Archive for the ‘Holocaust’ Tag

Giving Sacramentally of Oneself   1 comment

Twelve Tribes Map

Above:  The Twelve Tribes of Israel

Image Scanned from an Old Bible

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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

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 36:1-13

Psalm 146

Romans 5:6-11

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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

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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.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

THE FEAST OF ISAIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF JAN HUS, PROTO-PROTESTANT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF OLUF HANSON SMEBY, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/06/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-27-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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God, Beside Us In Suffering   1 comment

Christ Giving Sight to Bartimaeus--Blake

Above:  Christ Giving Sight to Bartimaeus, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 12:1-13

Psalm 23

Luke 18:35-43

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The LORD is my shepherd;

there is nothing I lack.

In green pastures he makes me lie down;

to still waters he leads me;

he restores my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for the sake of his name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff comfort me.

You set a table before me

in front of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me

all the days of my life;

I will dwell in the house of the LORD

for endless days.

–Psalm 23, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

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Jeremiah lamented the fact that the wicked (many of them, anyway) prosper and that the righteous (many of them, anyway) suffer.  He also prayed for divine wrath against the wicked.  That was a predictable and understandable attitude, one which many people have shared.  May we be honest, O reader?  Have you and I not rejoiced to learn that some scoundrel got his just desserts?

I perceive, however, that Jesus never rejoiced in that.  Yes, he became angry with and confronted people who acted in certain ways and harbored certain attitudes, but I sense that he would have preferred that they repent and follow him.  He did not even seem confrontational with the wealthy man in Luke 18:18-30, just a few verses before healing a blind man near Jericho.  Later our Lord and Savior prayed for those who executed him and consented to his execution.

Blessed are you when people hate you and ostracize you, when they insult you and slander your very name, because of the Son of Man.  On that day exult and dance for joy, for you have a rich reward in heaven; that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The same God who sets a table for us in the presence of our enemies abides with us during difficult times.  I have known that presence during my darkest hours.  I treasure the blessing of that presence without possessing any nostalgia for the context thereof.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu told a story about a Jew during the Holocaust.  A Nazi guard was forcing him to perform an especially dirty, degrading, disgusting, and unpleasant cleaning job.

Where is your God now?,

the guard asked sarcastically.  The Jew replied,

Beside me, here in the muck.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-11-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Of Humility, Honor, and Shame   1 comment

Above:  A Heraldic Chair

Image Source = Rodolph de Salis

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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.

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Romans 11:1-6, 11-12, 25-29 (Revised English Bible):

I ask then:  Has God rejected his people?  Of course not! I am an Israelite myself, of the stock of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.  God has not rejected the people he acknowledge of old as his own.  Surely you know what scripture says in the story of Elijah–how he pleads with God against Israel:

Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.

But what was the divine word to him?

I have left myself seven thousand men who have not knelt to Baal.

In just the same way at the present time a “remnant” has come into being, chosen by the grace of God.  But if it is by grace, then it does not rest on deeds, or grace would cease to be grace.

I ask then:  When they stumbled, was their fall final?  Far from it!  Through a false step on their part salvation has come to the Gentiles, and this in turn will stir them to envy.  If their false step means the enrichment of the world, if their falling short means the enrichment of the Gentiles, how much more will their coming to full strength mean!

There is a divine secret here, my friends, which I want to share with you, to keep you from thinking yourselves wise:  this partial hardening has come on Israel only until the Gentiles have been admitted in full strength; once that has happened, the whole of Israel will be saved, in accordance with the scripture:

From Zion shall come the Deliverer;

he shall remove wickedness from Jacob.

And this is the covenant I will grant them,

when I take away their sins.

Judged by their response to the gospel, they are God’s enemies for your sake; but judged by his choice, they are dear to him for the sake of the patriarchs; for the gracious gifts of God and his calling are irrevocable.

Psalm 94:14-19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

14  For the LORD will not abandon his people,

nor will he forsake his own.

15  For judgment will again be just,

and all the true of heart will follow it.

16  Who rose up for me against the wicked?

who took my part against the evildoers?

17  If the LORD had not come to my help,

I should soon have dwelt in the land of silence.

18  As often as I said, “My foot has slipped,”

your love, O LORD, upheld me.

19  When many cares fill my mind,

your consolations cheer my soul.

Luke 14:1, 7-11 (Revised English Bible):

One sabbath he [Jesus] went to have a meal in the house of one of the leading Pharisees; and they were watching him closely.

… (sabbath healing–a text for the previous post–here)

When he noticed how the guests were trying to secure the places of honour, he spoke to them in a parable:

When somebody asks you to a wedding feast, do not sit down in the place of honour.  It may be that some person more distinguished than yourself has been invited; and the host will come to say to you, “Give this man your seat.”  Then you will look foolish as you go to take the lowest place.  No, when you receive the invitation, go and sit down in the lowest place, so that when your host comes he will say, “Come up higher, my friend.”  Then all your fellow-guests will see the respect in which you are held.  For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled; and who ever humbles himself will be exalted.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Romans 11:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/11/proper-15-year-a/

A Prayer for Humility:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/a-prayer-for-humility/

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Honor and shame are social concepts, for we have only the amount of each that other assign us.  This fact forms part of the backdrop of the parable from Luke 14.  The fact remains that we are more likely to cause socially awkward situations for ourselves by seeking honor and glory than permitting others to bestow it on us.

But I propose that there is a better way, which is not seeking honor and glory as others define it, but finding them in God.  Each of us in the human race bears the image of God.  Some of us are unaware of this fact, but that does not change our reality.  So, if we play with the metaphors, Yahweh is our father is some ways and our mother in others, Jesus is our brother, and saints (living or dead, canonized or not) are family members.  Jesus died as a criminal, in a way meant to bring dishonor to one.  Before that he left Heaven to become fully human.  (He was already fully divine.)  St. Peter died when crucified upside down, a crown stoned St. Stephen to death, and martyrdoms have continued to the present day.

So, in the Kingdom of God, honor, glory, and shame have very different meanings than they do elsewhere.

St. Paul the Apostle (himself beheaded by order of Emperor Nero) wrote eloquently and at length of the importance of grace.  By grace God has not given up on those–Jews included–who have not recognized Jesus as the Messiah.  And, also by grace, God has grafted Gentiles onto the tree of salvation.  I am a Gentile, so it follows that, by grace, God has grafted me onto the tree of salvation.  Of course, Paul’s definition of faith includes the act of responding positively to God, who has initiated the salvific actions.  This positive response is one of free will, which we have because God has placed it there.  So everything goes back to God.

So Paul’s only spiritual boast was in Christ, as is mine.  This is an attitude of humility, which is quite separate from self-degradation.  Claiming to be lower than pond scum is an example of self-degradation.  No, I am a bearer of the image of God because God has placed it within me.  As a member of the human species, my basic problem is one of sin–pf course–but I am higher than pond scum.  Humility, rather, is having a realistic self-estimate then acting on it.

The proper source of my identity is God.  My honor comes from God and is in and through the same.  I could be in the most degraded hellhole on earth (Fortunately I am far from it.) on the account of Jesus, and I would remain remain undefiled by earthly notions of shame.

Years ago I read an interview with Archbishop Desmond Tutu.  He repeated a story about a Jew during the Holocaust.  A Nazi guard forced the Jew to clean the toilets, which were especially disgusting.

Where is your God now?

the Nazi taunted the Jew.

Right here beside me in the muck,

he replied.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 13, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCES PERKINS, UNITED STATES SECRETARY OF LABOR

THE FEAST OF IHAIA TE AHU, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/week-of-proper-25-saturday-year-1/

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Posted May 9, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Luke 14, Psalm 94, Romans 11

Tagged with , ,

Never Alone   1 comment

Above:  An Elderly Woman

Photo by Chalmers Butterfield

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Elderly_Woman_,_B%26W_image_by_Chalmers_Butterfield.jpg)

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Ecclesiastes 11:9-12:8 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

O youth, enjoy yourself while you are young!  Let your heart lead you to enjoyment in the days of your youth.  Follow the desires of your heart and the glances of your eyes–but know well that God will call you to account for all such things–and banish care from your mind, and pluck sorrow out of your flesh!  For youth and black hair are fleeting.

So appreciate your vigor in the days of your youth, before those days of sorrow come and those years arrive of which you will say,

I have no pleasure in them;

before sun and light and moon and stars grow dark, and the clouds come back again after the rain:

When the guards of the house become shaky,

And the men of valor are bent,

And the maids that grind, grown few, are idle,

And the ladies that peer through the windows grow dim,

And the doors to the street are shut–

With the noise of the hand mill growing fainter,

And the song of the bird growing feebler,

And all the strains of music dying down;

When one is afraid of heights

And there is terror on the road.–

For the almost tree may blossom,

The grasshopper be be burdened,

And the caper bush may bud again;

But man sets out for his eternal abode,

With mourners all around in the street.–

Before the silver cord snaps

And the golden bowl crashes,

The jar is shattered at the spring,

And the jug is smashed at the cistern.

And the dust returns to the ground

As it was,

And the lifebreath returns to God

Who bestowed it.

Utter futility–said Koheleth–

All is futile!

Psalm 90:1-2, 12-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

 Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

12 So teach us to number our days

that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.

13 Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry?

be gracious to your servants.

14 Satisfy us by your loving-kindness in the morning;

so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

15 Make us glad by the measure of the days that you afflicted us

and the years in which we suffered adversity.

16 Show your servants your works

and your splendor to their children.

17 May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us;

prosper the work of our hands;

prosper our handiwork.

Luke 9:43b-45 (The Jerusalem Bible):

At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he [Jesus] did, he said to his disciples,

For your part, you must have these words constantly in your mind:  The Son of Man is going to be handed over into the power of men.

But they did not understand him when he said this; it was hidden from them so that they should not see the meaning of it, and they were afraid to ask him about what he had just said.

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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.

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This day’s readings pertain to death.  Youth, Koheleth tells us, is fleeting, old age is full of terrors, and death will come for everyone.  Life is transitory; we are born, we live, and we die.  All of this plays out in the context of the sovereignty of God.  The world will continue without us, and we will fade anonymously into the past in time.  Some of us will fade anonymously into the past sooner than others will, but the ravages of time and ignorance will erase memories of even the most famous.

The reading from Luke contains another prediction of the suffering and execution of Jesus.  The text does not tell us of our Lord’s state of mind.  I suspect that the text cannot fill in that blank, not that this absence of information detracts from the text.  Yet I do suspect that Jesus might have had a disquieted tone of voice.  Why not?  It was troubling news.

There is no inherent fault in having a disquieted spirit.  Much of life consists of disturbing events, so inappropriate joy and apathy are legitimate reasons for concern.  And aging is not for the faint of heart, as many people know directly or indirectly.  I wonder how specialists in geriatrics can handle their work and maintain their mental health.

Difficult times are when our faith lives meet perhaps their stiffest tests.  A story (recounted by Archbishop Desmond Tutu) comes to mind.  A Nazi guard forced a Jew to clean an especially nasty toilet.  He taunted the prisoner,

Where is your God now?

The Jew replied,

Here, beside me in the muck.

That God is beside us through our terrors and travails is a wonderful truth.  For some people at certain times, it might be their only comfort.  I have known this feeling, and it did not negate the bad situation I was in.  But at least I was never alone.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 25, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANGELINA AND SARAH GRIMKE, ABOLITIONISTS

THE FEAST OF VINCENT PRICE, ACTOR

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 25, 2011 

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/25/week-of-proper-20-saturday-year-2/

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