Archive for the ‘February 3’ Category

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

Icon of Aaron

Above:  Icon of Aaron

Image in the Public Domain

Leadership

FEBRUARY 3 and 4, 2022

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The Collect:

Most Holy God, the earth is filled with your glory,

and before you angels and saints stand in awe.

Enlarge our vision to see your power at work in the world,

and by your grace make us heralds of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 20:22-29 (Thursday)

Numbers 27:12-23 (Friday)

Psalm 138 (Both Days)

Acts 9:19b-25 (Thursday)

Acts 9:26-31 (Friday)

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The LORD will make good his purpose for me;

O LORD, your love endures for ever;

do not abandon the works of your hands.

–Psalm 138:9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Moses and Aaron had been leaders of the Israelite community in the desert for decades.  Both of them had, however, rebelled against God.  Their penalty was never to enter the Promised Land.  Aaron died, and a son became the next priest.  Moses passed the torch of leadership to Joshua son of Nun before dying.  God’s work continued via different people.

Saul of Tarsus had also rebelled against God before God intervened directly and Saul became St. Paul the Apostle, one of the greatest and most influential Christian theologians and evangelists.  The Apostle’s life after his conversion was much more hazardous than it had been prior to his fateful journey to Damascus.  Apart from biography, perhaps the greatest difference between Moses and Aaron on one hand and St. Paul on the other hand was that Moses and Aaron rebelled against God while on duty for God.  St. Paul was a reformed rebel.  Richard Elliott Friedman wrote,

Leaders of a congregation cannot violate the very instruction that they uphold and teach to others.

Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (2001), page 497

Or rather, they can violate that instruction yet may not do so.

A leader is one whom others follow.  If one thinks that one might be a leader, one should turn around and see if anybody is following one.  If no person is following one, one is merely walking.

With leadership comes the responsibility to lead well.  Among the best forms of leadership is setting a good example.  Hypocrisy creates scandal much of the time and weakens one’s ability to lead properly.  For example, one who condemns gambling (a good thing to criticize) yet frequents casinos or a casino and gets caught doing so justly loses credibility.

Are you a leader, O reader?  If so, may you lead well, as God directs you, for the glory of God and the benefit of those who follow you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/leadership/

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

Babylon

Above:  Ruins of Babylon, 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-13231

Getting On with Life

FEBRUARY 3, 2021

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The Collect:

Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence

and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.

Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion,

that all creation will see and know your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 29:1-14

Psalm 35:1-10

Mark 5:1-20

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Psalm 35 contains a prayer for divine action against one’s enemies.  In contrast, Jeremiah 29:7 offers the following advice to exiles in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire:

And seek the welfare of the city to which I have exiled you and pray to the LORD in its behalf; for in its prosperity you shall prosper.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That passage prompts me to recall the Pauline instruction to pray for those in authority,

that it may go well with you

and our Lord and Savior’s commandment to pray for one’s enemies and bless one’s persecutors.  Anger, when we direct it badly, leads to violence.  The way to break the cycle of violence is to reject it.  There is such a thing as righteous anger, which leads one to commit positive action, but anger is frequently not of the righteous variety.  And that kind of anger, like violence, is a spiritual toxin.

The pericopes from Jeremiah and Mark speak of the importance of getting on with life after one’s life circumstances have changed.  This continuation of living should glorify God, the readings tell us.  And how can we proceed in that vein if we are hauling emotional and spiritual baggage, such as resentment?  Yes, injustice abounds in the world.  And yes, we ought to oppose injustice properly as part of our Christian witness to the love of God for everyone.  Yet none of us is the ultimate judge or power; only God is.  May we, therefore, do the right things in the correct ways, trusting God and not becoming obsessed with that which we cannot change or underestimating how much we can, by grace, improve.  God will save the world, but we have a commandment to leave it better than we found it.

DECEMBER 1, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS FERRAR, ANGLICAN DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND CAMPION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIGIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/getting-on-with-life/

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

Cuci_tangan_pakai_sabun

Above:  Washing Hands With Soap

Image Source = Serenity

Deeds and Rituals

FEBRUARY 3 and 4, 2023

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The Collect:

Lord God, with endless mercy you receive

the prayers of all who call upon you.

By your Spirit show us the things we ought to do,

and give us the grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 29:1-12 (Friday)

Isaiah 29:13-16 (Saturday)

Psalm 112:1-9 [10] (both days)

James 3:13-18 (Friday)

Mark 7:1-8 (Saturday)

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Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

–Psalm 112:4-5, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Ritualism, in and of itself, is positive.  It, paired with lived faith in God–the kind of faith which finds expression in, among other things, an active concern for what James 3:18 (The New Jerusalem Bible) calls

a harvest of justice,

is consistent with the witness of Hebrew prophets who decried judicial and political corruption and economic exploitation.  In fact, the instructions for the house of worship in the Law of Moses indicate a space designed for ritualism.  But the Law of Moses (when it does not call for stoning people or reflect a negative view of female biology) speaks of lived holiness for the community.

Many activities are positive.  Among these is washing one’s hands before eating–certainly a sanitary action.  Yet sanitation was not the concern Jesus addressed in Mark 7.  No, our Lord and Savior discussed tradition for its own sake and the sake of making some people appear holier than others.  He knew that washing hands could not purify one’s self-righteous attitude.  So rituals ought not to function as totems, which people imagine vainly will protect them from the wrath of God or merely from the consequences of their bad deeds and sins of omission.

May each of us engage in good deeds and rituals.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD; AND SAINT JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF YORK, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF VIDA DUTTON SCUDDER, WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/deeds-and-rituals/

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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 3 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Historic American Sheet Music, “I’m goin’ to fight my way right back to Carolina”

Music B-633, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library

Image Source = Duke University via the Library of Congress

Discomfort and Holiness

FEBRUARY 3, 2023

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 14:1-21

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

Titus 2:7-3:15

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A Related Post:

A Franciscan Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-franciscan-blessing/

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My discomfort with Zechariah and Titus continues.  (See link.)  As for the former, God’s reign of holiness arrives only after rapes, battles, and plagues.  And, in Titus, instructions for slaves to obey their masters coexist with a beautiful summary of God’s saving love.  When one thinks that Christ might return soon, reforming one’s society and emancipating slaves seems unimportant, I suppose.  But that was nearly 2,000 years ago.  History has rendered its verdict, has it not?

To be holy is to be “called out.”  In the name of being holy many people have committed and/or condoned violence.  In the name of being holy many people have looked down upon their neighbors.  In the name of being holy many people have obsessed over minor details–such as ritually pure pots, long skirts, and short hair–while ignoring social injustice, such as racism and economic exploitation.

The kindness and love of God our Saviour for humanity (Titus 3:4, The New Jerusalem Bible)

requires us to move, by grace, toward thinking of our fellow human beings in those terms.  Thus the length of a skirt or one’s hair ought to matter less than whether the courts are corrupt or economic exploitation is a current problem.    I think of Philip Yancey’s comments about the Bible college he attended in the 1960s.  Civil rights were not on the agenda, but his hair had to be short and women’s skirts had to be long.  And, judging from pictures of Jesus, the Lord’s haircut would have kept him out of the college.

Holiness ought to be a high standard, not a petty one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED LEE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF ALAN PATON, NOVELIST AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM OF OCKHAM, PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/discomfort-and-holiness/

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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 4 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  An Orthodox Icon of King Solomon

Promises and Conditions

FEBRUARY 3, 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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1 Kings 2:1-4, 10-12 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

When David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon his son, saying,

I am about to the way of all the earth.  Be strong, and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn; that the LORD may establish his word which he spoke concerning me, saying, “If your sons take heed of their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a man on the throne of Israel.”

Then David slept with his fathers, and was buried in the city of David.  And the time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years at Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem.  So Solomon sat upon the throne of David his father; and his kingdom was firmly established.

Psalm 132:10-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10  For your servant David’s sake,

do not turn away the face of your Anointed.

11  The LORD has sworn an oath to David;

in truth, he will not break it:

12  “A son, the fruit of your body

will I set upon your throne.

13  If your children keep my covenant

and my testimonies that I shall teach them,

their children will sit upon your throne for evermore.”

14  For the LORD has chosen Zion;

he has desired her for his habitation:

15  “This shall be my resting-place for ever;

here will I dwell, for I delight in her.

16  I will surely bless her provisions,

and satisfy her poor with bread.

17  I will clothe her priests with salvation,

and her faithful people will rejoice and sing.

18  There will I make the horn of David flourish;

I have prepared a lamp for my Anointed.

19  As for his enemies, I will clothe them with shame;

but as for him, his crown will shine.”

Mark 6:7-13 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he called to him the Twelve, and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits.  He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics.  And he said to them,

Where you enter a house, stay there until you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet for a testimony against them.

So they went out and preached that men should repent.  And they cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many that were sick and healed them.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; 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 4 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/week-of-4-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/week-of-proper-20-wednesday-year-1/

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We have come to the end of David’s story, according to 1 Samuel, 2 Samuel, and 1 Kings.  David gives happy, righteous advice in the portion from 1 Kings 2 the Canadian Anglican lectionary specifies.  But open a Bible and read 1 Kings 2:5-9, in which the dying king advises Solomon to kill Joab, or as the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition renders one line, “not let his gray head go down to Sheol in peace” (6b).  “Obey God,” David says, “and kill Joab very soon.”  I do not feel better.

Anyhow, it is vital to understand the nature of 1 and 2 Kings.  As Ziony Zevit wrote in the introduction to 1 Kings in The Jewish Study Bible,

Kings is not a history in the contemporary sense of the word, that is, a factual description of past events and an explanation for their occurence that a modern reader might expect.  It is, in the main, an extended theological essay, written by a person of persons with passionately held beliefs, convinced that the destruction of the Northern Kingdom and the fall of the southern one were due to the misguided policies of their kings.  The author described past events selectively, commenting or summarizing them as illustrations that he believed they taught.

The author maintained that the LORD, the God of history, made His will known to Israel with regard to specific key issues, that punishments are preceded by warnings through prophets, and that people are responsible for the consequences of their choices.  He further maintained that kings were responsible for the fate of their people.  For him, it was axiomatic that those ruling over the tribes of Israel were obligated to maintain the centrality of the Jerusalem Temple as the unique place where offerings acceptable to God might be made and to eliminate the illegitimate worship of any deity other than the LORD.  The author’s composition demonstrated how all northern and most southern kings failed to follow their obligations and how all adversity, from minor disasters to the final catastrophe, followed as a consequence of this failure.  (Page 669)

I side with the existence of authors, not a single author, by the way, but let us not quibble.  Rather, may we focus on the main idea.

And what is the main idea?  Thank you for asking.  The main idea is that, according to 1 and 2 Kings, originally one book on two scrolls, Solomon laid the foundation for the division of the kingdom after his death and the downfall of each successor kingdom.  We will get to details as the lectionary takes the grand tour of 1 Kings during the Weeks of 4 Epiphany and 5 Epiphany (at this weblog, obviously) and Propers 5, 6, and 7 (at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS, to which I plan to return after updating this weblog for this church year then doing the same for LENTEN AND EASTER DEVOTIONS).  There will also be a healthy sampling of major and minor prophets, an understanding of whose writings and dictations depends on a grasp of the books of Samuel and Kings.

The key aspect of 1 Kings 2 to remember is that the promise of God to fulfill the promise to David was conditional.  The Davidic line would not end if members of it it governed properly.  “If” is a very big word, despite consisting of only two letters.

There is an application for you, O reader, and for me today.  God loves us always; nothing can change that.  But an overly indulgent parent is a bad one, hence the necessity of proper discipline.  We err, and we reap consequences of our actions, but God gives us another chance.  What will we do with it?  Also, our choices will affect others, for we are social creatures.  So our decisions are not purely individual.  What will we decide?  Whatever it is, may it be wise.

I dwell on the social justice end of the Christian spectrum.  My Lord and Savior has commanded me to love my neighbor as I love myself.  This entails caring about my neighbors’ needs then acting, as I am able and circumstances present opportunities.  It is no accident that the U.S. Civil Rights Movement was related closely to many churches in the Twentieth Century and Abolitionism to Christian work in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries.  Morality consists of far more than being careful of what one does and with whom, although that is part of it.  Moral living is inherently public, concerned with those Jesus called “the least of these.”

In the 1990s I read an interesting news story in an early 1980s issue of The Christian Century.  Staffers of the denominational headquarters of the Church of Brethren, one of the historic peace churches, pooled the money they received from the Reagan tax cuts.  They bought thirty pieces of silver and mailed them to the White House with a letter protesting increased military spending and decreased funding for social programs.  They received a bland letter thanking them for their concern. At least they spoke up.  Their example remains germane in the United States of June 2011, when I write these words.

The greatest failure of most of the kings of Israel and Judah was that they did not act in the best interests of their poor and vulnerable subjects.  Instead, they sought dubious foreign alliances, some of which backfired terribly, wasted their money on foreign wars, and delivered the bill for all this to those who could least afford to pay.  If this sounds contemporary and scary, it is.

KRT

Week of 4 Epiphany: Friday, Year 1   14 comments

Above:  The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, by Caravaggio, 1608

God is With the Righteous (Even When Appearances Seem to Indicate Otherwise)

FEBRUARY 3, 2023

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

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Hebrews 13:1-8 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Let brotherly love continue.  Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained angels unawares.  Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them; and those who are ill-treated, since you also are in the body.  Let marriage be held in honor among all, and let the marriage bed be undefiled; for God will judge the immoral and adulterous.  Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have; for he has said,

I will never fail you or forsake you.

Hence we can confidently say,

The Lord is my helper,

I will not be afraid;

what can man do to me?

Remember your leaders, those who spoke to you the word of God; consider the outcome of their life, and imitate their faith.  Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and for ever.

Psalm 27:1-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom shall I be afraid?

2 When evildoers came upon me to eat up my flesh,

it was they, my foes and my adversaries, who stumbled and fell.

3 Though an army should encamp against me,

yet my heart shall not be afraid;

4 And though war should rise up against me,

yet will I put my trust in him.

5 One thing I asked of the LORD;

one thing I seek;

that I may dwell in the house of the LORD all the days of my life;

6 To behold the fair beauty of the LORD

and to seek him in his temple.

7 For in the day of trouble he shall keep me safe in his shelter;

he shall hide me in the secrecy of his dwelling

and set me high upon a rock.

8 Even now he lifts up my head

above my enemies round about me.

9 Therefore I will offer in his dwelling an oblation with sounds of great gladness;

I will sing and make music to the LORD.

10 Hearken to my voice, O LORD, when I call;

have mercy on me and answer me.

11 You speak in my heart and say, “Seek my face.”

Your face, LORD, will I seek.

12 Hide not your face from me,

nor turn away your servant in displeasure.

13 You have been my helper;

cast me not away;

do not forsake me, O God of my salvation.

Mark 6:14-29 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known.  Some said,

John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.

But others said,

It is Elijah.

And others said,

It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.

But when Herod heard of it he said,

John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.

For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife.  And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him.  But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe.  When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.  But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee.  For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl,

Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.

And he vowed to her,

Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.

And she went out, and said to her mother,

What shall I ask?

And she said,

The head of John the Baptist.

And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying,

I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.  And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head.  He went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.  When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; 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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A link to my thoughts for the Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist (August 29):  

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-martyr-august-29/

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The reading from Hebrews is pleasant enough.  It contains sage advice on how we can live together harmoniously in society before it makes the famous statement about the unchanging nature of Christ.  The portion of the psalm is pleasant, also, reinforcing the excerpt from Hebrews.

Then we arrive at the Gospel reading, which tells of disturbing events.  The author of Mark has framed the execution of St. John the Baptist as a flashback.  The present day of the reading has Herod Antipas, the Roman client ruler of the Galilee, hearing about the wonders of Jesus and thinking that St. John the Baptist, whom he has had killed, has risen from the dead.  The flashback part of the story tells of how Herod Antipas had married Herodias, the niece of his late half-brother, Alexander, and former wife of his brother, Philip Herod I.  (Think then, what that makes Salome, the daughter of Herodias, in relation to Herod Antipas, other than daughter-in-law.)  St. John the Baptist is in prison for speaking the truth, which is that this marriage is incestuous.  Herodias is spiteful and capable of murder; Herod Antipas, who leers erotically at Salome’s dancing, is more concerned with notions of public honor than sparing a life; and Salome seems to be a willing pawn in her mother’s plot.

I wonder how much better events would have played out had Herodias, Salome, and Herod Antipas lived in accordance with the advice in Hebrews 13:1-8.  That text did not exist at the time, but the principles did.

The text of Psalm 27 says that God protects the faithful, but St. John the Baptist died the way he did.  What are we supposed to make of this?  The theology in some of the psalms is overly simplistic, if not optimistic, in places:  God will protect the faithful, the righteous will prosper, and the evil will meet their doom.  But have you looked around the world recently or read history?  Liars and cheaters win, courts convict both the innocent and the guilty, both the righteous and the unrighteous prosper and stumble, and dictators execute political prisoners.  Perhaps the most generous assessment of some of the theology of Psalms (and Proverbs) is that it is true in the long term, perhaps even the afterlife.

Back in this life, meanwhile, evil wins much of the time.

But, as Voltaire wrote, “Man is free at the moment he wishes to be.”  Consider the cases of jailed civil rights activists in the Deep South of the United States in the 1960s.  These were nonviolent people who challenged the racial status quo.  For their troubles local authorities arrested and jailed them.  Without resorting to unpleasant and graphic details, I assure you, O reader, that Southern jails, especially in Mississippi, were hellholes and places where guards delighted in humiliating these brave men and women.  Yet faith lifted the spirits of these incarcerated activists.  Many prisoners sang so much and so happily that they irritated and angered those who had jailed them.  They were incarcerated, yet they were free because they chose to be free and because they tapped into their deep faith.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who has retired recently from public life, tells the story of a Nazi guard and a Jew during the Holocaust.  The guard was forcing the Jew to clean an especially disgusting toilet.  “Where is your God now?”  the guard asked the Jew.  “With me in the muck,” the Jew replied.

Where was God when St. John the Baptist was languishing in prison and as he died?  God was with the saint.  And where was God when the guards raped and humiliated civil rights activists during the 1960s?  God was with the activists.  Jesus said that many would suffer for the sake of righteousness, but that they would not be alone.  This promise holds true today, despite any appearances to the contrary.

Here ends the lesson.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/god-is-with-the-righteous-even-when-appearances-seem-to-indicate-otherwise/