Archive for the ‘Abel’ Tag

Jealousy   1 comment

Above:   Cain and Abel

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Genesis 4:1-16

Psalm 7

Jude 8-13

Matthew 9:32-34

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In Psalm 7 the author seeks divine protection from enemies.  In Genesis 4 Cain kill Abel.  God exiles the murderer yet protects him.

Genesis 4, unlike a host of exegetes dating from antiquity to the present day, does not explain why God favored one sacrifice over the other.  The story does, however, make clear the defective character of Cain, who acted out of, among other motivations, jealousy.  Genesis 4:7 offers a vivid image of sin as, in the words of the Everett Fox translation, “a crouching demon” by an entrance.  One has the option of not giving into temptation, of course, as the text tells us.

Jealousy leads to many sins, especially of one passion or another.  Out of jealousy one might accuse an agent of God (Jesus, for example) of being in league with evil (as in Matthew 9:32-34).  Jealousy can also lead to spiritual blindness, consciously or otherwise.  Either way, one commits serious error.

May we, by grace, rule over the metaphorical demon of sin crouching by the door, waiting to ambush us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LEONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WHITING, HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/devotion-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-ackerman/

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This is post #500 of ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS.

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God’s Inscrutable Grace   1 comment

cain-and-abel

Above:  Cain and Abel

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:

Genesis 4:1-16 or Isaiah 63:(7-9) 10-19

Psalm 101

John 8:31-47

Galatians 5:(1) 2-12 (13-25) or James 5:1-6 (7-10) 11-12 (13-20)

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Divine judgment and mercy share the stage with repentance in these readings.  We who sin (that is, all of us) make ourselves slaves to sin, but Christ Jesus liberates us from that bondage and empowers us to become people who practice the Golden Rule–to be good neighbors, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, et cetera.  Christ breaks down spiritual barriers yet many of us become psychologically attached to them.  In so doing we harm others as well as ourselves.

Much of Psalm 101 seems holy and unobjectionable:

I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;

I will not set before my eyes anything that is base.

–Verses 2b-3a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So far, so good.  But then we read verse 8:

Morning by morning I will destroy

all the wicked in the land,

cutting off all evildoers

from the city of the LORD.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That psalm is in the voice of the king.  Given the human tendency to mistake one’s point of view for that of God, is smiting all the (alleged) evildoers morally sound public policy?

A clue to that psalm’s point of view comes from Genesis 4, in which we read that sin is like a predator:

And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.

–Genesis 4:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

This quote, from God to Cain, comes from after God has rejected his sacrifice of “fruit of the soil” in favor of Abel’s sacrifice of “the choicest of the firstlings of his flock” and before Cain kills Abel.  I know of attempts to explain God’s rejection of Cain’s sacrifice by finding fault with him.  The text is silent on that point; God never explains the reason for the rejection.  Nevertheless, we read of how badly Cain took the rejection, of how he reacted (violently), of how he expressed penitence and repented, and of how God simultaneously punished and acted mercifully toward the murderer.

The irony is pungent:  The man who could not tolerate God’s inscrutable grace now benefits from it.

The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014), page 17

Cain, spared the death penalty, must relocate and enjoys divine protection.

“God’s inscrutable grace” frequently frustrates and offends us, does it not?  Is is not fair, we might argue.  No, it is not fair; it is grace, and it protects even those who cannot tolerate it.  “God’s inscrutable grace” breaks down barriers that grant us psychological comfort and challenges to lay aside such idols.  It liberates us to become the people we ought to be.  “God’s inscrutable grace” frees us to glorify and to enjoy God forever.  It liberates us to lay aside vendettas and grudges and enables us to love our neighbors (and relatives) as we love ourselves (or ought to love ourselves).

Will we lay aside our false senses of justice and embrace “God’s inscrutable grace”?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-d/

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The Sin of Jealousy   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator, Daphni, Greece

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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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Genesis 4:1-15, 25 (Revised English Bible):

The man lay with his wife Eve, and she conceived and gave birth to Cain.  She said,

With the help of the LORD I have brought into being a male child.

Afterwards she had another child, Abel.  He tended the flock, and Cain worked the land.  In due season Cain brought some of the fruits of the earth as an offering to the LORD, while Abel brought the choicest of the firstborn of his flock.  The regarded Abel and his offering with favour, but not Cain and his offering.  Cain was furious and he glowered.  The LORD said to Cain,

Why are you angry?  Why are you scowling?

If you do well, you hold hold your head up;

if not, sin is a demon crouching at the door;

it will desire you, and you will be mastered by it.

Cain said to his brother Abel,

Let us go out into the country.

Once there, Cain attacked and murdered his brother.  The LORD asked Cain,

Where is your brother Abel?

Cain answered,

I do not know.  Am I my brother’s keeper?

The LORD said,

What have you done?  Your brother’s blood is crying out to me from the ground.  Now you are accursed and will be banished from the very ground which has opened its mouth to receive the blood you have shed.  When you till the ground, it will no longer yield you its produce.  You shall be a wanderer, a fugitive on the earth.

Cain said the the LORD,

My punishment is heavier than I can bear; now you are driving me off the land, and I must hide myself from your presence.  I shall be a wanderer, a fugitive on the earth, and I can be killed at sight by anyone.

The LORD answered him,

No:  if anyone kills Cain, sevenfold vengeance shall be exacted from him….

Adam lay with his wife again.  She gave birth to a son, and named him Seth,

for,

she said,

God has granted me another son in place of Abel, because Cain killed him.

Psalm 50:7-24 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear, O my people, and I will speak:

“O Israel, I will bear witness against you;

for I am God, your God.

8 I do not accuse you because of your sacrifices;

your offerings are always before me.

9 I will take no bull-calf from your stalls,

nor he goats out of your pens;

10 For all the beasts of the forest are mine,

the herds in their thousands upon the hills.

11 I know every bird in the sky,

and the creatures of the fields are in my sight.

12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the whole world is mine and all that is in it.

13 Do you think I eat the flesh of bulls,

or drink the blood of goats?

14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and make good your vows to the Most High.

15 Call upon me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.

16 But to the wicked God says:

“Why do you recite my statutes,

and take my covenant upon your lips?

17 Since you refuse discipline,

and toss my words behind your back?

18 When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast in your lot with adulterers.

19 You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

20 You are always speaking of evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

21 These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

22 “I have made my accusation;

I have put my case in order before your eyes.

23 Consider this well, you who forget God,

lest I rend you and there be none to deliver you.

24 Whoever offers me the sacrifice of thanksgiving honors me;

but to those who keep in my way will I show the salvation of God.”

Mark 8:11-13 (Revised English Bible):

Then the Pharisees came out and began to argue with him.  To test him they asked for a sign from heaven.  He sighed deeply and said,

Why does generation ask for a sign?  Truly I tell you:  no sign shall be given to this generation.

With that he left them, re-embarked, and made for the other shore.

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The Collect:

O  God, the strength of all who put their trust in you: Mercifully accept our prayers; and because in our weakness we can do nothing good without you, give us the help of your grace, that in keeping your commandments we may please you both in will and deed; 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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Part of the process of writing each of these posts is deciding which image to place at the top.  Moody Jesus fits the bill for today, based on the reading from Mark.

The sin of jealousy ties the Genesis and Mark readings together.  We have continuing mythology in Genesis.  Two brothers, Cain and Abel, are quite different from each other.  Each makes a sacrifice to God, and, as Richard Elliott Friedman translates the text,

And YHWH paid attention to Abel and his offering, and did not pay attention to Cain and his offering.  And Cain was very upset, and his face was fallen.

Cain’s reply,

Am I my brother’s keeper?

is familiar in the English language.  Professor Friedman, however, translates this question differently:

Am I my brother’s watchman?

This, he says, is consistent with a deeper meaning in the Hebrew texts.  People, he reminds the reader of his notes inCommentary on the Torah (2001), were supposed to watch over the Garden of Eden, God commanded cherubs to watch over the tree of life, and Cain was supposed to watch over his brother.  Friedman concludes that the use of this Hebrew verb

becomes a standard expression in the Torah for conveying loyalty to God.

Jealousy is born of resentment, not love.  And we cannot love God, whom we cannot see, if we do not love those whom we can see.  This love of God, which entails loyalty thereto, is consistent with arguing with God.  I have heard Judaism described as a faith system in which people argue with God; the name “Israel” derives from the story in which Jacob wrestles with an angel (or God).  Indeed, much of the Book of Psalms, when not in overly polite translations, reads much like

Look, Yahweh!  Where have you been for so long?

And whoever coined the cliche “the patience of Job” seems not to have familiar with that text.  The title character is quite argumentative.

Yet this argument can occur “within the family” without leading to broken relationships.  God loves us always, but do love God?  And, in Genesis, God both punishes Cain and protects him; the murder must have consequences for the murderer, but death will not be among them.  Both judgment and grace and present.  The situation could have been worse, but how much better might it have been for all involved had Cain controlled his jealousy?

The sacrifices God desires, Psalm 50 tells us, are obedience and thanksgiving.  And Psalm 51:18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer) tells us,

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

Love (in Greek, agape), St. Paul the Apostle tells us in 1 Corinthians 13, does not insist on its own way.  With that in mind, let us consider the Pharisees in Mark 8:11-13.  Textual context is vital here; Jesus has just fed about 4000 people with a little bread and a few fishes, with many leftovers filling hamper-sized baskets.  And what do these “orthodox” religious men want?  They desire a sign.  Were they blind?  No, they were jealous.  The mere existence of Jesus disproved much of what they held dear.  His presence threatened their viability.  They were jealous.  And, if I were Jesus, I would be moody, too.  I would leave, also.  Who wants to spend much time around negative people?

Assuming that we love God, why do we?  Is it just because of signs?  I hope not.  This is selfish and shallow.  I propose that we ought to love God because God is God, and we are not.  Being God entails demonstrating certain attributes, among them grace.  Grace is scandalous; it reaches “good” religious people as well as prostitutes and half-breed heretics; it protects sinners and summons penitents.  Grace is inherently unfair, and therein lies its splendor.  And let us not be jealous; no, may we rejoice with our brethren.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 21, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CAREY, FATHER OF MODERN MISSIONS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-1/

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Posted January 19, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis I: 1-11, Mark 8, Psalm 50

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