Archive for the ‘Exodus 23’ Category

Exploitation III   Leave a comment

Above:  Moses, by Edward Peck Sperry, 1897

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-31841

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For the Second Sunday in Lent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Lord Jesus Christ, our only King, who came in the form of a servant:

control our wills and restrain our selfish ambitions,

that we may seek thy glory above all things and fulfill our lives in thee.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Exodus 34:1-9

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Matthew 7:24-29

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When I was a boy, I had a collection of Arch Books.  Each volume, a thin paperback book, told one Bible story in words and pictures.  This was a wonderful way for a child to learn Bible stories.  The Arch Book for the parable from Matthew 7:24-27 has lodged itself in my memory.

Jesus likened himself to a rock.  Moses was atop a mountain in Exodus 19 when he received far more than ten commandments from God.  (The commandments fill Exodus 20-24.)  Moses was atop a mountain again, to receive more commandments and stone tablet versions (Exodus 25-31).  While Moses was away, impatient Israelites broke the covenant.  Moses, in anger, broke the first stone tablets (Exodus 32).  Then Moses interceded on behalf of the people (Exodus 32-33).  God restored the covenant in Exodus 34.

We are supposed to read Exodus 34 in the context of the rest of the Torah narrative and of the Hebrew Bible more broadly.  We know of the unfortunate habit of murmuring and of relatively short memories of God’s mighty acts yet long memories of Egyptian leftovers.

I am not a psychologist, but psychology intrigues me.  Therefore, I listen and read closely in the field.  What we remember and what we forget–and why–indicates much about our character and about human nature, for good and for ill.  Often our minds work against the better angels of our nature; much of remembering and forgetting is a matter of the unconscious mind.  As rational as many of us try to be and like to think of ourselves as being, we tend to be irrational, panicky creatures who forget that, when we harm others, we hurt ourselves, too.  We also forget the promises we made recently all too often.

How we behave toward God and how we act toward others are related to each other.  Do we recognize God in others?  If so, that informs how we treat them.  Although I do not see the image of God in Mimi, my feline neighbor whom I feed outside my back door, I recognize her as a creature of God, an animal possessed of great dignity and worthy of respect.  Returning to human relations, the Law of Moses teaches, in terms of timeless principles and culturally specific examples, that we have divine orders to take care of each other, and never to exploit one another.  That commandment applies to societies, institutions, and governments, not just individuals.

Societies, institutions, governments, and individuals who forget or never learn that lesson and act accordingly are like a man who was so foolish that he build his house on sand, not on rock.  The rain will fall, the floods will come, the winds will blow, and the house will fall.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Exploitation II   1 comment

Widow's Offering

Above:   The Widow’s Offering

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 5:8-23

Psalm 113

Mark 12:41-44

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

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

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

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

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

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Exodus 23:6-8 commands:

You shall not subvert the rights of your needy in their disputes.  Keep far from a false charge; do not bring death on those who are innocent and in the right, for I will not acquit the wrongdoer.  Do not take bribes, for bribes blind the clearsighted and upset the pleas of those who are in the right.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That passage functions as background for the lection from Isaiah 5 and the lesson from Mark 12.  In both cases the poor suffer from institutional injustice.  The explanation of Isaiah 5:8-23 is straight-forward and inside the text.  In the case of Mark 12:41-44, however, one needs to read verses 38-40 also:

In his teaching he said, “Beware of the scribes who like to walk about in long robes, to be greeted obsequiously in the market squares, to take the front seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at banquets; these are the men who swallow the property of widows, while making a show of lengthy prayers.  The more severe will be the sentence they receive.

The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

In that immediate textual context we read of the widow and her two coins.  The scriptures record words yet not tone of voice, so I have to rely on context to interpret the passage.  My reading of the pericope is that Jesus, without condemning the widow, did not praise her either.  No, I think, he spoke mournfully, condemning corrupt and proud scribes and the broader corruption present at the Temple.

People create, maintain, and influence societies, cultures, and institutions, which, in turn, influence them.  May we function as agents of God’s salt and light in the world, leaving it better than we found it, especially for the poor and other vulnerable people.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Go and Learn It   1 comment

Scroll

Above:   Scroll

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

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

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 23:1-9

Psalm 113

Romans 3:1-8

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

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

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

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

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

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

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

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

These are commandments, not suggestions.

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

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Exodus and Luke, Part III: God, Genocide, and the Gospel Glasses   1 comment

SONY DSC

Above:  Reading Glasses

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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:

Exodus 23:14-33

Psalm 98 (Morning)

Psalms 66 and 116 (Evening)

Luke 4:31-44

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/week-of-proper-17-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/week-of-proper-17-wednesday-year-1/

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…and I will annihilate them….

–Exodus 23:23c, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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In Exodus 23:14-33 we read more instructions (from God, the narrative says).  Among them are to keep an annual Passover festival and not to commit idolatry, especially in Canaan.  None of that disturbs my conscience, for rituals matter and idolatry is a bad idea.  Yet God vowing to annihilate entire ethnic groups–to commit genocide–bothers me.  But what if God did not make such a vow?  What if people put their intentions into God’s (proverbial) mouth?

As  a Christian I affirm that Jesus of Nazareth, a historical figure, was God incarnate.  In Luke 4 we read of Jesus curing people with a variety of illnesses, physical and psychiatric.  If I were to continue in the canonical Gospels I would arrive at Jesus sacrificing himself for others.  True, he destroyed some property and scared some profiteers greatly at the Temple, but nowhere did he kill anyone, annihilate a population, or advocate doing so.  No, the imperium tried to annihilate him, unsuccessfully.

In this matter I recall an analogy.  I heard once, years ago, from a good (ELCA) Lutheran minister, that not all Scripture is equal.  The Gospels matter most.  So one ought to read the rest of the Bible through the Gospel glasses.  When I read Exodus 23:23 through the Gospel glasses I side with Jesus:  Love your neighbor as you love yourself.  Bless those who curse you.  Leave judgment to God, who is compassionate.  And neither commit nor condone genocide.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARA LUGER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/devotion-for-the-tenth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted March 1, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 23, Luke 4, Psalm 116, Psalm 66, Psalm 98

Tagged with ,

Exodus and Luke, Part II: Together in Society   1 comment

migrant-worker-1935

Above:  A Migrant Worker in California, 1935

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/fsa1999000001/PP/)

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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:

Exodus 22:20-23:13

Psalm 97 (Morning)

Psalms 124 and 115 (Evening)

Luke 4:16-30

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 21-23:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/week-of-proper-11-saturday-year-1/

Luke 4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fifth-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/09/week-of-proper-17-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/week-of-proper-17-monday-year-2/

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I began my preparations for this post by reading Exodus 21:1-23:13 closely.  The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod lectionary skips Exodus 21:1-22:19.  This statement does not constitute a criticism, for one must skip around sometimes when creating a lectionary.  Yet I thought that the skipped-over verses might pertain to the assigned material.  I was correct.

Exodus 22:20 forward commands the Israelites to show kindness, mercy, and respect to strangers, widows, and orphans, to refrain from usury (a rule which credit card companies violate daily), to make good sacrifices to God, to return wandering livestock to its owner, to grant justice to the poor, to leave food in the fields for the hungry, and to honor the Sabbath.  The guiding principle is that what one person does affects others.  There is no room for careless individualism which harms the society.

But what does one find in Exodus 21:1-22:19?  Slaves (more like indentured servants in the U.S. historical context) have rights.  Women have many of the same rights as men.  One dies for a variety of offenses, from cursing or insulting one’s parents to committing murder.  One can sell one’ s daughter into slavery.  Retribution is in proportion to the offense.  For  many offenses restitution–not death–is the penalty.  An Israelite who offers a sacrifice to a deity other than Yahweh must die.  A reader can find other laws there; this is just a sampling.

Historical and cultural contexts matter.  There were traditional Semitic notions of family honor and parental authority.  Any offense which carried the death penalty was one deemed especially dangerous to society.  And the people were nomads in the desert.  Resources were precious, and there was no jail or prison.

I, of course, live in a settled society which draws influences from the Enlightenment.  Despite poverty not far from my front door (a few miles away, elsewhere in Athens, Georgia, a street separates university dormitories from public housing projects), there is an abundance of food and drink.   And the local jail is frequently overcrowded.  I wonder how a modern version of the Law of Moses would compare the biblical one.

In Luke 4:16-30 we read an account of our Lord’s rejection at Nazareth, his hometown.  Plotting to overthrow someone off a cliff, as some residents of Nazareth meant to do Jesus, was not nice.  Perhaps some people thought that it was consistent with the death penalty for blasphemy (Leviticus 24:16).  Or maybe it was just a case of homicidal rage.  If they had succeeded that day, would they not have been subject to death themselves (Exodus 21:14)?

One must, if one is to understand the Bible properly, consider it intelligently, taking into account all the germane contexts, avoiding the error of prooftexting, and not transforming the Bible into an idol.  May we use the Bible as an icon–through which we see God–not as an idol–which we see in lieu of God.  And may we remember that we are here on the planet together, so what one person does affects others.  And God expects us to avoid wronging or oppressing one another.  After all, we all bear the image of God; may we treat each other accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 7, 2012 COMMON ERA

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

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

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/07/devotion-for-the-ninth-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionay/

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Divine Judgment, Patience, and Extravagance   1 comment

Above: Moses, by Rembrandt van Rijn (1659)

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Exodus 32:15-24, 30-34 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses turned and went down from the mountain.  And the two tablets of witness were in his hand, tablets written from their two sides:  from this side and from this side they were written.  And the tablets:  they were God’s doing.  And the writing:  it was God’s writing, inscribed on the tablets.

And Joshua heard the sound of the people in its shouting, and he said to Moses,

A sound of war is in the camp.

Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin (1633-1634)

And he said,

It’s not a sound of singing of victory, and it’s not a sound of singing of defeat.  It’s just the sound of singing I hear!

And it was when he came close to the camp, and he saw the calf and dancing: and Moses’ anger flared, and he threw the tablets from his hands and shattered them below the mountain.  And he took the calf that they had made, and he burned it in fire and ground it until it was thin, and he scattered it on the face of the water, and he made the children of Israel drink!

And Moses said to Aaron,

What did this people do to you, that you’ve brought a big sin on it?!

And Aaron said,

Let my lord’s anger not flare.  You know the people, that it’s in a bad state.  And they said to me, “Make gods for us who will go in front of us, because this Moses, the man who brought us up from the land of Egypt; we don’t know what has become of him”  And I said to them, “Whoever has gold:  take it off.”  And they gave it to me, and I threw it into the fire, and this calf came out!”

And it was on the next day, and Moses said to the people,

You’ve committed a big sin.  And now I’ll go up to YHWH.  Perhaps I may make atonement for your sin.

And Moses went back to YHWH and said,

Please, this people has committed a big sin and made gods of gold for themselves.  And now, if you will bear their sin–and if not, wipe me out with your scroll that you’ve written.

And YHWH said to Moses,

The one who has sinned against me, I’ll wipe him out from my scroll.  And now, go.  Lead the people to where I spoke to you.  Here, my angel will go ahead of you.  And, in the day that I will take account, I’ll account their sin to them.

Psalm 106:19-23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

19 Israel made a bull-calf at Horeb

and worshiped a molten image;

20 And so they exchanged their Glory

for the image of an ox that feeds on grass.

21 They forgot God their Savior,

who had done great things in Egypt,

22 Wonderful deeds in the land of Ham,

and fearful things at the Red Sea.

23 So he would not have destroyed them,

had not Moses his chosen stood before him in the breach,

to turn away his wrath from consuming them.

Matthew 13:31-35 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he put another parable before them,

The kingdom of Heaven is like a tiny grain of mustard-seed which a man took and sowed in his field.   As a seed it is the smallest of them all, but it grows to be the biggest of all plants.  It becomes a tree, big enough for birds to come and nest in its branches.

This is another of the parables he told them:

The kingdom of Heaven is like yeast, taken by a woman and put into three measures of flour until the whole had risen.

All these things Jesus spoke to the crowd in parables, and he did not speak to them at all without using parables–to fulfil the prophecy:

I will open my mouth in parables;

I will utter things hidden from the foundation of the world.

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; 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 commented on the Parable of the Mustard Seed here:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-friday-year-1/

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The Hebrews committed idolatry for centuries.  Prophets railed against this practice; their testimonies reside in the pages of the Bible.  The sin was not worshiping other gods instead of YHWH; the sin was to worship other gods along side YHWH.  Recall one of the Ten Commandments:  Have no other gods before the face of YHWH.

The reading from Exodus is set after those whom God had freed from Egyptian slavery had dedicated themselves to God and Moses had received many commandments, including the Ten Commandments.  But old habits of thinking persist easily and die hard.  Hence there were an attempted coup d’etat of Moses by Aaron and the adoration of the golden calf.  Moses was angry, as was God.  Moses, by reducing the golden calf to golden dust, sprinkling the dust into water flowing from a mountain spring, and making the people drink it, both punished the idolaters and reminded them of YHWH, the source of the water in the desert.

Moses argued with God, interceding on behalf of the people.  He survived without the promise of judgment because his loyalties were with God.  So one can argue with God faithfully and not sin.  I like this vision of God, who is in clearly in charge, who does not brook idolatry, but who permits an honest argument.  This reflects great mercy.

Traditional Jewish theology understood yeast to be a sign of corruption.  Consider the following texts, if you will:

  1. Exodus 12:15-20; 23:18; 34:25
  2. Leviticus 2:11; 6:10

So using yeast as a positive image for the Kingdom of God was unexpected; it attracted attention.  In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus has already spoken of a very large weed, the mustard plant, in positive terms and used it an analogy for the Kingdom of God.  This yeast is quite productive, producing enough to feed 100-150 people.  The Kingdom will spread around the world, much like those pesky mustard plants.  Human agency cannot prevent any of this.

So divine grace is extravagant.  The Kingdom will go where it will.  And, although people sin, God is patient.  This fact, however, does not indicate a lack of judgment and punishment.  Judgment and mercy sit alongside each other.  May we rejoice in divine mercy, but not try God’s patience.  Instead, may we cooperate with God–and even argue faithfully with God from time to time.  Above all, may we be faithful.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID I OF SCOTLAND, KING

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/2011/01/11/week-of-proper-12-monday-year-1/

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The Good and the Bad, Mixed Together   1 comment

Above:  Mixed Bag

(http://www.cpsu.org.au/campaigns/news/13207.html)

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Exodus 24:3-8 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses came and told the people all of YHWH’s words and all the judgments.  And the people answered, one voice, and they said,

We’ll do all the things that YHWH has spoken.

And Moses wrote all of YHWH’s words.  And he got up early in the morning and built an altar below the mountain and twelve pillars for twelve tribes of Israel.  And he sent young men of the children of Israel, and they made peace offerings to YHWH:  bulls.  And Moses took half of the blood and set it in basins and threw half of the blood on the altar.  And he took the scroll of the covenant and read in the people’s ears.  And they said,

We’ll do everything that YHWH has spoken, and we’ll listen.

Psalm 51:11-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

14 I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

15 Deliver me from death, O God,

and my tongue shall sing of your righteousness,

O God of my salvation.

16 Open my lips, O Lord,

and my mouth shall proclaim your praise.

Matthew 13:24-30 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then he put another parable before them,

The kingdom of Heaven,

he said,

is like a man who sowed good seed in his field.  But while his men were asleep his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away.  When the crop came up and began to ripen, the weeds appeared as well.  Then the owner’s servants came up to him and said, “Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field?  Where did all these weeds come from?” “Some enemy of mine has done this,” he replied.  ”Do you want us then to go out and pull them all up?” said the servants.  ”No” he returned, “if you pull up the weeds now, you would pull up the wheat with them.  Let them both grow together till the harvest.  And at harvest-time I shall tell the reapers, ‘Collect all the weeds first and tie them up in bundles ready to burn, but collect the wheat and store it in my barn.’”

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Follow the URL for my thoughts on the reading from Matthew.

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/proper-11-year-a/

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Often people treat the Ten Commandments as if no other commandments follow them immediately.  But reading Exodus 21-23 contains a host of pronouncements the Book of Exodus says come from God.  I am dubious about this claim with regard to certain commandments, such as 21:17, which reads,

And anyone who curses his father and his mother shall be put to death.

This is just one of many death penalty offenses in Chapters 21-23.  Other commandments, such as 21:26, acknowledge the existence of slavery without condemning it.

On the other hand, there is 23:9, which reads,

And you shall not oppress an alien–since you know the alien’s soul, because you were aliens in the land of Egypt.

These chapters also contain great compassion.

How shall one distinguish among the good laws and the bad ones?  I propose a simple standard:  Agape.  This is the unconditional love God extends toward us.  Agape is the word for love in 1 Corinthians 13, which I quote from the Revised Standard Version:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude.  Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right.  Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never ends; as for prophesy, it will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.  For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesy is imperfect; but when the perfect comes, the imperfect will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man , I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face.  Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood.  So faith, hope, and love, abide,these three; but the greatest of these is love.

I cannot argue with that.

Love is the law of God.  May we do as God as instructed us; may we love ourselves as God loves us.  Then may we extend this love to all others, seeking the best for them.  By grace, may God’s best for everyone become reality.  And may rejoice in each other’s good fortune and be agents of God in bringing that to fruition, as opportunities to do so present themselves and we are able to participate.

This is the best way I know to differentiate within the mixed bag of commandments.  My guiding principle is to follow Jesus, for I am a Christian.  My history-oriented brain understands that death penalty offenses are numerous in societies with limited resources.  To feed an offender constitutes a drain on scarce supplies.  So I understand the death penalties in the Law of Moses in that context.  But, I ask, what about love and possibility of forgiveness and reform?  Are these not Jewish and Christian virtues?  Of course they are.  So I side with virtue.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODOSIUS THE CENOBIARCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM EVEREST, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN THE GOOD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MILAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM LAUD, ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/10/week-of-proper-11-saturday-year-1/

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