Archive for the ‘February 1’ Category

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman--de Grebber

Above:  Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman, by Pieter de Grebber

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Mercy and Wisdom

JANUARY 31, 2022

FEBRUARY 1, 2022

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love;

and that we may obtain what you promise,

make us love what you command,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 17:8-16 (Monday)

2 Kings 5:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 56 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 14:13-25 (Tuesday)

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I praise God for his promises,

I trust in him and have no fear;

what can man do to me?

–Psalm 56:11, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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One can perceive divine wisdom only via God.  Such wisdom, which is for the building up of community (faith and otherwise) and not of self at the expense of others, is frequently counter-cultural.  We who claim to follow God should be careful to avoid the opposite fallacies of complete accommodation to social norms and of serial contrarian tendencies.  Letting go of proper standards is at least as bad as distrusting everything “worldly,” much of which is positive or morally neutral.

The narrative pericopes from the Hebrew Bible for these days tell of God extending mercy to people via people.  In one account the conduit is the prophet Elijah, who helps an impoverished widow of Zarephath.  In the other story a captive Hebrew servant girl suggests that her Aramean master, Naaman, a military commander, visit the prophet Elisha for a cure for his skin disease.  Naaman is surprised to learn that the remedy is to bathe in the humble River Jordan seven times.  Divine help comes in unexpected forms sometimes.  Having a receptive frame of mind–perhaps via divine wisdom–is crucial to recognizing God’s frequently surprising methods.

I have never had a miraculously refilling jar of flour or jug of oil, but I have known the considerably mundane and extravagant mercies of God in circumstances ranging from the happy to the traumatic.  Either God’s mercies have been greater in proportion to my sometimes difficult circumstances or my perception was proportionately greater and divine mercies have been equally extravagant across time.  Was the light bulb brighter or did I notice it more because the light outdoors became dimmer?  I do not know, and perhaps the answer to that question does not matter.  Recognizing divine mercy and wisdom then acting accordingly does matter, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAVID NITSCHMANN, SR., “FATHER NITSCHMANN,” MORAVIAN MISSIONARY; MELCHIOR NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR; JOHANN NITSCHMANN, JR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; ANNA NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN ELDRESS; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, MISSIONARY AND FIRST BISHOP OF THE RENEWED MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF BRADFORD TORREY, U.S. ORNITHOLOGIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR AND OPPONENT OF FUNDAMENTALISM

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/divine-mercy-and-wisdom/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

St. Lawrence of Rome

Above:  St. Laurence of Rome

Image in the Public Domain

Godly Inclusion and Social Justice

FEBRUARY 1 and 2, 2021

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The Collect:

Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence

and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.

Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion,

that all creation will see and know your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 22:1-21 (Monday)

Numbers 22:22-28 (Tuesday)

Psalm 35:1-10 (Both Days)

Acts 21:17-26 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 7:32-40 (Tuesday)

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My very bones will say, “Lord, who is like you?

You deliver the poor from those who are too strong for them,

the poor and needy from those who rob them.”

–Psalm 35:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Thus he who marries his betrothed does well,

and he who does not marry does better.

–1 Corinthians 7:38, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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St. Paul the Apostle thought that the Second Coming of Jesus might occur within his lifetime, so he argued that changing one’s social or marital status ought not to constitute major priorities.  Most important, he contended, was living faithfully to God.  Thus avoiding distractions to a proper spiritual life was crucial, he wrote.  The Apostle was correct in his case that certain relationships do function as such distractions on some occasions.  He also argued correctly that God should come first in our lives.  Nevertheless, he was wrong about the timing of the Second Coming and the low priority of working for social justice.

A recurring theme in recent devotions in this series has been the sovereignty of God.  I have written that to use that eternal truth as cover for hatred and related violence is sinful.  Now I expand that statement to argue that using the sovereignty of God as cover for erecting and defending barriers between people and God is also sinful.  Yahweh is the universal deity, not a tribal god.  Divine power extends to Gentiles, from Balaam (in Numbers 22) to people in New Testament times to populations today.

I understand why people erect and defend spiritual barriers to God.  Doing so establishes boundaries which comfort and include those who define or defend them.  Fortunately, God’s circles are larger than ours.  Thus our Lord and Savior ate with notorious sinners, conversed at length with women, and committed many more scandalous deeds.  As the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta tells me, we should draw the circle wider.

Drawing the circle wider can threaten an identity founded on a small circle of the pure, but is doing that really such a bad thing?  No!  We ought to think less about our alleged purity and the supposed impurity of those different from us and focus instead on the vital work of ministry.  That work entails both evangelism and social justice efforts, for both aspects are consistent with the Old and New Testaments.  If I, for example, have the opportunity to help someone who is hungry eat proper food and choose not to do so, I do not feed Jesus.  If I say “be filled” to that person, I do him or her no good.  I have not loved my neighbor as myself.  And, if I affirm the unjust socio-economic system which keeps many people hungry, I am complicit in a societal evil.

The sovereignty of God is far more than a theological abstraction.  May it be a great force for loving others as our neighbors in God and therefore for improving society.  May grace, working through us, heal divisions, draw circles wider, and engage in radical hospitality.  May we witness what the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., called a moral revolution of values in 1967; may we (as a society) value people more than things and wealth.  As St. Laurence of Rome understood well long ago, when he gave his life for his faith in 258, the poor are the treasures of the Church.

DECEMBER 1, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS FERRAR, ANGLICAN DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND CAMPION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIGIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/godly-inclusion-and-social-justice/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Millet_Gleaners

Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

Image in the Public Domain

Mutual Responsibility and Faithful Actions

JANUARY 30 and 31, 2023

FEBRUARY 1, 2023

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The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:1-18 (Monday)

Ruth 2:1-16 (Tuesday)

Ruth 3:1-13; 4:13-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 37:1-17 (all days)

Philemon 1-25 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:17-26 (Wednesday)

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Be still before the Lord and wait for him;

do not fret over those that prosper as they follow their evil schemes.

Refrain from anger and abandon wrath;

do not fret let you be moved to do evil.

–Psalm 37:7-8, Common Worship (2000)

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And sometimes one ought to act faithfully, not just be still faithfully.  In the case of the Book of Ruth, for example, people were active, not passive.  There was more going on than children’s Sunday School lessons (and even many, if not most, adult Sunday School lessons) admit, for that activity entailed seduction before love became a reality.  As Jennifer Wright Knust writes in Unprotected Texts:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved immigrant daughter-in-law, women can easily raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

–page 33

And, as Krust writes on page 35, the emotional bond and subsequent covenant between Ruth and Naomi helped both of them and Israel as a whole.  I add that it has helped many subsequent generations all over the world due its role in the genealogy of Jesus.

Family–not in the sense of marriage or ancestry–unites the readings for these three days.  The ethic of mutual responsibility (part of the Law of Moses) runs through the New Testament also.  The more fortunate, who ought not to depend on their wealth in lieu of God, have responsibilities to the less fortunate.  Philemon had responsibilities to Onesimus, who was not necessarily a slave or even a fugitive.  (A very close reading of the text–one passage in particular–in the Greek raises serious questions about the traditional understanding).

This notion of mutual responsibility and the opinion of wealth one finds in Luke and James are profoundly counter-cultural in my North American setting, where rugged individualism and the quest for wealth are accepted values.  Yet with mutual responsibility comes inderdependence.  And the quest for enough wealth for one’s present and future needs, although laudable, becomes insatiable greed for some people.  Such greed is socially destructive, denying others enough.  There is always enough for everyone in God’s economy; scarcity is a feature of human, sinful economic systems.

May we, by grace, act faithfully and effectively to reduce such sinfulness where we are.  And, if we have not fallen into greed, may we not do so.  If we have, may we confess and repent of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILFRED THOMASON GRENFELL, MEDICAL MISSIONARY TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST; AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY, ECONOMIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/mutual-responsibility-and-faithful-actions/

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An Invitation to Observe a Holy Epiphany and Season after Epiphany   Leave a comment

Above:  Episcopal Church of the Epiphany, Atlanta, Georgia, January 8, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Liturgical time matters, for it sacramentalizes days, hours, and minutes, adding up to seasons on the church calendar.  Among the frequently overlooked seasons is the Season after Epiphany, the first part of Ordinary Time.  The Feast of the Epiphany always falls on January 6 in my tradition.  And Ash Wednesday always falls forty days (excluding Sundays) before Easter Sunday.  The Season after Epiphany falls between The Feast of the Epiphany and Ash Wednesday.  In 2013 the season will span January 7-February 12.

This season ought to be a holy time, one in which to be especially mindful of the imperative to take the good news of Jesus of Nazareth to others by a variety of means, including words when necessary.  Words are meaningless when our actions belie them, after all.  Among the themes of this season is that the Gospel is for all people, not just those we define as insiders.  No, the message is also for our “Gentiles,” those whom we define as outsiders.  So, with that thought in mind, I encourage you, O reader, to exclude nobody.  Do not define yourself as an insider to the detriment of others.  If you follow this advice, you will have a proper Epiphany spirit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN CHEMNITZ, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF BARTON STONE, COFOUNDER OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH (DISCIPLES OF CHRIST)

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Devotion for January 31 and February 1 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  John Calvin

Image Source = Library of Congress

False Prophets, Alleged and Actual

JANUARY 31 and FEBRUARY 1, 2023

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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 10:1-11:3 (January 31)

Zechariah 11:4-17 (February 1)

Psalm 116 (Morning–January 31)

Psalm 85 (Morning–February 1)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–January 31)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–February 1)

2 Timothy 3:1-17 (January 31)

2 Timothy 4:1-18 (February 1)

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The readings for January 31 and February 1 make more sense together then spread across two days.  That is my conclusion, at least.

“False prophets” is the unifying theme.  In Zechariah the speak lies, console with illusions, and lead members of the flock astray.  Thus God, angered, vows to punish these bad shepherds and provide proper leadership for the human flock.  To continue the theme, we read that, in the Last Days,

There will be some difficult times.  People will be self-centred and avaricious, boastful, arrogant, and rude, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious; heartless and intractable; they will be slanderers, profligates, savages, and enemies of everything that is good; they will be treacherous and reckless and demented by pride, prefering their own pleasure to God.  They will keep up the outward appearance of religion but will have rejected the inner power of it.

–2 Timothy 3:1b-5a, The New Jerusalem Bible

(Human nature has at least been constant.  The past, present, and future seem identical in this regard.)  Anyhow, we read in 2 Timothy to follow the truth, accept sound teaching, and be on guard against harmful people.

We–beginning with the author of this post–must always be careful not to confuse disagreement with one (in my case, myself) as proof positive that the other person is a bad shepherd, a false prophet, a harmful individual.  Maybe the other person is all those things, but perhaps he or she just has some different opinions.  I am convinced, for example, that early Church leaders were correct to insist that Gnosticism constituted false doctrine.  The main problem with Gnosticism is that it denies the Incarnation, without which there is no Christianity.  That one was easy.  Law and theology are easy at the extremes.  But what about opinions regarding certain points of Calvinism, for example?  Christians of good will can–and do–disagree strongly.  And all follow Jesus.

Speaking of Calvinism, one aspect of it offers a nice and good way out of many disputes.  John Calvin spoke and wrote of a category called “Matters Indifferent.”  Anything in that category is optional.  The Incarnation is vital, but whether one observes Christmas is a Matter Indifferent, for example.  So, with Calvin’s category in mind and a well-honed sense of theological humility before us, may we avoid idolizing our own opinions.  We might change them one day, after all.  And we are imperfect.

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/false-prophets-alleged-and-actual/

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Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, SHEPHERD OF LUTHERANISM IN THE AMERICAN COLONIES

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

Posted October 7, 2011 by neatnik2009 in December 1, December 10, December 11, December 12, December 13, December 14, December 15, December 16, December 17, December 18, December 19, December 2, December 20, December 21, December 22, December 23, December 24: Christmas Eve, December 25: First Day of Christmas, December 26: Second Day of Christmas/St. Stephen, December 27: Third Day of Christmas/St. John the Evangelist, December 28: Fourth Day of Christmas/Holy Innocents, December 29: Fifth Day of Christmas, December 3, December 30: Sixth Day of Christmas, December 31: Seventh Day of Christmas/New Year's Eve, December 4, December 5, December 6, December 7, December 8, December 9, February 1, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 2, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 3, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, January 10, January 11, January 12, January 13, January 14, January 15, January 16, January 17, January 18, January 19, January 1: Eighth Day of Christmas/Holy Name of Jesus/New Year's Day, January 20, January 21, January 22, January 23, January 24, January 25, January 26, January 27, January 28, January 29, January 2: Ninth Day of Christmas, January 30, January 31, January 3: Tenth Day of Christmas, January 4: Eleventh Day of Christmas, January 5: Twelfth Day of Christmas, January 6: Epiphany, January 7, January 8, January 9, March 1, March 2, March 3, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, November 27, November 28, November 29, November 30

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Week of 4 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  The Death of Absalom, by Gustave Dore

He Who Lives By the Sword…

FEBRUARY 1, 2022

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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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2 Samuel 18:9-15, 24-19:3 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And Absalom chanced to meet the servants of David.  Absalom was riding his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.  And a certain man saw it, and told Joab,

Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.

Joab said to the man who told him,

What, you saw him!  Why then did you not strike him there to the ground?  I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.

But the man said to Joab,

Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not put forth my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, “For my sake protect the young man Absalom.”  On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.

Joab said,

I will not waste time like this with you.

And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak.  And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him.

(Joab orders Ahimaaz not to tell David what has happened.  Then Joab sends a Cushite to update David and decides after all to let Ahimaaz run after the Cushite.  Ahimaaz then passes the Cushite.)

Now David was sitting between the two gates; and the watchman went up to the roof of the gate by the wall, and when he lifted up his eyes and looked, he saw a man running alone.  And the watchman called out and told the king.  And the king said,

If he is alone, there are tidings in his mouth.

And he came apace, and drew near.  And the watchman saw another man running; and the watchman called to the gate and said,

See, another man running alone!

The king said,

He also brings tidings.

And the watchman said,

I think the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.

And the king said,

He is a good man, and comes with good tidings.

Then Ahimaaz cried out out to the king,

All is well.

And he bowed before the king with his face to the earth, and said,

Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king.

And the king said,

Is it well with the young man Absalom?

Ahimaaz answered,

When Joab sent your servant I saw a great tumult, but I do not know what it was.

And the king said,

Turn aside, and stand here.

So he turned aside, and stood still.

And behold, the Cushite came; and the Cushite said,

Good tidings for my lord the king!  For the LORD has delivered you this day from the power of all who rose up against you.

The king said to the Cushite,

Is it well with the young man Absalom?

And the Cushite answered,

May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up against you for evil, be like that young man.

And the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said,

O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!  Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

It was told Joab,

Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.

So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people; for the people heard that day,

The king is grieving for his son.

And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle.

Psalm 86:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bow down your ear, O LORD, and answer me,

for I am poor and in misery.

2 Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful;

save your servant who puts his trust in you.

Be merciful to me, O LORD, for you are my God;

I call upon you all the day long.

4 Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

5 For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving,

and great is your love toward all who call upon you.

Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer,

and attend to the voice of my supplications.

Mark 5:21-43 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him; and he was beside the sea.  Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at this feet, and begged him, saying,

My little daughter is at the point of death.  Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.

And he went with him.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.  And there was a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.  She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.  For she said,

If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.

And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.  And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said,

Who touched my garments?

And his disciples said to him,

You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?”

And he looked around to see who had done it.  But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.  And he said to her,

Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.

While he was still speaking, there came fro the ruler’s house some who said,

Your daughter is dead.  Why trouble the Teacher any further?

But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue,

Do not fear, only believe.

And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.  When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly.  And when he had entered, he said to them,

Why do you make a tumult and weep?  The child is not dead but sleeping.

And they laughed at him.  But he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was.  Taking her by the hand he said to her,

Talitha cumi;

which means,

Little girl, I say to you, arise.

And immediately the girl got up and walked; for she was twelve years old.  And immediately they were overcome with amazement.  And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of 4 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/week-of-4-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

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He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.  I refer to Joab, not Absalom.  This is what the 1968 Encyclopaedia Britannica says about Joab:

JOAB (fl. 1000 B.C.), Jewish military commander under King David, his mother’s brother, figures chiefly in the biblical second Book of Samuel.  He led the commando party which captured Jerusalem for David, and as a reward was appointed commander in chief of the army.  He played a leading part in many of David’s victories (e.g., against the Ammonites and Edomites) and led the loyal force which crushed the rebellion of David’s son Absalom.  Utterly devoted to David, Joab thought he knew David’s interests  better than David himself did; hence his killing of Absalom when David had commanded that his life be spared.  Joab showed characteristic ruthlessness in the treacherous murder of two of his potential rivals:  Abner, Saul’s former commander in chief, who had killed Joab’s brother Asahel, and Amasa, who mustered the men of Judah for David against the revel leader Sheba.  Joab obeyed under protest when ordered by David to carry out a national census.  During David’s last words he supported his son Adonijah’s abortive bid for the throne, and was executed by the successful Solomon.

This entry comes from Volume 13, page 2, by the way.

The 1962 Encyclopedia Americana (Volume 16, page 148) says this about him:

JOAB, King David’s nephew and commander in chief of his armies.  He helped put David on the throne by defeating Abner, military leader of Saul’s forces.  Later he killed Abner to avenge the earlier slaying of his own brother Asahel, and possibly to remove a dangerous rival to his power.  He conducted David’s foreign wars and put down Absalom’s revolt, slaying Absalom with his own hands.  David then attempted to supercede him with Amasa, Absalom’s general, whom Joab also assassinated to retain his position.  He assisted David in putting to death Uriah the Hittite, the first husband of Bath-sheba.  Finally, he supported Adonijah, David’s rightful heir, against Bath-sheba’s son Solomon.  For this Solomon had put him to death, allegedly at the behest of dying David (I Kings 2:28-34).

Sometimes Joab obeyed his uncle and king; other times he did not.  Joab killed others who threatened his position, until Solomon had him killed.  The pattern of Joab’s life led to the manner of his death.

Of course, bad things do happen to good people, and sometimes nonviolent people die violently.  For example, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., advocated nonviolent social and political change but each man died because somebody shot him.  And Jesus, was not violent, but agents of the Roman Empire put him to death via execution.  Often people who seek to appeal to the best elements of human nature die because they anger people interested in nurturing the worst elements of human nature.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that those who live by the sword have set themselves on a course which will end badly.  This rule applies to nations as well as people; those nation-states, kingdoms, and empires which seek enemies more often than friends succeed in that goal, but fail in the long term to establish stability and peaceful relations with neighbors.  They might gain short-term military glory, but, in the long term, it is better to have more allies and friends than enemies.

God, as I understand God via Jesus, is the deity of shalom, a word with many meanings.  Translated as peace, hello, and goodbye, shalom means far more.  The Oxford Companion to the Bible explains (on page 578)  that shalom can refer to all of the following:

  • Health
  • Restoration to health
  • General well-being (including sound sleep, length of life, a tranquil death, and physical safety)
  • Good relations between peoples and nations
  • Tranquility and contentment
  • Wholeness
  • Soundness
  • Completeness
  • Peace in God

Joab was not on the path of shalom.

May you, O reader, and I be on and stay on that path, however.  Shalom to you.  Shalom to your relatives, friends, and neighbors.  Shalom to your enemies.  Shalom to people you will never know.  Shalom to the United States.  Shalom to all nations.  Shalom to the State of Israel.  Shalom to the Palestinian Authority.  Shalom to everybody.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/he-who-lives-by-the-sword/

Week of 4 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:   Esau Selling His Birthright, by Hendrick ter Bruggen, c. 1627

Missing Grace–Or Not

FEBRUARY 1, 2023

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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 12:4-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

In your struggle against sin you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortations which address you as sons?–

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor lose courage when you are punished by him.

For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.

It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them.  Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled; that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.  For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

Psalm 103:1-2, 13-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

14 For he himself knows whereof we are made;

he remembers that we are but dust.

15 Our days are like the grass;

we flourish like a flower in the field;

16 When the wind goes over it, it is gone,

and its place shall know it no more.

17 But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on those who fear him,

and his righteousness on children’s children;

18 On those who keep his covenant

and remember his commandments and do them.

Mark 6:1-6 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him.  And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying,

Where did this man get all this?  What is the wisdom given to him?  What mighty works are wrought by his hands!  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?

And they took offense at him.  And Jesus said to him,

A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

And he could not do mighty work there, except that he laid hands upon a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The 1972 revised edition of the J. B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English states in Mark 6:6, “…their lack of faith astonished him.”  In the Gospel According to Mark, Jesus has done astonishing deeds of late.  He has exorcised a legion of demons, doomed a herd of swine, raised a girl from the dead, and healed a woman afflicted with a menstrual hemorrhage.  Jesus has been welcome in most places, except the town where he cured the man with the legion.  Jesus has astonished people, some of whom have rejected him because, not in spite of, what he has done.  And now, in his hometown, Nazareth, Jesus encounters a lack of faith and works few miracles.  Townspeople recognize who he his and what he has done, but they cannot reconcile the cognitive dissonance between knowing Jesus as a younger person and hearing about what he has been doing recently.  And Jesus was the astonished person.  He found their lack of faith astonishing.

A cliche states that “familiarity breeds contempt.”  This is true much of the time, but I propose that we are often not as familiar with others as we think we are.  Certainly, the denizens of Nazareth did not Jesus as well as they thought they did.  And note the tone of hostility; they called him a “son of Mary,” not “of Joseph.”  There were long-standing rumors of Jesus’ paternity, and I wonder how Joseph, Mary, and Jesus stood it all those years.

Hostile and faithless residents of Nazareth missed grace when grace stood in their midst.  They saw it yet failed to recognize it.  They were too busy clinging to whispered rumors and old memories.

Genesis 25:28-34 an 27:1-39 tells how Esau, who had sold his birthright for a meal, realized the depth of his error yet failed to reverse it.  The author of the Letter to the Hebrews makes the plain point that Esau, who had put the needs of his body first, had thrown away a great promise.  Later he sought an opportunity for repentance–literally, turning around or changing one’s mind–but he had to live with the consequences of his actions.  He was not beyond forgiveness, but the toothpaste was already out of the tube.  That was that.  So Esau, by his own bad decision, missed some grace.

Each of us has missed some grace because of bad decisions.  Yet we remain within the bounds of forgiveness, if we ask.  We can learn from our mistakes and those of others.  Furthermore, repentance remains an option in many circumstances.  So let us focus on the positive, on the possibilities for living in grace.  But this requires faith in God.  The townspeople of Nazareth saw Jesus among them yet rejected him.  I write nearly 20 centuries later, and I choose each day to continue to accept him.  I hope that, in my familiarity with the Bible and other traditions of Christianity, I do not miss something essential.  Maybe I do not know as much as I think I do.  May God, by grace, help me to see more clearly.

I know for a fact that I see more clearly today than I did just a few years ago.  The discipline in Hebrews is suffering.  I have made some bad choices, mostly out of ignorance.  I have been too trusting sometimes.  In 2007, I faced potential legal ramifications (which did not come to pass) and suffered emotional and spiritual distress because of certain past associations.  I learned immediately to be less trusting of some people.  And I learned, through suffering, to be more patient with others, less judgmental toward others, more humble with regard to myself, and more trusting in God.  Discipline accomplished its goal, and I am a better person for it, but I have no desire to repeat the process.

This discipline was simply the consequences of my actions, not God, like Zeus, throwing a thunderbolt in my direction.  Actions have consequences, and they must play out.  How we handle the situation determines whether we fall into the same category into which the author of Hebrews placed Esau.  He spent the rest of his days weeping over his loss.  May you and I gain more than we have lost and find discipline to be the beginning of a new, better start in Christ.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/missing-grace-or-not/