Archive for the ‘February 8’ Category

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

Donkeys

Above:  Donkeys, Lancaster County, Nebraska, 1938

Photographer = John Vachon

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF33-T01-001266-M4

Righteousness and Self-Righteousness

FEBRUARY 8 and 9, 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:

1 Samuel 9:15-10:1b (Tuesday)

Isaiah 8:1-15 (Wednesday)

Psalm 115 (Both Days)

1 Timothy 3:1-9 (Tuesday)

Luke 5:27-32 (Wednesday)

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Not to us, O LORD, not to us,

but to your Name give glory;

because of your love and because of your faithfulness.

–Psalm 115:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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As I heard growing up, God does not call the qualified.  No, God qualifies the called.  King Saul came from the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest of the twelve tribes of Israel.  He was self-conscious of this fact.  In 1 Timothy 3 not being puffed up is among the qualifications for being a bishop.  All that we have comes from God, whom alone people should revere and hold in sacred awe.

Self-righteousness is something to avoid.  Each of us is sinful and broken.  The tax collectors (who lived off that they stole from their fellow countrymen and women in excess of the tax rates) and other sinners were no more or less sinful and broken than the scribes and Pharisees who criticized Jesus for dining with them.  The major difference seems to have been that some broken sinners were conscious of their brokenness and sinfulness while others were not.

Tradition can be useful and beautiful; it frequently is just that.  There are, however, bad traditions as well as good traditions which have become outdated or which apply in some settings yet not in others.  Even good traditions can become spiritually destructive if one uses them in that way.  A holy life is a positive goal, but certain ways of pursuing it are negative.  Defining oneself as a member of the spiritual elite and others as the great unwashed–as people to shun–is negative.  Pretending that one is more righteous than one is leads one to overlook major flaws in oneself while criticizing others for major and minor flaws.

Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your neighbor, “Let me take the speck out of your eye,” while the log is in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your neighbor’s eye.

–Matthew 7:3-5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Here ends the lesson.

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/righteousness-and-self-righteousness/

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

Elisha and the Shunamite Woman

Above:  Elisha and the Shumanite Woman, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Image in the Public Domain

Grace, Outsiders, and Theological Humility

FEBRUARY 8 and 9, 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:

2 Kings 4:8-17, 32-37 (Monday)

2 Kings 8:1-6 (Tuesday)

Psalm 102:12-28 (Both Days)

Acts 14:1-7 (Monday)

Acts 15:36-41 (Tuesday)

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He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless;

he will not despise their plea.

–Psalm 102:17, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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A childless woman bore shame during the time in which Elisha lived.  This was, of course, wrong, but it was her reality.  The story of one such woman, as we find it in 2 Kings 4 and 8, was one of repeated graces–a successful pregnancy, the raising of her dead son, advice to flee ahead of a seven-year-long drought, and, as a widow, restoration of property and income.  Her end, without help, would have been unfortunate.  For example, a widow was especially vulnerable in the Hebrew society of the time.

Widows and barren women were marginalized figures.  So were Gentiles, according to many Jews at the time of St. Paul the Apostle, who was always a Jew.  Christianity began as a Jewish sect.  Indeed, the separation from Judaism was incomplete until 135 C.E., during the Second Jewish War.  The parting of the ways was in progress by the late 60s and early-to-middle 70s C.E., the timeframe for the writing of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the four canonical Gospels.  (Thus those religious politics influenced the telling of the stories of Jesus and the twelve Apostles.)  The inclusion of Gentiles and the terms of how that happened caused much controversy within Judaism, Christian and otherwise.  The pericope from Acts 15:36-41 glosses over a fact which St. Paul mentioned in Galatians 2:11-14:  St. Barnabas sided with those who insisted that Gentile converts become Jews first.  Such a position, St. Paul wrote, nullified the grace of God (Galatians 2:21).

Today we read accounts of help for the marginalized.  These people were among the marginalized because other people defined them as such.  This definition labeled people as either insiders or outsiders, for the benefit of the alleged insiders.  I suspect, however, that God’s definition of “insider” is broader than many human understandings have held and do hold.  We humans continue to label others as outsiders for the benefit of the “insiders,” as they define themselves.  Grace remains scandalous, does it not?  And, as Luke Timothy Johnson has said, the Gospel of Mark suggests that many of those who think of themselves as insiders are really outsiders.

I reject Universalism on the side of too-radical inclusion and a range of narrow definitions of who is pure on the opposite side.  The decision about who is inside and who is outside, of who is pure and who is impure, is one for God alone.  We mere mortals have partial answers regarding that question, for we are not totally lacking in received wisdom.  Yet we tend to use the matter as a way of making ourselves feel better about ourselves much of the time.  Often we lapse into a version of the Donatist heresy, in fact.  We ought to live more graciously and with theological humility instead, for we are all broken, weak, and inconstant.  Each of us depends entirely upon grace.  So who are we to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/grace-outsiders-and-theological-humility/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Fifth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

05958v

Above:  Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Window, “I Am the Light of the World,” After William Holman Hunt

Window Designed by J. & R. Lamb Studios, Circa 1907

Image Source = Library of Congress

Responsibility to Others

FEBRUARY 8, 2023

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The Collect:

Lord God, with endless mercy you receive

the prayers of all who call upon you.

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

and give us the grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 6:6-23

Psalm 119:105-112

John 8:12-30

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The wicked have laid a snare for me,

but I have not strayed from your commandments.

–Psalm 119:110, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The reading from Proverbs 6 contains maxims regarding how to and how not to behave toward others ethically.  None of our actions affect just us, for, as John Donne told us centuries ago,

No man is an island.

So we ought to consider carefully how our attitudes, which fuel our actions and inactions, affect those around us.  They are, after all, our neighbors.  And God is watching us.

Sometimes our perfidy–even violence or threats or promises thereof–flow from the motivation to confirm in our own imaginations our illusory righteousness.  Those whose words and mere existence make plain our wretchedness offend us, so they threaten our self-images.  And we might, if we are honest with ourselves, know this to be true.  Nevertheless, acknowledging our sin and repenting of it is more difficult than deepening that sin.  But we must, if we are to obey God, do the former, not the latter.

May we not sacrifice others on the altar of our ego structures or anything else.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 17, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN ARTISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT IGNATIUS OF ANTIOCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JULIA WARD HOWE, ABOLITIONIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/responsibility-to-others/

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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 7 and 8 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends

Job and John, Part IV:  Ideology

FEBRUARY 7 and 8, 2023

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 4:1-21 (February 7)

Job 5:1-27 (February 8)

Psalm 97 (Morning–February 7)

Psalm 51 (Morning–February 8)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–February 7)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening–February 8)

John 2:1-12 (February 7)

John 2:13-25 (February 8)

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I have combined the readings for February 7 and 8 to keep Eliphaz the Temanite material together.  Doing this has another effect:  keeping miracle at Cana and the Johannine account of the cleansing of the Temple together.  Shall we proceed?

Job had bad excuses for friends.  Exhibit A is Eliphaz the Temanite, who defended his concept of God by insisting that Job must have done something to warrant suffering.  After all, in Eliphaz’s view, the good prospered and the bad suffered.  This was demonstrably false theology.  Just look around:  Truly bad people prosper and morally sound people suffer.  The Gospel of John, like all canonical Gospels, written from a post-Resurrection perspective, places a prediction of our Lord’s suffering at the beginning of our Lord’s suffering at the beginning of the text.  If Eliphaz was correct, Jesus should not have suffered.  But he did.  So Eliphaz was incorrect.

There is more to John 2:1-25.  The story of the miracle at Cana speaks of extravagance.  In Jesus, it tells us, was something new–well, old really–but new relative to the perspective of the people at the time–and unstinting.  This was not a rejection of Judaism; rather it emerged from Judaism.  Jesus was, after all, a practicing Jew.  Yet the cleansing of the Temple–placed at the beginning of our Lord’s ministry in John, in contrast to the Synoptic chronology–did indicate a rejection of the Temple system, which placed undue burdens on those who could least afford them.  Money changers profited from the religious imperative to exchange idolatrous Roman currency before buying a sacrificial animal.  But Jesus was the ultimate sacrifice in time.

The character of Eliphaz the Temanite experienced cognitive dissonance over Job’s sufferings.  Eliphaz resolved that dissonance by doubling down on his ideology, even though evidence contradicted it.  The emergence of Jesus pointed to a new (to humans) approach to God.  In each case predictable conservatism clung to the old ways of thinking.  But the dogmas of the past were inadequate to the demands of the then-current reality.  Conservatism is not inherently bad; it is just not appropriate at all times and in all places.  The question concerns what one seeks to conserve.  Sometimes a revolutionary is just what God ordered.

May our assumptions–especially those so deeply embedded that we do not think of them as assumptions–not prevent us from recognizing God’s ways of working.  And may these assumptions not blind us to our own errors.

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-iv-ideology/

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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 5 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   11 comments

Above:  Saint Peter Repentant, by Francisco de Goya

Mercy

FEBRUARY 8, 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 8:22-23, 27-30 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then Solomon stood before the altar of the LORD in the presence of the whole community of Israel; he spread the palms of his hands toward heaven and said,

O LORD God of Israel, in the heavens above and on earth below there is no God like You, who keep Your gracious covenant with Your servants when they talk before You in wholehearted devotion;….

But will God really dwell on earth?  Even the heavens to their uttermost reaches cannot contain You, how much less this House that I have built!  Yet turn, O LORD and God, to the prayer which Your servant offers before You this day.  May your eyes be open day and night toward this House, toward the place of which You have said, “My name shall abide there”; may You heed the prayers which Your servant and Your people Israel offer toward this place, give heed in Your heavenly abode–give heed and pardon….

Psalm 84 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house

and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;

by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

3 Happy are they who dwell in your house!

they will always be praising you.

4 Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

5 Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs,

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

6 They will climb from height to height,

and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

hearken, O God of Jacob.

8 Behold our defender, O God;

and look upon the face of your Anointed.

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,

and to stand in the threshold of the house of my God

than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

10 For the LORD is both sun and shield;

he will give grace and glory;

11 No good thing will the LORD withhold

from those who walk with integrity.

12 O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!

Mark 7:1-13 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

And now Jesus was approached by the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem.  They had noticed that his disciples ate their meals with “common” hands–meaning that they had not gone through a ceremonial washing.  (The Pharisees, and indeed all the Jews, will never eat unless they have washed their hands in a particular way, following a traditional rule.  And they will not eat anything brought in the market until they have first performed their “sprinkling”.  And there are many other things which they consider important, concerned with the washing of cups, jugs, and basins.)  So the Pharisees and the scribes put this question to Jesus, “Why do your disciples refuse to follow the ancient tradition, and eat their bread with “common” hands?

Jesus replied, “You hypocrites, Isaiah described you beautifully when he wrote–

This people honoureth me with their lips,

But their heart is far from me.

But in vain do they worship me,

Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.

You are so busy holding on to the precepts of men that you let go the commandment of God!”

Then he went on, “It is wonderful to see how you can set aside the commandment of God to preserve your own tradition!  For Moses said, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother” and ‘He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death.’  But you say, ‘if a man says to his father or his mother, Korban–meaning, I have given God whatever duty I owed to you’, then he need not lift a finger any longer for his father or mother, so making the word of God impotent for the sake of the tradition which you hold.  And this is typical of much of what you do.”

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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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A Related Post:

Week of 5 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/11/week-of-5-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

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The reading from 1 Kings 8 occurs in the context of the dedication of Solomon’s Temple.  The presence of God is palpable at the Temple, and Solomon and the priests are awestruck with reverence.  The king, in a holy mood, asks God for mercy.

Mercy occupies the core the reading from Mark.  Korban was a custom whereby one gave property to the religious establishment.  Many people did this out of piety, but others did so out of spite for someone, thereby depriving that person of necessary financial and material support.  Some religious officials accepted Korban gifts even when they knew that the gift was spiteful.  So donor and recipient shared the hypocrisy of acting impiously while seeming to be holy.

To be holy, Jesus said, entails acting that way.  Our Lord agreed with Old Testament prophets:  It is not enough to observe holy rituals; one and a society must also care for the poor, root out judicial corruption, et cetera.  When we care for one another actively, we care for Jesus actively; when we do not tend to each other actively, we do not tend to Jesus actively (Matthew 25:31-46).

We have a vocation to extend mercy to one another, and there is a link between our judging or forgiving of others and God’s judging and forgiving of us.  (Matthew 7:1-5).  Forgiving someone and otherwise extending him or her mercy and patience can be difficult, as I know well, and you, O reader, might also understand.  Like Paul, we often find ourselves doing what we know we ought not to do and not doing what we know we should do (Romans 7:17f).

There is good news, however.  First, the fact that we have a moral sense indicates the presence of grace.  So let us begin by celebrating that.  Furthermore, more grace is available to help us forgive the other person, extend him understanding, and be patient with her.  With God’s help we will succeed.  Do we want to try?

May we lay aside moral perfectionism, therefore, and embrace and accept the grace of God.  Without making excuses and winking at the inexcusable, may we accept the reality that we are spiritually where we are spiritually, and that God can take us elsewhere.  But we must, if we are going to move along, proceed from where we are.  We are weak, yes; but God is strong.  Trusting in God and accepting our dependence on grace, may we walk with God, do the best we can, by grace, and keep going.  There is hope for us yet.  St. Peter became a great Christian leader, despite what his trajectory seemed to be for most of the narrative in the canonical Gospels.  As we say in the U.S. South, “Who would have thunk it?”

What can you become, by grace, for God, other people of God, and perhaps society?  God knows; are you willing to live into your vocation?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/mercy/

Week of 5 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   11 comments

Above: A Sink

Image Source = Mets501

Actual and Imagined Purity

FEBRUARY 8, 2023

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

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Genesis 2:4b-9, 15-17 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

These are the records of the skies and the earth when they were created:  In the sky that YHWH made earth and skies–when all produce of the field had not yet been in the earth, and all vegetation of the field had not yet grown, for YHWH God had not rained on the earth, and there had been no human to work the ground, and a river had come up from the earth and watered the whole face of the ground–

YHWH God fashioned a human, dust from the ground, and blew into his nostrils the breath of life, and the human became a living being.

And YHWH God planted a garden in Eden at the east, and He set the human whom He had fashioned there.  And YHWH God caused every tree that was pleasant to the sight and good for eating to grow from the ground, and the tree of life within the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and bad.

And YHWH God took the human and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and to watch over it.  And YHWH God commanded the human, saying,

You may eat from every tree of the garden.  But from the tree of knowledge of good and bad:  you shall not eat from it, because in the day you eat from it:  you’ll die!

Psalm 104:25, 28-31 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

25 O LORD, how manifold are your works!

in wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

28 All of them look to you

to give them their food in due season.

29 You give it to them; they gather it;

you open your hand, and they are filled with good things.

30 You hide your face, and they are terrified;

you take away their breath,

and they die and return to their dust.

31 You send forth your Spirit, and they are created;

and so you renew the face of the earth.

Mark 7:14-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he called the crowd close to him again, and spoke to them,

Listen to me now, all of you, and understand this.  There is nothing outside a man which can enter into him and make him “common”.  It is the things which come out of a man that make him “common!

Later, when he had gone indoors away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about this parable.

He said,

Oh, are you as dull as they are?  Can’t you see that anything that goes into a man from outside cannot make him ‘common’ or unclean?  You see, it doesn’t go into his heart, but into his stomach, and passes out of the body altogether, so that all food is clean enough.  But,

he went on,

whatever comes out of a man, that is what makes a man ‘common’ or unclean.  For it is from inside, from men’s hearts and minds, that evil thoughts arise–lust, theft, murder, adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, arrogance, and folly!  All these evil things come from inside a man and make him unclean!

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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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One of the advantages to reading Biblical passages, especially those familiar to one, in translations (not just one version) is finding shades of meaning emphasized in various ways.  The J. B. Phillips New Testament in Modern English, the second edition of which I have quoted, is wonderful in that it fulfills this function well.

Compare the Phillips translation to other versions.  Phillips says “make a man ‘common.'”  More traditional translations say “defile him.”  What is it about being “common” that is allegedly defiling?  Ritual uncleanliness–in this case, tied to the washing of one’s hands before eating–was part of a purity code.  To be pure ritually was to be separate from–excuse the double entendre–the great unwashed.  I think of a parable Jesus told elsewhere.  A Pharisee and a tax collector (a tax thief and a Roman collaborator) were praying in the same space.  The Pharisee thanked God that he was not like the tax collector and listed a catalog of his good works.   But the tax collector was humble before God, and he went away justified.

I have DVDs (available from the Learning Company) of Luke Timothy Johnson teaching about the Gospels.  Professor Johnson states that one of the themes in Mark is that the seeming insiders really are not insiders.  This analysis holds up well, based on my reading of that canonical Gospel.  What is more seemingly “inside” than the religious establishment?  Many of these people liked to cling to notions of ritual purity.  But, as Jesus tells us, that misses the point.  What is inside makes us pure or impure; what we consume does not.

The first part of the second creation myth from Genesis tells us that God breathed life into Adam.  I leave the details of life and evolution to scientists, and the specifics of theology to theologians.  Each is a different way of knowing, and both are valuable.  The myth does contain truths, and among them is this one:  we are all precious in the eyes of God.  We have that in common.

Imagined purity functions to define the allegedly pure as such and the different others as impure.  It reinforces class systems and religious prejudices.  Yet God, as the prophet Samuel said, does not look at us as we look at each other; God looks at who and what we really are.  Therein lies our purity or lack thereof.

Our challenge today is to examine ourselves and check ourselves for any indication of a fixation on ritual purity, regardless of the form it takes.  Are we viewing others as God perceives them, or in a way conducive to reinforcing our egos?

Miserere mei Deus.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/actual-and-imagined-purity/