Archive for the ‘Romans 9’ Category

The Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Part VI   1 comment

the-denial-of-saint-peter-by-caravaggio

Above:  The Denial of Saint Peter, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Haggai 2:20-23 or Daniel 7:(1-3) 4-8 (9-18) 19-28

Psalm 38 or 55

Matthew 26:57-27:2 or Mark 14:53-15:1 or Luke 22:54-23:1 or John 18:13-28

Romans 9:6-33

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The assigned readings, taken together, focus on the contrast between the justice of God and the injustice of human political and economic systems.  When God destroys corrupt human systems, a better order replaces them.  In the Gospels Jesus becomes a scapegoat whom St. Simon Peter denies knowing.  The options for the Psalm fit the mood of Holy Week well, with the major exceptions of the confession of sin in Psalm 38 and the vengeful desire in Psalm 55.

To write or speak of the Kingdom of God and how it differs from human social norms and institutions is to, among other things, to criticize human social norms and institutions.  To do so, when one dies it properly, is to contemplate one’s complicity in collective sin.  That would lead to repentance, or turning one’s back on sin.  That can, when enough people do it, lead to social reform.  After all, society is people.

May we not deny Christ as he is present among us in the victims of injustice.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FOURTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ARCHIBALD CAMPBELL TAIT, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM JOHN BLEW, ENGLISH PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/20/devotion-for-proper-24-year-d/

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Waiting for God, Part I   1 comment

Abraham

Above:  Icon of Abraham

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you sent your Holy Spirit to be the life and light of your church.

Open our hearts to the riches of your grace,

that we may be ready to receive you wherever you appear,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 21:1-16 (Thursday)

Ecclesiastes 6:1-6 (Friday)

Genesis 11:27-32 (Saturday)

Psalm 33:12-22 (All Days)

Romans 9:1-9 (Thursday)

Acts 7:1-8 (Friday)

Matthew 6:19-24 (Saturday)

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We are waiting for Yahweh;

he is our help and our shield,

for in him our heart rejoices,

in his holy name we trust.

Yahweh, let your faithful love rest on us,

as our hope has rested in you.

–Psalm 33:20-22, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Sometimes the wicked prosper and the righteous suffer.  This reality has frustrated many for ages and contradicted incarnations of Prosperity Theology (a heresy that does not die) since antiquity.  In the Book of Job the titular character’s alleged friends insisted that he must have done something to deserve his suffering.  The text, with all of its layers of authorship, explains in Chapters 1 and 2 why Job suffered; God allowed it.  Job was a pawn in a heavenly wager.

We who follow God wait for God, but, if we are realistic, we will not expect that doing so will lead to life on Easy Street.  Sometimes, in fact, it will lead to suffering for the sake of righteousness.  On other occasions suffering will just happen, seemingly for no reason.  Suffering is a part of life, I have become convinced.

Yet we need not suffer alone.  In Christ Jesus God suffered in human flesh, after all.  The divine promise is not that a proper relationship with God will be present during suffering.  This has been my experience.  We are members of God’s household via grace, not lineage, and the pilgrimage of faith begins with one step.  In God we find intangible and eternal (in the Johannine sense of that word, that is, “of God,” see 17:3) treasures, the variety that outlasts and is vastly superior to the most appealing temporal prizes.

Of course we should love God for selfless reasons; the rewards will come.  I recall a story about a woman who walked around carrying a torch and a bucket of water.  The torch, she said, was to burn up heaven and the water was to extinguish the flames of hell so that nobody would seek to follow God to enter heaven or to avoid hell.  Yet we humans seem to have mixed motivations much of the time, do we not?  Certain evangelists emphasize the possibility of damnation to frighten people into salvation.  Although I affirm the existence of both heaven and hell, I argue that terror is not a basis for a mature relationship with God, whom many Jews and Christians describe as loving and compassionate.

May we wait for Yahweh, who is our loving and compassionate help and shield, in whom our hearts rejoice.  May we wait for God in times of prosperity and of scarcity, of suffering and of ease, of pain and of pleasure.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2016 COMMON ERA

WEDNESDAY IN HOLY WEEK

THE FEAST OF GEORGE RUNDLE PRYNNE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH VON LAUFENBERG, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT TURIBIUS OF MOGROVEJO, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF LIMA

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/23/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-14-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Esther VI: Whom to Glorify   1 comment

Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther

Above:  Ahasuerus and Haman at the Feast of Esther, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready than we are to pray,

and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.

Pour upon us your abundant mercy.

Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience,

and give us those good things that come only through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 6:1-7:6

Psalm 55:16-23

Romans 9:30-10:4

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They attack those at peace with them,

going back on their oaths;

though their mouth is smoother than butter,

enmity is in their hearts;

their words more soothing than oil,

yet sharpened like swords.

–Psalm 55:20-21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Our journey through the Book of Esther takes us through the sixth chapter and part of the seventh.  Ahasuerus, finally growing some part of a spine, recalls that Mordecai had saved his life in Chapter 2.  The monarch asks if the loyal courtier has received a reward for such fidelity and learns that the answer is negative.  Ahasuerus plans to reward Mordecai properly as Haman, who seeks to have the monarch send Mordecai to die, enters the royal presence.  Haman never has the opportunity to say what is on his mind, for Ahasuerus asks him what should happen to the man the monarch wishes to honor.  Haman, imagining that Ahasuerus means to honor him, explains details of an impressive ceremony.  The monarch turns the tables on Haman by instructing him to make those arrangements for Mordecai.  Haman, now in a desperate situation, is about to be in a worse situation, for Ahasuerus responds favorably to Queen Esther’s request for the deliverance of the Jews.  The monarch is angry to learn that Haman has manipulated him into nearly committing genocide.  Haman cringes in terror before the king and queen consort.

I propose that, as one reads that story from the Bible, one should imagine tones of voice and facial expressions.  Doing so makes the account come to life.

I have spent much time contemplating the Law of Moses recently.  Pondering timeless principles illustrated by culturally specific laws which assume a certain level of technology and other factors no longer applicable to many of us today has increased my regard for those principles, such as the truths that we human beings are completely dependent upon God, are responsible for each other, and are responsible to each other.  Obeying divine law is properly a matter of obedience to God, not works-based righteousness.  As Jesus says in John 14:15 (The New Jerusalem Bible, 1985),

If you love me you will keep my commandments.

I suppose, then, that St. Paul the Apostle objected not to the Law of Moses itself but to the misuse of it.  He favored focusing on what God has done, not what we mere mortals have done.  St. Paul was especially fond of fixating on what Jesus has done.

Haman, a proud, spiteful, and amoral man, sought to destroy innocent others to promote himself in the royal court.  Although he was a fictional character, real-life scoundrels who have been willing to sacrifice others (innocent or not) for their own glorification have populated seats of power throughout time.  They have not practiced righteousness, much less works-based righteousness.

May we seek to glorify God, not ourselves.  May we seek to love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves.  May we choose the higher path.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/devotion-for-tuesday-after-proper-12-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Trusting and Obeying God (Or Not)   1 comment

Draw the Circle Wider

Above:  The Cover of a Small Book the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta Publishes

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

throughout time you free the oppressed,

heal the sick,

and make whole all that you have made.

Look with compassion on the world wounded by sin,

and by your power restore us to wholeness of life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 16:13-26 (Monday)

Exodus 16:27-36 (Tuesday)

Psalm 78:1-4, 52-72 (Both Days)

Romans 9:19-29 (Monday)

Acts 15:1-5, 22-35 (Tuesday)

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Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will pour forth mysteries from of old,

Such as we have heard and known,

which our forebears have told us.

We will not hide from their children,

but will recount to generations to come,

the praises of the Lord and his power

and the wonderful works he has done.

–Psalm 78:1-4, Common Worship (2000)

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One reads of the sovereignty, mercy, and judgment of God in Psalm 78.  Other assigned passages for these two days pick up these elements.  We read of God’s mercy (in the form of manna) in Exodus 16 and of divine sovereignty and judgment in Romans 9.  We read also of human fickleness and faithlessness in Exodus 16 and of human faithfulness in Acts 15.

Exodus 16’s place in the narrative is within recent memory of the Exodus from slavery in Egypt.  One might think, therefore, that more people would trust God, who was demonstrably faithful to divine promises.  But, no!  Bad mentalities many people had remained, unfortunately.

The Council of Jerusalem addressed the major question of how much the Law of Moses Gentile Christians had to keep.  Did one have to become a Jew in order to be a Christian?  This was a major question of identity for many observant Jewish Christians.  Not keeping the Law of Moses was, according to Jewish scriptures, negative and had led to the downfall of kingdoms.  The final position of the Council of Jerusalem was to require only that Gentile Christians obey Leviticus 17:8-18:30, which applied to resident aliens.  Gentile Christians were to abstain from three categories of behavior which offended Jewish sensibilities:

  1. Eating food sacrificed to idols,
  2. Drinking blood and eating meat from animals not quite drained of blood, and
  3. Engaging in fornication, most rules of which related to sexual relations with near relatives.

Underlying these rules is a sense of respect:

  1. Acting respectfully toward God is a virtue which requires no explanation here.
  2. Blood, according to the assumptions regarding food laws, carries life.  To abstain from consuming blood, therefore, is to respect the life of the source animal.  (Hence the Christian theology of Transubstantiation, foreshadowed in the Gospel of John, is scandalous from a certain point of view.
  3. And, as for sexual relations, one must, to be moral, respect one’s body and the body of any actual or prospective sexual partner.

As generous as the conclusion of the Council of Jerusalem was, it proved insufficient to satisfy the pro-Law of Moses hardliners.  Generosity of spirit, which sets some boundaries while abolishing stumbling blocks, tends not to satisfy hardliners of either the left wing or the right wing.  Yet, as the French say, C’est la vie.  In my Christian tradition hardliners exist, and I am at odds with many of them.  I try to ignore the rest.

Nevertheless, I ask myself if I have become a hardliner of a sort.  If the answer is affirmative, the proper spiritual response is to ask myself whom I am excluding improperly and, by grace, to pursue corrective action–repentance–changing my mind, turning around.

Trusting God can prove difficult, given our negative mentalities.  Seeking to hoard material necessities leads to excess and is one expression of faithlessness.  Another is comforting oneself with false notions of who is “in” and who is “out,” with oneself being part of the “in” crowd, of course.  But what if God’s definition of the “in” crowd is broader than ours.  How does that affect our identity?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 13, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PLATO OF SYMBOLEON AND THEODORE STUDITES, EASTERN ORTHODOX ABBOTS; AND SAINT NICEPHORUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

THE FEAST OF SAINT HELDRAD, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINTS RODERIC OF CABRA AND SOLOMON OF CORDOBA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/13/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-4-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Idolatry and the Sovereignty of God   1 comment

Healing_of_the_demon-possessed

Above:  An Exorcism

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Compassionate God, you gather the whole universe into your radiant presence

and continually reveal your Son as our Savior.

Bring wholeness to all that is broken and speak truth to us in our confusion,

that all creation will see and know your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 3:23-29 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 12:28-32 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 (Saturday)

Psalm 111 (All Days)

Romans 9:6-18 (Thursday)

Revelation 2:12-17 (Friday)

Matthew 8:28-9:1 (Saturday)

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The works of the Lord are great,

sought out by all who delight in them.

His work is full of majesty and honour

and his righteousness endures for ever.

–Psalm 111:2-3, Common Worship (2000)

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We have a batch of overlapping and difficult passages these three days.  Some (such as Moses in Deuteronomy and a herd of swine in Matthew) suffer for the offenses of others.  People also suffer for their own sins in other passages of Scripture.  All of this falls under the heading of the sovereignty of God in Romans 9, in the theological style of God’s speech at the end of the book of Job.

I recognize the mystery of God and am content to leave many questions unanswered.  Comfort with uncertainty is consistent with my Anglican theology.  Nevertheless, I understand that the sovereignty of God can become something it is not supposed to be–a copout and a seemingly bottomless pit into which to pour one’s ignorance and prooftexting tendencies.  We should never use God to excuse slavery, genocide, sexism, homophobia, racism, and a host of other sins.  Whenever God seems to agree with us all of the time, we ought to know that we have created God in our own image.  We have forged an idol.  And God, according to the Hebrew Scriptures, disapproves of idolatry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Arguing Faithfully With God   1 comment

Job and God

Above:  God Speaking to Job; from a Byzantine Manuscript

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid.

Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons daughters from fear,

and preserve us in the faith of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 44

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 7:11-8:5 (Monday)

Genesis 19:1-29 (Tuesday)

Job 36:24-33; 37:14-24 (Wednesday)

Psalm 18:1-19 (All Days)

2 Peter 2:4-10 (Monday)

Romans 9:14-29 (Tuesday)

Matthew 8:23-27 (Wednesday)

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Faithful and pure, blameless and perfect–

yet to the crooked you show yourself shrewd.

Your holy light shines on my darkness;

my steps are guided, my vigor renewed.

Your law will shape my heart and my mind,

letting me find richest blessing.

–Martin Leckebusch, Verse 3, “Refuge and Rock,” a paraphrase of Psalm 18 in Psalms for All Seasons:  A Complete Psalter for Worship (2012)

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Elihu, in the Book of Job, was a pious idiot.  He condemned Job for challenging God and was sure that the titular character of the text must have done something wrong, for surely a just deity would not permit the innocent to suffer.

The Almighty–we cannot find him;

he is great in power and justice,

and abundant righteousness he will not violate.

Therefore mortals fear him;

he does not regard any who are wise in their conceit.

–Job 37:23-24, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The Book of Job 1 and 2, had established, however, that God had permitted this suffering as a test of loyalty.  And, starting in Chapter 38, when God spoke to Job, one of the most impatient people in the Bible (despite the inaccurate cliché about the “patience of Job”), the divine reply contained no apology.

(Yes, I know of the layers of composition in the Book of Job, that Elihu’s section was not part of the original text and that the prose wraparounds came later, but I am, in this post, treating the book as a whole, as we have received the final version.)

The readings from Genesis contain parts of accounts of divine destruction of the wicked and sparing of some people in the process.  The men of Sodom were as anxious to rape women as they were to violate angels, so their issue was not homosexual orientation or practice but violence against almost anyone on two legs.  Their sin involved the opposite of hospitality in a place and at a time when the lack of hospitality could prove fatal for guests or world-be guests.  Lot was morally troublesome, for he offered his virgin daughters to the rape gang.  Those same daughters got him drunk and committed incest with him later in the chapter.  Abraham had at least negotiated with God in an attempt to save lives in Genesis 18:20-33, but Noah did nothing of the sort in his time, according to the stories we have received.

Sometimes the faithful response to God is to argue, or at least to ask, “Did I hear you right?”  The Bible contains references to God changing the divine mind and to God holding off judgment for a time.  I am keenly aware of the unavoidable anthropomorphism of the deity in the Bible, so I attempt to see through it, all the way to the reality behind it.  That divine reality is mysterious and ultimately unfathomable.  The titular character of the Book of Job was correct to assert his innocence, which the text had established already, but, in the process of doing so he committed the same error as did Elihu and the three main alleged friends; he presumed to think to know how God does or should work.

This occupies my mind as I read elsewhere (than in the mouth of Elihu or one of the three main alleged friends of Job) about the justice, judgment, and mercy of God.  I recall that the prophet Jeremiah argued with God bitterly and faithfully–often for vengeance on enemies.  I think also of the repeated cries for revenge and questions of “how long?” in the Book of Psalms and the placement of the same lament in the mouths of martyrs in Heaven in the Book of Revelation.  And I recall how often God has extended mercy to me in my ignorance, faithlessness, and panic-driven errors.  I conclude that I must continue to seek to embrace the mystery of God, rejecting temptations to accept false and deceptively easy answers as I choose the perhaps difficult alternative of a lack of an answer or a satisfactory reply instead.  God is God; I am not.  That much I know.  Nevertheless, some more answers from God might be good to have.  May the faithful argument continue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MATTHEW BRIDGES, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAMILLUS DE LELLIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAMSON OCCUM, PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/07/14/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-14-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Surprises and Faithfulness of God   1 comment

Martin Luther

Above:  Martin Luther

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness,

and you cover creation with abundance.

Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit,

and with this food fill all the starving world,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 10:1-5 (Thursday)

Isaiah 51:17-23 (Friday)

Isaiah 44:1-5 (Saturday)

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 (All Days)

Philippians 4:10-15 (Thursday)

Romans 9:6-13 (Friday)

Matthew 7:7-11 (Saturday)

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The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in his deeds.

–Psalm 145:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The faithfulness of God was among the theological emphases of Martin Luther.  That point, an excellent one, unifies the assigned readings for these days.

God is full of surprises from human perspectives.  God works outside of human traditions–such as primogeniture–much of the time.  Even repentant prostitutes and collaborators with the Roman Empire preceded certain respectable religious people into Heaven, according to Jesus.  We desire cheap grace, that forgives our sins yet requires nothing of us.  Yet we receive free grace, that which we cannot buy yet which requires much of us.  It is therefore free yet costly.  It cost St. Paul the Apostle a life of comfort inside the religious establishment then cost him his life.  This grace, which does not remove the temporal consequences of sin, waits for us nevertheless at the end of punishment.

Sometimes we mere mortals are God’s chosen channels and vehicles of grace.  May we be the best and most faithful such channels and vehicles possible, by grace.  (Everything seems to come back to grace.)  If we fail in this function, the consequences to others can be severe.  Proverbs 10:4 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989) reads:

A slack hand causes poverty,

but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

This is not always true.  Had the author of that verse not heard of the working poor and the idle rich?  Most people in Palestine in antiquity were peasants, but not lazy individuals.  The masses were poor, the upper class constituted a minority, and the middle class was scarce or absent.  Structural barriers to upward mobility remain in our world.  They are, fortunately, not as intense in some places as in others, but their continued existence is sinful.

How will God surprise us next?  The divine call to all of us will differ in details.  Some of us ought to oppose social structures of injustice as our primary vocation, functioning as thorns in the sides of powerful and dangerous people.  St. Paul thought that Jesus would return within his lifetime, so he left reforming society to God.  That was about two thousand years ago, so I propose that this work is a legitimate calling from God.  Others of us will have different assignments to complete.  There is plenty to do.  May each of us listen attentively for our instructions then obey them.  When we do that, what potential might God unlock in us and in those around us, those to whom God sends us, and those whom God sends to us?  May we discover the answer to that question, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-13-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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