Archive for the ‘Proverbs IV: 21-31’ Category

That Old Sweet Song of Angels   Leave a comment

nativity-and-annunciation-to-the-shepherds

Above:  Nativity and Annunciation to the Shepherds

Image in the Public Domain

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Long ago the angels vanished–

But their song is sounding still!

Millions now with hope are singing,

“Peace on earth, to men good will.”

Sing, my heart!  Tho’ peace may tarry,

Sing good will mid human strife!

Till that old sweet song of angels

Shall attune to heav’n our life.

–William Allen Knight (1863-1957), “Come, My Heart, Canst Thou Not Hear It” (1915), quoted in The Pilgrim Hymnal (1931/1935), Hymn #77

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Part of the mystery of the Incarnation is its counterintuitive nature:  a vulnerable baby was God incarnate.  This truth demonstrates the reality that God operates differently than we frequently define as feasible and effective.  Then again, Jesus was, by dominant human expectations, a failure.  I would never claim that Jesus was a failure, of course.

If your enemies are hungry, give them bread to eat;

and if they are thirsty, give them water to drink;

for you will heap coals of fire on their heads,

and the LORD will reward you.

–Proverbs 25:22, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Speaking of counterintuitive ways of God, shall we ponder the advice of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 12:14-21?

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them.  Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.  Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are.  Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all.  If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.  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.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That old sweet song of angels will not attune to heaven our life if we ignore this sage advice–if we fail to overcome evil with good.  How we treat others indicates more about what kind of people we are than about what kind of people they are.  If we react against intolerance with intolerance, we are intolerant.  We also add fuel to the proverbial fire.  Is not a fire extinguisher better?

As the Master said,

You have heard that it was said, “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”  But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous.  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have?  Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

–Matthew 5:43-48, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Perfection, in this case, indicates suitability for one’s purpose, which is, in the language of the Westminster Shorter Catechism,

to glorify God, and to enjoy him forever.

–Quoted in The United Presbyterian Church in the United States of America, The Book of Confessions (1967)

As the annual celebration of the birth of Christ approaches again, may we who follow him with our words also follow him with our deeds:  may we strive for shalom on a day-to-day basis.  Only God can save the world, but we can leave it better than we found it.

Merry Christmas!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 21, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS THE APOSTLE, MARTYR

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As One Thinks   1 comment

Isaiah

Above:   Isaiah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1-9

Psalm 32:1-7

John 8:39-47

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Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

and in whose spirit there is no guile!

–Psalm 32:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That description does not apply to the Hebrew nation in Isaiah 1 or to the group of Jews in front of Jesus in John 8.  In both cases their deeds revealed their creeds, and divine authority disapproved of the contents of both categories.

Proverbs 23:7, in the context of a greedy man offering someone food for ulterior motives, says, in most modern translations, something like the wording in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985):

He is like one keeping accounts….

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) states,

For what he is really thinking about is himself.

The Revised English Bible (1989) uses an idiomatic translation.  The miserly man

will stick in your throat like a hair.

The Authorized (King James) Version offers a different take on the difficult-to-translate verse.  Of the greed man it states,

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he….

I leave questions of the proper translation of Proverbs 23:7 to scholars of the Hebrew Bible.  Nevertheless, I offer one thought relating to that old rendering.

As one thinks in one’s heart, so one is

is an accurate statement.  It applies to the hostile crowd in John 8 and to the idolatrous people in Isaiah 1, as well as to a host of other contexts.  It also applies to you, O reader, and to me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-26-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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This is post #1550 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Humility Before God, Part IV   1 comment

Age of Innocence

Above:   The Age of Innocence, by Joshua Reynolds

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world.

Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 28:3-10 (Friday)

Proverbs 28:11-28 (Saturday)

Psalm 146 (Both Days)

Ephesians 2:1-10 (Friday)

Luke 9:43b-48 (Saturday)

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The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked.

–Psalm 146:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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He who covers up his faults will not succeed;

He who confesses and gives them up will find mercy.

–Proverbs 28:13, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Winston Churchill (the British Prime Minister, not the American novelist) was openly critical of his successor and predecessor, Clement Attlee.  Attlee, Churchill said, was a humble man who had many reasons to be humble.

Each of us in the human race has many reasons to be humble.  We cannot save ourselves from our sinfulness (Ephesians 2), and, in the Kingdom of God, a powerless child is the model to emulate (Luke 9).  All of this is consistent with the Law of Moses, in which we mere mortals depend on God for everything and also on the labor of our fellow human beings.  We depend on God directly and indirectly, and rugged individualism has no place in the divine order.  In God’s order there is no room for hubris or the illusion of self-sufficiency.  No, we must come to God as a helpless child and receive each other in the same manner.

That, in my setting, is a counter-cultural message.  It is one with which I have struggled, for culture and society exert powerful influences on one’s opinions.  Nevertheless, I have, thankfully, arrived at the point of embracing the truth of this counter-cultural teaching.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-21-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Artificial Scarcity and Human Needs   1 comment

Gathering of the Manna

Above:   The Gathering of the Manna, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world.

Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 22:2-16

Psalm 146

2 Corinthians 8:8-15

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The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked.

–Psalm 146:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To profit by withholding what is due to the poor

Is like making gifts to the rich–pure loss.

–Proverbs 22:16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The lection for 2 Corinthians 8 follows a few verses in which St. Paul the Apostle lauded the Macedonian churches which, in the midst of great affliction, gave financially beyond their means for the benefit of the church at Jerusalem.  St. Paul advised the factious church at Corinth to follow that example, thereby proving the genuineness of their love.  Recalling the equitable distribution of manna in Exodus 16:18, he quoted the standard that

He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack.

Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

To help those who are less fortunate is a divine commandment, not a suggestion.  People of good will disagree on the best way to fulfill that mandate.  Sometimes I am uncertain of how to obey it in the moment, as I drive and see a beggar at an intersection in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.  There exists a social safety net, composed of public and private sector agencies, but it is insufficient to help all who need it.  Furthermore, not all of the beggars are really in need; they cast suspicion on those beggars who are needy.  And reports of aggressive panhandlers cast more suspicion on those who need help.  Knowing that one should help the less fortunate is easier than knowing how to help them most effectively.

Artificial scarcity is a feature of human economic systems, but, in God’s economics, this is not the case.  Those who have much do not have too much and those who have little still have enough.  That is a vision of the social reality of the Kingdom of God, in which hording is not a spiritual virtue.  Money is a useful tool and a morally neutral thing.  How one relates to it, however, is not.

As for how best to help those who are less fortunate, may God lead us (individually and collectively) in responding faithfully and effectively to human needs.  A leader, by definition, is someone whom others follow.  If one has no followers, one is simply taking a walk.  May we follow God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-21-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Freedom in God, Part III   1 comment

Paul Writing His Epistles

Above:   Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God among us, we gather in the name of your Son

to learn love for one another.  Keep our feet from evil paths.

Turn our minds to your wisdom and our hearts to the grace

revealed in your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 17:1-5 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 21:10-16 (Wednesday)

Psalm 12 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 9:19-23 (Tuesday)

Luke 20:45-21:4 (Wednesday)

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“Because the needy are oppressed,

and the poor cry out in misery,

I will rise up,” says the LORD,

“and give them the help they long for.”

–Psalm 12:5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Justice done is a joy to the righteous,

To evildoers, ruination.

–Proverbs 21:15, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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He who mocks the poor affronts his Maker;

He who rejoices over another’s misfortune will not go unpunished.

–Proverbs 17:5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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If the reading from Luke 20 and 21 seems familiar, O reader who has also read the last few posts attentively, it is.  That pericope is, in fact, a retelling of Mark 12:38-44.  My comments about the story of the widow’s mite remain unchanged.

As for the reading from 1 Corinthians, St. Paul the Apostle reminds us in Chapter 9 that our freedom in God is for the purposes of God–not to glorify oneself or to obstruct or ignore God.  As my Presbyterian brethren state correctly, the chief and highest end of people is to glorify and enjoy God forever.  How we treat our fellow human beings, especially those who are vulnerable, is telling.  Whenever we help them, we help Jesus.  Whenever we do not help them, we do not help Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46).

How do you, O reader, use your freedom in God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ADVOCATE OF THE POOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/devotion-for-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-20-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Service and Glory   1 comment

Hope flows through a new canal

Above:  Canal

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 21:1-4, 24-26

Psalm 112

Matthew 20:20-28

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How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,

who delights in his commandments!

–Psalm 112:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The reading from Matthew 20 concerns the misguided quest for glory in lieu of service.  In Matthew 20:20-28 St. Mary Salome, sister of St. Mary of Nazareth, asks her nephew (Jesus) to grant her sons (Sts. James and John) places of honor in the Kingdom of God.  In Mark 10:35-45, however, Sts. James and John make the request instead.  In each account our Lord and Savior’s reply is the same:

  1. “You do not understand what you are asking.”–The Revised English Bible (1989);
  2. That is not a decision for Jesus to make; and
  3. The request is misguided.

As the lection from Proverbs 21 reminds us,

Haughty looks–a proud heart–

The tillage of the wicked is sinful.

–Verse 4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

May we seek instead to be like the channeled water of Proverbs 21:1–directed toward whatever God wishes.  May we seek to glorify God and benefit our fellow human beings, not to glorify ourselves.  Jesus has provided a fine example of service for us to emulate in our circumstances.  If we are really Christians, we will seek to follow him more than we do already.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-17-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Nobility and Love   1 comment

Vegetables

Above:  Vegetables

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you resist those who are proud and give grace those who are humble.

Give us the humility of your Son, that we may embody

the generosity of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 46

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 15:13-17 (Thursday)

Proverbs 18:6-12 (Friday)

Psalm 112 (Both Days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Peter 4:7-11 (Friday)

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How blessed is anyone who fears Yahweh,

who delights in his commandments!

–Psalm 112:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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These days’ readings, taken together, extol humility, love, and recognition of complete dependence upon God.  As one saying from Proverbs states eloquently,

Better a meal of vegetables where there is love

Than a flattened ox where there is hate.

–15:17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Like unto that is the commandment to

maintain constant love for one another

–1 Peter 4:8a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989),

which is consistent with the ethic of human responsibilities to and for each other, as in the Law of Moses.

Pride (hubris) goes before the fall.  Humility is frequently difficult also, but it is the better path.  Yes, each of us bears the image of God, but each of us also carries an imperfect nature.  Depravity is not even an article of faith for me, for I have evidence for it, and therefore require no faith to recognize the reality of it.  Nevertheless, as I heard growing up, God did not make any garbage.  Yes, we humans are equally capable of both nobility and depravity, of love and of death.  May we, by grace, succeed more often than not in following the paths of nobility and love.

St. Paul the Apostle offered timeless wisdom in his Letter to the Romans:

Never pay back evil for evil.  Let your aims be such as all count honourable.  If possible, so far as it lies with you, live at peace with all.  My dear friends, do not seek revenge, but leave a place for divine retribution; for there is a text which reads, “Vengeance is mine, says the Lord, I will repay.”  But there is another text:  “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink; by doing so you will heap live coals on his head.”  Do not let evil conquer you, but use good to conquer evil.

–12:17-21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That passage cites Leviticus 19:18 and Proverbs 25:21-22.  It is also compatible with Matthew 5:43-48.

St. Paul summarized an essential part of Christian ethics better than my capacity to paraphrase it.  For that reason I leave you, O reader, with those noble words.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2016 COMMON ERA

MAUNDY THURSDAY

THE FEAST OF THOMAS ATTWOOD, “FATHER OF MODERN CHURCH MUSIC”

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR, AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, ECUMENIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/24/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-17-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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