Archive for the ‘Revised Common Lectionary Year B’ Category

Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   16 comments

Above:  The Right Reverend Keith Whitmore, Assistant Bishop of Atlanta, at St. Bartholomew’s Episcopal Church, April 25, 2010

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

The Call of Discipleship

JANUARY 14, 2018

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1 Samuel 3:1-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the LORD under Eli.  The word of the LORD was rare in those days; visions were not widespread.

At that time Eli, whose eyesight had begun to grow dim so that he could not see, was lying down in his room; the lamp of God had not yet gone out, and Samuel was lying down in the temple of the LORD, where the ark of God was.  Then the LORD called,

Samuel! Samuel!

and he said,

Here I am!

and ran to Eli, and said,

Here I am, for you called me.

But he said,

I did not call, my son; lie down again.

Now Samuel did not yet know the LORD, and the word of the LORD had not yet been revealed to him.  The LORD called Samuel again, a third time.  And he got up and went to Eli, and said,

Here I am, for you called me.

Then Eli perceived that the LORD was calling the boy.  Therefore Eli said to Samuel,

Go, lie down; and if he calls you, you shall say, “Speak, LORD, for your servant is listening.”

So Samuel went and lay down in his place.

Now the LORD came and stood there, calling as before,

Samuel, Samuel!

And Samuel said,

Speak, for your servant is listening.

Then the LORD said to Samuel,

See, I am about to do something in Israel that will make both ears of anyone who hears it tingle.  On that day I will fulfill against Eli all that I have spoken concerning his house, from beginning to end.  For I have told him that I am about to punish his house forever, for the iniquity that he knew, because his sons were blaspheming God, and he did not restrain them. Therefore I swear to the house of Eli that the iniquity of Eli’s house shall not be expiated by sacrifice or offering forever.

Samuel lay there until morning; then he opened the doors of the house of the LORD.  Samuel was afraid to tell the vision to Eli.  But Eli called Samuel and said,

Samuel, my son.

He said,

Here I am.

Eli said,

What was it that he told you?  Do not hide it from me.  May God do so to you and more also, if you hide anything from me of all that he told you.

So Samuel told him everything and hid nothing from him.  Then he said,

It is the LORD; let him do what seems good to him.

As Samuel grew up, the LORD was with him and let none of his words fall to the ground.  And all Israel from Dan to Beersheba knew that Samuel was a trustworthy prophet of the LORD.  The LORD continued to appear at Shiloh, for the LORD revealed himself to Samuel at Shiloh by the word of the LORD.

Psalm 139:1-5, 12-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

12 For you yourself created my inmost parts;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

13 I will thank you because I am marvelously made;

your works are wonderful, and I know it well.

14 My body was not hidden from you,

while I was being made in secret

and woven in the depths of the earth.

15 Your eyes beheld my limbs, yet unfinished in the womb;

all of them were written in your book;

they were fashioned day by day,

when as yet there was none of them.

16 How deep I find your thoughts, O God!

how great is the sum of them!

17 If I were to count them, they would be more in number than the sand;

to count them all, my life span would need to be like yours.

1 Corinthians 6:12-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

All things are lawful for me,

but not all things are beneficial.

All things are lawful for me,

but I will not be dominated by anything.

Food is meant for the stomach and the stomach for food,

and God will destroy both one and the other.  The body is not meant for fornication but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body.  And God raised the Lord and will also raise us by his power.  Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ?  Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute?  Never!  Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her?  For it is said,

The two shall be one flesh.

But anyone united to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.  Shun fornication!  Every sin that a person commits is outside the body; but the fornicator sins against the body itself.  Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own?  For you were bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body.

John 1:43-51 (New Revised Standard Version):

The next day Jesus decided to go to Galilee.  He found Philip and said tohim,

Follow me.

Now Philip was from Bethsaida, the city of Andrew and Peter.  Philip found Nathanael and said to him,

We have found him about whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus son of Joseph from Nazareth.

Nathanael said to him,

Can anything good come out of Nazareth?

Philip said to him,

Come and see.

When Jesus saw Nathanael coming toward him, he said of him,

Here is truly an Israelite in whom there is no deceit!

Nathanael asked him,

Where did you get to know me?

Jesus answered,

I saw you under the fig tree before Philip called you.

Nathanael replied,

Rabbi, you are the Son of God!  You are the King of Israel!

Jesus answered,

Do you believe because I told you that I saw you under the fig tree?  You will see greater things than these.

And he told him,

Very truly, I tell you, you will see heaven opened and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.

The Collect:

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

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Some Related Posts:

Second Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

1 Samuel 3:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

John 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/twelfth-day-of-christmas/

Feast of St. Bartholomew/Nathanael (August 24):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-bartholomew-apostle-and-martyr-august-24/

Feast of St. Philip and St. James, Son of Alphaeus (May 1):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-st-philip-and-st-james-son-of-alpheus-apostles-and-martyrs-may-1/

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The readings for this Sunday relate to the demands of discipleship.

Young Samuel had to tell unpleasant news immediately to his mentor, the elderly Eli.  The fact that Eli responded as well as he did has stood him in good stead.  In the long term, of course, Samuel became a priest and a judge of pre-monarchical Israel and the man who anointed two kings.

Paul reminds us through the ages that our bodies are temples of God, so we ought not to fornicate with them.  But with what else ought one to involve his or her temple?  I think immediately of excessive consumption of junk food.  There is nothing wrong with eating an occasional hamburger or cheeseburger or doughnut, for example.  Yet I have found that want fewer of these as time passes.  No, I would rather eat home-boiled and mashed potatoes, for example.  And the combination of a sedentary lifestyle with too much high-calorie food is physically dangerous.  This is a medical fact, one which affects society as a whole by driving up insurance and health care costs.  Beyond food and physical activity, there is the question of drugs, some of which are legitimately medicinal.  Yet many others are not.  If there were less demand for illegal drugs, there would be less violence involving street gangs and drug cartels.  Bodies are temples; may we treat them respectfully.

We read in John 1 of Jesus calling Philip, who invites Nathanael/Bartholomew to follow Jesus too.  The process of Nathanael/Bartholomew agreeing to do this is the theme of that text.  I have consulted commentaries, including some written by major league, heavy-hitting New Testament scholars, in search of an answer to the question of what was so impressive about Jesus seeing Philip under a tree.  Even Father Raymond Brown, in the first volume of his commentary on the Gospel of John for the Anchor Bible, could do nothing more than offer several possible answers without settling on one.  I have concluded that why Nathanael/Bartholomew was impressed was irrelevant, but that the fact he was impressed did matter.  More than that, the facts that he followed Jesus as an Apostle, became a great missionary, and died as a martyr matter a great deal.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the call of discipleship is the realization that one’s actions affect others.  Samuel told people uncomfortable truths out of reverence for God.  Eli listened in 1 Samuel 3, but the masses chose to act contrary to Samuel’s warning in 1 Samuel 8  (https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-friday-year-2/).  Whether we manage our physical and psychological appetites or they manage us can determine whether we wreck our lives and those of others.  And would Nathanael/Bartholomew have followed Jesus and brought others to him had Philip not spoken to him?

What will discipleship demand of you, and what will your legacy be over time?

KRT

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/proper-4-year-b/

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First Sunday after the Epiphany: The Baptism of Our Lord, Year B   14 comments

Above:  Ubari Oasis in Libya

The Waters of Life

JANUARY 7, 2018

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Genesis 1:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters.  Then God said,

Let there be light;

and there was light.  And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness.  God called the light Day, and the darkness he called Night.  And there was evening and there was morning, the first day.

Psalm 29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Ascribe to the LORD, you gods,

ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;

worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness.

3 The voice of the LORD is upon the waters;

the God of glory thunders;

the LORD is mighty upon the waters.

4 The voice of the LORD is a powerful voice;

the voice of the LORD is a voice of splendor.

The voice of the LORD breaks the cedar trees;

the LORD breaks the cedars of Lebanon;

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,

and Mount Hermon like a young wild ox.

The voice of the LORD splits the flames of fire;

the voice of the LORD shakes the wilderness;

the LORD shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.

The voice of the LORD makes the oak trees writhe

and strips the forest bare.

9 And in the temple of the LORD

all are crying, “Glory!”

10 The LORD sits enthroned above the flood;

the LORD sits enthroned as King for evermore.

11 The LORD shall give strength to his people;

the LORD shall give his people the blessing of peace.

Acts 19:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

While Apollos was in Corinth, Paul passed through the interior regions and came to Ephesus, where he found some disciples.  He said to them,

Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you became believers?

They replied,

No, we have not even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.

Then he said,

Into what then were you baptized?

They answered,

Into John’s baptism.

Paul said,

John baptized with the baptism of repentance, telling the people to believe in the one who was to come after him, that is, in Jesus.

On hearing this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus.  When Paul had laid his hands on them, they spoke in tongues and prophesied–altogether there were about twelve of them.

Mark 1:4-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of forgiveness of sins.  And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  He proclaimed,

The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

In those days Jesus came down from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.  And just as he was coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens torn apart and the Spirit descending like a dove on him.  And a voice came from heaven,

You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.

The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

First Sunday after the Epiphany:  The Baptism of Our Lord, Year A:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-the-baptism-of-our-lord-year-a/

Apollos:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/feast-of-aquila-priscilla-and-apollos-february-13/

Genesis 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-5-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Mark 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b/

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Water carries much symbolic meaning in the Bible.  The beautiful opening mythology in Genesis assumes that the Earth is founded upon the waters and that waters occupy the space on the other side of the dome of the sky.  So it is that, early in Genesis 1, a wind–the Spirit–from God moves across the face of the primordial waters.  Later, in Exodus, the Hebrew nations is born when it crosses the Sea of Reeds out of Egypt and into the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula.  Indeed, water was especially precious to those Biblical people who lived in or near the desert; water was essential for life.  This comes across in Psalm 1:3, for example:

They [“they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor lingered in the way of sinners, nor sat in the seats of the scornful”] are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;

everything they do shall prosper.

(1979 Book of Common Prayer, page 585)

A survival techniques website I have consulted says that one, depending on circumstances, for months without any food.  Yet one’s body requires water daily; indeed, one can survive on just a few quarts of water for days or weeks in some environments.  So there are excellent reasons for the association of water with spiritual life.

Many people think of baptism as something we do.   Yes, we perform the sacramental rite baptism, but it is a sacrament.  As the catechism in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer says regarding the sacraments,

The sacraments are outward and visible signs of inward and spiritual grace, given by Christ as sure and certain means by which we receive that grace.

Grace, in turn, is

God’s favor towards us, unearned and undeserved; by grace God forgives our sins, enlightens our minds, stirs our hearts, and strengthens our wills.

(This material comes from pages 857 and 858 of the Prayer Book.)

Baptism is something God does, and the ritual we perform is a rite of Christian initiation, a ceremony of formal admission to the family of God.  Baptism is properly communal, not individual, in nature.  This is why the gathered congregation takes part in the baptism of a person.

God became human in the form of Jesus of Nazareth, who sought the baptism of John the Baptist.  Hence Jesus identified with us.  It is proper, then, that we identify with him.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/28/the-waters-of-life/

Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B   33 comments

Above:  The Annunciation, by El Greco

Nothing is Impossible with God

DECEMBER 24, 2017

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THE FIRST READING

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now when the king [David] was settled in his house, and the LORD had given him rest from all his enemies around him, the king said to the prophet Nathan,

See now, I am living in a house of cedar, but the ark of God stays in a tent.

Nathan said to the king,

Go, do all that you have in mind; for the LORD is with you.

But that same night the word of the LORD came to Nathan:

Go and tell my servant David: Thus says the LORD: Are you the one to build me a house to live in? I have not lived in a house since the day I brought up the people of Israel from Egypt to this day, but I have been moving about in a tent and a tabernacle. Wherever I have moved about among all the people of Israel, did I ever speak a word with any of the tribal leaders of Israel, whom I commanded to shepherd my people Israel, saying, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?” Now therefore thus you shall say to my servant David: Thus says the LORD of hosts: I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep to be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel and will plant them, so that they may live in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and evildoers shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before me; your throne shall be established forever.

THE TWO OPTIONS FOR THE RESPONSE

Canticle 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(The Magnificat plus the Trinitarian formula)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing;

from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.

For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;

you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;

I have sworn an oath to David my servant;

‘I will establish your line for ever,

and preserve your throne for all generations.’”

19  You spoke once in a vision and said to your faithful people:

“I have set the crown upon a warrior

and have exalted one chosen out of the people.

20  I have found David my servant;

with my holy oil have I anointed him.

21  My hand will hold him fast

and my arm will make him strong.

22  No enemy shall deceive him,

nor any wicked man bring him down.

23  I will crush his foes before him

and strike down those who hate him.

24  My faithfulness and love shall be with him,

and he shall be victorious through my Name.

25  I shall make his dominion extend

from the Great Sea to the River.

26  He will say to you, ‘You are my Father,

my God, and the rock of my salvation.’

THE SECOND READING

Romans 16:25-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now to God who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but is now disclosed, and through the prophetic writings is made known to all the Gentiles, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith– to the only wise God, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever! Amen.

THE GOSPEL READING

Luke 1:26-38 (New Revised Standard Version):

In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said,

Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.

But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. The angel said to her,

Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.

Mary said to the angel,

How can this be, since I am a virgin?

The angel said to her,

The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.

Then Mary said,

Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.

Then the angel departed from her.

The Collect:

Purify our conscience, Almighty God, by your daily visitation, that your Son Jesus Christ, at his coming, may find in us a mansion prepared for himself; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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What is really going on here?

That was the question a spiritual mentor of mine in the early-middle 1990s asked himself when he approached any passage from the Bible.  Let us apply it to the readings for the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B.

Nothing is impossible with God.

We read this in the Gospel lesson.  How does an obscure young woman become the mother not only of the Messiah, but of God incarnate?  And how does a shepherd, the runt of his family, become a great king and the founder of a dynasty?  God makes such things happen.  Let us appreciate the mystery, not quarrel about divine tactics.

Nothing is impossible with God.

When we examine our own lives and those of the people closest to us, do we believe that nothing is impossible with God?  Have we become so jaded that we have lost hope that God can and will act wondrously and beyond our expectations?  I hope not.

To what spectacular wonders is God preparing to give birth in you and in others?  Time will tell.  By faith and grace, may we look forward to the blessed events.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/nothing-is-impossible-with-god/

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Fifteenth Day of Advent: Third Sunday of Advent, Year B   32 comments

Above:  The Visitation, with the Magnificat in Latin

God-Bearers

DECEMBER 17, 2017

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THE FIRST READING

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

The spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me,

because the LORD has anointed me;

he has sent me to bring good news to the oppressed,

to bind up the brokenhearted,

to proclaim liberty to the captives,

and release to the prisoners;

to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favor,

and the day of vengeance of our God;

to comfort all who mourn;

to provide for those who mourn in Zion–

to give them a garland instead of ashes,

the oil of gladness instead of mourning,

the mantle of praise instead of a faint spirit.

They will be called oaks of righteousness,

the planting of the LORD, to display his glory.

They shall build up the ancient ruins,

they shall raise up the former devastations;

they shall repair the ruined cities,

the devastations of many generations.

For I the LORD love justice,

I hate robbery and wrongdoing;

I will faithfully give them their recompense,

and I will make an everlasting covenant with them.

Their descendants shall be known among the nations,

and their offspring among the peoples;

all who see them shall acknowledge

that they are a people whom the LORD has blessed.

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,

my whole being shall exult in my God;

for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation,

he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,

as a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,

as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.

For as the earth brings forth its shoots,

and as a garden causes what is sown in it to spring up,

so the Lord GOD will cause righteousness and praise

to spring up before the nations.

THE TWO OPTIONS FOR THE RESPONSE

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Canticle 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(The Magnificat plus the Trinitarian formula)

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord,

my spirit rejoices in God my Savior;

for he has looked with favor on his lowly servant.

From this day all generations will call me blessed:

the Almighty has done great things for me,

and holy is his Name.

He has mercy on those who fear him

in every generation.

He has shown the strength of his arm,

he has scattered the proud in their conceit.

He has cast down the mighty from their thrones,

and has lifted up the lowly.

He has filled the hungry with good things,

and the rich he has sent away empty.

He has come to the help of his servant Israel,

for he has remembered his promise of mercy,

The promise he made to our fathers,

to Abraham and his children for ever.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

THE SECOND READING

1 Thessalonians 5 (New Revised Standard Version):

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise the words of prophets, but test everything; hold fast to what is good; abstain from every form of evil.

May the God of peace himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do this.

THE GOSPEL READING

John 1:6-8, 19-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light.

This is the testimony given by John when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him,

Who are you?

He confessed and did not deny it, but confessed,

I am not the Messiah.

And they asked him,

What then? Are you Elijah?

He said,

I am not.

[They asked,]

Are you the prophet?

He answered,

No.

Then they said to him,

Who are you? Let us have an answer for those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?

He said,

I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as the prophet Isaiah said.

Now they had been sent from the Pharisees. They asked him,

Why then are you baptizing if you are neither the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the prophet?

John answered them,

I baptize with water. Among you stands one whom you do not know, the one who is coming after me; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandal.

This took place in Bethany across the Jordan where John was baptizing.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

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There is a cliche:  The Lord moves in mysterious ways.  Many statements become cliched because they are true, as is the case for this one.  In these readings we read of the divine mandate for us to establish justice, especially that of the economic variety.  We read also of the humility of John the Baptist, forerunner of our Lord, and of Mary, who became Mother of God.  (Follow the logic:  Jesus was God incarnate.  Mary was his mother.  Therefore she was the Mother of God.)

My Eastern Orthodox brethren refer to Mary of Nazareth as the Theotokos, or God-bearer.  That she was, indeed.  Through her God chose to become incarnate, to become one of us, and therefore to set into motion redemptive plans while affirming human dignity.  It is a great mystery, one I choose to savor, not try to explain away or dismiss.

So I invite you, O reader, to echo the words of the Magnificat and to say the Hail Mary.  And, I hope that, regardless of the state of your mariology (assuming that you have one) , that you will recognize yourself and all other human beings as God-bearers, then treat yourself and all others accordingly.  Much justice will flow from that attitude.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/god-bearers/

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Eighth Day of Advent: Second Sunday of Advent, Year B   42 comments

Above:  The Roman Colosseum in Early Morning

It is neither dark nor light; the light will come.

Image Source = Diliff

We Wait…

DECEMBER 10, 2017

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Isaiah 40:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Comfort, O comfort my people,

says your God.

Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,

and cry to her

that she has served her term,

that her penalty is paid,

that she has received from the LORD’s hand

double for all her sins.

A voice cries out:

In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,

make straight in desert a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be lifted up,

and every mountain and hill be made low;

the uneven ground shall become level,

and the rough places a plain.

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,

and all people shall see it together,

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

A voice says,

Cry out!

And I said,

What shall I cry?

All people are grass,

their consistency is like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

when the breath of the LORD blows upon it;

surely the people are grass.

The grass withers, the flower fades;

but the word of our God will stand for ever.

Get up to a high mountain,

O Zion, herald of great tidings;

lift up your voice with strength,

O Jerusalem, herald of good tidings,

lift it up, do not fear;

say to the cities of Judah,

Here is your God!

See, the LORD God comes with might,

and his arm rules for him;

his reward is with him,

and his recompense before him.

He will feed his flock like a shepherd;

he will gather the lambs in his arms,

and carry them in his bosom,

and gently lead the mother sheep.

Psalm 85:1-2, 8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  You have been gracious to your land, O LORD,

you have restored the good fortune of Jacob.

2  You have forgiven the iniquity of your people

and blotted out all their sins.

8  I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

9  Truly, his salvation is very near to those fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10  Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11  Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12  The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13  Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

2 Peter 3:8-15a (New Revised Standard Version):

But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like one day.  The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.  But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a loud noise, and the elements will be dissolved with fire, and the earth and everything that is done on it will be disclosed.

Since all these things are to be dissolved in this way, what sort of persons ought you to be in leading lives of holiness and godliness, waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set ablaze and dissolved, and the elements will melt with fire?  But, in accordance with his promise, we waiting for new heavens and a new earth, where righteousness is at home.

Therefore, beloved, while you are waiting for these things, strive to be found by him at peace, without spot or blemish; and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation.

Mark 1:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

As it is written in the prophet Isaiah,

See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,

who will prepare the way;

the voice of one crying out in the wilderness;

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.'”

John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness, proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  And people from the whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem were going out to him, and were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.  Now John was clothed with camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey.  He proclaimed,

The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the thong of his sandals.  I have baptized you with water; but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Waiting is hard.  I do not refer to pacing and foot-tapping while wondering what is taking somebody so long, although that is difficult.  No, I mean purposeful, patient waiting.  The conquered and exiled Jews living within the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had to wait for the Persian army of Cyrus the Great.  These being Advent readings, however, most waiting is for the coming of the Messiah.  In the meantime, people near Jerusalem listened to an eccentric ascetic.  And, a few decades later, members of a nascent faith called Christianity awaited the return of Jesus, with advice to live at peace with God and each other.  Time, the author of 2 Peter writes, works differently for God than for us, so we ought not to become impatient.

Listen to a really good and chanted version of “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.”  The haunting  sense of longing will be evident there, as will confidence that Emmanuel will come, and God will indeed be with us in a different way than is true now.  Until then, we need to hang on.

This requires stillness.   But we cannot be still while rushing and flitting about from shopping trip to shopping trip and Christmas party (office, neighborhood, church group, etc.) to Christmas party.  December is a hectic time for many people.  Yet this is the time that the Church, in its wisdom, has set aside as Advent, a time of faithful preparation for Christmas.

I write these words in early June 2011, a very hot time in northern Georgia, U.S.A.  Slowing down long enough to type the readings and to ponder them, and hopefully to grasp the spirit of them, is a valuable exercise.  During this time I have played a variety of YouTube videos of Advent carols in the background, to get into the proper frame of mind.  Focusing on these readings has been a great blessing for me this day, and I hope that they are for you, too.

Dominus tecum.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/we-wait/

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First Day of Advent: First Sunday of Advent, Year B   35 comments

Above:  Saint Joseph with the Infant Jesus, by Guido Reni, Circa 1635

Expectations Versus Reality

DECEMBER 3, 2017

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Isaiah 64:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

O that you would tear open the heavens and come down,

so that the mountains would quake at your presence–

as when fire kindles brushwood

and the fire causes water to boil–

to make your name known to your adversaries,

so that the nations might tremble at your presence!

When you did awesome deeds that we did not expect,

you came down, the mountains quaked at your presence.

From ages past no one has heard,

no ear has perceived,

no eye has seen any God besides you,

who works for those who wait for him.

You meet those who gladly do right,

those who remember you in your ways.

But you were angry, and we sinned;

because you hid yourself we transgressed.

We have all become like one who is unclean,

and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.

We all fade like a leaf,

and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

There is no one who calls on your name,

or attempts to take hold of you;

for you have hidden your face from us,

and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity.

Yet, O LORD, you are our Father;

we are the clay, and you are our potter;

we are all the work of your hand.

Do not be exceedingly angry, O LORD,

and do not remember iniquity forever.

Now consider, we are your people.

Psalm 80:1-7, 16-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock;

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

2  In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,

stir up your strength and come to help us.

3  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

4  O LORD God of hosts,

how long will you be angered

despite the prayers of your people?

5  You have fed them with the bread of tears;

you have given them bowls of tears to drink.

6 You have made us the derision of our neighbors,

and our enemies laugh us to scorn.

7  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

16  Let your hand be upon the man of your right hand,

the son of man you have made so strong for yourself.

17  And so will we never turn away from you;

give us life, that we may call upon your Name.

18  Restore us, O LORD God of hosts;

show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

1 Corinthians 1:3-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God for you because of the grace of God that has been given to you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind–just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you–so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.  God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Mark 13:24-37 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to his disciples,

In those days, after that suffering,

the sun will be darkened,

and the moon will not give its light,

and the stars will be falling from heaven,

and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.

Then they will see ‘the Son of Man coming in clouds’ with great power and glory. Then he will send out the angels, and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.

But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. Therefore, keep awake– for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.

The Collect:

Almighty God, give us grace to cast away the works of darkness, and put on the armor of light, now in the time of this mortal life in which your Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the living and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal; through him who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Many science fiction movies and television shows depict human-like aliens who, oddly enough, speak Earth languages fluently.  This is, of course, a conceit made necessary for a long time due to limited special effects technology and budgets, the fact that actors are humans, and that many audience members dislike reading subtitles.  This also reflects the fact of our frame of reference when pondering extraterrestrial life; we seek life as we know it.  But what if life as we know it is rare and life as we do not know it is more plentiful?

Let us apply that principle to Messianic expectations.  It is natural to seek a spectacular display of divine power and presence, especially when one lives under foreign occupation or when the troubles of life seem too difficult to bear.  But what did we get?  The picture I placed at the top of this post says it all:  a baby.  He grew up, died, and rose again.  In fact, I write this post on the Feast of the Ascension in 2011.  With that departure came the promise of a Second Coming, but when?

Many of the earliest Christians, including St. Paul, thought that the Second Coming was soon.  That was, of course, nearly two thousand years ago.  After Paul, the canonical Gospels, written after the First Jewish War, reflected expectations that Jesus would be back any day now.  That was nearly two thousand years ago.  Over a century and a half ago, William Miller predicted more than one date for the Second Coming.  He was mistaken.  More recently, Colin Hoyle Deal, writing in the late 1970s, thought that Jesus would return by 1988.  He had 101 reasons for this.  (I have a copy of his book.)  Hal Lindsey, also writing in the 1970s, thought that Jesus would come back before 2000.  And Harold Camping has issued more than one faulty date for the end of times.

Jesus has not kept the schedules some people have calculated for him.

God will tend to the details of time quite well without our predictions; may we tend to our earthly vocations and not waste time getting in over our heads.  We are called to be agents of God and faces of Christ to those to whom God sends us.  This is our reality.  So I ask you, O reader, some questions:  Whom has God sent to you?  To whom has God sent you?  And how often did any of this not match your expectations?  What lessons have you learned from the discrepancy between your expectations and your reality?

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/11/12/expectations-versus-reality/

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Second Sunday after Christmas, Years A, B, and C   15 comments

Above:  Diocesan Confirmation, Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, Georgia, December 13, 2009

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

A Glorious Inheritance

JANUARY 5, 2020

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Jeremiah 31:7-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

For thus says the LORD:

Sing aloud with gladness for Jacob,

and raise shouts for the chief of the nations;

proclaim, give praise, and say,

Save, O LORD, your people,

the remnant of Israel.

See, I am going to bring them from the land of the north,

and gather them from the farthest parts of the earth,

among them the blind and the lame,

those with child and those in labor, together;

a great company, they shall return here.

With weeping they shall come,

and with consolations I shall lead them back.

I will let them walk by brooks of water,

in a straight path in which they shall not stumble;

I have become a father to Israel,

and Ephraim is my firstborn.

Hear the word of the LORD, O nations,

and declare it in the coastlands far away;

say,

He who scattered Israel will gather him,

and will keep him as a shepherd a flock.

For the LORD has ransomed Jacob,

and has redeemed him from hands too strong for him.

They shall come and sing aloud on the heights of Zion,

and they shall be radiant over the goodness of the LORD,

over the grain, the wine, and the oil,

and over the young of the flock and the herd;

their life shall become like a watered garden,

and they shall never languish again.

Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance,

and the young men and the old shall be merry.

I will turn their mourning into joy,

I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.

I will give the priests their fill of fatness,

and my people shall be satisfied with my bounty, says the LORD.

Psalm 84 (New Revised Standard Version):

How lovely is your dwelling place,

O LORD of hosts!

My soul longs, indeed it faints

for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh sing for joy

to the living God.

Even the sparrow finds a home,

and the swallow a nest for herself,

where she may lay her young,

at your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

Happy are those who live in your house,

ever singing your praise.

Happy are those whose strength is in you,

in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

As they go through the valley of Baca

they make it a place of springs;

the early rain also covers it with pools.

They go from strength to strength;

the God of gods will be seen in Zion.

O LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

give ear, O God of Jacob!

Behold our shield, O God;

look on the face of your anointed.

For a day in your courts is better

than a thousand elsewhere.

I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God

than live in the tents of wickedness.

For the LORD God is a sun and shield;

he bestows favor and honor.

No good thing does the LORD withhold

from those who walk uprightly.

O LORD of hosts,

happy is everyone who trusts in you.

Ephesians 1:3-6, 15-19a (New Revised Standard Version):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved.

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe.

Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now after the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,

Get up, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there until I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother by night, and went to Egypt, and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet,

Out of Egypt I have called my son.

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord suddenly appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said,

Get up, take the child and his mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who were seeking the child’s life are dead.

Then Joseph got up, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And after being warned in a dream, he went away to the district of Galilee. There he made his home in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled,

He will be called a Nazorean.

OR

Luke 2:41-52 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem every year for the festival of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up as usual for the festival. When the festival was ended and they started to return, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but his parents did not know it. Assuming that he was in the group of travelers, they went a day’s journey. Then they started to look for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they returned to Jerusalem to search for him. After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. And all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him they were astonished; and his mother said to him,

Child, why have you treated us like this? Look, your father and I have been searching for you in great anxiety.

He said to them, “Why were you searching for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he said to them. Then he went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them. His mother treasured all these things in her heart.

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favor.

OR

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

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking,

Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage.

When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him,

In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet:

“And you, Bethlehem, in the Land of Judah,

are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;

for from you shall come a ruler

who is to shepherd my people Israel.”

Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying,

Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.

When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.

The Collect:

O God, who wonderfully created, and yet more wonderfully restored, the dignity of human nature: Grant that we may share the divine life of him who humbled himself to share our humanity, your Son Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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“What is your favorite psalm?”  Someone might have asked you this question.  Among the usual suspects are 23, 100, and 150, which excessive repetition have rendered cliche in my mind.  So, when I began to ponder the question of my favorite psalm, I considered other parts of that book of poetry.  Once Psalm 121 was my favorite, but 84 has taken that place.

Psalm 84 is a hymn of adoration to God which expresses a desire to become closer to God.  This is the one God who allowed the Babylonian Exile to occur, engineered the return of exiles, and arranged for the Incarnation, by which we have access to adoption into the family of God.  This grace is staggering, and worthy of praise in words and deeds.

The details of the Christian vocation vary from person to person, according to a variety of circumstances.  Yet the guiding principle is constant across the board:  we are called to enjoy and glorify God, to follow Jesus.  Following is active, not merely intellectual or emotional.  Jesus loved us with everything he was and had; we have a mandate to follow that example.  Too often certain people (from Crusaders to Ku Klux Klan members) have used the cross as a symbol of hate, but divine actions have transformed the cross into a symbol of ultimate love.  And what shows love more than self-sacrifice?

The beauty of holiness is both aesthetic and intangible.  May we seek and find both.

KRT

Written on June 7, 2010