Archive for the ‘February 24’ Category

Devotion for the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Faithful Servants of God, Part VII

FEBRUARY 24, 2019

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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 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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Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, 11-18 or Ezekiel 34:1-10

Psalm 9:1-10

Galatians 4:1-16

Matthew 5:38-48

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As Koheleth and Jesus tell us, the way of the world is that righteous people suffer, both the righteous and the wicked prosper, and God is in control.  The combination of those three statements might seem incongruous.  Throughout the Book of Psalms righteous people cry out to God for deliverance from oppression.  Often they are understandably angry, but Christ tells us to pray for our persecutors and to love our enemies.  Interestingly, nowhere does the Hebrew Bible command anyone to love one’s enemies, and, as we have read previously in this series of posts, God prospers that the wicked change their ways and find mercy.  Yet many of the wicked refuse to repent, so the divine deliverance of the oppressed becomes bad news for oppressors.

The call to radical love thunders off the pages of the Sermon on the Mount.  We are to trust in God, not ourselves, and be so loving as to seem foolish to many.  Such love breaks the cycle of anger, resentment, revenge, and violence.  We, as inheritors, by grace, and adopted members of the household of God, are free to do that, if we dare.

May we dare accordingly.  Then we, by grace, will be suited for our purpose, or, as Matthew 5:48 puts it, perfect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/faithful-servants-of-god-part-ix/

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/12/devotion-for-proper-5-year-a-humes/

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Devotion for the Seventh Sunday After the Epiphany (Year D)   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part V

FEBRUARY 24, 2019

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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 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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Job 35:1-16

Psalm 119:(1-16) 17-32

Matthew 7:13-20

2 Peter 2:1-22

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Elihu is simultaneously correct and incorrect.  Indeed, whenever we sin, we harm others, not just ourselves, and whenever we act righteously, we benefit others, not just ourselves.  Furthermore, nothing escapes divine notice.  One might think of the false teachers in Matthew 7 and 2 Peter 2 and find examples of these principles.  One might also imagine Elihu agreeing wholeheartedly with the ideas in Psalm 119:1-16 and be correct.  The problem with Elihu’s speech in Job 35 is that he employs truthful statements to support a mostly false conclusion:

Hence when Job opens his mouth,

it is for idle talk:

his spate or words comes out of ignorance.

–Job 35:16, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

In the Book of Job all people who speak do so out of ignorance, but the main character is accurate in his assertion of innocence (Consult Job 1, 2 and most of 42, Chapters 38-41, and the first few verses of Chapter 42 not withstanding).  That Job, as an innocent person, is suffering, is the main idea to which Elihu objects.  Elihu speaks out of ignorance yet does not know it.

Each of us speaks out of ignorance, partial or total, daily; that is part of the reality of the human condition.  Knowing this about ourselves is a fine beginning of the process of addressing the problem via grace.  May we be sufficiently humble to recognize the fact that we do not know as much as we might imagine about many topics, especially the nature of God.  And may we, even in our ignorance, glorify and draw people to the throne of grace, not blame victims and incur divine anger.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SALVIUS OF ALBI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MORDECAI JOHNSON, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT NEMESIAN OF SIGUM AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS AND MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/09/10/the-oratory-and-theology-of-elihu-part-v/

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

Vision of Cornelius the Centurion

Above:  The Vision of Cornelius the Centurion, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Image in the Public Domain

God’s Surprises

FEBRUARY 24-26, 2022

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The Collect:

Holy God, mighty and immortal, you are beyond our knowing,

yet we see your glory in the face of Jesus Christ.

Transform us into the likeness of your Son,

who renewed our humanity so that we may share in his divinity,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 9:1-5 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 9:6-14 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 9:15-24 (Saturday)

Psalm 99 (All Days)

Acts 3:11-16 (Thursday)

Acts 10:1-8 (Friday)

Luke 10:21-24 (Saturday)

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The LORD is King;

let the people tremble;

he is enthroned upon the cherubim;

let the earth shake.

–Psalm 99:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The ways in which God works frequently surprise many people.  Declaring the Hebrews, who rebelled against God repeatedly, to be the Chosen People was one example.  Working through St. Simon Peter, an impetuous man, and St. Cornelius the Centurion, a Roman soldier, were two more examples.  The Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth was unique.  And what about hiding wonders

from the learned and the clever and revealing them to little children?

–Luke 10:21b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

God chooses to work in ways, many of which surprise or scandalize many mere mortals.  Certain heroic figures in the Hebrew Bible were also scoundrels.  Oblivious Apostles in the Gospels became great leaders of nascent Christianity.  The circumstances of our Lord and Savior’s conception and birth led to decades of whispering behind his back and to his face.  Some Gentiles were closer to God than certain prominent Jews.  Standard labels might not apply when God is acting.  If we have spiritual and/or emotional difficulty with that reality, we need to confess that sin to God, to apologize, and to repent, by grace.

Simply put, if one is St. Simon Peter in an analogy, who is the St. Cornelius whose invitation will lead to an epiphany.  And is one willing to have an epiphany?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 28, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS SIMON AND JUDE, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/28/gods-surprises-2/

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

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Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston

Image in the Public Domain

Missing the Obvious

FEBRUARY 24 and 25, 2020

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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 Thursday and Friday Before the Eighth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Philippi_Daumet_Direkler

Above:  Ruins of Philippi, 1861

Artist = H. Daumet

Image in the Public Domain

Seeking the Interests of Christ

FEBRUARY 24 AND 25, 2011

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The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father,

you never forget your children, and you know already what we need.

In our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 12:22-28 (Thursday)

Isaiah 26:1-6 (Friday)

Psalm 131 (Both Days)

Philippians 2:19-24 (Thursday)

Philippians 2:25-30 (Friday)

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Some Related Posts:

O Israel, trust in the Lord,

from this time forth for evermore.

–Psalm 131:4, Common Worship (2000)

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The church at Philippi contained some serious divisions, the precise nature of which have not survived in the historical record.  (Authors of epistles did not explain certain details for the benefit of readers thousands of years later, understandably.)  Apparently, not all of the people–leaders, especially–involved in this divisiveness were of sincere and good will.  Even those who were of sincere and good will acted in such a way as to harm the congregation’s witness to Christ.  (I am trying to write out of generosity of spirit.)  In the text from Philippians the exhortation to seek the interests of Christ set the tone.

Seeking the interests of Christ–more broadly, of God–is a topic of which we read in Proverbs and Isaiah.  Their witness–along with that of other portions of the Bible–is to trust in God and to behave properly toward our fellow human beings.  Those two relate to each other.  Indeed, one cannot love God, whom one cannot see, if one does not love people, whom one can see.  I am convinced that much inexcusable treatment of our fellow human beings flows from our insecurities regarding our own future.  We want to pile up and/or safeguard resources and/or security for ourselves, so we justify in our own minds the evil we commit toward others.  We steal from them.  We condone theft from them.  We deny people opportunities.  We discriminate against them.  We condone violence against against them.  We commit violence against them.  We do this while pursuing what we misconstrue as our self-interests.

In reality, however, our self-interests are those of our fellow human beings.  All of us are bound up in the reality of community, with mutual responsibilities.  So we harm ourselves when we injure others, who are our neighbors.

Trusting that God will provide our necessities opens the door to behaving generously and kindly toward others.  If lacking that trust leads to the opposite result, the previous statement makes sense, does it not?  Such trust can prove difficult, of course.  Yet I have learned that God does provide–often via unexpected methods.

May we trust God and care for each other, always seeking the interests of Christ.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 24–THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF MARY A. LATHBURY, U.S. METHODIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERTILLA BOSCARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND NURSE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HARRIS BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF TARORE OF WAHOARA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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This is post #350 of ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS.

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/seeking-the-interests-of-christ/

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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 24 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   11 comments

Above:  Statue of Reconciliation, Coventry Cathedral, England

Image Source = Rebecca Kennison

Job and John, Part XVI:  Alienation and Reconciliation

FEBRUARY 24, 2020

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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 19:1-12, 21-27

Psalm 110 (Morning)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening)

John 8:1-20

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The story of the woman accused of adultery and her near-stoning is one of those pieces of the oral tradition which fits better in some ways in the Synoptic Gospels, where it is not.  Scholars recognize this fact.  Yet I propose that its placement here in John is appropriate theologically.  I cannot attest to the veracity of the chronology.  For that matter, chronology is a matter on which the canonical Gospels disagree.  That fact, however, seems not to have troubled those early Church leaders who approved of the New Testament canon.  And it does not trouble me.  The Gospels are more theological than historical anyway.  And doubts regarding the chronology are irrelevant to my purpose today, for I take the text on its own terms.

As I reread parts of John 7 and 8, I noticed something striking:  Jesus saves the woman’s life at a time when people are plotting to kill him.  That is why the placement of this incident at this juncture in the Johannine Gospel works so well.  As to the woman’s story, I ask one two questions:

  1. Where was the man?
  2. And why did not her accusers care about that detail?

By law he should have faced the same penalty as she would have.  And, given the circumstances, so should have her accusers.  They let the man get away so that they could entrap Jesus.  They did nothing to prevent the act of adultery?  Thus they were complicit  in the offense.  Perhaps Jesus reminded them of this via whatever he wrote on the ground.  And, by the way, the accusers were creepy peeping toms.

I note another fascinating feature of the Johannine material.  There is a contrast between Jesus, the source of living water (7:38) and the light of the world (8:12) on one hand and such bloodlust on the other hand.  His enemies plotted not only to kill him but others–the woman in this account and Lazarus shortly later in the Gospel.  Indeed they lived in darkness–and, to sound like the Gospel of Thomas–they were that darkness.

The thread linking the readings from the Gospel of John and the Book of Job is alienation.  Job was alienated from his friends, his family members, his life, and his God.  Jesus was alienated (not by his choice) from many leaders of his own tradition.  Reconciliation is a mutual state; if only one party is willing but the other is not, there is no reconciliation.  Thus one party can create alienation.  And few activities create this reality more than plotting to deprive someone of his life.  May we be willing to reconcile–to restore wholeness with the other, to restore wholeness where dissonance has arisen.  Dissonance might remain, but may we not be the source of it.

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-xvi-alienation-and-reconciliation/

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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: Thursday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Logo of Lehman Brothers, a Firm Defunct Since 2008

Bad Priorities and Good Priorities

FEBRUARY 24, 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 5:1-6 (Revised English Bible):

Now a word to you who are rich.  Weep and wail over the miserable fate overtaking you:  your riches have rotted away; your fine clothes are moth-eaten; your silver and gold have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and consume your flesh like fire.  You have piled up wealth  in an age that is near to its close.  The wages you never paid to the men who mowed your fields are crying aloud against you, and the outcry of the reapers has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts.  You have lived on the land in wanton luxury, gorging yourselves–and that on the day appointed for your slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who offers no resistance.

Psalm 49:12-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12  Such is the way of those who foolishly trust in themselves,

and the end of those who delight in their own words.

13  Like a flock of sheep they are destined to die;

Death is their shepherd;

they go down straightaway to the grave.

14  Their form shall waste away,

and the land of the dead shall be their home.

15  But God will ransom my life;

he will snatch me from the grasp of death.

16  Do not be envious when some become rich,

or when the grandeur of their house increases;

17  For they will carry nothing away at their death,

nor will their grandeur follow them.

18  Though they thought highly of themselves while they lived,

and were praised for their success,

19  They shall join the company of their forebears,

who will never see the light again.

Mark 9:42-50 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

If anyone causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck.  If your hand causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better for you to enter into life maimed than to keep both hands and go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  If your foot causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better to enter into life crippled than to keep both your feet  and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes your downfall, tear it out; it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.

Everyone will be salted with fire.

Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?

You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

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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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A Related Post:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/week-of-7-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

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What I wrote for the Year 1 counterpart of this post works well.  Besides, how many ways can I repackage the same thoughts?  So, without further ado, I offer those original thoughts.

KRT

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Self-reliance is a lie and an illusion.  It is one of the most cherished lies and illusions of my North American culture, where “self-made men” are ideals.  The truth, however, is that there is no such thing as a “self-made man” (or woman); everybody relies on God.  And we humans rely on each other.  What affects one affects another,  immediately or in time.  If we get greedy and reckless, this affects a great many people, hence the old Lehman Brothers logo at the top of this post.

So much for Gordon Gecko and Horatio Alger.  These signify bad priorities.

The reading from Mark is a continuation of the discourse of Jesus in which he states he who wants to the greatest must be the servant of all, and in which he says that anyone who receives a child (a vulnerable and powerless member of society) receives not only Jesus himself but YHWH God.  Then our Lord and Savior engages in hyperbole.  No part of the body causes one to sin, and he is not advocating self-mutilation.  Sin arises from inside ourselves, and the point of the hyperbole is to say to flee from sin.  As Ben Sira reminds us in the first reading, God’s patience does have limits.

And then there are lines about salt.  First we have, “Everyone will be salted with fire.”  This is a reference to salt used on a ritual sacrificial item or animal. As William Barclay observes in his commentary on the Gospel of Mark, the salt made the sacrifice acceptable to God.  And fire signifies that which purifies life.  Hence being salted with fire is obeying God and undergoing discipline and the risk (at least the risk) of persecution.

“Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?”

Salt, in proper quantities, improves the taste of food.  It also preserves food.  Salt was valuable in the ancient world.  Sometimes it was a form of currency, so an underperforming employee was “not worth his salt.”  We Christians, then, are supposed to give to our world a positive flavor and to preserve and promote goodness.  Are you worth your salt?  I cannot answer that question for you, no more than you can answer that question for me.

“You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Salt, in this case, is a metaphor the the purifying Spirit of Christ.  This is not purity of the ritual kind, as the Pharisees practiced.  No, this is the inner variety of purity.  Jesus said that nothing that enters a person defiles (or “makes common”) a person, but that what comes out a person does that.  Ritual purity was about making oneself a member of the spiritual elite, unlike the “impure” rabble.  But Jesus advocated a different understanding of purity:  love, forgiveness, altruism, et cetera.  There is no divine law against such things.  These are good priorities.

The fire will come to you and to me.  Will it consist of flames destroying treasures laid up on earth, or will it be the disciplining fire likened to salt?

KRT