Archive for the ‘Matthew 7’ Category

Eschatological Ethics III: Passing Judgment   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of St. John the Baptist

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Third Sunday of Advent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O Lord, keep us watchful for the appearing of thy beloved Son,

and grant that, in all the changes of this world, we may be strengthened by thy steadfast love;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom with

thee and the Holy Spirit be glory, world without end.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 117

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

1 Corinthians 3:18-4:5

Matthew 3:1-11

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Until God ushers in Matthew’s Kingdom of Heaven–the fully realized rule of God on Earth, replacing corrupt systems and institutions, the question of eschatological ethics remains current and germane.

We read some of St. Paul the Apostle’s advice in 1 Corinthians 4–pass no premature judgment.  We also read St. John Baptist’s critique of many Pharisees and Sadducees in Matthew 3–

Brood of vipers.

I propose that St. John’s judgment was not premature, but based on evidence.

One might supplement St. Paul’s counsel with that of Christ in Matthew 7:1-5 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985):

Do not judge, and you will not be judged; because the judgements you give will be the judgements you get, and the standard you use will be the standard used for you.  Why do you observe the splinter in your brother’s eye and never notice the great log in your own?  And how dare you say to your brother, “Let me take that splinter out of your eye,” when, look, there is a great log in your own?  Hypocrite!  Take the log out of your own eye first, and then you will see clearly enough to take the splinter out of your brother’s eye.

One who knows the Bible well can think of examples of various Hebrew prophets, Jesus, and St. Paul issuing judgments, usually while speaking with authority from God.  However, one must, if one is to be intellectually honest, admit that some judgments are wrong, in more than one way.

“Cretans are always liars, vicious brutes, lazy gluttons.” That testimony is true.

–Titus 1:12b-13a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Whether St. Paul affirmed that nasty statement about Cretans or someone writing in his name did remains a matter of scholarly debate.  The unfortunate statement exists within the canon of the New Testament, though.

Sometimes we must make judgments–ones based on objective evidence.  To call a spade a spade, so to speak; to condemn injustice; to speak truth to power; is a moral imperative.  True statements are neither slanderous nor libelous.  Cynical people and desperate partisans in a state of denial may call true statements “fake news,” but objective truth is never fake.  As John Adams observed,

Facts are stubborn things.

James 3:1-12 offers timeless advice regarding the use of the tongue; we have a moral duty to control it.  That counsel also applies to the written word and to social media.  Condemning the unjustifiable is appropriate, but ruining reputations and lives without evidence is always wrong.  It is also commonplace, unfortunately.

“Brood of vipers” indeed!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF EMILY HUNTINGTON MILLER, U.S. METHODIST AUTHOR AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON SCHLEGAL, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

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Affirming the Dignity of Work in Words and Deeds, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Labor Day, by Samuel D. Ehrhart

Published in Puck Magazine, September 1, 1909

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-26406

FOR LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) contains a collect and assigned readings for Labor Day.

Interdependence is a cardinal virtue in the Law of Moses.  Interdependence is also obvious, or should be.  Somehow, especially in the global West, the idea of rugged individualism persists.  Yet, no matter how hard or well one works, one drives on roads other people built, relies on technology other people invented or maintain, and depends on many other people might guess at first thought.  Anyone who can read this post with comprehension relies on hosts of educators, for example.

As I affirm that I depend on the work of others, just as others depend on my work, I also affirm the dignity of work.  Therefore, I argue for certain propositions:

  1. Nobody should have to work in a death trap or a sweatshop;
  2. All wages should be living wages;
  3. People should work to live, not live to work;
  4. Union organizing and collective bargaining should be inviolable rights; and
  5. Access to affordable, quality health care is an inalienable right.

Nobody has a moral right to exploit anyone else.  No institution has a moral right to exploit any person.  After all, people should be more important than profits.

Furthermore, all work should benefit societies or communities.  By this standard most jobs pass the test.  We need plumbers and bus drivers, for example, but we also need actors, poets, and novelists.  In a just world teachers, librarians, police officers, and fire fighters would be some of the best paid professionals, but that is not the world in which we live, unfortunately.  It can be, however.  A society is what its members make it.  Sufficient force of public opinion, applied well, changes policies.  The major obstacle to positive social change is resignation to the current reality.

Furthermore, the best kind of work is also indistinguishable from play.  Work ought not only to provide financial support for one but also fulfill intangible needs.  Work, at its best, is something one who performs it enjoys.  Work should improve, not detract from, one’s quality of life.

Work does, of course, assume many forms, at home and out like the home.  One should never forget that a stay-at-home parent is a working parent.  One should never forget that one who leaves the labor force to become a caregiver for a relative is still working, just without wages.  One should acknowledge that those who, for various reasons, cannot join the labor force, are valuable members of society, and that many of them can contribute greatly to society, if others will permit them to do so.  Whenever a society holds back any of its members, it prevents itself from achieving its potential.

May we remember also that, as valuable as work is, rest and leisure are vital also.  Ideally one will balance the three properly.  We know that the brain requires a certain amount of sleep–especially REM sleep–to function properly.  We know that the correct amount of rest is necessary for the body to function properly.  We know that leisure makes for better employees.

Work, at its best, is a gift from God.  It is a gift for divine glory and the meeting of human needs.  Work, at its best, builds up (sometimes literally, sometimes figuratively) individuals, families, communities, societies, nation-states, and the world.  One’s work, at its best, is a vocation from God; it occupies the intersection of one’s greatest joys and the world’s deepest needs.

May you, O reader, find your work fulfilling in every way.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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Almighty God, you have so linked our lives with one another

that all we do affects, for good or ill, all other lives:

So guide us in the work we do, that we may do it not for self alone, but for the common good;

and, as we seek a proper return for our own labor,

make us mindful of the rightful aspirations of other workers,

and arouse our concern for those who are out of work;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Ecclesiasticus/Wisdom of Sirach 38:27-32

Psalm 107:1-9 or 90:1-2, 16-17

1 Corinthians 3:10-14

Matthew 6:19-24

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), 261, 932

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We invoke thy grace and wisdom, O Lord, upon all men of good will

who employ and control the labor of men.

Amid the numberless irritations and anxieties of their position,

help them to keep a quite and patient temper,

and to rule firmly and wisely, without harshness and anger.

Since they hold power over the bread, the safety, and the hopes of the workers,

may they wield their power justly and with love,

as older brothers and leaders in the great fellowship of labor.

Suffer not the heavenly light of compassion for the weak and the old to be quenched in their hearts.

When they are tempted to sacrifice human health and life for profit,

do thou strengthen their will in the hour of need,

and bring to nought the counsels of the heartless.

May they not sin against thee by using the bodies and souls of men as mere tools to make things.

Raise up among us employers who shall be makers of men as well as of goods.

Give us men of faith who will look beyond the strife of the present,

and catch a vision of a nobler organization of our work,

when all shall still follow the leadership of the ablest,

no longer in fear, but by the glad will of all,

and when all shall stand side by side in a strong and righteous brotherhood of work;

according to thy will in Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Evangelical and Reformed Church, Book of Worship (1947) 382-383

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Ecclesiasticus/Wisdom of Sirach 38:24-34 or Nehemiah 2:1-18

Psalms 124 and 125 or 147

2 Timothy 2:1-15 or Matthew 7:15-27

–General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, A Book of Worship for Free Churches (1948), 409

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/devotion-for-labor-day-u-s-a/

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Vehicles of Grace   1 comment

Above:  Esau Selling His Birthright, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

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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Genesis 25:17-34 or Isaiah 1:1-20 (portions)

Psalm 11

1 Corinthians 1:1-18

Matthew 7:15-29

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Waiting on and trusting in God can be very difficult, but it is the thematic thread uniting these readings.  Nevertheless, some of the figures from certain readings for today seem like unlikely exemplars of waiting on and trusting in God.

The narrative about Jacob portrays Israel in its earthiest and most scandalous appearance in Genesis.  The narrative is not edifying in any conventional religious or moral sense.  Indeed, if one comes to the narrative with such an agenda, the narrative is offensive.  But for that very reason, the Jacob narrative is most lifelike.  It presents Jacob in the crude mixture of motives.  The grandson of the promise is a rascal compared to his faithful grandfather Abraham or his successful father Isaac.  The affirmations of faith in this narrative are especially robust.  The narrator knows that the purposes of God are tangled in a web of self-interest and self-seeking.

–Walter Brueggemann, Genesis (1982), page 204

Saul of Tarsus thought he was obeying God while oppressing Christians.  After realizing his error, he became St. Paul the Apostle, a vital figure in the mission to the Gentiles.

Each of us is imperfect.  All of us can do better.  Each of us can be a vehicle of grace, by grace.  Seeking to obey God is laudable, but how can we succeed?  The judgments of our culture are not always helpful in this matter.  Furthermore, if we think we are listening to God, we might be, but we might also be conducting on internal dialogue instead.  As much as one might try to wait on and trust in God, one might miss the channel, so to speak.

I offer no easy answers because I have none.  Besides, an easy answer to a difficult question is a wrong answer.  I suggest, however, that one is less likely to go wrong by seeking the good of other people rather than by living selfishly.  One might sin in how one seeks to build up others, but at least on is pointing in the right direction.  Yet good intentions are the pavement stones in road to Hell, so one needs grace to make wise decisions daily.  Good intentions are at least good, but they are insufficient.

Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

That truth is a quote from the Westminster Larger Catechism.  The sentence is a fine general statement of principle.  The particulars vary according to the circumstances of life–who, where, and when one is.  May we, by grace, bear good fruit for God, and therefore glorify him, and enjoy him fully forever.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSEEKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; STUDENT OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER , MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; FATHER OF JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/devotion-for-proper-8-year-a-humes/

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Faithful Servants of God, Part XI   1 comment

Above:  Pole Gate, July 1978

Image Source = Library of Congress

Photographer = Suzi Jones

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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 12 or Ezekiel 36:22-36

Psalm 10:1, 14-20

Galatians 6:1-18

Matthew 7:1-14

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To sum up the matter:  fear God, and keep his commandments, since this is the whole duty of man.  For God will call all hidden deeds, good or bad, to judgment.

–Ecclesiastes 12:13-14, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

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Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ.

–Galatians 6:2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The author of Psalm 10’s query remains germane.  Why does God stand far off while the wicked hunt down the poor?  At least God does not always stand far off, although I also wonder about divine timing.

A major theme for this Sunday is how we treat each other.  God seems to care a great deal about that in the Bible.  We are supposed to build up one another, thereby creating an improved common good.  We actually benefit ourselves by putting others first.  This is part of “fearing”–actually, standing in awe of–God.

Selfishness is a difficult habit to break, unfortunately.  May we break it, by grace, and become the people and societies we are supposed to be.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 22, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DEOGRATIAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF CARTHAGE

THE FEAST OF EMMANUEL MOURNIER, PERSONALIST PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF JAMES DE KOVEN, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HUGHES, BRITISH SOCIAL REFORMER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/22/devotion-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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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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