Archive for the ‘Revised Common Lectionary Year B’ Category

Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   7 comments

Above: Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor

Jesus, Who Was and Is Superior to His Persecutors

FEBRUARY 11, 2018

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2 Kings 2:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now when the LORD was about to take Elijah up to heaven by a whirlwind, Elijah and Elisha were on their way from Gilgal. Elijah said to Elisha,

Stay here; for the LORD has sent me as far as Bethel.

But Elisha said,

As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.

So they went down to Bethel. The company of prophets who were in Bethel came out to Elisha, and said to him,

Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?

And he said,

Yes, I know; keep silent.

Elijah said to him,

Elisha, stay here; for the LORD has sent me to Jericho.

But he said,

As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.

So they came to Jericho. The company of prophets who were at Jericho drew near to Elisha, and said to him,

Do you know that today the LORD will take your master away from you?

And he answered,

Yes, I know; be silent.

Then Elijah said to him,

Stay here; for the LORD has sent me to the Jordan.

But he said,

As the LORD lives, and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.

So the two of them went on. Fifty men of the company of prophets also went, and stood at some distance from them, as they both were standing by the Jordan. Then Elijah took his mantle and rolled it up, and struck the water; the water was parted to the one side and to the other, until the two of them crossed on dry ground.

When they had crossed, Elijah said to Elisha,

Tell me what I may do for you, before I am taken from you.

Elisha said,

Please let me inherit a double share of your spirit.

He responded,

You have asked a hard thing; yet, if you see me as I am being taken from you, it will be granted you; if not, it will not.

As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven. Elisha kept watching and crying out,

Father, father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!

But when he could no longer see him, he grasped his own clothes and tore them in two pieces.

Psalm 50:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The LORD, the God of gods, has spoken;

he has called the earth from the rising of the sun to its setting.

2  Out of Zion, perfect in its beauty,

God reveals himself in glory.

3  Our God will come and will not keep silence;

before him there is a consuming flame,

and round about him a raging storm.

4  He calls the heavens and the earth from above

to witness the judgment of his people.

5  “Gather before me my loyal followers,

those who have made a covenant with me

and sealed it with sacrifice.”

6  Let the heavens declare the rightness of his cause;

for God himself is judge.

2 Corinthians 4:3-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. In their case the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep them from seeing the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves; we proclaim Jesus Christ as Lord and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake. For it is the God who said,

Let light shine out of darkness,

who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

Mark 9:2-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Six days later, Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain apart, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his clothes became dazzling white, such as no one on earth could bleach them. And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses, who were talking with Jesus. Then Peter said to Jesus,

Rabbi, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

He did not know what to say, for they were terrified. Then a cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud there came a voice,

This is my Son, the Beloved; listen to him!

Suddenly when they looked around, they saw no one with them any more, but only Jesus.

As they were coming down the mountain, he ordered them to tell no one about what they had seen, until after the Son of Man had risen from the dead.

The Collect:

O God, who before the passion of your only ­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

O Wondrous Type, O Vision Fair:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/o-wondrous-type-o-vision-fair/

Feast of the Transfiguration:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-transfiguration-of-jesus-august-6/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

One of the recurring themes in Mark 9 is that Jesus was quite powerful.  That theme is evident in Mark’s account of the Transfiguration.  Isolating this passage and lifting it out of its textual context hides what occurs around it.  Namely, Jesus has just said to take up one’s cross.  And, a few verses later, he predicts his own passion again.

Jesus is on the way to his death and resurrection, the latter of which reaffirms a major point of the Transfiguration:  Jesus, regardless of any appearances to the contrary, is far more powerful than any persecutor or empire.

I feel succinct today, so leave you, O reader, with that thought, as well as with this one:  Jesus remains more powerful than any persecutor.  Thanks be to God!

KRT

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   16 comments

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

Sit Down and Eat

NOT OBSERVED IN 2018

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hosea 2:14-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Therefore, I will now allure her,

and bring her into the wilderness,

and speak tenderly to her.

From there I will give her vineyards,

and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.

There she shall respond as in the days of her youth,

as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt.

On that day, says the LORD, you will call me,

My husband,

and no longer will you call me,

My Baal.

For I will remove the names of the Baals from her mouth, and they shall be mentioned by name no more.  I will make for you a covenant on that day with the wild animals, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; and I will abolish the bow, the sword, and war from the land; and I will make you lie down in safety.  And I will take you for my wife forever; I will take you for my wife in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy.  I will take you for my wife in faithfulness; and you shall know the LORD.

Psalm 103:1-13, 22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins,

and heals all your infirmities;

4 He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness.

5 He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and all his works to the children of Israel.

The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are as high above the earth,

so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

22  Bless the LORD, all you works of his,

in all places of his dominion;

bless the LORD, O my soul.

2 Corinthians 3:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Are we beginning to commend ourselves again? Surely we do not need, as some do, letters of recommendation to you or from you, do we?  You yourselves are our letter, written on our hearts, to be known and read by all; and you show that you are a letter of Christ, prepared by us, written not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God.  Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

Mark 2:13-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus went out again beside the sea; the whole crowd gathered around him, and he taught them.  As he was walking along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax booth, and he said to him,

Follow me.

And he got up and followed him.

And as he sat at dinner in Levi’s house, many tax collectors and sinners were also sitting with Jesus and his disciples–for there were many who followed him.  When the scribes of the Pharisees saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, they said to his disciples,

Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?

When Jesus heard this, he said to them,

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.

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

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

Jesus said to them,

The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they?  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 on that day.

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Mark 2:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/week-of-1-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/week-of-2-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Matthew 9 (Parallel to Mark 2):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/week-of-proper-8-saturday-year-1/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/proper-5-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/third-day-of-lent/

Luke 5 (Parallel to Mark 2):

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/fourth-day-of-lent/

2 Corinthians 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/week-of-proper-5-wednesday-year-1/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The passage from Hosea occurs in the context of a condemnation of national idolatry and the pronouncement of punishment for it.  Monotheism did not come easily or quickly to the Hebrews of the Old Testament.  In fact, pagan fertility cults held much appeal.  With that in mind, note, O reader, the references to fertility that YHWH promises to give in the context of divine graciousness.  There is even the likening of a relationship with God to a marriage.  “You have sinned,” God says, “and I will discipline you accordingly.  Then I will show mercy on you.”

Speaking of mercy, Jesus ate with notorious sinners, including literal tax thieves.  He even called one of them to join his inner circle.   This extraordinary gesture of grace, of acting based on the potential of person’s future, reflected the Spirit, which gives life.  Scribes, of course, objected vocally, but Jesus argued well against their case.  He would have welcomed them at the table, too, if they had sat down.

The difference between the scribes and the notorious sinners was that the latter recognized their need for grace.  Already being outcasts, they had no prestige to lose.  Too often we human beings cling tenaciously to poor substitutes for God.  These might be deities from competing religions.  Or they might be money or possessions or social status or some combination of these.  None of them fills the God-shaped hole, however.

May we lay our pretenses aside and sit down with Jesus.

KRT

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   17 comments

Above:  A 300s Depiction of Jesus with a Beard

God’s “Yes”

NOT OBSERVED IN 2018

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

During the period of November 2011-December 2012, also known as Year B on the Revised Common and Roman Catholic lectionaries, seven Sundays will fall between the Feast of the Epiphany (always January 6) and Ash Wednesday (forty days, not counting Sundays, before Easter Sunday).  There can be as many as nine and as few as four Sundays, depending on various factors, such as the date for Easter Sunday and which day of the week January 6 falls on in any given year.  And there is a set of readings each year (A, B, and C) for the Last Sunday after the Epiphany.  Nevertheless, I have converted much of my Bible study into a blogging project, so I follow lectionaries and mark days not observed any given church year accordingly.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 43:18-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

Do not remember the former things,

or consider the things of old.

I am about to do a new thing;

now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?

I will make a way in the wilderness

and rivers in the desert.

The wild animals will honor me,

the jackals and the ostriches;

for I give water in the wilderness,

rivers in the desert,

to give drink to my chosen people,

the people whom I formed for myself

so that they might declare my praise.

Yet you did not call upon me, O Jacob;

but you have been weary of me, O Israel!

You have not brought me your sheep for burnt offerings,

or honored me with your sacrifices.

I have not burdened you with offerings,

or wearied you with frankincense.

You have not bought me the sweet cane with money,

or satisfied me with the fat of your sacrifices.

But you have burdened me with your sins;

you have wearied me with your iniquities.

I , I am He

who blots out your transgressions for my own sake,

and I will not remember your sins.

Psalm 41 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Happy are they who consider the poor and the needy!

the LORD will deliver them in the time of trouble.

2  The LORD preserves them and keeps them alive,

so that they may be happy in the land;

he does not hand them over to the will of their enemies.

3  The LORD sustains them on their sickbed

and ministers to them in their illness.

4  I said, ” LORD, be merciful to me;

heal me, for I have sinned against you.”

5  My enemies are saying wicked things about me;

“When will he die, and his name perish?”

6  For if they come to see me, they speak empty words;

their heart collects false rumors;

they go outside and spread them.

7  All my enemies whisper together about me

and devise evil against me.

8  “A deadly thing,” they say, “has fastened on him;

he has taken to his bed and will never get up again.”

9  Even my best friend, whom I trusted,

who broke bread with me,

has lifted up his heel and turned against me.

10  But you, O LORD, be merciful to me and raise me up,

and I shall repay them.

11  By this I know you are pleased with me,

that my enemy does not triumph over me.

12  In my integrity you hold me fast,

and shall set me before your face for ever.

13  Blessed be the LORD God of Israel,

from age to age.  Amen.  Amen.

2 Corinthians 1:18-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

As surely as God is faithful, our word to you has not been

Yes and No.

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not

Yes and No;

but in him it is always

Yes.

For in him every one of God’s promises is a

Yes.

For this reason it is through him that we say the

Amen

to the glory of God.  But it is God who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us, by putting his seal on us and giving us his Spirit in our hearts as a first installment.

Mark 2:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.  So many gathered around that house that there was no longer room for them, not even in front of the door; and he was speaking the word to them.  Then some people came, bringing to him a paralyzed man, carried by four of them.  And when they could not bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and after having dug through it, they let down the mat on which the paralytic lay.  When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,

Son, your sins are forgiven.

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

Why does this fellow speak in this way?  It is blasphemy!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?

At once Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were discussing these questions among themselves and he said to them,

Why do you raise such questions in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, “Your sins are forgiven,” or to say, “Stand up and take your mat and walk”?  But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins

–he said to the paralytic–

I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.

And he stood up, and immediately took the mat and went out before all of them; so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying,

We have never seen anything like this!

The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Mark 2:

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

Luke 5 (Parallel to Mark 2):

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

Matthew 9 (Parallel to Mark 2):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/proper-8-year-a/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The readings for the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B, concern the faithfulness and mercy of God.  Let us take them, each in turn, and relate them to each other.

The lesson from Isaiah 43 exists in context of the end of the Babylonian Exile.  God, via Deutero-Isaiah, declares what is about to happen then asks, in so many words, “How have you treated me?”  The answer is, in so many words, “with little regard.”  “But,” God says in so many words, “I will forgive you anyway.”  Simply put, God is faithful, and this fact becomes quite plain when we are not faithful.

The faithfulness of God is Paul’s theme in the excerpt from 2 Corinthians.  Paul writes that he, in his dealings with the Corinthian church, has not vacillated.  Neither does God vacillate, Paul writes.  Christ, he says, is God’s “yes,” for the answer to all God’s promises is “yes” through Jesus.

Speaking of Jesus (a good thing to do), he says yes to paralyzed man with four very good friends.   A merely decent human being watching the healing would rejoice for the formerly paralyzed man, at least.  Such an observer might also wonder at the power of God he or she had just witnessed, and therefore give thanks and glory to God.  So why were the scribes grumpy and obsessed with notions of blasphemy?  Jesus, by being and acting like himself, contradicted what they had grown up to believe.  And the reality of his power belied these men’s livelihoods and raison d’etres.  This scared them.

Their only hope was that God overlooked their sin.  And our only hope is that God will choose to ignore ours.

KRT

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   20 comments

Above:  Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman, by Pieter Fransz de Grebber

Of Skin Conditions, Stigma, Healing, and Humility

NOT OBSERVED IN 2018

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2 Kings 5:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram.  The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.  Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.  She said to her,

If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria!  He would cure him of his leprosy.

So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.  And the king of Aram said,

Go then, and I will sent along a letter to the king of Israel.

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.  He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read,

When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said,

Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?  Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king,

Why have you torn your clothes?  Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.  Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying,

Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.

But Naaman became angry and went away, saying,

I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  Could I not wash in them, and be clean?

He turned and went away in a rage.  But his servants approached and said to him,

Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?  How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?

So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Psalm 30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 I will exalt you, O LORD,

because you have lifted me up

and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

 O LORD my God, I cried out to you,

and you restored me to health.

 You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead;

you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

 Sing to the LORD, you servants of his;

give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,

his favor for a lifetime.

6 Weeping may spend the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

 While I felt secure, I said,

“I shall never be disturbed.

You,  LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”

 Then you hid my face,

and I was filled with terror.

 I cried to you, O LORD;

I pleaded with the LORD, saying,

10  “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?

will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

11  Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me;

O LORD, be my helper.”

12  You have turned my wailing into dancing;

you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

13  Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win it.  Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.  So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Mark 1:40-45 (New Revised Standard Version):

A leper came Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him,

If you choose, you can make me clean.

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

I do choose.  Be made clean!

Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him,

See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.

But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could not longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and the people came to him from every quarter.

The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Mark 1:

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

Matthew 8 (Parallel to Mark 1):

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

Luke 5 (Parallel to Mark 1):

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/sixth-day-of-epiphany/

2 Kings 5:

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Leprosy, in the Bible, is a broad term.  It refers to a variety of skin conditions in addition to Hansen’s Disease.  Aside from the physical signs, which could be difficult, there was stigma, which could be harder to handle.

Consider the case of Naaman, a successful military commander in the service of the King of Aram, an enemy of the King of Israel.  The author of 2 Kings 5 tells us that Naaman has won victories over the Israelite army with the help of God.  We also know that Naaman’s forces have kidnapped and enslaved at least one Israelite young woman, whom he has taken into his household as a servant.  We may also conclude that Naaman’s case of leprosy (whatever the modern diagnosis would be) was not severe, for he was still functional as a military commander.  Nevertheless, whatever Naaman had bothered him badly enough that he went to see Elisha.

The prophet Elisha did not stand on ceremony, much to Naaman’s disappointment and ire.  And, instead of staging an elaborate healing ritual, the prophet sent word by a messenger that Naaman ought to bathe in the humble Jordan River seven times.  One can imagine Naaman thinking in Aramaic, “That’s it!?!”

Note the role of servants in the story.  An enslaved servant girl tell’s Naaman’s wife about Elisha.  Naaman, despite his exalted view of himself, is just a servant of his king, and his success is due entirely to God.  Elisha himself does not speak to Naaman at first, but sends a messenger.

Being proud and mighty does not count for much in 2 Kings 5, does it?

We have another story of a cured leper in Mark 1.  This time the man is anonymous.  All he did to get cured was to ask Jesus, who agreed graciously.  But why did our Lord order the man to stay quiet? Biblical scholars have detected the theme of the Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark.  Throughout that book God knows who Jesus is, as do Jesus as well as Satan and any evil spirit whom our Lord encounters.  That, however, was a small circle of the knowledgeable.  No, Jesus had work to do, and that work culminated, in Mark, with his crucifixion, at which point his Messianic identity became plain.  There is also the matter of being able to go from place to place without having encountering thronging crowds.  The leper did not obey our Lord’s injunction to stay quiet, so Jesus had to remain in the hinterlands for a little while, but the crowds came to him.  So much for Plan A!

Divine grace falls upon the already humble and the recently humbled, upon the Jew and the Gentile, upon esteemed and the anonymous.  It arrives via unexpected and seemingly unlikely avenues, and it makes demands upon us.  What happened to the leper Jesus healed in Mark 1?  Maybe he rejoined his family; that is the most likely answer.  But what further impact did the incident have on the man?  The text is silent on that point.  As for Naaman, he renounced his faith in Rimmon, his former deity, and followed Yahweh (verse 18).  As to what that entailed for Naaman, the text is silent.

How will grace come to you this day, the next day, the day after that, et cetera?  And what will it require of you?  Will you do it?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/of-skin-conditions-stigma-healing-and-humility/

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   10 comments

Above:  Clouds at Sunset

Image Source = Fir0002

The Call of God, With All Its Responsibilities

FEBRUARY 4, 2018

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 40:21-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

Has it not been told you from the beginning?

Have you not understood from the foundations of the earth?

It is he who sits above the circle of the earth,

and its inhabitants are like grasshoppers;

who stretches out the heavens like a curtain,

and spreads them like a tent to live in;

who brings princes to naught,

and makes the rulers of the earth as nothing.

Scarcely are they planted, scarcely sown,

scarcely has their stem taken root in the earth,

when he blows upon them, and they wither,

and the tempest carries them off like stubble.

To whom then will you compare me?

or who is my equal? says the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes on high and see:

Who created these?

He who brings out their host and numbers them,

calling them all by name;

because he is great in strength,

mighty in power,

not one is missing.

Why do you say, O Jacob,

and speak, O Israel,

My way is hidden from the LORD,

and my right is disregarded by my God?

Have you not known?  Have you not heard?

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the Creator of the ends of the earth.

He does not faint or grow weary;

his understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the faint,

and strengthens the powerless.

Even youths will faint and be weary,

and the young will fall exhausted;

but those who wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength,

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary,

they shall walk and not faint.

Psalm 147:1-12, 21c (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hallelujah!

How good it is to sing praises to our God!

how pleasant it is to honor him with praise!

2  The LORD rebuilds Jerusalem;

he gathers the exiles of Israel.

3  He heals the brokenhearted

and binds up their wounds.

4  He counts the number of the stars

and call s them all by their names.

5  Great is our LORD and mighty in power;

there is no limit to his wisdom.

6  The LORD lifts up the lowly,

but casts the wicked to the ground.

7  Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving;

make music to our God upon the harp.

8  He covers the heavens with clouds

and prepares the rain for the earth;

9  He makes grass to grow upon the mountains

and green plants to serve mankind.

10  He provides food for flocks and herds

and for the young ravens when they cry.

11  He is not impressed by the might of a horse;

he has no pleasure in the strength of a man;

12  But the LORD has pleasure in those who fear him,

in those who await his gracious favor.

21c  Hallelujah!

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

If I proclaim the gospel, this gives me no ground for boasting, for an obligation is laid on me, and woe to me if I do not proclaim the gospel!  For if I do this on my own will, I have a reward; but if not of my own will, I am entrusted with a commission.  When then is my reward?  Just this:  that in my proclamation I may make the gospel free if charge, as not to make full use of my rights in the gospel.

For though I am free with respect to all, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I might win more of them.  To the Jews I became a Jew, in order to win Jews.  To those under the law I became as one under the law (though I myself am not under the law) so that I might win those under the law.  To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law) so that I might win those outside the law.  To the weak I became weak, so I might win the weak.  I have become all things to all people, that I might by all means save some.  I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.

Mark 1:29-39 (New Revised Standard Version):

As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.  He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up.  Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered around the door.  And he cured many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

In the morning, while it was still very dark, he got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and his companions hunted for him.  When they found him, they said to him,

Everyone is searching for you.

He answered,

Let us go on to the neighboring towns , so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came out to do.

And he went throughout Galilee, proclaiming the message in their synagogues and casting out demons.

The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Isaiah 40:

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

Mark 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In the Autumn of 1991, during my first quarter at Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College, Tifton, Georgia, my father was the newly appointed pastor the Sumner United Methodist Church, Sumner, Georgia.  I did not know it yet, but I was on the cusp of converting to The Episcopal Church, which I did at St. Anne’s Church, Tifton, on December 22, 1991.   In the meantime, however, I was still a United Methodist.  One Sunday morning, while teaching adult Sunday School, I offended someone by accident.

You, O reader, might wonder what terrible thing I said, what utterly offensive comment I made.  I will tell you.  I was discussing grace, especially the prevenient variety, by which God brings us into the Christian fold.  God does beckon us, after all.  I offered a scenario:  God is beckoning a non-Christian man, who responds favorably and obediently to God’s prevenient grace yet dies before making a profession of faith.  Does the man go to Heaven or to Hell?  In other words, will God be faithful to this man, who had responded favorably to him?  Most people said that the man would go to Heaven.  But two visitors, a daughter and son-in-law of a member, said that he would go to Hell, for he had not made a profession of faith and been baptized yet.  I made clear in a polite and civilized way, in a pleasant and conversational tone, and free of any insult or hint thereof, that I disagreed.

That was my offense.  I disagreed.  I learned after the fact that the visitors had taken offense.  I was unapologetic then, as I remain, for another person’s thin theological skin is not my responsibility.

And I remain convinced that we human beings ought to admit that the only limits on grace and divine forgiveness are those God imposes on them, and that only God knows what those limits are.  Or, as David said in 2 Samuel 24:14,

…let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great; but let me not fall into the hand of man.  (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

Grace is of the essence.  With that summary, let us work through the readings for this Sunday.

The lesson from Isaiah 40 predicts the liberation of Jews from the Babylonian Exile.  This is a chapter of comfort, as it begins with these words:

Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that her warfare is ended,

that her iniquity is pardoned,

that she has received from the LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.

(Isaiah 40:1-2, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

The God of Isaiah 40 and Psalm 147 is the Creator, the judge who also shows mercy, looks favorably upon the faithful, and is infinitely wise.  The chapter, which begins with “…comfort my people,” ends with the promise that God will grant “power to the faint.”

That power enabled Paul the Apostle to persist faithfully through death threats, beatings, imprisonments, and a shipwreck, all the way until an employee of the Roman Empire cut his head off.  Grace moved Paul from the “right side of the law” and placed him in risky situations.  This was not cheap grace, that which demands nothing of one and is therefore useless.  No, it was costly grace–free in so far as Paul received it freely–but costly in terms of what it demanded of him.  The restrictions of Torah law no longer applied to him, but the law of the love of Christ demanded his all.

Jesus, of course, was perfect as well as fully human and fully divine.  Yet even he needed to get away, find quiet time, and pray.  A day full of healing will take a great deal out of a Messiah, I suppose.  He was grace incarnate.  It was Christ whom Paul preached and followed from his conversion to his execution.  It is Jesus whom we ought to follow, if we are not doing so already, and to whom God beckons people.

And if even Jesus needed to be quiet and to pray, how much more do we need to do these?  I live in a technology-soaked society, where many people are never really “away from it all” (except when sleeping) because somebody can contact them the rest of the time.  This is not healthy.  We need to nourish ourselves with peace, quiet, and God.  Otherwise, we will nothing constructive to offer anyone else.

Paul had a vocation as an evangelist and ultimately a martyr.  I have my vocation, and you, O reader, have yours.  The details of our vocations will vary according to various factors, but the principle is the same:  to glorify God, to be a light of God to others, to encourage our fellow Christians in their discipleship, to attract others to our Lord and Savior, to understand that there is no distinction between evangelism and positive social action.  As Shirwood Eliot Wirt, a close associate of Billy Graham wrote in the final chapter of The Social Conscience of the Evangelical (1968):

James was not wrong when he demanded that Christians show their faith by their works.  Jesus Christ was not wrong when he told his listeners in effect to stop sitting on their hands and to get to work doing God’s will.  He did not come to earth to split theological hairs, but to minister to a world in need and to save men out of it for eternity.  It is time the air is cleared.  To pit social action against evangelism is to raise a phony issue, one that Jesus would have spiked in a sentence.  He commanded his disciples to spread the Good News, and to let their social concern be made manifest through the changed lives of persons of ultimate worth.  (Page 154)

If I love my neighbor as I love myself, I cannot say honestly that I do not care about the injustice he or she endures, that he or she does not earn a living wage, that a flawed justice system convicted and sent him or her to prison unjustly, that he or she suffers under the weight of undue stigma, et cetera.  Grace demands me to care about all this and to act accordingly as well as whether my neighbor has a positive, growing relationship with Jesus of Nazareth. These are some of my responsibilities.  They are also yours.

God’s hands are my hands–and yours.  God’s voice is my voice–and yours.  May they be useful and eloquent, respectively.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/11/the-call-of-god-with-all-its-responsibilities/

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   12 comments

Above:  A Greek Lamb Led to the Slaughter, 500s BCE

Image in the Public Domain

Being Mindful of Others

JANUARY 28, 2018

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Deuteronomy 18:15-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Moses speaking]

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.  This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said:

If you hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.

Then the LORD replied to me:

They are right in what they have said.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I have commanded.  Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.  But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak–that prophet shall die.

You may say to yourself,

How can we recognize a word that the LORD has not spoken?

If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken.  The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.

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.

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.

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.

The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

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.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols we know that

all of us possess knowledge.

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  Anyone who claims to know something does not have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.

Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that

no idol in the world really exists,

and that

there is no God but one.

Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as in fact there are many gods and many lords–yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge.  Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

Food will not bring us close to God.

We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.  But take care that this liberty of yours  does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?  So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.  But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Mark 1:21-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then Jesus, Simon Peter, Andrew, and James and John, sons of Zebedee, went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.  They were astonished at his teaching, for he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes.  Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out,

What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are, the Holy One of God.

But Jesus rebuked him, saying,

Be silent, and come out of him!

And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.  They were all amazed, and they kept on talking to one another,

What is this?  A new teaching–with authority!  He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.

At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Mark 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

Luke 4 (Parallel to Mark 1):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/week-of-proper-17-tuesday-year-1/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

There is a difference between restraining one’s self or one’s children from certain activities (at some or all times) for the spiritual benefit of others and kowtowing to the unreasonable expectations of spiritually uptight people.

I recall that, in the early 1980s, when I measured my lifespan in single digits, my father served the Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia (http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/vidette-united-methodist-church-vidette-georgia/).  The parsonage was next to the church building, with just a dead-end road running between the two.  For at least part of the time we were there (June 1980-June 1982), I was not supposed to play in the front yard on Sunday afternoons, lest anyone “get the wrong idea,” which I suppose, is that I was not keeping the Sabbath appropriately, i.e., dolefully.

I refuse to live in such a way that I run no risk of offending spiritually uptight people, some of whom take offense easily.  Nevertheless, I do try to live a good life, one of gratitude to God.  So I decide to do X but not Y, according to that standard, and to leave the taking of offense (or absence thereof) by the spiritually uptight to them.  If I were to try not to offend them, I would do little or nothing, and even that might bother them.  Even Jesus offended, and he was perfect.  How “offensive” then, will I be?

I am not a pietist, obviously.

Nevertheless, as Paul observed, Christian liberty is not a license to do everything which is lawful for one.  Sometimes discretion and concern for others dictates that one decide not to do something.  This something is not wrong in and of itself, but does the other person know that? Paul was dealing with the eating of meat sacrificed to false and imaginary deities, a circumstance which no longer applies in many cultures in contemporary times.  It has no bearing on me in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, in 2011.  In fact, I cannot think of anything I do in public that would have a negative spiritual effect on anyone.  And my private life is mostly mundane, if one assumes that scandals are interesting.  (My life is far from scandalous.)

All this falls into the Lutheran category of “civil righteousness.” Yes, it is laudatory that I did not rob a liquor store last week and that I did perform many good works, but…

Our churches teach that a person’s will has some freedom to choose civil righteousness and to do things subject to reason.  It has no power, without the Holy Spirit, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness.

Augsburg Confession of Faith, Article XVIII, as quoted in Concordia:  The Lutheran Confessions–A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, Paul Timothy McCain, General Editor, Second Edition, Concordia Publishing House, 2006, page 40

I am mindful of the command not to lead the spiritually weak astray, which informs my decisions.  To the extent I have succeeded in following the spirit of Paul’s advice in my cultural context, I have done so by grace.

Grace is the work of God.  It precedes us and enables us to respond favorably to God.  By grace we have free will, so the misuse and abuse of free will is not what God has intended for us.  May we encourage and support each other in our Christian pilgrimages of faith, not throwing up road blocks consciously or unconsciously.  And may we not have hallucinations of road blocks, either.  Thus may we follow Jesus, our Lord and the ultimate authoritative prophet, successfully–by grace, of course.

KRT

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   14 comments

Above:  Donkeys

Image Source = Mates II

Putting the Saddlebags on Jesus, Not the Donkey

JANUARY 21, 2018

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,

Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.

So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.  Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk.  And he cried out,

Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!

And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God say what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he said he would bring upon them and he did not do it.

Psalm 62:6-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7 He alone in my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

10  Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath,

even those of low estate cannot be trusted.

11  On the scales they are lighter than a breath,

all of them together.

12  Put no trust in extortion;

in robbery take no empty pride;

though wealth increases, set not your heart upon it.

13  God has spoken once, twice have I heard it,

that power belongs to God.

14  Steadfast love is yours, O Lord,

for you repay everyone according to his deeds.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with this world as though they had no dealings with it.  For the present form of the world is passing away.

Mark 1:14-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying,

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them,

Follow me and I will make you fish for people.

And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.  Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired him, and followed 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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Jonah 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-1/

Mark 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-1/

St. Simon Peter, Apostle and Martyr:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-sts-peter-and-paul-apostles-and-martyrs-june-29/

St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/feast-of-st-andrew-apostle-and-martyr-november-30/

St. James the Greater, Apostle and Martyr:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-james-bar-zebedee-apostle-and-martyr-july-25/

St. John the Evangelist, Apostle:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-day-of-christmas-the-feast-of-st-john-apostle-and-evangelist-december-27/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Rumi, or, as Persians and Afghanis call him, Jelaluddin Balkhi, lived from 1207 to 1273 C.E.  He was one of the great poets.  Professor Coleman Barks has translated many of Rumi’s works into English.  Among these is “A Basket of Fresh Bread,” part of which I quote here:

Stay bewildered in God,

and only that.

Those of you are scattered,

simplify your worrying lives.  There is one

righteousness:  Water the fruit trees,

and don’t water the thorns.  Be generous

to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous

reason-light.  Don’t honor what causes

dysentery and knotted-up tumors.

Don’t feed both sides of yourself equally.

The spirit and the body carry different loads

and require different attentions.

Too often

we put saddlebags of Jesus and let

the donkey run loose in the pasture.

Don’t make the body do

what the spirit does best, and don’t let a big load

on the spirit that the body could carry easily.

(Source = The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A. J. Arberry, and Reynold Nicholson, HarperCollins, 1995; paperback, 1996; page 256)

Following God requires us to make changes.  The grace may be free to us, but it is not cheap.  We read in Jonah 3 that the prophet’s message found a receptive audience, but we discover in Jonah 4 that this fact disappointed Jonah.  He needed to lay aside his desire to see the people of Nineveh suffer for their sins.

As for Paul of Tarsus, all I can say is that I do not recall hearing this passage or the verse immediately before it read at a wedding, for good reason.

Yet those who marry will experience distress in life, and I would spare you that.–1 Corinthians 7:28b

Paul expected Jesus to return very soon, so marriage and other matters of daily life seemed relatively unimportant to him.  Two thousand years later, however, human relationships continue and Jesus has yet to return.  Some parts of the Bible are timeless; others are not.

And the Apostles?  Some of them left family businesses behind, and most of them died because they insisted on spreading the news of Jesus.  Nearly two thousand years later countless members of successive generations have known the mercies of Jesus because of what these men did.  I owe my faith in part to them.

Grace was not cheap for them.  This is the grace which grants repentance–literally turning around or changing one’s mind–and then forgiveness of sins.  Such grace scandalizes some of us from time to time, but we benefit from grace, too.  Consider this:  Somebody might find the grace God has extended to you scandalous.

Playing with Rumi’s word pictures, how often do we put the saddle bags on Jesus and let the donkey run loose in the pasture?  How often do we, perhaps out of ignorance, malnourish ourselves spiritually?  And how often do we water thorns?  I need to deal with these issues at least as much as do many other people.

The reality is that we–you and I–will not be the most effective ambassadors for Christ until, by grace, we begin to correct these bad habits and continue to replace them with good habits.  What we–you and I–do affects others in ways we cannot imagine.  Our influence, whether direct or indirect, is greater than we know.  So, by grace, may it be as positive as possible.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/putting-the-saddlebags-of-jesus-not-the-donkey/