Archive for the ‘Baruch’ Category

Cats as Ministers of Grace   Leave a comment

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Above:  The Beginning of the Draft of This Post

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Bats, swallows and birds alight on their bodies and heads; and so do cats.

–Letter of Jeremiah 22, The New Revised Standard Version

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I have known many felines and had a strong dislike for only one.  There was a neighborhood cat who encroached on the territory of Duncan Gray Cat Taylor, a most mellow creature of God who had adopted me.  I sided with Duncan, of course.  (I had, by the way, named him after three Episcopal Bishops of Mississippi–Duncan Montgomery Gray Sr., Jr., and III.)

Cats are the finest creatures on four legs.  This I affirm, partially because, deep down in the core of my being, I wish that I could be more similar to them.  Their independence of spirit appeals to me.  But they have an advantage I lack:  furriness.  One can get away with much by being soft and furry.  Behaviors which would be maddening otherwise become endearing.  So, as an old saying tells us, kittens are constantly forgiven.  Then we humans, trained well by cats, continue to forgive our older feline companions.

I have spent much of my life to date being emotionally closer to certain cats than to people.  Felines do not meow platitudes at awkward moments.  They do not care about one’s past either.  No, cats who are habituated to humans are likely to warm up to anyone who will treat them kindly.  And cats are not selfish and lacking in affection for others.  They are simply not dogs.  I have read enough about feline behaviors to know when they are marking me as property and when they are being affectionate, so I recognize the latter easily.

I recall occasions when I felt rather badly and needed someone nearby.  I did not need or want words.  No, I required and desired presence.  And, much of the time, that presence has come in feline form.  Sometimes, when resting and ill, I have awoken to find a sleeping cat.  Then I have felt better immediately.  I cannot attest to the feline’s motivations yet know what the effects were.  That is enough.

Our companion animals are good for us.  May we be at least as good for them.  And may we thank God often for them, assuming that we belong to any.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25–THE TWENTY-THIRD SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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Below:  The End of the Draft of This Post

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Posted October 27, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Baruch

Tagged with ,

Embrace This Mystery   1 comment

st-martin-in-the-fields-atlanta-april-7-2012

Above:  St. Martin in the Fields Episcopal Church, Atlanta, Georgia, April 7, 2012

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/EasterVigilStMartins03#5729164819712558994)

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THE GREAT VIGIL OF EASTER, YEAR C

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READINGS AT THE LITURGY OF THE WORD

(Read at least two,)

(1) Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26

(2) Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18, 8:6-18, 9:8-13 and Psalm 46

(3) Genesis 22:1-18 and Psalm 16

(4) Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 and Canticle 8, page 85, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

(5) Isaiah 55:1-11 and Canticle 9, page 86, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

(6) Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4 or Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6 and Psalm 19

(7) Ezekiel 36:24-28 and Psalms 42 and 43

(8) Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Psalm 143

(9) Zephaniah 3:12-20 and Psalm 98

DECLARATION OF EASTER

The Collect:

Almighty God, who for our redemption gave your only- begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. or this O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

READINGS AT THE FIRST HOLY EUCHARIST OF EASTER

Romans 6:3-11

Psalm 114

Luke 24:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Great Vigil of Easter,Year A:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/great-vigil-of-easter-year-a/

Great Vigil of Easter, Year B:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/28/great-vigil-of-easter-year-b/

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My custom regarding posts for the Easter Vigil is to list the manifold and myriad readings (most of which are optional) and to offer a brief reflection.  Consistent with that practice I invite you, O reader, to approach the question of divine power, which gave us the Resurrection, with awe, wonder, reverence, and praise.  The Resurrection of Jesus is a matter of theology; historical methods cannot analyze it properly.  I am a trained historian, so far be it from me to criticize methods which work well most of that time.  But I am also a Christian, and I recognize the existence of mysteries beyond the bounds of historical scrutiny.  Life is better with some mysteries than without them.  So I invite you, O reader, to embrace this mystery.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/31/great-vigil-of-easter-year-c/

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Hope Under Occupation   1 comment

Above:  St. John the Baptist

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FIRST READING:  OPTIONS

Baruch 5:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Take off the garment of your sorrow and affliction, O Jerusalem,

and put on forever the beauty of the glory from God.

Put on the robe of righteousness that comes from God;

put on your head the diadem of the glory of the Everlasting;

for God will show your splendor everywhere under heaven.

For God will give you evermore the name,

Righteous Peace, Godly Glory.

Arise, O Jerusalem, stand upon the height;

look toward the east,

and see your children gathered from west and east at the word of the Holy One,

rejoicing that God has remembered them.

For they went out from you on foot,

led away by their enemies;

but God will bring them back to you,

carried in glory, as on a royal throne.

For God has ordered that every high mountain and the everlasting hills be made low

and the valleys filled up, to make level ground,

so that Israel may walk safely in the glory of God.

The woods and every fragrant tree

have shaded Israel at God’s command.

For God will lead Israel with joy,

in the light of his glory,

with the mercy and righteousness that come from him.

Malachi 3:1-4 (Revised English Bible):

I am about to send my messenger to clear a path before me.  Suddenly the Lord whom you seek will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight is here, here already, says the LORD of Hosts.  Who can endure the day of his coming?  Who can stand firm when he appears?  He is like a refiner’s fire, like a fuller’s soap; he will take his seat, testing and purifying; he will purify the Levites and refine them like gold and silver, and so they will be fit to bring offerings to the LORD.  Thus the offerings of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as they were in former days, in days long past.

RESPONSE

Canticle 16 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979)

Luke 1:68-79 plus the Trinitarian formula

Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;

he has come to his people and set them free.

He has raised up for us a mighty savior,

born of the house of his servant David.

Through his holy prophets he promised of old,

that he would save us from our enemies,

from the hands of all who hate us.

He promised to show mercy to our fathers

and to remember his holy covenant.

This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham,

to set us free from the hands of our enemies,

Free to worship him without fear,

holy and righteous in his sight

all the days of our life.

Glory to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit:

as it was in the beginning, is now, and will be for ever.  Amen.

SECOND READING

Philippians 1:3-11 (Revised English Bible):

I thank my God every time I think of you; whenever I pray for you, my prayers are always joyful, because of the part you have taken in the work of the gospel from the first day until now.  Of this I am confident, that he who who started the good work in you will bring it to completion by the day of Christ Jesus.  It is only natural that I should feel like this about you, because I have great affection for you, knowing that, both while I am kept in prison and when I am called on to defend the truth of the gospel, you all share in this privilege of mine.  God knows how I long for you with the deep yearning of Christ Jesus himself.  And this is my prayer, that your love may grow ever richer in knowledge and insight of every kind, enabling you to learn by experience what things really matter.  Then on the day of Christ you will be flawless and without blame, yielding the full harvest of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

GOSPEL READING

Luke 3:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

In the fifteenth year of the reign of Emperor Tiberius, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was ruler of Galilee, and his brother Philip ruler of the region of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanius ruler of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness.  He went into all the region around the Jordan, proclaiming a baptism for the forgiveness of sins, as it is written in the words of the prophet Isaiah,

The voice of one crying in the wilderness:

“Prepare the way of the Lord,

make his paths straight.

Every valley shall be filled,

and every mountain and hill shall be made low,

and the crooked shall be made straight,

and the rough ways made smooth;

and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Second Sunday of Advent, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

Second Sunday of Advent, Year B:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/03/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b/

Malachi 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-23/

Philippians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/week-of-proper-25-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-25-saturday-year-2/

On Jordan’s Bank the Baptist’s Cry Announces That the Lord is Nigh:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/12/10/on-jordans-bank-the-baptists-cry-announces-that-the-lord-is-nigh/

O Day of Peace That Dimly Shines:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/o-day-of-peace-that-dimly-shines/

Prepare the Way, O Zion!:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/prepare-the-way-o-zion/

Advent Prayers of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/advent-prayers-of-dedication/

Advent Prayers of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/10/advent-prayers-of-praise-and-adoration/

Our Valleys Are Deep:  Prayer of Confession for the Second Sunday of Advent:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/24/our-valleys-are-deep/

An Advent Prayer:  Expectant God:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-expectant-god/

An Advent Prayer:  Divine Light:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-divine-light/

An Advent Prayer:  The Word of God is Near:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-the-word-of-god-is-near/

An Advent Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-of-confession/

Advent Prayers of Thanksgiving:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/advent-prayers-of-thanksgiving/

An Advent Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-blessing/

An Advent Prayer:  Expectant Hearts:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/an-advent-prayer-expectant-hearts/

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St. John the Baptist was the forerunner of Jesus in more way than one.  Not only did John pave the way for Jesus’s ministry, he also functioned as a forerunner by dying.

The Book of Baruch, written in the name of the Prophet Jeremiah’s scribe, dates to a later time, the reign of Seleucid monarch Antiochus IV Epiphanes, circa 168 BCE.  Antiochus had captured and desecrated the Jerusalem Temple and launched a campaign of forced Hellenization and persecution of observant Jews.  The author of Baruch drew from Babylonian Exile-era imagery to make sense of his contemporary situation.  Circumstances will improve, for God will intervene, the author of Baruch said.

Judea/Palestine was occupied territory at the time of Jesus and St. John the Baptist.  Hellenized Romans were firmly in charge.  The imagery from Isaiah and Baruch proved germane:  God would intervene.  But the Messiah was not the national liberator many people expected.  One must, for the sake of accuracy, avoid stereotyping the Judaism of first century CE Judea/Palestine, for there were Judaisms there.  Some Jews sought a national liberator, but others looked for a more spiritual leader.

God intervenes in a violent world where prophets face the death penalty, empires occupy foreign (to them) territories, and enforce peace at the points of weapons.  In the midst of all this, however, hope remains.  God is acting; do we perceive it?  And, if prophets face the death penalty and tyrants rule, we humans bear responsibility for those realities.  We have free will.  In the words of a poster of which I heard years ago, we cannot not decide.  The social, economic, and political realities are human creations.  So we are responsible.  What will we do about that?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-c/

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Good News in the End   1 comment

Above:  An Icon of Baruch

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Baruch 4:5-13, 27-29 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Take courage, my people,

constant reminder of Israel.

You were sold to the nations,

but not for extermination.

You provoked God;

and so were delivered to your enemies,

since you had angered your creator

by offering sacrifices to demons, not to God.

You had forgotten the eternal God who reared you.

You had also grieved Jerusalem who nursed you,

for when she saw the anger fall on you

from God, she said:

Listen, you neighbours of Zion:

God has sent me great sorrow.

I have seen my sons and daughters taken into captivity,

to which they have been sentenced by the Eternal.

I had reared them joyfully;

in tears, in sorrow, I watched them go away.

Do not, any of you, exult over me,

a widow, deserted by so many;

I suffer loneliness because of the sins of my own children,

who turned away from the Law of God,

who did not want to follow his injunctions,

and would not follow the ways of his precepts,

or tread the paths of discipline as his justice directed.

Take courage, my children, call on God:

he who brought disaster on you will remember you.

As by your will you first strayed away from God,

so now turn back and search for him ten times as hard;

for as he brought down those disasters on you,

so will he rescue you and give you eternal joy.

Psalm 69:34-38 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

34  The afflicted shall see and be glad;

you who seek God, your heart shall live.

35  For the LORD listens to the needy,

and his prisoners he does not despise.

36  Let the heavens and the earth praise him,

the seas and all that moves in them;

37  For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah;

they shall live there and have it in possession.

38  The children of his servants will inherit it,

and those who love his Name will therein.

Luke 10:17-24 (The Jerusalem Bible):

The seventy-two came back rejoicing.

Lord,

they said,

even the devils submit to us when we use your name.

He said to them,

I watched Satan fall like lightning from heaven.  Yes, I have given you power to tread underfoot serpents and scorpions and the whole strength of the enemy; nothing shall ever hurt you.  Yet do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you; rejoice rather that your names are written in heaven.

It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit, he said,

I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children.  Yes, Father, for that is what it pleased you to do.  Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Then turning to his disciples he spoke to them in private,

Happy are the eyes that see what you see, for I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see, and never saw it; to hear what you hear, and never heard it.

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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:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/week-of-proper-10-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/week-of-proper-11-thursday-year-1/

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Reinhold Niebuhr wrote of how he came to learn the meaning of the middle paragraph of this day’s Gospel reading.  In the second decade of the twentieth century, when Niebuhr was fresh out of seminary, he served a congregation in Detroit, Michigan.  Two respectable and “equally respectable” women in his church were dying, but they dealt with death differently.  One lady raged against the dying of the light, to steal a line from Dylan Thomas.  She resented her end-of-life illness and related suffering.

Yet the second woman, who had known great suffering (including her husband’s insanity) and whom circumstances had forced out of Victorian and Edwardian domesticity into the role as breadwinner faced her death with great serenity.  She suffered, too, dying of cancer.  Yet, as Niebuhr wrote,

I stood weekly at her bedside while she told me what passages of Scripture, what Psalms and what prayers to read to her; most of them expressed gratitude for all the mercies of God which she had received in life.  She was partially grateful to her two daughters and their love; and she faced death with the utmost peace of soul.

I relearned the essentials of the Christan faith at the bedside of that nice old soul.  I appreciated that the ultimate problem of human existence is the peril of sin and death in the way that these two perils are so curiously compounded; for we fall into sin by trying to evade or to conquer death or our own insignificance, of which death is the ultimate symbol.  The Christian faith holds out the hope that our fragmentary lives will be completed in a total and larger plan than any which we can control or comprehend, and that a part of the completion is the forgiveness of sins, that is, the forgiveness of the evils into which we fall by our frantic efforts to complete our own lives or to endow them with significance.

Significance, of course, comes from God alone.

This is the same God in the Book of Baruch.  The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following will move along to Jonah beginning with Monday in the week of Proper 22, so I feel obligated to quote the glorious fifth chapter, as The Jerusalem Bible renders it:

Jerusalem, take off your dress of sorrow and distress,

put on the beauty of the glory of God for ever,

wrap the cloak of the integrity of God around you,

put the diadem of the glory of the Eternal on your head:

since God means to show your splendour to every nation under heaven,

since the name God gives you for ever will be,

“Peace through integrity, and honour through devotedness.”

Arise, Jerusalem, stand on the heights

and turn your eyes to the east:

see your sons reassembled from west and east

at the command of the Holy One, jubilant that God has remembered them.

Though they left you on foot,

with enemies for an escort,

now God brings them back to you

like royal princes carried back in glory.

For God has decreed the flattening

of each high mountain, of the everlasting hills,

the filling of the valleys to make the ground level

so that Israel can walk in safety under the glory of God.

And the forests and every fragrant tree will provide shade

for Israel at the command of God;

for God will guide Israel in joy by the light of his glory

with his mercy and integrity.

The oppression of Antiochus IV Epiphanes did end.  Centuries before that, exiles did return from Babylonia.  It does get better in time.  May we persevere in faith through good times and bad times.  Along the way we can learn profound spiritual truths from people who might seem like unlikely teachers.  May we be open to them and to God.

Note:  The Niebuhr source is his Intellectual Autobiography (pages 4-7 of it, to be precise) contained in Reinhold Niebuhr:  His Religious, Social, and Political Thought, edited by Charles W. Kegley and Robert W. Bretall (New York:  Macmillan, 1961).

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 24, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN WALTER, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF THE SEVEN MARTYRS OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, TEACHER AND EVANGELIST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 24, 2011 

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/week-of-proper-21-saturday-year-1/

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Posted October 26, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Baruch, Luke 10, Psalm 69

Tagged with , ,

Obedience and Persistence   2 comments

Above:  Map of the Seleucid Empire in 188 B.C.E.

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Baruch 1:15-21 (The Jerusalem Bible):

You are to say:

Integrity belongs to the Lord our God; to us the look of shame we wear today, to us, the people of Judah and the citizens of Jerusalem, to our kings and princes, our priests, our prophets, as to our ancestors, because we have sinned in the sight of the Lord our God telling us to follow the commandments which the Lord had ordained for us.  From the day when the Lord brought our ancestor out of the land of Egypt until today we have been disobedient to the Lord our God, we have been disloyal, refusing to listen to his voice.  And so the disasters, and the curse which the Lord pronounced through his servant Moses the day he brought our fathers out of Egypt to give us a land where milk and honey flow, have seized on us, disasters we experience today.  Despite all the words of those prophets whom he sent us, we have not listened to the voice of the Lord our God, but each following the dictates of his evil heart, we have taken to serving alien gods, and doing what is displeasing to the Lord our God.

Psalm 79 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  O God, the heathen here come into your inheritance;

they have profaned your holy temple;

they have made Jerusalem a heap of rubble.

2  They have given the bodies of your servants as food for the birds of the air,

and the flesh of your faithful ones to the beasts of the field.

3  They have shed their blood like water on every side of Jerusalem,

and there was no one to bury them.

4  We have become a reproach to our neighbors,

an object of scorn and derision to those around us.

5  How long will you be angry, O LORD?

will your fury blaze like fire for ever?

6  Pour out your wrath upon the heathen who have not known you

and upon kingdoms that have not called upon your Name.

7  For they have devoured Jacob

and made his dwelling a ruin.

8  Remember not our past sins;

let your compassion be swift to meet us;

for we have been brought very low.

9  Help us, O God our Savior, for the glory of your Name;

deliver us and forgive us our sins, for your Name’s sake.

10  Why should the heathen say, “Where is your God?”

Let it be known among the heathen and in our sight

that you avenge the shedding of your servants’ blood.

11  Let the sorrowful sighing of the prisoners come before you,

and by your great might spare those who are condemned to die.

12  May the revilings with which they reviled you, O Lord,

return seven-fold into their bosoms.

13  For we are your people and the sheep of your pasture;

we will give you thanks for ever

and show forth your praise from age to age.

Luke 10:13-16 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you, Chorazin!  Alas for you, Bethsaida!  For if the miracles done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes.  And still, it will not go as hard with Tyre and Sidon at the Judgement as with you.  And as for you, Capernaum, did you want to be exalted high in heaven?  You shall be thrown down to hell.

Anyone who listens to you listens to me; anyone who rejects you rejects me, and those who reject me reject the one who sent me.

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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:

From the Gospel of Matthew:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/week-of-proper-10-tuesday-year-1/

From the Gospel of Mark:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/week-of-7-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

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Alexander the Great, King of Macedonia, became the ruler of Palestine in 332 (having been king in Macedonia since 336)  B.C.E.  After he died nine years later, in 323, his vast empire broke up into competing factions, including the Ptolemaic Empire, headquartered in Egypt, and the Seleucid Empire, based in Syria.  The Ptolemys governed Palestine from 301 to 198 B.C.E. then the Seleucids took control of the region.

Antiochus IV Epiphanes (reigned 175-164/163), a monarch hostile to Judaism, profaned the Second Temple and outlawed basic Jewish practices in 167 B.C.E.  He banned circumcision, outlawed keeping the Sabbath, burned Torah scrolls, devoted the Temple to the Olympian gods, and forced Jews to eat pork and participate in Hellenistic religious festivals.

The writing of the Book of Baruch occurred in this context.  The author drew on the paradigm of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 B.C.E., four centuries before his time.  The book opens with a prayer of confession (part of which is the first reading for this day), moves along to a plea for mercy and deliverance, recalls divine compassion and promises, then praises divine wisdom that people cannot possibly understand.  It concludes with an affirmation of hope.  Thus the purpose of the Book of Baruch is to encourage faithful Palestinian Jews suffering under the Seleucid oppression.  God has not abandoned his people, the book says; God will deliver them.  And nobody understands the mind of God fully, so nobody ought to try.  The task of the faithful is to obey the Torah of God and persist in obedience.

The reading from Luke, with similar lessons in Matthew and Mark, fits well into this theme.  Jesus rebukes First Century C.E. unrepentant Jewish communities, saying that Gentile communities would have repented already.  This message is consistent with comments such as those to the effect that some prostitutes will enter Heaven before certain professional religious people.  In other words, socially-defined religious orthodoxy will not save one from the consequences of one’s own sin.

So, once again, we have the intersection of judgment and mercy.  And, as Peter says to Gentile household in Acts 10:34b-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

This message is positive, especially if one is a person who fears God and “does what is acceptable to him.”  But what if you one just thinks that one does, but is actually mistaken?  Into which category do you fit?  Into which category do I fit?  I do not know, and you might not, either.  Fortunately, A Brief Statement of Belief  (Presbyterian Church in the United States, 1962) offers a summary of our hope:

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

I am not a Universalist; there is a reality called Hell, just as there is a reality called Heaven.  Just as there is mercy, there is also judgment.  There is always something of the ways of God that remain hidden from us.  Among these mysteries is the extent of mercy, something I do not question.  Rather, I rejoice in it.  This is the mercy by which God delivers me from myself and you from yourself.  This is the mercy by which God cancels out measures of judgment.  But there is judgment, too.  Let us never forget that, but without neglecting the reality of mercy.  May we have balanced perspectives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 24, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN WALTER, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF THE SEVEN MARTYRS OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, TEACHER AND EVANGELIST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 24, 2011 

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/week-of-proper-21-friday-year-1/

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