Archive for the ‘James 5’ Tag

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

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Bruegel the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

Grace

FEBRUARY 23, 2020

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Job 42:1-17 or Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Psalm 48

James 5:12-20

Mark 4:1-20

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At the end of the Season After the Epiphany or the beginning of the Season After Pentecost (depending on the year), we finish hopping and skipping through three books–Job, Deuteronomy, and James.  If we pay attention, we notice that Job granted his daughters the right to inherit from his estate–a revolutionary move at that time and place.

Overall, when we add Psalm 48 and Mark 4:1-20 to the mix, we detect a thread of the goodness of God present in all the readings.  Related to divine goodness is the mandate to respond positively to grace in various ways, as circumstances dictate.  The principle is universal, but the applications are circumstantial.

Consider, O reader the parable in our reading from Mark 4.  The customary name is the Parable of the Sower, but the Parable of the Four Soils is a better title.  The question is not about the effectiveness of the sower but about the four soils.  Are we distracted soil?  Are we soil that does not retain faith in the face of tribulation or persecution?  Are we soil into which no roots sink?  Or are we good soil?  Do we respond positively to grace, which is free yet not cheap, or do we not?

Job 42:11 tells that all Job’s “friends of former times” visited him and “showed him every sympathy.”  (Job is a literary character, of course, so I do not mistake him for a historical figure.)  I imagine Zophar, Bildad, Eliphaz, and even Elihu, who went away as quickly as he arrived, having realized their errors, dining with Job in shalom.  That is indeed a scene of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 19, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES ARTHUR MACKINNON, CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR IN THE DOMINICAN REPUBLIC

THE FEAST OF ALFRED RAMSEY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARITIE LEES SMITH BANCROFT DE CHENEZ, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PIERSON MERRILL, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, SOCIAL REFORMER, AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/19/grace/

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

Above:  Jesus and His Apostles

Image in the Public Domain

Presumption

NOT OBSERVED IN 2020

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Job 38:1-41 (portions) or Deuteronomy 30:5-6, 11-20

Psalm 46

James 5:1-11

Mark 3:20-34

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The law of God may be on our hearts and lips, if we are in a healthy spiritual state, but we should not assume healthy spirituality where none exists.  Besides, even if one is spiritually healthy at one moment, one still has weaknesses lurking in the shadows.  As Bernhard Anderson wrote in various editions of his Introduction to the Old Testament, Job and his alleged friends committed the same sin–presumption regarding God.  That is what the poem indicates.  However, God agrees with Job in the prose portion of Job 42.

Presumption is one of the sins on display in Mark 3:20-34.  I hope that none of us will go so far into presumption as to mistake the work of God for evil, but some will, of course.

Presumption rooted in high socio-economic status is a theme in James 4 and 5.  The epistle makes clear that God disapproves of the exploitation and other bad treatment of the poor.  The Letter of James, in so doing, continues a thread from the Hebrew Bible.  The Bible contains more content about wealth and poverty, the rich and the poor, than about sex, but one does know that if one’s Biblical knowledge comes from reactionary ministers dependent on large donations.  Presumption rooted in high socio-economic status remains current, unfortunately.  Human nature is a constant factor.

There is also the presumption that we know someone better than we do, as in Mark 3:31-34.  This is a theme in the Gospel of Mark, in which those who were closest to Jesus–his family, the disciples, and the villagers who saw him grow up–did not know him as well as they thought they did.  On the other hand, the the Gospel Mark depicts strangers and demons as recognizing Jesus for who he really was.  People we think we know will surprise us, for good or ill, sometimes.

May God deliver us from the sin of presumption present in ourselves and in others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINSTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRANCK, HEINRICH HELD, AND SIMON DACH, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MASSIE, HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2019/06/18/presumption/

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Devotion for the Third Sunday of Advent, Year A (Humes)   1 comment

Above:   Scenic View of Desert in Spring

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up the Common Good, Part II

DECEMBER 16, 2018

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Isaiah 35:1-10

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

James 5:7-10

Matthew 1:1-17

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In Isaiah 34 we read of God turning the territory of the enemies of Judah into a desert.  In Chapter 35, however, we read of God transforming a desert–making waters burst forth in it–so that exiles from Judah may return to their ancestral homeland in a second Exodus on a highway God has put in place for them.  Judgment for some is an occasion of mercy for others.  The restoration prayed for in Psalm 80 becomes a reality.

Building up the common good was a theme in the readings for the Second Sunday of Advent.  That theme, consistent with the lesson from James 5, has never ceased to be germane.  When has habitual grumbling built up the common good or been even selfishly beneficial?  It certainly did not improve the lot of those God had liberated from Egypt.  The admonition to avoid grumbling has never meant not to pursue justice–not to oppose repressive regimes and exploitative systems.  Certainly opposing such evils has always fallen under the heading of building up the common good.

I do find one aspect of James 5:7-11 puzzling, however.  That text mentions the endurance of Job, a figure who complained bitterly at great length, and justifiably so.  Juxtaposing an admonition against grumbling with a reference to Job’s endurance seems as odd as referring to the alleged patience of the very impatient Job.

The genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:1-17 is theological, not literal.  The recurrence of 14, the numerical value of the Hebrew letters forming David’s name, is a clue to the theological agenda.  The family tree, with surprisingly few named women in it (We know that women were involved in all that begetting.), includes monarchs, Gentiles, and three women with questionable sexual reputations.  That is quite a pedigree!  That genealogy also makes the point that Jesus was human.  This might seem like an obvious point, but one would do well to consider the other alleged sons of deities who supposedly atoned for human sins in competing religions with followers in that part of the world at that time.  We know that not one of these figures, such as Mithras, ever existed.  The physicality of Jesus of Nazareth, proving that he was no figment of imaginations, is a great truth.

We also know that the Roman Empire remained firmly in power long after the birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus.  The promised reign of God on Earth persists as a hope reserved for the future.  In the meantime, we retain the mandate to work for the common good.  God will save the world, but we can–and must–leave it better than we found it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FANNIE LOU HAMER, PROPHET OF FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF ALFRED LISTER PEACE, ORGANIST IN ENGLAND AND SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NEHEMIAH GOREH, INDIAN ANGLICAN PRIEST AND THEOLOGIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/14/building-up-the-common-good-part-ii/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Millet_Gleaners

Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

Image in the Public Domain

Mutual Responsibility and Faithful Actions

FEBRUARY 3-5, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:1-18 (Monday)

Ruth 2:1-16 (Tuesday)

Ruth 3:1-13; 4:13-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 37:1-17 (all days)

Philemon 1-25 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:17-26 (Wednesday)

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Be still before the Lord and wait for him;

do not fret over those that prosper as they follow their evil schemes.

Refrain from anger and abandon wrath;

do not fret let you be moved to do evil.

–Psalm 37:7-8, Common Worship (2000)

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And sometimes one ought to act faithfully, not just be still faithfully.  In the case of the Book of Ruth, for example, people were active, not passive.  There was more going on than children’s Sunday School lessons (and even many, if not most, adult Sunday School lessons) admit, for that activity entailed seduction before love became a reality.  As Jennifer Wright Knust writes in Unprotected Texts:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved immigrant daughter-in-law, women can easily raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

–page 33

And, as Krust writes on page 35, the emotional bond and subsequent covenant between Ruth and Naomi helped both of them and Israel as a whole.  I add that it has helped many subsequent generations all over the world due its role in the genealogy of Jesus.

Family–not in the sense of marriage or ancestry–unites the readings for these three days.  The ethic of mutual responsibility (part of the Law of Moses) runs through the New Testament also.  The more fortunate, who ought not to depend on their wealth in lieu of God, have responsibilities to the less fortunate.  Philemon had responsibilities to Onesimus, who was not necessarily a slave or even a fugitive.  (A very close reading of the text–one passage in particular–in the Greek raises serious questions about the traditional understanding).

This notion of mutual responsibility and the opinion of wealth one finds in Luke and James are profoundly counter-cultural in my North American setting, where rugged individualism and the quest for wealth are accepted values.  Yet with mutual responsibility comes inderdependence.  And the quest for enough wealth for one’s present and future needs, although laudable, becomes insatiable greed for some people.  Such greed is socially destructive, denying others enough.  There is always enough for everyone in God’s economy; scarcity is a feature of human, sinful economic systems.

May we, by grace, act faithfully and effectively to reduce such sinfulness where we are.  And, if we have not fallen into greed, may we not do so.  If we have, may we confess and repent of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILFRED THOMASON GRENFELL, MEDICAL MISSIONARY TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST; AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY, ECONOMIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/mutual-responsibility-and-faithful-actions/

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Week of 7 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  Infant Baptism

Image Source = Tom Adriaenssen

Mutual Responsibility

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

MARCH 1, 2014

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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James 5:13-20 (Revised English Bible):

Is anyone among you in trouble?  Let him pray.  Is anyone in good heart?  Let him sing praises.  Is one of you ill?  Let him send for the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord; the prayer offered in faith will heal the sick man, the Lord will restore him to health, and if he has committed sins they will be forgiven.  Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed.  A good man’s prayer is very powerful and effective.  Elijah was a man just like us; yet when he prayed fervently that there should be no rain, the land had no rain for three and a half years; when he prayed again, the rain poured down and the land bore crops once more.

My friends, if one of you strays from the truth and another succeeds in bringing him back, you may be sure of this:  the one who brings a sinner back from his erring ways will be rescuing a soul from death and cancelling a multitude of sins.

Psalm 34:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

2 I will glory in the LORD;

let the humble hear and rejoice.

3 Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;

let us exult his Name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me

and delivered me out of all my terror.

5 Look upon him and be radiant,

and let not your faces be ashamed.

6 I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me

and saved me from all my troubles.

The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him,

and he will deliver them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;

happy are they who trust in him.

Mark 10:13-16 (Revised English Bible):

They brought children for him to touch.  The disciples rebuked them, but when Jesus saw it he was indignant, and said to them,

Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.  Truly I tell you:  whoever does not accept the kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.

And he put his arms round them, laid his hands on them, and blessed them.

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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.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

Matthew 19 (Parallel to Mark 10):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-saturday-year-1/

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The psalm includes the lines

Taste and see that the LORD is good;

happy are they who trust in him.

I recall watching the funeral of Joseph Cardinal Bernardin on WGN in the late 1990s.  The congregation, led by a priest, sang “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord” during the service.  I am sure that, prior to the Cardinal’s death, many people prayed for his healing and recovery.  Yet he died of cancer anyway.  So James has oversimplified a point.

Nevertheless, the readings for this day point toward a timeless truth:  We are all responsible for each other in the church.  God calls us to help each other as possible, especially spiritually.  This ethic is evident is the baptismal rites of The Episcopal Church, my denomination.  Baptism is initiation into the Christian household, not fire insurance.

Much of Western Christianity is overly individualistic, falling into the heresy of Jesus-and-Meism.  I have had discouraging conversations with people who have told me that they do not care what happens to this world or on it, for they are saved, and they will go to Heaven when they die.  They are content to be healthy in a sick system, but Jesus calls us to work toward the healing of the system.  Think about the healing stories involving our Lord; he restored the healed to social wholeness.  Besides, Jesus does not call us to be selfish.  If we do indeed love our neighbors as ourselves, and if we love ourselves properly, as God has us to do, we must care about what happens to the world and on it, what fates befall our neighbors.

This is the ethic of James and Jesus.  It is a wise ethic, one more of us should emulate, for the common good and the glory of God.

KRT

Week of 7 Epiphany: Friday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  Mercy and Truth

Patience

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

FEBRUARY 28, 2014

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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James 5:7-12 (Revised English Bible):

You must be patient, my friends, until the Lord comes.  Consider:  the farmer looking for the precious crop from his land can only wait in patience until the early and late rains have fallen.  You too must be patient and stout-hearted, for the coming of the Lord is near.  My friends, do not blame your troubles on one another, or you will fall under judgement; and there at the door stands the Judge.  As a pattern of patience under ill-treatment, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.  We count those happy who stood firm.  You have heard how Job stood firm, and you have seen how the Lord treated him in the end, for the Lord is merciful and compassionate.

Above all things, my friends, do not use oaths, whether “by heaven” or “by earth” or by anything else.  When you say “Yes” or “No,” let it be plain Yes or No, for fear you draw down judgement on yourselves.

Psalm 103:1-4, 8-13 (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.

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.

Mark 10:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

On leaving there he came into the regions of Judaea and Transjordan.  Once again crowds gathered round him, and he taught them as was his practice.  He was asked,

Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife?

The question was put to test him.  He responded by asking,

What did Moses command you?

They answered,

Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife by a certificate of dismissal.

Jesus said to them,

It was because of your stubbornness that he made this rule for you.  But in the beginning, at the creation “God made them male and female.” ‘That is why a man leaves his father and mother, and is united to his wife, and the two become one flesh.’  It follows that they are no longer two individuals:  they are one flesh.  Therefore what God has joined together, man must not separate.

When they were indoors again, the disciples questioned him about this.  He said to them,

Whoever divorces his wife and remarries commits adultery against her; so too, if she divorces her husband and remarries, she commits adultery.

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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.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-1/

Matthew 19 (Parallel to Mark 10):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-friday-year-1/

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A common expectation among early Christians was that they would witness the Second Coming of Jesus.  This sense of anticipation informs the reading from James.  History, of course, records, that such expectations did not come true.   Nevertheless, the exhortations to live in faithfulness with one another, to be patient with each other, and to have a stout heart are sage in any situation.

God’s timing is not ours.  When we ask for X, X being something good and noble, perhaps even necessary, we might hope to receive X from God’s hand according to our schedule.  Yet maybe God has something better for us.  Perhaps God will deliver what we have requested, but by a different and unexpected mode.  Stout-hearted faithfulness is a virtue, especially in such circumstances.

As for oaths, many people made meaningless oaths by the earth, the stars, the sky, et cetera.  “Just say yes or no,” James told his audience.  In other words, we ought to avoid semantic games and be genuine.

To review:  If more of us were to avoid semantic games, be merely genuine with each other, be patient with other, and avoid scapegoating each other, how much better would our world and many corners of it be?  I cannot force others to act in these positive ways, but I can, by grace, live accordingly.  And so can you, O reader.  We, you and I, might have more influence than we guess.  Let us find out, for the common good and for the glory of God.

May God, who both judges and forgives, help us.

KRT

Week of 7 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  Logo of Lehman Brothers, a Firm Defunct Since 2008

Bad Priorities and Good Priorities

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

FEBRUARY 27, 2014

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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James 5:1-6 (Revised English Bible):

Now a word to you who are rich.  Weep and wail over the miserable fate overtaking you:  your riches have rotted away; your fine clothes are moth-eaten; your silver and gold have corroded, and their corrosion will be evidence against you and consume your flesh like fire.  You have piled up wealth  in an age that is near to its close.  The wages you never paid to the men who mowed your fields are crying aloud against you, and the outcry of the reapers has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts.  You have lived on the land in wanton luxury, gorging yourselves–and that on the day appointed for your slaughter.  You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who offers no resistance.

Psalm 49:12-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12  Such is the way of those who foolishly trust in themselves,

and the end of those who delight in their own words.

13  Like a flock of sheep they are destined to die;

Death is their shepherd;

they go down straightaway to the grave.

14  Their form shall waste away,

and the land of the dead shall be their home.

15  But God will ransom my life;

he will snatch me from the grasp of death.

16  Do not be envious when some become rich,

or when the grandeur of their house increases;

17  For they will carry nothing away at their death,

nor will their grandeur follow them.

18  Though they thought highly of themselves while they lived,

and were praised for their success,

19  They shall join the company of their forebears,

who will never see the light again.

Mark 9:42-50 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

If anyone causes the downfall of one of these little ones who believe, it would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around his neck.  If your hand causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better for you to enter into life maimed than to keep both hands and go to hell, to the unquenchable fire.  If your foot causes your downfall, cut if off; it is better to enter into life crippled than to keep both your feet  and be thrown into hell.  And if your eye causes your downfall, tear it out; it is better to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye than to keep both eyes and be thrown into hell, where the devouring worm never dies and the fire is never quenched.

Everyone will be salted with fire.

Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?

You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.

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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.

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A Related Post:

Week of 7 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/week-of-7-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

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What I wrote for the Year 1 counterpart of this post works well.  Besides, how many ways can I repackage the same thoughts?  So, without further ado, I offer those original thoughts.

KRT

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Self-reliance is a lie and an illusion.  It is one of the most cherished lies and illusions of my North American culture, where “self-made men” are ideals.  The truth, however, is that there is no such thing as a “self-made man” (or woman); everybody relies on God.  And we humans rely on each other.  What affects one affects another,  immediately or in time.  If we get greedy and reckless, this affects a great many people, hence the old Lehman Brothers logo at the top of this post.

So much for Gordon Gecko and Horatio Alger.  These signify bad priorities.

The reading from Mark is a continuation of the discourse of Jesus in which he states he who wants to the greatest must be the servant of all, and in which he says that anyone who receives a child (a vulnerable and powerless member of society) receives not only Jesus himself but YHWH God.  Then our Lord and Savior engages in hyperbole.  No part of the body causes one to sin, and he is not advocating self-mutilation.  Sin arises from inside ourselves, and the point of the hyperbole is to say to flee from sin.  As Ben Sira reminds us in the first reading, God’s patience does have limits.

And then there are lines about salt.  First we have, “Everyone will be salted with fire.”  This is a reference to salt used on a ritual sacrificial item or animal. As William Barclay observes in his commentary on the Gospel of Mark, the salt made the sacrifice acceptable to God.  And fire signifies that which purifies life.  Hence being salted with fire is obeying God and undergoing discipline and the risk (at least the risk) of persecution.

“Salt is good; but if the salt loses its saltness, how will you season it?”

Salt, in proper quantities, improves the taste of food.  It also preserves food.  Salt was valuable in the ancient world.  Sometimes it was a form of currency, so an underperforming employee was “not worth his salt.”  We Christians, then, are supposed to give to our world a positive flavor and to preserve and promote goodness.  Are you worth your salt?  I cannot answer that question for you, no more than you can answer that question for me.

“You must have salt within yourselves, and be at peace with one another.”

Salt, in this case, is a metaphor the the purifying Spirit of Christ.  This is not purity of the ritual kind, as the Pharisees practiced.  No, this is the inner variety of purity.  Jesus said that nothing that enters a person defiles (or “makes common”) a person, but that what comes out a person does that.  Ritual purity was about making oneself a member of the spiritual elite, unlike the “impure” rabble.  But Jesus advocated a different understanding of purity:  love, forgiveness, altruism, et cetera.  There is no divine law against such things.  These are good priorities.

The fire will come to you and to me.  Will it consist of flames destroying treasures laid up on earth, or will it be the disciplining fire likened to salt?

KRT