Archive for the ‘Exodus 34’ Category

Godly Imagination   1 comment

U-Turn

Above:  Diagram of a U-Turn

Image Source = Smurrayinchester

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The Collect:

O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy.

Without your help, we mortals will fail;

remove far from us everything that is harmful,

and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 33:1-6

Psalm 119:33-40

Matthew 23:29-36

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The route of transformation–a process which God initiates–is that of turning around.  Ezekiel 33, the beginning of which is an assigned reading for today, makes those two points clearly.  It also states, contrary either to Exodus 34:7 and Deuteronomy 5:9-10 or to interpretations thereof, that individuals are responsible only for their sins; they carry no responsibility for the sins of any of their ancestors.

Regardless of how nice we think we are, we are complicit in sins of society because of our roles in societal institutions.  Our hands might not be as clean as we imagine because others do our dirty work while we are either oblivious or we approve.  I think of that reality when I read Jesus from Matthew 23:36:

Truly I tell you:  this generation will bear the guilt of it all.

The Revised English Bible, 1989

To repent is to turn around and to change one’s mind.  Changing one’s mind is crucial and difficult, for we become accustomed to ways of being and thinking; we are creatures of habit.  I am convinced that more sin flows from lack of imagination than from cartoonish, mustache-twirling perfidy.  Yes, there are malicious people who seek out opportunities to harm others each day, but more negativity results from functional fixedness.  Those of us who are not malicious might not even be able at certain moments to imagine that what God has said ought be (A) is what God has said ought to be or (B) can come to pass, at least any time soon.  Our lack of imagination condemns us and injures others.

How might the world be a better place for more people if more of us had a more highly developed imagination in tune with God?  Many of us, in the words of Psalm 119:35 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979), pray:

Make me go in the path of your commandments,

for that is my desire.

How many of us, however, have the imagination to recognize that route?  May we see then follow it to the end, by grace and free will, itself a result of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

link

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Judgment and Mercy, Part IV   2 comments

jesushealstwo

Above:  Jesus Heals Two Blind Men, by Julius Schnorr

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you are the source of life and the ground of our being.

By the power of your Spirit bring healing to this wounded world,

and raise us to the new life of your Son, Jesus Christ our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Lamentations 1:7-11 (Thursday)

Lamentations 3:40-58 (Friday)

Exodus 34:1-9 (Saturday)

Psalm 50:7-15 (All Days)

2 Peter 2:17-22 (Thursday)

Acts 28:1-10 (Friday)

Matthew 9:27-34 (Saturday)

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Hear, O my people, and I will speak:

“I will testify against you, O Israel;

for I am God, your God….”

–Psalm 50:7, Common Worship (2000)

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The assigned readings for these three days juxtapose divine judgment and mercy. The metaphors for the consequences of sin are quite graphic. They do not make for good mealtime conversation, but at least they convey the point well.

There is also extravagant mercy with God. In Matthew 9:27-34, for example, Jesus healed two blind men and a mute whom others in his culture considered a demoniac. I, being a product of the Scientific Revolution and the subsequent Enlightenment, reject the Hellenistic notion that demonic possession causes muteness. No, I seek psychological explanations. None of that changes the reality of restoration to community. Those three men were marginal prior to their healing. The blind men might have even accepted the commonplace assumption that someone’s sin had caused their lack of vision. The lifting of that spiritual burden must have been wonderful also.

We must exercise caution to avoid becoming trapped in a simplistic and false concept of God. Such a false concept is an idol, for it occupies the place God should fill. With God there are great depths of mercy yet also the reality of potential judgment. As a prayer for Good Friday from The Book of Common Prayer (1979) reads:

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, we pray you to set your passion, cross, and death between your judgment and our souls, now and in the hour of our death. Give mercy and grace to the living; pardon and rest to the dead; to your holy Church peace and concord; and to us sinners everlasting life and glory; for with the Father and the Holy Spirit you live and reign, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

–Page 282

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF U.S. PRESBYTERIANISM

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HENRY BICKERSTETH, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF EXETER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROBERTS/IEUAN GWYLLT, FOUNDER OF WELSH SINGING FESTIVALS

THE FEAST OF NGAKUKU, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/14/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-5-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Sheep and Mutuality   1 comment

06374v

Above:  Shepherds, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004006450/PP/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06374

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The Collect:

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us,

and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises.

Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 34:1-9, 27-28

Psalm 32

Matthew 18:10-14

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 34:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-sixteenth-and-seventeenth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

Matthew 18:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/devotion-for-december-27-and-28-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/tenth-day-of-advent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-24-25-and-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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I will instruct you and teach you

in the way that you should go;

I will guide you with my eye.

–Psalm 32:9, Common Worship (2000)

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No one may come up with you, no one may be seen anywhere on this mountain; the flocks and herds may not even graze in front of this mountain.

–Exodus 34:3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One of the perils of superficial familiarity with biblical texts is going on autopilot regarding them.

O yes, I know this passage,

we tell ourselves before we move along.  Yet we probably do not know these texts as well as we think we do.

Matthew 18:12-14 is such a text.  I knew that I was missing something, so I consulted my collection of commentaries.  They have informed me that these flocks were usually village flocks which a team of shepherds guarded.  Thus one shepherd could seek a lost sheep while his coworkers watched the others.  And each sheep was important.  Likewise, a sheep apart from the herd was in great danger.

This parable sits in the middle of teachings about communal life.  Immediately before the parable we read about welcoming children.  After the parable we learn about how to deal properly with errant members of the faith community.  In all three cases we read about what is best for the individual and the community.  But, as Matthew 18:17 tells us, the community must not allow the errant individual to danger it.

Communal life, with individual responsibilities to and for each other, constitutes one of the major concerns of the Law of Moses.  May we modern people not ignore this fact, despite the rugged individualism prevalent in the global Western tradition.  The individual cannot be healthy apart from the whole, which cannot be all that it can be without all of the members it should have.

Another point stands out in my mind.  As Moses collected the second set of tablets from God, not even flocks and herds were supposed to be in front of the mountain where he met with God.  The holy distance from sinful people–even from livestock–was very much a real issue.  By the time of Matthew 18, however, God, via the Incarnation, had closed that gap.  People ate with Jesus, anointed parts of him, and looked into his face.  And, as Hebrews 4:16 (assigned for yesterday) told us in the context of our Lord and Savior’s testing yet sinlessness:

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

So, confident in our great high priest, may we love each other actively and effectively, fulfilling our mutual responsibilities well.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR TOZER RUSSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/devotion-for-the-seventh-day-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Luke, Part IX: Intimacy with God   1 comment

moses-jose-de-ribera

Above:  Moses, by Jose de Ribera

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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 34:29-35:21

Psalm 99 (Morning)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening)

Luke 7:36-50

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 34-35:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/feast-of-the-transfiguration-august-6/

Luke 7:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/23/devotion-for-the-twenty-eighth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/27/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-friday-year-2/

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Each of the four canonical Gospels contains a version of the story of a woman anointing Jesus.  She was either a anonymous or Mary of Bethany.  She was either of undefined character or of good character or a forgiven sinner.  The host was was either Mary of Bethany or Simon the Leper or Simon the Pharisee.

As I understand oral tradition, based on reading Historical Jesus books written from various points of view, oral tradition is neither ironclad nor completely unreliable with regard to details.  It is flexible, with a certain set spine.  (See N. T. Wright, Jesus and the Victory of God, Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 1996, pages 135-136.)  So, as I read and read the Synoptic Gospels, I find parallel versions of the same incidents, sayings, and parables.  They are similar yet not identical.  To apply this to the anointing of Jesus, something happened at Bethany.  But who was the woman?  What was her background and character?  Who was the host?  And which part of Jesus did the woman anoint?  The Bible does not provide consistent answers.  This does not disturb me.  It did not bother the bishops who approved the canon of the New Testament either.  So I take the Lukan account as we have it, in textual context, and interpret it in relation to its paired reading from Exodus.

The woman expressed her gratitude for forgiveness.  Meanwhile, in Exodus, a distance between God and the people remained.  There was even a distance between Moses and the people.  But there was not distance between Jesus and the woman.  And there need be no distance between Jesus and any of us.

As long as I can recall, I have always had a sense of God.  My relationship with God has had its ups and downs, with the latter being my fault.  And, when times have been darkest for me, I have felt God wither drawing nearer to me or seeming to do so; I cannot be sure which was the reality.  It was, however, a distinction without a difference.  God, as the Sufis say, is closer to me (and to you) than my (and your) jugular vein.  Experience has taught me this.  Perhaps it has also taught you, O reader, the same lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-eighteenth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Luke, Part VIII: Damaged Relationships   1 comment

epitaph-of-a-roman-centurion

Above:  Epitaph of a Centurion

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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 33:1-23 (16th Dayof Easter)

Exodus 34:1-28 (17th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–16th Day of Easter)

Psalm 98 (Morning–17th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–16th Day of Easter)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening–17th Day of Easter)

Luke 7:1-17 (16th Day of Easter)

Luke 7:18-35 (17th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 33-34:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/proper-24-year-a/

Luke 7:

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

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-wednesday-year-1/

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The LORD said to Moses, “Say to the Israelite people, ‘You are a stiffnecked people.  If I were to go in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you.  Now, then, leave off your finery, and I will consider what to do to you.’”

–Exodus 33:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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I detect several consistent patterns in my life.  One of them pertains to what happens after I fall out with an institution.  I return after some time, but never with the same enthusiasm.  The water might be under the bridge, but I cannot forget the flood.  So the breach remains in my memory.  Things can be better, but not as they were before.  Perhaps this is a spiritual failing.  (Relationships with individuals are a different matter; I have reverted to a pre-falling out state with them.  Institutions are frequently impersonal by nature, however.)   I offer neither a defense nor a condemnation of myself relative to this reality relative to institutions; no, I am content at the moment to make an objectively accurate statement.

The relationship between God and the Israelites was damaged, not broken, in Exodus 33.  Moses functioned as an intermediary, for there was a distance between God and the people.  The narrative would have us believe that the people were entirely to blame, but I argue that God, as the narrative presents God, shared in the blame.  Were the people supposed to love and follow a deity who sent away those who had not adored the Golden Calf as punishment for the adoration of that idol?

The relationship between Jesus and the religious authorities (eventually broken) in the Gospel of Luke.  And, in Luke 7, our Lord found a Gentile–a Roman officer, no less–whose great faithfulness impressed him.  This spoke well for the Centurion but not of those religious authorities.

To tie everything together in a big theological bow, God did come among many of our forebears, and they did not perish. The Incarnation of God in Jesus constituted God among us, with us, and for us.  It was how God bridged the gap.  Things would not be as they were before.  No, they would be better.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-sixteenth-and-seventeenth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Transfigurations   1 comment

Above:  Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor

Image Source = Library of Congress

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Exodus 34:29-35 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And it was when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’s hand when he was coming down from the mountain.  And Moses had not known that the skin of his face was transformed when He was speaking with him.  And Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses; and, here, the skin of his face was transformed, and they were afraid of going over to him.  And Moses called to them.  And Aaron and all the chiefs in the congregation came back to him, and he spoke to them.  And after that all the children of Israel went over.  And he commanded them everything that YHWH had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.  And Moses finished speaking with them, and he put a veil on his face.  And when Moses would come in front of YHWH to speak with Him, he would turn away the veil until he would go out; and he would go out and speak to the children of Israel what had been commanded.  And the children of Israel would see Moses’ face, that the skin of Moses’ face was transformed, and Moses would put back the veil on his face until he would come to speak with Him.

Psalm 99 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble!

He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

The LORD is great in Zion;

he is exalted over all the peoples.

Let them praise your great and awesome name.

Holy is he!

Mighty King, lover of justice,

you have established equity;

you have executed justice

and righteousness in Jacob.

Extol the LORD our God;

worship at his footstool.

Holy is he!

Moses and Aaron were among his priests,

Samuel also was among those who called on his name.

They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.

He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud;

they kept his decrees,

and the statutes that he gave them.

O LORD our God, you answered them;

you were a forgiving God to them,

but an avenger of their wrongdoings.

Extol the LORD our God,

and worship at his holy mountain;

for the LORD our God is holy.

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6 (An American Translation):

So since I have such a hope, I speak with great frankness, not like Moses, who used to wear a veil over his face, to keep the Israelites from gazing at the fading of the splendor from it.  Their minds were dulled.  For to this day, the same veil remains unlifted, when the read the old agreement, for only through union with Christ is it removed.  Why, to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil hangs over their minds, but

whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Now the Lord here means the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And all of us, reflecting the splendor of the Lord in our unveiled faces, aer being changed into likeness of him, from one degree of splendor to another, for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

So since by the mercy of God I am engaged in this service, I never lose heart.  I disown disgraceful, underhanded ways.  I refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s message.  It is by the open statement of truth that I would commend myself to every human conscience in the sight of God.  If the meaning of my preaching of the good news is veiled at all, it is so only in the case of those who are on the way to destruction.  In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep the light of the good news of the glorious Christ, the likeness of God, from dawning upon them.  For it is not myself but Christ Jesus that I am proclaiming as Lord; I am only a slave of yours for Jesus’ sake.  For the God who said,

Let light shine out of darkness,

has shone in my heart, to give me the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, that is on the face of Christ.

Luke 9:28-42a (New Revised Standard Version):

About eight days after Peter had acknowledged Jesus as the Christ of God, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus,

Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah

–not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said,

This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!

When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted,

Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.

Jesus answered,

You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.

While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

The Collect:

O God, who before the passion of your only ­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; 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:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-last-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-confession-for-the-last-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-last-sunday-after-epiphany/

O Wondrous Type! O Vision Fair:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/o-wondrous-type-o-vision-fair/

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I like this Sunday, for its readings match up nicely.  Exodus and 2 Corinthians refer to Moses wearing a veil after communing with God, a counterpart to the never veiled Jesus during the Transfiguration.  This is a prime example of why lectionaries are useful.

The presentation of Yahweh in the Torah is awe-inspiring.  One ought not look too closely, for to do so would be dangerous.  And Moses had an incredibly shiny face from communing with God.  (All Charlton Heston got was streaked hair!)  But, for most people, there was a certain distance, and Moses found a veil necessary in public.

The Transfiguration revealed our Lord’s true nature.  But notice that there was no veil in the area.  Part of the meaning of the Incarnation is God’s approachability, indeed God’s approaching.  There is always a mystery there, but it is one which seeks us out.

I suspect that there is much poetry–perhaps more than literal truth–in the Exodus and Luke accounts.  This does not trouble me, for poetry and metaphor are frequently better at conveying deep truth than are any straight-forward reports.  As we moderns read the Bible, may we not abandon religious imagination, often the most memorable and profound aspect of certain texts.  In religious imagination we encounter God in beauty, something mere facts cannot convey.  How will our encounters with God in such beauty change us and be obvious to others?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FULBERT OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF ARKANSAS, AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF NORTH CAROLINA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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Judgment and Mercy, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Moses

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Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5-10, 27-28 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses would take the tent and pitch it outside of the camp, going far from the camp, and he called it the Tent of Meeting.  And it would be:  everyone seeking YHWH would to out to the Tent of Meeting, which was outside of the camp.  And it would be, when Moses would go out to the Tent, all the people would get up, and they would stand up, each one at the entrance of the tent, and they would look after Moses until he came to the Tent.  And it would be, when Moses came to the Tent, the column of cloud would come down, and it would stand at the entrance of the Tent, and He would speak with Moses.  And all the people would see the column of cloud standing at the entrance of the Tent, and all the people would get up and bow, each at the entrance of his tent.  And YHWH would speak to Moses face-to-face, the way a man speaks to his fellow man.  And he would come back to the camp.  And his attendant, Joshua, son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from inside the Tent.

And YHWH came down in a cloud and stood before him there, and he invoked the name YHWH.  And YHWH passed in front of him and called,

YHWH, YHWH, merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in kindness and faithfulness, keeping kindness for thousands, bearing crime and offense and sin; though not making one innocent; reckoning fathers’ crimes on children and on children’s cildren, on third generations and on fourth generations.

And Moses hurried and knelt on the ground and bowed, and he said,

If I’ve found favor in your eyes, my Lord, may my Lord go among us, because it is a stiff-necked people, and forgive our crime and our sin, and make us your legacy.

And He said,

Here, I am making a covenant.  Before all your people I’ll do wonders that haven’t been created in all the earth and among all the nations; and all the people whom you’re among will see YHWH’s deeds, because that which I’m doing with you is awesome….

And YHWH said to Moses,

Write these words to yourself, because I’ve made a covenant with you and with Israel based on these words.

And he was there with YHWH forty days and forty nights.  He did not eat bread, and he did not drink water.  And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

Psalm 103:5-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5 He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and his works to the children of Israel.

8 The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are as high above the earth,

so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

Matthew 13:36-43 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Later, he left the crowds and went indoors, where his disciples came and said,

Please explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.

Jesus replied,

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the whole world.  The good seed?  That is the sons of the kingdom, while the weeds are sons of the evil one of this world.  The enemy who sowed them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of this world.  The reapers are angels.

Just as weeds are gathered up and burned in the fire so will it happen at the end of the world.  The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will uproot from the kingdom everything that is spoiling it, and all those who live in defiance of its laws, and will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be tears and bitter regret.  Then the good will shine out like the sun in their Father’s kingdom.  The man who has ears should use them!

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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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Sometimes I feel like a broken record, or at least Mojo Jojo from The Powerpuff Girls; I keep repeating myself.  I have an excellent reason for my repetition:  the texts keep saying the same things over and over again.  So here I am, again, writing that divine judgment and mercy are intertwined.

One point does bear elaboration before I proceed.  Consider Exodus 34:6-7, which speak of the passing down of sins through the generations.  Richard Elliott Friedman makes the following comment about it on page 291 of his Commentary on the Torah:

…Third, psychologically one can observe traits persevering through that many [four] generations.  I have personally observed ongoing dynamics within my family through four generations.   This does not mean that an individual’s bad deed will be duplicated by his or her children and grandchildren.  But it may recognize that such deeds have consequences, for better or worse (pride and embarrassment, stigmas, reactions, conscious or unconscious imitation), that persist through generations.

Consequences constitute the crux of the issue.  Deeds have consequences, and often divine punishment is merely permitting consequences to play out.  Much of the time this for disciplinary reasons, so that we will learn our lessons.  Responsible parents do not always shield their children from the consequences of bad actions.  This is for the good of the children.  Since the parental role (often paternal, but sometimes maternal, too) is one Biblical writers applied to God, this analogy works well.  Furthermore, forgiveness of sin does not erase the consequences of it.  Roman Catholic theology reflects a deep understanding of this fact, hence the teaching on Purgatory, which many people misunderstand.

The God of the Old Testament is merely a vengeful deity, contrary to the oft-repeated stereotype.  There is much mercy there, too, as the excerpts from Genesis indicate.  This is God, who loves the Israelites enough to liberate them.  They can never pay him back, but they can worship only him, demonstrate gratitude for provisions, and obey some commandments.  Is this too much to ask?  No!  But do they do that much?  No!  Why should God not be angry and disappointed?  But does God give up on them?  No!

This is God, who speaks to Moses personally in the leader’s own tent for a few chapters in Exodus (until Chapter 40).  But God continues to speak to Moses, who is faithful, and who even argues with him from time to time.  This is God, who demonstrates caring and much involvement with the Israelites, although mostly by dealing with Moses, who functions as an intermediary.

Yet, as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 13:36-43, there is still judgment for unrepentant.  And it will be terrifying.

My note of caution is to repent not out of fear of damnation, but out of love, respect, and awe for God and divine mercy.  A relationship built on terror of Hell is one with a father figure whom one thinks might be abusive.  That is a dysfunctional spiritual relationship.  No, may we love God, who loves us.  And may we bear fruits consistent with righteousness.  This is possible, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, DEAN OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED, ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ABBOT OF JARROW

THE FEAST OF JOHN HORDEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MOOSONEE

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Divine Judgment, Patience, and Extravagance   1 comment

Above: Moses, by Rembrandt van Rijn (1659)

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Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses turned and went down from the mountain.  And the two tablets of witness were in his hand, tablets written from their two sides:  from this side and from this side they were written.  And the tablets:  they were God’s doing.  And the writing:  it was God’s writing, inscribed on the tablets.

And Joshua heard the sound of the people in its shouting, and he said to Moses,

A sound of war is in the camp.

Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin (1633-1634)

And he said,

It’s not a sound of singing of victory, and it’s not a sound of singing of defeat.  It’s just the sound of singing I hear!

And it was when he came close to the camp, and he saw the calf and dancing: and Moses’ anger flared, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them below the mountain.  And he took the calf that they had made, and he burned it in fire and ground it until it was thin, and he scattered it on the face of the water, and he made the children of Israel drink!

And Moses said to Aaron,

What did this people do to you, that you’ve brought a big sin on it?!

And Aaron said,

Let my lord’s anger not flare.  You know the people, that it’s in a bad state.  And they said to me, “Make gods for us who will go in front of us, because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt; we don’t know what has become of him”  And I said to them, “Whoever has gold:  take it off.”  And they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out!”

And it was on the next day, and Moses said to the people,

You’ve committed a big sin.  And now I’ll go up to YHWH.  Perhaps I may make atonement for your sin.

And Moses went back to YHWH and said,

Please, this people has committed a big sin and made gods of gold for themselves.  And now, if you will bear their sin–and if not, wipe me out with your scroll that you’ve written.

And YHWH said to Moses,

The one who has sinned against me, I’ll wipe him out from my scroll.  And now, go.  Lead the people to where I spoke to you.  Here, my angel will go ahead of you.  And, in the day that I will take account, I’ll account their sin to them.

Psalm 106:19-23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19 Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb

and worshiped a molten image;

20 And so they exchanged their Glory

for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.

21 They forgot God their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22 Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,

and fearful things at the Red Sea.

23 So he would not have destroyed them,

had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,

to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

Matthew 13:31-35 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he put another parable before them,

The kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny grain of mustard-seed which a man took and sowed in his field.   As a seed it is the smallest of them all, but it grows to be the biggest of all plants.  It becomes a tree, big enough for birds to come and nest in its branches.

This is another of the parables he told them:

The kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, taken by a woman and put into three measures of flour until the whole had risen.

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowd in parables, and he did not speak to them at all without using parables–to fulfil the prophecy:

I will open my mouth in parables;

I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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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I have commented on the Parable of the Mustard Seed here:

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

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The Hebrews committed idolatry for centuries.  Prophets railed against this practice; their testimonies reside in the pages of the Bible.  The sin was not worshiping other gods instead of YHWH; the sin was to worship other gods along side YHWH.  Recall one of the Ten Commandments:  Have no other gods before the face of YHWH.

The reading from Exodus is set after those whom God had freed from Egyptian slavery had dedicated themselves to God and Moses had received many commandments, including the Ten Commandments.  But old habits of thinking persist easily and die hard.  Hence there were an attempted coup d’etat of Moses by Aaron and the adoration of the golden calf.  Moses was angry, as was God.  Moses, by reducing the golden calf to golden dust, sprinkling the dust into water flowing from a mountain spring, and making the people drink it, both punished the idolaters and reminded them of YHWH, the source of the water in the desert.

Moses argued with God, interceding on behalf of the people.  He survived without the promise of judgment because his loyalties were with God.  So one can argue with God faithfully and not sin.  I like this vision of God, who is in clearly in charge, who does not brook idolatry, but who permits an honest argument.  This reflects great mercy.

Traditional Jewish theology understood yeast to be a sign of corruption.  Consider the following texts, if you will:

  1. Exodus 12:15-20; 23:18; 34:25
  2. Leviticus 2:11; 6:10

So using yeast as a positive image for the Kingdom of God was unexpected; it attracted attention.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus has already spoken of a very large weed, the mustard plant, in positive terms and used it an analogy for the Kingdom of God.  This yeast is quite productive, producing enough to feed 100-150 people.  The Kingdom will spread around the world, much like those pesky mustard plants.  Human agency cannot prevent any of this.

So divine grace is extravagant.  The Kingdom will go where it will.  And, although people sin, God is patient.  This fact, however, does not indicate a lack of judgment and punishment.  Judgment and mercy sit alongside each other.  May we rejoice in divine mercy, but not try God’s patience.  Instead, may we cooperate with God–and even argue faithfully with God from time to time.  Above all, may we be faithful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID I OF SCOTLAND, KING

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX QUAKER FOUNDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Transformed by God   1 comment

Above: Girl with the Pearl Earring, by Johannes Vermeer (Circa 1665)

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Exodus 34:29-35 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And it was when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’s hand when he was coming down from the mountain.  And Moses had not known that the skin of his face was transformed when He was speaking with him.  And Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses; and, here, the skin of his face was transformed, and they were afraid of going over to him.  And Moses called to them.  And Aaron and all the chiefs in the congregation came back to him, and he spoke to them.  And after that all the children of Israel went over.  And he commanded them everything that YHWH had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.  And Moses finished speaking with them, and he put a veil on his face.  And when Moses would come in front of YHWH to speak with Him, he would turn away the veil until he would go out; and he would go out and speak to the children of Israel what had been commanded.  And the children of Israel would see Moses’ face, that the skin of Moses’ face was transformed, and Moses would put back the veil on his face until he would come to speak with Him.

Psalm 99 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is King;

let the people tremble;

he is enthroned upon the cherubim;

let the earth shake.

The LORD is great in Zion;

he is high above all peoples.

3 Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome;

he is the Holy One.

4 “O mighty King, lover of justice,

you have established equity;

you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”

Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and fall down before his footstool;

he is the Holy One.

Moses and Aaron among his priests,

and Samuel among those who call upon his Name,

they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.

He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud;

they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave them.

8 “O LORD our God, you answered them indeed;

you were a God who forgave them,

yet punished them for their evil deeds.”

9 Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and worship him upon his holy hill;

for the LORD our God is the Holy One.

Matthew 13:44-46 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,]

Again, the kingdom of Heaven is like some treasure which has been buried in a field.  A man finds it and buries it again, and goes off overjoyed to sell all his possessions to buy himself that field.

Or again, the kingdom of Heaven is like a merchant searching for fine pearls.  When he has found a single pearl of great value, he goes and sells all his possessions and buys it.

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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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I suspect that the imagery in Exodus is pure poetry.  Some Biblical events are like that–words are inadequate for literal descriptions, so we have prose poetry instead.  The Revised Common Lectionary pairs this reading from Exodus with an account of the Transfiguration of Jesus for Sunday purposes.  And I recognize the same pairing in the readings for the Feast of the Transfiguration.  There is another example of a prose-poetic description.

Whatever the details were, contact with God had altered Moses so much that he was obviously different than he was before recent events on the mountain.  And so, as Richard Elliott Friedman states, the veil over the leader’s face became an indication of YHWH’s proximity, much like the visible, physical shrine.  Something mysterious was occurring, and people recognized this fact immediately.  Those who saw it responded with awe and wonder.  God was truly in their midst.

When one discovers that one is in the presence of God, how should one act?  Two brief parables of Jesus  speak to that issue.  One man finds a great treasure when not seeking it.  But he knows what he has found, stores it safely in the earth temporarily, sells all he owns, and uses the proceeds to purchase the field where he found the treasure.  Likewise, a merchant seeking a pearl, a much-admired object of beauty, finds it, sells all his possessions, and uses the money to purchase it.  So, whether we seek the knowledge that we are in the presence of God, or whether we stumble upon this realization, we ought to treasure this above all else.  Single-minded devotion is the proper response.

We are, of course, always in the presence of God.  If we look closely enough, we will recognize God in the faces of those we like and/or love, as well as those with whom we disagree and/or dislike.  God is present directly, as well as in those we know and those with whom we are not acquainted.  So, when people look at our faces with spiritual perception, will they see God reflected back at them?  And do we seek the same in others?

I choose to avoid much negativity, much of which is present in abundance on AM talk radio and in comments sections on many websites.  There one can find a plethora of vitriolic comments, many of which reflect more rage than anything else.  These are zones for people oblivious to objective reality.  So I will not find God there.  No, I prefer uplifting content, whether secular or overtly religious.  Consider the public domain image at the top of this post, for example.  It is an example of great art, but not of a religious nature.  Yet Vermeer paintings feed my soul, and in them I find the beauty which comes from God.

God is present in many places; may we find as many as possible.  Then may God transform us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, DEAN OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED, ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ABBOT OF JARROW

THE FEAST OF JOHN HORDEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MOOSONEE

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on January 12, 2011

Adapted from this post:

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

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Posted September 27, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 34, Matthew 13, Psalm 99

Tagged with , ,