Archive for the ‘Matthew 18’ Category

Sheep and Mutuality   1 comment

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Above:  Shepherds, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004006450/PP/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06374

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The Collect:

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us,

and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises.

Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 34:1-9, 27-28

Psalm 32

Matthew 18:10-14

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 34:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/09/devotion-for-the-sixteenth-and-seventeenth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

Matthew 18:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/devotion-for-december-27-and-28-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-24-25-and-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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I will instruct you and teach you

in the way that you should go;

I will guide you with my eye.

–Psalm 32:9, Common Worship (2000)

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No one may come up with you, no one may be seen anywhere on this mountain; the flocks and herds may not even graze in front of this mountain.

–Exodus 34:3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One of the perils of superficial familiarity with biblical texts is going on autopilot regarding them.

O yes, I know this passage,

we tell ourselves before we move along.  Yet we probably do not know these texts as well as we think we do.

Matthew 18:12-14 is such a text.  I knew that I was missing something, so I consulted my collection of commentaries.  They have informed me that these flocks were usually village flocks which a team of shepherds guarded.  Thus one shepherd could seek a lost sheep while his coworkers watched the others.  And each sheep was important.  Likewise, a sheep apart from the herd was in great danger.

This parable sits in the middle of teachings about communal life.  Immediately before the parable we read about welcoming children.  After the parable we learn about how to deal properly with errant members of the faith community.  In all three cases we read about what is best for the individual and the community.  But, as Matthew 18:17 tells us, the community must not allow the errant individual to danger it.

Communal life, with individual responsibilities to and for each other, constitutes one of the major concerns of the Law of Moses.  May we modern people not ignore this fact, despite the rugged individualism prevalent in the global Western tradition.  The individual cannot be healthy apart from the whole, which cannot be all that it can be without all of the members it should have.

Another point stands out in my mind.  As Moses collected the second set of tablets from God, not even flocks and herds were supposed to be in front of the mountain where he met with God.  The holy distance from sinful people–even from livestock–was very much a real issue.  By the time of Matthew 18, however, God, via the Incarnation, had closed that gap.  People ate with Jesus, anointed parts of him, and looked into his face.  And, as Hebrews 4:16 (assigned for yesterday) told us in the context of our Lord and Savior’s testing yet sinlessness:

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

So, confident in our great high priest, may we love each other actively and effectively, fulfilling our mutual responsibilities well.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR TOZER RUSSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/18/devotion-for-the-seventh-day-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Kingdom of God, Part I   1 comment

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Above:  Jesus Blessing the Children (1891)

W21597 U.S. Copyright Office

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003688894/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01427

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The Collect:

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us,

and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises.

Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 58:1-12

Psalm 51

Matthew 18:1-7

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Some Related Posts:

Isaiah 58:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-30-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/first-day-of-lent-ash-wednesday/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/third-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/fourth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/06/devotion-for-ash-wednesday-years-a-b-and-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

Matthew 18:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/devotion-for-december-27-and-28-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-24-25-and-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

–Psalm 51:13-14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To repent is to turn around, to change one’s mind.  Apologizing for and acknowledging error are parts of the process yet one ought never to confuse those parts of the whole.  No, repentance is active.  And action is what Isaiah 58:1-12 advises.  The mandated deeds include helping the less fortunate and bringing about justice, in contrast to the rampant economic exploitation and judicial and political corruption.

Those sins remain commonplace in contemporary societies, unfortunately.  Political corruption creates and perpetuates much poverty.  Wars lead to famines much of the time.  Judicial corruption imprisons people unjustly and places the poor accused at greater risk than the wealthy accused, who can accord bail and skilled attorneys.  Third Isaiah’s condemnations in 58:1-12 apply to my nation-state as much as they did to the kingdom in which he lived.

The greatest in the Kingdom of God, our Lord and Savior said, was as a powerless child, not anyone in a position of authority and prestige.  This profoundly counter-cultural message of nearly 2000 years ago remains just as subversive today as it was then.  God’s ways differ from dominant human standards of respectability and political legitimacy.  And witnesses from the Bible and times subsequent to its writing have reminded successive generations of our responsibilities to and for each other, especially the less fortunate and more vulnerable.  Such as these, Jesus said, are the greatest in the Kingdom of God.

I like the Kingdom of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF HERBERT F. BROKERING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT LIEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIBRORD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/07/devotion-for-the-fourth-day-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted January 14, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 58, Matthew 18, Psalm 51

Tagged with , ,

God Our Mother   1 comment

mother-and-daughter1

Above:  Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun and Her Daughter, by Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun

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The Collect:

All-powerful and unseen God, the coming of your light

into our world has brightened weary hearts with peace.

Call us out of darkness, and empower us to proclaim the birth of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with you

and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 8:22-31 (December 27)

Isaiah 49:13-23 (December 28)

Psalm 148 (both days)

1 John 5:1-12 (December 27)

Matthew 18:1-14 (December 28)

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Some Related Posts:

Proverbs 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/06/27/trinity-sunday-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/devotion-for-june-9-10-and-11-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Isaiah 49:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-december-25-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-fifth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-sixth-day-of-lent-tuesday-in-holy-week/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/14/proper-3-year-a/

1 John 5:

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

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/sixth-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-11-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/01/thirty-sixth-day-of-easter-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/forty-third-day-of-easter-seventh-day-of-easter-year-b/

Matthew 18:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-24-25-and-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

God Our Mother:

http://taylorfamilypoems.wordpress.com/2013/07/14/god-our-mother/

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You have lifted up your people’s head,

with praise from all your servants:

from the people close to your heart.

O praise the Lord.

–Psalm 148:14, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

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Wisdom, personified as female in Proverbs 8, was with God the Father from the beginning.  Those who heed divine Wisdom are wise, happy, and blessed, the text says in verses 32-36.  That Wisdom, part of the Logos of God, is accessible to all, from the weakest in society to its most privileged members.  Those who love God obey divine commandments, which hang on the hooks of love for God and love for fellow human beings, who bear the Image of God.  This is active love, not just a warm, positive feeling.

The love of God is consistent with both punishment and deliverance.  Deliverance for some entails the punishment of recalcitrant others.  And sometimes we must suffer the consequences of our actions to learn lessons, but the possibility of confession of sin and subsequent repentance remains.  And, when we confess and repent, we will find God our Mother waiting for us:

Can a woman forget her nursing child,

or show no compassion for the child of her womb?

Even these may forget,

yet I will not forget you.

See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hand;

your walls are continually before me.

–Isaiah 49:15-16, The New Revised Standard Version

I recall that, when I lived in Statesboro, Georgia, a popular supply priest who visited Trinity Episcopal Church had a good sense of the maternal love of God.  Father Charles Hoskins, a delightful human being, spoke of mothers who spoke lovingly of their children who had committed horrible deeds.  God, Father Hoskins said, was “worse” than that.  In other words, our worst actions do not deprive us of divine love.  So may we respond lovingly in return.  May we make our divine Mother’s heart glad.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTOLOME DE LAS CASAS, WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/devotion-for-december-27-and-28-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XVIII: Forgiveness, Divine and Human   1 comment

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Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servant, by Domenico Fetti

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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 29:1-29

Psalm 110 (Morning)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening)

Matthew 18:21-35

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 29:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/27/proper-10-year-c/

Matthew 18:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/eighteenth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/proper-19-year-a/

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God demanded complete fidelity in Deuteronomy 29.  Hence there was no forgiveness for the sin of idolatry, turning away from the covenant.  If I understand the Hebrew Scriptures correctly, idolatry led to destruction, which mercy usually followed.  The consequences of actions played out; that constituted judgment.  Then God granted the surviving remnant another chance.  And, if I understand the New Testament correctly, the only unpardonable sin is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit.  In textual context the unpardonable sin is the inability to distinguish good from evil.  Perhaps blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and the abandonment of the covenant are the same thing.

I, as a student of the Scriptures, detect recurring themes.  One of them is that God’s forgiveness of our sins depends partially on our forgiveness of those who have wronged us.  As God forgives us, we ought to forgive others.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  For as you judge others, so will you be judged, and whatever measure you deal out to others will be dealt to you.

–Matthew 7:1-2, The Revised English Bible

In the parable from Matthew 18 the forgiven servant had no way of repaying the enormous debt.  Yet he refused to forgive smaller debts owed to him.  So his former creditor, the king, did to him (the servant) what the servant had done to others.

Forgive us the wrong we have done,

as we have forgiven those who have wronged us.

–Matthew 6:12, The Revised English Bible

then

For, if you forgive others the wrongs they have done, your heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive the wrongs you have done.

–Matthew 6:14-15, The Revised English Bible

The paraphrase of the Lord’s Prayer from A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989) contains the following line:

In the hurts we absorb from one another, forgive us.—page 181

I like the verb “absorb” in context.  We ought not to carry those hurts around like luggage.  Yes, they will inform us.  We might remember them for a long time, but they need not transform into grudges.

I have struggled with forgiving others.  I still do.  Yes, I have the free will (sometimes) to forgive those who have sinned against me, but letting go is oddly more difficult than hanging on to those grievances.  Yet letting go leads to a lighter spiritual load.

Fortunately, grace is present and abundant.  I feel like St. Paul the Apostle:

I discover this principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible

At least one who has that struggle is not committing the unpardonable sin.  Having a spiritual struggle is not necessarily negative; it might even be mostly positive, for it can lead to a stronger state.

I recall confessing a particular sin–inability to forgive despite my knowledge of the imperative of doing so—to my priest, Beth Long, once.  People—some perfidious—have wronged me.  Beth counseled me to forgive myself.  The trauma would wash out of my spiritual system in time and I would, by grace, find the ability to forgive.  Those men’s deeds were perfidious; forgiving them did not change what they did.  But it did change me.

We human beings are weak, but at least we do not need to rely on our strength to do what God has called us to do and to become what God has called us to become.  Thanks be to God!

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-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XVII: Mutual Responsibility   1 comment

3b50567r

Above:  Jesus Blessing Little Children

Created by Currier & Ives, Circa 1867

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2002707662/)

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-2693

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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 25:17-26:19 (October 24)

Deuteronomy 27:1-26 (October 25)

Deuteronomy 28:1-22 (October 26)

Psalm 143 (Morning–October 24)

Psalm 86 (Morning–October 25)

Psalm 122 (Morning–October 26)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–October 24)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–October 25)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening–October 26)

Matthew 17:1-13 (October 24)

Matthew 17:14-27 (October 25)

Matthew 18:1-20 (October 26)

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 26:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/tenth-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/first-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

Matthew 17:

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

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/week-of-proper-13-saturday-year-1/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-13-saturday-year-2/

Matthew 18:

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

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/eighteenth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/week-of-proper-14-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/proper-18-year-a/

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We are all responsible for each other.  And God will provide.  Both statements flow from the assigned readings from Deuteronomy and Matthew.  In some circumstances they merge into the following statement:  Sometimes God provides via human agents.  Thus there are blessings upon those who defend the rights of strangers, widows, and orphans, just as there are curses upon those who violate those rights.  Curses in Deuteronomy 28 include drought, unsuccessful enterprises, and epidemics of hemorrhoids.  Anyone who comes to God must do so without pretense—as a small child—and woe unto anyone who causes one to stumble!  What one person does affects others.

We are responsible for each other.  So may we put aside selfishness.  May our ambitions build others and ourselves up, not elevate ourselves to the detriment of others.  May we treat others as we want others to treat us.  May we act confidently, assured that God will provide, which is the point of Matthew 17:27.  May we recognize and treat others as bearers of the image of God and therefore worthy of respect and human dignity.  By helping them we aid ourselves.  By harming them we hurt ourselves.

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-24-25-and-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Forgiveness, the Way of Peace and Freedom   1 comment

Above: Forgiveness

Image Source = AK Pastor

(http://ccchomerak.blogspot.com/2010/12/scriptural-metaphors-forgiveness.html)

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 14:19-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

The angel of God who was going before the Israelite army moved and went behind them; and the pillar of cloud moved from in front of them and took its place behind them. It came between the army of Egypt and the army of Israel. And so the cloud was there with the darkness, and it lit up the night; one did not come near the other all night.

Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The LORD drove the sea back by a strong east wind all night, and turned the sea into dry land; and the waters were divided. The Israelites went into the sea on dry ground, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left. The Egyptians pursued, and went into the sea after them, all of Pharaoh’s horses, chariots, and chariot drivers. At the morning watch the LORD in the pillar of fire and cloud looked down upon the Egyptian army, and threw the Egyptian army into panic. He clogged their chariot wheels so that they turned with difficulty. The Egyptians said,

Let us flee from the Israelites, for the LORD is fighting for them against Egypt.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

Stretch out your hand over the sea, so that the water may come back upon the Egyptians, upon their chariots and chariot drivers.

So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at dawn the sea returned to its normal depth. As the Egyptians fled before it, the LORD tossed the Egyptians into the sea. The waters returned and covered the chariots and the chariot drivers, the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed them into the sea; not one of them remained. But the Israelites walked on dry ground through the sea, the waters forming a wall for them on their right and on their left.

Thus the LORD saved Israel that day from the Egyptians; and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. Israel saw the great work that the LORD did against the Egyptians. So the people feared the LORD and believed in the LORD and in his servant Moses.

Psalm 114 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

When Israel came out of Egypt,

the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech,

2 Judah became God’s sanctuary

and Israel his dominion.

3 The sea beheld it and fled;

Jordan turned and went back.

The mountains skipped like rams,

and the little hills like young sheep.

5 What ailed you, O sea, that you fled?

O Jordan, that you turned back?

6 You mountains, that you skipped like rams?

you little hills like young sheep?

Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,

at the presence of the God of Jacob,

8 Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water

and flint-stone into a flowing spring.

Or this alternative to Psalm 114:

Exodus 15:1b-11, 20-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

I will sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

The LORD is my strength and my might,

and he has become my salvation;

this is my God, and I will praise him,

my father’s God, and I will exalt him.

The LORD is a warrior;

the LORD is his name.

Pharaoh’s chariots and his army he cast into the sea;

his picked officers were sunk in the Red Sea.

The floods covered them;

they went down into the depths like a stone.

Your right hand, O LORD, glorious in power–

your right hand, O LORD, shattered the enemy.

In the greatness of your majesty you overthrew your adversaries;

you sent out your fury, it consumed them like stubble.

At the blast of your nostrils the waters piled up,

the floods stood up in a heap;

the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea.

The enemy said,

I will pursue, I will overtake,

I will divide the spoil, my desire shall have its fill of them.

I will draw my sword, my hand shall destroy them.

You blew with your wind, the sea covered them;

they sank like lead in the mighty waters.

Who is like you, O LORD, among the gods?

Who is like you, majestic in holiness,

awesome in splendor, doing wonders?

Then the prophet Miriam, Aaron’s sister, took a tambourine in her hand; and all the women went out after her with tambourines and with dancing.  And Miriam sang to them:

Sing to the LORD, for he has triumphed gloriously;

horse and rider he has thrown into the sea.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Genesis 50:15-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Realizing that their father was dead, Joseph’s brothers said,

What if Joseph still bears a grudge against us and pays us back in full for all the wrong that we did to him?

So they approached Joseph, saying,

Your father gave this instruction before he died, “Say to Joseph: I beg you, forgive the crime of your brothers and the wrong they did in harming you.” Now therefore please forgive the crime of the servants of the God of your father.

Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also wept, fell down before him, and said,

We are here as your slaves.

But Joseph said to them,

Do not be afraid! Am I in the place of God? Even though you intended to do harm to me, God intended it for good, in order to preserve a numerous people, as he is doing today. So have no fear; I myself will provide for you and your little ones.

In this way he reassured them, speaking kindly to them.

Psalm 103:(1-7), 8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and all that is within me, bless his holy Name.

2 Bless the LORD, O my soul,

and forget not all his benefits.

3 He forgives all your sins

and heals all your infirmities;

He redeems your life from the grave

and crowns you with mercy and loving-kindness;

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.

The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

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 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.

SECOND READING

Romans 14:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Welcome those who are weak in faith, but not for the purpose of quarreling over opinions. Some believe in eating anything, while the weak eat only vegetables. Those who eat must not despise those who abstain, and those who abstain must not pass judgment on those who eat; for God has welcomed them. Who are you to pass judgment on servants of another? It is before their own lord that they stand or fall. And they will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make them stand.

Some judge one day to be better than another, while others judge all days to be alike. Let all be fully convinced in their own minds. Those who observe the day, observe it in honor of the Lord. Also those who eat, eat in honor of the Lord, since they give thanks to God; while those who abstain, abstain in honor of the Lord and give thanks to God.

We do not live to ourselves, and we do not die to ourselves. If we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord; so then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s. For to this end Christ died and lived again, so that he might be Lord of both the dead and the living.

Why do you pass judgment on your brother or sister? Or you, why do you despise your brother or sister? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God. For it is written,

As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,

and every tongue shall give praise to God.

So then, each of us will be accountable to God.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 18:21-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

Peter came and said to Jesus,

Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?

Jesus said to him,

Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.

For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves. When he began the reckoning, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him; and, as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, together with his wife and children and all his possessions, and payment to be made. So the slave fell on his knees before him, saying, “Have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.” And out of pity for him, the lord of that slave released him and forgave him the debt. But that same slave, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and seizing him by the throat, he said, “Pay what you owe.” Then his fellow slave fell down and pleaded with him, `Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’ But he refused; then he went and threw him into prison until he would pay the debt. When his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord all that had taken place. Then his lord summoned him and said to him, “You wicked slave! I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me. Should you not have had mercy on your fellow slave, as I had mercy on you?” And in anger his lord handed him over to be tortured until he would pay his entire debt. So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

The Collect:

O God, because without you we are not able to please you mercifully grant that your Holy Spirit may in all things direct and rule our hearts; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Sometimes the readings for any given Sunday, according to the Revised Common Lectionary, fit together smoothly.  Other times, however, they do not.  This happens most often during the Season after Pentecost.  The readings from Genesis, Romans, and Matthew mesh well, for they pertain to forgiveness.  But where is the forgiveness (especially for the Egyptians) in the Exodus lections?

I have written on the subject of forgiveness at least several times on my devotional blogs, for the lectionaries I have chosen to follow touch on this subject again and again.  What I have written stands; this is difficult for me.  Here is a prayer I wrote on February 27, 2011:

Gracious God, why is forgiving so difficult?

I know what I need to do, and I want to do it–

except when I do not want to do it.

Forgive me for this sin, I ask you,

and bestow grace upon me sufficient to enable me

to forgive others and myself,

so to live in Godly liberation with you and my fellow human beings.

Amen.

Link = http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/03/13/a-prayer-for-grace-to-forgive/

On a different aspect, however…

Yesterday I taught another session of my World Civilization II course for Gainesville State College.  I spent most of the time discussing Islam, the Ottoman Empire, the Safavid Empire, and Western imperialism in the Middle and Near East, as well as indigenous reactions and responses to it.  One of the reactions was Wahhabism, the legacy of which includes the attacks of September 11, 2001.  I told the gathered students that resentments which flow from being on the colonial end of imperialism are understandable, but that resentment which festers for too long turns poisonous.  It devours the person who harbors the resentment(s) and therefore affects those around him or her.  And sometimes, as in the case of the Islamic Republic of Iran, it it consumes a nation.  And, in the case of 9/11, it strikes far overseas.  How much better would world history have played out had more people combined forgiveness with their nationalism, instead of mixing militant religion with it?

But two wrongs do not make a right, and one person’s intolerance does not excuse corresponding intolerance.  The proper extinguishing agents for hatred are love and forgiveness, for they break the cycle.  If we do not break the cycle of hatred and violence, it will break us.  God offers us freedom in forgiveness; may we accept it and extend it ourselves and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 20, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CUTHBERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LINDISFARNE

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/20/proper-19-year-a/

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Great Blessings Come With Great Obligations   1 comment

Above: The Children of Israel Crossing the Jordan, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Joshua 3:7-17 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The LORD said to Joshua,

This day, for the first time, I will exalt you in the sight of all Israel, so that they shall know that I will be with you as I was with Moses.  For your part, command the priests who carry the Ark of the Covenant as follows:  When you reach the edge of the waters of the Jordan, make a halt in the Jordan.

And Joshua said to the Israelites,

Come closer and listen to the words of the LORD your God.  By this,

Joshua continued,

you shall know that a living God is among you, and that He will dispossess for you the Canannites, Hittites, Hivites, Perizzites, Girgashites, Amorites, and Jebusites:  the Ark of the Covenant of the Sovereign of all the earth is advancing before you into the Jordan.  Now select twelve men from the tribes of Israel, one man from each tribe.  When the feet of the priests bearing the Ark of the LORD, the Sovereign of all the earth, come to rest in the waters of the Jordan–the water coming from upstream–will be cut off and will stand in a single heap.

When the people set out from their encampment to cross the Jordan, the priests bearing the Ark of the Covenant were at the head of the people.  Now the Jordan keeps flowing over its entire bed throughout the harvest season.   But as soon as the bearers of the Ark reached the Jordan, and the feet of the priests bearing the Ark dipped into the water at its edge, the waters coming down from upstream piled up in a single head a great way off, at Adam, the town next to Zarethan; and those flowing away downstream to the Sea of the Arabah (the Dead Sea) ran out completely.  The priests who bore the Ark of the LORD’s Covenant stood on dry land exactly in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel crossed over on dry land, until the entire nation had finished crossing the Jordan.

Psalm 114 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

When Israel came out of Egypt,

the house of Jacob from a people of strange speech,

2 Judah became God’s sanctuary

and Israel his dominion.

3 The sea beheld it and fled;

Jordan turned and went back.

The mountains skipped like rams,

and the little hills like young sheep.

What ailed you, O sea, that you fled?

O Jordan, that you turned back?

You mountains, that you skipped like rams?

you little hills like young sheep?

7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,

at the presence of the God of Jacob,

8 Who turned the hard rock into a pool of water

and flint-stone into a flowing spring.

Matthew 18:21-19:1 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Peter approached him [Jesus] with the question,

Master, if my brother goes on wronging me how often should I forgive him?  Would seven times be enough?

Jesus replied,

No, not seven times, but seventy times seven!  For the kingdom of Heaven is like a king who decided to settle his accounts with his servants.  When he had started calling in his accounts, a man was brought to him who owed him millions of pounds.  As he had no means of repaying the debt, his master gave orders for him to be sold as a slave, and his wife and children and all his possessions as well, and the money to be paid over.  At this the servant fell on his knees before his master.  ’Oh, be patient with me!’ he cried, ‘and I will pay you back every penny!’  Then his master was moved with pity for him, set him free and cancelled his debt.

But when this same servant had left his master’s presence, he found one of his fellow-servants who owed him a few shillings.  He grabbed him and seized him by the throat, crying, ‘Pay up what you owe me!’  At this his fellow-servant fell down at his feet, and implored him, ‘Oh, be patient with me, and I will pay you back!’  But he refused and went out and had him put in prison until he should repay the debt.

When the other fellow-servants saw what had happened, they were horrified and went and told their master the whole incident.  This his master called him in.

‘You wicked servant!’ he said.  ’Didn’t I cancel all that debt when you begged me to do so?  Oughtn’t you to have taken pity on your fellow-servant as I, your master, took pity on you?’  And his master in anger handed him over to the jailers till he should repay the whole debt.  This is how my Heavenly Father will treat you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.

When Jesus had finished talking on these matters, he left Galilee and went on to the district of Judea on the far side of the Jordan.

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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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We thank you, Almighty God, for the gift of water.

Over it the Holy Spirit moved in the beginning of creation.  Through it you led the children of Israel out of their bondage in Egypt into the land of promise.  In it your Son Jesus received the baptism of John and was anointed by the Holy Spirit as the Messiah, the Christ, to lead us, through his death and resurrection, from the bondage of sin into everlasting life.

We thank you, Father, for the water of Baptism.  In it we are buried with Christ in his death.  By it we share in his resurrection.  Through it we are reborn by the Holy Spirit.  Therefore in joyful obedience to your Son, we bring into his fellowship those who come to him in faith, baptizing them in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.

At the following words, the Celebrant touches the water.

Now sanctify this water, we pray you, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that those who here are cleansed from sin and born again may continue for ever in the risen life of Jesus Christ our Savior.

To him, to you, and to the Holy Spirit, be all honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), pages 306-307

There is symmetry in the story of the Israelites.  They leave Egypt (and slavery) through parted waters and enter the promised land in the same way.  Each time God goes in front of them.  In the case of the reading from Joshua, the Ark of Covenant, an object of great mystical power, went before them.

At this moment I cannot help but recall a classic line from the Spider-Man background story.  His wise Uncle Ben said that with great power comes great responsibility.  Likewise there is a Biblical principle that with great blessing comes the responsibility to be a light to the nations, to serve God and to bring others to God.  Being chosen should never become an occasion of hubris.

And so, throughout the Hebrew Scriptures, prophets excoriate society for neglecting the poor, usually widows and orphans.  The proper sacrifice to God, they say, is not superficial fasting and other meaningless shows of insincere religion, but caring for each other in practical ways.  (See Isaiah 58:1-12, for example.)

This principle resides at the heart of the reading from Matthew.  As I wrote in yesterday’s devotion, Matthew 18 speaks of the coexistence of mercy and judgment with God.  And the parable in 18:23-35 is consistent with this, from the Sermon on the Mount:

Judge not, that you be not judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get….

–Matthew 7:1-2 (Revised Standard Version)

These can be difficult passages to digest.  At least they are for me.  I want God to forgive, not judge.  But God does both.  I choose to engage the Scriptures and to digest them, including the principle that I must forgive (something I can do only by grace) if I am to receive forgiveness.  This particular parable comes to my mind frequently, pushing me to extend graciousness to many people.

The first servant has somehow accumulated a debt he has no chance of paying back.  Yet this master takes pity on him and forgives the entire debt.  Nevertheless, this servant has a man who owes him a far smaller debt thrown into debtor’s prison.  (Aside:  I have never grasped the principle of debtor’s prison.  If someone cannot pay when a free man or woman, how can he or she pay when in prison?)  The master then treats the first servant the same way he (the servant) acted toward his (the servant’s) debtor.  This is poetic justice.

If we cannot forgive just yet, we can confess this sin to God and seek grace to reach that point.  This is a beginning, at least.  And I believe that God responds favorably to such requests.  We are weak, but God is strong.  At any given moment, especially when we die, may we be in the good graces of God, obeying divine guidance.  We will never achieve entire sanctification in this lifetime, but we can make progress, by grace.  But we must cooperate with God.

The waters of baptism mark outwardly new life in God and in the community of the Church.  Among the baptismal questions in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer is this:

Will you seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving your neighbor as yourself?

The answer is,

I will, with God’s help.  (page 305)

We are all weak; may we be gracious toward one another, with God’s help.  This is our common vocation:  to foster goodwill, to love each other as ourselves, and to seek the best for each other.  Society will improve when more of us live this way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MOSES, APOSTLE TO THE SARACENS

THE FEAST OF SAINT APOLLONIA, MARTYR AT ALEXANDRIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BLAISE OF SEBASTE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP’

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO ALLEGRI, COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-1/

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