Knowing and Doing What is Right–Two Different Things   2 comments

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s C.E. Painting)

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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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Romans 7:18-25 (Revised English Bible):

For I know that nothing good dwells in me–my unspiritual self, I mean–for though the will to do good this there, the ability to effect it is not.  The good which I want to do, I fail to do; but what I do is the wrong which is against my will; and if what I do is against my will, clearly it is no longer I who am the agent, but sin that has its dwelling in me.

I discover this principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting  against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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 for ever,

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.

Luke 12:54-59 (Revised English Bible):

He [Jesus] also said to the people,

When you see clouds gathering in the west, you say at once, “It is going to rain,” and rain it does.  And when the wind is from the south, you say, “It will be hot,” and it is.  What hypocrites you are!  You know how to interpret the appearance of earth and sky, but cannot interpret the faithful hour.

Why can you not judge for yourselves what is right?  When you are going with your opponent to court, make an effort to reach a settlement with him while you are still on the way; otherwise he may drag you before the judtge, and the judge hand you over to the officer, and the officer throw you into jail.  I tell you, you will not be let out until you have paid the very last penny.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, in Christ you have revealed your glory among the nations: Preserve the works of your mercy, that your Church throughout the world may persevere with steadfast faith in the confession of your Name; 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:

Matthew 5 (Similar to Luke 12):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

Romans 7:

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

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For your consideration:

Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us more and more with fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive power, so that even men of good will are unconsciously and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

That is the text of the paragraph on total depravity from A Brief Statement of Belief (1962), of the Presbyterian Church in the United States, the old “Southern Presbyterian Church.”  Readers with keen theological minds might notice the influence of Neo-orthodoxy in there, especially when contrasting this paragraph with its counterpart in the preceding 1913 Brief Statement, which makes no mention of societal sin.

The reading from Romans speaks mostly for itself, and I, for one, identify with it strongly.  By way of commentary, I repeat a story from the 1960s I heard years ago.  George C. Wallace, Governor of Alabama was one the prominent users of race-baiting and advocates of Jim Crow segregation in this nation.  Sometimes he spoke in open racial terms; other times, he used law-and-order code language.  There was a joke about him making the rounds among those who disagreed with him prior to this 1970s mea culpa:

George Wallace died and arrived at the pearly gates.  Not seeing anyone, he knocked.  Wallace heard a voice from a back room:  ”Who dat?”  The Governor said, “Never mind; I will go to the other place.”

A university professor (in the 1960s) in the U.S. West heard this joke from a student.  The professor repeated it in class and asked his pupils to analyze it.  What is the other place?  Students from the West, North, and Midwest generally understood it to be Hell.  But pupils from the Deep South generally thought that the other place was Heaven for White people.  Even their concept of the afterlife was segregated.

We have great difficulty doing righteousness when we know what it is.   Yet much of the time we do not know good from evil and righteousness from sin.  We allow cultures, subcultures, and societies to corrupt our understandings.  Thank God for grace, which is our only hope!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE PARKER, ABOLITIONIST AND MAVERICK UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY PIEROZZI, A.K.A. ANTONINUS OF FLORENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS LUDWIG VON ZINZERDORF, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/10/week-of-proper-24-friday-year-1/

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2 responses to “Knowing and Doing What is Right–Two Different Things

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  1. Pingback: Week of Proper 24: Friday, Year 1 « ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

  2. Pingback: Guide to Posts Regarding the Presbyterian Church in the United States (1861-1983) | BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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