Archive for the ‘January 19’ Category

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

Above:  Chess Pawns

Photographer = Frank-Christian Baum

Complaining Pawns

JANUARY 19, 2020

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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Job 1:1; 2:1-10 or Deuteronomy 4:1-9

Psalm 39:1-8, 11-13

James 1:1-16

Mark 1:14-20

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Many who have walked the path of righteousness have suffered for doing so, as many still so.  Most of the twelve Apostles became martyrs.  St. John the Evangelist avoided martyrdom yet still suffered.  St. James of Jerusalem became a martyr.  St. Mark went to martyrdom, also.  Yet the theme of the goodness and presence of God has been a theme that has accompanied persecution and martyrdom since the times of the Bible.

How good is God, as the Book of Job, in its final, composite form, depicts the deity?  The author of the prose wrap-around explained the cause of Job’s suffering (a wager between God and the Satan, still an employee of God, in the theology of the time).  Job was a pawn.  The author of the prose wrap-around also thought that Job was correct to complain (42:7-9).

I agree with the author of Job 42:7-17; Job had every right to complain.  At least he was being honest with God.

Sometimes we feel like pawns as we move through life.  On some occasions we are.  When we are, we have every right to complain.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 12, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWIN PAXTON HOOD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, PHILANTHROPIST, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN DAVID JAESCHKE, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER; AND HIS GRANDSON, HENRI MARC HERMANN VOLDEMAR VOULLAIRE, MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MINISTER

THE FEAST OF ENMAGAHBOWH, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO THE OJIBWA NATION

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH DACRE CARLYLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/12/complaining-pawns/

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

Ruins of Corinth

Above:  Ruins of Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-00671

Fidelity and Factions

JANUARY 18 and 19, 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:

Song of Songs 4:1-8 (Tuesday)

Song of Songs 4:9-5:1 (Wednesday)

Psalm 145 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 1:3-17 (Tuesday)

Luke 5:33-39 (Wednesday)

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The Lord draws near to all who summon him,,

to all who summon him in sincerity.

For his worshippers he does all they could wish for,

he hears their cry for help and saves them.

–Psalm 145:18-19, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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They should, therefore, dwell in unity and mutual respect, I suppose, but the opposite is true much of the time.

Two of the three readings contain references to disputes.  (The lovers in the Song of Songs are in harmony with each other.)  The question of fasting–that some people do it and others do not–arises in Luke 5.  And in 1 Corinthians, that community’s notorious factionalism is at issue.  Such divisiveness probably arose from well-intentioned attempts to discern and to act in accordance with the will of God and to hold to correct theology; that is my most charitable guess.  However, again and again we human beings have proven ourselves capable of fouling up while trying to do the right thing.  Then opinions become tribal boundaries.  The result is an unholy mess.

The truth is, of course, that there is such a thing as objective reality, and that each of us is right about some details of it and wrong about others.  Laying competing fundamentalisms aside and acknowledging a proper degree of ambiguity (in what Calvinist theology labels matters indifferent) is a fine strategy for working toward peace and faithful community.

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/fidelity-and-factions/

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

Saul Rejected as King

Above:  Saul Rejected as King

Image in the Public Domain

Excuses

JANUARY 18 and 19, 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 9:27-10:8 (Monday)

1 Samuel 15:10-31 (Tuesday)

Psalm 86 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1 (Monday)

Acts 5:1-11 (Tuesday)

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Teach me your way, O Lord, and I will walk in your truth;

knit my heart to you that I may fear your name.

–Psalm 86:11, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these two days pertain to the theme of commitment to God.

The lessons from 1 Samuel tell us of King Saul of Israel.  We read first of God choosing him and Samuel anointing him.  In Chapter 15 we find one account of God and Samuel rejecting the monarch for violating the rules of holy war.   Saul’s army did not kill enough people and destroy enough property, apparently.  (1 Samuel 15 does not reflect my understanding of God.)  Two facts attract my attention:

  1. Saul simultaneously seeks forgiveness and shifts the blame.
  2.  1 Samuel 13 contains a different account of God and Samuel rejecting Saul.  There the monarch’s offense is to usurp the priest’s duty.  Making an offering to God properly was a major issue in the Old Testament, for some people died because they made offerings improperly.

When we turn to the New Testament readings we find fatal lack of commitment in Acts 5 and a stern Pauline warning regarding human relationships in 2 Corinthians 6:14-7:1.  The unified message of the pericopes is to commit to God–not to be content with half measures.  We should, I propose, feel free to ask questions about people dying because of deception in Acts 5 and why Saul’s offense in 1 Samuel 15 was such a bad thing to have done, for asking intelligent questions is not a faithless act.  Nevertheless, I recall the words of Jesus to a man who used an excuse to refuse our Lord and Savior’s call to discipleship.  Christ said:

Once the hand is laid on the plow, no one who looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

–Luke 9:62, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

At that point in the Lukan narrative Jesus was en route to Jerusalem for the climactic week of Passover.  He was neither offering nor accepting excuses.  Who dares offer one?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LEO TOLSTOY, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MECHTILD OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/21/excuses/

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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 19 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Peter’s Vision

Inclusion, Foreigners, and God (I)

JANUARY 19, 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 44:1-16, 23-29

Psalm 56 (Morning)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening)

Romans 9:1-18

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Thus said the Lord GOD:  Let no alien, uncircumcised in spirit and flesh, enter My Sanctuary–no alien whatsoever among the people of Israel.

–Ezekiel 44:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Let not he foreigner say,

Who has attached himself to the LORD,

“The LORD will keep me apart from His people”…

As for the foreigners

Who attach themselves to the LORD,

To minister to Him,

And love the name of the LORD,

To be His servants–

All who keep the sabbath and do not profane it,

And who hold fast to My covenant–

I will bring them to My sacred mount

And let them rejoice in My House of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices

Shall be welcome on My altar;

For My House shall be called

A house of prayer for all peoples.

–Isaiah 56:3a, 6-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female–for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And simply by  being Christ’s, you are that progeny of Abraham, the heirs named in the promise.

–Galatians 3:28-29, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Then Peter addressed them, “I now really understand,” he said, “that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him….”

–Acts 10:34-35, The New Jerusalem Bible

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In Christ is neither Jew nor Greek,

and neither slave nor free;

both male and female heirs are made,

and all are kin to me.

–Laurence Hull Stokely, 1987; verse 3 of “In Christ There Is No East or West,” The United Methodist Hymnal (1989)

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The bulk of the assigned reading from Ezekiel condemns the corrupt and idolatrous priesthood.  Idolatry is always worth condemning, but another part of that lesson attracted my attention.  Foreigners were excluded from parts of the rebuilt Temple.  A note in The Jewish Study Bible referred me to a different perspective in Isaiah 56:3-8; I have quoted part of that passage in this post.  In that reading a foreigner who lives according to the covenant of God is to be welcomed at the Temple.  I have quoted other texts of inclusion in God (especially via Jesus) in this part.  If you, O reader, think of them as refutation of Ezekiel 44:9, you understand my meaning correctly.

Paul, a Jew, was a great apostle to the Gentiles.  As a Gentile, I am grateful to him.  He, Simon Peter (to a different extent) and others saw past boundaries such as national origin and ethnicity.  This position caused controversy in earliest Christianity, as history and the Bible tell us.  Exclusion helps define borders and thereby to help us know who we are; We are not those people over there.  This is a negative identification.

Yes, there are human and theological differences, some of them important.  But more vital is the love of God for everyone.  And we who claim to follow God ought to seek to express that love to others, regardless of a host of differences.  Each of us is foreign to someone; may we remember that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DISMAS, PENITENT BANDIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MUNSTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET CLITHEROW, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ALLEN, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/inclusion-foreigners-and-god-i/

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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 2 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 2   9 comments

Above:  Gustave Dore’s Depiction of David Holding Goliath’s Head

David and Goliath

JANUARY 19, 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 17:32-51 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And David said to Saul,

Let no man’s heart fail because of him; your servant will go and fight with the Philistine.

And Saul said to David,

You are not able to against this Philistine to fight with him; for you are but a youth, and he has been a man of war from his youth.

But David said to Saul,

Your servant used to keep sheep for his father; and when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth; and if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard, and struck him and killed him.  Your servant has killed both lions and bears; and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be like one of them, seeing that he has defied the armies of the living God.

And David said,

The LORD delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.

And Saul said to David,

Go, and the LORD be with you!

Then Saul clothed David with his armor; he put a helmet of bronze on his head, and clothed him with a coat of mail.  And David belted on his sword over his armor, and he tried in vain to go, for he was not used to them.  Then David said to Saul,

I cannot go with these; for I am not used to them.

And David put them off.  Then he took his staff in his hand, and chose five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in his shepherd’s bag or wallet; his sling was in his hand, and he drew near to the Philistine.

And the Philistine came on and drew near to David, with his shield-bearer in front of him.  And when the Philistine looked, and saw David, he disdained him; for he was but a youth, ruddy and comely in appearance.  And the Philistine said to David,

Am I a dog, that you come to me with sticks?

And the Philistine cursed David by his gods.  The Philistine said to David,

Come to me, and I will give your flesh to the birds of the air and to the beasts of the field.

Then David said to the Philistine,

You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin; but I come to you in the name of the LORD of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied.  This day the LORD will deliver you into my hand, and I will strike you down, and cut off your head; and I will give the dead bodies of the host of the Philistines this day to the birds of the air and to the wild beasts of the earth; that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the LORD saves not with the sword and spear; for the battle is the LORD’s and he will give you into our hand.

When the Philistine arose and came and drew near to meet David, David ran quickly toward the battle line to meet the Philistine.  And David put his hand in his bag and took out a stone, and slung it, and struck the Philistine on his forehead; the stone sank into his forehead, and he fell on his face to the ground.

So David prevailed over the Philistine with a sling and with a stone, and struck the Philistine, and killed him; there was no sword in the hand of David.  Then David ran and stood over the Philistine, and took his sword and drew it out of his sheath, and killed him, and cut off his head with it. When the Philistines saw that their champion was dead, they fled.

Psalm 144:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Blessed be the LORD my rock!

who trains my hands to fight and my fingers to battle;

2  My help and my fortress, my stronghold and my deliverer,

my shield in whom I trust,

who subdues the peoples under me.

3  O LORD, what are we that you should care for us?

mere mortals that you should think of us?

4  We are like a puff of wind;

our days like a passing shadow.

5  Bow your heavens, O LORD, and come down;

touch the mountains, and they shall smoke.

6  Hurl the lightning and scatter them;

shoot out your arrows and rout them.

7  Stretch out your hand from on high;

rescue me and deliver me from the great waters,

from the hand of foreign peoples,

8  Whose mouths speak deceitfully

and whose right hand is raised in falsehood.

9  O God, I will sing to you a new song;

I will play to you on a ten-stringed lyre.

10  You give victory to kings

and have rescued David your servant.

Mark 3:1-6 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Again he entered the synagogue, and a man was there who had a withered hand.  And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him.  And he said to the man who had the withered hand,

Come here.

And he said to them,

Is it lawful on the sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?

But they were silent.  And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man,

Stretch out your hand.

He stretched it out, and his hand was restored.  The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy him.

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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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Some Related Posts:

Week of 2 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

Luke 6 (Parallel to Mark 3):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/week-of-proper-18-monday-year-1/

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Here we have the familiar story of David and Goliath.  But read it again.  Read it very carefully.  We have two sources edited together.  If you, O reader, look carefully, you can see some or all of the seams.  (Hint:  Focus on the use of “God” versus the use of “the LORD.”)  Follow the bouncing ball with me.  David plays the lyre to soothe Saul’s mind in 1 Samuel 16, and even becomes the king’s armor-bearer.  Yet Saul does not know David in 1 Samuel 17.  And then there is the case of Elhanan, one of King David’s warriors, who, according to 2 Samuel 21:19, slew Goliath.  In 1 Chronicles 20:5, however, he killed Goliath’s brother.  Make of all this what you will.

But may none of this detract from the story and what we learn from it.  There is something inherently unlikely about a slightly built young man, armed only with some stones and a slingshot, defeating a mighty warrior nearly ten feet tall.  Goliath’s height is plausible, given the variety of manifestations of genetic mutations.  Some have suggested that he suffered from Marfan’s Syndrome, for example.  And, as scary as this sounds and is, there are people who know how to kill others with just one well-placed blow or cut.  So a devastating blow to the center of the forehead is also plausible.  Most important of all in the story is that David was able to get the stone to Goliath’s weak spot, and therefore deliver his people from an immediate threat.

The unlikely optics of the confrontation made clear that David did not win because of the armor he could not wear well or the standard military armaments he did not use.  No, the circumstances made plain that this victory belonged to God.

When we feel helpless we tend to forget that we have God.  I write from experience.  And I detect another lesson, one I have missed every previous time I  have read this account from 1 Samuel 17.  David’s experience as a shepherd protecting the sheep prepared him for the confrontation with Goliath.  So, when we feel helpless, might we be better equipped than we think?  Maybe we need to think creatively about prior experiences and how they have prepared us for our current circumstances.

Anyhow, in all our daily challenges, great and small, mundane and extraordinary, may God guide our hands and direct our thoughts so that we, trusting in grace, may act for the good–individual and collective–and the glory of God.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/david-and-goliath/

Week of 2 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  A Corn Field

Love, the Final Arbiter

JANUARY 19, 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 6:10-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed us for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.  And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the same assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

For when God made a promise to to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore to himself, saying,

Surely I will bless you and multiply you.

And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise.  Men indeed swear by a greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.  So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, and a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Psalm 111 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

2 Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

4 He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

7 The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

8 They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

9 He sent redemption to his people;

he commanded his covenant for ever;

holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.

Mark 2:23-28 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  And the Pharisees said to him,

Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?

And he said to them,

Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him; how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the showbread, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?

And he said to them,

The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath.

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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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The Pharisees (most, not all of them) are among the bete noires of the canonical Gospels.  These very publicly pious people criticize Jesus, his Apostles, and even some people he healed again and again.  In all likelihood these critics did what they understood righteousness to require of them.  I prefer to extend to them the benefit of the doubt; they were wrong, but sincerely so.  They did not wake up each morning and plot how to be difficult spiritually, although much of what they did and the Gospels report to us constituted such.

Indeed, I think that we need to check ourselves for signs of being contemporary counterparts of the Pharisees.  Christian denominations have built up traditions over thousands and hundreds of years.  Many of these are functional and constructive, even beautiful.  Yet even something useful and beautiful can become an idol, if we transform it into that.  And ossification of tradition can occur easily, rendering us inflexible in the habits of our minds.  The stories of Jesus teach us many valuable lessons, including the importance of avoiding such ossification.

Consider this day’s reading from Mark.  Jesus and his Apostles violated many sabbath laws observant Pharisees kept.  There were many arcane sabbath laws, which split hairs more finely than any Philadelphia lawyer.  Taken together, the sabbath laws permitted preventing an emergency situation from getting worse yet forbade making it better.  For example, one could apply a plain bandage but not ointment to an injured finger on the sabbath.  So you should not be surprised to learn that plucking and eating corn was illegal on the sabbath.  Doing so remedied hunger, but that meant making something better.

This is a twisted way to think about the sabbath, is it not?  It transforms the sabbath, which is supposed to a gift and a marker of freedom (slaves did not get days off) into a burden and something to manage with the help of a very long checklist of forbidden activities.  Puritans did it too, and many observant self-professing Christians and Jews continue to treat the sabbath in this way.  We should not neglect the sabbath, of course, but we ought not treat it like a burden and an occasion of legalism, either.

Back to our story….

Jesus reminded his critics of scriptural precedents for what he had done.  In 1 Samuel 21:1-6, Exodus 25:23-30, and Leviticus 24:9 we find the relevant information about David and the showbread.  Mentioning David, the revered king, was powerful rhetorical tool, although it certainly did not impress hyper-critical Pharisees.  It did, however, point out the hypocrisy of Jesus’ critics, who were not the intended audience for the Gospel According to Mark.  So the comment finds its target even today, at least some of the time.  I wonder, though, how often well-intentioned Christians miss the power of this story, perhaps more out of a “I know that story already” attitude, if nothing else.

William Barclay, in his insightful commentary on the Gospel reading, points out that “Religion does not consist in rules and regulations” and “The best way to use sacred things is to use them for men.”  In other words, it is sinful to refuse to apply religious laws to prevent starving and very hungry people from eating–sabbath or not.  This principle applies to physical realities beyond hunger; it pertains to helping people with whatever distresses them.  Barclay concludes his section of the reading from Mark with this sentence:  “The final arbiter in the use of all things is love and not law.”

I could not have said it better.

We have a loving God and Lord.  The works of God are marvelous and utterly spectacular.  And Jesus became not only our priest but our passover lamb.  That demonstrates love, does it not?  So we ought to display love, as well, and not hide behind laws which reinforce self-righteousness and make excuses for oppressing people and not helping them.   We have a mandate from God to care for others and to love them as we love ourselves.  God has commanded us to care for the vulnerable among us.  We might make excuses for why we fail to do this, but that does not erase our sin in the eyes of God.

One of my favorite deceased people was the actor Andreas Katsulas (1946-2006).  He played the one-armed man in the film version of The Fugitive.  He also portrayed Commander Tomalok on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Ambassador G’Kar on Babylon 5.  Katsulas was a practicing Greek Orthodox and an excellent chef.  Part of his Sunday ritual involved cooking meals for homeless people.  This would have violated the Pharisees’ sabbath codes, but it did demonstrate love.

May we compete with one another in demonstrating love for our fellow human beings every day of the week.  Let us lay aside tendencies toward one upsmanship, self-righteousness, and public displays of piety meant to make us look good.  May we listen to one another more and more often, and shout at each other less and less often.  May we love one another in attitudes, words, and deeds.  May that be our law.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/love-the-final-arbiter/

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (January 18-25)   Leave a comment

Above:  St. Barnabas Episcopal-Lutheran Worshiping Community, Jefferson City, Tennessee

(Their website is here:  http://stbarnabas.etdiocese.net/)

Let Us Emphasize Our Common Ground and Build On It

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From Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), the hymnal of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America:

Isaiah 2:2-4

Psalm 122

Ephesians 4:1-6

John 17:15-23

God our Father, your Son Jesus Christ prayed that his followers might be one.  Make all Christians one with him as he is one with you, so that in peace and concord we may carry to the world the message of your love, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

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Now, for my thoughts….

We Christians have divided ourselves into competing theological and liturgical tribes since the earliest decades of the Jesus movement.  For confirmation of this, read the New Testament epistles.  Sometimes these divisions are silly or based on ego gratification.  Other times, however, the matters are weightier.  Yet the tragedy of schism remains, even after stated issues which people used to justify the schism have become moot points or ceased to points of contention.  Inertia preserves a high degree of divisiveness within Christianity.

Sometimes schisms remain insurmountable.  Yet this fact should not prevent Christians of good will from reaching across boundaries to identify and build upon common ground, to do something positive and for the glory of God together.  I do not expect the Anabaptists and Roman Catholics to reconcile, but they can cooperate.  Last Sunday afternoon I listened to a Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio interview with a Mennonite pastor who maintains a close faith-based relationship with nearby Catholic monks, often praying with them.

And I believe that when two or more denominations cease to have good reasons to remain separate they should open negotiations to unite organically.  But when issues, such as baptismal theology, prevent a merger, the groups can still cooperate on other matters.  We Christians have more in common with each other than not.  May we build on that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2010

THE FEAST OF ST. BARNABAS THE APOSTLE

THE FEAST OF THE REVEREND VERNON JOHNS, U.S. CIVIL RIGHTS PIONEER