Archive for the ‘2 Corinthians 2’ Tag

Christ, Victorious I   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator Icon

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Blessed Lord, who caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 14:1-9

Psalm 64 or 119:73-96

John 16:16-24

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:17

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The reading from Hosea is interesting.  Thematically it is similar to the assigned portions from the Book of Psalms, with the exception that exile would certainly occur but that return will follow it.  The rub, so to speak, is that Hosea 14 refers to exiles returning from captivity in the Neo-Assyrian Empire, not the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  The prophetic book refers to the Ten Lost Tribes.  Genetics and cultural anthropology have revealed the locations of those tribes, from South Africa to Afghanistan.  Although some members of this diaspora have emigrated to the State of Israel, most have not.  The fulfillment of this prophecy resides in the future.

Jesus is about to die in John 16.  Nevertheless, future joy is on his mind.  As one reads, that joy will be complete, by the power of God.  In God one will find deep joys that people are powerless to take away.

Joys–fleeting and timeless–seem off the table in the reading room from 2 Corinthians.  St. Paul the Apostle spends time attempting to soothe the hurt feelings of some overly sensitive Corinthians, who have mistaken his kindness for an insult.  Eventually he makes the point that faithful Christians are the aroma or fragrance of Christ–the scent produced by the burning of incense in worship.  People, depending upon how they respond to this aroma, will go onto either salvation or destruction.

St. Paul turns a metaphor on its head in 2:14.  The triumphal procession is a reference to a Roman military procession following a conquest.  Victorious soldiers and defeated prisoners, led either to death or slavery, were participants in such a procession.  But in which category does one find oneself–soldier or prisoner?  Is Christ the victorious general in the metaphor?  St. Paul argues that point of view.

Christ, whom the Roman Empire executed as a threat to national security, is like a victorious Roman general leading Christian forces in triumph and glory.  That is an intriguing metaphor from St. Paul.  I am uncertain what Jesus might have to say about it, had someone suggested it to him.  Christ was (especially in the Gospels of Mark and John) a powerful figure, but he declined to accept the definition of himself as a king, at least in conventional human terms.  As he said, his kingdom was not like any earthly kingdom; the two were, actually opposites, as he said.  Also, the image of Christ leading conquered people to death or slavery does not sit well with me.

I do, however, like the reminder that Christ proved victorious over human evil.  That is a worthy theme for the Second Sunday of Easter.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PHILIP THE EVANGELIST, DEACON

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/11/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-of-easter-year-d/

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Scolding Unto Repentance   1 comment

probably_valentin_de_boulogne_-_saint_paul_writing_his_epistles_-_google_art_project

Above:  Paul Writing His Epistles, by Valentin de Boulogne

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

 Loving God, by tender words and covenant promise

you have joined us to yourself forever,

and you invite us to respond to your love with faithfulness.

By your Spirit may we live with you and with one another

in justice, mercy, and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 14:1-9 (Protestant versification)/Hosea 14:2-10 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versification)

Psalm 45:6-17

2 Corinthians 11:1-15

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Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever,

a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your reign;

you love righteousness and hate iniquity.

–Psalm 45:6-7a, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The arrangement of 2 Corinthians is not chronological, so Chapter 11 is part of a painful letter which St. Paul the Apostle wrote prior to Chapters 1 and 2.  The tone of Chapters 10-13–scolding and sometimes threatening (as in 10:6)–comes from a place of disappointment.  Sometimes a scolding is appropriate, for it can bring us back to our senses.  Underlying the scolding is hope that it will have a positive effect.

Hope of return and restoration drives the conclusion of the Book of Hosea.  God is willing to forgive Israel, a nation, which God calls to repent–to change its mind, to turn around–and to accept God’s generous love.

St. Paul loved the Corinthian Church, so he scolded it even as he stayed away to avoid causing needless pain.  He called them to repent.  The historical record indicates, however, that the Corinthian Church struggled with factionalism as late as a generation after the martyrdom of St. Paul.  St. Clement of Rome wrote a letter to the congregation circa 100 C.E.  In the opening of that document he made the following statement:

Because of our recent series of unexpected misfortunes and set-backs, my dear friends, we feel there has been some delay in turning our attention to the causes of dispute in your community.  We refer particularly to the odious and unholy breach of unity among you, which is quite incompatible with God’s chosen people, and which a few hot-headed and unruly individuals have inflamed to such a pitch that your venerable and illustrious name, so richly deserving of everyone’s affection, has been brought into such disrepute.

Early Christian Writings:  The Apostolic Fathers (Penguin Books, 1987, page 23)

When God calls us to repent–even scolds us–may we respond more favorably.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF DANIEL MARCH, SR., U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST AND PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILLIAN OF TREVESTE, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANES THE CHRONICLER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/devotion-for-tuesday-after-proper-3-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Forgiveness and Restoration   1 comment

Hosea

Above:  Hosea

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

 Loving God, by tender words and covenant promise

you have joined us to yourself forever,

and you invite us to respond to your love with faithfulness.

By your Spirit may we live with you and with one another

in justice, mercy, and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 3:1-5

Psalm 45:6-17

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11

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Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever,

a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your reign;

you love righteousness and hate iniquity.

–Psalm 45:6-7a, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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St. Paul the Apostle had visited Corinth and had a difficult experience with the church there–or rather, with certain members of the church there.  Then he wrote a scolding letter (Chapters 10-13 of 2 Corinthians, a book with a non-chronological organization).  Afterward, to avoid causing more pain, the Apostle stayed away.  His absence was, according to some, evidence of the Apostle’s vacillating nature.  (Some people seem to thrive on criticizing others!)  St. Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 1 and 2, explaining his rationale for staying away and announcing that he had forgiven the ringleader of the critics.  The Apostle also encouraged his allies to forgive that person.  The dispute had injured the body (to use a Pauline metaphor for the church), so continuing the unhappiness would make a bad situation worse.

Forgiveness is a difficult grace to bestow on the offender and on oneself much of the time.  I know this difficulty firsthand and wonder why letting go of a burden as great as a grudge is frequently so hard.  I have arrived at no satisfactory answer, but I do know that a grudge hurts the person who holds it.

The reading from Hosea is ambiguous regarding the identity of Hosea’s platonic female friend yet the metaphor is clear:  that human relationship is like God’s relationship with Israel.  Difficult times will occur, but restoration will become the new reality.  Israel will

thrill over the LORD and over His bounty in the days to come.

–Hosea 3:5b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The restoration of offenders can be a sensitive subject, for forgiveness seems to deny justice.  Sometimes, I agree, offenders must face the consequences of their actions.  Yet, much of the time, radical forgiveness is the best way into the future for the community, the society, the nation-state, and the individual.  (I think especially of the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in the Republic of South Africa.)  Taking an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth might curtail otherwise unrestrained vengeance, but should anyone seek revenge?  Does not the quest for vengeance reveal the seeker’s protestation of righteousness to be a lie?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 1, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF DANIEL MARCH, SR., U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST AND PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILLIAN OF TREVESTE, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOPHANES THE CHRONICLER, DEFENDER OF ICONS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/03/01/devotion-for-monday-after-proper-3-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Aroma of Christ   1 comment

He Wept Over It

Above:  He Wept Over It, by Enrique Simonet

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the resplendent light of your truth

shines from the mountaintop into our hearts.

Transfigure us by your beloved Son,

and illumine the world with your image,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 11:26-40 (Thursday)

1 Kings 14:1-18 (Friday)

1 Kings 16:1-7 (Saturday)

Psalm 50:1-6 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 2:12-17 (Thursday)

1 Timothy 1:12-20 (Friday)

Luke 19:41-44 (Saturday)

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The Lord, the most mighty God, has spoken

and called the world from the rising of the sun to its setting.

Out of Zion, perfect in beauty, God shines forth;

our God comes and will not keep silence.

Consuming fire goes out before him

and a mighty tempest stirs about him.

He calls the heaven above,

and the earth, that he may judge his people:

“Gather to me my faithful,

who have sealed my covenant with sacrifice.”

Let the heavens declare his righteousness,

for God himself is judge.

–Psalm 50:1-6, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The readings for these three days weave together two themes:  the reality of God and the influence of holy people.  Often these holy people were prophets of God; I point to Ahijah of Shiloh (1 Kings 11 and 14) and Jehu son of Hanani (1 Kings 16), who were instrumental in establishing and replacing monarchs.  There were many others, such as St. Paul the Apostle (2 Corinthians 2), pseudo-Paul (1 Timothy 1), and Jesus himself (Luke 19).  The messenger is crucial, as is the message.  If someone refuses to deliver a message from God, another will accept the mission.  The message will go forth.

To ponder divine mercy is pleasant, but that statement does not apply to God’s wrath.  God is not a teddy bear, so to speak; if one thought to the contrary, one was in serious error.  May we have a balanced perspective, one which takes into account both divine judgment and mercy in proper proportions.  (This is possible by grace, not human power.)  And may we remember that Jesus sought forgiveness for those who had him crucified.

I do not pretend to know the details of every person’s spiritual vocation from God.  Sometimes, in fact, my vocation from God confuses me.  Yet I am confident that all such vocations for Christians include, in the words of St. Paul the Apostle, being:

…the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life.

–2 Corinthians 2:15-16a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

May we bear the aroma of Christ faithfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARBARA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Judgment, Mercy, and Ethical Living, Part II   1 comment

Ruins of the Temple of Apollo, Corinth

Above:  Ruins of the Temple of Apollo, Corinth

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Loving God, by tender words and covenant promise you have joined us to yourself forever,

and you invite us to respond to your love with faithfulness.

By your Spirit may we live with you and with one another in justice, mercy, and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 25

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The Assigned Readings:

Hosea 3:1-5 (Monday)

Hosea 14:1-9 (Tuesday)

Isaiah 62:1-5 (Wednesday)

Psalm 45:6-17 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:11 (Monday)

2 Corinthians 11:1-15 (Tuesday)

John 3:22-36 (Wednesday)

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Your throne is God’s throne, for ever;

the sceptre of your kingdom is the sceptre of righteousness.

You love righteousness and hate iniquity;

therefore God, your God, has anointed you

with the oil of gladness above your fellows.

–Psalm 45:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The readings for these three days, taken together, use marriage metaphors for the relationship between God and Israel and the relationship between God and an individual.  Idolatry is akin to sexual promiscuity, for example.  That metaphor works well, for there were pagan temple prostitutes.

Idolatry and social injustice are a pair in many Old Testament writings, for the Bible has much to say about how we ought to treat others, especially those who have less power or money than we do.  Thus Psalm 45, a royal wedding song, becomes, in part, a meditation on justice.  Also, as St. Paul the Apostle reminds us by words and example, nobody has the right to place an undue burden upon anyone or cause another person grief improperly.

May we recall and act upon Hosea 14:1-9, which states that, although God judges and disciplines, God also shows extravagant mercy.  May we forgive ourselves for our faults.  May we forgive others for their failings.  And may we, by grace, do all the above and recall that there is hope for us all in divine mercy.  Such grace calls for a positive response, does it not?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH MOHR, AUSTRIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARBARA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF DAMASCUS, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CALABRIA, FOUNDER OF THE CONGREGATION OF THE POOR SERVANTS AND THE POOR WOMEN SERVANTS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/12/04/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part II: The Benefit of Others   1 comment

king-solomon-and-his-court

Above:  King Solomon and His Court

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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:

1 Kings 5:1-18/5:15-31

Psalm 56 (Morning)

Psalms 100 and 62 (Evening)

2 Corinthians 1:23-2:17

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Paul wrote of conflict in the Corinthian Church.  One person was chiefly responsible.  His actions had affected the congregation severely.

The politics of 1 Kings 5:1-18 (if one reads from a Protestant translation)/5:18-31 (if one reads from a Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox version) troubles me.  King Solomon was spectacularly wealthy (no problem there) and allegedly wise, but he used forced labor to construct the Temple.  Was this not the kind of policy which Samuel had in mind when he warned the people against having a king other than God?  Yet the text’s authors were pro-Solomon, so the king was wise in one verse and used forced labor in the next one.

Certainly Solomon’s policies affected many people negatively, just as the malicious acts of one man harmed the Corinthian Church.  One rationale for studying Scripture is to learn lessons for life.  Here is my proposed lesson for today:  May we act in such was as to affect others positively, for their benefit.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARUTHAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF MAYPHERKAT AND MISSIONARY TO PERSIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERNARD OF PARMA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCIS XAVIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN ASIA

THE FEAST OF JOHN OWEN SMITH, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/12/03/devotion-for-august-24-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Rejecting and Insulting Prophets   2 comments

Above:  St. Joseph’s Church, Nazareth, Israel

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

2 Samuel 5:1-5, 9-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

All the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron, and said,

Look, we are your bone and flesh. For some time, while Saul was king over us, it was you who led out Israel and brought it in. The LORD said to you: It is you who shall be shepherd of my people Israel, you who shall be ruler over Israel.

So all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron; and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD, and they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. At Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months; and at Jerusalem he reigned over all Israel and Judah thirty-three years.

David occupied the stronghold, and named it the city of David. David built the city all around from the Millo inward. And David became greater and greater, for the LORD, the God of hosts, was with him.

Psalm 48 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Great is the LORD, and highly to be praised;

in the city of our God is his holy hill.

2 Beautiful and lofty, the joy of all the earth, is the hill of Zion,

the very center of the world and the city of the great King.

God is in her citadels;

he is known to be her sure refuge.

Behold, the kings of the earth assembled

and marched forward together.

5 They looked and were astonished;

they retreated and fled in terror.

Trembling seized them there;

they writhed like a woman in childbirth,

like ships of the sea when the east wind shatters them.

As we have heard, so have we seen,

in the city of the LORD of hosts, in the city of our God;

God has established her for ever.

8 We have waited in silence on your loving-kindness, O God,

in the midst of your temple.

Your praise, like your Name, O God, reaches to the world’s end;

your right hand is full of justice.

10 Let Mount Zion be glad

in the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments.

11 Make the circuit of Zion;

walk round about her;

count the number of her towers.

12 Consider well her bulwarks;

examine her strongholds;

that you may tell those who come after.

13 This God is our God for ever and ever;

he shall be our guide for ever more.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Ezekiel 2:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Lord said to me:

O mortal, stand up on your feet, and I will speak with you.

And when he spoke to me, a spirit entered into me and set me on my feet; and I heard him speaking to me. He said to me,

Mortal, I am sending you to the people of Israel, to a nation of rebels who have rebelled against me; they and their ancestors have transgressed against me to this very day. The descendants are impudent and stubborn. I am sending you to them, and you shall say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD.’ Whether they hear or refuse to hear (for they are a rebellious house), they shall know that there has been a prophet among them.

Psalm 123 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 To you I lift up my eyes,

to you enthroned in the heavens.

As the eyes of the servants look to the hand of their masters,

and the eyes of a maid to the hand of her mistress,

3 So our eyes look to the LORD our God,

until he show us his mercy.

Have mercy upon us, O LORD, have mercy,

for we have had more than enough of contempt,

5 Too much of the scorn of the indolent rich,

and of the derision of the proud.

SECOND READING

2 Corinthians 2:1-5 (New Revised Standard Version):

I know a person in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows. And I know that such a person– whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows– was caught up into Paradise and heard things that are not to be told, that no mortal is permitted to repeat. On behalf of such a one I will boast, but on my own behalf I will not boast, except of my weaknesses. But if I wish to boast, I will not be a fool, for I will be speaking the truth. But I refrain from it, so that no one may think better of me than what is seen in me or heard from me, even considering the exceptional character of the revelations. Therefore, to keep me from being too elated, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to torment me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it would leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” So, I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 6:1-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus left that place and came to his hometown, and his disciples followed him. On the sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astounded. They said,

Where did this man get all this? What is this wisdom that has been given to him? What deeds of power are being done by his hands! Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon, and are not his sisters here with us?

And they took offense at him. Then Jesus said to them,

Prophets are not without honor, except in their hometown, and among their own kin, and in their own house.

And he could do no deed of power there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and cured them. And he was amazed at their unbelief.

Then he went about among the villages teaching. He called the twelve and began to send them out two by two, and gave them authority over the unclean spirits. He ordered them to take nothing for their journey except a staff; no bread, no bag, no money in their belts; but to wear sandals and not to put on two tunics. He said to them,

Wherever you enter a house, stay there until you leave the place. If any place will not welcome you and they refuse to hear you, as you leave, shake off the dust that is on your feet as a testimony against them.

So they went out and proclaimed that all should repent. They cast out many demons, and anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.

 The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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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Some Related Posts:

Proper 9, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/proper-9-year-a/

2 Samuel 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/week-of-3-epiphany-monday-year-2/

2 Corinthians 12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/week-of-proper-6-saturday-year-1/

Mark 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/week-of-4-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/07/week-of-4-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

Matthew 13 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/13/week-of-proper-12-friday-year-1/

Luke 9 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/05/week-of-proper-20-wednesday-year-1/

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We read from 2 Samuel about David victorious.  His rival, Saul’s son Ishbaal dead, David became sole monarch in Israel and made Jerusalem the seat of his power.  The rebellion ended with the rebel leader leading the nation.

That, alas, is the happiest of the readings for this Sunday.  In Ezekiel 2, for example, God commissioned Ezekiel to be a prophet yet warns him that the people have a rebellious past.  But at least they will know that a prophet has been among them.  Jesus, a prophet and more than a prophet, was among the residents of his hometown when they rejected him.  They even raised questions about his paternity and Mary’s sexual history.  Later in the lesson, Jesus sent out his Apostles on a preaching mission with instructions to, among other things, simply leave places where they faced rejection.  This advice reflected what he did at Nazareth.

We read in the Gospels that Jesus moved away from Nazareth and settled in Capernaum.  Maybe one reason for this relocation was to get away such rumors in so small a place.  Jesus was, after all, fully human as well as fully divine.  We like to focus on the fully divine side, do we not?  But may we not minimize or ignore the fully human aspect.  Such rumors (certainly not recent in relation to the events of the Gospel story) and rejection had to hurt him emotionally.  Who wants to hear malicious rumors about one’s parents?  (Joseph did raise Jesus.  That, for me, makes Joseph our Lord’s father in the way which matters most.)

Paul, in his famous excerpt from 2 Corinthians, reported (evasively at first) about a mystical experience.  This is a somewhat amusing reading; I like how Paul began by writing of a man he knew then admitted that he was that man.  Whatever he saw and heard, and whatever caused it, it made quite an impression on him.  But, he wrote, he came away from it with an unidentified affliction.  ”A thorn in my side” is the standard English translation from the original Greek.  J. B. Phillips (1972), however, refers to a “stabbing pain.”  Whatever it was, it prevented Paul from becoming too elated.

Yet, Paul learned, divine grace is sufficient and made perfect in weakness, or, as J. B. Phillips (1972) renders one line, “where there is weakness, [God’s] power is shown more completely.”  That power is always present, as is the grace, in some measure.  Yet we notice God’s grace more easily when we are in weakened states.  I know this fact well from experience; you, O reader, might also know it from experience.

The bottom line is this:  Independence and self-reliance, as spiritual values, are false gods and illusions.  To pursue them is to chase after empty shadows and to commit idolatry.  Everyone depends on the grace and power of God.  Prophets have walked among us.  Do we recognize them? Prophets might even have grown up among us.  Do we recognize them, or do we reject and insult them?  How we respond to God and the prophets of God informs how God responds to us.  May God show mercy, as is the divine prerogative.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2011 COMMON ERA

LABOR DAY (U.S.A.)

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/05/proper-9-year-b/

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