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Idolatry, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of Elijah

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SECOND SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Almighty God, you have created us in your image:

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil, and to make no peace with oppression;

and that, we may reverently use our freedom,

help us to employ it in the maintenance of justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your holy name; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 153

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1 Kings 18:21-39

Psalm 28

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Luke 16:10-15

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Anything that draws us away from God is, for us, idolatrous.  An idol need not necessarily be a false god, such as Baal Peor.  It can be, of course.  Perhaps one’s idols are wealth and social status, as in 1 Timothy 6 and Luke 16.  If not, one still has at least one idol, to be sure.

Idolatry can be a difficult matter to address properly, for one must first identify one’s idol(s).  Each of us has spiritual blind spots, so each of us needs others to tell us what is in them.  Furthermore, that which is an idol for one person might not be one for another; the test is function.  For some even the Bible becomes an idol, for it takes the place of God for them, becoming the end, not a means toward that end.  Committing bibliolatry is a frequent sin, alas.

With the help of God may we recognize our idolatry, confess it, and repent of it.  Then, by the same power, may we refrain from committing that sin again.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 6, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Posted January 6, 2018 by neatnik2009 in 1 Kings 18, 1 Timothy 5, Luke 16, Psalm 28

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

icon-of-timothy

Above:  Icon of Timothy

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:

Deuteronomy 16:1-22

Psalm 92:(1-4) 5-11 (12-15)

Matthew 26:1-19 or Mark 14:1-16 or Luke 22:1-13

1 Timothy 5:1-23

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Proper 19 is, in the Year D plan by Timothy Matthew Slemmons, the first of 10 Sundays over which the Passion Narrative stretches out.  Passion, in this context, refers to suffering.

The readings, taken together, present a contrast between love and perfidy.  Love manifests itself by caring for others selflessly and by seeking the common good.  Love is self-sacrificial.  Love does not care about maintaining appearances of respectability.  Love endures, but hatred and perfidy fade away, having done their worst.  This is a timeless lesson–one which might seem counterintuitive during dark times.  After all, evil people prosper and retain their positions of authority and/or influence while righteous people suffer, sometimes to the point of martyrdom.  This is a matter of perspective.  God sees the big picture over time, but we see a much smaller portion of time.

We will do well to trust in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FOURTH SUNDAY OF ADVENT:  THE TWENTY-SECOND DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIULIA VALLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC HECKER, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARY SOCIETY OF SAINT PAUL THE APOSTLE

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/12/18/devotion-for-proper-19-year-d/

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Responsibilities, Insiders, and Outsiders   1 comment

Boaz--Rembrandt van Rijn

Above:  Boaz, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, you show forth your almighty power

chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy.

Grant to us the fullness of your grace,

strengthen our trust in your promises,

and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Ruth 1:1-22 (Monday)

Ruth 3:14-4:6 (Tuesday)

Ruth 4:7-22 (Wednesday)

Psalm 94 (All Days)

1 Timothy 5:1-8 (Monday)

1 Timothy 5:9-16 (Tuesday)

Luke 4:16-30 (Wednesday)

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The Lord will not cast off his people:

nor will he forsake his own.

For justice shall return to the righteous man:

and with him to all the true of heart.

–Psalm 94:14-15, The Alternative Service Book 1980

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The composite pericope from 1 Timothy comes from a particular place and time, so some of the details do not translate well into contemporary Western settings.  May we, therefore, refrain from falling into legalism.  Nevertheless, I detect much of value in that reading, which acknowledges the existence of both collective and individual responsibilities and sorts out the boundary separating them in a particular cultural context.  One principle from that text is that relatives should, as they are able, take care of each other.  Another principle present in the reading is mutuality–responsibility to and for each other.

The lack of a support system, or at least an adequate one, is a major cause of poverty and related ills.  The support system might be any number of things, including:

  1. the social safety net (the maintenance and strengthening of which I consider to be a moral imperative),
  2. friends,
  3. relatives,
  4. neighbors,
  5. the larger community,
  6. a faith community,
  7. non-governmental organizations, or
  8. a combination of some of the above.

In the Book of Ruth Naomi and Ruth availed themselves of effective support systems.  They moved to Bethlehem, where Ruth was a foreigner but Naomi had relatives.  The women also gleaned in fields.  There Ruth met Boaz, a landowner and a kinsman of Naomi.  He obeyed the commandment from Deuteronomy 24:19 and left grain for the poor.  The story had a happy ending, for Ruth and Boaz married and had a son.  Naomi, once bitter, was thrilled.

One hypothesis regarding the Book of Ruth is that the text dates to the postexilic period.  If this is accurate, the story of the marriage of Ruth and Boaz functions as a criticism of opposition to intermarriage between Hebrews and foreigners and serves as a call for the integration of faithful foreigners into Jewish communities.  The Jewish support system, this perspective says, should extend to Gentiles.

Sometimes the call to exercise individual responsibility and to fulfill one’s role in collective responsibility becomes challenging, if not annoying.  One difficulty might be determining the line between the two sets of responsibilities.  Getting that detail correct is crucial, for we are responsible to and for each other.  The Pauline ethic (as in 2 Corinthians 8:7-15) which holds that those who have much should not have too much and that those who have little should not have too little is a fine goal toward which to strive, but who determines how much is too much and how little is too little?  And what is the best way to arrive at and maintain that balance?  These seem like communal decisions, given the communal ethos of the Bible.

If all that were not enough, we might have responsibilities to and for more people than we prefer or know we do.  John Donne wrote,

No man is an island,

Entire of itself,

Every man is a piece of the continent,

A part of the main.

If a clod be washed away by the sea,

Europe is the less.

As well as if a promontory were.

As well as if a manor of thy friend’s

Or of thine own were:

Any man’s death diminishes me,

Because I am involved in mankind,

And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

It tolls for thee.

Do we dare to live according to the standard that anyone’s death diminishes us?  Do we dare to recognize foreigners and other “outsiders” as people whom God loves and whom we ought to love as we love ourselves?  Do we dare to think of “outsiders” as people to whom and for whom we are responsible?  If we do, how will we change the world for the better?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

THE FEAST OF ISAIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF JAN HUS, PROTO-PROTESTANT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF OLUF HANSON SMEBY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-27-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Caring for Others   1 comment

Millet_Gleaners

Above:  The Gleaners, by Jean-Francois Millet

(Image in the Public Domain)

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The Collect:

Holy God, you confound the world’s wisdom in giving your kingdom to the lowly and the pure in heart.

Give us such a hunger and thirst for justice, and perseverance in striving for peace,

that in our words and deeds we may see the life of your Son, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 16:18-20 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 24:17-25:4 (Friday)

Micah 3:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 15 (all days)

1 Peter 3:8-12 (Thursday)

1 Timothy 5:17-24 (Friday)

John 13:31-35 (Saturday)

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 16:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/07/devotion-for-october-15-16-and-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Deuteronomy 24-25:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-22-and-23-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Peter 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-1-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-december-1-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

1 Timothy 5:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/17/devotion-for-september-22-23-and-24-lcms-daily-lectionary/\

John 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/27/devotion-for-march-8-and-9-in-epiphanyordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-seventh-day-of-lent-wednesday-in-holy-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easteryear-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/08/devotion-for-june-9-10-and-11-in-ordinary-time-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Lord, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

Who may abide upon your holy hill?

Those who lead a blameless life and do what is right,

who speak the truth from their heart;

they do not slander with the tongue,

they do no evil to their friends;

they do not cast discredit upon a neighbor.

In their sight the wicked are rejected,

but they honor those who fear the LORD.

They have sworn upon their health

and do not take back their word.

They do not give their money in hope of gain,

nor do they take bribes against the innocent.

Those who do these things shall never be overthrown.

–Psalm 15, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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The Law of Moses and other segments of the Bible speak of the responsibilities we humans have toward each other.  Authors thunder condemnations of judicial corruption and economic exploitation from the pages of the Bible.  And the Law of Moses provides culturally-specific applications of the universal, timeless standard to care for the less fortunate.  The texts for today offer examples of these generalizations.

Furthermore, those in authority are supposed to look out for the best interests of their people.  Often, however, many of them do not even try to do this.  Too often I read news stories of the vulnerable members of society suffering from cuts in government social programs as either

  1. no private sector agents step up to do the work as well or better,
  2. no private sector agents can do the work as well or better, or
  3. no private sector agents do the work, but not as effectively.

Something is terribly wrong and socially sinful when one or more of these scenarios is part of reality.  That which is most effective is the strategy I favor in any given case.  This is about ideology, not “please do not confuse me with the facts” ideology.

Perhaps the most difficult advice from the readings for these days is this:

Never repay one wrong with another, or one abusive word with another; instead, repay with a blessing.  That is what you are called to do, so that you inherit a blessing.

–1 Peter 3:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible

We have all violated that rule, have we not?  The desire for revenge is natural yet wrong.  And the goal of having the last word might satisfy one in the short term yet does not help matters.  And, when forgiveness comes slowly, the desire to forgive might precede it.  Giving up one’s anger (even gradually) and the target(s) of it to God and moving on with life is a positive thing to do.  And praying for–not about–people can change the one who prays.  That is also good.

There is also the question of violence, which can prove to be complicated.  Sometimes, when the oppressors insist on continuing to oppress, the best way to deliver their victims is devastating to the perpetrators.  Yet, on other occasions, violence does not resolve the issue at hand and creates new problems instead.  It is often easier to make such distinctions with the benefit of hindsight, which, of course, does not exist in the heat of the moment of decision.  So I offer no easy one-size-fits-all formulas here, for none exist.  The best I can do is pray that those in authority will decide and behave wisely.

Yes, sometimes life offers a choice between just the bad and the worse.  In such cases I favor choosing the bad, for at least it is not worse.  The best we can do is all that anyone ought to expect of us.  And, if we strive to love one another as actively and effectively as possible, we are at least on the right track.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/07/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-fourth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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