Archive for the ‘February 5’ Category

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

Othniel

Above:  Othniel

Image in the Public Domain

Turning Toward God

FEBRUARY 5, 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:

Judges 3:7-11

Psalm 138

Luke 4:42-44

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Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;

you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand shall save me.

–Psalm 138:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That verse from Psalm 138 works well in a lectionary with his pericope from Judges 3, the story of chieftain Othniel of Kerizzite.  Living among and intermarrying with polytheistic Gentiles had led to idolatry and other offenses, the text tells us, and King Cushan-rishathaim (literally “Dark double-wickedness”) of Aram-naharaim (in upper Mesopotamia) oppressed the Israelites.  The people cried out to God, who selected Othniel to liberate them, and peace and holiness reigned for a few decades, until people repeated the cycle.

Repentance is turning around spiritually–something which proved to be a temporary turn for many people in the Book of Judges.  Is that not an accurate description for many of we mere mortals?  We turn away from sin and toward God then turn away from God again.  Repentance was among the components of our Lord and Savior’s teaching.  Repentance remains a germane topic, for human nature, with all of its virtues and vices, is constant over time.

May we, by grace, turn 180 degrees toward God and remain there, not turn 180 degrees again, thereby returning to where we had been before we repented.

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/turning-toward-god/

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

Icon of Job

Above:  Icon of Job

Image in the Public Domain

Free to Act Faithfully and Compassionately

FEBRUARY 4 and 5, 2021

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The Collect:

Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint.

Make us agents of your healing and wholeness,

that your good may be made known to the ends your creation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 12:10-21 (Thursday)

Job 36:1-23 (Friday)

Psalm 147:1-11, 20 (Both Days)

Galatians 5:2-15 (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 9:1-16 (Friday)

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He  heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

–Psalm 147:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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One important task to perform while reading and inwardly digesting the Book of Job is to remember who is speaking at a given point.  Consider, O reader, Elihu.  He was an original part of the poem, and he rehashed arguments of the three main alleged friends, who also blamed the victim.  These four characters could not accept that the titular character had done nothing to deserve his circumstances of suffering.  They were correct some of the time regarding aspects of their cases, but they proceeded from a false assumption.

One is repaid in kind for one’s sinful deeds.

–Proverbs 12:14b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Yet the Book of Job tells us that Job did not suffer because of any sin.  No, the narrative tells us, God permitted the suffering as a test of loyalty.

Sometimes circumstances challenge our preconceptions and theological soundbites.  May we recall that we are free in God to love God and to care for each other, not to win theological arguments.  Alleged orthodoxy means far less than sound orthopraxy.

Here ends the lesson, O reader.  Go forth to love your neighbor as yourself, bearing his or her burdens, weeping with those who weep, and rejoicing with those who rejoice.  Be agents of divine grace to those to whom God sends you and whom God sends to you.

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/free-to-act-faithfully-and-compassionately/

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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 5 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Saint John in the Wilderness, by Thomas Cole

Job and John, Part II:  Integrity

FEBRUARY 5, 2022

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 2:1-3:10

Psalm 42 (Morning)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening)

John 1:19-34

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Job could have cursed God, with some justification.  The Book of Job does tell us that God sanctioned Job’s sufferings.  Yet Job cursed the day of his birth.  And John the Baptist could have identified himself as the Chosen One of God.  Many people would not have known the difference between such a claim and the truth.  Yet each figure acted according to an internalized sense of integrity.

How we behave when few others would know truth from fiction or nobody is watching indicates much about our integrity.  This principle extends far beyond individualistic issues; it applies to questions such as how our actions affect the environment.  (Environmental stewardship is a biblical mandate.)  And the problems of others are also ours, as ours are theirs.  We human beings are social creatures, thus what one person does affects others.  Simply striving to treat others as people who bear the image of God (which they are) can lead one to violate social conventions and cause trouble for one.  As a student of civil rights history, I know that segregation was the social order in the South.  Thus resisting it could be risky, to state the case mildly.

The highest state of morality is following internalized morality instead of the consensus.  May you, O reader, demonstrate integrity and morality of the highest order.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMENEGILD, VISIGOTHIC PRINCE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN BISHOP OF TALLINN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/job-and-john-part-ii-integrity/

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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: Saturday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  The Court of Solomon

Legacies and Opportunities

FEBRUARY 5, 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 3:3-15 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of David his father; only he sacrificed and burnt incense at the high places.  And the king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the great high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings upon that altar.  At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said,

Ask what I shall give you.

And Solomon said,

You have shown great and merciful love to your servant David my father, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart before you; and you have kept for him this great and merciful love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne this day.  And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of David my father, although I am but a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in.  And your servant is in the midst of your people whom you have chosen, a great people, that cannot be numbered or counted for multitude.  Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil; for who is able to govern this great people of yours?

It pleased the LORD that Solomon had asked this.  And God said to him,

Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches or the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, behold, I now do according to your word.  Behold, I give you a wise and discerning mind, so that none like you has been before you and none like you shall arise after you.  I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that no other king shall compare with you, all your days.  And if you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your days.

And Solomon awoke, and behold, it was a dream.  Then he came to Jerusalem, and stood before the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and offered up burnt offerings and peace offerings, and made a feast for all his servants.

Psalm 119:9-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

9  How shall a young man cleanse his way?

By keeping to your words.

10  With my whole heart I seek you;

let me not stray from your commandments.

11  I treasure your promise in my heart,

that I may not sin against you.

12  Blessed are you, O LORD;

instruct me in your statutes.

13  With my lips will I recite

all the judgments of your mouth.

14  I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees

than in all manner of riches.

15  I will meditate on your commandments

and give attention to your ways.

16  My delight is in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

Mark 6:30-34 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

The apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.  And he said to them,

Come away by yourselves to a quiet place, and rest a while.

For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.  And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves.  Now many saw them going, and knew them, and they ran there on foot from all the towns, and got there ahead of them.  As he landed he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

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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:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-4-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

Matthew 14 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/proper-13-year-a/

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This famous account, actually a dream sequence, occurs at the beginning of Solomon’s nearly forty-year reign.  It is a significant dream, unlike the few which I have and recall afterward.  Those dreams I do remember usually fall into the category of “My brain was blowing off steam and conflating events, occasionally with science fiction.”  I seem to do my best thinking while conscious.

Solomon, however, seemed to do better while unconscious.  Already, in 1 Kings 2, he has killed a half-brother, a rival for the throne.  And, later in 1 Kings, Solomon will have severe lapses in judgment, usually involving the intersection of women and foreign relations.  Solomon, the son, stood in the shadow of his father, whom he surpassed in some ways.  And, after Solomon, the kingdom went downhill, largely due to his policies regarding building projects, labor, and taxation to fund these.

Solomon should have stayed on the path of wisdom.  His father, David, was tending sheep when the prophet Samuel arrived under the cover story of coming to sacrifice to the LORD–with Jesse and the sons.  King David, when he did his job well, was a good national shepherd.  This was Solomon’s vocation, one at which he failed on a large scale.  He could have said what King Louis XV of France did:  “After me, the deluge.”  Rehoboam fared better than did Louis XVI, but the kingdom of Saul, David, and Solomon did come apart.

I cannot help but think about all of this when reading 1 Kings 3.  Solomon had an opportunity to do well, but he squandered it.  The fact of his existence indicated that his father had really strayed from the laws of God at times, but none of that mattered in 1 Kings 3.  Solomon had a golden opportunity, and meant well at the time, but….

May we recognize opportunities God grants us, seek to use them for the common good, and, by grace, succeed.  Mindful of human weaknesses and the corresponding need for support and encouragement, may we uphold each other in these vocations.  And may we, who are not in positions of power, pray for those who are, that they may know good from evil, wise from foolish, and choose the the good and the wise, and act accordingly, for the common good.

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 5, 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 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/