Archive for the ‘James’ Category

God’s Inscrutable Grace   1 comment

cain-and-abel

Above:  Cain and Abel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 4:1-16 or Isaiah 63:(7-9) 10-19

Psalm 101

John 8:31-47

Galatians 5:(1) 2-12 (13-25) or James 5:1-6 (7-10) 11-12 (13-20)

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Divine judgment and mercy share the stage with repentance in these readings.  We who sin (that is, all of us) make ourselves slaves to sin, but Christ Jesus liberates us from that bondage and empowers us to become people who practice the Golden Rule–to be good neighbors, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, et cetera.  Christ breaks down spiritual barriers yet many of us become psychologically attached to them.  In so doing we harm others as well as ourselves.

Much of Psalm 101 seems holy and unobjectionable:

I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;

I will not set before my eyes anything that is base.

–Verses 2b-3a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So far, so good.  But then we read verse 8:

Morning by morning I will destroy

all the wicked in the land,

cutting off all evildoers

from the city of the LORD.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That psalm is in the voice of the king.  Given the human tendency to mistake one’s point of view for that of God, is smiting all the (alleged) evildoers morally sound public policy?

A clue to that psalm’s point of view comes from Genesis 4, in which we read that sin is like a predator:

And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.

–Genesis 4:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

This quote, from God to Cain, comes from after God has rejected his sacrifice of “fruit of the soil” in favor of Abel’s sacrifice of “the choicest of the firstlings of his flock” and before Cain kills Abel.  I know of attempts to explain God’s rejection of Cain’s sacrifice by finding fault with him.  The text is silent on that point; God never explains the reason for the rejection.  Nevertheless, we read of how badly Cain took the rejection, of how he reacted (violently), of how he expressed penitence and repented, and of how God simultaneously punished and acted mercifully toward the murderer.

The irony is pungent:  The man who could not tolerate God’s inscrutable grace now benefits from it.

The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014), page 17

Cain, spared the death penalty, must relocate and enjoys divine protection.

“God’s inscrutable grace” frequently frustrates and offends us, does it not?  Is is not fair, we might argue.  No, it is not fair; it is grace, and it protects even those who cannot tolerate it.  “God’s inscrutable grace” breaks down barriers that grant us psychological comfort and challenges to lay aside such idols.  It liberates us to become the people we ought to be.  “God’s inscrutable grace” frees us to glorify and to enjoy God forever.  It liberates us to lay aside vendettas and grudges and enables us to love our neighbors (and relatives) as we love ourselves (or ought to love ourselves).

Will we lay aside our false senses of justice and embrace “God’s inscrutable grace”?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-d/

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The Sin of Favoritism   1 comment

ezra-reads-the-law-to-the-people

Above:  Ezra Reads the Law to the People, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 10:12-22 or Nehemiah 9:1-38

Psalm 6

John 7:1-13

Galatians 2:1-14 (15-21) or Galatians 1:1-24 or James 1:1-16 (17-27) or James 1:17-2:10 (2:11-13)

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The life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was under threat in John 7.  He was, according to certain critics, a blasphemer.  Those critics knew Leviticus 24:10-23 well; the punishment for blasphemy is death (by stoning).  Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul the Apostle, thought that he was acting righteously when he stood by during the death of at least one Christian.  Then he learned that he was wrong, that God showed no partiality or favoritism among the faithful, whether Jew or Gentile.

That caution against spiritual arrogance–sometimes expressed violently–is evident also in James 1 and 2.  There we read that we have divine instructions to be impartial.  To treat a prominent or wealthy person better than a poor person is impious, we read.  The text also reminds us of the obligation to treat the poor and the vulnerable justly and with respect, thereby echoing Deuteronomy 10.  Society and social institutions do, as a rule, favor the well-off and penalize the poor, do they not?  This is societal sin.

Societal remorse for and repentance of this point and others would be nice.  The scene in Nehemiah 9 follows the reading of the Law of Moses to Jews in Jerusalem after the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Many people, upon hearing what they should have been doing, felt guilty and wept.  Their leaders told them to rejoice in God (Nehemiah 8:9-12).  Then the people fasted and confessed their sins.  Next, in Chapter 10, they repented–turned their backs on their sins.

I want my society to express remorse for exploiting all vulnerable people, sometimes violently..  I want my society not to weep but to act to correct its foolish ways that harm the poor and all other vulnerable people.  I want other societies to do the same.  I want us to succeed in this great work, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-d/

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The Sin of Legalism   1 comment

christ-healing-the-paralytic-at-bethesda

Above:  Christ Healing the Paralytic at Bethesda, by Palma Giovane

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 57:1-21

Psalm 102

John 5:1-18

James 1:1-16 or Ephesians 2:11-22 or Galatians 1:1-24

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Penitence is related to repentance.  Frequently, in everyday vocabulary, they become interchangeable terms, but they are different.  To repent is to turn one’s back on sin–sin in general and a particular sin or set of sins.  The theological focus on Ash Wednesday and the season of Lent is repentance.

Timothy Matthew Slemmons has done an excellent job of selecting appropriate texts for Ash Wednesday while avoiding the usual suspects.

  1. We read in Isaiah 57 that Judah needs to repent of idolatry.  We also read that judgment will ensue, but that mercy will follow it.
  2. The penitence in Psalm 102 is individual.  In that text the consequences of the sins have caught up with the author, who is in distress and pleading for mercy.
  3. James 1 advises us to rejoice and to trust in God during times of trial, not to yield to temptation during them.  We read that Jesus breaks down barriers between us and God and among us.  Why, then, do many of us insist on maintaining and erecting barriers, especially for others?
  4. Galatians 1 informs us that Jesus liberates us to serve, enjoy, and glorify God.
  5. In John 5 we read of Jesus liberating  man from a physical disability and intangible, related problems.  Then, we read, some strict Sabbath keepers criticize the newly able-bodied man for carrying his bed roll on the Sabbath.  I detect misplaced priorities in the critics.

Each of us has much for which to be pentitent and much of which to repent.  At this time I choose to emphasize legalism, which is a thread in some of the readings.  Legalism, in some cases, has innocent and pious origins; one seeks to obey divine commandments.  Out of good intentions one goes astray and becomes a master nit picker lost amid the proverbial trees and unable to see the forest.  Rules become more important than compassion.  This might be especially likely to happen when one is a member of a recognizable minority defined by certain practices.  Creating neat categories, thereby defining oneself as set apart and others as unclean, for example, can become quite easily an open door to self-righteousness.  It is a sin against which to remain vigilant as one notices a variety of sins in one’s vicinity.

The list of sins I have not committed is long.  So is the list of sins of which I am guilty.  The former does not make up for the latter.  The fact that I have never robbed a liquor store speaks well of me yet does not deliver me from my sins and the consequences thereof; it does, however, testify to what Lutheran theology calls civic righteousness.  Although I have the right to condemn the robbing of liquor stores, I have no become self-righteous and legalistic toward those who have.  They and I stand before God guilty of many sins.  All of us need to be penitent and to repent.  All of us need the mercy of God and the merits of Jesus Christ.

I am no less prone to legalism than any other person is.  My inclination is to break down roadblocks to God, not to create or maintain them.  Nevertheless, I recognize the existence of certain categories and approve of them.  This is healthy to an extent.  But what if some of my categories are false? This is a thought I must ponder if I am to be a faithful Christian.  Am I marginalizing people God calls insiders?  Are you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ABRAHAM RITTER, U.S. MORAVIAN MERCHANT, HISTORIAN, MUSICIAN, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ERIK ROUTLEY, HYMN WRTIER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM DWIGHT PORTER BLISS, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND ECONOMIST; AND RICHARD THEODORE ELY, ECONOMIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/08/devotion-for-ash-wednesday-year-d/

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Trust in God   1 comment

Agony in the Garden

Above:   The Agony in the Garden, by El Greco

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people,

you are always ready to hear our cries.

Teach us to rely day and night on your care.

Inspire us to seek your enduring justice for all the suffering world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 25:2-22 (Monday)

1 Samuel 25:23-35 (Tuesday)

1 Samuel 25:36-42 (Wednesday)

Psalm 57 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 6:1-11 (Monday)

James 5:7-12 (Tuesday)

Luke 22:39-46 (Wednesday)

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Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful,

for I have taken refuge in you;

in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge

until this time of trouble has gone by.

–Psalm 57:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Yet sometimes suffering does happen.  Jesus goes on to die after Luke 22:39-46.  Furthermore, James 5:11 refers to Job.  In addition, much suffering of the innocent results from the actions of others.

Several of the assigned readings for these days speak of deferred yet certain divine justice.  The length of the delay might be relatively brief (as in 1 Samuel 25) or part of an eschatological plan.  Regardless of the duration of the wait, having patience can be quite difficult.  In Revelation 6:10-11 the impatience extends into the afterlife.  How much more difficult will patience be for us on this side of Heaven?

We must try to trust in God.  That is the meaning of belief in the Bible:  to trust.  We can strive for that goal on our own power, but can succeed only by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-24-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Overcoming the World   1 comment

Figs

Above:   Figs

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Benevolent, merciful God:

When we are empty, fill us.

When we are weak in faith, strengthen us.

When we are cold in love, warm us,

that we may love our neighbors and

serve them for the sake of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 1:5-17 (Monday)

Habakkuk 2:5-11 (Tuesday)

Habakkuk 2:12-20 (Wednesday)

Psalm 3 (All Days)

James 1:2-11 (Monday)

1 John 5:1-5, 13-21 (Tuesday)

Mark 11:12-14, 20-24 (Wednesday)

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LORD, how many adversaries I have!

how many there are who rise up against me!

How many there are who say of me,

“There is no help for him in his God.”

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me;

you are my glory, the one who lifts up my head.

–Psalm 3:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Earthly fortunes and military conquests are temporary, even if some are long-term.  Whatever material and financial assets we own, we cannot take them with us after we die.  History records that the Persian Empire conquered the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire and that the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great defeated the Persian Empire.  Furthermore, we know that successor empires of the Macedonian Empire competed with each other and fell to conquests in time.

There is God, whom no earthly power can conquer or come close to defeating.  We read at the end of John 16, shortly before the torture and execution of Jesus, these words placed in his mouth:

In the world you will have suffering.  But take heart!  I have conquered the world.

–Verse 3:3b, The Revised English Bible (1989)

We know by faith that Roman officials killed Jesus, but that a resurrection followed a few days later.  We also read the following in 1 John 5:

For to love God is to keep his commandments; and these are not burdensome, because every child of God overcomes the world.  Now, the victory by which the world is overcome is our faith, for who is victor over the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God.

–Verses 3-5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In the Biblical sense to believe in God is to trust in God.  Affirming a theological proposition intellectually is much easier than internalizing it and acting on it.  To settle for the former (mere intellectual assent) is to be like the barren fig tree of Mark 11.  Yes, the text of Mark 11 indicates that Jesus cursed a fig tree out of fig season, but out of season a healthy fig tree exhibits evidence of the ability to bear figs in season.  Furthermore, the context of Mark 11:12-14, 20-24, set during Holy Week and bookending the cleansing of the Temple, indicates that the story of the cursed fig tree pertains to Jesus’s displeasure with the management and operation of the Temple.

May we who claim to follow Jesus bear good fruits and otherwise show year-round evidence of our spiritual vitality in Christ.  May we trust in Jesus and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-22-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Individual and the Collective   1 comment

Christ and the Rich Young Ruler

Above:   Christ and the Rich Young Ruler, by Heinrich Hofmann

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world.

Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 6:8-14 (Monday)

Hosea 9-15 (Tuesday)

Hosea 12:2-14 (Wednesday)

Psalm 62 (All Days)

Revelation 3:14-22 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:16-22 (Wednesday)

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For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

He alone is my rock and salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

In God is my safety and honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

Put your trust in him always, people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

–Psalm 62:6-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The assigned readings for these three days, taken together, condemn the following:

  1. Collective hubris (Amos 6),
  2. Collective iniquity, especially economic injustice (Hosea 10 and 12, James 5),
  3. Collective iniquity, especially idolatry (Hosea 12),
  4. Collective lukewarmness in relation to God (Revelation 3), and
  5. Trusting in wealth, not God (James 5, Matthew 19).

One might notice that four of the five sins are collective and that the fifth sin has both collective and individual elements.  This is a partial list of sins, of course, but it is a fine beginning to one’s process of spiritual self-examination or another stage in that process.  Does one have hubris?  If so, that is a sin.  Does one participate in collective hubris?  If so, one needs to confess and to repent of that sin.  One can repeat those forms of questions for the remaining four items on the list above.

Protestantism, for all of its virtues, does place too much emphasis on the individual and too little stress on the collective elements of spiritual life.  May we strive to seek the proper balance between the two and succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-21-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Cleansing from Evil That Arises Within Ourselves, Part I   1 comment

goldcalf

Above:  The Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God our strength, without you we are weak and wayward creatures.

Protect us from all dangers that attack us from the outside,

and cleanse us from the outside,

and cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves,

that we may be preserved through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 32:1-14 (Thursday)

Exodus 32:15-35 (Friday)

Psalm 15 (Both Days)

James 1:1-8 (Thursday)

James 1:9-16 (Friday)

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Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may rest upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads an uncorrupt life

and does the thing that is right;

Who speaks the truth from the heart

and bears no deceit on the tongue;

Who does no evil to a friend

and pours no scorn on a neighbour;

In whose sight the wicked are not esteemed,

but who honours those who fear the Lord.

Whoever has sworn to a neighbour

and never goes back on that word;

Who does not lend money in hope of gain,

nor takes a bribe against the innocent;

Whoever does these things shall never fall.

–Psalm 15, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The theme of this post comes from the collect.  May God cleanse us from all evil that arises from within ourselves.  This evil manifests itself in many forms, such as greed, exploitation, needless violence, callousness to the lack of necessities, et cetera.  The author of the Letter of James encouraged people to endure doubt and temptation.  Doubts arise from within, and temptations come from many points of origin.  How one deals with temptations points to one’s inner life, however.

Today’s example of that principle comes from Exodus 32.  The purpose of the golden calf was to replace Moses, not God.  Moses had been away on the mountain so long that many people feared that they had lost their conduit to God.  That conduit was Moses.  He returned, of course, and was livid because of what he saw, as he should have been.  The slave mentality thrived in the recently liberated people.  Theology of God has changed from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, a fact which explains many otherwise confusing purposes and incidents.  I admit that reality while I affirm that the full revelation of God is the one we have received via Jesus of Nazareth, God incarnate, fully human and fully divine.  Yes, we humans use mortal and immortal intercessors–even in Christianity.  I have, for example, asked people I know to pray for me, family members, et cetera.  I have even asked Mother Mary to intercede.  (And I grew up as a good United Methodist boy!)  No, I do not need any intercessor apart from Jesus and the Holy Spirit, but I like the other intercessors also.

The Hebrews in Exodus 32 did not need Moses, any other mortal, a golden calf, or anything else to function as a conduit to God for them.  They needed no conduit at all.  No, they needed to approach God humbly as free people, not as slaves in their minds, murmuring and rebelling often.  From faithful confidence they would have gained endurance during difficult times.  Then they would have resisted temptations more easily.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARGARET E. SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/02/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-17-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted June 2, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 32, James, Psalm 15

Tagged with , ,