Archive for March 2012

Devotion for January 21 and 22 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  The Prophet Joel

Stereotypes of God

JANUARY 21 and 22, 2020

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Joel 1:1-20 (January 21)

Joel 2:1-17 (January 22)

Psalm 51 (Morning–January 21)

Psalm 54 (Morning–January 22)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–January 21)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–January 17)

Romans 10:1-21 (January 21)

Romans 11:1-24 (January 22)

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Rend your hearts

Rather than your garment,

And turn back to the LORD, your God.

For He is gracious and compassionate,

slow to anger, abounding in kindness,

And renouncing punishment.

Who knows but He may turn and relent,

And leave a blessing behind

For meal offering and drink offering

To the LORD your God?

–Joel 2:13-14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Now suppose that some branches were broken off, and you are wild olive, grafted among the rest to share with the others the rich sap of the olive tree….

–Romans 11:17, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Sometimes a lectionary is too choppy.  At such occasions extended readings are appropriate.  Such is the case with the readings for January 21 and 22 on the daily lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006).

The Book of Joel, from the Persian period (539-332 B.C.E.) of Jewish history, opens with frightening images.  Read the first chapter, O reader of this post, for full effect.  Locusts, flames, and other forces have devastated the land.  And, as Chapter 2 opens, the terrifying Day of the LORD approaches.  The earth trembles, the sky shakes, and stars go dark.  Yet even then there is the possibility of forgiveness, assuming repentance, or turning around.

Paul spends Romans 10 and 11 dealing with the question of Jews who have rejected Jesus.  In this context he likens Gentiles to branches grafted onto the tree of Judaism.  Gentiles, he advises, ought not to become proud and dismissive.  As much as there is divine mercy, there is also divine judgment–for Jews and Gentiles alike.

There is an often repeated misunderstanding about God as He comes across in the Hebrew Scriptures.  The God of the Old Testament, we hear, is mean, violent, and vengeful.  This is a gross oversimplification–read Joel 2 for evidence of that statement.  I am convinced that some of the violent imagery and some of the stories containing it result from humans projecting their erroneous assumptions upon God.  Yet I refuse to say that all–or even most–of such incidents flow from that practice.  I seek, O reader, to avoid any stereotype–frightful or cuddly–about God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 31, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA SKOBTSOVA, ORTHODOX MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENJAMIN, ORTHODOX DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS ASBURY, U.S. METHODIST BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHN DONNE, POET AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/stereotypes-of-god/

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Devotion for January 20 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  The Persian Empire in 500 B.C.E.

Inclusion, Foreigners, and God (II)

JANUARY 20, 2020

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 47:1-14, 21-23

Psalm 67 (Morning)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening)

Romans 9:19-33

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But suppose that God, although the time he wanted to reveal his retribution and demonstrate his power, has with great patience gone on putting up with those who are the instruments of his retribution and designed to be destroyed; so that he may make known the glorious riches ready for the people who are the instruments of his faithful love and were long ago prepared for that glory.  We are that people, called by him not only out of the Jews but with the gentiles too.

–Romans 9:22-24, The New Jerusalem Bible

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This land you shall divide for yourselves among the tribes of Israel.  You shall allot it as a heritage for yourselves and the strangers who reside among you, you have begotten children among you.  You shall treat them as Israelite citizens; they shall receive allotments along with you among the tribes of Israel.  You shall give the stranger an allotment within the tribe where he resides–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 47:21-23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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What a difference a day makes!  In the previous day’s entry in this series I wrote of the exclusion of Gentiles from parts of the rebuilt Temple.  Some foreigners had joined the Jews and lived among them, living according to the covenant and embracing monotheism.  Yet they were to be excluded from parts of the Temple complex.  Nevertheless, in Ezekiel 47:21-23, those same foreigners were to receive the same rights of citizenship as Jews and to have the same land rights.  I sense a double standard.

Paul wrote that the faithful people of God included Jews and Gentiles.  In Christ, he wrote elsewhere, the barriers of hostility between the two groups cease to exist.  Recently, over lunch, a friend and I discussed Paul’s inclusive view of Christian identity (transnational and transethnic) and how, for many people in the non-Western world, the sense of Christianity is quite different.  For many of them Christianity and Western civilization are linked closely.  This hinders the spread of Christianity where anti-Western sentiments are widespread.  That is most unfortunate.

Christ is universal.  May we who claim his name act according to that truth.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT INNOCENT OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF TOULOUSSE, AND SAINT SIMON STOCK, CARMELITE FRIAR

THE FEAST OF KARL RAHNER, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/inclusion-foreigners-and-god-ii/

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Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   6 comments

 

Above:  Logo of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union

When God Acts

JANUARY 20, 2019

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Isaiah 62:1-5 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

For the sake of Zion I will not be silent,

For the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still,

Till her victory emerge resplendent

And her triumph like a flaming torch.

Nations shall see your victory,

And every kin, your majesty;

And you shall be called by a new name

Which the LORD Himself shall bestow.

You shall be a glorious crown

In the hand of the LORD,

And a royal diadem

In the palm of your God.

Nevermore shall you be called “Forsaken,”

Nor shall your land be called “Desolate”‘;

But you shall be called “I delight in her,”

And your land “Espoused.”

For the LORD takes delight in you,

And your land shall be espoused.

As a youth espouses a maiden,

You sons shall espouse you;

And as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,

So will your God rejoice over you.

Psalm 36:5-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,

your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,

your judgments are like the great deep;

you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!

All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house,

and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the fountain of life;

in your light we see light.

O continue your steadfast love to those who know you,

and your salvation to the upright of heart!

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

About gifts of the Spirit, my friends, I want there to be no misunderstanding.

You know how, in the days when you were still pagan, you used to be carried away by some impulse or other to those dumb heathen gods.  For this reason I must impress upon you that no one who says

A curse of Jesus!

can be speaking under the influence of the Spirit of God; and no one can say

Jesus is Lord!

except under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

There are varieties of gifts, but he same Spirit.  There are varieties of service, but the same Lord.  There are varieties of activity, but in all of them and in everyone the same God is active.  In each of us the Spirit is seen to be at work for some useful purpose.  One, through the Spirit, has the gift of wise speech, while another, by the power of the same Spirit, can put the deepest knowledge into words.  Another, by the same Spirit, is granted faith; another, by the one Spirit, gifts of healing, and another miraculous powers; another has the gift of prophecy, and other the ability to distinguish true spirits from false; yet another has the gift of tongues of various kinds, and another the ability to interpret them.  But all these gifts are the activity of one and the same Spirit, distributing them to each individual at will.

John 2:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

Two days later there was a wedding at Cana-in-Galilee.  The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also among the guests.  The wine gave out, so Jesus’s mother said to him,

They have no wine left.

He answered,

That is no concern of mine.  My hour has yet to come.

His mother said to the servants,

Do whatever he tells you.

There were six stone water-jars standing near, of the kind used for Jewish rites of purification; each held from twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants,

Fill the jars with water,

and they filled them to the brim.

Now draw some off,

he ordered,

and take it to the master of the feast,

and they did so.  The master tasted the water now turned into wine, not knowing its source, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.  He hailed the bridegroom and said,

Everyone else serves the best wine first, and the poorer only when the guests have drunk freely; but you have kept the best wine til now.

So Jesus performed at Cana-in-Galilee the first of the signs which revealed his glory and led his disciples to believe in him.

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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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/prayer-of-confession-for-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany/

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Once I read a story which might be apocryphal.  There was, in the days prior to the time of Prohibition in the United States, a certain woman who traveled along the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) lecture circuit and spoke of the evils of alcohol.  God, she said, wanted people to abstain from it all times. She completed her remarks and asked if anyone had any questions.  One young man raised his hand.  The speaker called on him.  He asked,

If what you say is true, how do you explain Jesus turning water into wine?

She replied,

I would like him better if he had not done that.

The readings for this Sunday speak of ways in which God acts.  In Isaiah God will act in a spectacular fashion to restore exiles.  As one who has read certain other parts of the Hebrew Scriptures knows, some people objected to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, its walls, and the Temple.  1 Corinthians 12:1-11 contains an explanation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  All of them are manifestations of God yet the variety of them offends certain conformists.  And Jesus turning water into wine in John 2:1-11, his first miracle in that Gospel, caused discomfort for many advocates of temperance.  Once, years ago, I watched a documentary about Jesus movies.  The program mentioned a silent film from the United States.  Scenes from the wedding feast at Cana were there, but with an explanation about the use of wine in biblical times.

When God acts we might become uncomfortable.  That is our problem, not any indication of a fault with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT INNOCENT OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF TOULOUSE, CARMELITE NUN, AND SAINT SIMON STOCK, CARMELITE FRIAR

THE FEAST OF KARL RAHNER, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/when-god-acts/

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Devotion for January 19 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Peter’s Vision

Inclusion, Foreigners, and God (I)

JANUARY 19, 2020

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 44:1-16, 23-29

Psalm 56 (Morning)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening)

Romans 9:1-18

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Thus said the Lord GOD:  Let no alien, uncircumcised in spirit and flesh, enter My Sanctuary–no alien whatsoever among the people of Israel.

–Ezekiel 44:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Let not he foreigner say,

Who has attached himself to the LORD,

“The LORD will keep me apart from His people”…

As for the foreigners

Who attach themselves to the LORD,

To minister to Him,

And love the name of the LORD,

To be His servants–

All who keep the sabbath and do not profane it,

And who hold fast to My covenant–

I will bring them to My sacred mount

And let them rejoice in My House of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices

Shall be welcome on My altar;

For My House shall be called

A house of prayer for all peoples.

–Isaiah 56:3a, 6-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female–for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And simply by  being Christ’s, you are that progeny of Abraham, the heirs named in the promise.

–Galatians 3:28-29, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Then Peter addressed them, “I now really understand,” he said, “that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him….”

–Acts 10:34-35, The New Jerusalem Bible

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In Christ is neither Jew nor Greek,

and neither slave nor free;

both male and female heirs are made,

and all are kin to me.

–Laurence Hull Stokely, 1987; verse 3 of “In Christ There Is No East or West,” The United Methodist Hymnal (1989)

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The bulk of the assigned reading from Ezekiel condemns the corrupt and idolatrous priesthood.  Idolatry is always worth condemning, but another part of that lesson attracted my attention.  Foreigners were excluded from parts of the rebuilt Temple.  A note in The Jewish Study Bible referred me to a different perspective in Isaiah 56:3-8; I have quoted part of that passage in this post.  In that reading a foreigner who lives according to the covenant of God is to be welcomed at the Temple.  I have quoted other texts of inclusion in God (especially via Jesus) in this part.  If you, O reader, think of them as refutation of Ezekiel 44:9, you understand my meaning correctly.

Paul, a Jew, was a great apostle to the Gentiles.  As a Gentile, I am grateful to him.  He, Simon Peter (to a different extent) and others saw past boundaries such as national origin and ethnicity.  This position caused controversy in earliest Christianity, as history and the Bible tell us.  Exclusion helps define borders and thereby to help us know who we are; We are not those people over there.  This is a negative identification.

Yes, there are human and theological differences, some of them important.  But more vital is the love of God for everyone.  And we who claim to follow God ought to seek to express that love to others, regardless of a host of differences.  Each of us is foreign to someone; may we remember that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DISMAS, PENITENT BANDIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MUNSTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET CLITHEROW, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ALLEN, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/inclusion-foreigners-and-god-i/

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Devotion for January 18 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Christmas Gifts

Image Source = Kelvin Kay

The Presence of God

JANUARY 18, 2020

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 40:1-4; 43:1-12

Psalm 130 (Morning)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening)

Romans 8:18-39

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For I am certain of this:  neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities, nothing in existence and nothing still to come, nor any power, nor the heights nor the depths, nor any created thing whatever, will be able to come between us and the love of God, known to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

–Romans 8:38-39, The New Jerusalem Bible

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I recall that, when I was very young, I heard my father speak of the presence of God.  At the time my age had only one digit and my Piagetan stage of cognitive development reflected literal, concrete thinking.  So I wondered where the presents of God were.  They might come in boxes wrapped in shiny paper, I thought.

The “Presence of God” figures prominently in the readings from Ezekiel.  The people have sinned yet the divine Presence will return to the site of the Temple at Jerusalem, the text says.  And we read in Romans 8:18-39 that God, in the form of the Holy Spirit, intercedes for us.  Furthermore, nothing can separate us from the love of God.

We are always in the presence of God, who is everywhere.  Yet many of us do not live accordingly.  And others of us need to live accordingly more often than we do.  (I count myself among the latter.)  Being aware  of being in the presence of God and responding to it positively is the best definition of prayer I can muster.  Such a response is far better than any number of gifts in boxes wrapped in shiny paper.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/the-presence-of-god-2/

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Devotion for January 16 and 17 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  A Bullseye

Image Source = Alberto Barbati

Cleansing and Restoration

JANUARY 16 and 17, 2020

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 38:1-23 (January 16)

Ezekiel 39:1-10, 17-29 (January 17)

Psalm 15 (Morning–January 16)

Psalm 36 (Morning–January 17)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–January 16)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–January 17)

Romans 7:1-20 (January 16)

Romans 7:21-8:17 (January 17)

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…the good thing I want to do, I never do; the evil thing which I do not want–that is what I do.  But every time I do what I do not want to do, then it is not myself acting, but the sin that lives in me….What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death?  God–thanks be to him–through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So it is that I myself with my mind obey the law of God, but in my disordered nature I obey the law of sin.

–Romans 7:19-20, 24-25, The New Jerusalem Bible

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A note on page 1115 of The Jewish Study Bible tells me that Gog, leader of the land of Magog, might have been “Gyses, a 7th-century ruler of Lydia in Asia Minor.”  Anyhow, Ezekiel 38 and 39 (which I have kept united for the sake of clarity; the lectionary splits the passage into two parts over as many days) speaks in apocalyptic terms of the divine defeat of the cleansing of the land of Judea, then the restoration of the Jews in their ancestral homeland.  One must be careful not to use such texts to justify blind Zionism, therefore excusing the abuses which the present State of Israel has perpetrated against the Palestinians; the Golden Rule applies to everyone.  Yet the text does indicate the reliability of divine promises.

The concepts of cleansing and restoration (in a different context, of course), apply also to Romans 7:1-8:17.  We human beings are mixed bags of good and bad.  We are, as the Lutheran confessions tell us, capable only of civic righteousness on our own power; we cannot save ourselves from ourselves.  “Sin” is not an abstraction; it is “missing the mark.”  And we are naturally inaccurate spiritual archers.   We find God by a combination of grace and free will.  And the existence of the latter is a function of the former, so everything goes back to grace.  Through this grace we have cleansing and restoration.  May we, by grace, cooperate with God so that we may become what God has in mind for us to become.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/cleansing-and-restoration/

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Devotion for January 14 and 15 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, by Gustave Dore

Freedom in Jesus

JANUARY 14 and 15, 2020

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 36:33-37:14 (January 14)

Ezekiel 37:15-28 (January 15)

Psalm 136 (Morning–January 14)

Psalm 123 (Morning–January 15)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–January 14)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–January 15)

Romans 5:1-21 (January 14)

Romans 6:1-23 (January 15)

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The Ezekiel and Romans readings function best when one reads them continuously.  Lectionaries are useful, but sometimes they are too choppy.

We begin with the lessons from Ezekiel.  Exiles will return to their ancestral homeland; that is one meaning of the Valley of Dry Bones.  Another traditional interpretation infers the resurrection of the dead before the last judgment.  I see no reason that is flawed.  But, as a narrative matter, the former reading of the text takes me my next point, which is that, in the homeland, God and the people will commune:

I will make a covenant of friendship with them–it shall be an everlasting covenant with them–I will establish them, and I will place My Sanctuary among them forever.  My Presence shall rest over them; I will be their God and they shall be My People.  And when My Sanctuary abides among them forever, the nations shall now that I the LORD do sanctify Israel.

–Ezekiel 37:26-28, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

What Ezekiel understood as the Second Temple applies nicely to Jesus, in whom we have reconciliation with God, in whom our offenses are lifted from us and through whom we have justification.  It is in Jesus that we are free from slavery to sin.  Voltaire said that we human beings are free as we choose to be.  If we choose to give ourselves over to someone’s authority, we lose a measure of freedom.  And even coercion cannot deprive a person of inner freedom if he or she opts to retain it.  Mohandas Gandhi was a free man in some prison cells, for example.  Likewise, if we choose to enslave ourselves to sin and shame, we have ourselves to blame.  But, if we seek liberty in Christ, we have grace and enough free will to choose to follow him to thank.

One of the most difficult forms of slavery to break is that of honor and shame.  What others think of us does affect us, so we have to care about that somewhat.  What other people say about influences whether we obtain certain employment (or keep it), for example.  Yet the most important assessment comes from God.  May the divine assessment be,

Well done, good and faithful servant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/freedom-in-jesus/

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