Archive for the ‘2 Kings 4’ Category

God’s Work, Our Task   1 comment

Books and a Globe, from the Library, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, June 9, 2017

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 4:18-20, 32-37

Isaiah 52:1-2

Acts 13:26-31

Mark 16:9-20

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In the lessons for this day, we read of different forms of death and resurrection to life.

The Shunammite widow’s son was essential to her well-being in that patriarchal society, in which widows and orphans were particularly vulnerable.  The revivification of the son by God via the prophet Elisha was for the benefit of both mother and son.

The death of the Kingdom of Judah and the ensuing Babylonian Exile was traumatic.  The exile did end, however, albeit without the restoration of the kingdom.  Indeed, the realities of life after the conclusion of the exile did not march the promises recorded in scripture.  The Jews lived under foreign rule in a poor province, after all.  Eventually Judea experienced independence for about a century, but then the Romans came.  The Jews of Palestine lived in exile at home.

The resurrection of Jesus was a game changer.  Without it we Christians would have a dead Jesus and would be the most pitiable people anywhere (1 Corinthians 15:19).  Yet Jesus did not remain on the Earth for long afterward.  No, he gave his followers a mandate.

The work of God is properly our task as human beings.  We have orders to love sacrificially, build each other up, and care for each other’s needs.  We have commands to share the good news of the Incarnation via Jesus and of his saving life, death, and resurrection.  I do not pretend to grasp the full meaning of Jesus being the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6), but I affirm that the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus play crucial parts in that truth.

May we, by grace, being glory to God, draw people to Christ, and strengthen others in their faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2017 COMMON ERA

TRINITY SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS THE APOSTLE, COWORKER OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/11/devotion-for-easter-sunday-ackerman/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Spiritual Blindness   1 comment

mosaic

Above:  Mosaic, Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 21:1-15 or 2 Kings 4:38-44

Psalm 49:(1-12) 13-20

Matthew 15:29-39; 16:10-12 or Mark 8:1-26

2 Corinthians 8:1-6 (7-15) 16-24

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Stories of a holy person feeding a multitude with a small amount of food and having leftovers rhyme, if you will, O reader, in the Bible.  This day we read an account of Elisha feeding 100 men and parallel stories of Jesus feeding 4000 men (plus uncounted women and children) in Matthew 15 and about 4000 people in Mark 8.  The mechanics of such feelings do not interest me, but the theological importance of them does.  The Kingdom of God is here, and we can perceive that reality, if we are spiritually attuned.  In the Kingdom of God one finds abundance for everyone; artificial scarcity is a human creation.

Meanwhile, in 2 Corinthians 8, St. Paul the Apostle is raising funds for the Church at Jerusalem.  This becomes explicit in Chapter 9.  He, quoting Exodus 16:18, originally about manna, makes a point about wealth, monetary and physical:

The one who had much did not have too much,

and the one who had little did not have too little.

–2 Corinthians 8:15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

After all, we cannot take our money and possessions with us when we die.  In this life we ought to use them for positive purposes.  So, for example, if a rebel leader (David) pretending to be in the employ of King Saul needs bread for himself and his men takes the display bread reserved for priests to eat, the physical need overrides the ritual rules.  (Yet, in 1 Samuel 22, the lie had fatal consequences for the priests.)

In the Kingdom of God scarcity is absent.  So is the violence of someone such as King Saul.  The ways of God are not the ways of human beings, despite our repeated attempts to make God fit into our categories.  Part of this problem of attempting to make God fit into our categories is unavoidable, for, when we ponder God, we must do so from a human perspective.  It is the only way we can think about God.  Yet we must, if we are wise, recognize that our point of view is rather restricted.  Our perspective might be, for example, the spiritual blindness of the Apostles of the leaven of the Pharisees.  Reality is much broader than our narrow perspectives, we read.  Are we willing to open our spiritual eyes?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-d/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Glory of the Lord, Part IV   1 comment

Crucifix III July 15, 2014

Above:  One of My Crucifixes, July 15, 2014

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O God, form the minds of your faithful people into one will.

Make us love what you command and desire what you promise,

that, amid all changes of this world, our hearts

may be fixed where true joy is found,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 3:12-21

Psalm 29

Luke 9:18-27

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The voice of the LORD is a powerful voice;

the voice of the LORD is a voice of splendor.

–Psalm 29:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel, having received his prophetic commission from God, sat stunned for seven days.  He probably needed that time to digest what had just occurred.

A major theme in Luke 9 is the identity of Jesus.  Herod Antipas (reigned 4 B.C.E.-39 C.E.) wonders who Jesus might be (verses 7-9).  The Roman client ruler, who had already ordered the execution of St. John the Baptist (Matthew 14:1-12), so who could Jesus be?  Some even claimed to Jesus was Elijah, returned to the earth to prepare the way for the Messiah/Son of Man.  The chapter refutes that claim, for the Feeding of the Five Thousand men plus uncounted women and children was greater than the feeding of a multitude (2 Kings 4:43-44) by Elisha, Elijah’s protege.  Furthermore, Elijah (representing the prophets) stands with Jesus at the Transfiguration (verses 28-36).  St. Simon Peter grasps that Jesus is actually the Messiah (verse 20).  Yet, Jesus tells his Apostles, following him entails taking up one’s cross.

As I have written in this miniseries of four posts, the Presence/glory of God was evident in the acts of God, including in nature and human events.  Jesus of Nazareth was the physical manifestation of the divine Presence/glory in human flesh.  The Gospel of John, not containing an account of the Transfiguration, interpreted Christ’s deeds and resurrection as evidence of the Presence/glory of God.  The Gospel of Luke depicted that Presence/glory via an account of the Transfiguration, set shortly before 9:51, when Jesus set his face toward Jerusalem–to die yet not to remain dead for long.

I try to imagine the scene in Luke 9:18-27 as if I had been present:

I heard Peter identify Jesus as the Messiah of God and think, “Jesus is the Messiah, but what does that mean?” I  After all, I know of competing interpretations of Messiahship.  The Master answered my unspoken question immediately by identifying himself as the Son of Man–an apocalyptic figure from the Book of Daniel.  Furthermore, he said that he will die then rise from the dead a few days later.  As if that were not enough, he ordered us to follow him, even to take up a cross, literal or metaphorical.

I must take time to consider these words.  These are difficult sayings.  Understanding them fully will require the passage of time.  When was the last time a dead person returned to life?  And do I really want to take up a cross, literal or metaphorical?  I used to lead a quiet life as a fisherman.  What have I gotten myself into?  Nevertheless, I will keep walking with Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

God Cares, Part III   1 comment

Mosaic, Church of the Multiplication

Above:  Mosaic, Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

God of compassion, you welcome the wayward,

and you embrace us all with your mercy.

By our baptism clothe us with garments of your grace,

and feed us at the table of your love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 4:1-7

Psalm 53

Luke 9:10-17

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

–Psalm 53:2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The theme of God caring has been present in the previous two posts.  That motif recurs here also.

This time we read of God caring about practical needs.  Food is among the most basic necessities of life.  A human body, deprived of food for too long, dies of starvation.  The extravagance of God in the feeding of the five thousand men (plus uncounted women and children) in Luke 9 and the oil refills in 2 Kings 4 point to divine mercy.  The widow had an abundant supply of oil to sell for funds to pay her debts and therefore save her children from slavery.  The rest of the oil was for cooking purposes at her home.  The crowd in Luke 9 ate well and left enough food to fill twelve baskets.

Questions of historicity interest me, but I conclude that, in these cases, pursuing them would lead me away from the main points of these accounts.  I am writing a devotion, not a dry academic text.  The Benedictine practice of lectio divino is reading scripture for formation, not information.  One of my spiritual mentors in the 1990s taught me to ask one question when reading a portion of scripture.

What is really going on here?

has been my guiding query germane to the Bible since then.  My answer to it in these cases is that there are always leftovers with divine extravagance.

God cares so much as to provide more than enough for everybody to have enough.  Only human sin, often in institutionalized forms, creates scarcity.  Apart from such sin those who have little will still have enough.  The purpose of this abundance is not that he who dies with the most toys wins, but that all people be able to fulfill their needs, both temporal and spiritual.  Divine extravagance, therefore, comes in both forms.

A complicating factor is the frequent inability or unwillingness to distinguish between needs and wants.  May each of us know the difference, accept the extravagance of God gratefully, apply it properly, and help others as we are able and is best for them.  As we have needs may we receive.  As we can and should donate, may we do so.  All of us depend upon God and each other.  Furthermore, all of us are responsible to and for each other.  May we take care of each other, glorify God, and exploit and oppress no person.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/30/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Four Banquets   2 comments

St. Edward's, Lawrenceville

Above:  St. Edward’s Episcopal Church, Lawrenceville, Georgia, October 19, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children

a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth.

Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven

and share this bread with all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 25:6-10a

Psalm 111

Mark 6:35-44

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

He has provided food for his worshippers;

he remembers his covenant for ever.

–Psalm 111:5, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

This is a post about four banquets:  the divine coronation feast in Isaiah 25:6-10a, the sordid feast of Herod Antipas in Mark 6:14-29, the Feeding of the 5000 (Plus) in Mark 6:30-44, and the Holy Eucharist.

The reading from Isaiah 25 speaks of a time immediately after Yahweh has defeated pride, evil, and sorrow, and established the Kingdom of God, in its fullness, on the Earth.  This is a time in our future.  All people are welcome at Yahweh’s coronation feast, to take place on Mount Zion, in Jerusalem.  All is well, except for those whom God has vanquished, namely the Moabites (25:10).

Our next two banquets, which stand is stark contrast to each other, come from Mark 6.  The first is a sordid event, with Herod Antipas lusting after the seductive Salome (whose name and image come to us via archaeology, not the Bible) and making a hasty promise which leads to the execution of St. John the Baptist.  The Herodian family tree was complicated, for both Herodias and her daughter, Salome, were granddaughters of Herod the Great via different women.  Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great via a third woman, married Herodias, who had been the wife of a half-brother of Herod Antipas.  Thus Salome was the step-daughter and a cousin of Herod Antipas.

I will not attempt to explain the Feeding the 5000 (Plus) rationally, for doing that constitutes seeking an answer to the wrong question.  (And I am more of a rationalist than a mystic.)  Neither will I try to explain Jesus walking on water (next in Mark 6) logically, for the same reason.  No, I am interested in answering the question which compelled one of my spiritual mentors whenever he studied any passage of scripture:

What is really going on here?

The Markan account of the Feeding of the 5000 men (no word about the number of women and children) uses imagery from elsewhere in the Bible.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd feeding the flock.  His feeding of the multitude exceeds Elisha’s feeding of 100 men (2 Kings 4:42-44) and Elijah’s miracle of the refilling jug of oil (1 Kings 17:8-16).  The messianic banquet, an echo of Isaiah 25:6-10a, recurs in the wilderness motif in subsequent pseudipigraphal works, such as in 2 Baruch 29:4 and 4 Ezra 6:52.  Two main ideas stand out in my mind:

  1. Jesus is greater than Elijah and Elisha (see Mark 6:15, in which some people thought that Jesus was Elijah), and
  2. Nothing we bring to Jesus is inadequate in his capable hands.  There will be leftovers after he has finished working with it.  We are insufficient by ourselves yet more than sufficient in Christ.  That is what grace can effect.

The eucharistic imagery in Mark 6 points to the fourth banquet, which I, as an Episcopalian, celebrate at least once weekly.  The Holy Eucharist has constituted the core of my spiritual life since childhood.  One reason I left the United Methodism of my youth was to have the opportunities to partake of the sacrament more often.  In the Holy Eucharist I meet Jesus in the forms of bread and wine and swear loyalty to him again.  No, I am not worthy on my merit (such as it is) to do this, but I rely on his merits to make me worthy to do so.  The first step to becoming worthy is acknowledging one’s unworthiness.

The contrast between human systems built on the foundation of violence, exploitation, and oppression on one hand and the Kingdom of God on the other hand is clear.  Injustice and artificial scarcity characterize the former, but justice and abundance for all distinguish the latter.  We can experience a foretaste of the Kingdom of God, which is partially present already, but we await the fullness of the Kingdom.  Until then we can, at least, leave the world better off than we found it.  No effort toward this goal is too little in Christ’s capable hands.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-12-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Will of God and Morality   1 comment

Elisha

Above:   The Prophet Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children

a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth.

Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven

and share this bread with all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:19-21 (Thursday)

2 Kings 3:4-20 (Friday)

2 Kings 4:38-41 (Saturday)

Psalm 145:10-18 (All Days)

Colossians 1:9-14 (Thursday)

Colossians 3:12-17 (Friday)

John 4:31-38 (Saturday)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

All you have made will confess you, LORD,

those devoted to you will give you thanks.

They will speak of your royal glory

and tell of your mighty deeds,

Making known to all mankind your mighty deeds,

your majestic royal glory.

–Psalm 145:10-12, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Certain stories of Elisha resemble those of his mentor, Elijah, as an observant reader of the Books of Kings knows.  And, as an observant reader of the Gospels and the Books of Kings knows, some of the miracle stories of Jesus echo certain accounts of incidents from the lives of Elijah and Elisha.  Examples of these include raising people from the dead and feeding a multitude with a small amount of food.  Those stories indicate, among other things, that the heroes were close to God and were able to meet the needs of people.

The Elisha stories for these days have him leave home, participate in helping his kingdom win a war against Moab, and render dangerous food safe.  They portray him as an agent of the will of God.

The “will of God” is a phrase many people use improperly, even callously.  I, as a student of history, know that various individuals have utilized it to justify the murder of priests of Baal (by the order of Elijah, in 1 Kings 18:40), blame innocent victims of natural disasters exasperated by human shortsightedness (such as God allegedly sending Hurricane Katrina to New Orleans or a devastating earthquake to Haiti, supposedly to smite evildoers in those places), et cetera.  These misuses of the concept of the will of God offend my morality and make God seem like a thug at best.

We ought to exercise great caution using the phrase “the will of God,” for we might speak or write falsely of God and drive or keep people away from a Christian pilgrimage.  This is a topic to approach seriously, not lightly.  Among the most thoughtful treatments is Leslie D. Weatherhead’s The Will of God (1944), which speaks of three wills of God:  intentional, circumstantial, and ultimate.  That is deeper than some professing Christians want to delve into the issue, however.

I do not pretend to be an expert on the will of God, but I do attempt to be an intellectually honest Christian.  I, as a Christian, claim to follow Jesus.  To ask what he would do or would not do, therefore, is a relevant question when pondering issues of morality and the will of God.  The four canonical Gospels are useful for these and other purposes.  I conclude, therefore, that Jesus would not have ordered the deaths of priests of Baal or resorted to homophobia to explain the devastation of Hurricane Katrina.  And I cannot conceive of Jesus agreeing with George Zimmerman that the death of Trayvon Martin was part of God’s plan and that wishing that Martin were alive is almost blasphemous.  Zimmerman is a bad theologian.

Living according to compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and love, per Colossians 3:12-14, is the best way to proceed.  Doing so increases the probability that one will live as an agent of the will of God, whose love we see epitomized in Jesus.  It is better to live rightly than to seek to be right in one’s opinion of oneself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-12-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Grace, Outsiders, and Theological Humility   1 comment

Elisha and the Shunamite Woman

Above:  Elisha and the Shumanite Woman, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Everlasting God, you give strength to the weak and power to the faint.

Make us agents of your healing and wholeness,

that your good may be made known to the ends your creation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 4:8-17, 32-37 (Monday)

2 Kings 8:1-6 (Tuesday)

Psalm 102:12-28 (Both Days)

Acts 14:1-7 (Monday)

Acts 15:36-41 (Tuesday)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

He will look with favor on the prayer of the homeless;

he will not despise their plea.

–Psalm 102:17, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A childless woman bore shame during the time in which Elisha lived.  This was, of course, wrong, but it was her reality.  The story of one such woman, as we find it in 2 Kings 4 and 8, was one of repeated graces–a successful pregnancy, the raising of her dead son, advice to flee ahead of a seven-year-long drought, and, as a widow, restoration of property and income.  Her end, without help, would have been unfortunate.  For example, a widow was especially vulnerable in the Hebrew society of the time.

Widows and barren women were marginalized figures.  So were Gentiles, according to many Jews at the time of St. Paul the Apostle, who was always a Jew.  Christianity began as a Jewish sect.  Indeed, the separation from Judaism was incomplete until 135 C.E., during the Second Jewish War.  The parting of the ways was in progress by the late 60s and early-to-middle 70s C.E., the timeframe for the writing of the Gospel of Mark, the earliest of the four canonical Gospels.  (Thus those religious politics influenced the telling of the stories of Jesus and the twelve Apostles.)  The inclusion of Gentiles and the terms of how that happened caused much controversy within Judaism, Christian and otherwise.  The pericope from Acts 15:36-41 glosses over a fact which St. Paul mentioned in Galatians 2:11-14:  St. Barnabas sided with those who insisted that Gentile converts become Jews first.  Such a position, St. Paul wrote, nullified the grace of God (Galatians 2:21).

Today we read accounts of help for the marginalized.  These people were among the marginalized because other people defined them as such.  This definition labeled people as either insiders or outsiders, for the benefit of the alleged insiders.  I suspect, however, that God’s definition of “insider” is broader than many human understandings have held and do hold.  We humans continue to label others as outsiders for the benefit of the “insiders,” as they define themselves.  Grace remains scandalous, does it not?  And, as Luke Timothy Johnson has said, the Gospel of Mark suggests that many of those who think of themselves as insiders are really outsiders.

I reject Universalism on the side of too-radical inclusion and a range of narrow definitions of who is pure on the opposite side.  The decision about who is inside and who is outside, of who is pure and who is impure, is one for God alone.  We mere mortals have partial answers regarding that question, for we are not totally lacking in received wisdom.  Yet we tend to use the matter as a way of making ourselves feel better about ourselves much of the time.  Often we lapse into a version of the Donatist heresy, in fact.  We ought to live more graciously and with theological humility instead, for we are all broken, weak, and inconstant.  Each of us depends entirely upon grace.  So who are we to think more highly of ourselves than we ought to do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 2, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRIOC, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT TUDWAL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHANNING MOORE WILLIAMS, EPISCOPAL BISHOP IN CHINA AND JAPAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN BROWN, ABOLITIONIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSMUND OF SALISBURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++