Archive for the ‘Exodus II: 19-40’ Category

Living in Community, Part III   3 comments

Above:  St. Peter Paying the Temple Tax

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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Genesis 43:1-15, 26-30 or Isaiah 55:1-13

Psalm 28

1 Corinthians 10:19-33

Matthew 17:22-18:5

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We have obligations to each other.  Even what we do (or do not do) in private affects other people.  We should, for example, want scoundrels and wicked people to repent (as in Isaiah 55:7), not give up on them (as in Psalm 28:4).  We should seek reconciliation, as Joseph was preparing to instigate, in Genesis 43.  We should not abuse our freedom to the detriment of others.  In Christ we are free to become our best selves.

The story in Matthew 17:24-27 requires unpacking.

The tax in question was the Temple tax of one didrachmon–a half-shekel.  Every Jewish male was to pay it annually, although enforcement was not rigorous.  The scriptural basis of the Temple tax was Exodus 30:13.  It was a controversial tax for more than one reason.  For the poor the tax–two days’ wages of a laborer–was a burden.  Essenes argued that the tax was properly a once-in-a-lifetime payment.  Sadducees thought that the tax should be voluntary.  Jesus, who seemed to have a low opinion of taxation (see also Matthew 22:15-22), nevertheless decided not to cause offense.

I have no difficulty accepting this story as genuine.  Yet it, like so many stories, carries more than one meaning, depending on the time of the reading or hearing of it.  Consider, O reader, the year of the composition of the Gospel of Matthew–85 C.E. or so.

There was no more Temple yet a version of tax remained.  Roman forces had destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  A two-drachma tribute to Rome was due annually, and Roman authorities enforced tax laws.  In the Christian context giving to the church was properly voluntary.  For Jewish Christians, marginal within Judaism, their identity remained Jewish; they did not seek to offend.

In my cultural-political setting–North America in 2018–the culture is moving in more than one direction simultaneously.  On one hand politics and culture are coarsening.  On the other hand efforts to avoid causing offense are become more prominent, sometimes to ridiculous extremes.  Meanwhile, people from various points on the spectrum have become more likely to take offense.  “Snowflakes” come in various political stripes.  Everything is controversial; there is probably nothing that does not offend somebody, somewhere.

I, as a human being, have responsibilities to my fellow human beings, who have responsibilities to me.  I, for example, have no moral right to spout racial and ethnic slurs and/or stereotypes, not that I would ever do that.  Quoting them in certain contexts, in which one’s disapproval is plain, is justifiable, however.  I have a responsibility to consider the sensibilities of others–to a reasonable point.  Yet I know that, whatever I do, I will offend someone, for somebody will be of a mind to take offense.  I am responsible for doing my best to be respectful.  I am also responsible to others not to be ridiculously sensitive, thereby doing nothing or too little.

Where should one draw the line separating responsible self-restraint in the name of not offending the consciences of others from overdoing it and still failing in not causing offense because some people are snowflakes?  The answer to that question varies according to circumstances.  One, relying on grace, should do one’s best.  If one needs to do better, one can do that, by grace.  One is not responsible for the thin skins of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 28, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF AMBROSE OF MILAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT MONICA OF HIPPO, MOTHER IF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO; AND SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF HIPPO REGIUS

THE FEAST OF DENIS WORTMAN, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LAURA S. COPERHAVER, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND MISSIONARY LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES THE BLACK, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/08/28/devotion-for-proper-21-year-a-humes/

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Divine Glory and Sacrificial Love   1 comment

Above:  The Transfiguration, by Raphael

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-90565

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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 24:12-18

Psalm 2

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 17:1-9 (or 1-13)

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Interestingly, the Transfiguration account in Matthew follows on the heels of Jesus saying,

Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

–16:28, The New American Bible (1991)

In that scene, Jesus, looking very much like Moses (and standing with Moses and Elijah) on a mountaintop, stands in divine glory.  We can read another version of the Transfiguration in Luke 9:28-36, shortly before Jesus sets his face literally and figuratively toward Jerusalem–to die.

It is appropriate that we read of the Transfiguration on the Sunday immediately preceding Lent, at the end of which are Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  We are supposed to recall the supreme divine love behind the Incarnation and the Atonement, as well as to remember that God calls us to love like Jesus, who loved all the way to a cross.

That is a variety of love that carries a high price tag.  The grace, although free, is certainly not cheap.  It is, however, the path to life at its fullest and most abundant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AND ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCHS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF MEISTER ECKHART, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN AND MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT METODEJ DOMINIK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM, MARTYR AT CARTHAGE, 484

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/devotion-for-transfiguration-sunday-year-a-humes/

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Faithful Servants of God, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Chapel of the Beatitudes, Galilee, 1940

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-20815

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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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Ecclesiastes 3:1-14, 20-22 or Ezekiel 18:1-9, 25-32

Psalm 5

Galatians 2:14-21

Matthew 5:1-12

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I, as a member of a monthly book group, have been reading Jonathan T. Pennington’s Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew, a volume that overturns more than a century of scholarly consensus.  Pennington rejects the idea, ubiquitous in sermons, Sunday School lessons, commentaries, and study Bibles, that “Kingdom of Heaven” is a reverential circumlocution–a way to avoid saying “God.”  He posits that “Kingdom of Heaven” actually refers to God’s rule on the Earth, that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is essentially the New Jerusalem, still in opposition to the world.  God will, however, take over the world, thereby resolving the tension.

The Kingdom of Heaven, we read in the Beatitudes, belongs to those who know their need for God and who experience persecution for the sake of righteousness.  They would certainly receive the kingdom, I agree.

Justification is a theme in Galatians 2.  There we read an expression of the Pauline theology of justification by faith, not by works or the Law of Moses.  This seems to contradict James 2:24, where we read that justification is by works and not by faith alone.  It is not actually a disagreement, however, given the different definitions of faith in the thought of James and St. Paul the Apostle.  Both of them, one learns from reading their writings and dictations, affirmed the importance of responding to God faithfully.  The theme of getting one’s act together and accepting one’s individual responsibility for one’s actions fits well with Ezekiel 18, which contradicts the theology of intergenerational guilt and merit found in Exodus 20:5.

How we behave matters very much; all of the readings affirm this.  Thus our actions and inactions have moral importance.  Do we comfort those who mourn?  Do we show mercy?  Do we make peace?  Do we seek to be vehicles of divine grace to others?  Hopefully we do.  And we can succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SEBASTIAN CASTELLIO, PROPHET OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH, HYMN WRITER AND ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEFA SANCHO DE GUERRA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SERVANTS OF JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL RODIGAST, GERMAN LUTHERAN ACADEMIC AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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The Beloved Apostle   1 comment

Above:  Saint John the Evangelist in Meditation, by Simone Cantarini

Image in the Public Domain

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The assigned readings, taken together, speak of the fidelity of God and the imperative of human fidelity to God, whose face Moses did not get to see.  Yet this deity is the same one who became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth (however those Trinitarian dynamics actually worked; I have learned to avoid trying to explain the Holy Trinity, for attempting to make sense of the Trinity leads to a host of heresies.)

St. John was a brother of St. James (one of the two St. Jameses among the Apostles) and a first cousin of Jesus; Zebedee was the father of Sts. James and John, as well as an uncle (by marriage) of Jesus.  Our Lord and Savior called his first cousins Boanerges, usually translated

sons of thunder.

A now-deceased seminary professor I heard speak decades ago said, however, that the word actually meant

hell raisers.

Jesus and St. John were apparently emotionally close, not that St. John always understood his cousin.  After the resurrection and ascension of Jesus St. John helped to spread the nascent Gospel, a mission that filled the rest of his long life, which ended in exile.  Of the twelve Apostles Jesus called, St. John was, excluding Judas Iscariot, the only one not to die as a martyr.

According to tradition St. John wrote the Gospel of John, the three letters of John, and Revelation, a book with no “s” at the end of its title.  Certainly he did not write all of the above, although how much he wrote has long been a matter of scholarly debate.

Nevertheless, the life of St. John the Evangelist is a good one to consider.  If an overly ambitious hell raiser can learn the value of serving God endure suffering for the sake of righteousness, and survive opportunities for martyrdom only to die in exile, each of us can, by grace, take up his or her cross and follow Jesus, wherever he leads.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, APOSTLE OF IRELAND

THE FEAST OF EBENEZER ELLIOTT, “THE CORN LAW RHYMER”

THE FEAST OF ELIZA SIBBALD ALDERSON, POET AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN BACCHUS DYKES, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HENRY SCOTT HOLLAND, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER AND PRIEST

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Shed upon your Church, O Lord, the brightness of your light, that we,

being illumined by the teaching of your apostle and evangelist John,

may so walk in the light of your truth, that at length we may attain to the fullness of eternal life;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 33:18-23

Psalm 92 or 92:1-4, 11-14

1 John 1:1-9

John 21:19b-24

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), page 141

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/17/third-day-of-christmas-feast-of-st-john-the-evangelist-apostle-december-27/

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Sins of Omission, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Widow’s Mite, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Heavenly Father, in whom we live and move and have our being:

We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit that in all the

cares and occupations of our daily life we may remember that we are ever walking in your sight;

for your name’s sake.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

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Ezekiel 18:23-32

Psalm 38

James 1:17-27

Luke 21:1-4

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Responsibility comes in two varieties–collective and individual.  My Western culture emphasizes the latter, frequently to the exclusion or minimization of the former.  Other cultures commit the opposite errors.  A balance is proper.

The theme of individual responsibility is present.  Ezekiel 18 (as well as 3:16-21; 14:12-23; and 33:1-20) argues against the theology of Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9, whereby God holds members of subsequent generations accountable for one’s sins.  Yes, one’s life can have consequences for members of subsequent generations.  I can, for example, identify how two of my great-grandfathers on my father’s side influence me, for good and ill.  I am not responsible for their sins, however.  I am, of course, responsible for my own.

The theme of collective responsibility is also present.  In Luke 21:21:1-4 we read the story of the widow’s mite.  If we read immediately before and after it also, however, we find context.  In Luke 20:45-57 Jesus denounces those scribes who “devout widows’ houses” while seeking and enjoying social status, as well as maintaining the appearance of piety.  Then we read of a devout and impoverished widow donating money she cannot spare to the Temple.  Next, in 21:5, Jesus predicts the destruction of that Temple.  A progression is evident.

We are responsible for what we do in groups as well as by ourselves.  We are also responsible for sins of omission.  May we, by grace, care effectively for each other, individually and collectively, and never “devour widows’ houses” or stand by idly and silently while that happens, when we have an opportunity to say or do something to protest, if not to protect the exploited.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Faithful Community, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Zacchaeus, by Niels Larsen Stevns

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, you have prepared for those who love you such good things as pass our understanding:

Pour into our hearts such love toward you, that we, loving you above all things,

may obtain your promises, which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 139

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Exodus 20:1-20

Psalm 8

Acts 16:1-10

Luke 19:1-10

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Zacchaeus was a tax chief.  He collected taxes for the occupying Roman Empire.  Zacchaeus also became wealthy by collecting more than his Roman superiors required.  That was how the tax farming system worked; one had to steal in order to earn one’s livelihood.  Jesus restored Zacchaeus to community.  The tax collector’s repentance was evident in the fact that he held himself to the most stringent standards of restitution.  According to Leviticus 6:5, the rate of restitution applicable to Zacchaeus was 120%.  He volunteered to pay 400% instead.

The life of community, defined by following God, is the theme that unites the readings for this week.  Within a relatively homogenous group this can prove difficult.  That is more so when one adds the element of a heterogeneous population.  Just as one should avoid creating a theocracy, one should also grasp that people depend upon, are responsible to, and are responsible for each other.  Mutual respect goes a long way toward proper living in community.

Another characteristic of faithful community is that it encompasses more people over time.  Sometimes God surprises us by expanding it in an unexpected direction, as in Acts 16:10.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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Metaphors and Repentance   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Transfiguration

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be to us both a sacrifice for sin,

and also an example of godly life:

Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that his inestimable benefit,

and also daily endeavor ourselves to follow the blessed steps of his most holy life;

through the same your Son Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), pages 95-96

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Exodus 33:18-23

Psalm 40

Hebrews 12:18-29

Matthew 17:1-9

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The safest language to use when writing or speaking of the nature of God is that of poetic metaphors.  God is like a father.  God is like a mother eagle.  God is like a consuming fire.  God is literally none of these, and each of them is insufficient for the task of describing God adequately.  No human language can accomplish that job.

Perhaps anthropomorphizing God is impossible for a human being, for each of us has a human perspective.  The Bible contains much anthropomorphizing of the divine.  A ubiquitous assumption in the Hebrew Bible is that God has some kind of physical (probably human) form.  Related to that assumption, as in Exodus 33:18-23, is that to see the divine face is, in the words of a note from The Jewish Study Bible-Second Edition (2014),

too awesome for humans to survive.

–Page 179

That sense of the lethal holiness of God is absent from stories of Abraham, who literally walked with God, according to Genesis.  That sense of the lethal holiness of God is also absent from all the stories of Jesus.

The reading from Exodus 33 occurs within a narrative setting.  Prior to it Moses is pleading with God, who is refusing to dwell among the Hebrews.  In Chapter 34 God renews the covenant.  Then, in the construction of the Tabernacle (to replace the tent pitched outside the camp in Chapter 33) occurs and the Presence of the LORD fills the Tabernacle.

There is never a bad time to recommit to God, of course.  The season of Lent is a liturgical time set apart to emphasize such matters.  We all need reminders, do we not?  Fortunately, the church calendar proves helpful in that regard.  May we respond faithfully year-round to God, whose compassion is great, who desires that all turn to Him, who balances judgment in mercy in ways we cannot imagine, whose nature eludes us, and who approaches us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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