Archive for the ‘Isaiah 66’ Category

Divine Consolation   1 comment

Anna at the Presentation of Jesus--Giotto

Above:  Anna at the Presentation of Jesus, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Beautiful God, you gather your people into your realm,

and you promise us food from your tree of life.

Nourish us with your word, that empowered by your Spirit

we may love one another and the world you have made,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 34

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 34:20-33

Psalm 93

Luke 2:25-38

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The LORD is King;

he has put on splendid apparel;

the LORD has put on his apparel

and girded himself with strength.

He has made the whole world so sure

that it cannot be moved;

Ever since the world began, your throne has been established;

you are from everlasting.

The waters have lifted up, O LORD,

the waters have lifted up their voice;

the waters have lifted up their pounding waves.

Mightier than the sound of many waters,

mightier than the breakers of the sea,

mightier is the LORD who dwells on high.

Your testimonies are very sure,

and holiness adorns your house, O LORD,

for ever and for evermore.

–Psalm 93, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Humility before God, whose testimonies are sure, is a virtue.  In the main two readings for this day we encounter five people who were humble before God:

  • King Josiah of Judah (reigned 640-609 B.C.E.), who instigated religious reforms consistent with the Book of Deuteronomy,
  • Saints Mary and Joseph of Nazareth, who raised Jesus in an observant Jewish home, and
  • Saints Simeon and Anna the Prophetess, who testified regarding the infant Jesus.

As Father Raymond E. Brown pointed out in The Birth of the Messiah (Updated Edition, 1993), the law and the prophets framed birth and infancy of Jesus.  The Lukan language alluded to Isaiah 40:1 and 66:12-13, with their references to the consolation (paraklesis in Greek and parakalein in Hebrew, sounding like paraclete) of Israel.  Sts. Joseph and Mary obeyed legal customs.  Two prophets attested to our Lord and Savior’s bona fides, but only one prophet affirmed St. John the Baptist in Luke 1:67-79.  St. Anna the Prophetess looked for the redemption of Jerusalem, echoing Isaiah 52:9 (The Revised English Bible, 1989):

Break forth together into shouts of joy,

you ruins of Jerusalem;

for the LORD has comforted his people,

he has redeemed Jerusalem.

The author of the Gospel of Luke understood the life of Jesus as fitting neatly into a much longer narrative of consolation and redemption.  His subtle word choices helped to establish connections with subsequent texts, such as John 14:15f, in which Jesus promised that God the Father would send another Paraclete–Comforter, Counselor, and Advocate–the Holy Spirit, simply put.

Consolation is among the most frequent reasons many people seek God.  This makes sense to me.  The quest for comfort recurs throughout the Bible, especially in the Book of Psalms, because of the ubiquity of distress.  Turning to God might not end one’s distress, but it does provide one with a means of coping with it.  If we love God, we will obey divine commandments.  This might lead to suffering (John 15:18-27), but at least the Holy Spirit will be present with us during our ordeals.  There is much consolation in that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF CHARLES JUDSON CHILD, JR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ATLANTA

THE FEAST OF LESLIE WEATHERHEAD, BRITISH METHODIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/01/05/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Consolation and Lamentation   1 comment

Hen with Chicks

Above:  A Hen and Her Chicks

Image Source = Yann

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that binds us,

that we may receive you in joy and serve you always,

for you live and reign with the Father and

the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 66:7-11

Psalm 80:1-7

Luke 13:31-35

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Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance,

and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Isaiah 66 exists in an immediate literary context.  God does not need sacrifices, we read, but the system of sacrifices exists for human benefit.  Some people make a mockery of sacrifices; God mocks them in return.  No, God tends to the faithful and consoles Jerusalem.  Once again, divine judgment and mercy coexist.

Jesus laments over Jerusalem in Luke 13:31-35.  Many prophets have died unjustly there.  Christ’s life was at risk during the lamentation.

Advent, the time of preparation for Christmas, is an appropriate occasion to recall the violence of the world into which Jesus came, in which he lived, and in which he died.  Yes, the birth of Jesus is a cause for celebration, but even the Christmas season provides sobering moments.  December 26 is the Feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr.  December 28 is the Feast of the Holy Innocents.  And December 27 is the Feast of St. Thomas Becket, the “troublesome priest” and Archbishop of Canterbury whom agents of King Henry II killed at Canterbury Cathedral.  We should be happy during Advent and Christmas, but we should also note the coexistence of divine light and the darkness of the world.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/20/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Gifts of the Jews   1 comment

Star of David

Above:  The Star of David

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of all peoples, your arms reach out to embrace all those who call upon you.

Teach us as disciples of your Son to love the world with compassion and constancy,

that your name may be known throughout all the earth,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 (Monday)

Isaiah 43:8-13 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 66:18-23 (Wednesday)

Psalm 87 (All Days)

Acts 15:1-21 (Monday)

Romans 11:13-29 (Tuesday)

Matthew 8:1-13 (Wednesday)

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Glorious things of thee are spoken,

Zion, city of our God;

He whose word cannot be broken

Formed thee for His own abode:

On the Rock of Ages founded,

What can shake thy sure repose?

With salvation’s walls surrounded,

Thou mayst smile at all thy foes.

–John Newton, 1779, quoted in The Hymnal (1895), Presbyterian Church in the U.S.A.

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That magnificent hymn, keyed to Psalm 87, fits well with the assigned Isaiah readings, which speak of the Jews as playing a pivotal role in the salvation of the Gentiles.  And the cure of an enemy general’s skin disease comes via a Hebrew servant girl in 2 Kings 5.  In the time of Christ many Gentiles recognized the superiority of the Jewish faith to pagan mythology.  Our Lord and Savior acknowledged the faith of some of them and the early Church decided not to require Gentiles to become Jews before becoming Christians formally.

These were difficult issues because they were matters of identity, something which takes a negative form much of the time.  “I am not…” is a bad yet commonplace starting point for individual and collective identity.  “We are not Gentiles; we are the Chosen People” is as objectionable an identity as is “We are not Jews; we are Christians, who have a faith superior to theirs.”  Examples and rejections of both errors exist in the pages of the Bible.  My encounters with Jews have been positive, I am glad to say, but I have heard the second error repeatedly.

The question in Acts 15 was whether Gentiles had to become Jews to join the Church, thus it concerned male circumcision, a matter of Jewish identity and strong emotions then and now.  The early Church and St. Paul the Apostle, who never ceased being Jewish, favored not placing obstacles in the way of faithful people.  They favored a generous, inclusive policy which, ironically, functioned as an example of excessive leniency in the minds of conservative thinkers.  How much tradition should the nascent Church–still a small Jewish act at the time–retain?  Who was a Jew and who was not?  Keeping laws and traditions was vital, many people argued.  Had not being unobservant led to national collapse and exiles centuries before?

Unfortunately, Anti-Semitism has been a repeating pattern in Christian history.  The writing of the four canonical Gospels occurred in the context of Jewish-Christian tensions, a fact which, I am sure, shaped the telling of the first four books of the New Testament.  Jesus engaged in controversies with religious leaders, I affirm, but how could the conflicts of early Christianity not influence the telling of those stories?  Sometimes I read these accounts and recognize that misreading of them has had devastating effects on uncounted numbers of people over nearly two thousand years and sit in silence and absolute sadness.  On other occasions I focus on other aspects of these accounts.

St. Paul the Apostle offered sage advice.  Gentiles are a branch grafted onto a tree, he wrote.  That branch ought not to consider itself superior to the other branches.  As for the tree itself, I have only respect for the Jews and Judaism, for salvation is of the Jews.  Besides, I, as a Gentile and a Christian, have much to learn from those whom Pope John Paul II called the elder brethren in faith.  To that end I read and study as I thank God for all the gifts of the Jews.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUTH, ANCESTOR OF KING DAVID

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONAVENTURE, THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SWITHUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF WINCHESTER

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-15-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Confidence, Struggles, and Altruism   2 comments

3b08208r

Above:  Lillies, 1597

Illustrator = John Gerard

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2005680894/)

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-60476

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The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father, you never forget your children,

and you know already what we need.

In all our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuternonomy 32:1-14 (Monday)

1 Kings 17:1-16 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 66:7-13 (Wednesday)

Psalm 104 (All Days)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 4:6-21 (Tuesday)

Luke 12:22-31 (Wednesday)

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O Lord, how manifold are your works!

In wisdom you have made them all;

the earth is full of your creatures.

There is the sea, spread far and wide,

and there move creatures beyond number, both small and great.

There go the ships, and there is that Leviathan

which you have made to play in the deep.

All of these look to you

to give them their food in due season.

When you give it to them, they gather it;

you open your hand and they are filled with good.

When you hide your face they are troubled;

when you take away their breath,

they die and return again to the dust.

When you send forth your spirit they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:26-32, Common Worship (2000)

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Monotheism I affirm while acknowledging a difficulty inherent in it: God is responsible for both good and bad—at least the existence of the bad and the evil as well as the positive. Others—such as polytheists—have no such problem, for they can blame bad deities for evil while affirming the pure goodness of others. But Yahweh is on the hook. That is part of my tradition. This is an issue with which I struggle. Yet an honest theological and spiritual struggle can be a sign of a healthy faith.

We read in the Psalm and in 1 Kings that sometimes God causes misfortunes to happen. Yet they also tells us that God sends aid. Sometimes that help comes via unexpected means, so we ought to avoid becoming fixated on certain criteria.

Another theme unifying these readings is maintaining faithfulness during difficult times. God will provide, we read, so we ought to avoid thinking too much about ourselves and our needs at the expense of other people. And we should recall that which God has done. Sometimes we become so caught up in the moment that we lose perspective, assuming that we ever had any.

I, as a student of history, know that many of the worst instances of human cruelty have come in the context of conflict related to resources. These resources have been either scarce or perceived to be scarce. Other such instances have occurred during times of a threat, real or perceived. In all such circumstances of human cruelty people have harmed each other—sometimes by passive neglect, other times via actions—all while seeking to preserve oneself. Altruism has been absent.

Yet our Lord and Savior told us plainly that, whenever we aid the least of those among us, we do so to him. Likewise the negative form of the previous sentence is true. By our selfishness, fear, and lack of altuism we condemn ourselves. By wise altruism—the variety rooted in confidence in God and in the quest to do for people what they need (not necessarily what they want)–we respond faithfully in difficult times. We thereby function as vehicles of grace to others and act in accordance with the moral mandate to love our neighbors as ourselves.

That can prove quite challenging. It is, actually, possible only via grace. Sometimes merely trying to do the right thing in a difficult circumstance eludes us, so we fail. Yet I know that I ought to try again and that God knows that I am but dust. Moral perfection is not among my goals, but striving for moral improvement is.

As for God being on the hook for the problems of suffering (sometimes) and the existence of evil (always), such matters are too great for me. Perhaps the most to which I can aspire are intellectual and spiritual honesty, as unsatisfactory as they might prove.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE PARKER, ABOLITIONIST AND MAVERICK UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY PIEROZZI, A.K.A. ANTONINUS OF FLORENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS LUDWIG VON ZINZENDORF, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-3-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Endurance   1 comment

Common Raven

Above:  A Common Raven, March 2004

Photographer = Dave Menke

Image Source = U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

(http://digitalmedia.fws.gov/cdm/singleitem/collection/natdiglib/id/7399/rec/7)

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The Collect:

God of tender care, like a mother, like a father,

you never forget your children, and you know already what we need.

In our anxiety give us trusting and faithful hearts,

that in confidence we may embody the peace and justice

of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 32:1-14 (Monday)

1 Kings 17:1-16 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 66:7-13 (Wednesday)

Psalm 104 (All Days)

Hebrews 10:32-39 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 4:6-21 (Tuesday)

Luke 12:22-31 (Wednesday)

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 32:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/devotion-for-october-29-30-and-31-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Kings 17:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/04/week-of-proper-5-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/week-of-proper-5-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/proper-27-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/12/15/devotion-for-august-30-and-31-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Isaiah 66:

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

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

Hebrews 10:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-fourth-day-of-easter-wednesday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Corinthians 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/week-of-proper-17-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/15/devotion-for-august-9-and-10-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Luke 12:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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All of these look to you to give them their food in due season.

When you give it to them, they gather it;

you open your hand and they are filled with good.

When you hide your face they are troubled,

when you take away their breath,

they die and return again to the dust.

When you send forth your spirit, they are created,

and you renew the face of the earth.

–Psalm 104:29-32, Common Worship (2000)

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The Book of Job is allegedly about why people suffer.  I have read that book closely several times recently and concluded that the book is about a different topic–how many pious people misunderstand God and presume to spread their confusion.  As for the cause of suffering in the Book of Job, the text makes clear that, in the titular character’s case, God permitted it.

There is no single cause of suffering.  Possible causes include one’s own sin, another person’s sin, and the fact of being alive.  The main topic of these days’ readings, however, is endurance, not suffering.  While we endure, do we welcome those agents of grace God sends to us?  Do we cease to endure, abandoning faith in God?  Or do we mature spiritually?  And do we anticipate the blessings which follow after suffering ends?

J. B. Phillips, in his classic book, Your God is Too Small (1961), posited that many people have spiritual deficiencies flowing from inadequate God concepts.  I find this conclusion persuasive.  It applies to the human characters in the Book of Job, for example.  And it applies to many, if not most of us who describe ourselves as religious.

A woefully inadequate God concept can contribute to buckling under pressure and not trusting in God, therefore in not enduring then maturing spiritually.  This is not a condemnation of anyone, for I know firsthand about struggling spiritually when one’s world collapses.  I also know what grace feels like in those dark days, weeks, and months.  And I know that it is to emerge–singed, to be sure–from the metaphorical fire.

So from experience I write the following:  No matter how bad the situation is now and how dire it seems to be, there is no shortage of grace.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

PROPER 24–THE TWENTY-SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF MARY A. LATHBURY, U.S. METHODIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERTILLA BOSCARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND NURSE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HARRIS BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF TARORE OF WAHOARA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-eighth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Enriching Our Worship (1998)   1 comment

episcopal-shield

Above:  The Episcopal Shield

Enriching Our Worship (1998), authorized by the General Convention in 1997, is the first in a series (of five books so far) of thin paperback volumes of supplementary liturgical resources for The Episcopal Church.  My copy, which predates Enriching Our Worship 2-5, lacks has the simple title Enriching Our Worship, not Enriching Our Worship 1 (hereafter abbreviated as EOW1), as subsequent printings do.

The 88-page book contains alternative texts for Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer, the Great Litany, and the Holy Eucharist.  The purpose of these texts is to expand the range of metaphors for God beyond the predominance of masculine imagery contained in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The metaphors for God in EOW1, although not exclusively feminine (some are masculine), are primarily so.  The Standing Liturgical Commission, which prepared the book, drew from the Bible and prayers and writings of saints to accomplish a more balanced approach.  Thus Isaiah 66:10-14, which personifies Jerusalem as a mother, has become Canticle E.  Thus we read Canticle Q, a prayer of St. Anselm of Canterbury (died 1109)  in which he addresses Jesus as a mother.  Thus we see generous use of the writings of Julian of Norwich.  And thus we read the following blessing:

May the blessing of the God of Abraham and Sarah, and of Jesus Christ born of our sister Mary, and of the Holy Spirit, who broods over the world as a mother over her children be upon you and remain with you always.  Amen.

I found an insightful comment on page 13:

All liturgy is based upon a set of agreed-upon assumptions.  Whenever those assumptions are altered, there is the possibility of congregational reaction ranging from confusion to anger.

Masculine imagery for God is among the most traditional assumptions regarding Christian liturgy.  Yet feminine images for God occur also in the Bible, so they too are part of the range of Christian tradition reaching back to antiquity.  Patriarchal thinking, however, has ignored and minimized these for thousands of years.

The expansion of the range of prayers in EOW1 pertains to other issues also.   For example, the 1979 BCP version of the Great Litany  contains one petition for the President of the United States and all in positions of authority.  The EOW1 version of the Great Litany has three petitions.  We still pray for the President and all in authority, of course.  But we add the Mayor, the Governor, our state legislators, the members of Congress, and the Justices of the U.S. Supreme Court.

One of the most graceful ways to become more inclusive is to mention women from the Bible; EOW1 does this well.  In Eucharistic Prayer 1, for example, the celebrant says:

Through Abraham and Sarah

you called us into covenant with you.

–page 58

Did not Sarah play a vital role in salvation history?  I think that she did.

If EOW1 is a sign of what the next U.S. BCP will resemble, I anticipate that volume confidently.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 26, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICHT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET

THE FEAST OF SAINT PASCHASIUS RADBERTUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ROBERT HUNT, FIRST ANGLICAN CHAPLAIN AT JAMESTOWN, VIRGINIA

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Humility, Judgment, Mercy, and Enemies   1 comment

house-of-naaman-damascus

Above:  House of Naaman, Damascus, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

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

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 and Psalm 30

or 

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

then 

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

Luke 10:1-11, 16-20

The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 9, Year A:

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

Proper 9, Year B:

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

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

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

Prayer of Confession:

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

Prayer of Dedication:

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

A Prayer for Our Enemies:

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

Prayers for Forgiveness, Mercy, and Trust:

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

A Prayer for Proper Priorities:

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

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

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

A Prayer for Humility:

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

2 Kings 5:

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

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

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

Isaiah 66:

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

Galatians 6:

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

Luke 10:

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

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

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

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

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I propose, O reader, a thought experiment:

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

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

The main intertwining threads I choose to follow today are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

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

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

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