Archive for the ‘Genesis 3’ Category

Sin and Individual Responsibility   2 comments

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday in Lent, 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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We beseech thee, O Lord, by the mystery of our Savior’s fasting and temptation,

to arm us with the same mind that was in him toward all evil and sin;

and give us grace to keep our bodies in such holy discipline,

that our minds may be always ready to resist temptation,

and obey the direction of thy Holy Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 146

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Genesis 3:1-24

Psalm 51:1-17

2 Corinthians 1:1-20

Luke 4:1-13

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The mythology in Genesis 3 does not identify the snake with Satan, but subsequent tradition does.  There are traditions and there are traditions.  Some are trustworthy; others are not.  Anyhow, I suppose the framers of the old lectionary I am following in this series of posts sought to encourage reading the pericopes from Genesis 3 and Luke 4 as counterpoints.

Some points are worth noticing.

  1. Eve misquoted God (from Genesis 2:17) in 3:3.  Misquoting God creates an opening evil can exploit.
  2. Adam (unlike the author of Psalm 51, as well as St. Paul the Apostle) did not accept individual responsibility he rightfully owned.  No, he blamed Eve.  Many who misinterpret Genesis 3 still blame Eve.

Responsibility is both individual and collective.  Ignoring or minimizing one of the varieties of responsibility is not a virtue.  Neither is passing the buck.

I have written about the temptations of Jesus so much that I have nothing new to contribute.  Follow the appropriate tag, O reader, and read, if you desire to do so.  I do ask you, however, some germane questions:

  1. How many of us would, in the same weakened physical state, exasperated by hunger, resist the temptation to acquire food in a way we should not?
  2. How many of us, with our egos, would resist the temptation to glorify ourselves?
  3. How many of us would (if we have not done so already) serve anyone other than God, in hope of a reward in this life?

Each of us has the responsibility to resist temptations, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2020 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 DOMINICK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1959

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT WALTER OF PONTOISE, FRENCH ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND ECCLESIASTICAL REFORMER

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A Faithful Response, Part XVI   Leave a comment

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistlesby Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Thou who from the beginning didst create us for life together:

grant that, by thy fatherly grace, we may put aside suspicion and fear,

and live as one family on earth, praising thy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Genesis 3:22-4:7

Ephesians 6:1-9

Matthew 8:14-22

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I begin this post by addressing and dispensing with the proverbial elephant in the room in Ephesians 6; I reject all forms of slavery in all places and at times as immoral.  Nobody should ever reconcile Christianity to any form of slavery.  Unfortunately, the history of Christianity contains people doing just that, since antiquity.

The image of sin crouching at the door, waiting to ambush, in Genesis 4:7, is memorable.

Yet you can be its master.

–Genesis 4:7f, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

I recall owning and framing a napkin that read,

LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION.  I CAN FIND MY OWN WAY.

That describes much of human experience accurately.  Yet we need not commit every sin we experience temptation to perform.  We can, by grace, follow God and not offer excuses for not doing so.  We can demonstrate the love of God in how we behave toward our fellow human beings.  The Golden Rue can define our lives.

Sin crouches at the door, waiting to ambush us daily.  The first step in avoiding a trap, of course, is knowing of its existence.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY ANN THRUPP, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MCDONALD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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Posted December 14, 2018 by neatnik2009 in Ephesians 6, Genesis 3, Genesis 4, Matthew 8

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A Faithful Response, Part XV   Leave a comment

Above:  The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who hast given us authority to rule the earth according to thy will:

enable us to manage things with reason and love,

that the whole creation may give thee praise;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Genesis 3:1-15

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Matthew 8:5-13

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And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you are free to eat; but as for the tree of knowledge of good and bad, you must not eat of it; for as soon as you eat of it, you shall die.

–Genesis 2:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The woman replied to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the other trees of the garden.  It is only about fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said:  “You shall not eat of it or touch it, lest you die.”

–Genesis 3:2-3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Misquoting God is a bad idea.  Notice, O reader, that

or touch it

is absent from Genesis 2:16-17.

“Passing the buck” is another bad idea.  Notice, O reader, the absence of any force feeding of Adam in Genesis 3.

The mythology in Genesis 2 and 3 is what it is.  Interpretations of it vary, however.  Judaism and Eastern Orthodoxy, for example, have no concept of Original Sin.  Western Christianity does, however.  Whether one accepts or rejects Original Sin may inform how one reads 1 Timothy 2:1-7, especially verse 6.

…to win freedom for all mankind….

The Revised English Bible (1989)

Is that freedom from Original Sin?

That freedom, anyway, extends to Gentiles.  This is especially good news to those of us who are Gentiles.

Questions of Original Sin (my concept of which owes more to Reinhold Niebuhr than to St. Augustine of Hippo) aside, God loves everybody.  It follows, then, that everybody should properly love God–not in a transactional relationship, but in a manner of faithful response.  A transactional relationship with God can never really work anyway; we can never repay God.  Yet we can, by grace, respond faithfully.  We can begin by not misquoting God and by not “passing the buck.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL JOHNSON, “THE GREAT MORALIST”

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FURCHTEGOTT GELLERT, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ELLA J. BAKER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL SPERATUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, LITURGIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Empowered by God, Part I   Leave a comment

Above:  Saint Peter, by Dirck van Baburen

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE FIRST 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, the strength of all those who put their trust in you:

Mercifully accept our prayers; and because, through the weakness of our mortal nature,

we can do no good thing without you,

grant us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments

we may please you, both in will and deed;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.  

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 138

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Genesis 3:1-6, 22-23

Psalm 12

Acts 3:1-7, 11-21

Matthew 11:2-6

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Trinity Sunday is, by definition, the Sunday immediately following Pentecost Sunday.  Therefore the practice of the old lectionary from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), whereby separate sets of readings for Trinity Sunday and the First Sunday after Pentecost exist, is odd.

These readings, taken together, speak of what God does.  More to the point, most of them concern what God chooses to do through us, with divine empowerment.  Wherever we, empowered by God, are present, we can achieve great goals, for the glory of God and the benefit of others, near and/or far away.  Of course, each of us (individually) and all of us (collectively) are inadequate for the great work.  That reality, however, is no excuse to do nothing.  God might not call and empower you, O reader, to confront a potentate and lead a population out of slavery, for example, but God calls and equips you to do something.  You will probably be amazed at what it is.

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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Our Common Life   2 comments

Above:   Adam and Eve Expelled from Paradise, by Marc Chagall

Use of Image Permissible According to Fair Use

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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 3:1-7, 22-24

Isaiah 4:2-6

Acts 15:22-35

John 3:22-30

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The reading from Genesis 3 always prompts me to ask what is wrong with being able to discern between good and evil.  I tend to argue with the story.  I also recognize an opposite vision in Isaiah 4:  the return from exile.

The Bible opens with God creating the world and people messing it up.  The sacred anthology concludes with God restoring the world.  Genesis and Revelation are the best possible bookends for the Bible, which contains stories about the relationship between God and mere mortals.  We should learn, among other lessons, to obey certain ethical teachings, to rely on God completely, to love each other as we love ourselves, and to emphasize God, not ourselves.  We, as Christians, must say with St. John the Evangelist,

He must increase

while I must decrease.

–Raymond E. Brown, The Gospel According to John (I-XII) (1966), page 150

When we seek to glorify ourselves, we set out on a fool’s errand.  Yet the world praises such men and women.  Often these individuals build themselves up at the expense of others, according to the ethic of the old economic theory of mercantilism, according to which there is a finite supply of wealth, hence more for one means less for others.  In contrast we consider Jesus, who humbled and sacrificed himself.  He was a failure, according to worldly standards of success.  Yet we know him to have been successful, do we not?  So much for worldly standards!

May we increase in love for God and each other and in our understanding of our complete reliance on God and our interdependence.  As The Book of Common Prayer (1979) reminds us:

O God, your unfailing providence sustains the world we live in and the life we live:  Watch over those, both night and day, who work while others sleep, and grant that we may never forget that our common life depends upon each other’s toil; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Page 134

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-ackerman/

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Prelude to the Passion, Part II   1 comment

fig-tree-1930

Above:  Fig Tree Cleaving a Rock, Transjordan, Circa 1930-1933

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-14982

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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:

Genesis 3:1-7 (8-15) 16-24 or Jeremiah 8:4-13 or Jeremiah 24:1-10 or Habakkuk 3:1-19

Psalm 140

Matthew 21:12-22 or Mark 11:12-25 (26)

Colossians 1:29-2:5 (16-19) 20-23

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God is the only proper source of confidence, human philosophies and accomplishments are puny and transitory at best and deceptive at worst.  They are also seductive.  Consequences of giving into them in the assigned readings include exile, pestilence, famine, and destruction.

The readings from Matthew and Mark, despite their slight chronological discrepancy, are mostly consistent with each other.  In the narrative they follow the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem immediately.  We read that Jesus takes great offense to people profiting by converting Roman currency (technically idols, given the image of the Emperor, described as the “Son of God”) into money theologically suitable for purchasing sacrificial animals.  He also curses and kills a fig tree for not bearing figs.  We who read these accounts are supposed to ask ourselves if we are fruitful or fruitless fig trees.  One will, after all, know a tree by its fruits.

Are we the kind of people who would have followed Jesus all the way to Golgotha or are we the variety of people who would have plotted or ordered his execution or at least denied knowing him or would have shouted “Crucify him!”?

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-16-year-d/

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Responsibilities and Consequences   1 comment

Garden of Eden Thomas Cole

Above:  The Garden of Eden, by Thomas Cole

Image in the Public Domain

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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:

Genesis 3:14-24

Psalm 92:1-4, 12-15

Hebrews 2:5-9

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It is a good thing to give thanks to the Lord

and to sing praises to your name, O Most High;

To tell of your love early in the morning

and of your faithfulness in the night-time,

Upon the ten-stringed instrument, upon the harp,

and to the melody of the lyre.

For you, Lord, have made me glad by your acts,

and I will sing aloud at the works of your hands.

–Psalm 92:1-4, Common Worship (2000)

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I have yet to grasp what is wrong with knowing good from evil.  The mythic tale from Genesis teaches, however, that blissful ignorance of that distinction was somehow God’s original purpose for the human race.  The myth’s core is something I reject, for I have no obligation to accept something as true just because certain people affirmed it in antiquity.

It is a myth about the origin of human alienation from God.  In the story unbridled curiosity partnered with disobedience and the tendency to blame others for one’s errors prompts the alienation from God and the expulsion from paradise.  “Passing the buck” is bad, of course, as is disobeying God.  I reject the underlying assumptions about what God commands that we find in the myth.

Those who created the lectionary I am following and using as a tool for Bible study put three passages of scripture together in a most interesting manner.  The expulsion from paradise is an expression of divine judgment, but mercy is also present.  Judgment does not preclude kindness in this myth.  That tale rubs shoulders with the jubilant Psalm 92, in which the Psalmist proclaims that God, in whom no unrighteousness is present, is his rock.  That mood of jubilation clashes with Genesis 3:14-24.  Then, in Hebrews 2:5-9, which quotes Psalm 8, we read that people are slightly lower than the angels.  The author of Hebrews informs us of human dominance on the planet.  With that power comes great responsibility, of course.  What a bad job our species has done and continues to do!  Another important point is that Jesus’s life (including his death and resurrection) indicates, among other things, divine solidarity with people.

The Christian Bible (73 books long for half of Christianity and 66 books long for only about a quarter of the religion) begins with the creation and loss of paradise and ends with the restoration of paradise.  God creates paradise, people ruin it, and God restores it.  Likewise, as Jewish biblical scholars note, the Torah begins with an act of kindness (God clothing the naked) and ends with an act of kindness (God burying Moses).  Mixed in with that divine power and kindness is judgment, for we will reap what we sow.  If that combination seems less than “warm and fuzzy,” that is because it is less than “warm and fuzzy.”  My concept of God is certainly inadequate compared to the real thing, but a “warm and fuzzy” God concept is more inadequate.

Wrestling with biblical texts is a proper activity in which to engage.  It involves interacting with assumptions which are not our own and many of which are inaccurate, such as demonic possession causing mental illness.  Others, however, lead us to question our assumptions and condemn elements of our societies as well as some of our attitudes.  We ought to know also that a text might not mean what we think it means.  Often we who are steeped in the Bible do not know it as well as we imagine we do, for we approach texts with preconceptions and lapse into autopilot easily.  This reality prevents us from engaging with the texts as they are.

I wrestle with the combination of these pericopes for today.  The myth from Genesis 3 bothers me, a person with an inquisitive mind, but I recognize much truth in it.  Reading the Genesis pericope in the context of Psalm 92 and Hebrews 2:5-9 and Hebrews 2:5-9 and Psalm 92 in the context of the Genesis pericope creates a tapestry of judgment, mercy, responsibility, and gratitude, with those elements interacting with each other.  Doing so also provides much food for thought and prompts me to ask myself how often I am behaving responsibly and how I am acting irresponsibly.  God will save the world, but each of us has a responsibility to leave it better than we found it.  Any amount of improvement helps.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/19/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-6-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Genesis and Mark, Part IV: Sin and Food   1 comment

st-gregory-the-great

Above:  St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, October 31, 2010

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://picasaweb.google.com/114749828757741527421/BishopWhitmoreVisitsStGregorySAthens#5534662619157616338)

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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:

Genesis 3:1-24

Psalm 43 (Morning)

Psalms 31 and 143 (Evening)

Mark 2:1-17

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/week-of-5-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/week-of-5-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/proper-5-year-b/

Mark 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/19/week-of-1-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/week-of-1-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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

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

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/28/proper-2-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/proper-3-year-b/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/22/prayer-for-saturday-after-ash-wednesday/

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The LORD spoke further to Moses:  Speak to Aaron and say:  No man of your offspring throughout the ages who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the food of his God.  No one at all who has a defect shall be qualified:  no man who is blind, or lame, or has a limb too short or too long; no man who has a broken leg or a broken arm; or who is a hunchback, or a dwarf, or who has a growth in his eye, or who has a boil-scar, or scruvy, or crushed testes.  No man among the offspring of Aaron the priest who has a defect shall be qualified to offer the food of his God.  He may eat of the food of his  God, of the most holy as well as of the holy; but he shall not enter behind the curtain or come near the altar, for he has a defect.  He shall not profane the places sacred to Me, for I the LORD have sanctified them.

Thus Moses spoke to Aaron and his sons and to all the Israelites.

–Leviticus 21:16-24, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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On the day that you elevate the sheaf, you shall offer as a burnt offering to the LORD a lamb of the first year without blemish.

–Leviticus 23:12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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The mythology in Genesis 3 tells  the familiar tale of the eating of forbidden fruit and of the subsequent blaming of one another for one’s sin.  In the story Adam is responsible for his sin and Eve for hers.  The cost they paid entailed exile from the Garden of Eden.

Sin is a word I hear used often.  Yet I wonder how many people know what it means.  The catechism from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer defines sin as

…the seeking of our own will instead of the will of God, thus distorting our relationship with God, with other people, and with all creation.  (page 848)

And, as Paragraph 705 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church explains,

Disfigured by sin and death, man remains “in the image of God,” in the image of the Son, but is deprived of “the glory of God,” of his “likeness.” The promise made to Abraham inaugurates the economy of salvation, at which the Son himself will assume that “image” and restore it in the Father’s “likeness” by giving it again its Glory, the Spirit who is “the giver of life.”

(The scriptural citations in the notes to this paragraph are Romans 3:23, John 1:14, and Philippians 2:7.)

Concern over maintaining the image of God provided the rationale for the list of “defects” which disqualified one from offering sacrifices to God in Leviticus 21:16-24.  And a sacrificial lamb had to be unblemished.  Furthermore, there was, at the time of Jesus, a long-standing assumed connection between sin and suffering, despite the Book of Job.  So the physically disabled and different had to cope with that attitude.  Certainly many of them internalized it.

Thus we arrive at Mark 2 and the paralyzed man with some very good friends.  Jesus treated all the man’s needs.  Our Lord, the author tells us, also attracted criticisms.  As a sign I have reads,

FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE CRITICISM.

Next in the Markan sequence Jesus calls Levi/Matthew, literally a tax thief for the occupying forces, to be an Apostle.  Then our Lord dines with Levi/Matthew and other notorious sinners and outcast people, attracting more criticism.

Jesus liked outcasts.  So far in Mark 2, for example, he has healed one, called another to be a close associate, and dined with a group.

Table fellowship was a serious matter for observant Pharisees and other Jews.  It was a question of maintaining one’s identity as a member of a visible minority.  This fact explains much of why many early Jewish Christians insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity become Jews and obey the Law of Moses.  I propose that Jesus also took table fellowship seriously–but as a means of including people, not excluding them, as a means of associating with them, not keeping oneself apart from them.

I have heard a Russian proverb:

A good meal is not one eats but with whom one eats.

Perceptions of sin–real or imagined, depending on circumstances–need not separate us from God or each other.  We are all in the big boat of sin.  And God forgives quite often.  When God draws near, may we reciprocate.

At my parish, St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, we take the Holy Eucharist each Sunday.  (The 1979 Book of Common Prayer defines taking the Holy Eucharist as the central act of Christian worship.  In pre-1979 BCP days, it was common to take communion less often than every Sunday.)  Printed in the Sunday bulletin at St. Gregory the Great Church is this invitation:

Whoever you are and wherever you are in your journey of faith, know that you are welcome to join with us at the table of the Lord and to share in the bread and wine made holy.

And it is an excellent meal.  Jesus there in the bread and wine.  And the company is excellent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURBGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH MONK AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/02/devotion-for-the-fourth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Interpreting the Temptations of Jesus   1 comment

Above: Temptations of Christ, a Byzantine Mosaic which Resides at St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy, because Knights of the Fourth Crusade Stole It from Constantinople (But Who Is Keeping Track?)

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Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man,

You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman,

Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?

The woman said to the serpent,

We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.”

But the serpent said to the woman,

You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Psalm 32 (New Revised Standard Version):

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me,;

my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and I did not hide my iniquity;

I said,

I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,

and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful

offer prayer to you;

at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters

shall not teach them.

You are a hiding place for me;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,

whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,

else it will not stay near you.

Many are the torments of the wicked,

but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous,

and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

Romans 5:12-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

As sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned– sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Matthew 4:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

After Jesus was baptized, he was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him,

If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.

But he answered,

It is written,

“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him,

If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

“He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”

Jesus said to him,

Again it is written,

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him,

All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.

Jesus said to him,

Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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It is appropriate to have this Gospel reading on the First Sunday in Lent, for the number “40″ for days of this season comes partially from the 40 days the Gospels say Jesus spent in the wilderness.

There is something mythic about a great religious leader having to face three temptations at the hand of an evil spiritual figure as a rite of passage.  At least one Buddhist version of this tale says that Siddhartha faced down fear, lust, and ego before he became the Enlightened One.  And we read that Jesus faced three temptations, also.  I suspect that this story is part of mythology, just as much as are the early chapters of Genesis.  (All the Bible is true, and some of it happened.)

As I write this devotional nine months early, in the energy-sapping heart of Summer 2010 (with the weather certain to become worse before it improves), I turn to the late Henri Nouwen, the Dutch Roman Catholic priest and wonderful spiritual writer for his cogent interpretation of Christ’s temptations.  In The Way of the Heart (1981), Father Nouwen wrote of harried, compulsive ministers:

Just look for a moment at our daily routine.  In general we are very busy people.  We have many meetings to attend, many visits to make, many services to lead.  (Our calendars are filled with appointments, our days and weeks filled with engagements, and our years filled with plans and projects.  There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time to rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say, or do are worth thinking, saying, or doing.  We simply go along with the many “musts” and “oughts” that have been handed on to us, and we live with them as if they were authentic translations of the Gospel of our Lord.  People must be motivated to come to church, youth must be entertained, money must be raised, and above all everyone must be happy.  Moreover, we ought to be on good terms with the church and civil authorities; we ought to be liked or at least respected by a fair majority of our parishioners; we ought to move up in the ranks according to schedule; and we ought to have enough vacation and salary to live a comfortable life.  Thus we are busy people just like all other busy people, rewarded with the rewards which are rewarded to busy people! (page 12 from the 2003 reprint)

Then Nouwen defined the false self, or secular self, which, Thomas Merton explained, social compulsions have manufactured.  Instead, Nouwen wrote, one’s true self, which is spiritual, requires solitude for the purpose of transformation.  Solitude, he wrote, is “the solitude of transformation.”  Then Nouwen continued:

Jesus himself entered into this furnace.  There he was tempted with the three compulsions of the world:  to be relevant (“turn stones into loaves”), to be spectacular (“throw yourself down”), and to be powerful (“I will give you all these kingdoms”.  There affirmed God as the only source of his identity (“You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone.”)  Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter–the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.  (page 16 from the 2003 reprint)

That is one truth we can take from this mythic story and apply in our lives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2010 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL AND HENRIETTA BARNETT, ENGLISH SOCIAL REFORMERS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/first-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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Posted February 7, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 2, Genesis 3, Matthew 4, Psalm 32, Romans 5

Tagged with

The Bread of Life   1 comment

Above:  Eucharistic Host with Wafers

Image Source = Patnac

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

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Genesis 3:9-24 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And YHWH God called the human and said to him,

Where are you?

And he said,

I heard the sound of you in the garden and was afraid because I was naked, and I hid?

And He said,

Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?

And the human said,

The woman, whom you placed with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.

And YHWH God said to the woman,

What is this that you’ve done?

And the woman said,

The snake tricked me, and I ate.

And YHWH God said to the snake,

Because you did this, you are cursed out of every domestic animal and every animal of the field, you’ll go on your belly, and you’ll eat dust all the days of your life.  And I’ll put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed.  He’ll strike you at the head, and you’ll strike him at the heel.

To the woman He said,

I’ll make your suffering and your labor pain great.  You’ll have children in pain.  And your desire will be for your man, and he’ll dominate you.

And to the human He said,

Because you listened to your woman’s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you saying, ‘You shall not eat from it,” the ground is cursed on your account.  You’ll eat from it with suffering all the days of your life.  And it will grow thorn and thistle at you, and you’ll eat the field’s vegetation.  By the sweat of your nostrils you’ll eat bread until you go back to the ground, because you were taken from it; because you are dust and you’ll go back to dust.

And the human called his woman

Eve,

because she was the mother of all living.

And YHWH God made skin garments for the human and his woman and dressed them.

And YHWH God said,

Here, the human has become like one of us, to know good and bad.  And now, in case he’ll put out his hand and take from the tree of life as well, and eat and live forever from the tree of life as well, and eat and live forever.

And YHWH God put him out of the garden of Eden, to work the ground from which he was taken.  And He expelled the human, and He had the cherubs and the flame of a revolving sword reside at the east of the garden of Eden to watch over the way to the tree of life.

Psalm 90:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

3 You turn us back to the dust and say,

“Go back, O child of earth.”

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

5 You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered.

7 For we consume away in your displeasure;

we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.

8 Our iniquities you have set before you,

and our secret sins in the sight of your countenance.

When you are angry, all our days are gone;

we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

10 The span of our life is seventy years,

perhaps in strength even eighty;

yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,

for they pass away quickly and we are gone.

11 Who regards the power of your wrath?

who rightly fears your indignation?

12 So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

Mark 8:1-10 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

About this time it happened again that a large crowd collected and had nothing to eat.  Jesus called the disciples over to him and said,

My heart goes out to this crowd; they have been with me three days now and they have no food left.  If I send them off home without anything, they will collapse on the way–and some of them have come from a distance.

His disciples replied,

Where could anyone find the food to feed them here in this deserted spot?

Jesus asked them,

How many loaves have you got?

They replied,

Seven.

So Jesus told the crowd to settle themselves on the ground.  Then he took the seven loaves into his hands, and with a prayer of thanksgiving broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people; and this they did.  They had a few small fish as well, and after blessing them, Jesus told his disciples to give these also to the people.  They ate and they were satisfied.  Moreover, they picked up seven baskets of full pieces left over.  The people numbered about four thousand.  Jesus sent them home, and then he boarded the boat at once with the disciples and went on to the district of Dalmanutha.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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This seems like a good time to quote Calvinist theology.  There are three covenants in Calvinism.  The first is the Covenant of Redemption, in which the members of the Holy Trinity agreed to redeem human beings.  Then there is the Covenant of Works, which is of pre-Fall origin.  The formulation is simple:  obey God and live (spiritually and physically); disobey God and die (spiritually and physically).   Grace did mitigate the penalty, as in today’s reading from Genesis.  Sin being universal after the Fall, a third covenant, one of grace, became necessary.  Since we are incapable of fulfilling the terms of the Covenant of Works, life and death are spiritual, not physical.  Jesus fulfills the terms of the Covenant of Works.  (Thanks to R. C. Sproul for his summary of the covenants in What is Reformed Theology?  Understanding the Basics, Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 1997)

That aspect of Calvinism provides a useful prism for interpreting the readings for today.  Grace was present simultaneously with judgment; God expelled the mythical Adam and Eve from paradise and denied them immortality, yet protected them from immediate death.  The myth communicates a profound truth:  Although we cannot evade all consequences of our actions, often we do not receive all that we deserve.  This is grace.

Speaking of grace, we arrive next at the Feeding of the Four Thousand.  I do not care about engaging in the argument about whether this is a retelling of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (men) plus an uncertain number of women and children.  No, I have a different priority.  Read with me:  Jesus had compassion on the people, some of whom had a long trek back home.  Literally, as J. B. Phillips translated the text, his heart went out to them.  So he fed them.  His grace was abundant, to overflowing:  seven large baskets (hampers, really) full of leftovers.

This story is a foretaste of the Holy Eucharist, one of my favorite activities.  I am so attached to it that I seek to partake of it at least once a week, usually more often.  Jesus is the bread of life–spiritual life.  He is present (really present) in this sacrament.  So, each week, as I pray the Hail Mary silently and partake of bread (and often wine, too), I take my Lord into myself.  If I am what I eat (an apt expression in this context), I become holier for this simple act.  And my spiritual life deepens.  The body will die, but something of myself will continue.  May it do so in the presence of God.  That is called eternity in the afterlife.  May you do likewise.

That will be grace, for all of us.

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I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE

Words by Sister Suzanne Toolan, R.S.M.

As published in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), hymnal and worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

1.  “I am the bread of life.

You who come to me shall not hunger,

and who believe in me shall not thirst.

No one can come to me unless the Father beckons.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

2.  “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world,

and if you eat of this bread,

you shall live forever,

you shall live forever.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

3.  “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man

and drink of his blood,

and drink of his blood,

you shall not have life within you.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

4.  “I am the resurrection,

I am the life.

If you believe in me,

even though you die,

you shall life forever.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

5.  Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ,

the Son of God,

who has come into the world.

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 19, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF THE CROSS, FOUNDER OF THE PASSIONIST CONGREGATION

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/week-of-5-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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