Archive for the ‘Luke 17’ Category

Respecting the Image of God in Others, Part I   1 comment

parable-of-the-wicked-servant

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servant, by Domenico Fetti

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 15:1-18 or 19:15-21

Psalm 129

Matthew 18:1-14 (15-20) or Luke 9:46-50; 17:1-4

2 Corinthians 9:1-15

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The reading for this Sunday, taken together, proclaim the mandate of economic and legal justice, condemn lying in court, command forgiving penitents, order valuing the powerless and the vulnerable, and extol the virtues of generosity of spirit and of giving.  On the other hand, we read a prayer for God to destroy Israel’s enemies and a permission slip to dun foreigners.  What are we supposed to make of all this?

First I call attention to the presence of both collective and individual sins and virtues.  My Western culture, steeped in individualism, understands individual sins better than collective and institutional ones.  I know that, as a matter of history, many professing Christians have obsessed over personal peccadilloes to the exclusion or minimizing of societal sins.

My second point is the value of foreigners who bear the image of God.  Focusing just on the Hebrew Bible for a few minutes, I recall certain passages that depict somegoyim favorably:  Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:1-24 and 6:17-25), Ruth (Ruth 1-4), and Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-19).  And, of course, as one turns to the New Testament, one should think of the controversy regarding St. Paul the Apostle’s mission to the Gentiles.

Finally, forgiveness can be difficult, but it is the best policy.  According to a rule common among Jews at the time of Jesus, one was perfect if one forgave three times daily.  As we read in the Gospel readings, Jesus more than doubled that number, increasing it to seven.  (He affirmed spiritual challenges.)  Even if forgiving someone does not affect that person it changes for the better the one who forgives.  We also read in Matthew 7:1-5 that the standard we apply to others will be the standard God applies to us.  One might also consult Matthew 18:23-34, the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

I understand the desire for God to smite one’s foes.  I have prayed for such results.  I have also learned that praying for their repentance–for their benefit and that of others–is a better way to proceed.  Even our foes bear the image of God, after all.  God loves them too, correct?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-d/

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Optimism and Pessimism   1 comment

Temple at Jerusalem

Above:   The Temple at Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you,

without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy.

Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide,

we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 10:1-19

Psalm 98

Luke 17:20-37

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Sing to the LORD a new song,

for he has done marvelous things.

–Psalm 98:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Psalm 98 is the most optimistic reading for this day.  In Ezekiel 10 (carried over into Chapter 11) the Presence of Yahweh departs from Jerusalem, leaving it open to invasion and destruction by foreigners.  The divine Presence remains absent until Ezekiel 43.  In Luke 17:21 the Kingdom of God is present yet persecution and generally dark, eschatological times are en route.  On the other hand, in Luke 18, Jesus encourages his followers to continue praying and never to lose heart.  There is a way through the difficult times while living or dead, and always faithful to God.

The tone of these readings, taken together, fits the time of the church year well.  In the Revised Common Lectionary and several other lectionaries the selected portions of scripture become increasingly apocalyptic during the last few weeks before Advent and into that season.  Some Confessional Lutheran bodies even go so far as to label the last four Sundays of the Season after Pentecost the End Time Season.

May we remember that out of the creative destruction in Revelation 4-20 comes a new creation in Chapters 21 and 22.  Hope in God is real and well-founded, for God will win in the end.

That is a reason for optimism.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 6, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANKLIN CLARK FRY, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA AND THE LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLAUDE OF BESANCON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HENRY JAMES BUCKOLL, AUTHOR AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/06/06/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-28-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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Stumbling Blocks   4 comments

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Above:  Couples Dancing the Jitterbug, 1938

Photographer = Alan Fisher

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-134893

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The Collect:

O God, you direct our lives by your grace,

and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world.

Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 28:1-4

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Luke 17:1-4

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Happy are the people who know the shout of triumph;

they walk, O Lord, in the light of your contenance.

In your name they rejoice all day long

and are exalted in your righteousness.

For you are the glory of their strength,

and in your favour you lift up our heads.

Truly the Lord is our shield;

the Holy One of Israel is our king.

–Psalm 89:15-18, Common Worship (2000)

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[Jesus] said to his disciples, “There are bound to be causes of stumbling; but woe betide the person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round his neck than to cause the downfall of one of these little ones. So be on your guard. If your brother does wrong, reprove him; and if he repents, forgive him. Even if he wrongs you seven times in a day and comes back to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you are to forgive him.”

–Luke 17:1-4, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Years ago I saw a cartoon on a church office door. A man was standing at the Pearly Gates of Heaven. St. Peter said to him,

No, that’s not a sin either. You must have worried yourself to death.

There are varieties of stumbling blocks.

One type is obsessing over activities which are not sinful. I have read of congregational leaders calling members to account for playing Bridge or hosting a dance at home in the 1800s. In the early 1990s a United Methodist minister told me about an experience he had had in the 1960s, when he was a pastor in rural Houston County, Georgia. Parents in the community, in an effort to provide safe activities for their children, had organized a series of Saturday night chaperoned dances at the fellowship hall of the local Methodist Church. One night a local Southern Baptist pastor made a scene outside as he complained loudly about the sinful dancing going on indoors. I suppose that he thought he was reproving people in the spirit of Luke 17, but his congregation fired him shortly thereafter. Many of the people in the Methodist fellowship hall that night, O reader, were his parishioners.

Obsessing over small fries which are not even sinful as if they are detracts one from actual sins.

Many people have long mistaken medical problems, such as addictions and dependencies, as moral failings, and therefore sins. Yet having a medical condition—a physical illness (including mental illness, which has organic causes)–is no sin. One should strive to fulfill one’s responsibility to be a better person—including not caving into certain cravings—of course, but having a problem of that sort is no sin.

Neither is acting according to or having a characteristic with which one is born and over which one has no control sinful. The option to do one thing or another is part of what makes some deeds sinful. Where there is option there is no sin, which is doing the wrong thing when one can do the right thing.

False prophecy is a sin. The Bible names many prophets who said that which was convenient and politically expedient and who led people astray. And I can think of some false prophets with ministerial titles and television shows in my own time. Many of the broadcast of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), where the hair is big and much of the furniture, in the words of someone I heard speak in the late 1990s, would fit in at a New Orleans bordello. (I assume that the metaphor had mostly to do with furniture in pre-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.)

One can also erect stumbling blocks of the excessively permissive variety. I refer not so much to peccadilloes (not that they do not matter) as to patterns and structures in society. Peccadilloes, which are bad and therefore require correction, constitute low-hanging fruit. The real challenge is to climb the tree. The Bible contains more material about money, the uses of it, and economic injustice (including the exploitation of people) than it does about sexual practices and proclivities. One should, then, hear more about economics than sexuality from the pulpit, but often reality is the other way around. Not reproving people complicit in economic exploitation constitutes a failure on one’s part. Allegations of engaging in class warfare aside, engaging in such reproof is the right thing to do.

We humans exist chiefly to glorify and enjoy God forever. The Psalm speaks to that point from the Westminster Catechism. Forgiveness—something frequently difficult—is a vital part of approaching that goal—for both the one who pardons and he or she who receives the forgiveness. And so is appropriate reproof. Inappropriate reproof, however, does not help. May we, by grace, see through our blind spots and bad cultural programming to recognize that which is proper. Then may we affirm it and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DESIDERIUS/DIDIER OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUIBERT OF GORZE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST ROSSI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS, SCIENTIST

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-8-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Universal God   1 comment

brooklyn_museum_-_the_healing_of_ten_lepers_guc3a9rison_de_dix_lc3a9preux_-_james_tissot_-_overall

Above:  The Healing of the Ten Lepers, by James Tissot

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 29:1, 4-7 and Psalm 66:1-11

or 

2 Kings 5:1-3, 7-15c and Psalm 111

then 

2 Timothy 2:8-15

Luke 17:11-19

The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; 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:

Proper 23, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/proper-23-year-a/

Proper 23, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/02/proper-23-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

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

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/hostility-fractures-the-body/

Prayer of Dedication:

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

2 Kings 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/proper-1-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/proper-9-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/devotion-for-september-8-lcms-daily-lectionary/

2 Timothy 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/devotion-for-january-30-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/week-of-proper-4-thursday-year-2/

Luke 17:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-wednesday-year-1/

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Grace for outsiders is a potent and often politically unpopular theme.  Much of the time the outsiders are enemies, perhaps nationals of hostile realms.  Such was the case regarding Naaman.  And what about the Prophet Jeremiah’s advice to seek the welfare of the soon-to-be-conquering empire?  And, although Samaritans lived within the borders of the Roman Empire (as did Palestinian Jews), there was a long-standing hostile relationship between them and Jews.  A Samaritan receiving good press in the Gospels was scandalous indeed.

Yet the God of Judaism and Christianity is for all people, although far from all of them worship and revere God.  For all of them Christ died and with him all the potential (often unrealized) to live and reign.  For, as St. Simon Peter said at Caesarea,

…God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him does what is right is acceptable to him.

–Acts 10:34b-35, New Revised Standard Version

God has many sheep.  I belong to just one flock.  And I wonder how many other sheep and flocks there are as I hope that I will never mistake any of them for not being of God.  I interpret the “other sheep” to be Gentiles in the original context.  But who, other than God, knows what really goes on inside others spiritually?  Many of the officially observant are just putting up facades.  And many people have faith of which God alone knows.  What I do not know outweighs what I do know.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; SAINT CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND SAINT CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/proper-23-year-c/

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

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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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Paying It Forward   1 comment

Above:  Onesimus

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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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Philemon 1-25 (Revised English Bible):

From Paul, a prisoner of Christ Jesus, and our colleague Timothy, to Philemon our dear friend and fellow-worker, together with Apphia our sister, and Achippus our comrade-in-arms, and the church that meets at your house.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I thank my God always when I mention you in my prayers, for I hear of your love and faith towards the Lord Jesus and for all God’s people.  My prayer is that the faith you hold in common with us may deepen your understanding of all the blessings which belong to us as we are brought closer to Christ.  Your love has brought me much joy and encouragement; through you God’s people have been much refreshed.

Accordingly, although in Christ I might feel free to dictate  where your duty lies, yet, because of that same love, I would rather appeal to you.  Ambassador as I am of Christ Jesus, and now his prisoner, I, Paul, appeal to you about my child, whose father I have become in this prison.  I mean Onesimus, once so useless to you, but now useful indeed, both to you and to me.  In sending him back to you I am sending my heart.  I should have liked to keep him with me, to look after me on your behalf, here in prison for the gospel, but I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that your kindness might be a matter not of compulsion, but of your own free will.  Perhaps this is why you lost him for a time to receive him back for good–no longer as a slave, but as more than a slave:  as a dear brother, very dear to me, and still dearer to you, both as a man and as a Christian.

If, then, you think of me as your partner in the faith, welcome him as you would welcome me.  If he did you any wrong and owes you anything, put it down to my account.  Here is my signature:  Paul.  I will repay you–not to mention that you owe me your very self.  Yes, brother, I am asking this favour of you as a fellow-Christian; set my mind at rest.

I write to you confident that you will meet my wishes; I know that you will in fact do more than I ask.  And one last thing:  have a room ready for me, for I hope through the prayers of you all to be restored to you.

Epaphras, a captive of Christ Jesus like myself, sends you greetings.  So do my fellow-workers Mark, Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit!

Psalm 146 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,

for there is not help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise for ever.

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

The LORD sets the prisoner free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down.

8 The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked!

The LORD shall reign for ever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Hallelujah!

Luke 17:20-25 (Revised English Bible):

The Pharisees asked Jesus,

When will the kingdom of God come?

He answered,

You cannot tell by observation when the kingdom of God comes.  You cannot say, “Look, here it is,” or “There it is!”  For the kingdom of God is among you!

He said to the disciples,

The time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man and will not see it.  They will say to you, “Look! There!” and “Look! Here!”  Do not go running off in pursuit.  For like a lightning-flash, that lights up the earth from end to end, will the Son of Man be in his day.  But first he must endure suffering and be rejected by this generation.

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 27:  Thursday, Year 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/week-of-proper-27-thursday-year-1/

The Feast of Saint Onesimus, Bishop and Martyr (February 11):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-st-onesimus-bishop-and-martyr-february-11/

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May we, in our consideration of the Letter to Philemon, turn off the proverbial tapes running inside our heads.  Rather, may we take our cues from the text itself; it is our primary source.  As a person trained in historical methods, reading one’s primary sources closely and accurately matters to me greatly.  And, as we engage in this close (and hopefully accurate) reading, may we recall that we are reading just one side of an ancient correspondence.  Paul did not mention certain details because Philemon already knew what they were.  I suspect that the Apostle did not imagine that people would read this letter in translation nearly two thousand years later.  If he had thought otherwise, he might have added more details.

So, what can we know, according to the text?  We can know the following:

  1. Paul wrote from prison, distant from where Philemon lived.
  2. Philemon, Paul’s friend, hosted a congregation in his home.
  3. Onesimus, who owed Philemon a debt, had spent an undefined period of time with Paul, to the Apostle’s delight.
  4. Paul sent Onesimus back to Philemon with this letter, in which he (Paul) offered to pay the debt and asked Philemon to take Onesimus back “as a brother.”

Widely accepted assumptions include that Onesimus was a slave–and a fugitive who had stolen from Philemon.  I thought that until earlier today, when I poured over commentaries, most of which reflected the received wisdom.  But what if the received wisdom is wrong?  Professor Allan Callahan, writing in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 2003), argues that the text does not support the received wisdom.  He points to verse 16, which, in English translation, asks Philemon to received Onesimus

…no longer as a slave but more than a slave, a beloved brother….

Callahan points out the following:

Just as Paul says that the Galatians are no longer slaves but sons in the family of God (Gal. 4:7), so also Paul insists here that Onesimus be received as though he were no longer as a slave but a brother in Philemon’s family of faith; as has the force of “as if” or “as though.”

So Onesimus might not have been a slave.  If this is true, almost two thousand years of Christian interpretation of this epistle has been mostly wrong.  If so, so be it.  Tradition can be mistaken.

Tradition can also be correct.  We read in the hagiographies that both Philemon and Onesimus became bishops and martyrs.  The Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople lists Onesimus as Bishop of Byzantium from 54 to 68 C.E., and therefore a predecessor of the current Ecumenical Patriarch.

This is a story about redemption and the good for many that flows from it.  Paul redeemed Onesimus, through whom many people found faith in Jesus.  Paul, in turn, was able to do this because of a direct action by God.  So, when God acts in our lives, may we embrace the responsibility, to help others directly, to pay it forward, and so to aid still others indirectly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, SR., NATIONAL BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SOREN AABYE KIERKEGAARD, DANISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/week-of-proper-27-thursday-year-2/

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Posted May 10, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Luke 17, Philemon, Psalm 146

Tagged with , ,

The Golden Rule, Part II   1 comment

Above:  A Nurse with Infant Orphans

Image Source = Michielvd

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Orphange_in_Colombia.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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Titus 2:1-3:15 (Revised English Bible):

For your part, you must say what is in keeping with sound doctrine.  The older men should be sober, dignified, and temperate, sound in faith, love, and fortitude.  The older women, similarly, should be reverent in their demeanour, not scandalmongers or slaves to excessive drinking; they must set a high standard, and so teach the younger women to be loving wives and mothers, to be temperate, chaste, busy at home, and kind, respecting the authority of their husbands.  Then the gospel will not be brought into disrepute.

Urge the younger men, similarly, to be temperate in all things, and set them an example of good conduct yourself.  In your teaching you must show integrity and seriousness, and offer sound instruction to which none can take exception.  Any opponent will be at a loss when he finds nothing to say to our discredit.

Slaves are to respect their masters’ authority in everything and to give them satisfaction; they are not to answer back, nor to pilfer, but are to show themselves absolutely trustworthy.  In all this they will add lustre to the doctrine of God our Saviour.

For the grace of God has dawned upon the world with healing for all mankind; and by it we are disciplined to renounce godless ways and worldly desires, and to live a life of temperance, honesty, and godliness in the present age, looking forward to the happy fulfillment of our hope when the splendour of our great God and Saviour Christ Jesus will appear.  He it is who sacrificed himself for us, to set us free from all wickedness and to make us his own people, pure and eager to do good.

These are your themes; urge them and argue them with an authority which on one can disregard.

Remind everyone to be submissive to the government and the authorities, and to obey them; to be ready for any honourable work; to slander no one, to avoid quarrels, and always to show forbearance and a gentle disposition to all.

There was a time when we too were lost in folly and disobedience and were slaves to passions and pleasures of every kind.  Our days were passed in malice and envy; hateful ourselves, we loathed one another.

But when the kindness and generosity of God our Saviour dawned upon the world, then, not for any good deeds of our own, but because he was merciful, he saved us through the water of rebirth and the renewing power of the Holy Spirit, which he lavished upon us through Jesus Christ our Saviour, so that, justified by his grace, we might in hope become heirs to eternal life.

That is a saying you may trust.

Such are the points I want to insist on, so that those who have come to believe in God may be sure to devote themselves to good works.  These precepts are good in themselves and useful to society.  But avoid foolish speculations, genealogies, quarrels, and controversies under the law; they are unprofitable and futile.

If someone is contentious, he should be allowed a second warning; after that, have nothing more to do with him, recognizing that anyone like that has a distorted mind and stands self-condemned in his sin.

Once I have sent Artemas or Tychicus to you, join me at Nicopolis as soon as you can, for that is where I have decided to spend the winter.  Do your utmost to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their travels, and see that they are not short of anything.  And our own people must be taught to devote themselves to good works to meet urgent needs; they must not be unproductive.

All who are with me send your greetings.  My greetings to our friends in the faith.  Grace be with you all!

Psalm 37:1-6, 28-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Do not fret yourself because of evildoers;

do not be jealous of those who do no wrong.

2 For they shall soon whither like the grass,

and like the green grass they fade away.

3 Put your trust in the LORD and do good,

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

Take delight in the LORD,

and he shall give you your heart’s desire.

Commit your way to the LORD and put your trust in him,

and he will bring it to pass.

He will make your righteousness as clear as the light

and your just dealing as the noonday.

28 Turn from evil, and do good,

and dwell in the land for ever.

29 For the LORD loves justice;

he does not forsake his faithful ones.

Psalm 91:9-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

9  Because you have made the LORD your refuge,

and the Most High your habitation,

10  There shall no evil happen to you,

neither shall any plague come near your dwelling.

11  He shall give his angels charge over you,

to keep you in all his ways.

12  They shall bear you in their hands,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.

13  You shall tread upon the lion and adder;

you shall trample the young lion and the serpent under your feet.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,

therefore I will deliver him;

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;

I am with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

16 With long life will I satisfy him,

and show him my salvation.

Luke 17:7-10 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said to his disciples,]

Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing or minding sheep.  When he comes in from the fields, will the master say, “Come and sit down straightway”?  Will he not rather say, “Prepare my supper; hitch up your robe, and wait on me while I have my meal.  You can have yours afterwards”?  Is he grateful to the servant for carrying out his orders?  So with you:  when you have carried out all you have been ordered to do, you should say, “We are servants and deserve no credit; we have only done our duty.”

In the course of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem he was travelling through the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee.  As he was entering a village he was met by ten men with leprosy.  They stood some way off, and called out to him,

Jesus, Master, take pity on us.

When he saw them he said,

Go and show yourselves to the priests;

and while they were on the way, they were made clean.  One of them, finding himself cured, turned back with shouts of praise to God.  He threw himself down at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.  And he was a Samaritan.  At this Jesus said:

Were not all then made clean?  The other nine, where are they?  Was  no one found returning to give praise to God except this foreigner?

And he said to the man,

Stand up and go on your way; your faith has cured you.

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 27:  Tuesday, Year 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-tuesday-year-1/

Week of Proper 27:  Wednesday, Year 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-wednesday-year-1/

Slavery:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/week-of-proper-25-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-25-thursday-year-2/

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Chapters 2 and 3 of Titus contain much practical advice and non-controversial administrative advice.  Some of the content is sexist by modern standards, but it did not seem so at the time.  Then there are really troublesome parts–slavery and submission to the government.  As I have already written, the failure to condemn slavery and to insist upon complete egalitarianism mars the Pauline tradition for me.  And, as for submission to the government, in the Pauline case, the Roman Empire, I have read some disturbing articles and editorials (as late as the middle 1970s) in arch-conservative, pro-law and order Christian magazines during the Vietnam War era, citing the Third Reich as an extreme example of a government to which one ought to submit.  What would Dietrich Bonhoeffer have said about that?

I propose that, as a Christian, my obligation is to follow the example of Jesus, who lived according to the Golden Rule.  So, regardless of the specific circumstances, may we treat others respectfully and act toward them compassionately.  This might entail some tough love, but so be it.  Each person bears the image of God; may we treat them with the dignity corresponding to the status of God-bearer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, SR., NATIONAL BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SOREN AABYE KIERKEGAARD, DANISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/week-of-proper-27-tuesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-27-wednesdayyear-2/

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Ethnic Slurs and Other Stereotypes   1 comment

Above:  Crete, as of July 22, 2011

Image Source = NASA

(http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/multimedia/gallery/iss028e018562.html)

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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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Titus 1:1-16 (Revised English Bible):

From Paul, servant of God and apostle of Christ Jesus, marked as such by the faith of God’s chosen people and the knowledge of the truth enshrined in our religion with its hope of eternal life, which God, who does not lie, promised long ages ago, and now in his own good time has openly declared in the proclamation entrusted to me by command of God our Saviour.

Titus, my true-born son in the faith which we share.  Grace and peace to you from God the Father and Jesus Christ our Saviour.

My intention in leaving you behind in Crete was that you should deal with any outstanding matters, and in particular should appoint elders in each town in accordance with the principles I have laid down:  Are they men of unimpeachable character?  Is each the husband of one wife?  Are their children believers, not open to any charge of dissipation or indiscipline?  For as God’s steward a bishop  must be a man on unimpeachable character.  He must not be overbearing  or short-tempered or given to drink; no brawler, no money-grubber, but hospitable, right-minded, temperate, just, devout, and self-controlled.  He must keep firm hold of the true doctrine, so that he may be well able both to appeal to his hearers with sound teaching and to refute those who raise objections.

There are many, especially among Jewish converts, who are undisciplined, who talk wildly and lead others astray.  Such men must be muzzled, because they are ruining whole families by teaching what they should not, and all for sordid gain.  It was a Cretan prophet, one of their own countrymen, who said,

Cretans were ever liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons

–and how truly he spoke!  All the more reason why you should rebuke them sharply, so that they may be restored to a sound faith, instead of paying heed to Jewish myths and to human commandments, the work of those who turn their backs on the truth.

To the pure all things are pure; but nothing is pure to tainted disbelievers, tainted both in reason and in conscience.  They profess to know God but by their actions deny him; they are detestable and disobedient, disqualified for any good work.

Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

Luke 17:1-6 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus said to his disciples,

There are bound to be causes of stumbling; but woe betide the person through whom they come.  It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round his neck than to cause the downfall of one of these little ones.  So be on your guard.

If your brother does wrong, reprove him; and if he repents, forgive him.  Even if he wrongs you seven times in a day and comes back to you seven times saying, “I am sorry,” you are to forgive him.”

The apostles said to the Lord,

Increase our faith;

and the Lord replied,

If you had faith no bigger than a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be rooted up and planted in the sea;’ and it would obey you.

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 27:  Monday, Year 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-monday-year-1/

A Prayer to Embrace Love, Empathy, and Compassion, and to Eschew Hatred, Invective, and Willful Ignorance:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/a-prayer-to-embrace-love-empathy-and-compassion-and-to-eschew-hatred-invective-and-willful-ignorance/

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Scholars debate whether Paul wrote this epistle, addressed to Titus, one of Paul’s associates left at Crete and advised how to to set up the administration of the church there.  It does seem that Titus had to contend with some especially rebellious and contentious people in the course of fulfilling his vocation.  So the author, who disliked them, used some unflattering language for Jews and Cretans.  This, unfortunately, is consistent with Paul, who, in Philippians 3:2, called the Judaizers “dogs.”  I recall this clearly, for I completed my journey through the epistle just a few days ago.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible features the following “Special Note” regarding ethnic slurs on page 2144:

This surprising insult may be the author’s way of portraying the rebellious teachers in the worst possible light.  Despite the use of such language in a letter attributed to Paul, surely the use of ethnic slurs within the Christian community is unacceptable in the light of Jesus’ acceptance of the Samaritans (Luke 10:25-37; John 4:1-2) and Paul’s own statements in Gal. 3:28.

Yes, some people fit stereotypes, but most do not; people are generally more complicated than stereotypes.  I stress this point in classrooms and provide historical examples as supporting details.  It is easy to slur and stereotype those who differ from us significantly and with whom we disagree strongly, much less those we do not know.  May we, by grace, resist that temptation.  That would be consistent with the example of Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, SR., NATIONAL BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SOREN AABYE KIERKEGAARD, DANISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/week-of-proper-27-monday-year-2/

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Posted May 10, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Galatians 3, John 4, Luke 10, Luke 17, Psalm 24, Titus 1

Tagged with ,

Longing for the End of Days is Counterproductive   1 comment

Above:  Judgment Day May 21 Vehicle

Image Source = Bart Everson

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Judgment_Bus_New_Orleans_2011.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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Wisdom of Solomon 13:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

What born fools were all who lived in ignorance of God!  From the good things before their eyes they could not learn to know him who is , and failed to recognize the artificer though they observed his handiwork!  Fire, wind, swift air, the circle of the starry signs, rushing water, or the great lights in heaven that rule the world–these they accounted gods.  It was through delight in the beauty of these things that people supposed them gods, they ought to have understood how much better is the Lord and Master of them all; for it was by the prime author of all beauty they were created.  It was through astonishment at their power and influence, people should have learnt from these how much more powerful is he who made them.  For the greatness and beauty of created things give us a corresponding idea of their Creator.  Yet these people are not greatly to be blamed, for when they go astray they may be seeking God and really wishing to find him.  Passing their lives among his works and making a close study of them, they are persuaded by appearances because of the beauty of what they see.  Yet even so they do not deserve to be excused, for with enough understanding to speculate about the universe, why did they not sooner discover its Lord and Master?

Psalm 19:1-4 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

Luke 17:26-37 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said to his disciples,]

As it was in the days of Noah, will it be in the days of the Son of Man.  They ate and drank and married, until the day that Noah went into the ark and the flood came and made an end of them all.  So too in the days of Lot, they ate and drank, they bought and sold, they planted and built; but on the day that Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained from the sky and made an end of them all.  it will be like that on  the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

On that day if anyone is on the roof while his belongings are in the house, he must not go down to fetch them; and if anyone is in the field, he must not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife.  Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life will gain it.

I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed:  one will be taken, the other left.  There will be two women grinding corn:  one will be taken, the other left.

When they heard this they asked,

Where, Lord?

He said,

Where the carcass is, there will the vultures gather.

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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A Related Post:

Matthew 24 (Similar to Luke 17):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/first-day-of-advent-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

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Consider this:

Ah, you who wish

For the day of the LORD!

Why should you want

The day of the LORD?

It shall be darkness, not light!–

As if a man should run from a lion

And be attacked by a bear;

Or if he got indoors,

Should lean his hand on the wall

And be bitten by a snake!

Surely the day of the LORD shall be

Not light, but darkness,

Blackest night without a glimmer.

–Amos 5:18-20, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Here I am, following a lectionary and writing nearly six months ahead of schedule.  And, on May 20, 2011, one day before the alleged Judgment Day Harold Camping has announced, news of which I cannot evade, I get this reading from Luke 17.  The dark and apocalytic reading is appropriate for late Ordinary Time, near the First Sunday in Advent, during which many Lutherans, depending on their denominational affiliation, identify as either a sub-season (Propers 26-29, the four Sundays before Advent), as the Missouri Synod does, or the End Time Season (Reformation Sunday-Last Judgment-Saints Triumphant-Christ the King), as the Wisconsin Synod does.  Indeed, this Canadian Anglican lectionary in Year 1 will end with the apocalyptic Luke 21 and readings from Daniel.

The reading from the Wisdom of Solomon speaks of idolatry.  I am convinced that longing for the apocalyptic end constitutes a form of idolatry, for an idol is anything that distracts us from God.  An icon, on the other hand, is something through which we see God.  We are here on planet Earth to be good stewards of it, to love God fully, and love ourselves and each other as we love God–in other words, to live the Golden Rule, and to glorify and enjoy God.  We ought not give up on the world.  Yet those who have given up on the world, who have abandoned hope, are often likely to long for the dreaded day of judgment.

God is in charge of such matters, and I have neighbors to love.  That will occupy my time quite sufficiently, with no space left over for longing for the apocalypse.  No, I need to look around more often and see Christ in those around me and feel God in the breeze.  Count me among the optimists.  God is in charge; I need not concern myself with many details.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, DEACON AND ABBOT

THE EAST OF SAINT HELENA, MOTHER OF EMPEROR CONSTANTINE I

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/week-of-proper-27-friday-year-1/

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