Archive for the ‘Leviticus 1-11’ Category

Showing Proper Reverence for God   1 comment

Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah

Above:  Annunciation of the Angel to Zechariah, by Domenico Ghirlandaio

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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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Malachi 1:1-14

Psalm 8

Luke 1:1-25

Hebrews 1:1-2:4

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O LORD, our Sovereign,

how majestic is your name in all the earth!

–Psalm 8:1a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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In Malachi 1 YHWH complains (via the prophet) that many people are taking their sacrifices lightly, offering unfit food and creatures in violations provided in the Torah.  (Consult Exodus 12:5 and 29:1 as well as Leviticus 1:3 and 10; 3:1; and 22:17-30 plus Deuteronomy 15:21 regarding animal sacrifices).  People in many lands honored God, but, in Persian-dominated Judea, where, of all places, that reverence should have been concentrated, many people were slacking off.

St. Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, certainly revered God.  The old man was a priest at the Temple at Jerusalem.  He and his wife, St. Elizabeth, the Gospel of Luke tells us,

were upright ad devout, blamelessly observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord.

–1:6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

In an echo of Abraham and Sarah (Genesis 17:15-22 and 18:1-15, each account coming from a different source), the elderly priest learned that he and his wife would become parents against all odds.  He was predictably dubious.  The prediction of a miracle and a marvel, to borrow language from Hebrews 2:4, came true.

Hebrews 2:3 provides a timeless warning against neglecting

such a great salvation

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985).

That salvation is the offer of God, who made the aged Abraham and Sarah parents and did the same for the elderly Sts. Zechariah and Elizabeth.  It is the offer of God, who chose St. Mary of Nazareth to become an instrument of the Incarnation.  It is the offer of God, the name of when many people all over the world honor.  May we revere God and strive, by grace, to offer our best, not our leftovers and spares in sacrifice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANNE HUTCHINSON, REBELLIOUS PURITAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HAMMOND, ENGLISH MORAVIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/19/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-d/

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A Consuming Fire, Part II   1 comment

Fire

Above:  Fire

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, ruler of all hearts,

you call us to obey you, and you favor us with true freedom.

Keep us faithful to the ways of your Son, that,

leaving behind all that hinders us,

we may steadfastly follow your paths,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 9:22-10:11 (Thursday)

2 Kings 1:1-16 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 32:15-27, 39-43 (Saturday)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 13:5-10 (Thursday)

Galatians 4:8-20 (Friday)

Luke 9:21-27 (Saturday)

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To Yahweh I say, “You are my Lord,

my happiness is in none of the sacred spirits of the earth.”

–Psalm 16:2-3a, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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St. Paul the Apostle was perplexed with the Galatian Church.  Many members of it had reverted to idolatry or to the Law of Moses, both of which he considered to be forms of spiritual slavery.  As he instructed the Corinthian Church, the proper course of action was to pass the test and remember that they carried Jesus Christ inside them.  In Christ, according to St. Paul, was liberation, although not to engage in negative activities, but to build up the faith community, and to pursue virtue (2 Corinthians 12:19-21).

The theme of rebelling against God unites these days’ readings.  Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, laid incense upon their fire pans in violation of divine instructions.  This constituted sacrilege and an attempt to control God.

Further, the sin of the two brothers was not simply that they went too far in their super-piety.  Rather, they acted in utter disregard for the deity.  God intended that the manifestation of His Presence would ignite the altar fire, marking His acceptance of His people’s devotion.  Their intent was for the divine fire to ignite their own pans; that is, they were attempting to arrogate control of the deity for themselves.

The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), page 216

Divine fire consumed the two priests.

Disregard for God was present in the population as a whole.  Idolatry and arrogance were difficult habits to break.  This was true in Biblical times, as in the days of Elisha.  It was true in the time that Jesus of Nazareth walked the face of the earth.

It remains true today, for human nature is a constant factor.

God is a consuming fire.  Fire is a destructive force, reducing much to ashes.  Yet destruction is frequently part of a creative process, as in the renewal of ecosystems in forests.  Divine fire destroys the corrupt and idolatrous, and arrogant so that seeds of fidelity, justice, and humility may germinate.

Jesus faced a difficult decision, and he resolved to take up his cross.  His challenge to the Apostles to do likewise has applied to members of generations for nearly 2000 years.  Will we be faithful or will we seek the easy way out?  Will we turn away from the truth, or will we act as people with Jesus Christ in them?  Will we follow the fire of the Holy Spirit or will we risk the fire of divine punishment?

The choice is ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLOTTE ELLIOTT, JULIA ANNE ELLIOTT, AND EMILY ELLIOTT, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUMPHREY OF PRUM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF THEROUANNE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HAMPDEN GURNEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-8-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Forgiveness, Part II   1 comment

The Sacrifice of the Old Covenant

Above:  The Sacrifice of the Old Covenant, by Peter Paul Rubens

Image in the Public Domain

Forgiveness

NOT OBSERVED IN 2016

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The Collect:

O Lord Jesus, make us instruments of your peace,

that where there is hatred, we may sow love,

where there is injury, pardon,

where there is despair, hope.

Grant, O divine master, that we may seek

to console, to understand, and to love in your name,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 5:1-13

Psalm 38

Luke 17:1-4

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O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger;

do not punish me in your wrath.

–Psalm 38:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Few details make this goy‘s eyes glaze over faster than particulars of Hebrew purification offerings from Leviticus.  Professor Luke Timothy Johnson, in his Great Courses DVD series Jesus and the Gospels (2004), states plainly that the Book of Leviticus is not among the reasons that the Bible is a bestseller.  Besides, the Law of Moses does not apply to me.  Nevertheless, I, after having read Leviticus 5:1-13 and Luke 17:1-4 together, along with Psalm 38, detect a timeless, common theme, which is forgiveness.  The author of Psalm 38 asks God for forgiveness.  Leviticus 5:1-13 prescribes culturally specific rituals for atonement and forgiveness.  And Jesus commands in Luke 17:1-4 that a person forgive someone who repents.

Forgiving might not help the forgiven party (or it might do so), but it certainly benefits the one who forgives.  Anger is a strangely appealing burden to carry around in life.  It might cause no harm to its target (or it might do so), but it definitely damages the one who nurses it.  One should forgive even if the other person does not repent, apologize, or request forgiveness, for selfish reasons alone make forgiving sensible.  Nevertheless, as I know well, letting go of resentment is frequently difficult.  That reality, I think, has more to do with one’s self-image than with anything else.

I am righteous.  I am the injured party.  That S.O.B. owes me something.

It is little or no consolation, is it?

None of us can become the person God wants us to become by holding on to grudges.  Also, forgiving feels better than the alternative.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH GRIGG, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/27/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Good Trees for God   5 comments

3g04792v

Above:  A Visual Protest Against Police Brutality and Corruption, June 11, 1887

Artist = Eugene Zimmerman (1862-1935)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-4792

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The Collect:

O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy.

Without your help, we mortals will fail;

remove far from us everything that is harmful,

and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 4:27-31; 5:14-16 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 17:2-13 (Tuesday)

Leviticus 16:1-5, 20-28 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:65-72 (All Days)

1 Peter 2:11-17 (Monday)

Romans 13:1-7 (Tuesday)

Matthew 21:18-22 (Wednesday)

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These readings present us with some difficult material.  In the Torah an animal sacrifice atoned for unintentional sins, offering an unauthorized sacrifice led to death, and idolatry carried the death penalty.

So you shall purge evil from your midst.

–Deuteronomy 17:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Also, in the readings from Romans and 1 Peter, resisting authority is a sin, regardless of the nature of that government.    I will address these matters in order.

I.

One was supposed to keep a distance from the holy and approach God in a certain way in the Law of Moses.  Thus one had instructions to offer sacrifices just so, for example.  And touching the Ark of the Covenant was deadly.  In contrast, Jesus, God incarnate, ate with people, many of whom had dubious moral histories and bad reputations.  I side with Jesus in this matter.

II.

One ought to be very careful regarding instructions to kill the (alleged) infidels.  Also, one should recognize such troublesome passages in one’s own scriptures as well as in those of others, lest one fall into hypocrisy regarding this issue.  Certainly those Puritans in New England who executed Quakers in the 1600s thought that they were purging evil from their midst.  Also, shall we ponder the Salem Witch Trials, in which paranoid Puritans trapped inside their superstitions and experiencing LSD trips courtesy of a bread mold, caused innocent people to die?  And, not that I am equating Puritans with militant Islamists, I have no doubt that those militant Islamists who execute Christians and adherents to other religions think of themselves as people who purge evil from their midst.  Violence in the name of God makes me cringe.

When does one, in the name of purging evil from one’s midst, become that evil?

III.

Speaking of removing evil from our midst (or at least trying to do so), I note that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, after struggling with his conscience, participated in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  I let that pass, for if one cannot kill (or at least plan to kill) a genocidal dictator in the name of morality….Sometimes life presents us with bad decisions and worse ones.  Choose the bad in very such circumstance, I say.  In the Hitler case, how many lives might have continued had he died sooner?

IV.

Christianity contains a noble and well-reasoned argument for civil disobedience.  This tradition reaches back to the Early Church, when many Christians (some of whom became martyrs) practiced conscientious objection to service in the Roman Army.  The tradition includes more recent figures, such as many heroes of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  Many of those activists suffered and/or died too.  And, in the late 1800s, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, hardly a bastion of liberalism at any point in its history, declared that the Ottoman imperial government, which had committed violence against the Armenian minority group, had no more moral legitimacy or right to rule.  Yet I read in the October 30, 1974, issue of The Presbyterian Journal, the midwife for the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973, that:

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the Lord’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

–page 11

That was an extreme law-and-order position the editor affirmed in the context of reacting against demonstrations of the 1960s and early 1970s.  A few years later, however, the PCA General Assembly approved of civil disobedience as part of protests against abortions.

V.

If one assumes, as St. Paul the Apostle and much of the earliest Church did, that Jesus would return quite soon and destroy the sinful world order, preparation for Christ’s return might take priority and social reform might move off the list of important things to accomplish.  But I am writing in 2014, so much time has passed without the Second Coming having occurred.  Love of one’s neighbors requires us to act and even to change society and/or rebel against human authority sometimes.

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The barren fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22 was a symbol of faithless and fruitless people.  If we know a tree by its fruits and we are trees, what kind of trees are we?  May we bear the fruits of love, compassion,and mere decency.  May our fruits be the best they can be, albeit imperfect.  May we be the kind of trees that pray, in the words of Psalm 119:68 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979):

You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH, MOTHER OF GOD

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Adopted from this post:

link

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Service and Glory I   1 comment

pat_2017

Above:  Thanksgiving Meal at Malachi’s Store House, St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church, Dunwoody, Georgia, November 19, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

(https://plus.google.com/photos/114749828757741527421/albums/5948460403024892561/5948460517178905522?banner=pwa&pid=5948460517178905522&oid=114749828757741527421)

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The Collect:

O God of glory, your Son Jesus Christ suffered for us

and ascended to your right hand.

Unite us with Christ and each other in suffering and joy,

that all the world may be drawn into your bountiful presence,

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 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 9:1-11, 22-24 (44th Day)

Numbers 16:41-50 (45th Day)

1 Kings 8:54-65 (46th Day)

Psalm 99 (All Days)

1 Peter 4:1-6 (44th Day)

1 Peter 4:7-11 (45th Day)

John 3:31-36 (46th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Leviticus 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/devotion-for-the-twenty-third-and-twenty-fourth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Numbers 16:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/devotion-for-the-forty-seventh-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Kings 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/devotion-for-august-25-and-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Peter 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-8-epiphany-friday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-2-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fortieth-day-of-lent-holy-saturday/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/16/week-of-proper-3-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-december-2-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

John 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/seventh-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/04/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

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The LORD is great in Zion

and is high above all peoples.

Let them confess the name of the LORD,

which is great and awesome;

the LORD is the Holy One.

–Psalm 99:2-3, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Atonement liberates those who accept it and functions as an indictment of others.  C. H. Dodd explained this well in The Founder of Christianity (1970):

In [Jesus’] words and actions he made men aware of [the kingdom of God] and challenged them to respond.  It was “good news” in the sense that it meant opportunity for a new start and an unprecedented enrichment of experience.  But when a person (or a society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it, he is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter.  It is this that gives point to the tremendous warnings that Jesus is reported to have uttered about the consequences of rejection….The coming of the kingdom meant the open possibility of enhancement of life; it also meant the heightening of moral responsibility.

–Page 58 of the 1970 paperback edition

Hence we have another example of the juxtaposition of judgment and mercy.

Atonement, accomplished initially by animal sacrifices and an Aaronic priesthood then by Jesus, liberates people to glorify God and serve the needs of each other–to devote themselves to God and keep divine commandments.  There are many needs and therefore a host of specific ways to accomplish this goal.  One which a certain person might consider trivial another person might find vital, so may nobody say that he or she has little or nothing to offer.  No, grace has a multiplying effect on “minor” gifts and supplies us with “major” ones.  Nothing is too mundane for serving each other and glorifying God.

Part of the responsibility which free (yet not cheap) grace imparts to us is to pass grace along.  We might not be able to see God, but we can detect each other via senses.  Although none of us can solve every problem we detect, each of us can do something to ease some of them.  Each of us an do his or her part.  May each of us prove faithful in his or her part, responding positively to the call of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHERINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/devotion-for-the-forty-fourth-forty-fifth-and-forty-sixth-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Leviticus and Luke, Part II: God Concepts   1 comment

sin-of-nadab-and-abihu

Above:  The Sin of Nadab and Abihu

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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:

Leviticus 9:1-14 (23rd Dayof Easter)

Leviticus 10:1-20 (24th Day of Easter)

Psalm 97 (Morning–23rd Day of Easter)

Psalm 98 (Morning–24th Day of Easter)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening–23rd Day of Easter)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening–24th Day of Easter)

Luke 9:18-36 (23rd Day of Easter)

Luke 9:37-62 (24th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/second-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/week-of-proper-20-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/week-of-proper-20-saturday-year-1/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/18/week-of-proper-21-tuesday-year-1/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/feast-of-the-transfiguration-august-6/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/week-of-proper-20-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/week-of-proper-20-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/26/week-of-proper-21-monday-year-2/

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My point of reference is that of a modern, liberal, intellectual North American Christian.  God is love, I affirm, and the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth was God incarnate.  So my God concept leads me to ask what Jesus would do.  Hence the God concept in Leviticus 10 is foreign to me.  The sacrifices in Leviticus 9 are likewise alien to me.  Parts of the Letter to the Hebrews played back in my head as I read these chapters from Leviticus.

Although I am a ritualist, I do not attach life or death stakes to performing a certain liturgical act just so.  What, I wonder, did Nadab and Abihu, sons of Aaron, do that was so bad that they died on what was supposed to be a joyous occasion?  I found the following note from the The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford University Press, 2004) helpful:

In biblical thought, however, ritual crimes are dire.  Further, the sin of the two brothers was not simply that they went too far in their misguided super-piety.  Rather, they acted in utter disregard for the deity.  God intended that the manifestations of His Presence would ignite the altar fire, marking His acceptance of His peoples’ devotion.  Their intent was for the divine fire to ignite their pans; that is, they were attempting to arrogate control of the deity to themselves.  (page 227)

Trying to control God is one sin; misunderstanding God can lead to others.  Consider Simon Peter, who grasped that Jesus was the Messiah but not what that entailed–suffering for the Messiah.  Then, at the Transfiguration, the Apostle would have institutionalized the event, not distinguishing among Jesus, Moses, or Elijah.  Our expectations and best attempts prove inadequate, do they not?

But, for a God concept, I still prefer Jesus to the Yahweh of Leviticus 10.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY OF PADUA  ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF GILBERT KEITH (G. K.) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/13/devotion-for-the-twenty-third-and-twenty-fourth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Leviticus and Luke, Part I: Laying Foundations   1 comment

jewish-high-priest

Above:  A Vested Jewish Priest

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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:

Leviticus 8:1-13, 30-36

Psalm 93 (Morning)

Psalms 136 and 117 (Evening)

Luke 9:1-17

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 9:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/devotion-for-the-eleventh-and-twelfth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/week-of-proper-20-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/07/week-of-proper-20-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/08/week-of-proper-20-friday-year-1/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter/

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With this post I leave the Book of Exodus behind and move into the Book of Leviticus.  Of that book Professor Luke Timothy Johnson of Emory University has said

There is a reason why the Bible remains the all-time best selling book, and it is not the Book of Leviticus.  It is the Gospels.  People want to understand about Jesus.

Jesus and the Gospels, Lecture One, The Teaching Company, 2004

Fortunately, we have plenty of Jesus in the Gospel of Luke.

The Book of Leviticus opens where the Book of Exodus ends.  The Tabernacle now functional, complete with the Presence of God, Leviticus Chapters 1-7, as summarized succinctly in 7:37-38, detail

…the rituals of the burnt offering, the meal offering, the sin offering, the guilt offering, with which the LORD charged Moses on Mount Sinai, when He commanded that the Israelites present their offerings to the LORD, in the wilderness of Sinai.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

It is not riveting reading.  Then Chapter 8 provides an account of the consecration of Aaron and his sons as priests.  The chapter concludes with these words:

And Aaron and his sons did all the things that the LORD had commanded through Moses.

–Leviticus 8:36, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

It is a story about laying foundations.  But do not become too enthusiastic, O reader; bad news awaits us after this chapter.

Jesus and the Apostles (eleven of whom became bishops) laid foundations in Luke 9:17.  This was not the Church yet, but the proclamation of the Gospel was present.  And a food miracle with Eucharistic overtones occurred.  Today, of course, institutions which are heirs of Jesus and the Apostles proclaim the message and offer the Holy Eucharist.

As we–you, O reader, and I–go through our daily lives, what foundations is God laying through us and in us?  I wonder what shape that work will assume and how that work will benefit others and glorify God.  If I am fortunate, I will, in time, receive at least an inkling, so that I may rejoice over more than a vague hope.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-twenty-second-day-of-easter-fourth-sunday-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Divine Judgment, Patience, and Extravagance   1 comment

Above: Moses, by Rembrandt van Rijn (1659)

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Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses turned and went down from the mountain.  And the two tablets of witness were in his hand, tablets written from their two sides:  from this side and from this side they were written.  And the tablets:  they were God’s doing.  And the writing:  it was God’s writing, inscribed on the tablets.

And Joshua heard the sound of the people in its shouting, and he said to Moses,

A sound of war is in the camp.

Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin (1633-1634)

And he said,

It’s not a sound of singing of victory, and it’s not a sound of singing of defeat.  It’s just the sound of singing I hear!

And it was when he came close to the camp, and he saw the calf and dancing: and Moses’ anger flared, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them below the mountain.  And he took the calf that they had made, and he burned it in fire and ground it until it was thin, and he scattered it on the face of the water, and he made the children of Israel drink!

And Moses said to Aaron,

What did this people do to you, that you’ve brought a big sin on it?!

And Aaron said,

Let my lord’s anger not flare.  You know the people, that it’s in a bad state.  And they said to me, “Make gods for us who will go in front of us, because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt; we don’t know what has become of him”  And I said to them, “Whoever has gold:  take it off.”  And they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out!”

And it was on the next day, and Moses said to the people,

You’ve committed a big sin.  And now I’ll go up to YHWH.  Perhaps I may make atonement for your sin.

And Moses went back to YHWH and said,

Please, this people has committed a big sin and made gods of gold for themselves.  And now, if you will bear their sin–and if not, wipe me out with your scroll that you’ve written.

And YHWH said to Moses,

The one who has sinned against me, I’ll wipe him out from my scroll.  And now, go.  Lead the people to where I spoke to you.  Here, my angel will go ahead of you.  And, in the day that I will take account, I’ll account their sin to them.

Psalm 106:19-23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19 Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb

and worshiped a molten image;

20 And so they exchanged their Glory

for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.

21 They forgot God their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22 Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,

and fearful things at the Red Sea.

23 So he would not have destroyed them,

had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,

to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

Matthew 13:31-35 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he put another parable before them,

The kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny grain of mustard-seed which a man took and sowed in his field.   As a seed it is the smallest of them all, but it grows to be the biggest of all plants.  It becomes a tree, big enough for birds to come and nest in its branches.

This is another of the parables he told them:

The kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, taken by a woman and put into three measures of flour until the whole had risen.

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowd in parables, and he did not speak to them at all without using parables–to fulfil the prophecy:

I will open my mouth in parables;

I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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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I have commented on the Parable of the Mustard Seed here:

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

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The Hebrews committed idolatry for centuries.  Prophets railed against this practice; their testimonies reside in the pages of the Bible.  The sin was not worshiping other gods instead of YHWH; the sin was to worship other gods along side YHWH.  Recall one of the Ten Commandments:  Have no other gods before the face of YHWH.

The reading from Exodus is set after those whom God had freed from Egyptian slavery had dedicated themselves to God and Moses had received many commandments, including the Ten Commandments.  But old habits of thinking persist easily and die hard.  Hence there were an attempted coup d’etat of Moses by Aaron and the adoration of the golden calf.  Moses was angry, as was God.  Moses, by reducing the golden calf to golden dust, sprinkling the dust into water flowing from a mountain spring, and making the people drink it, both punished the idolaters and reminded them of YHWH, the source of the water in the desert.

Moses argued with God, interceding on behalf of the people.  He survived without the promise of judgment because his loyalties were with God.  So one can argue with God faithfully and not sin.  I like this vision of God, who is in clearly in charge, who does not brook idolatry, but who permits an honest argument.  This reflects great mercy.

Traditional Jewish theology understood yeast to be a sign of corruption.  Consider the following texts, if you will:

  1. Exodus 12:15-20; 23:18; 34:25
  2. Leviticus 2:11; 6:10

So using yeast as a positive image for the Kingdom of God was unexpected; it attracted attention.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus has already spoken of a very large weed, the mustard plant, in positive terms and used it an analogy for the Kingdom of God.  This yeast is quite productive, producing enough to feed 100-150 people.  The Kingdom will spread around the world, much like those pesky mustard plants.  Human agency cannot prevent any of this.

So divine grace is extravagant.  The Kingdom will go where it will.  And, although people sin, God is patient.  This fact, however, does not indicate a lack of judgment and punishment.  Judgment and mercy sit alongside each other.  May we rejoice in divine mercy, but not try God’s patience.  Instead, may we cooperate with God–and even argue faithfully with God from time to time.  Above all, may we be faithful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID I OF SCOTLAND, KING

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX QUAKER FOUNDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/week-of-proper-12-monday-year-1/

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Holiness   1 comment

Above:  The Good Samaritan, by Rembrandt van Rijn

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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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1 Peter 1:10-16 (Revised English Bible):

This salvation was the subject of intense search by the prophets who prophesied about the grace of God awaiting you.  They tried to find out the time and the circumstances to which the spirit of Christ in them pointed, when it foretold the sufferings in Christ’s cause and the glories to follow.  It was disclosed to them that these matters were not for their benefit but for years.  Now they have been openly announced to you through preachers who brought you the gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit sent from heaven.  These are the things that angels long to glimpse.

Your minds must therefore be stripped for action and fully alert.  Fix your hopes on the grace which is to be yours when Jesus Christ is revealed.  Be obedient to God your Father, and do not let your characters be shaped any longer by the desires you cherished in your days of ignorance.  He who called you is holy; like him, be holy in all your conduct.  Does not scripture say, “You shall be holy, for I am holy”?

Psalm 98 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

With his right hand and his holy arm

has he won for himself the victory.

The LORD has made known his victory;

his righteousness has he openly shown in the sight of the nations.

He remembers his mercy and faithfulness to the house of Israel,

and all the ends of the earth have seen the victory of our God.

Shout with joy to the LORD, all you lands;

lift up your voice, rejoice, and sing.

Sing to the LORD with the harp,

with the harp and the voice of song.

With trumpets and the sound of the horn

shout with joy before the King, the LORD.

Let the sea make a noise and all that is in it,

the lands and those who dwell therein.

Let the rivers clap their hands,

and let the hills ring out with joy before the LORD,

when he comes to judge the earth.

10 In righteousness shall he judge the world

and the peoples with equity.

Mark 10:28-31 (Revised English Bible):

What about us?

said Peter.

We have left everything to follow you.

Jesus said,

Truly I tell you:  there is no one who has given up home, brothers or sisters, mother, father, or children, or land, for my sake and for the gospel, who will not receive in this age a hundred times as much–houses, brothers and sisters, mothers and children, and land–and persecutions besides; and in the age to come eternal life.  But many who are first will be last, and the last first.

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The Collect:

Most loving Father, whose will it is for us to give thanks for all things, to fear nothing but the loss of you, and to cast all our care on you who care for us: Preserve us from faithless fears and worldly anxieties, that no clouds of this mortal life may hide from us the light of that love which is immortal, and which you have manifested to us in your Son Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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For I am the LORD your God; you are to make yourselves holy, because I am holy….I am the LORD who brought you up from Egypt to become your God.  You are to keep yourselves holy, because I am holy.

–Leviticus 11:44a, 45 (Revised English Bible)

We are imperfect beings; God knows this well.  No matter how ardently we strive to walk in the paths of righteousness, love, and metanoia, we will falter from time to time.  God knows this well.  What matters is that we, trusting in divine mercies, try, and, when we stray, return to the path.

As I typed the lesson from 1 Peter, the end of the reading stood out in my mind.

…be holy in all your conduct,

it reads.  Holiness, in this context, cannot refer to moral perfectionism, for we humans are incapable of moral perfection.  We can, however, strive to be better and more moral, with morality, in my point of view, begin the same as loving God fully, loving one’s self in that context, and loving one’s neighbor as one’s self.  And, by grace, we can succeed more often than we fail.

There is a similar passage in Matthew 5:48.  Instead of holiness, though, the exhortation is one to be perfect, or devoted to the wholehearted service of God.  Another shade of meaning related to “perfection” is being a suitable sacrifice to God.  This is possible by grace.  This is about love, not judgmentalism and pietistic nitpicking.

The Revised English Bible, however, cuts to the chase nicely.  Instead of using the traditional English rendering, to be perfect, for God is perfect, the text says,

There must be no limit to your goodness, as your heavenly Father’s goodness knows no bounds.

That is a noble ambition, is it not?  That makes one a suitable sacrifice, does it not?  That is wholehearted devotion and service to God, is it not?

Sometimes I have acted in ways I thought were holy, but that were actually judgmental.  I am far from alone in this regard.  I might even be thinking in ways I think are holy but that are really judgmental as I type these words.  This is possible.  If I am to be spiritually honest, I must admit that possibility.  You see, O reader, I have far to go in spiritual matters, and I am not alone in this reality.  So, loving and accepting ourselves and each other, may we flawed human beings strive to do better, to be better, and to love more effectively and actively.  May we support each other in our journeys along the pathways of divine love and forgive ourselves and each other for our faults.  God does.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 9, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EARL WARREN, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE UNITED STATES

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Posted January 19, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 Peter 1, Leviticus 1-11, Mark 10, Matthew 5, Psalm 98

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