Archive for the ‘February 18’ Category

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Finding of the Silver Cup

Above:  Finding of the Silver Cup

Image in the Public Domain

Free to Serve God, Part I

FEBRUARY 17-19, 2022

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The Collect:

O Lord Jesus, make us instruments of your peace,

that where there is hatred, we may sow love,

where there is injury, pardon,

where there is despair, hope.

Grant, O divine master, that we may seek

to console, to understand, and to love in your name,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 43:16-34 (Thursday)

Genesis 44:1-17 (Friday)

Genesis 44:18-34 (Saturday)

Psalm 37:1-11, 39-40 (All Days)

Romans 8:1-11 (Thursday)

1 John 2:12-17 (Friday)

Luke 12:57-59 (Saturday)

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If anyone had a legitimate reason to harbor resentment, Joseph son of Jacob did.  Siblings had, out of jealousy of him and annoyance with him (he was an insufferable brat for a while), faked his death and sold him into slavery.  Joseph had also spent years in prison for a crime he had not committed.  Decades later, when he had a position in the Egyptian government, Joseph had an opportunity to take revenge.  As one reads in Genesis 45, he chose to do otherwise.

One theme in the pericope from Romans 8 is liberation by God from the power of sin (yet not the struggle with sin) to serve and obey God, to pursue spiritual purposes.  The reading from 1 John, with its warning against loving the world, fits well with that passage.  That caution is not a call for serial Christian contrariness.  No, St. Augustine of Hippo understood the passage well.  He asked,

Why should I not love what God has made?

The great theologian answered his own question this way:

God does not forbid one to love these things but to love them to the point of finding one’s beatitude in them.

–Quoted in Raymond E. Brown, The Epistles of John (1982), pages 324-325

The quest for selfish gain, a theme extant in more than one of the readings for these days, is a journey toward harm of others and of oneself.  That which we do to others, we do also to ourselves.  There might be a delayed delivery of “what comes around, goes around,” but the proverbial cows will come home.  It is better to seek the common god and to forgo vengeance, to retire grudges and to build up one’s society, community, and congregation.  One can do that while loving the world, but not to the point of, in the words of St. Augustine of Hippo, finding one’s benediction in it.  No, we should find one’s benediction in God alone.  As we read in Psalm 27:7-9 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979):

Be still before the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

Do not fret yourself over the one who prospers,

the one who succeeds in evil schemes.

Refrain from anger, leave rage alone;

do not fret yourself; it leads only to evil.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH GRIGG, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/free-to-serve-god-part-i/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Last Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Brueghel_l'Ancien_-_La_Prédication_de_Saint_Jean-Baptiste

Above:  The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Image Source = Yelkrokoyade

Humility Before God and the Reality of Unexpected Suffering

FEBRUARY 18, 2023

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The Collect:

O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed the

mysteries of the faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah,

and in the voice from the bright cloud declaring Jesus your beloved Son,

you foreshadowed our adoption as your children.

Make us heirs with Christ of your glory, and bring us to enjoy its fullness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 21:20-29

Psalm 2

Mark 9:9-13

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Now therefore be wise, O kings;

be prudent, you judges of the earth.

–Psalm 2:10, Common Worship (2000)

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Of those who are sleeping in the Land of Dust, many will awaken, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace.  Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightness, as bright as stars for all eternity.

–Daniel 12:2-3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Look, I shall send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.  He will reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents, lest I come and put the land under a ban to destroy it.

–Malachi 4:4-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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“It is quite true,” he told them, “that Elijah does come first, and begins the restoration of all things.  But what does the scripture say about the Son of Man?  This:  that he must go through much suffering and be treated with contempt.  I tell you that not only has Elijah come already but they have done to him exactly what they wanted–just as the scripture says of him.”

–Mark 9:12-13, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

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There is much happening in the background of the Gospel lection for today:

  1. The resurrection of the dead is associated with the Day of the Lord in Daniel 12:2-3.
  2. In Malachi 3:23-24/4:5-6 (depending on which versification system one follows), Elijah will return before judgment day and function as an agent of reconciliation.
  3. Jesus identifies the late St. John the Baptist as Elijah in Mark 9:13.
  4. Yet is not the expectation in Malachi that Elijah will prevent suffering?

The account in Mark overturns old assumptions.  For that matter, the entire Gospel of Mark argues against a certain understanding of Messiahship.  In the earliest canonical Gospel, the crucifixion of Jesus makes his status as the Messiah unmistakable.  That has become a common reading of Messiahship since the first century of Christianity yet was once a radical notion.  The same rule applies to St. John the Baptist as “Elijah.”  Our Lord and Savior’s cousin was also his forerunner in suffering and death.

If humbling oneself before God postpones punishments (at least in some cases), the fact remains that the consequences of misdeeds and sins of omission will fall in time–perhaps upon the next generation, as unfair as that might seem.  But that is how reality works, is it not?  Yet the fact remains that one generation leaves legacies–positive and negative–which affect people into the future.  However the Atonement works (I side with the Eastern Orthodox, who argue against the Western Christian tendency to explain away certain mysteries), I like to think that it leaves a positive legacy of negating much of the negative which would have come down to us otherwise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PAUL TILLICH, LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/humility-before-god-and-the-reality-of-unexpected-suffering/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Seventh Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Torfabrik_02

Above:  A Soccer Ball

Image Source = DerHans04

Freedom in God

FEBRUARY 16, 2017

FEBRUARY 17, 2017

FEBRUARY 18, 2017

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The Collect:

Holy God of compassion, you invite us into your way of forgiveness and peace.

Lead us to love our enemies, and transform our words and deeds

to be like his through whom we pray, Jesus Christ, our Savior.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 22:21-27 (Thursday)

Leviticus 6:1-7 (Friday)

Leviticus 24:10-23 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:33-40 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 (Thursday)

Galatians 5:2-6 (Friday)

Matthew 7:1-12 (Saturday)

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A Related Post:

Excesses and Errors of Pietism:

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/03/excesses-and-errors-of-pietism/

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Teach me, O Lord, the way of your statutes

and I shall keep it to the end.

–Psalm 119:33, Common Worship (2000)

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Freedom in God comes bundled with responsibilities to each other in community life.  Such liberty is not an ultra-libertarian fantasy.  But neither does it constitute individual-crushing conformity.  No, freedom comes with rules.  We ought not to harm others by our actions purposefully or otherwise.  When we do, we have an obligation to make restitution.  Sometimes, in the Law of Moses, one finds a rule which offends contemporary sensibilities.  Executing someone for blasphemy comes to mind immediately.  I know that such a charge contributed to the judicial murder of our Lord and Savior.  I know also that such a charge leads to the martyrdom of many of my fellow Christians in these days.  So I have my reasons for holding the opinion that I do.  Yet I know that this law came from the context of thinking about the welfare of the community.

We must avoid ridiculous extremes, which are relatively easy to identify.  I think of a secondhand story over a decade old.  Some very conservative Christians in Statesboro, Georgia, objected to soccer, calling it

too worldly.

I argue that one does not sin by playing soccer, no matter how much it might offend people with such an opinion.  If one chooses to offend nobody one sets oneself up for an impossible situation, for anything might offend somebody, somewhere.  And improper idleness, taking the place of righteous action, constitutes a sin.  So some people will just have to take offense and cope as best they can.  There is no right not to be offended.  Many things offend me, but I move on with life, minding my own business, which keeps me occupied.

On the other hand, we must think about the effects of our behaviors upon others if we are to behave toward them with proper respect.  And, since how we think drives how we act, a loving and respectful, not judgmental attitude, is the proper starting point.  May we choose noble or at least innocent pursuits in the knowledge that somebody, somewhere might misunderstand even these, but that we must do something positive despite that fact.  Perhaps we will have opportunities to correct such confusion.  Yet, even if we will not, we will have the chances to engage in good works, which are part of one’s set of responsibilities to others in the community.

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/freedom-in-god-2/

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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 18 and 19 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Episcopal Church of the Good Shepherd, Covington, Georgia, August 28, 2011

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Job and John, Part XII:  Taking Offense at God

FEBRUARY 18 and 19, 2022

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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 13:13-28 (February 18)

Job 14:1-22 (February 19)

Psalm 51 (Morning–February 18)

Psalm 54 (Morning–February 19)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–February 18)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–February 19)

John 6:22-40 (February 18)

John 6:41-59 (February 19)

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Job argued that God was omnipotent and was, in his case, abusing power.  His alleged friends agreed with him that God was omnipotent yet insisted that there was no abuse of power, for Job must have deserved such grave suffering.  Jesus, in John 6, spoke of his flesh as being

the living bread which has come down from heaven…for the life of the world (verse 51, The New Jerusalem Bible)

This comparison ran afoul of Jewish sensibilities.  God does offend us from time to time.

Job was correct; he did not deserve such grave suffering.  That reality “did not compute” with his alleged friends.  I argue that Job was correct to take offense at God, given the narrative the Book of Job provides for me to read and ponder.  As for sensibilities surrounding flesh and blood, the language in John 6 does seem similar to cannibalism, does it not?  But I affirm Transubstantiation, so I trust that I take the body and blood of Jesus into my body each week.  I have learned not to take offense.

Taking offense at God is a difficult situation.  When is it excusable or appropriate?  This, I suppose, is a question one needs to address on a case-by-case basis.  Usually, however, I propose that it is inappropriate.

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-xii-taking-offense-at-god/

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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 6 Epiphany: Friday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  U.S. Navy Personnel Assisting at a Soup Kitchen

Image Source = Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson, U.S.N.

Deeds and Creeds

FEBRUARY 18, 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 2:14-26 (Revised English Bible):

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Suppose a fellow-Christian, whether man or woman, is in rags with not enough food for the day, and one of you says,

Goodbye, keep warm, and have a good meal,

but does nothing to supply their bodily needs, what good is that?  So with faith; if it does not lead by action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

But someone may say:

One chooses faith, another action.

To which I reply:

Show me this faith you speak of with no actions to prove it, while I by my actions will prove to you my faith.

You have faith and believe that there is one God.  Excellent!  Even demons have faith like that, and it makes them tremble.  Do you have to be told, you fool, that faith divorced from action is futile?  Was it not by his action, in offering his son Isaac upon the altar, that our father Abraham was justified?  Surely you can see faith was at work in his actions, and by these actions his faith was perfected?  Here was the fulfillment of the words of scripture:

Abraham put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness,

and he was called

God’s friend.

You can see then it was by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.  The same is also true of the prostitute Rahab.  Was she not justified by her action in welcoming the messengers into her house and sending them away by a different route?  As the body is dead when there is no breath in it, so faith divorced from action is dead.

Psalm 112 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments!

Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches will be in their house,

and their righteousness will last for ever.

4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

6 For they will never be shaken;

the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.

They will not be afraid of any evil rumors;

their heart is right;

they put their trust in the Lord.

Their heart is established and will not shrink,

until they see their desire upon their enemies.

They have given freely to the poor,

and their righteousness stands fast for ever;

they will hold up their head with honor.

10 The wicked will see it and be angry;

they will gnash their teeth and pine away;

the desires of the wicked will perish.

Mark 8:34-9:1 (Revised English Bible):

Then he called the people to him, as well as his disciples, and said to them,

Anyone who wants to be a follower of mine must renounce self; he must take up his cross and follow me.  Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel’s will save it.  What does anyone gain by winning the whole world at the cost of his life?  What can he give to buy his life back?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this wicked and godless age, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

He said to them,

Truly I tell you:  there are some of those standing here who will not taste death before they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

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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:  Friday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/week-of-6-epiphany-friday-year-1/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

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

My Critique of the Near-Sacrifice of Isaac:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/proper-8-year-a/

Behind the Lines/Regeneration (1997):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/behind-the-lines-a-k-a-regeneration-1997/

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Today’s devotional consists of a story, one which actually might be accurate, but which does communicate a truth.  I heard this story in a sermon over a decade ago.

Once, at a seminary attached to a historic U.S. university, a professor of homiletics, that is, preaching, assigned his students to preach about the importance of helping the less fortunate, a major theme in the Bible.  He did not tell them that their words inside the classroom were irrelevant.  Rather, each seminarian’s grade depended on his action or inaction on the day he was supposed to deliver this sermon.  The seminary professor, you see, O reader, had contacted a drama professor, who had arranged for acting students to play beggars and to intercept the seminarians.  Most of the seminarians failed.

Here ends the lesson.  All other comments I might have made here are accessible by following the links embedded in this post.

KRT

Week of 6 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  An Illustrated Manuscript from 1300:  The Account of the Transfiguration of Jesus from the Gospel of Mark

Spiritual Blindness and Deafness Resulting from Erroneous Assumptions

FEBRUARY 18, 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 11:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see.

It was for our faith that the people old won God’s approval.

By faith we understand that the universe was formed by God’s command, so that the visible came forth from the invisible.

By faith Abel offered a greater sacrifice than Cain’s; because of his faith God approved his offerings and attested his goodness; and through his faith, though he is dead, he continues to speak.

By faith Enoch was taken up to another life without passing through death; he was not to be found, because God had taken him, and it is the testimony of scripture that before he was taken he had pleased God.  But without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever comes to God must believe that he exists and rewards those who seek him.

By faith Noah took good heed of the divine warning about the unseen future, and built an ark to save his household.  Through his faith he put the whole world in the wrong, and made good this own claim to the righteousness which comes of faith.

Psalm 145:1-4, 10-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

10 All your works praise you, O LORD,

and all your faithful servants bless you.

11 They make known the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your power;

12 That the peoples may know of your power

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;

your dominion endures throughout all ages.

Mark 9:2-13 (Revised English Bible):

Six days later Jesus took Peter, James, and John with him and led them up a high mountain by themselves.  And in their presence he was transfigured; his clothes became dazzling white, with a whiteness no bleacher on earth could equal.  They saw Elijah appear and Moses with him, talking with Jesus.  Then Peter spoke:

Rabbi,

he said,

it is good that we are here!  Shall we make three shelters, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah?

For he did not know what to say; they were so terrified.  Then a cloud appeared, casting its shadow over them, and out of the cloud came a voice:

This is my beloved Son; listen to him.

And suddenly, when they looked around, only Jesus was with them; there was no longer anyone else to be seen.

On their way down the mountain, he instructed them not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  They seized upon those words, and discussed among themselves what this “rising from the dead” could mean.  And they put a question to him:

Why do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?

He replied,

Elijah does come first to set everything right.  How is it, then, that the scriptures say of the Son of Man that he is to endure great suffering and be treated with contempt?  However, I tell you, Elijah has already come and they have done to him what they wanted, ans the scriptures say of him.

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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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Hebrews 11:1-7 speaks of faith.  The author of this text defines faith as that which “gives substance to our hopes and convictions of realities we do not see.”  Furthermore, we read, the faithful dead continue to speak (after a fashion) because of their faith.  And faith makes it possible to please God, “for whoever comes to God must believe that he exists and rewards those who seek him.”

Here I feel the need to make a distinction.  Believing in God and accepting the the existence of God are separate.  The latter is a merely intellectual jump; the former is a leap of faith.  An Agnostic accepts that God exists, for example, but is still agnostic, literally “without knowledge.”

And it is not just Agnostics who lack knowledge.  We who profess to follow Jesus are just as prone to spiritual ignorance as anyone else.  We see the evidence of nature, but do we understand what it means?  And Apostles spent time with Jesus and heard his words repeatedly, but they remained confused for a very long time.  They were neither stupid nor physically blind or deaf.  No, they labored under misconceptions of Messiahship, that the Messiah would be a national liberator.  But Jesus did not drive out the Romans, nor did he attempt to do so.  He suffered, died, and rose again; before that, he said he would suffer, die, and rise again.  There was a great display of power involved in the Resurrection, but the Romans were still present as occupying power in Judea.

The author of the Gospel of Mark wrote the earliest canonical Gospel in part to dispel false expectations of Messiahship, but, as I have written in previous devotions in this series, some of us have not paid attention.  On the positive side, however, many of us have learned this Markan lesson.

Let us consider the Transfiguration.  I suspect that the most eloquent words are inadequate to the experience.  Yet all accounts agree that there was a spectacular display of Jesus in his divine glory, that God approved of him, and that Jesus is consistent with the Law and the Prophets.  Peter, duly awed, wanted to institutionalize the moment, but that was the wrong response.  Jesus had work to do; he was preparing to die.  And his Apostles needed to be at his side.  We know how that turned out, do we not?

Sadly, we mere mortals today remain blind to many spiritual realities about which Jesus and the Prophets before him were quite plain.  What is wrong with us?  Why are we so dense?  Why do cling to false assumptions?  Why do we not see what is in front of us?

Lord, have mercy.

KRT