Archive for the ‘Luke 16’ Category

God, the Powerful, and the Powerless   1 comment

teachings_of_jesus_31_of_40-_parable_of_the_unjust_steward-_jan_luyken_etching-_bowyer_bible

Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 and Psalm 79:1-9

or 

Amos 8:4-7 and Psalm 113

then 

1 Timothy 2:1-7

Luke 16:1-13

The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 20, Year A:

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

Proper 20, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/proper-20-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-eighteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-confession-for-the-eighteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/25/prayer-of-dedication-of-the-eighteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Amos 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/proper-11-year-c/

1 Timothy 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/24/week-of-proper-19-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/06/devotion-for-september-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Luke 16:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/devotion-for-the-thirty-eighth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-1/

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The lectionary readings for this Sunday challenge several audiences.

  1. In Jeremiah 8:18-9:1 either the prophet or God mourns for the afflicted people, who suffer because of societal sins.  Are you, O reader, among those who take part in societal sins?  Am I?  My Neo-orthodox theology tells me that the answer to both questions is affirmative.
  2. Amos 8:4-7 reminds us that God will punish those who exploit the poor.  This should frighten many people.
  3. The Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager, in a difficult situation of his own creation, eased his problem by easing the economic burdens of those who could not repay him.  In the process he made his employer look good and exposed that employer’s exploitation of those people simultaneously.  The employer could not reverse the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager’s actions without making himself look bad.  This parable reminds us of, among other things, the divine imperative of helping those who cannot repay us.
  4. 1 Timothy 2:1-7 tells us to pray for everyone, powerful and powerless.

One of my favorite ways of approaching a given passage of narrative Scripture is to ask myself who I am most like in a story.  Since I am honest, I am not like the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager except when I function as an agent of grace.  And I have not exploited people, so I am not like the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager’s employer.  So I am usually most like one of those who benefited from debt reduction.  If we are honest, we will admit that we have all benefited from grace via various agents of God.  Some of these agents of God might have had mixed or impure motives, but the consequences of their actions toward us have been positive, have they not?

One great spiritual truth I have learned is that, in the Bible, good news for the exploited often (but not always) means bad news for the exploiters.  And the exploiters can learn to change their ways.  I ponder the Parable of the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager and play out possible subsequent developments in my mind.  How did the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager fare in his new life?  Did his former employer cease to exploit people?  There is hope for all of us, powerful and powerless, in God’s mercy.  What we do with that possibility is to our credit or discredit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 10, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY VAN DYKE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF HOWARD THURMAN, PROTESTANT THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF PIERRE TEILHARD DE CHARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAW, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/proper-20-year-c/

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Numbers and Luke, Part III: The Kingdom of God   1 comment

lazarus-and-dives

Above:  Lazarus and Dives

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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:

Numbers 10:11-36 (39th Day of Easter)

Numbers 11:1-23, 31-35 (40th Dayof Easter)

Numbers 11:24-29; 12:1-16 (41st Day of Easter)

Psalm 99 (Morning–39th Day of Easter)

Psalm 47 (Morning–40th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–41st Day of Easter)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening–39th Day of Easter)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening–40th Day of Easter)

Psalms 96 and 138 (Evening–41st Day of Easter)

Luke 16:19-31 (39th Day of Easter)

Luke 17:1-19 (40th Day of Easter)

Luke 17:20-37 (41st Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Numbers 10-12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/week-of-proper-13-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/proper-21-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/21/week-of-proper-13-tuesday-year-1/

Luke 16-17:

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

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Numbers 10:11-12:16 constitutes a unit in that book.  The narrative tells how the Israelites moved to the desert of Paran. they moved in a particular order but not without grumbling.  Manna could not compare with Egyptian food, apparently.  And even Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses.  The narrative says that God afflicted the people with fire or their murmuring until Moses convinced God to stop, and that God afflicted Miriam with a skin disease which rendered her ritually unclean for a week.

If I were to decide whether to stand in awe or terror of such a deity, I would choose the latter option.  That terror would also be appropriate in Luke 17:22-37.  And Dives, the rich man in the parable in Luke 16:19-31, should have learned terror of God in the afterlife, yet did not.  He still thought that the could order Lazarus, the poor man, around.

The Kingdom of God is among us.  In one sense it has always been present, for it is where God is.  Yet the Incarnation inaugurated the Kingdom of God via Jesus.  That Kingdom has not gone away since the time of the historical Jesus any more than it went away after the Crucifixion or the Ascension.  The full reign of God has yet to arrive on the planet, of course, but the Kingdom of God remains present via the Holy Spirit and the people of God, regardless of national, ethnic, or racial origin.

The Kingdom of God remains present in many ways.  It remains present anywhere the people of God work for the benefit of their fellow human beings.  It remains present anywhere one person corrects a fellow or sister human being in Godly love.  It remains present wherever people forgive and/or reconcile.  (Reconciliation is a mutual process, but one person can forgive another in absentia.)  It remains present wherever a person of God chooses not to hold a grudge.  It remains present wherever people of God care actively and effectively for the less fortunate.

May we remember that the shape of a society, culture, or subculture is what people have made it.  So, where injustice exists and persists, we humans are responsible.  May we, with God’s help, correct injustice and forge better societies, cultures, and subcultures.  This will not constitute God’s full reign following the apocalypse, but it will be an improvement on the present arrangements.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BAIN OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, MONK, MISSIONARY, AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ONESIMUS NESIB, TRANSLATOR AND LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/devotion-for-the-thirty-ninth-fortieth-and-forty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part II: In It Together   1 comment

parable-of-the-unjust-steward

Above:  The Unjust Steward

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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:

Numbers 9:1-23

Psalm 98 (Morning)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening)

Luke 16:1-18

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 16:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-1/

Prayers for Cities, Neighborhoods, Communities, and Those Who Serve Them:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-cities-neighborhoods-communities-and-those-who-serve-them/

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Biblical nuances interest me.  In Exodus 12 we read regarding the Passover meal:

No foreigner shall eat of it.

–verse 43a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

and

If a stranger, who dwells with you would offer the passover to the LORD, all his males must be circumcised; then he shall be as a citizen of the country.  But no uncircumcised person may eat of it.  There shall be one law for the citizen and for the stranger who dwells among you.

–verses 48-49, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Then, in Numbers 9,  observing the Passover meal (the first one in the wilderness) is mandatory (delayed for reasons of ritual impurity).  Then we read:

And when a stranger who resides with you would offer a passover sacrifice to the LORD, he must offer it in accordance with the rules and rites of the passover sacrifice.  There shall be one law for you, whether stranger or citizen of the country.

–verse 14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Unfortunately, there was a death penalty attached to not obeying the mandate.  This is the Law of Moses, after all; there is a death penalty attached to many offenses.  On the other hand, however, resident aliens (as opposed to mere strangers) were equally subject with Israelites to the Law.  And why not?  The Israelites and the resident aliens were, as we say in North America,

in it together.

We humans are all

in it together,

are we not?  We do not have to like each other, socialize together, understand each other, or be similar to each other, but we must understand that what one person does affects others.  One main fault of extreme libertarianism is its excessive individualism, its failure to give due weight to mutual dependence, the actual state of the human race.  Sometimes I need to curtail my appetites for the benefit of others.  Yet the collective has no right practice the tyranny of the majority or of the vocal, screaming, hysterical, minority which might control some part of state machinery.  The individual and the collective need to exist in balance:  rights and liberties, in the light of natural law and the fact that the dissident might be correct, at least partially.  Mutual respect goes a long way toward preventing violations of civil liberties and rights.

The unjust steward of the parable knew that he needed others immediately and urgently.  So, for selfish reasons, he brought his master into compliance with the anti-usury parts of the Law of Moses.  His reasons did not matter to those he helped.  Money was a means to several ends, some of them righteous in spite of the person’s motivation.  And money was crucial to being able to afford a style of piety which Jesus condemned.  Poverty, Jesus said, ought not to mark one as incapable of living faithfully.  And those poor people (many of them, anyway) financed the lifestyles of the rich and overtly pious.  How just was that?

When Christ comes to be our judge, may he rule that we acted consistently to raise each other up, to bind up each other’s wounds, to bear each other’s  burdens as able and always and to avoid stomping on each other.  We do, after all, need each other, even if we do not know that fact.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BAIN OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, MONK, MISSIONARY, AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ONESIMUS NESIB, TRANSLATOR AND LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/devotion-for-the-thirty-eighth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Excellent and Admirable Things   1 comment

Above:  Johannes Brahms

Excellent and Admirable Things

NOVEMBER 10, 2012

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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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Philippians 4:2-23 (Revised English Bible):

Euodia and Syntyche, I appeal to you both:  agree together in the Lord.  Yes and you too, my loyal comrade, I ask you to help these women, who shared my struggles in the cause of the gospel, with Clement and my other fellow-workers, who are enrolled in the book of life.

I wish you all joy in the Lord always.  Again, I say:  all joy be yours.

Be known to everyone for your consideration of others.

The Lord is near; do not be anxious, but in everything make your requests known to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving.  Then the peace of God, which is beyond all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.

And now, my friends, all that is true, all that is noble, all that is just and pure, all that is lovable and attractive, whatever is excellent and admirable–fill your thoughts with these things.

Put into practice the lessons I taught you, the tradition I have passed on, all that you heard me say or saw me do; and the God of peace will be with you.

It is a great joy to me in the Lord that after so long your care for me has now revived.  I now you always cared; it was opportunity you lacked.  Not that I am speaking of want, for I have learned to be self-sufficient whatever my circumstances.  I know what it is to have nothing, and I know what it is to have plenty.  I have been thoroughly initiated into fullness and hunger, plenty and poverty.  I am able to face anything through him who gives me strength.  All the same, it was kind of you to share the burden of my troubles.

You Philippians are aware that, when I set out from Macedonia in the early days of my mission, yours was the only church to share with me in the giving and receiving; more than once you contributed to my needs, even at Thessalonica.  Do not think I set my heart on the gift; all I care for is the interest mounting up in your account.  I have been paid in full; I have all I need and more, now that I have received from Epaphroditus what you sent.  It is a fragrant offering, an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God.  And my God will supply all your needs out of the magnificence of his riches in Christ Jesus.  To our God and Father be glory for ever and ever!  Amen.

Give my greetings, in the fellowship of Christ Jesus, to each one of God’s people.  My colleagues send their greetings to you, and so do all God’s people here, particularly those in the emperor’s service.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit.

Psalm 112 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Happy are they who fear the Lord

and have great delight in his commandments!

2 Their descendants will be mighty in the land;

the generation of the upright will be blessed.

3 Wealth and riches will be in their house,

and their righteousness will last for ever.

4 Light shines in the darkness for the upright;

the righteous are merciful and full of compassion.

It is good for them to be generous in lending

and to manage their affairs with justice.

6 For they will never be shaken;

the righteous will be kept in everlasting remembrance.

7 They will not be afraid of any evil rumors;

their heart is right;

they put their trust in the Lord.

8 Their heart is established and will not shrink,

until they see that desire upon their enemies.

9 They have given freely to the poor,

and their righteousness stands fast for ever;

they will hold up their head with honor.

10 The wicked will see it and be angry;

they will gnash their teeth and pine away;

the desires of the wicked will perish.

Luke 16:9-15 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

So I say to you, use your worldly wealth to win friends for yourselves, so that when money is a thing of the past you may be received into an eternal home.

Anyone who can be trusted in small matters can be trusted also in great; and anyone who is dishonest in small matters is dishonest also in great.  If, then, you have not proved trustworthy with the wealth of this world, who will trust you with the wealth that is real?  And if you have proved untrustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you anything of your own?

No slave can serve two masters; for either he will hate the first and love the second, or he will be devoted to the first and despise the second.  You cannot serve God and Money.

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and scoffed at him.  He said to them,

You are the people who impress others with your righteousness; but God sees through you; for what is considered admirable in human eyes is detestable in the sight of God.

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 26:  Saturday, Year 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-1/

A Prayer of Thanksgiving for the Enjoyment of Music:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/10/08/a-prayer-of-thanksgiving-for-the-enjoyment-of-music/

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About ten years ago, in Statesboro, Georgia, I heard a secondhand story about an unnamed homeschooling parent in Bulloch County.  She objected to soccer because, as she said, it was “too worldly.”  This was an extreme case, for many homeschooling parents approve of a variety of sporting activities, including soccer, for their children.  Yet the story does highlight an unduly narrow understanding of what is proper.

I find that the boundary between the sacred and the secular is porous.  Brahms symphonies constitute sacred and ennobling music for me.  On the other hand, much popular music is vacuous and a great deal of religious music (especially Southern Gospel and contemporary Christian) is annoying.  And there is a great chasm between the sophistication of Cole Porter lyrics and those of many current popular songs.

Paul advised the Philippians to fill their thoughts with true, noble, pure, lovable, admirable, attractive, and excellent things.  This covers a wide range of material, from Johannes Brahms to Franz Schubert, from John Coltrane to Charlie Parker, from William Shakespeare to John Milton.   Yet I recall that Charles Finney, an evangelist of the Second Great Awakening, in the early 1800s, expressed disbelief

that a person who has ever known the love of God can relish a secular novel

or make book space for

Byron, Scott, Shakespeare, and a host of triflers and blasphemers of God.

(Finney quoted in Charles Sellers, The Market Revolution:  Jacksonian America, 1815-1846, New York:  Oxford University Press, 1991, page 230)  As one who relishes quoting Shakespeare, I oppose Finney in this regard.

I wrote the rough draft of this post in a composition book while listening to the Symphony #1 by Johannes Brahms.  I type this final draft while listening to classical music on the radio.  Such music is truly noble, excellent and admirable.  I prefer, in fact, to listen to such quality music in lieu of engaging in other activities, such as watching television.  (I live without cable television, something I do not miss.)  My spiritual journey entails entertaining the better angels of my nature.  Brahms fits the bill nicely, as does Shakespeare.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-2/

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The Insufficiency of Materialism and Greed   1 comment

Above:  Boat of Purity and Ease, Summer Palace, Beijing, China–Restored and Expanded in the 1890s by Order of the Dowager Empress Cixi Via Embezzled Funds Intended Originally for the Chinese Navy

Image Source = Corymgrenier

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

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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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Romans 16:1-9, 16, 21-27 (Revised English Bible):

I commend to you, Phoebe, a fellow-Christian who is a minister in the church at Cenchrae.  Give her, in the fellowship of the Lord, a welcome worthy of God’s people, and support her in any business in which she may need your help, for she has herself been a good friend to many, including myself.

Give my greetings to Prisca and Aquila, my fellow-workers in Christ Jesus.  They risked their necks to save my life, and not I alone but all the gentile churches are grateful to them.  Greet also the church that meets at their house.

Give my greetings to my dear friend Epanetus, the first convert to Christ in Asia, and to Mary, who worked so hard for you.  Greet Andronicus and Junia, my fellow-countrymen and comrades in captivity, who are eminent among the apostles and were Christians before I was.

Greetings to Anpliatus, my dear friend in the fellowship of the Lord, to Urban my comrade in Christ, and to my dear Stachys….

Greet one another with the kiss of peace.  All Christ’s churches send you their greetings.

Greetings to you from my colleague Timothy, and from Lucius, Jason, and Sosipater my fellow-countrymen.  (I Tertius, who took this letter down, add my Christian greetings.)  Greetings also from Gaius, my host and host of the whole congregation, and from Erastus, treasurer of this city, and our brother Quartus.

To him who has power to make you stand firm, according to my gospel and the proclamation of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of that divine secret kept in silence for long ages but now disclosed, and by the eternal God’s command made known to all nations through prophetic scriptures, to bring them to faith and obedience–to the only wise God through Jesus Christ be glory for endless ages!  Amen.

Psalm 145:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

3 Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

4 One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

5  I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

6  They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of our greatness.

7  They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

Luke 16:9-15 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

So I say to you, use your worldly wealth to win friends for yourselves, so that when money is a thing of the past you may be received into an eternal home.

Anyone who can be trusted in small matters can be trusted also in great; and anyone who is dishonest in small matters is dishonest also in great.  If, then, you have not proved trustworthy with the wealth of this world, who will trust you with the wealth that is real?  And if you have proved untrustworthy with what belongs to another, who will give you anything of your own?

No slave can serve two masters; for either he will hate the first and love the second, or he will be devoted to the first and despise the second.  You cannot serve God and Money.

The Pharisees, who loved money, heard all this and scoffed at him.  He said to them,

You are the people who impress others with your righteousness; but God sees through you; for what is considered admirable in human eyes is detestable in the sight of God.

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some  Related Posts:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/feast-of-sts-lydia-dorcas-and-phoebe-holy-wome-january-29/

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/feast-of-aquila-priscilla-and-apollos-february-13/

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“Keeping up with the Joneses” is a certain way of seeking social status and, depending on one’s finances, a probable way of wasting money better spent in other ways or saved.  We humans like to keep up appearances at least some of the time, but many of us know of the futility of this pattern of behavior.  Maybe this fact helps explain our admiration for real people and fictional characters who do not even try to keep up with the Joneses or to impress others in empty matters.

Jesus, at the end of this day’s lesson from Luke, says that nobody can serve God and mammon simultaneously.  Mammon refers not to money itself, which is morally neutral, but to materialism and greed.  Our lives, as we read elsewhere in the Bible, do not consist in the abundance of our possessions.  Our wealth here on earth is subject to rust and decay, so making the accumulation of an end, not a means to an end, is foolish decision.

The prophet Samuel, when he anointed David as King of Israel, said that people look on exteriors, but God looks inside people.  The reading from Luke fits neatly with this incident.   Of course we cannot serve both God and greed; the two are incompatible.

Paul, while concluding the Epistle to the Romans, commended various people, many of whom are quite obscure.  But they served God faithfully.  God knows who they were (and are); they are at rest in our Lord.  That matters more than anything else.  Furthermore, I observe that you and I are almost certain to spend our lives and our afterlives is earthly obscurity.  We will die.  And, in time, all those who have known us will die also.  Then it will be as if we had not lived.  When that time, comes, how will we stand in relation to God?  That is what matters most.  Our money will go away; indeed, money is mostly fictitious, consisting of numbers flowing back and forth between computers.  Our possessions will break or burn or go to the dump or a thrift store.  Our lives are not located in our possessions and money.  No, they have meaning in relationships and in God.

May we focus our energies on that which is most important.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ERIK IX OF SWEDEN, KING AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF TAMIHANA TE RAUPARAHA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-saturday-year-1/

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Posted May 9, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Luke 16, Psalm 145, Romans 16

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True Wealth   1 comment

Above:  Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

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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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Romans 15:14-21 (Revised English Bible):

My friends, I have no doubt in my own mind that you yourselves are full of goodness and equipped with knowledge of every kind, well able to give advice to one another; nevertheless I have written to refresh your memory, and written somewhat boldly at times, in virtue of the gift I have from God.  His virtue has made me a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles; and in the service of the gospel of God it is my priestly task to offer the Gentiles to him as an acceptable sacrifice, consecrated by the Holy Spirit.

In Christ Jesus I have indeed grounds for pride in the service of God.  I will venture to speak only of what Christ has done through me to bring the Gentiles into his allegiance, by word and deed, by the power of signs and portents, and by the power of the Holy Spirit.  I have completed the preaching of the gospel of Christ from Jerusalem as far round as Illyricum.  I have always made a point of taking the gospel to places where the name of Christ has not been heard, not wanting to build on another man’s foundation; as scripture says,

Those who had no news of him shall see,

and those who never heard of him shall understand.

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.

Luke 16:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus said to his disciples,

There was a rich man who had a steward, and he received complaints that this man was squandering his property.  So he sent for him, and said, “What is this that I hear about you?  Produce your accounts, for you cannot be steward any longer.”  The steward said to himself, “What am I to do now that my master is going to dismiss me from my post?  I am not strong enough to dig, and I am too proud to beg.  I know what I must do, to make sure that, when I am dismissed, there will be people who will take me into their homes.”  He summoned his master’s debtor’s one by one.  To the first he said, “How much do you owe my master?”  He replied, “A hundred jars of olive oil.”  He said, “Here is your account.  Sit down and make it fifty, and be quick about it.”  Then he said to another, “And you, how much do you owe?”  He said, “A hundred measures of wheat,” and was told, “Here is your account; make it eighty.”  And the master applauded the dishonest steward for acting so astutely.  For in dealing with their own kind the children of this world are more astute than the children of light.

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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The dishonest/unjust manager/steward worked for an extremely wealthy landlord who charged high rates of interest on rent the tenants owed.  The manager/steward seems to have been abusing his post for personal gain.  So the landlord prepared to fire the manager/steward, who ingratiated himself to the tenants by removing the interest from their debts.  This made the manager/steward friends while making the landlord look better than he was, while bringing the landlord into compliance with Biblical anti-usury laws.  Surely the landlord could not undo the manager/steward’s final actions without looking bad.

The Canadian Anglican lectionary I am following breaks up Luke 16:1-15 over two days, so verse 9 will fall within a reading for Week of Proper 26:  Saturday, Year 1.  Yet I must bring verse 9 into the devotion at this time:

So I say to you, use your worldly wealth to win friends for yourselves, so that when money is a thing of the past you may be received into an eternal home.

This statement fits neatly into rabbinical statements of the time.  Helping the poor was of great spiritual value, the rabbis taught, and God took note.  Or, as William Barclay summarized it,

True wealth would consist not in what people kept, but in what they gave away.  (The Gospel of Luke, 2001 revision, page 248)

True wealth resides in people, relationships, and intangibles.  The wealth we have in accounts and objects are just means to an end.  And let no one think that money can buy happiness.  Studies I have read indicate that some of the most miserable and stressed out people in the world are the richest ones.  Or, as Ira Gershwin wrote in Porgy and Bess:

Folks with plenty of plenty

have a lock on their door,

afraid somebody is gonna rob ‘em

who’s out to get some more.

Paul did not “live well,” as we might think of that concept, after his conversion to Christianity.  He nearly died more than once, faced false and malicious legal charges, spent time in prisons, was shipwrecked once, and ultimately met his death on the orders of the Emperor Nero.  But, as one reads Paul concluding his great Epistle to the Romans, one ought to notice that the man is quite content.  His treasure was spiritual, and he knew that.

That is the treasure that neither rust nor moth can destroy.  May all of us seek and find it, then hold on to it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MALTBIE DAVENPORT BABCOCK, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ERIK IX OF SWEDEN, KING AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF TAMIHANA TE RAUPARAHA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-friday-year-1/

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With God All Things Are Possible   1 comment

Deborah, by Gustave Dore

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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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Judges 5:9-23 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

My heart is with Israel’s leaders,

With the dedicated of the people–

Bless the LORD!

You riders on tawny she-asses,

You who sit on saddle rugs,

And you wayfarers, declare it!

Louder than the “sound of archers,

There among the watering places

Let them chant the gracious acts of the LORD,

His gracious deliverance of Israel.

Then did the people of the LORD

March down to the gates!

Awake, awake, O Deborah!

Awake, awake, strike up the chant!

Arise, O Barak;

Take your captives, O son of Abinoam!

Then was the remnant made victor over the mighty,

The LORD’s people won my victory over the warriors.

From Ephraim came they whose roots are in Amalek;

After you, your kin Benjamin;

From Machir came down leaders,

From Zebulon such as hold the marshal’s staff.

And Isaachar’s chiefs were with Deborah;

As Barak, so was Isaachar–

Rushing after him into the valley.

Among the clans of Reuben

Were great decisions of heart.

Why then did you stay among the sheepfolds

And listen as they pipe for the flocks?

Among the clans of Reuben

Were great searchings of heart!

Gilead tarried beyond the Jordan;

And Dan–why did he linger by the ships?

Asher remained at the seacoast

And tarried at his landings.

Zebulon is a people that mocked at death,

Naphtali–on the open heights.

Then the kings came, they fought:

The kings of Canaan fought

At Taanach, by Megiddo’s waters–

They got no spoil of silver.

The stars fought from heaven,

From their courses they fought against Sisera.

The torrent Kishon swept them away,

The raging torrent, the torrent Kishon.

March on, my soul, with courage!

Then the horses’ hoofs pounded

As headlong galloped the steeds.

Curse Meroz!

said the angel of the LORD.

Bitterly curse its inhabitants,

Because they came not to the aid of the LORD,

To the aid of the LORD among the warriors.

Psalm 85:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Matthew 19:23-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus remarked to his disciples,

Believe me, a rich man will find it very difficult to enter the kingdom of Heaven.  Yes, I repeat, a camel could more easily squeeze through the eye of a needle than a rich man get into the kingdom of God!

The disciples were simply amazed to hear this, and said,

Then who can possibly be saved?

Jesus looked steadily at them and replied,

Humanly speaking it is impossible; but with God anything is possible!

At this Peter exclaimed,

Look, we have left everything and followed you.  What will that be worth to us?

Jesus said,

Believe me when I tell you that in the new world, when the Son of Man shall take his seat on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also be seated on twelve thrones as judges of the twelve tribes of Israel.  Every man who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or land for my sake will get them back many times over, and will inherit eternal life.  But many who are first will be last then–and the last first!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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An understanding of Judges 5 depends on a grasp of the previous chapter in that book.  The prophetess Deborah, wife of Lappidoth, was the judge of the Israelites.  She held court under a tree, where people came “to her for decisions” (4:5, TANAKH).  Barak was her army commander.  Deborah informed him that God had commanded her to tell him to take ten thousand men from the tribes of Naphtali and Zebulon to confront the military forces of Jabin, a Canaanite king, commanded by Sisera.  God would deliver Sisera’s forces into Barak’s hands.  Barak did as Deborah said, on the condition that she accompany him.  She agreed, saying, “Very well, I will go with you.  However there will be no glory for you in the course you are taking, for then the LORD will deliver Sisera into the hands of a woman.”

So Barak, Deborah, and the ten thousand men set out to confront the forces that have oppressed the Israelites for two decades.  They did, and Sisera fled to the tent of Jael, wife of Heber.  She concealed him long enough to kill him by driving a pin through his temple.

So, as the narrative says, God had delivered the Israelites through the actions of women.  The message of this story in a deeply patriarchal culture is that there is no human glory here; all glory belongs to God.  The role of the feminine as opposed to that of the masculine in the story is foreign to me, a product of North American feminism.  Within my memory women have always had the right to vote, as well as to seek and hold public office.  And, as far as my memory has been stable (roughly since I was seven or eight years old), I have known of female clergy and not thought twice about them holding this status.  So the sexism of parts of the Bible rankles me.  These books are products of their times and the cultures of the people who wrote and edited them.

But let us not lose sight of the main point:  All glory belongs to God.  With God all things are possible.  In God is liberation, which is always spiritual and sometimes temporal.

The reading from Matthew proceeds from the immediately preceding verses, in which Jesus has conversed with a rich young man too attached to his wealth.  This man’s wealth was a barrier to a proper relationship with God because it (the wealth) blinded him to his dependence of God.  The glory is God’s alone; none of it is human.

Thus we have the famously hyperbolic statement about a camel passing through the eye of a needle.  It is similar to an older Jewish maxim about an elephant attempting the same feat.  The meaning is not complicated, for the narrative makes it plain:  Salvation is possible only with God.  All the glory belongs to God.  This does not mean that our sacrifices are meaningless, for these indicate our faithfulness and sincerity.

The famous line about the first being last and the last being first is consistent with other portions of the canonical gospels.  Consider Luke 16:19-31, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, for example.  The neglected poor man goes to a happy afterlife.  The Kingdom of God operates on different principles than does the dominant human order on the Earth.

With God all things are possible.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 13, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AQUILA, PRISCILLA, AND APOLLOS, COWORKERS OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

THE FEAST OF ABSALOM JONES, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ANDREAS KATSULAS, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LICINIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ANJOU

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/13/week-of-proper-15-tuesday-year-1/

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Posted May 3, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Judges 5, Luke 16, Matthew 19, Psalm 85

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Lazarus and Dives   1 comment

Above:  Lazarus and Dives

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Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Jeremiah 17:5-11 (Revised English Bible):

These are words of the LORD:

A curse on anyone who trusts in mortals and leans for support on human kind,

while his heart is far from the LORD!

He will be like a juniper in the steppeland;

when good comes he is unaware of it.

He will live among the rocks in the wilderness, in a salt, uninhabited land.

Blessed is anyone who trusts in the LORD, and rests his confidence on him.

He will be like a tree planted by the waterside,

that sends out its roots along a stream.

When the heat comes it has nothing to fear;

its foliage stays green.

Without care in a year of drought,

it does not fail to bear fruit.

The heart is deceitful above any other thing, desperately sick;

who can fathom it?

I, the LORD, search the mind and test the heart,

requiting each one for his conduct and as his deeds deserve.

Like a partridge sitting on a clutch of eggs which it has not laid,

so is he who amasses wealth unjustly.

Before his days are half done it will leave him, and he will be a fool at the last.

Psalm 1 (Revised English Bible):

Happy is the one who does not take the counsel of the wicked for a guide,

or follow the path that sinners tread, or take his seat in the company of scoffers.

His delight is in the law of the LORD; it is his meditation day and night.

He is like a tree planted beside water channels;

it yields its fruit in season and its foliage never fades.

So he too prospers in all he does.

The wicked are not like this; rather they are like chaff driven by the wind.

When judgment comes, therefore, they will not stand firm,

nor will sinners in the assembly of the righteous.

The LORD watches over the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Luke 16:19-31 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

There was once a rich man, who used to dress in purple and the finest linen, and feasted sumptuously every day.  At his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, who was covered with sores.  He would have been glad to satisfy his hunger with the scraps from the rich man’s table.  Dogs used to come and lick his sores.  One day the poor man died and was carried away by the angels to be with Abraham.  The rich man also died and was buried.  In Hades, where he was in torment, he looked up and there, far away, was Abraham with Lazarus close beside him. ‘Abraham, my father,’ he cried out, ‘take pity on me! Send Lazarus to dip the tip of his finger in water, to cool my tongue, for I am in agony in this fire.’  But Abraham said, ‘My child, remember that the good things fell to you in your lifetime, and the bad to Lazarus.  Now he has his consolation here and it is you who are in agony.  But that is not all: there is a great gulf fixed between us; no one can cross it from our side to reach you, and none may pass from your side to us.’  ‘Then, father,’  he [the rich man] replied, ‘will you send him [Lazarus] to my father’s house, where I have five brothers, to warn them, so that they may not come to this place of torment?’  But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them listen to them.’  ‘No, father Abraham,’ he replied, ‘but if someone from the dead visits them, they will repent.’  Abraham answered, ‘If they do listen to Moses and the prophets, they will pay no heed even if someone should rise from the dead.’

The Collect:

O Lord, strong and mighty, Lord of hosts and King of glory: Cleanse our hearts from sin, keep our hands pure, and turn our minds from what is passing away; so that at the last we may stand in your place and receive your blessing; 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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Dr. Vernon Johns, Dr. Martin Luther King’s immediate predecessor at Dexter Street Baptist Church, Montgomery, Alabama, preached to an affluent congregation of African-American professionals.  They did not want press for civil rights, and Johns disagreed with them.  The deacons fired Johns after a few years and called a the young Rev. Dr. King, whom they thought would not be an activist.  Ironically, King, as pastor at Dexter Avenue Church, became prominent nationally for his involvement in the Montgomery Bus Boycott in the middle 1950s.

In a sermon at Dexter Avenue Church Vernon Johns preached on this day’s Gospel text.  Johns stated that the rich man’s fault was not his wealth, but his acceptance of segregation, in this case, along economic lines.  Then, of course, the pastor made the link to acceptance of racial segregation.  And the implications of that analogy were clear and unpopular.

Johns understood the parable correctly.  In life the rich man (Dives) knows about the presence of Lazarus at his gate, and does care about him.  Dives does not lift so much as a finger to help the desperately poor man outside his home, and he can help Lazarus, at least.  And in death Dives considers Lazarus no better than a servant.

Please, Abraham, send Dives to cool my tongue.  What?  He can’t cool my tongue?  Can he warn my family, at least?

God sees us as we are, not as others see us.  This is good news for some and bad news for others.  Fortunately, by grace, there is hope for redemption.  And our exercise of free will plays a part, too.

The parable of Dives and Lazarus is a cautionary tale.  May all of us learn its lessons and act on them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT TIRIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

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Adapted from this post:

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

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