Archive for the ‘January 13’ Category

Devotion for the First Sunday After the Epiphany, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The River Jordan

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-03260

Faithful Servants of God, Part I

JANUARY 13, 2019

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 42:1-9

Psalm 29

Philippians 3:4b-14

Matthew 3:13-17

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The Book of Isaiah includes Servant Songs, the first of which is our first reading.  Biblical scholars have long pondered the identity of the servant.  Some see a prophecy of Christ, baptized in Matthew 3:13-17.  In real time, from the temporal perspective of Deutero-Isaiah, perhaps the best guess is that the servant is the personification of the Jews–the chosen people of God.

Recently, while browsing the extensive books section of a local thrift store, I saw a volume entitled How to Find God.  The author of that book was seriously mistaken, for we do not find God.  Rather, God finds us.  It has always been true that God, in whom is our only proper boast, is our strength and shield.  It has always been true that God’s call has imposed upon the recipients of (free) grace certain obligations, such as working for justice.  It has always been true that we, working with others, can be more effective in purposes (noble and otherwise) than when laboring in solitude.

“What is God calling me to do?” is a valid question.  A greater query is, “What is God calling us to do?”  May we identify and labor faithfully in that work, and succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/faithful-servants-of-god-part-iii/

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

Death of Simon Magus

Above:  The Death of Simon Magus

Image in the Public Domain

Grace, Demanding Faithful Responses, Part I

JANUARY 13-15, 2022

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The Collect:

Lord God, source of every blessing,

you showed forth your glory and led many to faith by the works of your Son,

who brought gladness and salvation to his people.

Transform us by the Spirit of his love,

that we may find our life together in him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 3:1-5 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 3:19-25 (Friday)

Jeremiah 4:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 36:5-10 (All Days)

Acts 8:18-24 (Thursday)

1 Corinthians 7:1-7 (Friday)

Luke 11:14-23 (Saturday)

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Like a generous host you give them their fill of good food from your larder.

From your lovely streams which bring such pleasure you give them water to drink.

–Psalm 36:9, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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That is true, of course, so idolatry is especially galling.  Marriage, a literal matter in 1 Corinthians 7, is a metaphor in Jeremiah 3 and 4, where whoring becomes a metaphor for idolatry.  A relationship with God is intimate, this language tells us.

One of the themes in the Gospel of Mark, no part of which we read today, is that those who think they are insiders might actually be outsiders.  That theme applies to our Lord and Savior’s accusers in Luke 11; he was never in league with evil.  The fact that a person who knew Jesus could not recognize that reality speaks badly of that individual.  Jesus was no more in league with evil than Simon Magus could purchase the Holy Spirit, the offer to do which led to a quotable rebuke:

May your silver be lost for ever, and you with it, for you think that money could buy what God has given for nothing!  You have no share, no part, in this:  God can see how your heart is warped.  Repent of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the LORD that this scheme of yours may be forgiven; it is plain to me that you are held in the bitterness of gall and the chains of sin.

–Acts 8:20b-23, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

From that incident came the word “simony.”

Grace is free yet not cheap.  We can never purchase or earn it, but we can respond favorably to it.  Grace demands concrete evidence of its presence, as measured in deeds, which flow from attitudes.  Do we love our neighbors as we love ourselves?  I prefer that standard to any Pietistic list of legalistic requirements.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE EIGHTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE CHURCH OF SOUTH INDIA, 1947

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/09/27/grace-demanding-faithful-responses-part-i/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the First Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Crown of Thorns

Above: Crown of Thorns

Image in the Public Domain

Exile, Grief, and Faith

JANUARY 13, 2021

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The Collect:

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters.

Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit,

that we may follow after your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 41:14-20

Psalm 69:1-5, 30-36

John 1:29-34

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As for me, I am afflicted and in pain;

your help, O God, will lift me up on high.

–Psalm 69:31, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Many Jews lived in exile in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire at the time of Isaiah 41.  Texts from that time tended to look forwward to the post-Exilic era and describe as being better than it turned out to be.  The land was never as verdant as the economy was never as good as the prophesies promised.  And  most of that post-Exilic era was one of foreign occupation.  Thus, at the time of Jesus, many Palestinian Jews had a sense of living as exiles in their homeland.

Exile is a state many people know.  It might be a literal, geographical reality or a spiritual one.  Nevertheless, the sense of not being at home (at least fully) is difficult.  I have been a spiritual exile, for example.  If I ever have to live in some places, I will become one again.  I wish only the best for those dealing with exile in any form.  They have my sympathy at least; others have my empathy.

Fortunately, all of us can call upon Jesus, the Lamb of God, who can empathize with us.  He is kinder than many of our fellow human beings, including a host of those who claim to follow him.  So I invite you, O reader, not to permit the failings of Christians to detract you from following Christ, who has borne griefs, suffered, and emerged triumphant.  I have no easy answers about failed prophesies and persistent grief, so I offer none.  If I did have them, they would be worthless anyway.  Yet I embrace the lack of a firm answer I can grasp as I seek to follow Jesus.  Maybe I will ask the difficult questions of God in the afterlife.

My conclusion, O reader, is that knowledge dies not bring anyone salvation.  If it did, the Gnostics would be correct.  No, what we do not know outweighs what we know and can know.  Will we trust God enough to follow Jesus through the wilderness of our ignorance, doubts, and grief?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF LINCOLN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROQUE GONZALEZ DE SANTA CRUZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE-PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC CONTEMPLATIVE

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A Franciscan Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-franciscan-blessing/

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/exile-grief-and-faith/

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

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Above:  Bethel, Between 1898 and 1914

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11380

Including the Faithful Others

JANUARY 13, 2020

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The Collect:

O God our Father, at the baptism of Jesus you proclaimed him your beloved Son

and anointed him with the Holy Spirit.

Make all who are baptized into Christ faithful to their calling

to be your daughters and sons,

and empower us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 35:1-15

Psalm 89:5-37

Acts 10:44-48

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Happy are the people who know the shout of triumph:

they walk, O Lord, in the light of your countenance.

In your name they rejoice all the day long

and are exalted in your righteousness.

For you are the glory of their strength,

and in your favour you lift up our heads.

Truly the Lord is our shield;

the Holy One of Israel is our king.

–Psalm 89:13-18, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Faithfulness to God does not depend upon one’s cultural or ethnic heritage.  In the Bible alone many Gentiles proved faithful and a host of Hebrews did not, just as many Hebrews proved faithful and a plethora of Gentiles did not.  Sometimes the faithless and the faithful were the same people.

The Book of Genesis, being composed of sources edited together, contains a number of doublets.  There are, for example, two sets of instructions regarding the number of animals to take aboard Noah’s Ark, two creation stories, and two versions of how Jacob became Israel.  The more famous one–the wrestling match—occurs in Chapter 32.  In Chapter 35, however, Jacob becomes Israel after he erects an altar to God at Bethel and buries the idols of the members of his household.  Jacob had been a trickster whom others had tricked.  Yet he became a great instrument of God.

One of the major issues in the New Testament is the proper relationship of the Law of Moses to Gentiles.  St. Paul the Apostle dealt with it.  And so did St. Simon Peter, through whom the household of St. Cornelius the Centurion came to God.  This major issue was one of identity for Jews and Gentiles alike.  My position is that one ought never to maintain one’s identity by excluding others whom one should include.

This is a devotional post for early in the Season after Epiphany, a time to think about the proclamation of the Incarnation of God to the Gentiles.  I am a Gentile, so I owe much gratitude to St. Simon Peter, St. Paul the Apostle, and those who followed in their footsteps.  Yet I face my own spiritual challenge–to welcome those whom, out of misplaced piety, I might exclude improperly.  May you, O reader, and I follow where our spiritual forebears have trod faithfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CARL LICHTENBERGER, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF J. R. R. TOLKIEN, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF JIMMY LAWRENCE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PRUDENCE CRANDALL, EDUCATOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/including-the-faithful-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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Before a Bible Study   Leave a comment

Above:  An Old Family Bible

Image Source = David Ball

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God of glory,

as we prepare to study the Bible,

may we approach the texts with our minds open,

our intellects engaged,

and our spirits receptive to your leading,

so that we will understand them correctly

and derive from them the appropriate lessons.

Then may we act on those lessons.

For the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ,

Amen.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MELCHIOR MUHLENBERG, SHEPHERD OF LUTHERANISM IN THE AMERICAN COLONIES

THE FEAST OF FRED KAAN, HYMNWRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN WOOLMAN, ABOLITIONIST

Posted October 7, 2011 by neatnik2009 in December 1, December 10, December 11, December 12, December 13, December 14, December 15, December 16, December 17, December 18, December 19, December 2, December 20, December 21, December 22, December 23, December 24: Christmas Eve, December 25: First Day of Christmas, December 26: Second Day of Christmas/St. Stephen, December 27: Third Day of Christmas/St. John the Evangelist, December 28: Fourth Day of Christmas/Holy Innocents, December 29: Fifth Day of Christmas, December 3, December 30: Sixth Day of Christmas, December 31: Seventh Day of Christmas/New Year's Eve, December 4, December 5, December 6, December 7, December 8, December 9, February 1, February 10, February 11, February 12, February 13, February 14, February 15, February 16, February 17, February 18, February 19, February 2, February 20, February 21, February 22, February 23, February 24, February 25, February 26, February 27, February 28, February 29, February 3, February 4, February 5, February 6, February 7, February 8, February 9, January 10, January 11, January 12, January 13, January 14, January 15, January 16, January 17, January 18, January 19, January 1: Eighth Day of Christmas/Holy Name of Jesus/New Year's Day, January 20, January 21, January 22, January 23, January 24, January 25, January 26, January 27, January 28, January 29, January 2: Ninth Day of Christmas, January 30, January 31, January 3: Tenth Day of Christmas, January 4: Eleventh Day of Christmas, January 5: Twelfth Day of Christmas, January 6: Epiphany, January 7, January 8, January 9, March 1, March 2, March 3, March 4, March 5, March 6, March 7, March 8, March 9, November 27, November 28, November 29, November 30

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Week of 1 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant, in a screen capture from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Overconfidence and Misplaced Confidence

JANUARY 13, 2022

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

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1 Samuel 4:1c-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines; they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek.  The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who slew about four thousand men on the field of battle.  And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said,

Why has the LORD put us to rout today before the Philistines?  Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that he may come among us from the power of our enemies.

So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

When the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.  And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said,

What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?

And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said,

A god has come into the camp.

And they said,

Woe to us!  For nothing like this has happened before.  Woe to us!  Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?  These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness.  Take courage, and acquit yourselves like men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; acquit yourselves like men and flight.

So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home; and there was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers.  And the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

Psalm 44:7-14, 23-26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7  Surely, you gave us victory over our adversaries

and put those who hate us to shame.

8  Every day we gloried in God,

and we will praise your Name for ever.

9  Nevertheless, we have rejected and humbled us

and do not go forth with our armies.

10  You have made us fall back before our adversary,

and our enemies have plundered us.

11  You have made us like sheep to be eaten

and have scattered us among the nations.

12  You are selling your people for a trifle

and are making no profit on the sale of them.

13  You have made us the scorn of our neighbors,

a mockery and derision to those around us.

14  You have made us a byword among the nations,

a laughing-stock among the peoples.

23  Awake, O Lord!  why are you sleeping?

Arise!  do not reject us for ever.

24  Why have you hidden your face

and forgotten our affliction and oppression?

25  We sink down into the dust;

our body cleaves to the ground.

26  Rise up, and help us,

and save us, for the sake of your steadfast love.

Mark 1:40-45 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And a leper came to him begging him, and kneeling said to him,

If you will, you can make me clean.

Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him,

I will; be clean.

And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him,

See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.

But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 1 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 8 (Parallel to Mark 1):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

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1 Samuel 3:1b sets the stage for this day’s reading from Chapter 4.  Consider this short text:

And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

The Ark of the Covenant was powerful, mysterious, revered, and feared object.  Many Israelites believed that its presence at a battle made their army invincible, and the Philistines, who were accustomed to thinking in polytheistic terms, feared that this was true.  But the Philistines fought through their fear while the Israelites went into battle with misplaced confidence.

What happened next?

  1. The Philistines discovered the power of the ark for themselves, so they returned it.
  2. Eli died.
  3. Samuel succeeded him as priest, prophet, and judge.

That summarizes the portion of 1 Samuel we will skip over in the lectionary.

Back to the main idea now…

The narrative of much of the Old Testament, written in the historically-themed books with the benefit of hindsight, is that YHWH smiles upon worshiping him alone (not as part of a pantheon) and working for social justice, much of which is economic.  God, in the Bible, frowns upon polytheism and economic exploitation.  Consider the words of Hebrew prophets in relation to why a Hebrew nations rises or falls.  The Hebrews were supposed to be a light to the nations; they were not supposed to blend in with them.

Yet, as we read in 1 Samuel 3:1b,

And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

Many in the Confederate States of America believed honestly that God had ordained the institution of slavery.  So, they thought, those who argued from the Bible against the Peculiar Institution were heretics, and God would surely grant the Confederacy victory in the Civil War.  The Confederacy’s loss therefore left many of these partisans puzzled.  Surely, they told themselves, slavery was still ordained by God, so maybe they had carried it out in the wrong way.  They were not only overconfident; they also had misplaced confidence.

In my nation, the United States of America, income inequality has become much more pronounced in the last few decades.  Ironically, many of the most Social Darwinian defenders of those who have aided and abetted this transfer of wealth are would-be theocrats, self-appointed experts in morality.  Yes, they are quick to condemn sins of the flesh yet oblivious to the sin of economic exploitation.  These are false prophets.  When they speak, the word of the LORD is not heard in the land; their religion is one variety of what Karl Marx understood correctly as the opiate of the masses.  Yet there is a true religion, one which is a liberator, not an opiate, of the masses.  Eli, Samuel, John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, Francis of Assisi, Menno Simons, and Walter Rauschenbusch were prophets of this religion.  May we hear, understand, and obey, for the common good.  May we neither place in confidence in the wrong places nor become complacent.  And may God save us from ourselves.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/overconfidence-and-misplaced-confidence/

Week of 1 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Temptations of Jesus, from St. Mark’s, Venice

Jesus, Who Identifies With Us

JANUARY 13, 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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Hebrews 2:14-18 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Since therefore the children share in the flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.  For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham.  Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people.  For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Psalm 105:1-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

7 He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

8 He has always been mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made for a thousand generations;

9 The covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath he swore to Isaac,

10  Which he established as a statute for Jacob,

an everlasting covenant for Israel,

11 Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan,

to be your allotted inheritance.”

12 When they were few in number,

of little account, and sojourners in the land,

13 Wandering from nation to nation

and from one kingdom to another,

14 He let no one oppress them

and rebuked kings for their sake,

15 Saying, “Do not touch my anointed

and do my prophets no harm.”

Above:  Ruins of Capernaum

Image Source = David Shankbone

Mark 1:29-39 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her.  And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered together about the door.  And he healed 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.

And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and those who were with him followed him, and they found him and said to him,

Every one is searching for you.

And he said to them,

Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.

And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Below:  A Map of Galilee During Roman Times

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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If you have been paying sufficient attention to certain details, you have noticed that the readings from Mark and Hebrews have been sequential; one follows another according to chapter and verse.  Much of the value of a lectionary resides in this pattern.  I find more value in following a lectionary by identifying common threads in different readings assigned for the same day.  Among the greatest errors in biblical interpretation is reading a text outside of context, literary or historical.

Parts of the readings for this day, although prose by form, are more like poetry.  They communicate great truth without containing historical and scientific accuracy.  Writing from the context of 2010, I know the biological and psychosocial causes and contributing factors of physical diseases and mental illnesses.  Demonic possession is not among them.  Remember though, that the people of Jesus’ day had no way of knowing what I do.  They did the best with what they had.  And Jesus worked within that context.

Our Lord and Savior cared deeply for people, with whom he identified.  Indeed, as the author of Hebrews informs us, Jesus is able to help us through temptation because he knows how powerful that force is.  Temptation is a mighty force.  You know this at least as well as I do.  It is important, I think, to know the difference between the imperative to ask forgiveness and to repent and the unhelpful practice of being unduly self-critical.  We are all broken; God knows this.  We need to recognize our brokenness, take it to Jesus, and leave it there.  Beating up on ourselves, literally or spiritually, accomplishes no good purpose.

I have known powerful and deep anger.  My cause has been just, and the actions of my foes have been perfidious in consequences, if not intentions.  (I have insufficient information to evaluate their intentions, but the consequences of their actions are obvious to me.)  I have learned also that even righteous anger is too heavy a burden to carry for long.  My burden is fading away, by grace.  In time, it will cease to exist, also by grace.  My sin (which continues as I write this devotional) is not having forgiven my foes, who will remain unnamed in this post.  I am weak; Jesus is strong.  Jesus can cast out my figurative demons of rage at injustice and of any desire to cling to righteous indignation.  That power is my only hope.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/jesus-who-identifies-with-us/