Archive for the ‘Psalm 54’ Category

The Apocalyptic Discourse, Part II   1 comment

testament-and-death-of-moses

Above:  The Testament and Death of Moses, by Luca Signorelli

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 31:(1-22) 23-29 or Micah 7:1-7 or Daniel (11:40-45) 12:1-13

Psalm 54

Matthew 10:17-22a; 24:9-14 or Mark 13:9-13

1 Corinthians 9:1-15

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Human nature is corrupt, we read in Deuteronomy 31 and Micah 7.  We do not require these or any other texts to grasp that truth, do we?  All we need to do is to understand ourselves and follow current events and study the past if we are to be aware of our flawed nature.  As St. Paul the Apostle reminds us down the corridors of time, our only proper basis is in God–Christ Jesus, to be precise.  God will ultimately destroy the corrupt human order, founded on violence and exploitation, and replace it with a just social, economic, and political order.  Certainly we are incapable of accomplishing that goal.

As much as we might seek divine destruction of our enemies, we must be careful not to fall into the trap of living as vengeful people.  As we read in 2 John 5b-6, love is supposed to be our rule of life.  Even during times of persecution love is properly the rule of life.  This is a lofty spiritual goal–one which requires us to resist our nature and to rely on divine grace.  How can we be God’s salt and light in the world if we do otherwise?  We are free in Christ Jesus to glorify God wherever we are, and no matter under what circumstances we live.  May we, in all circumstances, to quote my bishop, love like Jesus, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON, ABOLITIONIST AND FEMINIST; AND MARIA STEWART, ABOLITIONIST, FEMINIST, AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB AND DOROTHY BUXTON, FOUNDERS OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF MARY CORNELIA BISHOP GATES, U.S. DUTCH REFORMED HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/17/devotion-for-proper-11-year-d/

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A Loving Orthodoxy   2 comments

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above:  Icon of Christ the Merciful

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, our teacher and guide,

you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children.

Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition,

that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding

as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 6:1-10 (Thursday)

1 Kings 22:22-40 (Friday)

2 Kings 17:5-18 (Saturday)

Psalm 54 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Romans 11:25-32 (Friday)

Matthew 23:29-39 (Saturday)

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Save me, O God, by your Name;

in your might, defend my cause.

Hear my prayer, O God;

give ear to the words of my mouth.

For the arrogant have risen up against me,

and the ruthless have sought my life,

those who have no regard for God.

Behold, God is my helper;

it is the Lord who sustains my life.

Render evil to those who spy on me;

in your faithfulness, destroy them.

I will offer you a freewill sacrifice

and praise your Name, O LORD, for it is good.

For you have rescued me from every trouble,

and my eye has seen the ruin of my foes.

–Psalm 54, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The prayer for divine destruction of enemies–hardly unique to Psalm 54–does violate the commandment to love one’s enemies as oneself, does it not?

Enemies exist.  In the pericopes for these three days alone we read of Midianites, monarchs, Assyrians, Arameans, and corrupt officials from the Temple at Jerusalem.  Furthermore, we, if we are to become properly informed, must know that many early Christians regarded Jews who rejected Jesus as enemies.  Christianity began as a Jewish sect, one which remained on the Jewish margins.  Frustrations over this reality became manifest in, among other texts, the Gospel of John, with its repeated references to “the Jews” in negative contexts.  Nevertheless, St. Paul the Apostle, who preached to Gentiles, was always Jewish.

Sometimes enemies are others.  On many occasions, however, one can find the enemy looking back at oneself in a mirror.  A recurring theological motif in the Hebrew Bible is that the exiles of Hebrew people resulted from rampant societal sinfulness; the collective was responsible.  That runs afoul of Western notions of individualism, but one finds it in the pages of the Bible.  There are at least two varieties of responsibility and sin–individual and collective.  We are responsible to God, for ourselves, and to and for each other.  Thus reward and punishment in the Hebrew Bible are both individual and collective.  Sometimes, the texts tell us, we bring destruction on ourselves.

But how does that translate into language regarding God?  May we take care not to depict God as a cosmic tyrant while investing that God is also merciful.  Yes, actions have consequences for ourselves and those around us.  Yes, God has sent many prophets, a large number of whom have endured the consequences of rejection.  Yes, both judgment and mercy exist in God.  I do not presume to know where the former ends and the latter begins; such matters are too great for me, a mere mortal.

No, I reject false certainty and easy answers.  No variety of fundamentalism is welcome here.  No, I embrace what St. Paul the Apostle called

the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God,

complete with

his judgments

and

inscrutable ways.–Romans 11:33, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

I favor “the mystery of God,” as in 1 Corinthians 2:1, as well as a relationship with God, which depends on divine faithfulness, not on human wisdom.

Kenneth J. Foreman, writing in Volume 21 (1961) of The Layman’s Bible Commentary, noted in reference to 1 Corinthians 2:1-5:

One point to note is that Paul does not present Christianity as a set of dogmas or as a manual of advice.  It is a story, something that happened, something God has done.–Page 75

Orthodoxy can be healthy, so long as it is neither stale nor unloving.  Pietism, with its legalism, is quite unfortunate.  Pietism, a reaction against stale orthodoxy, is at least as objectionable as that which it opposes.

Some thoughts of Dr. Carl J. Sodergren (1870-1949), a theologian of the former Augustana Evangelical Lutheran Church (1860-1962), from 1937 apply well in the context of these pericopes and many circumstances:

Orthodoxy is good.  It means adherence to the truth, and no sane man would willingly surrender that.  But orthodoxy without love is dangerous.  It provides fertile soil for bigotry, hatred, spiritual pride, self-conceit, and a score of other evils which hide the Holy One from the eyes of the world.  It turns men into merciless heresy hunters, the most contemptible vermin on earth.  It aligns us with the scribes and Pharisees, the priests and high priests of the time of Jesus.  Nobody ever questioned their orthodoxy, but because it was loveless, it blinded them to His divinity and made it easier to spike Him to a cross.  We are not worried about the trumpet calls to orthodoxy which for some reason have begun to blare may drown out in our hearts the still small voice which prays for unity and love among all Christ’s disciples.

–Quoted in G. Everett Arden, Augustana Heritage:  A History of the Augustana Lutheran Church (Rock Island, IL:  Augustana Press, 1963), pp. 287-288

May love of God and for each other be evident in our lives and social structures and institutions.  Wherever it is evident, may it increase.  May we obey the divine commandment to take care of each other, not to exploit anyone or to discriminate against any person.  The Golden Rule is difficult to live, but we have God’s grace available to us; may we avail ourselves of it.  We also have an example–Jesus–to follow.  May his love be evident (then more so) in us, especially those of us who claim to follow him or to attempt to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN OLAF WALLIN, ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR JAMES MOORE, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH LONAS, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND LITURGIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-20-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Jeremiah and Matthew, Part XIII: Sins of Omission   1 comment

miguel_angel_crucifixion_la_redonda_logrono_spain

Above:  The Crucifixion, by Michelangelo

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 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:

Jeremiah 37:1-21 (November 18)

Jeremiah 38:1-28 (November 19)

Psalm 51 (Morning–November 18)

Psalm 54 (Morning–November 19)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–November 18)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–November 19)

Matthew 27:33-56 (November 18)

Matthew 27:57-66 (November 19)

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Some Related Posts:

Matthew 27:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fortieth-day-of-lent-holy-saturday/

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Zedekiah (reigned 597-586 BCE) was not the legitimate King of Judah.  That office fell properly upon his nephew, Jehoiachin (reigned 597 BCE), per 2 Kings 24:17.  Zedekiah, as the Chaldean-appointed regent, had a title but little power.  He could not even protect Jeremiah fully.  But Zedekiah, to his credit, did consult the prophet.  Nevertheless, the time to save Judah from destruction had passed; the kingdom’s fate was sealed, as was that of Zedekiah, who disregarded much of Jeremiah’s advice.

Our Lord’s fate seemed to be sealed.  He was dead–made a great and terrible, very public example of by the forces of the Roman Empire.  The charge, as in the case of Jeremiah, was false–treason.

Frequently good people (Jesus being the best person) became caught up in the perfidious schemes of others.  But God is with the persecuted righteous people, even when they die, have to go into exile, or must suffer another cruel fate–without resurrection in all but one case.  The fact that good people find themselves in these difficult situations reflects badly on those who can prevent or could have prevented such situations.  Oppressors cannot oppress by themselves.  No, they have the passive aid of those who look the other way, who say or do nothing when they can confront.  It is safer (for some) to be or remain passive.  But such passivity hurts many more people.

May we confess our sins of omission, trusting God to complete the list with those we have forgotten and those we have never recognized.  Then may we change our ways–repent–and perform a greater number of good deeds, thereby preventing even more injustice and reducing the amount thereof already extant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS CARACCIOLO, COFOUNDER OF THE MINOR CLERKS REGULAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN XXIII, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/04/devotion-for-november-18-and-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XVI: Serving Others for God   1 comment

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Above:  The Right Reverend Robert C. Wright, Bishop of Atlanta, Participating in the Stations of the Cross, Atlanta, Georgia, Good Friday, March 29, 2013

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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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:

Deuteronomy 21:1-23 (October 22)

Deuteronomy 24:10-25:10 (October 23)

Psalm 54 (Morning–October 22)

Psalm 65 (Morning–October 23)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening–October 22)

Psalms 125 and 91 (Evening–October 23)

Matthew 16:1-12 (October 22)

Matthew 16:13-28 (October 23)

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 24:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/17/week-of-proper-7-monday-year-2/

Matthew 16:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/proper-16-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/08/proper-17-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/02/week-of-proper-13-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-13-thursday-year-2/

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Deuteronomy 21:1-23 and 24:10-25:10 contain the usual unpleasantness, such as when to stone people (see 21:18-21, for example, then contrast it with Luke 15:11-32, the Parable of the Prodigal Son) yet also many practical rules about helping the less fortunate and the vulnerable.  Thus, for example, even female captives have rights, as do wives, and laborers of various national origins.  Furthermore, childless widows can find security via levirate marriage.  There was an ethic that all Israelites were slaves of God, so they each had obligations to his or her fellow human beings; therein resided the formula for a stable and just society.

Jesus, in Matthew 16, offered a model of service and self-sacrifice in contrast to the teachings of the Pharisees and the Sadducees.

In serving one another we find true freedom to become what we ought to be:  those who recognize the image of God in each other and act accordingly.  The details of how to that properly and effectively vary according to time and place, but the principle is everlasting and constant.  So may each of us take up his or her cross and follow Jesus, who came to serve, not to be served.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT II, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF DAME JULIAN OF NORWICH, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDALENA OF CANOSSA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY AND THE SONS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

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

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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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1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part IV: Decisions and Their Consequences   1 comment

3g05226v

Above:  The Meeting of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba

Artwork from 1899

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-5226

Copyright by The U.S. Printing Co.

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/98500515/)

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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:

1 Kings 9:1-9; 10:1-13

Psalm 54 (Morning)

Psalms 28 and 99 (Evening)

2 Corinthians 5:1-21

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Some Related Posts:

1 Kings 9-10:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/21/week-of-5-epiphany-wednesday-year-2/

2 Corinthians 5:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/week-of-proper-5-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/proper-6-year-b/

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The story of Solomon and the Queen of Sheba reaches its peak in 1 Kings 9-10.  God talks to him, the monarch is fabulously wealthy, and the Queen of Sheba visits.  1 Kings 9:1-9 provides foreboding foreshadowing:  Disobedience to God will lad to national disaster.  One needs to be careful here, lest one blame natural disasters frustrated by foolish human decisions (often regarding infrastructure or where to live) on homosexuality, not on the climate and what we humans are doing to change it.  But 1 Kings 9:1-9 addressed political forces, not natural ones.  Those verses date from a time after which people had experienced national collapse and exile, so they constitute hindsight also.  They come from a place of loss and introspection, of being humble before God and of grieving over losses.

Yet, as Paul reminds us, our life is in God.  Our only proper boasts are in God–in Jesus, specifically.  (That part about Jesus did not apply in the BCE years, of course.)  And our confidence is properly in God, in whom we have reconciliation not only to God but to each other.  So there is always hope in God, who seeks us by a variety of means over time.

Our decisions matter.  Although nobody is the captain of his or her soul, our decisions matter greatly.  How we respond to God is important.  Here I take my cues from Hebrew Prophets:  Will we commit idolatry?  Will we condone and/or practice economic exploitation?  Will we condone and/or condone corruption?  Will we become so enamored of ourselves and our institutions that we will fall into hubris?  Or will we recognize the Image of God in each other and serve God by serving each other?  Society is concrete, not abstract; it is merely people.  Societies can and do change.  So the choice is ours.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/devotion-for-august-27-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Grace, Human and Divine   1 comment

04792r

Above:  Design Drawing for a Stained -Glass Window with the Publican

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/LAMB2006000957/)

Designed by J. & R. Lamb Studios between 1857 and 1999

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The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:23-32 and Psalm 65

or 

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 35:12-17 or Jeremiah 14:7-10, 19-22 and Psalm 84

then 

2 Timothy 4:6-8, 16-18

Luke 18:9-14

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; 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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Some Related Posts:

Proper 25, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/proper-25-year-a/

Prayer 25, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/proper-25-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twenty-third-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twenty-third-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/30/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twenty-third-sunday-after-pentecost/

Joel 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/devotion-for-january-23-lcms-daily-lectionary/

2 Timothy 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/week-of-proper-4-saturday-year-2/

Luke 18:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/twenty-second-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/devotion-for-the-forty-second-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The biblical texts contain many repeated themes.  Among them is the command to obey God’s laws coupled with warnings of the consequences for not doing so followed by those consequences.  The Prophet Jeremiah, aware of those sins and their consequences, asked God for mercy on the people in Chapter 14.  In Jeremiah 15, however, God paid “no” in many words.

Sirach/Ecclesiasticus 35, which speaks of the divine preference for the poor, the widows, the orphans, and the wronged, begins with:

To keep the law is worth many offerings;….—35:1, The Revised English Bible

Much of the Old Testament tradition agrees with that statement.  So does the Pharisee from the parable in Luke 18:9-14.  He has kept the Law of Moses as best he knows how, as his tradition has told him to do.  But he misses one thing, another element of the Old Testament tradition:  humility before God.

You desire no sacrifice, or I would give it:

But you take no delight in burnt offerings.

The sacrifice acceptable to God is a broken spirit:

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

–Psalm 54:16-17, New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

St. Paul the Apostle understood all this well.  What admirers wrote in his name after he died the Apostle could have said during his lifetime:

I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith;….—2 Timothy 4:7, The New Jerusalem Bible

The crown of righteousness is a matter of grace; we do not earn it.  Yes, James 2:24 (The Revised English Bible) tells us:

You seen then it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.

But faith, in that formulation, is intellectual, so words are necessary for justification to God.  In the Pauline tradition, however, faith is inherently active, so:

For all alike have sinned, and are justified by God’s free grace alone, through his act of liberation in the person of Christ Jesus.

–Romans 3:23-24, The Revised English Bible

Therefore:

What room then is left for human pride?  It is excluded.  And on what principle?  The keeping of the law would not exclude it, but faith does.  For our argument is that people are justified by faith quite apart from any question of keeping the law.

–Romans 3:27-28, The Revised English Bible

According to St. Paul, the Law of Moses did its job until Christ did his, so Jesus has fulfilled the Law.

Even in judgment there can be hope, hence the lection from Joel.  The judgment which Jeremiah hoped would not come did arrive.  Later, however, so did mercy in extravagant doses.  Grace indeed!

Grace is also something we are supposed to extend to each other.

In January 2013 Jim McGown, a friend (now deceased), gave me a good book, the last of a sequence of fine volumes he imparted to me.  The last book is a daily devotional guide for Lent, Year C, by Bishop N. T. Wright.  The following lines come from Wright’s discussion of the parable from Luke:

Wasn’t the poor chap [the Pharisee] simply doing what God had told him to do?

Well, from one point of view, yes.  But Jesus was constantly nudging people, or positively shoving them, towards seeing everything differently.  Prayer is about loving God, and the deepest Jewish traditions insist that loving God is something you do with your hart, mind, soul and strength, and your neighbour as yourself, not calculating whether you’ve done everything just right and feeling smug because your neighbour hasn’t managed it so well.

Lent for Everyone:  Luke, Year C—A Daily Devotional (Louisville, KY:  Westminster/John Knox Press, 2012, pages 77-78; published originally in the United Kingdom in 2009 by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge)

So I extend to you, O reader, a small portion of grace which a friend, at God’s prompting, gave to me.  Each of us is called to respond positively to God, who has done much for us.  Part of this sacred vocation is extending grace to our fellow human beings.  We have an excellent role model:  Jesus of Nazareth.  May we follow him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 8, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT II, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF DAME JULIAN OF NORWICH, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAGDALENA OF CANOSSA, FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF CHARITY AND THE SONS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER OF TARENTAISE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/proper-25-year-c/

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