Archive for the ‘Mark 9’ Category

Faithfulness and Faithlessness   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  The Exorcism

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 31:30-32:27 or Isaiah 5:8-17

Psalm 142

Matthew 17:9-20 or Mark 9:9-29 or Luke 9:18-27 (28-36) 37-45

Philippians 2:14-30

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A typically Jewish way of speaking and writing about God is to recall what God has done.  After all, God is like what God has done.  Furthermore, we are like what we have done, although we are far more than the worst deeds we have committed.  The relevant issue is the pattern of what we have done and of what we are doing.  Repentance is possible, after all, and the past is not necessarily accurate in predicting the future.

Consider with me, O reader, the assigned readings for this Sunday.  The two options for the First Reading proclaim divine judgment upon the faithless, for whom God has done much.  The faithless should know better.  Perhaps they do know better, but they are not acting as if they do.  The lection from Isaiah 5 follows the famous passage likening rebellious Israel to a well-tended vineyard that yields wild grapes.  God will judge that vineyard, we read.  Likewise, we read of faithless Israel in Deuteronomy.  If Richard Elliott Friedman is correct, lurking in the background of the text is a condemnation of polytheism.  God is, after all, insistent upon monotheism in the Hebrew Bible.  If Dr. Friedman is correct, faithlessness to YHWH entails turning to supposedly subordinate deities, members of the divine council–a concept Hebrew prophets opposed vigorously.

In contrast to those lections we read Psalm 142, the lament of a dying man whom other mortals have abandoned.  This man, contemplating the imminent unknown, turns to God alone.  One may assume safely that God is faithful to those who demonstrate fidelity.

The passage from Philippians belongs to a section of that epistle in which one finds advice regarding how to live faithfully in community.  People are to think about each other and model their lives after Jesus, whose humility and selflessness is certainly challenging to emulate.  In this context the customary verses about people with polysyllabic names take on more importance than they might otherwise; these verses model the attitudes and behaviors the preceding verses extol.  People are like what they do.

The three options for the Gospel reading are parallel versions of the same story, set immediately after the Transfiguration of Jesus.  One might fixate on the typically Hellenistic diagnosis of epilepsy as demonic possession, but to do so would be to miss the point.  In the narrative the Apostles have just learned of Christ’s true identity in all of its glory, yet they have not grasped this revelation, and were therefore ineffective.  The lesson for we who read these stories thousands of years later is to ponder whether we grasp who Jesus is and whether we are as effective as we can be in our discipleship.

Our challenge in this regard is to render proper thanksgiving to God in our lives.  We can do this only be grace, of course, but our desire to pursue this course of action is also essential.  Obstacles include laziness, fear, selfishness, cultural conditioning, the pressure to conform, and simple obliviousness.  If we are to grow into our full spiritual stature, however, we must seek to follow and honor God and to trust in divine grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/devotion-for-proper-4-year-d/

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Glorifying God, Not Ourselves   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  Exorcising a Boy Possessed by a Demon

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Gracious God, throughout the ages you transform

sickness into health and death into life.

Openness to the power of your presence,

and make us a people ready to proclaim your promises to the world,

through Jesus Christ, our healer and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 47

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 15:9-20

Isaiah 38:10-20

Matthew 17:14-21

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The LORD is at hand to save me;

so let the music of our praises resound

all our life long in the house of the LORD.

–Isaiah 38:20, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The story in Isaiah 38 is that God has extended the life of King Hezekiah of Judah by fifteen years.  The monarch, grateful that he is no longer at death’s door, writes a poem (the end of which I have quoted above).  Unfortunately, in the next chapter, he shows off to an emissary of the king of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire (not yet a threat to Judah), prompting the ire of God and Isaiah:

Isaiah said to Hezekiah:  “Hear the word of the LORD of Hosts:  The time is coming, says the LORD, when everything is your palace, and all that your forefathers have amassed till the present day, will be carried away to Babylon; not a thing will be left.  And some of your sons, your own offspring, will be taken to serve as eunuchs in the palace of the king of Babylon.”  Hezekiah answered, “The word of the LORD is good,” for he was thinking to himself that peace and security would last his lifetime.

–Isaiah 39:5-8, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Book of Judges speaks of Samson’s connection to God.  The vivid translation in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) refers to the spirit of the LORD gripping him immediately prior to a feat of physical strength.  Such is the case in Judges 15:9-20.  The spirit of the LORD grips Samson in verse 14.  Samson kills a thousand Philistine men with the jawbone of an ass in verse 15.  In verse 16, however, Samson fails to give credit to God:

Then Samson said:

“With the jaw of an ass,

Mass upon mass!

With the jaw of an ass

I have slain a thousand men.”

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Samson was, as the Book of Judges presents him, a dolt who lived to satisfy his id.  Nevertheless, God worked through him, and he was aware of that reality.  Would giving credit to God when credit was due have been so difficult?

The pericope from Matthew 17 became more interesting the deeper I delved into its background.  The Gospel of Mark is the oldest of the canonical Gospels, dating to no earlier than 67 C.E.  It is one of the sources for the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, both of which contain the “Markan spine,” elaborate upon it, and add material from other sources.  Thus a version of a story from Mark is usually pithier than a version of the same story from Matthew or Luke.  That statement does not apply to Matthew 17:14-21, which is abbreviated from Mark 9:14-29.  It is as if the author of Matthew wanted to get to the point.  He has also changed the meaning of the story from a statement to Christology to the background for a pronouncement regarding the power of faith, faith meaning trust in divine power, in this case.

The pericope from Matthew 17 indicates that the Apostles could not heal the boy, whom the culture said was moonstruck, or afflicted by the moon goddess Selene, because they had insufficient trust in the power of God, which was available to them.  They could have done more, via divine power, of course, had they been more confident in God.

Martin Luther, a morally troublesome character in many ways, was correct much of the time.  For example, his advice when baptized people questioned their salvation was to trust in the faithfulness of God.  That counsel applies to other circumstances also.  And, as we trust in divine faithfulness, may we glorify God, not ourselves.

JUNE 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM KETHE, PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/06/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-18-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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For the Glory of God   1 comment

Hezekiah

Above:  King Hezekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God,

we implore you to hear the prayers of your people.

Be our strong defense against all harm and danger,

that we may live and grow in faith and hope,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 20:1-11

Psalm 88

Mark 9:14-29

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Do you work wonders for the dead?

will those who have died stand up and give you thanks?

–Psalm 88:11, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The two main pericopes for today contain accounts of healing.  Prayer is a component in both stories, and medicine and contrition augment it in the case of King Hezekiah of Judah.

Biblical healing stories cover a wide range of territory, so to speak, but they have consistent markers.  The healing is for the glory of God and the benefit of the healed person, for example.  Often healings draw others to God while improving the circumstances of the beneficiary.  Restoration is ideally for the community, not just the healed person;  the healing restores the person to wholeness and hopefully to his or her community and family.  In some healing stories the community and/or family seems less than supportive, however.  That points to their sins.

In this post I focus on divine healing for the glory of God.  One who continues to read 2 Kings 20 after verse 11 learns that Hezekiah used part of his extended lifespan to glorify himself in the presence of Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian envoys.  That was a bad decision, for that empire went on to destroy the Kingdom of Judah after this lifetime.  Nevertheless, God remained faithful to the divine promise to protect Judah from the Assyrian Empire.

May we seek to serve and glorify God, not to glorify ourselves and seek our self-interests at the expense of others.  May we succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES VILLIERS SANFORD, COMPOSER, ORGANIST, AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HENRY BRENT, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WESTERN NEW YORK

THE FEAST OF JOHN MARRIOTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT RUPERT OF SALZBURG, APOSTLE OF BAVARIA AND AUSTRIA

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/27/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-8-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Epiphanies of God   1 comment

Moses on Mount Sinai

Above:  Moses on Mount Sinai, by Jean-Leon Gerome

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, through your Son you have called us to live faithfully and act courageously.

Keep us steadfast in your covenant of grace,

and teach us the wisdom that comes only through Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 19:1-9a (Thursday)

Exodus 19:9b-15 (Friday)

Exodus 19:16-25 (Saturday)

Psalm 19 (All Days)

1 Peter 2:4-10 (Thursday)

Acts 7:30-40 (Friday)

Mark 9:2-8 (Saturday)

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The law of the LORD inspires reverence and is pure;

it stands firm for ever,

the judgements of the LORD are true;

they form a good code of justice.

–Psalm 19:10, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers, Harry Mowvley (1989)

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We are always in the presence of God.

Where can I go from your spirit?

Or where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

Even there your hand shall lead me,

your right hand hold me fast.

–Psalm 139:6-9, Common Worship:  Daily Prayer (2005)

Nevertheless, sometimes the presence of God becomes evident in an unusually spectacular way.  How one ought to respond to those occasions is one topic in the assigned readings for these three days.

1 Peter 2 and Exodus 19 bring up the point of the faithful people of God having the responsibility to be a light to the nations.  First, however, the faithful people must become that light.  This was originally the call of the Jews, who retain that call as well as their status as the Chosen People.  Far be it from me to give short shrift to the Jews, my elder siblings in faith!  I, a Gentile, belong to the branch which God grafted onto their tree.

But how should one respond to a spectacular manifestation of the presence of God?  Those details, I suppose, are culturally specific, as is much of the Law of Moses.  Moses removed his sandals in the presence of the burning bush.  At Mt. Sinai the people were to wash their clothing, abstain from sexual relations for three days, and avoid touching the mountain.  There was a case of fatal holiness, a repeated motif in the Hebrew Scriptures.  People were supposed to maintain a safe distance from God.  As for sexual activity, it would cause ritual impurity (see Leviticus 15:18) in the Law of Moses, which they were about to receive.  And, in the words of scholar Brevard S. Childs:

The holy God of the covenant demands as preparation a separation from those things which are normally permitted and good in themselves.  The giving of the covenant is different from an ordinary event of everyday life.  Israel is, therefore, to be prepared by a special act of preparation.

The Book of Exodus:  A Critical Theological Commentary (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1974), page 369

As for women and the Law of Moses, I cannot help but notice that the code reflects a negative view of gynaecology.  May such sexism become increasingly rare in today’s world.

One pious yet misguided response to a spectacular manifestation of the presence of God is to seek to institutionalize it.  That was just one error St. Simon Peter committed at the Transfiguration, the description of which I understand as being more poetic than literally accurate.  (Could any description do the event justice?)  Another error was that the three proposed booths would be the same size; one should have been larger than the others.

Although we dwell in the presence of God and might even be aware of that reality most of the time, we still need moments when we experience it in unusual and spectacular ways.  Mundane blessings are wonderful and numerous, but sometimes we need another variety of blessing and a reminder of the presence of God.  I have had some of them, although they were substantially toned down compared to the Transfiguration, the burning bush, and the giving of the Law of Moses.  They were, however, out of the ordinary for me.  Thus I remember them more vividly than I do the myriads of mundane blessings and encounters with God.  These unusual epiphanies have edified me spiritually at the right times.  They have also called me to continue on my spiritual walk with God through easy and difficult times.  That journey is one for the glory of God and the benefit of others–perhaps including you, O reader.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN ROBERTS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HOWELL ELVET LEWIS, WELSH CONGREGATIONALIST CLERGYMAN AND POET

THE FEAST OF KARL BARTH, SWISS REFORMED THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF THOMAS MERTON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/10/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Arrogant People and Evildoers   1 comment

Elijah

Above:  Icon of Elijah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the words of your prophets,

that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light;

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Malachi 3:16-4:16

Psalm 125

Mark 9:9-13

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Show your goodness, O LORD, to those who are good

and to those who are true of heart.

As for those who turn aside to crooked ways,

the LORD will lead them away with evildoers;

but peace be upon Israel.

–Psalm 125:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Malachi 3:16-4:6 (as Protestant versification labels it), or 3:16-21 (as Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versification calls it), speaks of divine judgment and mercy–the former for evildoers and the latter for the righteous.  The evildoers, back in Malachi 3:14-15, had said:

It is useless to serve God.  What have we gained by keeping His charge and walking in abject awe of the LORD of Hosts?  And so, we account the arrogant happy:  they have indeed dared God and escaped.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Certain forces of wickedness attempted to kill the prophet Elijah.  Some of their successors succeeded in executing St. John the Baptist then Jesus.  Yet, as Malachi wrote:

All the arrogant ones and those doing evil will become straw.

–4:1b/3:19b, Common English Bible (2008).

Jesus died, but the Resurrection followed.  Elijah went to Heaven directly.  St. John the Baptist remained dead, but his legacy has survived to today.  Executing a person is easier than killing an idea.  Arrogant people and evildoers have been slow to learn this lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2014 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 THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Humility Before God and the Reality of Unexpected Suffering   1 comment

brueghel_lancien_-_la_prc3a9dication_de_saint_jean-baptiste

Above:  The Preaching of Saint John the Baptist, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

Image Source = Yelkrokoyade

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Brueghel_l%27Ancien_-_La_Pr%C3%A9dication_de_Saint_Jean-Baptiste.jpg)

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The Collect:

O God, in the transfiguration of your Son you confirmed the

mysteries of the faith by the witness of Moses and Elijah,

and in the voice from the bright cloud declaring Jesus your beloved Son,

you foreshadowed our adoption as your children.

Make us heirs with Christ of your glory, and bring us to enjoy its fullness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 21:20-29

Psalm 2

Mark 9:9-13

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Some Related Posts:

1 Kings 21:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/week-of-proper-6-tuesday-year-2/

Mark 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/week-of-6-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

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Now therefore be wise, O kings;

be prudent, you judges of the earth.

–Psalm 2:10, Common Worship (2000)

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Of those who are sleeping in the Land of Dust, many will awaken, some to everlasting life, some to shame and everlasting disgrace.  Those who are wise will shine as brightly as the expanse of the heavens, and those who have instructed many in uprightness, as bright as stars for all eternity.

–Daniel 12:2-3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Look, I shall send you the prophet Elijah before the great and terrible day of the LORD comes.  He will reconcile parents to their children and children to their parents, lest I come and put the land under a ban to destroy it.

–Malachi 4:4-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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“It is quite true,” he told them, “that Elijah does come first, and begins the restoration of all things.  But what does the scripture say about the Son of Man?  This:  that he must go through much suffering and be treated with contempt.  I tell you that not only has Elijah come already but they have done to him exactly what they wanted–just as the scripture says of him.”

–Mark 9:12-13, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

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There is much happening in the background of the Gospel lection for today:

  1. The resurrection of the dead is associated with the Day of the Lord in Daniel 12:2-3.
  2. In Malachi 3:23-24/4:5-6 (depending on which versification system one follows), Elijah will return before judgment day and function as an agent of reconciliation.
  3. Jesus identifies the late St. John the Baptist as Elijah in Mark 9:13.
  4. Yet is not the expectation in Malachi that Elijah will prevent suffering?

The account in Mark overturns old assumptions.  For that matter, the entire Gospel of Mark argues against a certain understanding of Messiahship.  In the earliest canonical Gospel, the crucifixion of Jesus makes his status as the Messiah unmistakable.  That has become a common reading of Messiahship since the first century of Christianity yet was once a radical notion.  The same rule applies to St. John the Baptist as “Elijah.”  Our Lord and Savior’s cousin was also his forerunner in suffering and death.

If humbling oneself before God postpones punishments (at least in some cases), the fact remains that the consequences of misdeeds and sins of omission will fall in time–perhaps upon the next generation, as unfair as that might seem.  But that is how reality works, is it not?  Yet the fact remains that one generation leaves legacies–positive and negative–which affect people into the future.  However the Atonement works (I side with the Eastern Orthodox, who argue against the Western Christian tendency to explain away certain mysteries), I like to think that it leaves a positive legacy of negating much of the negative which would have come down to us otherwise.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PAUL TILLICH, LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/22/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-last-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Genesis and Mark, Part XVII: Attitudes, Potential, and the Kingdom of God   1 comment

children-with-cats

Above:  Children with Cats

Image Source = Nancy Collins

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nepalese-children-with-cats.jpg)

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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 35:1-29

Psalm 34 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 91 (Evening)

Mark 9:33-50

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 32:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/week-of-proper-9-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/proper-13-year-a/

Mark 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/01/week-of-7-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

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

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/week-of-7-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/week-of-7-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/week-of-7-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/week-of-7-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/01/week-of-proper-2-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/02/week-of-proper-2-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/03/week-of-proper-2-thursday-year-2/

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

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

A Prayer to See Others  as God Sees Them:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/19/a-prayer-to-see-others-as-god-sees-them/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/prayer-for-tuesday-in-the-third-week-of-lent/

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Jacob was a trickster, schemer, manipulator, and a swindler.  Yet God gave him a new name:  Israel, literally

God rules.

Take your pick of origin story for this name, O reader; you have two options–the wrestling match in Genesis 32 and the less dramatic account in 35:10.  (The Sources Hypothesis makes more sense the more I read the Hebrew Scriptures.)

God works through a variety of interesting people.  For a few examples we need not look beyond this day’s readings.  We have Jacob/Israel, of course.  And we have the unnamed non-Apostle from Mark 9:38-40.  After all,

Anyone who is not against us is for us.

–Mark 9:40, The New Jerusalem Bible

If that were not enough, the greatest in the Kingdom of God is the

servant of all.

–Mark 9:35, The New Jerusalem Bible

Among the wonderful themes in the Gospel of Mark is this:  If you think that you are an insider, you almost certainly are mistaken.  Almost everybody except the people closest to Jesus in that text knows who he really is, for example. So the teaching that the Kingdom of God functions differently than society fits well with the rest of Mark.  And it meshes well with the story of Jacob.  How else could a man of such dubious character became an agent of God’s plans?

Character matters, of course; it is a person’s destiny.  But my point is that God can make anyone–regardless of character–an effective agent of divine plans.  Yes, I write of the sovereignty of God.  As for character, the most sterling example of it of which I have knowledge is Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Roman Empire executed as a criminal.  So I place limited confidence in official estimates of a person’s character.  As I recall, our Lord socialized with many disreputable people.  He must have recognized much potential in them.  And God must have recognized much potential in Jacob/Israel.

Do we recognize potential in others and in ourselves?  Do we see each other as God sees us?  And how does the manner in which we regard others and ourselves influence our actions?  How do those actions affect others and shape society?  Think about it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BIGGS, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF ROTA WAITOA, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/devotion-for-the-eighteenth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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