Archive for the ‘Fugitive Slave Act of 1850’ Tag

Giving Sacramentally of Oneself   1 comment

Twelve Tribes Map

Above:  The Twelve Tribes of Israel

Image Scanned from an Old Bible


The Collect:

O God, you show forth your almighty power

chiefly by reaching out to us in mercy.

Grant to us the fullness of your grace,

strengthen our trust in your promises,

and bring all the world to share in the treasures that come

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52


The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 36:1-13

Psalm 146

Romans 5:6-11


Blessed is the man whose help is the God of Jacob:

whose hope is in the Lord his God,

the God who made heaven and earth:

the sea and all that is in them,

who keeps faith forever:

who deals justice to those that are oppressed.

–Psalm 146:5-7, The Alternative Service Book 1980


Numbers 36:1-13 is a sequel to Numbers 27:1-11.  Zelophehad, of the tribe of Manasseh, had five daughters and no sons.  The old man was dead, and his daughter requested and received the right to inherit.

Let not our father’s name be lost to his clan just because he had no sons!  Give us a holding among our father’s kinsmen!

–Numbers 27:4, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The rule became universal among the Hebrews (verse 8).  Yet regulations governing the inheritance of property (such as land) continued to favor males, so, if a daughter of Zelophehad were to marry a man from another tribe, her inheritance would become her husband’s property and remain with his tribe in perpetuity.  The transfer of land from one tribe to another was a major concern, for, as James L. Mays wrote,

each tribe’s share of the Promised Land was the visible reality which constituted its portion in the Lord’s promise and blessing.

The Layman’s Bible Commentary, Volume 4 (Atlanta, GA:  John Knox Press, 1963), p. 143

The solution to the problem was to restrict the marriage options of the daughters of Zelophehad to men of his tribe.  The rule became universal among the Hebrews.

A second issue involved in the matter of ownership of land in Numbers 36 was the link between people and property.  To give away a possession was, in that culture, to give something sacramental of oneself.

To give something sacramental of oneself was what God did via Jesus.  That the great gift and sacrifice was for people–many of whom, once informed of it, would still not care–was remarkable.  Furthermore, when we move beyond the timeframe of Jesus of Nazareth and consider all the people born since then, the scope of the divine gift and sacrifice increases, as does the scale of the acceptance, rejection, and ignorance of it.  Nevertheless, the divine love evident in Jesus, being a form of grace, is free yet not cheap.  No, it requires much of those who accept it.  Many have paid with their lives.  Such sacrifices continue.  The fact that people create and maintain circumstances in which martyrdom becomes the most faithful response to grace is unfortunate.

Most Christians, however, will not have to face the option of martyrdom.  We who are so fortunate must make other sacrifices, however.  They will depend on circumstances, such as who, when , and where we are.  To love our fellow human beings as we love ourselves can require much of us.  Sometimes it might cause us to become criminals.  I think, for example, of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which made helping a slave get to freedom illegal.  Those who risked a prison term to help slaves become free people were brave.  I think also of all those (including many Christians and Muslims) who sheltered Jews during the Holocaust.  Nazis captured many of these brave rescuers who violated the law to protect their neighbors.  Mere decency should never place one in peril, legal or otherwise, but it does that sometimes.

On a mundane level, giving of oneself to others and giving oneself to God requires abandoning certain habits, changing certain attitudes, and thinking more about others and God than about oneself.  Doing those things can prove to be daunting, can they not?  Yet giving something sacramental of oneself requires no less than that.








Adapted from this post:


Compassion, Justice, and Crime   1 comment

Above:  St. Mary’s Orphanage, Washington, D.C., Circa 1909

Image Source = Library of Congress



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


The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 6:1-7:14

Psalm 62 (Morning)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening)

Romans 16:17-27


Some Related Posts:

Romans 16:


Thus said the LORD of Hosts:  Execute true justice and deal loyally and compassionately with one another.  Do not defraud the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; and do not plot evil against one another.–But they refused to pay heed….

–Zechariah 7:9-11a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures


I urge you, brothers, be on your guard against the people who are out to stir up disagreements and bring up difficulties against the teaching which you learnt.  Avoid them.

–Romans 16:17, The New Jerusalem Bible


Who were the people whom Paul advised Roman Christians to avoid?  It seems that they were Judaizers–who argued that Gentiles needed to convert to Judaism and conform to Jewish customs as conditions of becoming Christians–or to Gnostics–who considered self-knowledge to be salvation and being one’s true self as discipleship–or both.  As various Pauline epistles attest, Paul criticized both in strong terms.  Self-knowledge is good, of course, but it does not equal salvation.  And I suppose that being oneself, assuming that one is a good and compassionate person, is also a virtue.  Certainly, one ought to be the person whom God created one to be.  That is a component of discipleship, but the Christian definition of discipleship is following Jesus.  And, if one needs to become and Jewish and to keep Jewish customs in order to be Christian, many incidents in the canonical Gospels where Jesus clashes with religious authorities make no sense.

There are good rules and bad ones.  Good rules include those Zechariah extolled:  Executing true justice; dealing loyally and compassionately with one another; dealing honestly with the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor; and seeking the best for one another.  Against such things there are no divine laws.  I know of no divine law against compassion, generosity, and hospitality.  Yet throughout time human laws against them have existed.  They continue to exist.  Once, in the United States, aiding a fugitive slave’s quest for freedom constituted a federal crime.  Fortunately, the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 passed into history.  Today showing compassion to certain people might constitute aiding and abetting criminals, technically speaking.  A criminal is simply one whom the state has labeled as such, for a crime is whatever the state defines as such.  An escaped slave used to be a criminal–a thief, technically speaking.

My bottom line is this:  May we execute true justice.  May we deal loyally and compassionately with one another.  May we not defraud the widow, the orphan, the stranger, and the poor.  May we not plot evil against one another.  May we not impose needless burdens on one another.  And, if living according to these rules constitutes a crime, may we remember that Jesus, our Lord and Savior, died as a criminal, according to the Roman Empire.  Definitions of crime differ according to time and place, but certain moral absolutes exist.  That standard is the most important one of all.








Adapted from this post:


Legacies   1 comment

Above:  Sherman Booth, U.S. Abolitionist (Died in 1904)


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.


Proverbs 3:27-35 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Do not withhold good from one who deserves it

When you have the power to do it [for him].

Do not say to your fellow,

Come back again;

I’ll give it to you tomorrow,

when you have it with you.

Do not quarrel with a man for no cause,

When he has done you no harm.

Do not envy a lawless man,

Or choose any of his ways;

For the devious man is an abomination to the LORD,

But He is intimate with the straightforward.

The curse of the LORD is on the house of the wicked,

But He blesses the abode of the righteous.

At scoffers He scoffs,

But to the lowly He shows grace.

The wise shall obtain honor,

But dullards get disgrace as their portion.

Proverbs 21:1-6, 10-13 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Like channeled water is the mind of the king in the LORD’s hand;

He directs it to whatever He wishes.

All the ways of a man seem right to him,

But the LORD probes the mind.

To do what is right and just

Is more desired by the LORD than sacrifice.

Haughty looks, a proud heart–

The tillage of the wicked is sinful.

The plans of the diligent make only for gain;

All rash haste makes only for loss.

Treasures acquired by a lying tongue

Are like driven vapor, heading for extinction.

The desire of the wicked is set upon evil;

His fellowman finds no favor in his eyes.

When a scoffer is punished, the simple man is edified;

When a wise man is taught, he gains insight.

The Righteous One observes the house of the wicked man;

He subverts the wicked to their ruin.

Who stops his ears at the cry of the wretched,

He too will call and not be answered.

Proverbs 30:5-9 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Every word of God is pure,

A shield to those who take refuge in Him.

Do not add to His words,

Lest He indict you and you be proved a liar.

Two things I ask of you; do not deny them to me before I die;

Keep lies and false words far from me;

Give me neither poverty nor riches,

But provide me with my daily bread,

Les, being sated, I renounce, saying,

Who is the LORD?

Or, being impoverished, I take to theft

And profane the name of my God.

Psalm 15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 LORD, who may dwell in your tabernacle?

who may abide upon your holy hill?

Whoever leads a blameless life and does what is right,

who speaks the truth from his heart.

3 There is no guile upon his tongue;

he does no evil to his friend;

he does not heap contempt upon his neighbor.

In his sight the wicked is rejected,

but he honors those who fear the LORD.

5 He has sworn to do no wrong

and does not take back his word.

6 He does not give his money in hope of gain,

nor does he take a bribe against the innocent.

Whoever does these things

shall never be overthrown.

Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

Luke 8:16-21, 9:1-6 (The Jerusalem Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

No one lights a lamp to cover it with a bowl or put it under a bed.  No, he puts it on a lamp-stand so that people may see the light when they come in.  For nothing is hidden but it will be made clear, nothing secret but it will be known and brought to light.  So take care how you hear; for anyone who has will be given more; from anyone who has not, even what he thinks he has will be taken away.

His [Jesus’] mother and his brothers came looking for him, but they could not get to him because of the crowd.  He was told,

Your mother and brothers are standing outside and want to see you.

But he said in answer,

My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and put it into practice.

He [Jesus] called the Twelve together and gave them power and authority over all devils and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal.  He said to them,

Take nothing the journey; neither staff, nor haversack, nor bread, nor money; and let none of you take a spare tunic.  Whatever house you enter, stay there; and when you leave, let it be from there.  As for those who do not welcome you, when you leave the town shake the dust from your feet as a sign to them.

So they set out and went from village to village proclaiming the Good News and healing everywhere.


The Collect:

Grant us, Lord, not to be anxious about earthly things, but to love things heavenly; and even now, while we are placed among things that are passing away, to hold fast to those that shall endure; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.


A Related Post:

The Feast of Sherman Booth (August 10):


To do what is right and just

Is more desired by the LORD than sacrifice.

–Proverbs 21:3, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

As a student of history, I know well that secrets (the documented ones, at least), emerge in time.  Our lives contain patterns, and we will not be able to conceal our true selves forever.  So it is best, from a purely selfish point of view, not to have deep, dark secrets.  Rather, if we are to go down to scorn or risk doing so, may we do so for doing the right thing, for acting justly and righteously.  Then the scorn will reflect harshly on the ones who heap scorn, not on the scorned.

There are many cases of this in the Bible.  A few–Tobit, Jeremiah, Elijah, Jesus, and John the Baptist–come to mind immediately.  A more recent example is Sherman Booth (see a link above), who made himself a criminal to free a fugitive slave.  Booth has obtained honor while those who persecuted (and prosecuted) him him have earned disgrace.  All this is appropriate.

May we–you, O reader, and I–live in such a way as to obtain honor.

The wise shall obtain honor,

But dullards get disgrace as their portion.

–Proverbs 3:35, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures






Adapted from this post:


The Yoke of Faith   1 comment

Above:  Yoked Oxen


Isaiah 40:25-31 (Revised English Bible):

To whom, then, will you liken me,

whom set up as my equal?

asks the Holy One.

Lift up your eyes to the heavens;

consider the one who created these,

led out their host one by one,

and summoned each by name.

Through his great might, his strength and power,

not one is missing.

Jacob, why do you complain,

and you, Israel, why do you say,

My lot is hidden from the LORD,

my cause goes unheeded by my God?

Do you not know, have you not heard?

The LORD, the eternal God,

creator of earth’s farthest bounds,

does not weary or grow faint;

his understanding cannot be fathomed.

He gives vigour to the weary,

new strength to the exhausted.

Young men may grow weary and faint,

even the fittest may stumble and fall;

but those who look to the LORD will win new strength,

they will soar as on eagles’ wings;

they will run and not feel faint,

march on and not grow weary.

Psalm 103:1-10 (Revised English Bible):

Bless the LORD, my soul;

with all my being I bless his holy name.

Bless the LORD, my soul,

and forget none of his benefits.

He pardons all my wrongdoing

and heals all my ills.

He rescues me from death’s pit

and crowns me with love and compassion.

He satisfies me with all good in the prime of life,

and my youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

The LORD is righteous in all he does;

he brings justice to all who have been wronged.

He revealed his ways to Moses,

his mighty deeds to the Israelites.

The LORD is compassionate and gracious,

long-suffering and ever faithful;

he will not always accuse

or nurse his anger for ever.

He has not treated as our sins deserve

or repaid us according to our misdeeds.

Matthew 11:28-30 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

Come to me, all who are weary and whose load is heavy; I will give you rest.  Take my yoke and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble-hearted; and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy to wear, my load is light.

The Collect:

Merciful God, who sent your messengers the prophets to preach repentance and prepare the way for our salvation: Give us grace to heed their warnings and forsake our sins, that we may greet with joy the coming of Jesus Christ our Redeemer; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.


Freedom can exist only within the context of rules; to deny this reality is to commit the error which resides at the heart of anarchism.  Yet one must be careful about the rules to which one submits, for there are just laws and unjust laws.  I know this as a student of history.  So I consider the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which made aiding and abetting the escape of slaves a federal crime within the United States while I praise those moral giants who violated it, thereby making themselves criminals.   They obeyed the law of God.

The yoke of Jesus is the yoke of faith.  It is a yoke one assumes voluntarily, not a yoke anybody imposes on another.  Obedience to God can lead to suffering and/or death, but even then it guides one to life eternal in this life and the next.  God, who gives us true life and helps us to live into our potential, directs us into paths of righteousness.  And, if we are wise, we obey.  When we do this we start on the path which leads to soaring like eagles.

Yet first we must recognize and admit the fact that God knows better than we do.  Yes, we must be humble and surrender our illusions of control.  It can be difficult, but is wise.

The law of God is love-sometimes tough love.  Divine law demands that we love ourselves and each other as bearers of the image of God.  This ethic rules out exploitation of our fellow human beings.  Grace is free, yet not cheap, for it accompanies the law of God, which requires that we surrender all our idols, all that distracts us from God.  Such is the way of life.

Thanks be to God!





Adapted from this post:


Posted November 12, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Isaiah 40, Matthew 11, Psalm 103

Tagged with ,