Archive for the ‘February 9’ Category

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

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends

Image in the Public Domain

The Idol of Certainty

FEBRUARY 9, 2020

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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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Job 8:8-22 or Deuteronomy 11:18-28

Psalm 42

James 2:18-26

Mark 2:1-12

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In the perfect moral universe of Bildad the Shuhite and those who think like him, piety is a shield against misfortune.  This is an attitude present in parts of the Book of Psalms.  That book also contradicts the attitude, however, for certain psalms acknowledge that innocent people suffer.

Jesus, without ignoring that the suffering of many resulted partially from their sins, did not state that all human suffering resulted from the sins of the suffering.  His sinless life testified to a different reality, that sometimes we suffer because of the sins of others, and piety sometimes leads to persecution and/or death.

Certainty can become an idol, as in the cases of Bildad (Job 8) and the accusers of Jesus (Mark 2).  Idols abound; certainty is one of the most popular ones.  I refer to false, misplaced certainty, not to confirmed knowledge, such as 2 + 2 = 4.  No, I refer to certainty that fills voids meant for faith in God.  The human psyche craves certainty.  Unfortunately, false certainty leads to conspiracy theories, to other denial of reality, and to idolatry.  In reality, what we do not know outweighs what we do know, and humility is in order; certainty be damned much of the time.

May we walk the path of faith in Christ without ignoring that of which we can objectively be certain.  May God grant us the wisdom to recognize the difference between matters in which we need faith and those in which we can reasonably have certainty.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/15/honest-faith-versus-false-certainty-ii/

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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 Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Sixth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Christ Cleansing a Leper

Above:  Christ Cleansing a Leper, by Jean-Marie Melchior Doze

Image in the Public Domain

Blessings All Around

FEBRUARY 9-11, 2012

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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:

Leviticus 13:1-17 (Thursday)

Leviticus 14:1-20 (Friday)

Leviticus 14:21-32 (Saturday)

Psalm 30 (All Days)

Hebrews 12:7-13 (Thursday)

Acts 19:11-20 (Friday)

Matthew 26:6-13 (Saturday)

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Hear me, LORD, and be kind to me,

be my helper, LORD.

–Psalm 30:11, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers, Harry Mowvley (1989)

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Ritual impurity and purity were major concerns in the Law of Moses.  Among the major forms of ritual impurity were those which tzara’at, or the leakage of life, caused.  In people it manifested as a range of skin conditions, which were not leprosy, technically Hanson’s Disease.  In fabrics (Leviticus 13:47-59) it consisted of damage which mold or mildew caused.  And in building materials (14:33-47) people saw evidence of it via mildew or rot in walls.

Dermatological impurity received more fear and attention, however.  Some even argued that it constituted divine punishment for sin.  The combination of shunning and guilt must have been a terrible burden to bear.  Hence restoration to wholeness and community must have been all the more wonderful.

May we refrain from laying burdens atop people.  Rather, may we function as instruments of divine healing and reconciliation.  May God work through us to restore others to wholeness and community.  May God bless others through us.  We will receive our blessings as part of that process.  There will be blessings all around.  Is that not wonderful?

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/blessings-all-around/

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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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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 9 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Jesus and Nicodemus

Job and John, Part V:  “Received Wisdom”

FEBRUARY 9, 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 6:1-13

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

John 3:1-21

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Eliphaz the Temanite, in his speech, spoke of “received wisdom,” which he spouted.  It was received, but it was foolishness.  In reply, Job said that he had nothing–not even resourcefulness.  He could not help even himself.

The truth is that each of us depends on God for everything and that “received wisdom” is frequently received foolishness. Antiquity does not necessarily equal reliable authority.  As we read in John 3, many people reject the light in their presence because they prosper the darkness.  I suspect that they might not recognize it as being dark, for delusions can affect one’s perceptions that severely.

Eliphaz was not helpful.  In time he became sarcastic.  And he relied on dubious “received wisdom.”  But such “wisdom” must, in any time and circumstance, stand up to scrutiny if it is to prove valuable.  Eliphaz’s content proved worthless.  Yet there is a font of wisdom–and more–named Jesus.  And he is helpful.

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-v-received-wisdom/

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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: Wednesday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  King Solomon Meets the Queen of Sheba

Image Source = Richardfabi

Regarding the Common

FEBRUARY 9, 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 10:1-10, 13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, through the name of the LORD, and she came to test him with hard questions.  She arrived in Jerusalem with a very large retinue, with camels bearing spices, a great quantity of gold, and precious stones.  When she came to Solomon, she asked him all she had in mind.  Solomon had answers for all her questions; there was nothing that the king did not know, [nothing] to which he could not give her an answer.  When the queen of Sheba observed all of Solomon’s wisdom, and the palace he had built, the fare of his table, the seating of his courtiers, the service and attire of his attendants, and his wine service, and the burnt offerings that he offered at the House of the LORD, she was left breathless.

She said to the king,

The report  heard in my own land about you and your wisdom was true.  But I did not believe the reports until I came and saw with my own eyes that even the half had been told me; your wisdom and wealth surpass the reports that I heard.  How fortunate are your men and how fortunate are these your courtiers, who are always  in attendance on you and can hear your wisdom!  Praised be the LORD your God, who delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel.  It is because of the LORD’s everlasting love for Israel that He made you king to administer justice and righteousness.

She presented the king with one hundred and twenty talents of gold, and a large quantity of spices, and precious stones.   Never again did such a vast quantity of spices arrive as that which the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon….King Solomon, in turn, gave the queen of Sheba everything she wanted and asked for, in addition to what King Solomon gave her out of his royal bounty.  Then she and her attendants left and returned to her own land.

Psalm 37:1-7, 32-33, 41-42 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon whither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

Be still and wait for the LORD

and wait patiently for him.

32  The mouth of the righteous utters wisdom,

and their tongue speaks what is right.

33  The law of their God is in their heart,

and their footsteps shall not falter.

41 But the deliverance of the righteous comes from the LORD;

he is their stronghold in time of trouble.

42 The LORD will help them and rescue them;

he will rescue them from the wicked and deliver them,

because they seek refuge in him.

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.

“Oh, are you as dull as they are?”

he said.

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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A Related Post:

Week of 5 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/week-of-5-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

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The author of 1 Kings 10 means for us to admire the wealth and wisdom of Solomon.  In this account Solomon receives the esteemed and wealthy Queen of Sheba.  Sheba, for those of you who wonder, was probably Sabea, located where present-day Yemen occupies space on the world map.  Yemen, of course, has fallen on hard times, with its combination of high illiteracy, poverty, fertility, and social frustration on one hand and little opportunity for economic development on the other.  But it fared much better in ancient times.

Imagine reading or hearing this story while living in exile in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  “Those were the days!” people must have said in Hebrew.  Or imagine reading or hearing this account after the Persians allowed exiled Jews to return to their homeland, then a poor place in a backwater province.  “Those were days!” people must have said in Hebrew upon pondering Solomon’s prestige and wealth.

But I am an American.  As such, I am an heir of a revolution.  (Historians dispute the precise definition of the American Revolution–indeed a good question–but I am an heir of the American Revolution.)  To the extent that I am a monarchist, I am a constitutional one.  As an heir of the American Revolution, I assume the veracity and wisdom of certain Enlightenment theories of governance, and divine right monarchy is not one of them.  Nevertheless, I do not expect to detect foreshadowing of Montesquieu and Locke in the Hebrew Scriptures, for I know better than to look for them there.

For some germane background to 1 Kings 10, let us turn to 1 Kings 6:38-7:1, which tell us that the construction of the Temple took seven years and the building of Solomon’s palace required thirteen years.  The Temple was splendid, as the detailed descriptions of it and its furnishings in 1 Kings indicate.  How ornate, then, was Solomon’s palace, which took six more years to construct?  And who paid for all this?  You, O reader, can guess, can you not?  The taxpayers of the Kingdom of Israel did.  They also paid for the upkeep of the palace and for the royal wine.

1 Kings 10 speaks of how wise, wealthy, and respected Solomon was.  In the next chapter, however, the tone of the narrative changes.  That is where the Canadian Anglican lectionary will take us next, so I will reserve a discussion of those details for then.

1 Kings 10 makes clear that Solomon was most uncommon, and that this was supposed to be a compliment.  Being uncommon was a point of pride to the Pharisees.  To be uncommon was to be pure, and to be common was to be defiled, or impure.  In fact, the standard English translation in the reading from Mark is “defile,” but J. B. Phillips cut to the chase and rendered the Greek text as “make common.”  Haughty Pharisees delighted in not being like other people.  This is not necessarily a fault in a person, as I ponder the concept as an abstract notion, but I am not discussing an abstraction.  No, I am referring to a concrete situation.  Only those with a certain level of wealth could afford to keep the purity codes the Pharisees advocated, so their piety was one to which most people, who were poor, had no hope of achieving.  Thus the Pharisaic piety Jesus criticized was one which marginalized the vast majority of people.

It is no wonder that there was a rebellion after Solomon died.  His grandeur came at a cost to his subjects.  And I understand why Jesus disagreed with so many Pharisees.  Furthermore, as an heir of the American Revolution, which, ironically, colonial elites led, I like the common, to an extent.  The Revolution did lead in time to the extension of voting rights without regard to property, for example.  And the ideals of the American Revolution did bring into sharp relief the hypocrisy of maintaining slavery.  Furthermore, another ideal of the Revolution was that, given opportunity and motivation, one can improve himself and his social station.  So there was not an acceptance of the lowest common denominator embedded in the ideals of the Revolution.  To the extent that one considers the lowest common denominator “common,” I do not like the common.  However, so far as one shuns the systems of firmly fixed social orders and deference to elites, I do like the common.

There is great dignity embedded in every human being by virtue of the image of God present in each of us.  So may we not look down upon others, for they are also God-bearers–as much as Solomon was, the Pharisees were, and the vast population of people who, for financial reasons, could not keep their piety, were.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/regarding-the-common/

Week of 5 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  A Hand-Copied Bible in Latin

What is Good Religion?

FEBRUARY 9, 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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Genesis 1:20-2:4a (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And God said,

Let the water swarm with a swarm of living beings, and let birds fly over the earth on the face of the space of the skies.

And God created the big sea serpents and all the living beings that creep, with which the water swarmed, by their kinds, and every winged bird by its kind.  And God saw that it was good.  And God blessed them, saying,

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the water in the seas, and let birds multiply in the earth.

And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

And God said,

Let the earth bring out living beings by their kind, domestic animal and creeping thing and wild animals by their kind.

And it was so.  And God made the wild animals of the earth by their kind and the domestic animals by their kind and every creeping thing on the ground by their kind.  And God saw that it was good.

And God said,

Let us make a human, in our image, according to our likeness, and let them dominate the the fish of the fish of the sea and the birds of the skies and the domestic animals and all the earth and all the creeping things that creep on the earth.

And God created the human in His image.  He created it in the image of God.  He created them male and female.  And God blessed them, and God said to them,

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and dominate the fish of the sea and the birds of the skies and every animal that creeps on the earth.

And God said,

Here, I have placed all the vegetation that produces seed that is on the face of the earth for you and every tree, which has in it the fruit of a tree producing seed.  It will be food for you and for all the wild animals of the earth and for all the birds of the skies and for all the creeping things on the earth, everything in which there is a living being; every plant of vegetation, for food.

And it was so.

And God saw everything that He had made, and, here, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

And the skies and the earth and all their array were finished.  And in the seventh day God finished His work that He had done ceased in the seventh day from all His work that He had done.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because He ceased in it from doing all His work, which God had created.

Psalm 8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 O LORD our Governor,

how exalted in your Name is all the world!

2 Out of the mouths of infants and children

your majesty is praised above the heavens.

3 You have set up a stronghold against our adversaries,

to quell the enemy and the avenger.

4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

5 What is man that should be mindful of him?

the son of man that you should seek him out?

6 You have made him but a little lower than the angels;

you adorn him with glory and honor;

7 You gave him mastery over the works of your hands;

you put all things under his feet:

8 All sheep and oxen,

even the wild beasts of the field,

9 The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,

and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

10 O LORD our Governor,

how exalted is your Name in all the world!

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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Last night, after the 6:00 PM Holy Eucharist at my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, I told my priest, Beth Long, that I never cease to be amazed by how many points of departure one can take from one day’s lectionary texts.  Invariably, my posts on a Sunday’s readings cover different ground than her sermons.  Both are valid, for the material is rich and varied.  I think of this point now because I detect many wonderful points to make, based on the assigned readings for Tuesday in the Week of 5 Epiphany, Year 1.  Yet I chosen just one path.  Perhaps the others will come up in future posts, for the Bible contains many recurring themes.

What is good religion?  Or, to state the question differently, what makes one religious in a good way?  To cite the Markan account, there is nothing wrong with washing one’s hands before eating.  Indeed, this is healthy.  Jesus was not referring to public health regulations, however; he had bigger fish to fry.  And germ theory was not known at the time.  The ceremonial washing of hands was part of an elaborate theology of ritual cleanliness and uncleanliness, for which Jesus had no use. Our Lord and Savior looked more deeply than that.

The late William Barclay wrote the following paragraph is his commentary on the Gospel of Mark:

There is no greater religious peril than that of identifying religion with outward observance.  There is no commoner religious mistake than to identify goodness with certain so-called religious acts.  Church-going, bible-reading, careful financial giving, even time-honored table-prayer do not make a man a good man.  The fundamental question is, how is a man’s heart toward God and towards his fellow-men?  And if in his heart there are enmity, bitterness, grudges, pride, not all the outward religious observances in the world will make him anything other than a hypocrite.

Who can stand before God as anything other than a hypocrite or an unrepentant sinner?  There might be a few of us on the planet who can do this, but I am not among them.  As for you, O reader, you must answer for yourself:  Are you among this rare, perhaps hypothetical population?  But thanks be to God, who has mercy on us and knows that we are all broken and “but dust.”  Yet it is also true, as the psalm and Genesis tell us, that we bear the image of God and rank above the other creature on the planet.  There is hope for us, and the source for this hope is God.  So may we refrain from placing too much emphasis on either the “dust” description or the “little lower than the angels” description.

But what makes religion good, and what makes one a practitioner of good religion?  The answer is love, which, as the Greek language makes clear, exists in various forms.  There is agape, God’s unconditional love for us.  And there is phileo, or brotherly love.  One might also experience storge, which exists between a parent and a child.  And, of course, there is eros, which is sexual love.  Each love has its proper place, and is good in that place.

I take my point from St. Paul the Apostle, who wrote the justly famous 1 Corinthians 13, which I quote verbatim from the New American Bible:

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.   It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.  If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present, I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am known.  So faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The consistent Greek word for love in this passage is agape; “…the greatest of these is agape.”  Agape, which makes religion good, is available to us only via grace.  So let none of us boast, but trust God instead.  The outward signs will follow; they will flow from love.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/what-is-good-religion/