Archive for the ‘Romans 9’ Category

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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Of Externals and Internals   2 comments

gfs_7888

Above:  Bishop Robert C. Wright (Episcopalian) and Archbishop Wilton Gregory (Roman Catholic) at the Good Friday Pilgrimage for Immigrants, April 18, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

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The Collect:

O God our rock, you offer us a covenant of mercy,

and you provide the foundation of our lives.

Ground us in your word, and strengthen our resolve to be your disciples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-8 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 30:1-5 (Friday)

Amos 2:6-11 (Saturday)

Psalm 31:1-5, 19-24 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-29 (Thursday)

Romans 9:6-13 (Friday)

Matthew 7:1-6 (Saturday)

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Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me,

for you are my rock and my stronghold;

guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake.

–Psalm 31:3, Common Worship (2000)

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One of the faults of certain varieties of Protestantism is overemphasizing the internal and unseen while underemphasizing the external and the seen. Pietists, for example, dismiss “externals” frequentlu, as if “externals” are meaningless. They are not necessarily so.

No, a ritual (such as a sacrifice or circumcision) can matter quite a lot, for we humans need visible signs and rites of passage. How else are we to mark the difference between one stage of life and another or to note a covenant to God? We need externals beause we see, touch, feel, hear, and smell; we are not disembodied sentients. The scriptures command many rituals in particular settings, in fact.

The scriptures also make clear that rituals are not supposed to be talismans which protect us from punishment for sins of which we have not repented, individually or collectively. Rituals one performs piously have meaning, but those one performs while disobeying divine commandments, such as how to treat people, offend God.

For crime after crime of Israel

I shall grant them no reprieve,

because they sell honest folk for silver

and the poor for a pair of sandals.

They grind the heads of the helpless into the dust

and push the humble out of their way.

Father and son resort to the temple girls,

so profaning my holy name.

–Amos 2:6-7, The Revised English Bible

God, the Bible tells us, cares deeply about how we act toward our fellow human beings. We ought to seek God’s best for them, not exploit them for our own gain and pleasure. We should seek to raise the status of the powerless, the less powerful, and the marginalized among us. Each of us bears the image of God and therefore deserves respect. When we seek to do those things may we succeed by grace. And may we engage in rituals which create holy atmospheres for our spiritual benefit and glorify—not mock—God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE PARKER, ABOLITIONIST AND MAVERICK UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY PIEROZZI, A.K.A. ANTONINUS OF FLORENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS LUDWIG VON ZINZENDORF, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/10/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-4-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Inclusion, Foreigners, and God (II)   1 comment

Above:  The Persian Empire in 500 B.C.E.

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 47:1-14, 21-23

Psalm 67 (Morning)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening)

Romans 9:19-33

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A Related Post:

Ezekiel 47:

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

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But suppose that God, although the time he wanted to reveal his retribution and demonstrate his power, has with great patience gone on putting up with those who are the instruments of his retribution and designed to be destroyed; so that he may make known the glorious riches ready for the people who are the instruments of his faithful love and were long ago prepared for that glory.  We are that people, called by him not only out of the Jews but with the gentiles too.

–Romans 9:22-24, The New Jerusalem Bible

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This land you shall divide for yourselves among the tribes of Israel.  You shall allot it as a heritage for yourselves and the strangers who reside among you, you have begotten children among you.  You shall treat them as Israelite citizens; they shall receive allotments along with you among the tribes of Israel.  You shall give the stranger an allotment within the tribe where he resides–declares the Lord GOD.

–Ezekiel 47:21-23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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What a difference a day makes!  In the previous day’s entry in this series (http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/devotion-for-january-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/) I wrote of the exclusion of Gentiles from parts of the rebuilt Temple.  Some foreigners had joined the Jews and lived among them, living according to the covenant and embracing monotheism.  Yet they were to be excluded from parts of the Temple complex.  Nevertheless, in Ezekiel 47:21-23, those same foreigners were to receive the same rights of citizenship as Jews and to have the same land rights.  I sense a double standard.

Paul wrote that the faithful people of God included Jews and Gentiles.  In Christ, he wrote elsewhere, the barriers of hostility between the two groups cease to exist.  Recently, over lunch, a friend and I discussed Paul’s inclusive view of Christian identity (transnational and transethnic) and how, for many people in the non-Western world, the sense of Christianity is quite different.  For many of them Christianity and Western civilization are linked closely.  This hinders the spread of Christianity where anti-Western sentiments are widespread.  That is most unfortunate.

Christ is universal.  May we who claim his name act according to that truth.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 30, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CLIMACUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT INNOCENT OF ALASKA, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOAN OF TOULOUSSE, AND SAINT SIMON STOCK, CARMELITE FRIAR

THE FEAST OF KARL RAHNER, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/devotion-for-january-20-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted October 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Ezekiel 47, Psalm 46, Psalm 67, Psalm 93, Romans 9

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Inclusion, Foreigners, and God (I)   1 comment

Above:  Peter’s Vision

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 44:1-16, 23-29

Psalm 56 (Morning)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening)

Romans 9:1-18

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Some Related Posts:

Romans 9:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/proper-13-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/week-of-proper-25-friday-year-1/

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Thus said the Lord GOD:  Let no alien, uncircumcised in spirit and flesh, enter My Sanctuary–no alien whatsoever among the people of Israel.

–Ezekiel 44:9, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Let not he foreigner say,

Who has attached himself to the LORD,

“The LORD will keep me apart from His people”…

As for the foreigners

Who attach themselves to the LORD,

To minister to Him,

And love the name of the LORD,

To be His servants–

All who keep the sabbath and do not profane it,

And who hold fast to My covenant–

I will bring them to My sacred mount

And let them rejoice in My House of prayer.

Their burnt offerings and sacrifices

Shall be welcome on My altar;

For My House shall be called

A house of prayer for all peoples.

–Isaiah 56:3a, 6-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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There can be neither Jew nor Greek, there can be neither slave nor freeman, there can be neither male nor female–for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  And simply by  being Christ’s, you are that progeny of Abraham, the heirs named in the promise.

–Galatians 3:28-29, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Then Peter addressed them, “I now really understand,” he said, “that God has no favourites, but that anybody of any nationality who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him….”

–Acts 10:34-35, The New Jerusalem Bible

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In Christ is neither Jew nor Greek,

and neither slave nor free;

both male and female heirs are made,

and all are kin to me.

–Laurence Hull Stokely, 1987; verse 3 of “In Christ There Is No East or West,” The United Methodist Hymnal (1989)

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The bulk of the assigned reading from Ezekiel condemns the corrupt and idolatrous priesthood.  Idolatry is always worth condemning, but another part of that lesson attracted my attention.  Foreigners were excluded from parts of the rebuilt Temple.  A note in The Jewish Study Bible referred me to a different perspective in Isaiah 56:3-8; I have quoted part of that passage in this post.  In that reading a foreigner who lives according to the covenant of God is to be welcomed at the Temple.  I have quoted other texts of inclusion in God (especially via Jesus) in this part.  If you, O reader, think of them as refutation of Ezekiel 44:9, you understand my meaning correctly.

Paul, a Jew, was a great apostle to the Gentiles.  As a Gentile, I am grateful to him.  He, Simon Peter (to a different extent) and others saw past boundaries such as national origin and ethnicity.  This position caused controversy in earliest Christianity, as history and the Bible tell us.  Exclusion helps define borders and thereby to help us know who we are; We are not those people over there.  This is a negative identification.

Yes, there are human and theological differences, some of them important.  But more vital is the love of God for everyone.  And we who claim to follow God ought to seek to express that love to others, regardless of a host of differences.  Each of us is foreign to someone; may we remember that.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DISMAS, PENITENT BANDIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDGER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MUNSTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET CLITHEROW, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ALLEN, AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/devotion-for-january-19-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The Sin of Anti-Semitism   1 comment

Above: A Star of David in a Stained-Glass Window

Image Source = Roy Lindman

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:RoyLindmanDavidsStar.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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Romans 9:1-5 (Revised English Bible):

I am speaking the truth as a Christian; my conscience, enlightened by the Holy Spirit, assures me that I do not lie when I tell you that there is great grief and unceasing sorrow in my heart.  I would even pray to be an outcast myself, cut off from Christ, if it would help my brothers, my kinsfolk by natural descent.  They are descendants of Israel, chosen to be God’s sons; theirs is the lgory of the law, the temple worship, and the promises.  The patriarchs are theirs, and from by natural descent came, the Messiah.  May God supreme above all, be blessed for ever!  Amen.

Psalm 147:13-21 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

13  Worship the LORD, O Jerusalem;

praise your God, O Zion;

14  For he has strengthened the bars of your gates;

he has blessed your children within you.

15  He has established peace on your borders;

he satisfies you with the finest wheat.

16  He sends out his command to the earth,

and his word runs very swiftly.

17  He gives snow like wool;

he scatters hoarfrost like ashes.

18  He scatters his hail like bread crumbs;

who can stand against his cold?

19  He sends forth his word and melts them;

he blows with his wind, and the waters flow.

20  He declares his word to Jacob,

his statutes and his judgments to Israel.

21  He has not done so to any other nation;

to them he has not revealed his judgments.

Hallelujah!

Luke 14:1-6 (Revised English Bible):

One sabbath he [Jesus] went to have a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they were watching him closely.  There, in front of him, was a man suffering from dropsy, and Jesus asked the lawyers and the Pharisees:

Is it permittted to heal people on the sabbath or not?

They said nothing.  So he took the man, cured him, and sent him away.  Then he turned to them and said,

If one of you has a son or an ox that falls into a well, will he hesitate to pull him out on the sabbath day?

To this they could find no reply.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 13 (Similar to Luke 14):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/week-of-proper-25-monday-year-1/

Luke 6 (Similar to Luke 14):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/week-of-proper-18-monday-year-1/

Mark 3 (Similar to Luke 14):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/week-of-2-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

Romans 9:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/proper-13-year-a/

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Anti-Semitism has overlapped with Christianity since the earliest decades of the latter.  Witness the anti-Jewish virulence in the Gospel of John, for example.  There is also palpable resentment against the Jews evident in the text of the Gospel of Matthew.  So, due to resentments, misunderstandings (some of them born of this day’s reading from Luke 14), and learned hatred, professing Christians have despised, marginalized, murdered, and justified the murders of Jews for nearly two thousand years.  For example, when the “knights” of the First Crusade headed off to kill Muslims (among others) in the Holy Land, they stopped to muder European Jews first.  God, they thought, approved of all this.

If people had thought independently, however, they might have considered a few facts:

  • Jesus was Jewish.
  • The Apostles were Jewish.
  • Paul of Tarsus was Jewish.
  • Paul of Tarsus was not Anti-Semitic.

Anti-Semitism is a sin in any form, at any place, at any time.  The Jews are, as the Blessed Pope John Paul II said, our elder brothers and sisters in faith.  I, as a Gentile, am a limb grafted onto their tree.  Judaism and Christianity are distinct religions; this is a simple fact.  Yet there need be no animosity between them.

Yet let us be clear about what is and what is not Anti-Semitic.  Rendering an honest and well-thought-out critique of policies of the State of Israel is not Anti-Semitic, but saying that one has a duty to destroy that nation-state is.  Too often we humans flit about from one extreme to another.  Christian guilt over thousands of years of Anti-Semitism ought not lead to giving a certain nation-state carte blanche, free of criticism.  In plain language, the Palestinians have rights, too.  They have these rights because they are also human beings created in the image of God.

My dream is one of a world in which all of us, regardless of our ethnic or religious backgrounds, will recognize each other’s basic human rights and respect each other.  When we disagree, we will do so respectfully.  Jesus, a practicing Jew, would approve.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 13, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCES PERKINS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF LABOR

THE FEAST OF IHAIA TE AHU, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/week-of-proper-25-friday-year-1/

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Posted May 9, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Islam, Psalm 147, Romans 9

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Called to Bring People to God   2 comments

Above: Byzantine Mosaic of John the Baptist, from Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 32:22-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

The same night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two maids, and his eleven children, and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. He took them and sent them across the stream, and likewise everything that he had. Jacob was left alone; and a man wrestled with him until daybreak. When the man saw that he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him on the hip socket; and Jacob’s hip was put out of joint as he wrestled with him. Then he said,

Let me go, for the day is breaking.

But Jacob said,

I will not let you go, unless you bless me.

So he said to him,

What is your name?

And he said,

Jacob.

Then the man said,

You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed.

Then Jacob asked him,

Please tell me your name.

But he said,

Why is it that you ask my name?

And there he blessed him. So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying,

For I have seen God face to face, and yet my life is preserved.

The sun rose upon him as he passed Penuel, limping because of his hip.

Psalm 17:1-7, 16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Hear my plea of innocence, O LORD;

give heed to my cry;

listen to my prayer, which does not come from lying lips.

Let my vindication come forth from your presence;

let your eyes be fixed on justice.

Weigh my heart, summon me by night,

melt me down; you will find no impurity in me.

I give no offense with my mouth as others do;

I have heeded the words of your lips.

My footsteps hold fast to the ways of your law;

in your paths my feet shall not stumble.

I call upon you, O God, for you will answer me;

incline your ear to me and hear my words.

7 Show me your marvelous loving-kindness,

O Savior of those who take refuge at your right hand

from those who rise up against me.

16 But at my vindication I shall see your face;

when I awake, I shall be satisfied, beholding your likeness.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 55:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

Ho, everyone who thirsts,

come to the waters;

and you that have no money,

come, buy and eat!

Come, buy wine and milk

without money and without price.

Why do you spend money for that which is not bread,

and your labor for that which does not satisfy?

Listen carefully to me, and eat what is good,

and delight yourselves in rich food.

Incline your ear, and come to me;

listen, so that you may live.

I will make with you an everlasting covenant,

my steadfast, sure love for David.

See, I made him a witness to the peoples,

a leader and commander for the peoples.

See, you shall call nations that you do not know,

and nations that do not know you shall run to you,

because of the LORD your God, the Holy One of Israel,

for he has glorified you.

Psalm 145:8-9, 15-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

15 The LORD upholds all those who fall;

he lifts up those who are bowed down.

16 The eyes of all wait upon you, O LORD,

and you give them their food in due season.

17 You open wide your hand

and satisfy the needs of every living creature.

18 The LORD is righteous in all his ways

and loving in all his works.

19 The LORD is near to those who call upon him,

to all who call upon him faithfully.

20 He fulfills the desire of those who fear him;

he hears their cry and helps them.

21 The LORD preserves all those who love him,

but he destroys all the wicked.

22 My mouth shall speak the praise of the LORD;

let all flesh bless his holy Name for ever and ever.

SECOND READING

Romans 9:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

I am speaking the truth in Christ– I am not lying; my conscience confirms it by the Holy Spirit– I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my own people, my kindred according to the flesh. They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and from them, according to the flesh, comes the Messiah, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 14:13-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said,

This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.

Jesus said to them,

They need not go away; you give them something to eat.

They replied,

We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.

And he said,

Bring them here to me.

Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.

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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Follow the URL for thoughts about Jacob’s all-night wrestling match:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/21/week-of-proper-9-tuesday-year-1/

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The call of God transformed a schemer named Jacob into a the patriarch Israel.  That mandate was to be a light to the nations, and it applied to the Israelite people as a whole.  (It still does.)  To be set aside as chosen is to receive a great responsibility.  This is a matter of duty, not prestige.

That duty is to bring diverse peoples to God.  Read Matthew 13, which contains parables of inclusion.  The mustard plant was inclusive in so far as animals of various species took shelter within it.  This mustard plant was an allegory for the Kingdom of God.  And, when we turn to the wheat field infected with tares and the net full of good and bad fish, we read that God will sort out the good and the bad, the wheat and the weeds, later.

We read also in Matthew 13 that the Kingdom of God is precious, worthy of single-minded devotion.  Consider the brief parables of the pearl and the treasure.

So here we are in Matthew 14, following those parables and the execution of John the Baptist.  He drew people to God.  But lest we oversimplify, and say that we must always be nice, consider the examples of Jesus and John the Baptist.  They used harsh words when appropriate, and they contributed greatly to these holy men going to their deaths.  Read the prophets, also.  Was Jeremiah habitually polite and respectable?  No, of course not.  All these men suffered because of the ways they brought people to God.

Even being nice scared people and put Jesus at risk.  Few actions are nicer than feeding people.  But this and other miracles scared certain individuals who had the power to execute Jesus or to arrange such a death.

Why do we fear good, holy people at any time, in any place?  Sometimes their examples reveal our own shortcomings.  So, instead of seeking to correct our errors, we react defensively.  Or, in the case of Jeremiah, Jesus, and John the Baptist, they threaten power structures–such as domestic and foreign potentates and religious hierarchies.  And, in a society lacking the separation of religion and state, powerful political figures can label theological dissent as treason, or at least a moral threat to society.  This happened in the Byzantine Empire, too, and, in North America, in colonial New England.  (Puritans hanged Quakers.)

So being a light to the nations is a perilous vocation.  But it is God’s call.  It is the way to life, even if death is a stop along the way.  Countless saints, many of them martyrs, continue to teach this lesson by the example of their lives, even many years after their earthly journeys ended.  And contemporary martyrs and other saints do the same.  Potentates who persecute think that they can eradicate a message they fear.  But, time after time, history proves that the blood of the martyrs waters the church.  Persecution usually has the effect of increasing the brightness of the light the persecutors seek to extinguish.  These persecutors do not learn quickly or at all, do they?

And so the Kingdom of God continues unabated, much like the mustard plant Jesus used as a parable illustration.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

–John 1:5 (Revised Standard Version)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST SAINTS MACRINA THE ELDER, BASIL THE ELDER, EMILIA, NAUCRATIUS, AND PETER OF SEBASTE, FAITHFUL CHRISTIANS OVER THREE GENERATIONS

THE FEAST OF CIVIL RIGHTS MARTYRS AND ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF RICARDO MONTALBAN, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/14/proper-13-year-a/

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The Faithfulness of God, Part I   1 comment

Above: The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin (1854)

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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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Genesis 19:15-29 (An American Translation):

When dawn appeared, the angels urged Lot on saying,

Bestir yourself; take away your wife, and the two daughters that are at hand, lest you be swept away in the punishment of the city.

When he hesitated, the men, because of the LORD’s pity on him, seized his hand and those of his wife and his two daughters, and bringing them out, they left him outside the city.  After they had brought them outside, they said,

Fly for your life; do not look behind you, nor stop anywhere in the valley; fly to the hills, lest you be swept away.

Lot said to them,

O no sirs!  Your servant has indeed found favor with you, and great is the kindness that you have done me in saving my life, but I cannot possibly fly to the hills, lest the disaster overtake me and I perish.  Here is the town near enough to fly to, and quite small; pray, let me fly there (is it not small?) to save my life.

The LORD said to him,

See, I grant you this request as well, in that I will not overthrow the town of which you speak.  Hurry and fly there; for I can do nothing until you reach there.

Thus the name of the town came to be called Zoar [small].

Just as the sun rose over the earth and Lot entered Zoar, the LORD rained sulphur and fire from the sky on Sodom and Gomorrah, devastating those cities and all the valley, with all the inhabitants of the cities and the vegetation on the land.  And Lot’s wife looked back, and had become a pillar of salt.

Lot’s Wife Pillar, Mount Sodom, Israel

Next morning when Abraham went early to the place where he had stood before the LORD, he gazed toward Sodom and Gomorrah, and all the region of the valley, and he saw smoke from the land rising like smoke from a kiln.

Thus it was that God remembered Abraham when he destroyed the cities of the valley, by sending Lot away from the catastrophe when he devastated the cities where Lot lived.

Psalm 26 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give judgment for me, O LORD,

for I have lived with integrity;

I have trusted in the LORD and have not faltered.

Test me, O LORD, and try me;

examine my heart and my mind.

3 For your love is before my eyes;

I have walked faithfully before you.

I have not sat with the worthless,

nor do I consort with the deceitful.

5 I have hated the company of evildoers;

I will not sit down with the wicked.

6 I will wash my hands in innocence, O LORD,

that I may go in procession round your altar,

Singing aloud a song of thanksgiving

and recounting all your wonderful deeds.

8 LORD, I love the house in which you dwell

and the place where your glory abides.

Do not sweep me away with sinners,

nor my life with those who thirst for blood,

10 Whose hands are full of evil plots,

and their right hand full of bribes.

11 As for me, I will live with integrity;

redeem me, O LORD, and have pity on me.

12 My foot stands on level ground;

in the full assembly I will bless the LORD.

Matthew 8:23-27 (An American Translation):

And he [Jesus] got into the boat, and his disciples with him.  And suddenly a terrific storm came up on the sea, so that the waves broke over the boat, but he remained asleep.  And they woke him, saying,

Save us, sir!  We are lost!

And he said to them,

Why are you afraid?  You have so little faith!

Then he got up and reproved the wind and the sea, and there was a great calm.  And the men were amazed and said,

What kind of man is this?  For the very winds and sea obey him!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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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One of the challenges of following a lectionary can be identifying the common theme present in two or more readings from different parts of the Bible.  After consulting commentaries and pondering all that I have read in the readings and the commentaries, I have found the common thread:  Faithfulness to God is the path to life.  This faithfulness needs only to be present.  However, as Paul wrote in Romans 6:23, the wages of sin is spiritual death.  The wages of sin can also be physical death, and the punishment flows from the sin itself.  In other words, we reap what we sow.  God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.

Let us examine the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah carefully.  In Genesis 19:1-14, two angels arrive at Sodom, where Lot rescues them from would-be gang rapists.  The angels tell Lot that God will destroy Sodom and Gomorrah very shortly because, as Professor Richard Elliott Friedman translates verse 13,  they have “grown big before YHWH’s face.”

I pause at this point to ponder the importance of growing “big before YHWH’s face.”  Later in Chapter 19, YHWH permits Lot and his family to flee to Zoar, which is small, for safety.  (Two angels appear early in Chapter 19, and by chapter’s end, YHWH is there, too.  When did God show up, after disappearing between the end of Chapter 18 and the beginning of Chapter 19?  Following the bouncing ball can be challenging.)  Anyhow, I posit that growing “big before YHWH’s face” indicates spiritual arrogance, a lack of faithfulness.

There is an interesting feature in the Hebrew text of verse 15.  The word for punishment, as in “…or else you will be consumed in the punishment of the city,” means sin as well.  Sin and punishment are the same thing; consequences flow from actions, so we reap what we sow.

Lot is sufficiently hospitable to rescue the angels, strangers in Sodom, and, as Genesis 19:29 indicates, God saves Lot and family out of faithfulness to Abraham.  Indeed, Lot is a disturbing character, one who offers his two virgin daughters to the would-be gang rapists gathered outside his house (verse 8).  Fortunately for the daughters, the men are not interested.

But Lot is kind to the strangers, if not his own daughters, and the angelic guests offer him and his family a safe way out–if only they follow instructions.  Nobody must look back.  I suppose that curiosity about what is happening would inspire one to look back; we are a species of people who stare at the aftermath of car wrecks.

Biblical writers over many generations used Sodom and Gomorrah to demonstrate various points.  These include:

  • Repent, or be destroyed.
  • Sexual immorality (in all its forms) is wrong.  The first explicit link between homosexual acts and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah comes in Jude 7, however.
  • Any town that refuses to heed visitors bearing the word of God will face condemnation.
  • The failure to extend hospitality to strangers will lead to condemnation.
  • The neglect of the poor will lead to condemnation and destruction.

The word “Sodom” appears in the New Revised Standard Version 51 times.  For those of you who wish to follow up, here they are:

  • Genesis 10:19
  • Genesis 13:10, 12, and 13
  • Genesis 14:2, 8, 10-12, 17, 21, 22, and 26
  • Genesis 18:16, 20, and 26
  • Genesis 19:1, 4, 24, and 28
  • Deuteronomy 29:23
  • Deuteronomy 32:32
  • Isaiah 1:9 and 10
  • Isaiah 3:9
  • Isaiah 13:19
  • Jeremiah 23:14
  • Jeremiah 49:18
  • Jeremiah 50:40
  • Lamentations 4:6
  • Ezekiel 16:46, 48, 49, 53, 55, and 56
  • Amos 4:11
  • Zephaniah 2:9
  • 3 Maccabees 2:5
  • 2 Esdras 2:8
  • 2 Esdras 7:106
  • Matthew 10:15
  • Matthew 11:23 and 24
  • Luke 10:12
  • Luke 17:29
  • Romans 9:29
  • 2 Peter 2:6
  • Jude 7
  • Revelation 11:8

The reading from Matthew tells the familiar story of Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee.  In all fairness to the Apostles, I would have been afraid, too.  I note also that Jesus said they had little faith, not no faith.  This is a difficult text, one with more possible interpretations than I dreamed possible before reading commentaries.  However, remaining consistent with my methodology of following a common thread between or among lectionary readings, I latch onto the “little faith” comment.  At least the Apostles had some faith.  Are we not like this much, if not most, of the time?  We have some faith and we know that we need more.  We believe, yet we need God to forgive us for our unbelief.  But a little faith is better than none, and from little faith much more can spring.  As the Book of Psalms says, God knows that we are “but dust.”

Reciprocity matters in a healthy relationship with God.  We will get much wrong, for we are fallible.  But, by grace, we can walk in the paths of righteousness more often than not.  We might save not only ourselves, but friends and family members, too.  But are we trying?  That is the first question.  Fortunately, God is faithful to those who are faithful to him.  And let us remember what Mother Teresa of Calcutta said about faithfulness:  God calls us to be faithful, not successful.

Certainly, how we treat others can be an outward sign of faithfulness.  If we love God with our essence and respect ourselves, following the Golden Rule will result in frequent acts of kindness.  To follow up on a previous devotion in this series, Jesus said that “you shall know them by their fruits.”  I add to this thought the entire Letter of James.

May we be faithful to God for the glory of God and out of awe of God and gratitude for all the wonderful deeds God has done.  And why not?  God is faithful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-tuesday-year-1/

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