Archive for the ‘Isaiah 1’ Category

Living Faith Versus Insincere Rituals and Ossified Doctrine   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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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 eternal 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:

Isaiah 1:1-28

Psalm 33 (Morning)

Psalms 85 and 91 (Evening)

1 Peter 1:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 1:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/week-of-proper-10-monday-year-2/

1 Peter 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-8-epiphany-monday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-8-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/week-of-proper-3-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/09/week-of-proper-3-tuesday-year-2/

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

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

O Lord, You Gave Your Servant John:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

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Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil things

Away from My sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

–Isaiah 1:16-17a, TANAKH:   The Holy Scriptures

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For the word of the LORD is right,

and all his judgments are sure.

He loves righteousness and justice;

the loving-kindness of the LORD fills the whole earth.

–Psalm 33:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This is a great joy to you, even though for a short time yet you must bear all sorts of trials; so that the worth of your faith, more valuable than gold, which is perishable even if it has been tested by fire, may be proved–to your praise and glory and honour when Jesus Christ is revealed.  You have not seen him, yet you love him, and still without seeing him you believe in him and so are already filled with a joy so glorious that it cannot be described; and you are sure of the goal of your faith, that is, the salvation of your souls.

–1 Peter 1:6-9, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Rituals can have great value and convey great meaning.  Yet a ritual without sincerity is like a special effect without a relevant plot point; it is meaningless and distracting.  And what constitutes sincerity in this setting?  Isaiah tells us that holiness is the essential element, and that the standard for holiness is objective:  love of one’s fellow human beings and pursuit of social justice.  After all, as we read in Genesis 1, each person bears the image of God.  Faith, when it is what it ought to be, in inherently active.  So Christian faith, rooted in following the example of Jesus, must entail reaching out to the marginalized, as our Lord did.

This devotion is for a fixed date (November 27), one which can fall in either Advent or the Season after Pentecost, depending on the day of the week on which December 25 falls. The readings work well on both sides of the seasonal boundary line.  An old name for the Season after Pentecost or the latter part thereof is Kingdomtide, with an emphasis on demonstrated righteousness.  And Advent, as a preparatory season for Christmas, contains a penitential element.

The take-away for today is this:  Are you, O reader, keeping rituals yet mocking God by not even trying to uphold human dignity?  If so, what will you do about that?  The Incarnation of Jesus affirms the dignity of human nature, does it not?  Faith ought to be about lived orthodoxy, not adherence to fossilized and ossified doctrine consisting mostly or entirely of words.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST FROM NICHOLAS FERRAR, ANGLICAN DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT CHARLES DE FOUCAULD, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND CAMPION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIGIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-27-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Loving God I: Loving God Most of All   1 comment

Above:  A Homeless Man Living in the Sewers of Vienna, Austria-Hungary, 1900

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Isaiah 1:10-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Hear the word of the LORD,

You chieftains of Sodom;

Give ear to our God’s instruction,

You folk of Gomorrah!

What need have I of all your sacrifices?

Says the LORD.

I am sated with burnt offerings of rams,

And suet of fatlings,

And blood of bulls;

And I have no delight

In lambs and he-goats.

That you come to appear before Me–

Who asked that of you?

Trample my courts no more;

Bringing oblations is futile,

Incense is offensive to Me.

New moon and sabbath,

Proclaiming of solemnities,

Assemblies with iniquity,

I cannot abide.

Your new moons and fixed seasons

Fill Me with loathing;

They are become a burden to Me,

I cannot endure them.

And when you lift up your hands,

I will turn My eyes away from you;

Though you pray at length,

I will not listen.

Your hands are stained with crime–

Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil doings

Away from My sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

Psalm 50:7-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear, O my people, and I will speak:

“O Israel, I will bear witness against you;

for I am God, your God.

8 I do not accuse you because of your sacrifices;

your offerings are always before me.

9 I will take no bull-calf from your stalls,

nor he goats out of your pens;

10 For all the beasts of the forest are mine,

the herds in their thousands upon the hills.

11 I know every bird in the sky,

and the creatures of the fields are in my sight.

12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the whole world is mine and all that is in it.

13 Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls,

or drink the blood of goats?

14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and make good your vows to the Most High.

15 Call upon me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.

Matthew 10:34-11:1 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth.  I have not come to bring peace but a sword.  For I have come to turn a man against his father and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law, and a man’s enemies will be in his own household.  No one who loves father or mother more than me is worthy of me, and no one who will not take up his cross and follow me is worthy of me.  Whoever gains his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for mysake will gain it.

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes him who has sent me.  Whoever welcomes a prophet because he is a prophet will have the same reward as a prophet, and whoever welcomes an upright man because he is upright will have the same reward as an upright man.  And no one who will give the humblest of my disciples even a cup of cold water because he is my disciple, I tell you, can never fail of his reward.

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The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 10:  Monday, Year 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/week-of-proper-10-monday-year-1/

O Young and Fearless Prophet:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/o-young-and-fearless-prophet/

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The Bible, especially the Hebrew Scriptures, spends much time on the topic of economic justice.  It devotes more attention to this than to various sexuality-related issues, yet one (especially in North America, my context) is more likely to hear a hellfire-and-damnation sermon against pre-marital sex, adultery, or homosexuality than against the exploitation of the poor in politics, economics, courts, jails, and prisons.  My theory of why this is true is simple:  It is easier and more comfortable to condemn the physical offenses–real or merely perceived–of others, and therefore to seem righteous, than to confront societal sins in which one might be complicit.

We read in Isaiah 1 that conducting seemingly pious rituals while not confronting the denial of justice to widows and orphans, among the most vulnerable members of Isaiah’s society, does not satisfy God.  Twice–once in the excerpt I typed out–the chapter specifies maltreatment of widows and orphans as the grave offense du chapitre.  God cares deeply about how people treat each other, notably the poor and other vulnerable persons.

Matthew 10:34-41 gives us further advice on how to relate to each other.  Christianity and the message of Jesus have divided families for nearly 2,000 years.  When that happens to one, Jesus says, remember to love him more than one’s family.  Family still matters, of course, but certainly one should remain more loyal to Jesus than to one who disowns or turns a believer over to authorities.  Such rejection by one’s relatives is unfortunate, but there is a spiritual family, some members of which belong to the Church Militant and others to the Church Triumphant.  Many of them have faced similar hardships and heartaches.

The unifying message binding these two passages is that we must love God most of all, and that how we treat others reveals whether or not we do this.  Those rulers who “are rogues and cronies and thieves”  and who are “greedy for gifts” and “do not judge the case of the orphan” or hear “the widow’s cause (Isaiah 1:23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures) do not love God most of all.  And those fathers, mothers, brothers, and sisters who turn against their family members because of the other’s conversion to Christianity do not love God most of all either.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 15, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF GENOA, MYSTIC AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DANTE ALIGHIERI, POET

THE FEAST OF JAMES CHISHOLM, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/week-of-proper-10-monday-year-2/

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Posted April 18, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 1, Matthew 10, Psalm 50

Tagged with ,

The Faithfulness of God, Part I   1 comment

Above: The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin (1854)

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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 19:15-29 (An American Translation):

When dawn appeared, the angels urged Lot on saying,

Bestir yourself; take away your wife, and the two daughters that are at hand, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.

When he hesitated, the men, because of the LORD’s pity on him, seized his hand and those of his wife and his two daughters, and bringing them out, they left him outside the city.  After they had brought them outside, they said,

Fly for your life; do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the valley; fly to the hills, lest you be swept away.

Lot said to them,

O no sirs!  Your servant has indeed found favor with you, and great is the kindness that you have done me in saving my life, but I cannot possibly fly to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I perish.  Here is the town near enough to fly to, and quite small; pray, let me fly there (is it not small?) to save my life.

The LORD said to him,

See, I grant you this request as well, in that I will not overthrow the town of which you speak.  Hurry and fly there; for I can do nothing until you reach there.

Thus the name of the town came to be called Zoar [small].

Just as the sun rose over the earth and Lot entered Zoar, the LORD rained sulphur and fire from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah, devastating those cities and all the valley, with all the inhabitants of the cities and the vegetation on the land.  And Lot’s wife looked back, and had become a pillar of salt.

Lot’s Wife Pillar, Mount Sodom, Israel

Next morning when Abraham went early to the place where he had stood before the LORD, he gazed toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the region of the valley, and he saw smoke from the land rising like smoke from a kiln.

Thus it was that God remembered Abraham when he destroyed the cities of the valley, by sending Lot away from the catastrophe when he devastated the cities where Lot lived.

Psalm 26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.

Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully before you.

I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.

Do not sweep me away with sinners,

nor my life with those who thirst for blood,

10 Whose hands are full of evil plots,

and their right hand full of bribes.

11 As for me, I will live with integrity;

redeem me, O LORD, and have pity on me.

12 My foot stands on level ground;

in the full assembly I will bless the LORD.

Matthew 8:23-27 (An American Translation):

And he [Jesus] got into the boat, and his disciples with him.  And suddenly a terrific storm came up on the sea, so that the waves broke over the boat, but he remained asleep.  And they woke him, saying,

Save us, sir!  We are lost!

And he said to them,

Why are you afraid?  You have so little faith!

Then he got up and reproved the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And the men were amazed and said,

What kind of man is this?  For the very winds and sea obey him!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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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One of the challenges of following a lectionary can be identifying the common theme present in two or more readings from different parts of the Bible.  After consulting commentaries and pondering all that I have read in the readings and the commentaries, I have found the common thread:  Faithfulness to God is the path to life.  This faithfulness needs only to be present.  However, as Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is spiritual death.  The wages of sin can also be physical death, and the punishment flows from the sin itself.  In other words, we reap what we sow.  God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.

Let us examine the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah carefully.  In Genesis 19:1-14, two angels arrive at Sodom, where Lot rescues them from would-be gang rapists.  The angels tell Lot that God will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah very shortly because, as Professor Richard Elliott Friedman translates verse 13,  they have “grown big before YHWH’s face.”

I pause at this point to ponder the importance of growing “big before YHWH’s face.”  Later in Chapter 19, YHWH permits Lot and his family to flee to Zoar, which is small, for safety.  (Two angels appear early in Chapter 19, and by chapter’s end, YHWH is there, too.  When did God show up, after disappearing between the end of Chapter 18 and the beginning of Chapter 19?  Following the bouncing ball can be challenging.)  Anyhow, I posit that growing “big before YHWH’s face” indicates spiritual arrogance, a lack of faithfulness.

There is an interesting feature in the Hebrew text of verse 15.  The word for punishment, as in “…or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city,” means sin as well.  Sin and punishment are the same thing; consequences flow from actions, so we reap what we sow.

Lot is sufficiently hospitable to rescue the angels, strangers in Sodom, and, as Genesis 19:29 indicates, God saves Lot and family out of faithfulness to Abraham.  Indeed, Lot is a disturbing character, one who offers his two virgin daughters to the would-be gang rapists gathered outside his house (verse 8).  Fortunately for the daughters, the men are not interested.

But Lot is kind to the strangers, if not his own daughters, and the angelic guests offer him and his family a safe way out–if only they follow instructions.  Nobody must look back.  I suppose that curiosity about what is happening would inspire one to look back; we are a species of people who stare at the aftermath of car wrecks.

Biblical writers over many generations used Sodom and Gomorrah to demonstrate various points.  These include:

  • Repent, or be destroyed.
  • Sexual immorality (in all its forms) is wrong.  The first explicit link between homosexual acts and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah comes in Jude 7, however.
  • Any town that refuses to heed visitors bearing the word of God will face condemnation.
  • The failure to extend hospitality to strangers will lead to condemnation.
  • The neglect of the poor will lead to condemnation and destruction.

The word “Sodom” appears in the New Revised Standard Version 51 times.  For those of you who wish to follow up, here they are:

  • Genesis 10:19
  • Genesis 13:10, 12, and 13
  • Genesis 14:2, 8, 10-12, 17, 21, 22, and 26
  • Genesis 18:16, 20, and 26
  • Genesis 19:1, 4, 24, and 28
  • Deuteronomy 29:23
  • Deuteronomy 32:32
  • Isaiah 1:9 and 10
  • Isaiah 3:9
  • Isaiah 13:19
  • Jeremiah 23:14
  • Jeremiah 49:18
  • Jeremiah 50:40
  • Lamentations 4:6
  • Ezekiel 16:46, 48, 49, 53, 55, and 56
  • Amos 4:11
  • Zephaniah 2:9
  • 3 Maccabees 2:5
  • 2 Esdras 2:8
  • 2 Esdras 7:106
  • Matthew 10:15
  • Matthew 11:23 and 24
  • Luke 10:12
  • Luke 17:29
  • Romans 9:29
  • 2 Peter 2:6
  • Jude 7
  • Revelation 11:8

The reading from Matthew tells the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  In all fairness to the Apostles, I would have been afraid, too.  I note also that Jesus said they had little faith, not no faith.  This is a difficult text, one with more possible interpretations than I dreamed possible before reading commentaries.  However, remaining consistent with my methodology of following a common thread between or among lectionary readings, I latch onto the “little faith” comment.  At least the Apostles had some faith.  Are we not like this much, if not most, of the time?  We have some faith and we know that we need more.  We believe, yet we need God to forgive us for our unbelief.  But a little faith is better than none, and from little faith much more can spring.  As the Book of Psalms says, God knows that we are “but dust.”

Reciprocity matters in a healthy relationship with God.  We will get much wrong, for we are fallible.  But, by grace, we can walk in the paths of righteousness more often than not.  We might save not only ourselves, but friends and family members, too.  But are we trying?  That is the first question.  Fortunately, God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.  And let us remember what Mother Teresa of Calcutta said about faithfulness:  God calls us to be faithful, not successful.

Certainly, how we treat others can be an outward sign of faithfulness.  If we love God with our essence and respect ourselves, following the Golden Rule will result in frequent acts of kindness.  To follow up on a previous devotion in this series, Jesus said that “you shall know them by their fruits.”  I add to this thought the entire Letter of James.

May we be faithful to God for the glory of God and out of awe of God and gratitude for all the wonderful deeds God has done.  And why not?  God is faithful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-tuesday-year-1/

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