Archive for the ‘Ezekiel 4-15’ Category

Reaping What One Sows II   Leave a comment

Above:  Harvest

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Ninth Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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Let thy merciful ears, O Lord, be open to the prayers of thy humble servants:

and, that they may obtain their petitions,

make them to ask such things as shall please thee;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 199

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Ezekiel 14:1-11

Psalm 44:1-6, 18-26

Galatians 6:1-10

Matthew 5:38-48

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One reaps what one sows.  Galatians 6:7 provides the language.  The concept exists in Psalm 44 and Ezekiel 14:1-11.  Given that we reap what we sow, we should sow goodness, an ethic consistent with all four readings.

Ezekiel 14:1-11 contains a subtlety that does not translate into English, at least not well.  The text condemns idolatry, or, as TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985), renders the Hebrew word, “fetishes.”  The literal translation, however, is “dung balls.”  That gets to the point!

Let us never tire of doing good, for if we do not slacken our efforts, we shall in due season reap our harvest.

–Galatians 6:9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Do we want to harvest goodness or dung balls?  What kind of people do we want to be?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN, MINISTER, LITURGIST, AND “PASTOR OF THE REFORMATION”

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN X, KING OF DENMARK AND ICELAND; AND HIS BROTHER, HAAKON VII, KING OF NORWAY

THE FEAST OF MARION MACDONALD KELLARAN, EPISCOPAL SEMINARY PROFESSOR AND LAY LEADER

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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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The Apocalyptic Discourse, Part III   1 comment

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD -- a painting by David Roberts (1796-1849).

Above:  The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 4:32:40 or Isaiah 65:10-16 (17-25) or Ezekiel 7:(1-9) 10-27 or Zechariah 14:(1-3) 4-9 (10-21)

Psalm 50:(7-8) 9-21 (22-23) or Psalm 105:(1-6) 12-15 (26) 27-36 (37, 43-45)

Matthew 24:15-22 or Mark 13:14-20 or Luke 21:20-24

1 Corinthians 10:(14-17) 18-11:1

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The ominous tone of judgment hangs over the readings for this Sunday.  How dare those who have witnessed the power and the mercy of God disregard Him?  Yet we find mercy combined with judgment.  Besides apocalyptic destruction of the corrupt human order, based on violence and exploitation, precedes the establishment of God’s new order on Earth.

I think it important to point out that offenses in the readings are not just personal peccadilloes.  Social injustice is a recurring theme in apocalyptic literature, which therefore emphasizes institutionalized sins.  The pericope from 1 Corinthians reminds us of the truth that whatever we do affects other people.  We should therefore act according to the moral obligation to consider the scruples of others.  I propose that this is a fine principle one can take too far, for, if we become too sensitive regarding the scruples of others, we will do little or nothing, certainly little or nothing good.  The guiding principle (from 10:31) is to behave for the glory of God.

There is no sin in glorifying God and effecting the common good.  There is no sin in not exploiting anyone.  There is no sin in loving one’s neighbors and recognizing one’s obligations to them in the societal web of interdependence.  There is no sin in making love the rule of life (2 John 5b-6).

Doing so does not prompt the judgment of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

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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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/devotion-for-proper-12-year-d/

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Limitless Goodness   1 comment

Icon of Ezekiel

Above:   Icon of Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 11:14-25 (Monday)

Ezekiel 39:21-40:4 (Tuesday)

Ezekiel 43:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 141 (All Days)

Ephesians 4:25-5:2 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 10:23-11:1 (Tuesday)

Matthew 23:37-24:14 (Wednesday)

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But my eyes are turned to you, Lord GOD;

in you I take refuge;

do not strip me of my life.

–Psalm 141:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Matthew is apocalyptic and Psalm 141 is also bleak.  These texts come from difficult times.  Oppressed people pray for God to destroy their enemies.  The textual context in Matthew is the impending crucifixion of Jesus.  From the perspective of the composition of the Gospel itself, however, there is wrestling with fading expectations of Christ’s imminent Second Coming.  One also detects echoes of reality for Matthew’s audience, contending with persecution (or the threat thereof) and conflict with non-Christian Jews.

We read of mercy following judgment in Ezekiel 11, 39, 40, and 43.  Punishment for societal sins will ensue, but so will restoration.  In the end, God’s Presence returns to Jerusalem, which it departed in Chapters 10 and 11.

Those sins included not only idolatry but judicial corruption and economic injustice, which, of course, hurt the poor the most.  Not seeking the common good violated the Law of Moses.  Seeking the common good defined the assigned readings from Ephesians and 1 Corinthians.

“Everything is lawful,” but not everything is beneficial.  “Everything is lawful,” but not everything builds up.  No one should seek his own advantage, but that of his neighbor.

–1 Corinthians 10:23-24, The New American Bible (1991)

We also read, in the context of how we treat each other:

Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, for that Spirit is the seal with which you were marked for the day of final liberation.

–Ephesians 4:30, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Those are fine guiding principles.  Some of the details in their vicinity in the texts might not apply to your circumstances, O reader, but such lists are not comprehensive and some examples are specific to cultures and settings.  Timeless principles transcend circumstances and invite us to apply them when and where we are.  May we live them in love of God and our fellow human beings, daring even to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:43-48).  That is a difficult standard to meet, but it is possible via grace.

There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.

–Matthew 5:48, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-28-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Optimism and Pessimism   1 comment

Temple at Jerusalem

Above:   The Temple at Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 10:1-19

Psalm 98

Luke 17:20-37

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Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

–Psalm 98:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Psalm 98 is the most optimistic reading for this day.  In Ezekiel 10 (carried over into Chapter 11) the Presence of Yahweh departs from Jerusalem, leaving it open to invasion and destruction by foreigners.  The divine Presence remains absent until Ezekiel 43.  In Luke 17:21 the Kingdom of God is present yet persecution and generally dark, eschatological times are en route.  On the other hand, in Luke 18, Jesus encourages his followers to continue praying and never to lose heart.  There is a way through the difficult times while living or dead, and always faithful to God.

The tone of these readings, taken together, fits the time of the church year well.  In the Revised Common Lectionary and several other lectionaries the selected portions of scripture become increasingly apocalyptic during the last few weeks before Advent and into that season.  Some Confessional Lutheran bodies even go so far as to label the last four Sundays of the Season after Pentecost the End Time Season.

May we remember that out of the creative destruction in Revelation 4-20 comes a new creation in Chapters 21 and 22.  Hope in God is real and well-founded, for God will win in the end.

That is a reason for optimism.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-28-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Run for the Hills   1 comment

Last Judgment (Polish)

Above:  The Last Judgment

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Righteous God, our merciful master,

you own the earth and all its people,

and you give us all that we have.

Inspire us to serve you with justice and wisdom,

and prepare us for the joy of the day of your coming,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 6:1-14 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 7:1-9 (Friday)

Ezekiel 7:10-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 90 (All Days)

Revelation 16:1-7 (Thursday)

Revelation 16:8-21 (Friday)

Matthew 12:43-45 (Saturday)

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Our iniquities you have set before you,

and our secret sins in the light of your countenance.

When you are angry, all our days are gone;

we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

–Psalm 90:8-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Lutheran collect addresses “Righteous God, our merciful master,” but mercy seems in short supply in the readings for these days.  In them various populations–the idolatrous Hebrews in Ezekiel, the Romans in Revelation, and “this wicked generation” in Matthew–face or will experience the wrath of God.  As I have noted many times, deliverance of the oppressed constitutes bad news for the unrepentant oppressors, so I recognize some mercy in these lessons.  Yet the tone is overwhelmingly negative.

Joy of the day of the coming of the Lord must wait for another post.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-28-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Taking God Seriously   1 comment

Hophni and Phinehas

Above:  Hophni and Phinehas

Image in the Public Domain

Taking God Seriously

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The Collect:

O God, generous and supreme, your loving Son lived among us,

instructing us in the ways of humility and justice.

Continue to ease our burdens, and lead us to serve alongside of him,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:27-36 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 13:1-16 (Friday)

Malachi 1:6-2:9 (Saturday)

Psalm 43 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-29 (Thursday)

2 Peter 2:1-3 (Friday)

Matthew 23:13-28 (Saturday)

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Send out your light and your truth, that they may lead me,

and bring me to your holy hill

and to your dwelling;

That I may go to the altar of God,

to the God of my joy and gladness;

and on the harp I will give thanks to you, O God my God.

–Psalm 43:3-4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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There are at least two ways to be wrong:  sincerely and insincerely.  Certainly there have always been those people who lead others astray knowingly.  The majority of false teachers and prophets over time, I propose, have not known of their error.  They have been the blind leading the blind, with disastrous results for all involved.

A brief catalog of named errors I have compiled from these days’ readings follows:

  1. Fixating on relatively minor points at the expense of relatively major ones,
  2. Acting disrespectfully of sacred rituals, and
  3. Acting disrespectfully of sacred places.

People of good faith disagree about what constitutes an example of the first point.  Is insisting on the circumcision of males an example of it?  St. Paul the Apostle, in his reformed state, thought so.  Yet the practice was a major point in the Old Testament and a mark of Jewish identity.  As you probably know, O reader, identity is a sensitive psychological issue.  That seems to be the reality for Jews of today who fall back upon identity and the theology of covenant when defending the practice against secular critics.  I am somewhat sympathetic to these faithful Jews.

In St. Paul’s day the question focused on the issue of whether a Gentile had to convert to Judaism before becoming a Christian.  At the time Christianity was still a Jewish sect, after all.  Thus issues of identity, inclusion, and exclusion collided.  The Apostle sided with inclusion, as I tend to do.  Reflecting on the readings for the previous post led to me to write about removing barriers to trusting in God, upon whom we depend completely.  In that spirit, then, should we not remove barriers to coming to God, who beckons us?

May we, while taking God and divine commandments seriously, do so in ways which smooth the path to salvation, not construct barriers to it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF ALBERT SCHWEITZER, MEDICAL MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND WITNESS FOR PEACE

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-26-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Money, Status, and Ego   1 comment

Robinson's Arch

Above:  Robinson’s Arch, Jerusalem, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, Between 1898 and 1914

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07504

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The Collect:

God of love, giver of life, you know our frailties and failings.

Give us your grace to overcome them,

keep us from those things that harm us,

and guide us in the way of salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 12:17-28 (Thursday)

Ezekiel 18:5-18 (Friday)

Ezekiel 18:19-24 (Saturday)

Psalm 25:1-9 (All Days)

James 4:11-16 (Thursday)

Acts 13:32-41 (Friday)

Mark 11:27-22 (Saturday)

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Gracious and upright is the LORD;

therefore he teaches sinners in his way.

He guides the humble in doing right

and teaches he way to the lowly.

All the paths of the LORD are love and faithfulness

to those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

–Psalm 25:7-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these days combine to form a tapestry about sin, righteousness, judgment (both human and divine), and forgiveness.  The lessons also overlap like circles in a Venn Diagram.  This richness of content from various sources explains why I have chosen to write from the Complementary Series of the daily lectionary attached to the (mostly Sunday) Revised Common Lectionary.  There is also a continuous reading track, but this one works better for me.

We humans make decisions every day.  As a poster I heard of years ago declares, “YOU CANNOT NOT DECIDE.”  We decide to take one course of action or another one.  Sometimes we decide to do nothing.  Thus, when we sin, we might do so via commission or omission.  There will be consequences of sins and sometimes even for proper deeds; one cannot evade their arrival forever.  No matter how much God approves or disapproves of certain deeds, some human beings will have a different opinion.  Thus divine judgment might seem to arrive late or not at all in some cases and those innocent of a great offense suffer for the sake of righteousness.

Ezekiel 18 makes clear the point that God evaluates us based on what we do and do not do, not on what any ancestor did (or has done) and did not do (or has not done.)  Yes, as I have mentioned in a recent post at this weblog, parts of the Torah either disagree with that point or seem to do so.  Why should the Bible not contradict itself in places, given the lengthy span on its composition?  To expect consistency on every point is to harbor unrealistic expectations.  This why we also need tradition and reason, not just scripture, when arriving at theological decisions.  Anyhow, Ezekiel 18 tells us God does not evaluate us based on what our grandparents did.  This is good news.  What they did might still affect us negatively and/or positively, however.  I can identity such influences reaching back to some of my great-grandparents, in fact.  But I am responsible for my sins, not theirs.  As James 4:17 (The Revised English Bible, 1989) tells us:

What it comes to is that anyone who knows the right thing to do and does not do it a sinner.

Sometimes we know right from wrong and choose the latter because it is easier than the former.  I think that this summary applies to our Lord’s questioners in Mark 11:27-33.  Jesus, already having entered Jerusalem triumphantly while looking like a victorious king en route to the peace negotiations after battle, had also scared the living daylights out of money changers exploiting the pious poor at the Temple.  Our Lord and Savior was challenging a religious system in league with the Roman Empire.  And he was doing so during the days leading up to the annual celebration of Passover, which was about God’s act of liberating the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt.  The man was not keeping a low profile.  He was doing the right things and his questioners were attempting to entrap him verbally.  I suspect that they knew that he was the genuine article and that they preferred to lie to themselves and to oppose him rather than to follow him.  They had matters of money, status, and ego to consider, after all.

Are they really quite different from many of us?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGIA HARKNESS, UNITED METHODIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF WALES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/21/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-21-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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God, On the Hook   1 comment

Above:  A Hook

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Ezekiel 9:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then He called loudly in my hearing, saying,

Approach, you men in charge of the city, each bearing his weapons of destruction!

And six men entered by way of the upper gate that faces north, each with his club in hand; and among them was another, clothed in linen, with a writing case at his waist.  They came forward and stopped at the bronze altar.  Now the Presence of the God of Israel had moved from the cherub on which it had rested to the platform of the House.  He called to the man clothed in linen with the writing case at his waist; and the LORD said to him,

Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who moan and groan because of all the abominations that are committed in it.

To the others He said in my hearing,

Follow him through the city and strike; show no pity or compassion.  Kill off graybeard, youth, and maiden, women and children; but do not touch any person who bears the mark.  Begin here at My Sanctuary.

So they began with the elders who were in front of the House.  And He said to them,

Defile the House and fill the courts with the slain.  Then go forth.

So they went forth and began to kill in the city.

Ezekiel 10:18-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then the presence of the LORD left the platform of the House and stopped above the cherubs.  And I saw the cherubs lift their wings and rise from the earth, with the wheels beside them as they departed; and they stopped at the entrance of the eastern gate of the House of the LORD, with the Presence of the God of Israel above them.  They were the same creatures that I had seen below the God of Israel at the Chebar Canal; so now I know that they were cherubs.  Each one had four faces and each had four wings.  As for the form of their faces, they were the very faces I had seen by the Chebar Canal–their appearance and their features–and each could move in the direction of any of its faces.

Ezekiel 12:1-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, you dwell among the rebellious breed.  They have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but hear not; for they are a rebellious breed.  Therefore, mortal, get yourself gear for exile, and go into exile before their eyes.  Go into exile from your home to another place before their very eyes; perhaps they will take note, even though they are a rebellious breed.  Carry out your gear for exile by day before their very eyes, as one who goes out into exile.  Before their eyes, break through the wall and carry [the gear] out through it; before their eyes, carry it on your shoulder.  Take it out in the dark, and cover your face that you may not see the land; for I will make you a portent to the House of Israel.

I did just as I was ordered:  I took out my gear by day as gear for exile, and in the evening I broke through the wall with my own hands.  In the darkness I carried [the gear] out on my shoulder, carrying it before their eyes.

In the morning, the word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, did not the House of Israel, that rebellious breed, as, you, “What are you doing?”  Say to them:  ”Thus said the Lord GOD:  This pronouncement concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the House of Israel who are in it.”  Say:  ”I am a portent for you:  As I have done, so shall it be done to them; they shall go into exile, into captivity.  And the prince among them shall carry his gear on his shoulder as he goes out in the dark.  He shall break through the wall in order to carry [his gear] out through it; he shall cover his face, because he himself shall not see the land with his eyes.”  I will spread My net over him, and he shall be caught in My snare.  I will bring him to Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, but he shall not see it; and there he shall die.  And all those around him, his helpers and all his troops, I will scatter in every direction; and I will unsheathe the sword after them.  Then, when I have scattered them among the nations and dispersed them through the countries, they shall know that I am the LORD.  But I will spare a few of them from the sword, from famine, and from pestilence; that they may recount all their abominable deeds among the nations to which they come; and they shall know that I am the LORD!

Matthew 18:15-9:1 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,] “

But if your brother wrongs you, go and have it out with him at once–just between the two of you.  If he will listen to you, you have won him back as your brother.  But if he will not listen to you, take one or two others with you so that everything that is said may have the support of two or three witnesses.  And if he still won’t pay attention, tell the matter to the church.  And if he won’t even listen to the church then he must be to you like a pagan–or a tax-collector!

Believe me, whatever you forbid upon earth will be what is forbidden in Heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven.

And I tell you once more that if two of you on earth agree in asking for anything it will be granted to you by my Heavenly Father.  For wherever two or three people have come together in my name, I am there, right among them!

Matthew 18:21-19:1 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Peter approached him [Jesus] with the question,

Master, if my brother goes on wronging me how often should I forgive him?  Would seven times be enough?

Jesus replied,

No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!  For the kingdom of Heaven is like a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants.  When he had started calling in his accounts, a man was brought to him who owed him millions of pounds.  As he had no means of repaying the debt, his master gave orders for him to be sold as a slave, and his wife and children and all his possessions as well, and the money to be paid over.  At this the servant fell on his knees before his master.  ”Oh, be patient with me!” he cried, “and I will pay you back every penny!”  Then his master was moved with pity for him, set him free and cancelled his debt.

But when this same servant had left his master’s presence, he found one of his fellow-servants who owed him a few shillings.  He grabbed him and seized him by the throat, crying, “Pay up what you owe me!”  At this his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and implored him, “Oh, be patient with me, and I will pay you back!”  But he refused and went out and had him put in prison until he should repay the debt.

When the other fellow-servants saw what had happened, they were horrified and went and told their master the whole incident.  This his master called him in.

“You wicked servant!” he said.  ”Didn’t I cancel all that debt when you begged me to do so?  Oughtn’t you to have taken pity on your fellow-servant as I, your master, took pity on you?”  And his master in anger handed him over to the jailers till he should repay the whole debt.  This is how my Heavenly Father will treat you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.

When Jesus had finished talking on these matters, he left Galilee and went on to the district of Judea on the far side of the Jordan.

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This is bleak material.  The readings from Matthew speak of forgiveness and how, important it is, but the lections from Ezekiel are harsh.  Idolatrous abominations have polluted the Temple, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian forces will destroy the Temple and slaughter much of the population (including young children), the divine Presence will depart the city, King Zedekiah will go blinded into exile, and Ezekiel will also go into exile.  God will spare from death those who had objected to the sinfulness, but apparently this protection will not extend to young children.  And the texts depict God as being in charge of all these events.

As an intellectually honest Monotheist, I acknowledge the main problem of Monotheism:  There is no good and honest way to let God off the hook.  If I a were to accept the existence of multiple deities, I could blame one or more for evil and other events I do not like.  Yet Monotheism requires me to accept that God is responsible for good and for bad, for what I like and for what I consider detestable.  Brains older, wiser, and better educated than mine have pondered this quandary, which remains, so I will not untangle it today or any other day.

Father Robert Farrar Capon offers the following analysis:

Just remember that what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the liver fluke, the killer whale, and the loan shark–that if God is holding all things in being right now, he’s got some explaining to do if he hopes to maintain his reputation as the original Good Guy.  Or, more accurately (since God steadfastly refuses to show up and explain anything, except by announcing mysteries and paradoxes) we’ve got a lot of explaining to do if we are to go on thinking of him in terms of his creation.

The Third Peacock:  The Problem of God and Evil, 2d. Edition (Minneapolis, MN:  Winston Press, 1986) , page 11

A few pages later, we find these words:

God is still firmly on the hook.  (That he is actually on the hook, of course, is God’s own final answer to the whole matter.  According to the Gospel, he himself hangs on the cross with the rest of his free creation.  If you believe that, it is great comfort; it is not, however, one whit less a mystery.–page 14

The greatest fault of Fundamentalism is its pretense of knowing more than it does.  My theology, in contrast, flees from the false comfort of easy and pat answers.  I embrace the unknown, claim the mystery, and catalog the questions I want to ask God one day, in another life.  Until that day, however, I choose not to refrain from recognizing that there is only one God and seeking a deeper relationship with God.  Certain matters are too great for me, not that my acknowledgement of this fact prevents me from remaining inquisitive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 5, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/week-of-proper-14-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-2/

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