Archive for the ‘2 Corinthians 3’ Tag

Christ, Violence, and Love   1 comment

icon-of-the-resurrection

Above:  Icon of the Resurrection

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:

Exodus 34:27-28 (29-35) or Deuteronomy 9:8-21

Psalms 71:15-24 or Psalm 75 or Psalm 76

John 21:20-25 or Luke 24:36-49 or John 20:19-31

2 Corinthians 3:7-11 (4:16-5:1) 5:2-5 (6-10) or Revelation 1:1-3 (4-8) 9-20

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Once again we read of the coexistence of divine judgment and mercy.  This time the emphasis is on mercy, given the context of the assigned lessons.  The bleakest reading comes from Genesis 34, where we learn of two brothers committing violence (including honor killings) in reaction to either the rape of their sister (Dinah) by a foreign man or to her consensual non-marital sexual relations with a foreigner.  This story contrasts with the crucifixion of Jesus, in which those complicit in that act of violence unambiguously targeted an innocent man.

We who call ourselves Christians have a responsibility to follow Jesus–Christ crucified, as St. Paul the Apostle wrote.  St. Paul, as Saul of Tarsus, had approved of the execution of at least one Christian, St. Stephen (Acts 7:54-8:1a).  Saul of Tarsus had also dragged other Christians to prison (Acts 8:1b-3).

We who call ourselves Christians also have a responsibility to follow Jesus, the resurrected one.  May we die to our sins.  May we die to our desires to commit or condone violence against those we find inconvenient and/or who threaten our psychological safety zones.  May we die to the desire to repay evil for evil.  May we die to the thirst for revenge.  And may God raise us to new life in the image of Christ.  May we seek to glorify God alone and succeed in that purpose, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 10, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN NITSCHMANN, SR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; DAVID NITSCHMANN, JR., THE SYNDIC, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, THE MARTYR, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF CECIL FRANCES ALEXANDER, POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN LUDWIG BRAU, NORWEGIAN MORAVIAN TEACHER AND POET

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN LEONARDI, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF THE MOTHER OF GOD OF LUCCA; AND JOSEPH CALASANCTIUS, FOUNDER OF THE CLERKS REGULAR OF RELIGIOUS SCHOOLS

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/10/devotion-for-easter-sunday-evening-year-d/

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Sufficiency in God   1 comment

Zerubbabel

Above:  Zerubbabel

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, by the humiliation of your Son

you lifted up this fallen world and rescued us from the hopelessness of death.

Lead us into your light, that all our deeds may reflect your love,

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

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 43:8-13 (Monday)

Isaiah 44:1-8 (Tuesday)

Haggai 2:1-9, 20-23 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:9-16 (All Days)

2 Corinthians 3:4-11 (Monday)

Acts 2:14-24 (Tuesday)

John 12:34-50 (Wednesday)

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How shall a young man cleanse his way?

By keeping to your words.

With my whole heart I seek you

let me not stray from your commandments.

I treasure your promise in my heart;

that I may not sin against you.

Blessed are you, O LORD;

instruct me in your statutes.

With my lips will I recite

all the judgments of your mouth.

I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees

than in all manner of riches.

I will meditate on your commandments

and give attention to your ways.

My delight is in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

–Psalm 119:9-16, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, did not condemn Torah piety.  No, he had harsh words for legalism and its proponents.  Religious authorities, our Lord and Savior said, were teaching the Law of Moses wrongly; he was teaching it correctly.  Thus, when I read the translated words of St. Paul the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 3, I wondered to which Law he objected and why.  Commentaries told me more about the biases of their authors than those of St. Paul, who, according to scholars of the New Testament, did not use that term consistently in his writings.  That fact does not surprise me, for I know from other sources that the Apostle was uncertain in his Trinitarian theology (aren’t most of us?), for he used the Son and the Holy Spirit interchangeably sometimes.  If one seeks consistency where it is does not exist, one sets oneself up for disappointment.

N. T. Wright wrote in Paul in Fresh Perspective (2005) that the contrast was actually between those who heard the Law of Moses and those who trusted in Jesus.  Thus, Wright continued, in Pauline theology, divine holiness was fatal to people with darkened minds and hardened hearts.  Yet those who have the Holy Spirit do not find divine holiness fatal, Wright wrote on page 123.  One might question that perspective or parts thereof, for the Apostle did write negatively of the Law of Moses or at least of a version of it in his head in epistles.

Anyhow, St. Paul was correct in his point that our power/competence/adequacy/sufficiency (all words I found while comparing translations) comes from God alone.  And, if we accept Bishop Wright’s reading of the Apostle in 2 Corinthians 3, we find a match with John 12:34-50, in which many people who witnesses Jesus performing signs still rejected him.  They had hardened hearts and darkened minds.

You are my witnesses,

Yahweh said in Isaiah 43 and 44 to exiles about to return to their ancestral home.  We are God’s witnesses.  Are we paying attention?  And are we plugging into the divine source of power to glorify and enjoy God forever?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

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/2014/12/15/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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1 Kings and 2 Corinthians, Part III: Jesus, the Everlasting Temple   1 comment

christ-pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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 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 7:51-8:21 (August 25)

1 Kings 8:22-30, 46-63 (August 26)

Psalm 67 (Morning–August 25)

Psalm 51 (Morning–August 26)

Psalms 46 and 93 (Evening–August 25)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening–August 26)

2 Corinthians 3:1-18 (August 25)

2 Corinthians 4:1-18 (August 26)

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Some Related Posts:

1 Kings 7-8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/week-of-5-epiphany-monday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/20/week-of-5-epiphany-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/proper-16-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/04/proper-4-year-c/

2 Corinthians 3-4:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/week-of-proper-5-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/week-of-proper-5-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/04/proper-3-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/week-of-proper-5-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/07/22/proper-4-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/proper-5-year-b/

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It is not ourselves that we proclaim; we proclaim Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’s sake.

–2 Corinthians 4:5, The Revised English Bible

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I have read 1 Kings many times.  Each time I do so I notice details that I missed or did not focus on during each previous reading.  This time, for example, I have thought deeply about the forced labor involved in the construction of the First Temple.  And now, as I re-read the pious Deuteronomistic speech placed in Solomon’s mouth, I find that oratory irrelevant.  The Temple was grand, but it was the result of forced labor.

Paul wrote of passing glory in 2 Corinthians 3:7f.  That portion of the epistle led to a discussion of liberty in God.  Paul and his companions did suffer, sometimes in prison.  But they were free in God.  Their labor was not forced; they gave it of their own accord.  And they proclaimed Jesus, a Temple which no power could destroy.  The Roman Empire tried, but he rose from the dead.

Some might criticize me for my Marxian Conflict Theory-based interpretation of these texts.  So be it!  I seek to write from an attitude of concern rooted in the concept of the Image of God and in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.  Whose physical labor would Jesus coerce?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/12/14/devotion-for-august-25-and-26-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Transfigurations   1 comment

Above:  Church of the Transfiguration, Mount Tabor

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004006341/PP/)

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Exodus 34:29-35 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And it was when Moses was coming down from Mount Sinai, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in Moses’s hand when he was coming down from the mountain.  And Moses had not known that the skin of his face was transformed when He was speaking with him.  And Aaron and all the children of Israel saw Moses; and, here, the skin of his face was transformed, and they were afraid of going over to him.  And Moses called to them.  And Aaron and all the chiefs in the congregation came back to him, and he spoke to them.  And after that all the children of Israel went over.  And he commanded them everything that YHWH had spoken with him in Mount Sinai.  And Moses finished speaking with them, and he put a veil on his face.  And when Moses would come in front of YHWH to speak with Him, he would turn away the veil until he would go out; and he would go out and speak to the children of Israel what had been commanded.  And the children of Israel would see Moses’ face, that the skin of Moses’ face was transformed, and Moses would put back the veil on his face until he would come to speak with Him.

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.

2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6 (An American Translation):

So since I have such a hope, I speak with great frankness, not like Moses, who used to wear a veil over his face, to keep the Israelites from gazing at the fading of the splendor from it.  Their minds were dulled.  For to this day, the same veil remains unlifted, when the read the old agreement, for only through union with Christ is it removed.  Why, to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil hangs over their minds, but

whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Now the Lord here means the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And all of us, reflecting the splendor of the Lord in our unveiled faces, aer being changed into likeness of him, from one degree of splendor to another, for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

So since by the mercy of God I am engaged in this service, I never lose heart.  I disown disgraceful, underhanded ways.  I refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s message.  It is by the open statement of truth that I would commend myself to every human conscience in the sight of God.  If the meaning of my preaching of the good news is veiled at all, it is so only in the case of those who are on the way to destruction.  In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep the light of the good news of the glorious Christ, the likeness of God, from dawning upon them.  For it is not myself but Christ Jesus that I am proclaiming as Lord; I am only a slave of yours for Jesus’ sake.  For the God who said,

Let light shine out of darkness,

has shone in my heart, to give me the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, that is on the face of Christ.

Luke 9:28-42a (New Revised Standard Version):

About eight days after Peter had acknowledged Jesus as the Christ of God, Jesus took with him Peter and John and James, and went up on the mountain to pray. And while he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became dazzling white. Suddenly they saw two men, Moses and Elijah, talking to him. They appeared in glory and were speaking of his departure, which he was about to accomplish at Jerusalem. Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory and the two men who stood with him. Just as they were leaving him, Peter said to Jesus,

Master, it is good for us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah

–not knowing what he said. While he was saying this, a cloud came and overshadowed them; and they were terrified as they entered the cloud. Then from the cloud came a voice that said,

This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!

When the voice had spoken, Jesus was found alone. And they kept silent and in those days told no one any of the things they had seen.

On the next day, when they had come down from the mountain, a great crowd met him. Just then a man from the crowd shouted,

Teacher, I beg you to look at my son; he is my only child. Suddenly a spirit seizes him, and all at once he shrieks. It convulses him until he foams at the mouth; it mauls him and will scarcely leave him. I begged your disciples to cast it out, but they could not.

Jesus answered,

You faithless and perverse generation, how much longer must I be with you and bear with you? Bring your son here.

While he was coming, the demon dashed him to the ground in convulsions. But Jesus rebuked the unclean spirit, healed the boy, and gave him back to his father. And all were astounded at the greatness of God.

The Collect:

O God, who before the passion of your only ­begotten 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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Some Related Posts:

Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

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

Last Sunday after the Epiphany, Year B:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/07/20/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-last-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-confession-for-the-last-sunday-after-epiphany/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/07/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-last-sunday-after-epiphany/

Exodus 34:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/feast-of-the-transfiguration-august-6/

2 Corinthians 3-4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/week-of-proper-5-thursday-year-1/

Luke 9:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/feast-of-the-transfiguration-august-6/

O Wondrous Type! O Vision Fair:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/05/o-wondrous-type-o-vision-fair/

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I like this Sunday, for its readings match up nicely.  Exodus and 2 Corinthians refer to Moses wearing a veil after communing with God, a counterpart to the never veiled Jesus during the Transfiguration.  This is a prime example of why lectionaries are useful.

The presentation of Yahweh in the Torah is awe-inspiring.  One ought not look too closely, for to do so would be dangerous.  And Moses had an incredibly shiny face from communing with God.  (All Charlton Heston got was streaked hair!)  But, for most people, there was a certain distance, and Moses found a veil necessary in public.

The Transfiguration revealed our Lord’s true nature.  But notice that there was no veil in the area.  Part of the meaning of the Incarnation is God’s approachability, indeed God’s approaching.  There is always a mystery there, but it is one which seeks us out.

I suspect that there is much poetry–perhaps more than literal truth–in the Exodus and Luke accounts.  This does not trouble me, for poetry and metaphor are frequently better at conveying deep truth than are any straight-forward reports.  As we moderns read the Bible, may we not abandon religious imagination, often the most memorable and profound aspect of certain texts.  In religious imagination we encounter God in beauty, something mere facts cannot convey.  How will our encounters with God in such beauty change us and be obvious to others?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT FULBERT OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF EDWARD THOMAS DEMBY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF ARKANSAS, AND HENRY BEARD DELANY, EPISCOPAL SUFFRAGAN BISHOP OF NORTH CAROLINA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FREDERICK HANDEL, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT WANDREGISILUS OF NORMANDY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, AND SAINT LAMBERT OF LYONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/last-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

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Love God and Do Whatever You Please   2 comments

Above:  Title of the Didache (in Greek)

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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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2 Corinthians 3:12-4:6 (An American Translation):

So since I have such a hope, I speak with great frankness, not like Moses, who used to wear a veil over his face, to keep the Israelites from gazing at the fading of the splendor from it.  Their minds were dulled.  For to this day, the same veil remains unlifted, when the read the old agreement, for only through union with Christ is it removed.  Why, to this day, whenever Moses is read, a veil hangs over their minds, but

whenever a man turns to the Lord, the veil is removed.

Now the Lord here means the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And all of us, reflecting the splendor of the Lord in our unveiled faces, are being changed into likeness of him, from one degree of splendor to another, for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

So since by the mercy of God I am engaged in this service, I never lose heart.  I disown disgraceful, underhanded ways.  I refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s message.  It is by the open statement of truth that I would commend myself to every human conscience in the sight of God.  If the meaning of my preaching of the good news is veiled at all, it is so only in the case of those who are on the way to destruction.  In their case, the god of this world has blinded the minds of the unbelievers, to keep the light of the good news of the glorious Christ, the likeness of God, from dawning upon them.  For it is not myself but Christ Jesus that I am proclaiming as Lord; I am only a slave of yours for Jesus’ sake.  For the God who said,

Let light shine out of darkness,

has shone in my heart, to give me the light of the knowledge of God’s glory, that is on the face of Christ.

Psalm 85:7-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Show us your mercy, O LORD,

and grant us your salvation.

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

for he is speaking peace to his faithful people

and to those who turn their hearts to him.

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

that his glory may dwell in our land.

10 Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

11 Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

12 The LORD will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

13 Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

Matthew 5:20-26 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

For I tell you that unless your uprightness is far superior to that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never even enter the Kingdom of Heaven!

You have heard that men of old were told ‘You shall not murder,’ and ‘Whoever murders will have to answer to the court.’  But I tell you that any one who gets angry with his brother will have to answer to the court, and anyone who speaks abusively to his brother will have to answer to the great council, and anyone who says to his brother ‘You cursed fool!’ will have to answer for it in the fiery pit!  So when you are presenting your gift at the altar, if you remember that your brother has any grievance against you, leave your gift right there before the altar and go and make up with your brother; then come back and present your gift.  Be quick and come to terms with your opponent while you are on the way to court with him, or he may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you will be thrown into prison.  I tell you, you will never get out again until you have paid the last penny!

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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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Love God and do whatever you please: for the soul trained in love to God will do nothing to offend the One who is Beloved.

–St. Augustine of Hippo

(Thanks to http://nickbadger.wordpress.com/2009/09/27/love-god-and-do-as-you-please/ for the whole quote.)

One of my favorite books is a slim paperback volume, Early Christian Writings:  The Apostolic Fathers, which Penguin Books publishes.  Among the Second Century C.E. documents in modern English translation in that book is the Didache, or Teachings.  The first section of the Didache explains the Way of Life (practicing good morals) and the Way of Death (living in an immoral way).  This part of the document does contain negative statements, or commands not to commit X, Y, and Z.  Yet the first section of the Didache focuses on the positive, on what God wants people to do.  This is a healthy approach to the topic, for merely stating what not to do does not indicate what one ought to do.

Jesus expands the Law of Moses in the reading from Matthew.  Our Lord and Savior mentions the Mosaic punishment for murder, for example.  Then he says that one must do better than that; one must not live in anger, from which many murders spring.  Furthermore, one must not defame another person, either.  Imagine how much better life would be if more people lived in love, not anger, and did not defame anyone.  The world would be a better place.  It would be a positive place.

I have known people who have nursed grudges for years, if not decades.  This has seemed to give them a purpose in life, albeit a negative one.  And I have met others who seemed to be in perpetual complaint mode.  Whenever I was around them, they kvetched about one thing or another.  None of this demonstrates living in freedom in God.

The Apostle Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians that there is freedom in God.  There is liberty to act as one should, to live according to what the Didachelabels the Way of Life.  To borrow a thought from St. Augustine of Hippo, one trained to love God will not offend God.  So one who loves God can focus on living according to the Shema and the Golden Rule, and not obsess over hundreds of Sabbath laws, for example.

The Law of God has two parts:  the letter and the spirit.  The letter of divine law varies according to historical, cultural, and economic circumstances.  Read Leviticus, if you dare.  The literal details of many of those laws do not apply to a North American in the early Twenty-First Century C.E.  Yet the spirit of the law transcends circumstances, and that is what we need to contemplate when deciding whether actions are proper or sinful.

So why do so many people find ways to turn attempts at following God into exercises in legalism and misery?  Consider honoring the Sabbath, for example.  Slaves did not get a day off, so having a day off was a sign of freedom.  Besides, we need a day off for other reasons; nobody is a perpetual motion machine.  So the Sabbath is something we ought to relish.  Yet Pharisees in Jesus’ time and many people before and since have made it an occasion not to seem happy or to commit any other deed from a long list.  New England Puritans, for example, outlawed humming or singing to oneself in public on Sunday.  And once, when “blue laws” were in effect in South Carolina, one could not buy a light bulb legally in the state.  The emphasis for many has been on the “Thou shalt not” rules, not the list of “Thou shalt” activities.  People needed an attitude more like that of the Didache.

I am convinced that these and other misguided exercises in legalism are well-intentioned efforts to live a holy life, but that they miss the point.  The point is that God liberates us to live a holy life; God does not constrain us into one.  So let us love God then do as we please, not offending our Beloved Lord and liberator.  Let us dance with God–maybe doing the tango or the lambada, rejoicing in the company of our Beloved.  I hear that God knows how to lead.

Below:  Tango Dancers

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/week-of-proper-5-thursday-year-1/

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Jesus Expands, Not Negates, the Law   1 comment

Above:  Moses Receiving Then Delivering the Law

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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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2 Corinthians 3:4-11 (An American Translation):

Such is the confidence that I have through Christ in my relations to God.  Not that I am of myself qualified to claim anything as originating with me.  My qualification is from God, and he has qualified me to serve him in the interests of a new agreement, not in writing, but of spirit.  For what is written kills, but the Spirit gives life.

But if the religion of death, carved in letters of stone, was ushered in with such splendor, so that the Israelites could not look at Moses’ face on account of the brightness that was fading from it, why should not the religion of the Spirit be attended with greater splendor?  If there was splendor in the religion of condemnation, the religion of uprightness must far surpass it in splendor.  For in comparison with its surpassing splendor, what was splendid has come to have no splendor at all.  For if what faded away came with splendor, how much more splendid what is permanent must be!

Psalm 99 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

The LORD is King;

let the people tremble;

he is enthroned upon the cherubim;

let the earth shake.

The LORD is great in Zion;

he is high above all peoples.

3 Let them confess his Name, which is great and awesome;

he is the Holy One.

4 “O mighty King, lover of justice,

you have established equity;

you have executed justice and righteousness in Jacob.”

Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and fall down before his footstool;

he is the Holy One.

Moses and Aaron among his priests,

and Samuel among those who call upon his Name,

they called upon the LORD, and he answered them.

He spoke to them out of the pillar of cloud;

they kept his testimonies and the decree that he gave them.

8 “O LORD our God, you answered them indeed;

you were a God who forgave them,

yet punished them for their evil deeds.”

9 Proclaim the greatness of the LORD our God

and worship him upon his holy hill;

for the LORD our God is the Holy One.

Matthew 5:17-19 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not suppose that I have come to do away with the Law or the Prophets.  I have not come to do away with them but to complete them.  For I tell you, as long as heaven and earth endure, not one dotting of an i or crossing of a will be dropped from the Law until it is all observed.  Anyone, therefore, who weakens one of the slightest of these commands, and teaches others to do so, will be ranked lowest in the Kingdom of Heaven; but anyone who observes them and teaches others to do so will be ranked high in the Kingdom of Heaven.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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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Classical Christian teaching, at least from the times of St. John Chrysostom and St. Augustine of Hippo, holds that Jesus, by his Incarnation, expanded, not replaced, the covenant embodied in the Law of Moses.  I find no fault and much merit in this point of view.

Greek word meanings matter.  Consider, then, the term “new agreement” from 2 Corinthians.  This is “new covenant” in other translations.  I focus on the word “new,” which, in this case, is kainos.  This word indicates both newness in chronology and in quality.  So, to combine elements of lections, Jesus fulfilled, or completed the Mosaic Law by expanding it from the legalistic strictures into which the religious establishment had placed it.  Our Lord and Savior violated many ritual laws, of course, but he honored the spirit of the Law, which is to love God fully and one’s neighbor as oneself.  The Law, which was temporary but long-lived, pointed to Jesus, who endures.  So 2 Corinthians 3:4-11 does not indicate supercessionism.  Neither does Matthew 5:17-19.

The Apostle Paul was brilliant and his theology was profound.  There are two essential keys to much of this theology, however.  They are (1) grace and (2) Christ crucified.  Paul preached Christ crucified.  And grace permeates the Pauline epistles.  This unearned favor saves us from what we deserve.  Grace trumps legalistic purity codes.  Grace bestows life in God.

As I have written more than once in other blog posts, a clever legalist can find ways to manipulate a religious law code to made sin look like righteousness.  This version of alleged piety is self-serving, and Jesus condemend it in the canonical gospels.  But there is no law of God against loving one’s neighbor as oneself.  Obeying this rule makes minding a host of minute details unnecessary while it honors the spirit of much of God’s law.  Let us begin there.  Let us see the forest, not just the trees.

That will be surpassing splendor indeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 24, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW DUNG-LAC AND PETER THI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN VIETNAM

THE FEAST OF JULIUS FALCHNER, JEHU JONES, AND WILLIAM PASSAVANT, LUTHERAN PASTORS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/week-of-proper-5-wednesday-year-1/

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Posted February 5, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 2 Corinthians, Matthew 5, Psalm 99

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