Archive for the ‘Mark 8’ Tag

Devotion for Transfiguration Sunday, Year B (Humes)   1 comment

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

Image in the Public Domain

Spiritual Journeys

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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2 Kings 2:1-12

Psalm 50:1-6

2 Corinthians 4:3-6

Mark 8:34-9:13

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Pietism is an error-ridden system of thought.  One of its gravest mistakes is the rejection of ritualism, often due to a misinterpretation of Psalm 50.  The sacrificial system, commanded in the Law of Moses, is not the problem in Psalm 50.  No, the divorce between sacrifices and morality is the offense.  Mistaking sacrifices and other acts of public piety for a talisman is wrong.  People need to walk the walk, in other words.  Their acts of public piety will be genuine.

Speaking of sacrifices, the context of the Transfiguration in Mark 8-9 is the foretelling of the death and resurrection of Jesus.  The prose poetry of the account tells us of Elijah (representing the prophets) and Moses (representing the Law) appearing with the glorified Jesus.  This is, in context, an apocalyptic scene, as anyone steeped in the culture of Palestinian Judaism would have known.  The attempt to institutionalize such a moment is always misguided, for one should keep on moving with Jesus, toward Jerusalem.  Faith is a journey, not a permanent shrine.

My journey will not be identical to yours, O reader, nor should it be.  Our journeys will properly contain many of the same landmarks, though.  The destination will also be the same–God in Christ.

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/spiritual-journeys/

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Devotion for the Fourth Sunday After the Epiphany (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   Rahab, by Frederick Richard Pickersgill

Image in the Public Domain

Deliverance and Liberation

FEBRUARY 2, 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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Joshua 2:1-9, 12-16

Psalm 117

Acts 9:23-31

Mark 8:22-26

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Praise the LORD, all you nations;

laud him, all you peoples.

For his loving-kindness toward us is great,

and the faithfulness of the LORD endures for ever.

Hallelujah!

–Psalm 117, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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David Ackerman, in Beyond the Lectionary (2013), explains the unifying theme of these lections as how the deliverance of spies (in Joshua 2) and St. Paul the Apostle (in Acts 9)

leads to the liberation of Gentile people

–page 29

Rahab and her family become part of the Hebrew community.  She is a foreigner, yes, but, as Psalm 117:1 says,

Praise the LORD, all you nations.

St. Paul the Apostle, recently converted, survives to preach to Gentiles.  Both he and Rahab escape over city walls.  (That shared element is a nice touch.)

With regard to the reading from Mark 8, the formerly blind man sees clearly–literally.  Rahab sees clearly–metaphorically–also.  So does St. Paul, after his long-term spiritual blindness and short-term physical blindness.  Sometimes clear vision of the spiritual variety places one at great risk, as in the case of St. Paul.

The themes of light and of the inclusion of Gentiles fit well into the Season After the Epiphany.  For we who are Gentiles this might not seem scandalous.  Yet we read in the Bible that such radical inclusion was quite controversial.  This fact should prompt us to ponder prayerfully whom we exclude wrongly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LEONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITING, HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/deliverance-and-liberation/

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Week of 6 Epiphany: Friday, Year 2   7 comments

Above:  U.S. Navy Personnel Assisting at a Soup Kitchen

Image Source = Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson, U.S.N.

Deeds and Creeds

FEBRUARY 21, 2020

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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 2:14-26 (Revised English Bible):

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Suppose a fellow-Christian, whether man or woman, is in rags with not enough food for the day, and one of you says,

Goodbye, keep warm, and have a good meal,

but does nothing to supply their bodily needs, what good is that?  So with faith; if it does not lead by action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

But someone may say:

One chooses faith, another action.

To which I reply:

Show me this faith you speak of with no actions to prove it, while I by my actions will prove to you my faith.

You have faith and believe that there is one God.  Excellent!  Even demons have faith like that, and it makes them tremble.  Do you have to be told, you fool, that faith divorced from action is futile?  Was it not by his action, in offering his son Isaac upon the altar, that our father Abraham was justified?  Surely you can see faith was at work in his actions, and by these actions his faith was perfected?  Here was the fulfillment of the words of scripture:

Abraham put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness,

and he was called

God’s friend.

You can see then it was by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.  The same is also true of the prostitute Rahab.  Was she not justified by her action in welcoming the messengers into her house and sending them away by a different route?  As the body is dead when there is no breath in it, so faith divorced from action is dead.

Psalm 112 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments!

Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches will be in their house,

and their righteousness will last for ever.

4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

6 For they will never be shaken;

the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.

They will not be afraid of any evil rumors;

their heart is right;

they put their trust in the Lord.

Their heart is established and will not shrink,

until they see their desire upon their enemies.

They have given freely to the poor,

and their righteousness stands fast for ever;

they will hold up their head with honor.

10 The wicked will see it and be angry;

they will gnash their teeth and pine away;

the desires of the wicked will perish.

Mark 8:34-9:1 (Revised English Bible):

Then he called the people to him, as well as his disciples, and said to them,

Anyone who wants to be a follower of mine must renounce self; he must take up his cross and follow me.  Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel’s will save it.  What does anyone gain by winning the whole world at the cost of his life?  What can he give to buy his life back?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this wicked and godless age, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

He said to them,

Truly I tell you:  there are some of those standing here who will not taste death before they have seen the kingdom of God come with power.

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The Collect:

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

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Friday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/week-of-6-epiphany-friday-year-1/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

My Critique of the Near-Sacrifice of Isaac:

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

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

Behind the Lines/Regeneration (1997):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/behind-the-lines-a-k-a-regeneration-1997/

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Today’s devotional consists of a story, one which actually might be accurate, but which does communicate a truth.  I heard this story in a sermon over a decade ago.

Once, at a seminary attached to a historic U.S. university, a professor of homiletics, that is, preaching, assigned his students to preach about the importance of helping the less fortunate, a major theme in the Bible.  He did not tell them that their words inside the classroom were irrelevant.  Rather, each seminarian’s grade depended on his action or inaction on the day he was supposed to deliver this sermon.  The seminary professor, you see, O reader, had contacted a drama professor, who had arranged for acting students to play beggars and to intercept the seminarians.  Most of the seminarians failed.

Here ends the lesson.  All other comments I might have made here are accessible by following the links embedded in this post.

KRT

Week of 6 Epiphany: Thursday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  The Rich and the Poor, Close Together

Image Source = eenthappana

Mercy and Impartiality

FEBRUARY 20, 2020

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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 2:1-13 (Revised English Bible):

My friends, you believe in our Lord Jesus Christ who reigns in glory and you must always be impartial.  For instance, two visitors may enter your meeting, one a well-dressed man with gold rings, and the other a poor man in grimy clothes.  Suppose you pay special attention to the well-dressed man and say to him,

Please take this seat,

while to the poor man you say,

You stand over there, or sit here on the floor by my footstool,

do you not see that you are discriminating among your members and judging by wrong standards?  Listen, my dear friends:  has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to possess the kingdom he has promised to those who love him?  And yet you have humiliated the poor man.  Moreover, are not the rich your oppressors?  Is it not they who drag you into court and pour contempt on the honoured name by which God has claimed you?

If, however, you are observing the sovereign law laid down in scripture,

Love your neighbor as you love yourself,

that is excellent.  But if you show partiality, you are committing a sin and you stand convicted by the law as offenders.   For if a man breaks just one commandment and keeps all the others, he is guilty of breaking all of them.  For he who said,

You shall not commit adultery,

said also,

You shall not commit murder.

If you commit murder you are a breaker of the law, even if you do not commit adultery as well.  Always speak and act as men who are to be judged under a law which makes them free.  In that judgement there will be no mercy  for the man who has shown none.  Mercy triumphs over judgement.

Psalm 72:1-4, 13-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give the King your justice, O God,

and your righteousness to the King’s Son;

2  That he may rule your people righteously

and the poor with justice;

3  That the mountains may bring prosperity to the people,

and the little hills bring righteousness.

4  He shall defend the needy among the people;

he shall rescue the poor and crush the oppressor.

13  He shall have pity on the lowly and the poor;

he shall preserve the lives of the needy.

14  He shall redeem their lives from oppression and violence,

and dear shall their blood be in his sight.

Mark 8:27-33 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi, and on the way he asked his disciples,

Who do people say that I am?

They answered,

Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others one of the prophets.

He asked,

And you, who do you say that I am?

Peter replied,

You are the Messiah.

Then he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him; and he began to teach them that the Son of Man had to endure great suffering, and to be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes; to be put to death, and to rise again three days afterwards.  He spoke about it plainly.  At this Peter took hold of him and began to rebuke him.  But Jesus, turning and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter.

Out of my sight, Satan!

he said.

You think as men think, not as God thinks.

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The Collect:

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

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Thursday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/week-of-6-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

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Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?  Or how can you say to your brother, “Let me take the speck out of your eye” when there is the log in your own eye?  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

–Matthew 7:1-5, Revised Standard Version

and this:

Matthew 18:22-35, which I cover with this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-1/

One of the advantages to following a well-planned lectionary is reading certain books continuously.  If, however, one drops in during the continuous reading and does not orientate one’s self, one will not not notice the threads binding one portion of a book to others.  James 2:1-13 fits neatly with James 1 and, immediately, the rest of James 2.  (Read for yourself.)  At the end of James 1, for example, we read that pure religion–worship, rather–in the sight of God entails caring for widows and orphans (and other vulnerable people, we may extrapolate safely).

Then we read a condemnation of class-conscious preference and the predatory  rich, the kind of who drag the poor into court.

Fortunately, we read, mercy trumps judgment.  This is consistent with Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5 yet goes beyond that.  James 2:13 does say that, by showing mercy to others, we can erase our own sins.  I can understand why Martin Luther, who objected strongly to Roman Catholic theology of works, called James “an epistle of straw.”  But what if Luther overreacted?

A firm and balanced grasp of James 2:13 requires an understanding of faith, as Paul used that term in Romans, and faith, as James wrote of it.  Fortunately, I have covered that in a post, a link to which I have provided in this post.  It is sufficed to say here, however, that if one understands faith as intellectual and therefore works as necessary for justification, James 2:13 is consistent with the rest of the book.

There was much egalitarianism, especially across economic lines, in the early Church.  Unfortunately, as Christianity became respectable, mainstream, and even state-sponsored, it abandoned much of that ethic in favor of defending the status quo as God’s favored order.  To agitate for social justice, then, became a sin, according to the Church.  This state of affairs was itself a sin.

The predatory rich, who are distinct from the genuinely philanthropic and kindhearted wealthy, remain with us, as does the imperative to show mercy.  May all of us, regardless of our economic states, treat others with mercifully, obeying the Golden Rule.

KRT

Week of 6 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 2   6 comments

Above:  A Nurse with Orphaned Babies

Image Source = Michielvd

Pure and Faultless Worship

FEBRUARY 19, 2020

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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 1:19-27 (Revised English Bible):

Of that you may be certain, my dear friends.  But everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to be angry.  For human anger does not promote God’s justice.  Then discard everything sordid, and every wicked excess, and meekly accept the message planted in your hearts, with its power to save you.

Only be sure you act on the message, and do not merely listen and so deceive yourselves.  Anyone who does not act on it is like someone looking in a mirror at the face nature gave him; he glances at himself and forgets what he looked like.  But he who looks into the perfect law, the law that makes us free, and does not turn away, remembers what he hears; he acts on it, and by so acting he will find happiness.

If anyone thinks he is religious but does not bridle his tongue, he is deceiving himself; that man’s religion is futile.  A pure and faultless religion in the sight of God the Father is this:  to look after orphans and widows in trouble and to keep oneself untarnished by the world.

Psalm 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

who may abide upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right,

who speaks the truth from his heart.

3 There is no guile upon his tongue;

he does no evil to his friend;

he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.

In his sight the wicked is rejected,

but he honors those who fear the LORD.

5 He has sworn to do no wrong

and does not take back his word.

6 He does not give his money in hope of gain,

nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

shall never be overthrown.

Mark 8:22-26 (Revised English Bible):

They arrived at Bethsaida.  There the people brought a blind man to Jesus and begged him to touch him.  He took the blind man by the hand and led him out of the village.  Then he spat on his eyes, laid his eyes upon him, and asked if he could see anything.  The man’s sight began to come back, and he said,

I see people–they look like trees, but they are walking about.

Jesus laid his hands on his eyes again; he looked hard, and now he was cured and could not see anything clearly.  Then Jesus sent him home, saying,

Do not even go into the village.

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The Collect:

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

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Wednesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/week-of-6-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

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Be quick to listen,

but over your answer take time.

Give an answer if you know what to say,

but if not, hold your tongue.

Through speaking come both honour and dishonour,

and the tongue can be its owner’s downfall.

–Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 5:11-13, Revised English Bible

So much for the FOX News Channel, much of A.M. talk radio in the United States, and many comments on the Internet being positive influences.  Fortunately, I choose not to consume such content.  My life is better because of this lifestyle choice.

Faith, for James, is active.  This is as it should be.  And the level of activity goes deeper than the English translation indicates.  At the end of Chapter 1 we read about pure religion, but the Greek word indicates worship.  So, according to James 1:27,

Pure and faultless worship is this:  to look after orphans and widows in trouble, and to keep oneself untarnished by the world.

This is consistent with Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46) and the Hebrew prophets who condemned rampant corruption and economic injustice and stated that these made a mockery of religious rituals.  According to Jesus, the prophets, and James, we ought to act out of love and compassion, not anger, a preference for opinions over facts, and one upsmanship.  I am convinced that it is better not to participate in an argument than to win one by shouting the loudest the longest.  It is best, in fact, to do something good for another person.

Let’s get busy committing good deeds, with as many of them as possible being anonymous.  If we are doing these for the benefit of others and the glory of God, this is the best way to commit them.

KRT

Week of 6 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  Diagram of a U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

Temptation and Repentance

FEBRUARY 18, 2020

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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 1:12-18 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is the man who stands up to trial!  Having passed that test he will receive in reward the life which God has promised to those who love him.  No one when tempted should say,

I am being tempted by God;

for God cannot be tempted by evil and does not himself tempt anyone.  Temptation comes when anyone is lured and dragged away by his own desires; then desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and sin when it is full-grown breeds death.

Make no mistake, my dear friends.  Every good and generous action and every perfect gift comes from above, from the Father who created the lights of heaven.  With him there is no variation, no play of passing shadows.  Of his own choice, he brought us to birth by the word of truth to be a kind of firstfruits of his creation.

Psalm 94:12-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12  Happy are those whom you instruct, O Lord!

whom you teach out of your law;

13  To give them rest in evil days,

until a pit is dug for the wicked.

14  For the LORD will not abandon his people,

nor will he forsake his own.

15  For judgment will again be just,

and all the true of heart will follow it.

16  Who rose up for me against the wicked?

who took my part against the evildoers?

17  If the LORD had not come to my help,

I should soon have dwelt in the land of silence.

18  As often as I said, “My foot has slipped,”

your love, O LORD, upheld me.

19  When many cares fill my mind,

your consolations cheer my soul.

Mark 8:14-21 (Revised English Bible):

Now they had forgotten to take bread with them, and had only one loaf in the boat.  He began to warn them:

Beware,

he said,

be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the the leaven of Herod.

So they began to talk among themselves about having no bread.  Knowing this, Jesus said to them,

Why are you talking about having no bread?  Have you no inkling yet?  Do you still not understand?  Are your minds closed?  You have eyes:  can you not see?  You have ears:  can you not hear?  Have you forgotten?  When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?

They said,

Twelve.

He asked,

And how many when I broke the seven loaves among the four thousand?

They answered,

Seven.

He said to them,

Do you still not understand?

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The Collect:

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

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Tuesday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

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From time to time I hear really bad theology.  I would hear more of it, except for the fact that I choose not to listen to certain preachers whose programs populate radio and television waves.  Nevertheless, much bad theology has permeated the laity.  There, from time to time, I hear that God is testing people’s faith by doing something like creating false yet convincing-looking rock layers which contradict Creationism.  First, I am a Theistic Evolutionist and one who affirms the veracity of geological layers, so I have expressed my opinion of Creationism; it is foolishness.  Can we join the scientific age now?  But, to the point of God making rocks look older than they are:  If one accepts that (A) the rocks are younger than they seem and that (B) God has pulled off this deception, what is one saying about God?  Is one saying that God tempts people to believe something that is objectively false?

I hope that is not what some people are saying, but it sounds like that.

James is one of my favorite books.  Martin Luther famously dismissed it as an “epistle of straw,” but he was mistaken on that point.  (In fact, I have heard more than Lutheran pastor speak critically of James.  It must be all that talk of the importance of works in the epistle.)  The Letter of James is full of practical advice and common-sense comments, such as the one that God does not tempt us.  Instead, God calls us to repentance, literally turning around or changing our minds.  And, as we think, so we are.  This makes sense, for our attitudes lead to our actions, barring accidents.

Desire is powerful.  There are many physical desires, including but not restricted to those related to sexuality.  Food, for example, is the subject of many desires, some of them unhealthy.  The existence of desire is morally neutral, although what one does with it is not.  There is no moral error is savoring a well-cooked meal, for example.  Indeed, the taste buds provide much wonderful pleasure, and one ought to enjoy blessings, including food.  There is not even anything wrong with savoring an occasional cheeseburger, but a steady diet of them leads to negative consequences.  (I have greatly reduced my consumption of cheeseburgers and replaced them with healthy alternatives.)  As James points out, we should control our desires; they ought not do drag us away to sin and death.  Sometimes that death is spiritual; other times, physical; other times, both.

Resisting temptation can be very difficult.  If I were to tell you, O reader, that I have mastered the resistance of temptation, I would lie to you.  It is true, however, that, by grace, I have improved.  There is much room for further improvement, and there is also plenty of grace available.  Thanks be to God!

KRT

Week of 6 Epiphany: Monday, Year 2   5 comments

Above:  Enron Logo

Enron, of course, has ceased to exist, but here is where I found the image: link

Trust in God; All Else is Transitory

FEBRUARY 17, 2020

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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 1:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

From James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.  Greetings to the twelve tribes dispersed throughout the world.

My friends, whenever you have to face all sorts of trials, count yourselves supremely happy in the knowledge that such testing of your faith makes for strength to endure.  Let endurance perfect its work in you that you may become perfected, sound throughout, lacking in nothing.  If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God and it will be given him, for God is a generous giver who neither grudges nor reproaches anyone.  But he who asks must ask in faith, with never a doubt in his mind; for the doubter is like a wave of the sea tossed hither and thither by the wind.  A man like that should not think he will receive anything from the Lord.  He is always in two minds and unstable in all he does.

The church member in humble circumstances does well to take pride in being exalted; the wealthy member must find his pride in being brought low, for the rich man will disappear like a wild flower; once the sun is up with its scorching heat, it parches the plant, its flower withers, and what was lovely to look at is lost for ever.  So shall the rich man fade away as he goes about his business.

Psalm 119:65-72 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

65  O LORD, you have dealt graciously with your servant,

according to your word.

66  Teach me discernment and knowledge,

for I have believed in your commandments.

67  Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I keep your word.

68  You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

69  The proud have smeared me with lies,

but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.

70  Their heart is gross and fat,

but my delight is in your law.

71  It is good for me that I have been afflicted,

that I might learn your statutes.

72  The law of your mouth is dearer to me

than thousands in gold and silver.

Mark 8:11-13 (Revised English Bible):

Then the Pharisees came out and began to argue with him.  To test him they asked for a sign from heaven.  He sighed deeply and said,

Why does generation ask for a sign?  Truly I tell you:  no sign shall be given to this generation.

With that he left them, re-embarked, and made for the other shore.

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The Collect:

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

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A Related Post:

Week of 6 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

Finding God in Silence:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/finding-god-in-silence/

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One of the recurring themes in the Bible is the imperative of trusting in God first and foremost.  This does not preclude making good decisions; indeed, it leads to doing this.  Hebrew prophets counseled leaders to trust in God, not international alliances with double-dealing empires, and not to become overly confident in military strength.  Such things, they said, were idols.  And, like all other idols, they come and they go.

Jesus, in Mark 8, complained about yet another demand for a dramatic sign.  We humans like signs and wonders, for they are easy to identify.  Yet Elijah, in 1 Kings 19:12, found God in “a faint murmuring sound,” not an earthquake, a strong wind, or a fire.  That was not very dramatic, was it?  We ought to trust God because God is God, not because of signs and wonders.

In James 1 we read about becoming “perfected.”  The original Greek word maturity.  And completeness refers to a blemishless state, as in that present in a sacrificial animal.  So, in context, endurance produces spiritual maturity, suitability in service to God, and a continuing state of spiritual growth.  Other factors, such as wealth and prestige (or lack thereof) are transient, so we ought not become attached to them and define ourselves according to them.

Maybe Douglas Adams said it best on page 1 of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (1979):

Far out in the uncharted backwaters of the unfashionable end of the Western Spiral arm of the Galaxy lies a small unregarded yellow sun.

Orbiting this at a distance of roughly ninety-eight million miles is an utterly insignificant little blue-green planet whose ape-descended life forms are so amazingly primitive that they still think digital watches are a pretty neat idea.

The planet has–or rather had–a problem, which was this:  most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much of the time.  Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movements of small green pieces of paper, which is odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

And so the problem remained; lots of people were mean, and most of them were miserable, even the ones with digital watches.

Many were increasingly of the opinion that they’d all made a big mistake in coming down from the trees in the first place.  And some said that even the trees had been a bad move, and that no one should ever have left the oceans.

And then, one Thursday, nearly two thousand years after one man had been nailed to a tree for saying how great it would be to be nice to people for a change, a girl sitting on her own in a small cafe in Rickmansworth suddenly realized what it was that had been going wrong all this time, and she finally knew how how the world could be made a good and happy place.  This time it was right, it would work, and no one would have to get nailed to anything.

Sadly, however, before she could get to a phone to tell anyone about it, a terrible, stupid catastrophe occurred, and the idea was lost for ever.

This is not her story.

Our identity, my theology tells me, ought to have its root in God alone.  Each human being bears the image of God, who loves, who woos, and who has sacrificed for everyone.  This is God, whom we can trust.  Money, when it is physical, is pieces of paper and metal, used properly for paying our bills, purchasing our necessities, and helping others–but not functioning as a barrier between us and God.

Here ends the lesson.

KRT