Archive for the ‘Jonah, Book of’ Category

The Love of God for Everyone   1 comment

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Above:  The Prophets Jeremiah, Jonah, Isaiah, and Habakkuk, by John Singer Sargent

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/det/item/det1994002776/pp/)

Reproduction Number = LC-D416-497

Copyright Claimant = Detroit Publishing Company

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The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,

the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt,

may we, who have not seen,

have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 6:36-40 (9th Day)

Jonah 1:1-17 (10th Day)

Jonah 2:1-10 (11th Day)

Psalm 114 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 (9th Day)

1 Corinthians 15:19-28 (10th Day)

Matthew 12:38-42 (11th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Judges 6:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-10-and-11-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Jonah:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-1/

1 Corinthians 15:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/proper-1-year-c/

Matthew 12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/week-of-proper-11-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/week-of-proper-11-monday-year-2/

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

at the presence of the God of Jacob,

who turned the hard rock into a pool of water

and flint-stone into a flowing spring.

–Psalm 114:7-8, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The Book of Jonah is a satire of and a protest against narrow, exclusivist excesses of Post-Exilic Judaism.  Many people recognized that rampant societal sinfulness had led to national ruin, thus certain individuals overcorrected by becoming too narrow and legalistic.  The Book of Jonah, a scathing criticism of that mentality, teaches that God cares for everyone, including traditional enemies of the Hebrew people.

The message of divine forgiveness and human repentance is for all people, not that everyone will respond affirmatively.  But it is the gateway to eternal life for all who respond favorably and remain faithful to God, who keeps promises.  And, just as God helped Gideon to defend the people and, in the story, made Jonah the means of grace (despite himself) to the people of Nineveh, Jesus (via the Resurrection) is the means by which we have a Christian faith that is not in vain.  And we are not supposed to “sit on” this message.  No, we have a missionary mandate and instructions to help people deepen the Christian faith they have already.  We might not like many of the people to whom God sends us, but God cares deeply about them too.  May we, therefore, have a positive attitude about them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/devotion-for-the-ninth-tenth-and-eleventh-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Boundaries, Inclusion, and Exclusion   1 comment

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Above:  Tomb of Jonah, Nineveh, Between 1950 and 1977

Image Creator = Matson Photo Service

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2010000417/PP/)

Reproduction Number = LC-M305- SL16-4828

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The Collect:

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us,

and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises.

Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Jonah 3:1-10 (2nd Day)

Jonah 4:1-11 (3rd Day)

Psalm 51 (Both Days)

Romans 1:1-7 (2nd Day)

Romans 1:8-17 (3rd Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Jonah 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

Jonah 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/week-of-proper-22-wednesday-year-1/

Romans 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/devotion-for-january-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Give me again the joy of your salvation

and sustain me with your gracious spirit;

Then I shall teach your ways to the wicked

and sinners shall return to you.

–Psalm 51:13-14, Common Worship (2000)

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Boundaries play crucial roles in human societies and social systems.  Who is domestic and who is foreign?  Who is godly and who is ungodly?  Who is saved and who is damned?  Such questions obsess many people and are frequently important.  Yet, I suspect, they are not as vital as many people think.  And, I also suspect, they are more important than other people believe.

My generally liberal tendencies lead me to seek to include people more often than I exclude them.  Yet I affirm that some boundaries exist for good reasons.  Thus I acknowledge the validity of theological definitions.  All of us are heretics to varying degrees; some of us are more orthodox than not.  It is vital that all of us affirm certain theological boundaries or lose cohesiveness in our church bodies.  If we lose this cohesiveness we might as well become Unitarian Universalists, affirming a range of theological systems from Buddhisms to Humanism.

The character of Jonah, a satiric figure representing the worst elements of post-Exilic Judaism, was overly attached to the idea of Nineveh as an enemy.  His idol was the unwillingness to see a foe cross cross from one side of the godly-ungodly line to the other or to facilitate that process.  But would it really have been bad for such a thing to occur in real life?

Who is in?  Who is out?  These questions mater so much for s many of us because of the tendency to identify oneself in opposition to another or others.  Thus the prospect of an enemy becoming an ally or a notoriously sinful person repenting might terrify one.  It should not do this, but it does under some circumstances.  No, we ought to rejoice in these cases.  It is good to have an ally, not an enemy, is it not?  And for one to repent and turn toward God is certainly wonderful.

St. Paul the Apostle created great controversy by welcoming Gentiles into what was still a small Jewish sect without insisting that they become Jews.  Thus he did more than blur the line separating Jews from Gentiles; he announced that Jesus had erased it.  This theology created much discomfort for a large number of observant Jews steeped in a certain understanding of their identity.

The proper standard by which to measure our boundaries, St. Paul said, is Jesus.  He was correct.  So, with that standard in mind, I wonder how well many contemporary boundaries fare.  Whatever we do, may we never exclude those whom God includes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF HERBERT F. BROKERING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT LIEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIBRORD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/devotion-for-the-second-and-third-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace That Violates Conventions   1 comment

Above:  Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, by Johannes Vermeer

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Jonah 3:1-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:

Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it what I tell you.

Jonah went at once to Nineveh in accordance with the LORD’s command.

Nineveh was an enormously large city a three days’ walk across.  Jonah started out  and made his way into the city the distance of one day’s walk, and proclaimed:

Forty days more, and Nineveh will be overthrown!

The people of Nineveh believed God.  They proclaimed a fast, and great and small alike put on sackcloth.  When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  And he had the word cried through Nineveh:

By decree of the king, and his nobles:  No man or beast–of flock and heard–shall taste anything!  They shall not graze, and they shall not drink water!  They shall be covered with sackcloth–man and beast–and shall cry mightily to God.  Let everyone turn back from his evil ways and from the injustice of which he is guilty.  Who knows but that God may turn and relent?  He may turn back from His wrath, so that we do not perish.

God saw what they did, how they were turning back from their evil ways.  And God renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon them, and did not carry it out.

Psalm 6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger,

do not punish me in your wrath.

2  Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak;

heal me, LORD, for my bones are racked.

3  My spirit shakes with terror;

how long, O LORD, how long?

4  Turn, O LORD, and deliver me;

save me for your mercy’s sake?

5  For in death no one remembers you;

and who will give you thanks in the grave?

6  I grow weary because of my groaning;

every night I drench my bed

and flood my couch with tears.

7  My eyes are wasted with grief

and worn away because of all my enemies.

8  Depart from me, all evildoers,

for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.

9  The LORD has heard my supplication;

the LORD accepts my prayer.

10  All my enemies shall be confounded and quake with fear;

they shall turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Luke 10:38-42 (The Jerusalem Bible):

In the course of their journey he came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking.  Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said,

Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself?  Please tell her to help me.

But the Lord answered:

Martha, Martha,

he said,

you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one.  It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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A Related Post:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-sts-mary-and-martha-of-bethany-friends-of-jesus-july-29/

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It is imperative to remember that Jesus, in Luke 10:38-42, was on his way to Jerusalem and the events of Holy Week.  So there he is, visiting friends in Bethany.  Martha was the responsible older sister tending to household chores, such as meal production.  This was a function of hospitality, a great social value in that society.  May we be slow to condemn her, then, for she meant well.

It is conceivable that Jesus did not tell everyone he knew all that was on his mind at any given moment.  Martha, in any case, did not know what was about to happen to her friend Jesus.  She probably wanted to offer the best meal possible for him.  And Mary, her younger sister, was not helping.  Instead, Mary was listening to Jesus, much as a male disciple would.  She had chosen the better part, the longer-lasting part.

Mary of Bethany, a woman, received a grace her society usually extended to men, and Jesus approved of her course of action.  God had Jonah pronounce judgment on Nineveh in Jonah 3 then witnessed widespread repentance and relented.  Women act like men and God forgives repentant Gentile hostiles.  There is nothing like grace to overturn the apple cart.

How do we respond or react when we witness and become aware of these unexpected movements of grace?  May we not begrudge grace.  Rather, may we embrace and welcome it.  May we not worry and fret about matters of lesser importance, either.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE EARLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH WARRILOW, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-1/

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Who Is My Neighbor? Who Is Your Neighbor?   1 comment

Above:  Gustave Dore’s engraving of Jonah at the end Chapter 2

(The Dore engravings are in the public domain.)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Jonah 1:1-2:1, 11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The Word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai:

Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim judgment upon it; for their Wickedness has come before Me.

Jonah, however, started out to flee to Tarshish from the LORD’s service.  He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish.  He paid the fare and went aboard to sail with the others to Tarshish, away from the service of the LORD.

But the LORD cast a mighty wind upon the sea, and such a great tempest came upon the sea that the ship was in danger of breaking up.  In their fright, the sailors cried out, each to his own god; and they flung the ship’s cargo overboard to make it lighter for them.  Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the vessel where he lay down and fell asleep.

How can you be sleeping so soundly!  Up, call upon your god!  Perhaps the god will be kind to us and we will not perish.

The men said to one another,

Let us cast lots and find out on whose account this misfortune has come upon us.

They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.  They said to him,

Tell us, you who have brought this misfortune upon us, what is your business? Where have you come from?  What is your country, and of what people are you?

He replied,

I am a Hebrew.  I worship the LORD, the God of Heaven, who made both sea and land.

The men were greatly terrified, and they asked him,

What have you done?

And when the men learned that that he was fleeing from the service of the LORD–for so he told them–they said to him,

What must we do to make the sea calm around us?

For the sea was growing more and more stormy.  He answered,

Heave me overboard, and the sea will calm down for you; for I know that this terrible storm came upon you on my account.

Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to regain the shore, but could not, for the sea was growing more and more stormy about them.  Then they cried out to the LORD:

Oh, please, LORD, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life.  Do not hold us guilty of killing an innocent person!  For You, O LORD, by Your will, have brought this about.

And they heaved Jonah overboard, and the sea stopped raging.

The men feared the LORD greatly; they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and they made vows.

The LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah; and Jonah remained in the fish’s belly three days and three nights.

The LORD commanded the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon dry land.

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.

Luke 10:25-37 (The Jerusalem Bible):

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert him [Jesus], stood up and said to him,

Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

He said to him,

What is written in the Law”  What do you read there?

He replied,

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus said,

You have answered right; do this and life is yours.

Old Jerusalem-Jericho Road

Image Source = he.wiki

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:OldRoadFromJerusalemToJericho.jpg)

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus,

And who is my neighbor?

Jesus replied,

A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead.  Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side.

Rembrandt Van Rijn’s Painting of the Good Samaritan

(Also in the Public Domain)

But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him.  He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them.  He then lifted him on to his mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him.  Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper.  ”Look after him,” he said, “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.”

Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?

He replied,

The one who took pity on him.

Jesus said to him,

Go, and do the same yourself.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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I learn from Newtonian physics that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  This rule explains much of history, as well.  Thus it came to pass that, in the Persian period of Judean history, a measure of exclusivism and hyper-legalism characterized much of Palestinian Judaism.  This was the opposite of pre-Exilic laxity.

The Book of Jonah, a work of religious fiction, contains much truth.  It is a satire on Persian period exclusivism and hyper-legalism.  On its face it is set in when there were still two Jewish kingdoms and an Assyrian Empire.  God tells Jonah to pronounce judgment on Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire.  As the narrative progresses we learn that the judgment leads to repentance then God relenting, but let us return to Chapter 1.  Jonah does not want to travel to Nineveh and pronounce judgment, so he attempts unsuccessfully to flee from God and the mission God has for him.

I will return to the story of Jonah in Chapters 1 and 2 after I deal with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Jeusalem-Jericho road in Jesus’ day was a dangerous, meandering road over terrain which dropped greatly in elevation relative to sea level (from 2,300 feet above sea level to 1,300 feet below that standard) in less than twenty miles.  Thus it provided many natural hiding places for robbers to hide.  Sometimes a thief played dead while his fellow brigands waited for a kind-hearted person to stop.  So the safest way to travel this road was as part of a group.  Many commentators have remarked about how foolish the man was to travel this road alone.  Yet, if he was a fool, the same criticism ought to apply to the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan traveler, too.

Then, of course, there were the religious-ceremonial concerns.  The priest would be unclean for a week if he touched a corpse.  Was the man dead?  The priest was not sure, but he did not take the risk.  The Levite would have been impure, too.  How could he do his job while ritually unclean?

Yet a Samaritan–a somewhat successful one at that–who knew a certain innkeeper helped the man.  A Samaritan, a member of a despised group, acted out of compassion and placed himself at risk for someone he did not know.  He acted as a neighbor.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said in his final speech that the priest and Levite were too afraid to help the man.  (A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings of Martin Luther, King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington, 1986, pages 284-285)  He was correct in this analysis.  They were afraid of criminals, justifiably.  (Yet why were they traveling alone?  Am I overanalyzing this parable?)  They also feared the inability to fulfill the Temple functions to which they had devoted their lives.  But what about the man’s life?

Jesus, by making his hero a Samaritan, scandalized many listeners.  Samaritans were heretics and half-breeds.  Many orthodox Palestinian Jews of our Lord’s time despised Samaritans en masse.  So, to grasp the full flavor of the parable, replace the word “Samaritan” with something else.  Many Europeans harbor prejudices against Gypsies, so imagine the Parable of the Good Gypsy.  It is popular in many U.S. political circles to despise immigrants (especially illegal ones) and people of obviously foreign extraction.  So imagine the Parable of the Good Hispanic, the Good Latino, or the Good Illegal Immigrant.  Islamophobia is on the rise in West, so imagine the Parable of the Good Muslim.  During World War II in the United States the Parable of the Good Japanese-American would have angered many people.  My point is this:  Every person, including one who belongs to a despised group, is my neighbor–and yours, too.  Jesus says to act like a good neighbor.

What did Jonah fear?  Perhaps he feared the loss of identity.  Assyria was a great and feared foe of the Kingdom of Israel.  Imagine a twentieth-century retelling of the Book of Jonah.  God tells Jonah, an American, to travel to Moscow, capital city of the Soviet Union, to pronounce judgment and grant the Soviets a chance to avoid divine retribution.  Would not some professing American Christians, including Jonah, have said, “Let them burn”?

Who are we without our enemies?  How do we understand ourselves in the absence of the others, those who are unlike us?  Are we still good guys when the bad guys repent?  This delicate politics of identity plays a part in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, too.  Yet Jesus offers a new identity:  neighbor.  May we embrace it.  And, when Jesus makes us uncomfortable, may we embrace that discomfort, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-1/

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Scandalous Generosity   1 comment

Above:  Map of Ancient Nineveh

Image Source = Fredarch

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nineveh_map_city_walls_%26_gates.JPG)

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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.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 29, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ERNEST TRICE THOMPSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

THE FEAST OF JOHN KEBLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JONAS AND BARACHISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

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Jonah   1 comment

Above:  Jonah

Image Source = Cbl62

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Jonah_Mosaic_at_St._Anne_Melkite_Greek_Catholic_Church,_North_Hollywood.JPG)

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Jonah 3:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,

Get up; go to Nineveh, the great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.

So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.  Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.  And he cried out,

Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!

And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on a sackcloth.

When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  Then he had a proclamation made in Nineveh:

By the decree of the king and his nobles: No human being or animal, no herd or flock, shall taste anything.  They shall not feed, nor shall they drink water.  Human beings and animals shall be covered with sackcloth, and they shall cry mightily to God.  All shall turn from their evil ways and from the violence that is in their hands.  Who knows?  God may relent and change his mind; he may turn from his fierce anger, so that we do not perish.

When God saw what they 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.

Psalm 51:10-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me.

Do not case me away from your presence, and do not take your holy spirit from me.

Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and sustain in me a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways, and sinners will return to you.

Deliver me from bloodshed, O God, O God of my salvation,

and my tongue will sing aloud of your deliverance.

O Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise.

For you have no delight in sacrifice;

if I were to give a burnt offering, you would not be pleased.

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit,

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Do good to Zion in your good pleasure; rebuild the walls of Jerusalem,

then you will delight in right sacrifices, in burnt offerings and whole burnt offerings;

then bulls will be offered on your altar.

Luke 11:29-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the crowds were increasing, he [Jesus] began to say,

This generation is an evil generation; it asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.  For just as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so the Son of Man will be to this generation.  The queen of the South will rise at the judgment with the people of this generation and condemn them, because she came from the ends of the earth to listen to the wisdom of Solomon, and see, something greater than Solomon is here! The people of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the proclamation of Jonah, and see, something greater than Jonah is here!

The Collect:

Bless us, O God, in this holy season, in which our hearts seek your help and healing; and so purify us by your discipline that we may grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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This is not sweet Jesus, Mr. Nice Messiah.  Jesus condemned the focus on the spectacular rather than on repentance.  He had come to draw people to God, and people demanded signs.  In Luke 9:51 he had turned his face toward Jerusalem, literally and figuratively.  Jesus was en route to his immediate destiny, was serious about it, and expected others to be serious, too.  He did not deal diplomatically with nonsense or abide fools easily.  If he seems harsh, consider the literary context.  The man had his excellent reasons.

In his rebuke of signs-seekers Jesus referenced the Queen of Sheba, who visited King Solomon, and the Book of Jonah, one of the great works of ancient satire.  The fictitious Jonah was a reluctant prophet who obeyed God only after disobeying him.  Jonah preached repentance to the vast city of Nineveh, to stave off divine judgment.  When he succeeded, Jonah was angry.  He did not understand that God is the lord of both judgment and mercy.

The Queen of Sheba and the residents of Nineveh were gentiles who responded favorably to God and God’s messengers.  In this respect they were unlike many of Jesus’ fellow Jews the third decade of the Common Era in Judea.  Many of the chosen people rejected Jesus, and it caused much frustration.

Unfortunately, much lingering resentment and misunderstanding between Christians and Jews feeds the sin of anti-Semitism.

The Jewish religious authorities of Jesus’ day were guardians of their traditions, which they considered sacred.  Jesus challenged them, and they responded (generally) defensively, as one might expect, given human nature.  Today institutionalized Christianity comes with its schools of traditions of varying ages and degrees of complexity.  And what if we are gravely mistaken, just as those attached to the Second Temple were?  Can we bear the thought?  Will we continue to wed ourselves to outmoded traditions rather than seek to emulate Jesus?

Consider another hypothetical scenario.  What if we Christians, generally speaking, possess an unduly narrow vision of divine mercy?  We benefit from this mercy; do we recognize how far it extends?  Do we condemn other friends of God we do not know are friends of God?  Do we fail to recognize potential friends of God who need merely to repent?  Do we write people off when we should see them as God sees them?  Do we not see what people can become?  My model here is Jesus, who recognized great potential in his Apostles, eleven of whom overcame their weaknesses in time to become great leaders of early Christianity.  In the Gospels the Apostles are mostly obtuse and occasionally petty.  Yet witness what they became.

I offer these thoughts for prayerful reflection.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 21, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF STEVE DE GRUCHY, SOUTH AFRICAN CONGREGATIONALIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ARNULF OF METZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, AND SAINT GERMANUS OF GRANFEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ETHELBERT OF KENT, KING 

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT SOUTHWELL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Posted February 7, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Jonah, Book of, Luke 03--Chapters 9-12

Tagged with , , ,

Putting the Saddlebags of Jesus, Not the Donkey   1 comment

Above:  Donkeys

Image Source = Mates II

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Esel_auf_Ydra.jpg)

Putting the Saddlebags on Jesus, Not the Donkey

JANUARY 22, 2012

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Jonah 3:1-5, 10 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,

Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.

So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.  Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk.  And he cried out,

Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!

And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

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

Psalm 62:6-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7 He alone in my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

10  Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath,

even those of low estate cannot be trusted.

11  On the scales they are lighter than a breath,

all of them together.

12  Put no trust in extortion;

in robbery take no empty pride;

though wealth increases, set not your heart upon it.

13  God has spoken once, twice have I heard it,

that power belongs to God.

14  Steadfast love is yours, O Lord,

for you repay everyone according to his deeds.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with this world as though they had no dealings with it.  For the present form of the world is passing away.

Mark 1:14-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying,

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them,

Follow me and I will make you fish for people.

And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.  Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired him, and followed him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Jonah 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-1/

Mark 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-1/

St. Simon Peter, Apostle and Martyr:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-sts-peter-and-paul-apostles-and-martyrs-june-29/

St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/feast-of-st-andrew-apostle-and-martyr-november-30/

St. James the Greater, Apostle and Martyr:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-james-bar-zebedee-apostle-and-martyr-july-25/

St. John the Evangelist, Apostle:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-day-of-christmas-the-feast-of-st-john-apostle-and-evangelist-december-27/

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Rumi, or, as Persians and Afghanis call him, Jelaluddin Balkhi, lived from 1207 to 1273 C.E.  He was one of the great poets.  Professor Coleman Barks has translated many of Rumi’s works into English.  Among these is “A Basket of Fresh Bread,” part of which I quote here:

Stay bewildered in God,

and only that.

Those of you are scattered,

simplify your worrying lives.  There is one

righteousness:  Water the fruit trees,

and don’t water the thorns.  Be generous

to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous

reason-light.  Don’t honor what causes

dysentery and knotted-up tumors.

Don’t feed both sides of yourself equally.

The spirit and the body carry different loads

and require different attentions.

Too often

we put saddlebags of Jesus and let

the donkey run loose in the pasture.

Don’t make the body do

what the spirit does best, and don’t let a big load

on the spirit that the body could carry easily.

(Source = The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A. J. Arberry, and Reynold Nicholson, HarperCollins, 1995; paperback, 1996; page 256)

Following God requires us to make changes.  The grace may be free to us, but it is not cheap.  We read in Jonah 3 that the prophet’s message found a receptive audience, but we discover in Jonah 4 that this fact disappointed Jonah.  He needed to lay aside his desire to see the people of Nineveh suffer for their sins.

As for Paul of Tarsus, all I can say is that I do not recall hearing this passage or the verse immediately before it read at a wedding, for good reason.

Yet those who marry will experience distress in life, and I would spare you that.–1 Corinthians 7:28b

Paul expected Jesus to return very soon, so marriage and other matters of daily life seemed relatively unimportant to him.  Two thousand years later, however, human relationships continue and Jesus has yet to return.  Some parts of the Bible are timeless; others are not.

And the Apostles?  Some of them left family businesses behind, and most of them died because they insisted on spreading the news of Jesus.  Nearly two thousand years later countless members of successive generations have known the mercies of Jesus because of what these men did.  I owe my faith in part to them.

Grace was not cheap for them.  This is the grace which grants repentance–literally turning around or changing one’s mind–and then forgiveness of sins.  Such grace scandalizes some of us from time to time, but we benefit from grace, too.  Consider this:  Somebody might find the grace God has extended to you scandalous.

Playing with Rumi’s word pictures, how often do we put the saddle bags on Jesus and let the donkey run loose in the pasture?  How often do we, perhaps out of ignorance, malnourish ourselves spiritually?  And how often do we water thorns?  I need to deal with these issues at least as much as do many other people.

The reality is that we–you and I–will not be the most effective ambassadors for Christ until, by grace, we begin to correct these bad habits and continue to replace them with good habits.  What we–you and I–do affects others in ways we cannot imagine.  Our influence, whether direct or indirect, is greater than we know.  So, by grace, may it be as positive as possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS THE APOSTLE, COWORKER OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

THE FEAST OF VERNON JOHNS, NATIONAL BAPTIST PASTOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

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