Archive for the ‘Hebrews 2’ Category

Showing Proper Reverence for God   1 comment

Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah

Above:  Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah, by Domenico Ghirlandaio

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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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Malachi 1:1-14

Psalm 8

Luke 1:1-25

Hebrews 1:1-2:4

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O LORD, our Sovereign,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

–Psalm 8:1a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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In Malachi 1 YHWH complains (via the prophet) that many people are taking their sacrifices lightly, offering unfit food and creatures in violations provided in the Torah.  (Consult Exodus 12:5 and 29:1 as well as Leviticus 1:3 and 10; 3:1; and 22:17-30 plus Deuteronomy 15:21 regarding animal sacrifices).  People in many lands honored God, but, in Persian-dominated Judea, where, of all places, that reverence should have been concentrated, many people were slacking off.

St. Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, certainly revered God.  The old man was a priest at the Temple at Jerusalem.  He and his wife, St. Elizabeth, the Gospel of Luke tells us,

were upright ad devout, blamelessly observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.

–1:6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In an echo of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:15-22 and 18:1-15, each account coming from a different source), the elderly priest learned that he and his wife would become parents against all odds.  He was predictably dubious.  The prediction of a miracle and a marvel, to borrow language from Hebrews 2:4, came true.

Hebrews 2:3 provides a timeless warning against neglecting

such a great salvation

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985).

That salvation is the offer of God, who made the aged Abraham and Sarah parents and did the same for the elderly Sts. Zechariah and Elizabeth.  It is the offer of God, who chose St. Mary of Nazareth to become an instrument of the Incarnation.  It is the offer of God, the name of when many people all over the world honor.  May we revere God and strive, by grace, to offer our best, not our leftovers and spares in sacrifice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANNE HUTCHINSON, REBELLIOUS PURITAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HAMMOND, ENGLISH MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-d/

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Suffering and Grace   1 comment

Ecce Homo

Above:  Ecce Homo, by Elias Garcia Martinez

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God of mercy and might, in the mystery of the passion of your Son

you offer your infinite life to the world.

Gather us around the cross and Christ,

and preserve us until the resurrection,

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 29

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 53:10-12 (Thursday)

Isaiah 54:9-10 (Friday)

Psalm 31:9-16 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:1-9 (Thursday)

Hebrews 2:10-18 (Friday)

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Take pity on me, Yahweh,

I am in trouble now.

Grief wastes away my eye,

my throat, my inmost parts.

For my life is worn out with sorrow,

my years with sighs;

my strength yields under misery,

my bones are wasting away.

To every one of my oppressors

I am contemptible,

loathsome to my neighbors,

to my friends a thing of fear.

Those who see me in the street

hurry past me;

I am forgotten, as good as dead in their hearts,

something discarded.

I hear their endless slanders,

threats from every quarter,

as they combine against me,

plotting to take my life.

But I put my trust in you, Yahweh,

I say, “You are my God.”

My days are in your hand, rescue me

from the hands of my enemies and persecutors;

let your face smile on your servant,

save me in your love.

–Psalm 31:9-16, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Isaiah 52:13-53:12 is a song of the suffering servant.  The text is familiar to me, a person steeped in the scriptures from an early age.  In some ways my early learning constitutes a problem, for it has bequeathed me a set of assumptions through which I need to bore a hole so I can read the full meaning of such a familiar text.  The Christological identification of the suffering servant with Jesus does not fit the immediate context of Deutero-Isaiah, where the suffering servant is most likely the Jewish nation or a pious minority thereof.  God vindicates the suffering servant in Isaiah 53:10-12.  Next in the book God comforts returned exiles:

For this to Me is like the waters of Noah:

As I swore that the waters of Noah

Nevermore would flood the earth,

So I swear that I will not

Be angry with you or rebuke you.

For the mountains may move

And the hills be shaken,

But my loyalty shall never move from you,

Nor My covenant of friendship be shaken

–said the LORD, who takes you back in love.

–Isaiah 54:9-10, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Likewise, God comes to the aid of the afflicted author of Psalm 31, albeit after verse 16.

The Letter to the Hebrews, addressed to persecuted Jewish Christians, encourages the faithful to remain so.  Jesus, who has suffered greatly and endured temptations, can identify with human problems, the text says.  That message is timeless.  A recurring theme in human suffering is the illusion that nobody else can understand one’s pain and distress.  In reality, though, many other people have suffered in similar ways, and Jesus has suffered more than most of us ever will.  Comfort is available, if only one will accept it.

I have learned much via suffering.  I have learned how plentiful grace is and who my true friends are.  I have learned the full extent to which I depend on God and my fellow human beings.  And I have learned that I have gained more potential to help others in their time of great need, pain, and suffering.  I lack any desire to repeat the experience of that suffering, but I thank God for the grace which has flowed from it and continues to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 7, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GERARD THOMAS NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER; BROTHER OF BAPTIST WRIOTHESLEY NOEL, ANGLICAN PRIEST, ENGLISH BAPTIST EVANGELIST, AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS NIECE, CAROLINE MARIA NOEL, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AMBROSE OF MILAN, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF ANNE ROSS COUSIN, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEPHA ROSSELLO, COFOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF OUR LADY OF PITY

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/07/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-palm-sunday-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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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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Mountains, God, and Holiness   1 comment

Mt. Sinai

Above:  Mt. Sinai, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-09625

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the resplendent light of your truth

shines from the mountaintop into our hearts.

Transfigure us by your beloved Son,

and illumine the world with your image,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 19:7-25 (Monday)

Job 19:23-27 (Tuesday)

Psalm 110:1-4 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:1-4 (Monday)

1 Timothy 3:14-16 (Tuesday)

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God seemed quite mysterious–even dangerous–in Exodus 19.  Anyone who touched Mt. Sinai would die, for the mountain was holy, and that made the geographical feature more hazardous than usual.  There was also a hazard in the peoples’ pledge to obey God’s commandments, due to the penalties for violating them.

God was also a threat in the mind of Job, who, in 19:23-27, looked forward to his Redeemer/Vindicator, a kinsman who would, in the words of a note on page 1529 ofThe Jewish Study Bible (2004),

vindicate him, will take revenge on God for what God has done to Job.

That is a desire many people have felt.  That interpretation is also far removed from a traditional Christian understanding of the text, not that there is anything wrong with that difference.

We find the friendly and scary faces of God in the New Testament readings.  Hebrews 2:1-4 reminds us of penalties for sins.  Yet 1 Timothy 3:14-16 brings us the mystery and the graces of God in the context of Jesus.  That example is far removed from Exodus 19:7-25, where divine holiness was fatal to people.  What could be closer to people–even in contact with them–and holy without being fatal to them than Jesus?

Mountains and the divine go together in the Bible.  Moses received the Law on one.  Jesus preached from mountains.  His Transfiguration occurred on one.  He “ascended” (whatever that means in literal, as opposed to theological terms) from a mountain.  The symbolism also works in our lives, as in our “mountaintop experiences.”

As we depart the Season after the Epiphany for Lent, may we seek and find, by grace, a closer walk with God, whose holiness gives us life and is not fatal to us.  May we internalize the lessons God wants us to internalize.  And, when we are angry with God, may we have enough faith to, in the style of Job, argue faithfully.  Communication cannot occur in the absence of messages.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARBARA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Icons and Idols   1 comment

Crucifix December 6, 2013

Above:  The Crucifix I Wear to Church

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Faithful God, most merciful judge,

you care for your children with firmness and compassion.

By your Spirit nurture us who live in your kingdom,

that we may be rooted in the way of your Son,

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 41:21-29 (Thursday)

Isaiah 44:9-17 (Friday)

Isaiah 44:18-20 (Saturday)

Psalm 86:11-17 (All Days)

Hebrews 2:1-9 (Thursday)

Hebrews 6:13-20 (Friday)

Hebrews 7:15-20 (Saturday)

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Teach me your way, O LORD,

and I will walk in your truth;

knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.

I will thank you, O LORD my God, with all my heart,

and glorify your Name for evermore.

–Psalm 86:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings from Jeremiah speak of idolatry.  Idols are abominations, their works are nothing, and their images are empty wind the lessons (especially 41:21-29) tell us.  Jesus warns against false religious teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, in Matthew 7:15-20.  These false teachers, like idols, distract people from God.  And the author of Hebrews points to Christ, through whom we have redemption.

Snapshot_20140603_2

Above:  Part of My Liturgical Library, Decorated by Crucifixes, June 2014

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

I perceive the need to distinguish between icons and idols.  Icons, whether two-dimensional (as in Eastern Orthodoxy) or three-dimensional (as in Roman Catholicism), are objects of reverence through which we see God.  We are, after all, visually oriented creatures.  I have a collection of Madonnas and crucifixes, as well as an Eastern Orthodox-style image of Jesus.  Some would label these idols, but those individuals would be mistaken.  Icons can also be habits, activities, and other objects.  The Bible, for example, is properly an icon.

Idols are whatever stand between one and God.  If one fixates on something–an object, a habit, an activity, et cetera–instead of God, it is, for that person, an idol.  Unfortunately, the Bible functions as an idol in the lies of many people.  This, I am confident, is not what God intends.

May each of us examine self spiritually and, by grace, succeed in identifying all of one’s idols.  And may all of us succeed, also by grace, in resisting the temptation to commit idolatry any longer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-11-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Love, Not Vengeance   2 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Teach us, good Lord God, to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

except that of knowing that we do your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 18:12-17 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 18:18-23 (Friday)

Psalm 69:7-10 [11-15], 16-18 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:5-9 (Thursday)

Acts 5:17-26 (Friday)

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For your sake I have suffered reproach;

shame has covered my face.

–Psalm 69:8, Common Worship (2000)

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The desire for vengeance—directly by one’s own efforts or indirectly by those of God—is commonplace and frequently predictable and understandable. One finds it in the readings from Jeremiah and the Book of Psalms today, in fact. But it also poisons one’s soul. I have known that desire and the accompanying spiritual toxins. I have also known the grace to let go of that dark feeling. I recall what some people have done to me and refuse to deny objective reality regarding the past, but if anything bad happens to those individuals and I hear of it, I will have had nothing to do with it and I will take no delight in their misfortune. I have set my focus on the future.

Each of us is present on the planet to do great things for God and each other. Whether we fulfill that vocation is a separate question, of course. Sts. John the Evangelist and Simon Peter suffered as innocents for their good deeds, which upset the apple carts of some people. The Apostles, broken out of jail by the hand of God, simply returned to the tasks to which God had called them. And Jesus, another innocent—one which a legal system executed—not only rose from the dead but rejected vengeance. He returned to the work of God—the work of love.

That is our work also. May we, by grace, succeed more often than we fail.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-7-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Suffering   1 comment

09744v

Above:  Crucifix, Tyrol, Italy, Between 1890 and 1900

Image Creator = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002711133/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-09744

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:1-8 (5th Day)

Genesis 4:1-16 (6th Day)

Psalm 32 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:10-18 (5th Day)

Hebrews 4:14-5:10 (6th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Kings 19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-1-2-and-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/proper-7-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/proper-14-year-b/

Genesis 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-monday-year-1/

Hebrews 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/week-of-1-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-fifth-day-of-lent-monday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Hebrews 4-5:

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

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/week-of-2-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-seventh-day-of-lent-wednesday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/27/fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/30/devotion-for-the-thirty-eighth-day-of-lent-maundy-thursday-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/proper-23-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/proper-24-year-b/

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You are a place for me to hide in;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with songs of deliverance.

–Psalm 32:8, Common Worship (2000)

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The theological problem of why people suffer is a golden oldie.  Some attempts to answer it prove unsatisfactory, often blaming the victim.  The arguments of Job’s alleged friends come to mind immediately.  Such theodicies cross the line separating good piety from idiocy and cruelty.

The assigned readings for these two days offer some scenarios in which people suffer:

  1. Suffering results from one’s own sin, as in Psalm 32.
  2. Suffering results from another person’s malice, as in the other lessons.

And sometimes God provides for a suffering person, as in 1 Kings 19 and Genesis 4.  In the latter case, divine protection covered a murderer.  In offer no explanations or justifications.  No, I function merely as a reporter.

Yet I know that suffering can lead to useful spiritual lessons.  And I take great comfort in the truth that God, by virtue of the Incarnation, sympathizes with us in our weakness and suffering.  We are not alone, no matter how much we might feel alone.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/devotion-for-the-fifth-and-sixth-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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