Archive for the ‘Matthew 11’ Category

False Teachers   1 comment

Above:   The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 19:1-8, 15-26, 30-38

Psalm 11

2 Peter 2:4-10a

Matthew 11:20-24

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David Ackerman continues his grand tour of difficult passages of scripture.  The theme this time is judgment and mercy.

One should be careful to examine a passage of scripture closely.  In Genesis 19, for example, we read of (A) an equal-opportunity rape gang and (B) the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The gang members do not care if their conquests are male, female, or angelic.  Furthermore, Lot, while being hospitable to his house guests, offers his two daughters to the gang instead.  Fortunately for the daughters, the gang had become fixated on “fresh fish.”  One might reasonably surmise, however, that Lot knew the character of his neighbors.  One might also question the character of the daughters, who went on to get their father drunk, seduce him, and have children with him.  Lot and his family are a disturbing group of people in Genesis.

Elsewhere in the assigned lessons we read of divine judgment on false teachers and those who follow them.  This judgment falls on the unrepentant, whether Jewish or Gentile.  Yet there is also mercy for the repentant, whether Jewish or Gentile.

These readings contain much material to make one squirm.  I refer to what is there, not what we merely think is present.  Genesis 19 is partially an origin story of the Amorites and the Moabites, whose founders were the products of subterfuge, drunkenness, and incest.  It is also partially a cautionary tale about the lack of hospitality.  What could be more inhospitable than seeking to seeking to rape someone?

Divine judgment and mercy are real, as are human misinterpretation of Bible stories.  May we turn of the autopilot mode that prevents us from studying passages seriously and transform us into false teachers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/devotion-for-proper-4-ackerman/

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Good Liturgy and the Covenant Written on Our Hearts   1 comment

John the Baptist in Prison

Above:  John the Baptist in Prison, by Josef Anton Hafner

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Exodus 25:1-40

Psalm 73

Matthew 11:1 (2-11) 12-15 (16-19) 20-24 (25-30) or Luke 7:18-35

Hebrews 8:1-13

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But for me it is good to be near God;

I have made the Lord GOD my refuge,

to tell of all your works.

–Psalm 73:28, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Hebrews 8 speaks of an internalized covenant, the law written on human hearts.  This is an echo of Jeremiah 31:31-34.  It is a covenant not written on the hearts of certain Pharisees and scribes in Luke 7.  When one reads the entirety of Luke 7 one realizes that the Pharisees and scribes in question were guilty of obsessing over minor details while twisting the law to accept financial donations that impoverished innocent third parties.  Thus these particular religious people were guilty of violating the principle of the Law of Moses that prohibits economic exploitation.  One also learns that a Gentile woman had the covenant written on her heart.  Likewise, those who criticized St. John the Baptist for his asceticism and Jesus for eating and drinking were seeking excuses to condemn others.  They did not have the covenant written on their hearts.

There is no fault in maintaining sacred spaces and beautiful rituals.  We mere mortals need sacred spaces that differ from other spaces and rituals that inspire our souls.  Good liturgy should make us better people.  It if does not, the fault is with us.  May it inspire us to recognize and serve God in each other.  May good liturgy, in conjunction with the covenant written on our hearts, help us find ways to act as effectively on divine principles, for the maximum benefit to others and the greatest possible glory to God.  May we refrain from carping language that tears others down and seek ways to build them up, for we are stronger together in the body of faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 1, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SUNDAR SINGH, INDIAN CHRISTIAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF DAVID PENDLETON OAKERHATER, EPISCOPAL DEACON

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIACRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/01/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-christmas-year-d/

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Active Love for God   2 comments

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Above:  Ruins of Capernaum, Between 1898 and 1946

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-10654

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The Collect:

O God, you direct our lives by your grace,

and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world.

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

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 18:1-11

Psalm 119:161-168

Matthew 11:20-24

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Lord, I have looked for your salvation

and I have fulfilled your commandments.

My soul has kept your testimonies

and greatly have I loved them.

I have kept your commandments and testimonies,

for all my ways are before you.

–Psalm 119:166-168, Common Worship (2000)

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The power and mercy of God can be frightening, for they challenge us to examine ourselves spiritually. They make abundantly clear the reality that we, most especially in the light of God, are wanting. We could admit this fact, embrace it, and welcome God’s act of reshaping us—or we could resist in stiff-necked fashion.

The reading for today are generally gloomy. The Psalm is affirmative, but the lections from Matthew and Jeremiah are darker. The Matthew lesson exists in a textual context of conflict. St. John the Baptist is imprisoned and about to die; can Jesus be far behind? A few verses later our Lord and Savior plucks grain and heals a man with a withered hand. Critics note that he does this on the Sabbath. Is Jesus supposed to have gone hungry and to have forgone committing a good deed? Later opponents accuse him of being in league with Satan. Our Lord and Savior’s healings were acts of power and mercy. Yet I read shortly after today’s Matthew lection that some people criticized him for committing such a powerful and merciful act on the Sabbath.

These are the kinds of negative responses to which Matthew 11:20 and 21 refer. The references to Tyre and Sidon reach back to Isaiah 23 and Ezekiel 27-28, where one reads condemnations of those wicked cities. And Jesus’ adopted hometown, Capernaum, is among the places where he experienced rejection. But, we read, even evil Tyre and Sidon will fare better on the day of judgment than will Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum.

He came to his own, and his own people would not accept him.

–John 1:11, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Why do we reject the love of God, which we see manifested around us via a variety of channels? And why do we quibble about when this love pours out generously, albeit inconvenient for us due to a fault within us? There are several reasons, but I choose to focus on one here: our preference for the status quo ante. We tend to prefer the predictable, so certain prompts prove to be threatening, not merely annoying. To acknowledge intellectually that God does not fit into our preferred theological box is one thing, but to experience that fact is another. And admitting error might call our identity into question. Furthermore, for those for whom religion is about certainty, one of the more popular idols, the element of uncertainty is profoundly disturbing.

May we—you and I, O reader—embrace the active love of God, permit it to reshape us, and not find such uncertainty disturbing. No, may we reject certainty in convenient lies and possess faith—active and living faith evident in attitudes, words, and deeds—in God, who refuses to fit into any theological box.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF IDA SCUDDER, REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KENNEDY “DUKE” ELLINGTON, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WISCONSIN

THE FEAST OF MOTHER EDITH, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/24/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-8-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part X: Stiff-Necked People   1 comment

goldcalf

Above:  The Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin

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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:

Deuteronomy 9:1-22 (October 10)

Deuteronomy 9:23-10:22 (October 11)

Psalm 97 (Morning–October 10)

Psalm 51 (Morning–October 11)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–October 10)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening–October 11)

Matthew 11:1-19 (October 10)

Matthew 11:20-30 (October 11)

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 10:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/independence-day-u-s-a-july-4/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/03/week-of-proper-14-monday-year-1/

Matthew 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/eleventh-day-of-advent/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/twelfth-day-of-advent/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/thirteenth-day-of-advent/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fifteenth-day-of-advent-third-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/week-of-proper-10-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/week-of-proper-10-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/week-of-proper-10-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/week-of-proper-10-thursday-year-1/

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Dark clouds surround the readings for these days.  In Deuteronomy 9:6 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures) Moses tells the Israelites:

Know then that it is not for any virtue that your God is giving you this good land to possess, for you are a stiff-necked people.

Subsequently described events confirm that statement.  And only the intercessions of Moses, who suffered for the people, spare them from destruction by God.

Speaking of suffering intercessors, we have Jesus in Matthew 11.  He fasts and critics accuse him of excessive asceticism.  He eats and drinks and critics allege that he is a glutton and a drunkard.  What is a Son of God and Son of Man to do?  Whatever he does, someone criticizes him.  Yet he finds a more responsive audience among many Gentiles.  At least St. John the Baptist, distressed at the end of his life, had an honest question, not a predisposition to carping and to finding fault.

Many people are impossible to please.  Others are merely extremely difficult to please.  Still others are more persuadable via good evidence and are therefore less likely to prove unpleasant.  I hope that I fall into the last category, not either of the first two, in God’s estimation.  What more than that what God has done already must God do to persuade?  Was liberating the Israelites insufficient?  Was feeding them and providing water in the desert not enough?  Is the Incarnation not to our liking?  How stiff are our necks?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2013 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JAMES LEWIS MILLIGAN, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCULF OF NANTEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/02/devotion-for-october-10-and-11-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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God With Us   1 comment

Above:  King Ahaz of Judah

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Isaiah 7:1-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the reign of King Ahaz son of Jotham son of Uzziah, king of Judah, King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel marched upon Jerusalem to attack it; but they were not able to attack it.

Now, when it was reported to the House of David that Aram had allied itself with Ephraim, their hearts and the hearts of the people trembled as trees of the forest sway before a wind.  But the LORD said to Isaiah,

Go out with your son Shear-jashub to meet Ahaz at the end of the conduit of the Upper Pool, by the road of the Fuller’s Field.  And say to him:  Be firm and be calm.  Do not be afraid and do not lose heart on account of those two smoking stubs of firebrands, on account of the raging of Rezin and his Arameans and the son of Remaliah.  Because the Arameans–with Ephraim and the son of Remaliah–have plotted against you, saying, “We will march against Judah and invade and conquer it, and we will set up as king in it the son of Tabeel,” thus says my Lord GOD:

It shall not succeed,

It shall not come to pass.

For the chief city of Aram is Damascus,

And the chief of Damascus is Rezin;

The chief city of Ephraim is Samaria,

And the chief of Samaria is the son of Remaliah.

And in another sixty-five years,

Ephraim shall be shattered as a people.

If you will not believe, for you cannot be trusted….

Psalm 48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised;

in the city of our God is his holy hill.

2 Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion,

the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

God is in her citadels;

he is known to be her sure refuge.

Behold, the kings of the earth assembled

and marched forward together.

5 They looked and were astonished;

they retreated and fled in terror.

Trembling seized them there;

they writhed like a woman in childbirth,

like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.

As we have heard, so have we seen,

in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God;

God has established her for ever.

8 We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God,

in the midst of your temple.

Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end;

your right hand is full of justice.

10 Let Mount Zion be glad

in the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments.

11 Make the circuit of Zion;

walk round about her;

count the number of her towers.

12 Consider well her bulwarks;

examine her strongholds;

that you may tell those who come after.

13 This God is our God for ever and ever;

he shall be our guide for ever more.

Matthew 11:20-24 (An American Translation):

Then he [Jesus] began to reproach the towns in which most of his wonders had been done, because they did not repent.

Alas for you, Chorazin!  Alas for you, Bethsaida!  For if the wonders that have been done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago!  But I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will fare better on the day of judgment than you will!  And you, Capernaum!  Are you to be exalted to the skies?  You will go down among the dead!  For if the wonders that have been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have stood until today.  But I tell you that the land of Sodom will fare better than the Day of Judgment than you will!

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The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; 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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2 Kings 16:1-20 tells of the reign of King Ahaz of Judah, which The Jewish Study Bible dates to 754/735-727/715 B.C.E.  Ahaz “did not do what was pleasing to the LORD his God, but followed the ways of the kings of Israel.”  We read in 16:4 that “He sacrificed and made offerings at the shrines, on the hills, and under every leafy tree” (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures).  We read also that King Rezin of Aram and King Pekah of Israel formed an alliance and attempted unsuccessfully to conquer Jerusalem and the Kingdom of Judah, and to install a compliant monarch not of the Davidic Dynasty.

This is the context for Isaiah 7.  As we keep reading past Isaiah 7:9, we find Ahaz putting on airs of holiness by refusing to ask YHWH for a sign of deliverance.  Yet the king received a sign anyway:  A young woman in the court would have a baby boy, to be called Immanuel, or “God with us.”  People would feast on curds and honey by the time young Immanuel could discern good from evil and choose the good.

This is the story as we have it in Isaiah 7.  Subsequent Christian tradition, embedded in the Gospel of Matthew, changes the meaning of this account.  And since the author of that Gospel quoted the Greek-language Septuagint, not the original Hebrew text, the almah, or young woman, not necessarily a virgin or even married, of marriageable age, became a virgin in Matthew’s Gospel.  Young Immanuel, of course, became Jesus of Nazareth.  ”Matthew” understood the story of Jesus in the context of the Jewish Biblical narrative.  So he sought foreshadowing and prophesies of Jesus in the old texts.  Sometimes he imagined things.

Ahaz’s story continues in 2 Kings 16.  He allied himself with the Assyrian king, Tiglath-pilesar, after bribing him with “the gold and the silver that were on hand in the House of the LORD” and “the treasures of the royal palace.”  So the Assyrians rescued Ahaz from the Aramean and Israaelite forces, capturing Damascus, the capital of Aram.  There, at Assyrian-occupied Damascus, Ahaz saw a pagan altar, which he replicated in Jerusalem.  This was bad, but his public sacrifice at said replica altar compounded his error.  And Assyria demanded high tribute payments, which he paid in part by removing various Temple furnishings.

Judah was on the fast track to losing its sovereignty, something which Ahaz had compromised already.

I wonder how different the story would have been if Ahaz had trusted in YHWH, not Assyria.  God reaches out to us, even and especially after we have strayed from the righteous path.  The offer to come back remains open to us .  How do we answer?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 15, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATHERINE OF GENOA, MYSTIC AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYPRIAN OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF DANTE ALIGHIERI, POET

THE FEAST OF JAMES CHISHOLM, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/week-of-proper-10-tuesday-year-2/

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Posted April 18, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah I: 1-39, Matthew 11, Psalm 48

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God Works and Speaks in Mysterious Ways; Do We Perceive and Accept Them?   1 comment

Above:  The Burning Bush on the Seal of the Church of Scotland

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Exodus 3:1-12 (An American Translation):

While Moses was tending the flock of his father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, he led the flock to the western side of the desert, and came to the mountain of God, Horeb.  Then the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire, rising out of a bush.  He looked, and there was the bush burning with fire without being consumed!  So Moses said,

I will turn aside and see this great sight, why the bush is not burned up.

When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to look at it, God called to him out of the bush.

Moses, Moses!

he said.

Here I am!

said he.

Do not come near here,

he said,

take your sandals off your feet; for the place on which yo are standing is holy ground. I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Then Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look at God.

I have indeed seen the plight of my people who are in Egypt,

the LORD said,

and I have heard their cry under their oppressors; for I know their sorrows, and I have come down to rescue them from the Egyptians and bring them up out of that land to a land, fine and large, to a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Perizzites, Hivvites, and Jebusites.  Now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have also seen how the Egyptians are oppressing them; so come now, let me send you to Pharaoh, that you may bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.

But Moses said to God,

Who am I, to go to Pharaoh, and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?

He said,

I will be with you and this shall be the sign for you that I have sent you.  When you bring the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God at this mountain.

Psalm 103:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins

and heals all your infirmities;

He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and his works to the children of Israel.

Matthew 11:25-27 (An American Translation):

At that time Jesus said,

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding all this from the learned and the intelligent and revealing it to children.  Yes, I thank you, Father, for choosing to have it so.  Everything has been handed over to me by my Father, and no one understands the Son but the Father, nor does anyone understand the Father but the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

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The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; 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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There are many proposed explanations of the burning bush.  It is, I grant, an interesting academic question, but that is beside my purpose here.  No, I care more about formation than information.  Whatever Moses saw and heard, and however he saw and heard it, it led him to leave his exile as a shepherd in Midian and to return to Egypt, where he was wanted on a murder charge, to confront the Pharaoh and lead the Hebrews out of that empire.  Moses had a speech impediment, about which he was self-conscious.  So his question about whether he was the appropriate choice for this assignment was natural.  But God was with him.

(The rest of this story will follow in the next installment in this series of devotions, according to the Canadian Anglican lectionary. )

Now I switch channels to the Gospel of Matthew.  This prayer of Jesus occurs in the context of our Lord and Savior facing rejection.  The religious establishment has rejected him, but many of the common people, almost all of whom were poor, accepted him.  Consider these facts when reading those three verses.  Be sure to avoid an anti-intellectual interpretation, for the human brain, with its great potential, is a gift of God.  As an Episcopalian, I employ scripture, tradition, and reason in my faith life.  And as an intellectual, I relish the life of the mind.

God works and speaks in mysterious ways.  Do we recognize them?  And if we do, do we embrace them?  Be honest; how would you respond to a burning bush?  Or, if not for religious tradition over nearly 2000 years, would you accept Jesus?  When you read–really read–the words of the canonical Gospels, do you recoil at the moral teachings?

I leave these questions with you, O reader, to consider prayerfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 27, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD DAY OF CHRISTMAS:  THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/week-of-proper-10-wednesday-year-1/

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Posted April 18, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 3, Matthew 11, Psalm 103

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Which Side Are You On?   1 comment

Above:  Moses Window (By Lawerence Saint) at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (Washington National Cathedral), Washington, D.C.

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Exodus 2:1-15 (An American Translation):

Now a man belonging to the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi.  The woman conceived and bore a son, and seeing that he was robust, she hid him for three months.  When she could no longer hide him, she procured an ark of papyrus reeds for him, and daubing it with bitumen and pitch, she put the child in it, and placed it among the reeds beside the bank of the Nile.  His sister posted herself some distance away to see what would happen to him.

Presently Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe at the Nile, when her maids walked on the bank of the Nile.  Then she saw the ark among the reeds and sent her maid to get it.  On opening it, she saw the child, and it was a boy crying!  She took pity on him, and said,

This is one of the Hebrews’ children.

Thereupon his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter,

Shall I go and summon a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, to nurse the child for you?

Pharaoh’s daughter said to her

Go.

So the girl went and called the child’s mother, to whom Pharaoh’s daughter said,

Take this child away and nurse it for me, and I will pay the wages due you.

So the woman took the child and nursed him; and when the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son.  She called his name Moses [drawn out];

For,

she said,

I drew him out of the water.

It was in those days that Moses, now grown up, went out to visit his fellow countrymen and noted their heavy labor.  He saw an Egyptian kill a Hebrew, one of his own countrymen; so, looking this way and that, and seeing that there was no one in sight, he killed the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.  Another day, when he went out, there were two Hebrews fighting!  So he said to him that was in the wrong,

Why do you strike your companion?

He replied,

Who made you ruler and judge over us?  Are you thinking of murdering me as you did the Egyptian?

Then was Moses afraid.

The incident must surely be known,

he thought.

When Pharaoh heard about the matter, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to the land of Midian, and sat down beside a well.

Psalm 69:1-2, 31-38 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Save me, O God,

for the waters have risen to my neck.

I am sinking in deep mire,

and there is no firm ground for my feet.

31 As for me, I am afflicted an in pain;

your help, O God, will lift me up on high.

32 I will praise the Name of God in song;

I will proclaim his greatness with thanksgiving.

33 This will please the LORD more than an offering of oxen,

more than bullocks with horns and hoofs.

34 The afflicted will see and be glad;

you who seek God, your heart shall live.

35 For the LORD listens to the needy,

and his prisoners he does not despise.

36 Let the heavens and the earth praise him,

the seas and all that moves in them;

37 For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah;

they shall live there and have it in possession.

38 The children of his servants will inherit it,

and those who love this Name will dwell therein.

Matthew 11:20-24 (An American Translation):

Then he [Jesus] began to reproach the towns in which most of his wonders had been done, because they did not repent.

Alas for you, Chorazin!  Alas for you, Bethsaida!  For if the wonders that have been done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago!  But I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will fare better on the day of judgment than you will!  And you, Capernaum!  Are you to be exalted to the skies?  You will go down among the dead!  For if the wonders that have been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have stood until today.  But I tell you that the land of Sodom will fare better than the Day of Judgment than you will!

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The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; 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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“Repentance” is a word used often and misunderstood frequently.  It means far more than apologizing for a deed or for deeds; it entails changing one’s mind, literally turning around.  This theme links the readings from Genesis and Matthew.

Moses enters the story in Genesis 2.  His mother and sister arrange for him to enter the Pharonic palace under the care of the Pharaoh’s daughter.  The Pharaoh in question might be Sobekhotep III, who had issued the “kill Hebrew baby boys” order at the end of Chapter 1.  But the princess obviously had some sway with her father.

So Moses grew up in the royal palace.  One day, however, he had to decide which side he was on.  He chose the side of the abused and enslaved.  In the process he killed an abuser, an act for the which the Pharaoh (probably Sobekhotep IV, second Pharaoh to reign after Sobekhotep III) tried to have Moses killed.  But Moses escaped into the land of Midian.

This chapter in the life of Moses the liberator ends with him on the run for murder.  He had turned his back on his comfortable, safe existence, which he could no longer continue because he could no longer be blind to what his adoptive family was doing to his people.

Matthew Chapter 11 begins a section on the rejection of Jesus by people.  This section begins with John the Baptist, languishing in prison, sending messengers to ask Jesus if he (Jesus) is the Messiah.  Jesus provides his answer (in brief, my deeds speak for themselves) then praised his forerunner.  And, as people and rejected and done violence to John the Baptist, the same will happen to Jesus.

Then we come to this day’s reading from Matthew.  Jesus condemned Chorazin and Bethsaida, Galilean cities where Jesus had worked mighty deeds but evidence repentance was impossible to find.  Capernaum, were Jesus lived, was likewise unrepentant.  It will go badly for them on the day of judgment, the author of Matthew quoted Jesus as saying.  Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities renowned for wickedness, and Sodom was an old example of unrighteousness and a lack of repentance numerous Biblical authors cited.  Such mighty acts would have inspired repentance in these places, so what was wrong with Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum?

While I was in graduate school at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia (2001-2003), I analyzed some old public school textbooks with regard to several axes, including treatment of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.  The author of a 1957 high school U.S. history textbook wrote,

It is difficult to suddenly change the habits of a lifetime.

This principle holds true in other settings.  Repentance entails changing how one thinks, and thoughts lead to actions.  Patterns of thinking become entrenched in us, and, for many, they become ossified as people become set in their ways.  We human beings have proved our capability to see and hear selectively in ways that justify ourselves to ourselves and those similar to us.  We need to be on guard against this tendency, for it blinds us to what God is saying, which includes notices of our sins.  How can we repent–turn around and change our minds–if we do not recognize that we have a problem?

It is easy to point out the ossification of others but difficult to see in ourselves.  We have spiritual blind spots, but that alone is an insufficient explanation for this phenomenon.  A full explanation must take account of the fact that we like to think of ourselves in positive terms, so our failings–our sins, those things which prevent us from being what we ought to be in God–disturb us.  Sometimes looking upon them is too much for us to bear.  But we must, if we are to live faithfully.

God knows that we have warts in our character, but there is only one perfect person in the Bible.  Look at the others; all of them were flawed.  For example, Jacob was a schemer, Moses and David were murderers, and Rahab was a prostitute.  Yet God used all of them, and the author of the Gospel of Matthew goes out of his way to list Rabab and Bathsheba as ancestors of Jesus.  So there is hope for us all, if only we turn to God and change our minds.  Do we dare to it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 26, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS:  THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN, DEACON AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/week-of-proper-10-tuesday-year-1/

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