Archive for the ‘Matthew 13’ Category

The Parables of the Mustard Seed and the Yeast   Leave a comment

Above: The Parable of the Mustard Seed, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XXXIV

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Luke 13:18-21

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Parable of the Mustard Seed exists also in Matthew 13:31-32 and Mark 4:30-32.  Given that this is a series about Luke-Acts, I focus on the version in Luke 13:18-19.  This version of the parable omits any reference to the size of a mustard seed and focuses on the mustard plant providing shelter for the birds of the air.

A mustard plant is a large weed between eight and nine feet tall.  Yet between 725 to 760 mustard seeds make a gram.  Yet Luke 13:18-19 dos not comment on the relative sizes of a mustard seed and a mustard plant.

The mustard plant seems like an improbable image for the Kingdom of God.  A Cedar of Lebanon–majestic and beautiful–seems more likely.  Yet we have a mustard plant instead.  The mustard seed stands for the ministry of Jesus.  The mustard plant symbolizes the final manifestation of the Kingdom of God.

The reference to birds nesting calls back to Daniel 4:12, 21 and Ezekiel 17:22-23.  Yet, in those passages, the birds nest in a great tree, not a tall weed.  A weed is an unwanted plant.  The Church seems like a weed much of the time, does it not?  The birds of the air in the parable include Gentiles, the audience for the Gospel of Luke.

Think about your neighbors in God, O reader.  Many–or most–of them may differ substantially from you.  The identity of your neighbors in God may surprise you.  The surprise may be mutual.

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Yeast (or leaven) usually symbolizes moral corruption in the Bible.  From earlier in the Gospel of Luke, we may recall Jesus denouncing the leaven of the Pharisees–hypocrisy (12:1).  Yet in 13:20-21, the Kingdom of God is like a woman and the leaven carries a positive connotation.  The leaven, mixed into the dough, produces large loaves of bread.

++++++++++++++++++++++++

Putting the two parables together, we read that the Kingdom of God goes where it will.  It may be welcome or unwelcome, but nobody can stop.  This comforts me at a time when church membership and attendance are declining and unbelief is rising in my society.

Nevertheless, may we avoid two errors (among others).  May we not confuse the Church for the Kingdom of God.  And may we not mistake all non-practicing people for pagans.  The Church, supposed to be a hospital for sinners, frequently shoots the wounded and drives them out instead of welcoming them.  To refer to another parable of Jesus, the Church includes both darnel and wheat, and both look alike at a certain stage.  I recall having some of my most fulfilling theological conversations with non-churchgoers and some of my most unpleasant and least productive theological discussions with defensive, closed-minded Christians.  Perhaps you, O reader, recall similar experiences.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a petition germane to this point:

For all who have died in the communion of your Church, and those whose faith is known to you alone, that, with all the saints, they may have rest in that place where there is no pain or grief, but life eternal, we pray to you, O Lord.

–391

The Church would do well to cease shooting the spiritually wounded.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 9, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY:  THE BAPTISM OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF JULIA CHESTER EMERY, UPHOLDER OF MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF EMILY GREENE BALCH, U.S. QUAKER SOCIOLOGIST, ECONOMIST, AND PEACE ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF GENE M. TUCKER, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN JOZEF IGNAZ VON DÖLLINGER, DISSDENT AND EXCOMMUNICATED GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, THEOLOGIAN, AND HISTORIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP II OF MOSCOW, METROPOLITAN OF MOSCOW AND ALL RUSSIA, AND MARTYR, 1569

THE FEAST OF THOMAS CURTIS CLARK, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST EVANGELIST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils   2 comments

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XX

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Luke 8:4-15

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Christian tradition has assigned names to the parables of Jesus.  Some of these names have proven to be partial, at best.  Consider the Parable of the Prodigal Son, for example, O reader.  It could have as easily been the Parable of the Loving Father or the Parable of the Resentful Brother.  Think also of the Parable of the Sower.  Although Matthew 13:18 uses that label, Christ focused on the soils, not the sower, in the parable.

We are reading the Lucan version of the parable, of course.  Luke 8 does not refer to this parable as the Parable of the Sower.

Biblical scholarly consensus holds that, in the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke, the explanation of the parable is an addition to the text.  Explanations of parables are rare in the canonical Gospels.

To critique the sower’s technique is to miss the point.  (I have heard priests do this in sermons.)  The sower in the parable follows the standard practice of farmers at the time and place.

The word of God (what God says) is for everybody.  The sower sows these seeds everywhere, therefore.  But not everybody receives or welcomes this word.  Some of the seeds go to waste.  People may be distracted, rootless, or deceived.  Spiritually rootless people have shallow faith; it may die for the obvious reason.  The deceived mean well but follow the wrong master.  The distracted are too busy for God.  Yet the seeds that land in rich soil prosper spiritually.

The parable asks each of us, “What kind of soil are you?”

When God is the sower and we are the ground, we are called to be good ground.

–St. Augustine of Hippo

Some saints spoke and/or wrote of the importance of not only praying, but of becoming prayer.  They described the fourth category of soil in this parable.  They described the state of praying without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).

So, I ask you, O reader, what kind of soil are you?  And what kind of soil do you aspire to become or remain, by grace?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 30, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF ALLEN EASTMAN CROSS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WALLACE BRIGGS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN MAIN, ANGLO-CANADIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MONK

THE FEAST OF JOSIAH BOOTH, ENGLISH ORGANIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF FRANCES JOSEPH-GAUDET, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EDUCATOR, PRISON REFORMER, AND SOCIAL WORKER

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Collection of Speeches: The Wickedness of Judah, and the Degenerate City   Leave a comment

Above:  Tares

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING FIRST ISAIAH, PART II

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 1:2-31

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

G. H. D. Kilpatrick, author of the exposition on Isaiah 1-39 in The Interpreter’s Bible, vol. 5 (1956), described Isaiah 1 as

The Heart of Isaiah’s Message.

Kilpatrick began:

Here is a tremendous indictment of an apostate nation.  The charge is the blindness, the insensitivity, the brutish stupidity of a people steeped in sin.  The prophet is against them.  In a sense the chapter is an epitome of Isaiah’s whole message and ministry.  In this series of oracles he proceeds from accusation to judgment, and on to the divine promise of mercy in terms of repentance and obedience.  Throughout the book the changes are rung on these themes.

–165

As I reread this chapter for the umpteenth time, I noticed themes that populated the (contemporary) Books of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, too.  I noticed these themes readily because I have blogged my way through them before starting First Isaiah.  I noticed legal charges of having abandoned the covenant.  I noticed the allegation of idolatry–prostitution, metaphorically.  I noticed the condemnation of corruption and social justice, especially that of the economic variety.  I noticed the pronouncement that sacred rituals do not protect one from the consequences of impiety.  I noticed the call to repentance and the possibility of forgiveness.

Chronology is not the organizing principle of the Book of Isaiah.  No, the commission of the prophet is in Chapter 6, for example.  Chapter 1 contains short speeches that summarize themes First Isaiah unpacks in subsequent chapters.

The text provides many options for where I may dwell in this post.  I choose verses 27 and 28.  The translation in Robert Alter, The Hebrew Bible (2019), is close to the standard English-language rendering:

Zion shall be redeemed through justice,

and those who turn back in her, through righteousness.

But the rebels and offenders together are shattered,

and those who forsake the LORD shall perish.

However, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) offers a somewhat different translation:

Zion shall be saved in the judgment;

Her repentant ones, in the retribution.

But rebels and sinners shall be crushed,

And those who forsake the LORD shall perish.

These verses date to either the Babylonian Exile or afterward.  (As I wrote regarding the Books of Hosea, Amos, and Micah, the final versions of early prophetic writings date to the time after the Babylonian Exile.)  Differences in Hebrew meter and the concept of Zion’s slavery relative to the surrounding material point to later origin.  That may or may not prove interesting, but there it is.

I noticed that righteousness and justice are related concepts.  This has long constituted old news to me, but I delighted to see another instance of it in Isaiah 1.

That justice and righteousness are related establishes a high standard.  Many people mistake human vendettas for justice.  Many people mistake torture for justice.  Many people are oblivious to or forget Deuteronomy 32:35, in the voice of God:

Vengeance is mine and recompense,

for the time they lose their footing;

Because the day of their disaster is at hand

and their doom is rushing upon them.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

When we set out to take revenge, we embark on a path we ought to leave alone.  God knows better than we do.

I also noticed the difference between the translations of verse 27.  I noticed that TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) had “judgment” for “justice” and “retribution” for “righteousness.”  Yet the germane note in The Jewish Study Bible, Second Edition (2014), read:

Having been punished, Zion will again know justice and faithfulness.  A new name is given to the reformed Jerusalem; c.f. 62:2-4; Ezekiel 48:35.

–769

The promised salvation will stem only from divine justice and righteousness, not the virtue of Israel.  The destruction of rebels and sinners, however, will stem from their lack of virtue.  For the meantime, Zion, as a faith reality, not a political entity, contains the good and the wicked.  Likewise, in the Parable of the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30), the wheat and the weeds will grow together in the field until the harvest time.  God will judge at the harvest time.  In the meantime, attempting to remove weeds may result in the removal of some wheat, also.

May we–you, O reader, and I–strike a proper balance, by grace.  May we understand correctly the difference between good and evil.  May we understand correctly the difference between that which is sinful and that which is not.  May we understand correctly the difference between justice and injustice.  When appropriate, may we speak out, and do so in the right way.  And may we understand correctly the difference between our tasks and God’s tasks.

If I am going to err, I prefer to do so on the side of kindness, not harshness.  I would rather be too gentle than mean.  I prefer to strike the proper balance in each circumstances, of course.  Yet maybe my Southern training takes over and tells me not to create a needless scene.  I prefer to practice personal diplomacy, even when doing so entails telling white lies.  “No, that dress does not make you look fat,” except it does.  I also know enough to have some idea of what I do not know.  God knows more than I do, and I do not bring people to God by behaving obnoxiously in God’s name.

Nevertheless, as anyone who has read my weblogs sufficiently ought to know, I do not always shy away from writing what I really think.  I am capable of being blunt, too.  There is a time for diplomacy, just as there is a time for bluntness.  Yet there is never any moral justification for not leaving vengeance to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PERCY DEARMER, ANGLICAN CANON AND TRANSLATOR AND AUTHOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONA OF PISA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC AND PILGRIM

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, LUTHER OF THE SLAVES AND FATHER OF SLOVAK HYMNODY

THE FEAST OF RUBY MIDDLETON FORSYTHE, AFRICAN-AMERICAN EPISCOPAL EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY THERESA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF SAINT PETER CLAVER, AND “MOTHER OF AFRICAN MISSIONS;” AND HER SISTER, SAINT URSULA LEDÓCHOWSKA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE URSULINES OF THE AGONIZING HEART OF JESUS (GRAY URSULINES)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Concerning Wheat, Tares, and Donatism, Part II   Leave a comment

 

Above:  The Parable of the Tares

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Third Sunday of Advent, Year 2

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Almighty and Everlasting God, who hast given to us, thy servants, grace,

by the confession of a true faith, to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity,

and in the power of the divine majesty to worship the Unity;

we beseech thee, that thou wouldst keep us steadfast in this faith,

and evermore defend us from all adversities;

who livest and reignest, One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 182

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Isaiah 12:1-6

Psalms 67 and 75

Revelation 21:1-27

Matthew 13:14-52

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The fully realized Kingdom of God will arrive on schedule–God’s schedule.  Or it will seem to arrive, from a human perspective, one bound by time.  Either way, this will be wonderful news for the oppressed and catastrophic news for their oppressors.  Divine judgment and mercy remain in balance.

We–you and I, O reader–live in the age of weeds (tares) growing among the wheat.  May we not presume to know more than do.  Our judgment regarding who is a weed and who is wheat may be flawed.  The Church and many congregations have a shameful track record of harming members spiritually (especially with legalism and bigotry) instead of nurturing them.  I know refugees from the Church.  Perhaps you do, too, O reader.  The irony of a bumper sticker,

JESUS, SAVE ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS,

is rich.  Nobody needs saving from actual followers of Jesus.  Yet those “followers of Jesus” from whom people need deliverance almost certainly think they follow Christ.

As the Gospel of Mark (in its entirety) and Matthew 25:31-46 teach us bluntly, many who think they are insiders are really outsiders, just as many who imagine themselves to be outsiders are actually insiders.  Wheat or weeds?  One may not know to which category one, much less another person, belongs.  That may be either good or bad news, depending on one’s case.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST DAY OF ADVENT:  THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK COOK ATKINSON, ANGLICAN CHURCH ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JENNETTE THRELFALL, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Healing of Naaman   Leave a comment

Above:  Naaman

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXXIV

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

2 Kings 5:1-27

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Pride was not created for men,

nor fierce anger for those born of women.

–Ecclesiasticus/Sirach 10:18, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

King Jehoram/Joram of Israel (Reigned 851-842 B.C.E.)

King Ben-Hadad I of Aram (Reigned 880-842 B.C.E.)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Given that I have already covered various elements of this story in previous posts, I choose to:

  1. narrow the focus on this post, and
  2. refer you, O reader, to follow the tag “Naaman” and the category “2 Kings 5” for other comments on this story.

The Gospel of Luke, with its pro-Gentile theme, is unique among the canonical Gospels in having Jesus cite the healing of Naaman in the Rejection of Nazareth story (Luke 4:27).  In that version of a story also present in Matthew and Mark, the hometown crowd turned on Jesus after he made comments indicating divine openness to Gentiles.  (For the other canonical versions of the Rejection at Nazareth, read Mark 6:1-6 and Matthew 13:54-58.)

Perhaps the most overlooked theme in 2 Kings 5 is the sanctity of the land of Israel.  This sanctity explains the sufficiency of the River Jordan and the insufficiency of the rivers in Aram.  The sanctity of the land also explains why Naaman concluded that he could worship the sole deity only on the sacred land, and never in Aram.  The sanctity of the land also explains why Elisha had no objection to Naaman worshiping in pagan temples in Aram after having professed faith in the one God, YHWH.

I am a monotheist–a Christian, to be precise.  I worship God, my understanding of whom depends heavily on Judaism.  I worship God in the State of Georgia, U.S.A., far from Israel.  I also live within walking distance of the local synagogue.  I feel confident in saying that the members of Congregation Children of Israel worship God in Athens, Georgia.  I detect a change in theology between the time of the original telling of 2 Kings 5 and much of the rest of the Bible, as well as between the time of the original telling of the story of the healing of Naaman and today, October 29, 2020.  If one accepts that God–YHWH, Adonai, El Shaddai, et cetera–regardless of the name one prefers to use–is the sole, universal deity, one may also accept that one can worship God from any geographical location.  God is not a tribal or national deity, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 29, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JAMES HANNINGTON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF EASTERN EQUATORIAL AFRICA; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS, 1885

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMAUS HELDER, GERMAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, COMPOSER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH GRIGG, ENGLISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF PAUL MANZ, DEAN OF LUTHERAN CHURCH MUSIC

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath   1 comment

Above:  Elijah and the Widow of Zarephath, by Bartholomeus Breenbergh

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

READING 1-2 SAMUEL, 1 KINGS, 2 KINGS 1-21, 1 CHRONICLES, AND 2 CHRONICLES 1-33

PART LXXI

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

1 Kings 17:1-24

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

And now, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

Submit to the LORD with fear,

and with trembling bow before him;

Lest he be angry and you perish;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Happy are they all

who take refuge in him!

–Psalm 2:10-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

King Ahab of Israel (Reigned 873-852 B.C.E.)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For a while, kings have occupied the forefront in the narrative.  From this point to 2 Kings 13, they will continue to do so much of the time.  However, monarchs will occupy the background instead from this point to 2 Kings 13.  Stories of Elijah start in 1 Kings 17 and terminate in 2 Kings 2.  Stories of Elisha begin in 1 Kings 19 and end in 2 Kings 13.  Some of the most famous Biblical stories come from 1 Kings 17-2 Kings 13.  Some of them are also repetitive, given the overlapping traditions regarding Elijah and Elisha.  1 Kings 17, for example, bears a striking resemblance to 2 Kings 4, the story of Elisha, the Shunammite woman, and her son.

The sneak preview is over.  Now I focus on 1 Kings 17:1-24.

The deification of nature is one of the oldest patterns in religion.  The multiplicity of gods and goddesses with specific portfolios (rain, the Moon, the Sun, et cetera) for thousands of years and in a plethora of cultures proves this assertion.  Old habits can be difficult to break, and monotheism is a relative latecomer to the party.  Also, attempting to appease the gods and goddesses or some of them, at least, without the strictures is relatively easy.  Lest we monotheists rest on our laurels, Psalm 14, Psalm 53, the Law of Moses, the testimony of Hebrew prophets, and the New Testament warn us not to mistake God for an absentee landlord.  The Gospels, for example, contain many cautions to the self-identified insiders that they may actually be outsiders.  

Baal Peor, a storm god, was powerless against a severe, multi-year drought.  Of course he was; Baal Peor was a figment of many imaginations.

The drought of 1 Kings 17:1-18:46 contains a call back to Deuteronomy 11:13-17.  (I like connecting the dots, so to speak, in the Bible.)  Speaking of connecting the dots, Jesus referred to God sending Elijah to the widow of Zarephath in the synagogue in Nazareth, to the great displeasure of his audience, in Luke 4:26.  The Gospel of Luke, addressed to Gentiles, included that reference, absent from parallel accounts of the rejection at Nazareth in Mark 6:1-6a and Matthew 13:54-58.

Zarephath was in Phoenician–Gentile–territory.  King Ahab of Israel had no jurisdiction there, but Queen Jezebel may have been familiar with the territory, given her origin.  The widow was especially vulnerable, given her precarious economic status.  Her faith contrasted with the evil Queen Jezebel and with the faithlessness of many Hebrews.

Whenever I read a text, I seek first to understand objectively what it says.  Then I interpret it.  The text describes Elijah as a wonder-worker.  The refilling jar of flour and jug of oil may stretch credulity, from a post-Enlightenment perspective.  The resurrection of the widow’s son does, certainly.  Yet, in the cultural context of 1 Kings 17, those elements fit in and give Elijah his bona fides.  If we understand that much, we grasp objectively what the text says.

Happy are all they who take refuge in God.  They may even include Gentiles and other alleged outsiders.  And many alleged insiders may really be outsiders.  The grace of God is for all people, although not everyone accepts it.  These are also themes prominent in both the Old and New Testaments.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS POTT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF HENRY STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Rejecting Grace   Leave a comment

Above:  Nazareth, 1875

Image Publisher = L. Prang and Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-14154

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Sunday Next Before Advent, Year 1

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Absolve, we beseech thee, O Lord, thy people from their offenses;

that from the bonds of our sins which, by reason of our frailty,

we have brought upon us, we may be delivered by thy bountiful goodness;

through Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord, who liveth and reigneth with

thee and the Holy Spirit, ever One God, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 236

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Haggai 2:1-9

Psalms 149 and 150

Revelation 21:1-7

Luke 4:16-24

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The glory of God is a major topic in the Bible.  Many of the Psalms deal with that subject.  Prophecies of the Day of the Lord/Parousia in both Testaments employ poetic imagery to describe the world order once the fully-realized Kingdom of God becomes reality on the planet.  Regardless of the full reality at which human poetry can only hint and imagination can never fully grasp, such descriptions do have an immediate function.  They cast the world as it is in a negative light, exposing how far short societies, institutions, norms, and governments fall, relative to divine standards.  The apocalyptic imagination is a moral and ethical imagination.

The Gospels contain two accounts of Christ’s rejection at Nazareth.  They are plainly two very similar yet slightly different versions of the same event.  The key difference from one account to the other is when the audience turns against Jesus.  In Matthew 13:54-58, it happens when Jesus speaks wisdom.  In that account, people respond by asking,

Where does he get this wisdom from, and these miraculous powers?  Is he not the carpenter’s son?  Is not his mother called Mary, his brothers James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas?  And are not all his sisters here with us?  Where then has he got all this from?

–Matthew 13:54-56, The New English Bible (1970)

In Luke 4:16-24, however, the turn toward hostility comes later, after verses 25-27.  Those verses are about God having mercy on Gentiles, including Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-27) and the widow at Zarephath (1 Kings 17:9-24).  Given that the original audience for the Gospel of Luke was Gentile, telling the story of the rejection of Jesus in his hometown this way makes sense.

The Lukan version of the rejection at Nazareth also challenges us to confront our provincialism.  I am a Gentile, so I like reading about divine graciousness to Gentiles.  Nevertheless, to be uncomfortably honest, I must admit that the reminder of divine generosity to certain people and populations can and sometimes does offend me.  You may resemble that remark, O reader.  If you do, you are not unusual.

All of us need reminders of how far short of divine standards we fall.  We may tell ourselves how kind and loving we are.  We may even be kind and loving.  Nevertheless, all of us can be kinder and more loving.  When God shows us how far short of that divine standard we fall, do we reject the message?  Or do we confess our sin, repent, and strive, by grace, to do better?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BOUDINOT, IV, U.S. STATESMAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LÉONIE PARADIS, FOUNDRESS OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MAURA AND TIMOTHY OF ANTINOE, MARTYRS, 286

THE FEAST OF SAINT TOMASSO ACERBIS, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Enemies and Repentance II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Tares

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For the Fifth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord, open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of thy Law,

and open our hearts that we may receive the gift of thy saving love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Ezekiel 33:10-16

Galatians 6:1-5

Matthew 13:24-30

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Do we really want sinners (other than ourselves, those similar to ourselves, and those we like) to repent–to turn around, to change their minds?  Or, do we want the others we despise to suffer?  According to Ezekiel 33 and Galatians 6, God wants all sinners to repent.  Not all will, unfortunately.  This is why I say that the damned condemn themselves, and that God sends nobody to Hell.

The Parable of the Weeds, I hear, is apparently better spiritual counsel than agricultural advice.  So be it, for the parable is spiritual counsel.  Lest we, in the quest to remove darnel, gather some wheat for burning instead, we need to leave that matter to God, who knows infinitely better than we do.  This parable does not negate any Biblical teachings about dealing with teachers of heresies; standards remain, after all.  We need to know our proper limits, though.  Speaking the truth is vital; so is doing so in love.

Maybe some of the darnel will repent.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Light of Christ, Part V   1 comment

Above:  The Sanhedrin

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Acts 4:1-22

Psalm 23

1 Peter 2:11-25

Matthew 13:44-52

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

One can find examples of God smiting evildoers in the Bible.  The fate of the evil in Matthew 13 falls into a side category, one in which angels smite evildoers–at the end, on the day of judgment.  Until then, as in Psalm 23, God simply outclasses and overpowers the wicked, who cannot keep up, much of the time.  The wicked cease to pursue the righteous; divine goodness and mercy pursue or accompany the righteous, depending on the translation one considers authoritative.

Although I am reluctant to label members of the Sanhedrin evil, I side with Sts. John and Simon Peter in the confrontation with that council.  I also rejoice that the Sanhedrin, for all its authority, lacked the power to prevent the Apostles from preaching.  I thank God that the Sanhedrin could not keep up with God and part of the public.

May we be on God’s side.  May we heed the advice of 1 Peter 2:12 and behave honorably always, to the glory of God.  Human authority is not always worthy of respect and obedience, and slavery (in all its forms) is always wrong, so I agree with part of the reading from 1 Peter 2, a text some have used to justify chattel slavery and submitting to the Third Reich.  The politics of early, persecuted Christianity aside, sometimes one must oppose human authority in order to live faithfully, in accordance with the divine commandments.  Those figures of authority cannot keep up with God either, and the call to live as one should–to manifest the light of Christ–is timeless.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Faithful Response, Part VIII   1 comment

Above:  St. Peter, by Dirck van Baburen

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Acts 3:1-10

Psalm 116:1-4, 12-19

1 Peter 2:1-10

Matthew 13:24-35

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The theme of the power of God unites the assigned readings for this Sunday.

The Kingdom of God/Heaven, we read, is like a field of wheat with weeds growing up in it also.  We mere mortals should refrain from weeding the field, for unless we show that restraint, we will remove some wheat also.

The Kingdom of God/Heaven–in the Gospel of Matthew, God’s earthly, apocalyptic reign–has small, even invisible beginnings yet grows large and resists any human attempts to control it.  The Kingdom of God/Heaven and the Kingdom of Earth will remain in tension until the former supplants the latter.

By the power of God people can obtain salvation, healing, and status as a kingdom of priests.  By the power of God people receive grace.  With grace comes responsibility to serve as vehicles of grace to others.

I think of the man born lame (Acts 3:1-10) and wonder about the rest of his story.  The narrative moves in a different direction, following the Apostles he encountered that important day.  I conclude that the man, beaten down by the circumstances of his life, probably did not expect much, but that he received far more than he anticipated in his wildest dreams.  I wonder how that man spent the rest of his life.  I like to think that he devoted it to the glory of God.

Your story, O reader, might be less dramatic than his.  Mine is.  Yet we have the same mandate he did–to respond to God faithfully.  We mere mortals can never repay divine mercy, but we can serve God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted May 31, 2018 by neatnik2009 in 1 Peter 2, Acts of the Apostles 3, Matthew 13, Psalm 116

Tagged with