Declaring the Mighty Acts of God–Or Not   1 comment

Above:  A Dutch House Subsiding Because of An Inadequate Foundation

Image Source = Vincent van Zeijst

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Stompwijkseweg_68-70,_Stompwijk,_Netherlands.JPG)

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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 16:1-12, 15-16 (An American Translation):

Abram’s wife Sarai had borne him no children, but she had an Egyptian maid whose name was Hagar.  So Sarai said to Abraham,

Seeing now that the LORD has prevented me from having children, suppose you marry my maid; I might perhaps build up a family through her.

Abram agreed to the suggestion of Sarai; so Abram’s wife Sarai took Hagar, her Egyptian maid (it was after Abram had been living in the land of Canaan for ten years), and gave her in marriage to her husband Abram.  He had intercourse with Hagar, and she had conceived.  When she found that she had conceived, she looked with disdain upon her mistress.  So Sarai said to Abram,

May the wrong done me fall on you.  It was I who put my maid in your arms, but when she found that she had conceived, she looked with disdain upon me.  May the LORD judge between you and me!

Abram said to Sarai,

Your maid is in your power; do what you like with her.

Then Sarai treated her so cruelly that she ran away from her.  But the angel of the LORD came upon her beside a spring in the desert (the spring on the road to Shur) and said,

Hagar, maid of Sarai, where have you come from and where are you going?

She said,

I am running away from my mistress Sarai.

The angel of the LORD said to her,

Return to your mistress, and submit to her authority.

Further, the angel of the LORD said to her,

I will make your descendants so numerous that they will be too many to count.

The angel of the LORD also said to her,

You are with child, and are going to bear a son; you are to call his name Ishmael [God heard], because the LORD has heard of your ill-treatment.  He shall be a wild-ass of a man, with his hand against everyone, and everyone’s hand against him; he shall live on the outskirts of all his kindred.

So Hagar bore a son to Abram, and Abram gave the name of Ishmael to his son, whom Hagar bore.  Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore Ishmael to him.

Psalm 106:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever.

2 Who can declare the mighty acts of the LORD

or show forth all his praise!

3 Happy are those who act with justice

and always do what is right!

Remember me, O LORD, with the favor you have for your people,

and visit me with your saving help;

That I may see the prosperity of your elect

and be glad with the gladness of your people,

that I may glory with your inheritance.

Matthew 7:21-29 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

It is not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ who will get into the Kingdom of Heaven, but only those who do the will of my Father in heaven.  Many will say to me on that Day, ‘Lord! Lord!  Was it not in your name that we prophesied, and by your name that we drove out demons, and by your name that we did many mighty acts?’  Then I will say to them plainly, ‘I never knew you!  Go away from me, you who do wrong!’

Everyone, therefore, who listens to this teaching of mine and acts upon it, will be like a sensible man who built his house on rock.  And the rain fell, and the rivers rose, and the winds blew, and beat about that house, and it did not go down, for its foundations were on rock.  And anyone who listens to this teaching of mine and does not act upon it, will be like a foolish man who built his house on sand.  And the rain fell, and the rivers rose, and the winds blew and beat down that house, and it went down, and its downfall was complete.

When Jesus had finished this discourse, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them like one who had authority and not like their scribes.

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The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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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And Peter opened his mouth and said:  “Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him….”

–Acts 10:34-35 (Revised Standard Version)

Deeds reveal creeds, but good deeds can reveal more than one creed.  This is one lesson from the finale of the Sermon on the Mount.  Let us look up and read Acts 10:34-35 again; one must act properly and fear, that is, have awe for, God in on order to be acceptable to God.  So, by the proper combination of words and deeds, one declares the mighty acts of God.  The ultimate goal for one’s life should be that it, by grace, will become prayer.

Consistent with this thought, one needs to build on a solid foundation.  As a Christian, I state that the solid foundation is God, specifically Jesus of Nazareth, the incarnated Second Person of the Trinity and the Word of God.  What greater authority can there be?  He did not need to cite learned scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures as authorities, for he predated the book.

Speaking of that sacred anthology, it is brutally honest about the shortcomings of heroes of faith.  Consider Abram and Sarai, for example.  For a season they did not trust God to fulfill the divine promise to make Abram the origin of a great nation.  So they took matters into their own hands.  Sarai became jealous of Hagar after Abram did what she (Sarai) had suggested, so she (Sarai) abused Hagar, her maid servant now pregnant with Abram’s (firstborn) child.  So Hagar ran away, only to receive divine assurance of favor and a promise parallel to that God had made to Abram.  God heard Hagar, who never asked for any of her afflictions to come upon her, yet remained faithful to Abram and Sarai.  Grace flows where it will.

This story is only part of the Abraham saga, of course, so we ought to read and ponder it within that context.  One lesson I derive by doing this and placing the reading from Genesis next to the end of the Sermon on the Mount is that our lives, warts and all, can declare the mighty acts of God (to steal a phrase from the psalm) by grace.  The operative question here is: What is the dominant pattern of our lives?  Moral perfection is impossible in this life, but that is no excuse for not trying more often than not to do the right thing and to live in an awestruck relationship with God, who knows that we are “but dust.”  Between single predestination and the witness of the Holy Spirit everyone has an opportunity to declare the mighty acts of God in words and deeds.  Will the dominant pattern in our lives indicate a positive or a negative reply?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 13, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELLA J. BAKER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUCY OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Posted February 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis II: 12-25, Matthew 7, Psalm 106

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One response to “Declaring the Mighty Acts of God–Or Not

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 7: Thursday, Year 1 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

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