Archive for the ‘Deuteronomy 12-14’ Category

The Scandal of Grace I: Christmas   1 comment

Above:  Angels Announcing Christ’s Birth to the Shepherds, by Govert Flinck

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR CHRISTMAS DAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN  THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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God, you make us glad with the yearly remembrance of the birth of your only Son Jesus Christ.

Grant that we may joyfully receive him as our Redeemer,

so we may with sure confidence behold him when comes to be our judge,

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

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 76

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Isaiah 9:2, 6-7 (Protestant)/Isaiah 9:1, 5-6 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox)

Psalm 5

Galatians 4:1-7

Luke 2:1-20

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The setting of Luke 2 is troublesome within itself.  There was no such imperial census, we know from historical records, but there was a regional census in Judea (not in the Galilee) in 6 and 7 C.E., written records tell us.  Father Raymond E. Brown, in his magisterial Introduction to the New Testament, states that Luke’s account gets historical details wrong.  Brown also argues that Luke-Acts speaks of a divine plan set inside the Roman Empire.  The text of Luke-Acts contextualizes the birth of Jesus in the reign of the Emperor Augustus (Luke 2) and concludes with the arrival of St. Paul the Apostle in Rome (Acts 28).  Brown writes of the song of the angels to the shepherds.  That song, he insists, is similar to an imperial proclamation in an empire that labeled Augustus the savior of the world.  The point is plain:  Christ is greater than Augustus.

In Psalm 5 the beleaguered author (allegedly David) seeks divine deliverance from his enemies.  He, referring to the Temple, writes,

But I can enter your house

because of your great love.

–Verse 8a, The New American Bible

In Christ we have the Temple in the flesh.  This is the Temple that became flesh out of great love.

The reading from Isaiah 9 is a description of the ideal Davidic king.  One probably thinks most intensely about the ideal ruler when one’s ruler falls far short of the ideal and does not try to live up to that ideal.  Otherwise one might extol the virtues of one’s ruler instead.  In this case the ideal Davidic king, according to the standard, traditional English-language translations is, as The New Revised Standard Version (1989) states:

Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,

Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

–Verse 6c

Perhaps the familiar language obscures the meaning of the Hebrew text.  Consider then, O reader, the translation from TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985):

The Mighty God is planning grace;

The Eternal Father, a peaceable ruler.

–Verse 5c

This version cuts to the chase nicely; God is planning grace.  We find another example of that grace in Galatians 3 and 4.  At the end of Galatians 3 we read in a glorious and duly famous passage that, through Jesus, Gentile believers join the ranks of Jews as “sons of God,” a term that indicates being the Chosen People, as in Deuteronomy 14:1-2.  With grace, such as that which makes people “sons of God,” also comes responsibility to shed the light of God brightly.  That is fair.  Grace is free yet certainly not cheap, for it requires much of its recipients.  That is fair.

Traditional categories, such as Jews, Greeks, slaves, free people, males, and females do not divide “sons of God,” all of whom are heirs of God.  That is wonderful news!  Why, then, do so many of us maintain, magnify, and create categories for the purpose of defining ourselves as the in-crowd and other “sons of God” as outsiders?  All who do so demonstrate that they prefer psychological comfort to the scandal of grace.

Grace is scandalous.  By means of it we receive more than we deserve; so do people we dislike strongly.  We, like the author of Psalm 5, want better than we deserve yet desire the worst for our foes.  By means of grace a defenseless newborn boy is greater than Augustus Caesar.  Much is possible via grace.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 29, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE BEHEADING OF SAINT JOHN THE BAPTIST

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Salvation, Past, Present, and Future   1 comment

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Above:  Christ on the Cross, by Gerard David

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:

Numbers 10:33-36

Deuteronomy 10:11-12:1

Judges 5:1-31

Song of Songs 4:9-5:16

Isaiah 26:1-21

Psalms 7; 17; 44; 57 or 108; 119:145-176; 149

Matthew 7:1-23

Luke 7:36-8:3

Matthew 27:62-66

1 Corinthians 15:27-34 (35-38) 39-41 (42-58)

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In Luke 7:38 the former Gerasene demoniac, recently healed by Jesus, seeks to follow Jesus physically.  Our Lord and Savior has other plans, however.  He sends the man away with these instructions:

Go back home and report all that God has done for you.

–Luke 7:39a, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

The text informs us that the man obeyed Jesus.

The theme of the Great Vigil of Easter, as evident in assigned readings, is salvation history.  In Hebrew thought God is like what God has done–for groups as well as individuals.  The responsibility of those whom God has blessed is to proclaim by words and deeds what God has done–to function as vehicles of grace and to glorify God.  Salvation history is important to understand.  So is knowing that salvation is an ongoing process.

Happy Easter!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-the-great-vigil-of-easter-year-d/

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The Bread and Blood of Life   1 comment

Holy Innocents December 20, 2015

Above:  Holy Innocents Episcopal Church, Atlanta, Georgia, December 20, 2015

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

Eternal God, you draw near to us in Christ, and you make yourself our guest.

Amid the cares of our lives, make us attentive to your presence,

that we may treasure your word above all else,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 9:1-18 (Tuesday)

Deuteronomy 12:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:97-104 (Both Days)

1 John 2:1-6 (Tuesday)

John 6:41-51 (Wednesday)

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How I love your Law!

I ponder it all day long.

–Psalm 119:97, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The assigned readings for these two days instruct us to choose divine wisdom, not human folly.  The former is holy, but the latter resembles a prostitute.  One is also supposed to worship God alone, not practice idolatry.  Furthermore, we read about the importance of worshiping God properly, out of respect and humility.  Out of the humility by which we acknowledge our sinfulness we follow God–in Christ, in particular.

In my tradition all of these components come together in the Holy Eucharist, which my church tells me is the body and blood of Jesus somehow, by which I understand to be so via Transubstantiation.  If I am what I eat and drink, I hope that the sacrament will make me a better person, one who follows Jesus more closely.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBALD OF OSTEVANT, RICTRUDIS OF MARCHIENNES, AND THEIR RELATIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ABRAHAM KIDUNAIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT, AND MARY OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/devotion-for-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-11-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Sovereignty of God III   1 comment

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Above:  An Exorcism

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence

and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.

Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion,

that all creation will see and know your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 3:23-29 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 12:28-32 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (Saturday)

Psalm 111 (All Days)

Romans 9:6-18 (Thursday)

Revelation 2:12-17 (Friday)

Matthew 8:28-9:1 (Saturday)

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The works of the Lord are great,

sought out by all who delight in them.

His work is full of majesty and honour

and his righteousness endures for ever.

–Psalm 111:2-3, Common Worship (2000)

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We have a batch of overlapping and difficult passages these three days.  Some (such as Moses in Deuteronomy and a herd of swine in Matthew) suffer for the offenses of others.  People also suffer for their own sins in other passages of Scripture.  All of this falls under the heading of the sovereignty of God in Romans 9, in the theological style of God’s speech at the end of the book of Job.

I recognize the mystery of God and am content to leave many questions unanswered.  Comfort with uncertainty is consistent with my Anglican theology.  Nevertheless, I understand that the sovereignty of God can become something it is not supposed to be–a copout and a seemingly bottomless pit into which to pour one’s ignorance and prooftexting tendencies.  We should never use God to excuse slavery, genocide, sexism, homophobia, racism, and a host of other sins.  Whenever God seems to agree with us all of the time, we ought to know that we have created God in our own image.  We have forged an idol.  And God, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, disapproves of idolatry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XIII: Loyalty and Identity   1 comment

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Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

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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 everlasting 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:

Deuteronomy 13:1-18 (October 15–Protestant Versification)

Deuteronomy 13:2-19 (October 15–Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Deuteronomy 14:1-2, 22-23; 14:28-15:15 (October 16)

Deuteronomy 15:19-16:22 (October 17)

Psalm 123 (Morning–October 15)

Psalm 15 (Morning–October 16)

Psalm 36 (Morning–October 17)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–October 15)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–October 16)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–October 17)

Matthew 13:1-23 (October 15)

Matthew 13:24-43 (October 16)

Matthew 13:44-58 (October 17)

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 15:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/proper-25-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/devotion-for-september-20-and-21-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Matthew 13:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/proper-10-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/proper-11-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/week-of-proper-11-wednesday-year-1/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/week-of-proper-11-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/week-of-proper-11-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/proper-12-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/week-of-proper-12-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/week-of-proper-12-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/week-of-proper-12-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/week-of-proper-12-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/week-of-proper-12-friday-year-1/

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Here is a summary of the contents of Deuteronomy 13:1-16:22:

  1. Execute any false prophet or dream-diviner.  (13:1-6/2-7)
  2. Execute anyone who entices another person to commit idolatry.  (13:6-11/7-12)
  3. Execute the inhabitants of idolatrous towns, burn those towns, and destroy all spoil.  Do not rebuild at any of those sites.  (13:12-18/13-19)
  4. Avoid mourning rituals associated with pagan peoples.  (14:1-2)
  5. Eat only ritually clean foods.  (14:3-21)
  6. Pay a tenth of your crops and livestock to God.  (14:22-26)
  7. Provide for the needy and the Levites.  (14:27-29)
  8. Provide debts and free slaves every seventh year.  (15:1-18)
  9. Sacrifice all male firstlings born into your flock to God, assuming that it is a proper physical specimen.  (15:19-23)
  10. Keep a detailed festival calendar and the accompanying instructions.  (16:1-17)
  11. Appoint magistrates who will govern honestly and justly, taking no bribes.  (16:18-20)
  12. Erect no posts, as in honor to Astarte.  (16:21-22)

I have mixed feelings about that material.  On one hand, I approve of the social justice imperative parts of it.  I find even the acceptance of any form of slavery offensive and the command to execute people intolerable.  I know that one theme of the Law of Moses is absolute loyalty to God, so idolatry equaled treason, but some commands seem barbaric to me.  So far as dietary laws are concerned, I note that I have never cared about them.  Proper refrigeration negates some health concerns, as does thorough cooking.  One analysis of the forbidden list says that those animals did not fit nearly into certain categories.  Assuming that the analysis is correct, what was the problem?  Besides, I like to eat ham and intend to continue to do so.

In Matthew 13 we read a series of mostly agricultural parables:  the sower and the seed, the darnel and the mustard seed, the treasure in the field, the merchant and the pearls, and the fish of mixed quality.  And, at the end of the chapter, people in Nazareth lack faith him.  Perhaps they know too much to realize even more.

From those parables I glean certain lessons:

  1. One should remain focused on God, not allowing anything or anyone to function as a distraction.
  2. The good and the bad will grow up together and come mixed together.  God will sort everything into the correct categories at the right time.  That task does not fall to us, mere mortals.
  3. Nothing is more important than seeking, finding, and keeping the Kingdom of God.

I detect much thematic overlap between that material and Deuteronomy 13:1-16:22, with the notable absence of commands about when to execute or destroy.  Yes, Matthew is more riveting reading than Deuteronomy.

I read the Law of Moses as a Gentile, specifically an Episcopalian who grew up a United Methodist.  The Law was like a household servant who raised children, St. Paul the Apostle tells us.  Now that Christ has arrived on the scene, I have only two commandments, not over 600.  So, as long as I am growing via grace into loving God fully and my neighbor as myself, that ham sandwich should not bother my conscience.  And I refuse to execute anyone, for I serve an executed and resurrected Lord and Savior.  To him I am loyal.  In him, not a law code, do I find my identity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMITIAN OF HUY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARRIET STARR CANNON, COFOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITYN OF SAINT MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE VENERINI, FOUNDER OF THE VENERINI SISTERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODARD OF NARBONNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP; AND SAINTS JUSTUS AND PASTOR, MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/devotion-for-october-15-16-and-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XII: Identity   1 comment

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Above:  Diocesan Confirmation, the Cathedral of St. Philip, Atlanta, Georgia, April 28, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://plus.google.com/photos/114749828757741527421/albums/5872391793912748097/5872399703548608706?banner=pwa)

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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 everlasting 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:

Deuteronomy 11:26-12:12 (October 13)

Deuteronomy 12:13-32 (October 14–Protestant Versification)

Deuteronomy 12:13-13:1 (October 14–Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 19 (Morning–October 13)

Psalm 136 (Morning–October 14)

Psalms 8 and 113 (Evening–October 13)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–October 14)

Matthew 12:22-37 (October 13)

Matthew 12:38-50 (October 14)

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 11-12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/proper-4-year-a/

Matthew 12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/week-of-proper-11-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/week-of-proper-11-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/week-of-proper-11-monday-year-2/

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In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek,

and neither slave nor free,

both male and female heirs are made,

and all are kin to me.

–John Oxenham, 1913

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The letter of the Law of Moses is culturally specific.  So, given the passage of time and the fact of living in a different place, undertanding the spirit of the Law can require some reading of well-researched commentaries.  Such reading has made much of the content of Deuteronomy 12 clear to me.  Now, for example, two themes of which I choose to write stand out in my mind:

  1. The Israelites were to avoid emulating the Caananites.  Thus, for example, there was to be one legitimate sanctuary, not a plethora of them.
  2. The Israelites were to recognize God as the owner of everything.  They were stewards and tenants.

As the unfolding narrative of the Hebrew Bible reveals, of course, the great majority of Israelites disregarded those principles, both of which pertained to identity relative to God and Gentiles.

Jesus, in Matthew 12, faced questions relative to God and Gentiles.  Hence the Sabbath question was a major issue in 12:1-21.  Also, if Jesus was God, what did that fact say about his religious critics?  Of whom were they?  That issue fed much sustained opposition to our Lord and Savior, for carping apparently proved easier than converting.  Even members of our Lord’s family (a vital unit in that and other societies) misunderstood him.  But, for Jesus, the more important family identity was spiritual and fictive.

Within societies our place relative to others defines us, of course.  It can be no other way.  But our more important identity is the one relative to God, in whose house there are many rooms.  May we honor God more than any human considerations which counter it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 6, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MIDDLETON BARNWELL STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS EDBERT AND EADFRITH OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST IF SAINTS EDWARD JONES AND ANTHONY MIDDLETON, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JEANNETTE RANKIN, UNITED STATES REPRESENTATIVE

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/devotion-for-october-13-and-14-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Traditions   1 comment

Above:  Dill

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2 Thessalonians 2:1-17 (The Jerusalem Bible):

To turn now, brothers, to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and how we shall all be gathered round him:  please do not get excited too soon or alarmed by any prediction or rumour or any letter claiming to come from us, implying that the Day of the Lord has already arrived.  Never let anyone deceive you in this way.

It cannot happen until the Great Revolt has taken place and the Rebel, the Lost One, has appeared.  This is the Enemy, the one who claims to be so much greater than all that men call ‘god’, so much greater than anything that is worshipped, that he enthrones himself inGod’s sanctuary and claims that he is God.  Surely you remember me telling you this when I was with you?  And you know, too, what is still holding back from appearing before his appointed time.  Rebellion is at work already, but in secret, and the one who is holding it back has first to be removed before the Rebel appears openly.  The Lord will kill him with the breath of his mouth and will annihilate him with his glorious appearance at his coming.

But when the Rebel comes, Satan will set to work:  there will be all kinds of miracles and a deceptive show of signs and portents, and everything evil that can deceive those who are bound for destruction because they would not grasp the love of the truth which could have saved them.  The reason why God is sending a power to delude them and make them believe what is untrue is to condemn all who refused to believe in the truth and choose wickedness instead.

But we feel we must be continually thanking God for you, brothers whom the Lord loves, because God chose you from the beginning to be saved by the sanctifying Spirit and by faith in the truth.  Through the Good News that we brought he called you to this so that you should share the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Stand firm, then, brothers, and keep the traditions that we taught you, whether by word of mouth or by letter.  May our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God the Father who has given us his love and, through his grace, such inexhaustible comfort and such sure hope, comfort you and strengthen you in everything good that you do or say.

Psalm 96:7-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Ascribe to the LORD, you families of the peoples;

ascribe to the LORD honor and power.

Ascribe to the LORD the honor due his Name;

bring offerings and come into his courts.

Worship the LORD in the beauty of holiness;

let the whole earth tremble before him.

10 Tell it out among the nations:  ”The LORD is King!

he has made the world so firm that it cannot be moved;

he will judge the peoples with equity.”

11 Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad;

let the sea thunder and all that is in it;

let the field be joyful and all that is therein.

12 Then shall all the trees of the wood shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

13 He will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

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

[Jesus continued,]

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

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

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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There are traditions then there are traditions.

Deuteronomy 14:22 and Leviticus 27:30 required the tithing of major edible agricultural products for the support of the Levites, dedicated to religious duties.  Yet Pharisees, just one sect in the diverse landscape of First Century C.E. Palestinian Judaism, applied this rule to garden herbs, such as mind, dill, and cummin.  They were overly meticulous in the letter of the law and insisted on a form of piety most people could not afford to maintain.  Jesus valued “justice, mercy, and good faith” more highly than legalistic minutae.

We–especially those of us with personalities which make us prone to fixate on details–sometimes stare at proverbial trees so much that we forget to look up and think about the forest.  The Levites had to eat, and God had set them apart for full-time religious duties.  So Jesus did not object to the tithe on major crops for their benefit.  Yet the scale of a field is much greater than that of a garden in a small yard.  Herbs were not main crops, so the tithe law did not apply to them.  These Pharisees were fixating on a detail which did not exist as if it did, and simultaneously they failed to give sufficient attention to “justice, mercy, and good faith.”  These were traditions worth keeping.

We read in 2 Thessalonians 2:13-17 to stand firm in certain traditions.  This exhortation follows a reminder not to commit apostasy–in this case, to follow evil which God will defeat.  Often those who commit deeds think that they are righteous; their actions are malicious and those who commit them are terribly deluded.  Frequently a form of religion provides justification for such evil.  Most of the major religions in the world include the principle we Christians call the Golden Rule:  Do to others as you want them to do to you.  Yet the history of these religions is replete with allegedly sacred violence and holy wars.

The crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus occupy the heart of Pauline Christology.  With the resurrection we see God demonstrating the extent of divine power to overcome the works of evil.  People could kill Jesus unjustly, but God could resurrect him.  This ought to indicate the end of “sacred violence” and of scapegoating, but we humans (some of us, anyway) continues these erroneous traditions.  Instead, may we abandon such traditions and practice the traditions of loving one another, comforting each other, giving each other reasons for legitimate hope, and practicing “justice, mercy, and good faith” daily.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF YORK, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF VIDA DUTTON SCUDDER

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 10, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/week-of-proper-16-tuesday-year-2/

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