Archive for the ‘Cain and Abel’ Tag

Yet Another Chance, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Return of the Prodigal Son, by Leonello Spada

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE NINTH SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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O God, you have joined together diverse nations in the confession of your name:

Grant us both to will and to do what you command, that your people,

being called to an eternal inheritance, may hold the same faith in their hearts

and show the same godliness in their lives;

through the same Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

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Isaiah 55:1-7

Psalm 45

Philemon 1-3, 10-16

Luke 15:11-32

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God extends us second, third, fourth, fifth, et cetera chances.  Do we welcome these?

Consider the Letter to Philemon, O reader.  It is a text a long line of exegetes reaching back into antiquity has misinterpreted.  It is not, as St. John Chrysostom, a man fearful of the possibility that people in the Roman Empire would associate Christianity with the emancipation of slaves, thought, an argument for returning fugitive slaves to their masters.  Neither is the text a defense of slavery, as many defenders of chattel slavery in the antebellum United States argued.  Furthermore, nowhere does the letter indicate that Onesimus was a thief; the conditional tense makes a difference.  And, as certain scholars of the New Testament note, the correct translation of verse 16 is actually

…as if a slave,

not the usual

…as a slave.

The conditional tense makes a difference.  Tradition of which I have no reason to doubt the veracity holds that the rest of the story was a second chance for both Onesimus and Philemon, both of whom became bishops.  That point aside, I enjoy the pun, for Onesimus means “useful,” and he will be useful again, we read.  Also, the manipulation of Philemon is at its positive full force:  I could tell you to do the right thing, but I know that I do not have to do that because of the kind of man you are, the letter says.  One might conclude that Philemon did not have much of a choice in this scenario.

The story traditionally labeled the Parable of the Prodigal Son offers three compelling characters:  a father and two sons.  An observant student of the Bible might think of the motif of a father having two sons; something bad will happen.  Consider, O reader, the brothers Cain and Abel, Isaac and Ishmael, and Jacob and Esau, for example.  In this case we have a loving father and two sons–an ungrateful, disrespectful wastrel and his dutiful older brother.  The father knows and loves both of his sons.  He does not force them to do the right thing.  The father lets his younger son go in the expectation that he will return.  The father is jubilant when the younger son returns.  The older brother should also rejoice, but he wonders why he receives so little attention.  He is actually in a much better state than the returned younger brother, who will have to live with the concrete consequences of his folly for the rest of his life.  The older brother will still inherit the estate, however.

Each of us, throughout his or her life, might fill all three roles in the parable.  Many of us might identify most easily with the resentful and dutiful older brother, who does as her father tells him to do.  This resentful, holier-than-thou attitude is a gateway to Donatism, however.  We should actually rejoice when the penitent return.  We ought to welcome divine grace showered upon those we do not like.  When we do not do this, we commit a particular sin.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Genesis and Mark, Part V: Sin and Attitudes   1 comment

cain-and-abel

Above:  Cain and Abel

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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 4:1-26

Psalm 84 (Morning)

Psalms 42 and 32 (Evening)

Mark 2:18-28

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Some Related Posts:

Mark 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/week-of-2-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/week-of-2-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

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

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

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

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/prayer-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/prayer-of-confession-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent/

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Much time had passed since the days when the Law of Moses was relatively new.  Lifestyles had changed, as had social, cultural, and political realities.  Yet, within Judaism, the Law of Moses remained a divine instructions.  So teachers interpreted the Law to fit within their then-current contexts.  That was essential background for grasping correctly one reason that Jesus irritated so many people so much.  Keeping the Law just so was not a mater of maliciousness; it was an issue of both righteousness and identity, as practitioners understood them.

Jesus walks around, heals many people on the Sabbath, plucks ears of corn on the Sabbath, and eats with notorious sinners.  In so doing he called into question the basis of the lived faith of many people.  He was courting danger.  I wonder, in fact, how well many self-described Christians of today would respond to a preacher who questioned traditional doctrines and practices and dined with notorious sinners.  I leave that question with you, O reader.  And I ask how I would respond to such a person.

Jesus argued by words and words that his critics had gotten the Law wrong.  They had ossified it, despite their attempts to reinterpret it for new circumstances.  They had focused so much on arbitrary rules that they had overlooked human necessities.  They needed to be flexible.  They needed to allow for grace more than they did.

Meanwhile, in Genesis 4, there were two brothers–Cain, an agriculturalist, and Abel, a pastoralist.  Both made offerings to God, who accepted that of Abel but rejected that of Cain.  The story implies (by lack of details concerning Cain’s offering) that his was substandard.  The text does indicate clearly that Cain had a bad attitude.  He did kill Abel, after all.  Yet the murderer came under divine protection.  He lived the rest of his life in exile, but he had divine protection.  Grace and judgment coexisted.

God, addressing Cain in verse 7 said,

Surely if you do right,

There is uplift.

But if you do not do right

Sin crouches at the door;

It urge is toward you,

Yet you can be its master.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scripures

The image of sin crouching at the door as if to ambush one is vivid.  Sin mastered the character of Cain.  That was not a foregone conclusion, though.  And sin need not master any of us.  I suspect that when sin approaches most often, it does so dressed up as righteousness.  In Mark 2, it convinced some people because it came in the guise of Sabbath law.

We must be on guard against the appearance of righteousness without the substance thereof.  And we must also mind our attitudes.  Cain had a bad attitude in Genesis 4.  Our Lord’s opponents in Mark 2 also had bad attitudes.  A good attitude alone is insufficient for righteousness, but it cannot hurt–and it can help.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMITION OF HUY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARRIET STARR CANNON, COFOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF SAINT MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE VENERINI, FOUNDER OF THE VENERINI SISTERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODARD OF NARBONNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP, AND SAINTS JUSTUS AND PASTOR, MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted January 20, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 4, Mark 2, Psalm 32, Psalm 42, Psalm 84

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