Devotion for January 28 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  St. Mary’s Orphanage, Washington, D.C., Circa 1909

Image Source = Library of Congress

Compassion, Justice, and Crime

SUNDAY, JANUARY 28, 2018

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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:

Zechariah 6:1-7:14

Psalm 62 (Morning)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening)

Romans 16:17-27

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Thus said the LORD of Hosts:  Execute true justice and deal loyally and compassionately with one another.  Do not defraud the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; and do not plot evil against one another.–But they refused to pay heed….

–Zechariah 7:9-11a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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I urge you, brothers, be on your guard against the people who are out to stir up disagreements and bring up difficulties against the teaching which you learnt.  Avoid them.

–Romans 16:17, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Who were the people whom Paul advised Roman Christians to avoid?  It seems that they were Judaizers–who argued that Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism and conform to Jewish customs as conditions of becoming Christians–or to Gnostics–who considered self-knowledge to be salvation and being one’s true self as discipleship–or both.  As various Pauline epistles attest, Paul criticized both in strong terms.  Self-knowledge is good, of course, but it does not equal salvation.  And I suppose that being oneself, assuming that one is a good and compassionate person, is also a virtue.  Certainly, one ought to be the person whom God created one to be.  That is a component of discipleship, but the Christian definition of discipleship is following Jesus.  And, if one needs to become and Jewish and to keep Jewish customs in order to be Christian, many incidents in the canonical Gospels where Jesus clashes with religious authorities make no sense.

There are good rules and bad ones.  Good rules include those Zechariah extolled:  Executing true justice; dealing loyally and compassionately with one another; dealing honestly with the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; and seeking the best for one another.  Against such things there are no divine laws.  I know of no divine law against compassion, generosity, and hospitality.  Yet throughout time human laws against them have existed.  They continue to exist.  Once, in the United States, aiding a fugitive slave’s quest for freedom constituted a federal crime.  Fortunately, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 passed into history.  Today showing compassion to certain people might constitute aiding and abetting criminals, technically speaking.  A criminal is simply one whom the state has labeled as such, for a crime is whatever the state defines as such.  An escaped slave used to be a criminal–a thief, technically speaking.

My bottom line is this:  May we execute true justice.  May we deal loyally and compassionately with one another.  May we not defraud the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor.  May we not plot evil against one another.  May we not impose needless burdens on one another.  And, if living according to these rules constitutes a crime, may we remember that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, died as a criminal, according to the Roman Empire.  Definitions of crime differ according to time and place, but certain moral absolutes exist.  That standard is the most important one of all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/compassion-justice-and-crime/

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