Archive for the ‘Psalm 116’ Tag

Devotion for February 27 and 28 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Galileo Galilei

Job and John, Part XIX:  Alleged Heresy, Actual Orthodoxy

WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 27, 2019, and THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 28, 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 30:16-31 (February 27)

Job 31:1-12, 33-40 (February 28)

Psalm 96 (Morning–February 27)

Psalm 116 (Morning–February 28)

Psalms 132 and 134 (Evening–February 27)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–February 28)

John 9:1-23 (February 27)

John 9:24-41 (February 28)

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A Related Post:

Environment and Science:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/10/31/environment-and-science/

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John 9 consists of one story–that of a blind man whom Jesus heals.  The healing occurs at the beginning of the chapter.  Then religious politics take over.  How dare Jesus heal on the Sabbath?  Was the man ever really blind?  How could an alleged sinner–a Sabbath breaker–Jesus, perform such a miracle?  The works of God clashed with human orthodoxy, and defenders of that orthodoxy preferred not to admit that they were or might be wrong.

Some words of explanation are vital.  One way a visible minority maintains its identity is to behave differently than the majority.  As Professor Luke Timothy Johnson has pointed out, arbitrary rules might seem especially worthy of adherence from this perspective.  Sabbath laws forbade certain medical treatments on that day.  One could perform basic first aid legally.  One could save a life and prevent a situation from becoming worse legally.  But one was not supposed to heal or cure on the Sabbath.  This was ridiculous, of course, and Jesus tried to do the maximum amount of good seven days a week.  Each of us should strive to meet the same standard.

At the beginning of John 9 our Lord’s Apostles ask whether the man or his parents sinned.  Surely, they thought, somebody’s sin must have caused this blindness.  Apparently these men had not absorbed the Book of Job.  As Job protests in Chapter 30, he is innocent.  And the Book of Job agrees with him.  Job’s alleged friends gave voice to a human orthodoxy, one which stated that suffering flowed necessarily from sin.  The wicked suffer and the righteous, prosper, they said.  (Apparently, adherents of Prosperity Theology have not absorbed the Book of Job either.)  Job was, by their standards, a heretic.

Some of my favorite people have been heretics.  Galileo Galilei was a heretic for reporting astronomical observations and deriving from them accurate conclusions which challenged centuries of bad doctrine.  Both Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders condemned his writings as heretical in the 1600s.  Roger Williams argued for the separation of church and state in Puritan New England.  He also opposed mandatory prayer;  the only valid prayer, he said, is a voluntary one.  For his trouble Williams had to leave the Massachusetts Bay Colony.  Also forced to leave was Anne Hutchinson, who dared to question her pastor’s theology.  I have made Galileo a saint on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days.  And The Episcopal Church has recognized Williams and Hutchinson as saints.  I wonder what two rebellious Puritans would have thought about that.

Orthodoxies build up over time and become accepted, conventional, and received wisdom.  The fact that a doctrine is orthodox according to this standard discourages many people from questioning it even when observed evidence contradicts it.  Jupiter does have moons.  This fact contradicts the former theology of Protestantism and Roman Catholicism.  Should one accept good science or bad theology?  The question answers itself.  The man in John 9 was born blind.  Attempts in the chapter to question that reality are almost comical.  We human beings must be willing to abandon assumptions which prove erroneous if we are to be not only intellectually honest but also to avoid harming others while defending our own egos.

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-xix-alleged-heresy-actual-orthodoxy/

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Devotion for February 21 and 22 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  Pebbles

Image Source = Steve Shattuck of Canberra, Australia

Job and John, Part XIV:  The Power of Words

FEBRUARY 21 and 22, 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:

Job 16:1-22 (February 21)

Job 17:1-16 (February 22)

Psalm 143 (Morning–February 21)

Psalm 86 (Morning–February 22)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–February 21)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–February 22)

John 7:1-13 (February 21)

John 7:14-31 (February 22)

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A Related Post:

A Prayer for Those Who Have Harmed Us:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/a-prayer-for-those-who-have-harmed-us/

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Why do you want to kill me?

–Jesus speaking in John 7:19b, The New Jerusalem Bible

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What afflicts you that you speak on?

–Job speaking in Job 16:3b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Job 16 and 17 consist of Job’s reply to the second speech of Eliphaz the Temanite.  The speaker has no patience with anything he has heard so far, nor should he.  Whoever speaks of “the patience of Job” as if Job were patient, does not understand the Book of Job.

Jesus, in John 7, is living under death threats.  He is trying not to die just yet because

for me the time is not ripe yet (verse 8, The New Jerusalem Bible).

The words of our Lord’s adversaries afflicted him.

Words have power.  According to Hebrew mythology God spoke the universe into being.  What realities do we create with our words?  What realities do we create with our silences?  There is a time to speak.  And there is a time to remain silent.  There is also a time to say a certain amount and nothing more.  May we know the difference and act accordingly.

Until the next segment of our journey….

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICHT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT PASCHASIUS RADBERTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/11/06/job-and-john-part-xiv-the-power-of-words/

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Devotion for January 31 and February 1 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  John Calvin

Image Source = Library of Congress

False Prophets, Alleged and Actual

JANUARY 31 and FEBRUARY 1, 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 10:1-11:3 (January 31)

Zechariah 11:4-17 (February 1)

Psalm 116 (Morning–January 31)

Psalm 85 (Morning–February 1)

Psalms 26 and 130 (Evening–January 31)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–February 1)

2 Timothy 3:1-17 (January 31)

2 Timothy 4:1-18 (February 1)

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The readings for January 31 and February 1 make more sense together then spread across two days.  That is my conclusion, at least.

“False prophets” is the unifying theme.  In Zechariah the speak lies, console with illusions, and lead members of the flock astray.  Thus God, angered, vows to punish these bad shepherds and provide proper leadership for the human flock.  To continue the theme, we read that, in the Last Days,

There will be some difficult times.  People will be self-centred and avaricious, boastful, arrogant, and rude, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, irreligious; heartless and intractable; they will be slanderers, profligates, savages, and enemies of everything that is good; they will be treacherous and reckless and demented by pride, prefering their own pleasure to God.  They will keep up the outward appearance of religion but will have rejected the inner power of it.

–2 Timothy 3:1b-5a, The New Jerusalem Bible

(Human nature has at least been constant.  The past, present, and future seem identical in this regard.)  Anyhow, we read in 2 Timothy to follow the truth, accept sound teaching, and be on guard against harmful people.

We–beginning with the author of this post–must always be careful not to confuse disagreement with one (in my case, myself) as proof positive that the other person is a bad shepherd, a false prophet, a harmful individual.  Maybe the other person is all those things, but perhaps he or she just has some different opinions.  I am convinced, for example, that early Church leaders were correct to insist that Gnosticism constituted false doctrine.  The main problem with Gnosticism is that it denies the Incarnation, without which there is no Christianity.  That one was easy.  Law and theology are easy at the extremes.  But what about opinions regarding certain points of Calvinism, for example?  Christians of good will can–and do–disagree strongly.  And all follow Jesus.

Speaking of Calvinism, one aspect of it offers a nice and good way out of many disputes.  John Calvin spoke and wrote of a category called “Matters Indifferent.”  Anything in that category is optional.  The Incarnation is vital, but whether one observes Christmas is a Matter Indifferent, for example.  So, with Calvin’s category in mind and a well-honed sense of theological humility before us, may we avoid idolizing our own opinions.  We might change them one day, after all.  And we are imperfect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIONYSIUS OF CORINTH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY NEYROT, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF GEORGE AUGUSTUS SELWYN, ANGLICAN PRIMATE OF NEW ZEALAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT STANISLAUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF KRAKOW

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/06/false-prophets-alleged-and-actual/

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Devotion for January 24 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Anger

Image Source = Petar Pavlov

The Folly of Revenge and the Quest for It

JANUARY 24, 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:

Joel 3:1-21/4:1-21

Psalm 143 (Morning)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening)

Romans 12:14-13:14

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Egypt shall be like a desolation,

And Edom a desolate waste,

Because of the outrage to the people of Judah,

In whose land they shed the blood of the innocent.

–Joel 4:19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Never try to get revenge:  leave that, my dear friends, to the Retribution.  As scripture says:  Vengeance is mine–I will pay them back, the Lord promises.  And more:  If your enemy is hungry, give him something to eat; if thirsty, something to drink.  By this, you will be heaping red-hot coals on his head.  Do not be mastered by evil, but master evil with good.

–Romans 12:19-21, The New Jerusalem Bible

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Versification of  parts of the Hebrew Bible differs depending upon whether one reads from a Protestant translation or a Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox one.  Such is the case in Joel, where 2:1-32 in Protestant versions equals 2:1-3:5 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox translations.  And Joel 4 in Jewish, Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox versions equals Joel 3 in Protestant translations.

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Vengeance is a primal emotions.  It jumps off the pages of the Book of Psalms.  Consider, O reader, these cringe-worthy lines:

Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites

the day of Jerusalem ‘s fall;

how they cried, “Strip her, strip her

to her very foundations.”

Fair Babylon, you predator,

a blessing on him who repays you in kind

what you have inflicted on us;

a blessing on him who seizes your babies

and dashes them against the rocks.

–Psalm 137:7-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

And how often have relatives of murdered people stated in public their desire for the death penalty for the guilty and cited revenge as it is a good thing?  Revenge poisons a person’s soul and does not undo the damage the perpetrator has inflicted.  There will be retribution for some from God, in whom there is also mercy.  I know the desire for revenge well, and I have had to rid myself of it.

As Paul advised,

As much as possible,and to the utmost of your ability, be a peace with everyone.

–Romans 12:18, The New Jerusalem Bible

Such matters involve more than one party, of course.  And, if not all parties consent to mutual peace, there will be no reconciliation.  I suppose that simply pursuing revenge–rather, leaving judgment to God–is the best possible outcome in such a case.  Getting on with one’s life is better for oneself than obsessing over a real or imagined injury.

Life is short, certainly in geological terms.  May we not mar our brief time on earth with the quest for revenge more than we have done so already.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

MONDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN PAYNE AND CUTHBERT MAYNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JAMES LLOYD BRECK, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOHN PAUL II, BISHOP OF ROME

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/10/05/the-folly-of-revenge-and-the-quest-for-it/

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Devotion for December 26 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   10 comments

Above:  Joseph’s Dream, by Rembrandt van Rijn

The Insults of Men

DECEMBER 26, 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:

Isaiah 49:22-26; 50:4-51:8, 12-16

Psalm 116 (Morning)

Psalms 119:1-24 and 27 (Evening)

Matthew 1:18-25

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Some Related Posts:

Feast of Saint Joseph of Nazareth (March 19):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-st-joseph-of-nazareth-march-19-2/

A Prayer for Shalom:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-prayer-for-shalom/

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Listen to Me, you who care for the right,

O people who lay My instruction to heart!

Fear not the insults of men,

And do not be dismayed at their jeers;

For the moth shall eat them up like a garment,

The worm shall eat them up like wool.

But My triumph shall endure forever,

My salvation through all ages.

–Isaiah 51:7-8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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 I maintain a holy family shrine in my abode.  This shrine has increased in size lately, mainly due to the addition of objects–bookmarks, Christmas cards, and various three-dimensional images of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, or two or more of them.  Some of these additions are items new to me, but mostly the growth of the shrine has been a matter of rearranging and repurposing items I have had for some time.  One of my favorite images in the shrine is of Joseph and his young son.  Such iconography is less common than images of Mary and Jesus.  I have plenty of the those but only one of Joseph alone with Jesus.

Joseph was in a delicate situation.  Yet he risked shame to spare Mary’s life.  And whispers followed Mary, Joseph, and Jesus for years, as the Gospels reflect.  But Joseph made the correct decision, and the triumph of God has endured to this point in time.

From the time of birth each of us has a set of purposes to complete in this life.  We can summarize them accurately and broadly as glorifying and enjoying God, living compassionately, and leaving our area of the planet better than we found it.  The particulars will vary according to our circumstances, or course.  May we focus on fulfilling our purposes from God and on encouraging each other, in doing the same, not on spreading rumors and questioning each other’s legitimacy.  There are no illegitimate people, whatever we may know or think we know about their parents’ timing.  We all have the same divine Mother and Father, who is God, beyond all human metaphors.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NORBERT OF XANTEN, FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS, SAINT HUGH OF FOSSES, SECOND FOUNDER OF THE PREMONSTRATENSIANS, AND SAINT EVERMOD, BISHOP OF RATZEBURG

THE FEAST OF CHARLES TODD QUINTARD, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF TENNESSEE

THE FEAST OF JANANI LUWUM, ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP OF UGANDA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SILVIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/the-insults-of-men/

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Week of 1 Epiphany: Monday, Year 2   10 comments

Above:  Elkanah and His Wives, from the Masters of Utrecht, Circa 1430

Love, Dignity, and Stigma

JANUARY 13, 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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1 Samuel 1:1-8 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.  He had two wives; the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other was Peninnah.  And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD.  On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Penninah his wife and to all her sons and daughters; and, although he loved Hannah, he would give Hannah only one portion, because the LORD had closed her womb.  So it went on year by year; as often she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her.  Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.  And Elkanah, her husband, said to her,

Hannah, why do you weep?  And why do you not eat?  And why is your heart sad?  Am I not more to you than ten sons?

Psalm 116:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Hallelujah!

Mark 1:14-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying,

The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.

And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them,

Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.

And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.  And immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed him.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of 1 Epiphany:  Monday, Year 1:

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

Hannah:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/feast-of-hannah-september-2/

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As a Christian in 2011, I understand my immortality to be spiritual.  So I am not the least worried about the fact that I am childless.  In fact, childlessness has been my choice, for I dislike the company of young children.  Had I lived in the time of Elkanah, Peninnah, and Hannah, however, I would certainly have thought differently.  As The Abingdon Bible Commentary (1929) says on page 384,

In ancient Hebrew thought childlessness was the greatest disaster that could overtake a family; it involved annihilation for the family-soul in which all members of the family, past and present, participate.

Elkanah (literally “God has possessed”) had married two women, Peninnah (“Pearl”) and Hannah (“Grace”).  Peninnah was the mother of his children, but he loved Hannah in a way he did not love his other wife.  Elkanah’s family-soul immortality was assured, thanks to Peninnah’s fecundity, but what about Hannah? Social mores meant that her childlessness lowered her status.

There was a ritual animal sacrifice at Shiloh, followed by a communal feast upon the parts not offered to God.   Depending on how one interprets the Hebrew text in 1:5, Elkanah either gave Hannah a double portion gladly–out of love–or just one portion–regretfully, for he loved her.  His love for Hannah is the main point of that passage; the amount of the portion of the animal is an issue for Hebrew Bible scholars to discuss among themselves.

Hannah, feeling stress, fed by hostility from Peninnah, wept and did not eat as much as her husband thought she should.  Given her circumstances, this was predictable.

The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following will continue this story in the next day’s readings.  It is sufficed to say that Hannah does have a child–and a great one at that.

For today, however, I leave you, O reader, with a few questions.

  1. Who in your midst is suffering because of stigma?
  2. Do you buy into that stigma?
  3. How can you help this (these) suffering person (persons)?

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2011/12/31/love-dignity-and-stigma/

Week of 6 Epiphany: Wednesday, Year 1   12 comments

Above:  Logo of the Mennonite Church U.S.A.

This is the Season of God’s Patience

FEBRUARY 20, 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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Genesis 8:6-13, 20-22 (Revised English Bible):

At the end of forty days Noah opened the hatch that he had made in the ark, and sent out a raven; it continued flying to and fro until the water on the earth had dried up.  Then Noah sent out a dove to see whether the water of the earth had subsided.  But the dove found no place where she could settle because all the earth was under water, and and so she came back to him in the ark.  Noah reached out and caught her, and brought her into the ark.  He waited seven days more and again sent the dove from the ark.  She came back to him towards evening with a freshly plucked olive leaf in her beak.  Noah knew that the water had subsided from the earth’s surface.  He waited yet another seven days, and, when he sent out the dove, she did not come back to him.  So it came about that month, on the first day of the first month of his six hundred and first year, the water had dried up on the earth, and when Noah removed the hatch and looked out, he saw that the ground was dry.

Noah built an altar to the LORD and, taking beasts and birds of every kind that were ritually clean, he offered them as whole-offerings on it.  When the LORD smelt the soothing odour, he said within himself,

Never again shall I put the earth under a curse because of mankind, however evil their inclination may be from their youth upwards, nor shall I ever again kill all living creatures, as I have just done.

“As long as the earth lasts,

seedtime and harvest. cold and heat,

summer and winter, day and night,

they will never cease.”

Psalm 116:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Hallelujah!

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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The readings from Genesis and Mark might seem incongruous, but, after sifting through commentaries, I have found a common thread.  Follow it with me.

Let us begin in the Gospel of Mark.  Know that juxtaposition is very important here.  Jesus also put on a shamanic show involving spittle (with a deaf man that time) in Chapter 7.  And, in Chapter 8, Jesus has had to deal with chronically critical Pharisees and oblivious and overly literalistic Apostles.  So, on the heels of that incident, we read of our Lord and Savior putting on a shamanic show involving spittle while healing a blind man.  As I wrote while addressing the account of the healing of the deaf man, the Gospel of Mark contains stories of Jesus performing long-distance healings, so the song and dance with spittle was of no healing quality, but it was what people expected and believed would work.  So he met them where they were.  Jesus was gracious that way.

This healing occurs in two stages, with the gift of clear vision not arriving immediately.  The Gospel of Mark may be pithy, but it is not simplistic.  This is a story on two levels:  literal vision and spiritual vision.  The man, presumably blind from birth, not due to poor sanitation and too many bird droppings (Life was harsh for many.), does begin to see clearly.  But what about the Apostles?  They are still clueless much of the time.  And what about the chronically critical religious authorities, the culturally recognized guardians of orthodoxy and holiness?  What excuse do they have?  Jesus’ healing of a blind man becomes an indictment of Apostles and Pharisees.

The treatment of the Gospel in Mark in Volume VIII of The New Interpreter’s Bible divides this book into two main section:  Jesus Heals and Teaches with Power (1:1-8:26) and The Son of Man Must Suffer (8:27-16:30).  Indeed, beginning in 8:27, the foreshadowing of the cross deepens, and the Apostles do not understand that, either.  But I begin to get ahead of myself, so I switch to Genesis.

There is an oft-repeated stereotype of the presentation of God in the Hebrew Bible.  God, I have heard too many times, is harsh and judgmental in the Old Testament.  This is a gross oversimplification, one people would not repeat so casually if they would read the Jewish Bible carefully.  If God is harsh in the Old Testament yet merciful in the New Testament, how do we explain the end of the Noah’s Ark story in Genesis or the dark and apocalyptic sayings of Jesus in the canonical Gospels?  Flee for the hills, he says.  Woe unto pregnant women on the day of wrath, he says.  Are those merciful words?  Oversimplifications cannot account for the complexity of the Bible, and both judgment and mercy are present in the Old and New Testaments, often very close to each other.

In the Noah’s Ark story God destroys most of the human race because of its rampant sinfulness.  This, of course, is judgment.  Afterward, God recognizes the continued sinfulness of the human race but vows never to try to destroy us again.  This is mercy.  God will be present with us in many ways, notably the predictable rhythms of nature.  As Chauncey Gardner says in Being There (1979):

In the garden, growth has it seasons. First comes spring and summer, but then we have Fall and Winter. And then we get spring and summer again.

And, as the Anabaptists (hence the Mennonite logo at the top of this post) say, this is the season of God’s patience.  Do we understand this?  Are we trying (more often than not) to respond favorably to God and to please God, or are just trying God’s patience?

There is hope for us yet.  The eleven surviving Apostles transformed from dunderheads into great leaders of early Christianity.  Our faith flows from theirs.  So, when we work with God, we can become great vehicles of grace.  May we do so.

KRT