Archive for the ‘Deuteronomy 30’ Category

Positive Identity, Part II   1 comment

Above:  The Miracle of the Catch of 153 Fish

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:

Acts 15:1-11

Psalm 19

2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

John 21:1-14

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Psalm 19 tells us that divine teaching is perfect and that it renews life and makes the simple wise.  Objectively, circumcision is part of the Law of Moses (Leviticus 12:3).  Objectively, circumcision is a Biblical practice since Genesis 17:9-14.  One need not think of of Judaizers at the time of earliest Christianity as evil people.

Yet consider the argument of St. Paul the Apostle in Acts 15:7b-12, O reader.  Why ignore the absence of any mention of circumcision in Deuteronomy?  Why overlook the references to “circumcision of the heart” in Deuteronomy 10:16 and 30:6?  And why value circumcision of the flesh more than “circumcision of the heart” (Jeremiah 9:25-36)?  Why overlook the lesser emphasis on physical circumcision before the Babylonian Exile relative to during and after the Babylonian Exile?

Circumcision was also a matter of identity.  It marked a man as belonging to the covenant.

One person’s mark of identity can be another person’s barrier, though.  This is where the reading from Acts 15 hits home for you, O reader, and for me.  Each of us has something that is a matter of spiritual identity.  That something is also an obstacle to someone else.  How can we remain faithful to God without throwing out the proverbial bathwater?  How can we know what we must retain at all costs?  I offer no easy answers to challenging questions.

The reading from 2 Thessalonians 2 refers to apostasy–turning away from God.  Returning to fishing in John 21 may not have constituted apostasy, but it was a bad idea.  The question of what to do next was challenging.  The old and familiar pattern had an appeal.  Continuing to follow Jesus was a better idea.

May we find our identity in following Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODOSIUS THE CENOBIARCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM EVEREST, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS II OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH OF AQUILEIA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD FREDERICK LITTLEDALE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2021/01/11/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter-year-d-humes/

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Tobit’s Piety   Leave a comment

Above:  The Story of Tobit, by the Workshop of the Master of the Prodigal Son

Image in the Public Domain

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READING TOBIT

PART 1

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Tobit 1:1-15

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The Book of Tobit, present in Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, falls into the canon of scripture for about three-quarters of the Christian Church.  Tobit, like Esther, Jonah, and Judith, is a work of fiction that teaches theological and spiritual truths.  The Catholic Study Bible (1990) and The Catholic Bible–Personal Study Edition (1995) describes the Book of Tobit as a novel.  The Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) accurately describes the Book of Tobit as a novella.  The Book of Tobit is too long to be a short story and too short to be a novel.

The Orthodox Study Bible (2008) acknowledges that the Book of Tobit is a work of fiction.  The introduction to the Book of Tobit describes the work as a love story in which a father sends his son out into the world.  The son finds and saves a bride, whom he brings home.  The introduction to the Book of Tobit links this story to Christ in John 3:16 and describes the Book of Tobit as an icon of the story of salvation.

The Book of Tobit is another Hellenistic work about Jews in exile.  (The Book of Daniel is also such a work.)  Superficially set in the eighth century B.C.E., the Book of Tobit teaches faith in God and trust in providence from the temporal perspective of the second century C.E.

The titular character is Tobit.  His son is Tobias.  “Tobit” is a shorter variation on “Tobias.”  Both names mean, “the LORD is good.”

Tobit 1:2 signals the book’s status as fiction by naming the wrong Neo-Assyrian king.  The verse names the monarch as Shalmaneser V (reigned 727-722 B.C.E.)  Historical records tell us Sargon II (reigned 722-705 B.C.E.) was the king who completed Shalmaneser V’s work and conquered the northern Kingdom of Israel.  (See 2 Kings 17:1-6, O reader.)  However, historical records and 2 Kings 15:19 tell us that Tiglath-Pilesar III, also known as Pul (reigned 745-727 B.C.E.), took the tribe of Naphtali into exile.

Tobit was a devout Jew.  The impossible internal chronology had Tobit live in excess of 150 years (1:4f), despite his age at death (14:1) being 112.  Anyhow, he eschewed idolatry and made his offerings at the Temple in Jerusalem (Numbers 18:12-13; Deuteronomy 18:3-4).  Tobit also distributed money to widows, orphans, and converts.  He kept the food laws (Exodus 34:15; Leviticus 7:26-27; Leviticus 11:1-47; Leviticus 17:10-14; Deuteronomy 12:23-25; Deuteronomy 14:3-21; and Deuteronomy 15:23) in exile, too.  Tobit obeyed the Law of Moses regardless of how difficult doing so proved to be.  At home and in exile, Tobit was a model Jew.

Tobit also deposited ten talents of silver with a relative, Gabael, in Media.  That amount equaled 3000 shekels.

The germane note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) reads:

A substantial amount, but efforts to express in modern monetary units are futile.

Other sources do express that amount in modern monetary units, though.  The Catholic Study Bible (1990) estimates the value as being about $10,000.  The Saint Joseph Edition of the New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) estimates the value as being at least $10,000.  

We also read of Tobit’s wife, Anna, which means “Grace.”  Remember that, O reader; the name is sometimes ironic.

The Book of Tobit contains similarities to the Books of Job and Daniel.  We read of Tobit working for the king in Chapter 1.  One may recall that Daniel worked for several monarchs.  And one may remember accounts of Daniel’s piety.  The parallels to Job, already becoming apparent, will become stronger as we continue.

Tobit 1 contains the Theory of Retribution, that God rewards faithfulness and punishes faithlessness.  The Theory of Retribution, a hallmark of Deuteronomic theology, is prominent throughout the Book of Tobit and in much of the Hebrew Bible.  Deuteronomy 28 teaches the Theory of Retribution, which informs the Books of Joshua, Judges, 1 and 2 Samuel, and 1 and 2 Kings.  In particular, consult Joshua 7:1-8:29; Judges 3:7-11; and 2 Samuel 11:1-12:15, for example, O reader.

The counterbalance also exists un the Hebrew Bible.  Blessings also come undeserved.  A relationship with God should not be a quid-pro-quo arrangement.  See Deuteronomy 4:32-40; 6-11; 8:17-18; 9:4-6; 10:15; and 23:6, O reader.  Likewise, that seems undeserved is a form of testing (Deuteronomy 8: 2, 3, 5, 16-17), and repentance following suffering precedes divine mercy (Deuteronomy 30:1-10).

What we do matters.  How we respond to God is crucial.  One does know a tree by its fruits.  And actions have consequences.  However, Prosperity Theology remains a heresy.  Many of the devout suffer.  Many of the devout become martyrs.  And many of the devout endure poverty.

The Bible is a nuanced sacred theology.  Any impression to the contrary is erroneous.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HILEY BATHURST, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ISAAC WATTS, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

THE FEAST OF PETRUS NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN EDUCATOR AND COMPOSER; AND GEORG NIGIDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER AND HYMN WRITER

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Reconciliation, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Tomb of Rabbi Hillel

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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

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

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

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

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Deuteronomy 30:11-20

Acts 6:1-7

Matthew 5:17-26

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The Law of God is permanent (Matthew 5:17f), according to Jesus, agreeing with Deuteronomy 30:11f.

How, then, are we supposed to interpret the Law-related conflicts between religious authorities and our Lord and Savior?  He interpreted the Law more inwardly and rigorously.  For example, he taught reconciliation, a principle at work in Acts 6:1-7.

Reconciliation, by definition, must involve more than one party.  If I seek to reconcile with John Q. Public, that desire speaks well of me.  If Mr. Public agrees to reconcile, we accomplish reconciliation.  Yet if Mr. Public rejects my offer of reconciliation, he continues to carry his burden; I carry no burden, for I have laid it down.  That result is positive for me, but reconciliation would be preferable.

Christ’s interpretation of the Law refuses to honor the letter of the Law while violating the spirit of the Law.  Internalize the ethos of the Law, Jesus says, then act accordingly.  This is an old teaching in 2019, as I type these words.

It was not unique to Jesus, though.  Rabbi Hillel, who died when Jesus was a minor, quoted the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) when he summarized the Torah.  He continued,

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

The wisdom of Hillel and Jesus continues to instruct those who pay attention.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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Judgment and Mercy, Part XI   Leave a comment

Above:  Joshua and the Israelite People

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Lord of all power and might, who art the author and giver of good things:

graft in our hearts the love of thy name, increase in us true religion,

nourish us with all goodness, and by thy great mercy keep us in the same;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 125

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Joshua 24:14-24

Colossians 1:24-29

John 17:20-26

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Due to thematic similarity between the readings for this post and the previous one, I could slip into excessive repetitiveness easily.  Nevertheless, I have tried not to do so.

Different Biblical authors had divergent opinions about how forgiving God is.  God was unforgiving of apostasy and apostates in Deuteronomy 29 and Hebrews 10:26-31, for example.  In Luke 9:62, Jesus, after listening to excuses for not following him, said,

No one who puts a hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Yet God was forgiving in Deuteronomy 30.  This forgiving attitude did not indicate the absence of negative consequences of sins, though.

Heaven and Hell, which I understand to be realities, not places with geography and coordinates, are real.  God predestines some people to Heaven, but nobody to Hell.  God damns no person, but people damn themselves.  God, in my theology, extends successive opportunities to repent.

Judgment and mercy exist in balance throughout the Bible.  I do not pretend to know where one ends and the other begins.  Yet I understand that we ought to take faithful response to God seriously.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Judgment and Mercy, Part X   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Moses

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O God, who hast prepared for those who love thee such good things as pass man’s understanding:

pour into our hearts such love toward thee, that we, loving thee above all things,

may obtain thy promises, which exceed all that we can desire; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124-125

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Deuteronomy 30:1-10

1 Thessalonians 1:1-10

John 17:6-11

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I am no longer in the world,

but they are in the world,

and I am coming to you.

Holy Father,

keep those you have given me true to your name,

so that they may be one like us.

–John 17:11, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One’s cultural assumptions frequently function as obstacles to proper interpretation of the Bible.  Western individualism, for example, may obscure the plural nature of “you” in many Biblical passages; perhaps one reads “you” and automatically thinking of it as being singular.  Responsibility, judgment, and mercy are both individual and collective in the Bible.  There is an individual aspect to collective matters, of course, but may we never ignore the reality of collective matters.

Faithfulness and faithlessness are collective in the assigned readings.  Those God (the Father) gave to Jesus are supposed to be one, as Jesus and God (the Father) are one.  News of the faithfulness of the Thessalonian congregation, evident in the actions of that assembly and its members, continues to spread, for people continue to read 1 Thessalonians.  Deuteronomy 30:1-10, with its assurance of divine mercy on the people following divine judgment on them for faithlessness, contradicts Deuteronomy 29:15f (with an emphasis on verse 19), where forgiveness and restoration are absent.

I like divine mercy.

Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  This principle applies to both Testaments, contrary to stereotypes of the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament.  Actions and the lack thereof have consequences, both positive and negative.  Yet the love of God continues to seek us out, to offer us new chances to do as we should, to be as we ought.  Do we (both as individuals and as collectives) care?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 9, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE SECOND SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR; AND HIS SON, MARKUS BARTH, SWISS LUTHERAN MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GEORG FRIEDRICH HELLSTROM, DUTCH-GERMAN MORAVIAN MUSICIAN, COMPOSER, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER FOURIER, “THE GOOD PRIEST OF MATTAINCOURT;” AND SAINT ALIX LE CLERC, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF NOTRE DAME OF CANONESSES REGULAR OF SAINT AUGUSTINE

THE FEAST OF WALTER CISZEK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST AND POLITICAL PRISONER

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Repentance and Restoration, Part I   1 comment

the-denial-of-saint-peter-caravaggio

Above:  The Denial of Saint Peter, by Caravaggio

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:

Deuteronomy 30:1-14

Psalm 115 or 113

John 7:53-8:11 or Luke 22:1-38 (39-46)

Romans 2:12-29

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Maundy Thursday is an especially appropriate day to repent.  We all need to turn our backs to our sins daily, of course, but the commemoration of the final events leading to the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior should remind us all to take a spiritual inventory and turn over some new leaves.  Deuteronomy 30, following directly from Chapter 29, tells us that, after idolatry and other sins, as well as their consequences, will come the opportunity for repentance and restoration.  The psalms extol God, for whom no idol is a good substitute.  Idols come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  Some are tangible, but many are not.  That which is an idol for one person is not an idol for another individual.  All idolatry must cease.  Repentance and restoration can still occur.

The pericope from John 7:53-8:11 really belongs in the Gospel According to Luke.  One can, in fact, read John 7:52 and skip to 8:12 without missing a beat.  The story, whenever it occurred in the life of Jesus, teaches vital lessons.  The religious authority figures, we learn, sought to entrap our Lord and Savior.  In so doing, we discover, they violated the law, for they provided no witnesses and did not care about the location of the man (Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22).  As we read, Jesus reversed the trap, outwitted his opponents, and sent the woman away forgiven.  I conclude that certain words from Romans 2 would have fit well in our Lord and Savior’s mouth, given the circumstances:

You teach others, then; do you not teach yourself?

–Verse 21a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Falling into sin is easy; one can simply stumble into it out of fear or ignorance.  St. Simon Peter acted out of fear when he denied knowing Jesus.  Fear was understandable, although that fact did not reduce the sin.  Yet, as we read in John 21, Christ gave St. Simon Peter the opportunity to profess his love for him as many times as he had denied knowing him.  The Apostle accepted the opportunity, although he was not aware of what Jesus was doing at the time.

May we strive, by grace, to sin as rarely as possible.  And, when we do sin (many times daily), may we express our penitence and repent.  Christ, simultaneously priest and victim as well as master and servant, beckons us to follow him.  We will stumble and fall often; he knows that.  Get up yet again and resume following me, he says.

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-maundy-thursday-year-d/

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Go and Learn It   1 comment

Scroll

Above:   Scroll

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God among us, we gather in the name of your Son

to learn love for one another.  Keep our feet from evil paths.

Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace

revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 23:1-9

Psalm 113

Romans 3:1-8

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Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes, with the princes of his people.

–Psalm 113:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures one reads of the importance of obeying divine law faithfully.  God commands obedience to the law and warns of the dire consequences of disobedience.  Two kingdoms fall and, after the fact, the Jewish tradition repeats the theme of the importance of obedience to the law.  I wonder, then, how to read St. Paul the Apostle in his Letter to the Romans.  Perhaps his target was the legalistic interpretation and keeping of the Law of Moses.  In Romans 2, for example, we read of the necessity of the circumcision of the heart.  As a note in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011) informs me, that is consistent with Deuteronomy 10:16 and 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4, 9:25-26, and 38:33; and Ezekiel 44:7.

As for the portion of the Law of Moses we find in Exodus 23:1-9, it is timeless, with some culturally specific examples of principles.

  1. One must not bear false witness, commit perjury, or spread false rumors.
  2. One must speak the truth and act impartially, showing deference to nobody because of wealth or the lack thereof.
  3. One must return wandering livestock belonging to an enemy.  (This commandment’s principle extends beyond livestock.)
  4. One must help and enemy raise his beast of burden which has collapsed.  (This commandment’s principle also extends beyond livestock.)
  5. One must not subvert the rights of the poor.
  6. One must not make or support a false allegation.
  7. One must not send the innocent to execution.
  8. One must not accept bribes.
  9. One must not oppress strangers.

These are commandments, not suggestions.

I think of the famous story of Rabbi Hillel (110 B.C.E.-10. C.E.), who summarized the Torah by citing the commandment to love God fully (the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and the Golden Rule (Leviticus 19:18).  Then he concluded,

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

That statement applies well to Exodus 23:1-9, some of the provisions of which are politically sensitive.  Justice, however, is what it is.  May we learn it and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-20-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Of Externals and Internals   2 comments

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Above:  Bishop Robert C. Wright (Episcopalian) and Archbishop Wilton Gregory (Roman Catholic) at the Good Friday Pilgrimage for Immigrants, April 18, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

O God our rock, you offer us a covenant of mercy,

and you provide the foundation of our lives.

Ground us in your word, and strengthen our resolve to be your disciples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-8 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 30:1-5 (Friday)

Amos 2:6-11 (Saturday)

Psalm 31:1-5, 19-24 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-29 (Thursday)

Romans 9:6-13 (Friday)

Matthew 7:1-6 (Saturday)

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Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me,

for you are my rock and my stronghold;

guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake.

–Psalm 31:3, Common Worship (2000)

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One of the faults of certain varieties of Protestantism is overemphasizing the internal and unseen while underemphasizing the external and the seen. Pietists, for example, dismiss “externals” frequentlu, as if “externals” are meaningless. They are not necessarily so.

No, a ritual (such as a sacrifice or circumcision) can matter quite a lot, for we humans need visible signs and rites of passage. How else are we to mark the difference between one stage of life and another or to note a covenant to God? We need externals beause we see, touch, feel, hear, and smell; we are not disembodied sentients. The scriptures command many rituals in particular settings, in fact.

The scriptures also make clear that rituals are not supposed to be talismans which protect us from punishment for sins of which we have not repented, individually or collectively. Rituals one performs piously have meaning, but those one performs while disobeying divine commandments, such as how to treat people, offend God.

For crime after crime of Israel

I shall grant them no reprieve,

because they sell honest folk for silver

and the poor for a pair of sandals.

They grind the heads of the helpless into the dust

and push the humble out of their way.

Father and son resort to the temple girls,

so profaning my holy name.

–Amos 2:6-7, The Revised English Bible

God, the Bible tells us, cares deeply about how we act toward our fellow human beings. We ought to seek God’s best for them, not exploit them for our own gain and pleasure. We should seek to raise the status of the powerless, the less powerful, and the marginalized among us. Each of us bears the image of God and therefore deserves respect. When we seek to do those things may we succeed by grace. And may we engage in rituals which create holy atmospheres for our spiritual benefit and glorify—not mock—God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE PARKER, ABOLITIONIST AND MAVERICK UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY PIEROZZI, A.K.A. ANTONINUS OF FLORENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS LUDWIG VON ZINZENDORF, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-4-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Active and Effective Love for Each Other   1 comment

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Above:  Herod’s Temple

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2005003201/PP/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-11786

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The Collect:

O God, the strength of all who hope in you,

because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing without you.

Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do,

and give us grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 26:1-15 (Thursday)

Leviticus 26:34-46 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 30:1-91 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:1-8 (all days)

James 1:12-16 (Thursday)

1 John 2:7-17 (Friday)

Matthew 15:1-9 (Saturday)

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Some Related Posts:

Leviticus 26:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-fourth-and-thirty-fifth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Deuteronomy 30:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/devotion-for-october-28-lcms-daily-lectionary/

James 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/24/week-of-proper-1-tuesday-year-2/

1 John 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fifth-day-of-christmas/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/sixth-day-of-christmas/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-8-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Matthew 15:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-20-and-21-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

–Psalm 119:4, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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These readings contain much sage advice:

  1. Obey God’s laws, whether or not one lives among foreigners with different religions and customs.
  2. Love one’s fellow human beings actively and effectively, trusting in the power of God to enable one to do this.
  3. Do not use God and/or religion to to cover up or to attempt to cover up one’s own perfidy.

The latter point requires some explanation.  Korban was a custom by which one gave money to the religious establishment for the support of the professional religious people there.  Many people used this practice to deprive their relatives of necesssary funds while looking pious.  And many Temple officials knew it.  Thus religion became a means of circumventing a basic ethic of the Law of Moses:

Honor your father and your mother.

In other words, motives mattered.  They still do.

Ethics are concrete, not abstract.  Since we human beings live in communities, our actions and inactions affect each other.  Our actions and inactions flow from our attitudes.  Thus how we think of each other matters greatly.  Do we value each other or do we seek ways to exploit and/or deprive each other?  Which people do we think of as our neighbors?

May we not use the letter of the law to the cover up or to attempt to cover up violations of its spirit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUKE THE EVANGELIST, PHYSICIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-sixth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jeremiah and Matthew, Part VI: The Sovereignty of God   1 comment

agnusdeiwindow

Above:  The Logo of the Moravian Church, Set in Stained Glass

Image Source = JJackman

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:AgnusDeiWindow.jpg)

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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:

Jeremiah 11:11-23

Psalm 97 (Morning)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening)

Matthew 24:1-28

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Some Related Posts:

Jeremiah 11:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/proper-20-year-b/

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The author of Psalm 62, in the context of persecution because of his holiness, wrote:

Yet be still my soul, and wait for God:

from whom comes my hope of deliverance.

–verse 5, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

I detect echoes of the Jeremiah and Matthew readings in the Psalms appointed for today.  The above quote is just one example of that.

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, fulfilled his unpleasant duty faithfully while arguing with God.  The prophet announced doom for idolatry and a host of social injustices–in short, breaking the covenant with God, per Deuteronomy 30:15-20.  The prophet placed himself in harm’s way by doing this.  He likened himself to a docile sheep led to the slaughter and asked God to avenge him.

That image of a lamb led to the slaughter is one which Christian tradition has applied to Jesus, although he was hardly docile in Matthew 24 and elsewhere.  Our Lord and Savior was far from docile in Matthew 21 (“the Temple Incident,” as New Testament scholars call it) or in John 18 or in Matthew 26.  Yet the image of a lamb, when applied to Jesus, works well, for he was both the high priest and the sacrificial animal, metaphorically speaking.

In Mathew 24 Jesus warned the Apostles against, among other ills, false prophets and religious persecution:

You will be handed over for punishment and execution; all nations will hate you for your allegiance to me.  At that time many will fall from their faith; they will betray one another and hate one another.  Many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many; and as lawlessness spreads, the love of many will grow cold.  But whoever endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the earth as a testimony to  all nations; and then the end will come.

–verses 9-14, The Revised English Bible

This is a devotion for November 7, at the latter part of the Season after Pentecost.  Advent is not far away from November 7–less than one month, in fact.  (Advent can begin as early as November 27 and as late as December 3.)  By November 7 the Sunday readings in the Revised Common Lectionary have taken a dark turn.

Yet, in the darkness of the tail end of Ordinary Time there is hope.  Yes, Jeremiah suffered greatly, but God proved him correct.  And nobody who tried to kill the prophet succeeded.  Yes, sometimes there is persecution for following Jesus, but God still wins in the end.  And God is faithful to the faithful, some of whom will lose their bodies in service to God but none of whom will lose their souls thereby.  And Advent is around the corner.  Christmas will follow.  The summary of the hope of which I write is the Sovereignty of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/devotion-for-november-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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