Archive for September 2011

Of God, Potentates, and Prophets   1 comment

Above:  The Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, by Caravaggio, 1608

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

2 Samuel 6:1-5, 12b-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

David again gathered all the chosen men of Israel, thirty thousand.  David and all the people with him set out and went from Baalejudah, to bring up from there the ark of God, which is called by the name of the LORD of hosts who is enthroned on a new cart, and brought it out of the house of Abinadab, which was on the hill.  Uzzah and Ahio, the sons of Abinadab, were driving the new cart with the ark of God; and Ahio went in front of the ark.  David and all the house of Israel were dancing before the LORD with all their might, with songs and lyres and harps and tambourines and castanets and cymbals.

So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom to the city of David with rejoicing; and when those who bore the ark of the LORD had gone six paces, he sacrificed an ox and a fatling.  David danced before the LORD with all his might; David was girded with a linen ephod.  So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the LORD with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet.

As the ark of the LORD came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him in her heart.

They brought in the ark of the LORD, and set it in its place, inside the tent that David had pitched for it; and David offered burnt offerings and offerings of well-being before the LORD.  When David had finished offering the burnt offerings and the offerings of well-being, he blessed the people in the name of the LORD of hosts, and distributed food among all the people, the whole multitude of Israel, both men and women, to each a cake of bread, a portion of meat, and a cake of raisins.   Then all the people went back to their homes.

Psalm 24 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

7  Lift up your heads, O gates;

lift them high, O everlasting doors;

and the King of glory shall come in.

8  ”Who is this King of glory?”

“The LORD, strong and mighty,

the LORD, mighty in battle.”

9  Lift up your heads, O gates;

lift them high, O everlasting doors;

and the King of glory shall come in.

10  ”Who is he, this King of glory?”

“The LORD of hosts,

he is the King of glory.”

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Amos 7:7-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

This is what the Lord God showed me: the Lord was standing beside a wall built with a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand. And the LORD said to me,

Amos, what do you see?

And I said,

A plumb line.

Then the Lord said,

See, I am setting a plumb line

in the midst of my people Israel;

I will never again pass them by;

the high places of Isaac shall be made desolate,

and the sanctuaries of Israel shall be laid waste,

and I will rise against the house of Jeroboam with the sword.

Then Amaziah, the priest of Bethel, sent to King Jeroboam of Israel, saying,

Amos has conspired against you in the very center of the house of Israel; the land is not able to bear all his words. For thus Amos has said,

“Jeroboam shall die by the sword,

and Israel must go into exile

away from his land.”

And Amaziah said to Amos,

O seer, go, flee away to the land of Judah, earn your bread there, and prophesy there; but never again prophesy at Bethel, for it is the king’s sanctuary, and it is a temple of the kingdom.

Then Amos answered Amaziah,

I am no prophet, nor a prophet’s son; but I am a herdsman, and a dresser of sycamore trees, and the LORD took me from following the flock, and the LORD said to me, “Go, prophesy to my people Israel.”

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.

9 Truly, his salvation is very near 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

Ephesians 1:3-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, just as he chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love. He destined us for adoption as his children through Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace that he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In Christ we have also obtained an inheritance, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will, so that we, who were the first to set our hope on Christ, might live for the praise of his glory. In him you also, when you had heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and had believed in him, were marked with the seal of the promised Holy Spirit; this is the pledge of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s own people, to the praise of his glory.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 6:14-29 (New Revised Standard Version):

King Herod heard of it, for Jesus’ name had become known.  Some said,

John the Baptist has been raised from the dead; that is why these powers are at work in him.

But others said,

It is Elijah.

And others said,

It is a prophet, like one of the prophets of old.

But when Herod heard of it he said,

John, whom I beheaded, has been raised.

For Herod had sent and seized John, and bound him for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife.  And Herodias had a grudge against him, and wanted to kill him.  But she could not, for Herod feared John, knowing that he was a righteous and holy man, and kept him safe.  When he heard him, he was much perplexed; and yet he heard him gladly.  But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his courtiers and officers and the leading men of Galilee.  For when Herodias’ daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests; and the king said to the girl,

Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will grant it.

And he vowed to her,

Whatever you ask me, I will give you, even half of my kingdom.

And she went out, and said to her mother,

What shall I ask?

And she said,

The head of John the Baptist.

And she came in immediately with haste to the king, and asked, saying,

I want you to give me at once the head of John the Baptist on a platter.

And the king was exceedingly sorry; but because of his oaths and his guests he did not want to break his word to her.  And immediately the king sent a soldier of the guard and gave orders to bring his head.  He went and beheaded him in the prison, and brought his head on a platter, and gave it to the girl; and the girl gave it to her mother.  When his disciples heard of it, they came and took his body, and laid it in a tomb.

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

The Feast of the Beheading of St. John the Baptist, Martyr (August 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-martyr-august-29/

2 Samuel 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/week-of-3-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

Amos 7:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/week-of-proper-8-thursday-year-2/

Mark 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/week-of-4-epiphany-friday-year-1/

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The prophet Amos had been condemning the policies of King Jeroboam II of Israel, whose regime controlled certain religious sites.  There being no separation of religion and state in this context, the prophet faced a royal order to go home to Judah.  At least Jeroboam did not command the execution of Amos.

Herod Antipas, Tetrarch of Galilee and Perea from 4 B.C.E. to 39 C.E., had entered into an incestuous marriage to Herodias.  John the Baptist had condemned this, and thus found himself in prison.  The combination of lust and pride led Herod Antipas to order John’s execution.

We read in Ephesians about redemption through the blood of Jesus.  The Roman authorities had ordered his execution, of course.

The powerful seem to have won immediately.  But look again; they lost in the long term.  The last vestige of the Roman Empire ceased to exist in 1453 C.E.  The Emperor Caligula exiled Herod Antipas to Gaul in 39 C.E.  And Jeroboam II died more than 2,750 years ago.  He failed to silence Amos, whose words are available in translation today.

Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul….–Matthew 10:28a, New Revised Standard Version

God will win.  That is how the story will end.  I know, for I have read the book.  So I take courage and seek to play my part in the work of righteousness.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/proper-10-year-b/

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Reading and Pondering Hosea, Part Four   1 comment

The Return of the Prodigal Son

Image Source = FranzMayerstainedglass

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

Divine Love

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Hosea 11:1-11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

I fell in love with Israel

When he was still a child;

And I have called [him] My son

Ever since Egypt.

Thus were they called,

But they went their own way;

They sacrifice to Baalim

And offer to carved images.

I have pampered Ephraim,

Taking them in My arms;

But they have ignored

My healing care.

I drew them with human ties,

With cords of love;

But I seemed to them as one

Who imposed a yoke on their jaws,

Though I was offering them food.

No!

They return to the land of Egypt,

And Assyria is their king.

Because they refuse to repent,

A sword shall descend upon their towns

And consume their limbs

And devour [them] because of their designs.

For My people persists

In its defection from Me;

When it is summoned upward,

It does not rise at all.

How can I give you up, O Ephraim?

How surrender you, O Israel?

How can I make you like Admah,

Render you like Zeboiim?

I have had a change of heart,

All My tenderness is stirred.

I will not act on My wrath,

Will not turn to destroy Ephraim.

For I am God, not man,

The Holy One in your midst:

I will not come in fury.

The LORD will roar like a lion,

And they shall march behind Him;

When he roars, His children shall come

Fluttering out of the west.

They shall flutter from Egypt like sparrows,

From the land of Assyria like doves;

And I will settle them in their homes

–declares the LORD.

Hosea 14:2-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,

For you have fallen because of your sin.

Take words with you

And return to the LORD.

Say to Him:

Forgive all guilt

And accept what is good;

Instead of bulls we will pay

[The offering of] our lips.

Assyria shall not save us,

No more will we ride on steeds,

Nor ever again will we call

Our handiwork our god,

Since in You alone orphans find pity!

I will heal their affliction,

Generously will I take them back in love;

For My anger has turned away from them.

I will be to Israel like dew;

He shall blossom like the lily,

He shall strike root like a Lebanon tree.

His boughs shall spread out far,

His beauty shall be like the olive tree’s,

His fragrance like that of Lebanon.

They who sit in his shade shall be revived:

They shall bring to life new grain,

They shall blossom like the vine;

His scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Ephraim [shall say]:

What more have I to do with idols?

When I respond and look to Him,

I become like a verdant cyprus.

Your fruit is provided by Me.

He who is wise will consider these words,

He who is prudent will take note of them.

For the paths of the LORD are smooth;

The righteous can walk on them,

While sinners stumble on them.

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In Hosea we have another metaphor for the relationship between God and the rebellious people:  parent and child.  Despite the ingratitude on one side and anger on the other, divine love remains.  Elsewhere in Hosea we read of God as the jilted husband.  The constant factor, however, is divine love.

So the rebellious people must face the consequences of their actions yet will not face annihilation.  This stands in contrast to other groups, which perished utterly.  As a Christian, I accept that God loved them also.  Yes, the violent depictions of God in the Bible disturb me; I will neither excuse nor ignore them.  My understanding of God comes from the person of Jesus, who said to love one’s enemies and to pray for one’s persecutors.

Nevertheless the main point remains the love of God (expressed via various metaphors) for us.  May we reciprocate.  May we love the image of God in our fellow human beings. This is often difficult, for anger is a powerful emotion.  Yet love is more powerful, not to mention much healthier.

I can think of a few people I need to contemplate in compassionate and loving ways, not with wrath and indignation.  You, O reader, can probably do the same within your context.  Empowered by grace, may we love not only God and those we like, but also those we dislike, perhaps intensely.  God is also their parent.

I think also of the Prodigal Son’s father.  The father, a stand-in for God, permits the foolish son to make his mistakes then to come home.  The father watches for his son, whom he welcomes back into the fold.  Then the other son, the dutiful one who stayed home, did not welcome his brother back, however.  Who are you in this story?  Are you resentful, not greeting those who have amended their ways?  Or have you come to your senses and corrected your ways?  Maybe the parental role fits better.

Divine love does not prevent us from making mistakes or suffering certain consequences of our misdeeds, but it does welcome us home.  May we, who have benefited from such love, extend it to others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ELLIOT FOX, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MADELEINE L’ENGLE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF PETER CLAVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/week-of-proper-9-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-9-friday-year-2/

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Posted September 6, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Hosea 11, Hosea 14

Tagged with

Reading and Pondering Hosea, Part Three   1 comment

Gallery of the Apostles, Temmenhausen Nikolauskirche

Teachers of Righteousness

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Hosea 10:1-15 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Israel is a ravaged vine

And its fruit is like it.

When his fruit was plentiful,

He made altars aplenty;

When his land was bountiful,

Cult pillars abounded.

Now that his boughs are broken up,

He feels his guilt;

He himself pulls apart his altars,

Smashes his pillars.

Truly, now they say,

We have no king;

For, since we do not fear the LORD,

What can a king do to us?

So they conclude agreements and make covenants

With false oaths,

And justice degenerates into poison weeds,

Breaking out on the furrows of the fields.

The inhabitants of Samaria fear

For the calf of Beth-aven;

Indeed, its people and priestlings,

Whose joy it once was,

Mourn over it for the glory

That is departed from it.

It too shall be brought to Assyria

As tribute to a patron king;

Ephraim shall be chagrined,

Israel shall be dismayed

Because of his plans.

Samaria’s monarchy is vanishing

Like foam upon water,

Ruined shall be the shrines of [Beth-]aven,

That sin of Israel.

Thorns and thistles

Shall grow on their altars.

They shall call to the mountains,

Bury us!

To the hills,

Fall on us!

You have sinned more, O Isreal,

Than in the days of Gibeah.

They shall stand [as] at Gibeah!

Shall not they be overtaken

By a war upon scoundrels

As peoples gather against them?

When I chose [them], I broke them in,

Harnessing them for two furrows.

Ephraim became a trained heifer,

But preferred to thresh;

I placed a yoke

Upon her sleek neck.

I will make Ephraim do advance plowing;

Judah shall do [main] plowing!

Jacob shall do final plowing!

Sow righteousness for yourselves;

Reap the fruits of goodness;

Break for yourselves betimes fresh ground

Of seeking the LORD,

So that you may obtain a teacher of righteousness.

You have plowed wickedness,

You have reaped iniquity–

[And] you shall eat the fruits of treachery–

Because you relied on your way,

On your host of warriors.

But the din of war shall arise in your own people,

And all your fortresses shall be ravaged

As Beth-arbel was ravaged by Shalman

On a day of battle,

When mourners and babes were dashed to death together.

This is what Bethel has done to you

For your horrible wickedness:

At dawn shall Israel’s monarch

Utterly perish.

Psalm 105:1-7 (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 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.

Remember the marvels he has done;

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O childrenof Jacob his chosen.

He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

Matthew 10:1-7 (An American Translation):

Then he [Jesus] called his twelve disciples to him, and gave them power over the foul spirits so that they could drive them out, and so that they could heal any disease or illness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles:  first, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James the son of Zebedee and his brother John, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector, James the son of Alpheus and Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot who afterward betrayed him.

James sent these twelve out, after giving them these directions:

Do not go among the heathen, or to any Samaritan town, but proceed instead to the lost sheep of Israel’s house.  As you go about, preach and say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

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The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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 pronouncements of judgment continue in Hosea.  Much of the content is familiar and repetitive to a student of the Hebrew Scriptures, so I will not rehash it here.

I am, however, following a lectionary, one which pairs this reading with Matthew 10,  which tells of Jesus empowering his twelve Apostles and sending them out on a mission.  The Apostles were diverse, including two cousins of Jesus, a former Roman tax collector, and a violent revolutionary against the Roman occupation.

Hosea 10:12, in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, commands people to sow righteousness for themselves, to reap the fruits of goodness, and break the fallow ground of seeking YHWH “So that you may obtain a teacher of righteousness.”  This is apparently a passage which lends itself to various translations, so that, in the New Revised Standard Version, the command concludes with “that he [YHWH] may come and rain righteousness upon you.”

Teachers of righteousness can come in various shapes and sizes and from various backgrounds. And, when God comes to rain righteousness upon us, the divine methodology might surprise us.  Do we dare even to attempt to look past our preconceived notions and to recognize the methods of God and the identities of teachers of righteousness?

Righteousness is far from an abstract idea.  It is lived, as is orthodoxy.  Theology of a certain variety tells me that orthodoxy is right belief and that orthopraxy is right practice.  But, if Paul was correct regarding faith, faith is active, not just intellectual, and is therefore lived.  Ergo the proper situation is for orthopraxy and orthodoxy to be one and the same.  Do I love my neighbor?  My actions will tell, will they not?  After all, we will know a tree by its fruits.

So, where do we find teachers of righteousness to lead us down the orthodoxy-orthopraxy trail?  The union of these is righteousness.  This righteousness is not individualistic, so that we can feel good and holy while the world around us goes to hell in a handbasket.  No, this righteousness is socially transformative.

Our mission as Christians is to be salt and light–the best salt and the brightest light we can be by grace.  What one person does affects others, and we are God’s, not our own.  May we leave our corner of creation better than we found them.  May we work in the corners of creation God has assigned to each of us.  And may we be teachers of righteousness by words and deeds.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ELLIOT FOX, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MADELEINE L’ENGLE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF PETER CLAVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/week-of-proper-9-wednesday-year-2/

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Posted September 6, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 10, Psalm 105

Tagged with , ,

Reading and Pondering Hosea, Part Two   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

A Moral Form of Divestiture

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Hosea 8:3-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Israel rejects what is good;

An enemy shall pursue him.

They have made kings,

But not with My sanction;

They have made officers,

But not of My choice.

Of their silver and gold

They have made themselves images,

To their own undoing.

He rejects your calf, Samaria!

I am furious with them!

Will they never be capable of purity?

For it was Israel’s doing;

It was only made by a joiner,

It was not a god.

No, the calf of Samaria shall be

Reduced to splinters!

They sow wind,

And they shall reap the whirlwind–

Standing stalks devoid of ears

And yielding no flour.

If they do yield any,

Strangers shall devour it.

Israel is bewildered;

They have now become among the nations

Like an unwanted vessel,

[like] a lonely wild ass.

For they have gone up to Assyria,

Ephraim has courted friendship.

And while they are courting among the nations,

There I will hold them fast;

And they shall begin to diminish in number

From the burden of king [and] officers.

For Ephraim has multiplied altars–for guilt;

His altars have redounded to his guilt:

The many teachings I wrote for him

Have been treated as something alien.

When they present sacrifices to Me,

It is but flesh for them to eat:

The LORD has not accepted them.

Behold, He remembers their iniquity,

He will punish their sins:

Back to Egypt with them!

Israel has ignored his Maker

And built temples

(And Judah has fortified many cities).

So I will set fire to his cities,

And it shall consume their fortresses.

Psalm 115:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Not to us, O LORD, not to us,

but to your Name give glory;

because of your love and because of your faithfulness.

2  Why should the heathen say,

“Where then is their God?”

3  Our God is in heaven;

whatever he wills to do he does.

4  Their idols are silver and gold,

the work of human hands.

5  They have mouths, but they cannot speak;

eyes have they, but they cannot see;

6  They have ears, but they cannot hear;

noses, but they cannot smell;

7  They have hands, but they cannot feel;

feet, but they cannot walk;

they make no sound with their throat.

8  Those who make them are like them,

and so are all who put their trust in them.

9  O Israel, trust in the LORD;

he is their help and their shield.

10  O house of Aaron, trust in the LORD;

he is their help and their shield.

Matthew 9:32-38 (An American Translation):

But just as they were going out, some people brought to him a dumb man who was possessed by a demon, and as soon as the demon was driven out, the dumb man was able to speak.  And the crowds were amazed, and said,

Nothing like this was ever seen in Israel!

But the Pharisees said,

It is by the prince of demons that he drives them out.

Jesus went round among all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness.

But the sight of the crowds of people filled him with pity for them, because they were bewildered and dejected, like sheep that have no shepherd.  Then he said to his disciples,

The harvest is abundant enough, but the reapers are few.  So pray to the owner of the harvest to send reapers to gather it.

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The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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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A Related Post:

Be Thou My Vision:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/be-thou-my-vision/

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This is an unhappy reading from Hosea.  Corruption, dishonesty, idolatry, and murder were commonplace in the northern Kingdom of Israel.  Official corruption was especially ubiquitous.  King Jeroboam II, who made alliances with dangerous foreign nations and therefore weakened the nation, was not a legitimate king, according to Hosea.  The House of David continued to rule in the south, but Israel had a series of dynasties, most of them established by means of palace coups.

The Book of Hosea moves back and forth between judgment and mercy.  The YHWH of Hosea is a passionate deity seeking the love of a faithless people whose ancestors he had rescued from slavery and led to freedom.

We read in Matthew 9:32-38 of the faithlessness of certain Pharisees, members of just one sect of First Century Palestinian Judaism.  Yet Jesus, the rejected one, helped, cured, and healed many people, on whom he had pity.  Why was Jesus the rejected one?  Would not nearly anyone in the region want to follow such a great man?  The answer, I think, is that simple goodness threatens many people with certain vested interests.  Most people might say that “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” is an excellent ethic, yet how many of them might condemn someone who obeys this great commandment in a politically unpopular way?

We need to divest ourselves or all which causes us to hate or otherwise fear or despise those who are different from us and whose existence prompts us to nurture the dark side of our nature.  God loves all of us–the exploiters and the exploited, the murderers and the murdered, the cheaters and the cheated, the corrupt and the honest.  Where there is love there do not cease to exist the consequences of our actions, which flow from attitudes.

May we value people more than power, status, honor, and wealth.  May we love God more than these things, which can become idols if we treat them as such.  Power, status, honor (which is socially defined), and wealth are transitory, but God is forever.  And people die in time, but human relationships are much more valuable than anything material.

This lesson is timeless, but successive generations of human beings have contained many people who have not acted consistently in accordance with it.  So, unfortunately, we need reminders.

It is no wonder that we read of God’s anger in books such as Hosea.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ELLIOT FOX, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MADELEINE L’ENGLE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF PETER CLAVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/week-of-proper-9-tuesday-year-2/

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Reading and Pondering Hosea, Part One   1 comment

Orthodox Icon of the Prophet Hosea

God, Who Takes Us Back

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Hosea 2:16-25 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Assuredly,

I will speak to her

And lead her through the wilderness

And speak to her tenderly.

I will give her her vineyards from there,

And the Valley of Achor as a plowland of hope.

There she shall respond as in the days of her youth,

When she came up from the land of Egypt.

And in that day

–declares the LORD–

You will call [Me] Ishi,

And no more will you call Me Baali.

For I will remove the names of the Baalim from her mouth,

And they shall nevermore be mentioned by name.

In that day, I will make a covenant for them with the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the creeping things of the ground; I will also banish bow, sword, and war from the land.  Thus I will let them lie down in safety.

And I will espouse you forever:

I will espouse you with righteousness and justice,

And with goodness and mercy,

And I will espouse you with faithfulness;

Then you shall be devoted to the LORD.

In that day,

I will respond

–declares the LORD–

I will respond to the sky,

And it shall respond to the earth;

And the earth shall respond

With new grain and wine and oil,

And they shall respond to Jezreel.

I will sow her in the land as My own;

And take Lo-ruhamah back in favor;

And I will say to Lo-ammi, “You are my people,”

And he will respond, “[You are] my God.”

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The prophesies contained in the Book of Hosea speak of events from the 700s B.C.E.  Israel, the northern kingdom, is still strong, and Jeroboam II occupies its throne.  In the south, in the Kingdom of Judah, Uzziah/Amaziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah ruled in succession, sometimes with overlapping reigns between two of them.  There will be punishment for the persistent idolatry, God says through Hosea, but God will take his people back afterward.

The book uses adultery as a metaphor for idolatry.  So God, metaphorically speaking, is the cuckolded husband while the faithless population is the adulterous wife.  God, in the first part of Chapter 2, comes across as a violent husband.  Such a metaphor does offend many modern sensibilities regarding domestic violence, as it should.  I am not here to make excuses for biblical authors, and I do not feel obligated to pretend that parts of the Bible are not genuinely disturbing in a bad way.

But may we continue to read.

The abusive, cuckolded husband portion of Chapter 2 (verses 3-15) gives way to a lovely passage about reconciliation.  All will be forgiven, and idolatry will become a thing of the past.

Each person is more than the worst thing he or she has done.  True, certain actions carry dire consequences, but there can be forgiveness with God.  Do we seek it?

The end of Chapter 2 applies the names of Hosea’s children to Israel.  God had commanded the prophet to marry Gomer, “a wife of whoredom.”  He did, and they had three children.  The first was a son, Jezreel, which means “God sows.”  This personal name is a reference to a plain and a city on said plain, as well as the murder of Naboth, whose vineyard King Ahab had coveted.  Then came a daughter, Lo-ruhamah, which means “Unpitied.”  Finally, there was a second son, Lo-ammi, or “not my people.”

That was then. We read in verses 24 and 25 that the earth will respond to Jezreel with new grain, wine, and oil; God will sow, as in scattering the seeds.  And God will take the unpitied daughter, no longer unpitied, “back in favor.”  Furthermore, those whom God has renounced will again be his people, and they will respond in kind.

I am careful to focus on the main idea, not become distracted by less important issues.  If you, O reader, seek from me a definitive answer to how judgment and mercy balance each other in the Bible (especially the Hebrew Scriptures), you are looking in the wrong place.  Yet I do offer this nugget of what I hope is wisdom:  both exist, side by side.  There is discipline, but there is also forgiveness.  May we, by grace, live so that we do not grieve God, but gladden the divine heart (metaphorically speaking) instead.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ELLIOT FOX, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MADELEINE L’ENGLE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF PETER CLAVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/week-of-proper-9-monday-year-2/

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Affirming the Dignity of Work in Words and Deeds, Part I   2 comments

Above:  A sign from Matewan, West Virginia, site of a massacre of miners in 1920 (from the West Virginia Archives)

FOR LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

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Sirach (Ecclesiasticus) 38:27-32a (New Revised Standard Version):

So it is with every artisan and master artisan

who labors by night as well as by day;

those who cut the signets of seals,

each is diligent in making a great variety;

they set their heart on painting a lifelike image,

and they are careful to finish their work.

So it is with the smith, sitting by the anvil,

intent on his iron-work;

the breath of the fire melts his flesh,

and he struggles with the heat of the furnace;

the sound of the hammer deafens his ears,

and his eyes are on the pattern of the object.

He sets his heart on finishing his handiwork,

and he is careful in its decoration.

So it is with the potter sitting at his work

and turning the wheel with his feet;

he is always deeply concerned over his products,

and he produces them in quantity.

He molds the clay with his arm

and makes it pliable with his feet;

he sets his heart to finish the glazing,

and he takes care in firing the kiln.

All these rely on their hands,

and all are skillful in their own work.

Without them no city can be inhabited,

and wherever they live, they will not go hungry.

AND

Psalm 107:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;

for his steadfast love endures forever.

Let the redeemed of the LORD say so,

those he redeemed from trouble

and gathered in from the lands,

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

Some wandered in desert wastes,

finding no way to an inhabited town;

hungry and thirsty,

their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress;

he led them by a straight way,

until they reached an inhabited town.

Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love,

for his wonderful works to humankind.

For he satisfies the thirsty,

and the hungry he fills with good things.

OR

Psalm 90:1-2, 16-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Lord, you have been our dwelling place

in all generations.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or ever you had formed the earth and the world,

from everlasting to everlasting you are God.

Let your work be manifest to your servants,

and your glorious power to their children.

Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us,

and prosper for us the work of our hands–

O prosper the work of our hands!

THEN

1 Corinthians 3:10-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward.

THEN

Matthew 6:19-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light; but if your eye is unhealthy, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!

No one can serve two masters; for a slave will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have so linked our lives one with another that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives: So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good; and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor, make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers, and arouse our concern for those who are out of work; 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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All honest work has dignity.  I hear and read this sentiment from some politicians and business people whom I suspect do not believe it, for their deeds belie their words.  As I have written elsewhere, “Deeds reveal creeds.”  When a corporate CEO continues policies of not paying living wages I do not believe that he or she thinks that all work has dignity.  A corporate chief who exports jobs to the third world, where wages are lower and safety regulations are weak or non-extant, cares most about the bottom line.  And when miners in poor, rural regions of the United States die needlessly year after year because the mining corporations for which they work do not maintain the maximum possible level of safety, I know that those who occupy corner offices at headquarters do not think positively about the dignity of the work their employees do.  And politicians the soulless corporations have bought off or who have subscribed to the idolatry of the market as the arbiter of morality do not believe in the dignity of all honest work, either.

These are moral issues.  Living wages, sufficient benefits packages, workplace safety, and whistleblower protection are matters of morality.  My North American society is one in which those who make society function–teachers, social workers, police officers, and fire fighters, for example–earn much less than many professional athletes.  This fact tells me that society places higher value of what a relative few do with baseballs, basketballs, and footballs than on the crucial work of our educational, public safety, and social work professionals.

This a matter of values.  (I do not concede the issue of values to far-right wing theocrats, would-be theocrats, and union-busting governors and legislators.)  And it is an issue of my nation’s collective soul.  Life, Jesus said, does not consist of the abundance of possessions.  Our Lord and Savior was no Gordon Gecko, from Oliver Stone’s movie, Wall Street.  Do you remember that movie?  Gecko, who was indeed well-named (for he had the morality of a reptile), said, “Greed is good.”  No, people matter far more than wealth and material possessions.  That is a value I want to hear uttered more often and see demonstrated more frequently.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 12, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MISSISSIPPI

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL MARSDEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

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Rejecting and Insulting Prophets   2 comments

Above:  St. Joseph’s Church, Nazareth, Israel

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said,

Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The LORD said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him.

Psalm 48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised;

in the city of our God is his holy hill.

2 Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion,

the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

God is in her citadels;

he is known to be her sure refuge.

Behold, the kings of the earth assembled

and marched forward together.

5 They looked and were astonished;

they retreated and fled in terror.

Trembling seized them there;

they writhed like a woman in childbirth,

like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.

As we have heard, so have we seen,

in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God;

God has established her for ever.

8 We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God,

in the midst of your temple.

Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end;

your right hand is full of justice.

10 Let Mount Zion be glad

in the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments.

11 Make the circuit of Zion;

walk round about her;

count the number of her towers.

12 Consider well her bulwarks;

examine her strongholds;

that you may tell those who come after.

13 This God is our God for ever and ever;

he shall be our guide for ever more.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 2:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Lord said to me:

O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you.

And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me,

Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

Psalm 123 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 To you I lift up my eyes,

to you enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters,

and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

3 So our eyes look to the LORD our God,

until he show us his mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt,

5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,

and of the derision of the proud.

SECOND READING

2 Corinthians 2:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows– was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 6:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said,

Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?

And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them,

Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.

And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them,

Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.

So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

 The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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 9, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/proper-9-year-a/

2 Samuel 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/week-of-3-epiphany-monday-year-2/

2 Corinthians 12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/week-of-proper-6-saturday-year-1/

Mark 6:

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

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

Matthew 13 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/week-of-proper-12-friday-year-1/

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/week-of-proper-20-wednesday-year-1/

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We read from 2 Samuel about David victorious.  His rival, Saul’s son Ishbaal dead, David became sole monarch in Israel and made Jerusalem the seat of his power.  The rebellion ended with the rebel leader leading the nation.

That, alas, is the happiest of the readings for this Sunday.  In Ezekiel 2, for example, God commissioned Ezekiel to be a prophet yet warns him that the people have a rebellious past.  But at least they will know that a prophet has been among them.  Jesus, a prophet and more than a prophet, was among the residents of his hometown when they rejected him.  They even raised questions about his paternity and Mary’s sexual history.  Later in the lesson, Jesus sent out his Apostles on a preaching mission with instructions to, among other things, simply leave places where they faced rejection.  This advice reflected what he did at Nazareth.

We read in the Gospels that Jesus moved away from Nazareth and settled in Capernaum.  Maybe one reason for this relocation was to get away such rumors in so small a place.  Jesus was, after all, fully human as well as fully divine.  We like to focus on the fully divine side, do we not?  But may we not minimize or ignore the fully human aspect.  Such rumors (certainly not recent in relation to the events of the Gospel story) and rejection had to hurt him emotionally.  Who wants to hear malicious rumors about one’s parents?  (Joseph did raise Jesus.  That, for me, makes Joseph our Lord’s father in the way which matters most.)

Paul, in his famous excerpt from 2 Corinthians, reported (evasively at first) about a mystical experience.  This is a somewhat amusing reading; I like how Paul began by writing of a man he knew then admitted that he was that man.  Whatever he saw and heard, and whatever caused it, it made quite an impression on him.  But, he wrote, he came away from it with an unidentified affliction.  ”A thorn in my side” is the standard English translation from the original Greek.  J. B. Phillips (1972), however, refers to a “stabbing pain.”  Whatever it was, it prevented Paul from becoming too elated.

Yet, Paul learned, divine grace is sufficient and made perfect in weakness, or, as J. B. Phillips (1972) renders one line, “where there is weakness, [God’s] power is shown more completely.”  That power is always present, as is the grace, in some measure.  Yet we notice God’s grace more easily when we are in weakened states.  I know this fact well from experience; you, O reader, might also know it from experience.

The bottom line is this:  Independence and self-reliance, as spiritual values, are false gods and illusions.  To pursue them is to chase after empty shadows and to commit idolatry.  Everyone depends on the grace and power of God.  Prophets have walked among us.  Do we recognize them? Prophets might even have grown up among us.  Do we recognize them, or do we reject and insult them?  How we respond to God and the prophets of God informs how God responds to us.  May God show mercy, as is the divine prerogative.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2011 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/proper-9-year-b/

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