Proper 16, Year C   Leave a comment

bonfire

Above:  A Bonfire

Image Source = Fir0002

A Consuming Fire

The Sunday Closest to August 24

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 21, 2016

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 1:4-10 and Psalm 71:1-6

or 

Isaiah 58:9b-14 and Psalm 103:1-8

then 

Hebrews 12:18-29

Luke 13:10-17

The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 16, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/proper-16-year-a/

Proper 16, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/proper-16-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-confession-for-the-fourteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Jeremiah 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/week-of-proper-11-wednesday-year-2/

Isaiah 58:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-30-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/first-day-of-lent-ash-wednesday/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/fourth-day-of-lent/

Hebrews 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/week-of-4-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-sixth-day-of-easter-friday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Luke 13:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/week-of-proper-25-monday-year-1/

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Many passages in the Bible speak of the imperative of obeying God.  Among them is Hebrews 12:18-29, which includes the promise of destruction for disobedience and concludes with

For our God is a consuming fire.

–12:29, The New Jerusalem Bible

That is scary, is it  not?

The Law of Moses is clear:  Anyone who works on the Sabbath day has earned a death sentence:

And the Lord said to Moses:  Speak to the Israelite people and say:  Nevertheless you must keep My sabbaths, for this is a sign between Me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I the LORD have consecrated you.  You shall keep the sabbath, for it is holy for you.  He who profanes it shall be put to death:  whoever does work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his kin.  Six days shall work be done, but on the seventh day there shall be a sabbath of complete rest, holy to the LORD:  whoever does work on the sabbath day shall be put to death.  The Israelite people shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout the ages as a covenant between Me and the people of Israel.

–Exodus 31:12-17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures 

(Fortunately this law does not apply to me, a Christian.  As I understand theology, the cultural details of the Law of Moses are not universal principles for all time.)

Jesus, a Jew, lived under occupation in his homeland.  One way the Jews of the time, a minority in the Roman Empire, retained and asserted their identity was to keep religious laws.  But there were Jewish sects, some of which disagreed with each other strongly, and therefore there was a multiplicity of interpretations of religious laws.  So, did Jesus violate the Sabbath laws when he healed on that day?  He did not think so, and I side with him:  Every day of the week is a good day to commit good deeds.

The readings for this Sunday speak of the imperative of repenting, literally turning around.  The prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah (all the Isaiahs) decried a variety of sins, from committing idolatry to exploiting the poor economically.  Observing holy rituals did not fool God into thinking that perpetrators of these perfidious acts were righteous, the prophets said correctly.  The Temple system at the time of Jesus was corrupt, demanding offerings from those who could not spare the money.  Jesus, of course, opposed that system.

Another there running through these readings is one which becomes clearer after one reads the lections in their literary contexts:  Many of those who consider themselves religious insiders, people close to God, are fooling themselves.  And many of the alleged outsiders are really insiders.

The God of these readings is the deity who cares for the widows and the orphans, executes judgment for the oppressed peoples, and whose kingdom is like a large, uncontrollable, and frequently unwanted pest of a plant that gives shelter to a variety of species, not all of whom like each other.  This is the God who defines “insider” and “outsider” differently than many people do.  This is the God whose Gospel comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.  This is the God I recognize in Jesus, who ate with notorious sinners, causing scandal.  This is the God each of us is called to follow.

A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) offers a fitting conclusion to this post.  In the Eucharistic rite, just after a reading from Scripture, the lector says

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

The congregation replies,

Thanks be to God.

With that in mind, I say

Hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church or just to one who reads this post.

Whether or not one who reads this post answers

Thanks be to God

sincerely reveals much about that person’s spiritual state.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

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