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“But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”–Amos 5:24
The Sunday Closest to November 9
Twenty-Third Sunday After Pentecost
NOVEMBER 9, 2014
NOVEMBER 12, 2017
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #1
Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 (New Revised Standard Version):
Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people,
Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors– Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor– lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many.
Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.
Then the people answered,
Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.
But Joshua said to the people,
You cannot serve the LORD; for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.
And the people said to Joshua,
No, we will serve the LORD!
Then Joshua said to the people,
You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.
And they said,
We are witnesses.
Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.
The people said to Joshua,
The LORD our God we will serve, and him we will obey.
So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.
Psalm 78:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 Hear my teaching, O my people;
incline your ears to the words of my mouth.
2 I will open my mouth in a parable;
I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.
3 That which we have heard and known,
and what our forefathers have told us,
we will not hide from their children.
4 We will recount to generations to come
the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,
and the wonderful works he has done.
5 He gave his decrees to Jacob
and established a law for Israel,
which he commanded them to teach their children;
6 That the generations to come might know,
and the children yet unborn;
so that they in their turn might tell it to their children;
7 So that they might put their trust in God,
and not forget the deeds of God,
but keep his commandments.
Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16 (New Revised Standard Version):
Wisdom is radiant and unfading,
and she is easily discerned by those who love her,
and is found by those who seek her.
She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.
One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty,
for she will be found sitting at the gate.
To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding,
and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care,
because she goes about seeking those worthy of her,
and she graciously appears to them in their paths,
and meets them in every thought.
FIRST READING AND PSALM: OPTION #2
Amos 5:18-24 (New Revised Standard Version):
Alas for you who desire the day of the LORD!
Why do you want the day of the LORD?
It is darkness, not light:
as if someone fled from a lion,
and was met by a bear;
or went into a house and rested a hand against the wall
and was bitten by a snake.
Is not the day of the LORD darkness, not light,
and gloom with no brightness in it?
I hate, I despise your festivals,
and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.
Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,
I will not accept them;
and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals
I will not look upon.
Take away from me the noise of your songs;
I will not listen to the melody of your harps.
But let justice roll down like waters,
and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
Psalm 70 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):
1 Be pleased, O God, to deliver me;
O LORD, make haste to help me.
2 Let those who seek my life be ashamed
and altogether dismayed;
let those who take pleasure in my misfortune
draw back and be disgraced.
3 Let those who say to me “Aha!” and gloat over me turn back,
because they are ashamed.
4 Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;
let those who love your salvation say to for ever,
“Great is the LORD!”
5 But as for me, I am poor and needy;
come to me speedily, O God.
6 You are my helper and my deliverer;
O LORD, do not tarry.
Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20 (New Revised Standard Version):
The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction,
and concern for instruction is love of her,
and love of her is the keeping of her laws,
and giving heed to her laws is assurance of of immortality,
and immortality brings one near to God;
so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom.
1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (New Revised Standard Version):
We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.
Matthew 25:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):
Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.
O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Some Related Posts:
1 Thessalonians 4:
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The Bible uses a variety of metaphors for God. Most of these are masculine, but some are feminine. God, in Deuteronomy, is the mother eagle who teaches the eaglets how to fly. And Jesus likens himself to a mother hen when he laments over Jerusalem. Then there is Sophia, the wisdom of God personified as a woman in Old Testament wisdom literature, from Proverbs to Sirach/Ecclesiasticus to the Wisdom of Solomon.
Deity, of course, exists beyond human concepts of sex and gender, terms I use in their sociological contexts. Sex is the physical state, a matter of anatomy. Gender is what that anatomy means for one. Is there a glass ceiling? Which professions does society consider fit and proper for one to pursue? Does one receive equal pay for equal work? Can one vote? And does one carry a purse or a shoulder bag?
The authors of the Bible came from male-dominated societies, so it is not surprising that their vision of God was mainly masculine. Had they been born into matriarchal societies, metaphors of God the Mother would seem like second nature to us. My point is this: Let us not become distracted by metaphors. No, let us learn from them and focus on the divine reality behind them.
The love of wisdom, we read, leads to eternal life, or life in God. The love of wisdom, we read, leads to the keeping of the law. And what fulfills the law? Love of one’s neighbors does. See Romans 13:10 (http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-wednesday-year-1/) for details.
The (Western) Christian year always ends with Proper 29, Christ the King Sunday, in late November. The readings for the Sundays immediately prior to Christ the King Sunday tend to take an eschatological tone, for Advent is near, with the twelve days of Christmas on its heels.
The reading from Joshua contains foreboding. The people swear to serve and obey God, but Joshua knows better. The prophet Amos, a few centuries later, warns of God’s judgments on their descendants. And what have the people done? They have practiced idolatry, economic exploitation, judicial corruption, and condoned rampant social inequality beyond that which exists in a simple meritocracy. They have not loved their neighbors as themselves. We read in Romans 13:10 that love of one’s neighbors fulfills the law of God.
There is hope, even in Amos. The divine judgment has not come down yet, so there is still time to repent–to turn around, to change one’s mind. And Paul, in 1 Thessalonians, does not look upon the return of Jesus with dread. No, he thinks of it as an occasion to encourage people. Those who have followed Jesus have no reason to dread the Second Coming, in Paul’ mind, for God has justified them. And so there is no condemnation for them. But, as the reading from Matthew cautions us, those who become lax at the wrong time will regret their inaction.
Church history contains many incidents of people predicting the Second Coming of Jesus. He has not kept any of those dates yet. One might think that, after a while, more people would learn not to place their trust in dates. We–you and I–have an assignment from God. It is to love our neighbors as ourselves and to honor the image of God in ourselves and others, whether or not they are similar to us. How this translates into actions will vary from person to person, according to one’s time, place, gifts, abilities, and circumstances. But, however God calls you to live this vocation, may you do so. Then you will be like a bridesmaid with plenty of oil.
Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on May 19, 2011