Archive for the ‘Mark 11’ Tag

Devotion for the First Sunday of Advent (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:  The Dream of Nebuchadnezzar

Image in the Public Domain

Acknowledging One’s Complete Dependence on God

DECEMBER 1, 2019

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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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Daniel 2:24, 31-49

Psalm 38:15-22

Revelation 3:14-22

Mark 11:12-14, 20-25

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For in you, O LORD, have I fixed my hope;

you will answer me, O Lord my God.

For I said, “Do not let them rejoice at my expense,

those who gloat over me when my foot slips.

Truly, I am on the verge of falling,

and my pain is always with me.

I will confess my iniquity

and be sorry for my sin.

Those who are my enemies without cause are mighty,

and many in number are those who wrongfully hate me.

Those who repay evil for good slander me,

because I follow the course that is right.

O LORD, do not forsake me;

be not far from me, O my God.

Make haste to help me,

O Lord of my salvation.

–Psalm 38:15-22, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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At first glance the readings David Ackerman has appointed for the First Sunday of Advent do not fit well together.  However, upon further reflection, one might realize that they do.  The message is that we–individuals, institutions, societies–ought to rely on God, not on our own devices.

In David 2 we have an interpretation of a dream.  There are four successive empires–traditionally Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian, Median, Persian, and Macedonian–of declining value.  The fifth in the sequence is the divided empire of the late Alexander the Great.  At the end of that sequence, according to Daniel 2, God’s reign on earth will commence.

O, if only it had!

The Roman Empire is the power in Mark 11.  Jesus curses a fig tree for producing no figs.  The text notes that this happened outside of fig season.  The story, however, is symbolic.  It follows directly from the Triumphal Entry of Jesus and wraps around the cleansing of the Temple.  The fig tree relates to the Temple.  Just as the fig tree is producing just leaves and not small green figs (as it ought to do), the Temple is barren of anything of spiritual worth.  The fig tree is also a recurring Biblical symbol of Israel itself, as in Jeremiah 8:13, Hosea 9:10, Joel 1:7, and Micah 7:1.  One can therefore reasonably read the cursing of the fig tree as a scathing critique of the religious life of Israel.

When we turn to the Church at Laodicea in Revelation 3 we find another scathing critique.  The congregation relies on its wealth, not on God, who literally vomits (although many translations render the verb “spits”) that church out.  The church has succumbed to the temptation to convert material wealth into an idol.

The text from Psalm 38 explains itself.

In Beyond the Lectionary (2013) Ackerman emphasizes

the importance of awakening the insights that God provides

(page 8).

Those insights tell us both individually and collectively not to trust in military forces, in governments, in wealth, or in imagined righteousness when we ought to acknowledge our complete dependence on God.  To do anything other than to rely completely on God is to commit idolatry.  That is a difficult and strong statement, I know.  I also acknowledge that I have long been guilty of this idolatry and continue to be so.  I confess this sin here, in this post, readily.  Fortunately, grace abounds, so all of us have hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 28, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHANEL, PROTOMARTYR OF OCEANIA

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/04/28/acknowledging-ones-complete-dependence-on-god/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Magnificat

Image in the Public Domain

Why the Birth of Jesus Occurred

DECEMBER 22, 23, and 24, 2014

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that would obstruct your mercy,

that willingly we may bear your redeeming love to all the world,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 1:1-18 (Monday)

1 Samuel 1:19-28 (Tuesday)

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Wednesday)

Luke 1:46b-55 (All Days)

Hebrews 9:1-14 (Monday)

Hebrews 8:1-13 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:1-11 (Wednesday)

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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 be 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 Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 119

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Stories of and set in the context of angelic annunciations of conception and birth are, of course, appropriate for the days leading up to December 25.  In the previous post I dealt with the story of Samson.  These three days we have Hannah (mother of Samuel) and St. Mary of Nazareth (Mother of God).  To read Hannah’s song (1 Samuel 2:1-10) now is appropriate, for it was the model for the Magnificat.

This is a time to celebrate new life.  I mean that on more than one level.  There is, of course, the birth of Jesus.  Then there is the new spiritual life–both communal and individual–available via Christ.  As we celebrate this joyous time of year–one fraught with grief for many people also–may we, considering the assigned readings from Mark and Hebrews, consider why a birth occurred.  The pericope from Mark tells of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem.  The readings from the Letter to the Hebrews, after much Greek philosophical language, culminate thusly:

For if the blood of goats and bulls, with the sprinkling of the ashes of a heifer, sanctifies those who have been defiled so that their flesh is purified, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to worship the living God!

–Hebrews 9:13-14, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

To the passage above I add that we must move along to the Resurrection, or else we will have Dead Jesus.  I serve the living Messiah, not Dead Jesus.  Christ’s Resurrection conquered evil plans, as the Classic Theory of the Atonement states correctly.

We find foreshadowing of the crucifixion in the words of Simeon to St. Mary:

…and a sword will pierce your soul too.

–Luke 2:35b, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

In a similar vein, one can sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” to the tune “Easter Hymn,” to which many people sing “Jesus Christ is Risen Today.”  (The Methodist Hymnal/The Book of Hymns (1966) provides this option.)  Advent and Christmas lead to the crucifixion and the Resurrection.

That is why the birth of Jesus occurred.  Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/why-the-birth-of-jesus-occurred/

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Devotion for Saturday Before the Second Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Second Temple Model

Above:  A Model of the Second Temple, Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

The Internalized Covenant with God

DECEMBER 9, 2017

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The Collect:

Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 36:24-28

Psalm 85:8-13

Mark 11:27-33

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Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

The LORD will indeed grant prosperity

and our land will yield its increase.

Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

–Psalm 85:7-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That positive vision is similar to the one in Ezekiel 36:24-28.  The internalized covenant in a renewed and restored Israel is happy news.  Yet one ought not to overlook or minimize Ezekiel 36:32 (New Revised Standard Version):

It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord GOD; let that be known to you.  Be ashamed and dismayed for your ways, O house of Israel.

God will act, Ezekiel tells us, on behalf of the holy divine name, which the Hebrews had profaned.

I read Mark 11:27-33 and 12:1-12 then imagine Jesus saying,

Be ashamed and dismayed for your ways, O chief priests, scribes, and elders.

That concept exists in the words of Mark 11:27-12:12.  The Temple system exploited the pious poor economically and collaborated with the Roman occupiers.  It also propagated a form of piety which only those of certain means (a minority of the population) could afford to maintain.  Woe indeed to those who benefited from that system!  Although Jesus refused to answer the trick question in 11:27-33, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (12:1-12) provided an unambiguous reply just a few days before the death of our Lord and Savior, as the Gospel of Mark tells the narrative.

Lest we of today feel overly comfortable in our denouncement of people dead for thousands of years, we need to look around and ponder our contexts.  Are we complicit in structures which exploit people?  Do we participate in or make excuses for organizations which ignore the principle of the internalized covenant with God and twist religion into an instrument for improper spiritual authority?  If so, we ought to be ashamed and dismayed for our ways.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HERBERT STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ANGELINA AND SARAH GRIMKE, ABOLITIONISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PROCLUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT RUSTICUS, BISHOP OF NARBONNE

THE FEAST OF VINCENT PRICE, ACTOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/10/28/the-internalized-covenant-with-god/

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Week of 8 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  A Bowl of Fruit

Image Source = Yosarian

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

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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

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Jude 16-25 (Revised English Bible):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

that I might behold your power and your glory.

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

my lips shall give you praise.

4  So will I bless you as long as I live

and lift up my hands in your Name.

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

and my mouth praises you with joyful lips.

6  When I remember you upon my bed,

and meditate on you in the night watches.

7  For you have been my helper,

and under the shadow of your wings I will rejoice.

8  My soul clings to you;

your right hand holds me fast.

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

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

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

Jesus said to them,

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

This set them arguing among themselves:

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

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

We do not know.

And Jesus said to them,

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

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The Collect:

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

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Saturday, Year 1:

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

Blest Are the Pure in Heart:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KRT

Posted July 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Canadian Anglican Lectionary Year 2, March

Tagged with , ,

Week of 8 Epiphany: Friday, Year 2   9 comments

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

“Agape cancels a host of sins….”

NOT OBSERVED THIS YEAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

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

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

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

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

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

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

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

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

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

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

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

May no one ever again eat fruit from you!

And his disciples were listening.

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus answered them,

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

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

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The Collect:

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

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 8 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

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

Lord, Help Us Walk Your Servant Way:

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

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

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

Agape cancels a host of sins,

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

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

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

May agape mark our individual and common lives.

KRT

Week of 8 Epiphany: Saturday, Year 1   8 comments

Above:  Christ as Emperor, from Ravenna, Italy

Do We Want to Hear What Divine Wisdom Teaches?

NOT OBSERVED IN 2019

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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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Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 51:13-22 (Revised English Bible):

When I was still young, before I set off on my travels,

in my prayers I asked openly for wisdom.

In the forecourt of the sanctuary I laid claim to her,

and I shall seek her to the end.

From the first blossom to the ripening of the grape

she has been the delight of my heart.

From my youth my steps have followed her without swerving.

I had hardly begun to listen when I was rewarded,

and I gained for myself much instruction.

I made progress in my studies;

all glory to God who gives me wisdom!

I determined to practice what I had learnt;

I pursued goodness, and shall never regret it.

With all my might I strove for wisdom

and was scrupulous in whatever I did.

I spread out my hands to Heaven above,

deploring my shortcomings;

I set my heart on possessing wisdom,

and my keeping myself pure I found her.

With her I gained understanding from the first;

therefore I shall never be at a loss.

Because I passionately yearned to discover her,

a noble possession was mine:

as a reward the Lord gave me eloquence,

and with it I shall praise him.

Psalm 19:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults?

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

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

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

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

Jesus said to them,

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

This set them arguing among themselves:

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

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

We do not know.

And Jesus said to them,

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

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The Collect:

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

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Experience confirms in my mind that using lectionaries is the best way to study the Bible.  Reading more than one section of scripture helps the process of finding links and common themes.  Sometimes one reads a group of lessons and finds no overall message, but, as in the case of these lections, a composite moral emerges.  Here it is:  Human traditions to not restrict the wisdom of God.  If we truly seek divine wisdom, we need to prepare ourselves for the possibility that God will tell us we are terribly mistaken.

Let us begin with Mark 11:27-33.

The Temple at Jerusalem was the headquarters of a religious system that exploited poor people by preying on their desires to be holy.  It was also the seat of collaboration with the Roman Empire.  This is a very important point to understand.  The setting of this lection is one of the days leading up to the annual celebration of the Passover, the celebration of God’s deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  They did this each year in occupied Jerusalem, and the nerve center of activity was the Temple.  There was no separation of Temple and state, so Jesus’ activities placed him at risk of what happened to him at the end of the week:  the crucifixion.  By standing against the Temple system and collaboration with Rome, our Lord and Savior put himself in the line of fire from the imperium.

For some reason (I do not know why.), I did not understand this point until my early adulthood.

Many professional religious people derived both livelihood and social status from this Temple system.  They perceived Jesus as a threat, which he was, and reacted defensively.  If they had sought wisdom, they would have been open to learning that they were mistaken.  If they had received wisdom, they would have recognized their secret faults.  But they did none of this.  Instead, they challenged Jesus and attempted to entrap him in his own words.

Jesus was smarter than they, however.  So, when they asked him by what he authority he acted, he demonstrated his authority by turning the tables on his questioners.  Instead of playing their game, he made them play his game.  He asked them an awkward question:  By whose authority did the late John the Baptist act?  Many people regarded the forerunner as a prophet (which he was), but these professional religious people disagreed.  Recognizing their difficult situation, which the text of Mark 11:27-33 describes well, they opted for a diplomatic, know-nothing reply.  And Jesus refused to answer their query verbally.

He had, however, answered them by the way he handled them.  Jesus was still a force with which to reckon.  Those with authority do not need to speak of it much, for it is obvious.  They carry themselves with authority, and that is enough.  So beware of those who speak incessantly about their power and authority; they are probably insecure in both.

Ben Sira wrote of his quest for wisdom.  He pursued wisdom, attempted to live what he had learned, and gave all glory to God.  He had no regrets.  Psalm 19 contains one of favorite lines of scripture:

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,
the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

Sometimes these judgments say that we are wrong, that we need to repent.  Many people misunderstand the meaning of “repent.”  It means far more than apologizing to someone (such as God) or lamenting one’s sins.  Actually, to repent is turn around, change one’s mind, and to be transformed.  Even the possibility of transformation can prove terrifying, but it is way to deeper spiritual life in God, or just to spiritual life in God.  So, when Gods says we are wrong, may we repent, not become defensive.

Now, for the rest of the story.  The Romans ended the Temple and the Temple system by force in 70 C.E., when they destroyed Jerusalem.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/do-we-want-to-hear-what-divine-wisdom-teaches/

Week of 8 Epiphany: Friday, Year 1   7 comments

Above:  A Model of the Temple Complex in Jerusalem During the Time of Jesus

Jesus vs. the Temple System

NOT OBSERVED IN 2019

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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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Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 44:1-15 (Revised English Bible):

Let us now praise famous men,

the fathers of our people in their generations;

to them the Lord assigned great glory,

his majestic greatness from of old.

Some held sway over kingdoms

and gained renown by their might.

Others were far-seeing counsellors

who spoke out with prophetic power.

Some guided the people by their deliberations

and by their knowledge of the nation’s law,

giving instruction from their fund of wisdom.

Some were composers of music;

some were writers of poetry.

Others were endowed with wealth and strength,

living at ease in their homes.

All those won glory in their own generation

and were the pride of their times.

Some there are who have left behind them a name

to be commemorated in story.

Others are unremembered;

they have perished as though they had never existed,

as though they had never been born;

so too it was with their children after them.

But not so our forefathers, men true to their faith,

whose virtuous deeds have not been forgotten.

Their prosperity is handed on to their descendants,

their inheritance to future generations.

Through him their children are within the covenants–

the whole race of their descendants.

Their line will endure for all time;

their glory will never die.

Their bodies are buried in peace

and their name lives for ever.

Nations will tell of their wisdom,

and the assembled people will sing their praise.

Psalm 149:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallulujah!

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker;

let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

3 Let them praise his Name in the dance;

let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.

4 For the LORD takes pleasure in his people

and adorns the poor with victory.

5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph;

let them be joyful on their beds.

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

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

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

On the following day, as they left Bethany, he felt hungry, and, noticing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it.  But when he reached it he found nothing but leaves; for it was not the season for figs.  He said to the tree, “May no one ever again eat fruit from you!”  And his disciples were listening.

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus answered them,

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

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

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The Collect:

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

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The Temple system benefited the wealthy and provided professional religious people with a comfortable living.  Temple taxes, paid mostly by those who could not afford them yet who acted out of community pressure and what they understood as piety (because that is how their religious leaders defined it) paid temple taxes and purchased sacrificial animals.  But they had to convert their Roman currency, which bore the image of the Emperor and the Latin words for “Divine Caesar” before they bought such sacrificial animals as pigeons.  Each Roman coin was an idol.  And the money changers were turning a nice profit, as was the chief priest.  It was religious racketeering, and Jesus confronted it.

And we have an odd two-part story about Jesus cursing a fig tree for not producing figs out of season.  The account from the Gospel of Matthew repeats this story, but not the out of season detail.  This is a difficult story, and it does not cast Jesus in a positive light.  The best I can offer, after reading commentaries, is that the poor fig tree is a stand-in for the Temple system, for the accounts of the fig tree are set amid condemnations of that system.

Jesus does propose an alternative, however.  We can pray to God without spending needless money on currency conversion and on sacrificial pigeons.  But…there is always a but…we need to forgive others, for there exists a link between our forgiveness of others and God’s forgiveness of us.  Jesus raises the bar again.

This hits me where it hurts.  I had a hell of a time (Yes, it was that bad.)  at the Department of History, The University of Georgia, during the sixteen months of my doctoral program.  I can think of the names of three professors, including my major professor, whom I need to forgive.  And, to this day, I harbor some negative emotions toward the entire university.  They are less prominent than they used to be, but they persist.  Forgiveness is hard, especially when one is the aggrieved party.  But it is possible, by grace.  It is only possible by grace.  And I am convinced that is a process much of the time.  [Update: Those negative emotions washed out of my system years ago.  I would not have been human had I not had such emotions, but I would have been foolish not to drop that burden years ago.–2017]

God knows that we are “but dust,” yet holds us to certain standards.  Fortunately, the two sides of that sentence exist in balance.  This, however, does not absolve any of us from doing our spiritual part.  Jesus has shown us the way; may we follow him.  That, too, is a process.

KRT

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/