Archive for the ‘January 16’ Category

Devotion for the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Amos

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

JANUARY 16, 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 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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Amos 3:1-8 or Proverbs 1:1-19

Psalm 115:1-11

1 Timothy 1:1-2, 12-17

John 1:35-42

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The Humes lectionary provides two options for the First Reading.  I will write about both of them.

Amos 3:1-8 includes a variation on the old saying that great responsibility accompanies great privilege.  Grace is free, not cheap.  One can never purchase it, but accepting it entails taking on duties.  To tie Proverbs 1:1-19 into that principle, one has a duty to show love for God by doing love to one’s fellow human beings.  Elsewhere in Amos, we read of greedy, exploitative people, as we do in Proverbs 1:8-19.

These men lie in wait for their own blood,

they set a trap for their own lives.

This is the fate of everyone greedy of loot:

unlawful gain takes away the life of him who acquires it.

–Proverbs 1:18-19, The New American Bible (1991)

Whatever we do to others, we do also to ourselves.

The audience in Amos 3 is collective; it is the people of Israel.  To be precise, it is the people of Israel during the reigns of King Azariah (Uzziah) of Judah (785-733 B.C.E.) and King Jeroboam II of Israel (788-747 B.C.E.).  The  Deuteronomic theology of the Book of Amos teaches that actions have consequences.  Obey the Law of Moses, please God, and reap the benefits.  Alternatively, disobey the Law of Moses, displease God, and reap the negative consequences.  Many of those commandments pertain to social justice, especially economic justice.

Our Western culture, with its pervasive individualism, easily overlooks collective responsibility.  Politically, the Right Wing emphasizes individual responsibility.  Meanwhile, the Left Wing stresses collective responsibility.  Both sides err in so far as they give short shrift to or ignore either type of responsibility.  Just as divine judgment and mercy exist in balance, so do individual and collective responsibility.  Mutuality holds them in balance.

Psalm 115 condemns idolatry.  The real idols are ideas, not objects.  A statue of a god, for example, can be a work of art to display in a museum.  Idolatry is about misplaced, disordered love, to go Augustinian on you, O reader.  In the case of the greedy people in Proverbs 1, their idol was attachment to wealth.

The reading from 1 Timothy 1 reminds us that God embraces repentance.  Remorse is an emotion that enables repentance, a series of actions.

Regardless of who wrote or dictated the First Letter to Timothy (probably not St. Paul the Apostle), St. Paul seemed unlikely to have become what he became in God.  Saul of Tarsus certainly did not expect it.  And, to turn to John 1:35-42, calling St. Simon “Peter,” or “Rock,” may have seemed ironic at first.  But Jesus recognized potential in him.  St. Simon Peter eventually grew into that potential.  St. Paul the Apostle grew into his potential, as well.

If we are to grew into our potential individually, we need the help of God and other people.  St. Paul had Ananias.  St. Simon Peter had Jesus.  Who do you have, O reader?

Likewise, if we are to grow into our potential collectively, we need the help of God and other groups of people.  We live in a web of mutuality.  We know this, do we not?  Globalization, at least, should have taught us that the communities and nation-states can affect the fates of our communities and nation-states.  

Will we work for the common good?  Or will we persist in delusions of amoral rugged individualism and isolationism?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 28, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST (TRANSFERRED)

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/12/28/mutuality-in-god-v/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Second Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Wise and Foolish Virgins

Above: The Parable of the Wise and Foolish Virgins, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

Disobedience to God, Part II

JANUARY 16, 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:

1 Samuel 2:21-21-25

Psalm 139:1-6, 13-18

Matthew 25:1-13

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Yahweh, you examine me and know me,

you know when I sit, when I rise,

you understand my thoughts from afar.

You watch me when I walk or lie down,

you know every detail of my conduct.

–Psalm 139:1-3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Almighty God,

to whom all hearts are open,

all desires known,

and from whom no secrets are hidden:

cleanse the thoughts of our hearts

by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit,

that we may perfectly love you,

and worthily magnify your holy name;

through Christ our Lord.

Amen.

Common Worship (2000)

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The roots of the Anglican Collect for Purity, a contemporary version of which I have quoted immediately above, reach back to the 1200s C.E., although the echoes of Psalms, especially Psalm 51, take its history back much further.  The theology of the collect fits today’s devotion well.  The first question of the Larger (Westminster) Catechism asks:

What is the chief and highest end of man?

The answer is:

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

–Quoted in Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), The Book of Confessions (1996), page 201

Fulfilling that high spiritual calling requires grace as well as a positive human response to God.  Grace marks that affirmative response possible.  Thus we exist in the midst of grace.  But what will we do with it?  There is, after all, the matter of free will.

The readings for today contain cautionary tales.  Eli was the priest prior to Samuel.  Eli’s sons were notorious and unrepentant sinners.  Their father rebuked them, but not as often and as sternly as he should have done.  Even if he had rebuked them properly, he could not have forced them to amend their attitudes and actions, for which they paid the penalty.  Eli’s successor became someone outside his family; that was the price he paid.  As for the foolish bridesmaids, they did not maintain their supply of lamp oil, as was their responsibility.

Some spiritual tasks we must perform for ourselves.  We cannot perform them for others, nor can others perform them for us.  Others can encourage us, assist us, and point us in the right direction, but only we can attend to certain tasks in our spiritual garden.  Will we do this or not?

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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-ii/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Second Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

The baptism of the Eunuch *oil on panel *64 x 47.5 cm *signed b.r.: RH 1626

Above:  The Baptism of the Eunuch, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Grace and Mutual Responsibility

JANUARY 16 and 17, 2023

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The Collect:

Holy God, our strength and our redeemer,

by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may

worship you and faithfully serve you,

follow you and joyfully find you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 12:1-13, 21-28 (Monday)

Isaiah 53:1-12 (Tuesday)

Psalm 40:6-17 (both days)

Acts 8:26-40 (Monday)

Hebrews 10:1-4 (Tuesday)

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O Lord my God,

great are the wonderful things you have done,

and the things you have in mind for us:

there is none to be compared with you.

I would proclaim them and speak of them:

but they are more than can be numbered.

–Psalm 40:6-7, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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The laws of God which are written on hearts and minds are laws of grace, love, and responsibility for and to each other.  They are laws of love for and responsibility to God.  The essence of them is to love God fully and others as ourselves.  The rest is commentary–mostly culturally-specific commentary–examples (bound by time, space and circumstances) of universal principles.  Therefore to become so fixated on examples as to ignore or minimize the universal principles is to miss the point and fall into legalism.

This internalized covenant is for all people, not that everyone embraces it or will do so.  It is for Hebrews and Gentiles alike.  It is for those like us and those quite different from us.  It is as much as for Hebrews as it was for a confused Ethiopian eunuch who needed a good catechist.  Fortunately, God sent him one.

The reading from Exodus speaks of the Passover meal instructions and of the importance of blood in deliverance–the latter being a theme in other readings for these days.  In the case of the Passover, the blood protected the Hebrews not from their own sins, but those of Egyptians.  This is a point which one might overlook out of imagined familiarity with the text.  Anyhow, the metaphor of the Passover as applied to Jesus (perhaps most explicitly applied to Jesus in the Gospel of John, where he dies on Passover itself–is the sacrificial lamb) carries meaning beyond just saving us from ourselves–from our sins.

A traditional American hymn speaks of

What wondrous love

that

caused the Lord of bliss

to

lay aside his crown for my soul.

May we–you, O reader, and I–respond favorably to that grace with heart and mind engaged fully, giving neither short shrift.  May we understand correctly and act accordingly, helping others to whom God sends us and others whom God sends to us, to do likewise.  For we are all responsible to and for each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/divine-grace-and-mutual-responsibility/

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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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Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   6 comments

 

Above:  Logo of the Women’s Christian Temperance Union

When God Acts

JANUARY 16, 2022

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Isaiah 62:1-5 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

For the sake of Zion I will not be silent,

For the sake of Jerusalem I will not be still,

Till her victory emerge resplendent

And her triumph like a flaming torch.

Nations shall see your victory,

And every kin, your majesty;

And you shall be called by a new name

Which the LORD Himself shall bestow.

You shall be a glorious crown

In the hand of the LORD,

And a royal diadem

In the palm of your God.

Nevermore shall you be called “Forsaken,”

Nor shall your land be called “Desolate”‘;

But you shall be called “I delight in her,”

And your land “Espoused.”

For the LORD takes delight in you,

And your land shall be espoused.

As a youth espouses a maiden,

You sons shall espouse you;

And as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride,

So will your God rejoice over you.

Psalm 36:5-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Your steadfast love, O LORD, extends to the heavens,

your faithfulness to the clouds.

Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,

your judgments are like the great deep;

you save humans and animals alike, O LORD.

How precious is your steadfast love, O God!

All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.

They feast on the abundance of your house,

and you give them drink from the river of your delights.

For with you is the fountain of life;

in your light we see light.

O continue your steadfast love to those who know you,

and your salvation to the upright of heart!

1 Corinthians 12:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

About gifts of the Spirit, my friends, I want there to be no misunderstanding.

You know how, in the days when you were still pagan, you used to be carried away by some impulse or other to those dumb heathen gods.  For this reason I must impress upon you that no one who says

A curse of Jesus!

can be speaking under the influence of the Spirit of God; and no one can say

Jesus is Lord!

except under the influence of the Holy Spirit.

There are varieties of gifts, but he same Spirit.  There are varieties of service, but the same Lord.  There are varieties of activity, but in all of them and in everyone the same God is active.  In each of us the Spirit is seen to be at work for some useful purpose.  One, through the Spirit, has the gift of wise speech, while another, by the power of the same Spirit, can put the deepest knowledge into words.  Another, by the same Spirit, is granted faith; another, by the one Spirit, gifts of healing, and another miraculous powers; another has the gift of prophecy, and other the ability to distinguish true spirits from false; yet another has the gift of tongues of various kinds, and another the ability to interpret them.  But all these gifts are the activity of one and the same Spirit, distributing them to each individual at will.

John 2:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

Two days later there was a wedding at Cana-in-Galilee.  The mother of Jesus was there, and Jesus and his disciples were also among the guests.  The wine gave out, so Jesus’s mother said to him,

They have no wine left.

He answered,

That is no concern of mine.  My hour has yet to come.

His mother said to the servants,

Do whatever he tells you.

There were six stone water-jars standing near, of the kind used for Jewish rites of purification; each held from twenty to thirty gallons.  Jesus said to the servants,

Fill the jars with water,

and they filled them to the brim.

Now draw some off,

he ordered,

and take it to the master of the feast,

and they did so.  The master tasted the water now turned into wine, not knowing its source, though the servants who had drawn the water knew.  He hailed the bridegroom and said,

Everyone else serves the best wine first, and the poorer only when the guests have drunk freely; but you have kept the best wine til now.

So Jesus performed at Cana-in-Galilee the first of the signs which revealed his glory and led his disciples to believe in him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/prayer-of-confession-for-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany/

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Once I read a story which might be apocryphal.  There was, in the days prior to the time of Prohibition in the United States, a certain woman who traveled along the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) lecture circuit and spoke of the evils of alcohol.  God, she said, wanted people to abstain from it all times. She completed her remarks and asked if anyone had any questions.  One young man raised his hand.  The speaker called on him.  He asked,

If what you say is true, how do you explain Jesus turning water into wine?

She replied,

I would like him better if he had not done that.

The readings for this Sunday speak of ways in which God acts.  In Isaiah God will act in a spectacular fashion to restore exiles.  As one who has read certain other parts of the Hebrew Scriptures knows, some people objected to the rebuilding of Jerusalem, its walls, and the Temple.  1 Corinthians 12:1-11 contains an explanation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit.  All of them are manifestations of God yet the variety of them offends certain conformists.  And Jesus turning water into wine in John 2:1-11, his first miracle in that Gospel, caused discomfort for many advocates of temperance.  Once, years ago, I watched a documentary about Jesus movies.  The program mentioned a silent film from the United States.  Scenes from the wedding feast at Cana were there, but with an explanation about the use of wine in biblical times.

When God acts we might become uncomfortable.  That is our problem, not any indication of a fault with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT INNOCENT OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF TOULOUSE, CARMELITE NUN, AND SAINT SIMON STOCK, CARMELITE FRIAR

THE FEAST OF KARL RAHNER, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/when-god-acts/

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Devotion for January 16 and 17 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  A Bullseye

Image Source = Alberto Barbati

Cleansing and Restoration

JANUARY 16 and 17, 2023

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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 38:1-23 (January 16)

Ezekiel 39:1-10, 17-29 (January 17)

Psalm 15 (Morning–January 16)

Psalm 36 (Morning–January 17)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–January 16)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–January 17)

Romans 7:1-20 (January 16)

Romans 7:21-8:17 (January 17)

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…the good thing I want to do, I never do; the evil thing which I do not want–that is what I do.  But every time I do what I do not want to do, then it is not myself acting, but the sin that lives in me….What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body doomed to death?  God–thanks be to him–through Jesus Christ our Lord.  So it is that I myself with my mind obey the law of God, but in my disordered nature I obey the law of sin.

–Romans 7:19-20, 24-25, The New Jerusalem Bible

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A note on page 1115 of The Jewish Study Bible tells me that Gog, leader of the land of Magog, might have been “Gyses, a 7th-century ruler of Lydia in Asia Minor.”  Anyhow, Ezekiel 38 and 39 (which I have kept united for the sake of clarity; the lectionary splits the passage into two parts over as many days) speaks in apocalyptic terms of the divine defeat of the cleansing of the land of Judea, then the restoration of the Jews in their ancestral homeland.  One must be careful not to use such texts to justify blind Zionism, therefore excusing the abuses which the present State of Israel has perpetrated against the Palestinians; the Golden Rule applies to everyone.  Yet the text does indicate the reliability of divine promises.

The concepts of cleansing and restoration (in a different context, of course), apply also to Romans 7:1-8:17.  We human beings are mixed bags of good and bad.  We are, as the Lutheran confessions tell us, capable only of civic righteousness on our own power; we cannot save ourselves from ourselves.  “Sin” is not an abstraction; it is “missing the mark.”  And we are naturally inaccurate spiritual archers.   We find God by a combination of grace and free will.  And the existence of the latter is a function of the former, so everything goes back to grace.  Through this grace we have cleansing and restoration.  May we, by grace, cooperate with God so that we may become what God has in mind for us to become.

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/cleansing-and-restoration/

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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

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Week of 2 Epiphany: Monday, Year 1   19 comments

Above:  Spring Flowers

Image Source = Anita Martinz

Enjoying God and Life

JANUARY 16, 2023

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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 5:1-10 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.  He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness.  Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as those of the people.  And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was.

So also Christ did not exalt himself to be made a high priest, but was appointed by him who said to him,

You are my Son,

today I have begotten you;

as he says also in other place,

You are a priest for ever,

according to the order of Melchizedek.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard for his godly fear.  Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and being made perfect he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, being designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Psalm 110 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand,

until I make your enemies your footstool.”

2 The LORD will send the scepter of your power out of Zion,

saying, “Rule over your enemies round about you.

3 Princely state has been yours from the day of your birth;

in the beauty of holiness have I begotten you,

like dew from the womb of the morning.”

4 The LORD has sworn and he will not recant;

“You are a priest for ever in the order of Melchizedek.”

5 The Lord who is at your right hand

will smite kings in the day of his wrath;

he will rule over the nations.

6 He will heap high the corpses;

he will smash heads over the wide earth.

7 He will drink from the brook beside the road;

therefore he will lift high his head.

Mark 2:18-22 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him,

Why do John’s disciples and the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?

And Jesus said to them,

Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them?  As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day.  No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made.  And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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What is the chief and highest end of man?

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

–Question #1 from the Westminster Larger Catechism (1647), as printed in The Confession of Faith of the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1965)

I am a ritualist.  I admit this fact freely and without compunction.  Rituals are crucial to the healthy maintenance of society, and anyone who says otherwise is mistaken.  Ritualism is like any other good thing in so far as that it can become a bad thing if one takes it too far, though.  An icon is something or someone through which we see God; an idol distracts us from God.  A ritual can be either an icon or an idol, depending on what we choose to make it.

Consider fasting, for example.  This can be a healthy spiritual exercise.  Yet, when one approaches it from the wrong angle, fasting becomes an occasion of pride, not humility.  First Century C.E. Palestinian Judaism came with one compulsory fast day, the Day of Atonement.  Many especially observant Jews chose to fast from 6:00 A.M. to 6:00 P.M. each Monday and Thursday, too.  There was no fault in this practice, assuming that one did not approach it as a way to display one’s holiness before others and hopefully to attract God’s favor.  Jesus rejected such displays, preferring instead to enjoy food, often in the company of disreputable people, as in the Gospel reading from Saturday.  Now that was a different kind of display, was it not?

How would you react or respond if your pastor or priest spent much time dining with disreputable people, not engaging in public activities associated commonly with holiness?  How long would he or she remain in your parish or mission congregation?  Think about it.  The more we are like Jesus, the less respectable we become.  The Jesus of many imaginations is a respectable, even bourgeoisie, figure.  This version of Jesus is a fiction.  The real Jesus was scandalous.  And we are called to follow him.

And Jesus enjoyed life, eating much food and drinking much wine.  He savored wonderful conversation, too.  Enjoying life is a call of every Christian, therefore.  From time to time  I have had the great displeasure of meeting and having to spend too much time in the company of a self-professing Christian with no apparent sense of humor.  You, O reader, might have had the same experience.  Life is a gift of God; let us enjoy it in God and glorify God through it.

May we delight in all that is beautiful, good, and meritorious.  Koholeth, the author of Ecclesiastes, reminds us that there is a time and a season for everything. Taking proper times and seasons into account is part of determining if something is beautiful, good, and meritorious.  We follow the greatest high priest, who can and does identify with us.  The fact of his Incarnation, followed by his life and our Atonement, ought to comfort us.  So why should we walk around looking as if our parents weaned us on dill pickles?

Laugh. Chortle.  Have a good belly laugh.  Enjoy staring at cloud formations.  Dare I say it, even tell atrocious puns.  Savor a well-written novel or poem.  And enjoy God during all of it.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/enjoying-god-and-life/