Archive for the ‘Abrahamic Covenant’ Tag

Legalism and Fidelity   1 comment

Abraham and Lot Separate

Above:  Abraham and Lot Separate

Image in the Public Domain

Legalism and Fidelity

FEBRUARY 18 and 19, 2016

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in your Son,

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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 13:1-7, 14-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 14:17-24 (Friday)

Psalm 27 (Both Days)

Philippians 3:2-12 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:17-20 (Friday)

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The LORD is my light and my salvation;

whom then shall I fear?

the LORD is the strength of my life;

of whom then shall I be afraid?

–Psalm 27:1, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Sometimes the portrayal of Abram/Abraham in the Bible puzzles me.  In Hebrews 10:8-22 the patriarch is a pillar of fidelity to God.  Yet he hedges his bets and lies in Genesis 12, and the only people who suffer are the Pharaoh of Egypt and members of the royal household.  Abram exiles his firstborn son, Ishmael, in Genesis 21:8-21.  The patriarch intercedes on behalf of strangers in Genesis 19 yet not for his second son, Isaac, three chapters later.  Abram, who is wealthy, refuses even to appear to have enriched himself by means of the King of Sodom in Genesis 14.  In so doing the patriarch, who has just paid a tithe of war booty to Melchizedek, King of Salem (Jerusalem) and priest of El Elyon, a Canaanite sky deity, invokes YHWH, not El Elyon.  I do not know what to make of Abram/Abraham.

Circumcision is a major issue in Philippians 3.  St. Paul the Apostle refers to rival missionaries who favor the circumcision of Gentile male converts to Christianity.  He calls these Judaizers “dogs,” a strong insult many Jews reserved for Gentiles.  One can find the mandate for circumcision of males (including some Gentiles) in Genesis 17:9-14, where it is a sign of the Abrahamic Covenant.  It has been, for Jews, a physical sign of the covenant for millennia.  It has become an emotional issue for people who favor it as a religious obligation and a mark of identity as well as for those who consider it cruel.

In Philippians 3 circumcision is, for St. Paul the Apostle, a physical sign of righteousness based on law, not on active faith in God.  The line between legalism and righteousness can be difficult to locate sometimes.  One should obey certain commandments out of fidelity and love and respect for God.  One loves and honors God, so one keeps the commandments of God.

If you love me you will obey my commands…,

John 14:15 (The Revised English Bible, 1989) quotes Jesus as saying.  But when does keeping commandments turn into a fetish of legalism?  And when does the maintenance of one’s identity transform into exclusion of others?  Where is that metaphorical line many people cross?

One sure way of knowing if one has crossed that line is catching that person obsessing over minute details while overlooking pillars of morality such as compassion.  If one, for example, complains not because Jesus has healed someone but because he has done this on the Sabbath, one is a legalist.  If one becomes uptight about personal peccadilloes yet remains unconcerned about institutionalized injustice (such as that of the sexist, racial, and economic varieties), one is a legalist.  If one’s spiritual identity entails labeling most other people as unclean or damned, one is a legalist.  If one thinks that moral living is merely a matter of following a spiritual checklist, one is a legalist.  If one becomes fixated on culturally specific examples of timeless principles at the expense of those principles, one is a legalist.

May we who claim to follow and love God eschew legalism.  May we also care for our close friends and relatives at least as much as we do suffering strangers for which we harbor concern.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 14, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN AMOS COMENIUS, FATHER OF MODERN EDUCATION

THE FEAST OF THE CONSECRATION OF SAMUEL SEABURY, FIRST EPISCOPAL BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ROMANIS, ANGLICAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2015/11/14/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Trusting in God, Part IV   1 comment

Abrahamic Covenant

Image Source = Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D., New Catholic Picture Bible:  Popular Stories from the Old and New Testaments (New York, NY:  Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1960), page 16

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The Collect:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death

to be for us the means on life.

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss

for the sake of your Son, 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 15:1-6, 12-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 16:1-6 (Friday)

Genesis 16:7-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 22:23-31 (All Days)

Romans 3:21-31 (Thursday)

Romans 4:1-12 (Friday)

Mark 8:27-30 (Saturday)

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My soul shall live for him;

my descendants shall serve him;

they shall be known as the LORD’s own for ever.

–Psalm 22:29, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Harboring doubts regarding extraordinary promises (as in Genesis 15) and not understanding who Jesus is despite spending much time in close quarters with him (as in Mark 8) are growth opportunities.  Information is the antidote to ignorance, but a lack of trust in God is a spiritual problem.  When one acts on it (as in Genesis 16, despite the glowing review of Abraham in Romans 4), one complicates matters horribly.

We are responsible to God and each other.  We also depend on God and each other.  We will not trust God all the time, for we are mere mortals.  We can, however, rely on divine grace and improve; we can trust God more often.  God expects us to improve, not be flawless.  When we fail to trust God then act out of fear and a misdirected sense of human agency, we harm others as well as ourselves, for what we do to others, we do to ourselves.  Mutuality works for the positive as well as the negative in our lives.

Recently someone asked me if I believe in God.  My answer surprised him, for I replied by asking him what he meant by “believe in.”  Biblical belief is trust in God, not the affirmation of divine existence.  So I continued my answer by stating that I affirm the existence of God all the time and trust God most of the time.  It was a precise and honest answer.

May we trust God more than we do.  May I trust God more than I do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Call of God V   1 comment

Abraham_Journeying_into_the_Land_of_Canaan

Above:  Abraham Journeying into the Land of Canaan, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, by grace alone you call us and accept us in your service.

Strengthen us by your Spirit, and make us worthy of your call,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:1-9 (Monday)

Genesis 45:25-46:7 (Tuesday)

Psalm 46 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 7:17-24 (Monday)

Acts 5:33-42 (Tuesday)

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The Lord of hosts is with us;

the God of Jacob is our stronghold.

–Psalm 46:7, Common Worship (2000)

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I refuse to defend St. Paul the Apostle’s consistent failure to condemn slavery.  Perhaps he thought that doing so was unnecessary, given his assumption that Jesus would return quite soon and correct societal ills.  The Apostle was wrong on both counts.  At least he understood correctly, however, that social standing did not come between one and God.

Whom God calls and why God calls them is a mystery which only Hod understands.  So be it.  To fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant partially via notorious trickster and con artist as well as his sons, some of whom sold one of their number into slavery, was to take a route which many people (including the author of this post) would have avoided.  And the eleven surviving Apostles (before the selection of St. Matthias) had not been paragons of spiritual fortitude throughout the canonical Gospels.  Yet they proved vital to God’s plan after the Ascension of Jesus.

Those whom God calls God also qualifies to perform important work for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  This is about God and our fellow human beings, not about those who do the work.  So may we, when we accept our assignments, fulfill them with proper priorities in mind.  May we do the right thing for the right reason.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 29–CHRIST THE KING SUNDAY–THE LAST SUNDAY AFTER THE EPIPHANY, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF JOHN KENNETH PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN BISHOP; HIS WIFE, HARRIET ELIZABETH “BESSIE” WHITTINGTON PFOHL, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN; AND THEIR SON, JAMES CHRISTIAN PFOHL, SR., U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLEMENT I OF ROME, BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF MIGUEL AUGUSTIN PRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/23/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Mercy, Faith, and Holiness   1 comment

Abraham and the Angels

Above: Abraham and the Angels

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, creator of light and giver of goodness, your voice moves over the waters.

Immerse us in your grace, and transform us by your Spirit,

that we may follow after your Son, 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 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 17:1-13 (Monday)

Exodus 30:22-28 (Tuesday)

Psalm 69:1-5, 30-36 (Both Days)

Romans 4:1-12 (Monday)

Acts 22:2-16 (Tuesday)

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I will praise the Name of God in song;

I will proclaim his greatness with thanksgiving.

This will please the LORD more than an offering of oxen,

more than bullocks with horns and hoofs.

The afflicted shall see and be glad;

you who seek God, your heart shall live.

For the LORD listens to the needy,

and his prisoners he does not despise.

Let the heavens and the earth praise him,

the seas and all that moves in them;

For God will save Zion and rebuild the cities of Judah;

they shall live there and have it in possession.

The children of his servants will inherit it,

and those who love his Name will dwell therein.

–Psalm 69:32-38, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Genesis 17 tells one version (the Priestly story) of God’s covenant with Abraham.  It duplicates much material from the Yahwistic account in Genesis 15 and adds details about circumcision and Sarah’s pregnancy.  The P account is a story about the graciousness and power of God and one man’s trust in the deity.  Unfortunately, as the saga of Abraham unfolded, the great patriarch came to value his relationship with God so much that he acted in ways which damaged his closest human relationships.  I would not have wanted to have been one of Abraham’s sons.

God approached a mortal in Genesis 17.  The instructions regarding the sacred anointing oil in Exodus 30:22-28 concerned how people should approach God–with the utmost reverence, OR ELSE.  There was a chasm between humans and God (the holy one) in much of the Old Testament.  Much later, when St. Paul the Apostle preached about Jesus, many people wanted to cut him off from the land of the living.  He had committed blasphemy, they thought.

St. Paul had a higher opinion of Abraham than I do, but the Apostle had a valid point in Romans 4, for the patriarch preceded the Law of Moses.  Abraham did manifest active trust in God when he was still Abram, as the Apostle pointed out.  And Genesis describes a very close relationship between God and Abraham; they were on speaking terms, face-to-face, according to the texts.

We should, while avoiding extremes (such as seeking to kill people in the name of God) approach God with deep awe and love.  We worship the deity, who has not only approached us but incarnated and became one of us.  And we have a commandment to love our neighbors as we love ourselves, to respect the image of God in them.  May we act accordingly, trusting in God and recognizing the limits of our abilities and knowledge.  And may we value being merciful more than being correct in our minds.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUGH OF LINCOLN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROQUE GONZALEZ DE SANTA CRUZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE-PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC CONTEMPLATIVE

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/17/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-first-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Genesis and Mark, Part XI: Rejection   1 comment

nazareth-1934-1939

Above:  Nazareth, Palestine, 1934-1939

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2004003044/PP/)

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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:

Genesis 16:1-9, 15-17:22

Psalm 84 (Morning)

Psalms 42 and 32 (Evening)

Mark 6:1-13

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 16-17:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-second-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/second-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

Mark 6:

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

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

Matthew 13 (Parallel to Mark 6):

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

Luke 4 (Parallel to Mark 6):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/fifth-day-of-epiphany/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/09/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/11/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/seventeenth-day-of-lent/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/14/week-of-proper-17-monday-year-2/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/26/prayer-for-the-second-sunday-of-lent/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-of-confession-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-the-second-sunday-in-lent/

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If you, O reader, are very observant regarding the Book of Genesis, you have noticed something about Chapter 17.  It reads as if Chapter 15 does not exist.  Do not take my word for it; read the texts for yourself.  There is a simple explanation:  15 comes mostly from J and 17 from P.  Thus we have two accounts of the Abrahamic Covenant.

While I am discussing textual differences, I turn to the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth.  Here are some facts one can confirm with just a little effort:

  1. The rejection occurs in Mark 6:1-6, Matthew 13:53-48, and Luke 4:16-30.
  2. The tempting of Jesus in the wilderness occurs in Mark 1:12-13, Matthew 4:1-11, and Luke 4:1-13.
  3. Thus Mark and Matthew place more chronological distance between the two events than does Luke, who separates them with two verses.

Now you know.

Now for my main point:

Jesus could not work well among those around whom he had grown up.  Yet his Apostles performed wonders among strangers, who had no preconceived notions about them.  Speaking of preconceived notions (yes, a pun), Sarai/Sarah had a bad attitude toward Hagar.  Sarai/Sarah was of two minds about Hagar’s proper relationship to Abram/Abraham, and therefore to her.  The second mind–that of scorn and rejection–triumphed.

Sometimes we humans ponder those closest to us genetically, emotionally, or geographically and think that we know more about them that we do.  So misunderstandings and jealousies arise, creating unfortunate results–perhaps estrangement.  Relationships can be difficult.  Actually, some of my best relationships have been to cats, not people, so I am hardly a candidate for dispensing much helpful relationship advice.  But I do offer this nugget:  May we begin by admitting to ourselves how little we know about others.  Disappointment is relative to expectation, which are frequently erroneous.  May we deal with people as they are, not as we expect them to be.  Doing that will help a great deal and be better for all parties involved.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF U.S. PRESBYTERIANISM

THE FEAST OF NGAKUKU, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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