Archive for the ‘Proper 14’ Tag

Proper 14, Year C   Leave a comment

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Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964

Photograph by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegraph and Sun

Image Source = Library of Congress

Active, Abrahamic Faith

The Sunday Closest to August 10

Ninth Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 11, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24

or 

Genesis 15:1-6 and Psalm 33:12-22

then 

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Luke 12:32-40

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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Some Related Posts:

Proper 14, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/proper-14-year-a/

Proper 14, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/proper-14-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Isaiah 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-27-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twelfth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/week-of-proper-10-monday-year-2/

Genesis 15:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/devotion-for-the-tenth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/second-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/week-of-proper-7-wednesday-year-1/

Hebrews 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/independence-day-u-s-a-july-4/

Luke 12:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-second-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/week-of-proper-24-tuesday-year-1/

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We human beings use the same word in different ways, with a variety of meanings.  Consider, O reader, the word “day,” for example.  People say,

In my day…

and

Back in the day…,

as well as

There is a new day coming.

Or “day” might apply literally, as in when today separates yesterday from tomorrow.

The same principle applies to “faith” in the New Testament.  The Apostle Paul, in Romans, used it to mean something inherently active, which leads to works.  A Pauline formula is that as a person thinks, so he or she is.  The Letter of James contains a different definition, that of intellectual assent to a proposition or set of propositions.  So, according to that definition, faith without works is dead.  Both epistles agree on the imperative of active faith, so one need not imagine a discrepancy between their conclusions.

And there is the definition of faith from Hebrews 11:1-3:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is was made from things that are not visible.

New Revised Standard Version

In other words, faith applies in circumstances in which one can neither prove nor disprove a proposition according to scientific methods or documentary evidence.  That is an anachronistic definition, I know, but it works well.  Science can tell us much; I respect it and reject all anti-scientific sentiments and statements.  God gave us brains; may we use them as fully and critically as possible.  And documents form the basis of the study of history as I practice it.  Objective historical accuracy and the best scientific data available ought to override dogma, superstition, and bad theology.  So, no matter what the Gospels say, demon possession does not cause epilepsy, for example.  Yet there does exist truth which these twin standards of modernism (as opposed to postmodernism) cannot measure.  Such truth is good theology, which one can grasp by faith.

We read in Hebrews of the faithful example of Abram/Abraham (and by implication, of Sarai/Sarah), which harkens back to Genesis.  Theirs is a fantastical story, one which challenges understandings of biology.  But that is not the point.  The point is that God does unexpected things, and that the people of God should accept this reality.  And whether a certain unexpected thing is good news or bad news depends upon one’s spiritual state, as in Luke 12.

The reading from Isaiah 1 caught and held my attention most of all.  I, as an observant Episcopalian, am an unrepentant ritualist.  The text does not condemn ritualism itself.  No, the text damns insincere ritualism mixed with the neglect of vulnerable members of society:

Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil things

Away from my sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

–Isaiah 1:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Do it 0r else, the text says.  This is a call t0 society; Enlightenment notions of individualism do not apply here.  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, called for

…a true revolution of values

from a society focused on things to one which places the priority on people.  In the same speech, the one in which he opposed the Vietnam War without equivocation, he said:

A nation that continues to spend year after year more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.  (Edited by James M. Washington, 1986), page 241

The Prophet Isaiah would  have agreed.

Eternal God, heavenly Father,

you have graciously accepted us as living members

of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,

and you have fed us with spiritual food

in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.

Send us now into the world in peace,

and grant us strength and courage

to love and serve you

with gladness and singleness of heart;

through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 365

Do we have the Abrahamic faith to do that?  And how much better will our societies be for all their members if we do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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Proper 14, Year B   Leave a comment

Above:  Statue of Reconciliation, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry, England, United Kingdom

Image Source = Rebecca Kennison

Love, Not Theocracy

The Sunday Closest to August 10

Eleventh Sunday After Pentecost

AUGUST 12, 2018

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

2 Samuel 18:9-15, 24-19:3 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And Absalom chanced to meet the servants of David.  Absalom was riding his mule, and the mule went under the thick branches of a great oak, and he was left hanging between heaven and earth, while the mule that was under him went on.  And a certain man saw it, and told Joab,

Behold, I saw Absalom hanging in an oak.

Joab said to the man who told him,

What, you saw him!  Why then did you not strike him there to the ground?  I would have been glad to give you ten pieces of silver and a belt.

But the man said to Joab,

Even if I felt in my hand the weight of a thousand pieces of silver, I would not put forth my hand against the king’s son; for in our hearing the king commanded you and Abishai and Ittai, “For my sake protect the young man Absalom.”  On the other hand, if I had dealt treacherously against his life (and there is nothing hidden from the king), then you yourself would have stood aloof.

Joab said,

I will not waste time like this with you.

And he took three darts in his hand, and thrust them into the heart of Absalom, while he was still alive in the oak.  And ten young men, Joab’s armor-bearers, surrounded Absalom and struck him and killed him.

(Joab orders Ahimaaz not to tell David what has happened.  Then Joab sends a Cushite to update David and decides after all to let Ahimaaz run after the Cushite.  Ahimaaz then passes the Cushite.)

Now David was sitting between the two gates; and the watchman went up to the roof of the gate by the wall, and when he lifted up his eyes and looked, he saw a man running alone.  And the watchman called out and told the king.  And the king said,

If he is alone, there are tidings in his mouth.

And he came apace, and drew near.  And the watchman saw another man running; and the watchman called to the gate and said,

See, another man running alone!

The king said,

He also brings tidings.

And the watchman said,

I think the running of the foremost is like the running of Ahimaaz the son of Zadok.

And the king said,

He is a good man, and comes with good tidings.

Then Ahimaaz cried out out to the king,

All is well.

And he bowed before the king with his face to the earth, and said,

Blessed be the LORD your God, who has delivered up the men who raised their hand against my lord the king.

And the king said,

Is it well with the young man Absalom?

Ahimaaz answered,

When Joab sent your servant I saw a great tumult, but I do not know what it was.

And the king said,

Turn aside, and stand here.

So he turned aside, and stood still.

And behold, the Cushite came; and the Cushite said,

Good tidings for my lord the king!  For the LORD has delivered you this day from the power of all who rose up against you.

The king said to the Cushite,

Is it well with the young man Absalom?

And the Cushite answered,

May the enemies of my lord the king, and all who rise up against you for evil, be like that young man.

And the king was deeply moved, and went up to the chamber over the gate, and wept; and as he went, he said,

O my son Absalom, my son, my son Absalom!  Would I had died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!”

It was told Joab,

Behold, the king is weeping and mourning for Absalom.

So the victory that day was turned into mourning for all the people; for the people heard that day,

The king is grieving for his son.

And the people stole into the city that day as people steal in who are ashamed when they flee in battle.

Psalm 130 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;

LORD, hear my voice;

let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2  If you , LORD, were to note what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

3  For there is forgiveness with you;

therefore you shall be feared.

4  I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him;

in his word is my hope.

5  My soul waits for the LORD,

more than watchmen in the morning,

more than watchmen in the morning.

6  O Israel, wait for the LORD,

for with the LORD there is mercy;

7  With him there is plenteous redemption,

and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

1 Kings 19:4-8 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[Elijah] himself went a day’s journey into the wilderness.  He came to a broom bush and sat down under it, and prayed that he might die.

Enough!

he cried.

Now, O LORD, take my life, for I am no better than my fathers.

He lay down and fell asleep under a broom bush.  Suddenly an angel touched him and said to him,

Arise and eat.

He looked about; and there, beside his head, was a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water!  He ate and drank, and lay down again.  The angel of the LORD came a second time and touched him and said,

Arise and eat, or the journey will be too much for you.

He arose and ate and drank; and with the strength from that meal he walked forty days and forty nights as far as the mountain of God at Horeb.

Psalm 34:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I will bless the LORD at all times;

his praise shall ever be in my mouth.

2 I will glory in the LORD;

let the humble hear and rejoice.

3 Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;

let us exult his Name together.

4 I sought the LORD, and he answered me

and delivered me out of all my terror.

5 Look upon him and be radiant,

and let not your faces be ashamed.

6 I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me

and saved me from all my troubles.

The angel of the LORD encompasses those who fear him,

and he will deliver them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good;

happy are they who trust in him.

SECOND READING

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 (New Revised Standard Version):

Putting away falsehood, let all of us speak the truth to our neighbors, for we are members of one another. Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and do not make room for the devil. Thieves must give up stealing; rather let them labor and work honestly with their own hands, so as to have something to share with the needy. Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption. Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you. Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.

GOSPEL READING

John 6:35, 41-51 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to the people,

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

Then the Jews began to complain about him because he said,

I am the bread that came down from heaven.

They were saying,

“Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, “I have come down from heaven”?

Jesus answered them,

Do not complain among yourselves. No one can come to me unless drawn by the Father who sent me; and I will raise that person up on the last day. It is written in the prophets, “And they shall all be taught by God.” Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that anyone has seen the Father except the one who is from God; he has seen the Father. Very truly, I tell you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

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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Some Related Posts:

Proper 14, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/proper-14-year-a/

Proper 14, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/proper-14-year-b/

2 Samuel 18 and 19:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/14/week-of-4-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

John 6:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/eighteenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/nineteenth-day-of-easter/

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The reading from Ephesians deserves much more attention from many people.

Two strains coexist in the politics of my nations, the United States of America.  One is talk of religion, often the sort bearing the stamp of theocracy or longings thereof.  This comes mixed frequently with Nativism, reactionary tendencies, Social Darwinism, and, quite frankly, homophobia, racism, and other forms of bigotry.  The other strain is anger oblivious to objective definitions.  So “Socialism” has taken on meanings far beyond anything the Socialist Party recognizes, and there are people who condemn the very government programs upon which they depend and who do know that these programs are creatures of the government.  Hence some want to keep the federal government out of their Social Security or Medicare or Medicaid.  These individuals are mad, not rational.  These two strains go hand-in-hand.

Yet we read in Ephesians that we ought not entertain resentment or anger.  As 5:1-2 (J. B. Phillips, 1972) reads:

So you then should try to become like God, for you are his children and he loves you.  Live your lives in love–the same sort of love which Christ gave us and which he perfectly expressed when he gave himself up for us….

Theocracy relies on on coercion, not voluntary action.  Thus theocracy is inconsistent with Christian love.  May we love one another, encouraging–not coercing–one another toward deeper righteousness.

Here ends the lesson.

KRT

Published originally in a nearly identical form at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 3, 2011

Posted October 3, 2011 by neatnik2009 in August 12, Revised Common Lectionary Year B

Tagged with

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

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