Archive for the ‘February 12’ 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 12 and 13, 2019

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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  There are, however, bad traditions as well as good traditions which have become outdated or which apply in some settings yet not in others.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 Last Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

He Wept Over It

Above:  He Wept Over It, by Enrique Simonet

Image in the Public Domain

The Aroma of Christ

FEBRUARY 11-13, 2021

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the resplendent light of your truth

shines from the mountaintop into our hearts.

Transfigure us by your beloved Son,

and illumine the world with your image,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 11:26-40 (Thursday)

1 Kings 14:1-18 (Friday)

1 Kings 16:1-7 (Saturday)

Psalm 50:1-6 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 2:12-17 (Thursday)

1 Timothy 1:12-20 (Friday)

Luke 19:41-44 (Saturday)

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The Lord, the most mighty God, has spoken

and called the world from the rising of the sun to its setting.

Out of Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth;

our God comes and will not keep silence.

Consuming fire goes out before him

and a mighty tempest stirs about him.

He calls the heaven above,

and the earth, that he may judge his people:

“Gather to me my faithful,

who have sealed my covenant with sacrifice.”

Let the heavens declare his righteousness,

for God himself is judge.

–Psalm 50:1-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The readings for these three days weave together two themes:  the reality of God and the influence of holy people.  Often these holy people were prophets of God; I point to Ahijah of Shiloh (1 Kings 11 and 14) and Jehu son of Hanani (1 Kings 16), who were instrumental in establishing and replacing monarchs.  There were many others, such as St. Paul the Apostle (2 Corinthians 2), pseudo-Paul (1 Timothy 1), and Jesus himself (Luke 19).  The messenger is crucial, as is the message.  If someone refuses to deliver a message from God, another will accept the mission.  The message will go forth.

To ponder divine mercy is pleasant, but that statement does not apply to God’s wrath.  God is not a teddy bear, so to speak; if one thought to the contrary, one was in serious error.  May we have a balanced perspective, one which takes into account both divine judgment and mercy in proper proportions.  (This is possible by grace, not human power.)  And may we remember that Jesus sought forgiveness for those who had him crucified.

I do not pretend to know the details of every person’s spiritual vocation from God.  Sometimes, in fact, my vocation from God confuses me.  Yet I am confident that all such vocations for Christians include, in the words of St. Paul the Apostle, being:

…the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

–2 Corinthians 2:15-16a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

May we bear the aroma of Christ faithfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARBARA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/the-aroma-of-christ/

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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 12, 2020

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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 12 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Above:  Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun and Her Daughter, by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun

Job and John, Part VII:  Good and Bad Examples

FEBRUARY 12, 2021

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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 8:1-22

Psalm 123 (Morning)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening)

John 4:27-45

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Some Related Posts:

I Hunger and I Thirst:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/i-hunger-and-i-thirst/

Lord, It Is Night:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2012/01/09/lord-it-is-night/

Memories at a Moving Sale for a Friend:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/memories-at-a-moving-sale-for-a-friend/

Weeping:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2012/03/27/weeping/

The Valentine’s Day Teddy Bear:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2012/04/29/the-valentines-day-teddy-bear/

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Bildad the Shuhite, alleged friend #2, insults Job for expressing himself and goes on to repeat arguments Eliphaz the Temanite had made.  Understandably, Job does not find this helpful.  In contrast, the woman at the well becomes a gateway for Jesus to reach out to many of her fellow villagers.  I know which person I wish to emulate.

Too often we human beings feel as if we must say something to a person in distress.  Frequently this takes the form of a platitude such as

I know how you feel

when, in fact, the speaker has no idea how the other person feels.  But at least the speaker in such a case means well.  That, nevertheless, does not excuse the unhelpful words.  I have tried to be present and helpful for a suffering person.  I have tried to be properly cautious in choosing my words, with affects in mind.  Sometimes these words have fallen flat and even just being present has proved to be no help, so far as I have been able to tell.  But at least I have not blamed her or told her that I knew how she felt.  Overall, I think, I have succeeded in performing a good work.  As I type these words, the next chapter in that story is unfolding.  Maybe what I did to help my friend will help others as well.  Even if it does not, at least it proved useful to her.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEASTS OF SAINT OLGA OF KIEV, REGENT OF KIEVAN RUSSIA; ADALBERT OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; ADALBERT OF PRAGUE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR; AND BENEDICT AND GAUDENTIUS OF POMERANIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAMIEN DE VEUSTER, A.K.A. DAMIEN OF MOLOKAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT EGBERT OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND SAINT ADALBERT OF EGMONT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/job-and-john-part-vii-good-and-bad-examples/

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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 2020-2021, 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 12, 2020

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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: Friday, Year 1   11 comments

Above:  A Fig Tree

Image Source = Fir0002

Returning the Beauty of God to Earth

FEBRUARY 12, 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 3:1-8 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And the snake was slier than every animal of the field that YHWH God had made, and he said to the woman,

Has God indeed said you may not eat from any tree of the garden?

And the woman said to the snake,

We may eat from the fruit of the trees of the garden.  But from the fruit of the tree that is within the garden God has said, “You shall not eat from it, and you shall not touch it, or else you’ll die.”

And the snake said to the woman,

You won’t die!”  Because God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you’ll be like God–knowing good and bad.

And the woman saw that the tree was good for eating and that it was an attraction to the eyes, and the tree was desirable to bring about understanding, and she took some of its fruit, and she ate, and gave to her man with her as well, and he ate.  And the eyes of the two of them were opened, and they knew that they were naked.  And they picked fig leaves and made loincloths for themselves.

And they heard the sound of YHWH God walking in the garden and the wind of the day, and the human and his woman hid from YHWH God among the garden’s trees.

Psalm 32:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they whose transgressions are forgiven,

and whose sin is put away!

2 Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

and in whose spirit there is no guile!

3 While I held my tongue, my bones withered away,

because of my groaning all day long.

4 For your hand was upon me day and night;

my moisture was dried up as in the heat of summer.

5 Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and did not conceal my guilt.

6 I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD.”

Then you forgave me the guilt of my sin.

7 Therefore all the faithful will make their prayers to you in time of trouble;

when the great waters overflow, they shall not reach them.

8 You are my hiding-place;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with shouts of deliverance.

Mark 7:31-37 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Once more Jesus left the neighbourhood of Tyre and passed through Sidon towards the Lake of Galilee, and crossed the Ten Towns territory.  They brought to him a man who was deaf and unable to speak intelligibly, and they implored him to put his hand upon him.  Jesus took him away from the crowd by himself. He put his fingers in the man’s ears and touched his tongue with his saliva.  Then, looking up to Heaven, he gave a deep  sigh and said to him in Aramaic,

Open!

And his ears were opened and immediately whatever had tied his tongue came loose and he spoke quite plainly.  Jesus gave instructions that they should tell no one about this happening, but the more he told them, the more they broadcast the news.  People were absolutely amazed, and kept saying,

How wonderfully he has done everything!  He even makes the deaf hear and the dumb speak.

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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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Sin spoils creation.  The reading from Genesis describes the original sin, which is hubris, in mythological terms.  There is nothing wrong with knowing the difference between good and evil, but there is plenty wrong with seeking, on our own power, to be like God.  We are not God, and nothing will change that fact.  And we cannot hide from God, either, no matter how much we try.

I feel the need to make a few other comments about Genesis 3:1-8:

  1. The snake is just a snake.  It plays the role of the mythological trickster (such as Loki or Coyote), whose function is to introduce chaos into the established order and to challenge conventional rules of behavior.  Some tricksters are openly villainous, where as others are morally ambiguous.
  2. Later Christian tradition associates the snake with Satan.  This is not a Jewish understanding, and Genesis is a Jewish text.  By the way, the theology of Satan evolves throughout the Jewish Bible, so that the Satan (“the Adversary”) begins by working for God (as in Judges and Job) and ends by opposing God (post-Exilic period).  And, by the end of the First Century C.E., the Revelation to John tells the story of the Satan in such a way as to ignore the part about “the Adversary” ever working for God.  This seems like a good time for me state plainly that, due to my knowledge of the history of theology of the nature of Satan, I cannot and do not believe in the existence of Satan, or personalized evil.  (Call me a heretic if you please; I will take it as high praise.)
  3. Talmudic tradition states that the fruit Adam and Eve ate was the fig.  The choice of fig leaves to cover selected nakedness becomes ironic in that understanding of the story.

The story of Jesus continues in the Markan Gospel.  When last we read about Jesus in Mark, he was in Tyre, a city the Phoenicians had founded on the Mediterranean coast.  He was surrounded by Gentiles.  When we resume the story where we left off, we read that our Lord and Savior takes the scenic route to the Decapolis, a region with ten cities and many Gentiles, as well as a fair number of Jews.  Jesus is still surrounded by Gentiles.

There Jesus meets a deaf man with a speech impediment.  Of course the man has a speech impediment; he is deaf.  We humans learn to speak by listening to others.  Local superstition holds that spittle has curative powers, so Jesus uses what the man and his believe and puts a good shamanic show for everyone.  The power of the healing is not present in the show, however.  The Gospel of Mark tells of Jesus healing people with various conditions with a word, and even doing this in absentia.  Yet the shamanic show serves a purpose; Jesus is meeting the deaf man and his neighbors where they are.  He demonstrates respect and compassion for them in this way.  Our Lord and Savior sees a man who needs his help; he does not see a medical case.

Jesus tries to keep his Messianic secret, as he does elsewhere in the Markan Gospel.  But, as elsewhere in Mark, people talk anyway.  They say that he does all things well.

What, you ask, is the connective tissue between Genesis and Mark?  Funny you should ask.  William Barclay provides that connective tissue in his Daily Study Bible volume on the Gospel of Mark:

When Jesus came, bringing healing to men’s bodies and salvation to their souls, he had begun the work of creation all over again.  In the beginning everything has been good; man’s sin had spoiled it all; and now Jesus was bringing back the beauty of God to the world which man’s sin had rendered ugly.  (page 182)

We ought not get too big for our britches, a metaphor which fails to apply to Adam and Eve.  But God, in the form of Jesus, meets us where we are and in our own cultural context.  And, if we are willing to recognize who (and what) we are and who (and what) Jesus is, he can work with us to make us who (and what) we are supposed to become.  This might not be what we want to become, but God knows better than we do.   Details will vary according to each person, but the principle is constant:  Empowered by God, we are called to help communicate the beauty of God to a world sin has rendered ugly.

KRT

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O FOR A THOUSAND TONGUES TO SING

Words by Charles Wesley (1707-1788)

As printed in The Methodist Hymnal (1965), of The Methodist Church:

1.  O for a thousand tongues to sing

My great Redeemer’s praise,

The glories of my God and King,

The triumphs of his grace!

2.  My gracious Master and My God,

Assist me to proclaim,

To spread thro’ all the earth abroad

The honors of thy name.

3.  Jesus!  the name that charms our fears,

That bids our sorrows cease,

‘Tis music in the sinners’ ears,

‘Tis life, and health, and peace.

4.  He breaks the power of canceled,

He sets the prisoner free;

His blood can make the foulest clean;

His blood availed for me.

5.  He speaks, and listening to his voice,

New life the dead receive;

The mournful, broken hearts rejoice;

The humble poor, believe.

6.  Hear him, ye deaf; his praise, ye dumb,

Your loosened tongues employ;

Ye blind, behold your Savior come;

And leap, ye lame, for joy.

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/returning-the-beauty-of-god-to-earth/