Archive for the ‘Psalm 103’ Tag

Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Eighth Sunday After the Epiphany, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Fall of Jerusalem and Zion March

Above:  The Cover of the Sheet Music to The Fall of Jerusalem and Zion March, 1900

Image Source = Library of Congress

Judgment, Mercy, and Ethical Living, Part I

NOT OBSERVED IN 2015

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The Collect:

Loving God, by tender words and covenant promise you have joined us to yourself forever,

and you invite us to respond to your love with faithfulness.

By your Spirit may we live with you and with one another in justice, mercy, and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 16:1-14 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 16:44-52 (Friday)

Ezekiel 16:53-63 (Saturday)

Psalm 103 (All Days)

Romans 3:1-8 (Thursday)

2 Peter 1:1-11 (Friday)

John 7:53-8:11 (Saturday)

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The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love.

He will not contend forever,

or nurse His anger for all time.

–Psalm 103:8-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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As the readings for these three days remind us, God both judges and shows mercy.  Often mercy follows judgment, in fact.  We have received ample grace from God.  Such generosity warrants a response of gratitude and ethical living from us.  (Grace is free, but not cheap.)  One aspect of that ethical living (as in 2 Peter 1:7) is brotherly affection, one of the four loves in the New Testament.

We read also of ways in which God’s glory becomes evident because of or despite human actions.  If you, O reader, ever wondered if God will receive glory, the answer is “yes.”  Nevertheless, it is better to be a vehicle of divine glorification than an obstacle to it.

John 7:53-8:11, the pericope regarding the woman caught in adultery, is a floating story actually of Synoptic origin.  One can read the Gospel of John without it, moving from 7:52 to 8:12 without missing a beat.  Usually I like to read an excerpt from the canonical Gospels in the immediate context of what happens before and after it, but today I will not follow that practice with regard to this pericope.

This is a story about a trap.  Those religious authorities who sought to ensnare Jesus cared nothing about the location of the man with whom the woman had committed adultery.  Jesus probably reminded them of the fact that the punishment for them under the Law of Moses was stoning also.  Then our Lord and Savior forgave the woman, who had been a pawn just a few minutes prior.

May our thankfulness to God lead us to treat our fellow human beings ethically.  And may we understand that, when we accuse others, we might open ourselves up to charges (even if not legal ones) also.

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged.  For with the judgment you make, you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.

–Jesus in Matthew 7:1-2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Also, forgiving each other goes a long way toward building better families, communities, cultures, and societies.  So does minding one’s own business.  Understanding the scope of one’s own business leads one to recognize the difference between doing what is necessary and proper to build up one’s neighbors and making matters worse.  When we love one another properly, as God commanded, we glorify the deity by acting correctly toward others.  We cannot love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love human beings, whom we can see.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARBARA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/judgment-mercy-and-ethical-living-part-i/

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Devotion for March 2, 3, and 4 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, by Gustave Dore

Job and John, Part XXI:  Wrestling with Texts

SATURDAY, MARCH 2, 2019

SUNDAY, MARCH 3, 2019

MONDAY, MARCH 4, 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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Job 33:19-34:9 (March 2)

Job 34:10-33 (March 3)

Job 36:1-21 (March 4)

Psalm 103 (Morning–March 2)

Psalm 5 (Morning–March 3)

Psalm 43 (Morning–March 4)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening–March 2)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–March 3)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–March 4)

John 11:1-16 (March 2)

John 11:17-37 (March 3)

John 11:38-57 (March 4)

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I have difficulty with the Book of Job for several reasons.  One is my conviction that the titular character, according to the book itself, was innocent.  So his complaints were justified.  Yet Elihu–otherwise a redundant idiot–and God both accuse Job of impugning divine justice.  (See Job 36:5 forward and 40:7 forward.)  The Book of Job provides no satisfactory answer to the causes of suffering of the innocent.  That is my second reason for difficulty with the text.  And, being a good Episcopalian, I embrace the ambiguity and refuse to surrender my doubts.  Jesus took away my sins, not my mind.  Dismissing Elihu is impossible for me because of the reasons I have explained.  I would like to dismiss him; take my word for that, O reader.  So I wrestle with the texts; sometimes that is the most faithful response.

Meanwhile, in John 11, Jesus raises his friend Lazarus from the dead.  This sets in motion a plot among Pharisees to scapegoat him for fear of what the Romans will do to the nation otherwise.  Authorities did scapegoat Jesus.  And, a generation later, the Romans destroyed Jerusalem during a revolt.  There is no ambiguity about those facts.  The scapegoating of Jesus did not solve any problem.  It killed an innocent man, but he did not remain dead for long.  And the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem stands as evidence of what the Roman forces did to the Temple in 70 CE.

The desire to eliminate Jesus was a fear reaction, not a reasoned response.  Does God frighten me?  Sometimes, yes.  Do certain depictions of God in the Bible scare and discomfort me?  Yes!  But I recognize my need to approach God with theological humility.  Perhaps my God concept is too small.  It almost certainly is.  Dismissing or rationalizing away that which brings this reality to my attention will not alter the facts.  So I wrestle with the texts faithfully.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE EARLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH WARRILOW, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/job-and-john-part-xxi-wrestling-with-texts/

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Devotion for February 3 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Historic American Sheet Music, “I’m goin’ to fight my way right back to Carolina”

Music B-633, Duke University Rare Book, Manuscript, and Special Collections Library

Image Source = Duke University via the Library of Congress

Discomfort and Holiness

FEBRUARY 3, 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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 14:1-21

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

Titus 2:7-3:15

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A Related Post:

A Franciscan Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-franciscan-blessing/

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My discomfort with Zechariah and Titus continues.  (See link.)  As for the former, God’s reign of holiness arrives only after rapes, battles, and plagues.  And, in Titus, instructions for slaves to obey their masters coexist with a beautiful summary of God’s saving love.  When one thinks that Christ might return soon, reforming one’s society and emancipating slaves seems unimportant, I suppose.  But that was nearly 2,000 years ago.  History has rendered its verdict, has it not?

To be holy is to be “called out.”  In the name of being holy many people have committed and/or condoned violence.  In the name of being holy many people have looked down upon their neighbors.  In the name of being holy many people have obsessed over minor details–such as ritually pure pots, long skirts, and short hair–while ignoring social injustice, such as racism and economic exploitation.

The kindness and love of God our Saviour for humanity (Titus 3:4, The New Jerusalem Bible)

requires us to move, by grace, toward thinking of our fellow human beings in those terms.  Thus the length of a skirt or one’s hair ought to matter less than whether the courts are corrupt or economic exploitation is a current problem.    I think of Philip Yancey’s comments about the Bible college he attended in the 1960s.  Civil rights were not on the agenda, but his hair had to be short and women’s skirts had to be long.  And, judging from pictures of Jesus, the Lord’s haircut would have kept him out of the college.

Holiness ought to be a high standard, not a petty one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED LEE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF ALAN PATON, NOVELIST AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM OF OCKHAM, PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/discomfort-and-holiness/

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Devotion for January 4 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  Robinson’s Arch, at the Site of the Former Second Temple, Jerusalem

Temples Consumed By Fire

JANUARY 4, 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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 63:15-65:7

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 93 and 97 (Evening)

Luke 2:41-52

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Our holy Temple, our pride,

Where our fathers praised You,

Has been consumed by fire….

–Isaiah 64:10a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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It happened that, three days later, they found him in the Temple….

–Luke 2:46a, The New Jerusalem Bible

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The Temple–each in its own time–was the center of early Judaism.  Solomon had ordered the construction of the First Temple, the one which Chaldeans/Neo-Babylonians destroyed.  The Second Temple dated to 516 BCE.  This–in its expanded state–was the Temple which Jesus knew.  The Second Temple was, in the time of Jesus, the center of a religious system which separated the wealthy from the poor and the Gentiles from the Jews.  Those who converted currency at the Temple so that devout people could purchase their sacrificial animals with non-idolatrous money did so in such a way as to exploit those devout individuals.  And the Second Temple–with a Roman fortress next door–was the seat of collaboration.  This was the Temple which the Romans destroyed in 70 CE.

The Gospel of Luke dates to after that religiously cataclysmic event.  I wonder how the original audience responded to the story of Jesus conversing with the teachers there.  How we humans understand an account has much to do with our current reality.  We read our present circumstances into stories of past events.  Certainly this happened many times during the composition of the canonical Gospels.  And it has occurred many times subsequently as people have encountered those accounts.

Our holy Temple, our pride,

Where our fathers praised You,

Has been consumed by fire:

And all that was dear to us is ruined.

–Isaiah 64:10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

What is your destroyed holy Temple?  Explore the metaphor.  Let it sink in. And know that after the First Temple came the Second Temple.  And Judaism has survived without a Temple.  Perhaps your metaphorical Temple is not necessary after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

ASH WEDNESDAY

THE FEAST OF ERIC LIDDELL, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO CHINA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PRAETEXTATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ROUEN

THE FEAST OF RASMUS JENSEN, LUTHERAN MISSIONARY TO CANADA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS THALASSIUS, LIMNAEUS, AND MARON, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/temples-consumed-by-fire/

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Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   16 comments

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

Sit Down and Eat

NOT OBSERVED IN 2018

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

Therefore, I will now allure her,

and bring her into the wilderness,

and speak tenderly to her.

From there I will give her vineyards,

and make the Valley of Achor a door of hope.

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

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

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

My husband,

and no longer will you call me,

My Baal.

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

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

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

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

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins,

and heals all your infirmities;

4 He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness.

5 He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and all his works to the children of Israel.

The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

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

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

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

so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

22  Bless the LORD, all you works of his,

in all places of his dominion;

bless the LORD, O my soul.

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

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

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

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

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

Follow me.

And he got up and followed him.

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

Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?

When Jesus heard this, he said to them,

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

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

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

Jesus said to them,

The wedding guests cannot fast while the bridegroom is with them, can they?  As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast.  The days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast on that day.

The Collect:

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

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Some Related Posts:

Eighth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

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

Mark 2:

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

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

Matthew 9 (Parallel to Mark 2):

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

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

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

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

Luke 5 (Parallel to Mark 2):

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

2 Corinthians 3:

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

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

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

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

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

KRT

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: Saturday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  Parisian Children

The Kingdom of God Belongs to Such as These

MARCH 2, 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) 17:1-15 (Revised English Bible):

The Lord created human beings from the earth

and to it he turns them back again.

He set a fixed span of life for mortals

and gave them authority over everything on earth.

He clothed them with power like his own

and made them in his own image.

He put the fear of them into all creatures

and granted them lordship over beasts and birds.

He fashioned tongues, eyes, and ears for them,

and gave them minds with which to think.

He filled them with understanding and knowledge

and showed them good and evil.

He kept watch over their hearts,

to display to them the majesty of his works.

They will praise his holy name,

proclaiming the grandeur of his works.

He gave them knowledge

and endowed them with the life-bringing law.

He established with them an everlasting covenant

and revealed to them his decrees.

Their eyes saw his glorious majesty,

and their ears heard the glory of his voice.

He said to them,

Refrain from all wrongdoing,

and he taught each his duty towards his neighbour.

Their conduct lies open before him at all times,

never hidden from his sight.

Psalm 103:1-4, 13-18 (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.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

14 For he himself knows whereof we are made;

he remembers that we are dust.

15 Our days are like the grass;

we flourish like a flower of the field;

16 When the wind goes over it, it is gone,

and its place shall know it more more.

17 But the merciful goodness of the LORD endures for ever on those who fear him,

and his righteousness on children’s children;

18 On those who keep his covenant

and remember his commandments and do them.

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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Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

Human nature is complex.  It is true that we bear the image of God.  Yet we are deeply flawed.  We cannot pass a day without sinning at least once.  We are capable of caring deeply for one another and of hating each other.  We feed, clothe, and visit each other, yet we commit murder.  We comfort each other, yet some of us bully others.  As the psalmist reminds us poetically, God knows that we are dust.  God has mercy on us; otherwise we would all be doomed.

Ben Sira writes that God has instructed us in what is right and what is wrong, and that God sees all that we do.  We have much power over our fellow species in the Animal Kingdom, and great responsibility accompanies it.  Dominion does not indicate ownership, for Genesis states that we are stewards.  A steward manages what another owns.  So we ought to care deeply and actively for the rest of creation.  Besides, what affects the rest of creation affects us, too.

On a side note, “fear” in Sirach and the psalm refers to a sense of awe.  I wonder if Ben Sira became deeply acquainted with a cat.  I have known several cats very well, and I do not recall perceiving that any of them looked upon me with awe.  I loved all these felines deeply, thinking of them as furry children.  I even gave them my last name.  I have never known a humble cat, and I think that no cat has any reason to be meek.  A cat, an old saying tells me, “may look a king in the eyes.”  And may God bless house cats for that quality.

I confess that I do not like children.  As best I can tell, this derives mostly or entirely from my childhood experiences; many of my age peers were cruel to me.  So human depravity makes sense; if we were noble creatures, this nature would manifest itself more during our formative years.  And I have chosen a lifestyle certain to avoid having any children.  I consider women the better part of the human species, but I live apart from any of them.  My lot is more contemplative and solitary than not.  Children would disturb me, and I lack the patience to deal with them properly.

So the reading from Mark gives me pause.  The Kingdom of God belongs to such as these?  Yes, the Gospels challenge me, too.  William Barclay, in his commentary on the Gospel of Mark, identifies four spiritual values children embody (generally speaking):

  1. humility
  2. obedience
  3. trust
  4. a short memory

Children, Barclay writes, are generally not obsessed with their own importance.  Also, obedience is their natural instinct, as are trust in parental authority and the goodness of others.  Finally, children tend to be slow to hold grudges.  There is no divine law against such characteristics.

Perhaps the most important lesson for we educated adults who like to think matters through deeply and question authority is that, when approaching God, we ought not to think too highly of ourselves.  God is God, and we are not.  Arrogance is endearing in a cat, but it is not a spiritual virtue in a human being.

Here ends the lesson.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/the-kingdom-of-god-belongs-to-such-as-these/