Archive for the ‘Matthew 5’ Category

Humility and Arrogance, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, in choosing the virgin Mary to be the mother of your Son,

you made known your gracious regard for the poor and the lowly and the despised.

Grant us grace to receive your Word in humility, and so made one with your Son,

Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

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

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 33

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10

Psalm 113

Romans 12:9-16b

Luke 1:39-57

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Depending on the date of Easter, and therefore of Pentecost, the Feast of the Visitation can fall in either the season of Easter or the Season after Pentecost.

The history of the Feast of the Visitation has been a varied one.  The feast, absent in Eastern Orthodoxy, began in 1263, when St. Bonaventure introduced it to the Order of Friars Minor (the Franciscans), which he led.  Originally the date was July 2, after the octave of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (June 24).  Pope Urban VI approved the feast in 1389, the Council of Basel authorized it in 1441, propers debuted in the Sarum breviary of 1494, and Pope Pius V added the feast to the general calendar in 1561.  In 1969, during the pontificate of Paul VI, Holy Mother Church moved the Feast of the Visitation to May 31, in lieu of the Feast of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which Pope Pius XII had instituted in 1954.  The Episcopal Church added the Feast of the Visitation to its calendar in The Book of Common Prayer (1979).  The feast had long been July 2 in The Church of England and much of Lutheranism prior to 1969.  Subsequent liturgical revision led to the transfer of the feast to May 31 in those traditions.

The corresponding Eastern Orthodox feast on July 2 commemorates the placing of the Holy Robe of the Mother of God in the church at Blachernae, a suburb of Constantinople.

The theme of humility is prominent in the assigned readings and in the Lutheran collect I have quoted.  A definition of that word might therefore prove helpful.  The unabridged Webster’s New Twentieth Century Dictionary of the English Language (1951), a tome, defines humility as

Freedom from pride and arrogance; humbleness of mind; a modest estimate of one’s own worth; also, self-abasement, penitence for sin.

Humility refers to lowliness and, in the Latin root, of being close to the ground.  God raising up the lowly is a Lukan theme, as is God overthrowing the arrogant.  After all, the woes (Luke 6:24-26) follow the Beatitudes (6:20-25), where Jesus says,

Blessed are you who are poor,

not

Blessed are you who are poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3).

The first will be last and the last will be first, after all.

Wherever you are, O reader, you probably live in a society that celebrates the boastful, the arrogant.  The assigned readings for this day contradict that exultation of the proud, however.  They are consistent with the ethic of Jeremiah 9:22-23:

Yahweh says this,

“Let the sage not boast of wisdom,

nor the valiant of valour,

nor the wealthy of riches!

But let anyone who wants to boast, boast of this:

of understanding and knowing me.

For I am Yahweh, who acts with faithful love,

justice, and uprightness on earth;

yes, these are what please me,”

Yahweh declares.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. Paul the Apostle channeled that ethic in 1 Corinthians 1:31 and 2 Corinthians 10:17, among other passages.

That which he understood well and internalized, not without some struggle, remains relevant and timeless.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, CHRISTIAN APOLOGIST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN-WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/01/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-visitation-of-mary-to-elizabeth-years-a-b-c-and-d-humes/

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Faithful Servants of God, Part IX   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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 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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Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, 11-18 or Ezekiel 34:1-10

Psalm 9:1-10

Galatians 4:1-16

Matthew 5:38-48

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As Koheleth and Jesus tell us, the way of the world is that righteous people suffer, both the righteous and the wicked prosper, and God is in control.  The combination of those three statements might seem incongruous.  Throughout the Book of Psalms righteous people cry out to God for deliverance from oppression.  Often they are understandably angry, but Christ tells us to pray for our persecutors and to love our enemies.  Interestingly, nowhere does the Hebrew Bible command anyone to love one’s enemies, and, as we have read previously in this series of posts, God prospers that the wicked change their ways and find mercy.  Yet many of the wicked refuse to repent, so the divine deliverance of the oppressed becomes bad news for oppressors.

The call to radical love thunders off the pages of the Sermon on the Mount.  We are to trust in God, not ourselves, and be so loving as to seem foolish to many.  Such love breaks the cycle of anger, resentment, revenge, and violence.  We, as inheritors, by grace, and adopted members of the household of God, are free to do that, if we dare.

May we dare accordingly.  Then we, by grace, will be suited for our purpose, or, as Matthew 5:48 puts it, perfect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Faithful Servants of God, Part VIII   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Abraham

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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 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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Ecclesiastes 5:1-7 or Ecclesiastes 6 or Ezekiel 33:1-11

Psalm 7:1, 11-18

Galatians 3:19-29

Matthew 5:21-37

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Words matter, for they have power.  Today we read this in Ecclesiastes 5 and Matthew 5.  We have a moral obligation to refrain from all abusive language (such as Raqa, in the context of the culture of Matthew 5) and evasive language purposefully devoid of meaning (such as clever oaths in Matthew 5).

Actions matter also.  As much as God desires that the wicked repent, we mere mortals ought to seek reconciliation in disputes.  Accomplishing this is not always possible, for reconciliation requires more than one conciliatory party.  In such a case the desire to reconcile is laudable, at least.

The prayer from Psalm 7:9 that the wicked would cease to do harm and the reign of righteousness would begin is a timeless one.  I pray it often, for that would be a welcome change of reality.  Such a radical restructuring of the world requires an act of God, whose law Christ fulfills.

These admonitions can prove difficult to keep in one’s life.  We cannot succeed by our own strength of will.  Yes, our good intentions are laudable; God can work with them.  Yet we require grace to succeed in this noble endeavor.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Faithful Servants of God, Part VII   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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 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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Ecclesiastes 4:1-12 or Ezekiel 22:23-31

Psalm 6

Galatians 3:1-11

Matthew 5:13-21

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Peeking behind the Law of Moses is a spiritually helpful practice.  Some commandments in the Law of Moses are timeless principles.  Others, however, are culturally specific examples.  Failure to recognize between an example bound by time and space and a timeless principle leads to legalism.

Reading Galatians 3:1-11 and Matthew 5:13-20 together is quite helpful.  We read that Jesus never objected to the Law of Moses, but to the misinterpretation, bad teaching, and flawed execution of it.  That also seems to have been an objection of St. Paul the Apostle.

The other readings pertain to oppression.  We read of violations of one timeless principle in the Law of Moses–do not exploit anyone.  We read of religious figures and royal officials who were predators of the weak and vulnerable.  Alas, this problem is as current in 2018 as it was in antiquity.  So is the sin of certain religious figures supporting those predatory potentates and officials.

The timeless principles of the Law of Moses continue to condemn those who sin thusly.  Indeed, apart from variations on themes, there is nothing new under the sun.

Do we condemn or condone such perfidy?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Faithful Servants of God, Part VI   1 comment

Above:  Chapel of the Beatitudes, Galilee, 1940

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-20815

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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 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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Ecclesiastes 3:1-14, 20-22 or Ezekiel 18:1-9, 25-32

Psalm 5

Galatians 2:14-21

Matthew 5:1-12

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I, as a member of a monthly book group, have been reading Jonathan T. Pennington’s Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew, a volume that overturns more than a century of scholarly consensus.  Pennington rejects the idea, ubiquitous in sermons, Sunday School lessons, commentaries, and study Bibles, that “Kingdom of Heaven” is a reverential circumlocution–a way to avoid saying “God.”  He posits that “Kingdom of Heaven” actually refers to God’s rule on the Earth, that the “Kingdom of Heaven” is essentially the New Jerusalem, still in opposition to the world.  God will, however, take over the world, thereby resolving the tension.

The Kingdom of Heaven, we read in the Beatitudes, belongs to those who know their need for God and who experience persecution for the sake of righteousness.  They would certainly receive the kingdom, I agree.

Justification is a theme in Galatians 2.  There we read an expression of the Pauline theology of justification by faith, not by works or the Law of Moses.  This seems to contradict James 2:24, where we read that justification is by works and not by faith alone.  It is not actually a disagreement, however, given the different definitions of faith in the thought of James and St. Paul the Apostle.  Both of them, one learns from reading their writings and dictations, affirmed the importance of responding to God faithfully.  The theme of getting one’s act together and accepting one’s individual responsibility for one’s actions fits well with Ezekiel 18, which contradicts the theology of intergenerational guilt and merit found in Exodus 20:5.

How we behave matters very much; all of the readings affirm this.  Thus our actions and inactions have moral importance.  Do we comfort those who mourn?  Do we show mercy?  Do we make peace?  Do we seek to be vehicles of divine grace to others?  Hopefully we do.  And we can succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 20, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SEBASTIAN CASTELLIO, PROPHET OF RELIGIOUS FREEDOM

THE FEAST OF CHRISTOPHER WORDSWORTH, HYMN WRITER AND ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA JOSEFA SANCHO DE GUERRA, FOUNDRESS OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE SERVANTS OF JESUS

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL RODIGAST, GERMAN LUTHERAN ACADEMIC AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Peace With Justice   Leave a comment

Above:  Apotheosis of War, by Vasily Vereshchagin

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR WORLD ORDER SUNDAY, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, the King of righteousness, lead us in ways of justice and peace;

inspire us to break down all tyranny and oppression,

to gain for all people their due reward, and from all people their due service,

that each may live for all and may care for each;

in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 191

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Micah 4:1-5

Psalm 43

James 4:1-12

Matthew 5:43-48

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The theme of World Order Sunday, in October, was peace with justice.

The prophet Micah predicted a glorious future in which Jerusalem would be the political and spiritual center of the world, complete with Gentiles streaming to the holy city to study the Torah.  Another aspect of that prediction was the end of warfare.

That remains an unfulfilled prediction, unfortunately.  Psalm 43, James 4:1-12, and Matthew 5:43-48 remain as relevant as when each was a new texts.  The causes of conflict, as always, are troubled people.  Yet we can, by grace, love our enemies and seek their redemption, not their destruction, or at least leave them alone and get on with our lives.  Sometimes the former is unattainable initially, but the latter is a good start.  It is certainly better than nursing a grudge.

Whoever said

You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy

was not quoting the Jewish Bible.  Certain revenge fantasies in the Book of Psalms aside, Leviticus 19:18 forbade seeking vengeance or bearing a grudge against fellow Hebrews and ordered people to love the neighbors as they loved themselves.  Jesus made the commandment universal.  He also challenged his followers to be perfect–in this case, suited for one’s purpose.

In Christ one’s purpose entails being filled with God’s love, not seeking revenge or nursing grudges.  That is a great challenge, one we can accomplish only via divine power.  When we struggle with that challenge, at least we are trying; that much is positive.

On stages ranging from the individual to the global the peace of sweeping the past under the proverbial rug is a brittle and temporary one.  Although confession need not necessarily precede forgiveness, honesty regarding what one has done is a crucial component of clearing the air mutually.  Once the naming of the sins has ended, a new relationship founded on honesty and shalom can begin.  Getting there can be quite difficult–even emotionally taxing and politically inconvenient–but it is worthwhile.  It is also the way we will avoid blowing ourselves up.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 15, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER AND MARTYR

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Lead Us Not Into Temptation   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Lord’s Prayer

Image in the Public Domain

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And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.  Amen.

–Matthew 6:13, Authorized Version

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…et ne nos indicas in temptatiónem; sed libera nos a malo.

…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

–from The Roman Missal (2010)

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It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.  I am the one who falls.  It’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen.  A father doesn’t do that; a father helps you get up immediately.  It’s Satan who leads us into temptation; that’s his department.

–Pope Francis, December 2017

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The Holy Father is correct.

James 1:13-15 agrees with him:

Never, when you are being put to the test, say, “God is tempting me;”  God cannot be tempted by evil, and he does not put anybody to the test.  Everyone is put to the test by being attracted and seduced by that person’s own wrong desire.  Then the desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and when sin reaches full growth, it gives birth to death.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Translations (mostly Roman Catholic ones, on purpose, in this post) of Matthew 6:13, with its two lines, fall into several categories.  As for the first line, many translations (including the Rheims-Challoner New Testament, 1582/1749-1752; the Confraternity Version, 1941; and the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Version, 2002), ask that God not lead one into temptation.  The Jerusalem Bible (1966) and The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) are some of the translations in which one asks,

And do not put us to the test.

In The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) we read,

…and do not subject us to the final test,

but deliver us from the evil one.

Similar to that translation are versions in which one asks for deliverance

from the time of trial,

as in The Book of Common Prayer (1979), which also provides the option of praying

And lead us not into temptation,

in the traditional version of the Lord’s Prayer.  The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) also falls into the category of asking for deliverance from “the evil one,” not from “evil.”

My reading of commentaries has revealed a narrow range of interpretations of Matthew 6:13.  There is a consensus that (1) God does not tempt anyone, per James 1:13-15; and (2) the second petition should be for deliverance from “the evil one,” not generalized evil.  The main differences relate to the interpretation of what the first petition means.  One camp argues that it is simply a request for God to remove temptation or for the ability to resist temptation in the here and now.  Douglas R. A. Hare, author of the 1993 commentary on the Gospel of Matthew for the Interpretation series, suggests a translation:

Grant me strength to resist temptation.

–Page 70

He stands in line with Sherman E. Johnson, writing in Volume VII (1951) of The Interpreter’s Bible:

The word rendered temptation might mean “trial” or “persecution,” but the petition is usually taken as a request that God will remove occasions of sin or the evil impulse which usually prompts sin.  God’s omnipotence and providence are, as always, assumed; but there is no reflection on the question raised by Jas. 1:13-14, “Does God tempt man?”

–Page 314

Another school of thought holds that the passage has an eschatological and apocalyptic tone, that the “time of testing” of “final test” will happen prior to the return of the Messiah, during the “Messianic woes.”  The first petition thereby becomes a request that God will spare the faithful from those persecutions.  W.D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, writing in Matthew:  A Shorter Commentary (2004), agree with this interpretation:

All temptation belongs to the latter days.

–Page 95

M. Eugene Boring, writing in Volume VIII (1995) of The New Interpreter’s Bible, agrees with this conclusion.

Eschatology permeates the Gospel of Matthew in general and the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) in particular.  This fact embarrasses many people; that is their problem.  The eschatological nature of the Gospel of Matthew does not embarrass me–not anymore.  Jonathan T. Pennington, author of Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew (2007), his published dissertation, notes that the Gospel of Matthew uses “Kingdom of God” just four times and “God” fifty-one times.  Pennington, who analyzes the different uses of “Heaven” in the Gospel of Matthew, pushes back against the consensus that “Kingdom of Heaven” is a reverential circumlocution.  He insists that “Kingdom of Heaven” is usually an apocalyptic term for God’s physical kingdom on the Earth.  Pennington does write, after all, of the frequent contrasts between Heaven and earth in the Gospel of Matthew.

The eschatological reading of the first petition in Matthew 6:13 is correct, at least ultimately.  In the meantime, to pray for strength to resist temptation is proper, as is asking God to remove temptations.  We are weak creatures, “but dust” (Psalm 103:14).  As a cocktail napkin I recall reads,

LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION.  I CAN FIND MY OWN WAY.

We can avoid that path much of the time, by grace, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF RAOUL WALLENBERG, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF CHICO MENDES, “GANDHI OF THE AMAZON”

THE FEAST OF ROBERT CAMPBELL, SCOTTISH EPISCOPALIAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ADVOCATE AND HYMN WRITER

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