Archive for the ‘Jude’ Category

Jealousy   1 comment

Above:   Cain and Abel

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 4:1-16

Psalm 7

Jude 8-13

Matthew 9:32-34

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In Psalm 7 the author seeks divine protection from enemies.  In Genesis 4 Cain kill Abel.  God exiles the murderer yet protects him.

Genesis 4, unlike a host of exegetes dating from antiquity to the present day, does not explain why God favored one sacrifice over the other.  The story does, however, make clear the defective character of Cain, who acted out of, among other motivations, jealousy.  Genesis 4:7 offers a vivid image of sin as, in the words of the Everett Fox translation, “a crouching demon” by an entrance.  One has the option of not giving into temptation, of course, as the text tells us.

Jealousy leads to many sins, especially of one passion or another.  Out of jealousy one might accuse an agent of God (Jesus, for example) of being in league with evil (as in Matthew 9:32-34).  Jealousy can also lead to spiritual blindness, consciously or otherwise.  Either way, one commits serious error.

May we, by grace, rule over the metaphorical demon of sin crouching by the door, waiting to ambush us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LEONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITING, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/devotion-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-ackerman/

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This is post #500 of ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS.

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The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part VII   1 comment

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Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Job 36:14-37:24

Psalm 11

Matthew 8:5-13 or John 4:43-54

Jude 1-25 or Hebrews 13:9-14, 17-25

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Elihu’s speeches contain much that sounds pious.  Job 36:24-37:24 supports this generalization.  We read, among other things, that we should praise God and that divine grandeur exceeds our knowledge of it.  Elihu even sounds like God in Job 38-41, the “I am God and you are not” speeches:

Mediate on God’s wonders.

Can you tell how God controls them

or how his clouds make the lightning flash?

Can you tell how he holds the clouds in balance:

a miracle of consummate skill?

When your clothes are hot to your body

and the earth lies still under the south wind,

can you help him to spread the vault of heaven,

Or temper the mirror of cast metal?

–Job 37:14b-18, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

I prefer the God of Job 42:7-8 to the God of Job 38-41, for the former acknowledges that Job was correct.  For some reason I have really noticed Job 43:7-8 during the preparation for this series of posts, despite the many times I have read that passage over the years.  Part of the wonder of scripture is that one can always find something one has missed.

Among my favorite aspects of Judaism is the practice of arguing faithfully with God.  The character of Job exemplifies that well.  He is, contrary to an inaccurate cliché, impatient and argumentative–justifiably, I contend.  Yes, we can take refuge in God, but this does preclude a good argument now and then.

We should repent of and express remorse for our sins, as grace helps us to recognize them.  As we do so, we ought to follow the advice of Hebrews 13:13-15 and follow Jesus, who healed people around whom he was not present, into the world as pilgrims each day.  We might suffer reproach, but the servant is not greater than the master.  Sometimes we will suffer for reasons neither we nor others understand, or because of the sins of others.  That is simply reality.

One lesson to learn from the Book of Job is the difference between speaking the truth in love and blaming the victim.  Unfortunately, recognizing that distinction can prove difficult in the moment.  May we, by grace, prove innocent of being like Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, Zophar the Naamathite, and Elihu, who were sincerely wrong and not helpful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 19:  THE SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAPHNUTIUS THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UPPER THEBAID

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNA, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATIENS OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/devotion-for-the-last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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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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Godly Desires   1 comment

probably_valentin_de_boulogne_-_saint_paul_writing_his_epistles_-_google_art_project

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples

and poured out your life with abundance.

Call us again to your banquet.

Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure,

and transform us into a people or righteousness and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 19:7-20 (Monday)

Amos 9:5-15 (Tuesday)

Psalm 34 (Both Days)

Jude 17-25 (Monday)

Philippians 3:13-4:1 (Tuesday)

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The troubles of the righteous are many:

but the Lord sets them free from them all.

The Lord guards every bone in the body of the righteous:

and so not one of them is broken.

Evil brings death to the wicked:

and those who hate the righteous are brought to ruin.

–Psalm 34:19-21, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Psalm 34 is a prayer of thanksgiving by one whom God had delivered from great difficulty.  Much of the text constitutes timeless truth, but I detect a level of optimism which many people from Jeremiah to Jesus might have called excessive.  I, as one who has studied Christian history, add to that list nearly two thousand years’ worth of suffering Christians, many of them martyrs, from St. Stephen to contemporary martyrs.

Nevertheless, the text does provide the unifying theme for this devotion:

Turn away from evil and do good:

seek peace and steadily pursue it.

–Verse 14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

The reading from Jude speaks of the duties of love.  Among these is practicing compassion, something one can do only if self does not occupy the throne of one’s life.  In that lesson we read also that there will be mockers who follow their godless desires.  That description fits the rape gang at Sodom in Genesis 19.  Lot, who offers his two virgin daughters to that gang, is also of dubious character.  The reading from Amos reminds us that divine favor does not function as a talisman protecting people from the consequences of their sins.  And St. Paul the Apostle, in Philippians, mentions the suffering of many of the faithful (including himself) and the different fates of the righteous and the unrighteous in the afterlife, thereby bringing the readings back around to Psalm 34, but with a more sober and realistic tone.

May we, following the Apostle’s advice, stand firm in the Lord, walking compassionately in the way of divine love and disregarding the humiliation which enemies of the cross of Christ heap upon those who are of our Lord and Savior.  And may we strive properly

toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

–Philippians 3:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-23-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Grace and Restoration   1 comment

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Above:  Design Drawing for a Stained-Glass Memorial Window with St. Peter’s Mother-in-Law for Sacred Heart Chapel in Carville, Lousiana

Created by J. & R. Lamb Studios

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/LAMB2006001918/)

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of all who look to you, Lord God,

and strengthen then our faith in your coming, that,

transformed by grace, we may walk in your way;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 29:17-24 (Monday)

Ezekiel 47:1-12 (Tuesday)

Zechariah 8:1-17 (Wednesday)

Psalm 42 (all days)

Acts 5:12-16 (Monday)

Jude 17-25 (Tuesday)

Matthew 8:14-17, 28-34 (Wednesday)

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 29:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/sixth-day-of-advent/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ezekiel 47:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/devotion-for-january-20-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

Zechariah 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-january-29-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/16/week-of-proper-21-monday-year-1/

Acts 5:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/eleventh-day-of-easter/

Jude:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/week-of-8-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/week-of-proper-3-saturday-year-2/

Matthew 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/week-of-proper-7-saturday-year-1/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/devotion-for-october-4-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/devotion-for-october-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Why are you so full of heaviness, O my soul,

and why are you so disquieted within me?

O put your trust in God;

for I will yet give him thanks,

who is the help of my countenance, and my God.

–Psalm 42:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The theme of restoration unites all these readings.

National restoration is one thread running through some of the lections.  The Babylonian Exile will come.  Before that Jerusalem will survive an Assyrian siege.  But Jerusalem will fall one day.  And restoration will follow.  As Gordon Matties wrote in the introduction to Ezekiel in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), God will deal with evil decisively, destroy the Temple and purify the land

polluted by Israel’s economic injustice, violence, and idolatry,

and only then

take residence again among the people.  (page 1154)

Thus restoration will be to a condition better than the previous one.  The strong arm of God will accomplish this.  And such extravagant grace will impose certain responsibilities upon the redeemed; they are to be a light to the nations, living for God’s glory and the benefit of others, not their own selfish desires.

Speaking of the glory of God and the benefit of others…..

Healings in the Bible restored the healed to wholeness in society.  The ritually unclean were pure again, the economically marginalized could cease from begging or avoid slavery, etc.  Yet sometimes the community, which defined itself in opposition to the marginalized, disapproved of the healing of the marginalized.  Who were they now that the marginalized person was in his right mind?  Pure compassion disrupted the status quo ante.  Such people should have heeded timeless advice (not yet written in these words at the time of the incident):

…keep yourselves in the love of God…..

–Jude 21a, The New Revised Standard Version

That advice merely rephrased an already ancient ethos.  That advice owed much to the Law of Moses, with its myriad rules regarding compassion for members of one’s community.  For how we think and treat those whom we can see indicates much about how we think of and behave toward God.  Those around us are the least of our Lord and Savior’s brothers and sisters; as we treat them, we do to him.

Those are challenging words, for we humans tend to like to think of ourselves as good people who do good things, especially when we are plotting or committing bad deeds.  A villain probably does not see a villain when he or she looks into a mirror.  Yet reality remains unchanged by human delusions.

Advent is about preparing for God to act.  When God acts God might overturn our apple cart and/or neutralize the pattern according to which we define ourselves.  Yes, grace can prove very upsetting and disturbing sometimes.  Every time it does so, that fact speaks ill of those who take offense, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY THOMAS SMART, ENGLISH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERRARD, ANGLICAN DEACONESS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF PORTUGAL, QUEEN

THE FEAST OF JOHN CENNICK, BRITISH MORAVIAN EVANGELIST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/03/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Universal Standard   1 comment

Above:  The Good Samaritan, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting 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 29:1-14

Psalm 50 (Morning)

Psalms 14 and 16 (Evening)

Jude 1-25

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Some Related Posts:

Jude:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/week-of-8-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/18/week-of-proper-3-saturday-year-2/

A Prayer for Compassion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/a-prayer-for-compassion/

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We read in Isaiah 29 that there is deliverance from judgment sometimes.  One of the poems seems to describe the deliverance of Jerusalem during the reign of King Hezekiah (2 Kings 18-19).  Yet the same city has faced destruction more than once since then.

Destruction was also on Jude’s mind.  This time it was spiritual and personal doom for those who refused to trust God and obey divine commandments.  This destruction could also be communal if the community did not remain faithful.

My sense of history prompts me to become uneasy with regard to those who would go to any extreme to rid the community of alleged heretics and false teachers.  I recall reading and hearing of instances of heretics burned at the stake or tortured into recanting.  Inquisitions are not Christlike.  And those who disagree with us are not wrong because they disagree with us; we are not necessarily correct in all our opinions.  Many of our standards of right and wrong are culturally-conditioned, so slavery in the Antebellum United States was acceptable in the theology of many professing Christians.  That reality functioned as an indictment of such theologies.

There is one universal standard.  That is love, as God has demonstrated it.  New Testament authors wrote of the Law of Love, an idea they found in the Old Testament.  Maintaining correct Christology, essential to Christianity, must occur in the context of living compassionately.  We ought not proclaim the love of Christ with our words and belie it with our deeds.  Part of avoiding rank hypocrisy is surrendering ourselves to the mystery that is God and leaving judgment there. May we do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF OCTAVIUS HADFIELD, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WELLINGTON

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http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted August 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah I: 1-39, Jude, Psalm 14, Psalm 50

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The Faithfulness of God   1 comment

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

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 19:15-29 (An American Translation):

When dawn appeared, the angels urged Lot on saying,

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

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

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

Lot said to them,

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

The LORD said to him,

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

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

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

Lot’s Wife Pillar, Mount Sodom, Israel

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

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

Psalm 26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.

Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully before you.

I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

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

that I may go in procession round your altar,

Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.

Do not sweep me away with sinners,

nor my life with those who thirst for blood,

10 Whose hands are full of evil plots,

and their right hand full of bribes.

11 As for me, I will live with integrity;

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

12 My foot stands on level ground;

in the full assembly I will bless the LORD.

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

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

Save us, sir!  We are lost!

And he said to them,

Why are you afraid?  You have so little faith!

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

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

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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One of the challenges of following a lectionary can be identifying the common theme present in two or more readings from different parts of the Bible.  After consulting commentaries and pondering all that I have read in the readings and the commentaries, I have found the common thread:  Faithfulness to God is the path to life.  This faithfulness needs only to be present.  However, as Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is spiritual death.  The wages of sin can also be physical death, and the punishment flows from the sin itself.  In other words, we reap what we sow.  God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

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

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