Archive for the ‘February 28’ Category

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

Peter's Vision of the Sheet with Animals

Above:  Peter’s Vision of the Sheet with Animals

Image in the Public Domain

The Clean and the Unclean

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

MARCH 1, 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:

Exodus 35:1-29 (Monday)

Ezekiel 1:1-2:1 (Tuesday)

Psalm 35:11-28 (Both Days)

Acts 10:9-23a (Monday)

Acts 10:23b-33 (Tuesday)

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[Jesus] said to [his Apostles], “Even you–don’t you understand?  Can’t you see that nothing that goes into someone from the outside can make that person unclean, because it goes not int the heart but into the stomach and passes into the sewer?” (Thus he pronounced all foods clean.)  And he went on, “It is what comes out of someone that makes that person unclean.  For it is from within, from the heart, that evil intentions emerge:  fornication, theft, murder, adultery, avarice, malice, deceit, indecency, envy, slander, pride, folly.  All these evil things come from within and make a person unclean.

–Mark 7:18-23, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Ritual purity has long been a religious concern.  Separating oneself from the world (not always a negative activity) has informed overly strict Sabbath rules and practices.  (Executing a person for working on the Sabbath, per Exodus 35:2b, seems excessive to me.  I am biased, of course, for I have violated that law, which does not apply to me.)  Nevertheless, the Sabbath marked the freedom of the people, for slaves got no day off.  Ezekiel, living in exile in an allegedly unclean land, the territory of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, experienced a vision of the grandeur of God before God commissioned him a prophet.  Perhaps Ezekiel had, suffering under oppression, prayed in the words of Psalm 35:23,

Awake, arise to my cause!

to my defense, my God and my Lord!

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Those who took Judeans into exile and kept them there were unclean and not because they were Gentiles but because of their spiritual ills, on which they acted.  As St. Simon Peter learned centuries later, there is no unclean food and many people he had assumed to be unclean were not really so.

The drawing of figurative lines to separate the allegedly pure from the allegedly impure succeeds in comforting the former, fostering more self-righteousness in them, and doing injustice to the latter.  May nobody call unclean one whom God labels clean.  May no one mark as an outsider one whom God calls beloved.  This is a devotion for the last two days of the Season after the Epiphany.  The next season will be Lent.  Perhaps repenting of the sins I have listed above constitutes the agenda you, O reader, should follow this Lent.  I know that it is one I ought to follow.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL MANZ, DEAN OF LUTHERAN CHURCH MUSIC

THE FEAST OF JOHN BUCKMAN WALTHOUR, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/29/the-clean-and-the-unclean/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Eighth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Common Raven

Above:  A Common Raven, March 2004

Photographer = Dave Menke

Image Source = U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Endurance

FEBRUARY 28, 2011

MARCH 1 AND 2, 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:

Deuteronomy 32:1-14 (Monday)

1 Kings 17:1-16 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 66:7-13 (Wednesday)

Psalm 104 (All Days)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 4:6-21 (Tuesday)

Luke 12:22-31 (Wednesday)

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All of these look to you to give them their food in due season.

When you give it to them, they gather it;

you open your hand and they are filled with good.

When you hide your face they are troubled,

when you take away their breath,

they die and return again to the dust.

When you send forth your spirit, they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:29-32, Common Worship (2000)

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The Book of Job is allegedly about why people suffer.  I have read that book closely several times recently and concluded that the book is about a different topic–how many pious people misunderstand God and presume to spread their confusion.  As for the cause of suffering in the Book of Job, the text makes clear that, in the titular character’s case, God permitted it.

There is no single cause of suffering.  Possible causes include one’s own sin, another person’s sin, and the fact of being alive.  The main topic of these days’ readings, however, is endurance, not suffering.  While we endure, do we welcome those agents of grace God sends to us?  Do we cease to endure, abandoning faith in God?  Or do we mature spiritually?  And do we anticipate the blessings which follow after suffering ends?

J. B. Phillips, in his classic book, Your God is Too Small (1961), posited that many people have spiritual deficiencies flowing from inadequate God concepts.  I find this conclusion persuasive.  It applies to the human characters in the Book of Job, for example.  And it applies to many, if not most of us who describe ourselves as religious.

A woefully inadequate God concept can contribute to buckling under pressure and not trusting in God, therefore in not enduring then maturing spiritually.  This is not a condemnation of anyone, for I know firsthand about struggling spiritually when one’s world collapses.  I also know what grace feels like in those dark days, weeks, and months.  And I know that it is to emerge–singed, to be sure–from the metaphorical fire.

So from experience I write the following:  No matter how bad the situation is now and how dire it seems to be, there is no shortage of grace.  Thanks be to God!

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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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/24/endurance-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 27 and 28 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Galileo Galilei

Job and John, Part XIX:  Alleged Heresy, Actual Orthodoxy

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2019, and THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 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 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 30:16-31 (February 27)

Job 31:1-12, 33-40 (February 28)

Psalm 96 (Morning–February 27)

Psalm 116 (Morning–February 28)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–February 27)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–February 28)

John 9:1-23 (February 27)

John 9:24-41 (February 28)

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A Related Post:

Environment and Science:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/environment-and-science/

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John 9 consists of one story–that of a blind man whom Jesus heals.  The healing occurs at the beginning of the chapter.  Then religious politics take over.  How dare Jesus heal on the Sabbath?  Was the man ever really blind?  How could an alleged sinner–a Sabbath breaker–Jesus, perform such a miracle?  The works of God clashed with human orthodoxy, and defenders of that orthodoxy preferred not to admit that they were or might be wrong.

Some words of explanation are vital.  One way a visible minority maintains its identity is to behave differently than the majority.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson has pointed out, arbitrary rules might seem especially worthy of adherence from this perspective.  Sabbath laws forbade certain medical treatments on that day.  One could perform basic first aid legally.  One could save a life and prevent a situation from becoming worse legally.  But one was not supposed to heal or cure on the Sabbath.  This was ridiculous, of course, and Jesus tried to do the maximum amount of good seven days a week.  Each of us should strive to meet the same standard.

At the beginning of John 9 our Lord’s Apostles ask whether the man or his parents sinned.  Surely, they thought, somebody’s sin must have caused this blindness.  Apparently these men had not absorbed the Book of Job.  As Job protests in Chapter 30, he is innocent.  And the Book of Job agrees with him.  Job’s alleged friends gave voice to a human orthodoxy, one which stated that suffering flowed necessarily from sin.  The wicked suffer and the righteous, prosper, they said.  (Apparently, adherents of Prosperity Theology have not absorbed the Book of Job either.)  Job was, by their standards, a heretic.

Some of my favorite people have been heretics.  Galileo Galilei was a heretic for reporting astronomical observations and deriving from them accurate conclusions which challenged centuries of bad doctrine.  Both Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders condemned his writings as heretical in the 1600s.  Roger Williams argued for the separation of church and state in Puritan New England.  He also opposed mandatory prayer;  the only valid prayer, he said, is a voluntary one.  For his trouble Williams had to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Also forced to leave was Anne Hutchinson, who dared to question her pastor’s theology.  I have made Galileo a saint on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  And The Episcopal Church has recognized Williams and Hutchinson as saints.  I wonder what two rebellious Puritans would have thought about that.

Orthodoxies build up over time and become accepted, conventional, and received wisdom.  The fact that a doctrine is orthodox according to this standard discourages many people from questioning it even when observed evidence contradicts it.  Jupiter does have moons.  This fact contradicts the former theology of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.  Should one accept good science or bad theology?  The question answers itself.  The man in John 9 was born blind.  Attempts in the chapter to question that reality are almost comical.  We human beings must be willing to abandon assumptions which prove erroneous if we are to be not only intellectually honest but also to avoid harming others while defending our own egos.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE EARLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH WARRILOW, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/job-and-john-part-xix-alleged-heresy-actual-orthodoxy/

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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 Last Epiphany: Monday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  Mother Teresa, Who Loved Her Neighbors

Image Source = Turelio

Piety, Genuine and False

FEBRUARY 28, 2022

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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2 Peter 1:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

From Simon Peter, servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who share equally with us in the privileges of faith through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Grace and peace be yours in fullest measure, through knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.

God’s divine power has bestowed on us everything that makes for life and true religion, through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  In this way he was given us his promises, great beyond all price, so that through them you may escape this corruption with which lust has infected the world, and may come to share in the very being of God.

With all this in view, you should make every effort to add virtue to your faith, knowledge to virtue, self-control to knowledge, fortitude to self-control, piety to fortitude, brotherly affection to piety, and love to brotherly affection.

If you possess and develop these gifts, you will grow actively and effectively in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Whoever lacks them is willfully blind; he has forgotten that his past sins were washed away.  All the more often, my friends, do your utmost to establish that God has called and chosen you.  If you do this, you will never stumble, and there will be rich provision for your entry into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Psalm 91 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,

abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall say to the LORD,

“You are my refuge and my stronghold,

my God in whom I put my trust.”

He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter,

and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He shall cover you with his pinions,

and you shall find refuge under his wings.

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,

nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness,

nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

7  A thousand shall fall at your side

and ten thousand at your right hand,

but it shall not come near you.

8  Your eyes have only to behold

to see the reward of the wicked.

9  Because you have made the LORD your refuge,

and the Most High your habitation,

10  There shall no evil happen to you,

neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

11  For he shall give his angels charge over you,

to keep you in all your ways.

12  They shall bear you in their hands,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

13  You shall tread upon the lion and adder;

you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,

therefore I will deliver him;

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;

I am with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

16 With long life will I satisfy him,

and show him my salvation.

Mark 12:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

He went on to speak to them in parables:

A man planted a vineyard and put a wall round it, hewed out a winepress, and built a watch-tower; then he let it out to the wine-growers and went abroad.  When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce.  But they seized him, thrashed him, and sent him away empty-handed.  Again, he sent them another servant, whom they beat about the head and treated outrageously, and then another, whom they killed.  He sent many others and they thrashed and killed the rest.  He had now no one left to send except his beloved son, and in the end he sent him.  “They will respect my son,” he said; but the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir; come on, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”  So they seized him and killed him, and flung his body out of the vineyard.  What will the owner of the vineyard do?  He will come and put the tenants to death and give the vineyard to others.

Have you never read this text:  “The stone which the builders rejected has become the main corner-stone.  This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes”?

They saw that the parable was aimed at them and wanted to arrest him; but they were afraid of the people, so they left him alone and went away.

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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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Some Related Posts:

Week of Last Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/week-of-last-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Mark 12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/week-of-proper-4-monday-year-1/

Matthew 21 (Parallel to Mark 12):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/proper-22-year-a/

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There is an old, perhaps apocryphal story.  The elderly Apostle John was about to visit a congregation.  The people gathered and anticipated what pearls of wisdom might drop from his lips.  When John arrived, he was so frail that others had to carry him.  Seated in front of the rapt audience, the Apostle said, “My children, love one another.”  Then he summoned the men who had carried him in to carry him out.  One congregation member, disappointed with the brevity of the address, chased after John and said, in so many words, “That’s it?”  John replied, “When you have done that, I will tell you more.”

Too often we Christians misunderstand orthodoxy as merely being correct on doctrinal matters.  As 2 Peter 1 reminds us, there is a lived aspect of orthodoxy.  The most basic test of this is, “Do we love one another?”  The jealous vineyard tenants in our Lord’s parable did not, but perhaps they thought themselves doctrinally orthodox.  The tenants were stand-ins for professional religious people of our Lord’s time and place.  They lived according a version of piety which depended on separation from the great unwashed, a type of piety which the great majority of people could not afford to maintain. So this was a smug, condescending piety–a false piety.

Jesus, of course, scandalized the practitioners of such piety by doing things like dining with tax collectors and speaking with prostitutes.

False piety is more socially respectable, is it not?  And what does tell you, O reader?

May we love one another, however this appears to others.

KRT

Week of 8 Epiphany: Monday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  Camels at Giza

To What Do We Cling?

FEBRUARY 28, 2011

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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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Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 17:24-29 (Revised English Bible):

Yet he leaves a way open for the penitent to return to him

and endows the waverer with strength to endure.

Return to the Lord and have done with sin;

make your prayer in his presence and lessen your offence.

Come back to the Most High,

renounce wrongdoing,

and hate intensely what he abhors.

The living give him thanks,

but who will praise the Most High from the grave?

When the dead cease to be, their gratitude dies with them;

only when alive and well do they praise the Lord.

How great is the Lord’s mercy

and his forgiveness to those who turn to him!

Psalm 32:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,

and whose sin is put away!

2 Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

and in whose spirit there is no guile!

3 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,

because of my groaning all day long.

4 For your hand was heavy upon me day and night;

my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and did not conceal my guilt.

6 I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”

Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

7 Therefore all the faithful will make your prayers to you in time of trouble;

when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

8 You are my hiding-place;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

Mark 10:17-27 (Revised English Bible):

As he was starting out on a journey, a stranger ran up, and, kneeling before him, asked,

Good Teacher, what must I do to win eternal life?

Jesus said to him,

Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments:  “Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not give false evidence; do not defraud; honour your father and your mother.”

He replied,

But Teacher, I have kept all these since I was a boy.

As Jesus looked at him, his heart warmed to him.

One thing you lack,

he said.

Go, sell everything you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.

At these words his face fell and he went away with a heavy heart; for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round at his disciples and said to them,

How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!

They were amazed that he should say this, but Jesus insisted.

Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

They were more astonished than ever, and said to one another,

Then who can be saved?

Jesus looked at them and said,

For men it is impossible, but not for God; everything is possible for God.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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A commonly-held First Century C.E. Jewish assumption was that the wealthy were closer to God than were common people.  Jesus refuted that point of view.

I have encountered an assumption that there is a checklist of holiness, and that, if one does enough good deeds, one will go to Heaven.  Jesus refuted that point of view, too.

A wealthy man who had observed many commandments asked Jesus, “Good Teacher, what must I do to win eternal life?”  Jesus told the man to abandon his security blanket, his wealth.  The rich man’s sin was the false assumption of self-sufficiency.  He needed to depend solely on God, a theme consistent with other material from Mark 10.

Then Jesus delivered a striking piece of hyperbole:  “It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”  The commentaries I have consulted agree that this most likely what is seems to be:  it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.  The Babylonian Talmud contains a similar expression about an elephant passing through the eye of a needle.

The rich man needed to cease to cling to his wealth to draw nearer to God.  To what do you cling?  What holds you back?  It is possible to draw nearer to God by grace.  Forgiveness and repentance are possible by grace.  And we need to cling only to God.

KRT

Week of 7 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 1   10 comments

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

Bad Priorities and Good Priorities

FEBRUARY 28, 2019

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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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Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 5:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Do not rely on your money

and say,

This makes me self-sufficient.

Do not yield to every impulse you can gratify

or follow the desires of your heart.

Do not say,

I have no master;

the Lord, you may be sure, will call you to account.

Do not say,

I have sinned, yet nothing happened to me;

it is only that the Lord is very patient.

Do not be so confident that of pardon

that you pile up sins on sin;

do not say,

His compassion is so great

he will pardon my sins, however many.

To him belong both mercy and anger,

and sinners feel the weight of his retribution.

Turn back to the Lord without delay,

and do not defer action from one day to the next;

for the Lord’s anger can suddenly pour out,

and at the time of reckoning you will perish.

Do not rely on ill-gotten gains,

for they will not avail on the day of calamity.

Psalm 1 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and the meditate on his law day and night.

3 They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither,

everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked;

they are like the chaff which the wind blows away.

5 Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

6 For the LORD knows the ways of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

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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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

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/good-priorities-and-bad-priorities/