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

Millet_Gleaners

Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

Image in the Public Domain

Mutual Responsibility and Faithful Actions

FEBRUARY 3-5, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:1-18 (Monday)

Ruth 2:1-16 (Tuesday)

Ruth 3:1-13; 4:13-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 37:1-17 (all days)

Philemon 1-25 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:17-26 (Wednesday)

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Be still before the Lord and wait for him;

do not fret over those that prosper as they follow their evil schemes.

Refrain from anger and abandon wrath;

do not fret let you be moved to do evil.

–Psalm 37:7-8, Common Worship (2000)

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And sometimes one ought to act faithfully, not just be still faithfully.  In the case of the Book of Ruth, for example, people were active, not passive.  There was more going on than children’s Sunday School lessons (and even many, if not most, adult Sunday School lessons) admit, for that activity entailed seduction before love became a reality.  As Jennifer Wright Knust writes in Unprotected Texts:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved immigrant daughter-in-law, women can easily raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

–page 33

And, as Krust writes on page 35, the emotional bond and subsequent covenant between Ruth and Naomi helped both of them and Israel as a whole.  I add that it has helped many subsequent generations all over the world due its role in the genealogy of Jesus.

Family–not in the sense of marriage or ancestry–unites the readings for these three days.  The ethic of mutual responsibility (part of the Law of Moses) runs through the New Testament also.  The more fortunate, who ought not to depend on their wealth in lieu of God, have responsibilities to the less fortunate.  Philemon had responsibilities to Onesimus, who was not necessarily a slave or even a fugitive.  (A very close reading of the text–one passage in particular–in the Greek raises serious questions about the traditional understanding).

This notion of mutual responsibility and the opinion of wealth one finds in Luke and James are profoundly counter-cultural in my North American setting, where rugged individualism and the quest for wealth are accepted values.  Yet with mutual responsibility comes inderdependence.  And the quest for enough wealth for one’s present and future needs, although laudable, becomes insatiable greed for some people.  Such greed is socially destructive, denying others enough.  There is always enough for everyone in God’s economy; scarcity is a feature of human, sinful economic systems.

May we, by grace, act faithfully and effectively to reduce such sinfulness where we are.  And, if we have not fallen into greed, may we not do so.  If we have, may we confess and repent of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILFRED THOMASON GRENFELL, MEDICAL MISSIONARY TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST; AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY, ECONOMIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/mutual-responsibility-and-faithful-actions/

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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, 2022

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

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

Tagged with

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: Wednesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:   Esau Selling His Birthright, by Hendrick ter Bruggen, c. 1627

Missing Grace–Or Not

FEBRUARY 3, 2021

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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 12:4-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

In your struggle against sin you have not resisted to the point of shedding your blood.  And have you forgotten the exhortations which address you as sons?–

My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,

nor lose courage when you are punished by him.

For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves,

and chastises every son whom he receives.

It is for discipline that you have to endure.  God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?  If you are left without discipline, then you are illegitimate children and not sons.  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them.  Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live?  For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness.  For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Therefore lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees, and make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.  See to it that no one fail to obtain the grace of God; that no “root of bitterness” spring up and cause trouble, and by it the many become defiled; that no one be immoral or irreligious like Esau, who sold his birthright for a single meal.  For you know that afterward, when he desired to inherit the blessing, he was rejected, for he found no chance to repent, though he sought it with tears.

Psalm 103:1-2, 13-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

14 For he himself knows whereof we are made;

he remembers that we are but dust.

15 Our days are like the grass;

we flourish like a flower in the field;

16 When the wind goes over it, it is gone,

and its place shall know it no more.

17 But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on those who fear him,

and his righteousness on children’s children;

18 On those who keep his covenant

and remember his commandments and do them.

Mark 6:1-6 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

He went away from there and came to his own country; and his disciples followed him.  And on the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue; and many who heard him were astonished, saying,

Where did this man get all this?  What is the wisdom given to him?  What mighty works are wrought by his hands!  Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?

And they took offense at him.  And Jesus said to him,

A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house.

And he could not do mighty work there, except that he laid hands upon a few sick people and healed them.  And he marveled because of their unbelief.

And he went about among the villages teaching.

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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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The 1972 revised edition of the J. B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English states in Mark 6:6, “…their lack of faith astonished him.”  In the Gospel According to Mark, Jesus has done astonishing deeds of late.  He has exorcised a legion of demons, doomed a herd of swine, raised a girl from the dead, and healed a woman afflicted with a menstrual hemorrhage.  Jesus has been welcome in most places, except the town where he cured the man with the legion.  Jesus has astonished people, some of whom have rejected him because, not in spite of, what he has done.  And now, in his hometown, Nazareth, Jesus encounters a lack of faith and works few miracles.  Townspeople recognize who he his and what he has done, but they cannot reconcile the cognitive dissonance between knowing Jesus as a younger person and hearing about what he has been doing recently.  And Jesus was the astonished person.  He found their lack of faith astonishing.

A cliche states that “familiarity breeds contempt.”  This is true much of the time, but I propose that we are often not as familiar with others as we think we are.  Certainly, the denizens of Nazareth did not Jesus as well as they thought they did.  And note the tone of hostility; they called him a “son of Mary,” not “of Joseph.”  There were long-standing rumors of Jesus’ paternity, and I wonder how Joseph, Mary, and Jesus stood it all those years.

Hostile and faithless residents of Nazareth missed grace when grace stood in their midst.  They saw it yet failed to recognize it.  They were too busy clinging to whispered rumors and old memories.

Genesis 25:28-34 an 27:1-39 tells how Esau, who had sold his birthright for a meal, realized the depth of his error yet failed to reverse it.  The author of the Letter to the Hebrews makes the plain point that Esau, who had put the needs of his body first, had thrown away a great promise.  Later he sought an opportunity for repentance–literally, turning around or changing one’s mind–but he had to live with the consequences of his actions.  He was not beyond forgiveness, but the toothpaste was already out of the tube.  That was that.  So Esau, by his own bad decision, missed some grace.

Each of us has missed some grace because of bad decisions.  Yet we remain within the bounds of forgiveness, if we ask.  We can learn from our mistakes and those of others.  Furthermore, repentance remains an option in many circumstances.  So let us focus on the positive, on the possibilities for living in grace.  But this requires faith in God.  The townspeople of Nazareth saw Jesus among them yet rejected him.  I write nearly 20 centuries later, and I choose each day to continue to accept him.  I hope that, in my familiarity with the Bible and other traditions of Christianity, I do not miss something essential.  Maybe I do not know as much as I think I do.  May God, by grace, help me to see more clearly.

I know for a fact that I see more clearly today than I did just a few years ago.  The discipline in Hebrews is suffering.  I have made some bad choices, mostly out of ignorance.  I have been too trusting sometimes.  In 2007, I faced potential legal ramifications (which did not come to pass) and suffered emotional and spiritual distress because of certain past associations.  I learned immediately to be less trusting of some people.  And I learned, through suffering, to be more patient with others, less judgmental toward others, more humble with regard to myself, and more trusting in God.  Discipline accomplished its goal, and I am a better person for it, but I have no desire to repeat the process.

This discipline was simply the consequences of my actions, not God, like Zeus, throwing a thunderbolt in my direction.  Actions have consequences, and they must play out.  How we handle the situation determines whether we fall into the same category into which the author of Hebrews placed Esau.  He spent the rest of his days weeping over his loss.  May you and I gain more than we have lost and find discipline to be the beginning of a new, better start in Christ.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/missing-grace-or-not/