Archive for the ‘Matthew 21’ Category

Faith Manages   1 comment

Rising Star Delenn

Above:  Ambassador Delenn, from Rising Star, a 1997 Episode of Babylon 5 (1994-1998)

A screen capture I took via PowerDVD and a legal DVD


The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the words of your prophets,

that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light;

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19


The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Habakkuk 3:2-6 (Friday)

Habakkuk 3:13-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 126 (All Days)

Philippians 3:7-11 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:12-16 (Friday)

Mathew 21:28-32 (Saturday)


Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come in again with joy, shouldering their shears.

–Psalm 126:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)


The readings for these three days combine to constitute a tapestry of hope, faith, violence, and judgment.

The lessons from Habakkuk complain to God about persistent injustice and report a divine reply that (A) God will settle scores one day, and (B) the righteous must remain faithful during trying times.  Some of the material is disturbing:

You tread the earth in rage,

You trample nations in fury.

You have come forth to deliver Your people,

To deliver Your anointed.

You will smash the roof of the villain’s house,

Raze it from foundation to top.

You will crack [his] skull with Your bludgeon;

Blown away will be his warriors,

Whose delight is to crush me suddenly,

To devour a poor man in an ambush.

–Habakkuk 3:12-14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Happier is the end of the book:

Though the fig tree does not bud

And no yield is on the vine,

Though the olive crop has failed

And the fields produce no grain,

Though sheep have vanished from the fold

And no cattle are n the pen,

Yet will I rejoice in the LORD,

Exult in the God who delivers me.

My Lord GOD is my strength:

He makes my feet like the deer’s

And lets me stride upon the heights.

–Habakkuk 3:17-19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

As I have written many times, I understand the reality that some oppressors will not cease oppressing until someone forces them to do so.  Thus a rescue mission becomes necessary.  This is good news for the oppressed and a catastrophe for the oppressors.  Yet the imagery of God cracking open skulls bothers me.

The note of judgment continues in Matthew 21:28-32, set in the context of the final days leading up to our Lord and Savior’s crucifixion.

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

–Matthew 21:31b-32, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The bad news for chief priests and elders, beneficiaries of the Temple system, comes amid a series of controversies in the Gospel of Matthew.  The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Matthew 21:33-45) follows on the heels of those harsh words, for example.

St. Paul the Apostle picks up the theme of remaining faithful during difficult times in Philippians.  His reference to the righteous living by faith echoes a line from Habakkuk–a nice touch, which the lectionary amplifies.  Faith, in the Pauline sense of that word, is inherently active, compelling one to do something.  In contrast, the definition of faith in the Letter of James is intellectual, hence that author’s insistence on pairing works with faith.  So no disagreement between Sts. Paul and James regarding faith and works exists.  Maintaining that active faith under great pressure is both difficult and crucial, as St. Paul knew well.

When times and circumstances challenge our trust in God, may we say with St. Paul:

But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison to the superior value of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord.   I have lost everything for him, but whatever I have lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ and be found with him.

–Philippians 3:8-9a, Common English Bible (2008)

Faith (in the Pauline sense) functions in the absence of proof for or against a given proposition.  As Ambassador Delenn, a character from Babylon 5 (1994-1998), one of my favorite science fiction series, said,

Faith manages.

(Indeed, that was one of the major themes of the series.)  Faith keeps one on the proper path when, as Habakkuk wrote, the crops have failed and the livestock have vanished.  If we give up, we have decided to act in a way which will create a more negative future.  Yet if we persist, we act based on hope.  Such hope as overcome incredible odds many times, from ancient to contemporary times.  Many people have suffered and died so that members of subsequent generations can lead better lives.

Advent is a season of hope and violence.  Some of the violence is contemporary.  Other violence comes from the texts we read.  For example, St. Mary of Nazareth, the mother of our Lord and Savior, would have died by stoning if not for the graciousness of St. Joseph.  Faith manages during times of doubt, despair, and suspicion.  It persists during protracted periods of whisper campaigns and rumor-mongering, such as Jesus and his mother had to endure.

May we, by grace, have healthy faith from God in God, in whom both judgment and mercy exist.  And may we leave the judgment to God.









Adapted from this post:


Good Trees for God   5 comments


Above:  A Visual Protest Against Police Brutality and Corruption, June 11, 1887

Artist = Eugene Zimmerman (1862-1935)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-4792


The Collect:

O Lord God, enliven and preserve your church with your perpetual mercy.

Without your help, we mortals will fail;

remove far from us everything that is harmful,

and lead us toward all that gives life and salvation,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46


The Assigned Readings:

Leviticus 4:27-31; 5:14-16 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 17:2-13 (Tuesday)

Leviticus 16:1-5, 20-28 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:65-72 (All Days)

1 Peter 2:11-17 (Monday)

Romans 13:1-7 (Tuesday)

Matthew 21:18-22 (Wednesday)


These readings present us with some difficult material.  In the Torah an animal sacrifice atoned for unintentional sins, offering an unauthorized sacrifice led to death, and idolatry carried the death penalty.

So you shall purge evil from your midst.

–Deuteronomy 17:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Also, in the readings from Romans and 1 Peter, resisting authority is a sin, regardless of the nature of that government.    I will address these matters in order.


One was supposed to keep a distance from the holy and approach God in a certain way in the Law of Moses.  Thus one had instructions to offer sacrifices just so, for example.  And touching the Ark of the Covenant was deadly.  In contrast, Jesus, God incarnate, ate with people, many of whom had dubious moral histories and bad reputations.  I side with Jesus in this matter.


One ought to be very careful regarding instructions to kill the (alleged) infidels.  Also, one should recognize such troublesome passages in one’s own scriptures as well as in those of others, lest one fall into hypocrisy regarding this issue.  Certainly those Puritans in New England who executed Quakers in the 1600s thought that they were purging evil from their midst.  Also, shall we ponder the Salem Witch Trials, in which paranoid Puritans trapped inside their superstitions and experiencing LSD trips courtesy of a bread mold, caused innocent people to die?  And, not that I am equating Puritans with militant Islamists, I have no doubt that those militant Islamists who execute Christians and adherents to other religions think of themselves as people who purge evil from their midst.  Violence in the name of God makes me cringe.

When does one, in the name of purging evil from one’s midst, become that evil?


Speaking of removing evil from our midst (or at least trying to do so), I note that Dietrich Bonhoeffer, after struggling with his conscience, participated in a plot to assassinate Adolf Hitler.  I let that pass, for if one cannot kill (or at least plan to kill) a genocidal dictator in the name of morality….Sometimes life presents us with bad decisions and worse ones.  Choose the bad in very such circumstance, I say.  In the Hitler case, how many lives might have continued had he died sooner?


Christianity contains a noble and well-reasoned argument for civil disobedience.  This tradition reaches back to the Early Church, when many Christians (some of whom became martyrs) practiced conscientious objection to service in the Roman Army.  The tradition includes more recent figures, such as many heroes of the Civil Rights Movement in the United States.  Many of those activists suffered and/or died too.  And, in the late 1800s, the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America, hardly a bastion of liberalism at any point in its history, declared that the Ottoman imperial government, which had committed violence against the Armenian minority group, had no more moral legitimacy or right to rule.  Yet I read in the October 30, 1974, issue of The Presbyterian Journal, the midwife for the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) in 1973, that:

When a Herod or a Hitler comes into power, we must thereby assume this is the Lord’s plan; He will use even such as these to put His total plan into effect for the good of His people here on earth.

–page 11

That was an extreme law-and-order position the editor affirmed in the context of reacting against demonstrations of the 1960s and early 1970s.  A few years later, however, the PCA General Assembly approved of civil disobedience as part of protests against abortions.


If one assumes, as St. Paul the Apostle and much of the earliest Church did, that Jesus would return quite soon and destroy the sinful world order, preparation for Christ’s return might take priority and social reform might move off the list of important things to accomplish.  But I am writing in 2014, so much time has passed without the Second Coming having occurred.  Love of one’s neighbors requires us to act and even to change society and/or rebel against human authority sometimes.


The barren fig tree in Matthew 21:18-22 was a symbol of faithless and fruitless people.  If we know a tree by its fruits and we are trees, what kind of trees are we?  May we bear the fruits of love, compassion,and mere decency.  May our fruits be the best they can be, albeit imperfect.  May we be the kind of trees that pray, in the words of Psalm 119:68 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979):

You are good and you bring forth good;

instruct me in your statutes.





Adopted from this post:



Jeremiah and Matthew, Part VI: The Sovereignty of God   1 comment


Above:  The Logo of the Moravian Church, Set in Stained Glass

Image Source = JJackman



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


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 11:11-23

Psalm 97 (Morning)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening)

Matthew 24:1-28


Some Related Posts:

Jeremiah 11:


The author of Psalm 62, in the context of persecution because of his holiness, wrote:

Yet be still my soul, and wait for God:

from whom comes my hope of deliverance.

–verse 5, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

I detect echoes of the Jeremiah and Matthew readings in the Psalms appointed for today.  The above quote is just one example of that.

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, fulfilled his unpleasant duty faithfully while arguing with God.  The prophet announced doom for idolatry and a host of social injustices–in short, breaking the covenant with God, per Deuteronomy 30:15-20.  The prophet placed himself in harm’s way by doing this.  He likened himself to a docile sheep led to the slaughter and asked God to avenge him.

That image of a lamb led to the slaughter is one which Christian tradition has applied to Jesus, although he was hardly docile in Matthew 24 and elsewhere.  Our Lord and Savior was far from docile in Matthew 21 (“the Temple Incident,” as New Testament scholars call it) or in John 18 or in Matthew 26.  Yet the image of a lamb, when applied to Jesus, works well, for he was both the high priest and the sacrificial animal, metaphorically speaking.

In Mathew 24 Jesus warned the Apostles against, among other ills, false prophets and religious persecution:

You will be handed over for punishment and execution; all nations will hate you for your allegiance to me.  At that time many will fall from their faith; they will betray one another and hate one another.  Many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many; and as lawlessness spreads, the love of many will grow cold.  But whoever endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the earth as a testimony to  all nations; and then the end will come.

–verses 9-14, The Revised English Bible

This is a devotion for November 7, at the latter part of the Season after Pentecost.  Advent is not far away from November 7–less than one month, in fact.  (Advent can begin as early as November 27 and as late as December 3.)  By November 7 the Sunday readings in the Revised Common Lectionary have taken a dark turn.

Yet, in the darkness of the tail end of Ordinary Time there is hope.  Yes, Jeremiah suffered greatly, but God proved him correct.  And nobody who tried to kill the prophet succeeded.  Yes, sometimes there is persecution for following Jesus, but God still wins in the end.  And God is faithful to the faithful, some of whom will lose their bodies in service to God but none of whom will lose their souls thereby.  And Advent is around the corner.  Christmas will follow.  The summary of the hope of which I write is the Sovereignty of God.







Adapted from this post:


Jeremiah and Matthew, Part I: Those Whom God Has Qualified Then Called   1 comment


Above:  The Prophet Jeremiah, from the Sistine Chapel Ceiling, by Michelango Buonarroti


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


The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 1:1-19

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Matthew 21:23-46


Some Related Posts:

Jeremiah 1:

Matthew 21:


So I will always sing praise to your name,

and day by day fulfill my vows.

–Psalm 61:8, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


So will I always sing praise to your name:

while I daily perform my vows.

–Psalm 61:8, New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)


Then Jesus said, “Truly I tell you:  tax-collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For when John came to show you the right way to live, you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and prostitutes did; and even when you had seen that, you did not change your minds and believe him.

–Matthew 21:31b-32, The Revised English Bible


Prostitutes were prostitutes.  Tax collectors were people who stole from their fellow countrymen to fund the occupying Roman Empire.  Both were among the “notorious sinners,” many of whom became dining companions of Jesus.  Before that many of them had headed advice from St. John the Baptist.

In contrast, many professional religious people, being invested in the corrupt Temple system, rejected both Jesus and St. John the Baptist.  That system depended on offerings, which were especially onerous burdens imposed on peasants already struggling under Roman taxation.  Jesus, of course, confronted that corrupt Temple system, which constituted part of collaboration with the imperium.

So, in the tradition of the last being first and the first being last, repentant prostitutes and tax collectors preceded many respectable religious professionals in the Kingdom of God.  That statement must have rung harshly in the ears of the respectable religious professionals who heard it.

But, as God told the young Prophet Jeremiah, God does not call the qualified.  No, God qualifies the called.  And, even when one’s mission is to preach the truth to those who will refuse to heed sage words, but will instead plot violence against the one who utters them, God will protect that prophet if his name is Jeremiah.  St. John the Baptist died.  So did Jesus.  The latter arose after a few days, of course.

So, O reader, which spot do you occupy?  Are you a prophet or a repentant prostitute or tax collector, at least metaphorically?  Or are you more like one of the vilified chief priests and Temple elders?  And what is God calling you to become next?








Adapted from this post:


Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XXI: Moses and Jesus   1 comment


Above:  Christ Pantocrator


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


The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 34:1-12

Psalm 85 (Morning)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening)

Matthew 21:1-22


Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 34:


Let none who look to you be put to shame,

but let the treacherous be shamed and frustrated.

–Psalm 25:2, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)


For all those who hope in you shall not be ashamed:

but only those who wantonly break faith.

–Psalm 25:2, New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)


Deuteronomy 34:10-12 tells me that

Never again did there arise in Israel a prophet like Moses—whom the LORD singled out, face to face, for the various signs and portents that the LORD sent him to display in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his courtiers, and his whole country, and for all the great might and awesome power that Moses displayed before all Israel.–TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Okay, Exodus 33:20-23 states that Moses did not see God face-to-face, but that minor quibble does not pertain to my point here today.

Greater than Moses was Jesus.  Those who saw the face of the latter saw the face to God incarnate.  And, in today’s reading from Matthew 21, Jesus entered Jerusalem at the beginning of his last Passover week, cleansed the Temple, and confronted a corrupt political-religious system.  It was no accident that such an incident led to his crucifixion within a few days.  There were older contributing factors, of course, but it added to the pile.  And may we never forget that the Roman Empire—a Pharaonic system of a sort—killed Jesus.  Then divine power resurrected him.  But I am getting ahead of the narrative.

Empires rise and fall, but God remains forever.  And so does the memory of Moses.  Christ, of course, continues to live in another realm, having fulfilled and expanded the Law of Moses.  The household of faith has its foundation (God) then various levels then a roof.  After Jesus, all else is elaboration, for his was the fullest revelation of God, one which transformed shame into glory and defeat into everlasting victory.








Adapted from this post:


Expectations, Realities, and Consequences   1 comment

Above:  A Vineyard

Expectations, Realities, and Consequences

The Sunday Closest to October 5

Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 2, 2011



Exodus 20:1-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation to those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work–you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses,

You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.

Moses said to the people,

Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

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

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults?

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.


Isaiah 5:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Let me sing for my beloved

my love-song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard

on a very fertile hill.

He dug it and cleared it of stones,

and planted it with choice vines;

he built a watchtower in the midst of it,

and hewed out a wine vat in it;

he expected it to yield grapes,

but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem

and people of Judah,

judge between me

and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard

that I have not done in it?

When I expected it to yield grapes,

why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you

what I will do to my vineyard.

I will remove its hedge,

and it shall be devoured;

I will break down its wall,

and it shall be trampled down.

I will make it a waste;

it shall not be pruned or hoed,

and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;

that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts

is the house of Israel,

and the people of Judah

are his pleasant planting;

he expected justice,

but saw bloodshed;


but heard a cry!

Psalm 80:7-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

7  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

8  You have brought a vine out of Egypt;

you cast out the nations and planted it.

9  You prepared the ground for it;

it took root and filled the land.

10  The mountains were covered by its shadow

and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.

11  You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea

and its branches to the River.

12  Why have you broken down its wall,

so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?

13  The wild boar of the forest has ravaged it,

and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.

14  Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven;

behold and tend this vine;

preserve what your right hand has planted.


Philippians 3:4b-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.


Matthew 21:33-46 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.

Jesus said to them,

Have you never read in the scriptures:

‘The stone that the builders have rejected

has become the cornerstone;

this was the Lord’s doing,

and it is amazing in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Exodus 20:

Mark 12 (Parallel to Matthew 21):


These readings seem familiar, do they not?  Thus they are the kind of lections we need to read very carefully again, if not for the first time.  I have dealt with the Ten Commandments and the parable already within this blog network, so I refer you, O reader to the links above for certain thoughts while I pursue another thread.

…he expected justice,

but saw bloodshed;

[he expected] righteousness,

but heard a cry!

Isaiah 5:7c-d reads.  Thus, in Isaiah 5:1-7, God vows to make the vineyard a “waste.”  The vineyard in that reading is the people of Israel, and the laying waste refers to the Babylonian Exile.

The vineyard theme recurs in the reading from Matthew.  The writing of the Gospels took place in the shadow of the Jewish War, which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  So my historical-critical eyes detect animosity toward the mainstream Jewish community from the marginalized Christian Jews in Matthew’s audience.

Nevertheless, I also detect a universal and timeless lesson:  The wages of sin is death.  Yet, as Paul reminds us, keeping the Law scrupulously is insufficient, lest we boast in what we have done.  Rather, the

surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus

makes the difference.  ”Knowing” is about far more than acknowledging him intellectually; it is about following him–as individuals and as faith communities.  Jesus is the trump card.

I write these words on Easter Sunday 2011, so this is an especially opportune time to quote the motto of the Moravian Church:

Our lamb has conquered; let us follow him.








Adapted from this post:


Living Wisely, Maturely,and In the Ways of Insight   1 comment

Above:  The Right Reverend Keith Whitmore, Assistant Bishop of Atlanta, Celebrating the Holy Eucharist at St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia,  October 31, 2010

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta




1 Kings 2:10-12; 3:3-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

David slept with his ancestors, and was buried in the city of David. The time that David reigned over Israel was forty years; he reigned seven years in Hebron, and thirty-three years in Jerusalem. So Solomon sat on the throne of his father David; and his kingdom was firmly established.

Solomon loved the LORD, walking in the statutes of his father David; only, he sacrificed and offered incense at the high places. The king went to Gibeon to sacrifice there, for that was the principal high place; Solomon used to offer a thousand burnt offerings on that altar. At Gibeon the LORD appeared to Solomon in a dream by night; and God said,

Ask what I should give you.

And Solomon said,

You have shown great and steadfast love to your servant my father David, because he walked before you in faithfulness, in righteousness, and in uprightness of heart toward you; and you have kept for him this great and steadfast love, and have given him a son to sit on his throne today. And now, O LORD my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David, although I am only a little child; I do not know how to go out or come in. And your servant is in the midst of the people whom you have chosen, a great people, so numerous they cannot be numbered or counted. Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, able to discern between good and evil; for who can govern this your great people?

It pleased the Lord that Solomon had asked this. God said to him,

Because you have asked this, and have not asked for yourself long life or riches, or for the life of your enemies, but have asked for yourself understanding to discern what is right, I now do according to your word. Indeed I give you a wise and discerning mind; no one like you has been before you and no one like you shall arise after you. I give you also what you have not asked, both riches and honor all your life; no other king shall compare with you. If you will walk in my ways, keeping my statutes and my commandments, as your father David walked, then I will lengthen your life.

Psalm 111 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):


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

in the assembly of the upright, in the congregation.

2 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.

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.

7 The works of his hands are faithfulness and justice;

all his commandments are sure.

8 They stand fast for ever and ever,

because they are done in truth and equity.

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.


Proverbs 9:1-6 (New Revised Standard Version):

Wisdom has built her house,

she has hewn her seven pillars.

She has slaughtered her animals, she has mixed her wine,

she has also set her table.

She has sent out her servant girls, she calls

from the highest places in the town,

You that are simple, turn in here!

To those without sense she says,

Come, eat of my bread

and drink of my wine I have mixed.

Lay aside immaturity and live,

and walk in the way of insight.

Psalm 34:9-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Fear the LORD, you that are his saints,

for those who fear him lack nothing.

10 The young lions lack and suffer hunger,

but those who seek the LORD lack nothing that is good.

11 Come, children, and listen to me;

I will teach you the fear of the LORD.

12 Who among you loves life

and desires long life to enjoy prosperity?

13 Keep your tongue from evil-speaking

and your lips from lying words.

14 Turn from evil and do good;

seek peace and pursue it.


Ephesians 5:15-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Be careful then how you live, not as unwise people but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil. So do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts, giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.


John 6:51-58 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

I am the living bread that came down from heaven. Whoever eats of this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying,

How can this man give us his flesh to eat?

So Jesus said to them,

Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live forever.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have given your only Son to be for us a sacrifice for sin, and also an example of godly life: Give us grace to receive thankfully the fruits of his redeeming work, and to follow daily in the blessed steps of his most holy life; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Some Related Posts:

Proper 15, Year A:

1 Kings 2 and 3:


In the Gospel of John, the Last Supper is implicit, but Eucharistic language and imagery pervade the book.  The combination of such language and imagery in John 6 and Proverbs 9 unifies this Sunday’s readings.

We read in Ephesians 5 not to “be foolish,” but to “understand what the will of the Lord is.”  Likewise, in 1 Kings 3, King Solomon (in a dream) asks God for wisdom.  And, in Proverbs 9, we see Sophia, divine wisdom personified, setting her table, inviting people to eat of her bread, drink her wine, and “lay aside immaturity, and live and walk in the way of insight.”  Then, in John 6, we read of the imperative to eat the body and drink the blood of Jesus, so that we will have life in us.

I have already ( covered much of the Eucharistic content in John 6.  So some other thoughts follow:

  1. It is not enough to start well.  One must also finish well.  Solomon started well yet lost his way.
  2. We must imitate our Lord’s example, his holy life.  He came to serve, not to be served (Matthew 20:28).  He acted compassionately on many occasions; this was his pattern.  And he did not shrink back from confronting those who imposed needless burdens, especially economic ones, on others, especially the pious poor (Matthew 21:12-13, for example).
  3. It can be relatively easy to identify ancient examples of foolishness and immaturity, but more difficult (not to mention politically loaded) to do the same for contemporary times.  I have my list; you, O reader, probably have yours.  I share an easy, generally non-controversial item from my list:  Televangelists and pastors who give away or sell prayer cloths and/or “healing” spring water, pretend to be able to heal people, and/or teach the heresy called Prosperity Theology.  This kind of hokum is a variety of religion which deserves Karl Marx’s label “the opiate of the masses.”  And here is another item:  I oppose all who use religion to incite or encourage any form of bigotry or to distract people from the imperative to take care of each other in various ways.  This post is not a proper venue to name names, so I refrain from doing so.

By grace may we succeed in living wisely, maturely, and in the ways of insight that, after we die, God will say to each us,

Well done, good and faithful servant.






Adapted from this post:


Jealousy and Malefaction   1 comment

Above:  A Vineyard

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints


Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor


Genesis 37:3-4, 12-28 (Revised English Bible):

Because Joseph was a child of his old age, Israel loved him best of all his sons, and he made him a long robe with sleeves.  When his brothers saw that their father loved him best, it aroused their hatred and they had nothing but harsh words for him.

Joseph’s brothers had gone to herd their father’s flocks at Shechem.  Israel said to  him,

Your brothers are herding the flocks at Shechem; I am going to send you to them.

Joseph answered,

I am ready to go.

Israel told him to go and see if all was well with his brothers and flocks, and to bring back word to him.  So Joseph was sent off from the vale of Hebron and came to Shechem, where a man met him wandering in the open field and asked him what he was looking for.

I am looking for my brothers,

he replied.

Can you tell me where they are herding the flocks?

The man said,

They have moved from here; I heard them speak of going to Dothan.

Joseph went after his brothers and came up with them at Dothan.  They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

Here comes that dreamer,

they said to one another.

Now is our chance; let us kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns; we can say that a wild beast has devoured him.  Then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.

When Reuben heard, he came to his [Joseph’s] rescue, urging them not to take his [Joseph’s] life.

Let us have no bloodshed

he said.

Throw him into the cistern in the wilderness, but do him no injury.

Reuben meant to rescue him from their clutches in order to restore him to his father.  When Joseph reached his brothers, they stripped him of the long robe with sleeves which he was wearing, picked him up, and threw him into the cistern.  It was empty, with no water in it.

They had sat down to eat when looking up, they saw an Ishmaelite caravan coming from Gilead on the way down to Egypt, with camels carrying gum tragacanth and balm and myrrh.  Judah said to his brothers,

What do we gain from killing our brother and concealing his death? Why not sell him to these Ishmaelites?  Let us do him no harm, for after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood;

his brothers agreed.  Meanwhile some passing Midianite merchants drew Joseph  up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites; they brought Joseph to Egypt.

Psalm 105:16-22 (Revised English Bible):

He [the LORD] called down famine on the land and cut off their daily bread.

But he had sent on a man before them, Joseph, who was sold into slavery,

where they thrust his feet into fetters and clamped an iron collar round his neck.

He was tested by the LORD’s command until what he foretold took place.

The king sent and had him released, the ruler of the people set him free

and made him master of his household, ruler over all his possessions,

to correct his officers as he saw fit and teach his counsellors wisdom.

Matthew 21:33-46 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

Listen to another parable.  There was a landowner who planted a vineyard: he put a wall round it, hewed out a wine-press, and built a watch-tower; then he let it out to vine-growers and went abroad.  When the harvest season approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect the produce due to him.  But they seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another, and stoned a third.  Again, he sent other servants, this time a larger number; and they treated them in the same way.  Finally he sent his son.  ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.  But when they saw the son the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come on, let us kill him, and get his inheritance.’  So they seized him, flung him out of the vineyard, and killed him.  When the owner of the vineyard comes, how do you think he will deal with those tenants?  ‘He will bring those bad men to a bad end,’ they answered, ‘and hand the vineyard over to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop when the season comes.’  Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the main corner-stone.  This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes”?  Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and given to a nation that yields the proper fruit.’

When the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables they saw that he was referring to them.  They wanted to arrest him, but were afraid of the crowds, who looked on Jesus as a prophet.

The Collect:

Grant, O Lord, that as your Son Jesus Christ prayed for his enemies on the cross, so we may have grace to forgive those who wrongfully or scornfully use us, that we ourselves may be able to receive your forgiveness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.


This day we have two stories of jealousy and malefaction.

The Joseph Epic from Genesis was the first Biblical story I read in depth, in July 1988.  Thus I have great fondness for this saga.  Joseph, a younger brother, was his father’s favorite.  The young man received a supervisor’s garment and a special status.  This fact, combined with his chattering about dreams favorable to him, infuriated his brothers, most of whom took out their jealousy on him.  They meant to kill him, but settled on sending him into slavery in Egypt.  With family members like this, who needs enemies?

Later in the narrative Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams places him in the good graces of the Pharaoh, who promotes him to a high position.  And from that office Joseph has an opportunity to punish his brothers or to help and forgive them.  He chooses the latter action.

The Matthew Gospel is a product of marginalized Jewish Christians who had lost the argument for Jesus within their Jewish community.  This fact is essential to understanding that book and this day’s excerpt from it.  God owned the vineyard, the vineyard was the Jewish nation, the prophets were the servants, and Jesus was the murdered son.  So, who were the wicked tenants?

Let us avoid anti-Semitism.  In the text Jesus addresses not all Jews, but “chief priests and elders” in the Temple.  The Jesus of Matthew (unlike the Jesus of Mark) is a proponent of Torah piety, but not the religious authorities.  (The Jesus of Mark opposes the Temple system and Torah piety.)  I conclude that at the time the wicked tenants were those at the Temple who collaborated with the Roman Empire.  More broadly though, the wicked tenants were the bad leaders of the Jewish nation and people over time.

Consider this , also.  Joseph’s brothers and the wicked tenants acted out of jealousy.  Negative emotions lead to bad deeds or the absence of good deeds, and positive emotions culminate in constructive actions.  Yet, God can use even the circumstances we create via our malefaction to bring about positive results.  That demonstrates divine sovereignty.





Adapted from this post:


Posted February 10, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 37, Matthew 21, Psalm 105

Tagged with

Hearing and Doing   1 comment

Above: Grapes (as in the father’s vineyard from the Gospel reading)


Zephaniah 3:1-13 (Revised English Bible):

Woe betide the tyrant city,

filthy and foul!

She heeded no warning voice,

took no rebuke to heart;

she did not put her trust in the LORD,

nor did she draw near to her God.

The leaders within her were roaring lions,

her rulers wolves of the plain

that left nothing over till morning.

Her prophets were reckless and perfidious;

her priests profaned the sanctuary

and did violence to the law.

But the LORD in her midst is just;

he does no wrong;

morning after morning he gives his judgment,

every day without fail;

yet the wrongdoer knows no shame.

I have wiped out this arrogant people;

their bastions are demolished.

I have destroyed their streets;

no one walks among them.

Their cities are laid waste,

abandoned and unpeopled.

I said,

Surely she will fear me;

and will take my instruction to heart,

all the commands I laid on her

that her dwelling-place might escape destruction.

But they hastened all the more

to perform their evil deeds.

Therefore wait for me, says the LORD,

wait for the day when I stand up to accuse you;

I have decided to gather nations

and assemble kingdoms,

in order to pour my wrath on them,

all my burning anger;

the whole earth will be consumed

by the fire of my jealousy.

Then I shall restore pure lips to all peoples,

that they may invoke the LORD by name

and serve him with one accord.

My worshipers, dispersed beyond the rivers of Cush,

will bring offerings to me.

On that day, Jerusalem,

you will not be put to shame for any of the deeds

by which you have rebelled against me,

because I shall rid you then

of your proud and arrogant citizens,

and never again will you flaunt your pride

on my holy mountain.

I shall leave a remnant in you,

lowly and poor people.

The survivors in Israel will find refuge in the LORD’s name.

They will do no wrong, nor speak lies;

no words of deceit will pass their lips;

they will feed and lie down

with no one to terrify them.

Psalm 34:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

I shall bless the LORD at all times;

his praise will be ever on my lips.

In the LORD I shall glory;

the humble will hear and be glad.

Glorify the LORD with me;

let us exult his name together.

I sought the LORD’s help; he answered me

and set me free from all my fears.

They who look to him are radiant with joy;

they will never be put out of countenance.

Here is the one who cried out in his affliction;

the LORD heard him and saved him from all his troubles.

The angel of the LORD is on guard

round those who fear him, and he rescues them.

Taste and see that the LORD is good.

Happy are those who find refuge in him!

Matthew 21:28-32 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

But what do you think about this?  There was a man who had two sons.  He went to the first, and said, ‘My son, go and work today in the vineyard.’  ‘I will, sir,’ the boy replied; but he did not go.  The father came to the second and said the same.  ‘I will not,’ he replied; but afterwards he changed his mind and went.  Which of the two did what the father wanted?

They replied,

The second.

Then Jesus said,

Truly I tell you: tax collectors and prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For when John came to show you the right way to live, and you did not believe him, but the tax-collectors and the prostitutes did; and even when you had seen that, you did not change your minds and believe him.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


It is not enough to hear what God.  No, one must listen in that way which leads to action.

I suspect that much disobedience to God flows from misunderstanding, not purposeful evasion.  In the name of God people have embarked on Crusades, Inquisitions, and religious wars.  In the name of God people continue to slaughter others and/or lay heavy and needless burdens on their fellow human beings, not recognizing the equality which flows from the image of God each of us bears and from the Holy Spirit, which respects no human-defined boundaries.  Often many of we mere mortals accept as proper the reality in which we socialize.

Yet the road to Hell is paved with good intentions.

Actually, deeds reveal creeds.  Talk is cheap, but actions tell the truth.  So repentant tax collectors (Roman collaborators and tax thieves) and prostitutes were better off spiritually than certain members of the religious respectable class.

As the prophet Samuel said when he anointed the young David, God looks inward; people look at the outside.





Adapted from this post:


Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 21, Psalm 34, Zephaniah 3

Tagged with

The Authority of Jesus, Part I   1 comment

Above: A Catacombs Image of Jesus


Numbers 24:1-7, 15-17a (Revised English Bible):

But now that Balaam knew that the LORD wished him to bless Israel, he did not go and resort to divination as before.  He turned towards the desert, and before his eyes he saw Israel encamped tribe by tribe; and, the spirit of God coming on him, he uttered his oracle:

The word of Balaam son of Beor,

the word of the man whose sight is clear,

the word of him who hears the words of God,

who with opened eyes sees in a trance

the vision from the Almighty;

Jacob, how fair are your tents,

Israel, your encampments,

like long palm groves,

like gardens by a river,

like aloe trees planted by the LORD,

like cedars beside the waters!

The water in his vessels shall overflow,

and his seed shall be like great waters,

so that his king may be taller than Agag,

and his kingdom lifted high….

Then he uttered his oracle:

The word of Balaam son of Beor,

the word of the man whose sight is clear,

the word of him who hears the words of God,

who shares the knowledge of the Most High,

who with opened eyes sees in a trance

the vision from the Almighty:

I see him, but now now;

I behold him, but not near:

a star will come forth out of Jacob,

a comet will arise from Israel….

Psalm 25:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

LORD my God, to you I lift up my heart.

In you I trust:  do not let me be put to shame,

do not let my enemies exult over me.

No one whose enemies exult over me.

No one whose hope is in you is put to shame;

but shame comes to all who break faith without cause.

Make your paths known to me, LORD;

teach me your ways.

Lead me by your faithfulness and teach me,

for you are God my saviour;

in you I put my hope all day long.

Remember, LORD, your tender care and love unfailing,

for they are from of old.

Do not remember the offences of my youth,

but remember me in your unfailing love,

in accordance with your goodness, LORD.

Matthew 21:23-27 (Revised English Bible):

He [Jesus] entered the temple, and, as he was teaching, the chief priests and elders of the nation came up to him and asked:

By what authority are you acting like this?  Who gave you this authority?

Jesus replied,

I also have a question for you.  If you answer it, I will tell you by what authority I act.  The baptism of John:  was it from God, or from men?

This set them arguing among themselves:

If we say, ‘From God,’ we will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’  But if we say, ‘From men,’ we are afraid of the people’s reaction, for they all take John for a prophet.

So they answered,

We do not know.

And Jesus said,

Then I will not tell you either by what authority I act.

The Collect:

Stir up your power, O Lord, and with great might come among us; and, because we are sorely hindered by our sins, let your bountiful grace and mercy speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with you and the Holy Spirit, be honor and glory, now and for ever. Amen.


There was no separation of religion and state in First Century C.E. Judea.  The Roman Empire occupied the Jewish homeland, and competing Jewish sects assumed positions relative to collaborating with the Imperium.  The Temple at Jerusalem was the seat of collaboration, and next door a Roman fortress towered over that complex.  The politics of architecture was impossible to miss.

So Jesus maneuvered a political minefield for years.  (His crucifixion occurred in this historical and social context.)   The Gospels record that religious authority figures asked Jesus questions designed to entrap him and thereby to get him in trouble with the common people or the Roman imperial government.  Yet Jesus, being intelligent and perceptive, understood these facts and answered artfully.  This day’s Gospel reading tells of such an occasion.

The authority of Jesus came from God, of course.  This authority is unassailable, a fact that has not prevented people from attacking it.  Yet the good news is this:  God has won.  God wins.  God will continue to win.

Thanks be to God!





Adapted from this post:


Posted November 18, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 21, Numbers 24, Psalm 25