Archive for the ‘Jonah’ Category

The Good Society   1 comment

Lot and His Daughters

Above:   Lot and His Daughters, by Lucas van Leyden

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-31 (Monday)

Zechariah 7:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 50 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (Monday)

Jude 5-21 (Tuesday)

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“When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast your lot in with adulterers.

You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

You are always speaking evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

–Psalm 50:18-21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Law of Moses teaches that, among other things:

  1. We humans depend on God for everything,
  2. We depend on each other also,
  3. We have no right to exploit each other,
  4. We are responsible to each other, and
  5. We are responsible for each other.

Thus hospitality is a great virtue, for it can make the difference between someone coming to harm or avoiding harm, as well as the difference between someone dying or living.

My summary of the forbidden behaviors in these days’ readings is that they are generally activities that harm others.  I note that, in post-exilic zeal to obey the Law of Moses, many people went too far with regard to the treatment of foreigners.  The Book of Jonah pushes back against such excesses.  The Book of Ruth, in which a Moabite woman marries a Hebrew man and becomes an ancestor of King David, is probably another protest against such zealousness-turned-xenophobia, such as that praised in Nehemiah 13:1.

As for homosexual behavior (as opposed to homosexuality as a sexual preference, an understanding which did not exist until recent centuries), Jude 7 is the only verse in the Bible to make explicit the link between homosexual conduct and the story of Sodom in Genesis 19.  In that chapter Lot, who has lived in the city since Genesis 13, presumably knows his neighbors well enough to understand what they like.  Lot has taken in two angels.  A mob gathers outside his door and demands that he send them outside to that they can gang rape the angels.  Lot refuses the demands and offers to send his two virgin daughters out instead.  (Bad father!)  Fortunately for Lot’s daughters, the mob is not interested and the angels have a plan to save Lot and his family from the imminent destruction of the city.  In the context of Genesis 19 the planned sexual activity is rape, not anything consensual; may nobody miss that point.  The standard Biblical condemnations of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are like those in Ezekiel 16:48-50 and 3 Maccabees 2:5-6, where one reads that the cities’ sins were notorious and the people were arrogant and brazen in their iniquity.  Ezekiel 16 adds to that description the neglect of the poor and the hungry–a lack of hospitality.

Zechariah 7:8-14 states that the pre-exilic Kingdoms of Israel and Judah violated the basic requirements of the Law of Moses, and paid the price.  The societies, generally speaking, did not administer true justice and act kindly and compassionately.  No, it oppressed widows, orphans, the poor, and resident aliens.  The societies were unrepentant, and divine patience ran out.

Society is people.  It shapes its members, who also influence it.  May we–you, O reader, and I–influence society for the better–to care for the vulnerable, to resist bullying and corruption, to favor kindness and compassion, and to seek and find the proper balance between individual and collective responsibility.  May we eschew bigotry in all forms, for we have a divine mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  May we seek to love God and each other fully, manifesting respect for the image of God in each other, seeking to build each other up, for that is not only the path to the common good but is also godly.

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-and-tuesday-after-proper-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Call to Repent   1 comment

Jonah Preaching to the Ninevites

Above:   Jonah Preaching to the Ninevites, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, overflowing with mercy and compassion,

you lead back to yourself all those who go astray.

Preserve your people in your loving care,

that we may reject whatever is contrary to you

and may follow all things that sustain our life in

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Jonah 3:1-10

Psalm 73

2 Peter 3:8-13

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When my mind became embittered,

I was sorely wounded in my heart.

–Psalm 73:21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To alter a familiar quote slightly, I have resembled that remark.  So did the authors of many of the Psalms, such as number 137:

Remember the day of Jerusalem, O LORD, against the people of Edom,

who said, “Down with it! down with it! even to the ground!”

O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,

happy the one who pays you back for what you have done to us!

Happy shall he be who takes your little ones,

and dashes them against the rock!

–Psalm 137:7-9, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

That remark from Psalm 73 also described Jonah, a fictional and satirical character who wanted to see the great enemy of his nation destroyed by God, not to repent–to turn around, literally.  (Read Chapters 1 and 2.)  He was the most reluctant of prophets.  Jonah did not understand that, in the words of 2 Peter 3:9b,

It is not his [God’s] will that any should be lost, but that all should come to repentance.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

The rest of the story is that Jonah completed his mission successfully, against his will and to his consternation.  (Read Chapter 4.)  He went off to sulk and became fond of a plant that provided shade.  God killed the plant, making Jonah even more unhappy.  Then God chastised him for caring about the plant yet not the people of Nineveh.

That is how the book ends–on an ambiguous note.  The story invites us to ask ourselves if we are like Jonah and tells us, if we are, to repent.  Not all of us will, unfortunately, but at least we have the opportunity to do so.  That is evidence of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/devotion-for-tuesday-after-proper-19-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Comfort and Discomfort with Divine Love   1 comment

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Above:   The Baptism of the Eunuch, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful Lord God, we do not presume to come before you

trusting in our own righteousness,

but in your great and abundant mercies.

Revive our faith, we pray; heal our bodies, and mend our communities,

that we may evermore dwell in your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Jonah 4:1-11

Psalm 5

Acts 8:26-40

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The lection from the Book of Jonah challenges audiences.  The main character is a fool who resists God’s call on a part of his life–to give Assyria, the archenemy, one last chance to repent.  Jonah, of course, cannot flee from God (Who can?), and he eventually accepts the vocation reluctantly.  He succeeds, much to his dismay.  He, like the author of Psalm 5, wants the evil to suffer for their sins.  Yet God loves the Assyrians also, and chastises Jonah.  The Book of Jonah.  The Book of Jonah ends without revealing the reluctant prophet’s reply to God.  The ambiguous ending of the great work of religious satire challenges all of us who like to think of ourselves as godly while clinging to resentments.

St. Philip the Deacon (not the apostle) became an instrument in the life of the Ethiopian eunuch, who desired to understand the Bible yet lacked a good teacher.  St. Philip, unlike Jonah, answered the call of God obediently and readily.  To do just that is a challenge for each of us.  Will we answer and act affirmatively or will we prefer that those hostile to us perish than repent?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 29, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEMIMA THOMPSON LUKE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND JAMES EDMESTON, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BERNHARDT SEVERIN INGEMANN, DANISH LUTHERAN AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD HOPPER, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CASSIAN, DESERT FATHER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/02/29/devotion-for-monday-after-proper-4-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Love of God for Everyone   1 comment

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Above:  The Prophets Jeremiah, Jonah, Isaiah, and Habakkuk, by John Singer Sargent

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/det/item/det1994002776/pp/)

Reproduction Number = LC-D416-497

Copyright Claimant = Detroit Publishing Company

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The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God,

the strength of those who believe and the hope of those who doubt,

may we, who have not seen,

have faith in you and receive the fullness of Christ’s blessing,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 32

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 6:36-40 (9th Day)

Jonah 1:1-17 (10th Day)

Jonah 2:1-10 (11th Day)

Psalm 114 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 15:12-20 (9th Day)

1 Corinthians 15:19-28 (10th Day)

Matthew 12:38-42 (11th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Judges 6:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/devotion-for-july-10-and-11-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Jonah:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-1/

1 Corinthians 15:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/23/week-of-proper-19-thursday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-19-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/proper-1-year-c/

Matthew 12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/03/week-of-proper-11-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/week-of-proper-11-monday-year-2/

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Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,

at the presence of the God of Jacob,

who turned the hard rock into a pool of water

and flint-stone into a flowing spring.

–Psalm 114:7-8, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The Book of Jonah is a satire of and a protest against narrow, exclusivist excesses of Post-Exilic Judaism.  Many people recognized that rampant societal sinfulness had led to national ruin, thus certain individuals overcorrected by becoming too narrow and legalistic.  The Book of Jonah, a scathing criticism of that mentality, teaches that God cares for everyone, including traditional enemies of the Hebrew people.

The message of divine forgiveness and human repentance is for all people, not that everyone will respond affirmatively.  But it is the gateway to eternal life for all who respond favorably and remain faithful to God, who keeps promises.  And, just as God helped Gideon to defend the people and, in the story, made Jonah the means of grace (despite himself) to the people of Nineveh, Jesus (via the Resurrection) is the means by which we have a Christian faith that is not in vain.  And we are not supposed to “sit on” this message.  No, we have a missionary mandate and instructions to help people deepen the Christian faith they have already.  We might not like many of the people to whom God sends us, but God cares deeply about them too.  May we, therefore, have a positive attitude about them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

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

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

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

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/14/devotion-for-the-ninth-tenth-and-eleventh-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted January 20, 2014 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 15, Jonah, Judges, Matthew 12, Psalm 114

Tagged with , , , ,

Boundaries, Inclusion, and Exclusion   1 comment

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Above:  Tomb of Jonah, Nineveh, Between 1950 and 1977

Image Creator = Matson Photo Service

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2010000417/PP/)

Reproduction Number = LC-M305- SL16-4828

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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:

Jonah 3:1-10 (2nd Day)

Jonah 4:1-11 (3rd Day)

Psalm 51 (Both Days)

Romans 1:1-7 (2nd Day)

Romans 1:8-17 (3rd Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Jonah 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/seventh-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

Jonah 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/week-of-proper-22-wednesday-year-1/

Romans 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/12/devotion-for-january-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Give me again the joy of your salvation

and sustain me with your gracious spirit;

Then I shall teach your ways to the wicked

and sinners shall return to you.

–Psalm 51:13-14, Common Worship (2000)

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Boundaries play crucial roles in human societies and social systems.  Who is domestic and who is foreign?  Who is godly and who is ungodly?  Who is saved and who is damned?  Such questions obsess many people and are frequently important.  Yet, I suspect, they are not as vital as many people think.  And, I also suspect, they are more important than other people believe.

My generally liberal tendencies lead me to seek to include people more often than I exclude them.  Yet I affirm that some boundaries exist for good reasons.  Thus I acknowledge the validity of theological definitions.  All of us are heretics to varying degrees; some of us are more orthodox than not.  It is vital that all of us affirm certain theological boundaries or lose cohesiveness in our church bodies.  If we lose this cohesiveness we might as well become Unitarian Universalists, affirming a range of theological systems from Buddhisms to Humanism.

The character of Jonah, a satiric figure representing the worst elements of post-Exilic Judaism, was overly attached to the idea of Nineveh as an enemy.  His idol was the unwillingness to see a foe cross cross from one side of the godly-ungodly line to the other or to facilitate that process.  But would it really have been bad for such a thing to occur in real life?

Who is in?  Who is out?  These questions mater so much for s many of us because of the tendency to identify oneself in opposition to another or others.  Thus the prospect of an enemy becoming an ally or a notoriously sinful person repenting might terrify one.  It should not do this, but it does under some circumstances.  No, we ought to rejoice in these cases.  It is good to have an ally, not an enemy, is it not?  And for one to repent and turn toward God is certainly wonderful.

St. Paul the Apostle created great controversy by welcoming Gentiles into what was still a small Jewish sect without insisting that they become Jews.  Thus he did more than blur the line separating Jews from Gentiles; he announced that Jesus had erased it.  This theology created much discomfort for a large number of observant Jews steeped in a certain understanding of their identity.

The proper standard by which to measure our boundaries, St. Paul said, is Jesus.  He was correct.  So, with that standard in mind, I wonder how well many contemporary boundaries fare.  Whatever we do, may we never exclude those whom God includes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF HERBERT F. BROKERING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT LIEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIBRORD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/devotion-for-the-second-and-third-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace That Violates Conventions   1 comment

Above:  Christ in the House of Martha and Mary, by Johannes Vermeer

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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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Jonah 3:1-10 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time:

Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it what I tell you.

Jonah went at once to Nineveh in accordance with the LORD’s command.

Nineveh was an enormously large city a three days’ walk across.  Jonah started out  and made his way into the city the distance of one day’s walk, and proclaimed:

Forty days more, and Nineveh will be overthrown!

The people of Nineveh believed God.  They proclaimed a fast, and great and small alike put on sackcloth.  When the news reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his robe, put on sackcloth, and sat in ashes.  And he had the word cried through Nineveh:

By decree of the king, and his nobles:  No man or beast–of flock and heard–shall taste anything!  They shall not graze, and they shall not drink water!  They shall be covered with sackcloth–man and beast–and shall cry mightily to God.  Let everyone turn back from his evil ways and from the injustice of which he is guilty.  Who knows but that God may turn and relent?  He may turn back from His wrath, so that we do not perish.

God saw what they did, how they were turning back from their evil ways.  And God renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon them, and did not carry it out.

Psalm 6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger,

do not punish me in your wrath.

2  Have pity on me, LORD, for I am weak;

heal me, LORD, for my bones are racked.

3  My spirit shakes with terror;

how long, O LORD, how long?

4  Turn, O LORD, and deliver me;

save me for your mercy’s sake?

5  For in death no one remembers you;

and who will give you thanks in the grave?

6  I grow weary because of my groaning;

every night I drench my bed

and flood my couch with tears.

7  My eyes are wasted with grief

and worn away because of all my enemies.

8  Depart from me, all evildoers,

for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.

9  The LORD has heard my supplication;

the LORD accepts my prayer.

10  All my enemies shall be confounded and quake with fear;

they shall turn back and suddenly be put to shame.

Luke 10:38-42 (The Jerusalem Bible):

In the course of their journey he came to a village, and a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house.  She had a sister called Mary, who sat down at the Lord’s feet and listened to him speaking.  Now Martha who was distracted with all the serving said,

Lord, do you not care that my sister is leaving me to do the serving all by myself?  Please tell her to help me.

But the Lord answered:

Martha, Martha,

he said,

you worry and fret about so many things, and yet few are needed, indeed only one.  It is Mary who has chosen the better part; it is not to be taken from her.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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A Related Post:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-sts-mary-and-martha-of-bethany-friends-of-jesus-july-29/

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It is imperative to remember that Jesus, in Luke 10:38-42, was on his way to Jerusalem and the events of Holy Week.  So there he is, visiting friends in Bethany.  Martha was the responsible older sister tending to household chores, such as meal production.  This was a function of hospitality, a great social value in that society.  May we be slow to condemn her, then, for she meant well.

It is conceivable that Jesus did not tell everyone he knew all that was on his mind at any given moment.  Martha, in any case, did not know what was about to happen to her friend Jesus.  She probably wanted to offer the best meal possible for him.  And Mary, her younger sister, was not helping.  Instead, Mary was listening to Jesus, much as a male disciple would.  She had chosen the better part, the longer-lasting part.

Mary of Bethany, a woman, received a grace her society usually extended to men, and Jesus approved of her course of action.  God had Jonah pronounce judgment on Nineveh in Jonah 3 then witnessed widespread repentance and relented.  Women act like men and God forgives repentant Gentile hostiles.  There is nothing like grace to overturn the apple cart.

How do we respond or react when we witness and become aware of these unexpected movements of grace?  May we not begrudge grace.  Rather, may we embrace and welcome it.  May we not worry and fret about matters of lesser importance, either.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF THE EARLY ABBOTS OF CLUNY

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH WARRILOW, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-1/

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Who Is My Neighbor? Who Is Your Neighbor?   1 comment

Above:  Gustave Dore’s engraving of Jonah at the end Chapter 2

(The Dore engravings are in the public domain.)

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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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Jonah 1:1-2:1, 11 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The Word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai:

Go at once to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim judgment upon it; for their Wickedness has come before Me.

Jonah, however, started out to flee to Tarshish from the LORD’s service.  He went down to Joppa and found a ship going to Tarshish.  He paid the fare and went aboard to sail with the others to Tarshish, away from the service of the LORD.

But the LORD cast a mighty wind upon the sea, and such a great tempest came upon the sea that the ship was in danger of breaking up.  In their fright, the sailors cried out, each to his own god; and they flung the ship’s cargo overboard to make it lighter for them.  Jonah, meanwhile, had gone down into the hold of the vessel where he lay down and fell asleep.

How can you be sleeping so soundly!  Up, call upon your god!  Perhaps the god will be kind to us and we will not perish.

The men said to one another,

Let us cast lots and find out on whose account this misfortune has come upon us.

They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.  They said to him,

Tell us, you who have brought this misfortune upon us, what is your business? Where have you come from?  What is your country, and of what people are you?

He replied,

I am a Hebrew.  I worship the LORD, the God of Heaven, who made both sea and land.

The men were greatly terrified, and they asked him,

What have you done?

And when the men learned that that he was fleeing from the service of the LORD–for so he told them–they said to him,

What must we do to make the sea calm around us?

For the sea was growing more and more stormy.  He answered,

Heave me overboard, and the sea will calm down for you; for I know that this terrible storm came upon you on my account.

Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to regain the shore, but could not, for the sea was growing more and more stormy about them.  Then they cried out to the LORD:

Oh, please, LORD, do not let us perish on account of this man’s life.  Do not hold us guilty of killing an innocent person!  For You, O LORD, by Your will, have brought this about.

And they heaved Jonah overboard, and the sea stopped raging.

The men feared the LORD greatly; they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and they made vows.

The LORD provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah; and Jonah remained in the fish’s belly three days and three nights.

The LORD commanded the fish, and it spewed Jonah out upon dry land.

Psalm 130 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD;

LORD, hear my voice;

let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

2  If you , LORD, were to note what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

3  For there is forgiveness with you;

therefore you shall be feared.

4  I wait for the LORD; my soul waits for him;

in his word is my hope.

5  My soul waits for the LORD,

more than watchmen in the morning,

more than watchmen in the morning.

6  O Israel, wait for the LORD,

for with the LORD there is mercy;

7  With him there is plenteous redemption,

and he shall redeem Israel from all their sins.

Luke 10:25-37 (The Jerusalem Bible):

There was a lawyer who, to disconcert him [Jesus], stood up and said to him,

Master, what must I do to inherit eternal life?

He said to him,

What is written in the Law”  What do you read there?

He replied,

You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength, and with all your mind, and your neighbour as yourself.

Jesus said,

You have answered right; do this and life is yours.

Old Jerusalem-Jericho Road

Image Source = he.wiki

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:OldRoadFromJerusalemToJericho.jpg)

But the man was anxious to justify himself and said to Jesus,

And who is my neighbor?

Jesus replied,

A man was once on his way down from Jerusalem to Jericho and fell into the hands of brigands; they took all he had, beat him and then made off, leaving him half dead.  Now a priest happened to be travelling down the same road, but when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side.  In the same way a Levite who came to the place saw him, and passed by on the other side.

Rembrandt Van Rijn’s Painting of the Good Samaritan

(Also in the Public Domain)

But a Samaritan traveller who came upon him was moved with compassion when he saw him.  He went up and bandaged his wounds, pouring oil and wine on them.  He then lifted him on to his mount, carried him to the inn and looked after him.  Next day, he took out two denarii and handed them to the innkeeper.  ”Look after him,” he said, “and on my way back I will make good any extra expense you have.”

Which of these three, do you think, proved himself a neighbour to the man who fell into the brigands’ hands?

He replied,

The one who took pity on him.

Jesus said to him,

Go, and do the same yourself.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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I learn from Newtonian physics that, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  This rule explains much of history, as well.  Thus it came to pass that, in the Persian period of Judean history, a measure of exclusivism and hyper-legalism characterized much of Palestinian Judaism.  This was the opposite of pre-Exilic laxity.

The Book of Jonah, a work of religious fiction, contains much truth.  It is a satire on Persian period exclusivism and hyper-legalism.  On its face it is set in when there were still two Jewish kingdoms and an Assyrian Empire.  God tells Jonah to pronounce judgment on Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire.  As the narrative progresses we learn that the judgment leads to repentance then God relenting, but let us return to Chapter 1.  Jonah does not want to travel to Nineveh and pronounce judgment, so he attempts unsuccessfully to flee from God and the mission God has for him.

I will return to the story of Jonah in Chapters 1 and 2 after I deal with the Parable of the Good Samaritan.

The Jeusalem-Jericho road in Jesus’ day was a dangerous, meandering road over terrain which dropped greatly in elevation relative to sea level (from 2,300 feet above sea level to 1,300 feet below that standard) in less than twenty miles.  Thus it provided many natural hiding places for robbers to hide.  Sometimes a thief played dead while his fellow brigands waited for a kind-hearted person to stop.  So the safest way to travel this road was as part of a group.  Many commentators have remarked about how foolish the man was to travel this road alone.  Yet, if he was a fool, the same criticism ought to apply to the priest, the Levite, and the Samaritan traveler, too.

Yet a Samaritan–a somewhat successful one at that–who knew a certain innkeeper helped the man.  A Samaritan, a member of a despised group, acted out of compassion and placed himself at risk for someone he did not know.  He acted as a neighbor.

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., said in his final speech that the priest and Levite were too afraid to help the man.  (A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings of Martin Luther, King, Jr., edited by James M. Washington, 1986, pages 284-285)  He was correct in this analysis.  They were afraid of criminals, justifiably.  (Yet why were they traveling alone?  Am I overanalyzing this parable?)  They also feared the inability to fulfill the Temple functions to which they had devoted their lives.  But what about the man’s life?

Jesus, by making his hero a Samaritan, scandalized many listeners.  Samaritans were heretics and half-breeds.  Many orthodox Palestinian Jews of our Lord’s time despised Samaritans en masse.  So, to grasp the full flavor of the parable, replace the word “Samaritan” with something else.  Many Europeans harbor prejudices against Gypsies, so imagine the Parable of the Good Gypsy.  It is popular in many U.S. political circles to despise immigrants (especially illegal ones) and people of obviously foreign extraction.  So imagine the Parable of the Good Hispanic, the Good Latino, or the Good Illegal Immigrant.  Islamophobia is on the rise in West, so imagine the Parable of the Good Muslim.  During World War II in the United States the Parable of the Good Japanese-American would have angered many people.  My point is this:  Every person, including one who belongs to a despised group, is my neighbor–and yours, too.  Jesus says to act like a good neighbor.

What did Jonah fear?  Perhaps he feared the loss of identity.  Assyria was a great and feared foe of the Kingdom of Israel.  Imagine a twentieth-century retelling of the Book of Jonah.  God tells Jonah, an American, to travel to Moscow, capital city of the Soviet Union, to pronounce judgment and grant the Soviets a chance to avoid divine retribution.  Would not some professing American Christians, including Jonah, have said, “Let them burn”?

Who are we without our enemies?  How do we understand ourselves in the absence of the others, those who are unlike us?  Are we still good guys when the bad guys repent?  This delicate politics of identity plays a part in the Parable of the Good Samaritan, too.  Yet Jesus offers a new identity:  neighbor.  May we embrace it.  And, when Jesus makes us uncomfortable, may we embrace that discomfort, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 25, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARK THE EVANGELIST, MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-1/

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