Archive for the ‘1 Thessalonians 2’ Category

Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Micah

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Holy God, who sent thy Son Jesus Christ to fulfill the Law:

mercifully grant that by our actions we may show forth his perfect love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Micah 3:5-12

1 Thessalonians 2:13-20

Matthew 5:38-48

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I could replicate much of the previous post and remain on topic in this post, but I choose not to do so.  No, I refer you, O reader to that post for that duplicate material as I focus on the reading from Matthew 5.

According to The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), the translation of Matthew 5:39 should read, in part,

Do not use violence to resist an evildoer,

not

Do not resist and evildoer.

Matthew 5:39, in its proper translation, is a problematic passage.  It joins the company of Pauline passages commanding submission to governments, as in Romans 13.  Yet, as some prominent Biblical scholars have asked, especially in the context of World War II, does this advice tell people that they should have obeyed Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin?  One may reach back to Micah 3, with its condemnation of leaders who despise justice.  Should people submit to such rulers?

Matthew 5:43-48 places 5:38-42 in some context.  Although the Law of Moses never says to hate one’s enemies, doing so seems quite natural.  The commandment of Jesus is to resist evil with righteousness, and to love even enemies.  Perhaps they will repent.

Violence is necessary and proper sometimes.  Usually it is improper, though.  May we, obeying Jesus, resist without sinning, without compromising ourselves morally.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

–Romans 12:19-21, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As Pelagius wrote,

The enemy has overcome you when he makes you like himself.

What moral leg do we have to stand on then?  This question applies far beyond the individual level–all the way to the national level, at least.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, FATHER OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF NELSON MANDELA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

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Good Society, Part III   2 comments

Above:  Jeroboam II

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday after Pentecost, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Thou who art God and Father of all:

give us, we pray, an awareness of our common humanity

so that whether we are weak or strong, rich or poor,

we may share what we have with those who have not,

following the example of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Amos 7:10-15

1 Thessalonians 2:1-12

Matthew 5:27-37

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Amos, like St. Paul the Apostle, did not attempt to curry favor with people, especially powerful ones.  Amos ran afoul of King Jeroboam II, who had the authority to expel the prophet from the Kingdom of Israel and back to the Kingdom of Judah (Amos’s home) yet not to change the course of prophecy.

Amos and St. Paul the Apostle committed themselves completely to serving God.  The main message of Matthew 5:20-48–to commit fully, not to be too clever by half, to play games with God, and to try to get away with the least one can do–has never ceased to be relevant.  Perfection (verse 48)–actually suitability for one’s purpose, which is to follow God–has always been a realistic goal via grace.  Moral perfectionism has always been unrealistic, given human nature, but striving to be the best one can be in God has never ceased to be proper.

Amos 7 offers a sobering lesson for all who imagine vainly that good times will continue unabated.  Consider, O reader, that during the reign (788-747 B.C.E.) of Jeroboam II, the Kingdom of Israel was economically prosperous and militarily powerful.  Consider also, O reader, that the kingdom fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.E.  Nationalism is a poor substitute for devotion to God.  Kingdoms, empires, and countries rise and fall, but God is forever.  Potentates leave office one way or another; most of them are of little historical significance.  Many who are historically significant are negatively so.  God, however, is the ultimate force for righteousness.

The condemnation of the Kingdom of Israel went beyond idolatry; it included institutionalized economic exploitation (Amos 2:6).  The condemnation of the Kingdom of Israel has never ceased to be germane, for its sins were not unique to it.

The Law of Moses contains a strong element of social justice–of looking out for each other, of being responsible to and for each other.  Do we, in our societies, really look out for each other?  Do we acknowledge that we are responsible to and for each other?  If we do not, we are sowing the seeds of our collective destruction.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT, AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF AMILIE JULIANE, COUNTESS OF SCHWARZBRG-RUDOLSTADT, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

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Neglecting Human Needs in the Name of God   1 comment

Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees James Tissot

Above:  Woe Unto You, Scribes and Pharisees, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, generous and supreme, your loving Son lived among us,

instructing us in the ways of humility and justice.

Continue to ease our burdens, and lead us to serve alongside of him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 5:18-31 (Monday)

Lamentations 2:13-17 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 16:21-33 (Wednesday)

Psalm 5 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 2:13-20 (Monday)

Acts 13:1-12 (Tuesday)

Matthew 15:1-9 (Wednesday)

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Braggarts cannot stand in your sight;

you hate all those who work wickedness.

You destroy those who speak lies;

the bloodthirsty and deceitful, O LORD, you abhor.

–Psalm 5:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The dominant theme of these days’ readings is that false prophets are bad people whom God will punish.  Related to that theme is another:  following false prophets leads to a bad end.  I have summarized that point, which the lessons state eloquently, so I will not dwell on it.  A side comment germane to the topic is that nobody who taught me in Sunday School when I was a child mentioned the story from Acts 13, in which St. Paul the Apostle blinds Elymas the sorcerer with only the power of words and the Holy Spirit.  I could have sworn also that Jesus said to love one’s enemies and that the Apostle wrote that people should overcome evil with good, so I have some unanswered questions about that story.  Maybe those in charge of my childhood Sunday School classes considered the tale too troublesome, assuming that they knew of it.  Many of my childhood Sunday School teachers seemed to know remarkably little about the Bible and much of what they did “know” was objectively wrong.  But I digress.

I choose to focus instead on Matthew 15:1-9.  Jesus chastises some Pharisees for obsessing over an extra-biblical point of ritual hand-washing–a matter of the theology of cleanliness and uncleanliness, of purity and impurity–while accepting gifts which should go instead to support the aging parents of the donors.  Donating wealth to the Temple for the support of professional religious people could be a pious act or a dodge of one’s obligation to honor one’s parents; motivation made all the difference.  Our Lord and Savior’s driving point remains relevant, for how we treat each other (especially within families) matters to God.  Related to that point is a second:  do not obsess about minor points and imagine that doing so makes one holy while one violates major points.

I, as an Episcopalian, embrace the Anglican Three-Legged Stool:  Scripture, tradition, and reason.  A better mental image is a tricycle, with Scripture as the big wheel.  My theology places tradition in a place of respect, where it belongs.  Thus I reject certain Protestant interpretations of Matthew 15:1-9 as a condemnation of all extra-biblical tradition.  My reasoning extends beyond the fact of my chosen denomination, for I understand that even those who criticize extra-biblical traditions of others for being extra-biblical have their own.  Such criticism reeks of hypocrisy.

No, I situate my criticism of those Pharisees where Jesus did:  neglecting human needs while providing theological cover for the practice.  Those who engage in such behaviors are truly false teachers who harm others.  And God is watching them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-26-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Our Mission As Christians Entails Being Part of the Solution, Not Seeking to Flee This World   2 comments

Above:  Second Coming Icon

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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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1 Thessalonians 3:6-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

However, Timothy is back from you and he has given us good news of your faith and your love, telling us that you always remember us with pleasure and want to see us quite as much as we want to see you.  And so, brothers, your faith has been a great comfort to us in the middle of your own troubles and sorrows; now we can breathe again, as you are still holding firm in the Lord.  How can we thank God enough for you, for all the joy we feel before our God on your account?  We are earnestly praying night and day to be able to see you face to face again and make up any shortcomings in your faith.

May God our Father himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, make it easy for us to come to you.  May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you.  And may he so conform your hearts in holiness that you may be blameless in the sight of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus Christ comes with all his saints.

Psalm 90:13-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

13 Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry?

be gracious to your servants.

14 Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning;

so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

15 Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us

and the years in which we suffered adversity.

16 Show your servants your works

and your splendor to their children.

17 May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us;

prosper the work of our hands;

prosper our handiwork.

Matthew 24:42-51 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Jesus said,

So stay awake, because you do not know the day when your master is coming.  You may be quite sure of this that if the householder had known at what time of the night the burglar would come, he would have stayed awake and would not have allowed anyone to break through the wall of his house.  Therefore, you too must stand ready because the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.

What kind of servant, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give him their food at the proper time?  Happy that servant if his master’s arrival finds him at this employment.  I tell you solemnly, he will place him over everything he owns. But as for the dishonest servant who says to himself, “My master is taking his time,” and sets about beating his fellow servants and drinking with drunkards, his master will come on a day he does not expect and at an hour he does not know.  The master will cut him off and send him to the same fate as hypocrites, where there will be weeping and grinding of teeth.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory 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 glad morning when this life is o’er,

I’ll fly away;

To a home on God’s celestial shore,

I’ll fly away.

I’ll fly away, O glory,

I’ll fly away in the morning;

When I die, hallelujah, by and by.

When the shadows of this life have grown,

I’ll fly away;

Like a bird from prison bars has flown,

I’ll fly away.

I’ll fly away, O glory….

Just a few more weary days and then,

I’ll fly away;

To a land where joys shall never end,

I’ll fly away.

I’ll fly away, O glory….

–Albert E. Brumley, 1932

Bishop Henry Irving Louttit, Jr., leader of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia from 1995 to 2010, is a man I respect greatly.  He has diagnosed correctly the problem with the rather annoying gospel song I have quoted above:  It is escapist.

The Incarnation is about, among other things, God coming into world to transform and redeem it.  So let us not give up on it.  Giving up on the world, with its plethora of severe problems, lies at the heart of much apocalyptic thought.  The logic runs something like this:  Since the world has gone to Hell in a handbasket, the best we Christians can do is hang on until Jesus returns.  But how much better, I ask, might the world be if we were more active in the world, if we focused less on prophecy seminars and conferences, and if we got busy doing our best to be salt and light?  We ought not strive to get the hell out of Dodge.  No, we need to make Dodge a better town.

Apocalyptic thought is almost as old as Christianity.  The Apostle Paul expected Jesus to return within his lifetime.  And many members of the church at Thessalonica had the same idea.  Since then some people have set dates, only to meet with disappointment.  William Miller, founder of the Seventh-Day Adventist Church, did this more than once.  One Colin Hoyle Deal published a book entitled Christ Returns by 1988:  101 Reasons Why in 1979.  And, as I write these words, another deadline, May 21, 2011, is in my near future.  I expect many people to be disappointed on May 22, 2011.  I expect nothing, so I will not be disappointed.

May we focus on being salt and light, to the best of our ability, by the help of God.  Then, regardless of whatever God’s plans are on any given day, God will not catch us unawares.

Where shall we start?  I propose that we start by loving ourselves and one another in God, in whom we have identity.  Paul’s affection for the Thessalonian Christians is obvious in the reading from the epistle.  But it is also evident in 1 Thessalonians 2:14-3:5, over which the Canadian Lectionary skips.  Consider these words:

What do you think is our pride and our joy?  You are…. (2:19a)

For all the references to slanders some in the Thessalonian church had made against Paul, the Apostle was genuinely fond of the congregation.

United by mutual love and affection in God, may we Christians be salt and light in the world, which is our neighborhood, not the enemy camp.  We are responsible for our neighborhoods.  And if we are not part of the solution, we are part of the problem.  Empowered by God, we can succeed in our mission.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DRAUSINUS AND ANSERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS OF SOISSONS; SAINT VINDICIAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CAMBRAI; AND SAINT LEODEGARIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF AUTUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT PERPETUA AND HER COMPANIONS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/week-of-proper-16-thursday-year-1/

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Authentic Spirituality   1 comment

Above:  Bottle Feeding an Abandoned Kitten

http://lovemeow.com/2010/03/men-rescued-abandoned-new-born-kittens/

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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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1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You know yourselves, my brothers, that our visit to you has not proved ineffectual.

We had, as you know, been given rough treatment and been grossly insulted at Philippi, and it was our God who gave us the courage to proclaim his Good News to you in the face of great opposition.  We have not taken to preaching because we are deluded, or immoral, or trying to deceive anyone; it was God who decided that we were fit to be entrusted with the Good News, and when we are speaking, we are not trying to please men but God,who can read our inmost thoughts. You know very well, and we can swear it before God, that never at any time have our speeches been simply flattery, or a cover for trying to get money; nor have we ever looked for any special honour from men, either from you or anybody else, when we could have imposed ourselves on you with the full weight, as apostles of Christ.

Instead, we were unassuming.  Like a mother feeding and looking after her own children, we felt so devoted and protective towards you, and had come to love you so much, that we were eager to hand over to you not only the Good News but our whole lives as well.

Psalm 139:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

3 Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

4 You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

8 If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

Matthew 23:23-26 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you , scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who pay tithe of mint and dill and cummin and have neglected the weightier matters of the Law–justice, mercy, good faith!  These you should have practised, without neglecting the others.  You blind guides!  Straining out gnats and swallowing camels!

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who clean the outside of cup and dish and leave the inside full of extortion and intemperance. Blind Pharisee!  Clean the inside of cup and dish first so that the outside may become clean as well.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory 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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What is the test of authentic spirituality?  Or, to phrase the question differently, what does God require of us?  We ought, when pondering this matter, realize that divinity exists in a realm beyond the limits of our ability to understand; God refuses to fit into our intellectual boxes.  So, as valuable as theology can be (which is to say, very), we need to avoid turning theological concepts into idols.

Karen Armstrong proposes the answer that makes the most sense to me.  Compassion, she says, is the test of authentic spirituality.  Compassion is at the heart of the reading from 1 Thessalonians.  Paul cared deeply for the people of Thessalonica, so he shared his life with them.  Compassion impelled Jesus, too.  This helps explain why he was so critical of those who, in the name of God, obsessed over small matters while neglecting what mattered most–that is, to love God with everything and each other as one self.

Compassion transcends species.  The most appropriate image I could find for this post is the one I have attached to it.  I have provided a link to its source, and the story is worth reading.  David Dixon and Paul Ortega, of Palm Springs, California, rescued four kittens from a trash bag in 2010.  Two survived.  Dixon and Ortega named the survivors Scooter and Dixie.  The men bottle fed the kittens until this was no longer necessary.  The kittens became well and the humans decided to keep them.

Admittedly I have a soft spot for cats, especially vulnerable kittens.  Felines are creatures of God and agents of grace, and human compassion ought to extend to all who are vulnerable, regardless of species.  Jesus would approve of what Dixon and Ortega have done for these cats.

In contrast I read about honor killings, sometimes by immigrants to the United States.  Those who perpetrate these crimes use religion to justify their actions.  But the God I worship does not approve of honor killings.  The God I worship teaches compassion, condemns honor killings, says to love my neighbor as I love myself, and adores kittens.  (Being part of creation, they fall under the description of “good.”) This God does not always agree me with me.  Indeed, I know that I am wrong about certain points, but remain unsure which ones those are.  But compassion matters more than fine points of theology.

May the hallmark of your faith life, O reader, be compassion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN OF TREVESTE, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID OF WALES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MENEVIA

THE FEAST OF GIROLAMO FRESCOBALDI, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANES THE CHRONICLER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/week-of-proper-16-tuesday-year-1/

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Loving Our Neighbors As We Love Ourselves   1 comment

Above:  The Logo of Lehman Brothers, Now Defunct

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain– that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees– as far as Zoar. The LORD said to him,

This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants”; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.

Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the LORD’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

 Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

3  You turn us back to the dust and say,

“Go back, O child of earth.”

 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

 You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

 In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered.

13  Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry?

be gracious to your servants.

14  Satisfy us with your loving-kindness in the morning;

so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

15  Make us glad with the measure of the days that you afflicted us

and the years in which we suffered adversity.

16  Show your servants your works

and your splendor to their children.

17  May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us;

prosper the work of our hands;

prosper our handiwork.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Psalm 1 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and the meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither,

everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked;

they are like the chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the ways of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

SECOND READING

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 22:34-46 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.

Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?

He said to him,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:

What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?

They said to him,

The son of David.

He said to them,

How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

“The Lord said to my Lord,

Sit at my right hand,

until I put your enemies under your feet”?

If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?

No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; 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:

Deuteronomy 34:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/week-of-proper-14-wednesday-year-1/

Leviticus 19:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/fifth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/proper-2-year-a/

1 Thessalonians 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/week-of-proper-16-tuesday-year-1/

Matthew 22:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/week-of-proper-15-friday-year-1/

Mark 12 (Parallel to Matthew 22):

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-first-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/week-of-proper-4-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/week-of-proper-4-friday-year-1/

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There was a notoriously violent slave master in the Antebellum U.S. South.  This man also claimed to be a good Christian.  Indeed, he attended church frequently and bore the nickname “Deacon.”  One of Deacon’s slaves left a written testament in which he claimed not to want to go to Heaven if Deacon was going to be there.

Many of us are aware of the Golden Rule and the Shema.  We quote them and make warm and positive statements about the Good Samaritan.  Yet how often do we act to the contrary and/or justify those who do?  Do we really believe our excuses or are we trying to convince ourselves of that which we know to be immoral?

And how much better off would the rest of us be if certain people in some corporations valued the common good more than short-term profits?

This is a very basic topic–one I have covered elsewhere, as the links testify.  So, in the name of not repeating myself too many times, I conclude with these words:  Whatever the cost(s) to ourselves, may we love our neighbors as ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY KNOX SHERRILL, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF MATTEO RICCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF RUATARA, TE ARA MO TE RONGOPAI, GATEWAY FOR THE GOSPEL

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on May 11, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/proper-25-year-a/

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A Living Power Among You Who Believe It   1 comment

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s)

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1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Let me remind you, brothers, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you.  You are witnesses, and so is God, that our treatment of you, since you became believers, has been impeccably right and fair.  You can remember how we treated every one of you as a father treats his children, teaching you what was right, encouraging you and appealing to you to live a life worthy of God, who is calling you to share the glory of his kingdom.

Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Matthew 23:27-32 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption.  In the same way you appear to people from the outside like honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who build the sepulchres of the prophets and decorate the tombs of holy men, saying, ‘We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our fathers’ day.’  So!  Your own evidence tells against you!  You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets!  Very well then, finish off the work that your fathers began.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory 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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Contact with a corpse made one ritually unclean (Numbers 19:16).  So imagine that it is the month of Adar, and that you, O reader, are a pilgrim in Jesus’ day traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover.  You might become ritually unclean, and therefore ineligible to celebrate Passover, if you come into contact with a roadside tomb.  Fortunately for you, people have whitewashed the tombs in advance, so they will stand out, and pilgrims will not become ritually unclean by accident.

This is the reference to whitewashed tombs in Matthew 23.  But Jesus says that hypocritical professional religious people who lay needless burdens on the faithful are the whitewashed tombs; the scribes and Pharisees are themselves unclean.  How is that for a strong condemnation, one that hits home?  And these scribes and Pharisees are the spiritual heirs of those who have persecuted and killed prophets of God.  At this point in Matthew Jesus is nearing his own death, in which professional religious people were complicit.  (But let us not let the Romans off the hook, for the Procurator authorized the execution and soldiers carried it out.)

This day’s reading from 1 Thessalonians begins with Paul defending himself against unfounded criticisms.  Why else would he have pointed to his work ethic and his treatment of others?  Here we have an example of an old truth:  Whatever you do, somebody is likely to criticize you.  But the part of the reading that attracts my attention is verse 13:  God’s message is a living power among those who believe it.  Belief is trust; it indicates an influence in how one lives.  So belief becomes evident in actions.

The fault of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus criticized was that their belief was self-serving.  It made them look good to themselves and many others, but it was a disguise for spiritual rot.  Jesus calls us not to be tombs or spiritual memorials, but living testimonies to him.  Once in a while we might have to say something, but our actions ought to do most of the talking.

The aspect of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity that bothers me most is its preoccupation with individual salvation at the expense of the well-being of one’s community and society.  I have had conversations with people possessed of this spiritual understanding.  Many of them do not care if the world burns; they have Jesus.  (Someone expressed this sentiment to me a few years ago, without embarrassment.)  According to this point of view, social justice can take a back seat as long as a man’s hair is not too long, a woman’s skirt is not too short, and someone is learning that he or she will go to Hell unless he or she comes to Jesus.  Without dismissing the necessity of Jesus (I am a Christian.), I prefer a holistic gospel.  It is pointless to cure one person of spiritual sickness and not care about societal ills.  Indeed, we humans are not separate from our societies.  And love of God is more effective than fear of damnation in drawing one into a spiritually healthy relationship with God.

Disclaimer, for the sake of accuracy:  Many evangelical Christians are quite concerned about social justice and responsible ecology.  I applaud them.  Unfortunately, some of their co-religionists criticize them for the breadth of their concerns.

May we–you and I–exhibit the living power of God to all, so that all who seek it and cross paths with us will see it working within us.  And, to borrow a line from St. Francis of Assisi, may we preach the gospel at all times, using words when necessary.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on March 6, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/week-of-proper-16-wednesday-year-1/

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