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Proper 21, Year A   Leave a comment

Above:  Saint Francis of Assisi Kneeling (1635-1639), Painted by Francisco de Zubaran

Against All Pretenses

The Sunday Closest to September 28

Seventeenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 27, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 17:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?” But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said, “Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?” So Moses cried out to the Lord, “What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.” The Lord said to Moses, “Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.” Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying, “Is the Lord among us or not?”

Psalm 78:1-14, 12-16 (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.

12 He worked marvels in the sight of their forefathers,

in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

13  He split open the sea and let them pass through;

he made the waters stand up like walls.

14  He led them with a cloud by day,

and all the night through with a glow of fire.

15  He split the hard rocks in the wilderness

and gave them drink as from the great deep.

16  He brought streams out of the cliff,

and the waters gushed out like rivers.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel, “The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge”? As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

Yet you say, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says, “The way of the Lord is unfair.” O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.

Psalm 25:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

my God, I put my trust in you;

let me not be humiliated,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2  Let none who look to you be put to shame;

let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3  Show me your ways, O LORD,

and teach me your paths.

4  Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

in you have I trusted all the day long.

5  Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,

for they are from everlasting.

6  Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;

remember me according to your love

and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

7  Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8  He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches his way to the lowly.

SECOND READING

Philippians 2:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete:  be of the same mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death–

even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name

that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 21:23-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus said to them, “I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, `From heaven,’ he will say to us, `Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, `Of human origin,’ we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

“What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, `Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ He answered, `I will not’; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, `I go, sir’; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.”

The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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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I have become convinced that following a lectionary is one of the best, if not the best, way to study the Bible.  There is a place for studying just one text, but placing two or more of them side-by-side and identifying common threads is wonderful, too.  And that is one purpose of the orderly reading of scripture per a lectionary.

The common thread here is the necessity of obedience to God.  What stands in the way of that?  Various issues do.  Sometimes we misunderstand God, as did many of my Antebellum forebears who used the Bible to justify slavery, based on a literal reading of some passages (or parts of passages) but not others, as well as their own economic interests, racist views, and other cultural baggage.  They were sincerely wrong, which means that they were still wrong.  We have cultural blinders today, so we need not to content ourselves with condemning our benighted forebears, for each of us is severely mistaken in some ways, too.

Others do not try, at least as much as they ought to do.  Consider the case of the Israelites in the wilderness.  They focused on what they lacked, not what they had.  I have done a similar thing many times, and probably will do so again.  Or maybe the fault is that one operates out of selfish motivations.  I have seen this dynamic hobble more than one congregation.  When a person of influence, if not title, in a congregation, especially a small one, does not check his or ego at the church doors, the results are unfortunate.  Paul understood the assembly of the faithful to function much like the human body; everybody is necessary and the tasks differ according to each member.  What matters most is to identify one’s proper role, fulfill it, and to be content to do that–all for the improvement of the body and the glory of God.

We cannot and will not do this if we are taking ego trips and using our pretenses as crutches.  This is why Jesus said that some prostitutes would enter Heaven before certain Pharisees would.  The former had no pretenses, unlike the latter.  In another story, the wealthy young man relied on his money and possessions.  They insulated him from full knowledge of his reliance on God.  That was why Jesus told him to give them up.

We get one crutch–God.  This is the God who has become incarnate as Jesus, who, Paul tells us, did not let anything stand in the way of his faithful obedience.  Our Lord did not stand on ceremony, flaunt pretenses, or take his identity from others.  No, his identity was internal, as is yours, and as is mine.  Jesus was the Son of God.  I am, through Jesus, a member of the household of God.  You, O reader, are also one, I hope.  Knowing who we are–children of God–and whose we are–God’s–may we, using the one proper crutch, abandon our false egos and pretense.  May we journey toward God, supporting each other as our paths converge, for our individual and common good, and for the glory of God.

KRT

Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 15, 2011

Posted May 9, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Revised Common Lectionary Year A, September 27

Tagged with

Proper 20, Year A   Leave a comment

Above:  Map of Ancient Nineveh

Image Source = Fredarch

Scandalous Generosity

The Sunday Closest to September 21

Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 20, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 16:2-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.” So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites, “In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For what are we, that you complain against us?” And Moses said, “When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him– what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.”

Then Moses said to Aaron, “Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, `Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.’” And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said, “I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, `At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.’”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.”

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

37 He led out his people with silver and gold;

in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.

38 Egypt was glad of their going,

because they were afraid of them.

39 He spread out a cloud for a covering,

and a fire to give light in the night season.

40 They asked, and quails appeared,

and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water flowed,

so the river ran in the dry places.

42 For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43 So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44 He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil.

45 That they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.

Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Jonah 3:10-4:11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said, “O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.” And the LORD said, “Is it right for you to be angry?” Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The LORD God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said, “It is better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?” And he said, “Yes, angry enough to die.” Then the LORD said, “You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?”

Psalm 145:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of your greatness.

They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

SECOND READING

Philippians 1:21-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well– since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 20:1-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, `You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.’ So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, `Why are you standing here idle all day?’ They said to him, `Because no one has hired us.’ He said to them, `You also go into the vineyard.’ When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, `Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.’ When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, `These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.’ But he replied to one of them, `Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?’ So the last will be first, and the first will be last.”

The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; 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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We like grace when we benefit from it, as in the case of the children of Israel, whom God fed in the wilderness.  Yet often we object when others–especially our enemies and others unlike us–benefit from it, too.

Consider Jonah, one of the most interesting literary creations in the Bible.  He was a satirical figure who epitomized the worst of post-Exilic Judaism, which had a strong dose of exclusivity about it.  So, in the short book bearing the name “Jonah” the titular character receives a mandate from God to offer the people of Nineveh–traditional enemies–a chance to repent.  Jonah runs away, but cannot escape from God.  Finally, Jonah does as God demands, and finds success in this effort disappointing.  Who is he without his traditional enemy?  What is his identity now?  This man cares more for a plant than for fellow human beings who are different from him, but whom God loves and to whom God reaches out.

This not merely about the scandal of grace extended to our enemies.  Jesus told a parable about a vineyard owner who hired people during various times of day then paid everybody the same amount–the standard daily wage at the time and place.  Those who had worked all day were upset, but the vineyard owner had not cheated them.

Why does God’s generosity scandalize us, or at least bother us?  Perhaps we think that we are deserving, but those people over there are not.  I have seen a sticker which reads, “GOD LOVES EVERYBODY, BUT I’M HIS FAVORITE.”  This is supposed to be funny, which is how I interpret it.  But some people believe it.  In reality, however, we are just as deserving as those people are, which is to say that we are not deserving at all.  This, however, is not how many of us like to think of ourselves.

Too often we define ourselves according to what we are not.  We are not like those people.  We are not those people.  We are better than them, we tell ourselves.  In reality, however, my identity, your identity, and the identity of the person least like us all exist in the context of God.  We are children of God, and therefore siblings.  So our quarrels exist within a family context.  God, our Father-Mother (Metaphors relative to God are imperfect, and the Bible contains both masculine and feminine images for God.), loves us and does not give up on any of us.  So we ought not to write anyone off.  Yet we do.

We can be instruments of God voluntarily–like, Moses dealing with the ever-grumbling children of Israel, or Paul, bringing the message of Jesus to the Gentiles–or involuntarily–like Jonah, weeping over a dead plant while bemoaning the repentance of a population.  If divine grace and generosity scandalize us, the fault is with us, not with God.

KRT

Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on March 29, 2011

Posted May 9, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Revised Common Lectionary Year A, September 20

Tagged with

Proper 19, Year A   Leave a comment

Above: Forgiveness

Image Source = AK Pastor

Forgiveness, the Way of Peace and Freedom

The Sunday Closest to September 14

Fifteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 13, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 14:19-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said, “Let us flee from the Israelites, for the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.”

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.” So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the LORD tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

Psalm 114 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

When Israel came out of Egypt,

the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech,

2 Judah became God’s sanctuary

and Israel his dominion.

3 The sea beheld it and fled;

Jordan turned and went back.

The mountains skipped like rams,

and the little hills like young sheep.

5 What ailed you, O sea, that you fled?

O Jordan, that you turned back?

6 You mountains, that you skipped like rams?

you little hills like young sheep?

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,

at the presence of the God of Jacob,

8 Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water

and flint-stone into a flowing spring.

Or this alternative to Psalm 114:

Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

The LORD is my strength and my might,

and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him,

my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

The LORD is a warrior;

the LORD is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea;

his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea.

The floods covered them;

they went down into the depths like a stone.

Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power–

your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.

In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries;

you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble.

At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up,

the floods stood up in a heap;

the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy said, “I will pursue, I will overtake,

I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.

I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.”

You blew with your wind, the sea covered them;

they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?

Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

awesome in splendor, doing wonders?

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.  And Miriam sang to them:

“Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.”

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Genesis 50:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said, “What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?” So they approached Joseph, saying, “Your father gave this instruction before he died, `Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.’ Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.” Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said, “We are here as your slaves.” But Joseph said to them, “Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.” In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins

and heals all your infirmities;

He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

5 He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and his works to the children of Israel.

The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are high above the earth,

so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

SECOND READING

Romans 14:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall give praise to God.”

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 18:21-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

Peter came and said to Jesus, “Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?” Jesus said to him, “Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

“For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’ And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, `Pay what you owe.’ Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, `You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.”

The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Sometimes the readings for any given Sunday, according to the Revised Common Lectionary, fit together smoothly.  Other times, however, they do not.  This happens most often during the Season after Pentecost.  The readings from Genesis, Romans, and Matthew mesh well, for they pertain to forgiveness.  But where is the forgiveness (especially for the Egyptians) in the Exodus lections?

I have written on the subject of forgiveness at least several times on my devotional blogs, for the lectionaries I have chosen to follow touch on this subject again and again.  What I have written stands; this is difficult for me.  Here is a prayer I wrote on February 27, 2011:

Gracious God, why is forgiving so difficult?

I know what I need to do, and I want to do it–

except when I do not want to do it.

Forgive me for this sin, I ask you,

and bestow grace upon me sufficient to enable me

to forgive others and myself,

so to live in Godly liberation with you and my fellow human beings.

Amen.

Link = http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/a-prayer-for-grace-to-forgive/

On a different aspect, however…

Yesterday I taught another session of my World Civilization II course for Gainesville State College.  I spent most of the time discussing Islam, the Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Empire, and Western imperialism in the Middle and Near East, as well as indigenous reactions and responses to it.  One of the reactions was Wahhabism, the legacy of which includes the attacks of September 11, 2001.  I told the gathered students that resentments which flow from being on the colonial end of imperialism are understandable, but that resentment which festers for too long turns poisonous.  It devours the person who harbors the resentment(s) and therefore affects those around him or her.  And sometimes, as in the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it it consumes a nation.  And, in the case of 9/11, it strikes far overseas.  How much better would world history have played out had more people combined forgiveness with their nationalism, instead of mixing militant religion with it?

But two wrongs do not make a right, and one person’s intolerance does not excuse corresponding intolerance.  The proper extinguishing agents for hatred are love and forgiveness, for they break the cycle.  If we do not break the cycle of hatred and violence, it will break us.  God offers us freedom in forgiveness; may we accept it and extend it ourselves and each other.

KRT

Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on March 20, 2011

Posted May 9, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Revised Common Lectionary Year A, September 13

Tagged with

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Above: The Israelites Leaving Egypt, by David Roberts (1828)

Of Sin and Repentance

The Sunday Closest to September 7

Fourteenth Sunday After Pentecost

SEPTEMBER 6, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 12:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD said to Moses and Aaron in the land of Egypt: This month shall mark for you the beginning of months; it shall be the first month of the year for you. Tell the whole congregation of Israel that on the tenth of this month they are to take a lamb for each family, a lamb for each household. If a household is too small for a whole lamb, it shall join its closest neighbor in obtaining one; the lamb shall be divided in proportion to the number of people who eat of it. Your lamb shall be without blemish, a year-old male; you may take it from the sheep or from the goats. You shall keep it until the fourteenth day of this month; then the whole assembled congregation of Israel shall slaughter it at twilight. They shall take some of the blood and put it on the two doorposts and the lintel of the houses in which they eat it. They shall eat the lamb that same night; they shall eat it roasted over the fire with unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Do not eat any of it raw or boiled in water, but roasted over the fire, with its head, legs, and inner organs. You shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. This is how you shall eat it: your loins girded, your sandals on your feet, and your staff in your hand; and you shall eat it hurriedly. It is the passover of the LORD. For I will pass through the land of Egypt that night, and I will strike down every firstborn in the land of Egypt, both human beings and animals; on all the gods of Egypt I will execute judgments: I am the LORD. The blood shall be a sign for you on the houses where you live: when I see the blood, I will pass over you, and no plague shall destroy you when I strike the land of Egypt.

This day shall be a day of remembrance for you. You shall celebrate it as a festival to the LORD; throughout your generations you shall observe it as a perpetual ordinance.

Psalm 149 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Sing to the LORD a new song;

sing his praise in the congregation of the faithful.

2 Let Israel rejoice in his Maker;

let the children of Zion be joyful in their King.

3 Let them praise his Name in the dance;

let them sing praise to him with timbrel and harp.

For the LORD takes pleasure in his people

and adorns the poor with victory.

5 Let the faithful rejoice in triumph;

let them be joyful on their beds.

6 Let the praises of God be in their throat

and a two-edged sword in their hand;

To wreak vengeance on the nations

and punishment on the peoples;

To bind their kings in chains

and their nobles with links of iron;

9 To inflict on them the judgment decreed;

this is the glory for all his faithful people.

Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 33:7-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

You, mortal, I have made a sentinel for the house of Israel; whenever you hear a word from my mouth, you shall give them warning from me. If I say to the wicked, “O wicked ones, you shall surely die,” and you do not speak to warn the wicked to turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but their blood I will require at your hand. But if you warn the wicked to turn from their ways, and they do not turn from their ways, the wicked shall die in their iniquity, but you will have saved your life.

Now you, mortal, say to the house of Israel, Thus you have said: “Our transgressions and our sins weigh upon us, and we waste away because of them; how then can we live?” Say to them, As I live, says the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but that the wicked turn from their ways and live; turn back, turn back from your evil ways; for why will you die, O house of Israel?

Psalm 119:33-40 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

33 Teach me, O LORD, the way of your statutes,

and I shall keep it to the end.

34 Give me understanding, and I shall keep your law;

I shall keep it with all my heart.

35 Make me go in the path of your commandments,

for that is my desire.

36 Incline my heart to your decrees

and not to unjust gain.

37 Turn my eyes from watching what is worthless;

give me life in your ways.

38 Fulfill your promise to your servant,

which you make to those who fear you.

39 Turn away the reproach which I dread,

because your judgments are good.

40 Behold, I long for your commandments;

in your righteousness preserve my life.

SECOND READING

Romans 13:8-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery; You shall not murder; You shall not steal; You shall not covet”; and any other commandment, are summed up in this word, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we became believers; the night is far gone, the day is near. Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day, not in reveling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and licentiousness, not in quarreling and jealousy. Instead, put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 18:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one. But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if the offender refuses to listen even to the church, let such a one be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly I tell you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again, truly I tell you, if two of you agree on earth about anything you ask, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered in my name, I am there among them.”

The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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This Sunday’s readings pertain to sin, especially with in a faith community.  The community context is appropriate, for however appealing Western notions of individualism, especially when paired with Horatio Alger-like stories, are, people tend to overestimate them.  In reality, all of us live in community, for what one person does or does not do affects another and others directly and/or indirectly, for good or for ill.  We rise together and we fall together; we need to support each other for the common good.  The economic debacle arising from subprime mortgages has taught many lessons, including that one.

Sometimes we need deliverance from the sins of others.  That was the function of the blood of a Passover lamb in Exodus.  And the reading from Matthew discusses how to handle grievances among members of a faith community.  The offender receives more than one chance to restore peace before facing the penalty, which is ecclesiastical exile.  The common good is the chief end, with attempts to rehabilitate the offending party.

And sometimes the sin is one’s own.  Fortunately, God is present, offering forgiveness in exchange for repentance, that is the act of changing one’s mind, or, to state the matter differently, turning around.  Repentance is far more than apologizing, although nobody ought to underestimate the value of a sincere apology.  No, repentance is active.  And we humans ought to welcome repentance at least as much as God does.

Dare we try it?

KRT

Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on March 12, 2011

Posted May 9, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Revised Common Lectionary Year A, September 6

Tagged with

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The Burning Bush Logo of the Church of Scotland

The Call of God

The Sunday Closest to August 31

Thirteenth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 30, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 3:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said, “I must turn aside and look at this great sight, and see why the bush is not burned up.” When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush, “Moses, Moses!” And he said, “Here I am.” Then he said, “Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.” He said further, “I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the LORD said, “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.” But Moses said to God, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?” He said, “I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.”

But Moses said to God, “If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM Who I AM.” He said further, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,

and this is my title for all generations.

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

23 Israel came into Egypt,

and Jacob became a sojourner in the land of Ham.

24 The LORD made his people exceedingly fruitful;

he made them stronger than their enemies;

25 Whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people,

and dealt unjustly with his servants.

26 He sent Moses his servant,

and Aaron whom he had chosen.

45c Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Jeremiah 15:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

O LORD, you know;

remember me and visit me,

and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.

In your forbearance do not take me away;

know that on your account I suffer insult.

Your words were found, and I ate them,

and your words became to me a joy

and the delight of my heart;

for I am called by your name,

O LORD, God of hosts.

I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,

nor did I rejoice;

under the weight of your hand I sat alone,

for you had filled me with indignation.

Why is my pain unceasing,

my wound incurable,

refusing to be healed?

Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,

like waters that fail.

Therefore thus says the LORD:

If you turn back, I will take you back,

and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,

you shall serve as my mouth.

It is they who will turn to you,

not you who will turn to them.

And I will make you to this people

a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,

but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you

to save you and deliver you, says the LORD.

I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,

and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

Psalm 26:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and not faltered.

2 Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully with you.

I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

7 Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.

SECOND READING

Romans 12:9-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 16:21-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.” But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

“For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.”

The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; 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 prophet Jeremiah was having a very bad day.  He had been preaching the word of God for awhile.  And, for all his trouble, he had faced rejection and persecution.

Be honest.  Have you not turned to God and complained bitterly?  Have you not accused God of being absent in your time of need?  I have.  So did Jeremiah.  There is nothing wrong with this, for a relationship with God, if it is healthy, is honest.

And God answered Jeremiah’s lament.  Get beyond yourself, God said.  Get busy, God said.  And I will be with you, God said.

This was also God’s message to Moses, a fugitive murderer on the run from Egyptian authorities.  Moses received a straight-forward mandate:  to return to Egypt, speak for God, and play a vital part in the divine plan to liberate the Hebrews from slavery.  This was a daunting task, and Moses was a poor speaker.  But Aaron was a better orator, and God would be with them.

God does not call the qualified; God qualifies the called.

Jeremiah had asked God to undertake vengeance upon his enemies.  Paul, in Romans, reflects the opposite point of view.  Vengeance, he says, is purely a matter for God.  Followers of God are supposed to love their enemies, as well as their friends and other like-minded people.  Vengeance is a natural desire, one I know well.  But it does not help one glorify and enjoy God forever.  Revenge is not Christ-like.

Speaking of Jesus…

Last week, Peter had just become the first rock of human faith on the rock mass of God, and Jesus had just said how blessed the Apostle was.  Then, in this week’s installment, Jesus predicted his own arrest, torture, execution, and resurrection.  Peter, horrified, protested.  Then Jesus rebuked the man he had just blessed.  Jesus understood his own divine call, which was to atone for sin.  This purpose came at a high cost to him.  The mission of the Apostles was to follow their Lord, and most of them became martyrs.

God challenges us to move beyond ourselves, serve others, love others as ourselves–created in the divine image, and take on difficult tasks for a greater purpose.  This is truly risky business, but Moses, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Simon Peter chose to remain faithful and to endure.  Two of them died for it, one died in exile, and the fourth spent a generation in the Sinai Desert with a horde of grumblers.  And all four are heroes of faith.

Jesus, of course, was and is far more than a hero of faith.  And he calls us to assume risks.  Each of us ought to take up a cross and follow him.  We need to be the best disciples we can be.  That is the call of God.

KRT

Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on March 8, 2011

 

Posted May 8, 2011 by neatnik2009 in August 30, Revised Common Lectionary Year A

Tagged with

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Saint Peter, by Peter Paul Rubens (1577-1640)

Upon This Rock…

The Sunday Closest to August 24

Twelfth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 23, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 1:8-2:10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now a new king arose over Egypt, who did not know Joseph. He said to his people, “Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land.” Therefore they set taskmasters over them to oppress them with forced labor. They built supply cities, Pithom and Rameses, for Pharaoh. But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and spread, so that the Egyptians came to dread the Israelites. The Egyptians became ruthless in imposing tasks on the Israelites, and made their lives bitter with hard service in mortar and brick and in every kind of field labor. They were ruthless in all the tasks that they imposed on them.

The king of Egypt said to the Hebrew midwives, one of whom was named Shiphrah and the other Puah, “When you act as midwives to the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstool, if it is a boy, kill him; but if it is a girl, she shall live.” But the midwives feared God; they did not do as the king of Egypt commanded them, but they let the boys live. So the king of Egypt summoned the midwives and said to them, “Why have you done this, and allowed the boys to live?” The midwives said to Pharaoh, “Because the Hebrew women are not like the Egyptian women; for they are vigorous and give birth before the midwife comes to them.” So God dealt well with the midwives; and the people multiplied and became very strong. And because the midwives feared God, he gave them families. Then Pharaoh commanded all his people, “Every boy that is born to the Hebrews you shall throw into the Nile, but you shall let every girl live.”

Now a man from the house of Levi went and married a Levite woman. The woman conceived and bore a son; and when she saw that he was a fine baby, she hid him three months. When she could hide him no longer she got a papyrus basket for him, and plastered it with bitumen and pitch; she put the child in it and placed it among the reeds on the bank of the river. His sister stood at a distance, to see what would happen to him.

The daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her attendants walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her maid to bring it. When she opened it, she saw the child. He was crying, and she took pity on him, “This must be one of the Hebrews’ children,” she said. Then his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get you a nurse from the Hebrew women to nurse the child for you?” Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Yes.” So the girl went and called the child’s mother. Pharaoh’s daughter said to her, “Take this child and nurse it for me, and I will give you your wages.” So the woman took the child and nursed it. When the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and she took him as her son. She named him Moses, “because,” she said, “I drew him out of the water.”

Psalm 124 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 If the LORD had not been on our side,

let Israel now say,

If the LORD had not been on our side,

when enemies rose up against us;

3 Then they would have swallowed us up alive

in their fierce anger toward us;

Then would the waters have overwhelmed us

and the torrent gone over us;

5 Then would the raging waters

have gone right over us.

6 Blessed be the LORD!

he has not given us over to be a prey for their teeth.

We have escaped like a bird from the snare of the fowler;

the snare is broken, and we have escaped.

Our help is in the Name of the LORD,

the maker of heaven and earth.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 51:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Listen to me, you that pursue righteousness,

you that seek the LORD.

Look to the rock from which you were hewn,

and to the quarry from which you were dug.

Look to Abraham your father

and to Sarah who bore you;

for he was but one when I called him,

but I blessed him and made him many.

For the LORD will comfort Zion;

he will comfort her waste places,

and will make her wilderness like Eden,

her desert like the garden of the LORD;

joy and gladness will be found in her,

thanksgiving and the voice of song.

Listen to me, my people,

and give heed to me, my nation;

for a teaching will go out from me,

and my justice for a light to the peoples.

I will bring near my deliverance swiftly,

my salvation has gone out

and my arms will rule the peoples;

the coastlands wait for me,

and for my arm they hope.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens,

and look at the earth beneath;

for the earth will wear out like a garment,

and those who live on it will die like gnats;

but my salvation will be forever,

and my deliverance will never be ended.

Psalm 138 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

I will give thanks to you, O LORD, with my whole heart;

before the gods I will sing your praise.

I will bow down toward your holy temple

and praise your Name,

because of your love and faithfulness;

3 For you have glorified your Name

and your word above all things.

4 When I called, you answered me;

you increased my strength within me.

All the kings of the earth will praise you, O LORD,

when they have heard the words of your mouth.

They will sing of the ways of the LORD,

that great is the glory of the LORD.

7 Though the LORD be high, he cares for the lowly;

he perceives the haughty from afar.

Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe;

you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies;

your right hand shall save me.

9 The LORD will make good his purpose for me;

O LORD, your love endures for ever;

do not abandon the works of your hands.

SECOND READING

Romans 12:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

I appeal to you therefore, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.  Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God–what is good and acceptable and perfect.

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of yourself more highly than you ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and not all the members have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually we are members one of another. We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us: prophecy, in proportion to faith; ministry, in ministering; the teacher, in teaching; the exhorter, in exhortation; the giver, in generosity; the leader, in diligence; the compassionate, in cheerfulness.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 16:13-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, but others Elijah, and still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he sternly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah.

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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What is the rock upon which Jesus built his Church?  I have read various analyses, and the one that makes the most sense to me is God.  Simon Peter was the first pebble upon this rock, and each subsequent believer and follower is another pebble.  The pebbles are the Church.  So God is the foundation of the Church.

God is also the rock from Isaiah 51.  God is the rock from which we are hewn, the quarry from which we are cut.  So our lives and identities derive from God.  We Christians  stand in a long tradition that stretches back to Abraham and Sarah; the Jews are, as Pope John Paul II said, our elder brothers and sisters in faith.  God, the rock, was the strength of the Hebrews when they were slaves in Egypt.  God, the rock, provided the means of their political liberation.  And God, the rock, provides the means of our spiritual liberation.  As Paul reminds us in Romans, this liberation will be evident in our attitudes and relationships.

Next Sunday’s Gospel Reading will pick up where this one leaves off.  In it Jesus predicts his capture, torture, death, and resurrection.  Then Peter, horrified, protests.  But Jesus says to the Apostle he just praised highly a few breaths previously, “Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.”  Peter did not understand yet.  Maybe only Jesus did.  So let us take comfort in the fact that one does not need to achieve spiritual mountainhood to be an effective and important pebble in the rock mass that is the Christian Church.  We have to begin somewhere, so why not where we are?  But let us move on from there to where Jesus wants us to go.

KRT

Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on February 26, 2011

 

Posted May 8, 2011 by neatnik2009 in August 23, Revised Common Lectionary Year A

Tagged with

Proper 15, Year A   Leave a comment

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s C.E.)

Mercy–Even For Foreigners

The Sunday Closest to August 17

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 16, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 45:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Joseph could no longer control himself before all those who stood by him, and he cried out, “Send everyone away from me.” So no one stayed with him when Joseph made himself known to his brothers. And he wept so loudly that the Egyptians heard it, and the household of Pharaoh heard it. Joseph said to his brothers, “I am Joseph. Is my father still alive?” But his brothers could not answer him, so dismayed were they at his presence.

Then Joseph said to his brothers, “Come closer to me.” And they came closer. He said, “I am your brother, Joseph, whom you sold into Egypt. And now do not be distressed, or angry with yourselves, because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life. For the famine has been in the land these two years; and there are five more years in which there will be neither plowing nor harvest. God sent me before you to preserve for you a remnant on earth, and to keep alive for you many survivors. So it was not you who sent me here, but God; he has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt. Hurry and go up to my father and say to him, `Thus says your son Joseph, God has made me lord of all Egypt; come down to me, do not delay. You shall settle in the land of Goshen, and you shall be near me, you and your children and your children’s children, as well as your flocks, your herds, and all that you have. I will provide for you there– since there are five more years of famine to come– so that you and your household, and all that you have, will not come to poverty.’ And now your eyes and the eyes of my brother Benjamin see that it is my own mouth that speaks to you. You must tell my father how greatly I am honored in Egypt, and all that you have seen. Hurry and bring my father down here.” Then he fell upon his brother Benjamin’s neck and wept, while Benjamin wept upon his neck. And he kissed all his brothers and wept upon them; and after that his brothers talked with him.

Psalm 133 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

2 It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

3 Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5 For there the LORD has ordained the blessing;

life for evermore.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 56:1, 6-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the LORD:

Maintain justice, and do what is right,

for soon my salvation will come,

and my deliverance will be revealed.

And the foreigners who join themselves to the LORD,

to minister to him, to love the name of the LORD,

and to be his servants,

all who keep the sabbath, and do not profane it,

and hold fast my covenant–

these I will bring to my holy mountain,

and make them joyful in my house of prayer;

their burnt offerings and their sacrifices

will be accepted on my altar;

for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.

Thus says the Lord GOD,

who gathers the outcasts of Israel,

I will gather others to them

besides those already gathered.

Psalm 67 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

May God be merciful to us and bless us,

show us the light of his countenance and come to us.

Let your ways be known upon earth,

your saving health among all nations.

3 Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

4 Let the nations be glad and sing for joy,

for you judge the peoples with equity

and guide all the nations upon earth.

Let the peoples praise you, O God;

let all the peoples praise you.

6 The earth has brought forth her increase;

may God, our own God, give us his blessing.

May God give us his blessing,

and may all the ends of the earth stand in awe of him.

SECOND READING

Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew.

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. Just as you were once disobedient to God but have now received mercy because of their disobedience, so they have now been disobedient in order that, by the mercy shown to you, they too may now receive mercy. For God has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 15:(10-20), 21-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

(Then he called the crowd to him and said to them, “Listen and understand:  it is not what goes into the mouth that defiles a person, but it is what goes out of the mouth that defiles.”  Then the disciples approached and said to him, “Do you know that the Pharisees took offense when they heard what you said?”  He answered, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be uprooted.  Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind.  And if one blind person guides another, both will fall into a pit.”  But Peter said to him, “Explain this parable to us.”  Then he said, “Are you also still without understanding?  Do you not see that whatever goes into the mouth enters the stomach, and goes out into the sewer?  But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this is what defiles.  For out of the heart come evil intentions, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander.  These are what defile a person, but to eat with unwashed hands does not defile.”)

Jesus left Gennesaret and went away to the district of Tyre and Sidon. Just then a Canaanite woman from that region came out and started shouting, “Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is tormented by a demon.” But he did not answer her at all. And his disciples came and urged him, saying, “Send her away, for she keeps shouting after us.” He answered, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” But she came and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, help me.” He answered, “It is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.” She said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the dogs eat the crumbs that fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered her, “Woman, great is your faith! Let it be done for you as you wish.” And her daughter was healed instantly.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 45:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/week-of-proper-9-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 15:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/week-of-proper-13-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/24/week-of-proper-13-wednesday-year-1/

Matthew 15 by way of the parallel readings in Mark:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/14/week-of-5-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/15/week-of-5-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

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Portions of my North American culture tell me that I should not show weakness.  No, they say, I ought to be “strong,” which is to say, tough.  So, according to that logic, the example of Jesus, who showed mercy, is a sign of weakness.  But that analysis is far from the truth.

Persistent anger is corrosive, especially to the one who wallows in it.  At some point the grudge-bearer must lay down his or her burden, for his or her own sake.  Consider the case of Joseph, the foreign-born Vizier of Egypt.  He could have taken out his vengeance on his brothers, who sold him into slavery.  They would not even have known who he really was, unless he had told them.  But he forgave them; the better angels of his nature triumphed.

The reading from Isaiah 56 speaks of the extension of salvation to faithful Gentiles.  Unfortunately, the Temple establishment in the time of Jesus kept such believers at the margins.  These monotheists followed the God of Judaism, but they were still Gentiles, after all.  Jesus, surrounded by Gentiles in the region of Tyre and Sidon, recognized the faith of a Gentile woman.  And Paul preached to Gentiles while acknowledging that God had not abandoned the Jews.

Those who have known mercy have the obligation to extend it to others, regardless of meaningless categories, such as Jew and Gentile, native-born or foreign-born.  All who come to the Judeo-Christian God sincerely are equal to each other in relationship to God, in sinfulness, and in access to forgiveness.  We ought not discriminate against each other.

I was a doctoral student at The University of Georgia from the Fall Semester of 2005 to the Fall Semester of 2006.  My program ended when I learned that there would be no third year, hence no Ph.D.  I received a letter encouraging me to take a Master’s Degree instead.  But I already have one, I said.  The second-ranking professor in the Department of History said that I should take a second M.A., this time from a “superior institution.”  I scoffed and refused.  So I never registered for Spring Semester 2007 classes.  Much of Fall Semester 2006 constituted a very difficult time for me; I melted down emotionally, holding myself together with proverbial twine and duct tape until the end, when I exploded in anger and said what I really thought.  It was impolitic, unwise, and brutally honest.

Initially I was openly hostile to UGA, especially the History Department.  But that was years ago.  As I write these words, a sense of uneasiness with UGA and the History Department persist within me, but the hostility has run its course.  I am painfully aware that I need to forgive my “foreigners,” namely UGA, the History Department, and certain professors–for my sake, not theirs.  I have not “arrived” spiritually, O reader; I am weak.  But God is strong, and the fact that I have come as far as I have in my relationship to UGA and the History Department as I have indicates extravagant grace.  That grace has more work to do, but at least the process of forgiving has begun.

Forgiveness can be very difficult.  It might not even happen all at once.  But may it begin then continue to completion, all by grace.

One professor extended me great kindness while I melted down.  My stress levels and emotional collapse neutralized me academically during that final semester.  But thanks to one professor who cut me a deal, I received a respectable grade in one particular course.  Since then, as I have functioned as a classroom instructor, I have been increasingly aware of good students struggling with their own issues.  As I have received grace, I have extended it to others.  Jesus would have me to do no less.

No, I have not “arrived” spiritually, but, by grace, I have come as far as I have.  I wonder how much farther I have to go, and I look forward to the journey.

KRT

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ADDENDUM:

Forgiveness occurred some time ago.  I became conscious of it only after the fact.

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 17, 2013 COMMON ERA

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[Update: Those negative emotions washed out of my system years ago.  I would not have been human had I not had such emotions, but I would have been foolish not to drop that burden years ago.–2017]

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on February 11, 2011

Proper 14, Year A   Leave a comment

Above:  A Scroll of the Book of Esther

“The Word is Near You….”

The Sunday Closest to August 10

Tenth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 9, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph, “Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.” He answered, “Here I am.” So he said to him, “Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.” So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him, “What are you seeking?” “I am seeking my brothers,” he said; “tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.” The man said, “They have gone away, for I heard them say, `Let us go to Dothan.’” So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another, “Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.” But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying, “Let us not take his life.” Reuben said to them, “Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him” — that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers, “What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.” And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

16 Then he called for a famine in the land

and destroyed the supply of bread.

17 He sent a man before them,

Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

18 They bruised his feet in fetters;

his neck they put in an iron collar.

19 Until his prediction came to pass,

the word of the LORD tested him.

20 The king sent and released him;

the ruler of the peoples set him free.

21 He set him as a master over his household,

as a ruler over all his possessions,

22 To instruct his princes according to his will

and to teach his elders wisdom.

45b Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

1 Kings 19:9-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

At Horeb, the mount of God, Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”

He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.” Then the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”

Psalm 85:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

SECOND READING

Romans 10:5-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that “the person who does these things will live by them.” But the righteousness that comes from faith says, “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

“The word is near you,

on your lips and in your heart”

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says, “No one who believes in him will be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For, “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!”

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 14:22-33 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.”

Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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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I have chosen to take my focus from Romans.  Thus I refer you, O reader, to the following links, for further details:

For Genesis–http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/week-of-proper-9-thursday-year-1/

For Matthew–http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/week-of-proper-13-monday-year-1/

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Consider these words, put into the mouth of Moses toward the end of the Israelite sojourn in the wilderness:

“For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say ‘Who will go over to the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

“See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil.   If you obey commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, they you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it.  But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish….”  (Deuteronomy 30:11-18a, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

Paul was obviously familiar with this passage, for he channeled it in this day’s excerpt from Romans.  God’s message is not remote, he says; it is near us.  Indeed, the Hebrew prophets proclaimed this word, and many Jewish scriptures, originally oral tradition, did as well.  So did Jesus, God incarnate.  How much more concrete could God get than that?  So, yes, the word is very near us.  If we do not perceive it, we need to pay closer attention.

The reading from Deuteronomy describes following God as the path to life and the alternative as the route to death.  Life and death are both physical and spiritual in this context.  I typed only part of the germane passage; a portion I chose not to type concludes, “therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live….” (Deuteronomy 30:19)  But we know how the story unfolded, do we not?  Read the excerpt from 1 Kings; pious advocacy of monotheism by a portion of the population did not prevent the widespread practice of polytheism.  Thus hindsight, in the wake of the Babylonian Exile, informs the theology of final, edited version of much of the Hebrew Bible:  Spiritual infidelity led to the decline, division, and extinction of the Jewish kingdoms.

YHWH was a different kind of deity relative to the alleged members of pantheons.  As Professor Richard Elliott Friedman writes in his Commentary on the Torah:

In comparing Israel’s monotheism to pagan religion, we must appreciate that the difference between one and many is not the same sort of thing as the difference between two and three or between six and twenty.  It is not numerical.  It is a different concept of what a god is.  A God who is outside of nature, known through acts of history, a creator, unseeable, without a mate, who makes legal covenants with humans, who is one, is a revolution in religious conception. (Page 586)

The account from 1 Kings reinforces this point.  Adherents of other deities believed that they made themselves known in forces of nature, such as earthquakes, fire,  and mighty winds.  But YHWH did the opposite.  God does that often.  We find God in silence, not noise.  And we Christians worship God, who took on human form and became both fully human and fully divine.  (I have given up trying to explain this mystery and chosen to revel in it instead.)  God refuses to fit into our theological boxes.  If we cannot deal with this reality in a healthy way, then we need to read the great J. B. Phillips book, Your God is Too Small.

The word is near us.  It is present in the silence around us, as well as in any place we read or hear God speaking–certainly in the Bible, but not just there.  The word can also be present in other literature, as well as in nature.  The word is present anywhere the Holy Spirit speaks to us, including our minds.  So the word is around us and inside us.  Do we hear it?  Do we really hear it?

KRT

Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on January 31, 2011

Posted May 8, 2011 by neatnik2009 in August 9, Revised Common Lectionary Year A

Tagged with

Proper 13, Year A   Leave a comment

Above: Byzantine Mosaic of John the Baptist, from Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

Called to Bring People to God

The Sunday Closest to August 3

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 2, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 32:22-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me.” So he said to him, “What is your name?” And he said, “Jacob.” Then the man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.” Then Jacob asked him, “Please tell me your name.” But he said, “Why is it that you ask my name?” And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.” The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Psalm 17:1-7, 16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hear my plea of innocence, O LORD;

give heed to my cry;

listen to my prayer, which does not come from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

Weigh my heart, summon me by night,

melt me down; you will find no impurity in me.

I give no offense with my mouth as others do;

I have heeded the words of your lips.

My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law;

in your paths my feet shall not stumble.

I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me;

incline your ear to me and hear my words.

7 Show me your marvelous loving-kindness,

O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand

from those who rise up against me.

16 But at my vindication I shall see your face;

when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 55:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

Ho, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters;

and you that have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without price.

Why do you spend money for that which is not bread,

and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food.

Incline your ear, and come to me;

listen, so that you may live.

I will make with you an everlasting covenant,

my steadfast, sure love for David.

See, I made him a witness to the peoples,

a leader and commander for the peoples.

See, you shall call nations that you do not know,

and nations that do not know you shall run to you,

because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,

for he has glorified you.

Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

15 The LORD upholds all those who fall;

he lifts up those who are bowed down.

16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD,

and you give them their food in due season.

17 You open wide your hand

and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

18 The LORD is righteous in all his ways

and loving in all his works.

19 The LORD is near to those who call upon him,

to all who call upon him faithfully.

20 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;

he hears their cry and helps them.

21 The LORD preserves all those who love him,

but he destroys all the wicked.

22 My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD;

let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.

SECOND READING

Romans 9:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

I am speaking the truth in Christ– I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit– I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 14:13-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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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Follow the URL for thoughts about Jacob’s all-night wrestling match:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/week-of-proper-9-tuesday-year-1/

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The call of God transformed a schemer named Jacob into a the patriarch Israel.  That mandate was to be a light to the nations, and it applied to the Israelite people as a whole.  (It still does.)  To be set aside as chosen is to receive a great responsibility.  This is a matter of duty, not prestige.

That duty is to bring diverse peoples to God.  Read Matthew 13, which contains parables of inclusion.  The mustard plant was inclusive in so far as animals of various species took shelter within it.  This mustard plant was an allegory for the Kingdom of God.  And, when we turn to the wheat field infected with tares and the net full of good and bad fish, we read that God will sort out the good and the bad, the wheat and the weeds, later.

We read also in Matthew 13 that the Kingdom of God is precious, worthy of single-minded devotion.  Consider the brief parables of the pearl and the treasure.

So here we are in Matthew 14, following those parables and the execution of John the Baptist.  He drew people to God.  But lest we oversimplify, and say that we must always be nice, consider the examples of Jesus and John the Baptist.  They used harsh words when appropriate, and they contributed greatly to these holy men going to their deaths.  Read the prophets, also.  Was Jeremiah habitually polite and respectable?  No, of course not.  All these men suffered because of the ways they brought people to God.

Even being nice scared people and put Jesus at risk.  Few actions are nicer than feeding people.  But this and other miracles scared certain individuals who had the power to execute Jesus or to arrange such a death.

Why do we fear good, holy people at any time, in any place?  Sometimes their examples reveal our own shortcomings.  So, instead of seeking to correct our errors, we react defensively.  Or, in the case of Jeremiah, Jesus, and John the Baptist, they threaten power structures–such as domestic and foreign potentates and religious hierarchies.  And, in a society lacking the separation of religion and state, powerful political figures can label theological dissent as treason, or at least a moral threat to society.  This happened in the Byzantine Empire, too, and, in North America, in colonial New England.  (Puritans hanged Quakers.)

So being a light to the nations is a perilous vocation.  But it is God’s call.  It is the way to life, even if death is a stop along the way.  Countless saints, many of them martyrs, continue to teach this lesson by the example of their lives, even many years after their earthly journeys ended.  And contemporary martyrs and other saints do the same.  Potentates who persecute think that they can eradicate a message they fear.  But, time after time, history proves that the blood of the martyrs waters the church.  Persecution usually has the effect of increasing the brightness of the light the persecutors seek to extinguish.  These persecutors do not learn quickly or at all, do they?

And so the Kingdom of God continues unabated, much like the mustard plant Jesus used as a parable illustration.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:5 (Revised Standard Version)

KRT

Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on January 14, 2011

Posted May 8, 2011 by neatnik2009 in August 2, Revised Common Lectionary Year A

Tagged with

Proper 12, Year A   Leave a comment

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles, a Painting from the 1500s

Single Predestination

The Sunday Closest to July 27

Eighth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 26, 2020

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 29:15-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Laban said to Jacob, “Because you are my kinsman, should you therefore serve me for nothing? Tell me, what shall your wages be?” Now Laban had two daughters; the name of the elder was Leah, and the name of the younger was Rachel. Leah’s eyes were lovely, and Rachel was graceful and beautiful. Jacob loved Rachel; so he said, “I will serve you seven years for your younger daughter Rachel.” Laban said, “It is better that I give her to you than that I should give her to any other man; stay with me.” So Jacob served seven years for Rachel, and they seemed to him but a few days because of the love he had for her.

Then Jacob said to Laban, “Give me my wife that I may go in to her, for my time is completed.” So Laban gathered together all the people of the place, and made a feast. But in the evening he took his daughter Leah and brought her to Jacob; and he went in to her. (Laban gave his maid Zilpah to his daughter Leah to be her maid.) When morning came, it was Leah! And Jacob said to Laban, “What is this you have done to me? Did I not serve with you for Rachel? Why then have you deceived me?” Laban said, “This is not done in our country– giving the younger before the firstborn. Complete the week of this one, and we will give you the other also in return for serving me another seven years.” Jacob did so, and completed her week; then Laban gave him his daughter Rachel as a wife.

Psalm 105:1-11, 45b (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob has chosen.

7 He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

He has always been mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made for a thousand generations.

The covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath that he swore to Isaac,

10 Which he established as a statute for Jacob,

an everlasting covenant for Israel,

11 Saying, “To you will I give the land of Canaan

to be your allotted inheritance.”

45b Hallelujah!

Or

Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they all who fear the LORD,

and who follow in his ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

The man who fears the LORD

shall thus indeed be blessed.

The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

1 Kings 3:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said, “Ask what I should give you.” And Solomon said, “You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?”

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him, “Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you.”

Psalm 119:129-136 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

129 Your decrees are wonderful;

therefore I obey them with all my heart.

130 When your word goes forth it gives light;

it gives understanding to the simple.

131 I open my mouth and pant;

I long for your commandments.

132 Turn to me in mercy,

as you always do to those who love your Name.

133 Steady my footsteps in your word;

let no iniquity have dominion over me.

134 Rescue me from those who oppress me,

and I will keep your commandments.

135 Let your countenance shine upon your servant

and teach me your statutes.

136 My eyes shed streams of tears,

because people do not keep your law.

SECOND READING

Romans 8:26-39 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all day long;

we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 13:31-33, 44-52 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus put before the crowds another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that someone took and sowed in his field; it is the smallest of all the seeds, but when it has grown it is the greatest of shrubs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

He told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like yeast that a woman took and mixed in with three measures of flour until all of it was leavened.”

“The kingdom of heaven is like treasure hidden in a field, which someone found and hid; then in his joy he goes and sells all that he has and buys that field.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he went and sold all that he had and bought it.

“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was thrown into the sea and caught fish of every kind; when it was full, they drew it ashore, sat down, and put the good into baskets but threw out the bad. So it will be at the end of the age. The angels will come out and separate the evil from the righteous and throw them into the furnace of fire, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

“Have you understood all this?” They answered, “Yes.” And he said to them, “Therefore every scribe who has been trained for the kingdom of heaven is like the master of a household who brings out of his treasure what is new and what is old.”

The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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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We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family.  And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.

–Romans 8:28-30 (New Revised Standard Version)

I consider myself a serious student of the Bible–a student, not a teacher or scholar.  There is always something more for me to learn, and what I do know about about the Bible outweighs my accumulated learning concerning it.  So I have no problem admitting freely that there are certain passages and verses I have not really read for years.  I have read the words, but I have moved along.

Romans 8:28-30 is one such passage.  Yes, I knew 8:28, but focused on that, not 8:29-30.  I began to focus on this passage in late 2008.  My methodology was quite Episcopalian; I examined the scriptures carefully, read what Christian theologians have made of these verses, and employed my reason in pondering all this information.  The preponderance of scripture, tradition, and reason has convinced me to be become and remain a Single Predestinarian:  God has predestined some people to Heaven, but nobody to Hell.  The witness of the Holy Spirit and the missions efforts of the Church are available to invite all others into the path leading to eternal life in this life and the next.

Being raised United Methodist, I imbibed deeply of free will and the rejection of any form of predestination.  The Methodist concept of salvation available to all according to all, with only the free will choice to reject it standing in the way, is a democratic theology consistent with the American ethos.  It is a powerful idea which has affected U.S. history and culture, helping to liberate women and slaves spiritually while negating social hierarchies.  Despite these positive contributions, it is a flawed idea.

Calvinism, in any form, is a textured and subtle theological system, one which does not lend itself to bumper sticker statements. This confusion is mildly amusing when it becomes the fodder for jokes, but does not aid in spiritual contemplation.

The good news is that the wisdom that Solomon sought is available to all by grace, either in the form of predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit; that the extremely valuable Kingdom of God is within the grasp of all, either in the form of predestination or the witness of the Holy Spirit.  The mustard seed grows into a giant shrub that goes where it will.  Yeast, traditionally associated with corruption in Judaism, becomes a symbol of extravagant grace.  The pearls are extremely valuable; the pursuit of them indicates single-minded devotion.  The parable of the fish in the net is akin to that of the mustard seed, for both contain the good and the bad, the pure and the impure; God will sort out everything at the end.

The mustard plant provides shelter for many varieties of animal life.  Some of the neighbors do not get along, but there they are, together.  And Jesus says this is a metaphor for the Kingdom of God.  The net collects the good fish along with the rotten ones.  Who is a good fish?  Who is a rotten one?  Do you not get along with your neighbor species in the mustard bush?  Leaving decisions as to who is pure and who is impure, who is good and who is rotten, to God is the better part of wisdom.  We might even be confused about our proper classification.

Fortunately, grace is present, in one form or another, and there is hope for us yet.

KRT

Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on January 11, 2011

Posted May 8, 2011 by neatnik2009 in July 26, Revised Common Lectionary Year A

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