Archive for the ‘Amos’ Category

Love, the Rule of Life   1 comment

christ-and-the-two-blind-men

Above: Christ and the Two Blind Men, by Julius Schnorr

Image in the Public Domain

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 20:1-21 or Amos 4:1-13 or Malachi 3:5-18; 4:(1-2a) 2b-6

Psalm 56

Matthew 9:27-34 or John 5:31-47

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 (3:16-4:5) 4:6-21 or 2 John 1-13

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Do not think that I am sending a new command; I am recalling the one we have had from the beginning:  I ask that we love one another.  What love means is to live according t the commands of God.  This is the command that was given you from the beginning, to be your rule of life.

–2 John 5b-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That rule of life includes commandments such as do not be haughty (2 Kings 20), swear falsely, commit adultery or sorcery, deny workers their proper wages, thrust aliens aside, oppress widows and orphans (Malachi 3), rob God (Malachi 4), oppress the poor and the needy (Amos 4), mistake good for evil (Matthew 9) or good for evil (Matthew 9) or become so legalistic as to complain about someone committing good works on the Sabbath, to the point of wanting to kill one who does that (John 5).  This is, of course, a woefully incomplete list.

Sometimes people who violate these and other commandments of God flourish and the righteous suffer.  One finds recognition of this reality in the Bible, which tells us that this might be true temporally, but the picture is more complex than that (see Malachi 4).

Vengeance is properly God’s alone.  Temporal justice, which is, when it is what it ought to be, is not revenge.  Life does not present us with morally complicated situations sometimes, but the commandment to make love the rule of life applies always.  May we, by grace, succeed in living accordingly, to the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings, as well as ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/devotion-for-proper-8-year-d/

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The Individual and the Collective I   1 comment

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler

Above:   Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world.

Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 6:8-14 (Monday)

Hosea 9-15 (Tuesday)

Hosea 12:2-14 (Wednesday)

Psalm 62 (All Days)

Revelation 3:14-22 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:16-22 (Wednesday)

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For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

He alone is my rock and salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

In God is my safety and honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

Put your trust in him always, people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

–Psalm 62:6-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The assigned readings for these three days, taken together, condemn the following:

  1. Collective hubris (Amos 6),
  2. Collective iniquity, especially economic injustice (Hosea 10 and 12, James 5),
  3. Collective iniquity, especially idolatry (Hosea 12),
  4. Collective lukewarmness in relation to God (Revelation 3), and
  5. Trusting in wealth, not God (James 5, Matthew 19).

One might notice that four of the five sins are collective and that the fifth sin has both collective and individual elements.  This is a partial list of sins, of course, but it is a fine beginning to one’s process of spiritual self-examination or another stage in that process.  Does one have hubris?  If so, that is a sin.  Does one participate in collective hubris?  If so, one needs to confess and to repent of that sin.  One can repeat those forms of questions for the remaining four items on the list above.

Protestantism, for all of its virtues, does place too much emphasis on the individual and too little stress on the collective elements of spiritual life.  May we strive to seek the proper balance between the two and succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-21-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part IV   1 comment

St. Titus

Above:  St. Titus

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the preaching of John, that

rejoicing in your salvation, we may bring forth the fruits of repentance;

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 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 6:1-8 (Thursday)

Amos 8:4-12 (Friday)

Isaiah 12:2-6 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 8:1-15 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 9:1-15 (Friday)

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In that day, you shall say:

“I give thanks to You, O LORD!

Although You were wroth with me,

Your wrath has turned back and You comfort me,

Behold the God who gives me triumph!

I am confident, unafraid;

For Yah the LORD is my strength and might,

And He has been my deliverance.”

Joyfully shall you draw water

From the fountains of triumph,

And you shall say on that day:

“Praise the LORD, proclaim His name.

Make His deeds known among the peoples;

Declare that His name is exalted.

Hymn the LORD,

For He has done gloriously;

Let this be made known

In all the world!

Oh, shout for joy,

You who dwell in Zion!

For great is your midst

Is the Holy One of Israel.”

–Isaiah 12:1-6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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“That day” in Isaiah 12:1 is when God will begin to send Hebrew exiles to their ancestral homeland, a place they have never known.  They have firsthand and secondhand accounts of it, but they have always lived in a foreign country.

The prophet Amos anticipated that exile and condemned the hubris and complacency of many in the population as the kingdom approached its end.  He also criticized those who maintained sacred rituals outwardly while exploiting and cheating people.  Holy rituals are serious matters, not talismans which protect those who sin without repenting, Amos wrote.

God is generous and grace is free.  That free grace can prove to be most inconvenient, for it is costly, not cheap.  Accepting grace imposes great responsibilities upon the recipient.  This was on the mind of St. Paul the Apostle in 2 Corinthians.  St. Titus was collecting funds for the benefit of the Christians at Jerusalem.  Some of the most generous donors were those who had known great hardship and deprivation.  God had guided them through those perilous times and provided for them.  Now they were sharing enthusiastically.  2 Corinthians 8:15, quoting Exodus 16:18, which referred to manna in the Sinai Desert, established a fine standard:

The one who had much did not have too much,

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

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Everyone has enough in divine economics.  Artificial scarcity, which is sinful, is a human creation.

Giving in thankful response to divine faithfulness and generosity can entail donating many things, including money.  Focusing exclusively or primarily on money, however, is in error, for doing so ignores or gives short shrift to other forms of giving.  One might have little money but plenty of time to share a necessary skill or talent, for example.  Money pays bills and wages, so nobody should ignore its necessity, but sometimes giving only money is the easy way out of exercising one’s full responsibility.  Whatever one has to give, may one donate it for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  May one give cheerfully and out of gratitude for divine faithfulness and generosity.  It will never be enough to compare to what God has done, is doing, and will do, but that is not the point.  I think of a witty Billy Collins poem about a child giving a lanyard to his or her mother.  No gift to God or one’s mother can match what God or one’s mother has done for one, but the thought is what counts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH PAYSON PRENTISS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/13/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Impiety of Injustice   1 comment

The Prophet Amos Gustave Dore

Above:  The Prophet Amos, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, increase in us your gift of faith,

that, forsaking what lies behind and reaching out to what lies ahead,

we may follow the way of your commandments

and receive the crown of everlasting joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 3:13-4:5

Psalm 90:12-17

Matthew 15:1-9

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So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

–Psalm 90:12, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The common thread in Amos 3:13-4:5 and Matthew 15:1-9 is the condemnation of defrauding the poor and robbing the needy, especially while maintaining the appearance of holiness.

Korban was a custom by which one gave money to the Temple, for the support of the priests.  Jesus accused some Pharisees and scribes of enriching themselves by accepting such donations.  The problem was that many such donations came at the expense of donors’ relatives, who needed that money.  Korban, therefore, became a means of committing impiety while maintaining the appearance of holiness.  Those who knowingly accepted such gifts were also guilty of a great offense.

A timeless lesson with many culturally specific examples is that attempting to cover up exploitation with the facade of piety neither fools nor impresses God, who commands the equitable treatment of people and condemns the exploitation and oppression thereof.  Rituals can prove to be beautiful and spiritually helpful, but one ought never to make a mockery of them by treating them like talismans in the service of shielding one from the consequences of one’s unjust acts for which one neither apologizes nor repents.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF IMMANUEL NITSCHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND MUSICIAN; HIS BROTHER-IN-LAW, JACOB VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MORAVIAN BISHOP, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS SON, WILLIAM HENRY VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS BROTHER, CARL ANTON VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR; HIS DAUGHTER, LISETTE (LIZETTA) MARIA VAN VLECK MEINUNG; AND HER SISTER, AMELIA ADELAIDE VAN VLECK, U.S. MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/03/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-23-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Call of God, With All Its Responsibilities II   1 comment

Amos and Obadiah

Above:  An Icon of the Prophets Amos and Obadiah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, from you come all holy desires,

all good counsels, and all just works.

Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give,

that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments,

and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies,

may live in peace and quietness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 2:6-16 (Thursday)

Amos 3:1-12 (Friday)

Amos 4:6-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 85:8-13 (All Days)

Colossians 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Colossians 4:2-18 (Friday)

Luke 1:57-80 (Saturday)

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I will listen, O LORD God, to what you are saying,

for you are speaking peace to your faithful people

and those who turn their hearts to you.

Truly, your salvation is very near to those who fear you,

that your glory may dwell in our land.

Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

O LORD, you will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

Righteousness shall go before you,

and peace shall be a pathway for your feet.

–Psalm 85:8-13, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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At the risk of sounding like Peter Parker’s uncle Ben, I repeat the old statement that great responsibility accompanies great ability.  In the Book of Amos the Hebrew nation had squandered opportunities to be a light to the nations.  They had fallen into idolatry, economic injustice, and attempts to stifle prophecy, among other sins.  As Amos announced, God was quite upset:

Hear this word, O people of Israel,

That the LORD has spoken concerning you,

Concerning the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt:

You alone have I singled out

Of all the families of the earth–

That is why I call you to account

For all your iniquities.

–Amos 3:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The hope which Psalm 85:8-13 expressed seemed far removed from reality.

Turning to the pericopes from the New Testament, St. Paul the Apostle, St. Mary of Nazareth, and St. John the Baptist lived up to their responsibilities.  St. Paul (who might have even written or dictated the Letter to the Colossians) and St. John the Baptist gave their lives for God.  Our Blessed Mother raised the Son of God properly with the able help of St. Joseph and experienced great heartache prior to her Assumption into Heaven.

The call of God, with all its responsibilities, carries great risks, joys, sorrows, and rewards.  I, as a Christian, follow Jesus, who gave everything.  Dare I shirk my responsibilities and offer excuses instead?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-10-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Leaving Judgment to God, Part III   1 comment

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse--Albrecht Durer

Above:  The Four Riders of the Apocalypse, by Albrecht Durer

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of justice and love,

you illumine our way through life with the words of your Son.

Give us the light we need, and awaken us to the needs of others,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 1:1-2:5 (Thursday)

Amos 3:1-12 (Friday)

Amos 4:6-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 70 (All Days)

Revelation 8:6-9:12 (Thursday)

Revelation 9:13-21 (Friday)

Matthew 24:1-14 (Saturday)

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Be pleased, God, to rescue me,

Yahweh, come quickly and help me:

Shame and dismay to those who seek my life!

Back with them! Let them be humiliated

who delight in my misfortunes!

Let them shrink away covered with shame,

those who say, “Aha, aha!”

But joy and happiness in you to all who seek you.

Let them ceaselessly cry, “God is great,”

who love your saving power.

Poor and needy as I am,

God, come quickly to me!

Yahweh, my helper, my Saviour, do not delay!

–Psalm 70, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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As I read the lessons I wondered what I could write that I have not covered many times already.  The tone of the assigned passages fits the them of the church year well, for lectionaries tend to take an apocalyptic turn the last three or four weeks before Advent.  The theme of God destroying the sinful old order before replacing it with the Kingdom of God fully realized is quite old, as is the call to repent.  But how many times can one repeat the theology of repenting–turning around or changing one’s mind–without sounding like the most scratched of records and tiring of saying the same old thing again and again?

Here is something to consider:  we Christians need to accept the reality that Jesus was not always nice.  He seems so nice in illustrations from Bibles for children, but the canonical Gospels attribute many harsh words to him.  And judgment is as much a part of spiritual reality as is forgiveness.  Most of the readings for these days focus on judgment, but the possibility of forgiveness is present in some of them.  A plea for divine judgment against one’s adversaries, such as we find in Psalm 70 and many other psalms, is an understandable and familiar prayer.  I have uttered something like it many times.  Yet such attitudes will not aid or abet the arrival of the fully realized Kingdom of God or the partially realized one.

God is not always nice.  Jesus was not always nice.  And we are not always nice.  Furthermore, we do not understand God or Jesus much of the time, but doing so is not necessary.  We can, however, leave the judging to God and strive, by grace, to live mercifully and compassionately.  That proves quite difficult often, does it not?

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-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-27-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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God and the Marginalized   1 comment

meister_des_codex_aureus_epternacensis_001

Above:  Dives and Lazarus

God and the Marginalized

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 32:1-3a, 6-15 and Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16

or 

Amos 6:1a, 4-7 and Psalm 146

then 

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Luke 16:19-31

The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; 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:

Proper 21, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/15/proper-21-year-a/

Proper 21, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/proper-21-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-nineteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/the-greater-our-greed-becomes/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-nineteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

1 Timothy 6:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/week-of-proper-19-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/week-of-proper-19-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/devotion-for-september-22-23-and-24-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Luke 16:

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

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There is hope in God.

  1. Then Prophet Jeremiah understood this when he purchased a field.  Yes, the invaders were still going to arrive, the king was still going to become a captive, and the kingdom was still going to fall, but there was still hope in God.
  2. The other readings focus on the hope of the economically marginalized.  The combination of great wealth and a dearth of sensitivity to human needs explains the lessons from Amos, Luke, and 1 Timothy.  Indeed, such insensitivity leads not only to the destruction of the insensitive person but to that of others.  Yet the poor man in the parable does receive his reward in the his afterlife while the heartless rich man suffers punishment after dying.  Even the the rich man still does not care about the poor man.

The divine preference for the poor is part of the Bible.  I suspect that one reason for this is that the poor are among the most easily noticed marginalized populations.  Our Lord and Savior found much support among the marginalized and less among those who defined them as marginal.  On that broad point I choose to found this blog post.  Are we marginalized?  Or are we among those who define others are marginal or consent passively to that reality?  In other terms, do we care enough about others to draw the circle wider, thereby including those whom God includes already?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MURIN OF FAHAN, LASERIAN OF LEIGHLIN, GOBAN OF PICARDIE, FOILLAN OF FOSSES, AND ULTAN OF PERONNE, ABBOTTS; AND OF SAINTS FURSEY OF PERONNE AND BLITHARIUS OF SEGANNE, MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALPHEGE OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF THE INCARNATION, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON BARSABAE, BISHOP; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/proper-21-year-c/

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The Faithfulness of God, Part I   1 comment

Above: The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin (1854)

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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 19:15-29 (An American Translation):

When dawn appeared, the angels urged Lot on saying,

Bestir yourself; take away your wife, and the two daughters that are at hand, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.

When he hesitated, the men, because of the LORD’s pity on him, seized his hand and those of his wife and his two daughters, and bringing them out, they left him outside the city.  After they had brought them outside, they said,

Fly for your life; do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the valley; fly to the hills, lest you be swept away.

Lot said to them,

O no sirs!  Your servant has indeed found favor with you, and great is the kindness that you have done me in saving my life, but I cannot possibly fly to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I perish.  Here is the town near enough to fly to, and quite small; pray, let me fly there (is it not small?) to save my life.

The LORD said to him,

See, I grant you this request as well, in that I will not overthrow the town of which you speak.  Hurry and fly there; for I can do nothing until you reach there.

Thus the name of the town came to be called Zoar [small].

Just as the sun rose over the earth and Lot entered Zoar, the LORD rained sulphur and fire from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah, devastating those cities and all the valley, with all the inhabitants of the cities and the vegetation on the land.  And Lot’s wife looked back, and had become a pillar of salt.

Lot’s Wife Pillar, Mount Sodom, Israel

Next morning when Abraham went early to the place where he had stood before the LORD, he gazed toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the region of the valley, and he saw smoke from the land rising like smoke from a kiln.

Thus it was that God remembered Abraham when he destroyed the cities of the valley, by sending Lot away from the catastrophe when he devastated the cities where Lot lived.

Psalm 26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.

Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully before you.

I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.

Do not sweep me away with sinners,

nor my life with those who thirst for blood,

10 Whose hands are full of evil plots,

and their right hand full of bribes.

11 As for me, I will live with integrity;

redeem me, O LORD, and have pity on me.

12 My foot stands on level ground;

in the full assembly I will bless the LORD.

Matthew 8:23-27 (An American Translation):

And he [Jesus] got into the boat, and his disciples with him.  And suddenly a terrific storm came up on the sea, so that the waves broke over the boat, but he remained asleep.  And they woke him, saying,

Save us, sir!  We are lost!

And he said to them,

Why are you afraid?  You have so little faith!

Then he got up and reproved the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And the men were amazed and said,

What kind of man is this?  For the very winds and sea obey him!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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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One of the challenges of following a lectionary can be identifying the common theme present in two or more readings from different parts of the Bible.  After consulting commentaries and pondering all that I have read in the readings and the commentaries, I have found the common thread:  Faithfulness to God is the path to life.  This faithfulness needs only to be present.  However, as Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is spiritual death.  The wages of sin can also be physical death, and the punishment flows from the sin itself.  In other words, we reap what we sow.  God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.

Let us examine the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah carefully.  In Genesis 19:1-14, two angels arrive at Sodom, where Lot rescues them from would-be gang rapists.  The angels tell Lot that God will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah very shortly because, as Professor Richard Elliott Friedman translates verse 13,  they have “grown big before YHWH’s face.”

I pause at this point to ponder the importance of growing “big before YHWH’s face.”  Later in Chapter 19, YHWH permits Lot and his family to flee to Zoar, which is small, for safety.  (Two angels appear early in Chapter 19, and by chapter’s end, YHWH is there, too.  When did God show up, after disappearing between the end of Chapter 18 and the beginning of Chapter 19?  Following the bouncing ball can be challenging.)  Anyhow, I posit that growing “big before YHWH’s face” indicates spiritual arrogance, a lack of faithfulness.

There is an interesting feature in the Hebrew text of verse 15.  The word for punishment, as in “…or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city,” means sin as well.  Sin and punishment are the same thing; consequences flow from actions, so we reap what we sow.

Lot is sufficiently hospitable to rescue the angels, strangers in Sodom, and, as Genesis 19:29 indicates, God saves Lot and family out of faithfulness to Abraham.  Indeed, Lot is a disturbing character, one who offers his two virgin daughters to the would-be gang rapists gathered outside his house (verse 8).  Fortunately for the daughters, the men are not interested.

But Lot is kind to the strangers, if not his own daughters, and the angelic guests offer him and his family a safe way out–if only they follow instructions.  Nobody must look back.  I suppose that curiosity about what is happening would inspire one to look back; we are a species of people who stare at the aftermath of car wrecks.

Biblical writers over many generations used Sodom and Gomorrah to demonstrate various points.  These include:

  • Repent, or be destroyed.
  • Sexual immorality (in all its forms) is wrong.  The first explicit link between homosexual acts and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah comes in Jude 7, however.
  • Any town that refuses to heed visitors bearing the word of God will face condemnation.
  • The failure to extend hospitality to strangers will lead to condemnation.
  • The neglect of the poor will lead to condemnation and destruction.

The word “Sodom” appears in the New Revised Standard Version 51 times.  For those of you who wish to follow up, here they are:

  • Genesis 10:19
  • Genesis 13:10, 12, and 13
  • Genesis 14:2, 8, 10-12, 17, 21, 22, and 26
  • Genesis 18:16, 20, and 26
  • Genesis 19:1, 4, 24, and 28
  • Deuteronomy 29:23
  • Deuteronomy 32:32
  • Isaiah 1:9 and 10
  • Isaiah 3:9
  • Isaiah 13:19
  • Jeremiah 23:14
  • Jeremiah 49:18
  • Jeremiah 50:40
  • Lamentations 4:6
  • Ezekiel 16:46, 48, 49, 53, 55, and 56
  • Amos 4:11
  • Zephaniah 2:9
  • 3 Maccabees 2:5
  • 2 Esdras 2:8
  • 2 Esdras 7:106
  • Matthew 10:15
  • Matthew 11:23 and 24
  • Luke 10:12
  • Luke 17:29
  • Romans 9:29
  • 2 Peter 2:6
  • Jude 7
  • Revelation 11:8

The reading from Matthew tells the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  In all fairness to the Apostles, I would have been afraid, too.  I note also that Jesus said they had little faith, not no faith.  This is a difficult text, one with more possible interpretations than I dreamed possible before reading commentaries.  However, remaining consistent with my methodology of following a common thread between or among lectionary readings, I latch onto the “little faith” comment.  At least the Apostles had some faith.  Are we not like this much, if not most, of the time?  We have some faith and we know that we need more.  We believe, yet we need God to forgive us for our unbelief.  But a little faith is better than none, and from little faith much more can spring.  As the Book of Psalms says, God knows that we are “but dust.”

Reciprocity matters in a healthy relationship with God.  We will get much wrong, for we are fallible.  But, by grace, we can walk in the paths of righteousness more often than not.  We might save not only ourselves, but friends and family members, too.  But are we trying?  That is the first question.  Fortunately, God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.  And let us remember what Mother Teresa of Calcutta said about faithfulness:  God calls us to be faithful, not successful.

Certainly, how we treat others can be an outward sign of faithfulness.  If we love God with our essence and respect ourselves, following the Golden Rule will result in frequent acts of kindness.  To follow up on a previous devotion in this series, Jesus said that “you shall know them by their fruits.”  I add to this thought the entire Letter of James.

May we be faithful to God for the glory of God and out of awe of God and gratitude for all the wonderful deeds God has done.  And why not?  God is faithful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-tuesday-year-1/

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Reading and Pondering Amos, Part Two   1 comment

Above:  President Lyndon Baines Johnson with the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

Societal Righteousness

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Amos 3:1-4, 13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Hear this word, O people of Israel,

That the LORD has has spoken concerning you;

Concerning the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt;

You alone have I singled out

Of all the families of the earth–

That is why I call you to account

For all your iniquities.

Can two walk together

Without having met?

Does a lion roar in the forest

When he has no prey?

Does a great beast let out a cry from its den

Without having made a capture?

Hear [this], and warn the House of Jacob

–says my Lord GOD, the God of Hosts–

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The book of Amos has provided inspiration for those who have pursued social justice out of their faith.  Modern examples include labor activists, civil rights workers, and adherents of Liberation Theology.

Abraham Heschel writes (on page 34 of The Prophets, Volume 1, 1962) that, in Amos,

God’s supreme concern is righteousness and that His essential demand of man is to establish justice.

This is justice, which, for Amos, can exist only in the context of God, who seeks intimacy with human beings.  This reminds me of the Baptismal Covenant in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer, which includes a promise to respect the dignity of every human being–In other words, to love one’s neighbor as one loves one’s self.

An individual can pursue this goal, which one ought to do.  And, by grace, he or she can succeed more in time.  But what about pursuing this good on a societal level?  Theocracy is not the answer, for (A) it leads to abuses of alleged heretics, and such deeds are inherent violations of the Golden Rule, and (B) there is no way to coerce goodness, which must be voluntary.  In 1967, Martin Luther King, Jr. advocated a moral revolution, one in which U.S. society would come to value people more than things.  His vision has yet to become reality, unfortunately.

We–you and I–are parts of society.  If we do not like certain aspects of society, we need not resign ourselves and curse the darkness.  No, we can light a candle.  We can shed light in the darkness.  And we need to do so positively.  We might also succeed.  Social mores can change; they have changed; they are changing.  People change them.  May we change them toward economic justice, toward loving our neighbors more generally, and away from coercion.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 24, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARTHOLOMEW, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/24/week-of-proper-8-tuesday-year-2/

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