Archive for the ‘February 4’ Category

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

Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman--de Grebber

Above:  Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman, by Pieter de Grebber

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Mercy and Wisdom

FEBRUARY 4 and 5, 2019

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love;

and that we may obtain what you promise,

make us love what you command,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 17:8-16 (Monday)

2 Kings 5:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 56 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 14:13-25 (Tuesday)

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I praise God for his promises,

I trust in him and have no fear;

what can man do to me?

–Psalm 56:11, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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One can perceive divine wisdom only via God.  Such wisdom, which is for the building up of community (faith and otherwise) and not of self at the expense of others, is frequently counter-cultural.  We who claim to follow God should be careful to avoid the opposite fallacies of complete accommodation to social norms and of serial contrarian tendencies.  Letting go of proper standards is at least as bad as distrusting everything “worldly,” much of which is positive or morally neutral.

The narrative pericopes from the Hebrew Bible for these days tell of God extending mercy to people via people.  In one account the conduit is the prophet Elijah, who helps an impoverished widow of Zarephath.  In the other story a captive Hebrew servant girl suggests that her Aramean master, Naaman, a military commander, visit the prophet Elisha for a cure for his skin disease.  Naaman is surprised to learn that the remedy is to bathe in the humble River Jordan seven times.  Divine help comes in unexpected forms sometimes.  Having a receptive frame of mind–perhaps via divine wisdom–is crucial to recognizing God’s frequently surprising methods.

I have never had a miraculously refilling jar of flour or jug of oil, but I have known the considerably mundane and extravagant mercies of God in circumstances ranging from the happy to the traumatic.  Either God’s mercies have been greater in proportion to my sometimes difficult circumstances or my perception was proportionately greater and divine mercies have been equally extravagant across time.  Was the light bulb brighter or did I notice it more because the light outdoors became dimmer?  I do not know, and perhaps the answer to that question does not matter.  Recognizing divine mercy and wisdom then acting accordingly does matter, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAVID NITSCHMANN, SR., “FATHER NITSCHMANN,” MORAVIAN MISSIONARY; MELCHIOR NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR; JOHANN NITSCHMANN, JR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; ANNA NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN ELDRESS; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, MISSIONARY AND FIRST BISHOP OF THE RENEWED MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF BRADFORD TORREY, U.S. ORNITHOLOGIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR AND OPPONENT OF FUNDAMENTALISM

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/divine-mercy-and-wisdom/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Millet_Gleaners

Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

Image in the Public Domain

Mutual Responsibility and Faithful Actions

FEBRUARY 3-5, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:1-18 (Monday)

Ruth 2:1-16 (Tuesday)

Ruth 3:1-13; 4:13-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 37:1-17 (all days)

Philemon 1-25 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:17-26 (Wednesday)

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Be still before the Lord and wait for him;

do not fret over those that prosper as they follow their evil schemes.

Refrain from anger and abandon wrath;

do not fret let you be moved to do evil.

–Psalm 37:7-8, Common Worship (2000)

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And sometimes one ought to act faithfully, not just be still faithfully.  In the case of the Book of Ruth, for example, people were active, not passive.  There was more going on than children’s Sunday School lessons (and even many, if not most, adult Sunday School lessons) admit, for that activity entailed seduction before love became a reality.  As Jennifer Wright Knust writes in Unprotected Texts:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved immigrant daughter-in-law, women can easily raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

–page 33

And, as Krust writes on page 35, the emotional bond and subsequent covenant between Ruth and Naomi helped both of them and Israel as a whole.  I add that it has helped many subsequent generations all over the world due its role in the genealogy of Jesus.

Family–not in the sense of marriage or ancestry–unites the readings for these three days.  The ethic of mutual responsibility (part of the Law of Moses) runs through the New Testament also.  The more fortunate, who ought not to depend on their wealth in lieu of God, have responsibilities to the less fortunate.  Philemon had responsibilities to Onesimus, who was not necessarily a slave or even a fugitive.  (A very close reading of the text–one passage in particular–in the Greek raises serious questions about the traditional understanding).

This notion of mutual responsibility and the opinion of wealth one finds in Luke and James are profoundly counter-cultural in my North American setting, where rugged individualism and the quest for wealth are accepted values.  Yet with mutual responsibility comes inderdependence.  And the quest for enough wealth for one’s present and future needs, although laudable, becomes insatiable greed for some people.  Such greed is socially destructive, denying others enough.  There is always enough for everyone in God’s economy; scarcity is a feature of human, sinful economic systems.

May we, by grace, act faithfully and effectively to reduce such sinfulness where we are.  And, if we have not fallen into greed, may we not do so.  If we have, may we confess and repent of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILFRED THOMASON GRENFELL, MEDICAL MISSIONARY TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST; AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY, ECONOMIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/mutual-responsibility-and-faithful-actions/

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

Above:  Tragic Mask

Image Source = Holger.Ellgaard

Job and John, Part I:  Suffering

FEBRUARY 4, 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 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 1:1-22

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening)

John 1:1-18

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Some Related Posts:

A Prayer for Those Who Are Tortured:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-are-tortured/

A Prayer for Those Who Inflict Torture:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-inflict-torture/

God Be In My Head:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/god-be-in-my-head/

Prayers for Those Who Suffer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-those-who-suffer/

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With this day the Lutheran daily lectionary takes a turn into two great books:  Job and the Gospel of John.  I have read these closely but never together.  So I look forward to that experience.  I wonder what parallels, contrasts, and connections will become apparent.

It is crucial to avoid reading the Book of Job anachronistically if one is to understand what is happening in its pages.  Satan is God’s employee in the text.  His job is to test the loyalty of people–in this case, Job.  The theology of Satan’s role relative to God did not make him a rebel until the Persian period in Jewish history, and the Book of Job, with all of its layers of composition (at least four, according to The Jewish Study Bible), is pre-Persian.  So Job, a good man, suffers because God permits it.  That is what the Book of Job says.

Turning to the the Johannine Gospel, we read the glorious prologue.  There is much to comment on there, but I focus on the thread of rejections, for that led to Christ’s suffering.

The Word was the real light

that gives light to everyone;

he was coming into the world.

He was in the world

that had come into being through him,

and the world did not recognise him.

He came to his own

and his own did not accept him.

–John 1:9-11, The New Jerusalem Bible

Job, a purely fictional figure, suffered not because of what he had done.  Jesus, who was real, also suffered not because of any sin or consequences thereof.  The question of suffering and its causes is vexing much of the time.  As Mayer Gruber, in his introduction to the Book of Job in The Jewish Study Bible, pointed out excellently, those who insist that suffering must result form one’s sins think that suffering must be deserved.  This argument, which the Book of Job contradicts, leads one to falsify the character of the one who suffers and that of God, whom such a one who makes the argument seeks to defend.  Yet, Gruber reminds his readers, God does not offer an explanation for suffering.

That is, in the LORD’s argument, the reasons for suffering–if there are any–are simply beyond human comprehension.  (page 1500)

The Book of Job ends without having explained in a satisfactory way why Job suffered.  Yes, God permitted it in Chapter 2, but who does that make God look?  And, in the Gospel of John, the incarnate Son of God finds his glory on the cross.  How is that for counter-intuitive?  Things are not always as they seem.

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-i-suffering/

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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 2019-2020, 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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Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   10 comments

Above:  Clouds at Sunset

Image Source = Fir0002

The Call of God, With All Its Responsibilities

FEBRUARY 4, 2018

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Isaiah 40:21-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,

and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;

who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,

and spreads them like a tent to live in;

who brings princes to naught,

and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,

scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,

when he blows upon them, and they wither,

and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me?

or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:

Who created these?

He who brings out their host and numbers them,

calling them all by name;

because he is great in strength,

mighty in power,

not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,

and speak, O Israel,

My way is hidden from the LORD,

and my right is disregarded by my God?

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 147:1-12, 21c (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hallelujah!

How good it is to sing praises to our God!

how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!

2  The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;

he gathers the exiles of Israel.

3  He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

4  He counts the number of the stars

and call s them all by their names.

5  Great is our LORD and mighty in power;

there is no limit to his wisdom.

6  The LORD lifts up the lowly,

but casts the wicked to the ground.

7  Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;

make music to our God upon the harp.

8  He covers the heavens with clouds

and prepares the rain for the earth;

9  He makes grass to grow upon the mountains

and green plants to serve mankind.

10  He provides food for flocks and herds

and for the young ravens when they cry.

11  He is not impressed by the might of a horse;

he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;

12  But the LORD has pleasure in those who fear him,

in those who await his gracious favor.

21c  Hallelujah!

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!  For if I do this on my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.  When then is my reward?  Just this:  that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free if charge, as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became a Jew, in order to win Jews.  To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, so I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Mark 1:29-39 (New Revised Standard Version):

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.  He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.  Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered around the door.  And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and his companions hunted for him.  When they found him, they said to him,

Everyone is searching for you.

He answered,

Let us go on to the neighboring towns , so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.

And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

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:

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Isaiah 40:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eleventh-day-of-advent/

Mark 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

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In the Autumn of 1991, during my first quarter at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia, my father was the newly appointed pastor the Sumner United Methodist Church, Sumner, Georgia.  I did not know it yet, but I was on the cusp of converting to The Episcopal Church, which I did at St. Anne’s Church, Tifton, on December 22, 1991.   In the meantime, however, I was still a United Methodist.  One Sunday morning, while teaching adult Sunday School, I offended someone by accident.

You, O reader, might wonder what terrible thing I said, what utterly offensive comment I made.  I will tell you.  I was discussing grace, especially the prevenient variety, by which God brings us into the Christian fold.  God does beckon us, after all.  I offered a scenario:  God is beckoning a non-Christian man, who responds favorably and obediently to God’s prevenient grace yet dies before making a profession of faith.  Does the man go to Heaven or to Hell?  In other words, will God be faithful to this man, who had responded favorably to him?  Most people said that the man would go to Heaven.  But two visitors, a daughter and son-in-law of a member, said that he would go to Hell, for he had not made a profession of faith and been baptized yet.  I made clear in a polite and civilized way, in a pleasant and conversational tone, and free of any insult or hint thereof, that I disagreed.

That was my offense.  I disagreed.  I learned after the fact that the visitors had taken offense.  I was unapologetic then, as I remain, for another person’s thin theological skin is not my responsibility.

And I remain convinced that we human beings ought to admit that the only limits on grace and divine forgiveness are those God imposes on them, and that only God knows what those limits are.  Or, as David said in 2 Samuel 24:14,

…let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.  (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

Grace is of the essence.  With that summary, let us work through the readings for this Sunday.

The lesson from Isaiah 40 predicts the liberation of Jews from the Babylonian Exile.  This is a chapter of comfort, as it begins with these words:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.

(Isaiah 40:1-2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

The God of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 147 is the Creator, the judge who also shows mercy, looks favorably upon the faithful, and is infinitely wise.  The chapter, which begins with “…comfort my people,” ends with the promise that God will grant “power to the faint.”

That power enabled Paul the Apostle to persist faithfully through death threats, beatings, imprisonments, and a shipwreck, all the way until an employee of the Roman Empire cut his head off.  Grace moved Paul from the “right side of the law” and placed him in risky situations.  This was not cheap grace, that which demands nothing of one and is therefore useless.  No, it was costly grace–free in so far as Paul received it freely–but costly in terms of what it demanded of him.  The restrictions of Torah law no longer applied to him, but the law of the love of Christ demanded his all.

Jesus, of course, was perfect as well as fully human and fully divine.  Yet even he needed to get away, find quiet time, and pray.  A day full of healing will take a great deal out of a Messiah, I suppose.  He was grace incarnate.  It was Christ whom Paul preached and followed from his conversion to his execution.  It is Jesus whom we ought to follow, if we are not doing so already, and to whom God beckons people.

And if even Jesus needed to be quiet and to pray, how much more do we need to do these?  I live in a technology-soaked society, where many people are never really “away from it all” (except when sleeping) because somebody can contact them the rest of the time.  This is not healthy.  We need to nourish ourselves with peace, quiet, and God.  Otherwise, we will nothing constructive to offer anyone else.

Paul had a vocation as an evangelist and ultimately a martyr.  I have my vocation, and you, O reader, have yours.  The details of our vocations will vary according to various factors, but the principle is the same:  to glorify God, to be a light of God to others, to encourage our fellow Christians in their discipleship, to attract others to our Lord and Savior, to understand that there is no distinction between evangelism and positive social action.  As Shirwood Eliot Wirt, a close associate of Billy Graham wrote in the final chapter of The Social Conscience of the Evangelical (1968):

James was not wrong when he demanded that Christians show their faith by their works.  Jesus Christ was not wrong when he told his listeners in effect to stop sitting on their hands and to get to work doing God’s will.  He did not come to earth to split theological hairs, but to minister to a world in need and to save men out of it for eternity.  It is time the air is cleared.  To pit social action against evangelism is to raise a phony issue, one that Jesus would have spiked in a sentence.  He commanded his disciples to spread the Good News, and to let their social concern be made manifest through the changed lives of persons of ultimate worth.  (Page 154)

If I love my neighbor as I love myself, I cannot say honestly that I do not care about the injustice he or she endures, that he or she does not earn a living wage, that a flawed justice system convicted and sent him or her to prison unjustly, that he or she suffers under the weight of undue stigma, et cetera.  Grace demands me to care about all this and to act accordingly as well as whether my neighbor has a positive, growing relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. These are some of my responsibilities.  They are also yours.

God’s hands are my hands–and yours.  God’s voice is my voice–and yours.  May they be useful and eloquent, respectively.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/the-call-of-god-with-all-its-responsibilities/

Week of 4 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  The Death of Absalom, by Gustave Dore

He Who Lives By the Sword…

FEBRUARY 4, 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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2 Samuel 18:9-15, 24-19:3 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And Absalom chanced to meet the servants of David.  Absalom was riding his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.  And a certain man saw it, and told Joab,

Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.

Joab said to the man who told him,

What, you saw him!  Why then did you not strike him there to the ground?  I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.

But the man said to Joab,

Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not put forth my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, “For my sake protect the young man Absalom.”  On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.

Joab said,

I will not waste time like this with you.

And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak.  And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him.

(Joab orders Ahimaaz not to tell David what has happened.  Then Joab sends a Cushite to update David and decides after all to let Ahimaaz run after the Cushite.  Ahimaaz then passes the Cushite.)

Now David was sitting between the two gates; and the watchman went up to the roof of the gate by the wall, and when he lifted up his eyes and looked, he saw a man running alone.  And the watchman called out and told the king.  And the king said,

If he is alone, there are tidings in his mouth.

And he came apace, and drew near.  And the watchman saw another man running; and the watchman called to the gate and said,

See, another man running alone!

The king said,

He also brings tidings.

And the watchman said,

I think the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.

And the king said,

He is a good man, and comes with good tidings.

Then Ahimaaz cried out out to the king,

All is well.

And he bowed before the king with his face to the earth, and said,

Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king.

And the king said,

Is it well with the young man Absalom?

Ahimaaz answered,

When Joab sent your servant I saw a great tumult, but I do not know what it was.

And the king said,

Turn aside, and stand here.

So he turned aside, and stood still.

And behold, the Cushite came; and the Cushite said,

Good tidings for my lord the king!  For the LORD has delivered you this day from the power of all who rose up against you.

The king said to the Cushite,

Is it well with the young man Absalom?

And the Cushite answered,

May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up against you for evil, be like that young man.

And the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said,

O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!  Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

It was told Joab,

Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.

So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people; for the people heard that day,

The king is grieving for his son.

And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle.

Psalm 86:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bow down your ear, O LORD, and answer me,

for I am poor and in misery.

2 Keep watch over my life, for I am faithful;

save your servant who puts his trust in you.

Be merciful to me, O LORD, for you are my God;

I call upon you all the day long.

4 Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O LORD, I lift up my soul.

5 For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving,

and great is your love toward all who call upon you.

Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer,

and attend to the voice of my supplications.

Mark 5:21-43 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And when Jesus had crossed again in the boat to the other side, a great crowd gathered about him; and he was beside the sea.  Then came one of the rulers of the synagogue, Jairus by name, and seeing him, he fell at this feet, and begged him, saying,

My little daughter is at the point of death.  Come and lay your hands on her, so that she may be made well, and live.

And he went with him.

And a great crowd followed him and thronged about him.  And there was a woman who had a flow of blood for twelve years, and who had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse.  She had heard the reports about Jesus, and came up behind him in the crowd and touched his garment.  For she said,

If I touch even his garments, I shall be made well.

And immediately the hemorrhage ceased; and she felt in her body that she was healed of her disease.  And Jesus, perceiving in himself that power had gone forth from him, immediately turned about in the crowd, and said,

Who touched my garments?

And his disciples said to him,

You see the crowd pressing around you, and yet you say, ‘Who touched me?”

And he looked around to see who had done it.  But the woman, knowing what had been done to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him, and told him the whole truth.  And he said to her,

Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace, and be healed of your disease.

While he was still speaking, there came fro the ruler’s house some who said,

Your daughter is dead.  Why trouble the Teacher any further?

But ignoring what they said, Jesus said to the ruler of the synagogue,

Do not fear, only believe.

And he allowed no one to follow him except Peter and James and John the brother of James.  When they came to the house of the ruler of the synagogue, he saw a tumult, and people weeping and wailing loudly.  And when he had entered, he said to them,

Why do you make a tumult and weep?  The child is not dead but sleeping.

And they laughed at him.  But he put them all outside, and took the child’s father and mother and those who were with him, and went in where the child was.  Taking her by the hand he said to her,

Talitha cumi;

which means,

Little girl, I say to you, arise.

And immediately the girl got up and walked; for she was twelve years old.  And immediately they were overcome with amazement.  And he strictly charged them that no one should know this, and told them to give her something to eat.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of 4 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/week-of-4-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

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He who lives by the sword will die by the sword.  I refer to Joab, not Absalom.  This is what the 1968 Encyclopaedia Britannica says about Joab:

JOAB (fl. 1000 B.C.), Jewish military commander under King David, his mother’s brother, figures chiefly in the biblical second Book of Samuel.  He led the commando party which captured Jerusalem for David, and as a reward was appointed commander in chief of the army.  He played a leading part in many of David’s victories (e.g., against the Ammonites and Edomites) and led the loyal force which crushed the rebellion of David’s son Absalom.  Utterly devoted to David, Joab thought he knew David’s interests  better than David himself did; hence his killing of Absalom when David had commanded that his life be spared.  Joab showed characteristic ruthlessness in the treacherous murder of two of his potential rivals:  Abner, Saul’s former commander in chief, who had killed Joab’s brother Asahel, and Amasa, who mustered the men of Judah for David against the revel leader Sheba.  Joab obeyed under protest when ordered by David to carry out a national census.  During David’s last words he supported his son Adonijah’s abortive bid for the throne, and was executed by the successful Solomon.

This entry comes from Volume 13, page 2, by the way.

The 1962 Encyclopedia Americana (Volume 16, page 148) says this about him:

JOAB, King David’s nephew and commander in chief of his armies.  He helped put David on the throne by defeating Abner, military leader of Saul’s forces.  Later he killed Abner to avenge the earlier slaying of his own brother Asahel, and possibly to remove a dangerous rival to his power.  He conducted David’s foreign wars and put down Absalom’s revolt, slaying Absalom with his own hands.  David then attempted to supercede him with Amasa, Absalom’s general, whom Joab also assassinated to retain his position.  He assisted David in putting to death Uriah the Hittite, the first husband of Bath-sheba.  Finally, he supported Adonijah, David’s rightful heir, against Bath-sheba’s son Solomon.  For this Solomon had put him to death, allegedly at the behest of dying David (I Kings 2:28-34).

Sometimes Joab obeyed his uncle and king; other times he did not.  Joab killed others who threatened his position, until Solomon had him killed.  The pattern of Joab’s life led to the manner of his death.

Of course, bad things do happen to good people, and sometimes nonviolent people die violently.  For example, Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., advocated nonviolent social and political change but each man died because somebody shot him.  And Jesus, was not violent, but agents of the Roman Empire put him to death via execution.  Often people who seek to appeal to the best elements of human nature die because they anger people interested in nurturing the worst elements of human nature.

Nevertheless, the fact remains that those who live by the sword have set themselves on a course which will end badly.  This rule applies to nations as well as people; those nation-states, kingdoms, and empires which seek enemies more often than friends succeed in that goal, but fail in the long term to establish stability and peaceful relations with neighbors.  They might gain short-term military glory, but, in the long term, it is better to have more allies and friends than enemies.

God, as I understand God via Jesus, is the deity of shalom, a word with many meanings.  Translated as peace, hello, and goodbye, shalom means far more.  The Oxford Companion to the Bible explains (on page 578)  that shalom can refer to all of the following:

  • Health
  • Restoration to health
  • General well-being (including sound sleep, length of life, a tranquil death, and physical safety)
  • Good relations between peoples and nations
  • Tranquility and contentment
  • Wholeness
  • Soundness
  • Completeness
  • Peace in God

Joab was not on the path of shalom.

May you, O reader, and I be on and stay on that path, however.  Shalom to you.  Shalom to your relatives, friends, and neighbors.  Shalom to your enemies.  Shalom to people you will never know.  Shalom to the United States.  Shalom to all nations.  Shalom to the State of Israel.  Shalom to the Palestinian Authority.  Shalom to everybody.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/he-who-lives-by-the-sword/