Week of 5 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   12 comments

Above:  Saint Peter Repentant, by Francisco de Goya

Mercy

FEBRUARY 6, 2018

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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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1 Kings 8:22-23, 27-30 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of the whole community of Israel; he spread the palms of his hands toward heaven and said,

O LORD God of Israel, in the heavens above and on earth below there is no God like You, who keep Your gracious covenant with Your servants when they talk before You in wholehearted devotion;….

But will God really dwell on earth?  Even the heavens to their uttermost reaches cannot contain You, how much less this House that I have built!  Yet turn, O LORD and God, to the prayer which Your servant offers before You this day.  May your eyes be open day and night toward this House, toward the place of which You have said, “My name shall abide there”; may You heed the prayers which Your servant and Your people Israel offer toward this place, give heed in Your heavenly abode–give heed and pardon….

Psalm 84 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house

and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;

by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

3 Happy are they who dwell in your house!

they will always be praising you.

4 Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

5 Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs,

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

6 They will climb from height to height,

and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

hearken, O God of Jacob.

8 Behold our defender, O God;

and look upon the face of your Anointed.

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,

and to stand in the threshold of the house of my God

than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

10 For the LORD is both sun and shield;

he will give grace and glory;

11 No good thing will the LORD withhold

from those who walk with integrity.

12 O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!

Mark 7:1-13 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

And now Jesus was approached by the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem.  They had noticed that his disciples ate their meals with “common” hands–meaning that they had not gone through a ceremonial washing.  (The Pharisees, and indeed all the Jews, will never eat unless they have washed their hands in a particular way, following a traditional rule.  And they will not eat anything brought in the market until they have first performed their “sprinkling”.  And there are many other things which they consider important, concerned with the washing of cups, jugs, and basins.)  So the Pharisees and the scribes put this question to Jesus, “Why do your disciples refuse to follow the ancient tradition, and eat their bread with “common” hands?

Jesus replied, “You hypocrites, Isaiah described you beautifully when he wrote–

This people honoureth me with their lips,

But their heart is far from me.

But in vain do they worship me,

Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.

You are so busy holding on to the precepts of men that you let go the commandment of God!”

Then he went on, “It is wonderful to see how you can set aside the commandment of God to preserve your own tradition!  For Moses said, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother” and ‘He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death.’  But you say, ‘if a man says to his father or his mother, Korban–meaning, I have given God whatever duty I owed to you’, then he need not lift a finger any longer for his father or mother, so making the word of God impotent for the sake of the tradition which you hold.  And this is typical of much of what you do.”

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of 5 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/week-of-5-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

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The reading from 1 Kings 8 occurs in the context of the dedication of Solomon’s Temple.  The presence of God is palpable at the Temple, and Solomon and the priests are awestruck with reverence.  The king, in a holy mood, asks God for mercy.

Mercy occupies the core the reading from Mark.  Korban was a custom whereby one gave property to the religious establishment.  Many people did this out of piety, but others did so out of spite for someone, thereby depriving that person of necessary financial and material support.  Some religious officials accepted Korban gifts even when they knew that the gift was spiteful.  So donor and recipient shared the hypocrisy of acting impiously while seeming to be holy.

To be holy, Jesus said, entails acting that way.  Our Lord agreed with Old Testament prophets:  It is not enough to observe holy rituals; one and a society must also care for the poor, root out judicial corruption, et cetera.  When we care for one another actively, we care for Jesus actively; when we do not tend to each other actively, we do not tend to Jesus actively (Matthew 25:31-46).

We have a vocation to extend mercy to one another, and there is a link between our judging or forgiving of others and God’s judging and forgiving of us.  (Matthew 7:1-5).  Forgiving someone and otherwise extending him or her mercy and patience can be difficult, as I know well, and you, O reader, might also understand.  Like Paul, we often find ourselves doing what we know we ought not to do and not doing what we know we should do (Romans 7:17f).

There is good news, however.  First, the fact that we have a moral sense indicates the presence of grace.  So let us begin by celebrating that.  Furthermore, more grace is available to help us forgive the other person, extend him understanding, and be patient with her.  With God’s help we will succeed.  Do we want to try?

May we lay aside moral perfectionism, therefore, and embrace and accept the grace of God.  Without making excuses and winking at the inexcusable, may we accept the reality that we are spiritually where we are spiritually, and that God can take us elsewhere.  But we must, if we are going to move along, proceed from where we are.  We are weak, yes; but God is strong.  Trusting in God and accepting our dependence on grace, may we walk with God, do the best we can, by grace, and keep going.  There is hope for us yet.  St. Peter became a great Christian leader, despite what his trajectory seemed to be for most of the narrative in the canonical Gospels.  As we say in the U.S. South, “Who would have thunk it?”

What can you become, by grace, for God, other people of God, and perhaps society?  God knows; are you willing to live into your vocation?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/mercy/

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