actions of my foes have been perfidious in consequences, if not intentions.  (I have insufficient information to evaluate their intentions, but the consequences of their actions are obvious to me.)  I have learned also that even righteous anger is too heavy a burden to carry for long.  My burden is fading away, by grace.  In time, it will cease to exist, also by grace.  My sin (which continues as I write this devotional) is not having forgiven my foes, who will remain unnamed in this post.  I am weak; Jesus is strong.  Jesus can cast out my figurative demons of rage at injustice and of any desire to cling to righteous indignation.  That power is my only hope.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/jesus-who-identifies-with-us/

Seventh Day of Epiphany   10 comments

Above:  Titian’s Painting of John the Baptist

Jesus Must Grow Greater; I Must Grow Less.

JANUARY 12, 2022

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1 John 5:13-20 (New Jerusalem Bible):

I have written this to you

who believe in the name of the Son of God

so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Our fearlessness towards him consists in this,

that if we ask anything in accordance with his will

he hears us.

And if we know that he listens to whatever we ask him,

we know that we already possess whatever we have asked of him.

If anyone sees his brother commit a sin

that is not a deadly sin,

has only to pray, and God will give life to this brother

–provided that it is not a deadly sin.

There is a sin that leads to death

and I am not sat saying that you must pray about that.

Every kind of wickedness is sin,

but not all sin leads to death.

We are well aware that no one who is a child of God sins,

because he who was born from God protects him,

and the Evil One has no hold over him.

We are well aware that we are from God,

and the whole world is in the power of the Evil One.

We are well aware also that the Son of God has come,

and has given us understanding

so that we may know the One who is true.

We are in the One who is true

as we are in his Son, Jesus Christ.

He is the true God

and this is eternal life.

Children, be on your guard against false gods.

Psalm 149 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Sing a new song to Yahweh:

his praise in the assembly of the faithful!

Israel shall rejoice in its Maker,

the children of Zion delight in their king;

they shall dance in praise of his name,

play to him on tambourines and harp!

For Yahweh loves his people,

he will crown the humble with salvation.

The faithful exult in glory,

shout for joy as they worship him,

praising God to the heights with their voices,

a two-edged sword in their hands,

to wreak vengeance on the nations,

punishment on the peoples,

to load their kings with chains

and their nobles with iron fetters,

to execute on the the judgment passed–

to the honour of all his faithful.

John 3:22-36 (New Jerusalem Bible):

After this, Jesus went with his disciples into the Judaean countryside and stayed with them there and baptized.  John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, where there was plenty of water, and people were going there and were being baptized.  For John had not yet been put in prison.

Now a discussion arose between some of John’s disciples and a Jew about purification, so they went to John and said,

Rabbi, the man who was with you on the far side of the Jordan, the man to whom he bore witness, is baptizing now, and everyone is going to him.

John replied:

No one can have anything

except what is given him from heaven.

You yourselves can bear me out.  I said, ‘I am not the Christ; I am the one who has been sent to go in front of him.’

It is the bridegroom who has the bride;

and yet the bridegroom’s friend

who stands there and listens to him,

is filled with joy at the bridegroom’s voice.

This is the joy I feel, and it is complete.

He must grow greater,

I must grow less.

He who comes from above

is above all others;

he who is of the earth

is earthly himself and speaks in an earthly way.

He who comes from heaven

bears witness to the things he has seen and heard,

but his testimony is not accepted by anybody;

though anyone does not accept his testimony

is attesting that God is true,

since he whom God has sent

speaks God’s own words,

for God gives him the Spirit without reserve.

The Father loves the Son

and has entrusted everything to his hands.

Anyone who believes in the Son has eternal life,

but anyone who refuses to believe in the Son will never see life:

God’s retribution hangs over him.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; 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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From misplaced priorities (such as inflated egos) flow terrible results.  Most wars have been preventable and unnecessary, flowing from misunderstandings and wounded pride.  These have been, to borrow an explanation of the Falklands Islands War, like two bald men fighting over a comb.  Yet the proverbial bald men in question have done this out of national pride or the ego of the leader.

Often we humans seek poor substitutes for the God-shaped hole in the soul.  Out of this quest flow addictions, dependencies, preventable interpersonal conflicts, violent crimes, property crimes, and other social ills.  It would be better to seek God, assuming the humble attitude of St. John the Baptist, stating and living according the principle that Jesus must be increase but that we must decrease.

KRT

Written on June 9, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/jesus-must-grow-greater-i-must-grow-less/

Week of 1 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  A Remnant of a Mosaic from Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Authoritative Jesus

JANUARY 12, 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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Hebrews 2:5-13 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For it was not to angels that God subjected the world to come, of which we are speaking.  It has been testified somewhere,

What is man that you are mindful of him,

or the son of man, that you care for him?

You have made him a little lower than the angels,

you have crowned him with glory and honor,

putting everything in subjection under his feet.

Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control.  As it is, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him.  But we see Jesus, who for a little while was made lower than the angels, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.

For it was fitting that he, for whom and to whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through suffering.  For he who sanctifies those who are sanctified have all one origin.  That is why he is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,

I will proclaim your name to my brethren,

in the midst of the congregation I will praise you.

And again,

I will put my trust in him.

And again,

Here am I, and the children God has given me.

Psalm 8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 O LORD our Governor,

how exalted is your Name in all the world!

2 Out of the mouths of infants and children,

your majesty is praised above the heavens.

3 You have set up a stronghold against your adversaries,

to quell the enemy and the avenger.

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

the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

5  What is man that you should be mindful of him?

the son of man that you should seek him out?

6 You have made him but little lower than the angels;

you adorn him with glory and honor;

7 You give him mastery over the works of your hands;

you put all things under his feet;

8 All sheep and oxen,

even the wild beasts of the field,

9 The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,

and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

10 O LORD our Governor,

how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Below:  Nebula NGC 1999

Mark 1:21-28 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And they went into Capernaum; and immediately on the sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught.  And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught as one who had authority, and not as the scribes.  And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit; and he cried out,

What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth ?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know what you are, the Holy One of God.

But Jesus rebuked him, saying,

Be silent and come out of him!

And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.  And they were all amazed, saying,

What is this?  A new teaching!  With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.

And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Some Bible stories sound odd to many of us for whom the Scientific Revolution of the 1600s remains influential.  The Hellenistic world of Jesus and his Apostles was one in which one could claim that demonic possession causes epilepsy or schizophrenia or some other ailment and almost nobody would disagree.  Those who wrote the Gospels did not disagree with that assessment.  Yet I have a different mindset.   Nevertheless, I choose not to permit this point to distract me from the major lesson in the reading from Mark.

The Gospel According to Mark portrays Jesus as a powerful and mysterious figure.  He knows who he is.  Unclean spirits know who he is, and so does Satan.  Yet Jesus’ closest associates fail to understand him until his crucifixion and resurrection, which reveal his true nature.  This is the Messianic Secret, which our Lord’s crucifixion and resurrection reveal:  the Messiah has come to die and rise again.  This is a different understanding of Messiah than many had at the time and many continue to harbor; Jesus was not the conquering hero;  he came to die and rise again.

And, unlike other teachers of the Jewish faith, he did not use constant verbal citations to what a great scholar had said.  No, he taught with authority.  More importantly, Jesus acted with authority, and this gave his words more authority than they would have had otherwise.

The Incarnation affirms human nature.  We are wretches, of course, but we also bear the image of God.  Both are true, and we need to balance the two sides well.  What are we that God is mindful of us?  We are children of the living God, bearers of the divine image.  God has walked among us, healed us, taught us, and looked like us.  God has taken on our sins and died for us.  God as risen from the dead for us.

I am not a parent, nor I desire that role.  But I am a child, and I know that my parents love me actively and sacrificially.  The parental metaphor, therefore, is a beautiful way of understanding God’s relationship with each of us.

Who are we that God is mindful of us?  We are the apples of God’s eyes.  May we, by grace, be the best apples, for the sake of each other and the glory of God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/authoritative-jesus/

Posted September 16, 2010 by neatnik2009 in Canadian Anglican Lectionary Year 1, January 12

Tagged with , ,

Sixth Day of Epiphany   17 comments

Above:  The Praying Hands, by Albrecht Durer

The Imperative of Prayer

JANUARY 11, 2022

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1 John 5:5-12 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Who can overcome the world

but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

He it is who came by water and blood,

Jesus Christ,

not with water alone,

but with water and blood,

and it is the Spirit that bears witness,

for the Spirit is Truth.

So there are three witnesses,

the Spirit, water and blood;

and the three of them coincide.

If we accept the testimony of human witnesses,

God’s testimony is greater,

for this is God’s testimony

which he gave about his Son.

Whoever believes in the Son of God

has this testimony within him,

and whoever does not believe

is making God a liar,

because he has not believed

the testimony God has given about his Son.

This is the testimony:

God has given us eternal life,

and this life is in his Son.

Whoever has the Son has life,

and whoever has not the Son of God has not life.

I have written this to you

who believe in the name of the Son of God

so that you may know that you have eternal life.

Psalm 147:12-20 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Praise Yahweh, Jerusalem,

Zion, praise your God.

For he gives strength to the bars of your gates,

he blesses your children within you,

he maintains the peace of your frontiers,

gives you your fill of finest wheat.

He sends his word to the earth,

his command runs quickly,

he spreads the snow like flax,

strews hoarfrost like ashes,

he sends ice-crystals like breadcrumbs,

and who can withstand that cold?

When he sends his word it thaws them,

when he makes his wind blow, the waters are unstopped.

He reveals his word to Jacob,

his statutes and judgments to Israel.

For no other nation has done this,

no other has known his judgments.

Luke 5:12-16 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Now it happened that Jesus was in one of the towns when suddenly a man appeared, covered with a skin-disease.  Seeing Jesus he fell on his face and implored him saying,

Sir, if you are willing you can cleanse me.

He stretched out his hand, and touched him saying

I am willing.  Be cleansed.

At once the skin-disease left him.  He ordered him to tell no one,

But go and show yourself to the priest and make the offering of your cleansing just as Moses prescribed, as evidence to them.

But the news of him kept spreading, and large crowds would gather to hear him and have their illnesses cured, but he would go off to some deserted place and pray.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; 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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Jesus needed to find solitude and to pray.  If this was a requirement for him, much more do we need to do this, too?

I have lived without cable television voluntarily for years.  This was partially a financial decision:  Why should I pay a bill for a service I barely use and really do not want or need?  Yet it was a spiritual choice, too.  I have chosen to read more books, listen to more Canadian radio online, and play more classical music and jazz.  And I have discs when I want to watch something.  What I watch then is probably better and more interesting than what I could find on cable TV at the time.  And I have thrown myself into blogging, of course.  To think that what I do in private can help others whom I will never meet is gratifying.

Yet I can still distract myself from the imperative of prayer.  I am no spiritual giant.

Prayer can assume many forms, the greatest of which (I am convinced) are non-verbal.  Ultimately prayer is a state of being in which we crave to be conscious of the presence of God and in which the desire for more of this oozes from our pores, so to speak.  Frequently this entails solitude and silence, or at least a suitable environment we create with music.  I have encountered God in silence, classical music, and John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, for example.

We are always in the presence of God.  May we become increasingly conscious of this reality, and recharge our spiritual batteries so that we may serve God better.  In so doing we will realize that we have eternal life–knowing God via Jesus–in the here and now.

KRT

Written on June 9, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/the-imperative-of-prayer/

Posted September 16, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2021-2022, Episcopal Church Lectionary, January 11

Tagged with , , ,

Week of 1 Epiphany: Monday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  The Twelve Apostles

Image Source = Stanp

“How many apostles are there?”

JANUARY 11, 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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Hebrews 1:1-6 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir to all things, through whom also he created the ages.  He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.  When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs.

For to what angel did God ever say,

You are my Son,

today have I begotten you?

Or again,

I will be to him a father,

and he shall be to me a Son?

And again, when he brings the first-born into the world he says,

Let all God’s angels worship him.

Psalm 97 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the earth rejoice;

let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him,

righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

3 A fire goes before him

and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees it and is afraid.

5 The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

6 The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

7 Confounded be all who worship carved images

and delight in false gods!

Bow down before him, all you gods.

8 Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O LORD.

9 For you are the LORD,

most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The LORD loves those who hate evil;

he preserves the lives of the saints

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous,

and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy Name.

Mark 1:14-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying,

The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.

And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them,

Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.

And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.  And immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed him.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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I admit it.  I like both really good movies (you know, the kind with great acting, a well-written script, and lovely cinematography) as well as bad ones.  There is a time and a season for Citizen Kane, as well as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.  (Did you ever imagine those two sharing the same thought or sentence?)  Among my favorite bad movies is …And God Spoke (The Making of).  This is a mockumentary about two utterly incompetent and biblically illiterate filmmakers filming a Bible movie.  In one scene, they have too few actors to play the Twelve Apostles because they do not know how many apostles there were.

Indeed, this is a more difficult question than one might suspect at first.  We begin with the twelve who formed Jesus’ inner circle.  Then we add Matthias, plucked briefly from obscurity among the 70 (or 72) of our Lord and Savior’s outer circle to take the place of Judas.  And we consider Paul of Tarsus an apostle.  Our Eastern Orthodox brethren consider Mary of Magdala an equal of the Twelve Apostles.  That, I suppose, makes her an apostle.

Furthermore, the ranks of the saints include others called apostles, for example the “Apostle of Ireland” (St. Patrick).  This is consistent with one definition of apostle, according to the Encarta World English Dictionary:  “a prominent Christian missionary, especially one who is responsible for converting a nation.”

Becoming an apostle (generic term) or Apostle (one the inner circle of Jesus) entailed great personal risks.  Excluding Judas and including Matthias, eleven of the Twelve became martyrs.   John was just fortunate, I suppose.  These men converted nations and laid the foundations upon which succeeding Christian leaders built.  I, as a Christian, owe them much gratitude.  Paul died as a martyr, too, but not before taking Christianity to the Gentiles, among whose company I count myself.  Mary Magadalene is a much misunderstood figure, for Papal tradition (that of Pope Gregory I, to be precise), not the Bible, associates her as having been a prostitute.  Yet another tradition says that she took the Gospel to southern Gaul, now France.  She probably did.

How many apostles are there?  They are still being born.

Thanks be to God!

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/how-many-apostles-are-there/

Fifth Day of Epiphany   20 comments

Above:  Colored Waiting Room Sign, Georgia, 1943

Whom Should I Love?  Everybody!

JANUARY 10, 2022

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1 John 4:19-5:4 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Let us love, then,

because he first loved us.

Anyone who says

I love God

and hates his brother,

is a liar,

since no one who fails to love the brother whom he can see

can love God whom he has not seen.

Indeed this is the commandment we have received from him,

that whoever loves God, must also love his brother.

Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ

is a child of God,

and whoever loves the father

loves the son.

In this way we know that we love God’s children,

when we love God and keep his commandments.

This is what the love of God is:

keeping his commandments.

Neither are his commandments burdensome,

because every child of God

overcomes the world.

And this is the victory that has overcome the world–

our faith.

Psalm 72:1-2, 14-19 (New Jerusalem Bible):

God, endow the king with your own fair judgment,

the son of the king with your own saving justice,

that he may rule your people with justice,

and your poor with fair judgment.

From oppression and violence he redeems our lives,

their blood is precious in his sight.

(Long may he live; may the gold of Sheba be given him!)

Prayer will be offered for him constantly,

and blessings invoked on him all day.

May wheat abound in the land,

waving on the heights of the hills,

like Lebanon with its fruits and flowers at their best,

like the grasses of the earth.

May his name be blessed for ever,

and endure in the sight of the sun.

In him shall be blessed every race in the world,

and all nations call him blessed.

Blessed be Yahweh, the God of Israel,

who alone works wonders;

blessed for ever his gracious name.

May the whole world be filled with his glory!

Amen! Amen!

Luke 4:14-22 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside.  He taught in their synagogues and everyone glorified him.

He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me,

for he has anointed me

to bring the good news to the afflicted.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,

sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to speak to them,

The text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.

And he won the approval of all, and they were astonished by the gracious words that came from his lips.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; 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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The reading from 1 John reminds us of a great spiritual truth:  we cannot love God and hate each other.  It is easy to give lip service to this statement, but acting on it can entail controversy and social transformation, which make many people very uncomfortable and sometimes violent.

The excerpt from Luke seems to have a happy ending, but reading for a few more verses reveals that Jesus’ former neighbors turned on him, becoming enraged and hustling him out of Nazareth, intending to throw him off a cliff.  These were people who, very shortly before, had been in synagogue!  This incident reminds me of a true story from a Methodist revival meeting in a Virginia barn in the late 1700s.  Thomas Coke, one of the original bishops of the Methodist Episcopal Church (1784-1939; now The United Methodist Church) was preaching.  He turned to the topic of slavery, the abolition of which he supported.  On the spot a woman in the congregation offered to hire someone to murder Coke.  The bishop fled the barn, and the revival ended.  Bishop Coke lived for years, fortunately.

I write this post in June 2010.  One hundred years ago de jure segregation was the law of the land in the United States.  In 1896 the Supreme Court had held in Plessy v. Ferguson that racial segregation was constitutional so long as the separate facilities were equal.  Yet these facilities were not equal.  So the Court reversed itself in Brown v. Board of Education (1954), with Chief Justice Earl Warren (one of my heroes, and my favorite Chief Justice) writing that separate is inherently unequal.  In 2010 it is difficult to find a person in the political mainstream who will question the major civil rights milestones–Supreme Court rulings and acts of Congress–although one can locate a few now and again.  Theoretical arguments about the nature of Federalism might seem respectable and concerned with Constitutional imperatives, but they cannot mask racism, insensitivity to injustice, or the errors of hyper-Libertarianism, which opposes federal actions to correct injustices, such as de jure segregation.

We have received a command to love each other actively.  Thus we need to ask some hard questions and perhaps to jettison some assumptions.  No political -ism is immune from error in matters of loving others, hating others, or loving others insufficiently.  I propose, for example, that this command requires not to think of abortion as a casual matter or to excuse bombing civilian populations during wartime.  (During World War II the Allies bombed cities in Axis nations.)  I own a shirt which asks

Who Would Jesus Bomb?

I know that the first word should be “whom,” but question remains a good one.  Gospel imperatives can be challenging, indeed.

KRT

Written on June 9, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/whom-should-i-love-everybody/