Archive for the ‘Wisdom of Solomon’ Category

Praying for the Dead   1 comment

Above:  All Souls’ Day, by Jakub Schikaneder

Image in the Public Domain

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The Feast of All Saints originated at the great monastery of Cluny in 998.  The commemoration spread and became an occasion to pray for those in Purgatory.  During the Reformation Era Protestants and Anglicans dropped the feast on theological grounds.  In the late twentieth century, however, the feast–usually renamed the Commemoration of All Faithful Departed–began appearing on Anglican calendars.  The difference between All Saints’ Day and All Faithful Departed, in this context, had become one of emphasis–distinguished saints on November 1 and forgotten saints on November 2.

The idea of Purgatory (a Medieval Roman Catholic doctrine with ancient roots) is that of, as I heard a Catholic catechist, “God’s mud room.”  The doctrine holds that all those in Purgatory will go to Heaven, just not yet, for they require purification.  I am sufficiently Protestant to reject the doctrine of Purgatory, for I believe that the death and resurrection of Jesus constitutes “God’s mud room.”  Purgatory is also alien to Eastern Orthodoxy, which also encourages prayers for the dead.

I pray for the dead, too.  After all, who knows what takes place between God and the departed?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Merciful Father, hear our prayers and console us.

As we renew our faith in your Son, whom you raised from the dead,

strengthen our hope that all our departed brothers and sisters will share in his resurrection,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 27:1, 4, 7-9, 13-14 or Psalm 103:8, 10, 13-18

Romans 6:3-9 or 1 Corinthians 15:20-28

Matthew 25:31-46 or John 11:17-27

The Vatican II Sunday Missal (1974), 1041-1048

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O God, the Maker and Redeemer of all believers:

Grant to the faithful departed the unsearchable benefits of the passion of your Son;

that on the day of his appearing they may be manifested as your children;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 130 or Psalm 116:6-9

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 or 1 Corinthians 15:50-58

John 5:24-27

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 665

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/09/14/devotion-for-the-feast-of-all-souls-commemoration-of-all-faithful-departed-november-2/

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The Communion of Saints, Part II   1 comment

Above:  All Saints

Image in the Public Domain

THE FEAST OF ALL SAINTS (NOVEMBER 1)

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The Episcopal Church has seven Principal Feasts:  Easter Day, Ascension Day, the Day of Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, All Saints’ Day, Christmas Day, and the Epiphany.

The Feast of All Saints, with the date of November 1, seems to have originated in Ireland in the 700s, then spread to England, then to Europe proper.  November 1 became the date of the feast throughout Western Europe in 835.  There had been a competing date (May 13) in Rome starting in 609 or 610.  Anglican tradition retained the date of November 1, starting with The Book of Common Prayer (1549).  Many North American Lutherans first observed All Saints’ Day with the Common Service Book (1917).  The feast was already present in The Lutheran Hymnary (Norwegian-American, 1913).  The Lutheran Hymnal (Missouri Synod, et al, 1941) also included the feast.  O the less formal front, prayers for All Saints’ Day were present in the U.S. Presbyterian Book of Common Worship (Revised) (1932), the U.S. Methodist Book of Worship for Church and Home (1945), and their successors.

The Feast of All Saints reminds us that we, as Christians, belong to a large family stretching back to the time of Christ.  If one follows the Lutheran custom of commemorating certain key figures from the Hebrew Bible, the family faith lineage predates the conception of Jesus of Nazareth.

At Christ Episcopal Church, Valdosta, Georgia, where I was a member from 1993 to 1996, I participated in a lectionary discussion group during the Sunday School hour.  Icons decorated the walls of the room in which we met.  The teacher of the class called the saints depicted “the family.”

“The family” surrounds us.  It is so numerous that it is “a great cloud of witnesses,” to quote Hebrews 12:1.  May we who follow Jesus do so consistently, by grace, and eventually join that great cloud.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PETER OF CHELCIC, BOHEMIAN HUSSITE REFORMER; AND GREGORY THE PATRIARCH, FOUNDER OF THE MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF GODFREY THRING, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JANE CREWDSON, ENGLISH QUAKER POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF NARAYAN SESHADRI OF JALNI, INDIAN PRESBYTERIAN EVANGELIST AND “APOSTLE TO THE MANGS”

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Almighty God, you have knit together your elect in the mystical body of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord:

Give us grace to follow your blessed saints in all virtuous and godly living,

that we may come to those ineffable joys that you have prepared for those who truly love you;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit

lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Year A:

Revelation 7:9-17

1 John 3:1-3

Psalm 34:1-10, 22

Matthew 5:1-12

Year B:

Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-9 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 24

Revelation 21:1-6a

John 11:32-44

Year B:

Daniel 7:1-3, 15-18

Psalm 149

Ephesians 1:11-23

Luke 6:20-31

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2006), 663; also Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 59

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Revelation 7:(2-8), 9-17

1 John 3:1-3

Matthew 5:1-12

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/09/13/devotion-for-the-feast-of-all-saints-november-1/

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The Endurance of the Saints   1 comment

John T. Neufeld

Above: John T. Neufeld, a U.S. Mennonite Conscientious Objector During World War I

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever . Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 13:1-9

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Revelation 14:6-13

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Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Having been disciplined a little,

they will receive a great good,

because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;

like gold in the furnace he tried them,

and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.

–Wisdom of Solomon 3:5-6. The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1991)

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That quote from the Wisdom of Solomon refers to the fate of the “souls of the righteous,” but the sentiment is consistent with the assigned readings.  In them we have accounts of suffering, usually in apocalyptic circumstances, such as we find in Zechariah 13 and Revelation 14.  Those who endure the suffering will be as gold or refined silver.

That is one understanding of suffering.  Truly it is a perspective on the subject consistent with apocalyptic literature and the experiences of people who have suffered for their faith and emerged stronger in that faith.  It has also been my experience, even though I suffered not for the sake of righteousness but because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Stronger faith as a result of suffering is a grace I have received.

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the faith of Jesus.

–Revelation 14:12, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Today many of the saints suffer for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  May they endure their tribulations and reign with Christ.  May those who cause them to suffer change their ways and follow Christ also.  And may we who are fortunate not to face such difficulties support those who do.  May we also refrain from making excuses for spiritual laxity and from overestimating our troubles when many of our coreligionists must endure much just to live faithfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/08/devotion-for-thursday-before-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Religious Persecution I: Causes and Consequences of Persecution   1 comment

paolo_uccello_-_stoning_of_st_stephen_-_wga23196

Above:  The Stoning of Saint Stephen, by Paolo Uccello

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you gave your only Son to take on our human nature

and to illumine the world with your light.

By your grace adopt us as your children and enlighten us with your Spirit,

through Jesus Christ, our Redeemer and Lord, who lives and reigns

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Wisdom of Solomon 4:7-15

Psalm 148

Acts 7:59-8:8

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Some Related Posts:

Acts 7-8:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/seventeenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-ninth-day-of-easter-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/17/devotion-for-june-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Kings of the earth and all peoples,

princes and all rulers of the world;

Young men and women, old and young together;

let them praise the name of the Lord.

–Psalm 148:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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Why do the righteous experience persecution?  That question gets to the point of human priorities of the negative sort.  Sometimes we humans know that doing x is wrong and do it anyway, so those who point this fact out to us prove terribly inconvenient and annoying.  And, on other occasions, we mistake evil for good, so we think that we are working righteousness when the opposite is true.  Self-delusions and corrupt cultural influences can explain much of that.  And there is the deeper question of violence, especially that committed for allegedly righteous purposes.  The stoning of St. Stephen, whose feast this is, was consistent with the penalty for leading people astray, according to the Law of Moses.  But he was not leading people astray.

The Wisdom of Solomon lection wrestles with the reality of righteous people dying prematurely.  God delivered them from wickedness, the text says.  The fact of such persecution does not mean that God does not watch over the holy ones, it tells us.  In other words, God is still all-powerful and will win in the end.  And, in Acts 7:59-8:8, God worked mightily through the church despite human attempts to disrupt the nascent movement.  God won.

It is difficult to hear that what one has assumed to be true, good, and righteous–from the Temple System to slavery to racial segregation to a host of other offenses–is actually neither.  Such an epiphany, should it dawn upon one, would disorientate one spiritually.  Courageous people correct their courses.  Merely tolerant ones reject the message yet refrain from committing or supporting reprisals against critics.  And small-minded, frightened people resort to violence to confirm their delusional notions of righteousness or approve of such violence on the part of others.

But God will win.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTOLOME DE LAS CASAS, WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

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http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/18/devotion-for-december-26-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Longing for the End of Days is Counterproductive   1 comment

Above:  Judgment Day May 21 Vehicle

Image Source = Bart Everson

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Judgment_Bus_New_Orleans_2011.jpg)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Wisdom of Solomon 13:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

What born fools were all who lived in ignorance of God!  From the good things before their eyes they could not learn to know him who is , and failed to recognize the artificer though they observed his handiwork!  Fire, wind, swift air, the circle of the starry signs, rushing water, or the great lights in heaven that rule the world–these they accounted gods.  It was through delight in the beauty of these things that people supposed them gods, they ought to have understood how much better is the Lord and Master of them all; for it was by the prime author of all beauty they were created.  It was through astonishment at their power and influence, people should have learnt from these how much more powerful is he who made them.  For the greatness and beauty of created things give us a corresponding idea of their Creator.  Yet these people are not greatly to be blamed, for when they go astray they may be seeking God and really wishing to find him.  Passing their lives among his works and making a close study of them, they are persuaded by appearances because of the beauty of what they see.  Yet even so they do not deserve to be excused, for with enough understanding to speculate about the universe, why did they not sooner discover its Lord and Master?

Psalm 19:1-4 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

Luke 17:26-37 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said to his disciples,]

As it was in the days of Noah, will it be in the days of the Son of Man.  They ate and drank and married, until the day that Noah went into the ark and the flood came and made an end of them all.  So too in the days of Lot, they ate and drank, they bought and sold, they planted and built; but on the day that Lot left Sodom, fire and sulphur rained from the sky and made an end of them all.  it will be like that on  the day when the Son of Man is revealed.

On that day if anyone is on the roof while his belongings are in the house, he must not go down to fetch them; and if anyone is in the field, he must not turn back.  Remember Lot’s wife.  Whoever seeks to preserve his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life will gain it.

I tell you, on that night there will be two people in one bed:  one will be taken, the other left.  There will be two women grinding corn:  one will be taken, the other left.

When they heard this they asked,

Where, Lord?

He said,

Where the carcass is, there will the vultures gather.

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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A Related Post:

Matthew 24 (Similar to Luke 17):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/14/first-day-of-advent-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a/

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Consider this:

Ah, you who wish

For the day of the LORD!

Why should you want

The day of the LORD?

It shall be darkness, not light!–

As if a man should run from a lion

And be attacked by a bear;

Or if he got indoors,

Should lean his hand on the wall

And be bitten by a snake!

Surely the day of the LORD shall be

Not light, but darkness,

Blackest night without a glimmer.

–Amos 5:18-20, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Here I am, following a lectionary and writing nearly six months ahead of schedule.  And, on May 20, 2011, one day before the alleged Judgment Day Harold Camping has announced, news of which I cannot evade, I get this reading from Luke 17.  The dark and apocalytic reading is appropriate for late Ordinary Time, near the First Sunday in Advent, during which many Lutherans, depending on their denominational affiliation, identify as either a sub-season (Propers 26-29, the four Sundays before Advent), as the Missouri Synod does, or the End Time Season (Reformation Sunday-Last Judgment-Saints Triumphant-Christ the King), as the Wisconsin Synod does.  Indeed, this Canadian Anglican lectionary in Year 1 will end with the apocalyptic Luke 21 and readings from Daniel.

The reading from the Wisdom of Solomon speaks of idolatry.  I am convinced that longing for the apocalyptic end constitutes a form of idolatry, for an idol is anything that distracts us from God.  An icon, on the other hand, is something through which we see God.  We are here on planet Earth to be good stewards of it, to love God fully, and love ourselves and each other as we love God–in other words, to live the Golden Rule, and to glorify and enjoy God.  We ought not give up on the world.  Yet those who have given up on the world, who have abandoned hope, are often likely to long for the dreaded day of judgment.

God is in charge of such matters, and I have neighbors to love.  That will occupy my time quite sufficiently, with no space left over for longing for the apocalypse.  No, I need to look around more often and see Christ in those around me and feel God in the breeze.  Count me among the optimists.  God is in charge; I need not concern myself with many details.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, DEACON AND ABBOT

THE EAST OF SAINT HELENA, MOTHER OF EMPEROR CONSTANTINE I

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/week-of-proper-27-friday-year-1/

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“Wisdom Is More Beautiful Than the Sun, And Surpasses Every Constellation.”–Wisdom of Solomon 7:29   1 comment

Above:  Mystic Mountain, Carina Nebula

Image Source = NASA

(http://hubblesite.org/gallery/album/entire/pr2010013a/web_print/)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Wisdom of Solomon 7:21-8:1 (Revised English Bible):

I learnt it all, hidden or manifest, for I was taught by wisdom, by her whose skill made all things.

In wisdom here is a spirit intelligent and holy, unique in its kind yet made up many parts, subtle, free-moving, lucid, spotless, clear, neither harmed nor harming, loving what is good, eager, unhampered, beneficent, kindly towards mortals, steadfast, unerring, untouched by care, all-powerful, all-surveying, and permeating every intelligent, pure, and most subtle spirit.  For wisdom moves more easily than motion itself; she is so pure she pervades all things.  Like a fine mist she rises from the glory of the Almighty; so nothing defiled can enter into her by stealth.  She is the radiance that streams from everlasting light, the flawless mirror of the active power of God, and the image of his goodness.  She is but one, yet can do all things; herself unchanging, she makes all things new; age after age she enters into holy souls, and makes them friends of God and prophets, for nothing is acceptable to God but the person who makes his home with wisdom.  She is more beautiful than the sun, and surpasses every constellation.  Compared with the light of day, she is found to excel, for day gives place to night, but against wisdom no evil can prevail.  She spans the world in power from end to end, and gently orders all things.

Psalm 119:89-96 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

89  O LORD, your word is everlasting;

it stands firm in the heavens.

90  Your faithfulness remains from one generation to another;

you established the earth, and it abides.

91  By your decree these continue to this day;

for all things are your servants.

92  If my delight had not been in your law,

I should have perished in my affliction.

93  I will never forget your commandments,

because by them you give me life.

94  I am yours; oh, that you would save me!

for I study your commandments.

95  Though the wicked lie in wait for me to destroy me,

I will apply my mind to your decrees.

96  I see that all things come to an end,

but your commandment has no bounds.

Luke 17:20-25 (Revised English Bible):

The Pharisees asked Jesus,

When will the kingdom of God come?

He answered,

You cannot tell by observation when the kingdom of God comes.  You cannot say, “Look, here it is,” or “There it is!”  For the kingdom of God is among you!

He said to the disciples,

The time will come when you will long to see one of the days of the Son of Man and will not see it.  They will say to you, “Look! There!” and “Look! Here!”  Do not go running off in pursuit.  For like a lightning-flash, that lights up the earth from end to end, will the Son of Man be in his day.  But first he must endure suffering and be rejected by this generation.

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The personification of divine wisdom as feminine was one of the features of post-Exilic Judaism.  One can find prime examples of this in Proverbs, Sirach/Ecclesiasticus, and the Wisdom of Solomon.  My studies in the history of theology reveal a link between Sophia, or wisdom personified, and the Logos, as in John 1:1-5, which, in the Revised Standard Version, reads:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was in the beginning with God; all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There is a point at which one needs approach the mysteries of the divine with more poetry than prose, more wonder than understanding.  This is the realm of metaphors.  I will be concise in this post:  embrace the metaphors.  Learn from them.  And, finally, look through them to the divine reality behind them.  God is there.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, DEACON AND ABBOT

THE EAST OF SAINT HELENA, MOTHER OF EMPEROR CONSTANTINE I

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/20/week-of-proper-27-thursday-year-1/

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Gratitude and Ingratitude   1 comment

Image Source = Infrogmation of New Orleans

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:GuadalupeNOLA15Oct07Thanks.jpg)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Wisdom of Solomon 6:1-11 (Revised English Bible):

Hear then, you kings, take this to heart; lords of the wide world, learn this lesson; give ear, you rulers of the multitude, who take pride in myriads of your people.  Your authority was bestowed on you by the Lord, your power comes from the Most High.  He will probe your actions and scrutinize your intentions.  Though you are servants appointed by the King, you have not been upright judges; you have not maintained the law or guided your steps by the will of God.  Swiftly and terribly he will descend on you, for judgement falls relentlessly on those in high places.  The lowest may find pity and forgiveness, but those in power will be called powerfully to account; for he who is Master of all is obsequious to none, and shows no deference to greatness.  Small and great alike are of his making, and all are under his providence equally; but it is for those who wield authority that he reserves the sternest inquisition.  To you, then, who have absolute power I speak, in hope that you may learn wisdom and not go astray; those who in holiness have kept a holy course will be accounted holy, and those who have learnt that lesson will be able to make their defence.  Therefore be eager to hear me; long for my teaching, and you will learn.

Psalm 2 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Why are the nations in an uproar?

Why do the peoples mutter empty threats?

2  Why do the kings of the earth rise up in revolt,

and the princes plot together,

against the LORD and against his Anointed?

3  ”Let us break their yoke,” they say;

“let us cast off their bonds from us.”

4  He whose throne is in heaven is laughing;

the LORD has them in derision.

5  Then he speaks to them in his wrath,

and his rage fills them with terror.

6  ”I myself have set my king

upon my holy hill of Zion.”

7  Let me announce the decree of the LORD:

he said to me, “You are my Son;

this day I have begotten you.

8  Ask of me, and I will give you the nations for your inheritance

and the ends of the earth for your possession.

9  You shall crush them with an iron rod

and shatter them like a piece of pottery.

10  And now, you kings, be wise;

be warned, you rulers of the earth.

11  Submit to the LORD with fear,

and with trembling bow before him;

12  Lest he be angry and you perish;

for his wrath is quickly kindled.

13  Happy are they all

who take refuge in him!

Luke 17:11-19 (Revised English Bible):

In the course of Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem he was travelling through the borderlands of Samaria and Galilee.  As he was entering a village he was met by ten men with leprosy.  They stood some way off, and called out to him,

Jesus, Master, take pity on us.

When he saw them he said,

Go and show yourselves to the priests;

and while they were on the way, they were made clean.  One of them, finding himself cured, turned back with shouts of praise to God.  He threw himself down at Jesus’ feet and thanked him.  And he was a Samaritan.  At this Jesus said:

Were not all then made clean?  The other nine, where are they?  Was  no one found returning to give praise to God except this foreigner?

And he said to the man,

Stand up and go on your way; your faith has cured you.

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Leprosy, in the Bible, is a very broad term referring to a variety of skin diseases and to Hanson’s Disease.  I mention this for the sake of accuracy, with one caveat:  that is not germane to my main point.  Biblical leprosy, whatever we might call it today in medical terms, made one an outcast.  So, aside from the medical condition, there were serious emotional, spiritual, and psychological to consider.  It is difficult to be an outcast, given that we humans are inherently social beings.  To be cut off from one’s relatives, friends, and acquaintances because of a condition over which one has no control is a reality many people have had to face over time.

So Jesus, when he cured the ten lepers, did far more than heal them physically; he restored them to society.  This was a tremendous gift, so why did only one–and a Samaritan at that–return to render verbal thanks?  I propose that the other nine were so overjoyed that they were in a hurry to return to their homes, relatives, and friends.

The text does not state explicitly that the other nine lepers were Jews, but it does make a point of the one who said “thank you” being a Samaritan.  There had long been bad blood between Samaritans and Jews.  Samaritans were of mixed Hebrew-Assyrian ancestry, dating back centuries, when the Assyrian Empire conquered the northern kingdom, Israel.  The Samaritans used (and still use) a truncated Bible, the Torah, in fact.  And they prayed (and still do) on Mount Gerizim, not the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.  Samaritans had opposed actively the construction of the Second Temple after the Persian Empire permitted exiled Jews to return to their ancestral homeland.

The original audience for the Gospel of Luke consisted of Gentiles, so it is no accident that an account favorable to a Samaritan is so prominent in that book.   The message is plain:  Whether one is a Jew, a Samaritan, or a member of a different group is irrelevant; what matters is how we respond to Jesus.  And we can start by saying “thank you.”  Then actions must follow.  They will vary according to who, when, and where we are, as well as the talents and skills we bring to our circumstances, which are not entirely under our control.  But God will have assignments for us; may we obey them.

Speaking of assignments…

There used to be a prominent political theory according to which kings ruled as demigods.  ”I am related to the god or goddess (insert name here),” they said; “obey me.”  Think of the Pharaohs of Egypt, many of the Roman Emperors, the Merovingian Dynasty in France, for example.  The Merovingians had an especially audacious claim; they said they were descended from Jesus.  Then there was the Divine Right of Kings, by which monarchs asserted that God had given them power, with the same consequence:  ”Obey me, or sin.  Do not try to overthrow the system.”  As an American, I am a happy heir to the Enlightenment understanding of political authority which John Locke explained after the Glorious Revolution of 1688:  The right to govern flows from the consent of the governed.

The author of the Wisdom of Solomon lived and died a very long time before the Enlightenment, so I do not expect to find a democratic treatise in his work.  Yet his basic point is timeless:  With great power comes great responsibility.  Wielding authority carries the duty to govern wisely, for the common good, and to work for social justice.  The kings of which the author of the Wisdom of Solomon writes have failed on all these counts.  The grateful action God requires of them is to govern well, and they have not done so.  God will therefore call them to account.

The author of the Wisdom of Solomon reminds us:

Small and great alike are of his [God’s] making, and all are under his providence equally.

Again and again in the Bible God becomes quite angry about mistreatment of the poor, the marginal, and other vulnerable people.  One way of responding to God out of gratitude is obeying the divine command to treat others as one would them to treat one’s self.  Or, as Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments.”

I maintain my devotional blogs for several reasons.  Among them is this:  to contribute something, no matter how relatively small, positive and uplifting to the Internet.  God has blessed me in many ways, including my education, my intellect, and my spiritual inclinations.  They merge inside my brain and demand an outlet.  Yes, I tell God “thank you” often in private.  And, again and again, I return to my self-imposed devotional writing schedule.  I grow from the exercise and hope and pray that you, O reader, derive positive benefit, too.

Here is your takeaway:  What will gratitude require of you?  May you perceive God’s answer to that question and follow the instructions.

Pax vobiscum.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-wednesday-year-1/

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“The Souls of the Righteous Are In the Hand of God, And No Torment Shall Ever Touch Them.”   1 comment

Above:  Grave Niches in the Roman Catacombs

Image Source = Gerald M

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

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Wisdom of Solomon 2:23-3:9 (Revised English Bible):

But God created man imperishable, and made him in the image of his own eternal self; it was the devil’s spite that brought death into the world, and the experience of it is reserved for those who take his side.

But the souls of the just are in God’s hands; no torment will touch them.  In the eyes of the foolish they seemed to be dead; their departure was reckoned as defeat, and their going from us as disaster.  But they are at peace, for though in the sight of men they may suffer punishment, they have a sure hope of immortality; and after a little chastisement they will receive great blessings, because God has tested them and found them worthy to be his.  He put them to the proof like gold in a crucible, and found them acceptable like an offering burnt whole on the altar.  In the hour of their judgement they will shine in glory, and will sweep over the world like sparks through stubble.  They will be like judges and rulers over nations and peoples, and the Lord will be their King for ever.  Those who have put their trust in him will understand that he is true, and the faithful will attend upon him in love; they are his chosen, and grace and mercy will be theirs.

Psalm 34:15-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

15 The eyes of the LORD are upon the righteous,

and his ears are open to their cry.

16 The face of the LORD is against those who do evil,

to root out the remembrance of them from the earth.

17 The righteous cry, and the LORD hears them

and delivers them from all their troubles.

18 The LORD is near to the brokenhearted

will save those whose spirits are crushed.

19 Many are the troubles of the righteous,

but the LORD will deliver him out of them all.

20 He will keep all his bones;

not one of them shall be broken.

21 Evil shall slay the wicked,

and those who hate the righteous will be punished.

22 The LORD ransoms the life of his servants,

and none will be punished who trust in him.

Luke 17:7-10 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said to his disciples,]

Suppose one of you has a servant ploughing or minding sheep.  When he comes in from the fields, will the master say, “Come and sit down straightway”?  Will he not rather say, “Prepare my supper; hitch up your robe, and wait on me while I have my meal.  You can have yours afterwards”?  Is he grateful to the servant for carrying out his orders?  So with you:  when you have carried out all you have been ordered to do, you should say, “We are servants and deserve no credit; we have only done our duty.”

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Many antebellum Southern defenders of slavery used the reading from Luke 17 to justify race-based slavery.  They missed the point, of course.  They did this because they engaged in prooftexting, one of the more frequent errors in Biblical interpretation.

The point, rather, is that those who follow God are servants of God.  But, as Paul wrote, we are also heirs and members of the family of God (http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/week-of-proper-25-monday-year-1/).  And our forebears in Christianity have joined the Church Triumphant.  They are the family, as I like to think of them.

So they are not really dead.  It is no accident that Wisdom of Solomon 3:1-5, 9 is among the approved readings for a funeral, according to the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer of 1979.  (See page 494.)

The souls of the righteous are in the hand of God,

the lector reads,

and no torment shall ever touch them.

They have not perished; they have gone to their new home, with God.  They have received their inheritance.

May we rejoice for them while we continue faithfully the work God has assigned to us and look forward to our inheritance, at its proper time, whenever that is.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-tuesday-year-1/

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There is Good News and There is Bad News–And It Is the Same News   1 comment

Above:  Rays of Light

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Wisdom of Solomon 1:1-7 (Revised English Bible):

Love justice, you rulers of the earth; set your mind upon the Lord in the right way, and seek him in singleness of heart; for he is to be found by those who trust him without question, and he makes himself known to those who never doubt him.  Dishonest thinking cuts people off from God, and if fools take liberties with his power he shows them up for what they are.  Wisdom will not enter a shifty soul, nor take her home in a body that is mortgaged to sin.  This holy spirit of discipline will shun falsehood; she cannot stay in the presence of unreason, and will withdraw at the approach of injustice.

The spirit of wisdom is kindly towards mortals, but she will not hold a blasphemer blameless for his words, because God, who sees clearly into his heart and hears every word he speaks, is a witness of his inmost being.  For the spirit of the Lord fills the whole earth, and that which holds all things together knows well everything that is said.

Psalm 139:1-9 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

You trace my journeys and my resting-places

and are acquainted with all my ways.

Indeed, there is not a word on my lips,

but you, O LORD, know it altogether.

You press upon me behind and before

and lay your hand upon me.

5 Such knowledge is too wonderful for me;

it is so high that I cannot attain to it.

6 Where can I go then from your Spirit?

where can I flee from your presence?

If I climb up to heaven, you are there;

if I make the grave my bed, you are there also.

If I take the wings of the morning

and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,

9 Even there your hand will lead me

and your right hand hold me fast.

Luke 17:1-6 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus said to his disciples,

There are bound to be causes of stumbling; but woe betide the person through whom they come.  It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round his neck than to cause the downfall of one of these little ones.  So be on your guard.

If your brother does wrong, reprove him; and if he repents, forgive him.  Even if he wrongs you seven times in a day and comes back to you seven times saying, “I am sorry,” you are to forgive him.”

The apostles said to the Lord,

Increase our faith;

and the Lord replied,

If you had faith no bigger than a mustard seed, you could say to this mulberry tree, “Be rooted up and planted in the sea;’ and it would obey you.

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The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Mark 9 (Similar to Luke 17):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/03/week-of-7-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 18 (Similar to Luke 17):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/week-of-proper-14-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/week-of-proper-14-wednesday-year-1/

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

Matthew 17 (Similar to Luke 17):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/week-of-proper-13-saturday-year-1/

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There is good news and there is bad news.  It is all the same news:  God is watching us.

Consider this prayer:

Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you no secrets are hid:  Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

It is indeed daunting to stand in the presence of God, perfect in holiness, who knows us better than we know ourselves.  This is the God in whom judgment and mercy coexist.  This is the God who has overthrown empires and raised up nations.  This is also the God who has offered acted to offer us justification, and therefore the end of condemnation.

God is watching us.  God knows that we will stumble and fall and fail, even when we try not to do so.  It is important, however, to try not to stumble and fall and fail, for this indicates good will on our part.  It is a positive response, albeit a meager one compared to what God has done, to God.  And God accepts it graciously.

God forgives us and lifts us up.  May we therefore, by grace, forgive ourselves and each other, and encourage one another in following our Lord Jesus Christ.  It is very little compared to what God has done and is doing, but it is something–and God accepts it graciously.  Thanks be to God!

Yet let us not forget the other side of equation.  What if we do not try?  Judgment awaits us.  As Paul wrote in Romans, there is no condemnation for the justified.  Yet there is condemnation for those who are not justified.  Nevertheless, this matter falls within God’s domain, not ours.  Jesus prayed for forgiveness for those who crucified him and those who watched the execution approvingly.  They did not know what they were doing, he said.

Where does mercy end and judgment begin?  I do not know; God does.  I pray, anyway, that neither you nor I will wind up on the wrong side of that line.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/week-of-proper-27-monday-year-1/

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Posted May 10, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Luke 17, Psalm 139, Wisdom of Solomon

Tagged with

“But Let Justice Roll Down Like A River, and Righteousness Like An Ever-Flowing Stream.”–Amos 5:24   1 comment

Above:  Niagara Falls

Image Source = sbittante

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

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Joshua 24:1-3a, 14-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

Joshua gathered all the tribes of Israel to Shechem, and summoned the elders, the heads, the judges, and the officers of Israel; and they presented themselves before God. And Joshua said to all the people,

Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: Long ago your ancestors– Terah and his sons Abraham and Nahor– lived beyond the Euphrates and served other gods. Then I took your father Abraham from beyond the River and led him through all the land of Canaan and made his offspring many.

Now therefore revere the LORD, and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness; put away the gods that your ancestors served beyond the River, and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. Now if you are unwilling to serve the LORD, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you are living; but as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.

Then the people answered,

Far be it from us that we should forsake the LORD to serve other gods; for it is the LORD our God who brought us and our ancestors up from the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery, and who did those great signs in our sight. He protected us along all the way that we went, and among all the peoples through whom we passed; and the LORD drove out before us all the peoples, the Amorites who lived in the land. Therefore we also will serve the LORD, for he is our God.

But Joshua said to the people,

You cannot serve the LORD; for he is a holy God. He is a jealous God; he will not forgive your transgressions or your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, then he will turn and do you harm, and consume you, after having done you good.

And the people said to Joshua,

No, we will serve the LORD!

Then Joshua said to the people,

You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen the LORD, to serve him.

And they said,

We are witnesses.

He said,

Then put away the foreign gods that are among you, and incline your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.

The people said to Joshua,

The LORD our God we will serve, and him we will obey.

So Joshua made a covenant with the people that day, and made statutes and ordinances for them at Shechem.

THEN

Psalm 78:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

4 We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

5 He gave his decrees to Jacob

and established a law for Israel,

which he commanded them to teach their children;

6 That the generations to come might know,

and the children yet unborn;

so that they in their turn might tell it to their children;

7 So that they might put their trust in God,

and not forget the deeds of God,

but keep his commandments.

OR

Wisdom of Solomon 6:12-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Wisdom is radiant and unfading,

and she is easily discerned by those who love her,

and is found by those who seek her.

She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her.

One who rises early to seek her will have no difficulty,

for she will be found sitting at the gate.

To fix one’s thought on her is perfect understanding,

and one who is vigilant on her account will soon be free from care,

because she goes about seeking those worthy of her,

and she graciously appears to them in their paths,

and meets them in every thought.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Amos 5:18-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

Alas for you who desire the day of the LORD!

Why do you want the day of the LORD?

It is darkness, not light:

as if someone fled from a lion,

and was met by a bear;

or went into a house and rested a hand against the wall

and was bitten by a snake.

Is not the day of the LORD darkness, not light,

and gloom with no brightness in it?

I hate, I despise your festivals,

and I take no delight in your solemn assemblies.

Even though you offer me your burnt offerings and grain offerings,

I will not accept them;

and the offerings of well-being of your fatted animals

I will not look upon.

Take away from me the noise of your songs;

I will not listen to the melody of your harps.

But let justice roll down like waters,

and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.

THEN

Psalm 70 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Be pleased, O God, to deliver me;

O LORD, make haste to help me.

2  Let those who seek my life be ashamed

and altogether dismayed;

let those who take pleasure in my misfortune

draw back and be disgraced.

3  Let those who say to me “Aha!” and gloat over me turn back,

because they are ashamed.

4  Let all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you;

let those who love your salvation say to for ever,

“Great is the LORD!”

5  But as for me, I am poor and needy;

come to me speedily, O God.

6  You are my helper and my deliverer;

O LORD, do not tarry.

OR

Wisdom of Solomon 6:17-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

The beginning of wisdom is the most sincere desire for instruction,

and concern for instruction is love of her,

and love of her is the keeping of her laws,

and giving heed to her laws is assurance of of immortality,

and immortality brings one near to God;

so the desire for wisdom leads to a kingdom.

SECOND READING

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 25:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

Then the kingdom of heaven will be like this. Ten bridesmaids took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. When the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them; but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, all of them became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a shout, “Look! Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.” Then all those bridesmaids got up and trimmed their lamps. The foolish said to the wise, “Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.” But the wise replied, “No! there will not be enough for you and for us; you had better go to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.” And while they went to buy it, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went with him into the wedding banquet; and the door was shut. Later the other bridesmaids came also, saying, “Lord, lord, open to us.” But he replied, “Truly I tell you, I do not know you.” Keep awake therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.

The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Joshua 24:

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/

Matthew 25:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/week-of-proper-16-friday-year-1/

1 Thessalonians 4:

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

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PART ONE

Sophia, Lady Wisdom

Image Source = Radomil

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Efez_Celsus_Library_3_RB.jpg)

The Bible uses a variety of metaphors for God.  Most of these are masculine, but some are feminine.  God, in Deuteronomy, is the mother eagle who teaches the eaglets how to fly.  And Jesus likens himself to a mother hen when he laments over Jerusalem.  Then there is Sophia, the wisdom of God personified as a woman in Old Testament wisdom literature, from Proverbs to Sirach/Ecclesiasticus to the Wisdom of Solomon.

Deity, of course, exists beyond human concepts of sex and gender, terms I use in their sociological contexts.  Sex is the physical state, a matter of anatomy.  Gender is what that anatomy means for one.  Is there a glass ceiling?  Which professions does society consider fit and proper for one to pursue?  Does one receive equal pay for equal work?  Can one vote?  And does one carry a purse or a shoulder bag?

The authors of the Bible came from male-dominated societies, so it is not surprising that their vision of God was mainly masculine.  Had they been born into matriarchal societies, metaphors of God the Mother would seem like second nature to us.  My point is this:  Let us not become distracted by metaphors.  No, let us learn from them and focus on the divine reality behind them.

The love of wisdom, we read, leads to eternal life, or life in God.  The love of wisdom, we read, leads to the keeping of the law.  And what fulfills the law?  Love of one’s neighbors does.  See Romans 13:10 (http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/18/week-of-proper-26-wednesday-year-1/) for details.

PART TWO

The (Western) Christian year always ends with Proper 29, Christ the King Sunday, in late November.  The readings for the Sundays immediately prior to Christ the King Sunday tend to take an eschatological tone, for Advent is near, with the twelve days of Christmas on its heels.

The reading from Joshua contains foreboding.  The people swear to serve and obey God, but Joshua knows better.  The prophet Amos, a few centuries later, warns of God’s judgments on their descendants.  And what have the people done?  They have practiced idolatry, economic exploitation, judicial corruption, and condoned rampant social inequality beyond that which exists in a simple meritocracy.  They have not loved their neighbors as themselves.  We read in Romans 13:10 that love of one’s neighbors fulfills the law of God.

There is hope, even in Amos.  The divine judgment has not come down yet, so there is still time to repent–to turn around, to change one’s mind.  And Paul, in 1 Thessalonians, does not look upon the return of Jesus with dread.  No, he thinks of it as an occasion to encourage people.  Those who have followed Jesus have no reason to dread the Second Coming, in Paul’ mind, for God has justified them.  And so there is no condemnation for them.  But, as the reading from Matthew cautions us, those who become lax at the wrong time will regret their inaction.

Church history contains many incidents of people predicting the Second Coming of Jesus.  He has not kept any of those dates yet.  One might think that, after a while, more people would learn not to place their trust in dates.  We–you and I–have an assignment from God.  It is to love our neighbors as ourselves and to honor the image of God in ourselves and others, whether or not they are similar to us.  How this translates into actions will vary from person to person, according to one’s time, place, gifts, abilities, and circumstances.  But, however God calls you to live this vocation, may you do so.  Then you will be like a bridesmaid with plenty of oil.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 19, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANDREW BOBOLA, JESUIT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/proper-27-year-a/

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