Archive for the ‘Exodus 17’ Category

The Presence of God, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  Christ Walking on the Sea, by Amédée Varint

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Exodus 17:1-7 or 1 Kings 2:13, 10-12; 3:3-14

Psalm 54

2 Corinthians 11:18-33

Mark 6:45-56

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Those compulsively protected from risk do not grow strong in faith.

Origenes Adamantius, a.k.a. Origen (185-254)

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The way of proper faith is not Easy Street.  No, the path leads through peaks and valleys on its way to union with God.  The way of proper faith includes storms, too, but one need not endure them alone.  The presence of God may seem more obvious during times of difficulty, actually.

I attest, O reader, that times spiritual darkness and turbulence, regardless of what triggered them, are opportunities for spiritual growth.  Perhaps you, O reader, know this from experience, too.

One detail from the Gospel reading caught my attention this time, the umpteenth time I have read the story.  I focused on Jesus, walking on the water of the stormy Sea of Galilee, intending to pass by the boat carrying the Apostles.  This was no casual detail.  No, it was an allusion to the presence of YHWH passing before Moses in Exodus 33:19-22.  Furthermore, in Mark 6:50, the words of Jesus,

It is I,

echo the great

I AM,

from Exodus 3:13f.

When we encounter the presence of God in a way out of the ordinary for us, how do we respond?  Do we fall into sin?  Do we remain somewhat oblivious, as the Apostles did for a while?  Do we laugh (Genesis 17:17 and 18:12) because divine promises seem absurd?  Or do we respond faithfully?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS À KEMPIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEWTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/24/devotion-for-proper-15-year-b-humes/

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True Liberation III   Leave a comment

Above:   Moses Striking the Rock, by Pieter de Grebbel (1630)

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Grant, we pray thee, O God, that we who have celebrated the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,

may demonstrate his victory in our daily conduct and face the future unafraid;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 122

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Exodus 17:1-6

1 John 5:1-12

John 21:1-12

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Doubting is frequently predictable.  Much of the time it is even justifiable.  Yet there is a difference between skepticism and grumbling.

I give the fishing Apostles in John 21 a gentle evaluation, for I can only imagine the psychological shock they were experiencing.  At such times returning to a familiar pattern can provide some comfort.  Jesus gently invites us to eat breakfast then to return to following him.

Exodus 17:1-7 provides one of two stories of Moses striking a rock, to release water; Numbers 20:1-13 offers the other one.  Exodus 17:1-7 is the story in which Moses had orders  to strike the rock; Numbers 20:1-13 is the story in which he had orders to speak to it.  The grumbling–murmuring–of the people in both stories is part of a pattern in the generation of Israelites, whom God liberated from Egypt; it indicates faithlessness, a selective memory, and a slave mentality.  There are three spiritual problems that remain ubiquitous, unfortunately.

True liberation can prove frightening.  One may think of the scene from the Life of Brian (1979), in which a formerly lame man Jesus had healed complains about no longer being lame as he pretends to be lame.  True liberation imposes responsibility upon the liberated grace is free, but far from cheap.

May we, by grace, rejoicing in our liberation via Jesus and accepting our responsibilities, follow him whose commandments are not burdensome.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN DEXTER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABBO OF FLEURY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT BRICE OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS TAVELIC AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Psalms 95-97   1 comment

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POST XXXVII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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God is the universal ruler and judge, we read.  God, unlike many earthly potentates, is just, Psalm 96 makes plain.  Yes, God might seem harsh, from a certain point of view (such as that of certain faithless Hebrews in the Sinai Desert after the Exodus), but one needs a good understanding of that narrative from the Torah to grasp the significance of the referenced events.  (One can start by reading Exodus 17:7, Deuteronomy 33:8, and Numbers 20:1-13.)

Human nature is a constant factor, for both good and bad.  Thus we will always have perfidious potentates among us.  We will know them by their fruits, to use Biblical language.  The standard God establishes puts all perfidious potentates and even the conscientious ones to shame, for no more mortal can match the divine standard of justice.  It is far better, however, to fall short of that standard while being conscientious than to do so while being perfidious.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, PRESIDENT OF KING’S COLLEGE, “FATHER OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH IN CONNECTICUT,” AND “FATHER OF AMERICAN LIBRARY CLASSIFICATION;” TIMOTHY CUTLER, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, ANGLICAN PRIEST, AND RECTOR OF YALE COLLEGE; DANIEL BROWNE, EDUCATOR, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST; AND JAMES WETMORE, CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN FRIEDRICH BAHNMAIER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Exodus and Hebrews, Part XII: Encountering God   2 comments

moses-michelangelo

Above:  Moses, by Michelagelo Bunoarroti

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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:

Exodus 17:1-16

Psalm 47 (Morning)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening)

Hebrews 11:1-29

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 17:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/third-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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

Hebrews 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/week-of-6-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-saturday-year-1/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/prayer-for-thursday-of-easter-week/

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Let God arise, and let his enemies be scattered;

let those who hate him flee before him.

–Psalm 68:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The theological ignorance of many longtime church members has astonished and dismayed me.  I recall, for example, when I was a child growing up in United Methodist parsonages in rural southern Georgia, that some elderly and middle-aged parishioners who had grown up in church asked that, if Christ is vital to salvation, how this pertained to those who lived and died before the time of Jesus.  My parents answered from Hebrews 11:13:

…but they saw them in the far distance and welcomed them….

(The New Jerusalem Bible)

As a person trained in history and therefore in chronology, I point out that one is not responsible for embracing that which has yet to occur.   So nobody went to Hell in 600 BCE for not accepting Christ, for example; the Incarnation was in the future.  That point was obvious to me even as a child still in public schools.  Why was it not obvious to some of my elders?

In Exodus 17 we read of more grumbling followed by God giving Moses instructions, which he followed.  Then we read of God, via Moses and human helpers and a stone, delivering the Israelites from attackers.  The depiction of the recently liberated former slaves is negative; they are grumbling ingrates.  People ask for spectacular signs throughout the Bible, but how often, when they receive them, do they trust in God?

I have seen mighty acts of God in my life.  No, I have not witnessed a pillar of cloud by day or a pillar of fire by night.  No, I have not spoken with God face to face.  Yet I have felt God pick my up when I was desperate.  And I have met some of God’s human agents when I needed them very much.  I have known at my darkest hours–the ones when I welcomed death and cursed living yet was too scared to attempt suicide–that I was not alone.  And, by grace, I emerged stronger than before.  That was close enough to a pillar of fire for me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-fifth-day-of-easter-thursday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The Water of Life   1 comment

Above:  Jacob’s Well in 1934

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Exodus 17:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said,

Give us water to drink.

Moses said to them,

Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?

But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said,

Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?

So Moses cried out to the Lord,

What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.

The Lord said to Moses,

Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.

Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying,

Is the Lord among us or not?

Psalm 95 (New Revised Standard Version):

O come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth;

the heights of the mountains are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it,

and the dry land, which has hands have formed.

O come, let us worship and bow down,

let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture,

and the sheep of his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice!

Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Masah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me,

and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

For forty years I loathed that generation

and said,

They are a people whose hearts go astray,

and they do not regard my ways.

Therefore in anger I swore,

They shall not enter my rest.

Romans 5:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

John 4:5-42 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her,

Give me a drink.

(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him,

How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?

(Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her,

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.

The woman said to him,

Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?

Jesus said to her,

Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

The woman said to him,

Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.

Jesus said to her,

Go, call your husband, and come back.

The woman answered him,

I have no husband.

Jesus said to her,

You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!

The woman said to him,

Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.

Jesus said to her,

Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

The woman said to him,

I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.

Jesus said to her,

I am he, the one who is speaking to you.

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said,

What do you want?

or,

Why are you speaking with her?

Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,

Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?

They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him,

Rabbi, eat something.

But he said to them,

I have food to eat that you do not know about.

So the disciples said to one another,

Surely no one has brought him something to eat?

Jesus said to them,

My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony,

He told me everything I have ever done.

So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman,

It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; 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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Water is precious, especially in the desert.  Modern-day Israel and surrounding nations, the locations of most of the Biblical narrative, are mostly desert.  So think of the Biblical references to water.  (Psalm 1 comes to mind immediately.)  Water can make the difference between life and death.

H2O can make the make the difference between physical life and death, just as spiritual water can make the difference between spiritual life and death.  That is my theme for this entry.

God had delivered the Israelites (through water) out of slavery in Egypt and into freedom.  This liberty entailed a nomadic life in the desert of the Sinai Peninsula.  God provided the Israelites everything they needed for survival, yet many people grumbled, waxing nostalgically about Egyptian table scraps and pressing Moses about where to find more water. They found it inside rocks.  Indeed, the presence of water inside rocks is a fact of nature.  The main issue with the Israelites was their faithlessness, fed by a lack of gratitude, patience, and vision.

Often we (including the author of this post) are impatient of God, unaware of how fortunate we are.  Human nature does not change.

Samaritans were half-breeds and heretics by orthodox Jewish standards.  So why did Jesus deign to carry on an intelligent, non-judgmental conversation with one of them?  And with a woman!  Women were the social inferiors of men in that patriarchal society.  This Samaritan woman had more faith than did many Israelites shortly after the Exodus, though, and she received spiritual water and rejuvenated faith.  She went away justified.

Truly all people who seek and find God, who demonstrate living faith in the one true deity and his only Son, Jesus, are acceptable to God–regardless of ethnic origin or sex.  Some heretics have more faith than certain observant people.  Some of my most productive and interesting theological discussions have been with refugees and exiles from organized religion.  I think especially of a young woman I knew as a classmate at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, in the early and middle 1990s.  Brittany (not her real name) had grown up in a conservative, Charismatic congregation of an old, mainline Protestant denomination.  She cared deeply about epistomology, or how we know what we know.  Brittany’s congregation did not encourage her epistomological quest, equating it with faithlessness.  So, wounded and unwelcome, she left organized religion.  That was were she was spiritually when I spoke to her last, in early 1996.  Yet she was more faithful in a healthy way than those other students who attended fundamentalist churches weekly (or more often) and who discouraged my questions, telling me they would lead me to damnation.

Receptiveness to God is not the sole province of those who seem orthodox.  Sometimes the alleged heretics are closer to God.  Penitent prostitutes (not St. Mary Magdalene, who was not a prostitute), unlike some Pharisees, welcomed the message of our Lord and Savior.  The Samaritan woman at the well found much more than she expected, and led others to Jesus.  And Gentiles found God throughout the New Testament.  Perhaps the pivotal difference between those who embrace God and those who think they do is that the former population knows fully of its need for God, and therefore does not cling to false pride.

So there you have it.  May we welcome healthy faith in the only God wherever we find it, in whomever it lives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL AND HENRIETTA BARNETT, ENGLISH SOCIAL REFORMERS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/third-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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Posted February 10, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 17, John 4, Psalm 95, Romans 5

Moses, Faithfulness, and Unbelief   1 comment

Above:  Moses

Image Source = Billy Hathorn

Moses, Faithfulness, and Unbelief

JANUARY 13, 2011

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Hebrews 3:1-19 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Therefore, holy brethren, who share in a heavenly call, consider Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.  He was faithful to him who appointed him, just as Moses also was faithful in God’s house.  Yet Jesus has been counted worthy as much more glory than Moses as builder of the house has more honor than the house.  (For every house is built by some one, but the builder of all things is God. )  Now Moses was faithful in all God’s house as a servant, to testify to the things that were to be spoken later, but Christ was faithful over God’s house as a son.  And we are his house if we hold fast our confidence and pride in our hope.

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,

Today, when you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,

on the day of testing in the wilderness,

where your fathers put me to the test

and saw my works for forty years.

Therefore I was provoked with that generation,

and said, ‘they always go astray in their hearts;

they have not known my ways.’

As I swore in my wrath,

“They shall never enter my rest.”

Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God.  But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we share in Christ, if only we hold our first confidence firm to the end, while it is said,

Today, when you hear his voice,

do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.

Who were they that heard and yet were rebellious?  Was it not all those who left Egypt under the leadership of Moses?  And with whom was he provoked forty years?  Was it not those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did he swear that they should never enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?  So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief.

Above:  Moses Striking the Rock

Image Source = UpstateNYer

Psalm 95:6-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our maker.

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

Harden not your hearts,

as your forebears did in the wilderness,

at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,

when they tempted me.

They put me to the test,

though they had seen my works.

10 Forty years long I detested that generation and said,

“This people are wayward in their hearts;

they do not know my ways.”

11 So I swore in my wrath,

“They shall not enter into my rest.”

Mark 1:40-45 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And a leper came to him begging him, and kneeling said to him,

If you will, you can make me clean.

Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him,

I will; be clean.

And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean.  And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, and said to him,

See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.

But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread the news, so that Jesus could no longer openly enter a town, but was out in the country; and people came to him from every quarter.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Consider the following:

And all the congregation of the children of Israel traveled from the wilderness of Sin on their travels by YHWH’s word, and they camped in Rephidim.  And there was no water for the people to drink.  And the people quarreled with Moses.  And they said, “Give us water, and let us drink.”

And Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me?  Why do you test YHWH?”

And the people thirsted for water there, and the people complained at Moses and said, “Why is this that you brought us up from Egypt, to kill me, and my children and my cattle with thirst?!”

And Moses called to YHWH, saying, “What shall I do with this people?  A little more and they’ll stone me!”

And YHWH said to Moses, “Pass in front of the people and take some of Israel’s elders with you, and take your staff with which you struck the Nile in your hand, and you’ll go.  Here, I’ll be standing in front of you there on a rock at Horeb.  And you’ll strike the rock, and water will come out of it, and the people will drink.”  And Moses did so before the eyes of Israel’s elders.  And he called the place’s name Massah and Meribah becaus of the quarrel of the children of Israel and the because of their testing YHWH, saying, “Is YHWH among us or not?”

Exodus 17:1-7 (Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text, 2001)

And, in Numbers 20, Moses was supposed to speak to the rock, but he struck with his staff instead.  For this lack of faithfulness God forbade him to enter the Promised Land, as the narrative indicates.

Testing and Quarreling.  Those terms, English translations of Massah and Meribah, summarize much of the biblical story of the wandering in the desert following the Exodus.  Moses was flawed, but faithful most of the time.  For that his name is one of honor in the Bible.

The miracle of the Exodus was the liberation of the Hebrews.  The biblical text attempts a sort of scientific explanation for the parting of waters; Exodus 14:21 mentions a “strong east wind” (Richard Elliott Friedman’s translation).  The Everett Fox translation refers to a “fierce east wind.”  In the wilderness of the Sinai Peninsula God continued to provide enough for the former slaves.  Water was available, as was a sufficient food supply.  Yet people grumbled and waxed nostalgically about Egyptian table scraps.  Ingratitude prevailed, and it came with consequences.

The conjunction of the three passages of scripture on the Canadian Anglican lectionary this day makes clear that there is a continuity from Moses to Jesus.  God is the builder of the household of faith, which consists of those who trust in and follow God.  Moses was a faithful servant in this household, and thus received due respect.  But Jesus is the Son, and therefore he is greater than Moses (no disrespect to Moses).

Leviticus 14 contains detailed instructions about what to do when presenting oneself to a priest as cleansed of leprosy, a generic term for several skin diseases which rendered one ritually impure and a social outcast.  The process included animal sacrifices, animal blood, and the shaving of the leper’s head.  For full details, read Leviticus 14.  These are the motions Jesus commands the healed leper to go through in Mark.  His order is to follow the Law of Moses, indicating a continuity from Moses to Jesus.  Yet the healed leper chose the understandable action–he told everyone he could about what Jesus had done for him.  So Jesus had to hide out in the wilderness for a while.  He was, in the Markan narrative, still keeping his Messianic Secret.

There is a time to tell what God has done for one, and a time to follow rituals and keep quiet.  Knowing which is which constitutes part of wisdom.

So does recognizing what God has done and being grateful for it.  The trap of nostalgia is at least two-fold.  First, the “good old days” were not as good as they look through our rose-colored glasses.  Furthermore, we are not looking at current blessings closely enough when living in the past.  God is the God of present blessings; we need to focus on these.  Do we have enough for today?  Let us give thanks for this. Many problems arise from mistaking desires for necessities.  Money, material possessions, and other potential idols can never fill the God-shaped hole in each of us.  By themselves, these are not idols.  Yet many of us transform them into such.

May we lay aside all our idols, whatever they are.  If we have turned anything good into an idol, may we reverse that process and enjoy this good thing as what it can be, at its best.  And may we live in full awareness of how good God is today, and act accordingly.  This God is the God of Moses and Jesus, of mercy and judgment.  This is the God who cares deeply and passionately about us.  May we reciprocate, as best we can, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 18, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD BOUVERIE PUSEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF DAG HAMMARSKJOLD, SECRETARY-GENERAL OF THE UNITED NATIONS

THE FEAST OF GEORGE MACDONALD, POET AND NOVELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/18/week-of-1-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

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Posted December 31, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 14, Exodus 17, Hebrews 3, Leviticus 14, Mark 1, Numbers 20, Psalm 95

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Against All Pretenses   1 comment

Above:  Saint Francis of Assisi Kneeling (1635-1639), Painted by Francisco de Zubaran

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 17:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said,

Give us water to drink.

Moses said to them,

Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?

But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said,

Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?

So Moses cried out to the Lord,

What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.

The Lord said to Moses,

Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.

Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying,

Is the Lord among us or not?

Psalm 78:1-14, 12-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

2  I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

3  That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

4  We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

12 He worked marvels in the sight of their forefathers,

in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan.

13  He split open the sea and let them pass through;

he made the waters stand up like walls.

14  He led them with a cloud by day,

and all the night through with a glow of fire.

15  He split the hard rocks in the wilderness

and gave them drink as from the great deep.

16  He brought streams out of the cliff,

and the waters gushed out like rivers.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 18:1-4, 25-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to me: What do you mean by repeating this proverb concerning the land of Israel,

The parents have eaten sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge?

As I live, says the Lord GOD, this proverb shall no more be used by you in Israel. Know that all lives are mine; the life of the parent as well as the life of the child is mine: it is only the person who sins that shall die.

Yet you say,

The way of the Lord is unfair.

Hear now, O house of Israel: Is my way unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair? When the righteous turn away from their righteousness and commit iniquity, they shall die for it; for the iniquity that they have committed they shall die. Again, when the wicked turn away from the wickedness they have committed and do what is lawful and right, they shall save their life. Because they considered and turned away from all the transgressions that they had committed, they shall surely live; they shall not die. Yet the house of Israel says,

The way of the Lord is unfair.

O house of Israel, are my ways unfair? Is it not your ways that are unfair?

Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, all of you according to your ways, says the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions; otherwise iniquity will be your ruin. Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed against me, and get yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, says the Lord GOD. Turn, then, and live.

Psalm 25:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul;

my God, I put my trust in you;

let me not be humiliated,

nor let my enemies triumph over me.

2  Let none who look to you be put to shame;

let the treacherous be disappointed in their schemes.

3  Show me your ways, O LORD,

and teach me your paths.

4  Lead me in your truth and teach me,

for you are the God of my salvation;

in you have I trusted all the day long.

5  Remember, O LORD, your compassion and love,

for they are from everlasting.

6  Remember not the sins of my youth and my transgressions;

remember me according to your love

and for the sake of your goodness, O LORD.

7  Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

8  He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches his way to the lowly.

SECOND READING

Philippians 2:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

If then there is any encouragement in Christ, any consolation from love, any sharing in the Spirit, any compassion and sympathy, make my joy complete:  be of the same mind.  Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility regard others as better than yourselves.  Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.  Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,

who, though he was in the form of God,

did not regard equality with God

as something to be exploited,

but emptied himself,

taking the form of a slave,

being born in human likeness.

And being found in human form,

he humbled himself

and became obedient to the point of death–

even death on a cross.

Therefore God also highly exalted him

and gave him the name

that is above every name,

so that at the name of Jesus

every knee should bend,

in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

and every tongue should confess

that Jesus Christ is Lord,

the glory of God the Father.

Therefore, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed me, not only in my presence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 21:23-32 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Jesus entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came to him as he was teaching, and said,

By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?

Jesus said to them,

I will also ask you one question; if you tell me the answer, then I will also tell you by what authority I do these things. Did the baptism of John come from heaven, or was it of human origin?

And they argued with one another,

If we say, “From heaven,” he will say to us, “Why then did you not believe him?” But if we say, “Of human origin,” we are afraid of the crowd; for all regard John as a prophet.

So they answered Jesus,

We do not know.

And he said to them,

Neither will I tell you by what authority I am doing these things.

What do you think? A man had two sons; he went to the first and said, “Son, go and work in the vineyard today.” He answered, “I will not”; but later he changed his mind and went. The father went to the second and said the same; and he answered, “I go, sir”; but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?

They said,

The first.

Jesus said to them,

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

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:

Exodus 17:

 http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/third-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

Ezekiel 18:

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

Philippians 2:

 http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/feast-of-the-holy-cross-september-14/

Matthew 21:

 http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-week-of-advent-monday/

and

 http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-week-of-advent-tuesday/

Mark 11 (a parallel reading to Matthew 21):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/week-of-8-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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I have become convinced that following a lectionary is one of the best, if not the best, way to study the Bible.  There is a place for studying just one text, but placing two or more of them side-by-side and identifying common threads is wonderful, too.  And that is one purpose of the orderly reading of scripture per a lectionary.

The common thread here is the necessity of obedience to God.  What stands in the way of that?  Various issues do.  Sometimes we misunderstand God, as did many of my Antebellum forebears who used the Bible to justify slavery, based on a literal reading of some passages (or parts of passages) but not others, as well as their own economic interests, racist views, and other cultural baggage.  They were sincerely wrong, which means that they were still wrong.  We have cultural blinders today, so we need not to content ourselves with condemning our benighted forebears, for each of us is severely mistaken in some ways, too.

Others do not try, at least as much as they ought to do.  Consider the case of the Israelites in the wilderness.  They focused on what they lacked, not what they had.  I have done a similar thing many times, and probably will do so again.  Or maybe the fault is that one operates out of selfish motivations.  I have seen this dynamic hobble more than one congregation.  When a person of influence, if not title, in a congregation, especially a small one, does not check his or ego at the church doors, the results are unfortunate.  Paul understood the assembly of the faithful to function much like the human body; everybody is necessary and the tasks differ according to each member.  What matters most is to identify one’s proper role, fulfill it, and to be content to do that–all for the improvement of the body and the glory of God.

We cannot and will not do this if we are taking ego trips and using our pretenses as crutches.  This is why Jesus said that some prostitutes would enter Heaven before certain Pharisees would.  The former had no pretenses, unlike the latter.  In another story, the wealthy young man relied on his money and possessions.  They insulated him from full knowledge of his reliance on God.  That was why Jesus told him to give them up.

We get one crutch–God.  This is the God who has become incarnate as Jesus, who, Paul tells us, did not let anything stand in the way of his faithful obedience.  Our Lord did not stand on ceremony, flaunt pretenses, or take his identity from others.  No, his identity was internal, as is yours, and as is mine.  Jesus was the Son of God.  I am, through Jesus, a member of the household of God.  You, O reader, are also one, I hope.  Knowing who we are–children of God–and whose we are–God’s–may we, using the one proper crutch, abandon our false egos and pretense.  May we journey toward God, supporting each other as our paths converge, for our individual and common good, and for the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 15, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAMIEN DE VEUSTER, A.K.A. DAMIEN OF MOLOKAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MELLITUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 15, 2011

Adapted from this post:

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

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Posted October 25, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 17, Ezekiel 18, Ezekiel 38-48, Matthew 21, Philippians 2, Psalm 25, Psalm 78

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