Archive for the ‘Psalm 8’ Tag

Devotion for New Year’s Day, Years A, B, C, and D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  New Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

Interim Times

TUESDAY, JANUARY 1, 2020

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Koheleth advises us to eat, drink, and find happiness in work, for doing all of the above is a divine gift.  And what is that work?  Regardless of the particulars of vocations and avocations, that work, when it is what it should be, entails meeting the needs of people, to whom God has granted inherent dignity.  The divine commandment of hospitality, as in Matthew 25:31-46, is part of Judeo-Christian ethics.  Only God can save the world, but we can–and must–leave it better than we found it.

The end of Revelation (no “s” at the end of that word, despite Biblically illiterate additions of that letter) describes the aftermath of God’s creative destruction.  By this point in the Apocalypse of John God has destroyed the old, corrupt, violent, and exploitative world order built on ego, might, and artificial scarcity.  Then John sees a new heaven and a new earth.  Then the Kingdom of Heaven described in the Gospel of Matthew becomes reality.

That event remains in the future tense.  Until then we have work to do, for the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings.  May we go about it faithfully and find happiness in it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Eternal God, you have placed us in a world of space and time,

and through the events of our lives you bless us with your love.

Grant that in the new year we may know your presence,

see your love at work,

and live in the light of the event that gives us joy forever

–the coming of your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 63

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Ecclesiastes 3:1-13

Psalm 8

Revelation 21:1-6a

Matthew 25:31-46

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/interim-times/

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Devotion for the First Sunday of Advent (Year D)   1 comment

Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah

Above:  Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah, by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Showing Proper Reverence for God

DECEMBER 1, 2019

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Malachi 1:1-14

Psalm 8

Luke 1:1-25

Hebrews 1:1-2:4

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O LORD, our Sovereign,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

–Psalm 8:1a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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In Malachi 1 YHWH complains (via the prophet) that many people are taking their sacrifices lightly, offering unfit food and creatures in violations provided in the Torah.  (Consult Exodus 12:5 and 29:1 as well as Leviticus 1:3 and 10; 3:1; and 22:17-30 plus Deuteronomy 15:21 regarding animal sacrifices).  People in many lands honored God, but, in Persian-dominated Judea, where, of all places, that reverence should have been concentrated, many people were slacking off.

St. Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, certainly revered God.  The old man was a priest at the Temple at Jerusalem.  He and his wife, St. Elizabeth, the Gospel of Luke tells us,

were upright ad devout, blamelessly observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.

–1:6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In an echo of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:15-22 and 18:1-15, each account coming from a different source), the elderly priest learned that he and his wife would become parents against all odds.  He was predictably dubious.  The prediction of a miracle and a marvel, to borrow language from Hebrews 2:4, came true.

Hebrews 2:3 provides a timeless warning against neglecting

such a great salvation

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985).

That salvation is the offer of God, who made the aged Abraham and Sarah parents and did the same for the elderly Sts. Zechariah and Elizabeth.  It is the offer of God, who chose St. Mary of Nazareth to become an instrument of the Incarnation.  It is the offer of God, the name of when many people all over the world honor.  May we revere God and strive, by grace, to offer our best, not our leftovers and spares in sacrifice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANNE HUTCHINSON, REBELLIOUS PURITAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HAMMOND, ENGLISH MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/showing-proper-reverence-for-god/

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Devotion for February 25 in Epiphany/Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   10 comments

Above:  Troy Davis March, Atlanta, Georgia, September 16, 2011

(Note the Episcopal flag and the Diocese of Atlanta banner; I am proud to belong to his denomination and diocese thereof.)

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Job and John, Part XVII:  Judicial Murder, Legalized Killing

FEBRUARY 25, 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 20:1-23, 29

Psalm 62 (Morning)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening)

John 8:21-38

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Job 20 offers us the second speech of Zophar the Naamathite.  There is nothing new there.  According to Zophar, only the wicked suffer.  And Job is suffering.  So Job must be wicked.  But the Book of Job argues against this line of reasoning. And so does the life of Jesus.  By writing these words I have repeated myself from previous posts in this Job and John series.

Above:  Another Scene from the Troy Davis March

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

The lifting up of Jesus (John 8:27) is the crucifixion.  And those who wanted to kill him, although descended from Abraham were not of God.  A child of God obeys God.  And one of the most basic commandments in Torah is not to commit murder.  What was the crucifixion if not legalized murder?  Execution is legalized murder; may we not labor under any delusions to the contrary.  If I were to take somebody’s life, the state might accuse me of murder or a related charge.  But it is legal for the state to take a life.  I see no moral difference.

I , as a Christian, follow my Lord and Savior, one whom legal authorities subjected to torture and execution.  Therefore I cannot think of those activities except in the context of what happened to Jesus.

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-xvii-judicial-murder-legalized-killing/

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

Above:  Tragic Mask

Image Source = Holger.Ellgaard

Job and John, Part I:  Suffering

FEBRUARY 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:

Job 1:1-22

Psalm 5 (Morning)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening)

John 1:1-18

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Some Related Posts:

A Prayer for Those Who Are Tortured:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-are-tortured/

A Prayer for Those Who Inflict Torture:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/a-prayer-for-those-who-inflict-torture/

God Be In My Head:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/god-be-in-my-head/

Prayers for Those Who Suffer:

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

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With this day the Lutheran daily lectionary takes a turn into two great books:  Job and the Gospel of John.  I have read these closely but never together.  So I look forward to that experience.  I wonder what parallels, contrasts, and connections will become apparent.

It is crucial to avoid reading the Book of Job anachronistically if one is to understand what is happening in its pages.  Satan is God’s employee in the text.  His job is to test the loyalty of people–in this case, Job.  The theology of Satan’s role relative to God did not make him a rebel until the Persian period in Jewish history, and the Book of Job, with all of its layers of composition (at least four, according to The Jewish Study Bible), is pre-Persian.  So Job, a good man, suffers because God permits it.  That is what the Book of Job says.

Turning to the the Johannine Gospel, we read the glorious prologue.  There is much to comment on there, but I focus on the thread of rejections, for that led to Christ’s suffering.

The Word was the real light

that gives light to everyone;

he was coming into the world.

He was in the world

that had come into being through him,

and the world did not recognise him.

He came to his own

and his own did not accept him.

–John 1:9-11, The New Jerusalem Bible

Job, a purely fictional figure, suffered not because of what he had done.  Jesus, who was real, also suffered not because of any sin or consequences thereof.  The question of suffering and its causes is vexing much of the time.  As Mayer Gruber, in his introduction to the Book of Job in The Jewish Study Bible, pointed out excellently, those who insist that suffering must result form one’s sins think that suffering must be deserved.  This argument, which the Book of Job contradicts, leads one to falsify the character of the one who suffers and that of God, whom such a one who makes the argument seeks to defend.  Yet, Gruber reminds his readers, God does not offer an explanation for suffering.

That is, in the LORD’s argument, the reasons for suffering–if there are any–are simply beyond human comprehension.  (page 1500)

The Book of Job ends without having explained in a satisfactory way why Job suffered.  Yes, God permitted it in Chapter 2, but who does that make God look?  And, in the Gospel of John, the incarnate Son of God finds his glory on the cross.  How is that for counter-intuitive?  Things are not always as they seem.

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-i-suffering/

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Devotion for January 28 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  St. Mary’s Orphanage, Washington, D.C., Circa 1909

Image Source = Library of Congress

Compassion, Justice, and Crime

JANUARY 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:

Zechariah 6:1-7:14

Psalm 62 (Morning)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening)

Romans 16:17-27

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Thus said the LORD of Hosts:  Execute true justice and deal loyally and compassionately with one another.  Do not defraud the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; and do not plot evil against one another.–But they refused to pay heed….

–Zechariah 7:9-11a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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I urge you, brothers, be on your guard against the people who are out to stir up disagreements and bring up difficulties against the teaching which you learnt.  Avoid them.

–Romans 16:17, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Who were the people whom Paul advised Roman Christians to avoid?  It seems that they were Judaizers–who argued that Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism and conform to Jewish customs as conditions of becoming Christians–or to Gnostics–who considered self-knowledge to be salvation and being one’s true self as discipleship–or both.  As various Pauline epistles attest, Paul criticized both in strong terms.  Self-knowledge is good, of course, but it does not equal salvation.  And I suppose that being oneself, assuming that one is a good and compassionate person, is also a virtue.  Certainly, one ought to be the person whom God created one to be.  That is a component of discipleship, but the Christian definition of discipleship is following Jesus.  And, if one needs to become and Jewish and to keep Jewish customs in order to be Christian, many incidents in the canonical Gospels where Jesus clashes with religious authorities make no sense.

There are good rules and bad ones.  Good rules include those Zechariah extolled:  Executing true justice; dealing loyally and compassionately with one another; dealing honestly with the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; and seeking the best for one another.  Against such things there are no divine laws.  I know of no divine law against compassion, generosity, and hospitality.  Yet throughout time human laws against them have existed.  They continue to exist.  Once, in the United States, aiding a fugitive slave’s quest for freedom constituted a federal crime.  Fortunately, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 passed into history.  Today showing compassion to certain people might constitute aiding and abetting criminals, technically speaking.  A criminal is simply one whom the state has labeled as such, for a crime is whatever the state defines as such.  An escaped slave used to be a criminal–a thief, technically speaking.

My bottom line is this:  May we execute true justice.  May we deal loyally and compassionately with one another.  May we not defraud the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor.  May we not plot evil against one another.  May we not impose needless burdens on one another.  And, if living according to these rules constitutes a crime, may we remember that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, died as a criminal, according to the Roman Empire.  Definitions of crime differ according to time and place, but certain moral absolutes exist.  That standard is the most important one of all.

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/compassion-justice-and-crime/

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Devotion for January 1 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Above:  Saint John the Baptist

True Liberation

JANUARY 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:

Isaiah 61:1-11

Psalm 97 (Morning)

Psalms 99 and 8 (Evening)

Luke 1:57-80

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The spirit of the LORD is upon me,

Because the LORD has anointed me;

He has sent me as a herald of joy to the humble,

To bind up the wounded of heart,

To proclaim release to the captives,

Liberation to the imprisoned;

To proclaim a year of the LORD’s favor

And a day of vindication by our God….

–Isaiah 61:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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The text from Luke 1 echoes Isaiah 61.  In each case a prophet will proclaim a message from God, who “has visited his people” and liberated them (Luke 1:67, New Jerusalem Bible).  This seems like an excellent time to point out the obvious:  Post-Exilic Judea was part of the Persian Empire and Post-Hasmonean Judea was part of the Roman Empire.  The Persians were generally more friendly that the Romans, at least.

So what kind of liberation was this?  It was not political autonomy or independence.  No, this was spiritual liberation–freedom (with rules) to love and follow God in daily practices and attitudes.  Any lack of liberty–such as slavish legalism–was self-imposed.  This spiritual liberation did not–and does not–depend on outside political or legal forces.  In other words, this is an internalized liberation.  Many martyrs have exhibited it under great stress.  I have been writing hagiographies for my SUNDRY THOUGHTS weblog lately.  Again and again I have encountered examples of this pattern.  These martyrs still died, but they died as free men and women, even though they were prisoners.

Regardless of your circumstances, O reader, may you be free.

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 AND MARON, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/true-liberation/

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Week of 5 Epiphany: Tuesday, Year 1   13 comments

Above:  A Hand-Copied Bible in Latin

What is Good Religion?

FEBRUARY 12, 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 1:20-2:4a (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And God said,

Let the water swarm with a swarm of living beings, and let birds fly over the earth on the face of the space of the skies.

And God created the big sea serpents and all the living beings that creep, with which the water swarmed, by their kinds, and every winged bird by its kind.  And God saw that it was good.  And God blessed them, saying,

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the water in the seas, and let birds multiply in the earth.

And there was evening and there was morning, a fifth day.

And God said,

Let the earth bring out living beings by their kind, domestic animal and creeping thing and wild animals by their kind.

And it was so.  And God made the wild animals of the earth by their kind and the domestic animals by their kind and every creeping thing on the ground by their kind.  And God saw that it was good.

And God said,

Let us make a human, in our image, according to our likeness, and let them dominate the the fish of the fish of the sea and the birds of the skies and the domestic animals and all the earth and all the creeping things that creep on the earth.

And God created the human in His image.  He created it in the image of God.  He created them male and female.  And God blessed them, and God said to them,

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and dominate the fish of the sea and the birds of the skies and every animal that creeps on the earth.

And God said,

Here, I have placed all the vegetation that produces seed that is on the face of the earth for you and every tree, which has in it the fruit of a tree producing seed.  It will be food for you and for all the wild animals of the earth and for all the birds of the skies and for all the creeping things on the earth, everything in which there is a living being; every plant of vegetation, for food.

And it was so.

And God saw everything that He had made, and, here, it was very good.  And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day.

And the skies and the earth and all their array were finished.  And in the seventh day God finished His work that He had done ceased in the seventh day from all His work that He had done.  And God blessed the seventh day and made it holy because He ceased in it from doing all His work, which God had created.

Psalm 8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 O LORD our Governor,

how exalted in your Name is all the world!

2 Out of the mouths of infants and children

your majesty is praised above the heavens.

3 You have set up a stronghold against our adversaries,

to quell the enemy and the avenger.

4 When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers,

the moon and the stars you have set in their courses,

5 What is man that should be mindful of him?

the son of man that you should seek him out?

6 You have made him but a little lower than the angels;

you adorn him with glory and honor;

7 You gave him mastery over the works of your hands;

you put all things under his feet:

8 All sheep and oxen,

even the wild beasts of the field,

9 The birds of the air, the fish of the sea,

and whatsoever walks in the paths of the sea.

10 O LORD our Governor,

how exalted is your Name in all the world!

Mark 7:1-13 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

And now Jesus was approached by the Pharisees and some of the scribes who had come from Jerusalem.  They had noticed that his disciples ate their meals with “common” hands–meaning that they had not gone through a ceremonial washing.  (The Pharisees, and indeed all the Jews, will never eat unless they have washed their hands in a particular way, following a traditional rule.  And they will not eat anything brought in the market until they have first performed their “sprinkling”.  And there are many other things which they consider important, concerned with the washing of cups, jugs, and basins.)  So the Pharisees and the scribes put this question to Jesus,

Why do your disciples refuse to follow the ancient tradition, and eat their bread with “common” hands?

Jesus replied,

You hypocrites, Isaiah described you beautifully when he wrote–

“This people honoureth me with their lips,

But their heart is far from me.

But in vain do they worship me,

Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.”

You are so busy holding on to the precepts of men that you let go the commandment of God!

Then he went on,

It is wonderful to see how you can set aside the commandment of God to preserve your own tradition!  For Moses said, ‘Honour thy father and thy mother” and ‘He that speaketh evil of father or mother, let him die the death.’  But you say, ‘if a man says to his father or his mother, Korban–meaning, I have given God whatever duty I owed to you’, then he need not lift a finger any longer for his father or mother, so making the word of God impotent for the sake of the tradition which you hold.  And this is typical of much of what you do.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Last night, after the 6:00 PM Holy Eucharist at my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, I told my priest, Beth Long, that I never cease to be amazed by how many points of departure one can take from one day’s lectionary texts.  Invariably, my posts on a Sunday’s readings cover different ground than her sermons.  Both are valid, for the material is rich and varied.  I think of this point now because I detect many wonderful points to make, based on the assigned readings for Tuesday in the Week of 5 Epiphany, Year 1.  Yet I chosen just one path.  Perhaps the others will come up in future posts, for the Bible contains many recurring themes.

What is good religion?  Or, to state the question differently, what makes one religious in a good way?  To cite the Markan account, there is nothing wrong with washing one’s hands before eating.  Indeed, this is healthy.  Jesus was not referring to public health regulations, however; he had bigger fish to fry.  And germ theory was not known at the time.  The ceremonial washing of hands was part of an elaborate theology of ritual cleanliness and uncleanliness, for which Jesus had no use. Our Lord and Savior looked more deeply than that.

The late William Barclay wrote the following paragraph is his commentary on the Gospel of Mark:

There is no greater religious peril than that of identifying religion with outward observance.  There is no commoner religious mistake than to identify goodness with certain so-called religious acts.  Church-going, bible-reading, careful financial giving, even time-honored table-prayer do not make a man a good man.  The fundamental question is, how is a man’s heart toward God and towards his fellow-men?  And if in his heart there are enmity, bitterness, grudges, pride, not all the outward religious observances in the world will make him anything other than a hypocrite.

Who can stand before God as anything other than a hypocrite or an unrepentant sinner?  There might be a few of us on the planet who can do this, but I am not among them.  As for you, O reader, you must answer for yourself:  Are you among this rare, perhaps hypothetical population?  But thanks be to God, who has mercy on us and knows that we are all broken and “but dust.”  Yet it is also true, as the psalm and Genesis tell us, that we bear the image of God and rank above the other creature on the planet.  There is hope for us, and the source for this hope is God.  So may we refrain from placing too much emphasis on either the “dust” description or the “little lower than the angels” description.

But what makes religion good, and what makes one a practitioner of good religion?  The answer is love, which, as the Greek language makes clear, exists in various forms.  There is agape, God’s unconditional love for us.  And there is phileo, or brotherly love.  One might also experience storge, which exists between a parent and a child.  And, of course, there is eros, which is sexual love.  Each love has its proper place, and is good in that place.

I take my point from St. Paul the Apostle, who wrote the justly famous 1 Corinthians 13, which I quote verbatim from the New American Bible:

If I speak in human and angelic tongues, but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal.  And if I have the gift of prophecy, and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.  If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind.   It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails.  If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things.  At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face.  At present, I know partially; then I shall know fully as I am known.  So faith, hope, and love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The consistent Greek word for love in this passage is agape; “…the greatest of these is agape.”  Agape, which makes religion good, is available to us only via grace.  So let none of us boast, but trust God instead.  The outward signs will follow; they will flow from love.

KRT

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/01/19/what-is-good-religion/