Archive for the ‘February 5’ Category

Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Homeless (1890), by Thomas Kennington

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

FEBRUARY 5, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 58:5-9a

Psalm 112 (LBW) or Psalm 119:17-24 (LW)

1 Corinthians 2:1-5

Matthew 5:13-20

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Almighty God, you sent your only Son

as the Word of life for our eyes to see and our ears to listen. 

Help us to believe with joy what the Scriptures proclaim,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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O God, our loving Father, through the grace of your Holy Spirit,

you plant your gifts of your love

into the hearts of your faithful people. 

Grant to your servants soundness of mind and body,

so that they may love you with their whole strength

and with their whole heart do these things

that are pleasing in your sight;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Lutheran Worship (1982), 26

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In various contexts, from different times, the Bible proclaims a consistent message:  God cares deeply how people treat each other.  God commands care for the vulnerable and weak.  This message is not merely for individuals.  Rather, it is usually collective.

The context of Isaiah 58:5-9a is instructive.  That context was Jerusalem, circa 538 B.C.E.  The first wave of Jewish exiles had returned to their ancestral homeland and found it a troubled, drought-ridden place, not the verdant utopia some prophets had promised.  Second Isaiah reminded people who were feeling vulnerable to care for those who were more vulnerable.  Second Isaiah reminded people of mutuality and complete dependence on God, principles from the Law of Moses.

Jesus upheld the Law of Moses.  He criticized people who taught it badly and wrongly.

When we–collectively and individually–feel vulnerable and do not acknowledge our complete dependence on God, we may victimize or ignore the more vulnerable and the less fortunate.  When we–collectively and individually–do not feel vulnerable and do not acknowledge our complete dependence on God, we may victimize the more vulnerable and the less fortunate.  Either way, we–collectively and individually–may safeguard “me and mine” and endanger or ignore people God does notice.  There is another way, though.  We–collectively and individually–can notice those God notices.  And we–collectively and individually–can practice mutuality and the recognition of universal human dependence on God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 22, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN JULIAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER MEN, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1990

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN LAY, AMERICAN QUAKER ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT LADISLAO BATTHÁNY-STRATTMAN, AUSTRO-HUNGARIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PHYSICIAN AND PHILANTHROPIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT PALLOTTI, FOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY FOR THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, THE UNION OF CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE, AND THE SISTERS OF THE CATHOLIC APOSTOLATE

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Link to the corresponding link at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Faithful Servants of God, Part V

FEBRUARY 5, 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 life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Ecclesiastes 4:1-12 or Ezekiel 22:23-31

Psalm 6

Galatians 3:1-11

Matthew 5:13-21

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Peeking behind the Law of Moses is a spiritually helpful practice.  Some commandments in the Law of Moses are timeless principles.  Others, however, are culturally specific examples.  Failure to recognize between an example bound by time and space and a timeless principle leads to legalism.

Reading Galatians 3:1-11 and Matthew 5:13-20 together is quite helpful.  We read that Jesus never objected to the Law of Moses, but to the misinterpretation, bad teaching, and flawed execution of it.  That also seems to have been an objection of St. Paul the Apostle.

The other readings pertain to oppression.  We read of violations of one timeless principle in the Law of Moses–do not exploit anyone.  We read of religious figures and royal officials who were predators of the weak and vulnerable.  Alas, this problem is as current in 2018 as it was in antiquity.  So is the sin of certain religious figures supporting those predatory potentates and officials.

The timeless principles of the Law of Moses continue to condemn those who sin thusly.  Indeed, apart from variations on themes, there is nothing new under the sun.

Do we condemn or condone such perfidy?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/12/devotion-for-proper-3-year-a-humes/

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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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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, 2024

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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

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A   22 comments

Above:  A Forest Scene in the Morning

The Light of the World

FEBRUARY 5, 2023

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Isaiah 58:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Shout out, do not hold back!

Lift up your voice like a trumpet!

Announce to my people their rebellion,

to the house of Jacob their sins.

Yet day after day they seek me

and seek to know my ways,

as if they were a nation that practiced righteousness

and did not forsake the ordinance of their God;

they ask of me righteous judgments,

they delight to draw near to God.

Why do we fast, but you do not see?

Why humble ourselves, but you do not notice?

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day,

and oppress all your workers.

Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight

and to strike with a wicked fist.

Such fasting as you do today

will not make your voice heard on high.

Is such the fast that I choose,

a day to humble oneself?

Is it to bow down the head like a bulrush,

and to lie in sackcloth and ashes?

Will you call this a fast,

a day acceptable to the LORD?

Is not this the fast that I choose:

to loose the bonds of injustice,

to undo the thongs of the yoke,

to let the oppressed go free,

and to break every yoke?

Is it not to share your bread with the hungry,

and bring the homeless poor into your house;

when you see the naked, to cover them,

and not to hide yourself from your own kin?

Then your light shall break like the dawn,

and your healing shall spring up quickly;

your vindicator shall go before you,

the glory of the LORD shall be your rear guard.

Then you shall call, and the LORD will answer;

you shall cry for help, and he will say, Here I am.

If you remove the yoke from among you,

the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil,

if you offer your food to the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the afflicted,

then your light shall rise in the darkness

and your gloom be like the noonday.

The LORD will guide you continually,

and satisfy your needs in parched places,

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a parched garden,

like a spring of water,

whose waters never fail.

Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;

you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;

you shall be called the repairer of the breach,

the restorer of streets to live in.

Psalm 112 (New Revised Standard Version):

Praise the LORD!

Happy are those who fear the LORD,

who greatly delight in his commandments.

The descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

Wealth and riches are in their houses,

and their righteousness endures forever.

They rise in the darkness, as a light for the upright;

they are gracious, merciful, and righteous.

It is well with those who deal graciously and lend,

who conduct their affairs with justice.

For the righteous will never be moved;

they will be remembered forever.

They are not afraid of evil tidings;

their hearts are firm, secure in the LORD.

Their hearts are steady, they will not be afraid;

in the end they will look in triumph on their foes.

They have distributed freely, they have given to the poor;

their righteousness endures forever;

their horn is exalted in honor.

The wicked see it and are angry;

they gnash their teeth and melt away;

the desire of the wicked comes to nothing.

1 Corinthians 2:1-12, (13-16) (New Revised Standard Version):

When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.

Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. But, as it is written,

What no eye has seen, nor eye heard,

nor the human heart conceived,

what God has prepared for those who love him–

these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. For what human being knows what is truly human except the human spirit that is within? So also no one comprehends what is truly God’s except the Spirit of God. Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the gifts bestowed on us by God. [And we speak of these things in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual things to those who are spiritual.

Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.

For who has known the mind of the Lord

so as to instruct him?

But we have the mind of Christ.]

Matthew 5:13-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.

You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Once I concluded a Saturday afternoons-only World History II course with a classroom screening of The Battle of Algiers, the great Italian film about asymmetrical urban warfare between French and Algerian forces in Algiers, Algeria, in 1956 and 1957.  Filmed in 1965 and released the following year, this movie shows how French and Algerian forces took turns attacking each other, always with lethal results, often the death of innocent people who were merely in the wrong place at the wrong time.  One of my students commented during our discussion time that the cycle of violence was pointless.  She was correct.  Mohandas Gandhi stated that “an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” rule leads to a world full of blind and toothless people.

The readings for the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, flow naturally from those for the Fourth Sunday.  Likewise my thoughts for the Fifth Sunday fit well with those for the Fourth Sunday.  My thoughts for the Fifth Sunday are these:

To the extent that we are bound by our sins we have ourselves to blame.  The rope we use to tie up ourselves and each other most often is fear.  Many pundits, politicians, and well-meaning people who sit around “country kitchen” restaurant tables most mornings drinking coffee and pretending to solve the problems of the world tell us that we need to be afraid–very afraid.  They tell us to fear those who disagree with us, and not to cooperate with them, even on matters of agreement.  They say that we must fear those who are different from us, whether linguistically, racially, ethnically, culturally, or according to another criterion.

There are dangerous people in the world, of course, and therefore legitimate reasons for healthy fear.  Some people want to kill, wound, or maim others, for example.  Certain individuals lack any conscience.  They are truly bad men and women.  Yet in this devotion I write of irrational, ideological, destructive, and needless apprehension.  That is my focus for now.

So certain media outlets–such as websites, radio shows, and television programs and channels–attract large audiences and reap huge profit margins by scaring people and spreading rumors.  Some politicians spread lies, which many of their constituents are willing to believe.  And the common good suffers.

All this runs contrary to love.  When we cease to fear each other needlessly and begin listen to each other and to help each other as able we find that we have more in common than we might have suspected previously.  We realize that the other person is really human, too.  We discover common ground upon which to build and to enact actions for the common good.  Disagreements will continue, but they need not lead to hostility.  Besides, no mere mortal is correct or incorrect about everything.  And this can help facilitate righteousness and bring us closer to the mind of Christ.

KRT

Written on June 16, 2010