Archive for the ‘Numbers 17-19’ Category

Maintaining Christian Hope   1 comment

Moses and Korah

Above:  Moses and Korah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

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

and redeem us for your life of justice,

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

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 17:1-11

Psalm 90

2 Peter 3:1-18

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For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

–Psalm 90:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Complaining frequently, rebelling occasionally, and angering God in the process are recurring motifs in the post-Exodus parts of the Torah.  The people were free, had sufficient food and water, and should have been grateful.  Many were, to be sure, but a large proportion of the population waxed nostalgically regarding Egyptian leftovers and kept angering God.  They were impatient.

Allowing for change in God concepts from Numbers 17 to 2 Peter 3, the principle of obeying God remains constant.  The context in 2 Peter 3 is the fact that expectations of the imminent return of Christ proved to be false.  Many early Christians were dying without the Messiah having come back and replaced the corrupt, violent, and exploitative world order with the fully realized Kingdom of God.  Many people were losing hope.  Some were seizing the opportunity to live wrongly.

God is never late, but we humans are frequently impatient.  We are fortunate, for God has blessed us in more ways than we can count, but often we murmur or shout our complaints.  Giving thanks, not kvetching, is in order.

If you love me, you will keep my commandments.  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you forever.  This is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him.  You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you.

–John 14:15-17, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

We need not rely on our own power to have a proper, respectful, awe-filled relationship with God, who advocates for us and does not strike us down with plagues.  No, abundant grace is available.  Will we accept it, maintain Christian hope, and embrace divine love, which demands much of us?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, FRANCES JANE DOUGLAS(S), HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EUNICE SHRIVER KENNEDY, FOUNDER OF THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH, ABOLITIONIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/10/devotion-for-monday-after-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted August 12, 2015 by neatnik2009 in 2 Peter 3, John 14, Numbers 17-19, Psalm 90

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Numbers and Luke, Part VII: Accepting or Rejecting the Chosen of God   1 comment

wicked-husbandmen

Above:  The Wicked Husbandmen

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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:

Numbers 16:41-17:13/17:6-28

Psalm 47 (Morning)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening)

Luke 20:1-8

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Numbers 16:41-17:13 (Protestant versification) = 17:6-28 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versification).

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The theme of authority and rebellion against it continues from previous readings in the Book of Numbers and the Gospel of Luke.

One day prior to the setting of the Numbers reading Moses had ordered that the fire pans of Korah and his people be melted down and made into copper plating for the altar as a warning against any future rebellions.  Yet he and Aaron faced a rebellion which, the narrative tells us, God punished with a plague which killed 14,700 people.  And God affirmed the Aaronic priesthood; I ought to mention that detail.

Much later, in Jerusalem, during Holy Week in 29 CE, Jesus faced challenges to his authority.  The textual context makes abundantly clear that the wicked tenants in the parable were stand-ins for people such as those who were confronting him.

Here I am, almost eleven months ahead of schedule, writing a devotional post for just a few days before Pentecost Sunday, and the lectionary I am following has me in Holy Week!  Anyhow, the message is timeless:  Do not oppose the chosen ones of God.  Since I am writing for just a few days before Pentecost Sunday, I choose to focus on the Holy Spirit here and now.  It goes where it will.  Through it God the Father speaks to us. We need it to interpret Scripture correctly.  The one unpardonable sin in the Bible is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which I understand to be to mistake good for evil, to be so spiritually oblivious as not to know the difference.

May we–you, O reader, and I–recognize the fruits of the Holy Spirit in people.  We see them in many ways.  When people of God strive for social justice, which entails inclusiveness more often than not, the Holy Spirit is probably at work.  When love and compassion win, the Holy Spirit is at work.  The test is fruits, or results.  And may we support the good ones (the ones of the Holy Spirit, of God) and reject the rest.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST ENGLISH MARTYR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITING CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA, 1977

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FISHER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ROCHESTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/devotion-for-the-forty-seventh-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part VI: Servant Leadership   1 comment

punishment-of-korah-and-the-stoning-of-moses-and-aaron-sandro-botticelli

Above:  The Punishment of Korah and the Stoning of Moses and Aaron, by Sandro Botticelli

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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:

Numbers 16:1-22 (45th Day of Easter)

Numbers 16:23-40/17:5 (46th Day of Easter)

Psalm 98 (Morning–45th Day of Easter)

Psalm 99 (Morning–46th Day of Easter)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening–45th Day of Easter)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening–46th Day of Easter)

Luke 19:11-28 (45th Day of Easter)

Luke 19:29-48 (46th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 19:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/29/sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/week-of-proper-28-wednesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/week-of-proper-28-thursday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/17/week-of-proper-28-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-28-saturday-year-2/

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Numbers 16 has 35 verses in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versions of the Bible yet 50 verses in Protestant ones.  So Numbers 17:1-5 in Protestant Bibles = Numbers 16:36-50 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox ones.  And 17:1-5 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox) = 16:36-40 (Protestant).  Life would be simpler if there were just one system of versification in the Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, would it not?

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ARCHELAUS, received the kingdom of Judaea by the last will of his father, Herod the Great, though a previous will had bequeathed it to his brother Antipas.  He was proclaimed king by the army, but declined to assume the title until he had submitted his claims to Augustus.  Before setting out, he quelled with the utmost cruelty a sedition of the Pharisees, slaying nearly 3,000 of them.  At Rome he was opposed by Antipas and by many of the Jews, but Augustus allotted to him the greater part of the kingdom (Judaea, Samaria, Ituraea) with the title of Ethnarch.  He married Glaphyra, the widow of his brother Alexander, though his wife and her second husband, Juba, king of Mauretania, were alive.  This violation of the Mosaic Law and his continued cruelty roused the Jews, who complained to Augustus.  Archlaus was deposed (A.D. 7) and banished to Vienne.  The date of his death is unknown.  He is mentioned in Matt. ii. 22, and the parable of Luke xix. 11 seq. may refer to his journey to Rome.

Encyclopedia Britannica (1955), Volume 2, page 264

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What right did Moses have to rule?  And what was the proper basis of the Aaronic priesthood?  Korah and his confederates wanted to know.  So they challenged Moses and Aaron.  They also died trying.  Exuent those reels.  The basis for all that they opposed was God, the narrative tells us.

The Parable of the Pounds refers to Herod Archelaus, whose 1955 Encyclopedia Britannica entry I have typed verbatim.  The appointed king, like Archelaus, was a very bad man.  The placement of this parable immediately before our Lord’s Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem cannot be an accident.  Jesus is a king, but of a sort very different from any Roman puppet, such as Herod Antipas, who appears in Luke 23:8-12.  Antipas was Tetrarch of Galiille and Perea.  He had ordered the beheading of St. John the Baptist.  Ironically, the Tetrarch’s journey to Rome in search of the title “king” had an unexpected result.  The Emperor Caligula, convinced by Herod Agrippa I, brother-in-law of Antipas, that Antipas was conspiring against the Emperor , banished him (Antipas) to Lugdunum, Gaul, now Lyon, France, in 39 CE.

Seeking glory is a dangerous game and wielding authority is a great responsibility.  Power might grind down those who lack it, but it also consumes many people who desire it.  Moses did not seek the alleged glory of leading a mass of grumblers in the desert.  And going to the cross just a few days after the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem was the glorification of Jesus in the Gospel of John, albeit a painful and humiliating manner of attaining it.

You know that among the gentiles those they call their rulers lord it over them, and their great men make their authority felt.  Among you this is not to happen.  No; anyone who wants to become great among you must be your servant, and anyone who wants to be first among you must be slave to all.  For the Son of man himself came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.

–Mark 10:42b-45, The New Jerusalem Bible

The context for that lesson from the Gospel of Mark is shortly before the Triumphal Entry and immediately after James and John, our Lord’s first cousins, ask for honored places in Heaven.  And it fits well here, in this post, with the assigned readings for these two days.

Every generation has its share of violent tyrants and petty dictators, unfortunately.  Yet every generation also has its servant leaders, men and women who struggle to do the right thing, to wield authority honorably, without losing their souls.  It is a difficult calling, one in which, I pray, they will succeed.

I pray also that the rest of us called to other pursuits will work effectively for the benefit of others, not our own aggrandizement, in all the ways in which God leads us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 21, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL FAITHFUL MEMBERS OF THE CLERGY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALOYSIUS GONZAGA, JESUIT

THE FEAST OF HENARE WIREMU TARATOA OF TE RANGA, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN JONES AND JOHN RIGBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/21/devotion-for-the-forty-fifth-and-forty-sixth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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“Everything Else Is Commentary.”–Hillel   1 comment

Above:  A Torah Scroll

Image Source = Merlin

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

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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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Romans 2:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

You have no defence, then, whoever you may be, when you sit in judgement–for in judging others you condemn yourself, since you, the judge, are equally guilty.  We all know that God’s judgement on those who commit such crimes is just; and do you imagine–you that pass judgement on the guilty while committing the same crimes yourself–do you imagine that you, any more than they, will escape the judgement of God?  Or do you despise the the wealth of kindness and tolerance and patience, failing to see that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?  In the obstinate impenitence of your heart you are laying up for yourself a store of retribution against the day of retribution, when God’s just judgement will be revealed, and he will pay everyone for what he has done.  To those who pursue glory, honour, and immortality by steady persistence in well-doing, he will give eternal life; but the retribution of his wrath awaits those who are governed by selfish ambition, who refuse obedience to truth and take evil for their guide.  There will be affliction and distress for every human being who is a wrongdoer, for the Jew first and the Greek also; but for everyone who does right there will be glory, honour, and peace, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.  God has no favourites.

Psalm 62:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

from him comes my salvation.

2  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be greatly shaken.

3  How long will you assail me to crush me,

all of you together,

as if you were a leaning fence, a toppling wall?

4  They seek only to bring me down from my place of honor;

lies are their chief delight.

5  They bless with their lips,

but in their hearts they curse.

6  For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7  He alone is my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

Luke 11:42-46 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you Pharisees!  You pay tithes of mint and rue and every garden herb, but neglect justice and the love of God.  It is these you should have practised, without overlooking the others.

Alas for you Pharisees!  You love to have the chief seats in synagogues, and to be greeted respectfully in the street.

Alas, alas, you who are like unmarked graves, which people walk over unawares.

At this one of the lawyers said,

Teacher, when you say things like this you are insulting us too.

Jesus rejoined,

Alas for you lawyers also!  You load men with intolerable burdens, and will not lift a finger to lighten the load.

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The Collect:

Lord, we pray that your grace may always precede and follow us, that we may continually be given to good works; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Numbers 19:16 reads:

In the open, anyone who touches someone killed with a weapon or someone killed with a weapon or touches a human bone or a grave, is unclean for seven days.

This applied especially to those who did this accidentally.  This detail matters because Jesus refers to it in Luke 11:44, the verse about walking over an unmarked grave.  The Pharisees and their accompanying experts in the Law of Moses were bad influences even if they did not wake up each day plotting how to be bad influences, Jesus said.  They were certainly sincere, but they were sincerely wrong and destructive.

They were so because they became and remained lost in the details.  They had reduced morality to a checklist when it is more a matter of proper attitudes.  The details tend to fall into place when one has proper priorities.  If I say, for example, that I will endeavor, with the help of God, to do unto others as I would want them to do unto me, I do not need to carry a checklist of forbidden and acceptable actions.  ”Is it lawful?” is not a question on which I need to spend much time when love of my neighbor defines my actions.

This is a profoundly Jewish attitude.  The great Rabbi Hillel, who died when Jesus was a young man, once fielded a question from a scoffer who demanded a very brief summary of the Torah–one he could listen to in its entirely while standing on one foot.  Hillel’s replied with the Golden Rule, to love one’s neighbor as one’s self.  He continued,

Everything else is commentary.  Now, if you’re really interested, to and study the commentary.

It is vital that, when studying the commentary, one ought not forget the main idea, which is the Golden Rule.  One can be a wrongdoer while trying to do that which is moral.  I think of many of my Antebellum Southern forebears in the Christian faith, who used the Bible to defend chattel slavery, a dehumanizing institution.  Then, after the Civil War and through the Civil Rights Movement, many professing Christians used many old pro-slavery arguments to support de jure segregation.  They looked at the details–the commentary–but did not stay focused on the main idea, the Golden Rule.  The commentary contains many useful ideas about how to observe the Golden Rule, but one can pervert and twist the commentary and contradict the Golden Rule easily and without trying to do so.

Sometimes our cultural, subcultural, and religious programming blinds us to our sins.  Other times we blind ourselves to our sins out of selfish interests.  Yet the guiding principle, which is the Golden Rule, remains clear and succinct.  Why are so many of us so confused so much of the time?

Yet, as James 1:27 reads,

A pure and faultless religion in the sight of God the Father is this:  to look after orphans and widows in trouble and to keep oneself untarnished by the world.

This is all the checklist I need.  ”Is it lawful?” If it cares effectively for the vulnerable, it is.  If not, it is not.  If it values people more than possessions and other forms of wealth, it is lawful.  If it does not, it is not.  As Saint Laurence of Rome understood well, the poor are treasure of the Church.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FLORIAN OF LORCH, MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT GODEHARD OF HILDESHEIM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MONICA, MOTHER OF SAINT AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-wednesday-year-1/

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A Living Power Among You Who Believe It   1 comment

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s)

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1 Thessalonians 2:9-13 (The Jerusalem Bible):

Let me remind you, brothers, how hard we used to work, slaving night and day so as not to be a burden on any one of you while we were proclaiming God’s Good News to you.  You are witnesses, and so is God, that our treatment of you, since you became believers, has been impeccably right and fair.  You can remember how we treated every one of you as a father treats his children, teaching you what was right, encouraging you and appealing to you to live a life worthy of God, who is calling you to share the glory of his kingdom.

Another reason why we constantly thank God for you is that as soon as you heard the message that we brought you as God’s message, you accepted it for what it really is, God’s message and not some human thinking; and it is still a living power among you who believe it.

Psalm 126 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

When the LORD restored the fortunes of Zion,

then were we like those who dream.

2 Then was our mouth filled with laughter,

and our tongue with shouts of joy.

3 Then they said among the nations,

“The LORD has done great things for them.”

The LORD has done great things for us,

and we are glad indeed.

5 Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

6 Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

7 Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come again with joy, shouldering their sheaves.

Matthew 23:27-32 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who are like whitewashed tombs that look handsome on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of corruption.  In the same way you appear to people from the outside like honest men, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.

Alas for you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites!  You who build the sepulchres of the prophets and decorate the tombs of holy men, saying, ‘We would never have joined in shedding the blood of the prophets, had we lived in our fathers’ day.’  So!  Your own evidence tells against you!  You are the sons of those who murdered the prophets!  Very well then, finish off the work that your fathers began.

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The Collect:

Grant, O merciful God, that your Church, being gathered together in unity by your Holy Spirit, may show forth your power among all peoples, to the glory of your Name; 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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Contact with a corpse made one ritually unclean (Numbers 19:16).  So imagine that it is the month of Adar, and that you, O reader, are a pilgrim in Jesus’ day traveling to Jerusalem for the Passover.  You might become ritually unclean, and therefore ineligible to celebrate Passover, if you come into contact with a roadside tomb.  Fortunately for you, people have whitewashed the tombs in advance, so they will stand out, and pilgrims will not become ritually unclean by accident.

This is the reference to whitewashed tombs in Matthew 23.  But Jesus says that hypocritical professional religious people who lay needless burdens on the faithful are the whitewashed tombs; the scribes and Pharisees are themselves unclean.  How is that for a strong condemnation, one that hits home?  And these scribes and Pharisees are the spiritual heirs of those who have persecuted and killed prophets of God.  At this point in Matthew Jesus is nearing his own death, in which professional religious people were complicit.  (But let us not let the Romans off the hook, for the Procurator authorized the execution and soldiers carried it out.)

This day’s reading from 1 Thessalonians begins with Paul defending himself against unfounded criticisms.  Why else would he have pointed to his work ethic and his treatment of others?  Here we have an example of an old truth:  Whatever you do, somebody is likely to criticize you.  But the part of the reading that attracts my attention is verse 13:  God’s message is a living power among those who believe it.  Belief is trust; it indicates an influence in how one lives.  So belief becomes evident in actions.

The fault of the scribes and Pharisees that Jesus criticized was that their belief was self-serving.  It made them look good to themselves and many others, but it was a disguise for spiritual rot.  Jesus calls us not to be tombs or spiritual memorials, but living testimonies to him.  Once in a while we might have to say something, but our actions ought to do most of the talking.

The aspect of evangelical and fundamentalist Christianity that bothers me most is its preoccupation with individual salvation at the expense of the well-being of one’s community and society.  I have had conversations with people possessed of this spiritual understanding.  Many of them do not care if the world burns; they have Jesus.  (Someone expressed this sentiment to me a few years ago, without embarrassment.)  According to this point of view, social justice can take a back seat as long as a man’s hair is not too long, a woman’s skirt is not too short, and someone is learning that he or she will go to Hell unless he or she comes to Jesus.  Without dismissing the necessity of Jesus (I am a Christian.), I prefer a holistic gospel.  It is pointless to cure one person of spiritual sickness and not care about societal ills.  Indeed, we humans are not separate from our societies.  And love of God is more effective than fear of damnation in drawing one into a spiritually healthy relationship with God.

Disclaimer, for the sake of accuracy:  Many evangelical Christians are quite concerned about social justice and responsible ecology.  I applaud them.  Unfortunately, some of their co-religionists criticize them for the breadth of their concerns.

May we–you and I–exhibit the living power of God to all, so that all who seek it and cross paths with us will see it working within us.  And, to borrow a line from St. Francis of Assisi, may we preach the gospel at all times, using words when necessary.

In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KING, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF LINCOLN

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on March 6, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/week-of-proper-16-wednesday-year-1/

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