Archive for the ‘Deuteronomy 30’ Category

Jeremiah and Matthew, Part VI: The Sovereignty of God   1 comment

agnusdeiwindow

Above:  The Logo of the Moravian Church, Set in Stained Glass

Image Source = JJackman

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

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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:

Jeremiah 11:11-23

Psalm 97 (Morning)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening)

Matthew 24:1-28

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Some Related Posts:

Jeremiah 11:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/24/proper-20-year-b/

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The author of Psalm 62, in the context of persecution because of his holiness, wrote:

Yet be still my soul, and wait for God:

from whom comes my hope of deliverance.

–verse 5, A New Zealand Prayer Book (1989)

I detect echoes of the Jeremiah and Matthew readings in the Psalms appointed for today.  The above quote is just one example of that.

Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, fulfilled his unpleasant duty faithfully while arguing with God.  The prophet announced doom for idolatry and a host of social injustices–in short, breaking the covenant with God, per Deuteronomy 30:15-20.  The prophet placed himself in harm’s way by doing this.  He likened himself to a docile sheep led to the slaughter and asked God to avenge him.

That image of a lamb led to the slaughter is one which Christian tradition has applied to Jesus, although he was hardly docile in Matthew 24 and elsewhere.  Our Lord and Savior was far from docile in Matthew 21 (“the Temple Incident,” as New Testament scholars call it) or in John 18 or in Matthew 26.  Yet the image of a lamb, when applied to Jesus, works well, for he was both the high priest and the sacrificial animal, metaphorically speaking.

In Mathew 24 Jesus warned the Apostles against, among other ills, false prophets and religious persecution:

You will be handed over for punishment and execution; all nations will hate you for your allegiance to me.  At that time many will fall from their faith; they will betray one another and hate one another.  Many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many; and as lawlessness spreads, the love of many will grow cold.  But whoever endures to the end will be saved.  And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the earth as a testimony to  all nations; and then the end will come.

–verses 9-14, The Revised English Bible

This is a devotion for November 7, at the latter part of the Season after Pentecost.  Advent is not far away from November 7–less than one month, in fact.  (Advent can begin as early as November 27 and as late as December 3.)  By November 7 the Sunday readings in the Revised Common Lectionary have taken a dark turn.

Yet, in the darkness of the tail end of Ordinary Time there is hope.  Yes, Jeremiah suffered greatly, but God proved him correct.  And nobody who tried to kill the prophet succeeded.  Yes, sometimes there is persecution for following Jesus, but God still wins in the end.  And God is faithful to the faithful, some of whom will lose their bodies in service to God but none of whom will lose their souls thereby.  And Advent is around the corner.  Christmas will follow.  The summary of the hope of which I write is the Sovereignty of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/devotion-for-november-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Jeremiah and Matthew, Part IV: False Talismans   1 comment

first-temple

Above:  The First Temple

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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:

Jeremiah 7:1-29

Psalm 42 (Morning)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening)

Matthew 23:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Jeremiah 7:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/24/week-of-proper-11-saturday-year-2/

Matthew 23:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/week-of-proper-15-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/proper-26-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/week-of-proper-15-saturday-year-2/

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Don’t put your trust in illusions and say, “The Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the LORD, the Temple of the Lord are those [buildings].”  No, if you mind your ways and your actions; if you execute justice between one man and another; if you do not oppress the stranger, the orphan, and the widow; if you do not shed the blood of the innocent in this place; if you do not follow other gods, to your own hurt–then only will you dwell in this place….

–Jeremiah 7:4-7a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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I have eaten ashes for bread

and mingled my drink with weeping,

Because of your indignation and wrath,

for you have taken me up and cast me down.

My days fade away like a shadow,

and I am withered like grass.

–Psalm 102:10-12, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Jeremiah’s Temple sermon condemned idolatry, economic injustice, judicial corruption, and insensitivity toward the needs of others.  It cited these as reasons for God’s wrath against the kingdom.  It picked up a theme from Deuteronomy 28 and 30, especially 30:15-20.  But Jeremiah’s words fell on deaf ears.

One of Jeremiah’s main criticisms was that people treated the Temple and its rituals as talismans–that people thought they could therefore do as they wanted and that the Temple and its rituals would protect them.  Jesus criticized Temple authorities who acted hypocritically and imposed needless burdens on sincere people while seeking opportunities for prestige, not service.  Their alleged talismans did not protect them from the wrath of the Roman Empire in 70 CE.

Yes, there is divine mercy.  Yes, there is divine judgment.  And often that judgment is simply the consequences of our misdeeds backfiring on us.  We err when we forget that each of us is here on the planet to, among other things, care actively and deeply for each other–to serve each other in the name of God and to respect the Image of God in each other.  This ethic is inconsistent with violence and exploitation, whether one commits them or merely consents to them passively.  This ethic is inconsistent with such deeds and their root attitudes regardless of whether they flow from the political left wing or right wing.

God is watching us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF IDA SCUDDER, REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KENNEDY “DUKE” ELLINGTON, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WISCONSIN

THE FEAST OF MOTHER EDITH, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/24/devotion-for-november-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XIX: The Kingdom of the Powerless   1 comment

01427v

Above:  Jesus Blessing the Children

An Image from 1891

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003688894/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01427

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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:

Deuteronomy 30:1-20

Psalm 62 (Morning)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening)

Matthew 19:1-15

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 30:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/second-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/first-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/proper-18-year-c/

Matthew 19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/week-of-proper-14-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-2/

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Women and children were among the most vulnerable members of our Lord’s society.  Widows and orphans especially at risk.  Thus in Matthew 19:1-15, Jesus affirmed the dignity of women and children and the importance of commitments.  Some men divorced their wives for casual reasons, thereby placing the divorced women at great risk of falling through the cracks of society.  And, as Richard Horsley has taught me, some Pharisees permitted elites to divorce and remarry for reasons of consolidating control over land and other resources.  (Source = Jesus and Empire:  The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder, Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 2003, page 122).  Jesus frowned upon people making a mockery of solemn commitments to God and each other.

Children were powerless.  So Jesus, of course, spoke highly of such socially invisible people.  The man who dined with notorious sinners, spoke at length about profound topics with women, and scandalized the defenders and guardians of ritual purity codes said:

Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

–Matthew 19:14, The Revised English Bible

Welcome, O reader, to the Kingdom of God, where the meek inherit the earth, the hungry eat, the thirsty drink, and the powerless and socially invisible people are role models.  This is consistent with the best of the Law of Moses and the commandments of God in our mouths and hearts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FEAST OF THOMAS TOKE LYNCH, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA LAETITIA WARING, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER; AND HER UNCLE, SAMUEL MILLER WARING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, BISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS WILLIBALD OF EICHSTATT AND LULLUS OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT WALBURGA OF HEIDENHELM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; SAINTS PETRONAX OF MONTE CASSINO, WINNEBALD OF HEIDENHELM, WIGBERT OF FRITZLAR, AND STURMIUS OF FULDA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS; AND SAINT SEBALDUS OF VINCENZA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/devotion-for-october-28-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Packing and Unpacking for Discipleship   1 comment

01605v

Above:  A Prospector and His Dog in Alaska, 1900-1930

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-01605

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/99614330/)

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 18:1-11 and Psalm 139:105, 12-17

or 

Deuteronomy 30:15-20 and Psalm 1

then 

Philemon 1-21

Luke 14:25-33

The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord, to trust in you with all our hearts; for, as you always resist the proud who confide in their own strength, so you never forsake those who make their boast of your mercy; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for everAmen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 18, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/proper-18-year-a/

Proper 18, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/proper-18-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-sixteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-confession-for-the-sixteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-sixteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Jeremiah 18:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/30/week-of-proper-12-thursday-year-2/

Deuteronomy 30:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/second-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

Philemon:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/week-of-proper-27-thursday-year-2/

Luke 14:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-sixth-and-thirty-seventh-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-wednesday-year-1/

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I used to think that Onesimus was a runaway slave.  Authority figures in church told me that he was.  Commentaries and notes in study Bibles told me that he was.  Then, one day, I read another perspective, which prompted me to reread the short epistle again.  And it turns out that nowhere does Paul indicate why Onesimus and Philemon were in separate cities.  And the Greek text of verse 16 translates as

as if a slave,

not

as though a slave.

So the text itself does not indicate that Onesimus was a slave, much less a fugitive.  These close readings of the actual text–not the imagined one–prove to be useful reminders of the importance of reading what the Bible says, not what one thinks it says.

The definition of Christian discipleship is following Jesus.  One must pack lightly for that journey, leaving much behind.  (A partial list follows.)  One must leave behind misunderstandings and false preconceptions.  One must leave behind hatred, violence, grudges, and unfounded fears, which bring out the worst in human behavior.  One must leave behind the desire to scapegoat.  Jesus became a scapegoat and a victim of violence, but the Romans still destroyed Jerusalem in time.  And God reversed death, the major consequence of the violence which killed our Lord.  We must leave behind willful disobedience to God.  I refer you, O reader, to the rest of Jeremiah 18; that text speaks of willful disobedience, not ignorant sinning.  We must also leave behind ignorant sinning, which is also destructive.

Instead, may we pack, among other things, love and respect for God and each other.  Recently I reread Ephesians, a fine epistle which makes clear that how we treat others matters very much to God.  That letter encourages putting up with each other’s weaknesses and  not grieving the Holy Spirit, not committing violence against each other.  (See Chapters 4 and 5.)  May we pack the Golden Rule.  May we pack kindness.  May we pack the willingness to sacrifice self for another.  May we pack the awareness that what we do and do not do affects others.  May we pack compassion.  Our task demands no less of us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID I, KING OF SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, QUAKER FOUNDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/proper-18-year-c/

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“The Word is Very Near You….”   1 comment

Above:  A Scroll of the Book of Esther

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jacob settled in the land where his father had lived as an alien, the land of Canaan. This is the story of the family of Jacob.

Joseph, being seventeen years old, was shepherding the flock with his brothers; he was a helper to the sons of Bilhah and Zilpah, his father’s wives; and Joseph brought a bad report of them to their father. Now Israel loved Joseph more than any other of his children, because he was the son of his old age; and he had made him a long robe with sleeves. But when his brothers saw that their father loved him more than all his brothers, they hated him, and could not speak peaceably to him.

Now his brothers went to pasture their father’s flock near Shechem. And Israel said to Joseph,

Are not your brothers pasturing the flock at Shechem? Come, I will send you to them.

He answered,

Here I am.

So he said to him,

Go now, see if it is well with your brothers and with the flock; and bring word back to me.

So he sent him from the valley of Hebron.

He came to Shechem, and a man found him wandering in the fields; the man asked him,

What are you seeking?

He said,

I am seeking my brothers; tell me, please, where they are pasturing the flock.

The man said,

They have gone away, for I heard them say, “Let us go to Dothan.”

So Joseph went after his brothers, and found them at Dothan. They saw him from a distance, and before he came near to them, they conspired to kill him. They said to one another,

Here comes this dreamer. Come now, let us kill him and throw him into one of the pits; then we shall say that a wild animal has devoured him, and we shall see what will become of his dreams.

But when Reuben heard it, he delivered him out of their hands, saying,

Let us not take his life.

Reuben said to them,

Shed no blood; throw him into this pit here in the wilderness, but lay no hand on him

– that he might rescue him out of their hand and restore him to his father. So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe, the long robe with sleeves that he wore; and they took him and threw him into a pit. The pit was empty; there was no water in it.

Then they sat down to eat; and looking up they saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead, with their camels carrying gum, balm, and resin, on their way to carry it down to Egypt. Then Judah said to his brothers,

What profit is it if we kill our brother and conceal his blood? Come, let us sell him to the Ishmaelites, and not lay our hands on him, for he is our brother, our own flesh.

And his brothers agreed. When some Midianite traders passed by, they drew Joseph up, lifting him out of the pit, and sold him to the Ishmaelites for twenty pieces of silver. And they took Joseph to Egypt.

Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45b (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

16 Then he called for a famine in the land

and destroyed the supply of bread.

17 He sent a man before them,

Joseph, who was sold as a slave.

18 They bruised his feet in fetters;

his neck they put in an iron collar.

19 Until his prediction came to pass,

the word of the LORD tested him.

20 The king sent and released him;

the ruler of the peoples set him free.

21 He set him as a master over his household,

as a ruler over all his possessions,

22 To instruct his princes according to his will

and to teach his elders wisdom.

45b Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

1 Kings 19:9-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

At Horeb, the mount of God, Elijah came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying,

What are you doing here, Elijah?

He answered,

I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.

He said,

Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.

Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake; and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said,

What are you doing here, Elijah?

He answered,

I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.

Then the LORD said to him,

Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram. Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place. Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill. Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.

Psalm 85:8-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 I will listen to what the LORD God is saying,

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

Truly, his salvation is very near to those who fear him,

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

SECOND READING

Romans 10:5-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses writes concerning the righteousness that comes from the law, that

the person who does these things will live by them.

But the righteousness that comes from faith says,

Do not say in your heart, “Who will ascend into heaven?”

(that is, to bring Christ down)

or

“Who will descend into the abyss?”

(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say?

The word is near you,

on your lips and in your heart

(that is, the word of faith that we proclaim); because if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For one believes with the heart and so is justified, and one confesses with the mouth and so is saved. The scripture says,

No one who believes in him will be put to shame.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all and is generous to all who call on him. For,

Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.

But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written,

How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 14:22-33 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying,

It is a ghost!

And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said,

Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.

Peter answered him,

Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.

He said,

Come.

So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out,

Lord, save me!

Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him,

You of little faith, why did you doubt?

When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying,

Truly you are the Son of God.

The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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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I have chosen to take my focus from Romans.  Thus I refer you, O reader, to the following links, for further details:

For Genesis–http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/week-of-proper-9-thursday-year-1/

For Matthew–http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/17/week-of-proper-13-monday-year-1/

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Consider these words, put into the mouth of Moses toward the end of the Israelite sojourn in the wilderness:

For this commandment which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off.  It is not in heaven, that you should say, ‘Who will go up for us to heaven, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say ‘Who will go over to the sea for us, and bring it to us, that we may hear it and do it?’  But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil.   If you obey commandments of the LORD your God which I command you this day, by loving the LORD your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, they you shall live and multiply, and the LORD your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it.  But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish….  (Deuteronomy 30:11-18a, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition)

Paul was obviously familiar with this passage, for he channeled it in this day’s excerpt from Romans.  God’s message is not remote, he says; it is near us.  Indeed, the Hebrew prophets proclaimed this word, and many Jewish scriptures, originally oral tradition, did as well.  So did Jesus, God incarnate.  How much more concrete could God get than that?  So, yes, the word is very near us.  If we do not perceive it, we need to pay closer attention.

The reading from Deuteronomy describes following God as the path to life and the alternative as the route to death.  Life and death are both physical and spiritual in this context.  I typed only part of the germane passage; a portion I chose not to type concludes, “therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live….” (Deuteronomy 30:19)  But we know how the story unfolded, do we not?  Read the excerpt from 1 Kings; pious advocacy of monotheism by a portion of the population did not prevent the widespread practice of polytheism.  Thus hindsight, in the wake of the Babylonian Exile, informs the theology of final, edited version of much of the Hebrew Bible:  Spiritual infidelity led to the decline, division, and extinction of the Jewish kingdoms.

YHWH was a different kind of deity relative to the alleged members of pantheons.  As Professor Richard Elliott Friedman writes in his Commentary on the Torah:

In comparing Israel’s monotheism to pagan religion, we must appreciate that the difference between one and many is not the same sort of thing as the difference between two and three or between six and twenty.  It is not numerical.  It is a different concept of what a god is.  A God who is outside of nature, known through acts of history, a creator, unseeable, without a mate, who makes legal covenants with humans, who is one, is a revolution in religious conception. (Page 586)

The account from 1 Kings reinforces this point.  Adherents of other deities believed that they made themselves known in forces of nature, such as earthquakes, fire,  and mighty winds.  But YHWH did the opposite.  God does that often.  We find God in silence, not noise.  And we Christians worship God, who took on human form and became both fully human and fully divine.  (I have given up trying to explain this mystery and chosen to revel in it instead.)  God refuses to fit into our theological boxes.  If we cannot deal with this reality in a healthy way, then we need to read the great J. B. Phillips book, Your God is Too Small.

The word is near us.  It is present in the silence around us, as well as in any place we read or hear God speaking–certainly in the Bible, but not just there.  The word can also be present in other literature, as well as in nature.  The word is present anywhere the Holy Spirit speaks to us, including our minds.  So the word is around us and inside us.  Do we hear it?  Do we really hear it?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 31, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES FREDERICK MACKENZIE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF CENTRAL AFRICA

THE FEAST OF MENNO SIMONS, MENNONITE LEADER

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/proper-14-year-a/

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