Archive for the ‘Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany’ Tag

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C   Leave a comment

Above:  An Oasis in the Sahara Desert

Image Source = Library of Congress

Trusting in God

FEBRUARY 17, 2019

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Jeremiah 17:5-11 (Revised English Bible):

These are words of the LORD:

A curse on anyone who trusts in mortals and leans for support on human kind,

while his heart is far from the LORD!

He will be like a juniper in the steppeland;

when good comes he is unaware of it.

He will live among the rocks in the wilderness, in a salt, uninhabited land.

Blessed is anyone who trusts in the LORD, and rests his confidence on him.

He will be like a tree planted by the waterside,

that sends out its roots along a stream.

When the heat comes it has nothing to fear;

its foliage stays green.

Without care in a year of drought,

it does not fail to bear fruit.

The heart is deceitful above any other thing, desperately sick;

who can fathom it?

I, the LORD, search the mind and test the heart,

requiting each one for his conduct and as his deeds deserve.

Like a partridge sitting on a clutch of eggs which it has not laid,

so is he who amasses wealth unjustly.

Before his days are half done it will leave him, and he will be a fool at the last.

Psalm 1 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is the one who does not take the counsel of the wicked for a guide,

or follow the path that sinners tread, or take his seat in the company of scoffers.

His delight is in the law of the LORD; it is his meditation day and night.

He is like a tree planted beside water channels;

it yields its fruit in season and its foliage never fades.

So he too prospers in all he does.

The wicked are not like this; rather they are like chaff driven by the wind.

When judgment comes, therefore, they will not stand firm,

nor will sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

The LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked is doomed.

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Now if Christ raised from the dead is what has been preached, how can some of you be saying that there is no resurrection of the dead?  If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ himself cannot have been raised, and if Christ has not been raised then our preaching is useless and your believing it is useless;  indeed, we are shown up as witnesses who have committed perjury before God, because we swore in evidence before God that he had raised Christ to life.  For if the dead are not raised, Christ has not been raised, and if Christ has not been raised, you are still in your sins.  And what is more serious, all who have died in Christ have perished.  If our hope in Christ has been for this life only, we are the most unfortunate of all people.

But Christ has in fact been raised from the dead, the first-fruits of all who have fallen asleep.

Luke 6:17-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] then came down with them and stopped at a piece of level ground where there was a large gathering of his disciples with a great crowd of people from all parts of Judaea and from Jerusalem and from the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon who had come to hear him and to be cured of their diseases.  People tormented by unclean spirits were also cured, and everyone in the crowd was trying to touch him because power came out of him that cured them all.

Then fixing his eyes on his disciples he [Jesus] said:

How happy are you who are poor; yours is the kingdom of God.

Happy are you who are hungry now; you shall be satisfied.

Happy are you who weep now; you shall laugh.

Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

But alas for you who are rich; you are having your consolation now.

Alas for you who have your fill now; you shall go hungry.

Alas for you who laugh now; you shall mourn and weep.

Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.

The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; 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:

Prayer of  Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/we-fail-to-correct-injustice-prayer-of-confession-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-epiphan/

Prayer of  Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-epiphany/

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The theme of trusting in God unites the readings.

When one is reviled and persecuted for the sake of righteousness, what does one have?  God.  When one is poor, hungry, and sorrowful, what does one have?  God.  In particular, in reference to 1 Corinthians 15:12-20, one has the Resurrected Christ, without whom we Christians

are of all people most to be pitied.  (19b, New Revised Standard Version)

Self-reliance will not suffice, for the wealthy, full, and laughing ones, plus those held in esteem all receive woes in our Lord’s Sermon on the Plain.

That is a profoundly counter-cultural message.  Woe to the respected, wealthy, full, and laughing?  Let me count the seconds before a Republican pundit or politician cries “class warfare!”  (I am flying my liberal flag.)  But reliance on God is the key, and such reliance contradicts conventions about self-made men and women.  All that we have comes from God.  All tat we can be is due to God.  Our stewardship of those resources is a great spiritual matter.

Trusting in God can be difficult; I know.  It is still hard for me much of the time.  On the other hand, it has become easier.  But it is all that I have, really.  Everything else is transitory, but God is everlasting.  Everything else is a collection of means to various ends, hopefully positive ones.  Yet God is the greatest end.  In that mystery called God I find my destiny, whatever that will entail.  May you, O reader, find your destiny there also, whatever that will entail.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HERMENEGILD, VISIGOTHIC PRINCE AND ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF ROUEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, ABBOT, AND MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF MIKAEL AGRICOLA, FINNISH LUTHERAN BISHOP OF TALLINN

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Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B   Leave a comment

Above:  Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman, by Pieter Fransz de Grebber

Of Skin Conditions, Stigma, Healing, and Humility

NOT OBSERVED IN 2015

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2 Kings 5:1-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was a great man and in high favor with his master, because by him the LORD had given victory to Aram.  The man, though a mighty warrior, suffered from leprosy.  Now the Arameans on one of their raids had taken a young captive from the land of Israel, and she served Naaman’s wife.  She said to her,

If only my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria!  He would cure him of his leprosy.

So Naaman went in and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.  And the king of Aram said,

Go then, and I will sent along a letter to the king of Israel.

He went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten sets of garments.  He brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read,

When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you my servant Naaman, that you may cure him of his leprosy.

When the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said,

Am I God, to give death or life, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy?  Just look and see how he is trying to pick a quarrel with me.

But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent a message to the king,

Why have you torn your clothes?  Let him come to me, that he may learn that there is a prophet in Israel.

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots, and halted at the entrance of Elisha’s house.  Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying,

Go, wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.

But Naaman became angry and went away, saying,

I thought that for me he would surely come out, and stand and call on the name of the LORD his God, and would wave his hand over the spot, and cure the leprosy!  Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  Could I not wash in them, and be clean?

He turned and went away in a rage.  But his servants approached and said to him,

Father, if the prophet had commanded you to do something difficult, would you not have done it?  How much more, when all he said to you was, “Wash, and be clean”?

So he went down and immersed himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God; his flesh was restored like the flesh of a young boy, and he was clean.

Psalm 30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 I will exalt you, O LORD,

because you have lifted me up

and have not let my enemies triumph over me.

 O LORD my God, I cried out to you,

and you restored me to health.

 You brought me up, O LORD, from the dead;

you restored my life as I was going down to the grave.

 Sing to the LORD, you servants of his;

give thanks for the remembrance of his holiness.

 For his wrath endures but the twinkling of an eye,

his favor for a lifetime.

6 Weeping may spend the night,

but joy comes in the morning.

 While I felt secure, I said,

“I shall never be disturbed.

You,  LORD, with your favor, made me as strong as the mountains.”

 Then you hid my face,

and I was filled with terror.

 I cried to you, O LORD;

I pleaded with the LORD, saying,

10  “What profit is there in my blood, if I go down to the Pit?

will the dust praise you or declare your faithfulness?

11  Hear, O LORD, and have mercy upon me;

O LORD, be my helper.”

12  You have turned my wailing into dancing;

you have put off my sack-cloth and clothed me with joy.

13  Therefore my heart sings to you without ceasing;

O LORD my God, I will give you thanks for ever.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (New Revised Standard Version):

Do you not know that in a race the runners all compete, but only one receives the prize?  Run in such a way that you may win it.  Athletes exercise self-control in all things; they do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable one.  So I do not run aimlessly, nor do I box as though beating the air; but I punish my body and enslave it, so that after proclaiming to others I myself should not be disqualified.

Mark 1:40-45 (New Revised Standard Version):

A leper came Jesus begging him, and kneeling he said to him,

If you choose, you can make me clean.

Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him,

I do choose.  Be made clean!

Immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  After sternly warning him he sent him away at once, saying to him,

See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.

But he went out and began to proclaim it freely, and to spread the word, so that Jesus could not longer go into a town openly, but stayed out in the country; and the people came to him from every quarter.

The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; 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:

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Mark 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 8 (Parallel to Mark 1):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

Luke 5 (Parallel to Mark 1):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/sixth-day-of-epiphany/

2 Kings 5:

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

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Leprosy, in the Bible, is a broad term.  It refers to a variety of skin conditions in addition to Hansen’s Disease.  Aside from the physical signs, which could be difficult, there was stigma, which could be harder to handle.

Consider the case of Naaman, a successful military commander in the service of the King of Aram, an enemy of the King of Israel.  The author of 2 Kings 5 tells us that Naaman has won victories over the Israelite army with the help of God.  We also know that Naaman’s forces have kidnapped and enslaved at least one Israelite young woman, whom he has taken into his household as a servant.  We may also conclude that Naaman’s case of leprosy (whatever the modern diagnosis would be) was not severe, for he was still functional as a military commander.  Nevertheless, whatever Naaman had bothered him badly enough that he went to see Elisha.

The prophet Elisha did not stand on ceremony, much to Naaman’s disappointment and ire.  And, instead of staging an elaborate healing ritual, the prophet sent word by a messengerthat Naaman ought to bathe in the humble Jordan River seven times.  One can imagine Naaman thinking in Aramaic, “That’s it!?!”

Note the role of servants in the story.  An enslaved servant girl tell’s Naaman’s wife about Elisha.  Naaman, despite his exalted view of himself, is just a servant of his king, and his success is due entirely to God.  Elisha himself does not speak to Naaman at first, but sends a messenger.

Being proud and mighty does not count for much in 2 Kings 5, does it?

We have another story of a cured leper in Mark 1.  This time the man is anonymous.  All he did to get cured was to ask Jesus, who agreed graciously.  But why did our Lord order the man to stay quiet? Biblical scholars have detected the theme of the Messianic Secret in the Gospel of Mark.  Throughout that book God knows who Jesus is, as do Jesus as well as Satan and any evil spirit whom our Lord encounters.  That, however, was a small circle of the knowledgeable.  No, Jesus had work to do, and that work culminated, in Mark, with his crucifixion, at which point his Messianic identity became plain.  There is also the matter of being able to go from place to place without having encountering thronging crowds.  The leper did not obey our Lord’s injunction to stay quiet, so Jesus had to remain in the hinterlands for a little while, but the crowds came to him.  So much for Plan A!

Divine grace falls upon the already humble and the recently humbled, upon the Jew and the Gentile, upon esteemed and the anonymous.  It arrives via unexpected and seemingly unlikely avenues, and it makes demands upon us.  What happened to the leper Jesus healed in Mark 1?  Maybe he rejoined his family; that is the most likely answer.  But what further impact did the incident have on the man?  The text is silent on that point.  As for Naaman, he renounced his faith in Rimmon, his former deity, and followed Yahweh (verse 18).  As to what that entailed for Naaman, the text is silent.

How will grace come to you this day, the next day, the day after that, et cetera?  And what will it require of you?  Will you do it?

KRT

Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on June 23, 2012

Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A   Leave a comment

Above:  Moses (Russian Orthodox Icon)

Repeating the Commandment to Obey God

FEBRUARY 16, 2020

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Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 15:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

If you choose, you can keep the commandments,

to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.

He has placed before you fire and water;

stretch out your hand for whichever you choose.

Before each person are life and death,

and whichever one chooses will be given.

For great is the wisdom of the Lord;

he is mighty in power and sees everything;

his eyes are on those who fear him,

and he knows every human action.

He has not commanded anyone to be wicked,

and has not given anyone permission to sin.

OR

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses said to all Israel the words which the Lord commanded him,

See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, death and adversity. If you obey the commandments of the LORD your God that I am commanding you today, by loving the LORD your God, walking in his ways, and observing his commandments, decrees, and ordinances, then you shall live and become numerous, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land that you are entering to possess. But if your heart turns away and you do not hear, but are led astray to bow down to other gods and serve them, I declare to you today that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess. I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the LORD swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.

THEN

Psalm 119:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

Happy are those whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD.

Happy are those who keep his decrees,

who seek him with their whole heart,

who also do no wrong,

but walk in his ways.

You have commanded your precepts

to be kept diligently.

O that my ways may be steadfast

in keeping your statutes!

Then I shall not be put to shame,

having my eyes fixed on all your commandments.

I will praise you with an upright heart,

when I learn your righteous ordinances.

I will observe your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

THEN

1 Corinthians 3:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? For when one says,

I belong to Paul,

and another,

I belong to Apollos,

are you not merely human?

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.

THEN

Matthew 5:21-37 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

You have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not murder”; and “whoever murders shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that if you are angry with a brother or sister, you will be liable to judgment; and if you insult a brother or sister, you will be liable to the council; and if you say, “You fool,” you will be liable to the hell of fire. So when you are offering your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother or sister has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother or sister, and then come and offer your gift. Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on the way to court with him, or your accuser may hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you will be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.

You have heard that it was said, “You shall not commit adultery.” But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.

It was also said, “Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.” But I say to you that anyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery.

Again, you have heard that it was said to those of ancient times, “You shall not swear falsely, but carry out the vows you have made to the Lord.” But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let your word be “Yes, Yes” or “No, No”; anything more than this comes from the evil one.

The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; 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 readings for the Sixth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A, continue a thread running though those for the Fourth and Fifth Sundays.  Repetition has certain advantages, such as emphasizing the importance of a topic.  Also, some people do not pay attention easily, and this practice increases the possibility of reaching them.

Everything I have written with regard to the previous two Sundays applies here.  With that out of the way, I provide other remarks.

The laws of God, as recorded in the Bible, come with two elements:  the letter and the spirit.  The letter of the law depends on the time, place, and cultural conditions of the time the law originated.  Thus the letter of the law can become irrelevant.  Consider the Law of Moses.  When was the last time any of you removed the blended garments from your closet? (Leviticus 19:19)

The spirit of the law, however, animates the letter thereof.  What was the reason for the admonition against wearing blends?  It related to the principle of keeping unlike things separate, of being holy.  Think of this as kosher clothing.  Sometimes the spirit of the law remains.  I do not keep kosher, in food or clothing, because I am Christian.  I make no such distinctions; all things are ritually clean for me.

Some of the commandments Jesus mentioned and handed down depended on culture, also.  Yet their spirit transcends their letter.  We humans have received mandates not to objectify or exploit each other, and not to seek creative ways to skirt timeless spirits of the law while seeming to live by the letter thereof.  In making these points, the text from Matthew engages in hyperbole, for eyes and limbs do not cause sin.  Jesus did not advocate self-mutilation, although history says that Origen (c.185-c.254), the influential theologian probably took the text literally and castrated himself.  If this story is true Origen missed the point; he should have contented himself with turning away from sin.  A cold bath or shower would have been a better idea than the option he chose.

May we love one another actively.  This principle summarizes righteousness in a social context.

KRT