Archive for the ‘Psalm 111’ Tag

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

Healing_of_the_demon-possessed

Above:  An Exorcism

Image in the Public Domain

Idolatry and the Sovereignty of God

JANUARY 27-30, 2021

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The Collect:

Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence

and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.

Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion,

that all creation will see and know your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 3:23-29 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 12:28-32 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (Saturday)

Psalm 111 (All Days)

Romans 9:6-18 (Thursday)

Revelation 2:12-17 (Friday)

Matthew 8:28-9:1 (Saturday)

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The works of the Lord are great,

sought out by all who delight in them.

His work is full of majesty and honour

and his righteousness endures for ever.

–Psalm 111:2-3, Common Worship (2000)

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We have a batch of overlapping and difficult passages these three days.  Some (such as Moses in Deuteronomy and a herd of swine in Matthew) suffer for the offenses of others.  People also suffer for their own sins in other passages of Scripture.  All of this falls under the heading of the sovereignty of God in Romans 9, in the theological style of God’s speech at the end of the book of Job.

I recognize the mystery of God and am content to leave many questions unanswered.  Comfort with uncertainty is consistent with my Anglican theology.  Nevertheless, I understand that the sovereignty of God can become something it is not supposed to be–a copout and a seemingly bottomless pit into which to pour one’s ignorance and prooftexting tendencies.  We should never use God to excuse slavery, genocide, sexism, homophobia, racism, and a host of other sins.  Whenever God seems to agree with us all of the time, we ought to know that we have created God in our own image.  We have forged an idol.  And God, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, disapproves of idolatry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/idolatry-and-the-sovereignty-of-god/

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Devotion for March 8 and 9 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   12 comments

Above:  The Last Supper, by Leonardo da Vinci

Job and John, Part XXIV:  God’s Love

NOT OBSERVED IN 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 41:1-20, 31-34 (March 8)

Job 42:1-17 (March 9)

Psalm 104 (Morning–March 8)

Psalm 19 (Morning–March 9)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening–March 8)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–March 9)

John 13:1-20 (March 8)

John 13:21-38 (March 9)

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I detect a disconnect between the Job lessons and the Johannine readings.  In the Book of Job God refuses to apologize to Job, who admits that he

spoke without understanding.

Then God restores Job’s fortunes.  Job’s error in the book had been to speak of how God ought to govern the world.  His alleged friends’ main theological error had been to speak of how they thought God does govern the world.  But I do not detect a loving God in Job 41.

In John 13, however, Jesus demonstrates his love for his Apostles then says,

I give you a new commandment:

love one another;

you must love one another

just as I have loved you.

It is by your love for one another,

that everyone will recognise you as my disciples.

–John 13:34-35, The New Jerusalem Bible

I am a Christian, not a Jobite.  I am a Christian, so, by definition, I (at least try to) follow Jesus.  The canonical Gospel definition of discipleship is following Jesus.  In Jesus I see God made accessible and manifest.  It is obvious to me that the Book of Job reflects an older and different concept of God.  As I have heard from a Lutheran minister, not all of the Bilbe is equally important.  The Gospels are more important than Leviticus, for example.  (That was an easy statement to make.)  The Gospels outweigh other parts of the Bible.  And the Gospels tell me that God, via Jesus in the case of John 13, models love and that we are to emulate that love.

So be it.

Next stop:  Lent.

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-xxiv-gods-love/

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Devotion for February 9 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   3 comments

Above:  Jesus and Nicodemus

Job and John, Part V:  “Received Wisdom”

FEBRUARY 9, 2021

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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 6:1-13

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

John 3:1-21

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Eliphaz the Temanite, in his speech, spoke of “received wisdom,” which he spouted.  It was received, but it was foolishness.  In reply, Job said that he had nothing–not even resourcefulness.  He could not help even himself.

The truth is that each of us depends on God for everything and that “received wisdom” is frequently received foolishness. Antiquity does not necessarily equal reliable authority.  As we read in John 3, many people reject the light in their presence because they prosper the darkness.  I suspect that they might not recognize it as being dark, for delusions can affect one’s perceptions that severely.

Eliphaz was not helpful.  In time he became sarcastic.  And he relied on dubious “received wisdom.”  But such “wisdom” must, in any time and circumstance, stand up to scrutiny if it is to prove valuable.  Eliphaz’s content proved worthless.  Yet there is a font of wisdom–and more–named Jesus.  And he is helpful.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMENEGILD, VISIGOTHIC PRINCE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN BISHOP OF TALLINN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/job-and-john-part-v-received-wisdom/

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Devotion for January 11 and 12 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   10 comments

 

Above:  A Shepherd

Who Are Our Shepherds?

JANUARY 11 and 12, 2021

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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:

Ezekiel 33:1-20 (January 11)

Ezekiel 34:1-24 (January 12)

Psalm 51 (Morning–January 11)

Psalm 104 (Morning–January 12)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening–January 11)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening–January 12)

Romans 3:1-18 (January 11)

Romans 3:19-31 (January 12)

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Some Related Posts:

O Thou Who Art the Shepherd:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/o-thou-who-art-the-shepherd/

Shepherd of Tender Youth:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/shepherd-of-tender-youth/

Very Bread, Good Shepherd, Tend Us:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/very-bread-good-shepherd-tend-us/

Shepherd of Souls:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/shepherd-of-souls-by-james-montgomery/

The King of Love My Shepherd Is:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/the-king-of-love-my-shepherd-is/

Litany of the Good Shepherd:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/litany-of-the-good-shepherd/

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God’s saving justice was witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, but now it has been revealed altogether apart from law:  God’s saving justice given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

–Romans 3:21-22, The New Jerusalem Bible

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I Myself will graze my flock, and I Myself will let them lie down–declares the Lord GOD.  I will look for the lost, and I will bandage the injured, and I will sustain the weak; and the fat and the healthy ones I will destroy, and I will tend them rightly.

–Ezekiel 34:15-16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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I have written one post to cover material for two days because, after having written many devotional blog entries, I do not know what else to say about the January 11 content.  The texts, I think, make their points succinctly.  Yet the January 12 content does lend itself to my comments.

Pauline theology holds that the Law of Moses served its purpose in its time.  Yet now that Jesus has arrived on the scene, a new stage of salvation history has begun.  That is a simplification, but hopefully not an excessive one.  Linking Romans 3:19-31 with Ezekiel 34:1-24  works well, for the prophet, channeling God, condemned false and bad shepherds, such as certain kings.  A good and divine shepherd, identified as God, would step in, set matters right, and find the stray sheep.  And, of course, the Good Shepherd is an image for Jesus in the Gospels.

We modern readers, especially those not in frequent contact with sheep or shepherds, need to recall that shepherds were not highly respected people in the times of Ezekiel, Jesus, and Paul.  Shepherds were necessary, but they were not respectable.  They were, in fact, smelly.  Yet this profession provided imagery for God (Yahweh/Adonai) and Jesus.  One might draw several useful points from this fact, but I focus on one here.  Channeling an attitude from Ezekiel 34, we ought not to look down upon those among us who perform necessary work we might deem undesirable.  The job titles vary from place to place.  In Georgia, my home, the “shepherds” are Latin American migrants who work mostly on farms.  These individuals merit our respect, not our disdain.

Each of us bears the image of God; may we think of and treat each other accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZACHARY, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF EDMUND MUSKIE, UNITED STATES SENATOR AND SECRETARY OF STATE

THE FEAST OF SAINT LOUISE DE MARILLAC, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/15/who-are-our-shepherds/

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Devotion for January 3 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  The Presentation of Jesus in the Temple, by Hans Holbein the Elder

The Kind Acts of the LORD

JANUARY 3, 2021

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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 63:1-14

Psalm 111 (Morning)

Psalms 107 and 15 (Evening)

Luke 2:21-40

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I will recount the kind acts of the LORD,

The praises of the LORD–

For all that the LORD has wrought for us,

The vast bounty to the House of Israel

That He bestowed upon them

According to His mercy and His great kindness.

–Isaiah 63:7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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The “kind acts of the LORD” are part of the past, present, and future tenses.  Third Isaiah wrote of the past deeds of God.  Anna the Prophetess looked forward.  And each of us can ponder what God has done, is doing, and might do.  Consider the stories from the Bible.  Think about your experiences and those of friends and family members.

I can recount instances in which God has acted kindly and mightily in my life.  Sometimes these acts have been direct, but usually they have involved people.  And I suspect that I have been an instrument of God’s kindness toward others more often than I know.  You, O reader, probably have similar memories based on your experiences.

I wonder what God will do next and what role(s) you and I will play in it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY22, 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 THALLASSIUS, LIMNAEUS, AND MARON, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-kind-acts-of-the-lord/

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Devotion for December 28 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Massacre of the Innocents, by Matteo di Giovanni

The Distress and Suffering of the Innocent

DECEMBER 28, 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 52:13-54:10

Psalm 2 (Morning)

Psalms 110 and 111 (Evening)

Matthew 2:13-23

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Some Related Posts:

Prayers for Those Who Suffer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-those-who-suffer/

A Prayer for Those Who Are Desperate:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-those-who-are-desperate/

A Prayer for the Healing of Minds:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-the-healing-of-minds/

A Franciscan Blessing:

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

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Whom did the author of Isaiah 52:13-54:10 have in mind?  Perhaps the Jewish people themselves were the despised and suffering servant.  Or maybe a pious Jewish minority was the servant.  Another interpretation of the text is that it speaks of an in individual, perhaps Jeremiah.  This last option is plausible.  The text, unfortunately, does not say for sure.  And, of course, there is a Christian interpretation which applies the text to Jesus.  The imagery fits poetically, if not chronologically.

This is an interesting passage to read along with the Matthew account of the killing of the Holy Innocents.  The servant, in Isaiah 53:5, suffers for the sins of others.  This applies to the unfortunate young boys whom Herod the Great had killed.  Terrible fates fell upon these who had done nothing.  Terrible fates fell upon them because of the sins of one man and those who obeyed him.

Such violence continues to the present day, unfortunately.  The existence of a just God does not prevent them, obviously.  And the joyful tone of Isaiah 54:1-10 leaves many grieving and otherwise distressed people cold.  This is understandable; I do not condemn.  In fact, I have at least as many questions as do other people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 20, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF HENRY JUDAH MIKELL, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF AFRICA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM GRANT BROUGHTON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-distress-and-suffering-of-the-innocent/

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Week of 8 Epiphany: Monday, Year 2   8 comments

Above:  A Bonfire

Image Source = Fir0002

Stumbling Blocks

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 1:1-9 (Revised English Bible):

From Peter, apostle of Jesus Christ, to the scattered people of God now living as aliens in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, chosen in the foreknowledge of God the Father, by the consecrating work of the Holy Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and sprinkling with his blood.

Grace and peace to you in fullest measure.

Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ!  In his great mercy by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, he gave us new birth into a living hope, the hope of an inheritance, reserved in heaven for you, which nothing can destroy or spoil or wither.  Because you put your faith in God, you are under the protection of his power until the salvation now in readiness is revealed at the end of time.

This is cause for great joy, even though for a little while you may have had to suffer trials of many kinds.  Even gold passes through the assayer’s fire, and much more precious than perishable gold is faith which stands the test.  These trials come so that your faith may prove itself worthy of all praise, glory, and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.

You have not seen him, yet you love him; and in trusting him now without seeing him, you are filled with a glorious joy too great for words, while you are reaping the harvest of your faith, that is, salvation for your souls.

Psalm 111 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

2 Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

4 He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

7 The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

8 They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

He sent redemption to his people;

he commanded his covenant for ever;

holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.

Mark 10:17-27 (Revised English Bible):

As he was starting out on a journey, a stranger ran up, and, kneeling before him, asked,

Good Teacher, what must I do to win eternal life?

Jesus said to him,

Why do you call me good?  No one is good except God alone.  You know the commandments:  “Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not give false evidence; do not defraud; honour your father and your mother.”

He replied,

But Teacher, I have kept all these since I was a boy.

As Jesus looked at him, his heart warmed to him.

One thing you lack,

he said.

Go, sell everything you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come and follow me.

At these words his face fell and he went away with a heavy heart; for he was a man of great wealth.

Jesus looked round at his disciples and said to them,

How hard it is for the wealthy to enter the kingdom of God!

They were amazed that he should say this, but Jesus insisted.

Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God!  It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.

They were more astonished than ever, and said to one another,

Then who can be saved?

Jesus looked at them and said,

For men it is impossible, but not for God; everything is possible for God.

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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:  Monday, Year 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/05/week-of-8-epiphany-monday-year-1/

Matthew 19 (Parallel to Mark 10):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/week-of-proper-15-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/week-of-proper-15-tuesday-year-1/

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Gold.  Sometimes it functions as an analogy of faithfulness.  Yet, at other times, it refers to great wealth, an inappropriate attachment to which constitutes a form of idolatry.

Early Christians were at risk of persecution, usually on the provincial, not empire-wide scale.  Many Christians died, and other suffered so severely (by mutilation and hard labor, often) that the dead were more fortunate; at least their pain had ended.  In this context the author of 1 Peter praised his audience for remaining faithful. These were hearty people; I wonder how I would have stood up under the pressure.  This is a purely counterfactual question, of course, but the answer in my mind makes me uncomfortable.

The wealthy man in the lesson from Mark trusted too much in his money and possessions, which had become spiritual stumbling blocks.  So Jesus told him to remove them, and the man could not bring himself to do it.  Whatever our stumbling blocks may be–wealth, habits, preconceptions, fear of persecution, et cetera, they need to go.  This is a difficult and timeless spiritual truth.

I owe my faith in part to my spiritual forebears who refused to permit any stumbling block, such as fear of persecution, stand in the way.  Now they are part of the Church Triumphant.  Christ was their all; that was enough.  May we–you and I, O reader, have the same attitude and act accordingly.

KRT

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   12 comments

Above:  A Greek Lamb Led to the Slaughter, 500s BCE

Image in the Public Domain

Being Mindful of Others

JANUARY 31, 2021

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Deuteronomy 18:15-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Moses speaking]

The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you shall heed such a prophet.  This is what you requested of the LORD your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said:

If you hear the voice of the LORD my God any more, or ever again see this great fire, I will die.

Then the LORD replied to me:

They are right in what they have said.  I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their own people; I will put my words in the mouth of the prophet, who shall speak to them everything that I have commanded.  Anyone who does not heed the words that the prophet shall speak in my name, I myself will hold accountable.  But any prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, or who presumes to speak in my name a word that I have not commanded the prophet to speak–that prophet shall die.

You may say to yourself,

How can we recognize a word that the LORD has not spoken?

If a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD but the thing does not take place or prove true, it is a word that the LORD has not spoken.  The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; do not be frightened by it.

Psalm 111 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

He sent redemption to his people;

he commanded his covenant for ever;

holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.

1 Corinthians 8:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now concerning food sacrificed to idols we know that

all of us possess knowledge.

Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up.  Anyone who claims to know something does not have the necessary knowledge; but anyone who loves God is known by him.

Hence, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that

no idol in the world really exists,

and that

there is no God but one.

Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth–as in fact there are many gods and many lords–yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.

It is not everyone, however, who has this knowledge.  Since some have become so accustomed to idols until now, they still think of the food they eat as food offered to an idol; and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.

Food will not bring us close to God.

We are no worse off if we do not eat, and no better off if we do.  But take care that this liberty of yours  does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.  For if others see you, who possess knowledge, eating in the temple of an idol, might they not, since their conscience is weak, be encouraged to the point of eating food sacrificed to idols?  So by your knowledge those weak believers for whom Christ died are destroyed.  But when you thus sin against members of your family, and wound their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ.  Therefore, if food is a cause of their falling, I will never eat meat, so that I may not cause one of them to fall.

Mark 1:21-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then Jesus, Simon Peter, Andrew, and James and John, sons of Zebedee, went to Capernaum; and when the sabbath came, Jesus entered the synagogue and taught.  They were astonished at his teaching, for he taught as one having authority, and not as the scribes.  Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit, and he cried out,

What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have you come to destroy us?  I know who you are, the Holy One of God.

But Jesus rebuked him, saying,

Be silent, and come out of him!

And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.  They were all amazed, and they kept on talking to one another,

What is this?  A new teaching–with authority!  He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.

At once his fame began to spread throughout the surrounding region of Galilee.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you govern all things both in heaven and on earth: Mercifully hear the supplications of your people, and in our time grant us your peace; 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:

Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Mark 1:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

Luke 4 (Parallel to Mark 1):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/week-of-proper-17-tuesday-year-1/

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There is a difference between restraining one’s self or one’s children from certain activities (at some or all times) for the spiritual benefit of others and kowtowing to the unreasonable expectations of spiritually uptight people.

I recall that, in the early 1980s, when I measured my lifespan in single digits, my father served the Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia (http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2009/09/22/vidette-united-methodist-church-vidette-georgia/).  The parsonage was next to the church building, with just a dead-end road running between the two.  For at least part of the time we were there (June 1980-June 1982), I was not supposed to play in the front yard on Sunday afternoons, lest anyone “get the wrong idea,” which I suppose, is that I was not keeping the Sabbath appropriately, i.e., dolefully.

I refuse to live in such a way that I run no risk of offending spiritually uptight people, some of whom take offense easily.  Nevertheless, I do try to live a good life, one of gratitude to God.  So I decide to do X but not Y, according to that standard, and to leave the taking of offense (or absence thereof) by the spiritually uptight to them.  If I were to try not to offend them, I would do little or nothing, and even that might bother them.  Even Jesus offended, and he was perfect.  How “offensive” then, will I be?

I am not a pietist, obviously.

Nevertheless, as Paul observed, Christian liberty is not a license to do everything which is lawful for one.  Sometimes discretion and concern for others dictates that one decide not to do something.  This something is not wrong in and of itself, but does the other person know that? Paul was dealing with the eating of meat sacrificed to false and imaginary deities, a circumstance which no longer applies in many cultures in contemporary times.  It has no bearing on me in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, in 2011.  In fact, I cannot think of anything I do in public that would have a negative spiritual effect on anyone.  And my private life is mostly mundane, if one assumes that scandals are interesting.  (My life is far from scandalous.)

All this falls into the Lutheran category of “civil righteousness.” Yes, it is laudatory that I did not rob a liquor store last week and that I did perform many good works, but…

Our churches teach that a person’s will has some freedom to choose civil righteousness and to do things subject to reason.  It has no power, without the Holy Spirit, to work the righteousness of God, that is, spiritual righteousness.

Augsburg Confession of Faith, Article XVIII, as quoted in Concordia:  The Lutheran Confessions–A Reader’s Edition of the Book of Concord, Paul Timothy McCain, General Editor, Second Edition, Concordia Publishing House, 2006, page 40

I am mindful of the command not to lead the spiritually weak astray, which informs my decisions.  To the extent I have succeeded in following the spirit of Paul’s advice in my cultural context, I have done so by grace.

Grace is the work of God.  It precedes us and enables us to respond favorably to God.  By grace we have free will, so the misuse and abuse of free will is not what God has intended for us.  May we encourage and support each other in our Christian pilgrimages of faith, not throwing up road blocks consciously or unconsciously.  And may we not have hallucinations of road blocks, either.  Thus may we follow Jesus, our Lord and the ultimate authoritative prophet, successfully–by grace, of course.

KRT

Week of 2 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 1   9 comments

Above:  A Corn Field

Love, the Final Arbiter

JANUARY 19, 2021

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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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Hebrews 6:10-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For God is not so unjust as to overlook your work and the love which you showed us for his sake in serving the saints, as you still do.  And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness in realizing the same assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

For when God made a promise to to Abraham, since he had no one greater by whom to swear, he swore to himself, saying,

Surely I will bless you and multiply you.

And thus Abraham, having patiently endured, obtained the promise.  Men indeed swear by a greater than themselves, and in all their disputes an oath is final for confirmation.  So when God desired to show more convincingly to the heirs of the promise the unchangeable character of his purpose, he interposed with an oath, so that through two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible that God should prove false, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to seize the hope set before us.  We have this as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul, and a hope that enters into the inner shrine behind the curtain, where Jesus has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest for ever according to the order of Melchizedek.

Psalm 111 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

2 Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

4 He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

7 The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

8 They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

9 He sent redemption to his people;

he commanded his covenant for ever;

holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.

Mark 2:23-28 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

One sabbath he was going through the grainfields; and as they made their way his disciples began to pluck heads of grain.  And the Pharisees said to him,

Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?

And he said to them,

Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him; how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the showbread, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?

And he said to them,

The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath; so the Son of man is lord even of the sabbath.

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The Collect:

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

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The Pharisees (most, not all of them) are among the bete noires of the canonical Gospels.  These very publicly pious people criticize Jesus, his Apostles, and even some people he healed again and again.  In all likelihood these critics did what they understood righteousness to require of them.  I prefer to extend to them the benefit of the doubt; they were wrong, but sincerely so.  They did not wake up each morning and plot how to be difficult spiritually, although much of what they did and the Gospels report to us constituted such.

Indeed, I think that we need to check ourselves for signs of being contemporary counterparts of the Pharisees.  Christian denominations have built up traditions over thousands and hundreds of years.  Many of these are functional and constructive, even beautiful.  Yet even something useful and beautiful can become an idol, if we transform it into that.  And ossification of tradition can occur easily, rendering us inflexible in the habits of our minds.  The stories of Jesus teach us many valuable lessons, including the importance of avoiding such ossification.

Consider this day’s reading from Mark.  Jesus and his Apostles violated many sabbath laws observant Pharisees kept.  There were many arcane sabbath laws, which split hairs more finely than any Philadelphia lawyer.  Taken together, the sabbath laws permitted preventing an emergency situation from getting worse yet forbade making it better.  For example, one could apply a plain bandage but not ointment to an injured finger on the sabbath.  So you should not be surprised to learn that plucking and eating corn was illegal on the sabbath.  Doing so remedied hunger, but that meant making something better.

This is a twisted way to think about the sabbath, is it not?  It transforms the sabbath, which is supposed to a gift and a marker of freedom (slaves did not get days off) into a burden and something to manage with the help of a very long checklist of forbidden activities.  Puritans did it too, and many observant self-professing Christians and Jews continue to treat the sabbath in this way.  We should not neglect the sabbath, of course, but we ought not treat it like a burden and an occasion of legalism, either.

Back to our story….

Jesus reminded his critics of scriptural precedents for what he had done.  In 1 Samuel 21:1-6, Exodus 25:23-30, and Leviticus 24:9 we find the relevant information about David and the showbread.  Mentioning David, the revered king, was powerful rhetorical tool, although it certainly did not impress hyper-critical Pharisees.  It did, however, point out the hypocrisy of Jesus’ critics, who were not the intended audience for the Gospel According to Mark.  So the comment finds its target even today, at least some of the time.  I wonder, though, how often well-intentioned Christians miss the power of this story, perhaps more out of a “I know that story already” attitude, if nothing else.

William Barclay, in his insightful commentary on the Gospel reading, points out that “Religion does not consist in rules and regulations” and “The best way to use sacred things is to use them for men.”  In other words, it is sinful to refuse to apply religious laws to prevent starving and very hungry people from eating–sabbath or not.  This principle applies to physical realities beyond hunger; it pertains to helping people with whatever distresses them.  Barclay concludes his section of the reading from Mark with this sentence:  “The final arbiter in the use of all things is love and not law.”

I could not have said it better.

We have a loving God and Lord.  The works of God are marvelous and utterly spectacular.  And Jesus became not only our priest but our passover lamb.  That demonstrates love, does it not?  So we ought to display love, as well, and not hide behind laws which reinforce self-righteousness and make excuses for oppressing people and not helping them.   We have a mandate from God to care for others and to love them as we love ourselves.  God has commanded us to care for the vulnerable among us.  We might make excuses for why we fail to do this, but that does not erase our sin in the eyes of God.

One of my favorite deceased people was the actor Andreas Katsulas (1946-2006).  He played the one-armed man in the film version of The Fugitive.  He also portrayed Commander Tomalok on Star Trek: The Next Generation and Ambassador G’Kar on Babylon 5.  Katsulas was a practicing Greek Orthodox and an excellent chef.  Part of his Sunday ritual involved cooking meals for homeless people.  This would have violated the Pharisees’ sabbath codes, but it did demonstrate love.

May we compete with one another in demonstrating love for our fellow human beings every day of the week.  Let us lay aside tendencies toward one upsmanship, self-righteousness, and public displays of piety meant to make us look good.  May we listen to one another more and more often, and shout at each other less and less often.  May we love one another in attitudes, words, and deeds.  May that be our law.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/04/love-the-final-arbiter/