Archive for the ‘Matthew 20’ Category

Glorifying God VI   1 comment

Above:  The Four Men in the Fiery Furnace

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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 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:

Daniel 3:1, 4-28

2 Timothy 1:1-14

Mark 10:32-45

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These three readings testify that suffering is frequently part of a faithful life, and that the suffering faithful enjoy the presence of God.

The readings from Daniel 3 and 2 Timothy 1 speak for themselves, but the lesson from Mark 10 needs some unpacking.

James and John, sons of Zebedee, were also sons of Mary Salome, sister of St. Mary of Nazareth.  They were, therefore, first cousins of Jesus.  In an alternate version (Matthew 20:20-38) this story, Mary Salome made the request on their behalf.  At that point James and John had yet to grasp certain key points, such as the impending crucifixion of Jesus, which our Lord and Savior predicted more than once.  They sought glory; Jesus called for carrying one’s cross and following him.

The call to Christian discipleship is the call to follow Jesus, even through times of persecution and suffering.  God will glorify as God sees fit; we ought not to seek glory for ourselves.  No, we should glorify God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH AUGUSTUS SEISS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, LITURGIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHARLES COFFIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HANS ADOLF BRORSON, DANISH LUTHERAN BISHOP, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF JOHANN FRIEDRICH HERTZOG, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/06/20/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-b-humes/

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The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part VI   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Seventh Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who hast given us thy Word as a lamp for our feet:

keep thy Word ever before us, so that, in times of doubt or temptation,

by the light of thy truth we may walk, without stumbling,

in the way of thy Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120

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Jeremiah 9:23-24

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 20:1-16

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The issue is not, “who is my neighbor?” but “can we recognize that the enemy might be our neighbor and can we accept this disruption of our stereotypes?”

–Amy-Jill Levine in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011), 123

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Jesus’ interlocutor, the Jewish lawyer, holds a restrictive definition of “neighbor”:  his question, “Who is my neighbor” presupposes that some people are not neighbors.

–Michael Fagenblat, “The Concept of Neighbor in Jewish and Christian Ethics,” 542, in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (New York:  Oxford University Press, 2011)

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…the lawyer…attempted to save face by asking a further question, “Just a minute.  Exactly who is my neighbor?”…He was really asking, “How far does my responsibility go here?  What, in fact, constitutes neighborliness, and who qualifies to receive the love called for in the Law?”  He might have been asking, “What is the least I am required to do to get by?”…Jesus, however, turned in the other direction altogether and said, “You’re to think of yourself as a neighbor.”  The question isn’t, “Is such and such a person worthy of my love?” but rather, “Am I willing to take what I have, what I know, and what I can do and place all this at the disposal of another person’s needs or growth?”

–John Claypool, Stories Jesus Still Tells:  The Parables (New York:  McCracken Press, 1993), 101-102, 105

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Bible.  God expects much of us and enables us to fulfill those expectations.  We usually experience God as the Holy Spirit, probably.  That, at least, is the theologically approved term, according to Christian orthodoxy.  I, without straying into heresy, note that the Greek word we translate as “person,” as in “First Person of the Trinity,” “Second Person of the Trinity,” and “Third Person of the Trinity,” means “masks.”

Our one acceptable glory is in God, who is generous, according to the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard.  The workers must work, of course, but all receive a daily wage, even if they work a partial work day.  The Kingdom of Heaven, we read, is like that employment situation in the vineyard.  Contrary to the ubiquitous Dalman consensus, the Kingdom of Heaven is not a reverential circumlocution, as Jonathan Pennington writes.  No, the Kingdom of Heaven is the fully realized reign/realm of God on the Earth.  No, the Kingdom of Heaven is apocalyptic.

God’s ways are not ours, overall.  They overlap occasionally, by accident, perhaps.  Extravagant divine extravagance, as in the parables, certainly contradicts the corresponding way of the world.  One function of the rhetoric of the Kingdom of Heaven is to point out the ways in which human patterns are deficient.

Go is generous, with standards for beneficiaries of grace to adopt.  We often prefer cheap grace, so we can blithely follow familiar patterns of thinking and behaving, without nagging moral qualms.  We are also frequently stingy certainly compared to God.  Often we are like the lawyer in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10); we ask,

Who is my neighbor?

We really mean,

Who is not my neighbor?

Jesus tells us that all people are our neighbors.  We do not like that answer.  Our ways are deficient.

They can be less so in this life, by grace, though.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL SOULS/THE COMMEMORATION OF ALL FAITHFUL DEPARTED

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A Faithful Response, Part IX   1 comment

Above:  Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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 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:

Acts 4:23-37

Psalm 31:1-9, 15-16

1 Peter 3:8-22

Matthew 20:1-16

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The Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard (Matthew 20:1-16) tells of the generosity of God.  The social setting is poverty created by rampant economic exploitation–in this case, depriving people of land, therefore depriving them of economic security.  The economics of the Kingdom of God/Heaven–in tension with human systems–the Roman Empire, in particular–are morally superior.

Trusting in God can be difficult during the best of times, given human sins and frailties.  Therefore trusting in God in precarious circumstances–such as persecution and/or systematic economic exploitation–can certainly prove to be challenging.  Yet, when faith communities do so and, acting on trust in God, take care of their members’ needs, grace is tangibly present.

Dare we have much trust in God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/31/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-a-humes/

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With Single Mind and Fervent Heart   Leave a comment

Above:  The Temple of Solomon

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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FOR THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty and everlasting God, give to us the increase of faith, hope, and love;

and, that we may obtain that which you promise, make us to love what you command;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 140

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1 Chronicles 28:1-3, 5-10

Psalm 21

Ephesians 6:10-20

Matthew 20:20-28

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The theme of this post comes from 1 Chronicles 28:9, in which the aged King David tells his son Solomon to serve God

with single mind and fervent heart.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

We know from other portions of the Bible that Solomon did not obey this advice after a while.  We know that, after some time, Solomon ceased to, in the words of Psalm 21, rejoice in God’s strength.

In Matthew 20:20-28 we read of three people–relatives of Jesus–who also missed some vital lessons.  We read of St. Mary Salome, sister of St. Mary of Nazareth, and her (St. Mary Salome’s) two sons, St. James Bar-Zebedee and St. John the Evangelist.  We read of her seeking places of honor in the Kingdom of God for her sons.  Thus we encounter the ultimate helicopter mother.  In Mark 10:35-45, though, Sts. James and John make the request themselves; their mother is absent from the story.  Regardless of who asks in each gospel, the point is that, in the Kingdom of God, sacrificial service, not the quest for social status, is the defining characteristic.

Sacrificial service “with single mind and fervent heart” remains contrary to the dominant patterns in many societies.  Frequently it becomes the object of scorn and the butt of jokes.  Yet it is the way of life in God–the path of life to the fullest.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE TWELFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE NEUMANN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHILADELPHIA

THE FEAST OF ANTONIO LOTTI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GENOVEVA TORRES MORALES, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SACRED HEART OF JESUS AND THE HOLY ANGELS

THE FEAST OF MARGARET MACKAY, SCOTTISH HYMN WRITER

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The Golden Rule, Part III   1 comment

Golden Rule

Above:   The Golden Rule, by Norman Rockwell

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Benevolent, merciful God:

When we are empty, fill us.

When we are weak in faith, strengthen us.

When we are cold in love, warm us,

that we may love our neighbors and

serve them for the sake of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 18:1-8, 28-36 (Thursday)

2 Kings 19:8-20, 35-37 (Friday)

Isaiah 7:1-9 (Saturday)

Psalm 37:1-9 (All Days)

Revelation 2:8-11 (Thursday)

Revelation 2:12-29 (Friday)

Matthew 20:29-34 (Saturday)

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Put your trust in the LORD and do good;

dwell in the land and feed on its riches.

–Psalm 37:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these three days tell of the mercy–pity, even–of God.  In 2 Kings and Isaiah God delivers the Kingdom of Judah from threats.  The core message of Revelation is to remain faithful during persecution, for God will win in the end.  Finally, Jesus takes pity on two blind men and heals them in Matthew 20.

On the other side of mercy one finds judgment.  The Kingdom of Israel had fallen to the Assyrians in 2 Kings 17 and 2 Chronicles 32.  The Kingdom of Judah went on to fall to the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire in 2 Kings 25 and 2 Chronicles 36.  The fall of Babylon (the Roman Empire) in Revelation was bad news for those who had profited from cooperation with the violent and economically exploitative institutions thereof (read Chapter 18).

In an ideal world all would be peace and love.  We do not live in an ideal world, obviously.  Certain oppressors will insist on oppressing.  Some of them will even invoke God (as they understand God) to justify their own excuse.  Good news for the oppressed, then, will necessarily entail bad news for the oppressors.  The irony of the situation is that oppressors.  The irony of the situation is that oppressors hurt themselves also, for whatever they do to others, they do to themselves.  That is a cosmic law which more than one religion recognizes.  Only victims are present, then, and some victims are also victimizers.

Loving our neighbors is much better, is it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-21-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Service and Glory II   1 comment

Hope flows through a new canal

Above:  Canal

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 21:1-4, 24-26

Psalm 112

Matthew 20:20-28

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How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,

who delights in his commandments!

–Psalm 112:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The reading from Matthew 20 concerns the misguided quest for glory in lieu of service.  In Matthew 20:20-28 St. Mary Salome, sister of St. Mary of Nazareth, asks her nephew (Jesus) to grant her sons (Sts. James and John) places of honor in the Kingdom of God.  In Mark 10:35-45, however, Sts. James and John make the request instead.  In each account our Lord and Savior’s reply is the same:

  1. “You do not understand what you are asking.”–The Revised English Bible (1989);
  2. That is not a decision for Jesus to make; and
  3. The request is misguided.

As the lection from Proverbs 21 reminds us,

Haughty looks–a proud heart–

The tillage of the wicked is sinful.

–Verse 4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

May we seek instead to be like the channeled water of Proverbs 21:1–directed toward whatever God wishes.  May we seek to glorify God and benefit our fellow human beings, not to glorify ourselves.  Jesus has provided a fine example of service for us to emulate in our circumstances.  If we are really Christians, we will seek to follow him more than we do already.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-17-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Trusting in God, Part V   1 comment

Icon of Elisha 02

Above:  Icon of Elisha

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Eternal light, shine in our hearts.

Eternal wisdom, scatter the darkness of our ignorance.

Eternal compassion, have mercy on us.

Turn us to seek your face, and enable us to reflect your goodness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 6:8-23 (Tuesday)

Jeremiah 33:1-11 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:17-24 (Both Days)

Acts 9:32-35 (Tuesday)

Matthew 20:29-34 (Wednesday)

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Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good….Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for the one who loves has fulfilled the law.

–Romans 12:17-21; 13:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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This is an interesting set of readings.  The pericopes from the New Testament are stories of individual healing, the portion of Psalm 119 expresses respect for and delight in divine law, the lesson from Jeremiah 33 promises divine healing of the Hebrew people after divine punishment thereof, and the account in 2 Kings 6 is odd.  Somehow Elisha is a clairvoyant who has God’s ear, delivers a force of Aramean raiders into the hands of the King of Israel, and advises giving them food and drink before releasing them.  (There is an interesting military tactic.)

A few thoughts come to mind:

  1. The motif of healing, both individual and collective, is strong. Even individual healing has a collective component, for it restores one to wholeness in his or her family, community, network of friends, et cetera.
  2. The humane treatment of the Aramean raiders demonstrates strength and reduces tensions.  The equivalent of stuffing one’s adversaries with tea and crumpets (if I may be British) is certainly unexpected and provides no incentive for further violence, at least in the short-term future.  It is also consistent with the ethics of Romans 12:17-21.
  3. The balance of judgment and mercy in God is a mystery I cannot even begin to unravel, so I more along to matters not too great for me.
  4. One should have a healthy sense of awe of and gratitude to God.  One can be confident in the faithfulness of God and therefore act boldly and properly, not foolishly and out of fear.

Perhaps the theme which unites these lessons best begins with the faithfulness of God to divine promises.  We, assured of that fidelity, will, by grace, act out of confidence in and obedience to God, in whom exist both judgment and mercy.  We will reap what we sow, either positive or negative.  If we trust God, we will feel sufficiently secure to act righteously, even to extend kindness to our enemies.  That ethic is consistent with the following passage from 1 Peter 3:

Finally, be united, all of you, in thought and feeling; be full of brotherly affection, kindly, and humble.  Do not repay wrong with wrong, or abuse with abuse; on the contrary, respond with a blessing, for a blessing is what God intends you to receive.

–Verses 8-9, The Revised English Bible (1989)

We humans make many of our worst decisions out of fear.  Often we make bad situations worse in so doing.  This generalization holds true in individual and collective settings.  Yet proper confidence in the faithfulness of God strips away the misconception that we must do something when we ought to get out of God’s way.  Letting go and letting God when doing that is appropriate precludes making foolish, fear-based decisions which reveal our lack of trust.  Ignorance is frequently a complicating factor in making good decisions, for how are we to know when to be active and when to be passive?

May we decide wisely, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

INDEPENDENCE DAY (U.S.A.)

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/devotion-for-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-25-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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