Archive for the ‘Jeremiah 28’ Tag

Humility, Community, and Christian Liberty   1 comment

Above:   The Parsonage of Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia, 1980-1982

Photograph by John Dodson Taylor, III

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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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Jeremiah 28:1-4, 10-17

Psalm 119:65-72

Romans 14:13-23

John 7:45-52

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The difference between a true prophet and a false one becomes evident after he or she has prophesied.  For example, if he or she states that X will happen and the opposite of X happens, he or she is a false prophet.  That is the standard Jeremiah cites in Jeremiah 28 with regard to Hananiah.  Jeremiah, however, does not judge Hananiah; God does that.

The theme of humility unites the assigned readings for this day.  Jeremiah is sufficiently humble to leave judgment to God.  The Psalmist is humble before God.  Certain Pharisees–Nicodemus excepted–manifest a lack of humility toward Jesus and the possibility of him being the Messiah and of God.  St. Paul the Apostle urges humility toward each other.

I recall that, in June 1980-June 1982, when my father was the pastor of the Vidette United Methodist Church, Vidette, Georgia, I was not to play in the yard on Sunday afternoons because, as my father said, someone might get the wrong idea.  That was ridiculous, of course.  God gave us the Sabbath as a blessing, not as a time to ponder dourly what we ought not to do.  Besides, anyone who would have taken offense at me getting exercise and fresh air in the yard on Sunday afternoons should have removed the pole from his or her rectum.  Doing so would have made siting down more comfortable for such a person.

If we permit others to prevent us from doing too much for the sake of avoiding causing offense, we will do little or nothing.  Then what good will we be?  Nevertheless, I understand the principle that we, living in community as we do, are responsible to and for each other.  We ought to live with some respect for certain responsibilities without losing the proper balance between self-restraint and Christian liberty.  Busy bodies should attend to their own business.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 18, 2017 COMMON ERA

PROPER 6:   THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINTS DELPHINUS OF BORDEAUX, AMANDUS OF BORDEAUX, SEVERINUS OF BORDEAUX, VENERIUS OF MILAN, AND CHROMATIUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF ADOLPHUS NELSON, SWEDISH-AMERICAN LUTHERAN MINISTER AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF ANSON DODGE, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM BINGHAM TAPPAN, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2017/06/18/devotion-for-proper-18-ackerman/

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Righteousness, Justification, Justice, and Awe   1 comment

Zedekiah

Above:  King Zedekiah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

You are great, O God, and greatly to be praised.

You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you.

Grant that we may believe in you, call upon you, know you, and serve you,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 27:1-11, 16-22 (Monday)

Jeremiah 28:10-17 (Tuesday)

Psalm 131 (Both Days)

Romans 1:18-25 (Monday)

Romans 3:1-8 (Tuesday)

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O LORD, I am not proud;

I have no haughty looks.

I do not occupy myself with great matters,

or with things that are too hard for me.

But I still my soul and make it quiet,

like a child upon its mother’s breast;

my soul is quieted within me.

O Israel, wait upon the LORD,

from this time forth for evermore.

–Psalm 131, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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“Righteousness” and “justification” are English translations of the same Greek word.  “Justification” refers to how we get right with God.  St. Paul the Apostle, understanding faith as something which comes with works as a component of it (as opposed to the author of the Letter of James, who comprehended faith as intellectual and therefore requiring the addition of works for justification), argued that faith alone was sufficient for justification.  The two men agreed in principle, but not their definition of faith.  They arrived at the same conclusion by different routes.  That conclusion was that actions must accompany thoughts if the the thoughts are to be of any good.

A note on page 2011 of The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) makes an excellent point:

In the OT, righteousness and justice repeatedly characterize God’s nature and activity, particularly in relationship  to the covenant with Israel.

Thus we arrive at the lections from Jeremiah, excerpts from a section of that book.  The prophet argued that God had made Judah a vassal state of the Babylonians, so rebellion against them would constitute a sin.  Hananiah was a false prophet who advocated for the opposite point of view.  The argument that a fight for national liberation is wrong might seem odd to many people, but it made sense to Jeremiah in a particular context.

Discerning the will of God in a given context can prove to be challenging at best.  Often the greatest obstacle to overcome is our penchant for confirmation bias–to reinforce what we think already.  Are we listening to God’s message or conducting an internal monologue?  But, when we succeed in discerning the divine will, we might realize that we do not understand or agree with it.  Honesty is the best policy with God; may we acknowledge truthfully where we stand spiritually and proceed from that point.  If divine justice confuses or frustrates us, may we tell God that.  If we argue, may we do so faithfully, and so claim part of our spiritual inheritance from the Jews, our elder siblings in faith.  Jeremiah, for example, argued with God often.

And may we trust in the faithfulness of God, the mysteries of whom we can never hope to explore completely.  Mystery can be wonderful, inspiring people with a sense of awe, the meaning of “the fear of God.”  Such awe provides us with proper context relative to God.  Such awe shows us how small we are relative to ultimate reality, God.  And such awe reinforces the wondrous nature of grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/13/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-9-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Stumbling Blocks   4 comments

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Above:  Couples Dancing the Jitterbug, 1938

Photographer = Alan Fisher

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZ62-134893

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The Collect:

O God, you direct our lives by your grace,

and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world.

Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 28:1-4

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18

Luke 17:1-4

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Happy are the people who know the shout of triumph;

they walk, O Lord, in the light of your contenance.

In your name they rejoice all day long

and are exalted in your righteousness.

For you are the glory of their strength,

and in your favour you lift up our heads.

Truly the Lord is our shield;

the Holy One of Israel is our king.

–Psalm 89:15-18, Common Worship (2000)

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[Jesus] said to his disciples, “There are bound to be causes of stumbling; but woe betide the person through whom they come. It would be better for him to be thrown into the sea with a millstone round his neck than to cause the downfall of one of these little ones. So be on your guard. If your brother does wrong, reprove him; and if he repents, forgive him. Even if he wrongs you seven times in a day and comes back to you seven times saying, ‘I am sorry,’ you are to forgive him.”

–Luke 17:1-4, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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Years ago I saw a cartoon on a church office door. A man was standing at the Pearly Gates of Heaven. St. Peter said to him,

No, that’s not a sin either. You must have worried yourself to death.

There are varieties of stumbling blocks.

One type is obsessing over activities which are not sinful. I have read of congregational leaders calling members to account for playing Bridge or hosting a dance at home in the 1800s. In the early 1990s a United Methodist minister told me about an experience he had had in the 1960s, when he was a pastor in rural Houston County, Georgia. Parents in the community, in an effort to provide safe activities for their children, had organized a series of Saturday night chaperoned dances at the fellowship hall of the local Methodist Church. One night a local Southern Baptist pastor made a scene outside as he complained loudly about the sinful dancing going on indoors. I suppose that he thought he was reproving people in the spirit of Luke 17, but his congregation fired him shortly thereafter. Many of the people in the Methodist fellowship hall that night, O reader, were his parishioners.

Obsessing over small fries which are not even sinful as if they are detracts one from actual sins.

Many people have long mistaken medical problems, such as addictions and dependencies, as moral failings, and therefore sins. Yet having a medical condition—a physical illness (including mental illness, which has organic causes)–is no sin. One should strive to fulfill one’s responsibility to be a better person—including not caving into certain cravings—of course, but having a problem of that sort is no sin.

Neither is acting according to or having a characteristic with which one is born and over which one has no control sinful. The option to do one thing or another is part of what makes some deeds sinful. Where there is option there is no sin, which is doing the wrong thing when one can do the right thing.

False prophecy is a sin. The Bible names many prophets who said that which was convenient and politically expedient and who led people astray. And I can think of some false prophets with ministerial titles and television shows in my own time. Many of the broadcast of the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), where the hair is big and much of the furniture, in the words of someone I heard speak in the late 1990s, would fit in at a New Orleans bordello. (I assume that the metaphor had mostly to do with furniture in pre-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans.)

One can also erect stumbling blocks of the excessively permissive variety. I refer not so much to peccadilloes (not that they do not matter) as to patterns and structures in society. Peccadilloes, which are bad and therefore require correction, constitute low-hanging fruit. The real challenge is to climb the tree. The Bible contains more material about money, the uses of it, and economic injustice (including the exploitation of people) than it does about sexual practices and proclivities. One should, then, hear more about economics than sexuality from the pulpit, but often reality is the other way around. Not reproving people complicit in economic exploitation constitutes a failure on one’s part. Allegations of engaging in class warfare aside, engaging in such reproof is the right thing to do.

We humans exist chiefly to glorify and enjoy God forever. The Psalm speaks to that point from the Westminster Catechism. Forgiveness—something frequently difficult—is a vital part of approaching that goal—for both the one who pardons and he or she who receives the forgiveness. And so is appropriate reproof. Inappropriate reproof, however, does not help. May we, by grace, see through our blind spots and bad cultural programming to recognize that which is proper. Then may we affirm it and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DESIDERIUS/DIDIER OF VIENNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT GUIBERT OF GORZE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN BAPTIST ROSSI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS COPERNICUS, SCIENTIST

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Adapted from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/05/23/devotion-for-saturday-before-proper-8-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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An Acceptable Sacrifice   1 comment

Above: The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio (lived 1571-1610)

(Note the anguish in Isaac’s face.)

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 22:1-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

After these things God tested Abraham.  He said to him,

Abraham!

And he said,

Here I am.

He said,

Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you.

So Abraham rose early in the morning, saddled his donkey, and took two of his young men with him, and his son Isaac; he cut the wood for the burnt offering, and set out and went to the place in the distance that God had shown them.  On the third day Abraham looked up and saw the place far away.  Then Abraham said to his young men,

Stay here with the donkey; the boy and I will go over there; we will worship, and then we will come back to you.

Abraham took the wood of the burnt offering and laid on his son Isaac, and he himself carried the fire and the wood.  So the two of them walked on together.  Isaac said to his father Abraham,

Father!

And he said,

Here I am, my son.

He said,

The fire and the wood are here, but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?

Abraham said,

God himself will provide the lamb for a burnt offering, my son.

So the two of them walked on together.

When they came to the place that God had shown him, Abraham built an altar there and laid the wood in order.  He bound his son Isaac, and laid him on the altar, on top of the wood.  Then Abraham reached out his hand and took the knife to kill his son.  But the angel of the LORD called to him from heaven, and said,

Abraham, Abraham!

And he said,

Here I am.

He said,

Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him; for now I know that you fear God, since you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.

And Abraham looked up and saw a ram, caught in a thicket by its thorns.  Abraham went and took the ram and offered it up as a burnt offering instead of his son. So Abraham called that place,

The LORD will provide;

as it is said to this day,

On the mount of LORD it shall be provided.

The angel of the LORD called to Abraham, a second time from heaven, and said,

By myself I have sworn, says the LORD: Because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will make your offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the sand that is on the seashore.  And your offspring shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your offspring shall all the nations of the earth gain blessing for themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.

So Abraham returned to his young men, and they arose and went together to Beersheba; and Abraham lived at Beersheba.

Psalm 13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

How long, O LORD?

will you forget me for ever?

how long will you hide your face from me?

How long shall I have perplexity in my mind,

and grief in my heart, day after day?

how long shall my enemy triumph over me?

3 Look upon me and answer me, O LORD, my God,

give light to my eyes, lest I sleep in death;

4 Lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,”

and my foes rejoice that I have fallen.

But I will trust in your mercy;

my heart is joyful because of your saving help.

I will sing to the LORD, for he has dealt with me richly;

I will praise the Name of the Lord Most High.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Jeremiah 28:5-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then the prophet Jeremiah spoke to the prophet Hananiah in the presence of the priests and all the people who were standing in the house of the LORD; and the prophet Jeremiah said,

Amen!  May the LORD do so; may the LORD fulfill the words you have prophesied, and bring back to this place from Babylon the vessels of the house of the LORD, and all the exiles.  But listen now to this word that I speak in your hearing and in the hearing of all the people.  The prophets who preceded you and me from ancient times prophesied war, famine, and pestilence against many countries and great kingdoms.  As for the prophet who prophesies peace, when the word of that prophet comes true, then it will be known that the LORD has truly sent the prophet.

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Your love, O LORD, for ever will I sing;

from age to age my mouth will proclaim your faithfulness.

For I am persuaded that your love is established for ever;

you have set your faithfulness firmly in the heavens.

“I have made a covenant with my chosen one;

I have sworn an oath to David my servant;

‘I will establish your line for ever,

and preserve your throne for all generations.’”

15 Happy are the people who know the festal shout!

the walk, O LORD, in the light of your presence.

16 They rejoice daily in your Name;

they are jubilant in your righteousness.

17 For you are the glory of their strength,

and by your favor our might is exalted.

18 Truly, the LORD is our ruler;

the Holy One of Israel is our King.

SECOND READING

Romans 6:12-23 (New Revised Standard Version):

Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions.  No longer present your members as sin to instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

What then?  Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace?  By no means!  Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness?  But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.  I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations.  For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.

When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness.  So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you are now ashamed?  The end of those things is death.  But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification.  The end is eternal life.  For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 10:40-42 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Jesus said,]

Whoever welcomes you welcomes me, and whoever welcomes me welcomes the one who sent me.  Whoever welcomes a prophet in the name of a prophet will receive a prophet’s reward; and whoever welcomes a righteous person in the name of a righteous person will receive the reward of the righteous; and whoever gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones in the name of a disciple–truly I tell you, none of these will lose their reward.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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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Had you desired it, I would have offered sacrifice,

but you take no delight in burnt-offerings.

The sacrifice of God is a troubled spirit;

a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

–Psalm 51:17-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer)

The story of the near killing of Isaac at the hand of his father disturbs me.  God does not command such emotional abuse.  Can you, O reader, imagine the lasting effect this had on Isaac?  I can only imagine the journey of father and son after the incident on Mt. Moriah.  Elie Wiesel, in a televised Bible study, noted that the Bible records no more conversations between Abraham and Isaac after this event.

Pay attention to the reading from Matthew:  Jesus encourages kind treatment of vulnerable and marginal people, including children.

Indeed, one lesson from Genesis 22 is that God does not desire child sacrifice, a custom many people in the region practiced during the time of Abraham.  My God concept comes from Jesus.  And I reject Penal Substitutionary Atonement, the idea that Jesus took my place on the cross.  Ante-Nicene Church Fathers proposed three theories of the Atonement, including Penal Substitution.  My understanding of the Atonement is closest to another one of these, the conquest of evil via the crucifixion and the resurrection of Jesus.  So I reject the propositions that God ordered Abraham to sacrifice his son and that God sacrificed his Son.  If I did not reject these ideas, I would believe in Gangster God, who is not content except in bloodshed.

As Paul reminds the church at Rome, the death of Christ and his resurrection make possible the death to sin and the end of the overpowering power thereof.  So, through Jesus, we have eternal life.  Indeed, the definition of eternal life in John 17:3 is a relationship with God via Jesus.  Eternal life is in the present tense.  There is no eternity without God, so let us not confuse the concepts of eternal life and everlasting life.  Eternity has nothing to do with time, only quality.

Having eternal life in the present, what should we sacrifice to God?  Let us begin with everything that burdens and distresses us, as in Psalm 51.  It is also possible that we might have to sacrifice careers, relationships, and even life itself, as in the cases of martyrs.  So we ought to be prepared to sacrifice that which is most dear.  But, as Jesus said in the Gospel reading (Matthew 10:34-39) for Proper 7, Year A, we need to value nothing more than him.

The prophet Jeremiah valued fidelity to God above all else.  He suffered many deprivations and taunts.  The reading from Jeremiah is set in a time during which Zedekiah, King of Judah, was a Babylonian puppet and the Babylonians had already exiled many Jews.  The Kingdom of Judah was on its last legs.  Hananiah, a false prophet, prophesied that all would be well within two years  Jeremiah contradicted Hananiah, and history has proven the weeping prophet correct.  Sometimes, as Jeremiah said, the truth is uncomfortable.

So let us also sacrifice our desire for easy, happy, and deceptive answers.

May we die sin and be reborn into eternal life, and stay there.  Eternal life might require us to become sacrificial offerings and so to join the ranks of the martyrs of God.  If so, may we face this reality in faith.  Eternal life will require something of us; it does come at great expense to Jesus and ourselves.  The details of that price will vary from person to person, but this principle remains.  But this is the way to life in God, and its glories are wondrous.

God loves us.  So we ought to love God and each other, if we do not do so already.  In societal terms, we can begin to ceasing to sacrifice each other, metaphorically or otherwise.  We can extend simple kindnesses and great respect to each other; we can treat each other with dignity.  We might not like each other, but we can be civilized to each other.

We can be the face of Christ to one another.  May we do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 15, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM PROXMIRE, UNITED STATES SENATOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/15/proper-8-year-a/

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