Archive for the ‘February 21’ Category

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

David Spares Saul's Life

Above:  Finding of the Silver Cup

Image in the Public Domain

Free to Serve God, Part II

FEBRUARY 21 and 22, 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 33:1-17 (Monday)

1 Samuel 24:1-22 (Tuesday)

Psalm 38 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 11:2-16 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 11:17-22, 27-33 (Tuesday)

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O LORD, do not forsake me;

be not far from me, O my God.

Make haste to help me,

O Lord of my salvation.

–Psalm 38:21-22, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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David was in mortal danger from King Saul, yet spared his life.  The founder of an influential dynasty could have dispatched his would-be killer, but one man was a better person than the other.

Reconciling and seeking the common good tie most of these days’ readings together.  Certain past deeds were indeed wrong, but how can people move forward without forgiveness?  This is not a call to dodge justice, for justice and forgiveness can coexist.  My point relative to justice is that it is separate from revenge.  Seeking the common good unites the material in 1 Corinthians, an odd mixture of sexism and egalitarianism.  The advice regarding women’s head coverings has a cultural component, for he condemns the unveiled, loose, flowing hairstyle associated with promiscuous women.  As for abuses of the Eucharist, that was the only or one of the few good meals certain church members got each week, so stinginess with regard to the potluck supper placed the poorest Christians at Corinth at a nutritional disadvantage.  Also, other members took the occasion to become drunk.  All of the above negative behaviors were disrespectful of the ritual.

Overcoming factionalism and acting in conjunction with others for the common good is inherently just.  Doing so facilitates service to God also, for how can we love God, whom we cannot see, if we despise our fellow human beings, whom we can see?  We are free in God to love God and each other; may we strive to do so.

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-ii/

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

elijah-in-the-wilderness-washington-allston

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

Image in the Public Domain

Missing the Obvious

FEBRUARY 20 and 21, 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:

Exodus 33:7-23 (Monday)

1 Kings 19:9-18 (Tuesday)

Psalm 78:17-20, 52-55 (Both Days)

Acts 7:30-34 (Monday)

Romans 11:1-6 (Tuesday)

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They tested God in their hearts

and demanded food for their craving.

They spoke against God and said,

“Can God prepare a table in the wilderness?

He struck the rock indeed,

so that the waters gushed out and the streams overflowed,

but can he give bread or provide meat for his people?”

–Psalm 78:18-20, Common Worship (2000)

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God had delivered the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  The Book of Exodus, having attempted a natural explanation for the parting of the waters, regarded freedom as the miracle.  And freedom was the miracle.  Yet the slave mentality persisted, so the next generation (not raised as slaves) entered the Promised Land.

God had revealed Baal to be imaginary.  The only real deity, quite different from false gods, spoke in silence, not noise.

God–I AM–had done so much publicly.  Why was it not enough for many people?  We human beings seem to have a reluctance to change our minds about the major issues much of the time.  This is partially an evolutionary adaption–a survival technique in the wilderness.  If, for example, gatherers thought that a certain variety of mushroom was poisonous due to passed-down folklore, they were slow to reverse that assumption–probably for a good cause.  Yet this evolutionary adaptation, combined with the frailties of ego, leads to

don’t confuse me with the facts

religion, theology, and politics.

I am cautious to avoid being excessively certain about divine attributes out of a desire to avoid heresy as God defines it.  Yet I make the following statement confidently:  God, in the Bible, has a track record of doing unexpected (from a human perspective) things.  Thus we move in Scripture from the mysterious encounters of Moses with God to the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth, whereby many people saw the face of God.  And I wonder what God is doing that I see without recognition because I do not expect it or I do not want facts to upset my conclusions.  It is a question worth applying to self, is it not, O reader?

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/missing-the-obvious/

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

US_$5000_1934_Federal_Reserve_Note

Above:  $5000, 1934

(Images of U.S. currency are in the public domain.)

$5000 U.S. (1934) = $85,700 (2012) on the Consumer Price Index

Attitudes, Love, and Reconciliation

FEBRUARY 20, 2017

FEBRUARY 21, 2017

FEBRUARY 22, 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:

Proverbs 25:11-22 (Monday)

Genesis 31:1-3, 17-50 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 3:27-55 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:57-64 (All Days)

Romans 12:9-21 (Monday)

Hebrews 12:14-16 (Tuesday)

Luke 18:18-30 (Wednesday)

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You are my only portion, O Lord;

I have promised to keep your words.

I entreat you with all my heart,

be merciful to me according to your promise.

–Psalm 119:57-58, Common Worship (2000)

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Certain themes repeat in the Bible.  Among these is the one which states that we have a mandate to seek reconciliation with each other, not vengeance against each other.  A perhaps apocryphal story comes to mind:

A congregation gathered on the day that the aged St. John the Evangelist visited it.  He entered (with assistance) and sat down at the front of the assembly.  The Apostle said, “My children, love one another.”  Then he motioned to his helpers to assist him in leaving.  Someone, disappointed with the brevity of John’s words, followed him and asked why he had said just to love one another.  The Apostle answered, “When you have done that, I will tell you more.”

Loving one another is that basic.  And often it proves difficult, for we might feel righteous while pondering how another has wronged us.  Maybe another has behaved perfidiously toward us.  But nursing a grudge hurts the person who encourages it and does no harm to its intended target.

The readings for these days range from maxims to stories about how we ought to behave toward others.  Sometimes all parties are both the wronged and the perpetrators.  (Life is frequently complicated in that way.)  The seeming outlier among these readings is Luke 18:18-30.  The wealthy man in that passage kept many of the truly timeless provisions of the Law of Moses–honoring his parents, not murdering or stealing, etc.  But his attitude toward his wealth prevented him from treating others as properly as he should have been doing all along.

His health was morally neutral; his attitude was not.  Your “wealth,” O reader, might not be funds or property, but your attitude toward it is a vital issue.  The same applies to all of us.

So may we seek peace with each other, knowing that perhaps nobody is fully innocent in a particular situation.  Thus nobody is in a good position to judge anyway.  And may we not let our attitude(s) regarding anything obstruct such reconciliation.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF THE CROSS, FOUNDER OF THE PASSIONIST CONGREGATION

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/attitudes-love-and-reconciliation/

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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 21 and 22 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Pebbles

Image Source = Steve Shattuck of Canberra, Australia

Job and John, Part XIV:  The Power of Words

FEBRUARY 21, 2022

FEBRUARY 22 = ASH WEDNESDAY IN 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 16:1-22 (February 21)

Job 17:1-16 (February 22)

Psalm 143 (Morning–February 21)

Psalm 86 (Morning–February 22)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–February 21)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–February 22)

John 7:1-13 (February 21)

John 7:14-31 (February 22)

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A Related Post:

A Prayer for Those Who Have Harmed Us:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/a-prayer-for-those-who-have-harmed-us/

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Why do you want to kill me?

–Jesus speaking in John 7:19b, The New Jerusalem Bible

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What afflicts you that you speak on?

–Job speaking in Job 16:3b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Job 16 and 17 consist of Job’s reply to the second speech of Eliphaz the Temanite.  The speaker has no patience with anything he has heard so far, nor should he.  Whoever speaks of “the patience of Job” as if Job were patient, does not understand the Book of Job.

Jesus, in John 7, is living under death threats.  He is trying not to die just yet because

for me the time is not ripe yet (verse 8, The New Jerusalem Bible).

The words of our Lord’s adversaries afflicted him.

Words have power.  According to Hebrew mythology God spoke the universe into being.  What realities do we create with our words?  What realities do we create with our silences?  There is a time to speak.  And there is a time to remain silent.  There is also a time to say a certain amount and nothing more.  May we know the difference and act accordingly.

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-xiv-the-power-of-words/

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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 7 Epiphany: Monday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  The Missal, by John William Waterhouse, 1902

Trust

FEBRUARY 21, 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 3:13-18 (Revised English Bible):

Which of you is wise or learned? Let him give practical proof of it by his right conduct, with the modesty that comes of wisdom.  But if you are harbouring bitter jealousy or the spirit of rivalry in your hearts, stop making false claims in defiance of the truth.  This is not the wisdom that comes from above; it is earth-bound, sensual, demonic.  For with jealousy and rivalry come disorder and the practice of every kind of evil.  But the wisdom from above is in the first place pure; and then peace-loving, considerate and sincere, rich in compassion and in deeds of kindness that are its fruit.  Peace is the seed-bed of righteousness, and the peacemakers will reap its harvest.

Psalm 19:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures forever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Mark 9:14-29 (Revised English Bible):

When they came back to the disciples they saw a large crowd surrounding them and scribes arguing with them.  As soon as they saw Jesus the whole crowd were overcome with awe and ran forward to welcome him.  He asked them,

What is this argument about?

A man in the crowd spoke up:

Teacher, I brought my son for you to cure.  He is possessed by a spirit that makes him dumb.  Whenever it attacks him, it flings him to the ground, and he foams at the mouth, grinds this teeth, and goes rigid.  I asked your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.

Jesus answered:

What an unbelieving generation!  How long shall I be with you?  How long must I endure you?  Bring him to me.

And they brought the boy to him; and as soon as the spirit saw him it threw the boy into convulsions, and he fell on the ground and rolled about foaming at the mouth.  Jesus asked his father,

How long has he been like this?

He replied,

From childhood; it has often tried to destroy him by throwing him into the fire or into water.  But if it is at all possible for you, take pity on us and help us.

Jesus said,

It is possible!  Everything is possible to one who believes.

At once the boy’s father cried:

I believe; help my unbelief.

When Jesus saw that the crowd was closing in on him, he spoke sternly to the unclean spirit.

Deaf and dumb spirit,

he said,

I command you, come out of him and never go back!

It shrieked aloud and threw the boy into repeated convulsions, and then came out, leaving him like a corpse; in fact, many said,

He is dead.

But Jesus took hold of his hand and raised him to his feet, and he stood up.

Then Jesus went indoors, and his disciples asked him privately,

Why could we not drive it out?

He said,

This kind cannot be driven out except by prayer.

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The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/31/week-of-7-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

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

Matthew 17 (Parallel to Mark 9):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/week-of-proper-13-saturday-year-1/

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God blesses those who realize their need for him,

for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.

–Matthew 5:3, New Living Translation, First Edition (1996)

The traditional English-language rendering is, “Blessed are the poor in spirit…,” but what I have quoted above cuts to the chase nicely.  And it relates to our reading from Mark 9.

Today we would diagnose the boy’s problem in organic terms; we would identify a disease he had.  In the times of Jesus, however, the commonly held understanding was that spirits caused epilepsy and other ailments.  So that was how the story’s author described the reality of the events.  None of that pertains to what interests me there, however.  No, I care more about this line:

I believe; help my unbelief.

To believe, in biblical terms, is to trust.  So the line should be,

I trust; help my lack of trust.

Does this not describe us at least some of the time?  Jesus accepted the trust the father had to offer.  Likewise, Jesus accepts the trust we have to offer. Jesus gave the father good reason to trust more.  And he gives us good reasons to trust more.

In a dog-eat-dog world in which “Do unto others before they do unto you” seems like the Golden Rule to many people, where laying aside jealousies and rivalries is “being soft,” a negative thing is some quarters, do we trust in Jesus, divine love incarnate?  Do we listen and obey the call of the Hebrew prophets ringing down through the ages and off the pages of Scripture, the call to trust God more than wealth and  instruments of warfare?  Are we afraid of being “soft,” or do we trust in  God, who is strong?

KRT

Week of Last Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 1 (Shrove Tuesday)   6 comments

Above:  A Coin, from 36 C.E., Bearing the Image of the Emperor Tiberius

What Belongs to Caesar and What Belongs to God

FEBRUARY 21, 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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Tobit 2:9-14 (Revised English Bible):

That night, after bathing myself, I went into my courtyard and lay down to sleep by the courtyard wall, leaving my face uncovered because of the heat.  I did not know that there were sparrows in the wall above me, and their droppings fell, still warm, right into my eyes and produced white patches.  I went to the doctors to be cured, but the more they treated me with their ointments, the more my eyes became blinded by the white patches, until I lost my sight.  I was blind for four years; my kinsmen grieved for me, and for two years Ahikar looked after me, until he moved to Elymais.

At that time Anna my wife used to earn money by women’s work, spinning and weaving, and her employees would pay her when she took them what she had done.  One day, on the seventh of Dystrus, after she had cut off the piece she had woven and delivered it, they not only paid her wages in full, but also gave her a kid from her herd of goats to take home.  When my wife came into the house to me, the kid began to bleat, and I called out to her:

Where does that kid come from?  I hope it was not stolen.

But she assured me:

It was given me as a present, over and above my wages.

I did not believe her and insisted that she return it, and I blushed with shame for what she had done.  Her rejoinder was:

So much for all your acts of charity and all your good works!  Everyone can now see what you are really like.

Psalm 112:1-2, 7-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and who have great delight in his commandments!

2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

7 They will not be afraid of any evil rumors;

their heart is right;

they put their trust in the Lord.

8 Their heart is established and will not shrink,

until they see their desire upon their enemies.

9 They have given freely to the poor,

and their righteousness stands fast for ever;

they will hold up their head with honor.

Mark 12:13-17 (Revised English Bible):

A number of the Pharisees and men of Herod’s party were sent to trap him with a question.  They came and said,

Teacher, we know you are a sincere man and court no one’s favour, whoever he may be; you teach in all sincerity the way of life that God requires.  Are we or are we not permitted to pay taxes to the Roman emperor?  Shall we pay or not?

He saw through their duplicity, and said,

Why are you trying to catch me out?  Fetch me a silver piece, and let me look at it.

They brought one, and he asked them,

Whose head is this, and whose inscription?

They replied,

Caesar’s.

Then Jesus said,

Pay Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and God what belongs to God.

His reply left them completely taken aback.

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The Collect:

O God, who before the passion of your only­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; 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 story of Tobit continues.  He goes blind due to natural causes and begins to feel helpless.  He lashes out verbally at his wife, accusing her of stealing a young goat, and she rebukes him, understandably.  But, if one continues to read, Tobit realizes that he has accused her unjustly, and prays immediately for forgiveness.   He is imperfect, but he does the right thing more often than not.  And Tobit understands his duties to God.

Duties to God, especially versus those to the occupying Roman Empire, reside at the heart of the reading from Mark.  Jewish religious and political elites collaborating with the empire ask Jesus a question meant to entrap him.  Is it lawful to pay the small annual poll tax to the Roman Emperor, Tiberius?  This was not a major source of imperial revenue, but it did remind the Jews living under occupation in their homeland who was in charge, at least in the temporal realm.  This poll tax was payable in a coin bearing the image of the emperor and a written reminder of the official line, which was he was the “Divine Caesar.”  Such a coin was a purposeful affront to Jewish sensibilities.  The tax was in the amount a denarius, or one day’s wage, and men aged 14-65 years and women aged 12-65 had to pay it.  This was a despised tax, and the Romans were rubbing the Jews’ noses in it.

This was a dicey political situation for Jesus.  If he said, “No, this is unjust taxation,” he would be in trouble with the Romans.  And many soldiers were in town during the days leading up to the Passover, the annual commemoration of God’s deliverance of the Jews from slavery in Egypt.  Some of them could arrest Jesus at a moment’s notice.  But if he said, “Yes, Tiberius is our emperor, and he deserves our respect, too,” Jesus would lose much public support.   Our Lord and Savior, being perceptive and intelligent, delivered a faultless answer:  The coin belongs to Tiberius; pay it.  But give to God what is due to God.  And what is due to God?  We owe God the pattern of our daily living.

Simply put, the goal of life should be that it will consist increasingly of prayer.  How we live ought to be a prayer.  Too often we think of prayer only as “talking to God.”  There is nothing wrong with oral prayer, but the words we address to God need to be only part of prayer life.  A sense of the sacred ought to inform even the simplest, most mundane actions.  The character Tobit understood this, and repented when he went astray.  So should we.

For none of us has life in himself,

and none becomes his own master when he dies.

For if we have life, we are alive in the Lord,

and if we die, we die in the Lord.

So, then, whether we live or die,

we are the Lord’s possession.

–From The Burial of the Dead:  Rite Two, The Book of Common Prayer (1979), quoting Romans 14:7-8

Amen.

KRT