Archive for the ‘March Other’ Category

Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   3 comments

Above:  A Fire Extinguisher

Image Source = KRoock74

Conversations, Trees, and Fruits

NOT OBSERVED IN 2019

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FIRST READING:  OPTION #1

Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 27:4-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

When a sieve is shaken, the refuse appears;

so do a person’s faults when he speaks.

The kiln tests the potter’s vessels;

so the test of a person is in his conversation.

Its fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree;

so a person’s speech discloses the cultivation of his mind.

Do not praise anyone before he speaks,

for this is the way people are tested.

FIRST READING:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 55:10-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven,

and do not return there until they have watered the earth,

making it bring forth and sprout,

giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,

so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;

it shall not return to me empty,

but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,

and succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

For you shall go out in joy,

and be led back in peace;

the mountains and the hills before you

shall burst into song,

and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.

Instead of the thorn shall come up the cypress;

instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle;

and it shall be to the LORD for a memorial,

for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off.

RESPONSE

Psalm 92:1-4, 11-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  It is a good thing to give thanks to the LORD,

and to sing praises to your Name, O Most High;

2  To tell of your loving-kindness early in the morning

and of your faithfulness in the night season;

3  On the psaltery, and on the lyre

and to the melody of the harp.

4  For you have made me glad by your acts, O LORD;

and I shout for joy because of the works of your hands.

11  The righteous shall flourish like a palm tree,

and shall spread abroad like a cedar of Lebanon.

12  Those who are planted in the house of the LORD

shall flourish in the courts of our God.

13  They shall still bear fruit in old age;

they shall be green and succulent;

14  That they may show how upright the LORD is,

my Rock, in whom there is no fault.

SECOND READING

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 (New Revised Standard Version):

What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this:  flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.  Listen, I tell you a mystery!  We will not all die, but we will be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.  For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.  For this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality.  When this perishable body puts on imperishability, and this mortal body puts on immortality, then the saying that is written will be fulfilled:

Death, has been swallowed up in victory.

Where, O death, is your victory?

Where, O death, is your sting?

The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law.  But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Therefore, my beloved, be steadfast, immovable, always excelling in the work of the Lord, because you know that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

GOSPEL READING

Luke 6:39-49 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] also told a parable to them,

Can one blind man guide another?  Surely both will fall into a pit?  The disciple is not superior to this teacher; the fully trained disciple will always be like his teacher.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the plank in your own?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the splinter that is in your eye,’ when you cannot see the plank in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the plank out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take out the splinter that is in your brother’s eye.

There is no sound tree that produces rotten fruit, nor again a rotten tree that produces sound fruit.  For every tree can be told by its own fruit; people do not pick figs from thorns, nor gather grapes from brambles.  A good man draws what is good from the store of goodness in his heart; a bad man draws what is bad from the store of badness.  For a man’s words from what fills his heart.

Why do you call me, “Lord, Lord,” and not do what I say?

Everyone who comes to me and listens to my words and acts on them–I will show you what he is like.  He is like the man who when he built his house dug, and dug deep, and laid the foundations on rock; when the river was in flood it bore down on that house  but could not shake it, it was so well built.  But the one who listens and does nothing is like the man who built his house on soil, with no foundations:  as soon as the river bore down on it, it collapsed; and what a ruin that house became!

The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-confession-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-epiphany/

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My grandfather Taylor, whom I do not remember (He died when I was three years old) said that it was better to be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.  That quote came to mind as I made connections among the readings.  Both “Luke” and Jesus ben Sira apply the metaphor of a tree and its fruits to one’s spiritual life.  And the latter writes of one’s conversations as evidence of

the cultivation of his mind

and as a test.  I thought of our Lord’s later comment that what goes into a person’s mouth does not defile him or her; what comes out of his or her mouth does that.  (Read Matthew 15:10 forward.)  To defile was literally

to make one common,

a meaning the late J. B. Phillips made clear in his translations of the New Testament.  Ritual purity set one apart from the great unwashed mass of people; it was about negative identity:

I am not like them.

I want to be careful here.  Christianity, in its pure form, is not overly individualistic; it is more concerned with the community and the individual in that context.  Yet Christianity, in its pure form, does encourage a vital interior life.  If that is not what it ought to be, one’s behavior (including conversation) will reveal this face.  The spiritual fig will not fall far from the tree.

The tongue, James 3:1-2 tells us, is powerful.  The text contains the metaphor of a large forest fire in reference to the negative effects of improper speech, likened also to poison.  Imagine, therefore, O reader, modern metaphors for proper speech and conversation:  a fire extinguisher, flame retardant, an antidote, et cetera.

Such as one thinks, so one is.  The content of one’s character can change, for many people have changed.  The theological term for that is repentance.  The victory is possible via God, in particular through Jesus.  Thus hope for such victory is not in vain; rather, it is well-placed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FULBERT OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF ARKANSAS, AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF NORTH CAROLINA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/conversations-trees-and-fruits/

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Week of 8 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  A Bowl of Fruit

Image Source = Yosarian

It Is Not Really About the Me (“Me” Being the Speaker)

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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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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Jude 16-25 (Revised English Bible):

They [“certain individuals who have wormed their way” into the church and who “pour abuse on whatever they do not understand,”per verses 4 and 10] are a set of grumblers and malcontents.  They follow their lusts, and they court favour to gain their ends.  But you, my friends, should remember the predictions made by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ.  They said to you:

In the final age there will be those who mock at religion and follow their own ungodly lusts.

These people create divisions; they are worldly and unspiritual.  But you, my friends, must make your most sacred faith the foundation of your lives.  Continue to pray in the power of the Holy Spirit.  Keep yourselves in the love of God, and look forward to the day when our Lord Jesus Christ in his mercy will give eternal life.

There are some doubting souls who need your pity.  Others you should save by snatching them from the flames.  For others your pity must be mixed with fear; hate the very clothing that is contaminated with sensuality.

Now to the One who can keep you from falling and set you in the presence of his glory, jubilant and above reproach, to the only God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all time, now, and for evermore.  Amen.

Psalm 63:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, you are my God; eagerly I seek you;

my soul thirsts for you, my flesh faints for you,

as in a barren and dry land where there is no water.

2  Therefore I have gazed upon you in your holy place,

that I might behold your power and your glory.

3  For your loving-kindness is better than life itself;

my lips shall give you praise.

4  So will I bless you as long as I live

and lift up my hands in your Name.

5  My soul is content, as with marrow and fatness,

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips.

6  When I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the night watches.

7  For you have been my helper,

and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.

8  My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast.

Mark 11:27-33 (Revised English Bible):

They came once more to Jerusalem.  As he was walking in the temple court the chief priests, scribes, and elders came to him and said,

By what authority are you acting like this?  Who gave you authority to act in this way?

Jesus said to them,

I also have a question for you, and if you give me an answer, I will tell you by what authority I act.  The baptism of John:  was it from God, or from men?  Answer me.

This set them arguing among themselves:

What shall we say?  If we say, “From God,” he will say, “Then why did you not believe him?”  Shall we say, “From men?”

–but they were afraid of the people, for all held that John was in fact a prophet.  So they answered,

We do not know.

And Jesus said to them,

Then I will not tell you either by what authority I act.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/week-of-8-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

Blest Are the Pure in Heart:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/26/blest-are-the-pure-in-heart/

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A spiritual mentor of mine from the 1990s asked one question of each passage from the Bible.  He said, “What is really going on here?”

That question cuts through minor material and steers one past distractions.  The author of Jude wrote the brief epistle to one congregation experiencing specific difficulty at a certain time.  The details of the heresy in question are relatively minor.  They might even qualify as distractions.  My goal in this post is to focus on the important details, those which echo today.

Two main ideas stand out in my mind.  First, the unnamed villains were not merely people who held heterodox ideas.  No, they were also selfish, quarrelsome, verbally abusive, and apparently prone to carousing.  As we read elsewhere in the New Testament, one will know the variety and health of a tree by its fruit.

The other main idea is that the orthodox believers to whom the author wrote should respond faithfully, trusting in God, acting in pity, being above reproach.  After all, to quote a separate New Testament thread, one will know the variety and health of a tree by its fruit.

Often we human beings err when we act out of psychological defensiveness or excessive egotism, thereby seeking our own gain at the expense of others.  And congregational office, which is supposed to be a sacred trust, becomes either an ego crutch for an insecure person or a vehicle for an egomaniac.  A congregation, however, is part of the body of Christ.  The exercise of spiritual gifts is properly for the building up of the body, not an individual.  And one ought to check one’s ego at the church door.

Furthermore, while resisting destructive heresies, may we not fall into the pit being insulting and verbally abusive, of grumbling and being malcontented.  May we speak and live truth in love, with the accent on “in love.”  Winning the argument ought not become an idol which distracts us from demonstrating the love of Christ to everyone, including the grumbling heretics.  After all, is a grumbling heretic any better or worse than a grumbling orthodox person?

KRT

Week of 8 Epiphany: Friday, Year 2   9 comments

Above:  A Depiction of an Agape Feast from the Roman Catacombs

“Agape cancels a host of sins….”

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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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 Peter 4:7-13 (Revised English Bible):

The end of all things is upon us; therefore to help you pray you must lead self-controlled and sober lives.  Above all, maintain the fervour of your love for one another, because love cancels a host of sins.  Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.  As good stewards of the varied gifts given you by God, let each use the gift he has received in service to others.  Are you a speaker?  Speak as one who utters God’s oracles.  Do you give service?  Give it in the strength which God supplies.  In all things let God be glorified through Jesus Christ; to him belong glory and power for ever and ever.

Dear friends, do not be taken aback by the fiery ordeal which has come to test you, as though it were something extraordinary.  On the contrary, in so far as it gives you a share in Christ’s sufferings, you should rejoice; and then when his glory is revealed, your joy will be unbounded.

Psalm 96:7-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  ”The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

Mark 11:11-26 (Revised English Bible):

(Note:  Mark 11:1-10 tells of Jesus borrowing a colt and entering Jerusalem.)

He entered Jerusalem and went into the temple.  He looked round at everything; then, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the Twelve.

On the following day, as they left Bethany, he felt hungry, and, noticing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it.  But when he reached it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs.  He said to the tree,

May no one ever again eat fruit from you!

And his disciples were listening.

So they came to Jerusalem, and he went into the temple and began to drive out those who bought and sold there.  He upset the tables of the money-changers and the seats of the dealers in pigeons; and he would not allow anyone to carry goods through the temple court.  Then he began to teach them, and said,

Does not scripture say, “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations”?

The chief priests and the scribes heard of this and looked for a way to bring about his death; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching.  And when evening came they went out of the city.

Early next morning, as they passed by, they saw that the fig tree had withered from the roots up; and Peter, recalling what had happened, said to him,

Rabbi, look, the fig tree which you cursed has withered.

Jesus answered them,

Have faith in God.  Truly I tell you:  if anyone says to this mountain, “Be lifted from your place and hurled into the sea,” and has no inward doubts, but believes that what he says will happen, it will be done for him.  I tell you, then, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it and it will be yours.

And when you stand praying, if you have a grievance against anyone, forgive him, so that your Father in heaven may forgive the wrongs you have done.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/week-of-8-epiphany-friday-year-1/

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/lord-help-us-walk-your-servant-way/

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The reading from 1 Peter occurs in the context of the expectation that Jesus would return very soon.  That nearly two thousand years ago.  Nevertheless, the relevance of what follows the failed prediction remains current.

More than one verse from the Bible teaches that there is a relationship between how we treat others and how God treats us.  Consider the end of the Gospel lection:  We must forgive others if we are to have a reasonable expectation that God will forgive us.   And God will extend to us the same standard we apply to others (Matthew 7:1-5).  The Greek word for “love” in 1 Peter 4:8 is agape.  This is selfless, self-sacrificing, unconditional love, the kind we see Jesus just a few days from demonstrating on the cross in the reading from Mark 11.  Jesus is our model, of course, but we must not lose sight of the fact that 1 Peter 4:7-13 uses agape to refer to how we ought to treat our fellow human beings.

Agape cancels a host of sins,

we read, followed by exhortations to act hospitably and use spiritual gifts for the common good, what Paul called the building up of the body of Christ.  More of this ought to happen among the churched population.  Often branches of the Church hinder their divine mandate by engaging in backstabbing, frontstabbing, bickering, gossiping, fighting needlessly over minor doctrinal disputes, and mistaking orthodoxy for the mere recitation and affirmation of a written confession of faith.  Indeed, much of Protestantism contains an unfortunate and reflexive reaction against anything resembling works-based righteousness.  But then there are books such as James and 1 Peter.

I am sufficiently close to Roman Catholicism to lack an anti-works-based righteousness reflexive kick.  Besides, as I ponder texts and interpretations of them over time, I conclude that there is validity to some degree of works-based righteousness within the context of grace, by which God empowers us to live  faithfully.  A positive response to God does require free will if it is to have any meaning.  Any such response is a work, is it not?  And this free will comes from God.  So everything leads back to God.

Within this context we have the teaching that we, by our actions, can contribute to our own forgiveness by God.  Dare we hear and accept this?  And how much better off would our families, friends and acquaintances networks, neighborhoods, communities, nations, world, congregations, and denominations be if more of us focused on extending agape toward each other instead of pointing fingers and trying to win arguments about theology and social issues?  Such arguments feed the heresy of Donatism, which is destructive.  But agape builds up.

May agape mark our individual and common lives.

KRT

Week of 8 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   13 comments

Above:  Jesus Healing the Blind Man (circa 1625-1650), by Eustache Le Sueur

Responsibilities

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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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 Peter 2:2-12 (Revised English Bible):

Like the newborn infants you are, you should be craving for pure spiritual milk so that you may thrive on it and be saved; for surely you have tasted that the Lord is good.

So come to him, to the living stone which was rejected by men but chosen by God and of great worth to him.  You also, as living stones, must be built up into a spiritual temple, and form a holy priesthood to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.  For you will find in scripture:

I am laying in Zion a chosen corner-stone of great worth.

Whoever has faith in it will not be put to shame.

So for you who have faith it has great worth; but for those who have no faith

the stone which the builders rejected has become the corner-stone,

and also

a stone to trip over, a rock to stumble against.

They trip because they refuse to believe the word; this is the fate appointed for them.

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a dedicated nation, a people claimed by God for his own, to proclaim the glorious deeds of him who has called you out of darkness into his marvellous light.  Once you were not a people at all; but now you are God’s people.  Once you were outside his mercy; but now you are outside no longer.

Dear friends, I appeal to you, as aliens in a foreign land, to avoid bodily desires which make war on the soul.  Let your conduct among unbelievers be so good that, although they now malign you as wrongdoers, reflection on your good deeds will lead them to give glory to God on the day when he comes in judgement.

Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and call upon his name.

4 For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Mark 10:46-52 (Revised English Bible):

They came to Jericho; and as he was leaving the town, with his disciples and a large crowd, Bartimaeus (that is, son of Timaeus), a blind beggar, was seated at the roadside.  Hearing that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout,

Son of David, Jesus, have pity on me!

Many of the people told him to hold his tongue; but he shouted all the more,

Son of David, have pity on me.

Jesus stopped and said,

Call him;

so they called the blind man:

Take heart,

they said.

Get up; he is calling you.

At that he threw off his cloak, jumped to his feet, and came to Jesus.  Jesus said to him,

What do you want me to do for you?

The blind man answered,

Rabbi, I want my sight back.

Jesus said to him,

Go; your faith as healed you.

At once he recovered his sight and followed him on the road.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/week-of-8-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

New Every Morning is the Love:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/22/new-every-morning-is-the-love-by-john-keble/

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1 Peter 2:2-12 reminds us that being among the called of God brings with it responsibilities.  We have a divine calling, one bought at a high price to God and which requires much of us.  The grace is free, not cheap, to us.  And we who claim the label “Christian” are witnesses to and ambassadors of Christ.  How effective are we?  People being as diverse as they are, each of us will, even when we do everything properly (by grace, of course) not attract some people to Jesus, and might even drive some away.  If we are indeed doing everything properly at such a time, the result speaks volumes about the other person or persons, not us.  Not even Jesus had a 100% conversion rate, and he was perfect.

Part of our calling entails being mindful of our behavior.  This includes avoiding hypocrisy.  Over ten years ago, I heard a news story about a minister somewhere in the United States.  He was quite vocal about the evils of gambling for a long time.  Then, one day, somebody caught him gambling at a local casino.  His actions spoke louder than his words, belied them, and brought disgrace upon him and his cause.

Perhaps the most basic behavioral issue is the showing of mercy.  God has shown mercy on us and expects us to extend it to others.  Acting mercifully matters more than winning theological or political arguments, for it is living one’s stated faith.  Consider the story of Jesus, blind Bartimaeus, and the crowd.  If you were a member of the crowd, would you have been more likely to try to silence the blind man or to help him go to Jesus?

Answer the question honestly.  If your answer disturbs you, take that to God in contrition and repentance.

KRT

Week of 8 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Christ Carrying the Cross, by El Greco

Love and Service, Not Status Seeking

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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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 Peter 1:17-2:1 (Revised English Bible):

If you say “Father” to him who judges everyone impartially on the basis of what they have done, you must live in awe of him during your time on earth.  You know well that it was nothing of passing value, like silver or gold, that bought your freedom from the futility of your traditional ways.  You were set free by Christ’s precious blood, blood like that of a lamb without mark or blemish.  He was predestined before the foundation of the world, but in this last period of time he has been revealed for your sake.  Through him you have come to trust in God who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, and so your faith and hope are fixed on God.

Now that you have been purified your souls by obedience to the truth until you feel sincere affection towards your fellow-Christians, love one another wholeheartededly with all your strength.  You have been born again, not of mortal but of immortal parentage, through the loving and enduring word of God.  As scripture says:

All mortals are like grass;

all their glory like the flower of the field;

the grass withers, the flower falls;

but the word of the Lord endures for evermore.

And this “word” is the gospel which we preached to you.

Then away with all wickedness and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy and malicious talk of any kind!

Psalm 147:13-21 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

13  Worship the LORD, O Jerusalem;

praise your God, O Zion;

14  For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;

he has blessed your children within you.

15  He has established peace on your borders;

he satisfies you with the finest wheat.

16  He sends out his command to the earth,

and his word runs very swiftly.

17  He gives snow like wool;

he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.

18  He scatters his hail like bread crumbs;

who can stand against his cold?

19  He sends forth his word and melts them;

he blows with his wind, and the waters flow.

20  He declares his word to Jacob,

his statutes and his judgments to Israel.

21  He has not done so to any other nation;

to them he has not revealed his judgments.

Hallelujah!

Mark 10:32-45 (Revised English Bible):

They were on the road going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was leading the way; and the disciples were filled with awe, while those who followed behind were afraid.  Once again he took the Twelve aside and began to tell them what was going to happen to him.

We are now going up to Jerusalem,

he said,

and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes; they will condemn him to death and hand him over to the Gentiles.  He will be mocked and spat upon, and flogged and killed; and three days afterwards, he will rise again.

James and John, the sons of Zebedee, approached him and said,

Teacher, we should like you to do us a favour.

He asked,

What is it you want me to do for you?

They answered,

Allow us to sit with you in your glory, one at your right hand and the other at your left.

Jesus said to them,

You do not understand what you are asking.  Can you drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?

They answered,

We can.

Jesus said,

The cup that I drink you shall drink, and the baptism that I am baptized with shall be your baptism; but to sit on my right or on my left is not for me to grant; that honour is for those to whom it has already been assigned.

When the other ten heard this, they were indignant with James and John.  Jesus called them to him and said,

You know that among the Gentiles the recognized rulers lord it over their subjects, and the great make their authority felt.  It shall not be so with you; among you whoever wants to be great must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be the slave of all.  For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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A Related Post:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/week-of-8-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

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The reading from 1 Peter builds up to a great moral lesson:

Then away with all wickedness and deceit, hypocrisy and jealousy and malicious talk of any kind.

What would U.S. talk radio sound like without malicious talk?  How about the landscape of news channels on cable television?  On a more local level, how much better would relationships and congregational life be without wickedness, deceit, hypocrisy, jealousy, and malicious talk?

The path of discipleship is one of love and service, not living to argue and gain status.  Every other human being is a person God loves, one for whom Christ our Lord was born, lived, and died.  Every man is my brother, every woman my sister.  It is easy to despise those we do not understand, those from different cultures, those who follow a different religious tradition or none at all, and those with very different politics.  Yet God calls us to love each other as we love ourselves; this applies to everybody.

I need to hear and obey this command at least as much as any other person.  I have had only a handful of enemies, but they have been formidable.  Their actions have wrought havoc in my life. But even they (all men) have been my brothers in God.  By grace, may I think of them as such.  That is the only possible way I can succeed.

KRT

Week of 8 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   12 comments

Above:  The Good Samaritan, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Holiness

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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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 Peter 1:10-16 (Revised English Bible):

This salvation was the subject of intense search by the prophets who prophesied about the grace of God awaiting you.  They tried to find out the time and the circumstances to which the spirit of Christ in them pointed, when it foretold the sufferings in Christ’s cause and the glories to follow.  It was disclosed to them that these matters were not for their benefit but for years.  Now they have been openly announced to you through preachers who brought you the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.  These are the things that angels long to glimpse.

Your minds must therefore be stripped for action and fully alert.  Fix your hopes on the grace which is to be yours when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Be obedient to God your Father, and do not let your characters be shaped any longer by the desires you cherished in your days of ignorance.  He who called you is holy; like him, be holy in all your conduct.  Does not scripture say, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”?

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

Mark 10:28-31 (Revised English Bible):

What about us?

said Peter.

We have left everything to follow you.

Jesus said,

Truly I tell you:  there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother, father, or children, or land, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much–houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and land–and persecutions besides; and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/week-of-8-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

Matthew 5 (Related to 1 Peter 1):

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/tenth-day-of-lent/

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For I am the LORD your God; you are to make yourselves holy, because I am holy….I am the LORD who brought you up from Egypt to become your God.  You are to keep yourselves holy, because I am holy.

–Leviticus 11:44a, 45 (Revised English Bible)

We are imperfect beings; God knows this well.  No matter how ardently we strive to walk in the paths of righteousness, love, and metanoia, we will falter from time to time.  God knows this well.  What matters is that we, trusting in divine mercies, try, and, when we stray, return to the path.

As I typed the lesson from 1 Peter, the end of the reading stood out in my mind.  “…be holy in all your conduct,” it reads.  Holiness, in this context, cannot refer to moral perfectionism, for we humans are incapable of moral perfection.  We can, however, strive to be better and more moral, with morality, in my point of view, begin the same as loving God fully, loving one’s self in that context, and loving one’s neighbor as one’s self.  And, by grace, we can succeed more often than we fail.

There is a similar passage in Matthew 5:48.  Instead of holiness, though, the exhortation is one to be perfect, or devoted to the wholehearted service of God.  Another shade of meaning related to “perfection” is being a suitable sacrifice to God.  This is possible by grace.  This is about love, not judgmentalism and pietistic nitpicking.

The Revised English Bible, however, cuts to the chase nicely.  Instead of using the traditional English rendering, to be perfect, for God is perfect, the text says,

There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.

That is a noble ambition, is it not?  That makes one a suitable sacrifice, does it not?  That is wholehearted devotion and service to God, is it not?

Sometimes I have acted in ways I thought were holy, but that were actually judgmental.  I am far from alone in this regard.  I might even be thinking in ways I think are holy but that are really judgmental as I type these words.  This is possible.  If I am to be spiritually honest, I must admit that possibility.  You see, O reader, I have far to go in spiritual matters, and I am not alone in this reality.  So, loving and accepting ourselves and each other, may we flawed human beings strive to do better, to be better, and to love more effectively and actively.  May we support each other in our journeys along the pathways of divine love and forgive ourselves and each other for our faults.  God does.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/holiness/

Week of 8 Epiphany: Monday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  A Bonfire

Image Source = Fir0002

Stumbling Blocks

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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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 Peter 1:1-9 (Revised English Bible):

From Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ, to the scattered people of God now living as aliens in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen in the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the consecrating work of the Holy Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood.

Grace and peace to you in fullest measure.

Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, he gave us new birth into a living hope, the hope of an inheritance, reserved in heaven for you, which nothing can destroy or spoil or wither.  Because you put your faith in God, you are under the protection of his power until the salvation now in readiness is revealed at the end of time.

This is cause for great joy, even though for a little while you may have had to suffer trials of many kinds.  Even gold passes through the assayer’s fire, and much more precious than perishable gold is faith which stands the test.  These trials come so that your faith may prove itself worthy of all praise, glory, and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

You have not seen him, yet you love him; and in trusting him now without seeing him, you are filled with a glorious joy too great for words, while you are reaping the harvest of your faith, that is, salvation for your souls.

Psalm 111 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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.

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.

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 10:17-27 (Revised English Bible):

As he was starting out on a journey, a stranger ran up, and, kneeling before him, asked,

Good Teacher, what must I do to win eternal life?

Jesus said to him,

Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments:  “Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not give false evidence; do not defraud; honour your father and your mother.”

He replied,

But Teacher, I have kept all these since I was a boy.

As Jesus looked at him, his heart warmed to him.

One thing you lack,

he said.

Go, sell everything you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.

At these words his face fell and he went away with a heavy heart; for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round at his disciples and said to them,

How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!

They were amazed that he should say this, but Jesus insisted.

Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

They were more astonished than ever, and said to one another,

Then who can be saved?

Jesus looked at them and said,

For men it is impossible, but not for God; everything is possible for God.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/week-of-8-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Matthew 19 (Parallel to Mark 10):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/week-of-proper-15-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/week-of-proper-15-tuesday-year-1/

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Gold.  Sometimes it functions as an analogy of faithfulness.  Yet, at other times, it refers to great wealth, an inappropriate attachment to which constitutes a form of idolatry.

Early Christians were at risk of persecution, usually on the provincial, not empire-wide scale.  Many Christians died, and other suffered so severely (by mutilation and hard labor, often) that the dead were more fortunate; at least their pain had ended.  In this context the author of 1 Peter praised his audience for remaining faithful. These were hearty people; I wonder how I would have stood up under the pressure.  This is a purely counterfactual question, of course, but the answer in my mind makes me uncomfortable.

The wealthy man in the lesson from Mark trusted too much in his money and possessions, which had become spiritual stumbling blocks.  So Jesus told him to remove them, and the man could not bring himself to do it.  Whatever our stumbling blocks may be–wealth, habits, preconceptions, fear of persecution, et cetera, they need to go.  This is a difficult and timeless spiritual truth.

I owe my faith in part to my spiritual forebears who refused to permit any stumbling block, such as fear of persecution, stand in the way.  Now they are part of the Church Triumphant.  Christ was their all; that was enough.  May we–you and I, O reader, have the same attitude and act accordingly.

KRT