Archive for the ‘February 15’ Category

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

Cyrus II

Above:  Cyrus II

Image in the Public Domain

Doing the Right Thing

FEBRUARY 15, 2022

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The Collect:

Living God, in Christ you make all things new.

Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,

and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezra 1:1-11

Psalm 120

2 Corinthians 1:12-19

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Deliver me, O LORD, from lying lips

and from the deceitful tongue.

–Psalm 120:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Some people seem to live to criticize.  They are not content to be happy, so they carp.  St. Paul the Apostle knew this well.  After a painful visit to the Corinthian church, he had planned to visit them again yet changed his mind not out of spite (as some in Corinth alleged), but out of consideration.  The reading from 2 Corinthians (actually part of the fourth letter to them) is an exercise in easing ruffled feathers.  That pericope is similar in tone to 2 Corinthians 10, the beginning of his third letter to the Corinthians.  (For your information, O reader, 1 Corinthians was St. Paul’s second letter to that church, and the first letter is lost.)

Regardless of all the motivations of King Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes (reigned 559-530 B.C.E.), his decision to send Jewish exiles to their ancestral homeland was God’s work.  Cyrus II might have been a nice person, but he certainly had some political reasons.  So be it.  He was as benevolent a foreign ruler as Jews could expect at the time.

People do the right things for a variety of reasons.  Motivations count, of course, but how many beneficiaries care about the reasons?  The actions themselves count also.  The best combination of motivation and action remains doing the right thing for the proper reason.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/doing-the-right-thing-2/

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

Mt. Sinai

Above:  Mt. Sinai, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-09625

Mountains, God, and Holiness

FEBRUARY 15 and 16, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the resplendent light of your truth

shines from the mountaintop into our hearts.

Transfigure us by your beloved Son,

and illumine the world with your image,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 19:7-25 (Monday)

Job 19:23-27 (Tuesday)

Psalm 110:1-4 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:1-4 (Monday)

1 Timothy 3:14-16 (Tuesday)

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God seemed quite mysterious–even dangerous–in Exodus 19.  Anyone who touched Mt. Sinai would die, for the mountain was holy, and that made the geographical feature more hazardous than usual.  There was also a hazard in the peoples’ pledge to obey God’s commandments, due to the penalties for violating them.

God was also a threat in the mind of Job, who, in 19:23-27, looked forward to his Redeemer/Vindicator, a kinsman who would, in the words of a note on page 1529 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004),

vindicate him, will take revenge on God for what God has done to Job.

That is a desire many people have felt.  That interpretation is also far removed from a traditional Christian understanding of the text, not that there is anything wrong with that difference.

We find the friendly and scary faces of God in the New Testament readings.  Hebrews 2:1-4 reminds us of penalties for sins.  Yet 1 Timothy 3:14-16 brings us the mystery and the graces of God in the context of Jesus.  That example is far removed from Exodus 19:7-25, where divine holiness was fatal to people.  What could be closer to people–even in contact with them–and holy without being fatal to them than Jesus?

Mountains and the divine go together in the Bible.  Moses received the Law on one.  Jesus preached from mountains.  His Transfiguration occurred on one.  He “ascended” (whatever that means in literal, as opposed to theological terms) from a mountain.  The symbolism also works in our lives, as in our “mountaintop experiences.”

As we depart the Season after the Epiphany for Lent, may we seek and find, by grace, a closer walk with God, whose holiness gives us life and is not fatal to us.  May we internalize the lessons God wants us to internalize.  And, when we are angry with God, may we have enough faith to, in the style of Job, argue faithfully.  Communication cannot occur in the absence of messages.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARBARA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/mountains-god-and-holiness/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jesus Healing the Son of an Officer

Above:  Jesus Healing the Son of an Official, by Joseph-Marie Vien

Image in the Public Domain

Signs, Wonders, and Faith

FEBRUARY 15, 2012

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The Collect:

Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint.

Make us agents of your healing and wholeness,

that your good may be made known to the ends your creation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 30:16-31

Psalm 6

John 4:46-54

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I grow weary because of my groaning;

every night I drench my pillow

and flood my bed with tears.

–Psalm 6:6, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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The titular character of the Book of Job was faithful to God consistently.  Even his arguing and complaining came from a place of fidelity.  This was remarkable, given the fact that said book says at the beginning that God permitted Job’s suffering as a test of loyalty.

Unless you see signs and wonders you will not believe.

–Jesus in John 4:48, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

“You” is plural in that quote.

The (possibly Gentile) royal (Herodian) official accepted that Jesus would save his son (who was elsewhere) from death.  Thus the audiences for that comment did not include the father.  Throughout the canonical Gospels people followed Jesus in search of a cure or healing of some kind.  Many received what they sought, but how many gained faith (or a deeper faith–trust, that is) in God?

What do we seek from God?  Is the deity merely a dispenser of convenient blessings, in our minds?  Or do our professions of faith have substance of high spiritual quality?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/signs-wonders-and-faith/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Sixth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

8b18331v

Above:  A Cornfield, Hardin County, Iowa, September 1939

Photographer = Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF34-028069-D

Grace and Mutual Responsibility

FEBRUARY 13-15, 2023

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The Collect:

O God, the strength of all who hope in you,

because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing without you.

Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do,

and give us grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-21 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 23:21-24:4, 10-15 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 2:1-15 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:9-16 (All Days)

James 1:2-8 (Monday)

James 2:1-13 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:1-12 (Wednesday)

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I will meditate on your commandments

and give attention to your ways.

My delight is in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

–Psalm 119:15-16, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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The Law of Moses is a complex code.  In one breath it speaks of responsibilities people have to each other in community, such as not to exploit each other.  Yet the same law code classes women and servants with inanimate property in the Ten Commandments, has a negative view of female biology, and contains many offenses which end with death by stoning.  I join with my fellow Christians since the earliest years of Christianity in applying parts of the Law of Moses literally while not keeping other sections thereof.  There are, of course, the letter and the spirit of the law, with much of the letter consisting of culturally-specific principles.  So one might identify contemporary applications in lieu of examples from the Bible.  Yet I refuse to execute or condone the execution of a child who disrespects his or her parents severely, for example.

Thus I pick and choose amid the provisions of the Law of Moses, as I should.  I focus on mutual responsibilities, for all of us are responsible to and for each other.  This is a timeless truth, the keeping of which builds up communities, nations, societies, and the human species.  We ought never to exploit or seek to exploit one another.  To exclude another person wrongly or seek to do so is sinful.  To fail to recognize the Image of God in another is to sin.

That can be advice difficult to follow.  And the following counsel is really hard for me:

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and completely lacking in nothing.

–James 2:2-4, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition

I do not welcome

various trials (RSV-SCE)

as

friends (James 2:2, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, 1972).

Rather, I prefer the absence of

various trials (James 2:2, RSV-SCE).

Yet I recognize that

various trials

in my past have resulted in more mature faith.  I examine myself spiritually and recognize benefits I have gained from adversity.  Yet I do not wish to repeat the experiences.  I interpret the good results of

various trials

as evidence of abundant divine grace and rejoice in that.

May we, by divine grace, extend such grace to others as we have opportunity to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUKE THE EVANGELIST, PHYSICIAN

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

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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 February 15 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends

Job and John, Part IX:  Perceptions

FEBRUARY 15, 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:

Job 11:1-20

Psalm 130 (Morning)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening)

John 5:19-29

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Zophar the Naamathite opens his address in Job 11:1-20 by insulting Job.  A note on page 1519 of The Jewish Study Bible makes a succinct point:

Like Bildad in 8.2, Zophar here, in the house of a man bereft of his children (1.18-19) and infested with maggots (7.5), has the colassal gall to tell Job, the master of the house, that he talks too much!

And Zophar persists in the practice of relying on “received wisdom” as a basis for his theodicy.

The reading from John 5 constitutes part of a discourse attributed to Jesus after he healed the paralyzed man at the Pool at Bethesda on a Sabbath.  (The Synoptic Jesus does not talk as much as does the Johannine Jesus, by the way.)  The content of the discourse interest me, but the relative newness of it fascinates me today.  Zophar’s discourse was stale and insulting.  Yet our Lord’s discourse was revolutionary.  Consider one verse, O reader:

In all truth I tell you,

whoever listens to my words,

and believes in the one who sent me,

has eternal life;

without being brought to judgement

such a person has passed from death to life.

–John 5:24, The New Jerusalem Bible

If I did not take the truth of that verse as a given, I might think Jesus to have been a madman.  Now, of course, my position has become “received wisdom.”  (I am aware of the irony of that reality.)  Some “received wisdom” is wiser than the rest.  And other “received wisdom” is pure drivel.

The power of “received wisdom” holds sway over the intellects and imaginations of people, does it not?  When I started my abortive doctoral studies in history at The University of Georgia (UGA), Athens, Georgia, the Graduate Coordinator informed me that I would learn the “received wisdom.”  He used that term; I recall that part of the conversation clearly.  I wound up questioning much of the “received wisdom,” with the predictable result in the social sciences.  But I maintained my intellectual integrity.  And I am a terrible liar.  Please understand me correctly, O reader; that happened years ago, and the trauma of that experience has washed out of my system.  Yet memories remain.  And objective reality remains.  I have no desire to start an argument with anyone at the UGA Department of History.  What would I gain from it?  Yet I offer this cautionary tale of the allure received foolishness masquerading as received wisdom.  The experience remains with me and makes me a better teacher.  I hold my students accountable for getting the facts correct then reasoning their ways to interpretations.  I do not grade them according to whether I agree with those interpretations.  And some of the kindest comments on course evaluations begin the acknowledgement that the student disagreed with me often in subjective matters.

Reality is objective, of course.  But our understandings of it are inherently subjective.  Two people can absorb the same stimuli and understand it differently.  Culture (defined as social learning), educational attainment, age, cognitive development, intellectual capacity, and other factors shape our perceptions.  Sometimes our proverbial tapes are running, so we hear yet do not listen and see yet do not comprehend.  So the character of Zophar , who was an insulting idiot, understood himself as standing on the shoulders of theological giants.  And our Lord’s words were blasphemous in the ears of some people despite those words’ truth–and therefore lack of blasphemy.  Reality is objective and our perceptions are subjective, yet our perceptions can be correct.  May they be so, by grace.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICHT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT PASCHASIUS RADBERTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/job-and-john-part-ix-perceptions/

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/

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 6 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  Diagram of a U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

Temptation and Repentance

FEBRUARY 15, 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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James 1:12-18 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is the man who stands up to trial!  Having passed that test he will receive in reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.  No one when tempted should say,

I am being tempted by God;

for God cannot be tempted by evil and does not himself tempt anyone.  Temptation comes when anyone is lured and dragged away by his own desires; then desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and sin when it is full-grown breeds death.

Make no mistake, my dear friends.  Every good and generous action and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father who created the lights of heaven.  With him there is no variation, no play of passing shadows.  Of his own choice, he brought us to birth by the word of truth to be a kind of firstfruits of his creation.

Psalm 94:12-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12  Happy are those whom you instruct, O Lord!

whom you teach out of your law;

13  To give them rest in evil days,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

14  For the LORD will not abandon his people,

nor will he forsake his own.

15  For judgment will again be just,

and all the true of heart will follow it.

16  Who rose up for me against the wicked?

who took my part against the evildoers?

17  If the LORD had not come to my help,

I should soon have dwelt in the land of silence.

18  As often as I said, “My foot has slipped,”

your love, O LORD, upheld me.

19  When many cares fill my mind,

your consolations cheer my soul.

Mark 8:14-21 (Revised English Bible):

Now they had forgotten to take bread with them, and had only one loaf in the boat.  He began to warn them:

Beware,

he said,

be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the the leaven of Herod.

So they began to talk among themselves about having no bread.  Knowing this, Jesus said to them,

Why are you talking about having no bread?  Have you no inkling yet?  Do you still not understand?  Are your minds closed?  You have eyes:  can you not see?  You have ears:  can you not hear?  Have you forgotten?  When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?

They said,

Twelve.

He asked,

And how many when I broke the seven loaves among the four thousand?

They answered,

Seven.

He said to them,

Do you still not understand?

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The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; 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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Some Related Posts:

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

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From time to time I hear really bad theology.  I would hear more of it, except for the fact that I choose not to listen to certain preachers whose programs populate radio and television waves.  Nevertheless, much bad theology has permeated the laity.  There, from time to time, I hear that God is testing people’s faith by doing something like creating false yet convincing-looking rock layers which contradict Creationism.  First, I am a Theistic Evolutionist and one who affirms the veracity of geological layers, so I have expressed my opinion of Creationism; it is foolishness.  Can we join the scientific age now?  But, to the point of God making rocks look older than they are:  If one accepts that (A) the rocks are younger than they seem and that (B) God has pulled off this deception, what is one saying about God?  Is one saying that God tempts people to believe something that is objectively false?

I hope that is not what some people are saying, but it sounds like that.

James is one of my favorite books.  Martin Luther famously dismissed it as an “epistle of straw,” but he was mistaken on that point.  (In fact, I have heard more than Lutheran pastor speak critically of James.  It must be all that talk of the importance of works in the epistle.)  The Letter of James is full of practical advice and common-sense comments, such as the one that God does not tempt us.  Instead, God calls us to repentance, literally turning around or changing our minds.  And, as we think, so we are.  This makes sense, for our attitudes lead to our actions, barring accidents.

Desire is powerful.  There are many physical desires, including but not restricted to those related to sexuality.  Food, for example, is the subject of many desires, some of them unhealthy.  The existence of desire is morally neutral, although what one does with it is not.  There is no moral error is savoring a well-cooked meal, for example.  Indeed, the taste buds provide much wonderful pleasure, and one ought to enjoy blessings, including food.  There is not even anything wrong with savoring an occasional cheeseburger, but a steady diet of them leads to negative consequences.  (I have greatly reduced my consumption of cheeseburgers and replaced them with healthy alternatives.)  As James points out, we should control our desires; they ought not do drag us away to sin and death.  Sometimes that death is spiritual; other times, physical; other times, both.

Resisting temptation can be very difficult.  If I were to tell you, O reader, that I have mastered the resistance of temptation, I would lie to you.  It is true, however, that, by grace, I have improved.  There is much room for further improvement, and there is also plenty of grace available.  Thanks be to God!

KRT

Week of 6 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Logo of the Mennonite Church U.S.A.

This is the Season of God’s Patience

FEBRUARY 15, 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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Genesis 8:6-13, 20-22 (Revised English Bible):

At the end of forty days Noah opened the hatch that he had made in the ark, and sent out a raven; it continued flying to and fro until the water on the earth had dried up.  Then Noah sent out a dove to see whether the water of the earth had subsided.  But the dove found no place where she could settle because all the earth was under water, and and so she came back to him in the ark.  Noah reached out and caught her, and brought her into the ark.  He waited seven days more and again sent the dove from the ark.  She came back to him towards evening with a freshly plucked olive leaf in her beak.  Noah knew that the water had subsided from the earth’s surface.  He waited yet another seven days, and, when he sent out the dove, she did not come back to him.  So it came about that month, on the first day of the first month of his six hundred and first year, the water had dried up on the earth, and when Noah removed the hatch and looked out, he saw that the ground was dry.

Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking beasts and birds of every kind that were ritually clean, he offered them as whole-offerings on it.  When the LORD smelt the soothing odour, he said within himself,

Never again shall I put the earth under a curse because of mankind, however evil their inclination may be from their youth upwards, nor shall I ever again kill all living creatures, as I have just done.

“As long as the earth lasts,

seedtime and harvest. cold and heat,

summer and winter, day and night,

they will never cease.”

Psalm 116:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Hallelujah!

Mark 8:22-26 (Revised English Bible):

They arrived at Bethsaida.  There the people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him.  He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village.  Then he spat on his eyes, laid his eyes upon him, and asked if he could see anything.  The man’s sight began to come back, and he said,

I see people–they look like trees, but they are walking about.

Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; he looked hard, and now he was cured and could not see anything clearly.  Then Jesus sent him home, saying,

Do not even go into the village.

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The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; 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 readings from Genesis and Mark might seem incongruous, but, after sifting through commentaries, I have found a common thread.  Follow it with me.

Let us begin in the Gospel of Mark.  Know that juxtaposition is very important here.  Jesus also put on a shamanic show involving spittle (with a deaf man that time) in Chapter 7.  And, in Chapter 8, Jesus has had to deal with chronically critical Pharisees and oblivious and overly literalistic Apostles.  So, on the heels of that incident, we read of our Lord and Savior putting on a shamanic show involving spittle while healing a blind man.  As I wrote while addressing the account of the healing of the deaf man, the Gospel of Mark contains stories of Jesus performing long-distance healings, so the song and dance with spittle was of no healing quality, but it was what people expected and believed would work.  So he met them where they were.  Jesus was gracious that way.

This healing occurs in two stages, with the gift of clear vision not arriving immediately.  The Gospel of Mark may be pithy, but it is not simplistic.  This is a story on two levels:  literal vision and spiritual vision.  The man, presumably blind from birth, not due to poor sanitation and too many bird droppings (Life was harsh for many.), does begin to see clearly.  But what about the Apostles?  They are still clueless much of the time.  And what about the chronically critical religious authorities, the culturally recognized guardians of orthodoxy and holiness?  What excuse do they have?  Jesus’ healing of a blind man becomes an indictment of Apostles and Pharisees.

The treatment of the Gospel in Mark in Volume VIII of The New Interpreter’s Bible divides this book into two main section:  Jesus Heals and Teaches with Power (1:1-8:26) and The Son of Man Must Suffer (8:27-16:30).  Indeed, beginning in 8:27, the foreshadowing of the cross deepens, and the Apostles do not understand that, either.  But I begin to get ahead of myself, so I switch to Genesis.

There is an oft-repeated stereotype of the presentation of God in the Hebrew Bible.  God, I have heard too many times, is harsh and judgmental in the Old Testament.  This is a gross oversimplification, one people would not repeat so casually if they would read the Jewish Bible carefully.  If God is harsh in the Old Testament yet merciful in the New Testament, how do we explain the end of the Noah’s Ark story in Genesis or the dark and apocalyptic sayings of Jesus in the canonical Gospels?  Flee for the hills, he says.  Woe unto pregnant women on the day of wrath, he says.  Are those merciful words?  Oversimplifications cannot account for the complexity of the Bible, and both judgment and mercy are present in the Old and New Testaments, often very close to each other.

In the Noah’s Ark story God destroys most of the human race because of its rampant sinfulness.  This, of course, is judgment.  Afterward, God recognizes the continued sinfulness of the human race but vows never to try to destroy us again.  This is mercy.  God will be present with us in many ways, notably the predictable rhythms of nature.  As Chauncey Gardner says in Being There (1979):

In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have Fall and Winter. And then we get spring and summer again.

And, as the Anabaptists (hence the Mennonite logo at the top of this post) say, this is the season of God’s patience.  Do we understand this?  Are we trying (more often than not) to respond favorably to God and to please God, or are just trying God’s patience?

There is hope for us yet.  The eleven surviving Apostles transformed from dunderheads into great leaders of early Christianity.  Our faith flows from theirs.  So, when we work with God, we can become great vehicles of grace.  May we do so.

KRT