Archive for the ‘Ruth’ Tag

Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After the Fourth Sunday After Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Millet_Gleaners

Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

Image in the Public Domain

Mutual Responsibility and Faithful Actions

FEBRUARY 3-5, 2020

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The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:1-18 (Monday)

Ruth 2:1-16 (Tuesday)

Ruth 3:1-13; 4:13-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 37:1-17 (all days)

Philemon 1-25 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

Luke 6:17-26 (Wednesday)

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Be still before the Lord and wait for him;

do not fret over those that prosper as they follow their evil schemes.

Refrain from anger and abandon wrath;

do not fret let you be moved to do evil.

–Psalm 37:7-8, Common Worship (2000)

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And sometimes one ought to act faithfully, not just be still faithfully.  In the case of the Book of Ruth, for example, people were active, not passive.  There was more going on than children’s Sunday School lessons (and even many, if not most, adult Sunday School lessons) admit, for that activity entailed seduction before love became a reality.  As Jennifer Wright Knust writes in Unprotected Texts:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved immigrant daughter-in-law, women can easily raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

–page 33

And, as Krust writes on page 35, the emotional bond and subsequent covenant between Ruth and Naomi helped both of them and Israel as a whole.  I add that it has helped many subsequent generations all over the world due its role in the genealogy of Jesus.

Family–not in the sense of marriage or ancestry–unites the readings for these three days.  The ethic of mutual responsibility (part of the Law of Moses) runs through the New Testament also.  The more fortunate, who ought not to depend on their wealth in lieu of God, have responsibilities to the less fortunate.  Philemon had responsibilities to Onesimus, who was not necessarily a slave or even a fugitive.  (A very close reading of the text–one passage in particular–in the Greek raises serious questions about the traditional understanding).

This notion of mutual responsibility and the opinion of wealth one finds in Luke and James are profoundly counter-cultural in my North American setting, where rugged individualism and the quest for wealth are accepted values.  Yet with mutual responsibility comes inderdependence.  And the quest for enough wealth for one’s present and future needs, although laudable, becomes insatiable greed for some people.  Such greed is socially destructive, denying others enough.  There is always enough for everyone in God’s economy; scarcity is a feature of human, sinful economic systems.

May we, by grace, act faithfully and effectively to reduce such sinfulness where we are.  And, if we have not fallen into greed, may we not do so.  If we have, may we confess and repent of it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILFRED THOMASON GRENFELL, MEDICAL MISSIONARY TO NEWFOUNDLAND AND LABRADOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIDGET OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST; AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY, ECONOMIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/mutual-responsibility-and-faithful-actions/

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Devotion for the Feast of the Epiphany, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

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Above:  The Adoration of the Magi, by Giuseppe Niccolo Vicentino

Woodcut Created Between 1540 and 1560

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-18662

God’s Big Circles

JANUARY 6, 2020

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you revealed the incarnation

of your Son by the brilliant shining of a star.

Shine the light of your justice always in our hearts and over all lands,

and accept our lives as the treasure we offer in your praise and for your service,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 60:1-6

Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14

Ephesians 3:1-12

Matthew 2:1-12

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Give your king your justice, O God:

and your righteousness to a king’s son,

that he may judge your people rightly:

and uphold the poor with justice.

Let the mountains bring forth peace for the people:

and the hills prosperity with justice.

May the king defend the cause of the poor among the people:

save the children of the needy and crush the oppressor.

May he live as long as the sun endures:

as long as the moon from age to age.

May he come down like rain upon the grass:

like showers that water the earth.

In his days may righteousness flourish:

And abundance of peace till the moon is no more.

May the kings of Tarshish and of the isles pay tribute:

the kings of of Sheba and Seba bring their gifts.

May all the kings fall prostrate before him:

and all the nations render him service.

He shall deliver the needy when they cry:

and the poor who have no helper.

He shall have pity on the weak and the needy:

and save the lives of the poor.

He shall rescue them from oppression and violence:

and their blood shall be precious in his sight.

–Psalm 72:1-7, 10-14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Psalm 72 is a coronation prayer.  The king is responsible for assuring the physical safety and well-being of his people.  This mandate includes economic justice and deliverance from violence.  Such an accomplishment will earn the monarch international respect.

But who is the king in each reading?  He is probably Solomon in Psalm 72.  The king delivering the exiles in Isaiah 60 is Yahweh via a human monarch, Cyrus II of the Persians and the Medes.  There are two kings in Matthew 2.  One is Herod the Great, a client ruler for the Roman Empire, a violent man, and a mentally unstable person.  The other king is young Jesus, who receives visitors–Persian scholar-astrologers who have put their lives on hold for a long time to undertake the perilous journey.  They do not understand much about the boy, but they know more than others do and act affirmatively toward him.

God’s wisdom, Ephesians 3:10 (The New Jerusalem Bible) tells us, is

many-sided.

That passage, in The Revised English Bible, speaks of

the wisdom of God in its infinite variety.

The New Revised Standard Version mentions

the rich variety

of divine wisdom.  And the Common English Bible speaks of

the many different varieties

of God’s wisdom through the church.  This wisdom God makes known to people via the church.

This many-sided divine wisdom which exists in rich, infinite variety is for all people, although not everyone will embrace it.  And one need not understand completely to receive and accept such wisdom, for nobody can grasp it fully.  There are spiritual mysteries too great for human minds to comprehend ; so be it.  Such mystery comforts me, for it reminds me that there is much in the exclusive purview of God.

And this multi-faceted divine wisdom is for people are are like us and for those who are very different from us.  God loves us all, even when we do not love ourselves, much less each other.  God moves well beyond our comfort zones.  If that bothers us, the fault lies with us, not God.

Each of us carries prejudices, probably learned from friends, relatives, and classmates.  We like to draw a small circle of acceptability, being sure to include ourselves and those like us inside it.  But egocentric “purity” is a huge lie and a spiritual detriment.  God seems to prefer larger circles–even those which include some Zoroastrian Persian astrologers, a heroic Canaanite prostitute, a Moabite woman, and many Samaritans.  How scandalous this is to self-righteous purists!  As St. Simon Peter told the household of St. Cornelius the Centurion in Acts 10:34-35:

I now understand that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

The New Jerusalem Bible

If you, O reader, arrive in heaven, whom might you be surprised to encounter there?  That question gets to the heart of the meaning of the Feast of the Epiphany.

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/gods-big-circles/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Fourth Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

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Above:  Le Songe de St. Joseph, Circa 1880

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-02061

Greatness in Service

NOT OBSERVED IN 2013; THE DEVOTION FOR DECEMBER 24 TAKES PRECEDENCE

DECEMBER 21, 2016

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come!

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that hinders our faith,

that eagerly we may receive your promises,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 37:2-11

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Matthew 1:1-17

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The LORD kills and brings to life;

he brings down to Sheol and raises up.

The LORD makes poor and makes rich;

he brings low; he also exalts.

He raises the poor from the dust;

he lifts the needy from the heap,

to make them sit with princes

and inherit a seat of honor.

–1 Samuel 2:6-8a, The New Revised Standard Version

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Joseph son of Jacob was a twit as a young man.  His dreams fueled his out-of-control ego and enraged his (mostly older) brothers.  Their reaction was unjustified, of course.  Young Joseph did not realize that true greatness is located in service.  This was a lesson which old Joseph also failed to learn, for he did reduce the vast majority of Egyptians to serfdom.

In contrast to the story of Joseph son of Jacob we have the genealogy of Jesus, son of St. Mary of Nazareth.  A very different Joseph raised him.  This Joseph did no harm to nobody so far as the Bible indicates.  This Joseph spared the life of his betrothed, embroiled in a scandal, fled to Egypt with his family, and built a family life for the Son of God.  And in this Joseph’s family history, the only named women were:

  • Tamar, who seduced her father-in-law by posing as a temple prostitute to become pregnant with the child he owed her according to levirate marriage.  She got twins;
  • Rahab, a prostitute who saved the lives of Israelite spies; and
  • Ruth, a foreign woman who adopted her mother-in-law’s religion and seduced her mother-in-law’s kinsman, thereby securing her future and that of her mother-in-law.

Unnamed yet referenced was Bathsheba, wife of Uriah then of David.  Their affair became the stuff of a major Bible story and a turning point in the history of the Kingdom of Israel.  These four, though not as great as people measure greatness, were sufficiently notable to received such posthumous notice.

Through these women God worked great deeds despite their questionable sexual activities and reputations.  Rahab was a prostitute, for example, and Tamar posed as one.  At least two were seductresses and two were foreigners.  All of them violated respectable social customs, and three of them receive positive press in the Bible.  And none of them reduced a population to serfdom.  All of them were preferable to Joseph son of Jacob.

May we help others–not harm them–and find the greatness which exists in service.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/greatness-in-service/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before the Third Sunday of Advent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

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Above:  The River Jordan, Between 1950 and 1977

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-23194

Loyalty and Perseverance

DECEMBER 12-14, 2019

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God,

and strengthen then our faith in your coming, that,

transformed by grace, we may walk in your way;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:6-18 (Thursday)

Ruth 4:13-17 (Friday)

1 Samuel 2:1-8 (Saturday)

Psalm 146:5-10 (all days)

2 Peter 3:1-10 (Thursday)

2 Peter 3:11-18 (Friday)

Luke 3:1-18 (Saturday)

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Happy are those who have the God of Jacob for their help,

whose life is in the Lord their God;

Who made the heaven and the earth,

the sea and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise forever;

Who gives justice to those that suffer wrong

and bread to those who hunger.

–Psalm 146:4-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The Book of Ruth is a story of loyalty–loyalty to people to each other and to God.  The theme of loyalty occurs again in 2 Samuel, where David praises those who had been loyal King Saul, who had tried to kill him more than once.  But Saul had been the anointed one of God, despite his many faults.  Loyalty to God, according to St. John the Baptist, was something one expressed by, among other things, treating each other honestly and respectfully.  And we read in 2 Peter 3 that God’s sense of time differs from ours, so we ought not to lose heart over this fact.

Another Recurring theme in these readings is the human role in God’s good work.  Jesus became incarnate via St. Mary of Nazareth, who was not the passive figure many have imagined her to be.  St. John the Baptist was far from “respectable.”  And Naomi and Ruth conspired to seduce Boaz.  As the Reverend Jennifer Wright Knust wrote:

To the writer of Ruth, family can consist of an older woman and her beloved, immigrant daughter-in-law, women can raise children on their own, and men can be seduced if it serves the interests of women.

Unprotected Texts:  The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire (New York:  HarperOne, 2011, page 33)

The methods of God’s grace can be scandalous and merely unpleasant to certain human sensibilities much of the time.  Will we reject that grace because of its vehicles?  And will we lose heart because God seems to be taking too much time?  Loyalty to God is of great importance, no matter hos shocking or delayed God’s methods might seem to us.

The liturgical observance of Advent acknowledges both scandal and perceived tardiness.  St. Joseph of Nazareth had to spare the life of his betrothed due to the scandal of her pregnancy.  And nearly 2,000 years after the birth of Jesus, where has he been?  But we should not lose heart.  May we not do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, WASHINGTON GLADDEN, AND JACOB RIIS, ADVOCATES OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/07/06/loyalty-and-perseverance/

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Devotion for December 25 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Above:  Adoration of the Shepherds, by James Tissot

Seeming Paradoxes

DECEMBER 25, 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 49:1-18

Psalm 2 (Morning)

Psalms 98 and 96 (Evening)

Matthew 1:1-17

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Some Related Posts:

O Blessed Mother:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/o-blessed-mother/

A Christmas Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-christmas-prayer/

Blessing of a Nativity Scene:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/blessing-of-a-nativity-scene/

A Christmas Prayer:  God of History:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-christmas-prayer-god-of-history/

A Christmas Prayer:  Immanuel:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-christmas-prayer-immanuel/

Christmas Blessings:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/christmas-blessings/

A Christmas Prayer of Thanksgiving:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-christmas-prayer-of-thanksgiving/

The Hail Mary:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/25/the-hail-mary/

O Little Town of Bethlehem:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/09/o-little-town-of-bethlehem/

Joy to the World:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/joy-to-the-world/

Christmas Prayers of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/christmas-prayers-of-praise-and-adoration/

Christmas Prayers of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/christmas-prayers-of-dedication/

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for Christmas:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/a-prayer-of-thanksgiving-for-christmas/

How Can I Fitly Greet Thee:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/12/06/how-can-i-fitly-greet-thee/

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Divine agency binds the Isaiah and Matthew readings.  The Servant Song from Isaiah 49, set prior to the opportunity for exiles of Judah to return to their ancestral homeland, makes clear the theme that God is orchestrating events.  Furthermore, God’s love for Judah exceeds that of a mother for a child (verses 15-16).  We know that some mothers, especially drug-addicted ones, are inattentive sometimes.  So yes, a woman can disown the child of her womb; some have.  But God would not disown disobedient and punished Judah.

As for Matthew, we have a family tree for Jesus.  Most names are male, but notice the four women mentioned.  Rahab was a prostitute, Ruth was a foreigner, Bathsheba was so scandalous that the texts lists her as “Uriah’s wife” and does not use her name, and there were rumors regarding Mary.  There were, of course, unnamed and unmentioned women involved in all this reproduction, but the text points out only four, one of whom was a Gentile and three of which had justly or unjustly checkered sexual reputations.  If I were fabricating a story designed to make Jesus look as good as possible, I would not write the story this way.

The meaning I draw from the Matthew genealogy of Jesus today is that God works through us, regardless of our socially defined categories and stigmas, to work grace in the world.  Grace overpowers scandal, stigma, and scorn.  The “other” we despise might be an instrument of grace.  This is how God, whose love exceeds that of a mother, works among us; the first will be last and the last will be first.  Redemption arrives as a vulnerable baby.

 It is a great mystery; may we embrace it.  Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BRAY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ALEXANDER VIETS GRISWOLD, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF MICHAEL PRAETORIUS, COMPOSER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/08/09/seeming-paradoxes/

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