Archive for the ‘Matthew 14’ Category

Oppression   1 comment

Beheading of St. John the Baptist Caravaggio

Above:  The Beheading of St. John the Baptist, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts.

Created by you, let us live in your image;

created for you, let us act for your glory;

redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 14:3-11

Psalm 96:1-9 [10-13]

Matthew 14:1-12

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He [the LORD] will judge the world with righteousness

and the people with his truth.

–Psalm 96:13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Herod Antipas (reigned 4 B.C.E.-39 C.E.) was a bad character and a client ruler (a tetrarch, not a king, by the way) within the Roman Empire.  He had marriedHerodias, his niece and daughter-in-law, an act for which St. John the Baptist had criticized him.  This incestuous union violated Leviticus 18:16 and 20:21 and did not come under the levirate marriage exemption in Deuteronomy 25:5.  John, for his trouble, lost his freedom and his life.  Salome (whose name we know from archaeology, not the Bible), at the behest of her mother, Herodias, requested the head of the holy man on a platter.

The text from Isaiah 14 is an anticipated taunt of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.

How the oppressor has ceased!

How his insolence has ceased!

–Isaiah 14:3b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That oppression and insolence did cease in the case of Herod Antipas.  He had deserted the daughter of King Aretas IV of the Nabateans to wed Herodias.  In 36 C.E. Aretas took his revenge by defeating Herod Antipas.  The tetrarch sought Roman imperial assistance yet gained none, for the throne had passed from Tiberius to Caligula.  Herod Antipas, encouraged by Herodias, requested that Caligula award him the title of “King” as the Emperor had done to the tetrarch’s nephew (and brother of Herodias), Herod Agrippa I (reigned 37-44 C.E.).  Yet Herod Agrippa I brought charges against Herod Antipas, who, having traveled to Rome to seek the new title in person, found himself exiled to Gaul instead.  The territories of Herod Antipas came under the authority of Herod Agrippa I who was, unfortunately, one of the persecutors of earliest Christianity (Acts 12:1-5).

Oppression has never disappeared from the face of the Earth.  Certain oppressive regimes have ended, of course, but others have continued the shameful tradition.  You, O reader, can probably name some oppressive regimes in the news.  Sometimes they fight each other, so what is one supposed to do then?  I remember that, during my time as a graduate student at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia, I took a course about World War II.  The professor asked us one day that, if we had to choose between following Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler (a decision many in Eastern Europe had to make in the early 1940s), whom would we select?  I said, “Just shoot me now.”  That, I imagine is how many people in Syria must feel in 2014.

Only God can end all oppression.  Until God does so, may we stand with the oppressed and celebrate defeats of oppressors.  Some good news is better than none, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-24-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Suffering and Triumph   1 comment

Crucifix II July 15, 2014

Above:  One of My Crucifixes

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

God of all peoples, your arms reach out to embrace all those who call upon you.

Teach us as disciples of your Son to love the world with compassion and constancy,

that your name may be known throughout all the earth,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 45:20-25 (Thursday)

Isaiah 63:15-19 (Friday)

Isaiah 56:1-5 (Saturday)

Psalm 67 (All Days)

Revelation 15:1-4 (Thursday)

Acts 14:19-28 (Friday)

Matthew 14:34-36 (Saturday)

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Be gracious to us, O God, and bless us:

and make the light of your face to shine upon us,

that your ways may be known upon earth:

your saving power among all nations.

Let the peoples praise you, O God:

let all the peoples praise you.

–Psalm 67:1-3, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Why do people suffer?  The Book of Job refutes one traditional argument, the one that all suffering constitutes the consequences of sin.  Yet that argument remained alive and well in the time of Christ, who fielded questions based on this false assumption.  And that traditional argument lives today.  Often the assumption is that, if we suffer, we must have done something wrong.  The other side of that assumption is that, if we prosper, we must have done something right.  Related to this assumption are Prosperity Theology (an old heresy) and the Positive Thinking Theology (also a heresy) of Norman Vincent Peale and Robert Schuller.  If, as Schuller has said, “If it’s meant to be, it’s up to me,” the verdict on those who strive and fail is devastating and judgmental.  No, as Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, God calls us to be faithful, not successful.  To the proponents of these named heresies old and new I say,

Tell that to Jesus and all the faithful martyrs who have suffered and died for the sake of righteousness.  Also tell that, if you dare, to those who have suffered (although not fatally) for the faith.  And stop spouting such false clichés.

Yes, sometimes we suffer because of something or the accumulation of things we have done wrong.  Reality requires a nuanced explanation, however, for circumstances are more complicated than clichés.  Sometimes one suffers for the sake of righteousness as in Acts 14:22 and Revelation 15:1.  On other occasions one is merely at the wrong place at the wrong time, suffering because of the wrong desires of someone or of others who happen to be in the area.  For example, I have read news reports of people dying of gang violence while in their homes, minding their own business.  These were innocent victims not safe from bullets flying through windows.  These were non-combatants stuck in a bad situation.

A timeless message from the Book of Revelation is to remain faithful to God during times when doing so is difficult and costly, even unto death.  When we follow our Lord and Savior, who suffered and died partly because he confronted powerful people and threatened their political-economic basis of power and their social status, we follow in dangerous footsteps.  Yet he triumphed over his foes.  We can also prove victorious via him.  That victory might come at a time and in a manner we do not expect or even desire, but it is nevertheless a positive result.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUTH, ANCESTOR OF KING DAVID

THE FEAST OF SAINT BONAVENTURE, THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SWITHUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF WINCHESTER

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/07/15/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-15-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XIV: Violence and Compassion   1 comment

05555v

Above:  Northern Views, Site of the Feeding of the Five Thousand

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004004126/PP/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-05555

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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 17:1-20 (October 18)

Deuteronomy 18:1-22 (October 19)

Psalm 13 (Morning–October 18)

Psalm 56 (Morning–October 19)

Psalms 32 and 139 (Evening–October 18)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening–October 19)

Matthew 14:1-21 (October 18)

Matthew 14:22-36 (October 19)

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 18:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

Matthew 14:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/devotion-for-the-eleventh-and-twelfth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/week-of-proper-12-saturday-year-1/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/week-of-proper-13-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/proper-14-year-a/

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

The Feast of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, Martyr (August 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-martyr-august-29/

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I have become convinced that the best way to read the Law of Moses is in small doses, usually in reference to narrative Bible stories.  Yet the main purpose of a lectionary is to guide the orderly reading of the Bible, even books one might avoid otherwise.  So I continue.

These days in Deuteronomy we read about court procedures.  There must be at least two witnesses, in a capital case, for a person who has committed idolatry must die.  Levites will settle baffling cases, and the king will have no role in justice.  We read also of Levites and prophets, whose authority came from God, not any other source.

Speaking of prophets—yes, more than a prophet—we read of Jesus feeding the five thousand men plus an uncounted number of women and children with a small amount of food and ending up with more leftovers than the original supply of food.  Then we read of Jesus walking on water then curing many people.  That material completes a chapter which begins with the execution of St. John the Baptist due to a rash promise made at a tawdry party.  The sublime grace and a great power of God at work in Jesus exists among violent men and women.  That is the story I detect uniting Matthew 14.

There is also violence—albeit carefully regulated violence—in Deuteronomy 17.  I continue to object to executing people for committing idolatry either.  But, if human life is as valuable as some parts of the Law of Moses indicate, why is so much stoning demanded there?  I read of how Jesus helped people from various backgrounds (often marginalized individuals) and think of his great compassion.  Surely executing someone for working on the Sabbath or committing idolatry is inconsistent with that ethic.

But at least the Levites got to eat.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT II, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF DAME JULIAN OF NORWICH, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDALENA OF CANOSSA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY AND THE SONS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-18-and-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Genesis and Mark, Part XII: Wonders, Jealousies, Fears, and Violence   1 comment

christ-rescuing-peter-from-drowning

Above:  Christ Rescuing Peter from Drowning

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 18:1-15 (11th Day of Lent)

Genesis 21:1-21 (12th Day of Lent)

Psalm 119:73-80 (Morning–11th Day of Lent)

Psalm 34 (Morning–12th Day of Lent)

Psalms 121 and 6 (Evening–11th Day of Lent)

Psalms 25 and 91 (Evening–12th Day of Lent)

Mark 6:14-34 (11th Day of Lent)

Mark 6:35-56 (12th Day of Lent)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 18:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/proper-6-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/14/week-of-proper-7-saturday-year-1/

Genesis 21:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/proper-6-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/proper-7-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-wednesday-year-1/

Mark 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fourth-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/08/week-of-4-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-4-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-5-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/17/week-of-4-epiphany-friday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/proper-9-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/07/proper-10-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/proper-11-year-b/

Feast of the Beheading of Saint John the Baptist, Martyr (August 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-martyr-august-29/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/feast-of-the-beheading-of-st-john-the-baptist-martyr-august-29/

Prayers:

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

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

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ALPHA:

The Feeding of the Five Thousand is a story which all four canonical Gospels tell.  Here are the citations:

  1. Mark 6:30-44
  2. Matthew 14:13-21
  3. Luke 9:10-17
  4. John 6:1-15

There are five thousand men in Mark.  There is no indication of an estimate, such as “about” or “as many as.”  Neither is there any mention of women and children.

Matthew 14:21 tells us of

about five thousand men…, to say nothing of women and children.  (The New Jerusalem Bible)

Luke 9:14 has

about five thousand men.  (The New Jerusalem Bible)

And John 6:10 mentions

as many as five thousand men.  (The New Jerusalem Bible)

So the women and children occur explicitly in the Matthew reading, although the Johannine version implies them.  (I read the text in several translations quite closely and consulted commentaries.) Such details interest me.

BETA:

Sometimes a lectionary becomes too choppy.  I understand the need to avoid placing too much material on one day.  The Lutheran daily lectionary I am following provides for

two readings of 15-25 verses each….one from the Old Testament, the other from the New Testament.

Lutheran Service Book (2006), page 299

Yet this system divides the passage describing the Feeding of the Five Thousand (men) in Mark into two readings across as many days.  One of my methods in composing these posts is combining days of material as necessary to maintain a certain degree of textual unity, not that I need to defend myself in this matter.  This is a purely procedural notice.

We read today of wonders coexisting with sad news.  Abraham and Sarah become parents in their old age yet expel Hagar and Ishmael, victims in the narrative.  Our Lord heals people, feeds five thousand men with a small amount of food, and walks on water.  Yet Herod Antipas, the man responsible for the death of John the Baptist, wants to meet Jesus.  The wondrous and the unfortunate rub shoulders with each other.

That is the nature of the world, is it not?  The Second Person of the Trinity became incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth.  His life was at risk before he was born and remained so after his birth.  And the Roman Empire executed him–not for being a nice guy who told people to love their neighbors, by the way.  Authorities perceived him as a thread to their power.  And he was, but not in the way in which zealots would have preferred him to be.

Jealousies and fears arise within us, bringing out the worst of our natures.  Sometimes we project them onto God and convince ourselves that God commands us to expel or execute those who, by their existence, threaten our positions, status, or ego.  May God forgive us, regardless of whether we know what we do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 15, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF COMMON WORSHIP, 1906

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF PIRIPI TAUMATA-A-KURA, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/devotion-for-the-eleventh-and-twelfth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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“The Word is Very Near You….”   1 comment

Above:  A Scroll of the Book of Esther

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph,

Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.

He answered,

Here I am.

So he said to him,

Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.

So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him,

What are you seeking?

He said,

I am seeking my brothers; tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.

The man said,

They have gone away, for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.”

So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another,

Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying,

Let us not take his life.

Reuben said to them,

Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him

– that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers,

What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.

And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

16 Then he called for a famine in the land

and destroyed the supply of bread.

17 He sent a man before them,

Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

18 They bruised his feet in fetters;

his neck they put in an iron collar.

19 Until his prediction came to pass,

the word of the LORD tested him.

20 The king sent and released him;

the ruler of the peoples set him free.

21 He set him as a master over his household,

as a ruler over all his possessions,

22 To instruct his princes according to his will

and to teach his elders wisdom.

45b Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

1 Kings 19:9-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

At Horeb, the mount of God, Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying,

What are you doing here, Elijah?

He answered,

I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.

He said,

Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said,

What are you doing here, Elijah?

He answered,

I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.

Then the LORD said to him,

Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.

Psalm 85:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

SECOND READING

Romans 10:5-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that

the person who does these things will live by them.

But the righteousness that comes from faith says,

Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”

(that is, to bring Christ down)

or

“Who will descend into the abyss?”

(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

The word is near you,

on your lips and in your heart

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says,

No one who believes in him will be put to shame.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For,

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written,

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 14:22-33 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying,

It is a ghost!

And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said,

Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

Peter answered him,

Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.

He said,

Come.

So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out,

Lord, save me!

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him,

You of little faith, why did you doubt?

When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying,

Truly you are the Son of God.

The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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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I have chosen to take my focus from Romans.  Thus I refer you, O reader, to the following links, for further details:

For Genesis–http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/week-of-proper-9-thursday-year-1/

For Matthew–http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/week-of-proper-13-monday-year-1/

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Consider these words, put into the mouth of Moses toward the end of the Israelite sojourn in the wilderness:

For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say ‘Who will go over to the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil.   If you obey commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, they you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it.  But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish….  (Deuteronomy 30:11-18a, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

Paul was obviously familiar with this passage, for he channeled it in this day’s excerpt from Romans.  God’s message is not remote, he says; it is near us.  Indeed, the Hebrew prophets proclaimed this word, and many Jewish scriptures, originally oral tradition, did as well.  So did Jesus, God incarnate.  How much more concrete could God get than that?  So, yes, the word is very near us.  If we do not perceive it, we need to pay closer attention.

The reading from Deuteronomy describes following God as the path to life and the alternative as the route to death.  Life and death are both physical and spiritual in this context.  I typed only part of the germane passage; a portion I chose not to type concludes, “therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live….” (Deuteronomy 30:19)  But we know how the story unfolded, do we not?  Read the excerpt from 1 Kings; pious advocacy of monotheism by a portion of the population did not prevent the widespread practice of polytheism.  Thus hindsight, in the wake of the Babylonian Exile, informs the theology of final, edited version of much of the Hebrew Bible:  Spiritual infidelity led to the decline, division, and extinction of the Jewish kingdoms.

YHWH was a different kind of deity relative to the alleged members of pantheons.  As Professor Richard Elliott Friedman writes in his Commentary on the Torah:

In comparing Israel’s monotheism to pagan religion, we must appreciate that the difference between one and many is not the same sort of thing as the difference between two and three or between six and twenty.  It is not numerical.  It is a different concept of what a god is.  A God who is outside of nature, known through acts of history, a creator, unseeable, without a mate, who makes legal covenants with humans, who is one, is a revolution in religious conception. (Page 586)

The account from 1 Kings reinforces this point.  Adherents of other deities believed that they made themselves known in forces of nature, such as earthquakes, fire,  and mighty winds.  But YHWH did the opposite.  God does that often.  We find God in silence, not noise.  And we Christians worship God, who took on human form and became both fully human and fully divine.  (I have given up trying to explain this mystery and chosen to revel in it instead.)  God refuses to fit into our theological boxes.  If we cannot deal with this reality in a healthy way, then we need to read the great J. B. Phillips book, Your God is Too Small.

The word is near us.  It is present in the silence around us, as well as in any place we read or hear God speaking–certainly in the Bible, but not just there.  The word can also be present in other literature, as well as in nature.  The word is present anywhere the Holy Spirit speaks to us, including our minds.  So the word is around us and inside us.  Do we hear it?  Do we really hear it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CENTRAL AFRICA

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/proper-14-year-a/

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We Don’t Have to Rely On Our Resources Alone   1 comment

Above: Walking on Water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888)

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Numbers 11:4-15 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And the gathered mass who were among them had a longing, and the children of Israel, as well, went back and cried, and they said,

Who will feed us meat?  We remember the fish that we would eat in Egypt for free:  the cucumbers and the melons and the leek and the onions and the garlics.  And now, our soul is dried up.  There isn’t anything–except the manna before our eyes.

And the manna:  it was like a seed of coriander, and its appearance was like the appearance of bdellium.  The people went around and collected and ground it in mills or pounded it in a mortar and cooked it in a pot and made it into cakes.  And its taste was like the taste of something creamy made with oil.  And when the dew descended on the camp at night, the manna would descend with it.

And Moses heard the people crying by their families, each at his tent entrance, and YHWH’s anger flared very much, and it was bad in Moses’ eyes.  And Moses said to YHWH,

Why have you done bad to your servant, and why have I not found favor in your eyes, to set the burden of the entire people on me?  Did Iconceive the entire people?  Did I give birth to it, that you should say to me, ‘Carry it in your bosom,’ the way a nurse carries a suckling, to the land that you swore to its fathers?  From where do I have meat to give to this entire people, that they cry at me, saying, ‘Give us meat, and let’s eat’?  I’m not able, I, by myself, to carry this entire people, because it’s too heavy for me.  And if this is how you treat me, kill me, if I’ve found favor in your eyes, and let me not see my suffering.

Psalm 105:37-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

37 He led out his people with silver and gold;

in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.

38 Egypt was glad of their going,

because they were afraid of them.

39 He spread out a cloud for a covering,

and a fire to give light in the night season.

40 They asked, and quails appeared,

and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water flowed,

so the river ran in dry places.

42 For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43 So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44 He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil,

45 That they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.

Hallelujah!

Matthew 14:22-36 (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

Directly after this [the Feeding of the Five Thousand Men, Plus Women and Children] Jesus insisted on his disciples’ getting aboard their boat and going on ahead to the other side, while he himself sent the crowds home.  And when he had sent them away he sent up the hill-side quite alone, to pray.  When it grew late he was there by himself while the boat was by now a good way from the shore at the mercy on the waves, for the wind was dead against them.  In the small hours Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples caught sight of him walking on water they were terrified.

It’s a ghost!

they said, and screamed with fear.  But at once Jesus spoke to them.

It’s all right!  It’s I myself, don’t be afraid!

Peter said,

Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you on the water.

Jesus replied,

Come on, then.

Peter stepped down from the boat and began to walk on the water, making for Jesus.  But when he saw the fury of the wind he panicked and began to sink, calling out,

Lord save me!

At once Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying,

You little-faith!  What made you lose you nerve like that?

Then, when they were both aboard the boat, the wind dropped.  The whole crew came and knelt down before Jesus, crying,

You are indeed the Son of God!

When they had crossed over to the other side of the lake, they landed at Gennesaret, and when the men of that place had recognised him, they sent word to the whole surrounding country and brought all the diseased to him.  They implored him to let them

touch just the edge of his cloak,

and all those who did so were completely cured.

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The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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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Moses faced a difficult situation.  Just a few years after the Exodus of the Israelites and some other enslaved people (Exodus 12:38), he had to deal with a rebellious population nostalgic for Egyptian table scraps.  And this was not the first time people had pulled this stunt, either.  He was quite frustrated, so he expressed himself boldly to God.  The lectionary reading form Numbers does not record the divine response, which was for Moses to share the burden of leadership with trustworthy elders.

One way of dealing successfully with a too-heavy burden is to enlist help in shouldering it.  We do not have to rely on our strength and resources alone, despite what we might think and our culture might tell us.  In other words, the beloved cultural icon of the self-made man is an illusion.

We read in Matthew about Peter losing his nerve and, pardon the pun, sinking like a rock.  Fortunately, Jesus rescues him.  Does not Jesus rescue us, directly or indirectly, when we stumble, sink, or otherwise fail, and we call upon him?

Faith can be difficult to maintain, but it has sustained many people through hellish circumstances.  Faith is powerful, but let us be clear:  If we can know something objectively, accepting that proposition does not entail faith. But when evidence is inconclusive, we either have faith or we lack it.  Even if faith does nothing more than keep us going long enough to pass through the storm, that is wonderful in and of itself.  Faith also has the potential to grant us the perseverance required to do something great for God and our fellow human beings.  But our strength and resources are inadequate to finish the faith journey; we can complete it only with the help of God.

Everyone is a dependent of God, who wants the best for everyone.  Are we comfortable being dependents?  How well do we get along with God?  I can answer these questions only for myself.  Likewise, you must answer for yourself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 17, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF EGYPT, DESERT FATHER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, UNITARIAN PASTOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF RUTHERFORD BIRCHARD HAYES, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/week-of-proper-13-monday-year-1/

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Posted April 20, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 14, Numbers 11, Psalm 105

Tagged with , ,

Called to Bring People to God   2 comments

Above: Byzantine Mosaic of John the Baptist, from Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 32:22-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said,

Let me go, for the day is breaking.

But Jacob said,

I will not let you go, unless you bless me.

So he said to him,

What is your name?

And he said,

Jacob.

Then the man said,

You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.

Then Jacob asked him,

Please tell me your name.

But he said,

Why is it that you ask my name?

And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying,

For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.

The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Psalm 17:1-7, 16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hear my plea of innocence, O LORD;

give heed to my cry;

listen to my prayer, which does not come from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

Weigh my heart, summon me by night,

melt me down; you will find no impurity in me.

I give no offense with my mouth as others do;

I have heeded the words of your lips.

My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law;

in your paths my feet shall not stumble.

I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me;

incline your ear to me and hear my words.

7 Show me your marvelous loving-kindness,

O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand

from those who rise up against me.

16 But at my vindication I shall see your face;

when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 55:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

Ho, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters;

and you that have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without price.

Why do you spend money for that which is not bread,

and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food.

Incline your ear, and come to me;

listen, so that you may live.

I will make with you an everlasting covenant,

my steadfast, sure love for David.

See, I made him a witness to the peoples,

a leader and commander for the peoples.

See, you shall call nations that you do not know,

and nations that do not know you shall run to you,

because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,

for he has glorified you.

Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

15 The LORD upholds all those who fall;

he lifts up those who are bowed down.

16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD,

and you give them their food in due season.

17 You open wide your hand

and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

18 The LORD is righteous in all his ways

and loving in all his works.

19 The LORD is near to those who call upon him,

to all who call upon him faithfully.

20 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;

he hears their cry and helps them.

21 The LORD preserves all those who love him,

but he destroys all the wicked.

22 My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD;

let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.

SECOND READING

Romans 9:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

I am speaking the truth in Christ– I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit– I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 14:13-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said,

This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.

Jesus said to them,

They need not go away; you give them something to eat.

They replied,

We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.

And he said,

Bring them here to me.

Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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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Follow the URL for thoughts about Jacob’s all-night wrestling match:

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

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The call of God transformed a schemer named Jacob into a the patriarch Israel.  That mandate was to be a light to the nations, and it applied to the Israelite people as a whole.  (It still does.)  To be set aside as chosen is to receive a great responsibility.  This is a matter of duty, not prestige.

That duty is to bring diverse peoples to God.  Read Matthew 13, which contains parables of inclusion.  The mustard plant was inclusive in so far as animals of various species took shelter within it.  This mustard plant was an allegory for the Kingdom of God.  And, when we turn to the wheat field infected with tares and the net full of good and bad fish, we read that God will sort out the good and the bad, the wheat and the weeds, later.

We read also in Matthew 13 that the Kingdom of God is precious, worthy of single-minded devotion.  Consider the brief parables of the pearl and the treasure.

So here we are in Matthew 14, following those parables and the execution of John the Baptist.  He drew people to God.  But lest we oversimplify, and say that we must always be nice, consider the examples of Jesus and John the Baptist.  They used harsh words when appropriate, and they contributed greatly to these holy men going to their deaths.  Read the prophets, also.  Was Jeremiah habitually polite and respectable?  No, of course not.  All these men suffered because of the ways they brought people to God.

Even being nice scared people and put Jesus at risk.  Few actions are nicer than feeding people.  But this and other miracles scared certain individuals who had the power to execute Jesus or to arrange such a death.

Why do we fear good, holy people at any time, in any place?  Sometimes their examples reveal our own shortcomings.  So, instead of seeking to correct our errors, we react defensively.  Or, in the case of Jeremiah, Jesus, and John the Baptist, they threaten power structures–such as domestic and foreign potentates and religious hierarchies.  And, in a society lacking the separation of religion and state, powerful political figures can label theological dissent as treason, or at least a moral threat to society.  This happened in the Byzantine Empire, too, and, in North America, in colonial New England.  (Puritans hanged Quakers.)

So being a light to the nations is a perilous vocation.  But it is God’s call.  It is the way to life, even if death is a stop along the way.  Countless saints, many of them martyrs, continue to teach this lesson by the example of their lives, even many years after their earthly journeys ended.  And contemporary martyrs and other saints do the same.  Potentates who persecute think that they can eradicate a message they fear.  But, time after time, history proves that the blood of the martyrs waters the church.  Persecution usually has the effect of increasing the brightness of the light the persecutors seek to extinguish.  These persecutors do not learn quickly or at all, do they?

And so the Kingdom of God continues unabated, much like the mustard plant Jesus used as a parable illustration.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:5 (Revised Standard Version)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST SAINTS MACRINA THE ELDER, BASIL THE ELDER, EMILIA, NAUCRATIUS, AND PETER OF SEBASTE, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS OVER THREE GENERATIONS

THE FEAST OF CIVIL RIGHTS MARTYRS AND ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF RICARDO MONTALBAN, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

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

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