Archive for the ‘Greed’ Tag

Perplexing Readings   1 comment

Above:  The Parable of the Unjust Steward, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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

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

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

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

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

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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1 Samuel 15:1-23 or Jeremiah 31:27-34

Psalm 109:1-5, 21-27, 30-31

Romans 11:1-21

Luke 16:1-15

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We have some perplexing readings this Sunday.  Seldom does a lectionary load a Sunday with difficult lessons.

  1. The attack on the Amalekites in 1 Samuel 15 was to avenge an Amalekite attack on Israelites centuries prior, in Exodus 17:8-16.
  2. According to Deuteronomy 20:16-18 and 25:17-19, King Saul and his forces, engaged in a holy war (Is there such a thing?), should have killed all enemies, taken no prisoners, and taken no booty.  They took booty and spared the life of King Agag, though.  This, according to 1 Samuel 15, led to God’s final rejection of Saul, who had blamed others for his violation of the law.  (Are not glad that leaders everywhere no longer deflect blame for their errors?  That is a sarcastic question, of course.)
  3. The tone in Psalm 109 is relentlessly unforgiving.
  4. We read in Romans 11:1-21 that Gentile believers are, by the mercy of God, a branch grafted onto the Jewish tree.  Yet the Gentile branch is not exempt from the judgment of God.  The Gentile branch also has a long and shameful record of anti-Semitism.
  5. The Parable of the Unjust Steward/Corrupt Manager is a challenging text.  The titular character is not a role model, after all.  Yet he is intelligent and able to secure his future by committing favors he can call in when he needs to do so.  One point is that we should be astute, but not corrupt.  Naïveté is not a spiritual virtue.
  6. Money is a tool.  It should never be an idol, although it frequently is.  Greed is one of the more common sins.

I admit my lack of comfort with 1 Samuel 15 and its background.  As Amy-Jill Levine says, people did things differently back then.

I also know well the desire for divine vindication, as well as the unwillingness to forgive.  And, when I want to forgive, I do not always know how to do so.  This reminds me of the predicament of St. Paul the Apostle in Romans 7:19-20.

Each of us is susceptible to many forms of idolatry.  Something or someone becomes an idol when one treats something of someone as an idol.  Function defines an idol.

And what about that parable?  In the context of the Gospel of Luke, one needs also to consider teachings about wealth–blessed are the poor, woe to the rich, et cetera.  The theme of reversal of fortune is germane.  Also, the order not to exalt oneself, but to be kind to those who cannot repay one (Luke 14:7-14) constitutes a counterpoint to the dishonest/corrupt/astute manager/steward.  Remember, also, that if the fictional manager/steward had been honest, he would have kept his job longer, and we would not have that parable to ponder as we scratch our heads.

Obeying the Golden Rule, being as innocent as doves, and being as wise as serpents seems like a good policy.  May we heed the law of God written on our hearts, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY; AND HIS SON, WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY; HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET AND RELIGIOUS WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZITA OF TUSCANY, WORKER OF CHARITY

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2020/04/27/devotion-for-proper-23-year-c-humes/

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God and Mammon   Leave a comment

Above:  $100 Bill

Image in the Public Domain

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For the First Sunday after Trinity, Year 1

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Lectionary from A Book of Worship for Free Churches (The General Council of the Congregational Christian Churches in the United States, 1948)

Collect from The Book of Worship (Evangelical and Reformed Church, 1947)

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O God, the Strength of all them that put their trust in thee;

mercifully accept our prayers;

and because through the weakness of our mortal nature we can do good thing without thee,

grant us the help of thy grace, that in keeping thy commandments,

we may please thee, both in will and deed;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Worship (1947), 184

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Deuteronomy 6:1-15

Psalms 1 and 15

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Luke 7:19-35

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The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the U.S.A. Thank you very much.

–Gordon Gecko, Wall Street (1987)

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The readings this week are about behavior, which is about attitudes.  Revere God.  Revere only God.  Obey divine commandment reverently.  Remember that, contrary to what Gordon Gecko said in Wall Street (1987), greed is not good.  Do not give into hubris, which goes before the fall.

The love of money is the root of all evil, and in pursuit of it some have wandered from the faith and spiked themselves on many a painful thorn.

–1 Timothy 6:10, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Psychological research reveals that, to a certain extent, more money can reduce stress and increase happiness by improving one’s quality of life.  When one can pay all one’s bills, afford all of one’s necessities, and reduce or eliminate debt, one feels better, of course.  However, past a certain financial threshold, more money does not increase one’s happiness.  In fact, in cases of extreme wealth, more money may decrease happiness and increase stress.

Money is a morally neutral tool.  It is also worth what consensus decrees it is worth.  Money is psychological.  The moral aspects of money pertain to (1) how one uses it, and (2) how one relates to it.  Money is one of the more common idols.

Revere only God, we read.  Trust and obey God, we read.  God is faithful.  Are we?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 12, 2020 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; AND HIS NEPHEW, WILLIAM SLOANE COFFIN, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND SOCIAL ACTIVIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID URIBE-VELASCO, MEXICAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1927

THE FEAST OF GODFREY DIEKMANN, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, ECUMENIST, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT JULIUS I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZENO OF VERONA, BISHOP

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The Golden Rule, Part VI   Leave a comment

Above:  The Parable of the Rich Fool

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace:

give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our divisions.

Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 128

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Genesis 9:8-17

1 Timothy 6:6-19

Luke 12:13-21

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People who long to be rich are a prey to trial; they get trapped into all sorts of foolish and harmful ambitions which plunge people into ruin and destruction.  The love of money is the root of all evils and there are some who, pursuing it, have wandered away from the faith and so given their souls any number of fatal wounds.

–1 Timothy 6:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One theme this week is greed.

Money and, more generally, wealth, are morally neutral.  How one relates to them is not, however.  The Bible contains more verses about money and wealth than about sexual desire and activities, but the latter conveniently receives more attention in sermons and lessons that the former.  I propose that ranking our moral concerns according to Biblical priority is a good idea.

A bigger idea than greed is the lack of trust in God that greed indicates.  We want security blankets, so to speak.  Radical discipleship does not permit them, however.  Trust in God becomes evident in one’s actions, just as lack of trust in God does.  Whenever we turn against each other for selfish purposes, we reveal our lack of trust in God.  We are en route to evil when we do so.

According to a note in The Jewish Study Bible, an excellent resource, especially for a Gentile, the Talmud teaches that all Gentiles who observe the

seven commandments of the descendants of Noah

will meet with full divine approval.  Jews have 613 commandments, but Gentiles have just the following:

  1. To establish courts of justice,
  2. To avoid blaspheming the God of Israel,
  3. To refrain from committing idolatry,
  4. To refrain from committing sexual perversion,
  5. To refrain from committing bloodshed,
  6. To refrain from committing robbery, and
  7. To avoid eating meat cut from a living animal.

Most of these seven commandments relate to how we relate to God and each other.  Those two relationships are akin, after all.  One cannot love God and habitually tear others down for our immediate benefit.  Besides, when we harm others, we really damage ourselves, too.  This may become clear to us only with the passage of time, but the principles remain true.

Do we trust God enough to love our neighbors as we love ourselves?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 27, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BROOKE FOSS WESTCOTT, ANGLICAN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND BISHOP OF DURHAM; AND FENTON JOHN ANTHONY HORT, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN HENRY BATEMAN, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHAN NORDAHL BRUN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN BISHOP, AUTHOR, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH; AND HIS GRANDSON, WILLIAM REED HUNTINGTON, U.S. ARCHITECT AND QUAKER PEACE ACTIVIST

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Psalms 47-49   1 comment

Above:  Some of the Possessions of Charles Foster Kane after His Death, from Citizen Kane (1941)

A Screen Capture by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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POST XVIII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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God is in control.  Do we affirm this?  We (collectively and individually) ought to trust in God.  Do we (collectively and individually) give more than lip service to this principle?  Related to these points is another one.  Since wealth and pleasure are temporary, we should not trust in them–make idols of them.  Is this not a counter-cultural message in many, if not most, societies?  Greed and hedonism are, after all, powerful temptations.

Do not be afraid when a man becomes rich,

when his household goods increase;

for when he dies he can take none of it along;

his goods cannot follow him down.

–Psalm 49:17-18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

That passage reminds me of another one:

Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and thieves break in and steal, but store up treasure in heaven, where neither moth nor rust will destroy, nor thieves break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.

–Matthew 6:19-21, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Shall we be honest with and about ourselves?  Each of us clings to something that is temporary as if it were permanent.  It might be tangible or intangible, but it is transitory.  It is also an idol.  The treasures, even if only psychological in nature, we lay up in this life distract us from acknowledging our complete dependence on God, in whom scripture tells us we should trust.

May we, by grace, cease this idolatry.  There is nothing inherently wrong with wealth, which one can use for positive purposes.  The issues are how one relates to it and how one utilizes it.  Does one make an idol of it?  If so, one has a spiritual problem.  For many of us, though, the idolatrous attachments might be to family heirlooms or to other possessions of little value to anyone else.  Our stuff (for lack of a more accurate word) weighs us down and distracts us from focusing on where our attention should be.  May we, by grace, abandon this idolatry and place our sentimental stuff in proper perspective.

The History Channel series Life After People, although not religious and spiritual by design, is germane to this post.  The series imagines the fate of the physical remains of human civilizations after the disappearance of the human race from the planet.  Eventually, one learns, almost evidence of humans will cease to exist.  The Pyramids of Giza and our plastic refuse (especially that great mass of it in the oceans) will last the longest.  Most of that which we imagine to be permanent will return to nature, as it should.  We are, in the long term, insignificant.  While we are here, however, we can accomplish much good and glorify God.  May we strive to do so.  May we, by grace, succeed.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM WALSHAM HOW, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WAKEFIELD AND HYMN WRITER; AND HIS SISTER, FRANCES JANE DOUGLAS(S), HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH, ABOLITIONIST

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Posted August 10, 2017 by neatnik2009 in Matthew 6, Psalm 47, Psalm 48, Psalm 49

Tagged with ,

Humility and Arrogance, Part I   1 comment

Parable of the Wicked Servants

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servants

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your sovereign purpose bring salvation to birth.

Give us faith amid the tumults of this world,

trusting that your kingdom comes and your will is done

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 4:4-18 (Thursday)

Daniel 4:19-27 (Friday)

Daniel 4:28-37 (Saturday)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

1 Timothy 6:11-21 (Thursday)

Colossians 2:6-15 (Friday)

Mark 12:1-12 (Saturday)

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FYI:  Daniel 4:1-37 in Protestant Bibles equals Daniel 4:1-34 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox translations.

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Arrogance can be easy to muster and humility can be difficult to manifest.  I know this well, for

  1. I have been prone to intellectual arrogance, and
  2. humility can be painful.

To be fair, some people I have known have nurtured my intellectual arrogance via their lack of intellectual curiosity and their embrace of anti-intellectualism.  That reality, however, does nothing to negate the spiritual problem.  I am glad to report, however, that it is a subsiding problem, by grace.

The internal chronology of the Book of Daniel defies historical accuracy; I came to understand that fact years ago via close study of the text.  The Book of Daniel is folkloric and theological, not historical and theological.  The folktale for these three days concerns King Nebuchadrezzar II (a.k.a. Nebuchadnezzar II), King of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned from 605 to 562 B.C.E.  The arrogant monarch, the story tells us, fell into insanity.  Then he humbled himself before God, who restored the king’s reason.

So now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of Heaven, all of whose works are just and whose ways are right, and who is able to humble those who behave arrogantly.

–Daniel 4:34, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is folklore, not history, but the lesson regarding the folly of arrogance is true.

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12) exists in the context of conflict between Jesus and Temple authorities during the days immediately prior to his death.  In Chapter 11 our Lord and Savior cleansed the Temple and, in a symbolic act, cursed a fig tree as a sign of his rejection of the Temple system.  In Chapters 11 and 12 Temple authorities attempted to entrap Jesus in his words.  He evaded the traps and ensnared his opponents instead.  In this context Jesus told the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.  The vineyard was Israel, the slain slaves/servants were prophets, and the beloved son was Jesus.  The tenants were the religious leaders in Jerusalem.  They sought that which belonged to God, for Christ was the heir to the vineyard.

1 Timothy 6:11-21 continues a thread from earlier in the chapter.  Greed is bad, we read:

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

–6:9-10, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Faithful people of God, however, are to live differently, pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness (verse 11).  The wealthy are to avoid haughtiness and reliance on uncertain riches, and to trust entirely in God (verse 17).  Further instructions for them include being generous and engaging in good works (verse 18).

Complete dependence upon God is a Biblical lesson from both Testaments.  It is a pillar of the Law of Moses, for example, and one finds it in 1 Timothy 6, among many other parts of the New Testament.  Colossians 2:6-15 drives the point home further, reminding us that Christ has cancelled the debt of sin.

Forgiveness as the cancellation of debt reminds me of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35).  A king forgave a large debt–10,000 talents–a servant owed to him.  Given that one talent was fifteen years’ worth of wages for a laborer, and that the debt was therefore 150,000 years’ worth of wages, the amount of the debt was hyperbolic.  The point of the hyperbole in the parable was that the debt was impossible to repay.  The king was merciful, however.  Unfortunately, the servant refused to forgive debts other people owed to him, so the king revoked the debt forgiveness and sent the servant to prison.

So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

–Matthew 18:35, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Just as God forgives us, we have a responsibility to forgive others.  Doing so might require us to lay aside illusions of self-importance.  That has proven true in my life.

The path of walking humbly with God and acknowledging one’s total dependence upon God leads to liberation from illusions of grandeur, independence, and self-importance.  It leads one to say, in the words of Psalm 16:1 (Book of Common Worship, 1993):

Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-28-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Proper Leadership   1 comment

Licensed Wreckers in the Hands of the Receivers

Above:  Licensed Wreckers–In the Hands of the Receivers, 1882

A familiar event:  a greedy few benefit from the collapse of a corporation, by order of a court.

Artist = Joseph Ferdinand Keppler (1838-1894)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-28458

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, raise your throne in our hearts.

Created by you, let us live in your image;

created for you, let us act for your glory;

redeemed by you, let us give you what is yours,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 17:1-6 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 17:14-20 (Friday)

Psalm 96:1-9 [10-13] (Both Days)

3 John 9-12 (Thursday)

1 Peter 5:1-5 (Friday)

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The themes of being a good example and of leading intertwine in these days’ assigned readings.  Indeed, one may have fine moral character and be a bad or ineffective leader, but a good leader–a fine shepherd of the people–will possess proper moral qualities.  As an old Greek maxim tells us, character is destiny.

We read of two bad examples–people not to emulate.  Micah of Ephraim (Judges 17:1-6) practiced idolatry.  He went on in the succeeding verses to hire a Levite as his priest.

Now I know that the LORD will prosper me, because the Levite has become my priest.

–Judges 17:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Yet the idolatry remained and no ritual, regardless of its sanctity, functioned as a talisman against the consequences of sin.  And Diotrephes (3 John 9-12) used a local congregation as his power base and lied about others to protect his status.  He disobeyed the advice in 1 Peter 5:1-5, for he used his position to lord it over the congregation.

Proper leadership entails functioning as a good example.  To exercise the trust that is a leadership role as one should is to build up the people–to work for the common good–and not to line one’s proverbial pockets.  Official corruption is one of the major causes of poverty, as numerous examples (especially in oil-rich areas with rampant poverty yet a relative few very wealthy people) demonstrate.  Also, how one behaves speaks more loudly than what one says.  Political talk is cheap, but actions count.  I recall an editorial in a Roman Catholic magazine in the middle 1990s.  The author, who had no kind words for politicians, who used the rhetoric of “family values” to win elections then did little or nothing to help the poor, much less families, wrote,

GET OFF YOUR VALUES AND GET TO WORK.

The criticism remains valid in a host of circumstances.

The words of Psalm 96:13 (The Book of Common Prayer, 1979) can function as both encouragement and as bad news.

He [the LORD] will judge the world with righteousness

and the peoples with his truth.

It is good news for the oppressed and the downtrodden and terrifying news for the oppressors and those who trod upon people.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 31, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 17:  THE TWELFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT AIDAN OF LINDISFARNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/31/devotion-for-thursday-and-friday-before-proper-24-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Good Shepherds, Part I   1 comment

pope_francis_in_march_2013

Above:  His Holiness, Francis, Bishop of Rome

Image Source = casarosada.gob.ar via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pope_Francis_in_March_2013.jpg

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The Collect:

O God our shepherd, you know your sheep by name

and lead us to safety through the valleys of death.

Guide us by your voice, that we may walk in certainty and security

to the joyous feast prepared in your house,

through 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 33

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 34:17-23 (23rd Day)

Ezekiel 34:23-31 (24th Day)

Jeremiah 23:1-8 (25th Day)

Psalm 100 (All Days)

1 Peter 5:1-5 (23rd Day)

Hebrews 13:20-21 (24th Day)

Matthew 20:17-28 (25th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Ezekiel 34:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/03/15/devotion-for-january-11-and-12-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Jeremiah 23:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/advent-devotion-for-december-18/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/20/proper-11-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/03/devotion-for-november-10-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/proper-29-year-c/

1 Peter 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-december-3-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Hebrews 13:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/week-of-4-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/03/devotion-for-the-seventh-day-of-easter-saturday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Matthew 20:

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

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Know this:  The LORD alone is God;

we belong to the LORD, who made us,

we are God’s people and the sheep of God’s pasture.

–Psalm 100:2, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Sometimes the timing of the writing of these devotions astounds me.  I refer not to the fact that I drafted this post on December 9, 2013, or the reality that I am typing it on December 16, 2013.  No, that is typical of my pattern of writing ahead of schedule.  No, I mean the juxtaposition of current events in December 2013 to the content of the assigned readings.  Pope Francis has condemned unbridled capitalism (note the adjective “unbridled”) and supply-side (“trickle-down”) economics as immoral, triggering an avalanche of criticisms of him and his remarks.  Talk radio and Fox News Channel personalities are beside themselves.  The Holy Father is a Marxist, Rush Limbaugh says.  (Francis is not a Marxist.)  He has condemned an entire economic system, some say.  (The Holy Father has condemned what George H. W. Bush called “Voodoo economics” in 1980 and a culture of greed.)  But why let objective reality get in the way of a tantrum?  Pope Francis is standing in the tradition of the Hebrew prophets and Jesus, a good thing for a Pontiff to do.  All of this, in combination with the lections, reminds me of the thoughts of the late Bishop Bennett J. Sims (died in 2006) on leadership.  He favored servant leadership, that which builds up others and does not seek to control them.  This was his idea of business ethics and good government.

God will replace the predatory shepherds of Ezekiel 34:1-16 with good shepherds, the rest of that chapter says.  The sheep will benefit from the change.  1 Peter 5:1-5 encourages humility as a guide in dealing with others.  And we who follow Jesus are the sheep of his flock.  He is the Good Shepherd of a famous parable.  In his kingdom the servants are the greatest, the meek will inherit the earth, the grieving will receive comfort, the hungry will have their fill, and the poor will inherit the kingdom.  There is no artificial scarcity in God’s economics; no, there is enough for everyone to fill every need.

The facts that our world is not that reality and that the Pope’s words have sparked such an outcry indicate deeply ingrained sinfulness–spiritual blindness–especially of the type which seems leftover from reactionary Cold War politics.  Yet the prophetic words of God and of God’s servants regarding economics and human dignity stand as condemnations of those who disagree with them.  So be it.  That might open the door for repentance and conversion, the preferable subsequent course of action.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE SIXTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ADELAIDE, HOLY ROMAN EMPRESS

THE FEAST OF MARIANNE WILLIAMS, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/16/devotion-for-the-twenty-third-twenty-fourth-and-twenty-fifth-days-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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