Archive for the ‘Micah’ Category

Resisting Evil Without Joining Its Ranks, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Micah

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Holy God, who sent thy Son Jesus Christ to fulfill the Law:

mercifully grant that by our actions we may show forth his perfect love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Micah 3:5-12

1 Thessalonians 2:13-20

Matthew 5:38-48

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I could replicate much of the previous post and remain on topic in this post, but I choose not to do so.  No, I refer you, O reader to that post for that duplicate material as I focus on the reading from Matthew 5.

According to The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003), the translation of Matthew 5:39 should read, in part,

Do not use violence to resist an evildoer,

not

Do not resist and evildoer.

Matthew 5:39, in its proper translation, is a problematic passage.  It joins the company of Pauline passages commanding submission to governments, as in Romans 13.  Yet, as some prominent Biblical scholars have asked, especially in the context of World War II, does this advice tell people that they should have obeyed Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin?  One may reach back to Micah 3, with its condemnation of leaders who despise justice.  Should people submit to such rulers?

Matthew 5:43-48 places 5:38-42 in some context.  Although the Law of Moses never says to hate one’s enemies, doing so seems quite natural.  The commandment of Jesus is to resist evil with righteousness, and to love even enemies.  Perhaps they will repent.

Violence is necessary and proper sometimes.  Usually it is improper, though.  May we, obeying Jesus, resist without sinning, without compromising ourselves morally.

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  No, “if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads.”  Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

–Romans 12:19-21, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

As Pelagius wrote,

The enemy has overcome you when he makes you like himself.

What moral leg do we have to stand on then?  This question applies far beyond the individual level–all the way to the national level, at least.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 5, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT OF ALEXANDRIA, FATHER OF CHRISTIAN SCHOLARSHIP

THE FEAST OF SAINT CYRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY TO THE FAR EAST

THE FEAST OF NELSON MANDELA, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA, AND RENEWER OF SOCIETY

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Laying Down Burdens, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee, by Ludolf Bakhuizen

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

You have shown us, O Lord, what is good;

enable us, we pray, to perform what you require, even

to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with our God.  Amen.

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

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Micah 6:1-4, 5b-8

Psalm 44

Hebrews 11:1-3, 6

Matthew 8:23-27

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I prefer to use language correctly.  Therefore I like the title of S. I. Hayakawa‘s classic work, Use the Right Word.  Consider the word “faith,” O reader.  It, like many other words in the Bible, has a range of meanings in the sacred anthology.  In the Letter of James, for example, faith is intellectual, so works must accompany it; justification with God comes through works, not words, in James.  In Pauline theology, however, faith is inherently active; works are part of the package deal.  Thus justification comes by faith, not works, according to St. Paul the Apostle.  The two actually agree, for they arrive at the same point from different directions.  We read of another definition of faith in Hebrews 11:1:

Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see.

The Revised English Bible (1989)

If we have concrete evidence for a proposition, we have no need for faith to accept it.  With that in mind, O reader, consider the following statement:  Human depravity is not an article of faith for me, for I have evidence from the past and present for it.  I reserve faith for issues (such as the resurrection of Jesus) for which there is no concrete evidence to prove or disprove.

We cannot repay God for any, much less all, God has done for us and continues to do, but we can, by grace, respond faithfully.  If we cannot respond as faithfully as we know we should, we can do something, at least.  The inability to do everything is no excuse for not doing anything.  Storms of life leave us battered, do they not?  Frequently we emerge from them angry–perhaps justifiably.  Anger of a certain sort, channeled properly, can be socially constructive and spiritually beneficial.  However, frequently, if not usually, anger functions negatively in societies, communities, organizations, families, and individual lives.

By faith we can see the way to lay down that burden, and to do justice, love goodness, and walk humbly with God.  Laying down that burden of anger can prove difficult; I know this from experience.  I wish that doing what I know God tells me to do were easier and more appealing to me than the alternatives.  The struggle is palpable, but the strength necessary to succeed is divine, not human.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

In the Same Boat   1 comment

Men in Boat

Above:  Men in Boat (1860), by Alfred R. Waud (1828-1891)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-20362

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O God of peace, you brought again from the dead

our Lord Jesus Christ, the shepherd of the sheep.

By the blood of your eternal covenant, make us complete

in everything good that we may do your will,

and work among us all that is well-pleasing in your sight,

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 33

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 45:1-9

Psalm 100

Acts 9:32-35

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Acknowledge that the LORD is God;

He made us and we are His,

His people, the flock He tends.

–Psalm 100:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Acknowledging that the LORD is God entails, among other things, living accordingly.  Psalm 14:1a and 53:2a (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985) tell us that

The benighted man thinks,

“God does not care.”

The standard English-language translation from the Hebrew text is close to the rendering in The Revised English Bible (1989):

The impious fool says in his heart,

“There is no God.”

The difference in translation is mostly in the second half of that passage.  The issue in Psalms 14 and 53 is practical atheism, not the denial of the existence of God.  Belief in God, in the Biblical sense, is trust in God, not mere affirmation of divine existence.  Thus the benighted man/impious fool operates under the mistaken idea that God does not care.  Actually, God cares deeply, especially about how we mortals treat each other.

Land was a patrimony and therefore a matter of great importance in Biblical times.  A member of one generation held it in trust for heirs.  Yet monarchs evicted legitimate landowners and seized land some times.  This is the matter in Ezekiel 45:8b-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985):

My princes shall no more defraud My people, but shall leave the rest of the land to the several tribes of the House of Israel.

Thus says the Lord GOD:  Enough, princes of Israel!  Make an end of lawlessness and rapine, and do what is right and just!  Put an end to your evictions of My people–declares the Lord GOD.

References to such evictions occur in 1 Kings 21:1-16; Isaiah 5:8; and Micah 2:2.

The timeless message here is that nobody has any right to improve his or her financial position by victimizing others, especially the powerless and the less powerful.  Climbing the ladder of success by kicking others off it is immoral.

St. Simon Peter’s healing of Aeneas, a man bedridden with paralysis for eight years, built up Aeneas, restoring him to health and community.

Whatever we do to each other is what we do to ourselves.  If we keep others”in their place,” seemingly to improve our circumstances, we really hurt ourselves, for we doom ourselves to monitor others instead of pursuing proper opportunities.  May we build each other up in the name of Jesus Christ, enabling each other to become the people we can become in God, for the glory of God and the benefit of the whole.  To use a cliché, we are all in the same boat.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHN WYCLIFFE, BIBLE TRANSLATOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF PHILIPP HEINRICH MOLTHER, GERMAN MORAVIAN MINISTER, BISHOP, COMPOSER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/12/31/devotion-for-tuesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Risky Pilgrimage   1 comment

Christ Blessing--Nardo di Cione

Above:  Christ Blessing, by Nardo di Cione

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have taught us in your Son that love fulfills the law.

Inspire us to love you with all our heart, our soul, our mind, and our strength,

and teach us how to love our neighbors as ourselves,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Micah 6:1-8

Psalm 51

John 13:31-35

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Create in me a clean heart, O God:

and renew a right spirit within me.

–Psalm 51:10, The Alternative Service Book 1980

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

He has told you, O man, what is good,

And what does the LORD require of you:

Only to do justice

And to love goodness,

And to walk humbly with your God;

Then your name will achieve wisdom.

–Micah 6:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I give you a new commandment, that you love one another.  Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

–John 13:34-35, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

These three passages speak for themselves, so there is little I can add to them without being redundant.  They, taken together, proclaim a message contrary to that which dominates in many cultures and subcultures.  In many tough neighborhoods, for example, the dominant ethos says to strike back and not to seem “soft” or vulnerable.  Yet, if one follows the advice in Micah 6:8 and John 13:34-35, one will be that way.  Jesus did die on a cross, after all.

When we love we make ourselves vulnerable.  When we walk humbly with God and seek justice for our fellow human beings we make ourselves targets of those who oppose our efforts toward those purposes.  When we strive to be good, not feared, we make ourselves vulnerable to amoral and immoral people who would harm us.  But Jesus did all of the above, and the student is not greater than the teacher.

Shall the pilgrimage with Jesus continue, despite the risks?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 9:  THE SIXTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY ZACCARIA, FOUNDER OF THE BARNABITES AND THE ANGELIC SISTERS OF SAINT PAUL

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBERO AND ULRIC OF AUGSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF H. RICHARD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/05/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-26-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted July 5, 2015 by neatnik2009 in John 13, Micah, Psalm 51

Tagged with , ,

Lo, He Comes With Clouds Descending   1 comment

icon_second_coming

Above:  Second Coming Icon

Image in the Public Domain

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever . Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Micah 2:1-13

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Matthew 24:15-31

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock,

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,

stir up your strength and come to help us.

Restore us, O God of hosts;

show the light of your countenance,

and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The assigned readings for today begin with a violent and exploitative regime in power and end with with God having supplanted them.  The lesson from Micah ends with a new shepherd–Yahweh.  In Matthew the coming of the Son of Man (Jesus) extinguishes the light of the Sun and the Moon, the blessing of which Roman Emperors claimed.  Thus, as a note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) says on pages 1790 and 1791:

Jesus’ coming is “lights-out” time for Rome.

This is a devotion for the last day of the Season after Pentecost, Year A.  The next day in the liturgical sequence will be the First Sunday of Advent, Year B.  Thus focusing on the Kingdom of God versus the kingdom of this world is an especially appropriate thing do do in this post.  The Roman Empire ceased to exist a long time ago, but exploitative and violent socio-economic-political systems remain in place.  Their “lights-out” time has yet to arrive.  The Kingdom of God, realized partially for a very long time, has yet to arrive in full force.  Until it does each of us should ask himself or herself a potent question:  With which kingdom am I aligned?  Proper subsequent action will depend upon the honest answer.

Yea, Amen!  Let all adore Thee,

High on on Thine eternal throne;

Saviour, take the power and glory,

Claim the Kingdom for Thine own:

O come quickly!

O come quickly!

Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!

–Charles Wesley, 1758 (altered), from The Hymnal (1933), Hymn #184

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 9, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CONSTANCE AND HER COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF ANNE HOULDITCH SHEPHERD, ANGLICAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CHATTERTON DIX, HYMN WRITER

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/09/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted September 10, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 24, Micah

Tagged with ,

Caring for Others   1 comment

Millet_Gleaners

Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

(Image in the Public Domain)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 24:17-25:4 (Friday)

Micah 3:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 15 (all days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Timothy 5:17-24 (Friday)

John 13:31-35 (Saturday)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 16:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/devotion-for-october-15-16-and-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Deuteronomy 24-25:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-22-and-23-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Peter 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-1-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-december-1-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Timothy 5:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/devotion-for-september-22-23-and-24-lcms-daily-lectionary/\

John 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-march-8-and-9-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-seventh-day-of-lent-wednesday-in-holy-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easteryear-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/devotion-for-june-9-10-and-11-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may abide upon your holy hill?

Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right,

who speak the truth from their heart;

they do not slander with the tongue,

they do no evil to their friends;

they do not cast discredit upon a neighbor.

In their sight the wicked are rejected,

but they honor those who fear the LORD.

They have sworn upon their health

and do not take back their word.

They do not give their money in hope of gain,

nor do they take bribes against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be overthrown.

–Psalm 15, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Law of Moses and other segments of the Bible speak of the responsibilities we humans have toward each other.  Authors thunder condemnations of judicial corruption and economic exploitation from the pages of the Bible.  And the Law of Moses provides culturally-specific applications of the universal, timeless standard to care for the less fortunate.  The texts for today offer examples of these generalizations.

Furthermore, those in authority are supposed to look out for the best interests of their people.  Often, however, many of them do not even try to do this.  Too often I read news stories of the vulnerable members of society suffering from cuts in government social programs as either

  1. no private sector agents step up to do the work as well or better,
  2. no private sector agents can do the work as well or better, or
  3. no private sector agents do the work, but not as effectively.

Something is terribly wrong and socially sinful when one or more of these scenarios is part of reality.  That which is most effective is the strategy I favor in any given case.  This is about ideology, not “please do not confuse me with the facts” ideology.

Perhaps the most difficult advice from the readings for these days is this:

Never repay one wrong with another, or one abusive word with another; instead, repay with a blessing.  That is what you are called to do, so that you inherit a blessing.

–1 Peter 3:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible

We have all violated that rule, have we not?  The desire for revenge is natural yet wrong.  And the goal of having the last word might satisfy one in the short term yet does not help matters.  And, when forgiveness comes slowly, the desire to forgive might precede it.  Giving up one’s anger (even gradually) and the target(s) of it to God and moving on with life is a positive thing to do.  And praying for–not about–people can change the one who prays.  That is also good.

There is also the question of violence, which can prove to be complicated.  Sometimes, when the oppressors insist on continuing to oppress, the best way to deliver their victims is devastating to the perpetrators.  Yet, on other occasions, violence does not resolve the issue at hand and creates new problems instead.  It is often easier to make such distinctions with the benefit of hindsight, which, of course, does not exist in the heat of the moment of decision.  So I offer no easy one-size-fits-all formulas here, for none exist.  The best I can do is pray that those in authority will decide and behave wisely.

Yes, sometimes life offers a choice between just the bad and the worse.  In such cases I favor choosing the bad, for at least it is not worse.  The best we can do is all that anyone ought to expect of us.  And, if we strive to love one another as actively and effectively as possible, we are at least on the right track.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Primacy of Morality Over Sacrifices   1 comment

Above:  The Good Samaritan, by Rembrandt van Rijn

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Micah 6:1-9a (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Hear what the LORD is saying:

Come, present [My] case before the mountains,

And let the hills hear you pleading.

Hear, you mountains, the case of the LORD–

You firm foundations of the earth!

For the LORD has a case against His people,

He has a suit against Israel.

My people!

What wrong have I done you?

What hardship have I caused you?

Testify against Me.

In fact,

I brought you up from the land of Egypt,

I redeemed you from the house of bondage,

And I sent before you

Moses, Aaron, and Miriam.

My people,

Remember what Balak king of Moab

Plotted against you,

And how Balaam son of Beor

Responded to him.

[Recall your passage]

From Shittim to Gilgal–

And you will recognize

The gracious acts of the LORD.

With what shall I approach the LORD,

Do homage to God on high?

Shall I approach Him with burnt offerings,

With calves a year old?

Would the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams,

With myriads of streams of oil?

Shall I give my first-born for my transgression,

The fruit of my body for my sins?

He has told you, O man, what is good,

And what the LORD requires of you:

Only to do justice

And to love goodness,

And to walk modestly with your God;

Then will your name achieve wisdom.

Psalm 14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.”

All are corrupt and commit abominable acts;

there is none who does any good.

2  The LORD looks down from heaven upon us al,

to see if there is any who is wise,

if there is one who seeks after God.

3  Every one has proved faithless;

all alike have turned bad;

there is none who does good; no, not one.

4  Have they no knowledge, all those evildoers

who eat up my people like bread

and do not call upon the LORD?

5  See how they tremble with fear,

because God is in the company of the righteous.

6  Their aim is to confound the plans of the afflicted,

but the LORD is their refuge.

7  Oh, that Israel’s deliverance would come out of Zion!

When the LORD restored the fortunes of his people,

Jacob will rejoice and Israel be glad.

Matthew 12:38-42 (An American Translation):

Then some of the scribes and Pharisees addressed him [Jesus], saying,

Master, we would like to have you show us some sign.

But he answered,

Only a wicked and faithless age insists upon a sign, and no sign will be given it but the sign of the prophet Jonah.  For just as Jonah was in the stomach of the whale for three days and nights, the Son of Man will be three days and nights in the heart of the earth.  Men of Nineveh will rise with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, for when Jonah preached they repented, and there is more than Jonah here!  The queen of the south will rise with this generation at the judgment and condemn it, for she came from the very ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and there is more than Solomon here!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Consider this:

To do what is right and just

Is more desired by the LORD than sacrifice.

–Proverbs 21:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

and this:

Does the LORD delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices

As much as in obedience to the LORD’s command?

Simply, obedience is better than sacrifice,

Compliance than the fat of rams.

–1 Samuel 15:22, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

I think also of something U.S. Presbyterian Shirley Guthrie wrote in his book, Christian Doctrine:

One danger of the sacrificial imagery is that the significance of Christ’s work can easily be corrupted in the same way the sacrificial system of the Old Testament was corrupted.  It easily becomes a kind of bargaining with God.  A sacrifice has been offered to satisfy his demands and appease him–so now we are free go go on being and doing anything we like without interference from him.  How did the prophets protest against such a perversion of the sacrificial system?  See Isaiah 1:10-31; Amos 5:21-24; Hosea 6:6; Micah 6:6-8.  Is the prophetic protest against the misuse of sacrifices relevant also to our understanding of the sacrifice of Christ?  Would the prophets allow the split we sometimes make between preaching concerned with social action and preaching concerned with salvation from sin?–Christian Doctrine:  Teachings of the Christian Church (Richmond, VA:  CLC Press, 1968, pages 247-248)

Again and again we read that, although God does not object to rituals and sacrifices, these offend God when we do not accompany them with social justice, especially in the treatment of widows, orphans, and other vulnerable people.  More than one Hebrew prophet made this point plainly.  And yet people claiming to be of God have persecuted populations, discriminated against members of groups, and condoned violence in the name of God.  It continues to this day.

These are not acts of goodness or justice.  An honor killing, for example, is neither good nor just.  Discrimination is neither good nor just.  Terrorism is certainly far from goodness and justice.  But feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the imprisoned and the ill, housing the homeless, and comforting the grieving are good and just.  The measurement of how good and just we are is how much better we leave our corner of the world relative to its state when we found it.  Are the lives of those we encounter better because we were part of them?  Are the marginalized included, and the unloved loved?  This, according to prophets, is a standard of righteousness.

I am repeating myself, but that is unavoidable.  The texts continue to beat the same drum, so what am I supposed to do?  There is an old and perhaps apocryphal story about the elderly St. John the Apostle/Evangelist/Divine.  He visited a congregation.  The people gathered at the house where they met regularly.  Expectations were high; what wisdom might the Apostle impart?  When St. John did arrive, all he said was,

Love one another.

A disappointed congregant asked the ancient Greek equivalent of, “That’s it?”  The Apostle replied,

When you do that, I will tell you more.

Loving one another seems quite difficult much of the time, does it not?  This, I think, is why the book repeats itself so much on this theme.  Finally, by grace, may we learn this basic lesson and act on it.  That time cannot arrive soon enough.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 20, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRI NOUWEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW KIM TAEGON, PAUL CHONG HASANG, AND THEIR COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF C. H. (CHARLES HAROLD) DODD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN COLERIDGE PATTESON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MELANESIA, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF NELSON WESLEY TROUT, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN U.S. LUTHERAN BISHOP

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/week-of-proper-11-monday-year-2/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++