May We Seek and Find a Positive Relationship With God, Who Can Transform Our Human Chaos Into Divine Order   1 comment

Above:  Ancient Hebrew View of the World; An Illustration from the St. Joseph Study Edition of the New American Bible

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

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Genesis 1:1-19 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

In the beginning of God’s creating the skies and the earth–when the earth had been shapeless and formless, and darkness was on the face of the deep, and God’s spirit was hovering on the face of the water–

God said,

Let there be light.

And there was light.  And God saw the light, that it was good, and God separated between the light and the darkness.  And God called the light “day” and called the darkness “night.”  And there was evening, and there was morning:  one day.

And God said,

Let there be a space within the water, and let it separate between water and water.

And God made the space, and it separated between the water that was under the space and the water that was above the space.  And it was so.  And God called the space “skies.”  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a second day.

And God said,

Let the waters be concentrated under the skies into one place, and let the land appear.

And it was so.  And God called the land “earth” and called the concentration of the waters “seas.”  And God saw that it was good.  And God said, “Let the earth generate plants, vegetation that produces seed, fruit trees, each making fruit of its own kind, which has its seed in it, on the earth.  And it was so:  The earth brought out plants, vegetation that produces seeds of its own kind, and trees that make fruit that each has seeds of its own kind in it.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a third day.

And God said,

Let there be lights in the space of the skies to distinguish between the day and the night, and they will be for signs and for appointed times and for days and years.  And they will be for lights in the space of the skies to shed light on the earth.

And it was so.  And God made two big lights–the bigger light for the regulation of the day and the smaller light for the regulation of the night–and the stars.  And God set them in the space of the skies to shed light on the earth and to regulate the day and the night and to distinguish between the light and the darkness.  And God saw that it was good.  And there was evening, and there was morning:  a fourth day.

Psalm 104:1-12, 25 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Bless the LORD, O my soul;

O LORD my God, how excellent is your greatness!

you are clothed with majesty and splendor.

You wrap yourself with light as with a cloak

and spread out the heavens like a curtain.

3 You lay out the beams of your chambers in the waters above;

you make the clouds your chariot;

you ride on the wings of the wind.

You make the winds your messengers

and flames of fire your servants.

You have set the earth upon its foundations,

so that it never shall move at any time.

6 You covered it with the Deep as with a mantle;

the waters stood higher than the mountains.

At your rebuke they fled;

at the voice of your thunder they hastened away.

8 They went up into the hills and down to the valleys beneath,

to the places you had appointed for them.

9 You set the limits that they should not pass;

they shall not again cover the earth.

10 You send the springs into the valleys;

they flow between the mountains.

11 All the beasts of the field drink their fill from them,

and the wild asses quench their thirst.

12 Beside them the birds of the air make their nests

and sing among the branches.

25 O LORD, how manifold are your works!

in wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

Mark 6:53-56 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

And when they had crossed over to the other side of the lake they landed at Gennesaret and tied up there.  As soon as they came ashore, the people recognised Jesus and rushed all over the countryside and began to carry the sick around on their beds to wherever he was.  Wherever he went, in villages or towns or hamlets, they laid down their sick right in the marketplaces and begged him that they might “just touch the edge of this cloak”.  And all those who touched him were healed.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The earliest chapters of Genesis are beautiful poetry (of a sort) but not science.  Neither is Psalm 104, but that fact did not stop the Medieval and Renaissance Roman Catholic Church from citing Psalm 104:5 and other texts to declare that anyone who said that the Earth revolves around the Sun was a heretic.  (As Galileo Galilei wrote, it is wrong to declare what is demonstrated to be true a heresy.)  We are reading mythology in Genesis and poetry in the Psalms, so we ought not mistake them for a technical manual.  Yet they do constitute profound theology, and therein lies their truth.

The adapted Canadian Anglican lectionary divides the first Creation Story (actually the second one written) into two segments, so some of what I am about to write entails getting ahead of the reading.  With that disclaimer, here I go.

The first Creation Story tells of God creating order from chaos, not something from nothing (ex nihilo in Latin).  The account divides the act of creating into two parts:  Days 1-3 and Days 4-6.  During days 1-3, God establishes the outlines of creation:  night, day, skies, land, and seas.  Then God spends the next three days filling out the details.  And God rests on the seventh day, of course.  Episcopal priest and author Robert Farrar Capon states in The Third Peacock:  The Problem of God and Evil (Second Edition; New York:  Winston Press, 1986), that creation results from a “Trinitarian bash.”  And creation is good.  So God delights in creation, of which we are part and the pinnacle.  It follows logically, then, that we should delight in God.

But how often do we do that?

Now I turn to the reading from Mark.

You might have noticed, O reader, that the lectionary skipped a few verses from the Saturday devotional.  To be precise, the lectionary has jumped past the feeding of five thousand men (plus an uncertain number of women and children).  The lectionary has also skipped Jesus walking on water.  This text has puzzled interpreters since before the days of St. Augustine of Hippo, who offered this understanding:  Jesus is the master of the storm, so Christians have no reason to fear.  Then we arrive at the portion of Mark prescribed for this day in the Epiphany season.

The crowds, unlike those at the Feeding of the Five Thousand (Plus), did not come to hear Jesus teach.  No, they came to Jesus seeking his healing–and his healing alone.  (The crush of people must have stressed Jesus.) There is nothing wrong with seeking healing, but we ought not stop there.  There is nothing wrong with asking God to help ourselves and those we love and for whom we care about otherwise, but prayer should not consist solely of presenting God with a “honey do” list.

We are created to be in a healthy relationship with God.  The Larger Westminster Catechism says it best in Question #1:

What is the chief and highest end of man?

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

There are varieties of prayer.  Among these are thanksgiving and intercession.  How often have you tried contemplative prayer?  How often have you undertaken merely to be conscious of the presence of God without asking anything of God?  How often have you just listened for God in silence?  These activities help deepen a healthy relationship with God.

As for me, I have done some of this, with mixed results.  I need to do better, and I keep trying.  The truth is that quieting my mind is a great challenge.  Over time, however, this will become easier, by grace.  The world is filled with noise, but God, as the prophet Elijah discovered, speaks in the silence.  The gods of ancient Near Eastern pantheons manifested themselves in natural phenomena, such as storms and volcanic eruptions, but the one God expresses self in the opposite ways.

May we enter into the silence and listen to whatever God might say to us.  If God says nothing on one day, at least we were silent for a while.  And there is nothing wrong with that.  Yet, if God does speak on a certain day, we will be there, alert and ready to hear.  That is good, indeed.  And divine order will supplant human chaos.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HARTSHORNE, UNITARIAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-5-epiphany-monday-year-1/

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One response to “May We Seek and Find a Positive Relationship With God, Who Can Transform Our Human Chaos Into Divine Order

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  1. Pingback: Week of 5 Epiphany: Monday, Year 1 « ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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