Archive for the ‘Psalm 69’ Category

The Suffering of the Innocent   1 comment

Above:  A Crucifix

Photograph by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 11:1-6; 12:29-36

Psalm 69:19-21

1 Corinthians 11:17-22, 27-34

John 15:18-25

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Corinthian congregation was fractious during and after the time of St. Paul the Apostle.  A generation after St. Paul, for example, St. Clement of Rome wrote his letter, called 1 Clement, to that church, which had recently deposed all of its presbyters.  Reinstate them, he instructed.  The issue at hand in 1 Corinthians 11 was the potluck meal, an early version of the Holy Eucharist.  The poorer members of the congregation depended on that meal, which some of the more fortunate members were abusing by eating ahead of time and/or taking the occasion of the potluck meal to become intoxicated.  These individuals were not contributing their fair share of the menu.

Jesus, unlike them, gave of himself selflessly and sacrificially.  He understood well that following God might make one unpopular to the point of persecution and even execution.  To make a mockery of the Holy Eucharist was (and is) to take Jesus lightly.

The author of the canonical Gospels were clear that Jesus was innocent of the charge (insurrection) upon which Roman imperial officials crucified him.  Also innocent were the firstborn Egyptian sons in Exodus; they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Maundy Thursday is an especially appropriate time, guided by these readings, to ponder the suffering of the innocent, whether at the hand of the state, selfish individuals, or any other actors.  It is also a fine time to consider how our religious tradition continues to ascribe much of this suffering of the innocent to God.  What are we accusing God of being like anyway?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (U.S.A.), 1983

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED CHURCH OF CANADA, 1925

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDERICUS OF PARIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/10/devotion-for-maundy-thursday-ackerman/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A New Year Resolution   1 comment

Above:  Jethro and Moses, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Exodus 18:13-24

Psalm 69:30-36

1 Timothy 3:1-13

Matthew 1:1-17

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is one of inclusion–inclusion of all the faithful regardless of gender, ethnicity, national origin, et cetera.  In Matthew 1, for example, the author mentions four women (although we know there were more females than that involved in all that begetting), one of whom was a foreigner and three of whom had dubious sexual reputations.  Even the aliens and the objects of gossip have vital roles to play in the unfolding of divine purposes.  Furthermore, nobody can do everything (as Moses learned), but the division of labor and the faithful attendance to duty can enable the faith community to function as well as possible.

The author of Psalm 69 hates his enemies (who hate him) and asks God to smite them.  We tend to omit such angry portions of the Psalms, do we not?  They frequently make us squirm in our seats as we identify with those passages and feel less than holy as a result.  We prefer to read the other passages–such as the assigned portion of Psalm 69–as we ignore the anger and frustration elsewhere in the same poem.

We cannot become the new creations in Christ we ought to be and fulfill our divine vocations as long as we embrace the desire for revenge.  I write from experience.  We need to acknowledge that anger and vengeance then give it over to God.  We must detach from them if we are to grow fully in Christ, who prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified him and consented to that execution.

This Sunday falls in the vicinity of New Year’s Day.  Therefore I offer a proposed resolution: may we abandon revenge and the desire for it in the new year.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 30, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JAMES MONTGOMERY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN ROSS MACDUFF AND GEORGE MATHESON, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MINISTERS AND AUTHORS

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/04/30/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-christmas-ackerman/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Atonement and the Sovereignty of God   1 comment

Salome with the Head of John the Baptist

Above:  Salome with the Head of John the Baptist, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Leviticus 16:1-34

Psalm 69

Matthew 14:1-12

Hebrews 9:1-28

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

O God, you know my folly;

the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

–Psalm 69:5, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The contents of Leviticus 16 might seem odd to a Gentile, especially one who is a Christian.  Part of a note from The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014) explains it well:

The preceding chs have established that sins and bodily impurities contaminate the Tabernacle.  Regular atonement for unintentional sin and the routine eradication of impurity eliminate as much of both types of defilement as possible.  Yet, since not all unintentional wrongs are discovered and not everyone is diligent about atonement, a certain amount of defilement remains.  In particular, deliberate crimes, which contaminate the inner sanctum where the divine Presence is said to dwell, are not expurgated by the regular atonement rituals.  This ch thus provides the instructions for purging the inner sanctum along with the rest of the Tabernacle once a year, so that defilement does not accumulate.  It logically follows the laws of purification (chs 12-15), as they conclude with the statement that only by preventing the spread of impurity can the Israelites ensure God’s continual presence among them (15:31).  The annual purification ritual, briefly alluded to in Ex. 30:10, is to be performed on the tenth day of the seventh month (v. 29).  Elsewhere (23:27, 28; 25:9) this day is referred to as “yom hakippurim”–often translated as “Day of Atonement.”

–Page 231

When we turn to the Letter to the Hebrews we read an extended contrast between the annual rites for Yom Kippur and the one-time sacrifice of Jesus.  We also read a multi-chapter contrast between human priests and Jesus, who is simultaneously the priest and the victim.

How much more will the blood of Christ, who offered himself, blameless as he was, to God through the eternal Spirit, purify our conscience from dead actions so that we can worship the living God.

–Hebrews 9:14, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

St. John the Baptist, of whose death we read in Matthew 14:1-12, was the forerunner of Jesus.  Not only did John point to Jesus and baptize him, but he also preceded him in violent death.  The shedding of the blood of St. John the Baptist on the orders of Herod Antipas was a political and face-saving act.  Antipas had, after all, imprisoned John for political reasons.  The alleged crime of St. John the Baptist was to challenge authority with his words, which was one reason for the crucifixion of Jesus also.

Part of the grace evident in martyrdom (such as that of St. John the Baptist) and of the crucifixion of Jesus was that those perfidious deeds glorified not those who ordered and perpetrated them but God.  We honor St. John the Baptist, not Herod Antipas, and thank God for John’s faithful witness.  We honor Jesus of Nazareth and give thanks–for his resurrection; we do not sing the praises of the decision-making of Pontius Pilate on that fateful day.  Another part of the grace of the crucifixion of Jesus is that, although it was indeed a perfidious act, it constituted a portion of the process of atonement for sins–once and for all.

Certain powerful people, who found Jesus to be not only inconvenient but dangerous, thought they had gotten rid of him.  They could not have been more mistaken.  They had the power to kill him, but God resurrected him, thereby defeating their evil purposes.  God also used their perfidy to affect something positive for countless generations to come.  That was certainly a fine demonstration of the Sovereignty of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE SIXTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND PEACE ACTIVIST; AND HIS COLLEAGUE, JOHN NEVIN SAYRE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND PEACE ACTIVIST

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2016/09/04/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Exile, Grief, and Faith   1 comment

Crown of Thorns

Above: Crown of Thorns

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters.

Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit,

that we may follow after your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 41:14-20

Psalm 69:1-5, 30-36

John 1:29-34

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

As for me, I am afflicted and in pain;

your help, O God, will lift me up on high.

–Psalm 69:31, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Many Jews lived in exile in the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire at the time of Isaiah 41.  Texts from that time tended to look forwward to the post-Exilic era and describe as being better than it turned out to be.  The land was never as verdant as the economy was never as good as the prophesies promised.  And  most of that post-Exilic era was one of foreign occupation.  Thus, at the time of Jesus, many Palestinian Jews had a sense of living as exiles in their homeland.

Exile is a state many people know.  It might be a literal, geographical reality or a spiritual one.  Nevertheless, the sense of not being at home (at least fully) is difficult.  I have been a spiritual exile, for example.  If I ever have to live in some places, I will become one again.  I wish only the best for those dealing with exile in any form.  They have my sympathy at least; others have my empathy.

Fortunately, all of us can call upon Jesus, the Lamb of God, who can empathize with us.  He is kinder than many of our fellow human beings, including a host of those who claim to follow him.  So I invite you, O reader, not to permit the failings of Christians to detract you from following Christ, who has borne griefs, suffered, and emerged triumphant.  I have no easy answers about failed prophesies and persistent grief, so I offer none.  If I did have them, they would be worthless anyway.  Yet I embrace the lack of a firm answer I can grasp as I seek to follow Jesus.  Maybe I will ask the difficult questions of God in the afterlife.

My conclusion, O reader, is that knowledge dies not bring anyone salvation.  If it did, the Gnostics would be correct.  No, what we do not know outweighs what we know and can know.  Will we trust God enough to follow Jesus through the wilderness of our ignorance, doubts, and grief?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF LINCOLN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROQUE GONZALEZ DE SANTA CRUZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE-PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC CONTEMPLATIVE

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

A Franciscan Blessing:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/a-franciscan-blessing/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted November 21, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah II: 40-55, Psalm 69

Tagged with ,

Mercy, Faith, and Holiness   1 comment

Abraham and the Angels

Above: Abraham and the Angels

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters.

Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit,

that we may follow after your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 17:1-13 (Monday)

Exodus 30:22-28 (Tuesday)

Psalm 69:1-5, 30-36 (Both Days)

Romans 4:1-12 (Monday)

Acts 22:2-16 (Tuesday)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I will praise the Name of God in song;

I will proclaim his greatness with thanksgiving.

This will please the LORD more than an offering of oxen,

more than bullocks with horns and hoofs.

The afflicted shall see and be glad;

you who seek God, your heart shall live.

For the LORD listens to the needy,

and his prisoners he does not despise.

Let the heavens and the earth praise him,

the seas and all that moves in them;

For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah;

they shall live there and have it in possession.

The children of his servants will inherit it,

and those who love his Name will dwell therein.

–Psalm 69:32-38, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Genesis 17 tells one version (the Priestly story) of God’s covenant with Abraham.  It duplicates much material from the Yahwistic account in Genesis 15 and adds details about circumcision and Sarah’s pregnancy.  The P account is a story about the graciousness and power of God and one man’s trust in the deity.  Unfortunately, as the saga of Abraham unfolded, the great patriarch came to value his relationship with God so much that he acted in ways which damaged his closest human relationships.  I would not have wanted to have been one of Abraham’s sons.

God approached a mortal in Genesis 17.  The instructions regarding the sacred anointing oil in Exodus 30:22-28 concerned how people should approach God–with the utmost reverence, OR ELSE.  There was a chasm between humans and God (the holy one) in much of the Old Testament.  Much later, when St. Paul the Apostle preached about Jesus, many people wanted to cut him off from the land of the living.  He had committed blasphemy, they thought.

St. Paul had a higher opinion of Abraham than I do, but the Apostle had a valid point in Romans 4, for the patriarch preceded the Law of Moses.  Abraham did manifest active trust in God when he was still Abram, as the Apostle pointed out.  And Genesis describes a very close relationship between God and Abraham; they were on speaking terms, face-to-face, according to the texts.

We should, while avoiding extremes (such as seeking to kill people in the name of God) approach God with deep awe and love.  We worship the deity, who has not only approached us but incarnated and became one of us.  And we have a commandment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, to respect the image of God in them.  May we act accordingly, trusting in God and recognizing the limits of our abilities and knowledge.  And may we value being merciful more than being correct in our minds.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF LINCOLN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROQUE GONZALEZ DE SANTA CRUZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE-PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC CONTEMPLATIVE

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Love, Not Vengeance   2 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Teach us, good Lord God, to serve you as you deserve,

to give and not to count the cost,

to fight and not to heed the wounds,

to toil and not to seek for rest,

to labor and not to ask for reward,

except that of knowing that we do your will,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 18:12-17 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 18:18-23 (Friday)

Psalm 69:7-10 [11-15], 16-18 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:5-9 (Thursday)

Acts 5:17-26 (Friday)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

For your sake I have suffered reproach;

shame has covered my face.

–Psalm 69:8, Common Worship (2000)

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The desire for vengeance—directly by one’s own efforts or indirectly by those of God—is commonplace and frequently predictable and understandable. One finds it in the readings from Jeremiah and the Book of Psalms today, in fact. But it also poisons one’s soul. I have known that desire and the accompanying spiritual toxins. I have also known the grace to let go of that dark feeling. I recall what some people have done to me and refuse to deny objective reality regarding the past, but if anything bad happens to those individuals and I hear of it, I will have had nothing to do with it and I will take no delight in their misfortune. I have set my focus on the future.

Each of us is present on the planet to do great things for God and each other. Whether we fulfill that vocation is a separate question, of course. Sts. John the Evangelist and Simon Peter suffered as innocents for their good deeds, which upset the apple carts of some people. The Apostles, broken out of jail by the hand of God, simply returned to the tasks to which God had called them. And Jesus, another innocent—one which a legal system executed—not only rose from the dead but rejected vengeance. He returned to the work of God—the work of love.

That is our work also. May we, by grace, succeed more often than we fail.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

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

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/19/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-7-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Which Side Are You On?   1 comment

Above:  Moses Window (By Lawerence Saint) at the Cathedral Church of St. Peter and St. Paul (Washington National Cathedral), Washington, D.C.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Exodus 2:1-15 (An American Translation):

Now a man belonging to the house of Levi went and married a daughter of Levi.  The woman conceived and bore a son, and seeing that he was robust, she hid him for three months.  When she could no longer hide him, she procured an ark of papyrus reeds for him, and daubing it with bitumen and pitch, she put the child in it, and placed it among the reeds beside the bank of the Nile.  His sister posted herself some distance away to see what would happen to him.

Presently Pharaoh’s daughter came down to bathe at the Nile, when her maids walked on the bank of the Nile.  Then she saw the ark among the reeds and sent her maid to get it.  On opening it, she saw the child, and it was a boy crying!  She took pity on him, and said,

This is one of the Hebrews’ children.

Thereupon his sister said to Pharaoh’s daughter,

Shall I go and summon a nurse for you from the Hebrew women, to nurse the child for you?

Pharaoh’s daughter said to her

Go.

So the girl went and called the child’s mother, to whom Pharaoh’s daughter said,

Take this child away and nurse it for me, and I will pay the wages due you.

So the woman took the child and nursed him; and when the child grew up, she brought him to Pharaoh’s daughter, and he became her son.  She called his name Moses [drawn out];

For,

she said,

I drew him out of the water.

It was in those days that Moses, now grown up, went out to visit his fellow countrymen and noted their heavy labor.  He saw an Egyptian kill a Hebrew, one of his own countrymen; so, looking this way and that, and seeing that there was no one in sight, he killed the Egyptian, and hid him in the sand.  Another day, when he went out, there were two Hebrews fighting!  So he said to him that was in the wrong,

Why do you strike your companion?

He replied,

Who made you ruler and judge over us?  Are you thinking of murdering me as you did the Egyptian?

Then was Moses afraid.

The incident must surely be known,

he thought.

When Pharaoh heard about the matter, he tried to kill Moses, but Moses fled from Pharaoh and went to the land of Midian, and sat down beside a well.

Psalm 69:1-2, 31-38 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Save me, O God,

for the waters have risen to my neck.

I am sinking in deep mire,

and there is no firm ground for my feet.

31 As for me, I am afflicted an in pain;

your help, O God, will lift me up on high.

32 I will praise the Name of God in song;

I will proclaim his greatness with thanksgiving.

33 This will please the LORD more than an offering of oxen,

more than bullocks with horns and hoofs.

34 The afflicted will see and be glad;

you who seek God, your heart shall live.

35 For the LORD listens to the needy,

and his prisoners he does not despise.

36 Let the heavens and the earth praise him,

the seas and all that moves in them;

37 For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah;

they shall live there and have it in possession.

38 The children of his servants will inherit it,

and those who love this Name will dwell therein.

Matthew 11:20-24 (An American Translation):

Then he [Jesus] began to reproach the towns in which most of his wonders had been done, because they did not repent.

Alas for you, Chorazin!  Alas for you, Bethsaida!  For if the wonders that have been done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago!  But I tell you, Tyre and Sidon will fare better on the day of judgment than you will!  And you, Capernaum!  Are you to be exalted to the skies?  You will go down among the dead!  For if the wonders that have been done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have stood until today.  But I tell you that the land of Sodom will fare better than the Day of Judgment than you will!

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

“Repentance” is a word used often and misunderstood frequently.  It means far more than apologizing for a deed or for deeds; it entails changing one’s mind, literally turning around.  This theme links the readings from Genesis and Matthew.

Moses enters the story in Genesis 2.  His mother and sister arrange for him to enter the Pharonic palace under the care of the Pharaoh’s daughter.  The Pharaoh in question might be Sobekhotep III, who had issued the “kill Hebrew baby boys” order at the end of Chapter 1.  But the princess obviously had some sway with her father.

So Moses grew up in the royal palace.  One day, however, he had to decide which side he was on.  He chose the side of the abused and enslaved.  In the process he killed an abuser, an act for the which the Pharaoh (probably Sobekhotep IV, second Pharaoh to reign after Sobekhotep III) tried to have Moses killed.  But Moses escaped into the land of Midian.

This chapter in the life of Moses the liberator ends with him on the run for murder.  He had turned his back on his comfortable, safe existence, which he could no longer continue because he could no longer be blind to what his adoptive family was doing to his people.

Matthew Chapter 11 begins a section on the rejection of Jesus by people.  This section begins with John the Baptist, languishing in prison, sending messengers to ask Jesus if he (Jesus) is the Messiah.  Jesus provides his answer (in brief, my deeds speak for themselves) then praised his forerunner.  And, as people and rejected and done violence to John the Baptist, the same will happen to Jesus.

Then we come to this day’s reading from Matthew.  Jesus condemned Chorazin and Bethsaida, Galilean cities where Jesus had worked mighty deeds but evidence repentance was impossible to find.  Capernaum, were Jesus lived, was likewise unrepentant.  It will go badly for them on the day of judgment, the author of Matthew quoted Jesus as saying.  Tyre and Sidon were Gentile cities renowned for wickedness, and Sodom was an old example of unrighteousness and a lack of repentance numerous Biblical authors cited.  Such mighty acts would have inspired repentance in these places, so what was wrong with Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum?

While I was in graduate school at Georgia Southern University, Statesboro, Georgia (2001-2003), I analyzed some old public school textbooks with regard to several axes, including treatment of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.  The author of a 1957 high school U.S. history textbook wrote,

It is difficult to suddenly change the habits of a lifetime.

This principle holds true in other settings.  Repentance entails changing how one thinks, and thoughts lead to actions.  Patterns of thinking become entrenched in us, and, for many, they become ossified as people become set in their ways.  We human beings have proved our capability to see and hear selectively in ways that justify ourselves to ourselves and those similar to us.  We need to be on guard against this tendency, for it blinds us to what God is saying, which includes notices of our sins.  How can we repent–turn around and change our minds–if we do not recognize that we have a problem?

It is easy to point out the ossification of others but difficult to see in ourselves.  We have spiritual blind spots, but that alone is an insufficient explanation for this phenomenon.  A full explanation must take account of the fact that we like to think of ourselves in positive terms, so our failings–our sins, those things which prevent us from being what we ought to be in God–disturb us.  Sometimes looking upon them is too much for us to bear.  But we must, if we are to live faithfully.

God knows that we have warts in our character, but there is only one perfect person in the Bible.  Look at the others; all of them were flawed.  For example, Jacob was a schemer, Moses and David were murderers, and Rahab was a prostitute.  Yet God used all of them, and the author of the Gospel of Matthew goes out of his way to list Rabab and Bathsheba as ancestors of Jesus.  So there is hope for us all, if only we turn to God and change our minds.  Do we dare to it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 26, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND DAY OF CHRISTMAS:  THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN, DEACON AND MARTYR

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/26/week-of-proper-10-tuesday-year-1/

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++