Archive for the ‘Matthew 18’ Category

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

domenico_fetti_001

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

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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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Judgment and Mercy, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Statue of Reconciliation, Coventry Cathedral, England

Image Source = Rebecca Kennison,

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:UK_Coventry_Statue-of-Reconcilliation.jpg)

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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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Deuteronomy 34:1-12 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, the top of Pisgah, which is facing Jericho.  And YHWH showed him all of the land, Gilead to Dan, and all of Naphtali and the land of Ephraim and Manasseh and all the land of Juday to the far sea, and the Negeb and the plain, the valley of Jericho, city of palms, to Zoar.

And YHWH said to him,

This is the land that I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, ‘I’ll give it to your seed.’  I’ve caused you to see it with your eyes, but you won’t pass there.

And Moses, YHWH’s servant, died there in the land of Moab by YHWH’s mouth, and He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab opposite Beth Peor.  And no man knows his burial place to this day.  And Moses was a hundred twenty years old at his death.  His eye was not dim, and his vitality had not fled.

And the children of Israel mourned Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days.  And the days of weeping, the mourning of Moses, ended.  And Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom because Moses had laid his hands on him, and the children of Israel listened to him.  And they did as YHWH commanded Moses.

And a prophet did not rise again in Israel like Moses, whom YHWH knew face-to-face, with all the signs and the wonders that YHWH sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh and to all his servants and to all his land, and with all the strong hand and with all the great fear that Moses made before the eyes of all Israel.

Psalm 66:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Be joyful in God, all you lands;

sing the glory of his Name;

sing the glory of his praise.

Say to God, “How awesome are your deeds!

because of your great strength your enemies cringe before you.

3 All the earth bows down before you,

sings to you, sings out your Name.”

Come now and see the works of God,

how wonderful he is in his doing toward all people.

He turned the sea into dry land,

so that they went through the water on foot,

and there we rejoiced in him.

6 In his might he rules for ever;

his eyes keep watch over the nations;

let no rebel rise up against him.

7 Bless our God, you peoples;

make the voice of his praise to be heard;

Who holds our souls in life,

and will not allow our feet to slip.

Matthew 18:15-20 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,]

But if your brother wrongs you, go and have it out with him at once–just between the two of you.  If he will listen to you, you have won him back as your brother.  But if he will not listen to you, take one or two others with you so that everything that is said may have the support of two or three witnesses.  And if he still won’t pay attention, tell the matter to the church.  And if he won’t even listen to the church then he must be to you like a pagan–or a tax-collector!

Believe me, whatever you forbid upon earth will be what is forbidden in Heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven.

And I tell you once more that if two of you on earth agree in asking for anything it will be granted to you by my Heavenly Father.  For wherever two or three people have come together in my name, I am there, right among them!

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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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A balanced reading of the lesson from Matthew must consider the following text:

What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you?  Is it not your passions that are at war in your members?  You desire and do not have; so you kill.  And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war.  You do not have, because you do not ask.  You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions….Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind.  Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection.  Humble yourselves before the Lord and will exalt you.

Do not speak evil against one another, brethren.  He that speaks evil against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law.  But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.  There is one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.  But who are you that you judge your neighbor?

James 4:1-3, 8-12 (Revised Standard Version)

The reading from Matthew concerns how to deal with what Volume VIII of  The New Interpreter’s Bible calls “dangerously errant members” of congregations.  The advice placed in the mouth of Jesus is quite practical, granting the “dangerously errant member” opportunities at repentance and reconciliation.  As in many other places in the Bible, judgment and mercy coexist.  One needs look no farther than Matthew 18.  The chapter also includes Jesus exalting the humility of children and telling a parable of a shepherd finding a lost sheep before this day’s reading.  Afterward, the chapter contains a commandment to forgive frequently and a parable about the necessity of forgiveness and the judgment one brings on oneself by refusing to forgive.

So it is vital to find one’s center in God and to remain there, living in love for God, oneself, and one’s fellow human beings.  Therein one finds peace with all three.  That, as a spiritual mentor of mine years ago might say now, is what is really going on here.

I conclude this devotion with a prayer by Jonathan Montaldo, from Lent and Easter Wisdom from Thomas Merton:  Daily Scripture and Prayers Together with Thomas Merton’s Own Words (Liguori, MO:  Liguori, 2007), page 65:

Reconcile my heart.

Give me the grace to ask forgiveness of those I have offended

and to forgive those who have offended me.

If I cannot at least pray for everyone,

I cannot be your disciple.

What you ask of me, Lord,

is a life’s work of reconciliation.

Let me at least begin to labor at forgiveness.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCUS AURELIUS CLEMENS PRUDENTIUS, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORGE VI, KING OF GREAT BRITAIN AND NORTHERN IRELAND

THE FEAST OF SAINT VEDAST (VAAST), ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ARRAS AND CAMBRAI

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Adapted from this post:

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

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The Enduring Love and Justice of God   1 comment

Above:  Sheep

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FIRST READING (YEARS A AND C):  Isaiah 40:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

Comfort my people; bring comfort to them,

says your God;

speak kindly to Jerusalem

and proclaim to her

that her term of bondage is served,

her penalty is paid;

for she has received at the LORD’s hand

double measure for all her sins.

A voice cries:

Clear a road through the wilderness for the LORD,

prepare a highway across the desert for our God.

Let every valley be raised,

every mountain and hill be brought low,

uneven ground be made smooth,

and steep places become level.

Then will the glory of the LORD be revealed

and all mankind together will see it.

The LORD himself has spoken.

A voice says,

Proclaim!

and I asked,

“What shall I proclaim?”

All mortals are like grass,

they last no longer than a wild flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower fades,

when the blast of the LORD blows on them.

Surely the people are grass!

The grass may wither, the flower fade,

but the word of our God will endure for ever.

Climb to a mountaintop,

you that bring good news to Zion;

raise your voice and shout aloud,

you that carry good news to Jerusalem,

raise it fearlessly;

say to the cities of Judah,

Your God is here!

Here is the Lord GOD; he is coming in might,

coming to rule with powerful arm.

His reward is with him,

his recompense before him.

Like a shepherd he will tend his flock together;

he will carry the lambs in his bosom

and lead his ewes to water.

FIRST READING FOR YEAR B:  Amos 5:18-24 (Revised English Bible):

Woe betide those who long for the day of the LORD!

What will the day of the LORD mean for you?

It will be darkness, not light;

It will be as when someone runs from a lion,

only to be confronted by a bear,

or as when he enters his house

and leans with his hand on the wall,

only to be bitten by a snake.

The day of the LORD is indeed darkness, not light,

a day of gloom without a ray of brightness.

I spurn with loathing your pilgrim-feasts;

I take no pleasure in your sacred ceremonies.

When you bring me your whole-offerings and your grain-offerings

I shall not accept them,

nor pay head to your shared-offerings or stall-fed beasts.

Spare me the sound of your songs;

I shall not listen to the strumming of your lutes.

Instead let justice flow on like a river

and righteousness like a never-failing torrent.

PSALM FOR YEARS A AND C:  Psalm 96 (Revised English Bible):

Sing a new song to the LORD.

Sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD and bless his name;

day by day proclaim his victory.

Declare his glory among the nations,

his marvellous deeds to every people.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

he is more to be feared than all gods.

For the gods of the nations are idols every one;

but the LORD made the heavens.

Majesty and splendour attend him,

might and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the LORD, you families of nations,

ascribe to the LORD glory and might;

ascribe to the LORD the glory due to his name.

Bring an offering and enter his courts;

in holy attire worship the LORD;

tremble before him, all the earth.

Declare among the nations,

The LORD is King;

the world is established imovably;

he will judge the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad,

let the sea resound and everything in it,

let the fields exult and all that is in them;

let all the trees of the forest shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with justice

and the peoples by his faithfulness.

PSALM FOR YEAR B:  Psalm 50:7-15 (Revised English Bible):

Listen, my people, and I shall speak;

I shall bear witness against you, Israel:

I am God, your God.

Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you,

your whole offerings always before me;

I need take no young bull from your farmstead,

no he-goat from your folds;

for all the living creatures of the forest are mine

and the animals in their thousands on my hills.

I know every bird on those mountains;

the teeming life of the plains is my care.

If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the world and all that is in it are mine.

Do I eat the flesh of bulls

or drink the blood of he-goats?

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and fulfill your vows to the Most High;

then if you call to me in time of trouble,

I shall come to your rescue, and you will honour me.

Matthew 18:12-14 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

What do you think?  Suppose someone has a hundred sheep, and one of them strays, does he not leave the other ninety-nine on the hillside and go in search of the one that strayed?  Truly I tell you:  if he should find it, he is more delighted over the sheep than over the ninety-nine that did not stray.  In the same way, it is not your heavenly Father’s will that one of these little ones should be lost.

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Divine judgment and mercy are two sides of one coin; one goes where the other does.  The Hebrew Scriptures  and the New Testament condemn economic and judicial injustice repeatedly.  So it follows naturally that divine mercy for the exploited entails judgment on the exploiters.  This is as matters should be.

So we read on this day of Advent about grazing animals–and not even the brightest crayons in that box.  We read that God desires righteousness and social justice, not the sacrifice of animals or grains, and that all these creatures are precious to God.  In fact, we have a parable in which Jesus likens us to lost sheep in great peril.  The shepherd will seek and locate such a sheep then rejoice.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd, of course.  This is an unexpected analogy for a figure of exaltation, for shepherds were smelly and toward the bottom of the totem pole.  Furthermore, they depended on the sheep for their livelihood, much as the animals depended on the shepherds for their safety.  So, as I reflect on this parable, I conclude that it says that God needs us, just as we need God.  And, when I bring in the other readings, I see that God’s shepherding of us entails a degree of discipline–not for vindictive punishment, but for instruction.  Tough love requires some pain at times, but the alternative is worse for us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

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

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God, On the Hook   1 comment

Above:  A Hook

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Ezekiel 9:1-7 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then He called loudly in my hearing, saying,

Approach, you men in charge of the city, each bearing his weapons of destruction!

And six men entered by way of the upper gate that faces north, each with his club in hand; and among them was another, clothed in linen, with a writing case at his waist.  They came forward and stopped at the bronze altar.  Now the Presence of the God of Israel had moved from the cherub on which it had rested to the platform of the House.  He called to the man clothed in linen with the writing case at his waist; and the LORD said to him,

Pass through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark on the foreheads of the men who moan and groan because of all the abominations that are committed in it.

To the others He said in my hearing,

Follow him through the city and strike; show no pity or compassion.  Kill off graybeard, youth, and maiden, women and children; but do not touch any person who bears the mark.  Begin here at My Sanctuary.

So they began with the elders who were in front of the House.  And He said to them,

Defile the House and fill the courts with the slain.  Then go forth.

So they went forth and began to kill in the city.

Ezekiel 10:18-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Then the presence of the LORD left the platform of the House and stopped above the cherubs.  And I saw the cherubs lift their wings and rise from the earth, with the wheels beside them as they departed; and they stopped at the entrance of the eastern gate of the House of the LORD, with the Presence of the God of Israel above them.  They were the same creatures that I had seen below the God of Israel at the Chebar Canal; so now I know that they were cherubs.  Each one had four faces and each had four wings.  As for the form of their faces, they were the very faces I had seen by the Chebar Canal–their appearance and their features–and each could move in the direction of any of its faces.

Ezekiel 12:1-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

The word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, you dwell among the rebellious breed.  They have eyes to see but do not see, ears to hear but hear not; for they are a rebellious breed.  Therefore, mortal, get yourself gear for exile, and go into exile before their eyes.  Go into exile from your home to another place before their very eyes; perhaps they will take note, even though they are a rebellious breed.  Carry out your gear for exile by day before their very eyes, as one who goes out into exile.  Before their eyes, break through the wall and carry [the gear] out through it; before their eyes, carry it on your shoulder.  Take it out in the dark, and cover your face that you may not see the land; for I will make you a portent to the House of Israel.

I did just as I was ordered:  I took out my gear by day as gear for exile, and in the evening I broke through the wall with my own hands.  In the darkness I carried [the gear] out on my shoulder, carrying it before their eyes.

In the morning, the word of the LORD came to me:

O mortal, did not the House of Israel, that rebellious breed, as, you, “What are you doing?”  Say to them:  ”Thus said the Lord GOD:  This pronouncement concerns the prince in Jerusalem and all the House of Israel who are in it.”  Say:  ”I am a portent for you:  As I have done, so shall it be done to them; they shall go into exile, into captivity.  And the prince among them shall carry his gear on his shoulder as he goes out in the dark.  He shall break through the wall in order to carry [his gear] out through it; he shall cover his face, because he himself shall not see the land with his eyes.”  I will spread My net over him, and he shall be caught in My snare.  I will bring him to Babylon, the land of the Chaldeans, but he shall not see it; and there he shall die.  And all those around him, his helpers and all his troops, I will scatter in every direction; and I will unsheathe the sword after them.  Then, when I have scattered them among the nations and dispersed them through the countries, they shall know that I am the LORD.  But I will spare a few of them from the sword, from famine, and from pestilence; that they may recount all their abominable deeds among the nations to which they come; and they shall know that I am the LORD!

Matthew 18:15-9:1 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

[Jesus continued,] “

But if your brother wrongs you, go and have it out with him at once–just between the two of you.  If he will listen to you, you have won him back as your brother.  But if he will not listen to you, take one or two others with you so that everything that is said may have the support of two or three witnesses.  And if he still won’t pay attention, tell the matter to the church.  And if he won’t even listen to the church then he must be to you like a pagan–or a tax-collector!

Believe me, whatever you forbid upon earth will be what is forbidden in Heaven, and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven.

And I tell you once more that if two of you on earth agree in asking for anything it will be granted to you by my Heavenly Father.  For wherever two or three people have come together in my name, I am there, right among them!

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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This is bleak material.  The readings from Matthew speak of forgiveness and how, important it is, but the lections from Ezekiel are harsh.  Idolatrous abominations have polluted the Temple, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian forces will destroy the Temple and slaughter much of the population (including young children), the divine Presence will depart the city, King Zedekiah will go blinded into exile, and Ezekiel will also go into exile.  God will spare from death those who had objected to the sinfulness, but apparently this protection will not extend to young children.  And the texts depict God as being in charge of all these events.

As an intellectually honest Monotheist, I acknowledge the main problem of Monotheism:  There is no good and honest way to let God off the hook.  If I a were to accept the existence of multiple deities, I could blame one or more for evil and other events I do not like.  Yet Monotheism requires me to accept that God is responsible for good and for bad, for what I like and for what I consider detestable.  Brains older, wiser, and better educated than mine have pondered this quandary, which remains, so I will not untangle it today or any other day.

Father Robert Farrar Capon offers the following analysis:

Just remember that what’s sauce for the goose is also sauce for the liver fluke, the killer whale, and the loan shark–that if God is holding all things in being right now, he’s got some explaining to do if he hopes to maintain his reputation as the original Good Guy.  Or, more accurately (since God steadfastly refuses to show up and explain anything, except by announcing mysteries and paradoxes) we’ve got a lot of explaining to do if we are to go on thinking of him in terms of his creation.

The Third Peacock:  The Problem of God and Evil, 2d. Edition (Minneapolis, MN:  Winston Press, 1986) , page 11

A few pages later, we find these words:

God is still firmly on the hook.  (That he is actually on the hook, of course, is God’s own final answer to the whole matter.  According to the Gospel, he himself hangs on the cross with the rest of his free creation.  If you believe that, it is great comfort; it is not, however, one whit less a mystery.–page 14

The greatest fault of Fundamentalism is its pretense of knowing more than it does.  My theology, in contrast, flees from the false comfort of easy and pat answers.  I embrace the unknown, claim the mystery, and catalog the questions I want to ask God one day, in another life.  Until that day, however, I choose not to refrain from recognizing that there is only one God and seeking a deeper relationship with God.  Certain matters are too great for me, not that my acknowledgement of this fact prevents me from remaining inquisitive.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF ASIA

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 5, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/week-of-proper-14-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-2/

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“Be Strong and Be Bold”   1 comment

Above:  Moses Window at Washington National Cathedral

Image Source = Captain Phoebus

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Lawrence_Saint_Moses_Closeup.JPG)

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Deuteronomy 31:1-8 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses went and spoke these things to all Israel.  And he said to them,

I’m a hundred twenty years old today.  I’m not able to go out and come in anymore.  And YHWH said to me, ‘You shall not cross this Jordan.’  YHWH, your God:  He is crossing in front of you.  He’ll destroy these nations in front of you, and you’ll dispossess them.  Joshua:  he is crossing in front of you, as YHWH has spoken.  And YHWH will do them as he did to Sihon and to Og, the kings of the Amorites, and to their land, that He destroyed them.  And YWHH will put them in front of you, and you shall do to them according to all of the commandment that I’ve commanded you.  Be strong and be bold.  Don’t be afraid and don’t be scared in front of them, because YHWH, your God:  He is the one going with you.  He won’t let you down and won’t leave you.

And Moses called Joshua and said to him before the eyes of all Israel,

Be strong and be bold, because you will come with this people to the land that YHWH swore to their fathers to give to them, and you will get it for them as a legacy.  And YHWH: He is the one who is going in front of you.  He will be with you.  You shall not fear, and you shall not be dismayed.

Psalm 111 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hallelujah!

I will give thanks to the LORD with my whole heart,

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

Great are the deeds of the LORD!

they are studied by all who delight in them.

3 His work is full of majesty and splendor,

and his righteousness endures for ever.

4 He makes his marvelous works to be remembered;

the LORD is gracious and full of compassion.

5 He gives food to those who fear him;

he is ever mindful of his covenant.

6 He has shown his people the power of his works

in giving them the lands of the nations.

The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

9 He sent redemption to his people;

he commanded his covenant for ever;

holy and awesome is his Name.

10 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom;

those who act accordingly have a good understanding;

his praise endures for ever.

Matthew 18:1-6, 10-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

It was at this time that the disciples came to Jesus with the question,

Who is really greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?

Jesus called a little child to his side and set him on his feet in the middle of them all.

Believe me,

he said,

unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.  It is the man who can be as humble as this little child who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.

Anyone who welcomes one child like this for my sake is welcoming me.  But if anyone leads astray one of these little children who believe in me he would be better off thrown into the depths of the sea with a mill-stone round his neck!…

Be careful that you never despise a single one of these little ones–for I tell you that they have angels who see my Father’s face continually in Heaven.

What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep and one wanders away from the rest, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hill-side and set out to look for the one who has wandered away?  Yes, and if he should chance to find it I assure you he is more delighted over that one than he is over the ninety-nine who never wandered away.  You can understand then that it is never the will of your Father in Heaven that a single one of these little ones should be lost.

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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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The reading from Deuteronomy is at the tail end of the Torah.  The Israelites are preparing to enter the promised land of Canaan.  Moses knows that he will not be with them, so he delivers his farewell address and passes the torch of leadership to Joshua, son of Nun.

Among the pieces of advice Moses gives to the people as a whole and to Joshua individually are to trust in God, obey the commandments, and to “be strong and be bold.”  All of these are consistent with each other.  Do not fear, Moses says, for God will go with the people.  So boldness is a sign of trust, that is, faith, and fear indicates the opposite.

It is easy to trust God when our lives go well and circumstances are favorable to us.  But the real test is whether we trust God the rest of the time.  I admit freely that I have failed by this standard many times, some of them in very recent memory.  I have been fearful, not bold.  I have worried, an activity which does not lead to practical solutions, when I should have been duly concerned then sought said solutions.  I am no spiritual giant, just a person trying to do his best, with mixed results.

Moses would not be with the Israelites in Canaan, but Joshua would.  One Joshua took the Israelites across the River Jordan into the promised land, and another Joshua (“Jesus” in Greek) became the central figure of the New Testament and of the Christian faith.  Each leader offered a form of liberation within specific circumstances of time and space.  The second Joshua continues to live, although no longer in human form, for he is part of the Trinity (however that works).  So there is no need to be fearful if one trusts in him; there is ample cause for holy boldness.

Many negative actions flow from the failure of nerve, the lack of faith.  But our strength is not the central issue; that of God is.  And that strength will never fail.  Yet we fear needlessly, and therefore we lash out at each other, making scapegoats instead of seeking good solutions.   When we do this we do not love our neighbors as we love ourselves, as God loves everybody.  And so we sin again.

Greater amounts of constructive faith which rests upon the active love of God would make the world a better place.  So may we be bold, and thereby improve our local area, at least.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CORNELIUS THE CENTURION, WITNESS TO THE CRUCIFIXION

THE FEAST OF SAINT GILBERT OF SEMPRINGHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JANE (JOAN) OF VALOIS, COFOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF THE ANNUNCIATION

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL CROSSMAN, ANGLICAN DEAN OF BRISTOL CATHEDRAL

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on February 4, 2011

Adapted from this post:

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

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Posted October 4, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Deuteronomy 31, Matthew 18, Psalm 111

Tagged with ,

There is Hope Yet   1 comment

Above:  A Shepherd

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Ezekiel 2:8-3:4 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

[And He said to me,]–per 2:1

And you, mortal, heed what I say to you:  Do not be rebellious like that rebellious breed.  Open your mouth and eat what I am giving you.

As I looked, there was a hand stretched out to me, holding a written scroll.  He unrolled it before me, and it was inscribed on the front and the back; on it were written lamentations, dirges, and woes.

He said me,

Mortal, eat what is offered you; eat this scroll, and go speak to the House of Israel.

So I opened my mouth, and He gave me this scroll to eat, as He said to me,

Mortal, feed your stomach and fill your belly with this scroll that I give you.

I ate it, and it tasted as sweet as honey.

Then He said to me,

Mortal, go to the House of Israel and repeat My very words to them…..

Psalm 119:65-72 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

65  O LORD, you have dealt graciously with your servant,

according to your word.

66  Teach me discernment and knowledge,

for I have believed in your commandments.

67  Before I was afflicted I went astray,

but now I keep your word.

68  You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.

69  The proud have smeared me with lies,

but I will keep your commandments with my whole heart.

70  Their heart is gross and fat,

but my delight is in your law.

71  It is good for me that I have been afflicted,

that I might learn your statutes.

72  The law of your mouth is dearer to me

than thousands in gold and silver.

Matthew 18:1-6, 10-14 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

It was at this time that the disciples came to Jesus with the question,

Who is really greatest in the kingdom of Heaven?

Jesus called a little child to his side and set him on his feet in the middle of them all.

Believe me,

he said,

unless you change your whole outlook and become like little children you will never enter the kingdom of Heaven.  It is the man who can be as humble as this little child who is greatest in the kingdom of Heaven.

Anyone who welcomes one child like this for my sake is welcoming me.  But if anyone leads astray one of these little children who believe in me he would be better off thrown into the depths of the sea with a mill-stone round his neck!…

Be careful that you never despise a single one of these little ones–for I tell you that they have angels who see my Father’s face continually in Heaven.

What do you think?  If a man has a hundred sheep and one wanders away from the rest, won’t he leave the ninety-nine on the hill-side and set out to look for the one who has wandered away?  Yes, and if he should chance to find it I assure you he is more delighted over that one than he is over the ninety-nine who never wandered away.  You can understand then that it is never the will of your Father in Heaven that a single one of these little ones should be lost.

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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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The unifying theme for this day is hope.  In Ezekiel, God commissions the prophet to preach to a rebellious people.  The people might be rebellious, but they are not beyond repentance and forgiveness.  There is hope yet.  And the lost sheep is valuable to the shepherd.  There is hope yet.

In Handel’s Messiah, in the chorus, “For we, like sheep, have gone astray,” the voice parts wander and roam at the word “astray.”  It is a nice touch in that oratorio.  When we, as individuals, have gone astray, God seeks us out.  When we, as groups of various sizes, have gone astray, God seeks us out.  It is not too late to return.

The reading from Ezekiel does contain a fascinating detail, one worth exploring here.  The words of God were “lamentations, dirges, and woes,” yet Ezekiel reports that they “tasted as sweet as honey.”  My mind turns from this point to Psalm 19:9-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures for ever,

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

More to be desired are they than gold,

more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey,

than honey in the comb.

By them is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

Psalm 19:9-11 complements Ezekiel 2:8-3:4 nicely.

We might not understand the decrees of God.  And, if we do, we might find them (or at least some of them) shocking and uncomfortable.  If so, may we become like Ezekiel, who considered them “as sweet as honey.”  Then, by words and deeds, may we proclaim the means of repentance and forgiveness to others.  There is hope yet.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE FRANCISCANS

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 4, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-2/

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