Archive for the ‘Exodus 24’ Category

Uncomfortable and Difficult   2 comments

Above:  Elijah Slays the Prophets of Baal

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Exodus 24:12-18 or 1 Kings 18:1, 17-40

Psalm 58

Hebrews 3

Mark 8:14-21

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I teach a Sunday School class in which I cover each week’s readings according to the Revised Common Lectionary (RCL).  The RCL has much to commend it, but it is imperfect.  (Of course, it is imperfect; it is a human creation.)  The RCL skirts many challenging, violent passages of scripture.  This post is is a devotion for a Sunday on an unofficial lectionary, however.  The note on the listing for Psalm 58 reads,

Not for the faint of heart.

Indeed, a prayer for God to rip the teeth from the mouths of one’s enemies is not feel-good fare.  Neither is the slaughter of the prophets of Baal Peor (1 Kings 18:40).

I remember a Sunday evening service at my parish years ago.  The lector read an assigned passage of scripture with an unpleasant, disturbing conclusion then uttered the customary prompt,

The word of the Lord.

A pregnant pause followed.  Then the congregation mumbled its proscribed response,

Thanks be to God.

The theme uniting these five readings is faithfulness to God.  Jesus, we read, was the paragon of fidelity.  We should be faithful, too, and avoid committing apostasy.  We should also pay attention and understand, so we can serve God better.  Hopefully, metaphors will not confuse us.

I perceive the need to make the following statement.  Even a casual study of the history of Christian interpretation of the Bible reveals a shameful record of Anti-Semitism, much of it unintentional and much of it learned.  We who abhor intentional Anti-Semitism still need to check ourselves as we read the Bible, especially passages in which Jesus speaks harshly to or of Jewish religious leaders in first-century C.E. Palestine.  We ought to recall that he and his Apostles were practicing Jews, too.  We also need to keep in mind that Judaism has never been monolithic, so to speak of “the Jews” in any place and at any time is to open the door to overgeneralizing.

To condemn long-dead Jewish religious leaders for their metaphorical leaven and not to consider our leaven would be to miss an important spiritual directive.  To consider our leaven is to engage in an uncomfortable, difficult spiritual exercise.  It does not make us feel good about ourselves.

We also need to ask ourselves if we are as dense as the Apostles in the Gospel of Mark.  To do that is uncomfortable and difficult, also.

Sometimes we need for scripture to make us uncomfortable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2019/07/25/devotion-for-proper-19-year-b-humes/

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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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Divine Glory and Sacrificial Love   2 comments

Above:  The Transfiguration, by Raphael

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-90565

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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 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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Exodus 24:12-18

Psalm 2

2 Peter 1:16-21

Matthew 17:1-9 (or 1-13)

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Interestingly, the Transfiguration account in Matthew follows on the heels of Jesus saying,

Amen, I say to you, there are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.

–16:28, The New American Bible (1991)

In that scene, Jesus, looking very much like Moses (and standing with Moses and Elijah) on a mountaintop, stands in divine glory.  We can read another version of the Transfiguration in Luke 9:28-36, shortly before Jesus sets his face literally and figuratively toward Jerusalem–to die.

It is appropriate that we read of the Transfiguration on the Sunday immediately preceding Lent, at the end of which are Good Friday and Holy Saturday.  We are supposed to recall the supreme divine love behind the Incarnation and the Atonement, as well as to remember that God calls us to love like Jesus, who loved all the way to a cross.

That is a variety of love that carries a high price tag.  The grace, although free, is certainly not cheap.  It is, however, the path to life at its fullest and most abundant.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 23, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY THE ILLUMINATOR AND ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCHS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF MEISTER ECKHART, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN AND MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF SAINT METODEJ DOMINIK TRCKA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTORIAN OF HADRUMETUM, MARTYR AT CARTHAGE, 484

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/23/devotion-for-transfiguration-sunday-year-a-humes/

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Faith Communities   1 comment

Covenant Confirmed

Above:   The Covenant Confirmed, by John Steeple Davis

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Gracious God, you have placed within the hearts of all your children

a longing for your word and a hunger for your truth.

Grant that we may know your Son to be the true bread of heaven

and share this bread with all the world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-11

Psalm 111

Romans 15:22-33

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Hallelujah!

I will acknowledge the LORD with my whole being,

in the assembly, the gathering of honest men.

–Psalm 111:1, Harry Mowvley, The Psalms Introduced and Translated for Today’s Readers (1989)

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St. Paul the Apostle planned to travel to Jerusalem then to Rome then to Spain.  Events of his time in Jerusalem led to his permanent relocation to Rome, where he died, however.

The pericope from Exodus 24 describes part of the ceremony by which the former Hebrew slaves accepted the covenant.  The theology of that text holds that divine holiness was lethal to most mortals (Moses being a notable exception), but that the people saw a reflection of God safely.  God was like the Sun in that way in that passage.  On the other hand, Jesus, as God incarnate, was among people, with many of whom he ate, so the theology of lethal divine holiness did not apply in the Gospels.  Theology changed between the Book of Exodus and the Gospel of Mark.

My main point in this post concerns communities of faith, however.  St. Paul longed to travel to Rome to find spiritual refreshment at the congregation there.  The covenant in Exodus was between God and the people.  Too much emphasis on individualism, an aspect of Western civilization, has long hampered a correct understanding of parts of the Bible in the global West.  Roman Catholicism has understood the focus on faith community well, fortunately, but my encounters with certain fundamentalist Protestants with “Jesus-and-me” theology have proven to be discouraging.

We humans have responsibilities to and for each other.  We also depend on God for everything and rely on each other’s labor.  Nobody is a self-made person, therefore.  These principles apply to faith communities also; we need each other.  May we know this to be true then act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/devotion-for-tuesday-after-proper-12-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted April 5, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 24, Psalm 111, Romans 15

Tagged with , ,

Transcendence and Imminence   1 comment

Cloud Over a Mountain

Above:  Cloud Over a Mountain 

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Gracious and glorious God, you have chosen us as your own,

and by the powerful name of Christ you protect us from evil.

By your Spirit transform us and your beloved world,

that we may find joy in your Son, Jesus Christ,

our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with and

the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 35

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:15-18 (Friday)

Deuteronomy 34:1-7 (Saturday)

Psalm 47 (Both Days)

Revelation 1:9-18 (Friday)

John 16:4-11 (Saturday)

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God reigns over the nations;

God sits upon his holy throne.

The nobles of the peoples have gathered together

with the people of the God of Abraham.

The rulers of the earth belong to God,

and he is highly exalted.

–Psalm 47:8-10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Once I read a summary of the differences between The Book of Common Prayer (1928) and The Book of Common Prayer (1979) of The Episcopal Church.  The most basic difference, the author concluded, was theological, for God is transcendent in the 1928 Prayer Book yet imminent in the 1979 Prayer Book.  We read of both divine transcendence and imminence in the pericopes for these two days.

God is transcendent in Exodus 24 and Deuteronomy 34.  There Moses meets God in dramatic mountaintop settings.  In Exodus 24 there us even cloud cover to add to the mystery.  A sense of mystery remains in the symbolic language of Revelation 1:9-18, a report of a vision of the triumphant, cosmic Christ.  By then the crucifixion, Resurrection, and Ascension were in the past, as was the most famous Pentecost from the New Testament.

Jesus is present in John 16, where the Holy Spirit is imminent.  I like the spiritual reality of God being both present and imminent, as the Kingdom of God is both.  It has become a reality partially, with its fullness reserved for the future.  The unveiling of the Kingdom of God is incomplete, but we are far from bereft.  That theology works better for me than does that of a remote, transcendent deity whose holiness is fatal to mere mortals.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTY-FIRST DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/devotion-for-friday-and-saturday-before-the-seventh-sunday-of-easter-year-b-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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Living Jesus, New Covenant   1 comment

agnusdeiwindow

Above:  The Moravian Logo in Stained Glass

Image Source = JJackman

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

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The Collect:

O God, your Son makes himself known to all his disciples in the breaking of bread.

Open the eyes of our faith, that we may see him in his redeeming work,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-11

Psalm 134

John 21:1-14

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 34:

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

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

John 21:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sixth-day-of-easter-friday-in-easter-week/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/fifteenth-day-of-easter-third-sunday-of-easter-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/16/devotion-for-june-23-24-and-25-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Come, bless the Lord, all you servants of the Lord,

you that by night stand in the house of the Lord.

Lift up your hands toward the sanctuary

and bless the Lord.

The Lord who made heaven and earth

give you blessing out of Zion.

–Psalm 134, Common Worship (2000)

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The daily realities and worldviews of biblical characters, being different from my own, require me to do some homework if I am to understand correctly what certain texts describe.  A case in point is Exodus 24, which recounts the sealing of the covenant between the Israelites and Yahweh with Moses sprinkling the blood of sacrificial bulls on the people.  Blood, in the worldview of these ancients, made life possible.  Thus, in this ritual act,

Israel now begins a new life of obedience, signified by sacrifice, the “book of the covenant,” and by the “blood of the covenant.”

The New Interpreter’s Bible, Volume I (Nashville, TN:  Abingdon Press, 1994), page 881

We know how obedient many of that group of Israelites turned out to be, do we not?

The interpretive angle that blood makes life possible fits well into atonement theology, especially when one considers Jesus, both priest and sacrifice.  I recall to mind the image which the Gospel of John provides:  Jesus dying as sacrificial animals die at the Temple.  Jesus is the Passover Lamb; his death is the Passover meal.  The original Passover (in Exodus) protected Israelites from the sins of Egyptians, so any properly reasoned theology of atonement which uses Passover imagery must move beyond a tunnel-vision focus on one’s own sins.

The theology of scapegoating disturbs me.  Jesus became a political scapegoat, dying as one.  I agree with others who reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement; Jesus did not take my place on the cross.  Rather, the Classic Theory–the conquest of evil, completed via the Resurrection–is closer to my theology.  Actually, I propose that the entire life of Christ was essential for the Atonement.  And I interpret the death of Jesus as having several meanings, including the point that scapegoating does not work.

My holistic understanding of the Atonement takes into account the vital role of bloodshed in the New Testament reflections on the crucifixion.  If the blood of sacrificial bulls made new spiritual life possible, even sealing the covenant, how much more does the blood of Christ affect those of us who follow him?  We have a New Covenant through him, do we not?  The imagery of blood fits well here.

More important, though, is the Resurrection, through which we have a living Jesus, not a dead one.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT:  THE THIRD SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THOMAS BENSON POLLOCK, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/15/devotion-for-the-eighteenth-day-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Exodus and Luke, Part IV: Grace and Responsibility   1 comment

sea-of-galilee-circa-1913

Above:  Fishing on the Sea of Galilee, Circa 1913

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2004672915/)

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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 24:1-18

Psalm 99 (Morning)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening)

Luke 5:1-16

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 24:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

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

Luke 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/sixth-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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

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In Exodus 24 the Israelites vowed to obey God’s laws.  We–you, O reader, and I–know what happened next, do we not?  Their actions belied these words–not just at Mount Sinai/Horeb, but afterward.  And this pattern marked the narrative of the Israelite people throughout the Hebrew Scriptures.

It is really our story, is it not?  It is not just my individual story or yours, O reader; it is the human story.  It is the story of societies, cultures, and subcultures.  Even when we try to get it right, we run the risk of getting it wrong.  So we practice or condone a variety of sins, ranging from economic exploitation to racial discrimination to homophobia to xenophobia.  We quote the Bible to justify sexism or race-based chattel slavery or Jim Crow or Apartheid.  We mistreat resident aliens even though, a long time ago, our father was a wandering Aramean, poetically speaking.  We are really messed up.

In Luke 5:1-11 Jesus called Simon Peter (whose mother-in-law he had healed in 4:38-39) and his (our Lord’s) first cousins, James and John, sons of Zebedee.  Simon Peter tried to exclude himself from our Lord’s presence, but Jesus did not permit that.  The recognition of his own sinfulness was honest, but grace refused to let go.  And so he and the cousins followed Jesus.

Grace which refuses to let us go calls us to follow God.  Simon Peter, who often spoke when he should have been silent and even denied Jesus three times, met his fate–crucifixion upside-down.  Centuries before, the prophet Isaiah, aware of his sinfulness, experienced the same grace before volunteering to speak for God.  The prophet knew that his society had gone terribly awry.  And God sent him to confront it.  (Read Isaiah 6.)  What will such grace require of you, O reader?  And what will it require of me?

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-eleventh-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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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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Jesus, Consistent With the Law and the Prophets   1 comment

Above:  Mount Tabor, Traditional Site of the Transfiguration

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Exodus 24:12-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD said to Moses,

Come up to me on the mountain, and wait there; and I will give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.

So Moses set out with his assistant Joshua, and Moses went up into the mountain of God. To the elders he had said,

Wait here for us, until we come to you again; for Aaron and Hur are with you; whoever has a dispute may go to them.

Then Moses went up on the mountain, and the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of the LORD settled on Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for six days; on the seventh day he called to Moses out of the cloud. Now the appearance of the glory of the LORD was like a devouring fire on the top of the mountain in the sight of the people of Israel. Moses entered the cloud, and went up on the mountain. Moses was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

THEN THIS PSALM

Psalm 2 (New Revised Standard Version):

Why do the the nations conspire,

and the peoples plot in vain?

The kings of the earth set themselves,

and the rulers take counsel together,

against the LORD and his anointed, saying,

Let us burst their bonds asunder,

and cast their cords from us.

He who sits in the heavens laughs;

the LORD has them in derision.

Then he will speak to them in his wrath,

and terrify them in his fury, saying,

I have set my king on Zion, my holy hill.

I will tell of the decree of the LORD:

He said to me,

You are my son;

today I have begotten you.

Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,

and the ends of the earth your possession.

You shall break them with a rod of iron,

and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.

Now therefore, O kings, be wise;

be warned, O rulers of the earth.

Serve the LORD with fear,

with trembling kiss his feet,

or he will be angry, and you will perish in the way;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

Happy are all who take refuge in him.

OR THIS PSALM

Psalm 99 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD is king; let the peoples tremble!

He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!

The LORD is great in Zion;

he is exalted over all the peoples.

Let them praise your great and awesome name.

Holy is he!

Mighty King, lover of justice,

you have established equity;

you have executed justice

and righteousness in Jacob.

Extol the LORD our God;

worship at his footstool.

Holy is he!

Moses and Aaron were among his priests,

Samuel also was among those who called on his name.

They cried to the LORD, and he answered them.

He spoke to them in the pillar of cloud;

they kept his decrees,

and the statutes that he gave them.

O LORD our God, you answered them;

you were a forgiving God to them,

but an avenger of their wrongdoings.

Extol the LORD our God,

and worship at his holy mountain;

for the LORD our God is holy.

THEN THE EPISTLE READING

2 Peter 1:16-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

We did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we had been eyewitnesses of his majesty. For he received honor and glory from God the Father when that voice was conveyed to him by the Majestic Glory, saying,

This is my Son, my Beloved, with whom I am well pleased.

We ourselves heard this voice come from heaven, while we were with him on the holy mountain.

So we have the prophetic message more fully confirmed. You will do well to be attentive to this as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by human will, but men and women moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.

THEN THE GOSPEL READING

Matthew 17:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Six days after Peter had acknowledged Jesus as the Christ, the Son of the Living God, Jesus took with him Peter and James and his brother John and led them up a high mountain, by themselves. And he was transfigured before them, and his face shone like the sun, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly there appeared to them Moses and Elijah, talking with him. Then Peter said to Jesus,

Lord, it is good for us to be here; if you wish, I will make three dwellings here, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.

While he was still speaking, suddenly a bright cloud overshadowed them, and from the cloud a voice said,

This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!

When the disciples heard this, they fell to the ground and were overcome by fear. But Jesus came and touched them, saying,

Get up and do not be afraid.

And when they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus himself alone.

As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus ordered them,

Tell no one about the vision until after the Son of Man has been raised from the dead.

The Collect:

O God, who before the passion of your only­begotten Son revealed his glory upon the holy mountain: Grant to us that we, beholding by faith the light of his countenance, may be strengthened to bear our cross, and be changed into his likeness from glory to glory; 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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When I read about events such as the Ascension and the Transfiguration, I suspect that more happened than I read in texts.  I do not doubt the veracity of the accounts, but I suspect that words were inadequate to the full scope of events in question.  One just had to be there to get the full effect, and I am about 2,000 years too late for that.

The Transfiguration was a revelatory experience for the accompanying apostles.  They glimpsed the true nature of Jesus, which entails being consistent with the Law (Moses) and the Prophets (Elijah).  [A true story:  Recently Beth Long, my Rector, repeated a question a child in the parish asked.  How, this young person queried, did the apostles recognize Moses and Elijah?  Beth replied that she did not know.  Indeed, that is an intriguing question and a plot hole, but it does not distract me from the point of having Jesus, Moses, and Elijah together briefly.]  Yet Peter–”God bless him,” as we say in the U.S. South–wanted to remain in the moment and institutionalize it.  This reaction, although well-intentioned, was misguided, for Jesus and the apostles needed to move along.

They were headed for Jerusalem, where the Passion Narrative would unfold. The Gospel of Luke contains another account of the Transfiguration. Just a few verses after that passage, Jesus “turned his face toward Jerusalem,” and his impending death. (Luke 9:51) This is an important turning point in the Gospel of Luke, and one should read verses before it and after it in its context.  With that in mind, I propose that the Transfiguration was also a “booster shot” for Jesus, who was about the embark on a difficult, yet necessary, course.

When pondering the calendar of the Christian Church, one needs to remember that the earliest feast Christians observed was Easter.  Even Christmas (the observance of which developed later) exists in the shadow of Easter.  And the Transfiguration does, also.

The placement of the Transfiguration on this Sunday is appropriate because the next season in the Christian year is Lent, and the next Sunday will be the First Sunday in Lent.  At the end of that 40-days season is Holy Week.  So we Christians need to set our faces toward Jerusalem, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/07/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

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