Archive for the ‘Psalm 95’ Category

God’s Surprising Possibilities   1 comment

Cyrus II of Persia

Above:  King Cyrus II of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 44:21-28

Psalm 95:1-71

Matthew 12:46-50

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Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

–Psalm 95:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Sometimes the instruments of God in our lives include people whom we would not have expected.  That fact says much about the limitations of our expectations, does it not?  Two examples come from the pericopes for today:

  1. King Cyrus II of Persia, a Zoroastrian and a Gentile, ended the Babylonian Exile of the Hebrews; and
  2. Jesus said that one’s biological family is not necessarily one’s spiritual family.

I have learned of the limited scope of my expectations, for I have fallen in love with a woman who does not fit most of the categories I had in mind when I was unattached and pondering a possible mate.  My beloved is right for me, I am glad to say.  Vehicles of grace come from unexpected directions sometimes.  May we be glad when we arrive and remain open to God’s surprising possibilities.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/07/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-29-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Anxiety Versus Faithfulness   1 comment

gathering_of_the_manna

Above:  The Gathering of the Manna, Part of a Fifteenth-Century Altarpiece

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful God, the fountain of living water,

you quench our thirst and wash away our sin.

Give us this water always.

Bring us to drink from the well that flows with the beauty of your truth

through 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 16:1-8 (14th Day)

Exodus 16:9-21 (15th Day)

Exodus 16:27-35 (16th Day)

Psalm 95 (All Days)

Colossians 1:15-23 (14th Day)

Ephesians 2:11-22 (15th Day)

John 4:1-6 (16th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 16:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-third-day-of-easter-tuesday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-fourth-day-of-easter-wednesday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/week-of-proper-11-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/proper-13-year-b/

Colossians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/week-of-proper-17-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/week-of-proper-17-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/proper-11-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/devotion-for-september-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ephesians 2:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

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The story which unites the assigned portions of Exodus is one of divine fidelity and human inconstancy.  Yet again people grumbled and failed to trust that God would provide in a timely fashion.  Out of faithfulness sinful acts flowed like a mighty river of perfidy.

This is a typical human pattern, is it not?  We should trust God, saying with Psalm 95: 1,

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Yet often grumble then we hoard needlessly and out of faithlessness.

Forty years long I detested that generation and said,

“This people are wayward in their hearts;

they do not know my ways.”

–Psalm 95:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Our worst behaviors usually flow from bad attitudes.  Out of such faithlessness we erect barriers between God and ourselves.  We do either that or we refuse to tear down such obstacles.  Out of such infidelity we build barriers between ourselves and others.  We do do either that or we refuse to tear down such obstacles.  The readings from Colossians and Ephesians speak of reconciliation via Christ.  This contradicts the human behaviors I have just mentioned.

Our faithful work is to cooperate with God, not to grumble and hoard greedily out of a sense of anxiety and insecurity.  Our task is to function as instruments of grace.  John 4:2 reads:

…although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized….

The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

Our Lord and Savior’s disciples, despite their well-documented shortcomings, were crucial to the success of the Jesus movement, which became Christianity.  Likewise, we modern Christians have a mandate to show Jesus to others.  We cannot do this well unless we lay aside certain spiritual baggage.  We will remain deeply flawed, of course, but God can still shine through the cracks in our pots.

What kinds of attitudes will we seek to have toward God and each other?  We are powerless, of course, to do everything necessary on our own power.  Yet our attitudes matter greatly.  What we do is important.  So, by grace, may we succeed in fulfilling the sacred tasks God has assigned to us and which, hopefully, the best parts of our free wills want to complete.  May we do it because it is the right thing to do.  May we do it because it glorifies God.  May we do it because it helps others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/devotion-for-the-fourteenth-fifteenth-and-sixteenth-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted January 14, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Colossians 1, Ephesians 2, Exodus 16, John 4, Psalm 95

Tagged with ,

“And Night Shall Be No More”   1 comment

Above:  The Measuring of the New Jerusalem

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Revelation 18:1-2, 21-19:3, 9 (Revised English Bible):

After this I saw another angel coming down from heaven; he possessed great authority and the earth shone with his splendour.  In a mighty voice he proclaimed,

Fallen, fallen is Babylon the great!  She has become a dwelling for demons, a haunt for every unclean spirit, for every unclean and loathsome bird….

Then a mighty angel picked up a stone like a great millstone and hurled it into the sea, saying,

Thus shall Babylon, the great city, be sent hurling down, never to be seen again!  The sound of harpists and minstrels, flute-players and trumpeters, shall no more be heard in you; no more shall craftsmen of any trade be found in you, or the sound of the mill be heard in you; no more shall the light of the lamp appear in you, no more shall the voices of the bridegroom and bride be heard in you!  Your traders were once the merchant princes of the world, and with your sorcery you deceived all the nations.

The blood of the prophets and of God’s people was found in her, the blood of all who had been slain on earth.  After this I heard what sounded like a vast throng in heaven shouting:

Hallelujah!  Victory and glory and power belong to our God, for true and just are his judgements!  He has condemned the great whore who corrupted the earth with her fornication; he has taken vengeance on her for the blood of his servants.

Once more they shouted:

Hallelujah!  The smoke from her burning will rise for ever!

The angel said to me,

Write this:  ”Happy are those who are invited to the wedding banquet of the Lamb!”

He added,

These are the very words of God.

Revelation 20:1-4, 11-21:4 (Revised English Bible):

I saw an angel coming down from heaven with the key to the abyss and a great chain in his hand.  He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent who is the Devil, or Satan, and chained him up for a thousand years; he threw him into the abyss, shutting and sealing it over him,so that he might not seduce the nations again till the thousand years were ended.  After that he must be let loose for a little while.

I saw thrones, and on them sat those to whom judgement was committed.  I saw the souls of those who, for the sake of God’s word and their witness to Jesus, had been beheaded, those who had not worshipped the beast and its image or received its mark on forehead or hand.  They came to life again and reigned with Christ for a thousand years….

I saw a great, white throne, and the One who sits upon it.  From his presence earth and heaven fled away, and there was no room for then any more.  I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne; and books were opened.  Then another book, the book of life, was opened.  The dead were judged by what they had done, as recorded in these books.  The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and Death and Hades gave up the dead in their keeping.  Everyone was judged on the record of his deeds.  Then Death and Hades were flung into the lake of fire.  This lake of fire is the second death; into it were flung any whose names were not to be found in the book of life.

I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had vanished, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready like a bride adorned for her husband.  I heard a loud voice proclaiming from the throne:

Now God has made his dwelling with mankind!  He will dwell among them and they shall be his people, and God himself will be with them.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There shall be an end to death, and to mourning and crying and pain, for the old order has passed away!

Revelation 22:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, sparkling like crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb down the middle of the city’s street.  On either side of the river stood a tree of life, which yields twelve crops of fruit, one for each month of the year.  The leaves of the trees are for the healing of the nations.  Every accursed thing shall disappear.  The throne of God and of the Lamb will be there, and his servants shall worship him; they shall see him face to face and bear his name on their foreheads.  There shall be no more night, nor will they need the light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will give them light; and they shall reign for ever.

He said to me,

These words are trustworthy and true.  The Lord God who inspires the prophets has sent his angel to show his servants what must soon take place.  And remember, I am coming soon!

Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and call upon his name.

4 For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

Psalm 84 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

How dear to me is your dwelling, O LORD of hosts!

My soul has a desire and longing for the courts of the LORD;

my heart and my flesh rejoice in the living God.

The sparrow has found her a house

and the swallow a nest where she may lay her young;

by the side of your altars, O LORD of hosts,

my King and my God.

3 Happy are they who dwell in your house!

they will always be praising you.

4 Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

5 Those who go through the desolate valley will find it a place of springs,

for the early rains have covered it with pools of water.

6 They will climb from height to height,

and the God of gods will reveal himself in Zion.

LORD God of hosts, hear my prayer;

hearken, O God of Jacob.

8 Behold our defender, O God;

and look upon the face of your Anointed.

For one day in your courts is better than a thousand in my own room,

and to stand in the threshold of the house of my God

than to dwell in the tents of the wicked.

10 For the LORD is both sun and shield;

he will give grace and glory;

11 No good thing will the LORD withhold

from those who walk with integrity.

12 O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!

Psalm 95:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

Luke 21:20-36 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

But when you see Jerusalem encircled by armies, then you may be sure that her devastation is near.  Then those who are in Judaea must take to the hills; those who are in the city itself must leave it and those who are out in the country must not return; because this is the time of retribution, when all that stands written is to be fulfilled.  Alas for women with child in those days, and for those who have children at the breast!  There will be great distress in the land and a terrible  judgement on this people.  They will fall by the sword; they will be carried captive into all countries; and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by Gentiles until the day of the Gentiles has run its course.

Portents will appear in sun and moon and stars.  On earth nations will stand helpless, not knowing which way to turn from the roar and surge of the sea.  People will faint with terror at the thought of what is coming upon the world; for the celestial powers will be shaken.  Then they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.  When all this begins to happen, stand upright and hold your heads high, because your liberation is near.

Jesus told them a parable:

Look at the fig tree, or at any other tree.  As soon as it bud, you can see for yourselves that summer is near.  In the same way, when you see all this happening, you may know that the kingdom of God is near.

Truly I tell you:  the present generation will live to see it all.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Be on your guard; do not let your minds be dulled by dissipation and drunkenness and worldly cares so that the great day catches you suddenly like a trap; for that day will come on everyone, the whole world over.  Be on the alert, praying at all times for strength to pass safely through all that is coming and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Week of Proper 29:  Thursday, Year 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-thursday-year-1/

Week of Proper 29:  Friday, Year 1, and Week of Proper 29:  Saturday, Year 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-friday-year-1-and-week-of-proper-29-saturday-year-1/

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The Book of Revelation culminates with the destruction of the city (and empire) of Rome and the establishment of God’s order, the New Jerusalem.  The Empire had persecuted Christians and destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple there.  The latter was a recent memory for many members of the original audience of both Revelation and Luke.  In fact, as I read Luke 21, I perceive that memories of those traumas influenced the telling of the contents.  How could they not?  We humans tell the past in the context of our present and recent history.

There is good news after all.  Revelation is an essentially optimistic book.

“…and night shall be no more….”

–Revelation 22:5a, Revised Standard Version

Part of the text from Revelation reminded me of an anthem my church choir has sung:

Peace be to you and grace from Him who freed us from our sins,

who loved us all and shed his blood that we might saved be.

Sing holy, holy to our Lord, the Lord Almighty God,

who was and is and is to come,

sing holy, holy Lord.

Rejoice on earth, ye saints below, for Christ is coming soon.

E’en so, Lord Jesus, quickly come and night shall be more.

They need no light, no lamp, nor sun, for Christ will be their all.

In 1954, Paul and Ruth Manz struggled emotionally through the serious (threatening to be fatal) illness of their three-year-old son, John.  Paul, a Lutheran church organist and composer, set words his wife had adapted from Revelation to music.  John recovered and became a minister.  He presided at his father’s funeral in November 2009.

Those of us who have lived for a sufficiently long time understand the darkness of anguish.  I refer not to mere childhood and adolescent alleged emergencies.  No, I mean potentially soul-shattering grief.  In such circumstances, one wonders how one can carry on.  Christ, who suffered grievously, did more than persist–he triumphed, even over death itself.  The power which made that possible can enable us to survive, continue, rebuild, and thrive.  Yew, we can carry one, in Christ, of course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/18/week-of-proper-29-thursday-friday-and-saturday-year-2/

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God, On the Side of the Righteous   1 comment

Above:  St. Michael’s Victory Over the Devil, St. Michael’s Cathedral, Coventry, England

Image Source = sansse

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

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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THE FIRST READING:

Daniel 7:1-27 (Revised English Bible):

In the first year that Belshazzar was king of Babylon, a dream and visions came to Daniel as he lay on his bed.  Then he wrote down the dream, and here his account begins.

In my vision during the night while I, Daniel, was gazing intently I saw the Great Sea churned up by the four winds of heaven, and four great beasts rising out of the sea, each one different from the others.

The first was like a lion, but it had an eagle’s wings.  I watched until its wings were plucked off from the ground and made to stand on two feet as if it were a human being.

Then I saw another, a second beast, like a bear.  It had raised itself on one side, and it had three ribs in its mouth between its teeth.  The command was given to it:  ”Get up and gorge yourself with flesh.”

After this as I gazed I saw another, a beast like a leopard with four wings like those of a bird on its back; this creature had four heads, and it was invested with sovereign power.

Next in the night visions I saw a fourth beast, fearsome and grisly  and exceedingly strong, with great iron teeth.  It devoured and crunched, and it trampled underfoot what was left.  It was different from all the beasts which went before it, and had ten horns.

While I was considering the horns there appeared another horn, a little one, springing up among them, and three of the first horns were uprooted to make room for it.  In this horn were eyes like human eyes, and a mouth that uttered bombast.  As I was looking,

thrones were set in place

and the Ancient in Years took his seat;

his robe was white as snow,

his hair like lamb’s wool.

His throne was flames of fire

and its wheels were blazing fire;

a river of fire flowed from his presence.

Thousands upon thousands served him

and myriads upon myriads were in attendance.

The court sat, and the books were opened.

Then because of the bombast the horn was mouthing, I went on watching until the beast was killed; its carcass was destroyed and consigned to the flames.  The rest of the beasts, though deprived of their sovereignty, were allowed to remain alive until an appointed time and season.  I was watching in visions of the night and I saw one like a human being coming with the clouds of heaven; he approached the Ancient in Years and was presented to him.  Sovereignty and glory and kingly power were given to him, so that all people and nations of every language should serve him; his sovereignty was to be an everlasting sovereignty which was not to pass away; and his kingly power was never to be destroyed.

My spirit within me was troubled; and, dismayed by the visions which came into my head, I, Daniel, approached one of those who were standing there and enquired what all this really signified; and he made known to me its interpretation,

These great beasts, four in number,

he said,

are four kingdoms which will arise from the earth.  But the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingly power and retain possession of it always, for ever and ever.

Then I wished to know what the fourth beast really signified, the beast that was different from all the others, exceedingly fearsome with its iron teeth and bronze claws, devouring and crunching, then trampling underfoot what was left.  I wished also to know about the ten horns on its head and about the other horn which sprang up at whose coming three of them fell, the horn which had eyes and a mouth uttering bombast and which in its appearance was more imposing than the others.  As I watched, this horn was waging war on holy ones and proving too strong for them until the Ancient in Years came.  Then judgement was pronounced in favor of the holy ones of the Most High, and the time came when the holy ones gained possession of kingly power.

The explanation he gave was this:

The fourth beast signifies a fourth kingdom which will appear on earth.  It will differ from the other kingdoms; it will devour the whole earth, treading it down and crushing it.  The ten horns signify ten kings who will rise from this kingdom; after them will arise another king, who will be different from his predecessors; and he will bring low three kings.  He will hurl defiance at the Most High and wear down the holy ones of the Most High.  He will have it in mind to alter the festival seasons and religious laws; and the holy ones will be delivered into his power for a time, and times, and half a time.  But when the court sits, he will be deprived of his sovereignty, so that it may be destroyed and abolished for ever.  The kingly power, sovereignty, and greatness of all the kingdoms under heaven will be given to the holy people of the Most High.  Their kingly power will last for ever, and every realm will serve and obey them.

THE TWO OPTIONS FOR THE FRIDAY RESPONSE:

Canticle 12, Part II (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Let the the earth glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O mountains and hills,

and all that grows upon the earth,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O springs of water, seas, and streams,

O whales and all that move in the waters.

All birds of the air, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O beasts of the wild,

and all you flocks and herds.

O men and women everywhere, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Psalm 97 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the earth rejoice;

let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him,

righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

A fire goes before him

and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees it and is afraid.

The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

Confounded be all who worship carved images

and delight in false gods!

Bow down before him, all you gods.

Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O LORD.

For you are the LORD,

most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The LORD loves those who hate evil;

he preserves the lives of the saints

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous,

and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy Name.

THE TWO OPTIONS FOR THE SATURDAY RESPONSE:

Canticle 12, Part III (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Part of the Song of the Three Young Men)

Let the people of God glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him forever.

Glorify the Lord, O priests and servants of the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Glorify the Lord, O spirits and souls of the righteous,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

You that are holy and humble of heart, glorify the Lord,

praise him and highly exalt him for ever.

Psalm 95:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

THE GOSPEL READING:

Luke 21:29-36 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus told them a parable:

Look at the fig tree, or at any other tree.  As soon as it bud, you can see for yourselves that summer is near.  In the same way, when you see all this happening, you may know that the kingdom of God is near.

Truly I tell you:  the present generation will live to see it all.  Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.

Be on your guard; do not let your minds be dulled by dissipation and drunkenness and worldly cares so that the great day catches you suddenly like a trap; for that day will come on everyone, the whole world over.  Be on the alert, praying at all times for strength to pass safely through all that is coming and to stand in the presence of the Son of Man.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Daniel 7 dates to the Hasmonean-Seleucid period, despite the claims of 7:1, which place it centuries before that.  In this chapter we have the imagery of cosmic war.  The text speaks of four Gentile kingdoms, most likely, in order, the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, the Median Confederacy, the Persian Empire, and the Macedonian Empire of Alexander the Great.  The ten horns are probably Seleucid kings, with Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who usurped three people to become king and who imposed a Hellenization policy on Jews in his realm, as the little horn.  And the Archangel Michael is almost certainly the “one like a human being.”  He is clearly subservient to God, who dispenses judgment in favor the holy ones.

History tells us that the Hasmoneans rebelled against Antiochus IV Epiphanes and established an independent Jewish state, which lasted for nearly a century, until 63 B.C.E., when the Roman Republic, a de facto empire soon to be a de jure one, assumed control.  This brings me to Luke 21, written after the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  The text places a prediction of the Second Coming of Jesus within the lifetimes of some of the original audience of the Lukan Gospel in the mouth of our Lord.

Yes, Antiochus IV Epiphanes died painfully and the Hasmonean revolt succeeded afterward.  Yes, there was a time of Judean independence.  But the Romans took over.  And, late in the First Century C.E., they destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple.  This must have seemed like the end of the world to many people at the time.  Yet Jesus did not return before the original members of Luke’s audience died.

We want to think that we are God’s holy ones, and that, in the cosmic war, God might deign to act as and when we predict.  Thus many people have not only longed for, but predicted the return of Jesus on specific dates for nearly two thousand years.  Each time, our Lord has not appeared and the world has not ended.  The rapture did not occur on May 21, 2011, as Harold Camping predicted.  I act on the assumption that his second date, October 21, 2011, the alleged end of the world, will come and go in the same manner.  We want God to take us away from our troubles, and some cling to doomsday dates in their desperation for deliverance and meaning.

Advent, or the season for preparing for Christmas, begins on the day after the Week of Proper 29:  Saturday.  One of the major themes of Advent is that God is with us in the here and the now.  God does not always take us away from our problems; no, sometimes God joins us amid them.  And when God does this, the form of the Incarnation might not be what we expected.  Jesus did not arrive as a conquering hero, expelling the Roman forces; he came as a helpless infant and died via the most humiliating, prolonged, and painful form of public execution the empire used.  But there was a Resurrection, was there not?

Yet the Roman Empire remained in power for centuries after that.

Other times, when some people think they are involved in cosmic warfare and on the side of light, they take matters into their own hands.  This is very much part of the ideology of radical Islamic terrorism, despite the fact that the Koran condemns murder.  Or, to use an example from Christian history, authorities drew on the cosmic warfare defense to justify the persecution and execution of Jews, Muslims, and accused heretics.  I wonder who the real heretics were.  There is no passage in which Jesus says,

Find those who believe differently from you and exterminate them!

No, we ought to leave the cosmic battle to God, who is full of surprises.  May we embrace them and love our neighbors as ourselves, as our Lord told us to do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUSTIN MARTYR, APOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SIMEON OF SYRACUSE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/01/week-of-proper-29-friday-year-1-and-week-of-proper-29-saturday-year-1/

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The Face of Jesus   1 comment

Above:  The Good Shepherd

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Ezekiel 34:11-16, 20-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the Lord GOD:

I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Therefore, thus says the Lord GOD to them:

I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you pushed with flank and shoulder, and butted at all the weak animals with your horns until you scattered them far and wide, I will save my flock, and they shall no longer be ravaged; and I will judge between sheep and sheep.

I will set up over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he shall feed them: he shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the LORD, will be their God, and my servant David shall be prince among them; I, the LORD, have spoken.

Psalm 100 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Be joyful in the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness

and come before his presence with a song.

Know this:  The LORD himself is God;

he himself has made us, and we are his;

we are the sheep of his pasture.

3 Enter his gates with thanksgiving;

go into his courts with praise;

give thanks to him and call upon his name.

4 For the LORD is good;

his mercy is everlasting;

and his faithfulness endures from age to age.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 34:11-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Thus says the Lord GOD:

I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As shepherds seek out their flocks when they are among their scattered sheep, so I will seek out my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places to which they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness. I will bring them out from the peoples and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them on the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited parts of the land. I will feed them with good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel shall be their pasture; there they shall lie down in good grazing land, and they shall feed on rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will make them lie down, says the Lord GOD. I will seek the lost, and I will bring back the strayed, and I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak, but the fat and the strong I will destroy. I will feed them with justice.

Psalm 95:1-7a (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

SECOND READING

Ephesians 1:15-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, and for this reason I do not cease to give thanks for you as I remember you in my prayers. I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation as you come to know him, so that, with the eyes of your heart enlightened, you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance among the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power for us who believe, according to the working of his great power. God put this power to work in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the age to come. And he has put all things under his feet and has made him the head over all things for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 25:31-46 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on the throne of his glory. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, and he will put the sheep at his right hand and the goats at the left. Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ”Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.” Then the righteous will answer him, ”Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?” And the king will answer them, “Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.” Then he will say to those at his left hand, ”You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.” Then they also will answer, ”Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?” Then he will answer them, ”Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.” And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Jesus, the Good Shepherd:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/17/litany-of-the-good-shepherd/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/shepherd-of-tender-youth/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/shepherd-of-souls-by-james-montgomery/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/01/the-king-of-love-my-shepherd-is/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/10/20/o-thou-who-art-the-shepherd/

Of Paul, James, Faith, and Justification:

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

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

A Foretaste of the Feast of Christ the King:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/26/week-of-proper-28-wednesday-year-1/

Hope of the World:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/hope-of-the-world/

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Our Lord and Savior commands us to love our neighbors as yourselves.  He also tells us that each person is our neighbor.  We are to love God fully and our neighbors as ourselves, for God dwells within each of us.  Do we seek to recognize the face of Jesus when we look at each other?

Respecting Jesus in each other requires us to seek justice for each other.  The audience of the reading from Ezekiel is the ruling class, but Jesus addresses people in general in the lesson from Matthew.  By serving each other, he tells us, we serve God.  Following Jesus is not an abstraction.  No, there are observable deeds.  When given the opportunity, do we care for others, especially those society has marginalized and/or despised?

Let us be honest.  Who enjoys visiting prisoners?  And do we not prefer not to look upon the homeless?  Furthermore, going to a hospital or a nursing home can be far from a pleasant experience.  Yet God also loves and Jesus died for those who are incarcerated or homeless or in a nursing home or a hospital bed.

Speaking of marginalized people, let us ponder shepherds.  They occupied a lower rung on the socio-economic ladder.   Yet they were essential elements of their society.  God spoke as a shepherd in the reading from Ezekiel and Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd.  King David’s immediate former profession was shepherd.  I interpret this combination of facts to mean that we ought not stand on ceremony and rank, seeking glory for ourselves.   Rather, we should seek to serve.  Furthermore, leadership, especially that of a nation, is properly an opportunity and a responsibility to serve others and work for justice.

There is god news and bad news in this day’s readings.  The good news is grace.  Reread the lesson from Matthew:  Those whom God praised did not know how much good they had done.  Yet there is bad news:  judgment.  Those whom God condemned were unaware of the depth of their sins.  Maybe they even thought they had lived righteously.

I like to listen to radio programs and podcasts from the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  Among my favorite series is The Late Show, which profiles deceased Canadians who contributed greatly to society, rarely in ways that made headlines.  Here is a link to the episode about Gladys Evelyn Cook:  http://www.cbc.ca/thelateshow/season-two/2010/08/16/episode-8—gladys-evelyn-cook—august-19-and-22/.  She worked with prisoners, understanding who they were and what they had done yet not judging them.  Instead, Cook recognized the potential within them.   With her generous spirit and Christian faith she touched the lives of many people for the good, giving away many hugs.  Inspired by her example and the lives of many other Christians in the Church Militant and the Church Triumphant, I pray that, by grace, I will act properly, not merely out of fear of divine wrath, but because I seek to do the right thing.  Gladys Evelyn Cook makes me want to be a better person than I am.  May I, by grace, have a similar effect on others.  May you, O reader, by grace, have a similar effect on others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 29, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FIRST U.S. PRESBYTERIAN BOOK OF CONFESSIONS, 1967

THE FEAST OF JIRI TRANOVSKY, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LUKE KIRBY, THOMAS COTTAM, WILLIAM FILBY, AND LAURENCE RICHARDSON, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/29/proper-29-year-a/

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Of Faith and Rocks   1 comment

Above: Moses Striking the Rock, by Pieter de Grebbel (1630)

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Numbers 20:1-13 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And the children of Israel, all the congregation, came to the wilderness of Zin in the first month, and the people stayed in Kadesh.  And Miriam died there and was buried there.  And there was no water for the congregation, and they assembled against Moses and against Aaron.  And the people quarreled with Moses, and they said, saying,

If only we had expired in front of YHWH!  And why have you brought YHWH’s community to this wilderness to die there, we and our cattle?  And why did you bring us up from Egypt to bring us to this bad place?  It’s not a place of seed and fig and vine and pomegranate, and there’s no water to drink!

And Moses and Aaron came in front of the community to the entrance of the Tent of Meeting, and they fell on their faces.  And YHWH’s glory appeared to them.  And YHWH spoke to Moses, saying,

Take the staff and assemble the congregation, you and Aaron, your brother.  And you shall speak to the rock before their eyes, and it will give its water.  So you shall bring water out of the rock for them and give a drink to the congregation and their cattle.

And Moses took the staff in front of YHWH as He commanded him.  And Moses and Aaron assembled the community opposite the rock.  And he said to them, “Listen, rebels, shall we bring water out of this rock for you?”  And Moses lifted his hand and struck the rock with his rock twice.  And much water came out!  And the congregation and their cattle drank.

And YHWH said to Moses and Aaron,

Because you did not trust in me, to make me holy before the eyes of the children of Israel, therefore you shall not bring this community to the land that I have given them!

They are the waters of Meribah, over which the children of Israel quarreled with YHWH, and He was made holy among them.

Psalm 95:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before his presence with thanksgiving

and raise a loud shout to him with psalms.

3 For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the caverns of the earth,

and the heights of the hills are his also.

5 The sea is his, for he made it,

and his hands have molded the dry land.

Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

7 For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

8 Harden not your hearts,

as your forebears did in the wilderness,

at Meribah, and on that day at Massah,

when they tempted me.

They put me to the test,

though they had seen my works.

Matthew 16:13-23 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When Jesus reached the Caesarea-Philippi district he asked his disciples a question.

Who do people say the Son of Man is?

They told him,

Well, some say John the Baptist.  Some say Elijah, others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.

He said to them,

But what about you?  Who do you say that I am?

Simon Peter answered,

You?  You are Christ, the Son of the Living God!

Jesus said,

Simon, son of Jonah, you a fortunate man indeed!  For it was not your own nature but my Heavenly Father who revealed this truth to you!  Now I tell you that you are Peter the rock, and it is on this rock that I am going to found my Church, and the powers of death will never have the power to destroy it.  I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatever you forbid on earth will be forbidden in Heaven and whatever you permit on earth will be what is permitted in Heaven!

Then he impressed on his disciples that they should not tell anyone that he was Christ.

From that time onwards Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he would have to go to Jerusalem, and endure much suffering from the elders, chief priests and scribes, and finally be killed; and be raised to life again on the third day.

Then Peter took him on one side and started to remonstrate with him over this.

God bless you, Master!  Nothing like this must happen to you!

Then Jesus turned round and said to Peter,

Out of my way, Satan!…you stand right in my path, Peter, when you think the thoughts of man and not those of God.

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The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; 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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Here is a link to a related post:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/11/feast-of-the-confession-of-st-peter-the-apostle-january-18/

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Israelite grumbling continues, even after the episode from Numbers 13, which I covered in the previous day’s devotion.  Already God has informed the people that most of them will die before Canaan.  If they were humble before God, they would have moved toward repentance.  Rather, we have this incident, with more grumbling.  It is the same song, only another verse.  This took a toll on Moses.  (How could it not?)

God promised to provide water for the people and their cattle, and did so.  There is water in many desert rocks, so Moses received instructions to gather the people and cattle before a very big rock, stand with Aaron in front of them, hold Aaron’s staff, and speak to the rock.  Moses did all of this except speak to it.  He struck it instead.  Regardless of his motivation, he had called attention to himself and away from God.  The people and cattle drank water while Moses and Aaron learned that, for their lack of faith, which is to say, trust in God, they would not enter Canaan.  Perhaps Aaron’s sin leading to the penalty was not related to Moses striking the rock with his staff.  I propose that Aaron’s cumulative faithlessness caught up with him.  More than once he had plotted against Moses over the years.  And Aaron was deeply involved in the infamous Golden Calf incident.

So God was angry, announcing penalties for sin, but God had not forsaken either Moses, Aaron, or any of the Israelites.  All had the promised water to drink, but they still had to pay the price for failing to trust God.  So, once again, divine judgment and mercy intermingled.

Another kind of rock figures prominently in the reading from the Gospel of Matthew.  Simon Peter becomes the first Apostle to confess Jesus as the living Son of God.  This is a momentous event in Christian history; there is even a feast day (The Confession of St. Peter the Apostle, January 18) for it.  Yet Peter’s understanding was partial.  Out of good intentions, he protested against the coming torture, execution, and resurrection of Jesus.  As we say in the U.S. South, I say of Peter, “God bless him.”

“You are Peter,” Jesus says to him, “and upon this rock I will build my Church.”  What is “this rock”?  I have read what various commentators have said about this and pondered the germane ecclesiastical traditions.  William Barclay, the great Scottish Presbyterian Bible scholar, proposes the best answer.  The foundational rock of the Church is God, and Peter is the first stone.  In the Greek, Jesus says, “You are Petros, and upon this petra I will will build my Church.”  A petra is a rock mass, so Barclay’s interpretation makes sense.  Many stones have joined the rock mass sense then, and continue to do so.

Peter wavered after this incident.  He denied Jesus publicly three times shortly before the crucifixion.  And he hid shortly after his leader’s execution.  Yet he became a bold leader in the Acts of the Apostles, and, according to tradition, died of crucifixion.  Peter insisted that he was unworthy to die as Jesus had, so he was crucified upside-down.

Thus the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:24-26 take on added meaning:

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all rights to himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his real life?  What could a man offer to buy back that life once he has lost it?  (J. B. Phillips, 1972)

Our “real life,” as J. B. Phillips translates the text, is in God.  More traditional renderings include “soul,” but “real life” gets to the point nicely.  Our real life is in God.  Do we realize this fact?  This is the God in whom we can trust, that is, have faith.  This is the God in whom judgment and mercy co-mingle.  This is the God in who was patient with Moses, Aaron, the Israelites, and Simon Peter.  This is the God who recognized the great potential within Simon Peter and never gave up on the impetuous Apostle.  This is the God who gives us water and manna in our spiritual deserts.  This is the God who is the rock upon which we are stones in the rock mass.

More Than Words, Revised Edition, is a 1958 Christian Education resource The Episcopal Church published for “Church School Teachers and for Students in Junior High School Classes.”  I quote part of the entry for “A Saint,” from page 167:

But the saints were not heroes all their lives.  When they started they were just like you and me.  James and John had fiery tempers.  Peter cursed and swore.  Matthew bled the people for money.  Peter disowned Jesus three times.  Yet Jesus made them into saints.  He can also do it with us.

How so we start?  By letting our Lord love us and forgive us.  If we start again, we must let Him forgive us again, even if He has to do it a million times.  For the joy of being forgiven is our first taste of heaven.

How we respond to God matters.  Will we be grateful?  Will we trust?  Will we accept forgiveness?  Will we accept transformation?  Or will we persist in slave mentalities, expecting nothing while grumbling?  The choice is ours to make.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 25, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE CONVERSION OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post:

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

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The Water of Life   1 comment

Above:  Jacob’s Well in 1934

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Exodus 17:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said,

Give us water to drink.

Moses said to them,

Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?

But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said,

Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?

So Moses cried out to the Lord,

What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.

The Lord said to Moses,

Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.

Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying,

Is the Lord among us or not?

Psalm 95 (New Revised Standard Version):

O come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth;

the heights of the mountains are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it,

and the dry land, which has hands have formed.

O come, let us worship and bow down,

let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture,

and the sheep of his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice!

Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Masah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me,

and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

For forty years I loathed that generation

and said,

They are a people whose hearts go astray,

and they do not regard my ways.

Therefore in anger I swore,

They shall not enter my rest.

Romans 5:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

John 4:5-42 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her,

Give me a drink.

(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him,

How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?

(Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her,

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.

The woman said to him,

Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?

Jesus said to her,

Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

The woman said to him,

Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.

Jesus said to her,

Go, call your husband, and come back.

The woman answered him,

I have no husband.

Jesus said to her,

You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!

The woman said to him,

Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.

Jesus said to her,

Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

The woman said to him,

I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.

Jesus said to her,

I am he, the one who is speaking to you.

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said,

What do you want?

or,

Why are you speaking with her?

Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,

Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?

They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him,

Rabbi, eat something.

But he said to them,

I have food to eat that you do not know about.

So the disciples said to one another,

Surely no one has brought him something to eat?

Jesus said to them,

My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony,

He told me everything I have ever done.

So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman,

It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; 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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Water is precious, especially in the desert.  Modern-day Israel and surrounding nations, the locations of most of the Biblical narrative, are mostly desert.  So think of the Biblical references to water.  (Psalm 1 comes to mind immediately.)  Water can make the difference between life and death.

H2O can make the make the difference between physical life and death, just as spiritual water can make the difference between spiritual life and death.  That is my theme for this entry.

God had delivered the Israelites (through water) out of slavery in Egypt and into freedom.  This liberty entailed a nomadic life in the desert of the Sinai Peninsula.  God provided the Israelites everything they needed for survival, yet many people grumbled, waxing nostalgically about Egyptian table scraps and pressing Moses about where to find more water. They found it inside rocks.  Indeed, the presence of water inside rocks is a fact of nature.  The main issue with the Israelites was their faithlessness, fed by a lack of gratitude, patience, and vision.

Often we (including the author of this post) are impatient of God, unaware of how fortunate we are.  Human nature does not change.

Samaritans were half-breeds and heretics by orthodox Jewish standards.  So why did Jesus deign to carry on an intelligent, non-judgmental conversation with one of them?  And with a woman!  Women were the social inferiors of men in that patriarchal society.  This Samaritan woman had more faith than did many Israelites shortly after the Exodus, though, and she received spiritual water and rejuvenated faith.  She went away justified.

Truly all people who seek and find God, who demonstrate living faith in the one true deity and his only Son, Jesus, are acceptable to God–regardless of ethnic origin or sex.  Some heretics have more faith than certain observant people.  Some of my most productive and interesting theological discussions have been with refugees and exiles from organized religion.  I think especially of a young woman I knew as a classmate at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, in the early and middle 1990s.  Brittany (not her real name) had grown up in a conservative, Charismatic congregation of an old, mainline Protestant denomination.  She cared deeply about epistomology, or how we know what we know.  Brittany’s congregation did not encourage her epistomological quest, equating it with faithlessness.  So, wounded and unwelcome, she left organized religion.  That was were she was spiritually when I spoke to her last, in early 1996.  Yet she was more faithful in a healthy way than those other students who attended fundamentalist churches weekly (or more often) and who discouraged my questions, telling me they would lead me to damnation.

Receptiveness to God is not the sole province of those who seem orthodox.  Sometimes the alleged heretics are closer to God.  Penitent prostitutes (not St. Mary Magdalene, who was not a prostitute), unlike some Pharisees, welcomed the message of our Lord and Savior.  The Samaritan woman at the well found much more than she expected, and led others to Jesus.  And Gentiles found God throughout the New Testament.  Perhaps the pivotal difference between those who embrace God and those who think they do is that the former population knows fully of its need for God, and therefore does not cling to false pride.

So there you have it.  May we welcome healthy faith in the only God wherever we find it, in whomever it lives.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 17, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EMILY DE VIALAR, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF SAINT JOSEPH OF THE APPARITION

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL AND HENRIETTA BARNETT, ENGLISH SOCIAL REFORMERS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/third-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

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Posted February 10, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 17, John 4, Psalm 95, Romans 5