Archive for the ‘Matthew 16’ Category

Signs, Part I   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid.

Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons daughters from fear,

and preserve us in the faith of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 18:1-16 (Thursday)

1 Kings 18:17-19, 30-40 (Friday)

1 Kings 18:41-46 (Saturday)

Psalm 85:8-13 (All Days)

Acts 17:10-15 (Thursday)

Acts 18:24-28 (Friday)

Matthew 16:1-4 (Saturday)

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Favor your land, Yahweh,

restore the fortunes of Jacob!

Forgive the guilt of your people,

remit all their sin!

Withdraw all your fury,

abate your blazing wrath!

–Psalm 85:2-4, Mitchell Dahood, The Anchor Bible, Volume 17:  Psalms II:  51-100 (1968)

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The theology of the narrative in 1 Kings 18 holds that God is in control of nature and that the long drought is a form of divine punishment for idolatry.  At the beginning of the chapter the drought has entered its third year.  At the end of the chapter, after the slaughter of the priests of Baal, the drought is over.  1 Kings 18 contains at least three signs–drought, the consumption of Elijah’s offering, and the end of the drought.

The greatest sign in all of the Bible was the incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth.  Our Lord and Savior performed many miracles, some even over long distances.  Were those signs insufficient?  Some Pharisees and Sadducees, whose sects were traditional adversaries, acted as if these impressive signs were irrelevant and insufficient.  Maybe they chose not to believe because of the high costs to them in the realms of economics, politics, psychology, and social status.  Whatever their reasons for rejecting Jesus, their question was insincere.  Not even the sign of Jonah–a reference to the death and Resurrection of Jesus–convinced them, for they had made up their minds.  They did not want facts to confuse them.  St. Paul the Apostle got into legal trouble with such people within living memory of the Resurrection.

God, it seems, send signs at the times and in the ways of God’s own choosing.  Often these times and methods are far from those we expect, so that reality upsets us.  Furthermore, the content of these signs upsets our apple carts, threatens our identities, and calls into question some of our most beloved establishments much of the time.  Consider Jesus, O reader.  His mere newborn existence proved sufficient to unnerve a tyrant, Herod the Great.  Later, when Jesus spoke and acted, he called into question the Temple system, which exploited the masses economically and aided and abetted the Roman imperial occupation.  In so doing Our Lord and Savior crossed paths with Roman authorities and questioned a system which gave some people economic benefits, psychological reinforcement, and social status, none of which they wanted to surrender.

The signs of Jesus continue to challenge us in concrete examples from daily life.  Have we excluded or marginalized anyone wrongly?  The words and deeds of Jesus confront us with our sin.  Have we exploited others economically or made excuses for an economically exploitative or related practices?  The words and deeds of Jesus confront us with our sin.  Have we favored the security of empire and/or military might over the freedom which comes from trusting God?  The words and deeds of Jesus confront us with our sin.  They also call us to repent–to change our mind, to turn around–and offer forgiveness when we do, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BETTY FORD, U.S. FIRST LADY AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF ALBERT RHETT STUART, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GRIMWALD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-14-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XVI: Serving Others for God   1 comment

stations-123

Above:  The Right Reverend Robert C. Wright, Bishop of Atlanta, Participating in the Stations of the Cross, Atlanta, Georgia, Good Friday, March 29, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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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 21:1-23 (October 22)

Deuteronomy 24:10-25:10 (October 23)

Psalm 54 (Morning–October 22)

Psalm 65 (Morning–October 23)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–October 22)

Psalms 125 and 91 (Evening–October 23)

Matthew 16:1-12 (October 22)

Matthew 16:13-28 (October 23)

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 24:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/week-of-proper-7-monday-year-2/

Matthew 16:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/proper-16-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/proper-17-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/week-of-proper-13-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-2/

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Deuteronomy 21:1-23 and 24:10-25:10 contain the usual unpleasantness, such as when to stone people (see 21:18-21, for example, then contrast it with Luke 15:11-32, the Parable of the Prodigal Son) yet also many practical rules about helping the less fortunate and the vulnerable.  Thus, for example, even female captives have rights, as do wives, and laborers of various national origins.  Furthermore, childless widows can find security via levirate marriage.  There was an ethic that all Israelites were slaves of God, so they each had obligations to his or her fellow human beings; therein resided the formula for a stable and just society.

Jesus, in Matthew 16, offered a model of service and self-sacrifice in contrast to the teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

In serving one another we find true freedom to become what we ought to be:  those who recognize the image of God in each other and act accordingly.  The details of how to that properly and effectively vary according to time and place, but the principle is everlasting and constant.  So may each of us take up his or her cross and follow Jesus, who came to serve, not to be served.

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-22-and-23-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The Call of God I   1 comment

Above:  The Burning Bush Logo of the Church of Scotland

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 3:1-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses was keeping the flock of his father-in-law Jethro, the priest of Midian; he led his flock beyond the wilderness, and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the LORD appeared to him in a flame of fire out of a bush; he looked, and the bush was blazing, yet it was not consumed. Then Moses said,

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

When the LORD saw that he had turned aside to see, God called to him out of the bush,

Moses, Moses!

And he said,

Here I am.

Then he said,

Come no closer! Remove the sandals from your feet, for the place on which you are standing is holy ground.

He said further,

I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.

And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.

Then the LORD said,

I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters. Indeed, I know their sufferings, and I have come down to deliver them from the Egyptians, and to bring them up out of that land to a good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey, to the country of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites. The cry of the Israelites has now come to me; I have also seen how the Egyptians oppress them. So come, I will send you to Pharaoh to bring my people, the Israelites, out of Egypt.

But Moses said to God,

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

He said,

I will be with you; and this shall be the sign for you that it is I who sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall worship God on this mountain.

But Moses said to God,

If I come to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your ancestors has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?

God said to Moses,

I AM Who I AM.

He said further,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’

God also said to Moses,

Thus you shall say to the Israelites, ‘The LORD, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you’:

This is my name forever,

and this is my title for all generations.

Psalm 105:1-6, 23-26, 45c (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.

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,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

23 Israel came into Egypt,

and Jacob became a sojourner in the land of Ham.

24 The LORD made his people exceedingly fruitful;

he made them stronger than their enemies;

25 Whose heart he turned, so that they hated his people,

and dealt unjustly with his servants.

26 He sent Moses his servant,

and Aaron whom he had chosen.

45c Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Jeremiah 15:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

O LORD, you know;

remember me and visit me,

and bring down retribution for me on my persecutors.

In your forbearance do not take me away;

know that on your account I suffer insult.

Your words were found, and I ate them,

and your words became to me a joy

and the delight of my heart;

for I am called by your name,

O LORD, God of hosts.

I did not sit in the company of merrymakers,

nor did I rejoice;

under the weight of your hand I sat alone,

for you had filled me with indignation.

Why is my pain unceasing,

my wound incurable,

refusing to be healed?

Truly, you are to me like a deceitful brook,

like waters that fail.

Therefore thus says the LORD:

If you turn back, I will take you back,

and you shall stand before me.

If you utter what is precious, and not what is worthless,

you shall serve as my mouth.

It is they who will turn to you,

not you who will turn to them.

And I will make you to this people

a fortified wall of bronze;

they will fight against you,

but they shall not prevail over you,

for I am with you

to save you and deliver you, says the LORD.

I will deliver you out of the hand of the wicked,

and redeem you from the grasp of the ruthless.

Psalm 26:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and not faltered.

2 Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully with you.

I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

7 Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.

SECOND READING

Romans 12:9-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Let love be genuine; hate what is evil, hold fast to what is good; love one another with mutual affection; outdo one another in showing honor. Do not lag in zeal, be ardent in spirit, serve the Lord. Rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer. Contribute to the needs of the saints; extend hospitality to strangers.

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 16:21-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying,

God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.

But he turned and said to Peter,

Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

Then Jesus told his disciples,

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it. For what will it profit them if they gain the whole world but forfeit their life? Or what will they give in return for their life?

For the Son of Man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay everyone for what has been done. Truly I tell you, there are some standing here who will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

The Collect:

Lord of all power and might, the author and giver of all good things: Graft in our hearts the love of your Name; increase in us true religion; nourish us with all goodness; and bring forth in us the fruit of good works; 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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Some Related Posts:

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

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-1/

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The prophet Jeremiah was having a very bad day.  He had been preaching the word of God for awhile.  And, for all his trouble, he had faced rejection and persecution.

Be honest.  Have you not turned to God and complained bitterly?  Have you not accused God of being absent in your time of need?  I have.  So did Jeremiah.  There is nothing wrong with this, for a relationship with God, if it is healthy, is honest.

And God answered Jeremiah’s lament.  Get beyond yourself, God said.  Get busy, God said.  And I will be with you, God said.

This was also God’s message to Moses, a fugitive murderer on the run from Egyptian authorities.  Moses received a straight-forward mandate:  to return to Egypt, speak for God, and play a vital part in the divine plan to liberate the Hebrews from slavery.  This was a daunting task, and Moses was a poor speaker.  But Aaron was a better orator, and God would be with them.

God does not call the qualified; God qualifies the called.

Jeremiah had asked God to undertake vengeance upon his enemies.  Paul, in Romans, reflects the opposite point of view.  Vengeance, he says, is purely a matter for God.  Followers of God are supposed to love their enemies, as well as their friends and other like-minded people.  Vengeance is a natural desire, one I know well.  But it does not help one glorify and enjoy God forever.  Revenge is not Christ-like.

Speaking of Jesus…

Last week, http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/proper-16-year-a/, Peter had just become the first rock of human faith on the rock mass of God, and Jesus had just said how blessed the Apostle was.  Then, in this week’s installment, Jesus predicted his own arrest, torture, execution, and resurrection.  Peter, horrified, protested.  Then Jesus rebuked the man he had just blessed.  Jesus understood his own divine call, which was to atone for sin.  This purpose came at a high cost to him.  The mission of the Apostles was to follow their Lord, and most of them became martyrs.

God challenges us to move beyond ourselves, serve others, love others as ourselves–created in the divine image, and take on difficult tasks for a greater purpose.  This is truly risky business, but Moses, Jeremiah, Jesus, and Simon Peter chose to remain faithful and to endure.  Two of them died for it, one died in exile, and the fourth spent a generation in the Sinai Desert with a horde of grumblers.  And all four are heroes of faith.

Jesus, of course, was and is far more than a hero of faith.  And he calls us to assume risks.  Each of us ought to take up a cross and follow him.  We need to be the best disciples we can be.  That is the call of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD

THE FEAST OF SAINT FELIX OF DUNWICH, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUMPHREY OF PRUM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF THEROUANNE

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/proper-17-year-a/

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Of Faith and Rocks   1 comment

Above: Moses Striking the Rock, by Pieter de Grebbel (1630)

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Numbers 20:1-13 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And the children of Israel, all the congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh.  And Miriam died there and was buried there.  And there was no water for the congregation, and they assembled against Moses and against Aaron.  And the people quarreled with Moses, and they said, saying,

If only we had expired in front of YHWH!  And why have you brought YHWH’s community to this wilderness to die there, we and our cattle?  And why did you bring us up from Egypt to bring us to this bad place?  It’s not a place of seed and fig and vine and pomegranate, and there’s no water to drink!

And Moses and Aaron came in front of the community to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and they fell on their faces.  And YHWH’s glory appeared to them.  And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Take the staff and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron, your brother.  And you shall speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will give its water.  So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give a drink to the congregation and their cattle.

And Moses took the staff in front of YHWH as He commanded him.  And Moses and Aaron assembled the community opposite the rock.  And he said to them, “Listen, rebels, shall we bring water out of this rock for you?”  And Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock with his rock twice.  And much water came out!  And the congregation and their cattle drank.

And YHWH said to Moses and Aaron,

Because you did not trust in me, to make me holy before the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this community to the land that I have given them!

They are the waters of Meribah, over which the children of Israel quarreled with YHWH, and He was made holy among them.

Psalm 95:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

8 Harden not your hearts,

as your forebears did in the wilderness,

at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,

when they tempted me.

They put me to the test,

though they had seen my works.

Matthew 16:13-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When Jesus reached the Caesarea-Philippi district he asked his disciples a question.

Who do people say the Son of Man is?

They told him,

Well, some say John the Baptist.  Some say Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

He said to them,

But what about you?  Who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered,

You?  You are Christ, the Son of the Living God!

Jesus said,

Simon, son of Jonah, you a fortunate man indeed!  For it was not your own nature but my Heavenly Father who revealed this truth to you!  Now I tell you that you are Peter the rock, and it is on this rock that I am going to found my Church, and the powers of death will never have the power to destroy it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in Heaven and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven!

Then he impressed on his disciples that they should not tell anyone that he was Christ.

From that time onwards Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he would have to go to Jerusalem, and endure much suffering from the elders, chief priests and scribes, and finally be killed; and be raised to life again on the third day.

Then Peter took him on one side and started to remonstrate with him over this.

God bless you, Master!  Nothing like this must happen to you!

Then Jesus turned round and said to Peter,

Out of my way, Satan!…you stand right in my path, Peter, when you think the thoughts of man and not those of God.

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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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Here is a link to a related post:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/feast-of-the-confession-of-st-peter-the-apostle-january-18/

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Israelite grumbling continues, even after the episode from Numbers 13, which I covered in the previous day’s devotion.  Already God has informed the people that most of them will die before Canaan.  If they were humble before God, they would have moved toward repentance.  Rather, we have this incident, with more grumbling.  It is the same song, only another verse.  This took a toll on Moses.  (How could it not?)

God promised to provide water for the people and their cattle, and did so.  There is water in many desert rocks, so Moses received instructions to gather the people and cattle before a very big rock, stand with Aaron in front of them, hold Aaron’s staff, and speak to the rock.  Moses did all of this except speak to it.  He struck it instead.  Regardless of his motivation, he had called attention to himself and away from God.  The people and cattle drank water while Moses and Aaron learned that, for their lack of faith, which is to say, trust in God, they would not enter Canaan.  Perhaps Aaron’s sin leading to the penalty was not related to Moses striking the rock with his staff.  I propose that Aaron’s cumulative faithlessness caught up with him.  More than once he had plotted against Moses over the years.  And Aaron was deeply involved in the infamous Golden Calf incident.

So God was angry, announcing penalties for sin, but God had not forsaken either Moses, Aaron, or any of the Israelites.  All had the promised water to drink, but they still had to pay the price for failing to trust God.  So, once again, divine judgment and mercy intermingled.

Another kind of rock figures prominently in the reading from the Gospel of Matthew.  Simon Peter becomes the first Apostle to confess Jesus as the living Son of God.  This is a momentous event in Christian history; there is even a feast day (The Confession of St. Peter the Apostle, January 18) for it.  Yet Peter’s understanding was partial.  Out of good intentions, he protested against the coming torture, execution, and resurrection of Jesus.  As we say in the U.S. South, I say of Peter, “God bless him.”

“You are Peter,” Jesus says to him, “and upon this rock I will build my Church.”  What is “this rock”?  I have read what various commentators have said about this and pondered the germane ecclesiastical traditions.  William Barclay, the great Scottish Presbyterian Bible scholar, proposes the best answer.  The foundational rock of the Church is God, and Peter is the first stone.  In the Greek, Jesus says, “You are Petros, and upon this petra I will will build my Church.”  A petra is a rock mass, so Barclay’s interpretation makes sense.  Many stones have joined the rock mass sense then, and continue to do so.

Peter wavered after this incident.  He denied Jesus publicly three times shortly before the crucifixion.  And he hid shortly after his leader’s execution.  Yet he became a bold leader in the Acts of the Apostles, and, according to tradition, died of crucifixion.  Peter insisted that he was unworthy to die as Jesus had, so he was crucified upside-down.

Thus the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24-26 take on added meaning:

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all rights to himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his real life?  What could a man offer to buy back that life once he has lost it?  (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

Our “real life,” as J. B. Phillips translates the text, is in God.  More traditional renderings include “soul,” but “real life” gets to the point nicely.  Our real life is in God.  Do we realize this fact?  This is the God in whom we can trust, that is, have faith.  This is the God in whom judgment and mercy co-mingle.  This is the God in who was patient with Moses, Aaron, the Israelites, and Simon Peter.  This is the God who recognized the great potential within Simon Peter and never gave up on the impetuous Apostle.  This is the God who gives us water and manna in our spiritual deserts.  This is the God who is the rock upon which we are stones in the rock mass.

More Than Words, Revised Edition, is a 1958 Christian Education resource The Episcopal Church published for “Church School Teachers and for Students in Junior High School Classes.”  I quote part of the entry for “A Saint,” from page 167:

But the saints were not heroes all their lives.  When they started they were just like you and me.  James and John had fiery tempers.  Peter cursed and swore.  Matthew bled the people for money.  Peter disowned Jesus three times.  Yet Jesus made them into saints.  He can also do it with us.

How so we start?  By letting our Lord love us and forgive us.  If we start again, we must let Him forgive us again, even if He has to do it a million times.  For the joy of being forgiven is our first taste of heaven.

How we respond to God matters.  Will we be grateful?  Will we trust?  Will we accept forgiveness?  Will we accept transformation?  Or will we persist in slave mentalities, expecting nothing while grumbling?  The choice is ours to make.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 25, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-1/

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True Life   1 comment

Above:  No Right Turn Sign (U.S.A.)

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Deuteronomy 4:32-40 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

Because ask of the earliest days that were before you, from the day that God created a human on the earth, and from one end of the skies to the other end of the skies:  has there been anything like this great thing?  or has anything like it been heard of?  Has a people heard God’s voice speaking from inside a fire the way you heard–and lived?  Or has God put it to the test, to come to take for Himself a people from among people with tests, with signs, and with wonders and with war and with a strong hand and with and outstretched arm and with great fears like everything that YHWH, your God, has done for you in Egypt before your eyes?  You have been shown in order to know that YHWH:  He is God.  There is no other outside of Him.  From the skies He had you hear His voice in order to discipline you, and on the earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words from inside the fire.  And because He loved your fathers He chose their seed after them, so He brought you out in front of Him from Egypt by His great power, to dispossess bigger and more powerful nations than you in front of you, to bring you, to give you their land as a legacy as it is today.  And you shall know today and store it in in your heart from YHWH:  He is God in the skies above and on earth below.  And you shall observe His laws and His commandments that I command you today so it will be good for you and for your children after you, and so that you’ll extend days on the land that YHWH, your God, is giving you forever.

Psalm 105:1-6 (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.

Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

Matthew 16:24-28 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus said to his disciples,

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his real life?  What could a man offer to buy back that life once he has lost it?

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father and in the company of his angels and then he will repay every man for what he has done.  Believe me, there are some standing here today who will know nothing of death till they have seen the Son of Man coming as king.

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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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The proper direction in life comes from listening closely to God.  Living successfully is doing so in God, as God directs us.  For what has God called us, specifically?  Doing that is the road to success.  So what is popular, what others expect of us, what our culturally-defined roles might be, and what we want for ourselves might lead away from our proper destination.

Consider the words of Jesus.  A person who seeks to save his or her life will lose it, and one who loses it will gain it.  This runs contrary to conventional wisdom, does it not?  But consider the source.  Jesus was frequently on the outs with authority figures, and the Roman Empire executed him as an insurrectionist.  The Imperium subjected him to crucifixion, a method reserved for those it considered the worst of the worst.  But who would argue with a straight face that Jesus was a failure?  Are we not still speaking of him after nearly 2,000 years?

(An Aside:  What about the end of the excerpt from Matthew?  By the time of the writing of the Gospel of Matthew, probably circa 85 C.E., Christianity was a vital young religion.  Certainly many people had “seen the Son of Man coming in his kingdom,” as William Barclay translates that verse.  That is, the Kingdom of God, which Jesus inaugurated, was spreading out across the world.  In the canonical gospels Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God in the present tense.  Did it go away after the Ascension?  I think not.)

The passage from Deuteronomy is explicitly monotheistic.  If Professor Richard Elliott Friedman is correct in his insistence that this passage comes from the 600s B.C.E. at the latest, a strong monotheistic strain existed in Judaism prior to the return from Babylonian Exile (500s B.C.E.).  This is old news.  Here is some more old news:  Many Jews did not practice monotheism until after the return from the Babylonian Exile.  Archaeology and the witness of the Hebrew prophets affirm this statement.  Some ancient places of worship in Israel have survived, for archaeologists have excavated many of them.  At some of these sites the archaeologists found two altars–one for YHWH and the other for Astarte, his presumed wife.

Yet the reading from Deuteronomy stands as a defense of worshiping YHWH alone–without Astarte.  Atheism was extremely rare in that part of the world in the 600s-400s BCE, and monotheism was scarce, too.  Polytheism prevailed, so resisting it was difficult for many.  Yet that is what the Deuteronomist (or at least one Deuteronomist), inserting words into the mouth of Moses, says they must do.  This principle holds true today.  You might not be a polytheist, but what are your idols, those things distracting you from God?  Their identities might surprise you.

The rat race is bad for the rats, and keeping up with the Joneses is no good, either.  Seeking status is pursuing something shallow.  This day’s readings say that we must act contrary to all these standards.  Each of us needs to focus on the one God, take up our cross, and follow Jesus–perhaps at the cost of physical life itself.  Maybe the price will slightly less steep, but it will cost us something we value.  But what we receive in return will be of infinitely greater value.

Most of Christ’s Apostles died violently as martyrs.  St. Paul suffered greatly for the Christian faith after his conversion.  During the succeeding centuries countless numbers of Christians have suffered for their faith.  And martyrdom continues into the present day.  “Take up your cross and follow me,” Jesus says.  This is the path to life in God, whatever form the cross takes.  For Dietrich Bonhoeffer it was a noose.  For others it is a destroyed reputation or a prison sentence or both.  Members of an angry mob killed St. Josaphat Kuntsevych with bullets and an ax.  All these are terrible and unjust, but the Kingdom of God is still here, after nearly two thousand years.  It is spread out across the earth, and many of us do not see it.  But those who take up their crosses point to it, and no temporal power can overcome it.

May we follow and love the God who cares for us and guides us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 27, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, BISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on January 27, 2011 

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-1/

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