Archive for the ‘January 14’ Category

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 Thursday and Friday Before the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ancient Corinth

Above: Ruins of Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07406

Disobedience to God, Part I

JANUARY 14 and 15, 2021

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The Collect:

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,

for the countless blessings and benefits you give.

May we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 2:6-15 (Thursday)

Judges 2:16-23 (Friday)

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 10:1-11 (Thursday)

Acts 13:16-25 (Friday)

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God, examine me and know my heart,

probe me and know my thoughts;

make sure I do not follow pernicious ways,

and guide me in the way that is everlasting.

–Psalm 139:23-24, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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2 Corinthians is a cut-and-pasted document.  There were four letters from St. Paul the Apostle to the Corinthian Church:

  1. The first is lost, as are many other ancient texts.
  2. 1 Corinthians is the second letter.
  3. 2 Corinthians 10:1-13:13 is the third letter.
  4. 2 Corinthians 1-9 (except for 6:14-7:1, the authorship and original placement of which are matters of dispute) is the fourth letter.

[Thanks to Calvin J. Roetzel, The Letters of Paul:  Conversations in Context, 2d. Ed. (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1982), pages 52-63.]

The text which is actually 3 Corinthians is a defensive, scolding, sarcastic, and sometimes threatening letter.  St. Paul argued against criticisms, such as the claim that he was more effective at a distance than when he was near and the allegation that he could not do what he claimed he could do.  He had to contend with fractiousness and rumor mongering.  Such problems constituted evidence of spiritual problems in the congregation.

St. Paul was not the only one who had to contend with people who disobeyed God.  Of course, God has had to deal with that problem for a long time.  Even those who had experienced the Exodus were prone to idolatry and rebellion.  Their descendants continued that pattern, unfortunately.

We humans have insufficient attention spans much of the time.  We also have selective memories.  I read about God’s mighty acts of the past, but many people experienced them.  How could any of them forget or ignore such wonders?

May we–you, O reader, and I–pay better attention and be more obedient.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY, PRINCESS

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF FRANZ SCHUBERT, COMPOSER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/disobedience-to-god-part-i/

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Devotion for Tuesday and Wednesday After the First Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Пророк_Иеремия,_Микеланжело_Буонаротти

Above:  Jeremiah, from the Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, by Michelangelo

(Image in the Public Domain)

Instruments of God

JANUARY 14 and 15, 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:

Jeremiah 1:4-10 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 51:1-16 (Wednesday)

Psalm 89:5-37 (both days)

Acts 8:4-13 (Tuesday)

Matthew 12:15-21 (Wednesday)

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Blessed are the people who know the shout that acclaims you:

the people also walk in the light of your presence.

They rejoice in your name all the day long:

and because of your righteousness they are exalted.

For you are their glory and their strength:

and through your favour our heads are lifted high.

Truly the Lord is our shield:

the Holy One is our sovereign.

–Psalm 89:15-18, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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These readings teach about sacred vocation–the vocation to walk with God, to be a light in the world, and even to convert adversaries when possible.  It is a vocation which one ignores at the peril of oneself and the health of one’s society.  Indeed, society is just people, so enough people can change society.

And, if one feels unqualified, that is because one is not qualified for the great tasks God has assigned to one.  Jeremiah was young.  Gideon’s army was too small.  The eleven surviving Apostles had feet of clay.  St. Paul the Apostle had a difficult personality.  Rahab was a prostitute.  And Jacob/Israel was a trickster.  I could continue, but I trust that I have made my point plainly.

Each of us has weaknesses and strengths inside self.  And each of us has access to a much greater strength–God, who works through people much of the time.  Furthermore, strengths can emerge from weaknesses.  If that is not evidence of grace, I do not know what is.

So, O reader, what is God calling and empowering you to do?

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/instruments-of-god/

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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 January 14 and 15 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Vision of the Valley of Dry Bones, by Gustave Dore

Freedom in Jesus

JANUARY 14 and 15, 2022

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 36:33-37:14 (January 14)

Ezekiel 37:15-28 (January 15)

Psalm 136 (Morning–January 14)

Psalm 123 (Morning–January 15)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–January 14)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–January 15)

Romans 5:1-21 (January 14)

Romans 6:1-23 (January 15)

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The Ezekiel and Romans readings function best when one reads them continuously.  Lectionaries are useful, but sometimes they are too choppy.

We begin with the lessons from Ezekiel.  Exiles will return to their ancestral homeland; that is one meaning of the Valley of Dry Bones.  Another traditional interpretation infers the resurrection of the dead before the last judgment.  I see no reason that is flawed.  But, as a narrative matter, the former reading of the text takes me my next point, which is that, in the homeland, God and the people will commune:

I will make a covenant of friendship with them–it shall be an everlasting covenant with them–I will establish them, and I will place My Sanctuary among them forever.  My Presence shall rest over them; I will be their God and they shall be My People.  And when My Sanctuary abides among them forever, the nations shall now that I the LORD do sanctify Israel.

–Ezekiel 37:26-28, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

What Ezekiel understood as the Second Temple applies nicely to Jesus, in whom we have reconciliation with God, in whom our offenses are lifted from us and through whom we have justification.  It is in Jesus that we are free from slavery to sin.  Voltaire said that we human beings are free as we choose to be.  If we choose to give ourselves over to someone’s authority, we lose a measure of freedom.  And even coercion cannot deprive a person of inner freedom if he or she opts to retain it.  Mohandas Gandhi was a free man in some prison cells, for example.  Likewise, if we choose to enslave ourselves to sin and shame, we have ourselves to blame.  But, if we seek liberty in Christ, we have grace and enough free will to choose to follow him to thank.

One of the most difficult forms of slavery to break is that of honor and shame.  What others think of us does affect us, so we have to care about that somewhat.  What other people say about influences whether we obtain certain employment (or keep it), for example.  Yet the most important assessment comes from God.  May the divine assessment be,

Well done, good and faithful servant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 25, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE ANNUNCIATION OF OUR LORD

THE FIFTH SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/freedom-in-jesus/

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Devotion for January 13 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  The Prophet Ezekiel

The Necessity of Theological Humility

JANUARY 13, 2022

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 36:13-28

Psalm 19 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening)

Romans 4:1-25

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…for the Law produces nothing but God’s retribution, and it is only where there is no Law that it is possible to live without breaking the Law….

–Romans 4:15, The New Jerusalem Bible

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The portrayal of God in Ezekiel 36:13-28 is interesting.  There we read, the prophet tells us, in God’s own words, that God had punished the rebellious Hebrews according to their deeds, even permitting foreigners to conquer them and to take many of them into exile.  All of this was in exchange for violations of the Law of Moses.  Yet many foreigners used the defeat of the Hebrews to consider Yahweh weak, unable to prevent the stages of the Babylonian Exile.

The previous sentence requires a brief explanation.  A common assumption in the ancient Middle East was that each nation had its own deities.  So the defeat of Nation A by Nation B indicated, in the minds of many, the greater power of Nation B’s deities.  In this case, it indicated, in the minds of many, the weakness of Yahweh.

Back to our regularly scheduled programming….

So, according to Ezekiel, many people interpreted God’s power as weakness.  Yet they were wrong.  Paul’s comments about the Law in Romans fit well here; where there is Law, there is retribution.  Anyhow, as the prophet explained, God (Yahweh) was about to act to restore the Hebrews geographically and spiritually.  And this would boost not only them but God’s reputation among foreigners.

I consider that my judgments are subject to human flaws and that understandings of God in the Bible exist according to time and authors, but I do offer a thought:  God comes across as selfish in Ezekiel 36:13-28 and as more generous in Romans 4.  Yet I do not pretend to have perfect knowledge, so consider the source.  Our understandings of God are partial at best; may we approach God with all due theological humility.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/the-necessity-of-theological-humility/

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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: Friday, Year 2   12 comments

Above:  Crown of King Christian IV of Denmark

Image Source = Ikiwaner

The Destructive Allure of Conformity

JANUARY 14, 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 8:4-22a (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him,

Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us like all the nations.

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said,

Give us a king to govern us.

And Samuel prayed to the LORD.  And the LORD said to Samuel,

Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.  According to all the deeds they have done for me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you.  Now then, listen to their voice; only, you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.

So Samuel told all the words of the LORD to the people who were asking a king from him.  He said,

These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you:  he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen, and to run before his chariots; and he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots.  He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers.  He will also take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants.  He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants.  He will take your menservants and maidservants, and the best of your cattle and your donkeys, and put them to his work.  He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.  And in that day you will cry out because of your king, whom you have chosen for yourselves; but the LORD will not answer you in that day.

But the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel; and they said,

No! but we will have a king over us, that we also may be like all the nations, and that our king may govern us and go out before us and fight our battles.

And when Samuel had heard all the words of the people, he repeated them in the ears of the LORD.  And the LORD said to Samuel,

Listen to their voice, and make them a king.

Psalm 89:15-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

15  Happy are the people who know the festal shout!

they walk, O LORD, in the light of your presence.

16  They rejoice daily in your Name;

they are jubilant in your righteousness.

17  For you are the glory of their strength,

and by your favor our might is exalted.

18  Truly, the LORD is our ruler;

the Holy One of Israel is our King.

Mark 2:1-12 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.  And many were gathered together , so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them.  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,

Child, your sins are forgiven.

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,

Why does this man speak like this?  It is blasphemy!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?

And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit what they questioned like this within themselves, said to them,

Why do you question like this in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Rise, take up your pallet, and walk”?  But that you too may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins

–he said to the paralytic–

I say to you, rise, take up your pallet, and go home.

And he rose, and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying,

We never saw anything like this!

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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:  Friday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/week-of-1-epiphany-friday-year-1/

Matthew 9 (Parallel to Mark 2):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-thursday-year-1/

Luke 5 (Parallel to Mark 2):

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

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God was supposed to be the King of Israel.  Judges governed, each in his or her own time, but there was supposed to be only one king.  In the ancient world, however, monarchy was most common form of government.  Being different can be very difficult, especially in a social species, such as Homo sapiens sapiens.  The rest is history, culminating in the Pharonic reign of King Solomon, after which the kingdom ruptured.

The wrath of God is not so much God afflicting us actively as it is God backing off and doing nothing as the chickens come home to roost.  But at least God gives a warning far in advance.

Sometimes I am a conscious contrarian.  One of the most effective ways to persuade me not to do something, such as see a certain movie or read a specific book, is to point out how popular it is.  The “join the bandwagon” appeal backfires with me much of the time.  If other people are trying act like others, I try to do the opposite, within my sense of self.  Other times I act without regard to what others think, but I just happen to emerge as one with very different tastes.  Either way, peer pressure has a limited effect on me.

So being different makes great sense to me.  It does, of course, limit my social mixing.  It has done so for most of my life, and deep introversion has become my default mode.  I am not quite the death of the party, but I am far from its life.  I recall that, when I grew up, many of members of my age peer group made my life difficult because of these tendencies.  They succeeded in violating the Golden Rule and in driving me deeper into myself.  Why would I want to emulate those who taunted me?  I hypothesize, by the way, that my childhood experiences in school contributed to my dislike for children, and therefore have informed my choice to remain childless.  I also suspect that my staunch nonconformity with regard to certain conventions (namely social and cultural history, given my preference for old-style institutional and Great Man history) in the study of history contributed to the premature demise of my doctoral program at The University of Georgia.  But this was a matter of principle; whatever I did academically, I was determined to do it with respect for my intellectual integrity.  By the way, sometimes the cost of maintaining one’s integrity is painful and high, but the price for prostituting one’s soul and mind is higher.

This above all:  to thine ownself be true,

And it it must follow, as the night the day,

Thou canst not be false to any man.

–William Shakespeare, Hamlet, Act I, Scene III, lines 78-80

Anyhow, the desire of the people in 1 Samuel 8 to be like their neighbor nations makes no sense to me; I stand with God and Samuel.  But, as the text says, “the people refused to listen to the voice of Samuel.”  They wanted to conform to the example of those around them.

Of all the words in the English language, the most profane ones, in my opinion, are “conform” and “conformity.”  God, you see, has granted each of us gifts to share with others.  Consenting to conformity stifles the unique blessings we can bring to the table and extinguishes the light we are to be to the nations, or at least to those in our vicinity.

May we never fear to be properly different, for the glory of God.

KRT

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

Week of 1 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 1   16 comments

Above:  Moses

Image Source = Billy Hathorn

Moses, Faithfulness, and Unbelief

JANUARY 14, 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 3:1-19 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Therefore, holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.  He was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in God’s house.  Yet Jesus has been counted worthy as much more glory than Moses as builder of the house has more honor than the house.  (For every house is built by some one, but the builder of all things is God. )  Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ was faithful over God’s house as a son.  And we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

Today, when you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

on the day of testing in the wilderness,

where your fathers put me to the test

and saw my works for forty years.

Therefore I was provoked with that generation,

and said, ‘they always go astray in their hearts;

they have not known my ways.’

As I swore in my wrath,

‘They shall never enter my rest.

Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end, while it is said,

Today, when you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

Who were they that heard and yet were rebellious?  Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses?  And with whom was he provoked forty years?  Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did he swear that they should never enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?  So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Above:  Moses Striking the Rock

Image Source = UpstateNYer

Psalm 95:6-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

8 Harden not your hearts,

as your forebears did in the wilderness,

at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,

when they tempted me.

9 They put me to the test,

though they had seen my works.

10 Forty years long I detested that generation and said,

“This people are wayward in their hearts;

they do not know my ways.”

11 So I swore in my wrath,

“They shall not enter into my rest.”

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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Consider the following:

And all the congregation of the children of Israel traveled from the wilderness of Sin on their travels by YHWH’s word, and they camped in Rephidim.  And there was no water for the people to drink.  And the people quarreled with Moses.  And they said, “Give us water, and let us drink.”

And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you test YHWH?”

And the people thirsted for water there, and the people complained at Moses and said, “Why is this that you brought us up from Egypt, to kill me, and my children and my cattle with thirst?!”

And Moses called to YHWH, saying, “What shall I do with this people?  A little more and they’ll stone me!”

And YHWH said to Moses, “Pass in front of the people and take some of Israel’s elders with you, and take your staff with which you struck the Nile in your hand, and you’ll go.  Here, I’ll be standing in front of you there on a rock at Horeb.  And you’ll strike the rock, and water will come out of it, and the people will drink.”  And Moses did so before the eyes of Israel’s elders.  And he called the place’s name Massah and Meribah becaus of the quarrel of the children of Israel and the because of their testing YHWH, saying, “Is YHWH among us or not?”

Exodus 17:1-7 (Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text, 2001)

And, in Numbers 20, Moses was supposed to speak to the rock, but he struck with his staff instead.  For this lack of faithfulness God forbade him to enter the Promised Land, as the narrative indicates.

Testing and Quarreling.  Those terms, English translations of Massah and Meribah, summarize much of the biblical story of the wandering in the desert following the Exodus.  Moses was flawed, but faithful most of the time.  For that his name is one of honor in the Bible.

The miracle of the Exodus was the liberation of the Hebrews.  The biblical text attempts a sort of scientific explanation for the parting of waters; Exodus 14:21 mentions a “strong east wind” (Richard Elliott Friedman’s translation).  The Everett Fox translation refers to a “fierce east wind.”  In the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula God continued to provide enough for the former slaves.  Water was available, as was a sufficient food supply.  Yet people grumbled and waxed nostalgically about Egyptian table scraps.  Ingratitude prevailed, and it came with consequences.

The conjunction of the three passages of scripture on the Canadian Anglican lectionary this day makes clear that there is a continuity from Moses to Jesus.  God is the builder of the household of faith, which consists of those who trust in and follow God.  Moses was a faithful servant in this household, and thus received due respect.  But Jesus is the Son, and therefore he is greater than Moses (no disrespect to Moses).

Leviticus 14 contains detailed instructions about what to do when presenting oneself to a priest as cleansed of leprosy, a generic term for several skin diseases which rendered one ritually impure and a social outcast.  The process included animal sacrifices, animal blood, and the shaving of the leper’s head.  For full details, read Leviticus 14.  These are the motions Jesus commands the healed leper to go through in Mark.  His order is to follow the Law of Moses, indicating a continuity from Moses to Jesus.  Yet the healed leper chose the understandable action–he told everyone he could about what Jesus had done for him.  So Jesus had to hide out in the wilderness for a while.  He was, in the Markan narrative, still keeping his Messianic Secret.

There is a time to tell what God has done for one, and a time to follow rituals and keep quiet.  Knowing which is which constitutes part of wisdom.

So does recognizing what God has done and being grateful for it.  The trap of nostalgia is at least two-fold.  First, the “good old days” were not as good as they look through our rose-colored glasses.  Furthermore, we are not looking at current blessings closely enough when living in the past.  God is the God of present blessings; we need to focus on these.  Do we have enough for today?  Let us give thanks for this. Many problems arise from mistaking desires for necessities.  Money, material possessions, and other potential idols can never fill the God-shaped hole in each of us.  By themselves, these are not idols.  Yet many of us transform them into such.

May we lay aside all our idols, whatever they are.  If we have turned anything good into an idol, may we reverse that process and enjoy this good thing as what it can be, at its best.  And may we live in full awareness of how good God is today, and act accordingly.  This God is the God of Moses and Jesus, of mercy and judgment.  This is the God who cares deeply and passionately about us.  May we reciprocate, as best we can, by grace.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/moses-faithfulness-and-unbelief/