Archive for the ‘February 15’ Category

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

Kyrie

Above:  A Scan from The Gregorian Missal for Sundays (1990)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Kyrie Eleison

FEBRUARY 14 and 15, 2019

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The Collect:

Living God, in Christ you make all things new.

Transform the poverty of our nature by the riches of your grace,

and in the renewal of our lives make known your glory,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 13:12-19 (Thursday)

Jeremiah  13:20-27 (Friday)

Psalm 1 (Both Days)

Acts 13:26-34 (Thursday)

1 Peter 1:17-2:1 (Friday)

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Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and they meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;

everything they do shall prosper.

It is not so with the wicked;

they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

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

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Psalm 1 might be overly optimistic, but it functions as a fine counterpoint to the other readings.  Those readings address groups.  Jeremiah spoke to the Kingdom of Judah.  St. Paul the Apostle, addressing Jews in Antioch in Pisidia (in Asia Minor), spoke of the actions of religious authorities in Jerusalem.  St. (Simon) Peter the Apostle or someone writing in his name addressed congregations in Asia Minor.  Those three pericopes fit well together, for they diagnose societal problems.  Hubris is the main ill in Jeremiah 13.  From that pride flow other sins.  Such a diagnosis fits the pericope from Acts 13 well, for hubris contributed to the execution of an innocent man.  The readings from 1 Peter takes as its theme obedience to God.

Then away with all wickedness and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy and malicious talk of any kind!

–1 Peter 2:1, The Revised English Bible (1989)

So much for a great deal of politics, talk radio, celebrity news, and Internet content!

The words of these days’ pericopes indict as strongly today as they did when they were fresh.  Human nature has not changed over time.  As Koheleth wrote,

Only that shall happen

Which has happened,

Only that occur

Which has occurred;

There is nothing new

Beneath the sun!

–Ecclesiastes 1:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Time passes, technology changes, and political and economic systems come and go, but we are really playing out variations of old themes, are we not?  Hubris remains current, malicious gossip has never ceased, and people in power continue to cause innocents to die.

May God have mercy on us all!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL ISAAC JOSEPH SCHERESCHEWSKY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF SHANGHAI

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HANSEN KINGO, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND “POET OF EASTERTIDE”

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/14/kyrie-eleison/

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This is post #450 of ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS.

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

Mt. Sinai

Above:  Mt. Sinai, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-09625

Mountains, God, and Holiness

FEBRUARY 15 and 16, 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:

Exodus 19:7-25 (Monday)

Job 19:23-27 (Tuesday)

Psalm 110:1-4 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:1-4 (Monday)

1 Timothy 3:14-16 (Tuesday)

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God seemed quite mysterious–even dangerous–in Exodus 19.  Anyone who touched Mt. Sinai would die, for the mountain was holy, and that made the geographical feature more hazardous than usual.  There was also a hazard in the peoples’ pledge to obey God’s commandments, due to the penalties for violating them.

God was also a threat in the mind of Job, who, in 19:23-27, looked forward to his Redeemer/Vindicator, a kinsman who would, in the words of a note on page 1529 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004),

vindicate him, will take revenge on God for what God has done to Job.

That is a desire many people have felt.  That interpretation is also far removed from a traditional Christian understanding of the text, not that there is anything wrong with that difference.

We find the friendly and scary faces of God in the New Testament readings.  Hebrews 2:1-4 reminds us of penalties for sins.  Yet 1 Timothy 3:14-16 brings us the mystery and the graces of God in the context of Jesus.  That example is far removed from Exodus 19:7-25, where divine holiness was fatal to people.  What could be closer to people–even in contact with them–and holy without being fatal to them than Jesus?

Mountains and the divine go together in the Bible.  Moses received the Law on one.  Jesus preached from mountains.  His Transfiguration occurred on one.  He “ascended” (whatever that means in literal, as opposed to theological terms) from a mountain.  The symbolism also works in our lives, as in our “mountaintop experiences.”

As we depart the Season after the Epiphany for Lent, may we seek and find, by grace, a closer walk with God, whose holiness gives us life and is not fatal to us.  May we internalize the lessons God wants us to internalize.  And, when we are angry with God, may we have enough faith to, in the style of Job, argue faithfully.  Communication cannot occur in the absence of messages.

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/mountains-god-and-holiness/

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

11786v

Above:  Herod’s Temple

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11786

Active and Effective Love for Each Other

FEBRUARY 13-15, 2020

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The Collect:

O God, the strength of all who hope in you,

because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing without you.

Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do,

and give us grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 26:1-15 (Thursday)

Leviticus 26:34-46 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 30:1-91 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:1-8 (all days)

James 1:12-16 (Thursday)

1 John 2:7-17 (Friday)

Matthew 15:1-9 (Saturday)

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You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

–Psalm 119:4, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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These readings contain much sage advice:

  1. Obey God’s laws, whether or not one lives among foreigners with different religions and customs.
  2. Love one’s fellow human beings actively and effectively, trusting in the power of God to enable one to do this.
  3. Do not use God and/or religion to to cover up or to attempt to cover up one’s own perfidy.

The latter point requires some explanation.  Korban was a custom by which one gave money to the religious establishment for the support of the professional religious people there.  Many people used this practice to deprive their relatives of necesssary funds while looking pious.  And many Temple officials knew it.  Thus religion became a means of circumventing a basic ethic of the Law of Moses:

Honor your father and your mother.

In other words, motives mattered.  They still do.

Ethics are concrete, not abstract.  Since we human beings live in communities, our actions and inactions affect each other.  Our actions and inactions flow from our attitudes.  Thus how we think of each other matters greatly.  Do we value each other or do we seek ways to exploit and/or deprive each other?  Which people do we think of as our neighbors?

May we not use the letter of the law to the cover up or to attempt to cover up violations of its spirit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUKE THE EVANGELIST, PHYSICIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/active-and-effective-love-for-each-other/

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

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends

Job and John, Part IX:  Perceptions

FEBRUARY 15, 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 11:1-20

Psalm 130 (Morning)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening)

John 5:19-29

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Zophar the Naamathite opens his address in Job 11:1-20 by insulting Job.  A note on page 1519 of The Jewish Study Bible makes a succinct point:

Like Bildad in 8.2, Zophar here, in the house of a man bereft of his children (1.18-19) and infested with maggots (7.5), has the colassal gall to tell Job, the master of the house, that he talks too much!

And Zophar persists in the practice of relying on “received wisdom” as a basis for his theodicy.

The reading from John 5 constitutes part of a discourse attributed to Jesus after he healed the paralyzed man at the Pool at Bethesda on a Sabbath.  (The Synoptic Jesus does not talk as much as does the Johannine Jesus, by the way.)  The content of the discourse interest me, but the relative newness of it fascinates me today.  Zophar’s discourse was stale and insulting.  Yet our Lord’s discourse was revolutionary.  Consider one verse, O reader:

In all truth I tell you,

whoever listens to my words,

and believes in the one who sent me,

has eternal life;

without being brought to judgement

such a person has passed from death to life.

–John 5:24, The New Jerusalem Bible

If I did not take the truth of that verse as a given, I might think Jesus to have been a madman.  Now, of course, my position has become “received wisdom.”  (I am aware of the irony of that reality.)  Some “received wisdom” is wiser than the rest.  And other “received wisdom” is pure drivel.

The power of “received wisdom” holds sway over the intellects and imaginations of people, does it not?  When I started my abortive doctoral studies in history at The University of Georgia (UGA), Athens, Georgia, the Graduate Coordinator informed me that I would learn the “received wisdom.”  He used that term; I recall that part of the conversation clearly.  I wound up questioning much of the “received wisdom,” with the predictable result in the social sciences.  But I maintained my intellectual integrity.  And I am a terrible liar.  Please understand me correctly, O reader; that happened years ago, and the trauma of that experience has washed out of my system.  Yet memories remain.  And objective reality remains.  I have no desire to start an argument with anyone at the UGA Department of History.  What would I gain from it?  Yet I offer this cautionary tale of the allure received foolishness masquerading as received wisdom.  The experience remains with me and makes me a better teacher.  I hold my students accountable for getting the facts correct then reasoning their ways to interpretations.  I do not grade them according to whether I agree with those interpretations.  And some of the kindest comments on course evaluations begin the acknowledgement that the student disagreed with me often in subjective matters.

Reality is objective, of course.  But our understandings of it are inherently subjective.  Two people can absorb the same stimuli and understand it differently.  Culture (defined as social learning), educational attainment, age, cognitive development, intellectual capacity, and other factors shape our perceptions.  Sometimes our proverbial tapes are running, so we hear yet do not listen and see yet do not comprehend.  So the character of Zophar , who was an insulting idiot, understood himself as standing on the shoulders of theological giants.  And our Lord’s words were blasphemous in the ears of some people despite those words’ truth–and therefore lack of blasphemy.  Reality is objective and our perceptions are subjective, yet our perceptions can be correct.  May they be so, by grace.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICHT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT PASCHASIUS RADBERTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/job-and-john-part-ix-perceptions/

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/

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: Saturday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Jeroboam I and His Golden Calves

The Real Thing and Poor Substitutes

FEBRUARY 15, 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 12:26-33; 13:33-34 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Jeroboam said to himself,

Now the kingdom may well return to the House of David.  If these people still go up to offer sacrifices at the House of the LORD in Jerusalem, the heart of these people will turn back to their master, King Rehoboam of Judah.

So the king took counsel and made two golden calves.  He said to the people,

You have been going up to Jerusalem long enough.  This is your God, O Israel, who brought you up from the land of Egypt!

He set up one in Bethel and placed the other in Dan.  That proved to be a cause of guilt, for the people went to worship [the calf at Bethel and] the one at Dan.  He also made cult places and appointed priests from the ranks of the people who were not of Levite descent.

He stationed at Bethel the priests of the shrines that he had appointed to sacrifice to the calves that he had made.  And Jeroboam established a festival on the fifteenth day of the eighth month; in imitation of the festival in Judah, he established one at Bethel, and he ascended the altar [there].  On the fifteenth day of the eighth month–the month in which he had contrived of his own mind to establish a festival for the Israelites–Jeroboam ascended the altar that he had made in Bethel.

Even after this incident, Jeroboam did not turn back from his evil way, but kept on appointing priests for the shrines from the ranks of the people.  He ordained as priests of the shrines any who so desired.  Thereby the House of Jeroboam incurred guilt–to their utter annihilation from the face of the earth.

Psalm 106:19-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19  Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb

and worshiped a molten image;

20  And so they exchanged their Glory

for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.

21  They forgot God their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22  Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,

and fearful things at the Red Sea.

Mark 8:1-10 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

About this time it happened again that a large crowd collected and had nothing to eat.  Jesus called the disciples over to him and said,

My heart goes out to this crowd; they have been with me three days now and they have no food left.  If I send them off home without anything, they will collapse on the way–and some of them have come from a distance.

His disciples replied,

Where could anyone find the food to feed them here in this deserted spot?

Jesus asked them,

How many loaves have you got?

They replied,

Seven.

So Jesus told the crowd to settle themselves on the ground.  Then he took the seven loaves into his hands, and with a prayer of thanksgiving broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people; and this they did.  They had a few small fish as well, and after blessing them, Jesus told his disciples to give these also to the people.  They ate and they were satisfied.  Moreover, they picked up seven baskets of full pieces left over.  The people numbered about four thousand.  Jesus sent them home, and then he boarded the boat at once with the disciples and went on to the district of Dalmanutha.

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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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Some Related Posts:

Week of 5 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/week-of-5-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

Matthew 15 (Parallel to Mark 8):

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/fourth-day-of-advent/

Aaron’s Golden Calf:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-friday-year-1/

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The story from 1 Kings 12  and 13 is one in which King Jeroboam I is consolidating his power.  He faces a hostile Kingdom of Judah to his south, and so he does not like the fact that many of his subjects keep visiting the Jerusalem Temple.  In response Jeroboam erects his own substitute sites, each with a golden calf (echoing Aaron’s idolatry in the Sinai Desert) and unqualified priests.  It was not the same.  It was not nearly as good.  But it was politically expedient.

Biblical authors and editors condemned Jeroboam I and other kings for not wiping out worship outside that of Yahwistic bounds.  These authors and editors lived and died long before my forebears accepted and enshrined such wonderful concepts as liberty of conscience and the separation of religion and state.  Read the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.  There one finds a clause forbidding the establishment of a state religion.  There is a fascist wing of the Christian Right.  Members of this wing are quite open about their opposition to the separation of church and state and their desire for a Fundamentalist theocracy.  Yet I suspect that they constitute a minority of the Christian Right, most members of which I guess oppose a theocratic regime, much to their credit. They prefer to achieve their goals by other means.

Religious toleration was, for many biblical authors and editors, not a virtue.  But imagine, from a post-Enlightenment Western liberal perspective, how you would respond if your national government were to destroy houses of worship.  That is essentially what some biblical authors and editors wish certain kings had done.

Now that I have criticized the text and the worldview it espouses, I come around to admitting a basic truth the text contains:  Idolatry is bad.  There is a God-shaped hole inside each of us.  Sometimes we fill it with bad religion or with sports or with drugs.  There is nothing inherently idolatrous about sports, but how often have people admitted that a sport (basketball in Indiana, football in the U.S. South, hockey in Canada, soccer in many other places, etc.) is or is almost or is like a religion?  Anything can become an idol if one transforms into that.  I suspect that the most common idol in the U.S. South, apart from football, is the Bible, for many people seem to have filled their God-shaped hole with it.  The Bible is, at its best, a means to an end, but many people treat it as if it is the end toward which they strive.   God, of course, is the end toward which people ought to strive.

May we accept no substitutes.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/the-real-thing-and-poor-substitutes/

Week of Last Epiphany: Monday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  The Wicked Husbandmen, by Jan Luyken

Holiness, Actual and Imagined

FEBRUARY 15, 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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Tobit 1:1-2 and 2:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

This is the story of Tobit son of Tobiel, son of Hananiel, son of Aduel, son of Gaguel, of the family of Asiel, of the tribe of Naphtali.  In the time of King Shalmaneser of Assyria he was taken captive from Thisbe which is south of Kedesh-naphtali in Upper Galilee above Hazor, beyond the road to the west, north of Peor.

During the reign of Esarhaddon, I retuned to my house, and my wife Anna and my son Tobias were restored to me.  At our festival of Pentecost, that is the feast of Weeks, a fine meal was prepared for me and I took my place.  The table being laid and food in plenty put before me, I said to Tobias,

My son, go out and, if you find among our people captive here in Nineveh some poor man who is wholeheartedly mindful of God, bring him back to share my meal.  I shall wait for you, son, till you return.

Tobias went to look for a poor man of our people, but came straight back and cried,

Father!

I replied,

Yes, my son.

He answered,

Father, one of our nation has been murdered!  His body is lying in the market-place; he has just been strangled.

I jumped up and left my meal untasted.  I took the body from the square and put it in one of the outbuildings until sunset when I could bury it; then I went indoors, duly bathed myself, and ate my food in sorrow.  I recalled the words of the prophet Amos in the passage about Bethel:

Your festivals shall be turned into mourning,

and all your songs into lamentation,

and I wept.  When the sun had gone down, I went and dug a grave and buried the body.  My neighbours jeered.

Is he no longer afraid?

they said.

He ran away last time, when they were hunting him to put him to death for this very offence; and here he is again burying the dead!

Psalm 112:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments!

2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches will be in their house,

and their righteousness will last for ever.

4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

5 It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

6 For they will never be shaken;

the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.

Mark 12:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

He went on to speak to them in parables:

A man planted a vineyard and put a wall round it, hewed out a winepress, and built a watch-tower; then he let it out to the wine-growers and went abroad.  When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to collect from them his share of the produce.  But they seized him, thrashed him, and sent him away empty-handed.  Again, he sent them another servant, whom they beat about the head and treated outrageously, and then another, whom they killed.  He sent many others and they thrashed and killed the rest.  He had now no one left to send except his beloved son, and in the end he sent him.  “They will respect my son,” he said; but the tenants said to one another, “This is the heir; come on, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.”  So they seized him and killed him, and flung his body out of the vineyard.  What will the owner of the vineyard do?  He will come and put the tenants to death and give the vineyard to others.

Have you never read this text:  “The stone which the builders rejected has become the main corner-stone.  This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes”?

They saw that the parable was aimed at them and wanted to arrest him; but they were afraid of the people, so they left him alone and went away.

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The Collect:

O God, who before the passion of your only­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Book of Tobit, part of the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox canons of scripture, is, like Jonah, religious fiction.  Tobit is a pious Jew living in exile in the Assyrian Empire.  He loves God, his wife, Anna, and his son, Tobias.  And Tobit observes the Jewish faith as much as possible, given the circumstances.  He cannot, for example, observe the harvest festival of Pentecost in Jerusalem, but he does seek to share his Pentecost meal with a less fortunate Jew.  One year Tobit’s son informs his father that the body of a recently murdered Jew is on public display, not buried.  So, in violation of civic law but in accordance with Jewish law, Tobit takes and buries the body.  And he bathes himself ritually afterward, for touching a corpse made one unclean.

Thus Tobit sets in motion the action of the book bearing his name.  I will get to that in subsequent posts, but it is sufficed to say here that Tobit is a model of sincere Jewish piety, and that this holiness brings about both suffering and rewards.  Real life is like that, and the Book of Tobit, although a work of fiction, teaches this lesson.

Now, for the other side…..

Let us ground ourselves in the narrative within the Gospel of Mark.  Jesus is in Holy Week.  He is also engaged in a series of confrontations with Jewish religious leaders headquartered at the Temple at Jerusalem.  The “them” in Mark 12:1 consists of chief priests, scribes, and elders.  Jesus tells them a parable about an absentee landlord (YHWH), a vineyard (the Jewish people), murdered servants (prophets), wicked, selfish tenants (chief priests, scribes and elders) who hope to become heirs by killing the son, and the son (Jesus) of the absentee landlord.  The son will die, but he will become the chief cornerstone, and the God will win despite the best efforts of the wicked tenants, who will lose their position in the vineyard.

Brendan Byrne, S.J., in A Costly Freedom:  A Theological Reading of Mark’s Gospel (Collegeville, MN:  Liturgical Press, 2008), describes this parable as an encapsulation of the Gospel of Mark.  This makes sense:  Jesus lives, suffers, dies, and still triumphs.

The piety of these religious leaders served to build them up and set them apart from the “great unwashed,” who lacked the financial resources to achieve the standards of holiness the religious elite held up as the goal.  This was self-serving religion, not true seeking after God and identifying with the poor.  The fictional Tobit personified true holiness, and, by grace, so can we.  The religious elite Jesus stared down in the telling of the parable could have repented and come to personify true holiness, but they entrenched themselves in defensive positions.

May God reckon us as being more like Tobit than these chief priests, scribes, and elders, who lost their stake in the vineyard when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70 C.E., during the First Jewish War.

KRT