Archive for December 2011

Overconfidence and Misplaced Confidence   1 comment

Above:  Nazis and the Ark of the Covenant, in a screen capture from Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Samuel 4:1c-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now Israel went out to battle against the Philistines; they encamped at Ebenezer, and the Philistines encamped at Aphek.  The Philistines drew up in line against Israel, and when the battle spread, Israel was defeated by the Philistines, who slew about four thousand men on the field of battle.  And when the troops came to the camp, the elders of Israel said,

Why has the LORD put us to rout today before the Philistines?  Let us bring the ark of the covenant of the LORD here from Shiloh, that he may come among us from the power of our enemies.

So the people sent to Shiloh, and brought from there the ark of the covenant of the LORD of hosts, who is enthroned upon the cherubim; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were there with the ark of the covenant of God.

When the ark of the covenant of the LORD came into the camp, all Israel gave a mighty shout, so that the earth resounded.  And when the Philistines heard the noise of the shouting, they said,

What does this great shouting in the camp of the Hebrews mean?

And when they learned that the ark of the LORD had come to the camp, the Philistines were afraid; for they said,

A god has come into the camp.

And they said,

Woe to us!  For nothing like this has happened before.  Woe to us!  Who can deliver us from the power of these mighty gods?  These are the gods who struck the Egyptians with every sort of plague in the wilderness.  Take courage, and acquit yourselves like men, O Philistines, lest you become slaves to the Hebrews as they have been to you; acquit yourselves like men and flight.

So the Philistines fought, and Israel was defeated, and they fled, every man to his home; and there was a very great slaughter, for there fell of Israel thirty thousand foot soldiers.  And the ark of God was captured; and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were slain.

Psalm 44:7-14, 23-26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7  Surely, you gave us victory over our adversaries

and put those who hate us to shame.

8  Every day we gloried in God,

and we will praise your Name for ever.

9  Nevertheless, we have rejected and humbled us

and do not go forth with our armies.

10  You have made us fall back before our adversary,

and our enemies have plundered us.

11  You have made us like sheep to be eaten

and have scattered us among the nations.

12  You are selling your people for a trifle

and are making no profit on the sale of them.

13  You have made us the scorn of our neighbors,

a mockery and derision to those around us.

14  You have made us a byword among the nations,

a laughing-stock among the peoples.

23  Awake, O Lord!  why are you sleeping?

Arise!  do not reject us for ever.

24  Why have you hidden your face

and forgotten our affliction and oppression?

25  We sink down into the dust;

our body cleaves to the ground.

26  Rise up, and help us,

and save us, for the sake of your steadfast love.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Samuel 3:1b sets the stage for this day’s reading from Chapter 4.  Consider this short text:

And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

The Ark of the Covenant was powerful, mysterious, revered, and feared object.  Many Israelites believed that its presence at a battle made their army invincible, and the Philistines, who were accustomed to thinking in polytheistic terms, feared that this was true.  But the Philistines fought through their fear while the Israelites went into battle with misplaced confidence.

What happened next?

  1. The Philistines discovered the power of the ark for themselves, so they returned it.
  2. Eli died.
  3. Samuel succeeded him as priest, prophet, and judge.

That summarizes the portion of 1 Samuel we will skip over in the lectionary.

Back to the main idea now…

The narrative of much of the Old Testament, written in the historically-themed books with the benefit of hindsight, is that YHWH smiles upon worshiping him alone (not as part of a pantheon) and working for social justice, much of which is economic.  God, in the Bible, frowns upon polytheism and economic exploitation.  Consider the words of Hebrew prophets in relation to why a Hebrew nations rises or falls.  The Hebrews were supposed to be a light to the nations; they were not supposed to blend in with them.

Yet, as we read in 1 Samuel 3:1b,

And the word of the LORD was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.

Many in the Confederate States of America believed honestly that God had ordained the institution of slavery.  So, they thought, those who argued from the Bible against the Peculiar Institution were heretics, and God would surely grant the Confederacy victory in the Civil War.  The Confederacy’s loss therefore left many of these partisans puzzled.  Surely, they told themselves, slavery was still ordained by God, so maybe they had carried it out in the wrong way.  They were not only overconfident; they also had misplaced confidence.

In my nation, the United States of America, income inequality has become much more pronounced in the last few decades.  Ironically, many of the most Social Darwinian defenders of those who have aided and abetted this transfer of wealth are would-be theocrats, self-appointed experts in morality.  Yes, they are quick to condemn sins of the flesh yet oblivious to the sin of economic exploitation.  These are false prophets.  When they speak, the word of the LORD is not heard in the land; their religion is one variety of what Karl Marx understood correctly as the opiate of the masses.  Yet there is a true religion, one which is a liberator, not an opiate, of the masses.  Eli, Samuel, John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, Paul of Tarsus, Francis of Assisi, Menno Simons, and Walter Rauschenbusch were prophets of this religion.  May we hear, understand, and obey, for the common good.  May we neither place in confidence in the wrong places nor become complacent.  And may God save us from ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF INI KOPURIA, FOUNDER OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/06/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Love, Dignity, and Stigma   1 comment

Above:  Elkanah and His Wives, from the Masters of Utrecht, Circa 1430

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Samuel 1:1-8 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

There was a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim of the hill country of Ephraim, whose name was Elkanah the son of Jeroham, son of Elihu, son of Tohu, son of Zuph, an Ephraimite.  He had two wives; the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other was Peninnah.  And Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.

Now this man used to go up year by year from his city to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts at Shiloh, where the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, were priests of the LORD.  On the day when Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Penninah his wife and to all her sons and daughters; and, although he loved Hannah, he would give Hannah only one portion, because the LORD had closed her womb.  So it went on year by year; as often she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her.  Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.  And Elkanah, her husband, said to her,

Hannah, why do you weep?  And why do you not eat?  And why is your heart sad?  Am I not more to you than ten sons?

Psalm 116:10-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

10 How shall I repay the LORD

for all the good things he has done for me?

11 I will lift up the cup of salvation

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

12 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

13 Precious in the sight of the LORD

is the death of his servants.

14 O LORD, I am your servant;

I am your servant and the child of your handmaid;

you have freed me from my bonds.

15 I will offer you the sacrifice of thanksgiving

and call upon the Name of the LORD.

16 I will fulfill my vows to the LORD

in the presence of all his people.

17 In the courts of the LORD’s house,

in the midst of you, O Jerusalem.

Hallelujah!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 5, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROBERT FRANCIS KENNEDY, U.S. ATTORNEY GENERAL AND SENATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONIFACE OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/01/31/feast-of-hannah-september-2/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-2/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted December 31, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 1 Samuel 1, Psalm 116

Tagged with ,

“That Salvation May Reach to the Ends of the Earth”   2 comments

Above:  A Map of the Known World, According to Posidonius, dated 150-130 B.C.E.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 49:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Listen to me, O coastlands,

pay attention, you peoples from far away!

The LORD called me before I was born,

while I was still in my mother’s womb he named me.

He made my mouth like a sharp sword,

in the shadow of his hand he hid me;

he made me a polished arrow,

in his quiver he hid me away.

And he said to me,

You are my servant,

Israel, in whom I will be glorified.

But I said,

I have labored in vain,

I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity;

yet surely my cause is with the LORD,

and my reward is with my God.

And now the LORD says,

who formed me in the womb to be his servant,

to bring Jacob back to him,

and that Israel might be gathered to him,

for I am honored in the sight of the LORD,

and my God has become my strength–

he says,

It is too light a thing that you should be my servant

to raise up the tribes of Jacob

and to restore the survivors of Israel;

I will give you as a light to the nations,

that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth.

Thus says the LORD,

the Redeemer of Israel and his Holy One,

to one deeply despised, abhorred by the nations,

the slave of rulers.

Kings shall see and stand up,

princes, and they shall prostrate themselves,

because of the LORD, who is faithful,

the Holy One of Israel, who has chosen you.

Psalm 40:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

I waited patiently for the LORD;

he inclined his ear tome and heard my cry.

He drew me up from the desolate pit,

out of the miry bog,

and set my feet upon a rock,

making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God.

Many will see and fear,

and put their trust in the LORD.

Happy are those who make

the LORD their trust,

who do no turn to the proud,

to those who go astray after false gods.

You have multipied, O LORD my God,

your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us;

none can compare with you.

Were I to proclaim and tell of them,

they would be more than can be counted.

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,

but you have given me an open ear.

Burnt offering and sin offering

you have not required.

Then I said,

Here I am;

in the scroll of the book it is written of me.

I delight to do your will, O my God;

your law is within my heart.

I have told the glad news of deliverance

int he great congregation;

see, I have not restrained my lips,

as you know, O LORD.

I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,

I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;

I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness

from the great congregation.

Do not, O LORD, withhold

your mercy from me;

let your steadfast love and your faithfulness

keep me safe forever.

For evils have encompassed me without number;

my iniquities have overtaken me,

until I cannot see;

they are more than the hairs of my head,

and my heart fails me.

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

Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,

To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind– just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you– so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

John 1:29-42 (New Revised Standard Version):

John saw Jesus coming toward him and declared,

Here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! This is he of whom I said, “After me comes a man who ranks ahead of me because he was before me.” I myself did not know him; but I came baptizing with water for this reason, that he might be revealed to Israel.” And John testified, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it remained on him. I myself did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “He on whom you see the Spirit descend and remain is the one who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I myself have seen and have testified that this is the Son of God.

The next day John again was standing with two of his disciples, and as he watched Jesus walk by, he exclaimed,

Look, here is the Lamb of God!

The two disciples heard him say this, and they followed Jesus. When Jesus turned and saw them following, he said to them,

What are you looking for?

They said to him,

Rabbi

(which translated means Teacher),

where are you staying?

He said to them,

Come and see.

They came and saw where he was staying, and they remained with him that day. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon. One of the two who heard John speak and followed him was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his brother Simon and said to him,

We have found the Messiah

(which is translated Anointed). He brought Simon to Jesus, who looked at him and said,

You are Simon son of John. You are to be called Cephas

(which is translated Peter).

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The reading from Deutero-Isaiah is the Second Servant Song.  Here the servant is the Jewish nation, still in exile, yet about to go home, albeit as part of the Persian Empire.  The soon-to-return Jews’ mission was to be a spiritual light to the nations.  Religious history records that Jewish monotheism (practiced, not merely preached) did not flower fully until after the return from Babylonian Exile, and that this flowering did not occur immediately.  But it did happen.  Monotheism is a great advance in religious thought.  (I make this statement while taking the risk of seeming like a theological chauvinist to some, but so be it.)

Just as God delivered a seemingly insignificant population and bestowed upon them the great responsibility of being a light to the nations, Jesus recognized much potential in an impetuous fisherman we know as St. Peter, or literally “rock.”  The Bible is honest about the heroes within its pages, portraying these individuals as flawed human beings.  So it is with St. Peter, who misunderstood and misspoke often, and even denied Jesus three times shortly before our Lord’s crucifixion.  Yet St. Peter became the leader of  the Apostles.  Through efforts such as those of this transformed fisherman the Christian message, which began with a few people, has become the largest faith system on the planet.

I remember the pianist at a church my father pastored when I was in high school.  Angela (not her real name) was deeply insecure, partially due to guilt over an indiscretion of a few years past.  I have no doubt that God had forgiven her, but she had not forgiven herself for her own weakness.  Angela said to me one Sunday morning that she had nothing to offer.  She was wrong, of course; she had much to offer that was beautiful and necessary.  She was no more or less flawed than any of us, than St. Peter or any of the exiled Jews awaiting return to a homeland in which they had never lived.

Maybe you, O reader, are not called to be a light to the nations.  Perhaps God has called you to be a light merely to your community.  But God has given you the great responsibility of being a positive influence and a light.  Do not hide it under a bushel.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EVELYN UNDERHILL, ANGLICAN MYSTIC

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jesus and the Outcast   1 comment

Above: The Calling of St. Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen (1621)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hebrews 4:12-16 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the yes of him with whom have to do.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Psalm 19:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures forever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Mark 2:13-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them.  And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him,

Follow me.

And he rose and followed him.

And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him.  And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples,

Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them,

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you all secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

One way of defining oneself as pure is labeling the “other” as impure.  Thus purity codes are inherently exclusive.  And how many of us grew up hearing the Benjamin Franklin aphorism that those who lie down with dogs will rise with fleas?  Jesus, being Jesus, ignored this convention, which religious orthopraxy and orthodoxy had enshrined.  Pharisees were careful with whom they ate, restricting this activity to those on the approved list.

Matthew (Levi), his fellow tax collectors, and others who refused flagrantly obey the Law of Moses, at least as the Pharisees said people should, were not on the approved list.  Yet Jesus broke bread and drank wine with such people.  And he recruited Matthew, who was a literal tax thief working for the occupying Roman Empire, to join his inner circle.  Jesus saw the potential within people and worked to bring it out in them.

I invite you, O reader, to ask yourself who you are in this story.  Are you Jesus, disregarding purity codes?  Or are you one of the impure.  Perhaps you are one our Lord’s critics, a person concerned greatly with respectability and the maintenance of tradition above all else.

We are all broken, sinful, and incapable of pleasing God on our own power.  So, in truth, each of us is impure.  But do we recognize this fact and approach the throne of grace in proper humility?  The word of God (in the Hebrews reading, simply God speaking) exposes all. It cuts through all distinctions and lays bare what we are.  We cannot hide from God, even by being “properly” religious.

Nevertheless, Jesus would invite you to dinner.  He does; today we call it the Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, Mass, or the Divine Liturgy, depending on one’s tradition.  There we meet the living Savior and take him into our bodies in the forms of mystically transformed bread and wine.  Nobody among us is worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under Jesus’ table, but we receive the invitation anyhow.  Our worthiness comes from Christ.

Therefore, being aware of our own unworthiness, may we refrain from labeling others “outcast,” “impure,” and “unworthy.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 20, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRI NOUWEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ANDREW KIM TAEGON, PAUL CHONG HASANG, AND THEIR COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF C. (CHARLES) H. (HAROLD) DODD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN COLERIDGE PATTESON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MELANESIA, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF NELSON WESLEY TROUT, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN U.S. LUTHERAN BISHOP

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-matthew-the-evangelist-apostle-and-martyr-september-21/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/week-of-1-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted December 31, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 4, Mark 2, Psalm 19

Tagged with

The Paralysis of Unbelief   1 comment

Above:  Paralytic at Capernaum

The Paralysis of Unbelief

JANUARY 14, 2011

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hebrews 4:1-5, 11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Therefore, while the promise of entering his rest remains, let us fear lest any of you be judged to have failed to reach it.  For good news came to us just as to them; but the message which they heard did not benefit them, because it did not meet with faith in the hearers.  For we who have believed enter that rest, as he has said,

As I swore in my wrath,

‘They shall never enter my rest,’

although his works were finished from the foundation of the world.  For he has somewhat spoken of the seventh day in this way.  “And God rested on the seventh day from all his works.”

And again in this place he said,

They shall never enter my rest.

Let us therefore strive to enter that rest that no one fall by the same sort of disobedience.

Psalm 78:3-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

He gave his decrees to Jacob

and established a law for Israel,

which he commanded them to teach to their children;

6 That the generation to come might know,

and the children yet unborn;

that they in their turn might tell it to their children;

So that they might put their trust in God,

and not forget the deeds of God,

but keep his commandments;

And not be like their forefathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

Mark 2:1-12 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home.  And many were gathered together , so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them.  And they came, bringing to him a paralytic carried by four men.  And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay.  And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic,

Child, your sins are forgiven.

Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts,

Why does this man speak like this?  It is blasphemy!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?

And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit what they questioned like this within themselves, said to them,

Why do you question like this in your hearts?  Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Rise, take up your pallet, and walk’?  But that you too may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins

–he said to the paralytic–

I say to you, rise, take up your pallet, and go home.

And he rose, and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying,

We never saw anything like this!

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

He who blasphemes the name of the LORD shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him; the sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death.

Leviticus 24:16 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

This is the passage the critics of Jesus had on their minds when they accused him of blasphemy for forgiving sins.

Let us pause and catch up with the narrative in the Gospel According to Mark.  Jesus had healed a leper and instructed to follow the germane rituals of the Law of Moses.  Instead the man had told everyone he could what Jesus had done for him.  So Jesus had to remain in the wilderness for a while until the excitement died down.  Then he returned to his home at Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.  And people flocked to him there, in his house.  Four men had to cut out a portion of the flat roof of Jesus’ house and lower a paralyzed friend on a pallet, so Jesus could heal him.  We have no account of the paralyzed man’s faith, but that of the four friends is obvious.

Jewish orthodoxy of the time held that physical suffering, such as paralysis, flowed from sin.  One needed forgiveness from God before healing could occur.  Jesus, who had divine authority his critics did not recognize, forgave the man first then healed him.  Whatever the mechanics of how this happened, the story describes that is occurred.  William Barclay, in is volume on this Gospel, suggests a psychological cause of both the paralysis and the healing.  The man, Barclay writes, may have been paralyzed because he knew he was a sinner, and Jesus’ forgiveness was all the man needed to be whole again.  Maybe so, but I think the result more important than the process or the cause.

And, as Barclay writes in his commentary on this passage from Mark, “The experts in the law were hoist on their own petard.”  Jesus had forgiven and healed.  The man’s healed state was evidence of forgiveness of sin, in the standard theology of the time.  So could the elders of the Sanhedrin claim that God had not forgiven him and that Jesus was a blasphemer who deserved death by stoning without being hypocrites?

The men who wrote the canonical Gospels did so decades after the life of Jesus.  They know how the story ended, and so they planted foreshadowing in these documents.  They emphasized details they deemed germane to the development of the narrative.  We have such foreshadowing here.  It is about to get dangerous for Jesus.

These religious experts were rebelling against God, perhaps without knowing it.  The guardians of tradition were the disobedient ones.  God was doing a new thing, and they either did not perceive it or welcome it, or both.  They were frozen in place, stuck in the paralysis of their own tradition.  Sometimes trust in God requires us to abandon tradition and to accept the evidence we see with our own eyes.

I have watched all episodes of a 2002-2004 series called Jeremiah.  The events of the series occur in 2020-2021, 15 and 16 years after “The Big Death,” a virus that killed almost all post-pubescent humans within half a year.  Our heroes, headquartered at Cheyenne Mountain, are competing with other factions to rebuild the United States politically and otherwise.  Jeremiah, for whom the show is named, is angry with God, blaming the deity for letting all the unfortunate events occur.  One of the most interesting characters is Mister Smith, who claims that God speaks to him.  One day, Mister Smith passes along an invitation from God.  Those who to a certain place on a certain date and who wait long enough will receive a miracle of their choosing.  Jeremiah refuses to go along, but a few others agree to go with Mister Smith to the designated place.  Yet only Mister Smith remains long enough to receive his miracle.  He asked for the restoration of the use of one arm, paralyzed in a recent accident.  And only Mister Smith receives his miracle.  He tells the others that they should have stayed.

God might not make sense to us, but that is our problem, not God’s.

Here ends the lesson, for now.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 19, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODORE OF TARSUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF FIORELLO LAGUARDIA, MAYOR OF THE CITY OF NEW YORK

THE FEAST OF THOMAS JOHNSON, JOHN DAVY, AND THEIR COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CHALMERS SMITH, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/week-of-1-epiphany-friday-year-1/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted December 31, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 4, Leviticus 24, Mark 2, Psalm 78

Tagged with ,

Moses, Faithfulness, and Unbelief   1 comment

Above:  Moses

Image Source = Billy Hathorn

Moses, Faithfulness, and Unbelief

JANUARY 13, 2011

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hebrews 3:1-19 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Therefore, holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.  He was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in God’s house.  Yet Jesus has been counted worthy as much more glory than Moses as builder of the house has more honor than the house.  (For every house is built by some one, but the builder of all things is God. )  Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ was faithful over God’s house as a son.  And we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

Today, when you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

on the day of testing in the wilderness,

where your fathers put me to the test

and saw my works for forty years.

Therefore I was provoked with that generation,

and said, ‘they always go astray in their hearts;

they have not known my ways.’

As I swore in my wrath,

“They shall never enter my rest.”

Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end, while it is said,

Today, when you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

Who were they that heard and yet were rebellious?  Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses?  And with whom was he provoked forty years?  Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did he swear that they should never enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?  So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Above:  Moses Striking the Rock

Image Source = UpstateNYer

Psalm 95:6-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our maker.

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

Harden not your hearts,

as your forebears did in the wilderness,

at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,

when they tempted me.

They put me to the test,

though they had seen my works.

10 Forty years long I detested that generation and said,

“This people are wayward in their hearts;

they do not know my ways.”

11 So I swore in my wrath,

“They shall not enter into my rest.”

Mark 1:40-45 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And a leper came to him begging him, and kneeling said to him,

If you will, you can make me clean.

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

I will; be clean.

And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him,

See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.

But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Consider the following:

And all the congregation of the children of Israel traveled from the wilderness of Sin on their travels by YHWH’s word, and they camped in Rephidim.  And there was no water for the people to drink.  And the people quarreled with Moses.  And they said, “Give us water, and let us drink.”

And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you test YHWH?”

And the people thirsted for water there, and the people complained at Moses and said, “Why is this that you brought us up from Egypt, to kill me, and my children and my cattle with thirst?!”

And Moses called to YHWH, saying, “What shall I do with this people?  A little more and they’ll stone me!”

And YHWH said to Moses, “Pass in front of the people and take some of Israel’s elders with you, and take your staff with which you struck the Nile in your hand, and you’ll go.  Here, I’ll be standing in front of you there on a rock at Horeb.  And you’ll strike the rock, and water will come out of it, and the people will drink.”  And Moses did so before the eyes of Israel’s elders.  And he called the place’s name Massah and Meribah becaus of the quarrel of the children of Israel and the because of their testing YHWH, saying, “Is YHWH among us or not?”

Exodus 17:1-7 (Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text, 2001)

And, in Numbers 20, Moses was supposed to speak to the rock, but he struck with his staff instead.  For this lack of faithfulness God forbade him to enter the Promised Land, as the narrative indicates.

Testing and Quarreling.  Those terms, English translations of Massah and Meribah, summarize much of the biblical story of the wandering in the desert following the Exodus.  Moses was flawed, but faithful most of the time.  For that his name is one of honor in the Bible.

The miracle of the Exodus was the liberation of the Hebrews.  The biblical text attempts a sort of scientific explanation for the parting of waters; Exodus 14:21 mentions a “strong east wind” (Richard Elliott Friedman’s translation).  The Everett Fox translation refers to a “fierce east wind.”  In the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula God continued to provide enough for the former slaves.  Water was available, as was a sufficient food supply.  Yet people grumbled and waxed nostalgically about Egyptian table scraps.  Ingratitude prevailed, and it came with consequences.

The conjunction of the three passages of scripture on the Canadian Anglican lectionary this day makes clear that there is a continuity from Moses to Jesus.  God is the builder of the household of faith, which consists of those who trust in and follow God.  Moses was a faithful servant in this household, and thus received due respect.  But Jesus is the Son, and therefore he is greater than Moses (no disrespect to Moses).

Leviticus 14 contains detailed instructions about what to do when presenting oneself to a priest as cleansed of leprosy, a generic term for several skin diseases which rendered one ritually impure and a social outcast.  The process included animal sacrifices, animal blood, and the shaving of the leper’s head.  For full details, read Leviticus 14.  These are the motions Jesus commands the healed leper to go through in Mark.  His order is to follow the Law of Moses, indicating a continuity from Moses to Jesus.  Yet the healed leper chose the understandable action–he told everyone he could about what Jesus had done for him.  So Jesus had to hide out in the wilderness for a while.  He was, in the Markan narrative, still keeping his Messianic Secret.

There is a time to tell what God has done for one, and a time to follow rituals and keep quiet.  Knowing which is which constitutes part of wisdom.

So does recognizing what God has done and being grateful for it.  The trap of nostalgia is at least two-fold.  First, the “good old days” were not as good as they look through our rose-colored glasses.  Furthermore, we are not looking at current blessings closely enough when living in the past.  God is the God of present blessings; we need to focus on these.  Do we have enough for today?  Let us give thanks for this. Many problems arise from mistaking desires for necessities.  Money, material possessions, and other potential idols can never fill the God-shaped hole in each of us.  By themselves, these are not idols.  Yet many of us transform them into such.

May we lay aside all our idols, whatever they are.  If we have turned anything good into an idol, may we reverse that process and enjoy this good thing as what it can be, at its best.  And may we live in full awareness of how good God is today, and act accordingly.  This God is the God of Moses and Jesus, of mercy and judgment.  This is the God who cares deeply and passionately about us.  May we reciprocate, as best we can, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJOLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF GEORGE MACDONALD, POET AND NOVELIST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted December 31, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 14, Exodus 17, Hebrews 3, Leviticus 14, Mark 1, Numbers 20, Psalm 95

Tagged with

Jesus, Who Identifies With Us   1 comment

Above:  Temptations of Jesus, from St. Mark’s, Venice

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hebrews 2:14-18 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Since therefore the children share in the flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature, that through death he might destroy him who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong bondage.  For surely it is not with angels that he is concerned but with the descendants of Abraham.  Therefore he had to be made like his brethren in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make expiation for the sins of the people.  For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted.

Psalm 105:1-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

4 Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

8 He has always been mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made for a thousand generations;

The covenant he made with Abraham,

the oath he swore to Isaac,

10 Which he established as a statute for Jacob,

an everlasting covenant for Israel,

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

to be your allotted inheritance.”

12 When they were few in number,

of little account, and sojourners in the land,

13 Wandering from nation to nation

and from one kingdom to another,

14 He let no one oppress them

and rebuked kings for their sake,

15 Saying, “Do not touch my anointed

and do my prophets no harm.”

Above:  Ruins of Capernaum

Image Source = David Shankbone

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

Mark 1:29-39 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.  Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her.  And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them.

That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons.  And the whole city was gathered together about the door.  And he healed many who were sick with various diseases, and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak because they knew him.

And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed.  And Simon and those who were with him followed him, and they found him and said to him,

Every one is searching for you.

And he said to them,

Let us go on to the next towns, that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.

And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons.

Below:  A Map of Galilee During Roman Times

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

If you have been paying sufficient attention to certain details, you have noticed that the readings from Mark and Hebrews have been sequential; one follows another according to chapter and verse.  Much of the value of a lectionary resides in this pattern.  I find more value in following a lectionary by identifying common threads in different readings assigned for the same day.  Among the greatest errors in biblical interpretation is reading a text outside of context, literary or historical.

Parts of the readings for this day, although prose by form, are more like poetry.  They communicate great truth without containing historical and scientific accuracy.  Writing from the context of 2010, I know the biological and psychosocial causes and contributing factors of physical diseases and mental illnesses.  Demonic possession is not among them.  Remember though, that the people of Jesus’ day had no way of knowing what I do.  They did the best with what they had.  And Jesus worked within that context.

Our Lord and Savior cared deeply for people, with whom he identified.  Indeed, as the author of Hebrews informs us, Jesus is able to help us through temptation because he knows how powerful that force is.  Temptation is a mighty force.  You know this at least as well as I do.  It is important, I think, to know the difference between the imperative to ask forgiveness and to repent and the unhelpful practice of being unduly self-critical.  We are all broken; God knows this.  We need to recognize our brokenness, take it to Jesus, and leave it there.  Beating up on ourselves, literally or spiritually, accomplishes no good purpose.

I have known powerful and deep anger.  My cause has been just, and the actions of my foes have been perfidious in consequences, if not intentions.  (I have insufficient information to evaluate their intentions, but the consequences of their actions are obvious to me.)  I have learned also that even righteous anger is too heavy a burden to carry for long.  My burden is fading away, by grace.  In time, it will cease to exist, also by grace.  My sin (which continues as I write this devotional) is not having forgiven my foes, who will remain unnamed in this post.  I am weak; Jesus is strong.  Jesus can cast out my figurative demons of rage at injustice and of any desire to cling to righteous indignation.  That power is my only hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 17, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HILDEGARD OF BINGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS AND COMPOSER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted December 31, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 2, Mark 1, Psalm 105

Tagged with