Archive for the ‘Nehemiah 8’ Category

The Issue of the Choppiness of Pericopes in the Revised Common Lectionary   Leave a comment

2-thessalonians

Above:  The Second Reading for Proper 26, Year C

Scanned from the Bulletin for St. Gregory the Great Episcopal Church, Athens, Georgia, October 30, 2016

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Revised Common Lectionary (RCL) (1992) is a wonderful resource for preaching and Bible study.  With its three-year cycle it covers about one-fourth of the Bible (the Protestant Bible, that is, I suppose).  Certainly the RCL covers more of scripture than does its immediate predecessor, the Common Lectionary (1983) and any of a number of one-year and two-year lectionaries the RCL has replaced in a variety of denominations.  Furthermore, as a number of clergymen and clergywomen have said, the RCL requires them to address passages of the Bible on which they might not have preached otherwise.  Another advantage of reading scripture via a lectionary, the RCL in particular, is that it helps one read passages of scripture in the context of each other.  Scripture is, after all, one context in which to read scripture properly.

Sometimes the RCL chops up passages of scripture, skipping over certain verses.  On some occasions this does not change the meaning or flavor of the pericope; the cut might serve the purpose of sparing the lector of having to read polysyllabic names that have no effect on the point of the lesson, as in Nehemiah 8:4.  Sometimes the cuts create an awkward composite reading yet do not change the meaning of the passage.  For example, the First Reading (Track One) for Proper 26, Year C, is Habakkuk 1:1-4; 2:1-4, skipping over God’s reply to the prophet and most of the prophet’s answer to God in the first chapter.  The main reason for this kind of cut seems to be time.  Besides, a good homilist can summarize the cut material, so that omission is fine.  I do, however, object to other cuts.

Consider, O reader, 1 Thessalonians 1.  The verses from it assigned for reading on Proper 26, Year C, are 1-4 and 11-12.  This fact makes me more interested in verses 5-10 than I might be otherwise.  In The Revised English Bible (1989) verses 1-4 read:

From Paul, Silvanus, and Timothy to the church of the Thessalonians who belong to God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Friends, we are always bound to thank God for you, and it is right that we should, because your faith keeps on increasing and the love you all have for each other grows ever greater.  Indeed we boast about you among the churches of God, because your faith remains so steadfast under all the persecutions and troubles you endure.

Verses 5-10 read:

This points to the justice of God’s judgement; you will be proved worthy of the kingdom of God, for which indeed you are suffering.  It is just that God should balance the account by sending affliction to those who afflict you, and relief to you who are afflicted, and to us as well, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in blazing fire.  Then he will mete out punishment to those who refuse to acknowledge God and who will not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.  They will suffer the penalty of eternal destruction, cut off from the presence of the Lord, and the splendor of his might, when on the great day he comes to reveal his glory among his own and his majesty among all believers; and therefore among you, since you believed the testimony we brought you.

Verses 11-12, the end of the chapter, read:

With this in mind we pray for you always, that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and that his power may bring to fulfilment every good purpose and every act inspired by faith, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Omitting verses 5-10 removes the crucial link between verses 1-4 and verses 11-12.  It also changes the tone of the reading, dropping the balance of divine judgment and mercy.  I understand that the question of the balance of judgment and mercy in God can be uncomfortable for many people, but that question does recur in both the Old and New Testaments.  I do not pretend to have arrived at answer other than “only God knows.”  So be it.

Omitting uncomfortable verses is a pattern in the RCL, which does not omit all of them.  All one has to do to notice this pattern of avoiding reading certain verses is to pay attention to the RCL’s treatment of the Book of Psalms.  The RCL avoids some Psalms entirely and omits certain uncomfortable passages in others.  The emotions in the Psalms are frequently raw and not Christlike.  This fact might make one uncomfortable speaking, chanting, or singing certain lines in Christian worship.  Nevertheless, the RCL does include all of Psalm 137, even the part about dashing the heads of the children of enemies against a rock.  In contrast, I note that the Common Lectionary (1983) omits the final, vengeful verses of Psalm 137.

I have noticed these omissions more than I used to since I began to teach an adult Sunday School class just over a year ago.  For slightly more than a year I have studied the assigned readings ahead of time so I can lead a discussion of them between the morning services.  More than once I have extended readings in class and led a discussion of pericopes as I have thought they should have been, that is, not chopped up, cut, and pasted.

As much as I affirm the RCL as a useful tool, I also recognize its limitations.  There is, of course, the three-quarters of the (Protestant, I presume) Bible it does not cover.  According to my reading regarding lectionaries, a seven-year cycle would cover just about all of the (Protestant, I presume) material.  How many congregations and homilists are ready for Years A. B, C, D, E, F, and G?  And how much of Leviticus does one what to hear read aloud in church on Sunday mornings?  The main limitation of the RCL is one pastors can fix easily; they can extend readings and restore omitted verses.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WOLFGANG OF REGENSBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY BISHOP

THE FEAST OF ALL HALLOWS’ EVE

THE FEAST OF THE REFORMATION

THE VIGIL FOR THE EVE OF ALL SAINTS’ DAY

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The Sin of Favoritism   1 comment

ezra-reads-the-law-to-the-people

Above:  Ezra Reads the Law to the People, by Gustave Dore

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:

Deuteronomy 10:12-22 or Nehemiah 9:1-38

Psalm 6

John 7:1-13

Galatians 2:1-14 (15-21) or Galatians 1:1-24 or James 1:1-16 (17-27) or James 1:17-2:10 (2:11-13)

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The life of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ was under threat in John 7.  He was, according to certain critics, a blasphemer.  Those critics knew Leviticus 24:10-23 well; the punishment for blasphemy is death (by stoning).  Saul of Tarsus, the future St. Paul the Apostle, thought that he was acting righteously when he stood by during the death of at least one Christian.  Then he learned that he was wrong, that God showed no partiality or favoritism among the faithful, whether Jew or Gentile.

That caution against spiritual arrogance–sometimes expressed violently–is evident also in James 1 and 2.  There we read that we have divine instructions to be impartial.  To treat a prominent or wealthy person better than a poor person is impious, we read.  The text also reminds us of the obligation to treat the poor and the vulnerable justly and with respect, thereby echoing Deuteronomy 10.  Society and social institutions do, as a rule, favor the well-off and penalize the poor, do they not?  This is societal sin.

Societal remorse for and repentance of this point and others would be nice.  The scene in Nehemiah 9 follows the reading of the Law of Moses to Jews in Jerusalem after the end of the Babylonian Exile.  Many people, upon hearing what they should have been doing, felt guilty and wept.  Their leaders told them to rejoice in God (Nehemiah 8:9-12).  Then the people fasted and confessed their sins.  Next, in Chapter 10, they repented–turned their backs on their sins.

I want my society to express remorse for exploiting all vulnerable people, sometimes violently..  I want my society not to weep but to act to correct its foolish ways that harm the poor and all other vulnerable people.  I want other societies to do the same.  I want us to succeed in this great work, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-year-d/

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Nehemiah and 1 Timothy, Part IV: Performing Good Deeds at Every Opportunity   1 comment

esdras-ezra

Above:  Ezra

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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:

Nehemiah 7:1-4 (September 22)

Nehemiah 8:1-18 (September 22)

Nehemiah 9:1-21 (September 23)

Nehemiah 9:22-38 (September 24–Protestant Versification)

Nehemiah 9:22-10:1 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox Versification)

Psalm 67 (Morning–September 22)

Psalm 51 (Morning–September 23)

Psalm 54 (Morning–September 24)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–September 22)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–September 23)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–September 24)

1 Timothy 5:1-16 (September 22)

1 Timothy 5:17-6:2 (September 23)

1 Timothy 6:3-21 (September 24)

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Some Related Posts:

Nehemiah 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/week-of-proper-21-thursday-year-1/

1 Timothy 5-6:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/week-of-proper-19-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/week-of-proper-19-saturday-year-1/

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The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

–Psalm 51:18, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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These days’ readings speak of lamenting sins and of vowing to reform errant ways.  They also offer culturally specific advice as to how to do the latter.  I, as a Christian, do not follow the Law of Moses, for Jesus has fulfilled the Law.  And I read 1 Timothy 5-6, my jaw dropping because of the sexism and the failure to condemn slavery.  I, when pondering Old and New Testament moral advice, find the following statements helpful:

Identifying general principles is important because the real purpose of the Law is to inculcate general principles and values and to apply them in specific instances.  This is done by stating general principles and by illustrating, with specific examples, how general principles can be applied in specific cases.

–Richard Bauckham, The Bible in Politics:  How to Read the Bible Politically, 2d. Ed. (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2011, pages 24-25)

The best moral advice I have located in these days’ readings is to preform good deeds

at every opportunity.

–1 Timothy 5:10d, The Revised English Bible

What that looks like depends on the opportunities.  May we focus on that principle and not become bogged down in legalistic details.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 17, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DANIEL SYLVESTER TUTTLE, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY EUPHRASIA PELLETIER, FOUNDER OF THE CONTEMPLATIVES OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD

THE FEAST OF PARDITA MARY RAMABAI, SOCIAL REFORMER IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF CHAISE DIEU, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

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

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The Law of Liberation   1 comment

Above:  A Jail Cell

Image Source = Andrew Bardwell

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Nehemiah 8:1-12 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

When the seventh month arrived–the Israelites being [settled] in their towns–the entire people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the scroll of the Teaching of Moses with which the LORD had charged Israel.  On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the high priest brought the Teaching before the congregation, men and women and all who could listen with understanding.  He read from it, facing the square before the Water Gate, from the first light until midday, to the men and the women and those who could understand; the ears of all the people were given to the scroll of the Teaching.

Ezra the scribe stood upon a wooden tower made for the purpose, and beside hm stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah at his right, and at his left Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, Meshullam.  Ezra opened the scroll in the sight of all the people; the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people; as he opened it, all the people stood up.  Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered, “Amen, Amen,” with hands upraised.  Then they bowed their hands and prostrated themselves before the LORD with their faces to the ground.  Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites explained the Teaching to the people, while the people stood in their places.  They read from the scroll of the Teaching of God, translating it and giving the sense; so they understood the reading.

Nehemiah the Tirshatha, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites, who were explaining to the people said to all the people,

This day is holy to the LORD your God:  you must not mourn or weep,

for all the people were weeping as they listened to the words of the Teaching.  He further said to them,

Go, eat choice foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord.  Do not be sad, for your rejoicing in the LORD is the source of your strength.

The Levites were quieting the people, saying,

Hush, for the day is holy; do not be sad.

Then all the people went to eat and drink and send portions and make great merriment, for they understood the things they were told.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures forever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

1 Corinthians 12:12-31a (New Revised Standard Version):

Just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body–Jews or Greeks, slaves or free–and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.

Indeed, the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot would say,

Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,

that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear would say,

Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,

that would not make it any less a part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? But as it is, God arranged the members in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single member, where would the body be? As it is, there are many members, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand,

I have no need of you,

nor again the head to the feet,

I have no need of you.

On the contrary, the members of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and those members of the body that we think less honorable we clothe with greater honor, and our less respectable members are treated with greater respect; whereas our more respectable members do not need this. But God has so arranged the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior member, that there may be no dissension within the body, but the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.

Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers; then deeds of power, then gifts of healing, forms of assistance, forms of leadership, various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? But strive for the greater gifts.

Luke 4:14-21 (New Jerusalem Bible):

Jesus, with the power of the Spirit in him, returned to Galilee; and his reputation spread throughout the countryside.  He taught in their synagogues and everyone glorified him.

He came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day as he usually did.  He stood up to read, and they handed him the scroll of the prophet Isaiah.  Unrolling the scroll he found the place where it is written:

The spirit of the Lord is upon me,

for he has anointed me

to bring the good news to the afflicted.

He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives,

sight to the blind,

to let the oppressed go free,

to proclaim a year of favour from the Lord.

Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the assistant and sat down.  And all eyes in the synagogue were fixed on him.  Then he began to speak to them,

The text is being fulfilled today even while you are listening.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-confession-for-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-third-sunday-after-epiphany/

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When I saw the citation for the Nehemiah reading (8:1-3, 5-6, 8-10) in the Revised Common Lectionary, I wondered why it omitted verses 4 and 7.  Then I read the text.  Verses 4 and 7 tell us the names of the people on the platform.  Nehemiah 8:1-10 had been one of the dreaded readings in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer lectionary before The Episcopal Church adopted the Revised Common Lectionary.  The reason for dread was simple:  the names!  Lectors I heard tackle it usually substituted something like

and some other people

for the names and moved along.  And they did not miss any theological point.  The framers of the Revised Common Lectionary did a good deed.  For the purposes of this post, all the names are there because I found a post where I had typed the entire reading.  So I just copied and pasted from my previous work.

The Law of Moses, when applied properly, was about liberating people, not imposing needless burdens on them, unless one considers being stoned for a variety of offenses, including touching a pigskin, committing blasphemy (however people defined that), cursing one’s parents, and engaging in premarital sexual relations necessary burdens.  (I have a mixed view of the Law of Moses.)  Applications of the Law to which Jesus objected including stoning people to death for adultery.  The incidents reported most often in the canonical Gospels, however, pertain to practices which favored the wealthy–those with enough money and leisure time to do certain things just do–and penalized the majority, the poor, who, because of their finances, could not do so.  Liberation of several sorts was on our Lord’s mind.  Next week’s Gospel lesson will will finish the incident at Nazareth, telling of our Lord’s rejection there.  But I am getting ahead of myself.

Psalm 19:7-8, from the 1979 Book of Common Prayer translation, tells us that

The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The people of Christ are the body of Christ, Paul tells us.  Each person is therefore a different part of that body.  All are necessary because of, not in spite of, their differences.  Since the parts of Christ’s body need each other, suffering and rejoicing are collective.  And we cannot build up the body by stoning parts of it.  The Law of God–the Law of Liberation–revives the soul and is just.  It sets the captives free.  That is part of our work as Christians:  to love people, to seek what is best for them.  May we recognize what that entails in our circumstances, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DIETRICH BONHOEFFER, MARTYR AND GERMAN LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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Posted October 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 12, Luke 4, Nehemiah 8, Psalm 19

Tagged with ,

The Joy of Forgiveness   1 comment

Above:  Ezra

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Nehemiah 8:1-12 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

When the seventh month arrived–the Israelites being [settled] in their towns–the entire people assembled as one man in the square before the Water Gate, and they asked Ezra the scribe to bring the scroll of the Teaching of Moses with which the LORD had charged Israel.  On the first day of the seventh month, Ezra the high priest brought the Teaching before the congregation, men and women and all who could listen with understanding.  He read from it, facing the square before the Water Gate, from the first light until midday, to the men and the women and those who could understand; the ears of all the people were given to the scroll of the Teaching.

Ezra the scribe stood upon a wooden tower made for the purpose, and beside hm stood Mattithiah, Shema, Anaiah, Uriah, Hilkiah, and Maaseiah at his right, and at his left Pedaiah, Mishael, Malchijah, Hashum, Hashbaddanah, Zechariah, Meshullam.  Ezra opened the scroll in the sight of all the people; the sight of all the people, for he was above all the people; as he opened it, all the people stood up.  Ezra blessed the LORD, the great God, and all the people answered,

Amen, Amen,

with hands upraised.  Then they bowed their hands and prostrated themselves before the LORD with their faces to the ground.  Jeshua, Bani, Sherebiah, Jamin, Akkub, Shabbethai, Hodiah, Maaseiah, Kelita, Azariah, Jozabad, Hanan, Pelaiah, and the Levites explained the Teaching to the people, while the people stood in their places.  They read from the scroll of the Teaching of God, translating it and giving the sense; so they understood the reading.

Nehemiah the Tirshatha, Ezra the priest and scribe, and the Levites, who were explaining to the people said to all the people,

This day is holy to the LORD your God:  you must not mourn or weep,

for all the people were weeping as they listened to the words of the Teaching.  He further said to them,

Go, eat choice foods and drink sweet drinks and send portions to whoever has nothing prepared, for the day is holy to our Lord.  Do not be sad, for your rejoicing in the LORD is the source of your strength.

The Levites were quieting the people, saying,

Hush, for the day is holy; do not be sad.

Then all the people went to eat and drink and send portions and make great merriment, for they understood the things they were told.

Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

2  Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3  Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4  You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

5  Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

6  Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

7  I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

8  I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

Luke 10:1-12 (The Jerusalem Bible):

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them out ahead of him, in pairs, to all the towns and places he himself wast to visit.  He said to them,

The harvest is rich but the labourers are few, so ask the Lord of the harvest to send labourers to his harvest.  Start off now, but remember, I am sending you out like lambs among wolves.  Carry no purse, no haversack, no sandals.  Salute no one on the road.  Whatever you house go into, let your first words be, “Peace be to this house!”  And if a man of peace lives there, your peace will go and rest on him; if not, it will come back to you.  Stay in the same house, taking what food and drink they have to offer, for the labourer deserves his wages; do not move from house to house.  Whenever you go into a town when they make you welcome, eat what is set before you.  Cure those in it who are sick, and say, “The kingdom of God is very near you.”  But whenever you enter a town and they do not make you welcome, go out into its streets and say, “We wipe off the very dust of your town that clings to our feet, and leave it with you.  Yet be sure of this:  the kingdom of God is very near.”  I tell you, on that day it will not go as hard with Sodom as with that town.

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The Collect:

O God, you declare your almighty power chiefly in showing mercy and pity: Grant us the fullness of your grace, that we, running to obtain your promises, may become partakers of your heavenly treasure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The reading from Nehemiah is, at least in The Episcopal Church, one of those readings one might dread when it appears in the lectionary.  Why did so many Biblical parents insist on such difficult-to-pronounce names?  Why did they not name a son Bob or Harry?  For liturgical reading, at least, there is an easy fix, which is slight rewording of the text to avoid having to read all those name.  For example:

Ezra the scribe stood upon a wooden tower made for the purpose, and he stood in the middle of a group of men.

Now the lector can move along to the main point of the passage without tripping his or her tongue on polysyllabic names.

The main point is this:  The Jews in Jerusalem had sinned out of ignorance.  But, when they learned of their sins, they repented.  Ezra told them to focus on the future and to live faithfully from now on, not to berate themselves for prior errors.  How were they to know how to live unless someone had told them?  But, now that they knew, they were responsible.  They ought to live faithfully and joyfully in God, who had provided this law for them and forgiven them.

The fact remains that many people do not know of the God of the Bible because of time, geography, and the fact that nobody has informed them yet.  What about them?  I propose that the best answer to this question comes from Paragraph 1281 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, Second Edition (1997):

Those who die for the faith, those who are catechumens, and all those who, without knowing of the Church but acting under the inspiration of grace, seek God sincerely and strive to fulfill his will, can be saved even if they have not been baptized.

Grace goes where it will, regardless of what we humans think about that.

As much as there is forgiveness, there is also judgment.  Often they coexist within the same passage of scripture.  Consider the lesson from Luke.  The Synoptic Gospels tell virtually identical stories of Jesus sending the Twelve Apostles out on a preaching mission.  Here in Luke, however, Jesus also sends out the newly-minted seventy-two disciples for a similar purpose.  They will face rejection, Jesus knows.  He tells them to leave places where this happens and to leave the rest to God.

God, of course, judges, but also forgives us and continues to seek us.  So only God and a person really know what goes on between God and him or her.  The rest of us ought not to judge, not that this stops us sometimes.

I write these words on Good Friday 2011, so I give special attention to our Lord and Savior’s prayer for those who executed him and who looked on.  ”Forgive them,” he said, ” for they do not know what they are doing.”  What we do to each other in ignorance can be devastating, but it lies within the range of forgiveness.

Perhaps the best way to close this devotion is to quote a prayer from a Rosh Hashanah service, courtesy of Gates of Repentance:  The New Union Prayerbook for the Days of Awe (New York, NY:  Central Conference of American Rabbis, 1978), page 371.  This seems appropriate because The Jewish Study Bible informs me that the gathering in Nehemiah 8 occurred on a date known later as Rosh Hashanah.

Lord, we are not so arrogant as to pretend

that the trial of our lives

does not reveal our flaws.

We know ourselves,

in this moment of prayer,

to have failed

the ones we love and the stranger,

again and again.

We know how often

we did not bring to the surface of our lives

the hidden goodness within.

Where we have achieved, O Lord,

we are grateful;

where we have failed,

we ask forgiveness.

Remember how exposed we are

to the chances and terrors of life.

We were afraid.

We sometimes chose to fail.

And we ask:

Turn our thoughts from the hurt to its remedy.

Free us from the torments of guilt.

Forgiven, O Lord, we shall then forgive others;

failing, we shall learn to understand failure;

renewed and encouraged, we shall strive to be like

those who came before us:  human.

Sinners sometimes, yet a blessing.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 22, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES HAMILTON HOUSTON, CIVIL RIGHTS ATTORNEY

THE FEAST OF CESAR CHAVEZ, LABOR UNION LEADER

THE FEAST OF SAINT FIDELIS OF SIGMARINGEN, CAPUCHIN FRIAR AND MARTYR

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 22, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/22/week-of-proper-21-thursday-year-1/

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