Archive for the ‘Mark 8’ Category

Causing Dissensions and Offenses, Part II   1 comment

Premium Yeast Powder

Above:  Premium Yeast Powder, 1870

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ61-1537

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The Collect:

Ever-living God, your Son gives himself as living bread for the life of the world.

Fill us with such knowledge of his presence that we may be strengthened and sustained

by his risen life to serve you continually,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 43:1-15 (Monday)

Genesis 45:11-15 (Tuesday)

Genesis 47:13-26 (Wednesday)

Psalm 36 (All Days)

Acts 6:1-7 (Monday)

Acts 7:9-16 (Tuesday)

Mark 8:14-21 (Wednesday)

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The daily readings of the Revised Common Lectionary continue the motif of good and drink.  Jesus, in a pericope (John 4:7-26) for the previous post, was the living water.  Joseph, of whom St. Stephen spoke in Acts 7, fed not only his family but the entire Egyptian Empire.  Unfortunately, he enslaved the populace in the process.  On the other hand, Jesus brings freedom and serves as the ultimate thirst quencher (John 4:13-14).  Speaking of spiritual food and drink, one might, like the Pharisees of Mark 8:15, have bad food and not know it.  Herod Antipas was not a sympathetic figure either, but he lacked the pretense of holiness.  Sometimes deceivers are unambiguously bad, but others think they are righteous.

Yeast functions as a metaphor in Mark 8.  It indicated

the diffusion of veiled evil.

The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), page 1823

Herod’s veil was the authority of the Roman Empire, legitimized by violence and oppression.  The Pharisaic veil was the Temple system, which depended on economic exploitation and a form of piety which favored the wealthy.  One lesson I have derived from these passages is that political legitimacy does not necessarily indicate moral fitness.

Do not let an arrogant man approach me,

do not let the wicked push me off course.

There they have fallen, those wicked men,

knocked down, unable to rise.

–Psalm 36:12-13, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

Yet many such arrogant people thrive in this life for a long time, for many of the godly suffer because of them.  Economically exploitative systems continue to exist, and many people who consider themselves righteous defend them.  Oppressive violence persists, and many who consider themselves godly defend it.  Yet the testimony of faithful people of God, from antiquity to current times, against it remains also.  The words of Hebrew prophets thunder from the pages of the Old Testament, for example.  The condemnations of repression and exploitation are ubiquitous.  Dare we listen to them and heed them?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-15-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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With God There Are Leftovers, Part I   1 comment

Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Above:  Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, eternal goodness, immeasurable love,

you place your gifts before us; we eat and are satisfied.

Fill us and this world in all its need with the life that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 55:1-9

Psalm 107:1-3, 33-43

Mark 8:1-10

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Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he rendered them from the hand of the foe.

He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

–Psalm 107:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Repentance is an option, even late in the game, so to speak.  God, who glorifies the chosen people and remains faithful to divine promises, invites those who need to change their minds and ways to do so.  The more people who are present at the divine banquet, the merrier.

Speaking of banquets, Mark 8:1-10 tells of Jesus feeding 4000 people (not just men) with a few fishes and loaves of bread.  I refuse to try to explain the Feeding of the 4000 and the 5000 (Plus) (Mark 6:30-44) rationally for the same reason, which is that to do so is address the wrong question.  I focus instead on one detail:  there was more afterward than before.

Some people think that they have nothing to offer or that what they have to offer is inadequate, so they do not offer it to God for divine purposes.  God, however, can multiply those gifts and talents, leaving leftovers.  Many people need to repent of their failure to trust in God’s strength instead of their own.  These are not evil people, just weak ones with psychological and emotional issues.  At some point in each of us has been among this population.  Others of us remain in their ranks.

The graciousness of God to the Hebrews in Isaiah 55 benefited the world (verse 5).  God’s blessings to any one of us can and should benefit others.  If we trust God to multiply that which we have to offer, as meager as it might seem, it will enrich the lives of more people than we can imagine, for the glory of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF DANIEL G. C. WU, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND MISSIONARY TO CHINESE AMERICANS

THE FEAST OF FREDERIC BARKER, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF SYDNEY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-13-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Trusting in God, Part IV   1 comment

Abrahamic Covenant

Image Source = Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D., New Catholic Picture Bible:  Popular Stories from the Old and New Testaments (New York, NY:  Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1960), page 16

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The Collect:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death

to be for us the means on life.

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss

for the sake of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 15:1-6, 12-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 16:1-6 (Friday)

Genesis 16:7-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 22:23-31 (All Days)

Romans 3:21-31 (Thursday)

Romans 4:1-12 (Friday)

Mark 8:27-30 (Saturday)

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My soul shall live for him;

my descendants shall serve him;

they shall be known as the LORD’s own for ever.

–Psalm 22:29, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Harboring doubts regarding extraordinary promises (as in Genesis 15) and not understanding who Jesus is despite spending much time in close quarters with him (as in Mark 8) are growth opportunities.  Information is the antidote to ignorance, but a lack of trust in God is a spiritual problem.  When one acts on it (as in Genesis 16, despite the glowing review of Abraham in Romans 4), one complicates matters horribly.

We are responsible to God and each other.  We also depend on God and each other.  We will not trust God all the time, for we are mere mortals.  We can, however, rely on divine grace and improve; we can trust God more often.  God expects us to improve, not be flawless.  When we fail to trust God then act out of fear and a misdirected sense of human agency, we harm others as well as ourselves, for what we do to others, we do to ourselves.  Mutuality works for the positive as well as the negative in our lives.

Recently someone asked me if I believe in God.  My answer surprised him, for I replied by asking him what he meant by “believe in.”  Biblical belief is trust in God, not the affirmation of divine existence.  So I continued my answer by stating that I affirm the existence of God all the time and trust God most of the time.  It was a precise and honest answer.

May we trust God more than we do.  May I trust God more than I do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Genesis and Mark, Part XIV: Huh? What?   1 comment

isaac-blessing-jacob

Above:  Isaac Blessing Jacob, by Govert Flinck

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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:

Genesis 24:32-52, 61-67 (15th Day of Lent)

Genesis 27:1-29 (16th Day of Lent)

Psalm 22 (Morning–15th Day of Lent)

Psalm 43 (Morning–16th Day of Lent)

Psalms 107 and 130 (Evening–15th Day of Lent)

Psalms 31 and 143 (Evening–16th Day of Lent)

Mark 8:1-21 (15th Day of Lent)

Mark 8:22-38 (16th Day of Lent)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 24:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/proper-9-year-a/

Genesis 27:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/week-of-proper-8-saturday-year-1/

Mark 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/week-of-5-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/week-of-6-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/week-of-6-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/week-of-6-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/second-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-friday-year-1/

Prayers:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/prayer-for-friday-in-the-second-week-of-lent/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/prayer-for-saturday-in-the-second-week-of-lent/

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And the LORD answered her [Rebekah],

“Two nations are in your womb,

Two separate peoples shall issue from your body;

One people shall be mightier than the other,

And the older shall serve the younger.”

–Genesis 25:23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Rebekah, sister of Laban, was generous,  unlike her brother.  And, according to the narrative, she became an instrument of God’s will.  (She was also a trickster.)  Just as the divine promise favored Isaac, the second son of Abraham, it also favored Jacob, the second son of Isaac.  The human means of granting this favor in each case were morally difficult, to state the case simply.  And so I scratch my head and ask myself what I am supposed to make of such stories.

Now I consider the sequence of events in Mark 8:

  1. Jesus feeds “about four thousand people” with seven loaves and a few small fishes.  He has leftovers afterward.  (1-10)
  2. Some Pharisees ask for a sign.  Jesus refuses.  (11-13)
  3. Jesus speaks metaphorically about the yeast of Pharisees and of Herod Antipas.  His Apostles take him literally.  (14-21)
  4. Jesus cures a blind man at Bethsaida.  (22-26)
  5. Jesus confesses Jesus to be the Christ.  (27-30)
  6. Jesus predicts his death and resurrection.  Peter rebukes him.  Jesus rebukes Peter then says that anyone who would follow must take up his own cross.  (31-38)

Jesus was surrounded by people who were oblivious–metaphorically blind–to his identity.  Peter grasped that Jesus was the Christ–the Messiah–yet misunderstood what that meant.  And, as for Pharisees demanding a sign, why was another multiplication of food insufficient?

God comes to us in many ways, including Bible stories.  As I reflect on my childhood Christian education, I do not recall many discussions of the nuances of morally difficult stories.  There was a great biblical whitewashing in Sunday School.  I prefer the Bible straight up, a stiff drink of narrative theology, if you will.  This good, stiff drink can prove uncomfortable sometimes, but so be it.  Even when I scratch my head and ask myself,

Huh? What?,

I prefer that reality to comfortable ignorance.

We meet Jesus in print via Bible stories  yet others encountered him in the flesh.  And many of them were confused.  You, O reader, and I have the advantage of hindsight. But we are also subject to confusion.  Nevertheless, such confusion can turn into knowledge of the truth, as it did in the case of Peter.  He, of course, took up his cross (literally).  Our crosses might not prove as costly, but what if they do?  Are we prepared for that?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW FOURNET AND ELIZABETH BICHIER, COFOUNDERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS; AND SAINT MICHAEL GARICOITS, FOUNDER OF THE PRIEST OF THE SACRED HEART OF BETHARRAM

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF SUDAN

THE FEAST OF TE WERA HAURAKI, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/devotion-for-the-fifteenth-and-sixteenth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Justification, Love, and Justice   1 comment

Above:  Economic Inequality Made Manifest

Image Source = eenthappana

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

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Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him,

I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.

Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,

As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

God said to Abraham,

As for Sarah your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.

Psalm 22:22-30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

22 Praise the LORD, you that fear him;

stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;

all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;

neither does he hide his face from them;

but when they cry to him he hears them.

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly;

I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,

and those who seek the LORD shall praise him:

“May your heart love for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD,

and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the LORD;

he rules over the nations.

28 To him alone who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;

all who go down to the dust fall before him.

29 My soul shall live for him;

my descendants shall serve him;

they shall be known as the LORD’s for ever.

30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn

the saving deeds that he has done.

Romans 4:13-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

The promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written,

I have made you the father of many nations

) — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become

the father of many nations,

according to what was said,

So numerous shall your descendants be.

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith

was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Now the words,

it was reckoned to him,

were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Mark 8:31-38 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said,

Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them,

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

The Collect:

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Second Sunday in Lent, Year A:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/second-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

Romans 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/week-of-proper-23-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/week-of-proper-24-monday-year-1/

Genesis 17:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-second-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

Mark 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/week-of-6-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/week-of-6-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/proper-5-year-a/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

O Lord,You Gave Your Servant John:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

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Last Sunday’s readings (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/holy-baptism/) focused on baptism, a sacrament which is an outward sign of something God has done and is doing.  This Sunday we have another great word:  justification.  This is also something God has done and is doing.   Justification indicates having a right relationship with God; it is a legal term.  And, according to Paul, it comes through faith and grace.  The Letter of James, of course, speaks of justification by deeds, but that book uses “faith” to mean something different than in Romans.  For more details, follow the germane link I have provided.  The bottom line is this:  There is no contradiction between Romans and James on the issue of justification.

This justification, since the time of Jesus, owes much to the Atonement, which, I am convinced, was a process which began with the Incarnation (again, something God initiated) and ended with the death and resurrection of Jesus (something God did).  Our responses to God, then, are of the essence.  How will we respond to such a merciful and active deity?  This grace, which facilitates faith, is cheap but not free.  It was cheap neither to God the Father nor God the Son.  And it demands much of us.

The baptismal vows speak of loving our neighbors as ourselves and respecting the dignity of our fellow human beings. So, how will we treat our fellow human beings, and what will we consider acceptable treatment?  Will our neighbors have living wages, safe working conditions, and career opportunities which make the most of their talents an abilities?  Will they face discrimination?  What will the love of Christ and our neighbors impel us to do?

I could continue, but I trust that I have made my point clearly.  May we love our neighbors as ourselves, even if that entails taking up a cross and following Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/second-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

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Misguided Possessiveness and Factionalism are Unwise   1 comment

Above:  Wisdom, by Robert Lewis Reed (1896), at the Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.

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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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Ecclesiasticus (Sirach) 4:11-19 (Revised English Bible):

Wisdom raises her sons to greatness

and gives help to those who seek her.

To love her is to love life;

those who rise early to greet her will be filled with joy.

He who holds fast to her will gain honour;

the Lord’s blessing rests on the house she enters.

To serve her is to serve the Holy One,

and the Lord loves those who love her.

He who is obedient to her will give true judgement,

and, because he listens to her, his home will be secure.

If he trusts her, he will possess her

and bequeath her to his descendants.

At first she will lead him by torturous ways,

filling him with craven fears.

Her discipline will be a torment to him,

and her decrees a hard test,

until he trusts her with all his heart;

then she will come straight back to him,

bringing gladness and revealing to him her secrets.

But if he strays, she will abandon him

and leave him to his fate.

Psalm 119:161-168 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

161 Rulers have persecuted me without a cause,

but my heart stands in awe of your word.

162 I am as glad because of your promise

as one who finds great spoils.

163 As for lies, I hate and abhor them,

but your law is my love.

164 Seven times a day do I praise you,

because of your righteous judgments.

165 Great peace have they who love your law;

for them there is no stumbling block.

166 I have hoped for your salvation, O LORD,

and I have fulfilled your commandments.

167 I have kept your decrees

and I have loved them deeply.

168 I have kept your commandments and decrees,

for all my ways are before you.

Mark 9:38-41 (Revised English Bible):

John said to him,

Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in your name, and as he was not one of us, we tried to stop him.

Jesus said,

Do not stop him, for no one who performs a miracle in my name will be able the next moment to speak evil of me.  He is not against us is on our side.  Truly I tell you:  whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because you are followers of the Messiah will certainly not go unrewarded.

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The Collect:

O Lord, you have taught us that without love whatever we do is worth nothing: Send your Holy Spirit and pour into our hearts your greatest gift, which is love, the true bond of peace and of all virtue, without which whoever lives is accounted dead before you. Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this wicked and godless age, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

–Jesus in Mark 8:38 (Revised English Bible)

and this:

I now understand how true it is that God has no favourites, but that in every nation those who are god-fearing and do what is right are acceptable to him.

–Simon Peter in Acts 10:34-35 (Revised English Bible)

God works through and speaks to and through a wide variety of people.  Many of them are unlike you, O reader, or me.  Yet they are of God, too.  So, how will we respond to them.  I know how we should respond; we should welcome them and give thanks for them.  We might even be able to collaborate with some of them now and again.  But will we exhibit a positive response or attempt to shut them down, as the Apostles did?

Ben Sira explains that divine wisdom, personified as female, is both comforting and challenging, delightful and capable of tough love.  (The psalmist agrees.)  This writing comes from a place of lived and mature spirituality; it recognizes that discipline is part of God’s love for us.  If we persist faithfully, however, we will learn the lessons God has in mind for us.

The Apostles needed to learn such lessons.  They reported discouraging a successful exorcist who was not of their religious opinion in Mark 9:38.  Yet, in Mark 9:18, they failed in their attempts at exorcism.  Were they protecting their turf and criticizing unjustly one who could do what they could not?  This other fellow’s success did not trouble Jesus, though

He who is not against us is on our side.

Our Lord and Savior did not pay undue attention to divisive labels and artificial categories.  Neither should we.

Human thoughts do not limit divine wisdom.  This is a challenging realization, one that acting upon can lead to scorn, if not persecution.  But, as Jesus said,

Blessed are you when people hate you and ostracize you, when they insult you and slander your very name, because of the Son of Man.  On that day exult and dance for joy, for you have a rich reward in heaven; that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23 (Revised English Bible)

So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/week-of-7-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

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The Sin of Jealousy   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator, Daphni, Greece

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

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Genesis 4:1-15, 25 (Revised English Bible):

The man lay with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain.  She said,

With the help of the LORD I have brought into being a male child.

Afterwards she had another child, Abel.  He tended the flock, and Cain worked the land.  In due season Cain brought some of the fruits of the earth as an offering to the LORD, while Abel brought the choicest of the firstborn of his flock.  The regarded Abel and his offering with favour, but not Cain and his offering.  Cain was furious and he glowered.  The LORD said to Cain,

Why are you angry?  Why are you scowling?

If you do well, you hold hold your head up;

if not, sin is a demon crouching at the door;

it will desire you, and you will be mastered by it.

Cain said to his brother Abel,

Let us go out into the country.

Once there, Cain attacked and murdered his brother.  The LORD asked Cain,

Where is your brother Abel?

Cain answered,

I do not know.  Am I my brother’s keeper?

The LORD said,

What have you done?  Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.  Now you are accursed and will be banished from the very ground which has opened its mouth to receive the blood you have shed.  When you till the ground, it will no longer yield you its produce.  You shall be a wanderer, a fugitive on the earth.

Cain said the the LORD,

My punishment is heavier than I can bear; now you are driving me off the land, and I must hide myself from your presence.  I shall be a wanderer, a fugitive on the earth, and I can be killed at sight by anyone.

The LORD answered him,

No:  if anyone kills Cain, sevenfold vengeance shall be exacted from him….

Adam lay with his wife again.  She gave birth to a son, and named him Seth,

for,

she said,

God has granted me another son in place of Abel, because Cain killed him.

Psalm 50:7-24 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear, O my people, and I will speak:

“O Israel, I will bear witness against you;

for I am God, your God.

8 I do not accuse you because of your sacrifices;

your offerings are always before me.

9 I will take no bull-calf from your stalls,

nor he goats out of your pens;

10 For all the beasts of the forest are mine,

the herds in their thousands upon the hills.

11 I know every bird in the sky,

and the creatures of the fields are in my sight.

12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the whole world is mine and all that is in it.

13 Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls,

or drink the blood of goats?

14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and make good your vows to the Most High.

15 Call upon me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.

16 But to the wicked God says:

“Why do you recite my statutes,

and take my covenant upon your lips?

17 Since you refuse discipline,

and toss my words behind your back?

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

and you cast in your lot with adulterers.

19 You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

20 You are always speaking of evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

21 These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

22 “I have made my accusation;

I have put my case in order before your eyes.

23 Consider this well, you who forget God,

lest I rend you and there be none to deliver you.

24 Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me;

but to those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God.”

Mark 8:11-13 (Revised English Bible):

Then the Pharisees came out and began to argue with him.  To test him they asked for a sign from heaven.  He sighed deeply and said,

Why does generation ask for a sign?  Truly I tell you:  no sign shall be given to this generation.

With that he left them, re-embarked, and made for the other shore.

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The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; 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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Part of the process of writing each of these posts is deciding which image to place at the top.  Moody Jesus fits the bill for today, based on the reading from Mark.

The sin of jealousy ties the Genesis and Mark readings together.  We have continuing mythology in Genesis.  Two brothers, Cain and Abel, are quite different from each other.  Each makes a sacrifice to God, and, as Richard Elliott Friedman translates the text,

And YHWH paid attention to Abel and his offering, and did not pay attention to Cain and his offering.  And Cain was very upset, and his face was fallen.

Cain’s reply,

Am I my brother’s keeper?

is familiar in the English language.  Professor Friedman, however, translates this question differently:

Am I my brother’s watchman?

This, he says, is consistent with a deeper meaning in the Hebrew texts.  People, he reminds the reader of his notes inCommentary on the Torah (2001), were supposed to watch over the Garden of Eden, God commanded cherubs to watch over the tree of life, and Cain was supposed to watch over his brother.  Friedman concludes that the use of this Hebrew verb

becomes a standard expression in the Torah for conveying loyalty to God.

Jealousy is born of resentment, not love.  And we cannot love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love those whom we can see.  This love of God, which entails loyalty thereto, is consistent with arguing with God.  I have heard Judaism described as a faith system in which people argue with God; the name “Israel” derives from the story in which Jacob wrestles with an angel (or God).  Indeed, much of the Book of Psalms, when not in overly polite translations, reads much like

Look, Yahweh!  Where have you been for so long?

And whoever coined the cliche “the patience of Job” seems not to have familiar with that text.  The title character is quite argumentative.

Yet this argument can occur “within the family” without leading to broken relationships.  God loves us always, but do love God?  And, in Genesis, God both punishes Cain and protects him; the murder must have consequences for the murderer, but death will not be among them.  Both judgment and grace and present.  The situation could have been worse, but how much better might it have been for all involved had Cain controlled his jealousy?

The sacrifices God desires, Psalm 50 tells us, are obedience and thanksgiving.  And Psalm 51:18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer) tells us,

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Love (in Greek, agape), St. Paul the Apostle tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, does not insist on its own way.  With that in mind, let us consider the Pharisees in Mark 8:11-13.  Textual context is vital here; Jesus has just fed about 4000 people with a little bread and a few fishes, with many leftovers filling hamper-sized baskets.  And what do these “orthodox” religious men want?  They desire a sign.  Were they blind?  No, they were jealous.  The mere existence of Jesus disproved much of what they held dear.  His presence threatened their viability.  They were jealous.  And, if I were Jesus, I would be moody, too.  I would leave, also.  Who wants to spend much time around negative people?

Assuming that we love God, why do we?  Is it just because of signs?  I hope not.  This is selfish and shallow.  I propose that we ought to love God because God is God, and we are not.  Being God entails demonstrating certain attributes, among them grace.  Grace is scandalous; it reaches “good” religious people as well as prostitutes and half-breed heretics; it protects sinners and summons penitents.  Grace is inherently unfair, and therein lies its splendor.  And let us not be jealous; no, may we rejoice with our brethren.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 21, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CAREY, FATHER OF MODERN MISSIONS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-1/

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Posted January 19, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 4, Mark 8, Psalm 50

Tagged with , , ,

The Bread of Life   1 comment

Above:  Eucharistic Host with Wafers

Image Source = Patnac

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

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Genesis 3:9-24 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And YHWH God called the human and said to him,

Where are you?

And he said,

I heard the sound of you in the garden and was afraid because I was naked, and I hid?

And He said,

Who told you that you were naked?  Have you eaten from the tree from which I commanded you not to eat?

And the human said,

The woman, whom you placed with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.

And YHWH God said to the woman,

What is this that you’ve done?

And the woman said,

The snake tricked me, and I ate.

And YHWH God said to the snake,

Because you did this, you are cursed out of every domestic animal and every animal of the field, you’ll go on your belly, and you’ll eat dust all the days of your life.  And I’ll put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and her seed.  He’ll strike you at the head, and you’ll strike him at the heel.

To the woman He said,

I’ll make your suffering and your labor pain great.  You’ll have children in pain.  And your desire will be for your man, and he’ll dominate you.

And to the human He said,

Because you listened to your woman’s voice and ate from the tree about which I commanded you saying, ‘You shall not eat from it,” the ground is cursed on your account.  You’ll eat from it with suffering all the days of your life.  And it will grow thorn and thistle at you, and you’ll eat the field’s vegetation.  By the sweat of your nostrils you’ll eat bread until you go back to the ground, because you were taken from it; because you are dust and you’ll go back to dust.

And the human called his woman

Eve,

because she was the mother of all living.

And YHWH God made skin garments for the human and his woman and dressed them.

And YHWH God said,

Here, the human has become like one of us, to know good and bad.  And now, in case he’ll put out his hand and take from the tree of life as well, and eat and live forever from the tree of life as well, and eat and live forever.

And YHWH God put him out of the garden of Eden, to work the ground from which he was taken.  And He expelled the human, and He had the cherubs and the flame of a revolving sword reside at the east of the garden of Eden to watch over the way to the tree of life.

Psalm 90:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

3 You turn us back to the dust and say,

“Go back, O child of earth.”

For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

5 You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered.

7 For we consume away in your displeasure;

we are afraid because of your wrathful indignation.

8 Our iniquities you have set before you,

and our secret sins in the sight of your countenance.

When you are angry, all our days are gone;

we bring our years to an end like a sigh.

10 The span of our life is seventy years,

perhaps in strength even eighty;

yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow,

for they pass away quickly and we are gone.

11 Who regards the power of your wrath?

who rightly fears your indignation?

12 So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

Mark 8:1-10 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

About this time it happened again that a large crowd collected and had nothing to eat.  Jesus called the disciples over to him and said,

My heart goes out to this crowd; they have been with me three days now and they have no food left.  If I send them off home without anything, they will collapse on the way–and some of them have come from a distance.

His disciples replied,

Where could anyone find the food to feed them here in this deserted spot?

Jesus asked them,

How many loaves have you got?

They replied,

Seven.

So Jesus told the crowd to settle themselves on the ground.  Then he took the seven loaves into his hands, and with a prayer of thanksgiving broke them, and gave them to the disciples to distribute to the people; and this they did.  They had a few small fish as well, and after blessing them, Jesus told his disciples to give these also to the people.  They ate and they were satisfied.  Moreover, they picked up seven baskets of full pieces left over.  The people numbered about four thousand.  Jesus sent them home, and then he boarded the boat at once with the disciples and went on to the district of Dalmanutha.

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The Collect:

Set us free, O God, from the bondage of our sins, and give us the liberty of that abundant life which you have made known to us in your Son our Savior Jesus Christ; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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This seems like a good time to quote Calvinist theology.  There are three covenants in Calvinism.  The first is the Covenant of Redemption, in which the members of the Holy Trinity agreed to redeem human beings.  Then there is the Covenant of Works, which is of pre-Fall origin.  The formulation is simple:  obey God and live (spiritually and physically); disobey God and die (spiritually and physically).   Grace did mitigate the penalty, as in today’s reading from Genesis.  Sin being universal after the Fall, a third covenant, one of grace, became necessary.  Since we are incapable of fulfilling the terms of the Covenant of Works, life and death are spiritual, not physical.  Jesus fulfills the terms of the Covenant of Works.  (Thanks to R. C. Sproul for his summary of the covenants in What is Reformed Theology?  Understanding the Basics, Grand Rapids, MI:  Baker Books, 1997)

That aspect of Calvinism provides a useful prism for interpreting the readings for today.  Grace was present simultaneously with judgment; God expelled the mythical Adam and Eve from paradise and denied them immortality, yet protected them from immediate death.  The myth communicates a profound truth:  Although we cannot evade all consequences of our actions, often we do not receive all that we deserve.  This is grace.

Speaking of grace, we arrive next at the Feeding of the Four Thousand.  I do not care about engaging in the argument about whether this is a retelling of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (men) plus an uncertain number of women and children.  No, I have a different priority.  Read with me:  Jesus had compassion on the people, some of whom had a long trek back home.  Literally, as J. B. Phillips translated the text, his heart went out to them.  So he fed them.  His grace was abundant, to overflowing:  seven large baskets (hampers, really) full of leftovers.

This story is a foretaste of the Holy Eucharist, one of my favorite activities.  I am so attached to it that I seek to partake of it at least once a week, usually more often.  Jesus is the bread of life–spiritual life.  He is present (really present) in this sacrament.  So, each week, as I pray the Hail Mary silently and partake of bread (and often wine, too), I take my Lord into myself.  If I am what I eat (an apt expression in this context), I become holier for this simple act.  And my spiritual life deepens.  The body will die, but something of myself will continue.  May it do so in the presence of God.  That is called eternity in the afterlife.  May you do likewise.

That will be grace, for all of us.

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I AM THE BREAD OF LIFE

Words by Sister Suzanne Toolan, R.S.M.

As published in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), hymnal and worship book of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

1.  “I am the bread of life.

You who come to me shall not hunger,

and who believe in me shall not thirst.

No one can come to me unless the Father beckons.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

2.  “The bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world,

and if you eat of this bread,

you shall live forever,

you shall live forever.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

3.  “Unless you eat of the flesh of the Son of Man

and drink of his blood,

and drink of his blood,

you shall not have life within you.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

4.  “I am the resurrection,

I am the life.

If you believe in me,

even though you die,

you shall life forever.”

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

5.  Yes, Lord, I believe that you are the Christ,

the Son of God,

who has come into the world.

“And I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up,

and I will raise you up on the last day.”

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KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 19, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY MARTYN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAUL OF THE CROSS, FOUNDER OF THE PASSIONIST CONGREGATION

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/week-of-5-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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Heeding Wisdom’s Call   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Proverbs 1:20-33 (New Revised Standard Version):

Wisdom cries out in the street;

in the squares she raises her voice.

At the busiest corner she cries out;

at the entrance of the city she speaks;

How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple?

How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge?

Give heed to my reproof;

I will pour out my thoughts to you;

I will make my words known to you.

Because I have called you and you refused,

have stretched out my hand and no one heeded,

and because you have ignored all my counsel

and would have none of my reproof,

I also laugh at your calamity;

I will mock when panic strikes you,

when panic strikes you like a storm,

and your calamity comes like a whirlwind,

when distress and anguish come upon you.

They will not call upon me, but I will not answer;

they will seek me diligently, but will not find me.

Because they hated knowledge

and did not choose the fear of the LORD,

would have none of my counsel,

and despised all my reproof,

therefore they shall eat the fruit of their way

and be sated with their devices.

For waywardness kills the simple,

and the complacency of fools destroys them;

but those who listen to me will be secure and will live at ease, without dread of disaster.

Psalm 19 (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.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults?

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

or

Wisdom of Solomon 7:26-8:1 (Revised English Bible):

She [Wisdom] is the radiance that streams from everlasting light, the flawless mirror of the active power of God, and the image of his goodness.  She is but one, yet can do all things; herself unchanging, she makes all things new; age after age she enters into holy souls, and makes them friends of God and prophets, for nothing is acceptable to God but the person who makes his home with wisdom.  She is more beautiful than the sun, and surpasses every constellation.  Compared with the light of day, she is found to excel, for day gives place to night, but against wisdom no evil can prevail.  She spans the world in power from end to end, and gently orders all things.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 50:4-9a (New Revised Standard Version):

The Lord GOD has given me the tongue of a teacher,

that I may know how to sustain the weary with a word.

Morning by morning he wakens–

wakens my ear to listen as those who are taught.

The Lord GOD has opened my ear,

and I was not rebellious,

I did not turn backward.

I gave my back to those who struck me,

and my cheeks to those who pulled out the beard;

I did not hide my face from insult and spitting.

The Lord GOD helps me;

therefore I have not been disgraced;

therefore I have set my face like flint,

and I know that I shall not be put to shame;

he who vindicates me is near.

Who will contend with me?

Let us stand up together.

Who are my adversaries?

Let them confront me.

It is the Lord GOD who helps me;

who will declare me guilty?

Psalm 116:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 I love the LORD, because he has heard the voice of my supplication,

because he has inclined his ear to me whenever I called upon him.

2 The cords of death entangled me;

the grip of the grave took hold of me;

O came to grief and sorrow.

3 Then I called upon the Name of the LORD;

“O LORD, I pray you, save my life.”

Gracious is the LORD and righteous;

our God is full of compassion.

5 The LORD watches over the innocent;

I was brought very low, and he helped me.

Turn again to your rest, O my soul,

for the LORD has treated you well.

7 For you have rescued my life from death,

my eyes from tears, and my feet from stumbling.

8 I will walk in the presence of the LORD

in the land of the living.

SECOND READING

James 3:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

My friends, not many of you should become teachers, for you may be certain that we who teach will ourselves face severer judgement.  All of us go wrong again and again; a man who never says anything wrong is perfect and is capable of controlling every part of his body.  When we put a bit into a horse’s mouth to make it obey our will, we can direct the whole animal.  Or think of a ship:  large though it may be and driven by gales, it can be steered by a very small rudder on whatever course the helmsman chooses.  So with the tongue; it is small, but its pretensions are great.

What a vast amount of timber can be set ablaze by the tiniest spark!  And the tongue is a fire, representing in our body the whole wicked world.  It pollutes our whole being, it sets the whole course of our existence alight, and its flames are fed by hell. Beasts and birds of every kind, creatures that crawl on the ground or swim in the sea, can be subdued and have been subdued by man; but no one can subdue the tongue.  It is an evil thing, restless and charged with deadly venom.  We use it to praise our Lord and Father; then we use it to praise our Lord and Father; then we use it to invoke curses on our fellow-men, though they are made in God’s likeness.  Out of the same mouth come praise and curses.  This should not be so, my friends.  Does a fountain flow with both fresh and brackish water from the same outlet?  My friends, can a fig tree produce olives, or a grape vine produce figs?  No more can salt water produce fresh?

GOSPEL READING

Mark 8:27-38 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus and his disciples set out for the villages of Caesarea Philippi, and on the way he asked his disciples,

Who do people say that I am?

They answered,

Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, others one of the prophets.

He asked,

And you, who do you say that I am?

Peter replied,

You are the Messiah.

Then he gave them strict orders not to tell anyone about him; and he began to teach them that the Son of Man had to endure great suffering, and to be rejected by the elders, chief priests, and scribes; to be put to death, and to rise again three days afterwards.  He spoke about it plainly.  At this Peter took hold of him and began to rebuke him.  But Jesus, turning and looking at his disciples, rebuked Peter.

Out of my sight, Satan!

he said.

You think as men think, not as God thinks.

Then he called the people to him, as well as his disciples, and said to them,

Anyone who wants to be a follower of mine must renounce self; he must take up his cross and follow me.  Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and for the gospel’s will save it.  What does anyone gain by winning the whole world at the cost of his life?  What can he give to buy his life back?  If anyone is ashamed of me and my words in this wicked and godless age, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; 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:

Feast of the Confession of Saint Peter the Apostle (January 18):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/feast-of-the-confession-of-st-peter-the-apostle-january-18/

Isaiah 50:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-seventh-day-of-lent-wednesday-in-holy-week/

Wisdom of Solomon 7-8:

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

James 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/week-of-6-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/27/week-of-proper-1-saturday-year-2/

Mark 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-1-friday-year-1/

Matthew 16 (Parallel to Mark 8):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-1/

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 8):

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

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

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

Thou Art the Way:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/thou-art-the-way/

Be Thou My Vision:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/03/be-thou-my-vision/

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The lessons from Proverbs and the Wisdom of Solomon personify divine wisdom as a woman.  The Greek word for wisdom gives us a female name, Sophia.  As one who admires (yet does not understand) womankind, I find the idea of wisdom as feminine (while sheer might is masculine) sensible.  These are metaphors, of course, so we ought to look through them to the truth behind them.  God exists beyond our notions of sexuality and gender, but we do not.

Anyhow, the theology of Sophia did influence that of the Logos, which the Johannine Gospel identifies with Jesus.  That is a summary of part of the history of Christian thought.  Just making objectively lineage does not interest me, however.  The implications of the Sophia-Logos connection do fascinate me, but I leave those for another day.  The existence of that connection does provide me with a beginning point for theological rumination.

If people knew what was good for them and acted accordingly, they obeyed the words of divine wisdom, a figure which the Wisdom of Solomon describes as

a reflection of eternal light,

a spotless mirror of the working of God,

and an image of his goodness.

–7:26, New Revised Standard Version

Thus we read, for example, of the afflictions of the suffering servant in Isaiah 50, the dangers of the wrong uses of the tongue in James 3, and the impending suffering and execution of Jesus in Mark 8.  If more people knew what is good for them and were to act accordingly, they would heed the words and example of Jesus, the Logos of God.  If more historical figures, long since dead, had known what was good for them and acted accordingly, they would not have crucified Jesus or consented to his execution.  There would have been less suffering.  The suffering servant did not have to suffer, but the combination of his fidelity and the perfidy of others caused that suffering.

I like to study the lives of the saints, canonized and/or beatified or not.  In my tradition, Anglicanism, history makes saints.  And, as the keeper of my own Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, I do not depend on even my own ecclesiastical authorities to define who is a saint worthy of recognition.  So, as I research church history, I read about many people I have come to admire.  A vast number of them are martyrs and many others have suffered greatly due to their Christian faith.  Often the persecutors have belonged to other religions or have been Atheists, but sometimes professing Christians have oppressed and even killed each other.  I wonder how I would have acted had I been in the places of the saints I admire.  The honest answer in my conscience troubles me; I would most likely have used my tongue to curse, not bless.  I have done done so in less trying situations.

I have much yet to learn from divine wisdom and the Logos.  In this I am far from alone.  So, setting aside all recrimination, especially self-condemnation, may we, aware that we are in the same boat, support each other in our journeys toward lives of increased wisdom.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 20, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN HARRIS BURT, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF BERTILLA BOSCARDIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND NURSE

THE FEAST OF TARORE OF WAHAORA, ANGLICAN MARTYR IN AOTEAROA/NEW ZEALAND

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 20, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/20/proper-19-year-b/

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Ready or Not…   2 comments

Above:  Noah’s Ark, According to Edward Hicks (1780-1849)

Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10 (Revised English Bible):

When the LORD saw how great was the wickedness of human beings of earth, and how their every thought and inclination was always wicked, he bitterly regretted that he had made mankind on earth.  He said,

I shall wipe off the face of the earth this human race which I have created–yes, man and beast, creeping things and birds.  I regret that I have ever made them.  Noah, however, won the LORD’s favour.

The LORD said to Noah,

Go into the ark, you and all your household; for you alone in this generation have I found to be righteous.  Take with you seven pairs, a male and female, of all beasts that are ritually clean, and one pair, a male and female, of all beasts that are not clean; also seven pairs, males and females, of every bird–to ensure that life continues on earth.  For in seven days’ time I am going to send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I shall wipe off the the face of the earth every creature I have made.

Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.

At the end of seven days the water of the flood came over the earth.

Mark 8:14-21 (Revised English Bible):

Now they had forgotten to take bread with them, and had only one loaf in the boat.  He began to warn them:

Beware,

he said,

be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.

So they began to talk among themselves about having no bread.  Knowing this, Jesus said to them,

Why are you talking about having no bread?  Have you no inkling yet?  Do you still not understand?  Are your minds closed?  You have eyes:  can you not see?  You have ears:  can you not hear?  Have you forgotten?  When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?

They said,

Twelve.

Jesus asked them,

And how many when I broke the seven loaves among the four thousand?

They answered,

Seven.

He said to them,

Do you still not understand?

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The Collect:

Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us and not what we deserve; and, as you have called us to your service, make us worthy of our calling; 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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Do you still not understand?

–Jesus in Mark 8:21

I know the feeling.  Sometimes, when standing inside a classroom, having chosen to avoid unduly advanced vocabulary words, I find that students still do not understand.  I spoke slowly and enunciated, so I could not have run my words together.  And I spoke up, so volume could not have been an issue.  I sent the message, but some students did not receive it.

God asks the same question repeatedly in the pages of the Hebrew Bible.  Many of our forebears, it seems, either did not listen or chose to pretend that they did not understand.  Today’s reading from Genesis comes from the J account of the Noah’s Ark story.  (The cover art for this post reflects P’s version of God’s instructions–two of every kind.  My North American church culture has fixated on P and ignored J in this matter. C’est la vie.)  In this retelling of an older story, God is frustrated with how creation has turned out.  So God decides to preserve a remnant, destroy the rest, and start over.  God prepares to recreate (create again) the Animal Kingdom.  Noah understands what he must do, and he acts accordingly.  I would say that the rest is history, but this is not history.

“Recreate” is an interesting verb in English.  Depending on whether the first vowel sound is long or short, the meaning is different.  Yet both forms derive from the same Latin word, which means “to bring forth again.”  Recreation, as in games, can refresh us.  And recreation, as in creating again, restores.  Both, however, involve bringing forth again.  And sometimes recreation (long e vowel sound) can be recreation (short e vowel sound).  That is a grace.

The Apostles are in need of recreation (both kinds) in Mark 8:14-21.  Jesus has just fed about 4000 people with a few fishes and a little bread then berated some Pharisees.  These Pharisees have demanded a sign, as you might recall from yesterday’s reading.  Then Jesus, alone with the members of his inner circle speaks in a metaphor, that of leaven, which, in Jewish culture, denoted evil.  So Jesus said to avoid falling into the evil of the Pharisees and the corruption of the Herodians.  Yet, as the Markan Gospel tells the story, the Apostles are clueless; they think Jesus refers to literal bread.  So Jesus, who is already frustrated with Pharisees, adds his Apostles to the list.

Even worse, they still fail to understand after he explains what he means–without a metaphor.  The Apostles need not worry when they are with Jesus.  Consider how far some fishes and loaves of bread went; there is more where that came from.  And why don’t they understand this yet?

We mortals can, if we cooperate with God, display the transforming love of God to anyone who pays attention and who is within our sphere of influence.  First, however, we have to pay attention to whatever God is saying to us.  God is sovereign, and the divine will is destined to come to fruition.  We humans have enough power and free will to ruin Plan A (and B and C…), for example, but God will triumph, with or without us.  Ready or not, here God comes.  May we be ready.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PAUL TILLICH, LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR and ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR 

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/,

the basis for this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-tuesday-year-1/

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