The Law of Liberation   1 comment

Above:  A Jail Cell

Image Source = Andrew Bardwell

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

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Nehemiah 8:1-12 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

When the seventh month arrived–the Israelites being [settled] in their towns–the entire people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the scroll of the Teaching of Moses with which the LORD had charged Israel.  On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the high priest brought the Teaching before the congregation, men and women and all who could listen with understanding.  He read from it, facing the square before the Water Gate, from the first light until midday, to the men and the women and those who could understand; the ears of all the people were given to the scroll of the Teaching.

Ezra the scribe stood upon a wooden tower made for the purpose, and beside hm stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah at his right, and at his left Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, Meshullam.  Ezra opened the scroll in the sight of all the people; the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people; as he opened it, all the people stood up.  Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” with hands upraised.  Then they bowed their hands and prostrated themselves before the LORD with their faces to the ground.  Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites explained the Teaching to the people, while the people stood in their places.  They read from the scroll of the Teaching of God, translating it and giving the sense; so they understood the reading.

Nehemiah the Tirshatha, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites, who were explaining to the people said to all the people,

This day is holy to the LORD your God:  you must not mourn or weep,

for all the people were weeping as they listened to the words of the Teaching.  He further said to them,

Go, eat choice foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord.  Do not be sad, for your rejoicing in the LORD is the source of your strength.

The Levites were quieting the people, saying,

Hush, for the day is holy; do not be sad.

Then all the people went to eat and drink and send portions and make great merriment, for they understood the things they were told.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

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.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a (New Revised Standard Version):

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say,

Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,

that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say,

Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,

that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand,

I have no need of you,

nor again the head to the feet,

I have no need of you.

On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.

Luke 4:14-21 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside.  He taught in their synagogues and everyone glorified him.

He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me,

for he has anointed me

to bring the good news to the afflicted.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,

sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to speak to them,

The text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.

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.

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Some Related Posts:

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

Nehemiah 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/week-of-proper-21-thursday-year-1/

1 Corinthians 12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/week-of-proper-19-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-tuesday-year-2/

Luke 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fifth-day-of-epiphany/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-confession-for-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany/

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When I saw the citation for the Nehemiah reading (8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10) in the Revised Common Lectionary, I wondered why it omitted verses 4 and 7.  Then I read the text.  Verses 4 and 7 tell us the names of the people on the platform.  Nehemiah 8:1-10 had been one of the dreaded readings in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer lectionary before The Episcopal Church adopted the Revised Common Lectionary.  The reason for dread was simple:  the names!  Lectors I heard tackle it usually substituted something like

and some other people

for the names and moved along.  And they did not miss any theological point.  The framers of the Revised Common Lectionary did a good deed.  For the purposes of this post, all the names are there because I found a post where I had typed the entire reading.  So I just copied and pasted from my previous work.

The Law of Moses, when applied properly, was about liberating people, not imposing needless burdens on them, unless one considers being stoned for a variety of offenses, including touching a pigskin, committing blasphemy (however people defined that), cursing one’s parents, and engaging in premarital sexual relations necessary burdens.  (I have a mixed view of the Law of Moses.)  Applications of the Law to which Jesus objected including stoning people to death for adultery.  The incidents reported most often in the canonical Gospels, however, pertain to practices which favored the wealthy–those with enough money and leisure time to do certain things just do–and penalized the majority, the poor, who, because of their finances, could not do so.  Liberation of several sorts was on our Lord’s mind.  Next week’s Gospel lesson will will finish the incident at Nazareth, telling of our Lord’s rejection there.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Psalm 19:7-8, from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer translation, tells us that

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

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

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 people of Christ are the body of Christ, Paul tells us.  Each person is therefore a different part of that body.  All are necessary because of, not in spite of, their differences.  Since the parts of Christ’s body need each other, suffering and rejoicing are collective.  And we cannot build up the body by stoning parts of it.  The Law of God–the Law of Liberation–revives the soul and is just.  It sets the captives free.  That is part of our work as Christians:  to love people, to seek what is best for them.  May we recognize what that entails in our circumstances, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, MARTYR AND GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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  1. Pingback: Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year C « ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS

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