Archive for the ‘Galatians 6’ Category

The Sin of Religious Violence   1 comment

entry-into-jerusalem-giotto

Above:  Entry Into Jerusalem, by Giotto

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 11:1-17 or Isaiah 43:8-15

Psalm 94 or 35

John 8:48-59

Romans 1:8-15 (16-17) 18-32; 2:1-11 or Galatians 6:1-6 (7-16) 17-18

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Accuse my accuser of Yahweh,

attack my attackers.

–Psalm 35:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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That verse summarizes much of Psalms 35 and 94.  The plea of the persecuted for God to smite their enemies, although understandable and predictable, but it is inconsistent with our Lord and Savior’s commandment to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:43).  Sometimes divine smiting of evildoers is a necessary part of a rescue operation, for some persecutors refuse to repent.  Nevertheless, I suspect that God’s preference is that all people repent of their sins and amend their lives.

We read in Deuteronomy 11 (placed in the mouth of Moses long after his death) of the importance of following divine laws–or else.  Then, in Isaiah 43, set in the latter phase of the Babylonian Exile, which, according to the Biblical narrative, resulted from failure to obey that law code, we read of impending deliverance by God from enemies.  Both readings remind us of what God has done for the Hebrews out of grace.  Grace, although free, is never cheap, for it requires a faithful response to God.  We are free in God to serve God, not be slaves to sin.  We are free in God to live as vehicles of grace, not to indulge inappropriate appetites.  We are free in God to lay aside illusions of righteousness, to express our penitence, and to turn our backs on–to repent of–our sins.

This is a devotion for Palm Sunday.  We read in John 8 that some Jews at Jerusalem sought to stone Jesus as a blasphemer (verse 59).  I suppose that they thought they were acting in accordance with Leviticus 24:10-23.  Later in the Fourth Gospel (Chapters 18 and 19) certain religious authority figures are complicit in his death–as a scapegoat (11:47-53).

This desire to kill those who offend our religious sensibilities strongly is dangerous for everyone.  It is certainly perilous for those who suffer because of it.  Furthermore, such violence causes spiritual harm to those who commit it.  And what if one’s judgment is wrong?  One has committed a most serious offense before God.  This tendency toward religious violence exists in various traditions, has a shameful past and an inexcusable present reality, and does nothing inherently to glorify God.  In fact, it detracts from the glory of God.  That God can work through such abominations committed in His name testifies to divine sovereignty.  Exhibit A is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-palm-sunday-year-d/

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God’s Social Contract   1 comment

090806-N-6220J-004 SALINAS, Calif. (Aug. 6, 2009) Sailors and Navy Delayed Entry Program members serve breakfast to homeless men and women at Dorothy's Soup Kitchen in Salinas, Calif. during Salinas Navy Week community service event. Salinas Navy Week is one of 21 Navy Weeks planned across America in 2009. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson/Released)

090806-N-6220J-004
SALINAS, Calif. (Aug. 6, 2009) Sailors and Navy Delayed Entry Program members serve breakfast to homeless men and women at Dorothy’s Soup Kitchen in Salinas, Calif. during Salinas Navy Week community service event. Salinas Navy Week is one of 21 Navy Weeks planned across America in 2009. Navy Weeks are designed to show Americans the investment they have made in their Navy and increase awareness in cities that do not have a significant Navy presence. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson/Released)

Above:  United States Navy Personnel Serving Breakfast in a Soup Kitchen, Salinas, California, 2009

Image Source = Chief Mass Communication Specialist Steve Johnson, United States Navy

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The Collect:

God our creator, the resurrection of your Son offers life to all the peoples of the earth.

By your Holy Spirit, kindle in us the fire of your love,

empowering our lives for service and our tongues for praise,

through 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 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 32:11-17 (Thursday)

Isaiah 44:1-4 (Friday)

Psalm 104:23-34, 35b (Both Days)

Galatians 5:16-26 (Thursday)

Galatians 6:7-10 (Friday)

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The portion of Psalm 104 speaks of divine generosity, as do the lections from Isaiah.  In Isaiah 32 and 44 God’s generosity follows the Judeans reaping what they have sown (to borrow a phrase from Galatians 6:7).  Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance.

The social contract in the Law of Moses precludes exploitation and insensitivity to needs as it proclaims human interdependence as well as complete dependence upon God.  Yet the monarchies of Israel and Judah, scripture tells us, did not live up to that standard, among others in the Law of Moses.  I focus on the social contract because it segues nicely into the readings from Galatians, where we read to seek the common good (thus, for example, awaiting the Second Coming of Christ, which many people expected to be in the near future, did not constitute a valid excuse for laziness), not our selfish desires.  We are responsible for each other and to each other.  We are also responsible to God.  If we can avoid becoming a burden, we should do so, but we remain dependent upon God and our fellow human beings.  Likewise, one should not use the “pull yourself up by your bootstraps” attitude to justify the unjustifiable inaction of not providing appropriate help one can provide.  Attempting to identify the allegedly unworthy poor is inconsistent with Judeo-Christian ethics.

Even the hardest working person who plans well depends upon the labor of others and upon the grace of God.  Do we recognize this about ourselves as well as those near to us and far away from us?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THORFINN OF HAMAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF GALILEO GALILEI, SCIENTIST

THE FEAST OF HARRIET BEDELL, EPISCOPAL DEACONESS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/08/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-pentecost-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Building Up Our Neighbors, Part II   1 comment

Absalom Conspires Against David

Above:  Absalom Conspires Against David

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread that gives life to the world.

Give us this bread always,

that he may live in us and we in him,

and that, strengthened by this food,

may live as his body in the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 17:15-29

Psalm 34:1-8

Galatians 6:1-10

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Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;

let us exalt his Name together.

–Psalm 34:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That is easier to do when we bear each other’s burdens and share each other’s joys.

Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

–Galatians 6:2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Yes, as the passage continues, we read that each person has a responsibility to carry his or her own loads, but that statement exists in the context of mutual burden-bearing.  Some burdens are too great for one person to bear alone.  Personal responsibility and communal responsibility do not cancel each other out.

The story in 2 Samuel 17 illustrates those points well.  In the context of Absalom’s rebellion against King David, each person on the King’s side had a crucial part to play, but the effort was bigger than any one of them.  And, if some people had failed, others would have died.  Furthermore, David’s soldiers needed to eat properly, and the burden of feeding them required more than one person.

God has provided each of us with abilities we can use for the benefit of each other and for divine glory.  Often, however, someone or certain people must create the opportunities for others to develop those talents.  Likewise, one presented with such an opportunity has a responsibility to make the most of it.  When all goes well, many people benefit.  So I ask you, O reader, has God granted you the responsibility to help another person in such a way recently?  And has some agent of God aided you in some great way recently?  I suspect that the answer to both questions is “yes.”

The best principle for carrying one’s weight while helping others bear burdens comes from Acts 4:32-35:  giving as one is able and receiving as one has need.

MAY 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED ROOKER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST PHILANTHROPIST AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, ELIZABETH ROOKER PARSON, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM SCHAEFFER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE DICKINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/devotion-for-friday-before-proper-14-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Glorifying God   1 comment

Cedars of Lebanon in Snow

Above:  Cedars of Lebanon in Snow, March 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-22650

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The Collect:

O God, you are the tree of life, offering shelter to the world.

Graft us into yourself and nurture our growth,

that we may bear your truth and love to those in need,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 31:1-12

Psalm 52

Galatians 6:11-18

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Why do you glory in evil, you tyrant,

while the goodness of God endures forever?

–Psalm 52:1, Common Worship (2000)

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The date on the oracle in Ezekiel 31 places it about two months prior to the fall of the First Temple.  Yes, the Temple which King Solomon had built fell, but God did not.  And the Pharaoh of Egypt lost power, but God did not.  The common assumption that a kingdom’s downfall indicated the defeat of its deities was false.

The crucifixion of Jesus was, according to Roman authorities, supposed to be his extinguishment, not just his execution.  No trace of him was to remain, according to the imperial plan.  There was, however, a resurrection, which made plain the power of God and the defeat of evil plans.  Thus it was fitting that St. Paul the Apostle chose to boast of the cross of Christ.

I, without falling into the pietistic error of dismissing “externals,” recognize a biblical theme present in both Testaments:  maintaining appearances of piety without obeying God (including working for social justice) makes a mockery of rituals.  Repeating prayers and rituals while exploiting others or justifying the exploitation of others does not make one less impious.

So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.

–James 2:17, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

May our Christian faith be active, work for evangelism and social justice, and not constitute a mockery of piety.  May it glorify God and not ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD CHEVENIX TRENCH, ANGLICAN ARCHBISHOP OF DUBLIN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THOMAS KEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF BATH AND WELLS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/21/devotion-for-monday-after-proper-6-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Reaping What One Sows   1 comment

Slum DC 1937

Above:  A Slum in Washington, D.C., November 1937

Photographer = John Vachon

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF33-T01-001048-M3

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth,

before the foundation of the universe and the beginning of time

you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of creation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide us to all truth by your Spirit,

that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed

and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 6:22-27

Psalm 20

Mark 4:21-25

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Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we will call upon the Name of the LORD our God.

They will collapse and fall down,

but we will arise and stand upright.

–Psalm 20:7-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The rich rule the poor,

And the borrower is a slave to the lender.

He who sows injustice shall reap misfortune;

His rod of wrath shall fail.

The generous man is blessed,

For he gives of his bread to the poor.

–Proverbs 22:7-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.  That statement applies today; it has done so since antiquity.  This is not a matter as simple as hard work leading to prosperity and sloth leading to poverty, for some of the hardest workers have been and are poor.  No, certain rich people have developed and maintained systems which perpetuate income inequality and favor some people yet not most.

In the Kingdom of God, however, spiritual principles work differently than much of human economics:

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.  If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

–Galatians 6:7-10, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Present conduct determines the future.  A positive relationship with God is a wonderful thing, but sitting on it, as if one has a “Jesus and me” relationship, is negative.  Sharing one’s faith is the only way to gain more, but hoarding it will lead to losing it.  In other words, the more one gives away spiritually, the more one will receive.

A related text comes from 2 Esdras 7:21-25:

For the Lord strictly commanded those who come into the world, when they come, what they should do to live, and what they should do to avoid punishment.  Nevertheless they were not obedient and spoke against him:

they devised for themselves vain thoughts,

and proposed to themselves wicked frauds;

they even declared that the Most High does not exist,

and they ignored his ways.

They scorned his law,

and denied his covenants;

they have been unfaithful to his statutes,

and have not performed his works.

That is the reason, Ezra, that empty things are for the empty, and full things are for the full.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The atheism mentioned in the passage is practical atheism, that which acknowledges the existence of God while rejecting the ideas that God has an active and effective role in the world and that God’s commandments should have any influence on one’s life.  It is, quite simply, Deism.  Atheism, in the sense that one hears of it frequently in modern Western societies, was rare in antiquity.  That which Reza Aslan calls anti-theism, or hostility to theism (not just the rejection of it), was even more rare.  Thus, when we consider Psalm 14, the most accurate rendering of the opening lines is not that fools say “there is no God” (the standard English translation), but that fools say, “God does not care,” as TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders the passage.

For more verses about the consequences of disobedience, consult Matthew 13:12 and Luke 8:18.

The Aaronic Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26), a familiar text and an element of many liturgies, precedes an important verse:

Thus they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them.

–Numbers 6:27, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Receiving blessings from God obligates one to function as a vehicle for others to receive blessings from God.  Grace is free (for us), but never cheap.  In the context of Numbers 6, there is also a mandate to obey the Law of Moses, which contains an ethic of recognizing one’s complete dependence on God, one’s dependence upon other human beings, one’s responsibility to and for others, and the absence of the right to exploit anyone.

Thus the conclusion of this post echoes the beginning thereof.  We have a mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Obeying that commandment can prove to be difficult and will lead us to change some of our assumptions and related behaviors, but that is part of the call of God upon our lives.  We ought to respond positively, out of love for God and our neighbors, but the principle that our present conduct will determine our future hangs over us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/devotion-for-wednesday-after-trinity-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Building Each Other Up   1 comment

hannah-presenting-her-son-samuel-to-the-priest-eli

Above:  Hannah Presenting Her Son Samuel to the Priest Eli, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

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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:

1 Samuel 1:1-20 (July 17)

1 Samuel 1:21-2:17 (July 18)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–July 17)

Psalm 97 (Morning–July 18)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–July 17)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–July 18)

Galatians 5:1-26 (July 17)

Galatians 6:1-18 (July 18)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Samuel 1-2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-22/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/05/week-of-1-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

Galatians 5-6:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/03/week-of-proper-23-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/week-of-proper-23-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/proper-8-year-c/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/proper-9-year-c/

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Hannah’s worth as a human being and as a woman had nothing to do with her reproductive system.  Yet at least one other person (Peninnah) thought that it did, and the stress of the situation affected Hannah negatively.  That spiritual crisis was real.  That emotional pain was real.  And God relieved both.

My brief summary of Galatians 5 and 6 follows:

Christian liberty carries with it the obligation to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself:  to think of others more than oneself (without harming oneself needlessly), to seek the common good, to help others shoulder their burdens, to relieve others of other burdens, to practice to fruit of the Holy Spirit, which The New Jerusalem Bible, in 5:22-23, lists as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I prefer to focus on the positive (the “you shall” list) rather than on the negative (the “you shall not” list) for three reasons:

  1. Listing what is forbidden does not necessarily indicate what is allowed;
  2. Focusing on the negative portrays morality in a bad light; and
  3. Focusing on the positive fills one’s time with good attitudes and deeds.

The positive deeds we are free to do entail building each other up, not tearing each other down.  In contrast, Peninnah tore Hannah down.  Then God built her up.

Sometimes it is easier to say that one ought to be gentle than it is to be gentle, for some human beings (often unintentionally) make that difficult.  I have faced this challenge and not always done as well as I should.  Yet I remain mindful of the goal, toward which I continue to press, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIXTUS II, BISHOP OF ROME, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN MASON NEALE, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF SAINT MARGARET

THE FEAST OF MARION HATCHETT, LITURGIST AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/07/devotion-for-july-17-and-18-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Humility, Judgment, Mercy, and Enemies   1 comment

house-of-naaman-damascus

Above:  House of Naaman, Damascus, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004001227/PP/)

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 and Psalm 30

or 

Isaiah 66:10-14 and Psalm 66:1-8

then 

Galatians 6:(1-6), 7-16

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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:

Proper 9, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/proper-9-year-a/

Proper 9, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/proper-9-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/25/seeds-of-destruction/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-pentecost/

A Prayer for Our Enemies:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/26/for-our-enemies/

Prayers for Forgiveness, Mercy, and Trust:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-forgiveness-mercy-and-trust/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/22/a-prayer-for-proper-priorities/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-prayer-to-embrace-love-empathy-and-compassion-and-to-eschew-hatred-invective-and-willful-ignorance/

A Prayer for Humility:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-humility/

2 Kings 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/proper-1-year-b/

Isaiah 66:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-6-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Galatians 6:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/05/week-of-proper-23-wednesday-year-2/

Luke 10:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/devotion-for-the-twenty-fifth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/week-of-proper-21-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/week-of-proper-21-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/week-of-proper-21-saturday-year-1/

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I propose, O reader, a thought experiment:

Name two countries, A and B, with a recent history of warfare against each other and a current climate of mutual hostility.  Then imagine a general from B in search of a cure visiting a prominent religious figure from A.

The politics of the situation would be sensitive, would they not?    That is a partial summary of the Naaman and Elijah story.

The main intertwining threads I choose to follow today are:

  • humility (in 2 Kings 5, Galatians 6, and Luke 10),
  • judgment and mercy (in all four readings), and
  • enemies (in 2 Kings 5, Isaiah 66, and Luke 10).

Humility is having a realistic estimate of oneself; it recognizes both strengths and weaknesses.  This theme fits the Naaman story well, for he had to overcome his notions of self-importance and national pride, the latter of which informed the former, before God healed him.  In humility and a Christ-based identity we Christians are supposed to carry each other’s burdens and help each other through temptation and error; that is what Galatians 6 says.  And humility is part of curriculum for the disciples in Luke 10.

Judgment is for God.  The theme of judgment overlaps with that of enemies.  And who is an enemy of God?  I suspect that many, if not most, enemies of God think of themselves as disciples and friends of God.  Militant Islamists in western Africa are destroying allegedly un-Islamic buildings–architectural treasures–in the name of Allah.  Neither pluralism nor religious toleration are among the values of these individuals.  These militants think of themselves as faithful to God and of people such as me as not faithful to God.  I think that I am correct, obviously.

(Aside:  I have taught practicing Muslims and found them to be delightful human beings.  None have been militants.  Anyone who thinks that I condemn all Muslims when I criticize militant Islamists fails to grasp my meaning.)

Although judgment resides with God, so does mercy.  So Naaman became a follower.  Divine mercy extended even to enemies of Elisha’s people.  That is easy to say about the politics of antiquity, but what about today?  So I propose another thought experiment:

Name a hostile foreign government.  Can you, O reader, warm up to the idea that God loves agents of that regime?  Would you, in Christ, accept such agents as brothers and sisters in faith?

Mercy can prove difficult.  Often we prefer judgment for others–our enemies–and mercy for ourselves because this arrangement reinforces our egos.  Yet humility before God requires us, among other things, to move past those categories and our concepts of where we stand in relation to God.  That person whom we think of as an enemy might be a friend of God.  And we might not be as right with God as we imagine.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALBERT JOHN LUTHULI, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN SOUTH AFRICA

THE FEAST OF J. B. PHILLIPS, BIBLE TRANSLATOR AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

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