Archive for the ‘Malachi 4’ Category

Faithful Community, Part III   Leave a comment

Above:   Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday after Easter, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Give us, O Lord, a right understanding and a sincere love of thy Word;

that we may not be deceived and carried away by any falsehood,

but grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 123

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Malachi 3:16-4:3

Romans 14:10-19

John 16:1-15

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Divine judgment hangs over the readings from Romans 14 and Malachi 3 and 4 (Malachi 3 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles, which, despite having all the verses, have an extended Chapter 3 and no Chapter 4).  In the context of judgment falling into the purview of God, our human responsibilities include obeying divine commandments and, in particular, supporting one another in faithful community.  The latter point is especially important when the faith community is marginalized and facing conflict.

The assigned portion of John 16 operates on two levels.  The first level is narrative–in this case, shortly before the crucifixion of Jesus.  The text reads as spiritual counsel at the last minute.  The second level is historical, given the Johannine Jewish community’s poor relations with their fellow Jews:

They will ban you from the synagogue….

–Verse 16:2a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Mutual support in faith community is a practice people undertake with divine support.  The delusion of self-sufficiency–the denial of interdependence–lies at the root of evil.  When one thinks that one can–and must–rely on one’s powers, one opens the door to seeking to improve one’s lot by harming others.  Yet when we accept that we depend fully on God and on each other, we realize the necessity of building each other up.

Poorly informed and uninformed judgment works against building people up.  I differentiate between poorly informed judgment on one hand and proper judgment on the other.  One may recall Jesus calling certain religious opponents on the Judean carpet and Hebrew prophets issuing stern condemnations.  The verses against judging do not condemn telling the truth.  They do, however, condemn destructive comments, written and oral.  The truth, in contrast, may prompt one to repent.  It works toward the goal of building up in the context of faithful community.

A major difficulty is a distinguishing poorly informed and uninformed judgment from proper judgment.  Often–probably most of the time–we commit the latter when imagining that we are doing the former.  In the context of conflict avoiding the latter is especially challenging, for anger leads naturally and predictably to invective.  Words matter; invective leads to unfortunate results, not reconciliation.  No, it feeds further conflict.

May we, by grace, build each other up, in the context of faithful community.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Posted November 14, 2018 by neatnik2009 in John 16, Malachi 3, Malachi 4, Romans 14

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Love, the Rule of Life   1 comment

christ-and-the-two-blind-men

Above: Christ and the Two Blind Men, by Julius Schnorr

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 20:1-21 or Amos 4:1-13 or Malachi 3:5-18; 4:(1-2a) 2b-6

Psalm 56

Matthew 9:27-34 or John 5:31-47

1 Corinthians 3:12-15 (3:16-4:5) 4:6-21 or 2 John 1-13

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Do not think that I am sending a new command; I am recalling the one we have had from the beginning:  I ask that we love one another.  What love means is to live according t the commands of God.  This is the command that was given you from the beginning, to be your rule of life.

–2 John 5b-6, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That rule of life includes commandments such as do not be haughty (2 Kings 20), swear falsely, commit adultery or sorcery, deny workers their proper wages, thrust aliens aside, oppress widows and orphans (Malachi 3), rob God (Malachi 4), oppress the poor and the needy (Amos 4), mistake good for evil (Matthew 9) or good for evil (Matthew 9) or become so legalistic as to complain about someone committing good works on the Sabbath, to the point of wanting to kill one who does that (John 5).  This is, of course, a woefully incomplete list.

Sometimes people who violate these and other commandments of God flourish and the righteous suffer.  One finds recognition of this reality in the Bible, which tells us that this might be true temporally, but the picture is more complex than that (see Malachi 4).

Vengeance is properly God’s alone.  Temporal justice, which is, when it is what it ought to be, is not revenge.  Life does not present us with morally complicated situations sometimes, but the commandment to make love the rule of life applies always.  May we, by grace, succeed in living accordingly, to the glory of God and the benefit of our fellow human beings, as well as ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/devotion-for-proper-8-year-d/

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The Faithfulness and Generosity of God, Part I   1 comment

True Grit

Above:  Mattie Ross on Blackie, Her Fine Horse, in True Grit (2010)

A Screen Capture via PowerDVD and a legal DVD

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming give to all the world knowledge of your salvation;

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Malachi 3:5-12 (Thursday)

Malachi 3:13-18 (Friday)

Malachi 3:19-24/4:1-6 (Saturday)

Luke 1:68-79 (All Days)

Philippians 1:12-18a (Thursday)

Philippians 1:18b-26 (Friday)

Luke 9:1-6 (Saturday)

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NOTE REGARDING VERSIFICATION:

Malachi 4:1-6 in Protestant Bibles = Malachi 3:19-24 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Bibles.

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Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil.  The author of all things watches over me, and I have a fine horse.

–Mattie Ross in True Grit (2010)

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A person who remembers the ending of that movie should understand that Mattie’s fine horse did not prevent her from losing part of one arm.  One might also recognize the irony of the last sentence.

The author of all things watches over me

seems to indicate trust in God, but

I have a fine horse

constitutes a contradictory thought.

The instructions of Jesus to his twelve Apostles emphasize complete dependence on God, who provides via people much of the time.  In Mark 6:8 each man may carry a staff, but Matthew 10:10 and Luke 9:3 forbid that item.  The Apostles’ mission was an urgent one for which packing lightly and depending upon the hospitality of strangers were essential.  Such light packing also emphasized solidarity with the poor, who were most likely to be the ones extending hospitality, given the fact that they lived on the edges of towns.  The Apostles were to announce the Kingdom of God, not to press the issue where they were unwelcome.

The ethic of trusting God, especially during difficult times, exists in the readings from Malachi and Philippians.  Locusts (in Malachi) and incarceration (in Philippians) were the background hardships.  Yet trust in the generosity of God, the prophet wrote.  St. Paul the Apostle noted that his period of incarceration (wherever and whenever it was; scholars debate that point) aided the spread the gospel of Jesus.

Zechariah prophesied that his son, St. John the Baptist, would be the forerunner of the Messiah.  Both John and Jesus suffered and died at the hands of authorities, which we remember in their context.  Officialdom was powerless to prevent the spread of the good news of Jesus in those cases and in the case of Paul.  Mortal means can prove useful, but they pass away in time.  The faithfulness and generosity of God, however, are everlasting.  To live confidently in the latter is a wise course of action.

Of all the illusions to abandon, one of the most difficult to leave behind is the idea that one must be in control.  The illusion of control might boost one’s self-esteem, but so what?  Control remains an illusion.  On the other hand, recognizing that God is in control is liberating.  It frees one up to live as one ought to live–

in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ

–according to Philippians 1:27b (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989).

I know this struggle well.  The idol of the illusion of control was precious to me.  Then circumstances forced me to learn the reality of my powerlessness and to trust God, for I had no feasible alternative.  Sometimes dire events prove to be necessary for spiritual awakening to occur.

God has given each of us important tasks to complete.  May we lay aside all illusions and other incumbrances, pack lightly, and labor faithfully to the glory of God and for the benefit of those to whom God sends us and to those whom God sends to us.  May we trust in the faithfulness and generosity of God, not in ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF AUGUSTUS MONTAGUE TOPLADY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS LOY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND CONRAD HERMANN LOUIS SCHUETTE, GERMAN-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, EDUCATOR, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/11/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Arrogant People and Evildoers   1 comment

Elijah

Above:  Icon of Elijah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

and open our ears to the words of your prophets,

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

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Malachi 3:16-4:16

Psalm 125

Mark 9:9-13

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Show your goodness, O LORD, to those who are good

and to those who are true of heart.

As for those who turn aside to crooked ways,

the LORD will lead them away with evildoers;

but peace be upon Israel.

–Psalm 125:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Malachi 3:16-4:6 (as Protestant versification labels it), or 3:16-21 (as Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versification calls it), speaks of divine judgment and mercy–the former for evildoers and the latter for the righteous.  The evildoers, back in Malachi 3:14-15, had said:

It is useless to serve God.  What have we gained by keeping His charge and walking in abject awe of the LORD of Hosts?  And so, we account the arrogant happy:  they have indeed dared God and escaped.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Certain forces of wickedness attempted to kill the prophet Elijah.  Some of their successors succeeded in executing St. John the Baptist then Jesus.  Yet, as Malachi wrote:

All the arrogant ones and those doing evil will become straw.

–4:1b/3:19b, Common English Bible (2008).

Jesus died, but the Resurrection followed.  Elijah went to Heaven directly.  St. John the Baptist remained dead, but his legacy has survived to today.  Executing a person is easier than killing an idea.  Arrogant people and evildoers have been slow to learn this lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 27, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR CAMPBELL AINGER, ENGLISH EDUCATOR, SCHOLAR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT AEDESIUS, PRIEST AND MISSIONARY; AND SAINT FRUDENTIUS, FIRST BISHOP OF AXUM AND ABUNA OF THE ETHIOPIAN ORTHODOX TEWAHEDO CHURCH

THE FEAST OF THE VICTIMS OF THE SALEM WITCH TRIALS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/27/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Things to Come   1 comment

Judgment Bus

Above:  Judgment Day May 21 Vehicle

Image Source = Bart Everson

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Judgment_Bus_New_Orleans_2011.jpg)

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 65:17-25 and Canticle 9 (Isaiah 12:2-6)

or 

Malachi 4:-1-2a and Psalm 98

then 

2 Thessalonians 3:6-13

Luke 21:5-19

The Collect:

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.

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Some Related Links:

Proper 28, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/24/proper-28-year-a/

Proper 28, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/proper-28-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Thanksgiving:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twenty-sixth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twenty-sixth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twenty-sixth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Isaiah 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-22/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/week-of-proper-28-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/06/week-of-proper-24-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-24-thursday-year-2/

Isaiah 65:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/24/devotion-for-january-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-third-day-of-lent/

Malachi 4:

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

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

2 Thessalonians 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/10/week-of-proper-16-wednesday-year-2/

Luke 21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/devotion-for-the-forty-eighth-and-forty-ninth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/23/devotion-for-the-fiftieth-day-of-easter-day-of-pentecost-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/31/week-of-proper-29-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/week-of-proper-29-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-year-2/

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thingstocome_wells_onset

Above:  A Scene from Things to Come (1936)

Image Source = http://markbourne.blogspot.com/2010/11/things-to-come-1936-hg-wells-explains.html

H. G. Wells (1866-1946) wrote The Shape of Things to Come (1933), a story about the destruction of civilization in a long, global war and the rebirth of civilization afterward.  Three years later audiences had an opportunity to watch the film version, Things to Come, complete with allegedly futuristic costumes.  (Apparently fashions will be very bad in the future, according to many movies.)

Proper 28 is the penultimate Sunday of the Western Christian church year.  The next Sunday will be Christ the King Sunday, followed a week later by the First Sunday in Advent.  So it is appropriate that apocalyptic readings occupy part of our time this Sunday.  Before God can create the new heaven and the new earth (Isaiah 65:17f)–paradise on earth–God must destroy that which is in place already and works against the goodness which is waiting to dawn upon people.  That current darkness will not go gently into the good night, so those who follow God must prepare themselves to lead spiritually disciplined lives and to suffer persecution, although the latter is not universal; the former is a universal mandate, though.  And, when, God destroys the old and evil in favor of the new and the good, God will deliver the faithful.

These events have yet to occur.  Examples of failed predictions of their timing range from the first century CE to recent years.  Something about the End Times grabs holds of many imaginations, frequently with idiotic results.  One who predicts the Second Coming of Jesus by a certain time might acknowledge the previous failed prophecies yet think that he could not possibly join the ranks of false prophets–until he does.  My library contains a 1979 book and a thrift store find, Christ Returns By 1988, by Colin Hoyle Deal.  And how can I forget the failed prophecies of the late Harold Camping?  The passage of time has rendered its verdict on both men.

May we leave End Times to God alone and lead spiritually disciplined lives by which we affect each other positively.  May our spiritually discipline compel us to leave our portion of the world better than we found it.  May we live for God’s glory and the benefit of others first, for our Lord and Savior came to serve, not to be served.  May we follow Jesus while we have breath.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS CARACCIOLO, COFOUNDER OF THE MINOR CLERKS REGULAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/proper-28-year-c/

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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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It’s Not Fair!   1 comment

Above:  Elijah in the Wilderness, by Washington Allston (1779-1843)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Malachi 3:13-20a (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Versification in parts of the Hebrew Scriptures varies, according to whether one uses the Protestant system or the Jewish and Roman Catholic system.  So, for many of you, the versification is 3:13-4:2a.  The Book of Malachi has the same number of verses in Jewish and Catholic Bibles as in Protestant ones, but a fourth chapter and a shorter third chapter in Protestant versification.  

You have spoken hard words against Me

–said the LORD.

But you ask, “What have we been saying among ourselves against You?”  You have said, “It is useless to serve God.  What have we gained by keeping His charge and walking in abject awe of the LORD of Hosts?  And so, we account the arrogant happy; they have indeed dared God and escaped.”  In this vein have those who revere the LORD been talking to another.  The LORD has heard and noted it, and a scroll of remembrance has been written at His behest concerning those who revere the LORD and esteem His name.  And on the day that I am preparing,

said the LORD of Hosts,

they shall be My treasured possession; I will be tender toward them as a man is tender toward a son who ministers to him.  And you shall come to see the difference between the righteous and the wicked, between him who has served God and him who has not served Him.

For lo!  That day is at hand, burning like an oven.  All the arrogant and all the doers of evil shall be straw, and the day that is coming

–said the LORD of Hosts–

shall burn them to ashes and leave them neither stock nor boughs.  But for you who revere My name a sun of victory shall rise to bring healing.

Psalm 1 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked;

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2  Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and they meditate on his law day and night.

3  They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither;

everything they do shall prosper.

4  It is not so with the wicked;

they are like chaff which the wind blows away.

5  Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

6  For the LORD knows the way of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

Luke 11:5-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

He [Jesus] also said to them,

Suppose one of you has a friend and goes to him in the middle of the night to say, ‘ My friend, lend me three loaves, because a friend of mine on his travels has just arrived at my house and I have nothing to offer him;’ and the man answers from inside the house, ‘Do not bother me.  The door is bolted now, and my children and I are in bed; I cannot get up to give it you.’  I tell you, if the man does not get up and give it him for friendship’s sake, persistence will be enough to make him get up and give his friend all he wants.

So I say to you:  Ask and it will be given to you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened to you.  For the one who asks always receives; the one who searches always finds; the one who knocks will have the door opened to him.  What father among you would hand his son a stone when he asked for bread?  Or hand him a snake instead of a fish?  Or hand him a scorpion if he asked for an egg?  If you then, who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!

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The Collect:

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

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A Related Post:

Of Gods and Men (2010):

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/of-gods-and-men-2010/

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Consider this:

Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start?  Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves?  You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill.  You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force.  Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it; when you do pray you don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.  (James 4:1-3, The Jerusalem Bible)

and this:

“Happy are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, for then your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets….Alas for you when the world speaks well of you!  This was the way their ancestors treated the false prophets.”  (Luke 6:22-23, 26, The Jerusalem Bible)

and this:

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer;

In His arms He’ll take and shield thee,

Thou wilt find a solace there.

(From verse 3 of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus, printed in The Cokesbury Worship Hymnal, 1938)

My first thought concerns “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  If your “friends” despise and forsake one, they are not really friends.  A now-deceased member of a parish to which I used to belong made this point to me.  How many times had I sung this song growing up and never read the words.  I read the words to hymns now.

The question of why good things happen to bad people and bad things to good people, of why the evil and those indifferent to God prosper while the genuinely loving, kind, and faithful struggle and suffer, is an old one.  It was not an abstract question for Elijah, Jeremiah, John the Baptist, Jesus of Nazareth, or Paul of Tarsus; it was their lived experience.  It has been the lived experience of many faithful Christians who have since joined the Church Triumphant, and it is the lived experience of many Christians today.

The answer, from Malachi to Paul of Tarsus to John to Patmos, is that those who remain faithful to the end will find their deliverance.  As Paul wrote, if we suffer with Christ we will reign with him.

A few days ago a friend invited me to watch Of Gods and Men (2010), a moving movie about French Trappist monks living in Algeria in the middle 1990s.  The small community of monks forms the nucleus of the surrounding village, members of which depend of them for spiritual advice and medical care.  But militant fundamentalist terrorists, who, according to the local Muslims, have not read the Koran, at least closely, threaten the villagers and the monks.  The Trappists have the option to leave for a safe place, but, after struggling and praying, decide to stay.  ”The servant is not above his master,” one monk says, quoting Jesus, when he explains his vote to remain and face the danger.  All but two monks in the community die at the end of the movie.  Those who died were martyrs, for their life of faith led to their deaths.  They died because they served God in their neighbors.

The movie, based on a true story, has occupied my thoughts for days.  What would I do in such a circumstance?  Would I act as the monks did, meditating on the sufferings of Christ and following him?  Or would I seek the easy way out?  Would I prefer an easy life (for whatever purpose, if any at all) or accept a difficult death for God?

In the end, Malachi and John of Patmos tell us, those who endure will receive their reward from God, and the unrepentant evildoers will receive their punishment.  This might be of little or no comfort at the present, while the good suffer, but it is the answer we have.  This is a valid question and a great theological problem (in the way that academics use the word “problem”).  Maybe I will get an answer from God in person one day.  Until then, this is the answer I have.

My response, for now, is to try to live faithfully, in love, not animosity and theological know-it-allism mixed with quick judgmentalism.  If I am wrong, may I be wrong in love.  If I am correct, may I be correct in love.  God is my judge; God is your judge; God is everybody’s judge.  And in him there is also mercy.  Much seems unfair; much is unfair.  Humble Trappists monks ought not to die at the hands of terrorists.  Elijah and Jeremiah should not have suffered for obeying God.  But they did.

Such is the world in which we live.  May the love of God, shining in and through us, shed light in it.  As for the rest, that is in God’s hands.  My call from God is to live faithfully, not with all knowledge.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONSTITUTING OF THE EVANGELICAL LUTHERAN CHURCH IN AMERICA, 1987

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUTROPIUS OF SAINTES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENI TE KIRI KARAMU, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

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

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