Archive for the ‘Romans 2’ Category

Christ and the Syrophoenician Woman   Leave a comment

Above:  Jesus and the Woman of Canaan, by Michael Angelo Immenraet

Image in the Public Domain

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

For the Second Sunday in Lent, Year 1

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

Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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

Almighty God, who seest the helpless misery of our fallen life;

vouchsafe unto us, we humbly beseech thee, both the outward and inward defense of thy guardian care;

that we may be shielded from the evils which assault the body,

and be kept pure from all thoughts that harm and pollute the soul;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 148

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

Isaiah 45:20-25

Psalm 32

Romans 2:1-10

Matthew 15:21-28

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

Repentance is the theme of Lent, historically a time during which notorious sinners, penitent, prepared to return to the full fellowship of the church.  Changing one’s mind and turning one’s back on sins, barriers we erect between ourselves and God, is essential before one can deepen one’s relationship with God and grow into one’s potential in God.  The readings from Psalm 32 and Romans 2 cover that material more eloquently than I can paraphrase them.

Another theme in this week’s collection of pericopes is Gentiles worshiping the one true God.  We read about this in Isaiah 45 before we move along to the frequently misinterpreted story of Jesus and the Syrophoenician woman in Matthew 15:21-28.

I realize that my orthodoxy resembles heresy to many in the Bible Belt of the United States.  (I live in the Bible Belt.)  I stand within the larger Christian tradition–one that embraces critical (in the highest meaning of that word) analysis of the Bible and that accepts both science and history.  My heroes include Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), who said,

The Bible tells us the way to go to Heaven, not the way the heavens go.

I consider fossils, rock layers, and other scientific evidence, and understand that the universe and this planet are much older than six millennia, and that we human beings, in all our stages of evolution, are recent, in terms of geological time.  I cannot imagine a few million years.  Neither can I imagine many millions and billions of years.  I like to ask questions, especially those that prompt many fundamentalists and evangelicals to give me hard stares and become concerned about my salvation.  Nevertheless, I am fairly orthodox.

I, as an orthodox Christian, acknowledge the sinlessness of Jesus.  I also affirm that Jesus was fully human and fully divine, not God with skin on, without any humanity.  Furthermore, I read Matthew 15:21-28 not only in the context of the consensus of ancient ecumenical councils, but also in the context of the rest of Matthew 15 and of the Gospels as a whole.  He liked to dine with outcasts, notorious sinners, and other “bad company,” did he not?

Consider, O reader, that, in the narrative, Jesus had recently argued with some Pharisees and scribes in Jerusalem about ritual purity functioning as a distraction from moral responsibilities to relatives.  In that context, our Lord and Savior had decreed that what comes out of one’s mouth makes one’s defiled–common, as J. B. Phillips (1906-1982) translated the germane Greek verb.  To be pure was uncommon.  Impurity was ubiquitous; rituals for becoming ritually pure were also ubiquitous.

In narrative, Jesus then voluntarily withdrew to Gentile territory.  He was not trying to avoid Gentiles.  Our Lord and Savior’s seemingly harsh words to the Syrophoenician woman were not insults, and she did not change his mind.  No, Jesus tested her verbally; he wanted her to reply as she did.  Her answer pleased him.  I understand that “little bitch” (a literal translation from the Greek text) does not sound nice.  It is certainly rude when one intends to insult.  I argue, of course, that this was not the case in the story.

In the rest of Matthew 15 Jesus healed people before conducting another feeding of the multitude–4000 men, plus women and children–for the Gentiles.

…and they glorified the God of Israel.

–Matthew 15:31d, The New American Bible (1991)

I, standing in a tradition that dates to the Church Fathers, affirm that the full humanity and full divinity of Jesus meant, among other truths, that the incarnate Second Person of the Trinity did not know all that the pre-incarnate Second Person of the Trinity did.  This is an orthodox Christian position.  So is my interpretation of Matthew 15:21-28.

The Gospel of Matthew makes clear that Jesus was of Israel and that the proclamation of the message was first to Israel.  The Gospel of Matthew also includes the Great Commission (which includes Gentiles) in Chapter 28.

Jesus handled the Syrophoenician’s woman’s case better than his Apostles did; they wanted to send her away.  Christ commended her–a foreigner and a Gentile–for her faith and healed her daughter.

I wish that, in passages such as Matthew 15:21-28, the author had mentioned tones of voices, which can change the meaning of words.  Perhaps, if the author (“Matthew,” whoever he was; probably not the apostle) had done so, many generations of Christians would have avoided bad sermons on this pericope, as well as misinterpretations in commentaries and Sunday School lessons.

[Aside:  Today, March 24, 2020, I consulted N. T. Wright’s Lent for Everyone, Year A (2011), focused on the Gospel of Matthew.  Even he thought that Jesus was insulting the woman.  How did I, of all people, become more orthodox than N. T. Wright on a point of interpretation? (Start playing the theme to The Twilight Zone now.)]

All may come to God through Christ.  All need to repent.  Divine judgment and mercy exist in a balance only God understands; so be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 24, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT OSCAR ROMERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF SAN SALVADOR; AND THE MARTYRS OF EL SALVADOR, 1980-1992

THE FEAST OF SAINT DIDACUS JOSEPH OF CADIZ, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

THE FEAST OF PAUL COUTURIER, APOSTLE OF CHRISTIAN UNITY

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

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LEDDRA, BRITISH QUAKER MARTYR IN BOSTON, MASSACHUSETTS BAY COLONY, 1661

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

The Failure of the Flesh   1 comment

Above:  High Priest Offering Incense on an Altar

Image in the Public Domain

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

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:

Leviticus 18:19-22; 19:19, 27-28

Psalm 118:5-9

Romans 1:8-2:11

Mark 10:32-34

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

While the reading from Mark 10 marks the movement of Jesus toward his death and Psalm 118 reminds us of the wisdom of trusting in God and not in flesh, we read frequently misinterpreted passages from Leviticus and Romans.  Although the homosexual orientation has existed since antiquity, the recognition of its reality is much more recent.  The assumption in the readings, therefore, is that there is no such thing as the homosexual orientation, hence the allegedly unnatural nature of the acts.  Furthermore, Leviticus also condemns wearing clothing (except in fringes and in priestly vestments) made of two or more types of cloth and recognizes the existence of slavery.  The illicit sexual encounter in Leviticus 19:20 is allegedly wrong–and a capital offense–because someone has reserved the slave woman for another man.  As for combining linen and wool (except when one is supposed to do so), mixing them is wrong in the text, as are mixing seeds of two plants in the same field and breeding animals across species barriers.

The real theme seems to be mixing.  As Everett Fox summarizes,

Mixtures in the Bible seem to be reserved for the divine sphere alone.

The Five Books of Moses (1997), page 603

And God mandates some mixing in the Torah, as I have indicated.  Exodus 28:6 and 39:29 prescribe the mixing of different types of cloth in priestly vestments and Numbers 15:37-40 commands fringes on clothing.

Mixing has long obsessed many people.  Race mixing has long occurred in the United States, for example.  It was ubiquitous on plantations–often via the rape of slave women by masters.  The social offense was getting caught.  Consensual race mixing via marriage used to be illegal in 27 states, until 1967.

The truth, of course, is that many of us are genetic hodge-podges.  I am, for example, somewhat Cherokee, although my ancestry is mostly British and Irish, with contributions from elsewhere in Western Europe.  Purity is not a matter of ethnicity or of any other form of identity, despite the fact that many people insist that it is.  Thinking vainly that is otherwise exemplifies claiming to be wise yet really being a fool.

The real point of the reading from Romans is not to judge others for doing what one also does (2:1).  Besides, judgment resides in the divine purview alone.  In Pauline theology to break one part of the Law of Moses is to violate the entire code–a thought worthy of consideration in the context of divine patience, meant to lead people to repentance.

Guilt in the reading from Roman 1-2 is both individual and collective.  Individual sins are staples of much of the theology of Protestantism, which does not handle collective sins as well as Judaism and Roman Catholicism do.  To focus on personal peccadilloes to the marginalization or denial of collective sins is to mis the point and the means of correcting the relevant social problem or problems.  And all of us are partially responsible for faults in our societies.  Will we accept that reality and act accordingly?

The natural conclusion to this post comes from Psalm 118.  Rely on God, not on flesh.  God is faithful, but flesh fails.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK LUCIAN HOSMER, U.S. UNITARIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY GIANELLI, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF SAINT ALPHONSUS LUGUORI AND THE SISTERS OF MARY DELL’ORTO

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER THEN EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERT OF NEWMINSTER, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND PRIEST

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

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2017/06/07/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-in-lent-ackerman/

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

Repentance and Restoration, Part I   1 comment

the-denial-of-saint-peter-caravaggio

Above:  The Denial of Saint Peter, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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

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:

Deuteronomy 30:1-14

Psalm 115 or 113

John 7:53-8:11 or Luke 22:1-38 (39-46)

Romans 2:12-29

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

Maundy Thursday is an especially appropriate day to repent.  We all need to turn our backs to our sins daily, of course, but the commemoration of the final events leading to the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior should remind us all to take a spiritual inventory and turn over some new leaves.  Deuteronomy 30, following directly from Chapter 29, tells us that, after idolatry and other sins, as well as their consequences, will come the opportunity for repentance and restoration.  The psalms extol God, for whom no idol is a good substitute.  Idols come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes.  Some are tangible, but many are not.  That which is an idol for one person is not an idol for another individual.  All idolatry must cease.  Repentance and restoration can still occur.

The pericope from John 7:53-8:11 really belongs in the Gospel According to Luke.  One can, in fact, read John 7:52 and skip to 8:12 without missing a beat.  The story, whenever it occurred in the life of Jesus, teaches vital lessons.  The religious authority figures, we learn, sought to entrap our Lord and Savior.  In so doing, we discover, they violated the law, for they provided no witnesses and did not care about the location of the man (Leviticus 20:10 and Deuteronomy 22:22).  As we read, Jesus reversed the trap, outwitted his opponents, and sent the woman away forgiven.  I conclude that certain words from Romans 2 would have fit well in our Lord and Savior’s mouth, given the circumstances:

You teach others, then; do you not teach yourself?

–Verse 21a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Falling into sin is easy; one can simply stumble into it out of fear or ignorance.  St. Simon Peter acted out of fear when he denied knowing Jesus.  Fear was understandable, although that fact did not reduce the sin.  Yet, as we read in John 21, Christ gave St. Simon Peter the opportunity to profess his love for him as many times as he had denied knowing him.  The Apostle accepted the opportunity, although he was not aware of what Jesus was doing at the time.

May we strive, by grace, to sin as rarely as possible.  And, when we do sin (many times daily), may we express our penitence and repent.  Christ, simultaneously priest and victim as well as master and servant, beckons us to follow him.  We will stumble and fall often; he knows that.  Get up yet again and resume following me, he says.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-maundy-thursday-year-d/

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

The Sin of Religious Violence   1 comment

entry-into-jerusalem-giotto

Above:  Entry Into Jerusalem, by Giotto

Image in the Public Domain

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

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:

Deuteronomy 11:1-17 or Isaiah 43:8-15

Psalm 94 or 35

John 8:48-59

Romans 1:8-15 (16-17) 18-32; 2:1-11 or Galatians 6:1-6 (7-16) 17-18

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

Accuse my accuser of Yahweh,

attack my attackers.

–Psalm 35:1, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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

That verse summarizes much of Psalms 35 and 94.  The plea of the persecuted for God to smite their enemies, although understandable and predictable, but it is inconsistent with our Lord and Savior’s commandment to love our enemies and to pray for our persecutors (Matthew 5:43).  Sometimes divine smiting of evildoers is a necessary part of a rescue operation, for some persecutors refuse to repent.  Nevertheless, I suspect that God’s preference is that all people repent of their sins and amend their lives.

We read in Deuteronomy 11 (placed in the mouth of Moses long after his death) of the importance of following divine laws–or else.  Then, in Isaiah 43, set in the latter phase of the Babylonian Exile, which, according to the Biblical narrative, resulted from failure to obey that law code, we read of impending deliverance by God from enemies.  Both readings remind us of what God has done for the Hebrews out of grace.  Grace, although free, is never cheap, for it requires a faithful response to God.  We are free in God to serve God, not be slaves to sin.  We are free in God to live as vehicles of grace, not to indulge inappropriate appetites.  We are free in God to lay aside illusions of righteousness, to express our penitence, and to turn our backs on–to repent of–our sins.

This is a devotion for Palm Sunday.  We read in John 8 that some Jews at Jerusalem sought to stone Jesus as a blasphemer (verse 59).  I suppose that they thought they were acting in accordance with Leviticus 24:10-23.  Later in the Fourth Gospel (Chapters 18 and 19) certain religious authority figures are complicit in his death–as a scapegoat (11:47-53).

This desire to kill those who offend our religious sensibilities strongly is dangerous for everyone.  It is certainly perilous for those who suffer because of it.  Furthermore, such violence causes spiritual harm to those who commit it.  And what if one’s judgment is wrong?  One has committed a most serious offense before God.  This tendency toward religious violence exists in various traditions, has a shameful past and an inexcusable present reality, and does nothing inherently to glorify God.  In fact, it detracts from the glory of God.  That God can work through such abominations committed in His name testifies to divine sovereignty.  Exhibit A is the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-palm-sunday-year-d/

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

Go and Learn It   1 comment

Scroll

Above:   Scroll

Image in the Public Domain

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

The Collect:

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

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

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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

The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 23:1-9

Psalm 113

Romans 3:1-8

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

Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes, with the princes of his people.

–Psalm 113:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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

Throughout the Hebrew Scriptures one reads of the importance of obeying divine law faithfully.  God commands obedience to the law and warns of the dire consequences of disobedience.  Two kingdoms fall and, after the fact, the Jewish tradition repeats the theme of the importance of obedience to the law.  I wonder, then, how to read St. Paul the Apostle in his Letter to the Romans.  Perhaps his target was the legalistic interpretation and keeping of the Law of Moses.  In Romans 2, for example, we read of the necessity of the circumcision of the heart.  As a note in The Jewish Annotated New Testament (2011) informs me, that is consistent with Deuteronomy 10:16 and 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4, 9:25-26, and 38:33; and Ezekiel 44:7.

As for the portion of the Law of Moses we find in Exodus 23:1-9, it is timeless, with some culturally specific examples of principles.

  1. One must not bear false witness, commit perjury, or spread false rumors.
  2. One must speak the truth and act impartially, showing deference to nobody because of wealth or the lack thereof.
  3. One must return wandering livestock belonging to an enemy.  (This commandment’s principle extends beyond livestock.)
  4. One must help and enemy raise his beast of burden which has collapsed.  (This commandment’s principle also extends beyond livestock.)
  5. One must not subvert the rights of the poor.
  6. One must not make or support a false allegation.
  7. One must not send the innocent to execution.
  8. One must not accept bribes.
  9. One must not oppress strangers.

These are commandments, not suggestions.

I think of the famous story of Rabbi Hillel (110 B.C.E.-10. C.E.), who summarized the Torah by citing the commandment to love God fully (the Shema, found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5) and the Golden Rule (Leviticus 19:18).  Then he concluded,

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

That statement applies well to Exodus 23:1-9, some of the provisions of which are politically sensitive.  Justice, however, is what it is.  May we learn it and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/19/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-20-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

Barriers   1 comment

Stone Retaining Wall

Above:  Stone Retaining Wall, October 1979

Photographer = Carl Fleischhauer

Image Source = Library of Congress

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

The Collect:

O Lord God, we bring before you the cries of a sorrowing world.

In your mercy set us free from the chains that bind us,

and defend us from everything that is evil,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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

The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 56:9-12 (Thursday)

Isaiah 57:1-13 (Friday)

Isaiah 59:1-8 (Saturday)

Psalm 22:19-28 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-19 (Thursday)

Galatians 3:15-22 (Friday)

Matthew 9:27-35 (Saturday)

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

Yahweh, do not hold aloof!

My strength, come quickly to my help,

rescue my soul from the sword,

the one life I have from the grasp of the dog!

Save me from the lion’s mouth,

my poor life from the wild bulls’ horns!

–Psalm 22:19-21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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

No, the LORD’s arm is not too short to save,

Or His ear too dull to hear;

But your iniquities have been a barrier

Between you and your God,

Your sins have made Him to turn His face away

And refuse to hear you.

–Isaiah 59:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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

That passage from Isaiah goes on to say that God will

…repay fury to His foes;

He shall make requital to His enemies,

Requital to the distant lands.

–Isaiah 59:18b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Then justice and righteousness will prevail, and the words of God will be in the mouths of the people

from now on, for all time.

–Isaiah 59:21d, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

God establishes no barriers between himself and us.  No, we erect and maintain such walls.  We even become attached to them and defend some of them as righteous.  Our moral blind spots prevent us from recognizing every example of this in which we have participated and take part.  Therefore sometimes we mistake the work of God for evil, or at least as negative.  There is frequently an element of the self-defensive in such reactions, for recognizing acts of God as what they are would require us to admit that we are not as holy as we imagine ourselves to be.  It would also require us to question certain “received wisdom,” to which we have become attached and by which we define ourselves.

We would do much better to embrace divine offers of love and reconciliation, and to accept the freedom Christ brings, as well as the accompanying demands of grace upon our lives.  Grace is free, but not cheap.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 5, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUPHRASIA OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HORNBLOWER GILL, ENGLISH UNITARIAN THEN ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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

Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-7-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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

Spiritual Responsibility   1 comment

Zedekiah

Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

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

The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

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 28

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

The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 11:1-17 (Monday)

Ezekiel 17:1-10 (Tuesday)

Psalm 39 (Both Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Monday)

Romans 2:12-16 (Tuesday)

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

You chastise mortals in punishment for sin,

consuming like a moth what is dear to them;

surely everyone is a mere breath.

–Psalm 39:11, The Book of Worship of North India (1995)

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

The judgment of God is righteous, the readings for these days tell us.

Ezekiel 17:1-10 requires explanation, for it uses metaphorical language.  The references involving the cedar, the vine, and the eagles refer to international relations from 598 to 588 B.C.E.  In verses 3-6 the meaning is that King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had taken many prominent people of Judah, including King Jehoiachin (reigned in 597 B.C.E.), into exile, after which King Zedekiah (reigned 597-586 B.C.E.), who was initially loyal to Nebuchadnezzar II, came to the throne of Judah.  The eagle in verses 7-8 is the Pharaoh of Egypt, to whom Zedekiah transferred his loyalty.  The pericope concludes that the survival of Zedekiah and Judah is impossible.

Part of the background of the assigned passage from Ezekiel is the position that pursuing those alliances with dangerous foreign leaders was not only foolish but faithless.  Obey and trust in God instead, prophets said.  Theological interpretation in the context of the Babylonian Exile reinforced that position.  The people and bad kings of Judah reaped what they sowed, the final versions of certain books of the Hebrew Bible argued.  (There were, of course, good kings of Judah.)

God is angry with Judah in Jeremiah 11:1-17.  The people, having generally (with some notable exceptions) refused to obey the covenant with God, will suffer the punishments for noncompliance which the covenant contains.  Among the accusations is rampant idolatry.

The first word of Romans 2 is “therefore,” which leads me back into chapter 1.  The essence of Romans 1 is that Gentiles have no excuse for persistent unrighteousness, including idolatry.  Divine punishment for them for these offenses is therefore justified.  Then, in Romans 2, St. Paul the Apostle tells his Jewish audience not to be spiritually complacent.

The very fact that the Jew agrees so entirely with Paul’s charge against the Gentile shows that he himself is without excuse and subject to the wrath of God.

–Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans (1944); Translated by Carl C. Rasmussen (Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1949), page 113

Furthermore, some Gentiles have the law of God inscribed on their hearts, when even some Jews do not.  Doing is better than merely hearing, according to the Apostle.

Three thoughts come to my mind at this point.  The first is that St. Paul was correct.  He echoed Jeremiah 31:31f (the inner law), but expanded the text to include Gentiles.  St. Paul also sounded much like Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  For as you judge others, so will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out will be dealt to you.

–Matthew 7:1-2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Gospel of Matthew did not exist during St. Paul’s lifetime, but the Apostle did have some familiarity with oral traditions and perhaps some written sayings of Jesus, from which the author of the Gospel of Matthew drew.

My second thought is that St. Paul’s challenge to question one’s assumptions and prejudices is timeless.  Who are those we define as spiritual outsiders?  Some of them might be closer to God than we are, and we might not be as close to God as we think we are.

My final thought in this collection is that St. Paul sounds very much like the perhaps later Letter of James.

Exhibit A:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

–Romans 2:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The emphasis here is on active faith.  The Pauline definition of faith was confidence, in the absence of evidence for or against, which leads to actions.  Thus, later in the epistle, St. Paul argued:

Therefore since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….

–Romans 5:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Romans 2:13 and 5:1 stand as portions of a unified, steadily building case in a theological treatise.

Exhibit B:

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Can faith save him?…So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

–James 2:14, 17, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Exhibit C:

Do you have to be told, you fool, that faith divorced from action is futile?…You see then it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.

–James 2:20, 24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Faith, in the Letter of James, is intellectual, hence the necessity of pairing it with deeds.  On the surface the theologies of justification in the Letter of James and the Letter to the Romans might seem mutually contradictory, but they are not.  No, they arrive at the same point from different destinations.

The judgment of God exists alongside divine mercy.  The balance of the two factor resides solely in the purview of God.  Our actions influence divine judgment and mercy in our cases, however.  One can find that teaching in several places in the Bible, including Ezekiel 18, Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 2:6f, and James 2:8f.  Yes, the legacies of ancestors influence us, but our spiritual responsibility for ourselves remains intact.  May we exercise it properly.

Related to one’s spiritual responsibility for oneself is one’s spiritual responsibility for others, as in Romans 2:17-24.  That, however, is a topic for another post.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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

Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-third-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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