Archive for the ‘Apostles’ Tag

Putting the Saddlebags of Jesus, Not the Donkey   1 comment

Above:  Donkeys

Image Source = Mates II

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

Putting the Saddlebags on Jesus, Not the Donkey

JANUARY 22, 2012

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Jonah 3:1-5, 10 (New Revised Standard Version):

The word of the LORD came to Jonah a second time, saying,

Get up, go to Nineveh, that great city, and proclaim to it the message that I tell you.

So Jonah set out and went to Nineveh, according to the word of the LORD.  Now Nineveh was an exceedingly large city, a three days’ walk across.  Jonah began to go into the city, going a day’s walk.  And he cried out,

Forty days more, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!

And the people of Nineveh believed God; they proclaimed a fast, and everyone, great and small, put on sackcloth.

When God say what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he said he would bring upon them and he did not do it.

Psalm 62:6-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

6 For God alone my soul in silence waits;

truly, my hope is in him.

7 He alone in my rock and my salvation,

my stronghold, so that I shall not be shaken.

8  In God is my safety and my honor;

God is my strong rock and my refuge.

9  Put your trust in him always, O people,

pour out your hearts before him, for God is our refuge.

10  Those of high degree are but a fleeting breath,

even those of low estate cannot be trusted.

11  On the scales they are lighter than a breath,

all of them together.

12  Put no trust in extortion;

in robbery take no empty pride;

though wealth increases, set not your heart upon it.

13  God has spoken once, twice have I heard it,

that power belongs to God.

14  Steadfast love is yours, O Lord,

for you repay everyone according to his deeds.

1 Corinthians 7:29-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

I mean, brothers and sisters, the appointed time has grown short; from now on, let even those who have wives be as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no possessions, and those who deal with this world as though they had no dealings with it.  For the present form of the world is passing away.

Mark 1:14-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came to Galilee, proclaiming the good news of God, and saying,

The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.

As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea–for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them,

Follow me and I will make you fish for people.

And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.  Immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired him, and followed him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Some Related Posts:

Third Sunday after the Epiphany, Year A:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

Jonah 3:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/27/week-of-proper-22-tuesday-year-1/

Mark 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-1/

St. Simon Peter, Apostle and Martyr:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/feast-of-sts-peter-and-paul-apostles-and-martyrs-june-29/

St. Andrew, Apostle and Martyr:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/feast-of-st-andrew-apostle-and-martyr-november-30/

St. James the Greater, Apostle and Martyr:

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-james-bar-zebedee-apostle-and-martyr-july-25/

St. John the Evangelist, Apostle:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/third-day-of-christmas-the-feast-of-st-john-apostle-and-evangelist-december-27/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Rumi, or, as Persians and Afghanis call him, Jelaluddin Balkhi, lived from 1207 to 1273 C.E.  He was one of the great poets.  Professor Coleman Barks has translated many of Rumi’s works into English.  Among these is “A Basket of Fresh Bread,” part of which I quote here:

Stay bewildered in God,

and only that.

Those of you are scattered,

simplify your worrying lives.  There is one

righteousness:  Water the fruit trees,

and don’t water the thorns.  Be generous

to what nurtures the spirit and God’s luminous

reason-light.  Don’t honor what causes

dysentery and knotted-up tumors.

Don’t feed both sides of yourself equally.

The spirit and the body carry different loads

and require different attentions.

Too often

we put saddlebags of Jesus and let

the donkey run loose in the pasture.

Don’t make the body do

what the spirit does best, and don’t let a big load

on the spirit that the body could carry easily.

(Source = The Essential Rumi, Translated by Coleman Barks with John Moyne, A. J. Arberry, and Reynold Nicholson, HarperCollins, 1995; paperback, 1996; page 256)

Following God requires us to make changes.  The grace may be free to us, but it is not cheap.  We read in Jonah 3 that the prophet’s message found a receptive audience, but we discover in Jonah 4 that this fact disappointed Jonah.  He needed to lay aside his desire to see the people of Nineveh suffer for their sins.

As for Paul of Tarsus, all I can say is that I do not recall hearing this passage or the verse immediately before it read at a wedding, for good reason.

Yet those who marry will experience distress in life, and I would spare you that.–1 Corinthians 7:28b

Paul expected Jesus to return very soon, so marriage and other matters of daily life seemed relatively unimportant to him.  Two thousand years later, however, human relationships continue and Jesus has yet to return.  Some parts of the Bible are timeless; others are not.

And the Apostles?  Some of them left family businesses behind, and most of them died because they insisted on spreading the news of Jesus.  Nearly two thousand years later countless members of successive generations have known the mercies of Jesus because of what these men did.  I owe my faith in part to them.

Grace was not cheap for them.  This is the grace which grants repentance–literally turning around or changing one’s mind–and then forgiveness of sins.  Such grace scandalizes some of us from time to time, but we benefit from grace, too.  Consider this:  Somebody might find the grace God has extended to you scandalous.

Playing with Rumi’s word pictures, how often do we put the saddle bags on Jesus and let the donkey run loose in the pasture?  How often do we, perhaps out of ignorance, malnourish ourselves spiritually?  And how often do we water thorns?  I need to deal with these issues at least as much as do many other people.

The reality is that we–you and I–will not be the most effective ambassadors for Christ until, by grace, we begin to correct these bad habits and continue to replace them with good habits.  What we–you and I–do affects others in ways we cannot imagine.  Our influence, whether direct or indirect, is greater than we know.  So, by grace, may it be as positive as possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BARNABAS THE APOSTLE, COWORKER OF THE APOSTLE PAUL

THE FEAST OF VERNON JOHNS, NATIONAL BAPTIST PASTOR

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Advertisements

Posted January 4, 2012 by neatnik2009 in 1 Corinthians 7, Jonah 3, Mark 1, Psalm 62

Tagged with , ,

The Universal Covenant of Christ   1 comment

Above:  Coral Reef Biodiversity

Image Source = Richard Ling

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hebrews 8:6-13 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

But, as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry which is much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.  For it that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second.

For he finds no fault with them when he says:

The days will come, says the Lord,

when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel

and with the house of Judah;

not like the covenant that I made with their fathers

on the day when I took them by the hand

to lead them out of the land of Egypt;

for they did not continue in my covenant,

and so I paid no heed to them, says the Lord.

This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel

after those days, says the Lord:

I will put my laws into their minds,

and write them on their hearts,

and I will be their God,

and they shall be my people.

And they shall not teach every one of his fellow

or every one of his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’

and all shall know me,

from the least of them to the greatest.

For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,

and I will remember their sins no more.

In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete.  And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

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.

Truly, his salvation is very near to 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.

Mark 3:13-19 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him.  And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach and have authority to cast out demons:  Simon whom he surnamed Peter; James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Cananaean, and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ is the light of the world: Grant that your people, illumined by your Word and Sacraments, may shine with the radiance of Christ’s glory, that he may be known, worshipped, and obeyed to the ends of the earth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The author of the Letter to the Hebrews writes of a new covenant, one which God has instigated for people without regard for human distinctions.  We mere mortals are skilled at labeling ourselves and each other and transforming these into the basis for conflict:  clean vs. unclean, Jew vs. Gentile, White vs. Black, native-born vs. foreign-born, liberal vs. conservative, heterosexual vs. homosexual, male vs. female, Protestant vs. Roman Catholic, et cetera.  We are a tribal bunch, are we not?  Yet our notions of what is proper or clean do not bind God.

This theme runs through the canonical Gospels.  Jesus was on the outs with the religious establishment of his own religion, and he found faith among prostitutes, Roman collaborators, tax collectors (working for Rome), Gentiles attracted to Judaism (yet kept marginal by the orthodox), and notorious sinners.  Shame and honor are social constructs; one has or lacks them according to consensus.  By this standard, Jesus died shamefully.  Yet the instrument of his execution has become a symbol of triumph and a popular symbol for jewelry.

Let us consider the motley crew we call the Twelve Apostles.

  • Simon Peter was impetuous. He went on to deny Jesus three times before finding his sea legs and becoming the leader of the group.
  • Thomas was a healthy skeptic, and thus a good foil to Simon Peter’s tendency to blurt out unfortunate yet well-meant statements.
  • James and John, sons of Zebedee, were cousins of Jesus.  The standard translation of boanerges is “sons of thunder,” but I recall a now-deceased seminary professor saying that “hellraiser” is a better rendering of the word.
  • Matthew had been a tax collector for the Roman Empire.  The tax farming system was set up such that he and other tax collectors gathered more funds than the Empire required.  They passed along the Empire’s taxes and kept the rest for themselves.  They were literal tax thieves, not to mention collaborators.
  • Simon the Cananaean had been a violent revolutionary trying to expel the occupying Romans.
  • Judas Iscariot became disappointed in Jesus, whom he betrayed.
  • Unfortunately, we know little about some of the Apostles.  This is one area in which I would have asked the authors of the canonical Gospels for more information.
  • Ten of the Twelve Apostles died as martyrs.

The canonical Gospels (especially Mark) are clear that the Apostles misunderstood Jesus for years.  Others knew who and what Jesus was and what that meant (at least partially).  Yet the Apostles stand out in the Gospels as not being the brightest crayons in the box.

There is hope in this for you and me.  Jesus did not call he qualified; he qualified the called.  Our Lord and Savior recognized the potential in these men.  And it worked out well in 11 of 12 cases.  It did not work out well immediately, but I have my faith today in large part because of the Apostles and their actions.

The universal covenant of Christ defies human labels.  Jesus had both a former Roman tax collector and a former insurrectionist against Roman imperial rule within his inner circle.  Both Matthew and Simon found their unity in Jesus.

The universal covenant of Christ is written on human hearts and minds.  It is internalized, based on love of God.  This is a healthy spiritual relationship built on terror, but on trust, awe, and respect.  In this context social constructs, such as shame and honor, mean nothing.  Most of the Apostles died shamefully, according to human standards.  Yet their martyrdoms were not shameful, for these men died for the love of God and their fellow human beings.

In the early 1950s, during the McCarthy Era witchhunts, Doris Plenn wrote the following words:

When tyrants tremble, sick with fear,

And hear their death-knell ringing,

When friends rejoice both far and near,

How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile,

Our thoughts to them go winging;

When friends by shame are undefiled,

How can I keep from singing?

I suspect that we humans like labels, such as “clean” and “unclean” because they help us order our world in ways convenient for us.  We tell ourselves that are “clean,” of course, and those different people are “unclean.”  We heap shame upon the heads of others when they have done nothing wrong and we excuse ourselves when we sin.  But God does not see as we do; God looks on the heart.  And, as Jesus said, certain prostitutes will enter Heaven before some of us, who think ourselves respectable, will.  So, what is certain?  The judgment, mercy, and wisdom of God, which exceed human understanding, are constant.  And, if that makes you uncomfortable, that might be a healthy spiritual sign, depending on what you do with that discomfort.  Will you examine yourself spiritually and be open to God, or will you resist?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 28, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WENCESLAUS I, DUKE OF BOHEMIA

THE FEAST OF JOHN PAUL I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT LORENZO RUIZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF RICHARD ROLLE, WALTER HILTON, AND MARGERY KEMPE, ENGLISH MYSTICS

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/28/week-of-2-epiphany-friday-week-1/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted January 4, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 8, Mark 3, Psalm 85

Tagged with ,

“How Many Apostles Are There?”   1 comment

Above:  The Twelve Apostles

Image Source = Stanp

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hebrews 1:1-6 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir to all things, through whom also he created the ages.  He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power.  When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has obtained is more excellent than theirs.

For to what angel did God ever say,

You are my Son,

today have I begotten you?

Or again,

I will be to him a father,

and he shall be to me a Son?

And again, when he brings the first-born into the world he says,

Let all God’s angels worship him.

Psalm 97 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is King;

let the earth rejoice;

let the multitude of the isles be glad.

2 Clouds and darkness are round about him,

righteousness and justice are the foundations of his throne.

A fire goes before him

and burns up his enemies on every side.

4 His lightnings light up the world;

the earth sees it and is afraid.

The mountains melt like wax at the presence of the LORD,

at the presence of the Lord of the whole earth.

The heavens declare his righteousness,

and all the peoples see his glory.

Confounded be all who worship carved images

and delight in false gods!

Bow down before him, all you gods.

Zion hears and is glad, and the cities of Judah rejoice,

because of your judgments, O LORD.

For you are the LORD,

most high over all the earth;

you are exalted far above all gods.

10 The LORD loves those who hate evil;

he preserves the lives of the saints

and delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

11 Light has sprung up for the righteous,

and joyful gladness for those who are truehearted.

12 Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous,

and give thanks to his holy Name.

Mark 1:14-20 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying,

The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.

And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen.  And Jesus said to them,

Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.

And immediately they left their nets and followed him.  And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets.  And immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants, and followed him.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

I admit it.  I like both really good movies (you know, the kind with great acting, a well-written script, and lovely cinematography) as well as bad ones.  There is a time and a season for Citizen Kane, as well as Attack of the Killer Tomatoes.  (Did you ever imagine those two sharing the same thought or sentence?)  Among my favorite bad movies is …And God Spoke (The Making of).  This is a mockumentary about two utterly incompetent and biblically illiterate filmmakers filming a Bible movie.  In one scene, they have too few actors to play the Twelve Apostles because they do not know how many apostles there were.

Indeed, this is a more difficult question than one might suspect at first.  We begin with the twelve who formed Jesus’ inner circle.  Then we add Matthias, plucked briefly from obscurity among the 70 (or 72) of our Lord and Savior’s outer circle to take the place of Judas.  And we consider Paul of Tarsus an apostle.  Our Eastern Orthodox brethren consider Mary of Magdala an equal of the Twelve Apostles.  That, I suppose, makes her an apostle.

Furthermore, the ranks of the saints include others called apostles, for example the “Apostle of Ireland” (St. Patrick).  This is consistent with one definition of apostle, according to the Encarta World English Dictionary:  “a prominent Christian missionary, especially one who is responsible for converting a nation.”

Becoming an apostle (generic term) or Apostle (one the inner circle of Jesus) entailed great personal risks.  Excluding Judas and including Matthias, eleven of the Twelve became martyrs.   John was just fortunate, I suppose.  These men converted nations and laid the foundations upon which succeeding Christian leaders built.  I, as a Christian, owe them much gratitude.  Paul died as a martyr, too, but not before taking Christianity to the Gentiles, among whose company I count myself.  Mary Magadalene is a much misunderstood figure, for Papal tradition (that of Pope Gregory I, to be precise), not the Bible, associates her as having been a prostitute.  Yet another tradition says that she took the Gospel to southern Gaul, now France.  She probably did.

How many apostles are there?  They are still being born.

Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 16, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUDMILLA, DUCHESS OF BOHEMIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NINIAN, BISHOP OF GALLOWAY

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/16/week-of-1-epiphany-monday-year-1/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted December 31, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 1, Mark 1, Psalm 97

Tagged with

True Life   1 comment

Above:  No Right Turn Sign (U.S.A.)

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Deuteronomy 4:32-40 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

Because ask of the earliest days that were before you, from the day that God created a human on the earth, and from one end of the skies to the other end of the skies:  has there been anything like this great thing?  or has anything like it been heard of?  Has a people heard God’s voice speaking from inside a fire the way you heard–and lived?  Or has God put it to the test, to come to take for Himself a people from among people with tests, with signs, and with wonders and with war and with a strong hand and with and outstretched arm and with great fears like everything that YHWH, your God, has done for you in Egypt before your eyes?  You have been shown in order to know that YHWH:  He is God.  There is no other outside of Him.  From the skies He had you hear His voice in order to discipline you, and on the earth He showed you His great fire, and you heard His words from inside the fire.  And because He loved your fathers He chose their seed after them, so He brought you out in front of Him from Egypt by His great power, to dispossess bigger and more powerful nations than you in front of you, to bring you, to give you their land as a legacy as it is today.  And you shall know today and store it in in your heart from YHWH:  He is God in the skies above and on earth below.  And you shall observe His laws and His commandments that I command you today so it will be good for you and for your children after you, and so that you’ll extend days on the land that YHWH, your God, is giving you forever.

Psalm 105:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

3 Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

6 O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

Matthew 16:24-28 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then Jesus said to his disciples,

If anyone wants to follow in my footsteps he must give up all right to himself, take up his cross and follow me.  For the man who wants to save his life will lose it; but the man who loses his life for my sake will find it.  For what good is it for a man to gain the whole world at the price of his real life?  What could a man offer to buy back that life once he has lost it?

For the Son of Man will come in the glory of his Father and in the company of his angels and then he will repay every man for what he has done.  Believe me, there are some standing here today who will know nothing of death till they have seen the Son of Man coming as king.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The proper direction in life comes from listening closely to God.  Living successfully is doing so in God, as God directs us.  For what has God called us, specifically?  Doing that is the road to success.  So what is popular, what others expect of us, what our culturally-defined roles might be, and what we want for ourselves might lead away from our proper destination.

Consider the words of Jesus.  A person who seeks to save his or her life will lose it, and one who loses it will gain it.  This runs contrary to conventional wisdom, does it not?  But consider the source.  Jesus was frequently on the outs with authority figures, and the Roman Empire executed him as an insurrectionist.  The Imperium subjected him to crucifixion, a method reserved for those it considered the worst of the worst.  But who would argue with a straight face that Jesus was a failure?  Are we not still speaking of him after nearly 2,000 years?

(An Aside:  What about the end of the excerpt from Matthew?  By the time of the writing of the Gospel of Matthew, probably circa 85 C.E., Christianity was a vital young religion.  Certainly many people had “seen the Son of Man coming in his kingdom,” as William Barclay translates that verse.  That is, the Kingdom of God, which Jesus inaugurated, was spreading out across the world.  In the canonical gospels Jesus speaks of the Kingdom of God in the present tense.  Did it go away after the Ascension?  I think not.)

The passage from Deuteronomy is explicitly monotheistic.  If Professor Richard Elliott Friedman is correct in his insistence that this passage comes from the 600s B.C.E. at the latest, a strong monotheistic strain existed in Judaism prior to the return from Babylonian Exile (500s B.C.E.).  This is old news.  Here is some more old news:  Many Jews did not practice monotheism until after the return from the Babylonian Exile.  Archaeology and the witness of the Hebrew prophets affirm this statement.  Some ancient places of worship in Israel have survived, for archaeologists have excavated many of them.  At some of these sites the archaeologists found two altars–one for YHWH and the other for Astarte, his presumed wife.

Yet the reading from Deuteronomy stands as a defense of worshiping YHWH alone–without Astarte.  Atheism was extremely rare in that part of the world in the 600s-400s BCE, and monotheism was scarce, too.  Polytheism prevailed, so resisting it was difficult for many.  Yet that is what the Deuteronomist (or at least one Deuteronomist), inserting words into the mouth of Moses, says they must do.  This principle holds true today.  You might not be a polytheist, but what are your idols, those things distracting you from God?  Their identities might surprise you.

The rat race is bad for the rats, and keeping up with the Joneses is no good, either.  Seeking status is pursuing something shallow.  This day’s readings say that we must act contrary to all these standards.  Each of us needs to focus on the one God, take up our cross, and follow Jesus–perhaps at the cost of physical life itself.  Maybe the price will slightly less steep, but it will cost us something we value.  But what we receive in return will be of infinitely greater value.

Most of Christ’s Apostles died violently as martyrs.  St. Paul suffered greatly for the Christian faith after his conversion.  During the succeeding centuries countless numbers of Christians have suffered for their faith.  And martyrdom continues into the present day.  “Take up your cross and follow me,” Jesus says.  This is the path to life in God, whatever form the cross takes.  For Dietrich Bonhoeffer it was a noose.  For others it is a destroyed reputation or a prison sentence or both.  Members of an angry mob killed St. Josaphat Kuntsevych with bullets and an ax.  All these are terrible and unjust, but the Kingdom of God is still here, after nearly two thousand years.  It is spread out across the earth, and many of us do not see it.  But those who take up their crosses point to it, and no temporal power can overcome it.

May we follow and love the God who cares for us and guides us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 27, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN CHRYSOSTOM, BISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on January 27, 2011 

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/week-of-proper-13-friday-year-1/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Reading and Pondering Hosea, Part Three   1 comment

Gallery of the Apostles, Temmenhausen Nikolauskirche

Teachers of Righteousness

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Hosea 10:1-15 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Israel is a ravaged vine

And its fruit is like it.

When his fruit was plentiful,

He made altars aplenty;

When his land was bountiful,

Cult pillars abounded.

Now that his boughs are broken up,

He feels his guilt;

He himself pulls apart his altars,

Smashes his pillars.

Truly, now they say,

We have no king;

For, since we do not fear the LORD,

What can a king do to us?

So they conclude agreements and make covenants

With false oaths,

And justice degenerates into poison weeds,

Breaking out on the furrows of the fields.

The inhabitants of Samaria fear

For the calf of Beth-aven;

Indeed, its people and priestlings,

Whose joy it once was,

Mourn over it for the glory

That is departed from it.

It too shall be brought to Assyria

As tribute to a patron king;

Ephraim shall be chagrined,

Israel shall be dismayed

Because of his plans.

Samaria’s monarchy is vanishing

Like foam upon water,

Ruined shall be the shrines of [Beth-]aven,

That sin of Israel.

Thorns and thistles

Shall grow on their altars.

They shall call to the mountains,

Bury us!

To the hills,

Fall on us!

You have sinned more, O Isreal,

Than in the days of Gibeah.

They shall stand [as] at Gibeah!

Shall not they be overtaken

By a war upon scoundrels

As peoples gather against them?

When I chose [them], I broke them in,

Harnessing them for two furrows.

Ephraim became a trained heifer,

But preferred to thresh;

I placed a yoke

Upon her sleek neck.

I will make Ephraim do advance plowing;

Judah shall do [main] plowing!

Jacob shall do final plowing!

Sow righteousness for yourselves;

Reap the fruits of goodness;

Break for yourselves betimes fresh ground

Of seeking the LORD,

So that you may obtain a teacher of righteousness.

You have plowed wickedness,

You have reaped iniquity–

[And] you shall eat the fruits of treachery–

Because you relied on your way,

On your host of warriors.

But the din of war shall arise in your own people,

And all your fortresses shall be ravaged

As Beth-arbel was ravaged by Shalman

On a day of battle,

When mourners and babes were dashed to death together.

This is what Bethel has done to you

For your horrible wickedness:

At dawn shall Israel’s monarch

Utterly perish.

Psalm 105:1-7 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

Remember the marvels he has done;

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O childrenof Jacob his chosen.

He is the LORD our God;

his judgments prevail in all the world.

Matthew 10:1-7 (An American Translation):

Then he [Jesus] called his twelve disciples to him, and gave them power over the foul spirits so that they could drive them out, and so that they could heal any disease or illness.

These are the names of the twelve apostles:  first, Simon, who was called Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James the son of Zebedee and his brother John, Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax-collector, James the son of Alpheus and Thaddeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas Iscariot who afterward betrayed him.

James sent these twelve out, after giving them these directions:

Do not go among the heathen, or to any Samaritan town, but proceed instead to the lost sheep of Israel’s house.  As you go about, preach and say, “The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!”

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

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.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The pronouncements of judgment continue in Hosea.  Much of the content is familiar and repetitive to a student of the Hebrew Scriptures, so I will not rehash it here.

I am, however, following a lectionary, one which pairs this reading with Matthew 10,  which tells of Jesus empowering his twelve Apostles and sending them out on a mission.  The Apostles were diverse, including two cousins of Jesus, a former Roman tax collector, and a violent revolutionary against the Roman occupation.

Hosea 10:12, in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, commands people to sow righteousness for themselves, to reap the fruits of goodness, and break the fallow ground of seeking YHWH “So that you may obtain a teacher of righteousness.”  This is apparently a passage which lends itself to various translations, so that, in the New Revised Standard Version, the command concludes with “that he [YHWH] may come and rain righteousness upon you.”

Teachers of righteousness can come in various shapes and sizes and from various backgrounds. And, when God comes to rain righteousness upon us, the divine methodology might surprise us.  Do we dare even to attempt to look past our preconceived notions and to recognize the methods of God and the identities of teachers of righteousness?

Righteousness is far from an abstract idea.  It is lived, as is orthodoxy.  Theology of a certain variety tells me that orthodoxy is right belief and that orthopraxy is right practice.  But, if Paul was correct regarding faith, faith is active, not just intellectual, and is therefore lived.  Ergo the proper situation is for orthopraxy and orthodoxy to be one and the same.  Do I love my neighbor?  My actions will tell, will they not?  After all, we will know a tree by its fruits.

So, where do we find teachers of righteousness to lead us down the orthodoxy-orthopraxy trail?  The union of these is righteousness.  This righteousness is not individualistic, so that we can feel good and holy while the world around us goes to hell in a handbasket.  No, this righteousness is socially transformative.

Our mission as Christians is to be salt and light–the best salt and the brightest light we can be by grace.  What one person does affects others, and we are God’s, not our own.  May we leave our corner of creation better than we found them.  May we work in the corners of creation God has assigned to each of us.  And may we be teachers of righteousness by words and deeds.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES ELLIOT FOX, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF MADELEINE L’ENGLE, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF PETER CLAVER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/06/week-of-proper-9-wednesday-year-2/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Posted September 6, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Hosea 7-13, Matthew 10, Psalm 105

Tagged with , ,

Ready or Not…   2 comments

Above:  Noah’s Ark, According to Edward Hicks (1780-1849)

Genesis 6:5-8; 7:1-5, 10 (Revised English Bible):

When the LORD saw how great was the wickedness of human beings of earth, and how their every thought and inclination was always wicked, he bitterly regretted that he had made mankind on earth.  He said,

I shall wipe off the face of the earth this human race which I have created–yes, man and beast, creeping things and birds.  I regret that I have ever made them.  Noah, however, won the LORD’s favour.

The LORD said to Noah,

Go into the ark, you and all your household; for you alone in this generation have I found to be righteous.  Take with you seven pairs, a male and female, of all beasts that are ritually clean, and one pair, a male and female, of all beasts that are not clean; also seven pairs, males and females, of every bird–to ensure that life continues on earth.  For in seven days’ time I am going to send rain on the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I shall wipe off the the face of the earth every creature I have made.

Noah did all that the LORD had commanded him.

At the end of seven days the water of the flood came over the earth.

Mark 8:14-21 (Revised English Bible):

Now they had forgotten to take bread with them, and had only one loaf in the boat.  He began to warn them:

Beware,

he said,

be on your guard against the leaven of the Pharisees and the leaven of Herod.

So they began to talk among themselves about having no bread.  Knowing this, Jesus said to them,

Why are you talking about having no bread?  Have you no inkling yet?  Do you still not understand?  Are your minds closed?  You have eyes:  can you not see?  You have ears:  can you not hear?  Have you forgotten?  When I broke the five loaves among the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?

They said,

Twelve.

Jesus asked them,

And how many when I broke the seven loaves among the four thousand?

They answered,

Seven.

He said to them,

Do you still not understand?

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The Collect:

Remember, O Lord, what you have wrought in us and not what we deserve; and, as you have called us to your service, make us worthy of our calling; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Do you still not understand?

–Jesus in Mark 8:21

I know the feeling.  Sometimes, when standing inside a classroom, having chosen to avoid unduly advanced vocabulary words, I find that students still do not understand.  I spoke slowly and enunciated, so I could not have run my words together.  And I spoke up, so volume could not have been an issue.  I sent the message, but some students did not receive it.

God asks the same question repeatedly in the pages of the Hebrew Bible.  Many of our forebears, it seems, either did not listen or chose to pretend that they did not understand.  Today’s reading from Genesis comes from the J account of the Noah’s Ark story.  (The cover art for this post reflects P’s version of God’s instructions–two of every kind.  My North American church culture has fixated on P and ignored J in this matter. C’est la vie.)  In this retelling of an older story, God is frustrated with how creation has turned out.  So God decides to preserve a remnant, destroy the rest, and start over.  God prepares to recreate (create again) the Animal Kingdom.  Noah understands what he must do, and he acts accordingly.  I would say that the rest is history, but this is not history.

“Recreate” is an interesting verb in English.  Depending on whether the first vowel sound is long or short, the meaning is different.  Yet both forms derive from the same Latin word, which means “to bring forth again.”  Recreation, as in games, can refresh us.  And recreation, as in creating again, restores.  Both, however, involve bringing forth again.  And sometimes recreation (long e vowel sound) can be recreation (short e vowel sound).  That is a grace.

The Apostles are in need of recreation (both kinds) in Mark 8:14-21.  Jesus has just fed about 4000 people with a few fishes and a little bread then berated some Pharisees.  These Pharisees have demanded a sign, as you might recall from yesterday’s reading.  Then Jesus, alone with the members of his inner circle speaks in a metaphor, that of leaven, which, in Jewish culture, denoted evil.  So Jesus said to avoid falling into the evil of the Pharisees and the corruption of the Herodians.  Yet, as the Markan Gospel tells the story, the Apostles are clueless; they think Jesus refers to literal bread.  So Jesus, who is already frustrated with Pharisees, adds his Apostles to the list.

Even worse, they still fail to understand after he explains what he means–without a metaphor.  The Apostles need not worry when they are with Jesus.  Consider how far some fishes and loaves of bread went; there is more where that came from.  And why don’t they understand this yet?

We mortals can, if we cooperate with God, display the transforming love of God to anyone who pays attention and who is within our sphere of influence.  First, however, we have to pay attention to whatever God is saying to us.  God is sovereign, and the divine will is destined to come to fruition.  We humans have enough power and free will to ruin Plan A (and B and C…), for example, but God will triumph, with or without us.  Ready or not, here God comes.  May we be ready.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PAUL TILLICH, LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Published originally at ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR and ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR 

Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/,

the basis for this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-tuesday-year-1/

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++