Archive for the ‘Matthew 7’ Category

Four Houses   Leave a comment

Above:   The Clemency of Cyrus II to the Hebrews

Image in the Public Domain

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

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You, O God, are the Holy One who inhabits eternity:

Visit us with the inward vision of your glory, that we who bow our hearts before you,

and obtain that grace you have promised to the lovely;

through Jesus Christ our Saviour.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 155

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Haggai 1:3-9; 2:2-3

Psalm 49

2 Peter 3:8-14

Matthew 7:24-29

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The themes of trusting in and demonstrating reverence for God, motifs in the Bible, recur in these assigned readings.  Haggai 1 and 2 concern the construction of the Second Temple at Jerusalem.  The delayed start of that project indicates a lack of respect, we read.  When we return to Psalm 49 we read that people should trust not in riches, which they cannot take with them after they die, but in God alone.  The lesson from 2 Peter reminds s that we should be grateful that God is patient, granting numerous opportunities for repentance.  Judgment will come eventually, after all.  Once again we read of the balance of divine judgment and mercy.  The parable in Matthew 7 reminds us to build on the rock of God–Jesus, in particular–not to take the quick and easy way that leads to destruction when the rains fall, the floods come, and the winds blow.

That parable contains echoes of wisdom literature.  In Proverbs 9:1-6 we read of the house that Lady Wisdom (the personification of divine wisdom) has built, and to which she has invited fools to the banquet of repentance.  Then, in Proverbs 14:1 we read:

Wisdom builds herself a house;

with her own hands Folly pulls it down.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

The storms in the parable are, in the context of the New Testament, the consequences to Christians for following Jesus, not Roman imperial social norms.  One, without committing the error of mistaking serial contrariness for piety, can legitimately replace Roman imperial social norms with the patterns of one’s society that run contrary to the ethics of Jesus.  One might even successfully invite fools to the banquet of repentance, by grace.

Lady Wisdom continues to build her house.  Lady Folly persists in attempting to demolish it.  May Lady Wisdom win the struggle.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILARY OF POITIERS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS, “ATHANASIUS OF THE WEST,” AND HYMN WRITER; MENTOR OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN KEIMANN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENTIGERN (MUNGO), ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF GLASGOW

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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Enemies and Repentance   Leave a comment

Above:  The (United) Kingdom of Israel and the Divided Monarchy

Scanned from Hammond’s World Atlas–Classics Edition (1957)

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

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Lord, we ask you to keep your household the Church in continual godliness,

that through your protection it may be free from all adversities,

and devoutly given to serve you in good works, to the glory of your name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

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Obadiah 1-4, 15-17a, 21

Psalm 35

Colossians 3:1-15

Matthew 7:15-23

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The readings for this week remind us of the importance of words and deeds.  The perfidy of the Moabites as well as the faithless Israelites dooms them in Obadiah.  The author of Psalm 35 asks God to destroy his (the author’s enemies).  The counterpoint that comes to my mind immediately is the Book of Jonah, in which God grants enemies of the Israelites an opportunity to repent, and therefore to avert destruction, but Jonah objects.  No, he has the attitude of the author of Psalm 35.  We read in Colossians 3 that we have an obligation to put away, among other things,

human anger, hot temper, malice, abusive language, and dirty talk.

–Verse 8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Our grand tour of scripture ends in Matthew 7, where we read that (1) one will know a tree by its fruits and (2) not all who think they do the will of God actually do so.  Words and deeds cannot save us, but they can condemn us.

Should we not be better than our foes?  Should we not rejoice when they repent?  Should we not want them to be peaceable, godly people?  The issue is not them but us.  What kind of people are we?  And what kind of people are we becoming?  After all, divine judgment and mercy are even-handed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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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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The Golden Rule and Other Timeless Principles   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Good Samaritan

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Lord, you have taught us that all our doings without unconditional, sacrificial love are worth nothing.

Send your Holy Spirit, and pour into our hearts that most excellent gift of love,

the very bond of peace and of all virtues, without whosoever lives is counted dead before you.

Grant this for the sake of your only Son Jesus Christ.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 86

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Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18

Psalm 47

Ephesians 4:17-32

Luke 10:25-37

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God is the King, Psalm 47 reminds us.  Furthermore, the text states, all nations should acknowledge this reality.  Not only is this true, but so are the following statements:

  1. We depend on God for everything.
  2. We depend on each other.
  3. We are responsible for each other.
  4. We are responsible to each other.
  5. We are interdependent and dependent, not independent.
  6. We have no moral right to exploit one another.
  7. How we treat each other matters.
  8. Piety (or at least the appearance thereof) does not justify not helping each other.

Those statements, taken together, summarize the readings from Leviticus 19, Ephesians 4, and Luke 10 well.  To that list of statements I add another:  The identity of those who help us might prove so surprising as to be scandalous to many.

I notice the selective reading from Leviticus 19.  I have no desire to insult the deaf or to place a stumbling block before the blind, for example, so verse 14 does not disturb me.  Many other omitted verses also prompt me to respond with, “Of course that is a fine law.”  Some of them are timeless principles, but others are culturally specific examples of such principles.  The particulars of verses 9 and 10 might not apply at all times and in all places, but the commandment to provide for the poor remains.  I note, however, that verses 20-22 allow for slavery.  Furthermore, the wardrobe prohibition in verse 19 applies neither to priestly vestments (see Exodus 28:6 and 39:29) nor forbids mandatory fringes on Israelite clothing (see Numbers 15:37-40).  The wording of certain passages of the Law of Moses, taken out of context, makes those passages seem more cut-and-dried than they really are.

Biblical interpretation is a frequently complicated and subtle enterprise.  So as to avoid becoming lost in the proverbial forest and slipping into legalism, I side with the tradition of Rabbi Hillel:

That which is deplorable to you, do not do to your fellow; this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary; go and learn it.

We read in Matthew 5:17-20 that Jesus came to fulfill, not to abolish, the law.  The critique of scribes and Pharisees in the Gospel of Matthew is that they do not keep the law properly.  We also read the following in Matthew 7:12:

In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That is the Golden Rule.  It means no slavery, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

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In Praise of Mere Decency   2 comments

Always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the law and the prophets.

–Matthew 7:12, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Human depravity is not an article of faith for me.  No, it is a documented and proven reality.  Faith comes into play in the absence of confirmation or contradiction by standard means of human knowledge.  For evidence of human depravity one need to look no further than the comments sections of many websites.  Between those who post incendiary and insulting material for the purpose of stirring the pot, so to speak, and those who mean it I find many reasons for grave concern about human nature.

In contrast I praise mere decency.  One should do x because it is the morally correct course of action, not because one seeks a reward for it.  I praise the simple act of striving to live according to the Golden Rule, regardless of one’s situation and station in life.  The operative status is that of a human being with a pulse.  I extol the virtues of mere decency, regardless of whether one is a neighbor, a teacher, a student, an employee, a coworker, a boss, a private citizen, or a potentate.  I praise decency wherever it is present.  I condemn the absence of decency wherever that is a reality.  This is a matter of principle for me, as I seek, by grace, to be more decent than I am.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 2, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORG WEISSEL, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA BERNADINE DOROTHY HOPPE, U.S. LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN GOTTFRIED GEBHARD, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSIC EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF PETER JULIAN EYMARD, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT, THE SERVANTS OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT, AND THE PRIESTS’ EUCHARISTIC LEAGUE; AND ORGANIZER OF THE CONFRATERNITY OF THE BLESSED SACRAMENT

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2017/08/02/in-praise-of-mere-decency/

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Posted August 18, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 7

Tagged with

Good and Bad Fruit   2 comments

Above:   An Olive Tree

Image in the Public Domain

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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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1 Samuel 28:7-8, 11-25

Psalm 6

2 Peter 2:1-3, 17-22

Matthew 7:13-17

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Psalm 6, with its references to death, fits well with the reading from 1 Samuel 28, in which King Saul, in violation of Jewish law, consults a necromancer.  She is actually a somewhat sympathetic character, for she cares about the monarch’s well-being.  Meanwhile, one gets the impression that Saul has neglected his duties.  I do not agree, however, that committing genocide is a king’s duty.

With great power comes great responsibility, as an old saying tells us.  This is true in both secular and sacred settings.  In 2 Peter 2, for example, we read condemnations of certain early Christian leaders who, out of embarrassment, sought to reconcile Christianity with pagan permissiveness.  As we read in Matthew 7, good trees bear good fruit and bad trees bear bad fruit.

And committing genocide is definitely bad fruit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LEONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITING, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-ackerman/

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Did I Say Anything?   Leave a comment

You will not exact vengeance on, or bear any sort of grudge against, the members of your race, but will love you neighbour as yourself.  I am Yahweh.

–Leviticus 19:18, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Do to no one what you would not want done to you.

–Tobit 4:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Judge your fellow-guest’s needs by your own,

be thoughtful in every way.

–Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 31:15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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So always treat others as you would like them to treat you; that is the Law and the Prophets.

–Matthew 7:12, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Treat others as you would like people to treat you.

–Luke 6:31, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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After all, brothers, you were called to be free; do not abuse your freedom as an opening for self-indulgence, but be servants to one another in love, since the whole of the Law is summarised in the one commandment: You must love your neighbour as yourself.  If you go on snapping at one another and tearing one another to pieces, you will be eaten up by one another.

–Galatians 5:13-15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Once upon a time I cared deeply about having and winning arguments, whether they were by electronic or personal means.  I sought to have the last word and to convince the other person or people of the superiority of my logic, intellect, and morality.  I was, of course, obnoxious, arrogant, and presumptuous, among other adjectives.

Now I seldom argue with anyone.  Silence implies not consent but the fact that I consider an argument to be unnecessary and possibly unwise, or at least not productive.  Really, will two or more people shouting at each other change the minds of anyone participating in the shouting match?  This scenario is far removed from an intellectual discourse.  Furthermore, I do not enjoy having to endure someone shouting at me and possibly insulting my intelligence and/or morality, so I choose to obey the Golden Rule by not doing unto the other person as he or she is doing unto me.

Usually such an unpleasant event starts without me saying anything.  On the rare occasion that I something I say triggers the shouted monologue, I have not sought to offend anyone.  Only once (as far as I recall) has my question,

Did I say anything?,

halted the monologue.  Anyhow, I, heeding the advice in Galatians 5, refuse to shout in return most of the time.  I am a flawed human being, after all, so my track record is imperfect.  I do, however, know what I ought to do and seek to act accordingly.  My purpose is not to be right; it is to be correct.  My purpose is not to be right; it is to avoid being arrogant, presumptuous, and obnoxious, among other adjectives.

That is a worthy goal, one for which I depend on grace for any degree of success.  The ability to control one’s temper–to refrain from striking out physically and/or verbally, and to avoid doing anything else one will have cause to regret later–is a learned skill.  I recognize that I have an obligation to exercise my responsibility with regard to how I act in these situations.  I choose not to pour gasoline on a proverbial fire.  Nevertheless, I know that not responding in kind frequently angers the other person and makes the situation worse in the short term.  If I were to argue in return, however, that course of action would have the same result in the short term and make matters worse in the medium term, at least.  And, if I were to pretend to agree with a proposition I oppose, I would be a liar.  C’est la vie.  Sometimes the fire must burn out on its own.

The tongue, James 3:6 reminds us, is a flame.  One can extend that teaching to pens, pencils, Twitter posts, Facebook memes, remarks in the comments sections of websites, et cetera.  Much of the time remaining silent, not sharing a meme, or not posting a comment is the better course of action.  Not giving into one’s anger and acting badly is preferable to ignoring the Golden Rule.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 22, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-SIXTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK AND WILLIAM TEMPLE, ARCHBISHOPS OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS CHAEREMON AND ISCHYRION, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF HENRY BUDD, FIRST ANGLICAN NATIVE PRIEST IN NORTH AMERICA; MISSIONARY TO THE CREE NATION

THE FEAST OF JAMES PRINCE LEE, BISHOP OF MANCHESTER

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