Archive for the ‘Matthew 13’ Category

Reaping What One Sows   1 comment

Slum DC 1937

Above:  A Slum in Washington, D.C., November 1937

Photographer = John Vachon

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USF33-T01-001048-M3

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The Collect:

God of heaven and earth,

before the foundation of the universe and the beginning of time

you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of creation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide us to all truth by your Spirit,

that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed

and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 6:22-27

Psalm 20

Mark 4:21-25

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Some put their trust in chariots and some in horses,

but we will call upon the Name of the LORD our God.

They will collapse and fall down,

but we will arise and stand upright.

–Psalm 20:7-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The rich rule the poor,

And the borrower is a slave to the lender.

He who sows injustice shall reap misfortune;

His rod of wrath shall fail.

The generous man is blessed,

For he gives of his bread to the poor.

–Proverbs 22:7-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The rich get richer while the poor get poorer.  That statement applies today; it has done so since antiquity.  This is not a matter as simple as hard work leading to prosperity and sloth leading to poverty, for some of the hardest workers have been and are poor.  No, certain rich people have developed and maintained systems which perpetuate income inequality and favor some people yet not most.

In the Kingdom of God, however, spiritual principles work differently than much of human economics:

Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for you reap whatever you sow.  If you sow to your own flesh, you will reap corruption from the flesh; but if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest time, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us work for the good of all, and especially for those of the family of faith.

–Galatians 6:7-10, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Present conduct determines the future.  A positive relationship with God is a wonderful thing, but sitting on it, as if one has a “Jesus and me” relationship, is negative.  Sharing one’s faith is the only way to gain more, but hoarding it will lead to losing it.  In other words, the more one gives away spiritually, the more one will receive.

A related text comes from 2 Esdras 7:21-25:

For the Lord strictly commanded those who come into the world, when they come, what they should do to live, and what they should do to avoid punishment.  Nevertheless they were not obedient and spoke against him:

they devised for themselves vain thoughts,

and proposed to themselves wicked frauds;

they even declared that the Most High does not exist,

and they ignored his ways.

They scorned his law,

and denied his covenants;

they have been unfaithful to his statutes,

and have not performed his works.

That is the reason, Ezra, that empty things are for the empty, and full things are for the full.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The atheism mentioned in the passage is practical atheism, that which acknowledges the existence of God while rejecting the ideas that God has an active and effective role in the world and that God’s commandments should have any influence on one’s life.  It is, quite simply, Deism.  Atheism, in the sense that one hears of it frequently in modern Western societies, was rare in antiquity.  That which Reza Aslan calls anti-theism, or hostility to theism (not just the rejection of it), was even more rare.  Thus, when we consider Psalm 14, the most accurate rendering of the opening lines is not that fools say “there is no God” (the standard English translation), but that fools say, “God does not care,” as TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders the passage.

For more verses about the consequences of disobedience, consult Matthew 13:12 and Luke 8:18.

The Aaronic Blessing (Numbers 6:24-26), a familiar text and an element of many liturgies, precedes an important verse:

Thus they shall link My name with the people of Israel, and I will bless them.

–Numbers 6:27, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Receiving blessings from God obligates one to function as a vehicle for others to receive blessings from God.  Grace is free (for us), but never cheap.  In the context of Numbers 6, there is also a mandate to obey the Law of Moses, which contains an ethic of recognizing one’s complete dependence on God, one’s dependence upon other human beings, one’s responsibility to and for others, and the absence of the right to exploit anyone.

Thus the conclusion of this post echoes the beginning thereof.  We have a mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  Obeying that commandment can prove to be difficult and will lead us to change some of our assumptions and related behaviors, but that is part of the call of God upon our lives.  We ought to respond positively, out of love for God and our neighbors, but the principle that our present conduct will determine our future hangs over us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MATHILDA, QUEEN OF GERMANY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/14/devotion-for-wednesday-after-trinity-sunday-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Proper for Artisans   1 comment

032869pv

Above:  Construction of St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, Nondalton, Lake and Peninusla Borough, Alaska, 1990

Photographer = Jet Lowe

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS AK,5-NODA,1–1

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Lord Jesus Christ, master craftsman of our salvation,

we thank you for those artisans who have glorified you with their skills

and for those who continue to do so.

May we, inspired by their positive examples,

glorify you with all our skills, no matter how mundane we think they are.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 38:24-34

Psalm 86:1-13

Ephesians 4:25-5:2

Matthew 13:54-58

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 19:  THE FOURTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Adapted from this post:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2014/09/14/proper-for-artisans/

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Harsh Realities   1 comment

Parable of the Sower

Above:  A Depiction of the Parable of the Sower, Which Precedes Matthew 13:10-17

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word.

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it, and grow if faith and love,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 11:23-30

Psalm 92

Matthew 13:10-17

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LORD, how great are your works!

your thoughts are very deep.

The dullard does not know,

nor does the fool understand,

that though the wicked grow like weeds,

and all the workers of iniquity flourish,

They flourish only to be destroyed for ever;

but you, O LORD, are exalted for evermore.

–Psalm 92:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The reading from Matthew 13:10-17 has parallels in Mark 4:10-12 and Luke 8:9-10 while quoting Isaiah 6:9-10.  (Actually, Matthew 13:10-17 quotes theSeptuagint, the Greek translation of the original Hebrew text, hence differences in renderings within the same English version.)  The Isaiah, Mark, and Luke texts seem to indicate speaking to people for the purpose of confusing them, not calling them to repentance and thereby preventing the wrath of God from coming to fruition.  Or do these texts speak of consequences as if they were purposes?

I take these as statements of reality, not of purpose, per the presentation in the Gospel of Matthew.  This fits well with the reading from Proverbs 11, which I summarize as

What comes around, goes around.

These are lessons about reality, as grim as that is much of the time.

Behind these verses [in Matthew] is the harsh fact that Jesus came into an alien age.  His teaching, to men of earthly motives, was a riddle.  What could awaken them?  Only his death!…The ultimate truth pierces us from the Cross.

The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume VII (1951), page 411-412

May we prove perceptive, so that our hearts will not be dull and so that we will understand and turn, so that God will heal us.  May we succeed in this spiritual endeavor by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-10-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XIII: Loyalty and Identity   1 comment

pieter_bruegel_d-_c3a4-_030

Above:  Landscape with the Parable of the Sower, by Pieter Brueghel the Elder

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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 13:1-18 (October 15–Protestant Versification)

Deuteronomy 13:2-19 (October 15–Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Deuteronomy 14:1-2, 22-23; 14:28-15:15 (October 16)

Deuteronomy 15:19-16:22 (October 17)

Psalm 123 (Morning–October 15)

Psalm 15 (Morning–October 16)

Psalm 36 (Morning–October 17)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–October 15)

Psalms 48 and 4 (Evening–October 16)

Psalms 80 and 27 (Evening–October 17)

Matthew 13:1-23 (October 15)

Matthew 13:24-43 (October 16)

Matthew 13:44-58 (October 17)

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 15:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/proper-25-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/10/devotion-for-september-20-and-21-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Matthew 13:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/25/proper-10-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/proper-11-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/week-of-proper-11-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/week-of-proper-11-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/week-of-proper-11-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/week-of-proper-11-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/proper-12-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/11/week-of-proper-12-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/week-of-proper-12-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/week-of-proper-12-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/week-of-proper-12-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/week-of-proper-12-friday-year-1/

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Here is a summary of the contents of Deuteronomy 13:1-16:22:

  1. Execute any false prophet or dream-diviner.  (13:1-6/2-7)
  2. Execute anyone who entices another person to commit idolatry.  (13:6-11/7-12)
  3. Execute the inhabitants of idolatrous towns, burn those towns, and destroy all spoil.  Do not rebuild at any of those sites.  (13:12-18/13-19)
  4. Avoid mourning rituals associated with pagan peoples.  (14:1-2)
  5. Eat only ritually clean foods.  (14:3-21)
  6. Pay a tenth of your crops and livestock to God.  (14:22-26)
  7. Provide for the needy and the Levites.  (14:27-29)
  8. Provide debts and free slaves every seventh year.  (15:1-18)
  9. Sacrifice all male firstlings born into your flock to God, assuming that it is a proper physical specimen.  (15:19-23)
  10. Keep a detailed festival calendar and the accompanying instructions.  (16:1-17)
  11. Appoint magistrates who will govern honestly and justly, taking no bribes.  (16:18-20)
  12. Erect no posts, as in honor to Astarte.  (16:21-22)

I have mixed feelings about that material.  On one hand, I approve of the social justice imperative parts of it.  I find even the acceptance of any form of slavery offensive and the command to execute people intolerable.  I know that one theme of the Law of Moses is absolute loyalty to God, so idolatry equaled treason, but some commands seem barbaric to me.  So far as dietary laws are concerned, I note that I have never cared about them.  Proper refrigeration negates some health concerns, as does thorough cooking.  One analysis of the forbidden list says that those animals did not fit nearly into certain categories.  Assuming that the analysis is correct, what was the problem?  Besides, I like to eat ham and intend to continue to do so.

In Matthew 13 we read a series of mostly agricultural parables:  the sower and the seed, the darnel and the mustard seed, the treasure in the field, the merchant and the pearls, and the fish of mixed quality.  And, at the end of the chapter, people in Nazareth lack faith him.  Perhaps they know too much to realize even more.

From those parables I glean certain lessons:

  1. One should remain focused on God, not allowing anything or anyone to function as a distraction.
  2. The good and the bad will grow up together and come mixed together.  God will sort everything into the correct categories at the right time.  That task does not fall to us, mere mortals.
  3. Nothing is more important than seeking, finding, and keeping the Kingdom of God.

I detect much thematic overlap between that material and Deuteronomy 13:1-16:22, with the notable absence of commands about when to execute or destroy.  Yes, Matthew is more riveting reading than Deuteronomy.

I read the Law of Moses as a Gentile, specifically an Episcopalian who grew up a United Methodist.  The Law was like a household servant who raised children, St. Paul the Apostle tells us.  Now that Christ has arrived on the scene, I have only two commandments, not over 600.  So, as long as I am growing via grace into loving God fully and my neighbor as myself, that ham sandwich should not bother my conscience.  And I refuse to execute anyone, for I serve an executed and resurrected Lord and Savior.  To him I am loyal.  In him, not a law code, do I find my identity.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMITIAN OF HUY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARRIET STARR CANNON, COFOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITYN OF SAINT MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE VENERINI, FOUNDER OF THE VENERINI SISTERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODARD OF NARBONNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP; AND SAINTS JUSTUS AND PASTOR, MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/devotion-for-october-15-16-and-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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God, the Potter   1 comment

Above:   Pottery

Image Source = Derek Jensen

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Conner-prairie-pottery-rack.jpg)

God, the Potter

AUGUST 2, 2012

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Jeremiah 18:1-6 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word which came to Jeremiah from the LORD:

Go down to the house of a potter, and there I will impart My words to you.

So I went down to the house of a potter, and found him working at a wheel.  And if the vessel he was making was spoiled, as happens to clay in the potter’s hands, he would make it into another vessel, such as the potter saw fit to make.

Then the word of the LORD came to me:

O House of Israel, can I not deal with you like this potter?

–says the LORD.

Just like clay in the hands of the potter, so are you in My hands, O House of Israel!

Psalm 146:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

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

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

for there is not help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

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

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

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

who keeps his promise for ever.

Matthew 13:47-53 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,]

Or the kingdom of Heaven is like a big net thrown into the sea collecting all kinds of fish.  When it is full, the fishermen haul it ashore and sit down and pick out the good ones for the barrels, but they throw away the bad.  This is how it will be at the end of this world.  The angels will go out and pick out the wicked from among the good and throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be tears and bitter regret.

Have you grasped all this?

They replied,

Yes.

Jesus returned,

You can see, then, how everyone who knows the Law and becomes a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like a householder who can produce from his store both the new and the old.

When Jesus had finished these parables he left the place, and came into his own country.

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Here we have another analogy for God:  the potter.  Or, as the note in The Jewish Study Bible says,

God is the master craftsman while Israel is the inanimate clay!  (page 963)

If Israel (in this case, Judah, had repented–turned around or changed its mind–the potter would have remolded it, made something new out of the raw materials.  Yet none of that happened in time to prevent the fall of Judah.  That is the message of God and Jeremiah in this passage.

When we turn to Matthew 13:47-53, we read about the value of both the old and the new.  We (plural and singular) come to God with some background.  This background is not entirely worthless.  Even the worst, basest past can provide useful lessons.  Yet we must move forward, retaining the best of the old while adding the new which is worthwhile.

The union of these two passages tells us that, if we allow God to mold us, retaining that which is meritorious and adding the necessary new elements, we will, by grace, become something wonderful and suited for the service of God.  This is not Jesus-and-Meism, for we exist to be good salt and bright light for the common god and the glory of good.  Through good and righteous people a reformation of society can occur.  It has occurred more than once.  For example, racism (at least its explicit forms) used to be publicly acceptable.  People used to send postcards depicting lynchings through the U.S. mail.  Once upon a time, the suggestion that people, regardless of skin pigmentation, ought to be social and legal equals, met with widespread disapproval.  Interracial marriages were illegal in many U.S. states until the late 1960s.  Yet, in 2011, the situation has changed greatly, racism carries a severe stigma, and many racists feel compelled to resort to code speech.

And, when prevailing social attitudes change, so do the factors which shape the attitudes of the young.  For example, those who grow up in a society where unapologetic racism prevails are likely to think differently than do those raised to accept racial equality.  So yes, a person can make an important difference.

I wonder what will happen next, which old biases will fall away properly, only for love and equality to replace them.  Time will tell.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 30, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEROME, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/week-of-proper-12-thursday-year-2/

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The Freedom of the Sabbath   2 comments

Above: God Reposing on the Sabbath, From a Russian Bible (1696)

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Leviticus 23:1-11, 26-38 (Richard Elliott Friedman):

And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Speak to the children of Israel, and you shall say to them:  YHWH’s appointed times, my appointed times:  Six days work shall be done, and in a the seventh day is a Sabbath, a ceasing, a holy assembly.  You shall not do any work.  It is a Sabbath to YHWH in all your homes.

These are YHWH’s appointed times, holy assemblies that you shall proclaim at their appointed time:  In the first month, on the fourteenth of the month, ‘between the two evenings,’ is YHWH’s Passover.  And on the fifteenth day of this month is YHWH’s Festival of Unleavened Bread.  You shall eat unleavened bread seven days.  On the first day you shall have a holy assembly.  You shall not do any act of work.  And you shall bring forward an offering by fire to YHWH for seven days.  On the seventh day you shall have a holy assembly.  You shall not do any act of work.

And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Speak to the children of Israel, and you shall say to them:  When you will come to the land that I am giving to you and you reap its harvest, you shall bring the first sheaf of your harvest to the priest, and he shall elevate the sheaf in front of YHWH for acceptance for you.  The priest shall elevate it on the day after the Sabbath.

And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Just:  On the tenth of this seventh month, it is the Day of Atonement.  You shall have a holy assembly, and you shall degrade yourselves.  And you shall bring forward an offering by fire to YHWH.  And you shall not do any work on this very day, because it is a day of atonement, to atone for you in front of YHWH, your God.  Because any person who will not be degraded on this very day will be cut off from his people.  And any person who will do any work in this very day:  I shall destroy that person from among his people.  You shall not do any work:  an eternal law through your generations in all your homes.  It is a Sabbath, a ceasing, for you, and you shall degrade yourselves:  on the ninth of the month in the evening, from evening to evening, you shall keep your Sabbath.

And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Speak to the children of Israel, saying:  On the fifteenth day of this seventh month is the Festival of Booths, seven days, for YWHH.  On the first day is a holy assembly.  You shall not do any act of work.  For seven days  you shall bring forward an offering by fire to YHWH.  On the eighth day you shall have a holy assembly, and you shall bring forward an offering by fire to YHWH.  It is a convocation.  You shall not do any act of work.

These are YHWH’s appointed times, which you shall call holy assemblies, to bring forward an offering by fire to YHWH:  burnt offering and grain offering, sacrifice and libations, each day’s thing on its day, aside from YHWH’s Sabbaths and aside from your gifts and aside from all of your vows and aside from all of your contributions that you will give to YHWH.

Psalm 81:1-10 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Sing with joy to God our strength

and raise a loud shout to the God of Jacob.

2 Raise a song and sound the timbrel,

the merry harp, and the lyre.

Blow the ram’s-horn at the new moon,

and at the full moon, the day of our fast.

For this is a statute for Israel,

a law of the God of Jacob.

He laid it as a solemn charge upon Joseph,

when he came out of the land of Egypt.

6 I heard an unfamiliar voice saying,

“I eased his shoulder from the burden;

his hands were set free from bearing the load.”

7 You called on me in trouble, and I saved you;

I answered you from the secret place of thunder

and tested you at the waters of Meribah.

8 Hear, O my people, and I will admonish you:

O Israel, if you would but listen to me!

There shall be no strange god among you;

you shall not worship a foreign god.

10 I am the LORD your God,

who brought you out of the land of Egypt and said,

“Open your mouth wide, and I will fill it.”

Matthew 13:53-58 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When Jesus had finished these parables, he left the place, and came into his own country.  Here he taught the people in their own synagogue, till in their amazement they said,

Where does this man get this wisdom and these powers?  He’s only the carpenter’s son.  Isn’t Mary his mother, and aren’t James, Joseph, Simon, and Judas his brothers?   And aren’t all his sisters living here with us?  Where did he get all this?

And they were deeply offended with him.

But Jesus said to them,

No prophet goes unhonoured except in his own country and in his own home!

And he performed very few miracles there because of their lack of faith.

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The Israelites, when slaves in Egypt, did not get a day off.  So the Sabbath indicated freedom.  The Sabbath was a gift.

Down time is also a physical necessity.  The body requires a certain amount of sleep, and a dearth thereof leads to unpleasant consequences, especially if this is a pattern.  So the Sabbath is also a recognition of the fact that we need down time during the week.  Not everyone can keep his tradition’s designated Sabbath.  Members of the clergy, for example, must take another day as their Sabbath.  But everybody needs one.

Within Judaism and Christianity factions have devised restrictive Sabbath rules.  Pharisees of the First Century C.E. frowned on Jesus healing on the Sabbath,  and on his Apostles gleaning on the Sabbath out of hunger.  But our Lord and Savior reminded them of three facts:  (1) It is lawful to perform a good deed on the Sabbath; (2) David and his men ate set-apart bread when they were hungry; and (3) Professional religious people at the Temple had to work on the Sabbath.  I think also of the Puritans of colonial New England, who frowned on people singing to themselves in public on Sunday.  It is wrong to transform the gift of the Sabbath into a burden.

So, recalling the reading from Matthew, I note that former neighbors were not the only people Jesus offended.  This was the fault of the offended parties, not Jesus, who was exactly the person he needed to be.

May you, O reader, be more nearly (more so over time) the person you need to be–for God, of course.  And, as part of this, may you find the Sabbath to be the gift God has intended.  Savor it.  Keep it.  Honor God in so doing.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS,  ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF HUBERT HUMPHREY, UNITED STATES SENATOR AND VICE PRESIDENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENTIGERN (MUNGO), ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/week-of-proper-12-friday-year-1/

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Judgment and Mercy, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Moses

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Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5-10, 27-28 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses would take the tent and pitch it outside of the camp, going far from the camp, and he called it the Tent of Meeting.  And it would be:  everyone seeking YHWH would to out to the Tent of Meeting, which was outside of the camp.  And it would be, when Moses would go out to the Tent, all the people would get up, and they would stand up, each one at the entrance of the tent, and they would look after Moses until he came to the Tent.  And it would be, when Moses came to the Tent, the column of cloud would come down, and it would stand at the entrance of the Tent, and He would speak with Moses.  And all the people would see the column of cloud standing at the entrance of the Tent, and all the people would get up and bow, each at the entrance of his tent.  And YHWH would speak to Moses face-to-face, the way a man speaks to his fellow man.  And he would come back to the camp.  And his attendant, Joshua, son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from inside the Tent.

And YHWH came down in a cloud and stood before him there, and he invoked the name YHWH.  And YHWH passed in front of him and called,

YHWH, YHWH, merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in kindness and faithfulness, keeping kindness for thousands, bearing crime and offense and sin; though not making one innocent; reckoning fathers’ crimes on children and on children’s cildren, on third generations and on fourth generations.

And Moses hurried and knelt on the ground and bowed, and he said,

If I’ve found favor in your eyes, my Lord, may my Lord go among us, because it is a stiff-necked people, and forgive our crime and our sin, and make us your legacy.

And He said,

Here, I am making a covenant.  Before all your people I’ll do wonders that haven’t been created in all the earth and among all the nations; and all the people whom you’re among will see YHWH’s deeds, because that which I’m doing with you is awesome….

And YHWH said to Moses,

Write these words to yourself, because I’ve made a covenant with you and with Israel based on these words.

And he was there with YHWH forty days and forty nights.  He did not eat bread, and he did not drink water.  And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

Psalm 103:5-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5 He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 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.

8 The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are as high above the earth,

so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

Matthew 13:36-43 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Later, he left the crowds and went indoors, where his disciples came and said,

Please explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.

Jesus replied,

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the whole world.  The good seed?  That is the sons of the kingdom, while the weeds are sons of the evil one of this world.  The enemy who sowed them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of this world.  The reapers are angels.

Just as weeds are gathered up and burned in the fire so will it happen at the end of the world.  The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will uproot from the kingdom everything that is spoiling it, and all those who live in defiance of its laws, and will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be tears and bitter regret.  Then the good will shine out like the sun in their Father’s kingdom.  The man who has ears should use them!

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Sometimes I feel like a broken record, or at least Mojo Jojo from The Powerpuff Girls; I keep repeating myself.  I have an excellent reason for my repetition:  the texts keep saying the same things over and over again.  So here I am, again, writing that divine judgment and mercy are intertwined.

One point does bear elaboration before I proceed.  Consider Exodus 34:6-7, which speak of the passing down of sins through the generations.  Richard Elliott Friedman makes the following comment about it on page 291 of his Commentary on the Torah:

…Third, psychologically one can observe traits persevering through that many [four] generations.  I have personally observed ongoing dynamics within my family through four generations.   This does not mean that an individual’s bad deed will be duplicated by his or her children and grandchildren.  But it may recognize that such deeds have consequences, for better or worse (pride and embarrassment, stigmas, reactions, conscious or unconscious imitation), that persist through generations.

Consequences constitute the crux of the issue.  Deeds have consequences, and often divine punishment is merely permitting consequences to play out.  Much of the time this for disciplinary reasons, so that we will learn our lessons.  Responsible parents do not always shield their children from the consequences of bad actions.  This is for the good of the children.  Since the parental role (often paternal, but sometimes maternal, too) is one Biblical writers applied to God, this analogy works well.  Furthermore, forgiveness of sin does not erase the consequences of it.  Roman Catholic theology reflects a deep understanding of this fact, hence the teaching on Purgatory, which many people misunderstand.

The God of the Old Testament is merely a vengeful deity, contrary to the oft-repeated stereotype.  There is much mercy there, too, as the excerpts from Genesis indicate.  This is God, who loves the Israelites enough to liberate them.  They can never pay him back, but they can worship only him, demonstrate gratitude for provisions, and obey some commandments.  Is this too much to ask?  No!  But do they do that much?  No!  Why should God not be angry and disappointed?  But does God give up on them?  No!

This is God, who speaks to Moses personally in the leader’s own tent for a few chapters in Exodus (until Chapter 40).  But God continues to speak to Moses, who is faithful, and who even argues with him from time to time.  This is God, who demonstrates caring and much involvement with the Israelites, although mostly by dealing with Moses, who functions as an intermediary.

Yet, as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 13:36-43, there is still judgment for unrepentant.  And it will be terrifying.

My note of caution is to repent not out of fear of damnation, but out of love, respect, and awe for God and divine mercy.  A relationship built on terror of Hell is one with a father figure whom one thinks might be abusive.  That is a dysfunctional spiritual relationship.  No, may we love God, who loves us.  And may we bear fruits consistent with righteousness.  This is possible, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, DEAN OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED, ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ABBOT OF JARROW

THE FEAST OF JOHN HORDEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MOOSONEE

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/week-of-proper-12-tuesday-year-1/

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