Archive for the ‘Psalm 34’ Category

The Oratory and Theology of Elihu, Part II   1 comment

the-wrath-of-elihu-william-blake

Above:  The Wrath of Elihu, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Job 33:1-33

Psalm 34:11-18

Matthew 12:1-21 or Mark 3:7-19 or Luke 6:1-16

Hebrews 12:(1-3) 4-17

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When the righteous cry for help,

the LORD hears,

and rescues them from all their troubles.

–Psalm 34:17, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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The speeches of Job in most of the Book of Job say otherwise.

Elihu, sounding pious and spouting a mix of truth and bad theology, blames the victim in Job 33.  Job must be suffering because of a sin, Elihu is certain.  Elihu is correct that

God does not fit man’s measure.

–Verse 12b, The Jerusalem Bible (1966).

Nevertheless, Elihu fails to recognize that God does not fit his measure.  Spiritual discipline by God is a reality, of course, but it does not explain all suffering.

One can quite easily become fixated on a set of rules and fail to recognize that they do not describe how God works.  For example, keeping the Sabbath is a healthy spiritual exercise.  It is properly an indication of freedom.  It is properly a gift.  It is properly a form of recognition of the necessity of rest.  It is improperly an occasion of legalism, such as in the cases of Jesus healing on the Sabbath and of he and his Apostles picking corn and grain on that day.  They did have to eat, did they not?  And did the man with the withered hand deserve to wait another day to receive his healing?

That healing on the Sabbath, according to all three accounts of it, prompted some of our Lord and Savior’s critics to plot his death.  Luke 6:11 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989) reports that they were “filled with fury.”

Compassion is a timeless spiritual virtue, one frequently sacrificed on the altars of legalism and psychological defensiveness.  To be compassionate is better than to seek to sin an argument or to destroy one’s adversary.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GOTTFRIED WILHELM SACER, GERMAN LUTHERAN ATTORNEY AND HYMN WRITER; AND FRANCES ELIZABETH COX, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/08/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

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Posted September 8, 2016 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 12, Job III: 32-37, Luke 6, Mark 3, Matthew 12, Psalm 34

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Living in Community, Part I   1 comment

Joshua and the Israelite People

Above:  Joshua and the Israelite People

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, your word feeds your people with life that is eternal.

Direct our choices and preserve us in your truth,

that, renouncing what is evil and false, we may live in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Joshua 22:1-9 (Thursday)

Joshua 22:10-20 (Friday)

Joshua 22:21-34 (Saturday)

Psalm 34:15-22 (All Days)

1 Thessalonians 5:1-11 (Thursday)

Romans 13:11-14 (Friday)

Luke 11:5-13 (Saturday)

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The man who does right may suffer many misfortunes,

but the LORD rescues him from them all.

He keeps him safe from physical harm,

not a bone of his body is broken.

–Psalm 34:20-21, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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I have read and written of martyrs, such as St. James Intercisus (died circa 421), whose lives contradicted those verses.  Reality has proven much of the Book of Psalms to be naively optimistic.

The theme of this post comes from Romans and 1 Thessalonians.  I begin with Romans 13:12b-13a:

Let us then lay aside the works of darkness and put on the armor of light; let us live honorably as in the day….

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I continue with 1 Thessalonians 5:9-11:

God destined us not for his retribution, but to win salvation through our lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that, awake or asleep, we should still be united to him.  So give encouragement to each other, and keep strengthening one another, as you do already.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Rabbi Hillel, who was an old man when Jesus was a juvenile, summarized the Torah by quoting the Shema then saying,

The rest is commentary; go and learn it.

I apply the same statement to the remainder of the pericopes from Romans 13 and 1 Thessalonians 5.  It is commentary; go and learn it.

Living properly in community before God requires much of us.  It means that we must put up with inconveniences sometimes, for the sake of hospitality, which was frequently a matter or life or death in Biblical times.  It also means that, among other things, we must lay aside misunderstandings and encourage one another.  The altar in Joshua 22 was, in fact, not a threat to the central place of worship.  Neither did it constitute evidence of any variety of treachery before God, contrary to the charge in verse 16.  How many people might have died needlessly had the planned war against the transjordan tribes, based on a misunderstanding, occurred?

Often those who plot and commit errors seek to behave correctly, but they proceed from false assumptions and understandings.  This statement remains correct in current times, unfortunately.  More people (especially those who decide policies) need to check their information more often.  The rest of us (not the policy makers) carry erroneous assumptions in our heads.  As I heard a professor who is an expert in critical thinking say years ago, our most basic assumptions are the ones we do not think of as being assumptions.  How can we live in peace with our neighbors if we do not understand their actions correctly?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-16-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Causing Dissensions and Offenses, Part I   1 comment

Stoning of St. Stephen

Above:  The Stoning of St. Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Ever-living God, your Son gives himself as living bread for the life of the world.

Fill us with such knowledge of his presence that we may be strengthened and sustained

by his risen life to serve you continually,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 45

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 11:1-20 (Thursday)

Job 12:1-25 (Friday)

Job 13:1-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 34:9-14 (All Days)

Acts 6:8-15 (Thursday)

Romans 16:17-20 (Friday)

John 4:7-26 (Saturday)

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See that you never say anything wrong;

do not deceive people by telling lies.

Turn from bad behaviour to good,

try your best to live in peace.

–Psalm 34:14-15, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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One might start by refraining from blaming victims for their plights.

The titular character of the Book of Job, the opening of that composite text informs us, suffered not because of any sin he had committed.  No, God had permitted Satan, then an employee of God in the Hebrew theology of the time, to test the loyalty of Job.  (The adversary did not become God’s rival in Jewish theology until much later.  Many readers miss that point and read the Book of Job anachronistically.)  The primary guilty party in the case of the suffering of the impatient Job, then, was God.  (The expression “the patience of Job” makes no sense to me, based on the text which bears his name.)  Job’s alleged friends, including Zophar the Naamathite, argued however that God, being just, would not permit the innocent to suffer, so Job must have done something wrong.  Job gave as good as he got, as Chapters 12 and 13 indicate:

But you invent lies;

All of you are quacks.

If you would only keep quiet

It would be considered wisdom on your part.

–Job 13:4-5, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Nevertheless, much of what Job’s alleged friends said sounds like what one reads elsewhere in the Hebrew Bible, especially in the Books of Psalms and Proverbs, stated authoritatively.  (Those books are too naively optimistic in places.  Of course some of those raised to follow God grow up and depart from the proper path, despite Proverbs 22:6, for example.)  These alleged friends were not entirely wrong, but they proceeded from a false assumption, one common in antiquity as well as today.  Old ideas–including demonstrably false ones–persist.  If one’s sins necessarily lead to one’s suffering, how does one explain the crucifixion of Jesus, the living bread, the living water, and the sinless one?  One must also, if one is to be intellectually thorough and honest, contend with the sufferings and martyrdoms of many faithful, mere mortals, from antiquity to current events.

There are, of course, various reasons for suffering.  The Buddhist statement that suffering results from wrong desiring covers much of that territory well.  One might suffer because of the wrong desiring of another person or because of one’s own wrong desiring.  Even that, however, does not account for the suffering one must endure apart from that with causation in wrong desiring.  Why do some children enter the world with terrible diseases with genetic causes, for example?

St. Paul the Apostle, writing in Romans 16:17, urged his audience

to keep an eye on those who cause dissensions and offenses, in opposition to the teaching that you have learned; avoid them.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I file Zophar the Naamathite and the false witnesses against St. Stephen in that category.

A complicating factor is that “those who cause dissensions and offenses” usually do not think of themselves as such.  They might even consider themselves as righteous people, or at least as people who perform necessary, if unpleasant, deeds for the greater good.  Furthermore, you, O reader, and I might be among these people, according to others.  The only infallible judge of such matters is God.

We can attempt to act kindly, at least, and to refrain from blaming victims for their afflictions.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL STENNETT, ENGLISH SEVENTH-DAY BAPTIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER; AND JOHN HOWARD, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA, BIBLE SCHOLAR AND TRANSLATOR; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-15-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Building Up Our Neighbors, Part III   2 comments

Virgin with David and Solomon

Above:  The Virgin with David and Solomon

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread that gives life to the world.

Give us this bread always,

that he may live in us and we in him,

and that, strengthened by this food,

may live as his body in the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 2:1-9

Psalm 34:1-8

Matthew 7:7-11

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Taste and see that the LORD is good;

happy are they who trust in him!

–Psalm 34:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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King David’s final advice to his son and royal heir, Solomon, disturbs me.  The counsel to obey divine commandments is good, but the elements about killing people detracts from that noble sentiment.  In contrast, after Matthew 7:7-11, where we read that God knows how to bless people, we find the Golden Rule in verse 12.  Smiting people does not constitute obeying the Golden Rule relative to them.  Then again, the theological position of much of the Bible is that Yahweh is the Smiter-in-Chief.

I have strong doses of idealism and realism (not in the Greek philosophical meanings of those words) in my thinking.  Sometimes delivering one person from a dangerous situation entails smiting others, especially when they are unrepentant.  Yet I also understand that God loves everybody and that all people are my neighbors.  Part of the reality of living with flawed human nature is having to make the least bad decisions sometimes.

Nevertheless, to seek to build up as many of our neighbors as possible is a fine ethic by which to live.  It is one which we can accomplish by grace.  We might know that we ought to do it, but being able to follow through successfully is a different matter.  As the former Presbyterian Church in the United States (the “Southern” Presbyterian Church) declared in A Brief Statement of Belief (1962) regarding total depravity:

Sin permeates and corrupts our entire being and burdens us with more and more fear, hostility, guilt, and misery.  Sin operates not only within individuals but also within society as a deceptive and oppressive power, so that even men of good will are unconsciously and unwillingly involved in the sins of society.  Man cannot destroy the tyranny of sin in himself or in his world; his only hope is to be delivered from it by God.

The Confession of Faith of The Presbyterian Church in the United States Together with the Larger Catechism and the Shorter Catechism (Richmond, VA:  The Board of Christian Education, 1965; reprint, 1973), page 332

May we do the best we can, by the grace of God.

MAY 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED ROOKER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST PHILANTHROPIST AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, ELIZABETH ROOKER PARSON, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM SCHAEFFER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE DICKINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-14-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Building Up Our Neighbors, Part II   1 comment

Absalom Conspires Against David

Above:  Absalom Conspires Against David

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread that gives life to the world.

Give us this bread always,

that he may live in us and we in him,

and that, strengthened by this food,

may live as his body in the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 17:15-29

Psalm 34:1-8

Galatians 6:1-10

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Proclaim with me the greatness of the LORD;

let us exalt his Name together.

–Psalm 34:3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That is easier to do when we bear each other’s burdens and share each other’s joys.

Bear one another’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

–Galatians 6:2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Yes, as the passage continues, we read that each person has a responsibility to carry his or her own loads, but that statement exists in the context of mutual burden-bearing.  Some burdens are too great for one person to bear alone.  Personal responsibility and communal responsibility do not cancel each other out.

The story in 2 Samuel 17 illustrates those points well.  In the context of Absalom’s rebellion against King David, each person on the King’s side had a crucial part to play, but the effort was bigger than any one of them.  And, if some people had failed, others would have died.  Furthermore, David’s soldiers needed to eat properly, and the burden of feeding them required more than one person.

God has provided each of us with abilities we can use for the benefit of each other and for divine glory.  Often, however, someone or certain people must create the opportunities for others to develop those talents.  Likewise, one presented with such an opportunity has a responsibility to make the most of it.  When all goes well, many people benefit.  So I ask you, O reader, has God granted you the responsibility to help another person in such a way recently?  And has some agent of God aided you in some great way recently?  I suspect that the answer to both questions is “yes.”

The best principle for carrying one’s weight while helping others bear burdens comes from Acts 4:32-35:  giving as one is able and receiving as one has need.

MAY 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED ROOKER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST PHILANTHROPIST AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, ELIZABETH ROOKER PARSON, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM SCHAEFFER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE DICKINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/devotion-for-friday-before-proper-14-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Building Up Our Neighbors, Part I   1 comment

Witch of Endor--Nikolai Ge

Above:  Witch of Endor, by Nikolai Ge

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Gracious God, your blessed Son came down from heaven

to be the true bread that gives life to the world.

Give us this bread always,

that he may live in us and we in him,

and that, strengthened by this food,

may live as his body in the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 28:20-25

Psalm 34:1-8

Romans 15:1-6

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I called in my affliction and the LORD heard me

and saved me from all my troubles.

–Psalm 23:6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That verse from Psalm 34 functions as a counterpoint to King Saul’s situation in 1 Samuel 28:20-25.

Saul was at the end of his reign and at war with Philistine forces.  He had, according to 1 Samuel 28, disguised himself and gone to a necromancer (some translations say “witch”) at Endor, so that she would summon Samuel, who had anointed the monarch then announced God’s rejection of him.  The necromancer was in a difficult situation, for Saul had outlawed her profession.  (So, according to the monarch’s own standards, by what right was he there?)

The story in 1 Samuel 28 reflects an old understanding of the afterlife in the Hebrew Bible.  Concepts of postmortem reward and punishment came later, by means of Zoroastrianism, for forces of the Persian Empire ended the Babylonian Exile.  (This does not mean, of course, that Heaven and Hell are figments of imagination, just that Zoroastrians had the concepts before Jews and, in time, Christians.  God’s agents come from many backgrounds.)  The understanding of the afterlife in 1 Samuel 28 is Sheol, the underworld.

In 1 Samuel 28 the necromancer, whose profession was, according to the Bible, forbidden due to its heathen nature, summoned Samuel successfully.  The prophet and judge, who was irritated with Saul, stated that the monarch had no more than a day left on the earth.  Saul took this badly, so he refused to eat for a while, until the necromancer and some countries convinced him to consume food.  The woman, who had risked her life to help Saul, cared about his well-being and fed him and his entourage.

God’s agents come from many backgrounds.  Sometimes they save us from our afflictions.  On other occasions, however, they simply provide aid and compassion until fate arrives.

Each of us must please our neighbor for the good purpose of building up the neighbor.

–Romans 15:2, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Our neighbors include those similar to us and different from us.  Some like us, others are hostile to us, and still others are neutral or apathetic.  We like some of our neighbors, despise others, and have little or no knowledge of the existence of still others.  Yet we are all in this life together; that which we do to others, we do to ourselves.  We are, in the ethics of the Law of Moses, responsible to and for each other as we stand side-by-side in a state of responsibility to and total dependence upon God.  Certain attitudes, therefore, fall outside the realm of righteousness.  These include greed, bigotry, rugged individualism, self-reliance, and Social Darwinism.  There is no divine law against compassion, however.  And, since whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves, caring for others effectively and selflessly (at least as much as we can) is to our benefit.  Whenever we build up our neighbors, we build up ourselves.

MAY 27, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALFRED ROOKER, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST PHILANTHROPIST AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, ELIZABETH ROOKER PARSON, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM SCHAEFFER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE DICKINSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/05/27/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-14-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Living Sacramentally   1 comment

Shaker Barn

Above:  Shaker Church Family Round Barn, Hancock, Massachusetts, June 1962

Photographer = Jack E. Boucher

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = HABS MASS,2-HANC,9–1

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The Collect:

Lord of the feast, you have prepared a table before all peoples

and poured out your life with abundance.

Call us again to your banquet.

Strengthen us by what is honorable, just, and pure,

and transform us into a people or righteousness and peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Song of Songs/Song of Solomon 7:10-8:4

Psalm 34

John 6:25-35

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The Song of Songs/Song of Solomon/Canticle of Canticles is love poetry.  I distrust attempts to spiritualize it by transforming it into an allegory between Yahweh and the Hebrews, God and faithful people, or Jesus and the Church.  Such readings indicate an unhealthy dichotomy between matters of the flesh and those of the spirit, the physical and the spiritual.  Much of Christian theology reflects a fear and distrust of the physical and sets related pleasures, which can function as vehicles of grace when one approaches them properly.  I have encountered profound theology in novels, but I have also read of strict Christian condemnations of of reading novels in general.  I understand the historical roots of such negative attitudes without approving such a mindset.  So I embrace the healthy pleasures of this life, no matter how fleeting or mundane they might be.

Jesus, in John 6, is the bread of life.  One of the greatest spiritual teachings relative to sacraments, one of which (the Holy Eucharist) is germane to that metaphor, is that God makes the ordinary extraordinary.  Bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ.  Water becomes an outward sign of inner renewal.  Words become means of grace.  The laying on of hands becomes a method of transforming a person.

If God can do so much with words, hands, water, bread, and wine in official sacramental actions, how much more can God do in meals, good books, mundane deeds, and acts of human love?  Washing the dishes, for example, can be merely a household chore or a great service for another human being.  The circumstances make all the difference.  So may we, by grace, succeed in living sacramentally.  May we, by our lives, with their mundane details, prove to be consistent with Psalm 34:1-3 (A New Zealand Prayer Book, 1989):

I will give thanks to the Lord at all times:

God’s praise will always be on my lips.

My soul will glory in the Lord:

the humble will hear and be glad.

O praise the Lord with me:

let us exalt God’s name together.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-23-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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