Archive for the ‘Matthew 4’ Category

Thoughts and Questions About the Temptations of Jesus   2 comments

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

Image in the Public Domain

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For St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia

Lent 2019

 

Texts:  Mark 1:12-13; Matthew 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13

Reading the Bible for spiritual formation is an ancient Benedictine practice.  My primary purpose in writing this short piece is to ask, how do the accounts (mainly the Lukan and Matthean ones) of the temptations of Jesus challenge us, both as individuals and a parish, to follow Jesus better than we do.

The Temptation to Turn Stones into Bread

Bread was especially precious in ancient Palestine, with relatively little arable land.

We are blessed to be able to purchase our bread inexpensively at stores.  Bread is abundant in our context, so we probably take it for granted more often than not.  We can, however, think of some tangible needs related to scarcity.

One challenge is not to permit tangible needs to overtake intangible necessities.  We all depend entirely on God and dwell within a web of mutual responsibility and dependence.  According to the late Henri Nouwen, this temptation is the temptation to be relevant.  Relevance is not necessarily bad; in fact, it is frequently positive.  However, maintaining the proper balance of tangible and intangible needs is essential.  Furthermore, Christ’s refusal to cave into the temptation to use his power to make bread—to cease to depend on God—ought to remind us never to imagine that we do not depend entirely on God.

Questions

  1. Do we permit tangible needs to distract us from intangible necessities?  If so, how?
  2. Do we manifest the vain idea that we do not depend entirely on God?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Jump from the Pinnacle of the Temple

Many scholars of the New Testament have proposed what the pinnacle of the Temple was.

That matter aside, this temptation is, according to Nouwen, the temptation to be spectacular.  It is also the temptation to attempt to manipulate God by trying to force God to intervene in a miraculous way.  That effort, like turning stones into bread, would indicate a lack of faith.

We humans frequently like the spectacular, do we not?  We tell ourselves and others that, if only God would do something spectacular, we will believe.  We are like those who, in the Gospels, only wanted Jesus to do something for them, and not to learn from him.

Questions

  1. Does our attraction to the spectacular distract us from the still, small voice of God?  If so, how?
  2. Does our attraction to the spectacular reveal our lack of faith?  If so, how?
  3. Does our attraction to the spectacular unmask our selfishness?  If so, how?

The Temptation to Worship Satan in Exchange for Earthly Authority

Many Palestinian Jews at the time of Christ thought of Satan as the power behind the Roman Empire and of the Roman pantheon as a collection of demons.  Jesus affirmed God the Father as the only source of his identity.

This temptation is about idolatry, power, and morally untenable compromises.

Many well-intentioned people—ministers, politicians, and appointed office holders, for example—have, in the name of doing good, become corrupt and sacrificed their suitability to do good.  They have sacrificed their moral integrity on the altar of amoral realism.

Some compromises are necessary, of course.  As Reinhold Niebuhr reminded us, we cannot help but commit some evil while trying to do good, for human depravity has corrupted social systems and institutions.

Questions

  1. Have we established our identity apart from God?  If so, how?
  2. How have we, with good intentions, committed or condoned evil?
  3. Have we made morally untenable compromises?  If so, how?

The Good News

The good news is both collective and individual.

I discover the principle, then:  that when I want to do right, only wrong is within my reach.  In my inmost self I delight in the law of God, but I perceive in my outward actions a different law, fighting against the law that my mind approves, and making me a prisoner under the law of sin which controls my conduct.  Wretched creature that I am, who is there to rescue me from this state of death?  Who but God?  Thanks be to him through Jesus Christ our Lord!  To sum up then:  left to myself I serve God’s law with my mind, but with my unspiritual nature I serve the law of sin.

–Romans 7:21-25, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Jesus has modeled the way to resist temptation—to trust God and to understand scripture.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 10, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF MARIE-JOSEPH LAGRANGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT AGRIPINNUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT GERMANUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT DROCTOVEUS OF AUTUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OGLIVIE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACARIUS OF JERUSALEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/thoughts-and-questions-about-the-temptations-of-jesus/

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2019/03/10/thoughts-and-questions-about-the-temptations-of-jesus/

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Passing or Failing Spiritual Tests   Leave a comment

Above:  Temptations of Christ

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday in Lent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Almighty God, who givest us our quiet seasons of thought and prayer:

help us now and at all times to find in thee our true peace.

Save us in the hour of trial, deliver us from evil thoughts and desires,

and from the tyranny of outward things.

May we learn of Christ to be strong and brave in the struggle with temptation,

and to over come even as he overcame.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 120-121

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Genesis 22:1-8

2 Corinthians 6:1-10

Matthew 4:1-11

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One’s sole basis of identity should be God, according to Henri J. M. Nouwen, writing in The Way of the Heart (1981).  That standard proves daunting for me, for my ego rests on several factors, including my intellect.

In Matthew 4 we read of the temptations of Jesus.  Analyses of the temptations, with slight variations, follow the same pattern.  Nouwen’s argument is that the temptations were, in order, were “the three great compulsions of the world”:  to be relevant, spectacular, and powerful.  The case according to M. Eugene Boring, writing in Volume VIII (1995) of The New Interpreter’s Bible, follows:

  1. To fulfill messianic expectations and gain political power by feeding the masses,
  2. To demonstrate dramatically that he is the Son of God, and
  3. To serve Satan, to rule as the Roman Emperor did, and to accept and fit in with the status quo.

The case according to Douglas R. A. Hare (1993) is that the temptations were, in order, to distrust God, to dishonor God, and to commit idolatry.

I would be remiss if I chose not to quote the play, Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), set in the U.S. South.  In that paraphrase, Satan tempts Jesus to turn stones into grits.  Jesus replies,

Man doesn’t live by grits alone, but on every word that drips from the lips of God.

–35

I experience no temptation to justify the actions of Abraham in Genesis 22.  My analysis differs from what one may have read and heard elsewhere:  God tested Abraham, and Abraham failed, for he should have argued from the beginning.

Abraham cared more about strangers, on whose behalf he haggled with God in Genesis 18, than he about his sons.  He exiled Ishmael in Genesis 21 and was prepared to kill Isaac in Genesis 22.  Arguing faithfully with God has long been part of Judaism and, by extension, Christianity.  Abraham, at the root of Judaism, had argued with God.  Why was he submissive at this crucial moment?  And how much did he damage his domestic relationships?

I have probably read every traditional rationalization of Genesis 22:1-19.  Not one has satisfied me.

One could write about more than one theme present in 2 Corinthians 6, but verse 3 stands out in my mind.  Erecting spiritual obstacles is a frequent human activity.  One might even mistake doing so for being properly devout.  Who is an outsider?  Who is an insider?  Our answers to those may be predictable, but God’s answers may shock us.  Also, we must trust in God if we are to grow spiritually, but do we really understand divine intentions at crucial moments?

One may wish for a clear–even spectacular–sign or signs.  Yet would we understand those, or would we find the signs distracting and miss the message?  Yes, we would, correct?

I ask God for no spectacular signs.  No, I need simply to pay attention to my surroundings.  As I type these words, the seasons are finally turning–from an abbreviated autumn to an early winter.  The splendor of autumn leaves, cold temperatures, and other wonders of nature satisfy many of my spiritual needs.

Trusting in God remains difficult for me much of the time, but doing so is at least less difficult than it used to be.  Grace accounts for that change.  I trust more progress will ensue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Faithful Servants of God, Part V   1 comment

Above:  Ministry of the Apostles

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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Ecclesiastes 1:2-18 or Ezekiel 11:14-20

Psalm 3

Galatians 2:1-13

Matthew 4:12-25

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If one begins to read Ecclesiastes and gives up quickly, one might mistake the theme of the book to be that all is futility and vanity.  One might ask,

Why bother doing anything?

If, however, one keeps reading and pays attention, one will arrive at the précis of the book, present at its conclusion, in 12:13-14:  The duty of a human being is to stand in awe of God and keep divine commandments, for God is the judge of everything, whether good or evil.

That ethic is consistent with Ezekiel 11:14-20 and Psalm 3.  Fidelity to God does not ensure a life full of ease, wine, ad roses, but it is one’s duty.  It is the duty to which Jesus, who called his Apostles, continues to call people and for which the Holy Spirit continues to equip the saints.

Sometimes, however, in the name of obeying God, well-meaning people establish or maintain barriers to would-be faithful people who are different.  This segue brings me to the reading from Galatians and to the question of circumcising Gentile male converts to Christianity.  On one level it is a matter of a commandment as old as the time of Abraham.  On another level it is a question of identity.  On yet another level it is, for many, a matter of obedience to God.

For St. Paul the Apostle it was a stumbling block to Gentiles.  He was correct.  Fortunately, St. Paul won that debate.

Fidelity to God is supposed to help others come to God, not to make that more difficult than it is already.  May we who follow Christ never be guilty of standing between God and other people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Faithful Servants of God, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  The Temptations of Jesus

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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Ecclesiastes 2:11-26 or Ezekiel 2:1-3:4

Psalm 1

Galatians 1:1-24

Matthew 4:1-11

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The theme of fidelity to God unites these readings.

Fools and wise people die.  One works hard then dies; others inherit.  At least one can be faithful to God and enjoy one’s work during one’s life filled with pain.  That description certainly applies to Ezekiel, Jesus, and St. Paul the Apostle.  Relying on God while surrounded by faithless people, as well as away from the faithless, maddening crowd, one can resist the temptations to seek the easy way out, to be spectacular, to glorify oneself, not to depend on God, to serve evil, to make peace with injustice, et cetera.

As Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote in 1930,

Save us from weak resignation

To the evils we deplore;

Let the search for Thy salvation

Be our glory evermore.

Grant us wisdom, grant us courage,

Serving Thee whom we adore,

Serving Thee whom we adore.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 19, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF NAZARETH, HUSBAND OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/19/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Pointing to God, Not Ourselves   1 comment

Moses Striking the Rock in Horeb

Above:  Moses Strikes the Rock in Horeb, by Gustave Dore

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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Numbers 12:1-16 or 20:1-13 (14-21) 22-29

Psalm 106:(1) 7-18, 24-18 (43-48) or Psalm 95

Luke 1:(57) 58-67 (68-79) 80

Hebrews 3:1-19

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Many times he delivered them,

but they were rebellious in their purposes,

and were brought low through their iniquity.

Nevertheless he regarded their distress

when he heard their cry.

–Psalm 106:43-44, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Massah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me,

and put me to the proof, though you had seen my work.

–Psalm 95:8-9, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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In most of the readings for this day we read of grumbling against God and/or Moses despite God’s proven track record, frequently in the presence of those who go on to grumble.  Miriam and Aaron question the authority of Moses in Numbers 12. Miriam becomes ritually unclean because of this (Do not question Moses!), but her brother intercedes for her.  People witness then seem to forget God’s mighty acts in Psalms 95 and 106, as well as in Hebrews 3.  And, in Numbers 20, Moses disobeys instructions from God.  He is supposed to speak to a rock to make water come out of it, but he strikes it instead.

By word and act Moses is thus appropriating to himself an act of God.  In doing this he is undoing the message that God and Moses himself have been conveying to the to the people up to this point.  The people have continuously directed their attention to Moses instead of to God….Until this episode Moses has repeatedly told the people, “It is not from my own heart,” and “You are congregating against YHWH,” but now his words and actions confirm the people’s own perception.

–Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah with a New English Translation and the Hebrew Text (2001), page 495

Moses was generally trustworthy in the sight of God, per the positive assessment of him in Hebrews 3.  At Meribah he gave into human weakness.  All of us have caved into our own weaknesses on multiple occasions, have we not?  Have we not, for example, sought our own glory instead of that of God?  Have we not yielded to the temptation to be spectacular, which Henri J. M. Nouwen identified in The Way of the Heart (1981) as one of Satan’s temptations of Jesus in Luke 4 and Matthew 4?   If we have lived long enough, yes, we have.

And you, my child, will be called Prophet of the Most High,

for you will be the Lord’s forerunner to prepare his way

and lead his people to a knowledge of salvation

through the forgiveness of sins:

for in the tender compassion of our God

the dawn of heaven will break upon us,

to shine on those who live in darkness, under the shadow of death,

and to guide our feet in the way of peace.

–St. Zechariah in Luke 1:76-79, The Revised English Bible (1989)

St. John the Baptist grew up and became one who admitted the truth that he was not the Messiah (Luke 3:15-17 and Mark 1:7-8).  He pointed to cousin Jesus instead (Matthew 3:13-14 and John 3:25-36).

The spiritual vocations of Christians vary in details, but the common threads run through those calls from God.  We who call ourselves Christians have, for example, a responsibility to glorify God, not ourselves, and to point to Jesus.  We also have an obligation to lead lives defined by gratitude to God, not rebellion against God.  We can succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN BAJUS, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/08/20/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-d/

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Signs, Wonders, and Problems With Them   1 comment

temptations-of-christ

Above:  Temptations of Christ, a Byzantine Mosaic

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen,

and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin.

Renew us in the gift of baptism.

May your holy angels be with us,

that the wicked foe may have no power over us,

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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 30:1-9

Psalm 77

Matthew 4:1-11

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You are the God who works wonders

and have declared your power among the people.

–Psalm 77:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Yet Jesus refused to work wonders during the Temptations.  Yes, he performed many wonders later, but perhaps he was concerned that people follow him for the correct reason.  And, as a note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) says on page 1752:

Jesus…rejects the presumption that God is an emergency “dial-up” service, a servant of human bidding.

The words of Agur son of Jakeh (in Proverbs 30) contain a prayer for deliverance from lies and for wealth in moderation.  Poverty might lead him to curse God, and excessive wealth might cause him to renounce God also.  A sense of awareness of dependence on God informs that prayer.  Those requests also reject a false understanding of God as a vending machine or a cosmic bell boy.

If we follow God, why do we do so?  We will have mixed motives, I suppose, but that is a human condition.  Our motives might not be pure, but do we at least love God for who God is and grasp the reality that God does not serve us?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted December 11, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 4, Proverbs 26-31, Psalm 77

Tagged with , ,

Malachi and Matthew, Part II: Exploitative Priests   1 comment

high-priest-and-levite

Above:  A High Priest and a Levite

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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 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

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The Assigned Readings:

Malachi 2:1-3:5 (September 26)

Malachi 3:6-24 (September 27–Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Malachi 3:6-4:6 (September 27–Protestant Versification)

Psalm 143 (Morning–September 26)

Psalm 86 (Morning–September 27)

Psalms 81 and 116 (Evening–September 26)

Psalms 6 and 19 (Evening–September 27)

Matthew 4:1-11 (September 26)

Matthew 4:12-25 (September 27)

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Some Related Posts:

Malachi 2-4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-23/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/30/week-of-proper-22-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/first-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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Show me a sign of your favor,

so that those who hate me may see it and be ashamed,

because you, O LORD, have helped me and comforted me.

–Psalm 86:17, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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But you have turned away from the cause:  You have made many stumble through your rulings; you have corrupted the covenant of the Levites–said the LORD of Hosts.  And I, in turn, have made you despicable and vile in the eyes of all the people, because you disregard My ways and show partiality in your rulings.

–Malachi 2:8-9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Malachi, speaking for God, condemned priests who abused their privileged positions by accepting unacceptable sacrifices from wealthy people and who ruled improperly against the less fortunate.  The imagery was quite vivid, for God would

strew dung

–2:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

upon the priests’ faces.  And God objected to other injustices, including cheating laborers, widows, orphans, and strangers.  These offenses concluded a thought which began with practicing sorcery, committing adultery, and swearing falsely.  (See 3:5.)

Malachi affirmed obeying the Law of Moses:

From the very days of your fathers you have turned from My laws and not observed them.  Turn back to Me and I will turn back to you–said the LORD of Hosts.

–3:6-7a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

One important reality to grasp when pondering the Law of Moses is that modern Classical Liberal notions of individualism were

not the ancient Israelite’s experience of freedom…because the Israelite was not his own master, but God’s slave.  His acknowledgement of the divine kingship gave him responsibilities to his fellow Israelites.

–Richard Bauckham, The Bible in Politics:  How to Read the Bible Politically, 2d. ed.  (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011, page 107)

The most basic of these responsibilities was to care for others actively and effectively.

The temptations of Jesus, which I interpret as mythic, do reflect a refusal to, among other things, behave in self-aggrandizing ways.  In fact, I understand the reality of the Incarnation as the opposite of self-aggrandizement.  Our Lord and Savior’s model of service to others reinforces this theme.  His call to follow him echoes down to today.

Despite the protests of Malachi and the example of Jesus many self-identified Christian leaders have exploited others, not served them in the name God, and/or condoned such exploitation or neglect.  This reality continues to be true, unfortunately.  May this cease, by divine grace and human free will.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MURIN OF FAHAN, LASERIAN OF LEIGHLIN, GOBAN OF PICARDIE, FOILLAN OF FOSSES, AND ULTAN OF PERONNE, ABBOTTS; AND OF SAINTS FURSEY OF PERONNE AND BLITHARIUS OF SEGANNE, MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALPHEGE OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF THE INCARNATION, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON BARSABAE, BISHOP; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/devotion-for-september-26-and-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Interpreting the Temptations of Jesus   1 comment

Above: Temptations of Christ, a Byzantine Mosaic which Resides at St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy, because Knights of the Fourth Crusade Stole It from Constantinople (But Who Is Keeping Track?)

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Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man,

You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman,

Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?

The woman said to the serpent,

We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.”

But the serpent said to the woman,

You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Psalm 32 (New Revised Standard Version):

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me,;

my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and I did not hide my iniquity;

I said,

I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,

and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful

offer prayer to you;

at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters

shall not teach them.

You are a hiding place for me;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,

whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,

else it will not stay near you.

Many are the torments of the wicked,

but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous,

and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

Romans 5:12-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

As sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned– sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Matthew 4:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

After Jesus was baptized, he was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him,

If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.

But he answered,

It is written,

“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him,

If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

“He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”

Jesus said to him,

Again it is written,

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him,

All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.

Jesus said to him,

Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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It is appropriate to have this Gospel reading on the First Sunday in Lent, for the number “40″ for days of this season comes partially from the 40 days the Gospels say Jesus spent in the wilderness.

There is something mythic about a great religious leader having to face three temptations at the hand of an evil spiritual figure as a rite of passage.  At least one Buddhist version of this tale says that Siddhartha faced down fear, lust, and ego before he became the Enlightened One.  And we read that Jesus faced three temptations, also.  I suspect that this story is part of mythology, just as much as are the early chapters of Genesis.  (All the Bible is true, and some of it happened.)

As I write this devotional nine months early, in the energy-sapping heart of Summer 2010 (with the weather certain to become worse before it improves), I turn to the late Henri Nouwen, the Dutch Roman Catholic priest and wonderful spiritual writer for his cogent interpretation of Christ’s temptations.  In The Way of the Heart (1981), Father Nouwen wrote of harried, compulsive ministers:

Just look for a moment at our daily routine.  In general we are very busy people.  We have many meetings to attend, many visits to make, many services to lead.  (Our calendars are filled with appointments, our days and weeks filled with engagements, and our years filled with plans and projects.  There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time to rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say, or do are worth thinking, saying, or doing.  We simply go along with the many “musts” and “oughts” that have been handed on to us, and we live with them as if they were authentic translations of the Gospel of our Lord.  People must be motivated to come to church, youth must be entertained, money must be raised, and above all everyone must be happy.  Moreover, we ought to be on good terms with the church and civil authorities; we ought to be liked or at least respected by a fair majority of our parishioners; we ought to move up in the ranks according to schedule; and we ought to have enough vacation and salary to live a comfortable life.  Thus we are busy people just like all other busy people, rewarded with the rewards which are rewarded to busy people! (page 12 from the 2003 reprint)

Then Nouwen defined the false self, or secular self, which, Thomas Merton explained, social compulsions have manufactured.  Instead, Nouwen wrote, one’s true self, which is spiritual, requires solitude for the purpose of transformation.  Solitude, he wrote, is “the solitude of transformation.”  Then Nouwen continued:

Jesus himself entered into this furnace.  There he was tempted with the three compulsions of the world:  to be relevant (“turn stones into loaves”), to be spectacular (“throw yourself down”), and to be powerful (“I will give you all these kingdoms”.  There affirmed God as the only source of his identity (“You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone.”)  Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter–the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.  (page 16 from the 2003 reprint)

That is one truth we can take from this mythic story and apply in our lives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL AND HENRIETTA BARNETT, ENGLISH SOCIAL REFORMERS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/first-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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Posted February 7, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 2, Genesis 3, Matthew 4, Psalm 32, Romans 5

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Resisting the Kingdom of God   1 comment

Above:  A Mosaic of Jesus from the Former Church of Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

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1 John 3:18-4:6 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Children,

our love must not be just words or mere talk,

but something active and genuine.

This is the proof that we belong to the truth,

and it will convince us in his presence,

even if our own feelings condemn us,

that God is greater than our feelings and knows all things.

My dear friends,

if our own feelings do not condemn us,

we can be fearless before God,

and whatever we ask

we shall receive from him,

because we keep his commandments

and do what is acceptable to him.

His commandment is this,

that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ

and that we should love one another

as he commanded us.

Whoever keeps his commandments

remains in God, and God in him.

And this is the proof that he remains in us:

the Spirit that he has given us.

My dear friends,

not every spirit is to be trusted,

but test the spirits to see whether they are from God,

for many false prophets are at large in the world.

This is the proof of the spirit of God;

any spirit which acknowledges Jesus Christ, come in human nature,

is from God,

and no spirit which fails to acknowledge Jesus

is from God;

it is the spirit of Antichrist,

whose coming you have heard of;

he is already at large in the world.

They are from the world,

and therefore the world inspires what they say,

and listens to them.

We are from God;

whoever recognizes God listens to us;

anyone who is not from God refuses to listen to us.

This is how we can distinguish

the spirit of truth from the the spirit of falsehood.

Psalm 2 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Why this uproar among the nations,

the impotent muttering of the peoples?

Kings of the earth take up their position,

princes plot together

against Yahweh and his anointed,

“Now let us break their fetters!

Now let us throw off their bonds!”

He who is enthroned in the heavens laughs,

Yahweh makes a mockery of them,

then in his anger rebukes them,

in his rage he strikes them with terror.

“I myself have anointed my king

on Zion my holy mountain.”

I will proclaim the decree of Yahweh:

He said to me, “You are my son,

today I have fathered you.

Ask of me, and I shall give you the nations as your birthright,

the whole wide world as your possession.

With an iron sceptre you will break them,

shatter them like so many pots.”

So now, you kings, come to your senses,

you earthly rulers, learn your lesson!

In fear be submissive to Yahweh;

with trembling kiss his feet,

lest he be angry and your way come to nothing,

for his fury flares up in a moment.

How blessed are all who take refuge in him!

Matthew 4:12-17, 23-25 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Hearing that John had been arrested he [Jesus] withdrew to Galilee, and leaving Nazareth he went and settled in Capernaum, beside the lake, on the borders of Zebulon and Naphtali.  This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah:

Land of Zebulon!  Land of Naphtali!

Way of the sea beyond Jordan.

Galilee of the nations!

The people that lived in darkness

have seen a great light;

on those who lived in a country of shadow dark as death

a light has dawned.

From then onwards Jesus began his proclamation with the message,

Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is close at hand.

He went round the whole of Galilee teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and curing all kinds of disease and illness among the people.  His fame spread throughout Syria, and those who were suffering from diseases and painful complaints of one kind or another, the possessed, epileptics, the paralyzed, were all brought to him, and he cured them.  Large crowds followed him coming from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judaea, and Transjordan.

The Collect:

O God, by the leading of a star you manifested your only Son to the peoples of the earth: Lead us, who know you now by faith, to your presence, where we may see your glory face to face; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Jesus, fully human and fully divine, ushered in the Kingdom of God, which is around us and inside of us.  Yet many of us do not see it.  The Kingdom of God was an apocalyptic vision of God’s rule on earth, as opposed to the Roman Empire.  Thus talk of the Kingdom of God was subversive until the early Church redefined the Kingdom as a spiritual reality.  But I prefer the subversive nature of the earlier understanding.

Authority figures resisted the Kingdom of God, crucifying Jesus and martyring many Christians.  They had great power, but God’s might was stronger and more impressive. Today the efforts continue, but God’s might remains stronger and more impressive.

Thomas Tallis, the great Sixteenth-Century English composer, wrote tunes for the church psalter of his time.  The Third Psalm Tune, which Ralph Vaughan Williams slowed down and transformed into a happier piece centuries later in the Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis, fit these words, which I prefer to the familiar version (“Why do the nations so furiously rage together”) from the Authorized (King James) Version:

Why fum’th in sight the Gentiles spite, in fury raging stout?

Why tak’th in hand the people fond, vain things to bring about?

The kings arise, the Lords devise in counsels met thereto,

Against the Lord with false accord, against his Christ they go.

Let us, they say, break their ray of all their bonds and cords:

We will renounce that they pronounce their lores as stately lords.

But God of might in heav’n so bright shall laugh them all to scorn:

The Lord on high shall them defy, they shall be once forlorn.

With iron rod as might God all rebels shalt thou bruise,

And break them all in pieces small, as sherds the potters use.

Be wise therefore ye kings the more, receive ye wisdom’s lore;

Ye judges strong of right and wrong, advise you now before.

The Lord in fear your service bear, with dread to him rejoice;

Let rages be, resist not ye, him serve with joyful voice.

The sun kiss ye, lest wroth he be, lose not the way of rest;

For when his ire is set on fire, who trust in him be blest.

In the 500s Justinian the Great, the Byzantine Emperor, ordered the construction of the beautiful Church of Hagia Sophia, or Holy Wisdom, at Constantinople.  Almost a thousand years later the conquering Ottoman Turks converted the building into a mosque.  And today it is a museum.  But it should be a church.

Despite all appearances to the contrary, God will win, in time.  We need to be patient.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-day-of-epiphany/

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Posted December 28, 2011 by neatnik2009 in 1 John 3, Matthew 4, Psalm 2

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