Archive for the ‘Judgment and Mercy’ Tag

The Exaltation of the Holy Cross, Part I   1 comment

Above:  The Crucifixion and the Way of the Holy Cross, June 9, 1887

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-00312

FOR THE FEAST OF THE HOLY CROSS (SEPTEMBER 14)

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The Feast of the Holy Cross commemorates two events–The discovery of the supposed true cross by St. Helena on September 14, 320, and the dedication of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Jerusalem, on that day in 335, on the anniversary of the dedication of the First Temple in Jerusalem.  In the Eastern Orthodox Church the corresponding commemoration is the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

The Feast of the Holy Cross has had an interesting history.  It existed in Constantinople in the 600s and in Rome in the 800s.  The feast did not transfer into Anglicanism initially.  It did become a lesser feast–a black-letter day–in The Book of Common Prayer in 1561.  In The Church of England The Alternative Service Book (1980) kept Holy Cross Day as a black-letter day, but Common Worship (2000) promoted the commemoration to a major feast–a red-letter day.  The Episcopal Church dropped Holy Cross Day in 1789 but added it–as a red-letter day–during Prayer Book revision in the 1970s.  The feast remained outside the mainstream of U.S. and Canadian Lutheranism until the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and its variant, Lutheran Worship (1982).

Without getting lost in the narrative weeds (especially in Numbers 21), one needs to know that God chastises Jews and Christians for their sins yet does not destroy them, except when He allegedly sends poisonous snakes to attack them.  Then God provides a healing mechanism.  We should look up toward God, not grumble in a lack of gratitude.  Isaiah 45:21-25, set toward the end of the Babylonian Exile, argues that God is the master of history, and that the vindication of the former Kingdom of Judah will benefit Gentiles also, for Gentiles will receive invitations to worship the one true God.  Many will accept, we read.  In the Gospel of John the exaltation of Jesus is his crucifixion.  That is counter-intuitive; it might even be shocking.    If so, recall 1 Corinthians 1:23–Christ crucified is a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles.  God frequently works in ways we do not understand.  John 12 mentions some God-fearers, Gentiles who worshiped YHWH.  This reference picks up from Isaiah 45:21-25.  It also fits well with the Pauline mission to Gentiles and emphasis on Christ crucified.

As for God sending poisonous snakes to bite grumbling Israelites, that does not fit into my concept of God.  My God-concept encompasses both judgment and mercy, but not that kind of behavior.

The choice of the cross as the symbol of Christianity is wonderfully ironic.  The cross, an instrument of judicial murder and the creation of fear meant to inspire cowering submission to Roman authority, has become a symbol of divine love, sacrifice, and victory.  A symbol means what people agree it means; that is what makes it a symbol.  Long after the demise of the Roman Empire, the cross remains a transformed symbol.

The Episcopal collect for Holy Cross Day invites us to take up a cross and follow Jesus.  In Cotton Patch Gospel (1982), the play based on Clarence Jordan‘s The Cotton Patch Version of Matthew and John, Jesus, says that a person not willing to accept his or her lynching is unworthy of Him.

That is indeed a high standard.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 1, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSEPH OF ARIMATHEA, DISCIPLE OF JESUS

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Almighty God, whose Son our Savior Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself:

Mercifully grant that we, who glory in the mystery of our redemption,

may take up our cross and follow him;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, in glory everlasting.  Amen.

Isaiah 45:21-25

Psalm 98 or 8:1-4

Philippians 2:5-11 or Galatians 6:14-18

John 12:31-36a

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 581

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Almighty God, your Son Jesus Christ was lifted high upon the cross

that he might draw the whole world to himself.

To those who look upon the cross, grant your wisdom, healing, and eternal life,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Numbers 21:4b-9

Psalm 98:1-4 or 78:1-2, 34-38

1 Corinthians 1:18-24

John 3:13-17

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 57

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Numbers 21:4-9

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

John 12:20-33

Lutheran Service Book (2006), xxiii

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Adapted from this post:

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/08/01/devotion-for-the-feast-of-the-holy-cross-september-14/

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This is post #1900 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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The Law of Mercy   1 comment

Above:  Judah and Tamar, by the School of Rembrandt van Rijn

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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Genesis 38:1-26 or Isaiah 40:21-31

Psalm 18:31-36, 43-50

1 Corinthians 6:12-20

Matthew 12:1-21

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Temple prostitution, in the background in Genesis 38, might be background for 1 Corinthians 6:12-20 also.  If it is, the reading becomes deeper than it is otherwise.  If to engage in sexual relations with a pagan prostitute is to unite with the deity the prostitute serves, idolatry becomes an issue.  Christians are supposed to function as part of the body of Christ, therefore visiting a pagan temple prostitute is worse than visiting a prostitute in general.

Speaking of Genesis 38, it is another of those different stories we find frequently in the Hebrew Bible.  It remains a proverbial hot potato.  When must a father-in-law sire his grandsons?  When the laws governing levirate marriage (Deuteronomy 25:5-10) dictate.  The text does not condemn Tamar for her deceit either, for the narrative makes plain that it was the option left open to her.

In June 1996 my father became the pastor of the Asbury United Methodist Church in northern Appling County, Georgia, U.S.A.  One of the adult Sunday School classes was reading the Book of Genesis a chapter at a time.  One week the teacher announced that the class would not discuss Chapter 38 (although they had apparently discussed Chapter 37 the previous week), but would talk about Chapter 39 instead.  I wonder if the teacher also skipped the rape of Dinah and the subsequent bloodbath in Chapter 34.  Probably, yes.

When passages of scripture make us that uncomfortable, we should study them.  We should study all of the Bible, of course, but double down on the parts that cause us to squirm.

God is strong, mighty, loving, and trustworthy, we read.  Sometimes mercy on some takes the form of judgment on others.  After all, judgment on oppressors does help the oppressed, does it not?

Much occurs theologically in Matthew 12:1-21, but the major point is that mercy overrides Sabbath laws.  We read that some labor was mandatory on the Sabbath, especially for priests.  So yes, we read Jesus announce, the hungry may pluck grain and the man with the withered hand may receive healing, not just rudimentary first aid.

In the Gospel of Matthew one of the points drilled into the text was that Jesus did not seek to destroy the Law of Moses.  No, he presented his interpretation as correct and in opposition to the interpretations of his critics.  Jesus stood within the context of Judaism, not against it.  For example, the Mishnah, published in 200 C.E. (about 170 years after the crucifixion of Jesus), listed 39 types of labor prohibited on the Sabbath.  Plucking food was not one of them.  Christ’s opponents in Chapter 12:1-21 were, to use an anachronistic expression, more Catholic than the Pope.

The Sabbath, in the Law of Moses, was about liberation.  Slaves in Egypt received no days off, so a day off was a mark of freedom.  Besides, science and experience have taught us the necessity of down time.  Much of my Christian tradition has reacted against leisure (especially “worldly amusements,” a bane of Pietism and Puritanism) and insisted that idle hands are the Devil’s workshop.  Nevertheless, science and experience have affirmed the necessity of a certain amount of idleness.

Judaism, at its best, is not legalistic; neither is Christianity.  Yet legalistic Jews and Christians exist.  A healthy attitude is to seek to respond to God faithfully, without becoming lost in the thicket of laws, without failing to see the forest for the trees, without mistaking culturally specific examples for timeless principles, without shooting cannon balls at gnats, and without forgetting mercy.

And while one is doing that, one should read the scriptural passages that make one squirm in one’s seat.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/devotion-for-proper-16-year-a-humes/

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Trusting in God, Part VIII   1 comment

Above:  Joseph Reveals His Dream to His Brethren, by James Tissot

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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Genesis 37:1-28 or Isaiah 30:15-25

Psalm 18:16-30

1 Corinthians 6:1-11

Matthew 11:2-19

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Patriarchs in Genesis had dysfunctional families.  Abraham tried to kill his son Isaac, on faith that God had told him to do so.  (Yes, I argue with that story.)  Isaac’s son Jacob, with the help of Jacob’s mother, fooled him and defrauded Esau.  Jacob seemed not to care about the rape of his daughter Dinah and, in a different context, acted in such a way as to foster tension among his sons, most of whom fooled him into thinking that his son Joseph was dead.  With family like that, who needs enemies?

The main idea in 1 Corinthians 6:1-11 is that believers ought to conduct themselves in ways that glorify God and distinguish them from unbelievers.  Yet even when holy people do that, they will still receive criticism, for some people thrive on finding faults, even if those faults are imaginary.  It is preferable that the criticisms be baseless; that way they show up the critics.

During the reign of King Hezekiah of Judah (reigned 727/715-698/687 B.C.E.), the kingdom entered into a military alliance with Egypt against Assyria.  This was an ill-advised alliance; Egypt was not trustworthy.  The author of Isaiah 30 argued that the alliance indicated a lack of trust in God, who was reliable.  After the announcement of divine wrath followed the prediction of mercy.

Trusting in God liberates one to do as one should and become the person one should be.  One can lay aside the desire for revenge, not to lead a life defined by anger, and value justice instead.  With confidence in God one can avoid foolish decisions that end badly.  One, trusting in God, can find the source of ultimate peace and strength.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 30, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARENCE JORDAN, SOUTHERN BAPTIST MINISTER AND WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CHRYSOLOGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RAVENNA AND DEFENDER OF ORTHODOXY

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICENTA CHÁVEZ OROZCO, FOUNDRESS OF THE SERVANTS OF THE HOLY TRINITY AND THE POOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM PINCHON, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/30/devotion-for-proper-15-year-a-humes/

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Wrestling with God, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Jacob Struggles with the Angel, from the Gutenberg Bible

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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Genesis 32:3-31 or Isaiah 14:5-20

Psalm 15

1 Corinthians 3:10-23

Matthew 10:1-15

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Jacob had been wrestling all his life.  In the womb he and his brother Esau had struggled with each other.  Jacob had, so to speak, wrestled with Esau during childhood and adulthood.  Jacob had also been wrestling with himself.  On the eve of what turned out to be reconciliation with Esau, Jacob literally wrestled with God or an angel in human form and received a blessing, as well as a limp.  Jacob, literally “supplanter,” also became Israel, literally “may God rule.”

I admire Judaism, from which I learn much.  One aspect of Judaism I find especially helpful is struggling with God as part of a relationship with God.  One finds evidence of that collective struggle throughout the Hebrew Bible.  One also finds evidence of divine judgment and mercy, hence restoration following exile.  The reading from Isaiah 14 is a song of taunting against the defeated Babylonian/Neo-Chaldean monarch.

According to the high standards of Psalm 15, not one of we mere mortals has any hope, except via grace.  Moral perfectionism is an impossible standard, but we should still strive to be the best versions of ourselves we can be.

St. Paul the Apostle wrote to the quarrelsome Corinthian church that it was God’s temple.  (The “you” is plural in the reading.)  That congregation needed to shape up and come closer to its spiritual potential.  Unfortunately, as anyone who has studied the (First) Letter to the Corinthians from St. Clement (I) of Rome (circa 100) should know, the congregation remained quarrelsome and troublesome for at least a generation after St. Paul’s demise.

As my father taught me, troubled people cause trouble..  They are like Jacob.  They are wrestling, metaphorically, with themselves and others.  Perhaps they are wrestling with God also.  In the meantime, in the context of congregational life, are holding a church back, and other members of that community are permitting them to do so.  This is a dynamic present in come congregations I have observed.

One progression in the Gospel of Matthew is the expansion of the audience for the message.  The audience in 7:6 consists of Jews.  Yet, in 28:19, the audience is

all nations.

I, as a Gentile, am grateful for this expansion of the audience.  Through it the wisdom of Judaism, has come to me.  As I struggle with God, others, and myself, I hope that I cause no trouble in churches.  I hope that I am improving spiritually.  I hope that people will recognize the light of Christ in me.  To the extent any of this comes true, God deserves all the glory.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS À KEMPIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, PRIEST, AND SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN NEWTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WALTER RAUSCHENBUSCH, U.S. BAPTIST MINISTER AND THEOLOGIAN OF THE SOCIAL GOSPEL

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

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/07/24/devotion-for-proper-12-year-a-humes/

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Receive the Holy Spirit, Part II   1 comment

Above:  Pentecost Dove

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,

as you sent upon the disciples the promised gift of the Holy Spirit,

look upon your Church and open our hearts to the power of the Spirit.

Kindle in us the fire of your love,

and strengthen our lives for service in your kingdom;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you

in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 23

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The Assigned Readings:

Joel 2:21-32

Psalm 104:24-34, 35b

Acts 2:1-21

John 7:37-39

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Joel 2:21-32 (Protestant and Anglican versification) = Joel 2:21-3:5 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versification)

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Dating the Book of Joel is difficult, but its message is simple:  After the judgment of God and the repentance of Israel divine mercy will be abundant and God will pour out His spirit on all people.  The assigned reading, quoted partially in Acts 2:1-21, fits well with Psalm 104.  The future age predicted in Joel 2:21-32/2:21-3:5 remains for our future, but its message of God’s universal outpouring of the Holy Spirit is timeless.  For the sake of completeness, however, one should not that Chapter 4 (if one is Jewish, Roman Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox)/Chapter 3 (if one is Anglican or Protestant) contains both judgment and mercy.

By means of both the witness of the Holy Spirit and Single Predestination, taken together, salvation is available to all people, but many people reject it, hence divine judgment.  This is unfortunate, as well as beyond any mere mortal’s pay grade, so to speak.  Nevertheless, the extent of the boundaries of divine grace would probably shock most of us, if we knew all the details.  These are properly matters in the purview of God.

John 7:37-38, in the original Greek, is a somewhat ambiguous text, due to the question of punctuation.  Related to that issue is the matter of theological interpretation, as commentaries reveal.  I feel comfortable asserting that Jesus, not the believer, is the source of the rivers of living water.  In Christianity we must look to Jesus.  God is central; we are not.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS, THE MARTYRS OF LYONS, 177

THE FEAST OF ANDERS CHRISTENSEN ARREBO, “THE FATHER OF DANISH POETRY”

THE FEAST OF MARGARET ELIZABETH SANGSTER, HYMN WRITER, NOVELIST, AND DEVOTIONAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/06/02/devotion-for-pentecost-year-a-humes/

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The Inner Jonah, Part IV   1 comment

Above:  A Stamp Depicting Jonah

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Jonah 4

Psalm 130

Philippians 4:1-14, 19-23

Matthew 26:69-75

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Be known to everyone for your consideration of others.

–Philippians 4:5a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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That sentence puts Jonah in his place.

My studies of the Book of Job have provided a lesson applicable to the Book of Jonah.  Job and his alleged friends committed the same error:  they presumed to know how God does and should act.  That, at least, was a lesson of one layer of the authorship of the Book of Job; the prose epilogue threw a wrench into the supposed sin of Job–supposing to know how God does and should act, for God agreed with Job in that epilogue.

When Yahweh had said all this to Job, he turned to Eliphaz of Teman.  “I burn with anger against you and your two friends,” he said, “for not speaking truthfully about me as my servant Job has done.  So now find seven bullocks and seven rams, and take them back to my servant Job and offer a holocaust for yourselves, while Job, my servant, offers prayers for you.  I will listen to him with favor and excuse your folly in not speaking of me properly as my servant Job has done.”  Eliphaz of Teman, Bildad of Shuah and Zophar of Naamath went away to do as Yahweh had ordered, and Yahweh listened to Job with favor.

–Job 42:7-9, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Jonah, anyway, supposed to know how God does and should act.  When God extended mercy to Jonah’s national enemy, the reluctant prophet–“that clown,” as a Roman Catholic priest once described him in writing–became disappointed with God.  Yet Jonah depended on divine mercy as much as the people of Nineveh did.

If you, O LORD, should make iniquities,

Lord, who could stand?

But there is forgiveness with you,

so that you may be revered.

–Psalm 130:3-4, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The Book of Jonah ends on an ambiguous note.  God and the prophet have an unresolved theological confrontation.  The text, concluding thusly, invites us to consider who we are more like in the story.

Each of us has an inner Jonah.  We object to the scandal of grace on occasion.  We tell ourselves that we want justice when we actually seek retribution.  We want God to draw the circle tightly around us and people similar to ourselves, not to draw it wide and call even our foes to repentance.  Yet there are also those who want God to exclude us.

I do not pretend to know the mind of God; that is a glorious mystery too great for me.  I do, however, study scripture, read theology, and recognize patterns.  One of these patters is that we are not God.  Another pattern is that no theological box defines God.  Judgment and mercy exist side-by-side throughout the Bible.  Where one ends and the other begins resides in the purview of God, as it should.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 25, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BEDE OF JARROW, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND FATHER OF ENGLISH HISTORY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDHELM OF SHERBORNE, POET, LITERARY SCHOLAR, ABBOT OF MALMESBURY, AND BISHOP OF SHERBORNE

THE FEAST OF SAINT MADELEINE-SOPHIE BARAT, FOUNDRESS OF THE SOCIETY OF THE SACRED HEART; AND ROSE PHILIPPINE DUCHESNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT MYKOLA TSEHELSKYI, UKRAINIAN GREEK CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/25/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-a-humes/

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The Inner Jonah, Part I   1 comment

Above:  A Stamp Depicting Jonah in the Boat

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Jonah 1

Psalm 121

Philippians 1:15-30

Matthew 26:20-35

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The story of Jonah is a work of satirical fiction that teaches timeless truths.  It is the tale of a reluctant prophet who flees God’s call before finally accepting the vocation and succeeding, much to his disappointment.  The book is a story about repentance, God’s mercy on our enemies, God’s refusal to conform to our expectations, and the foolishness of religious nationalism.

St. Paul the Apostle, perhaps writing from prison in Ephesus, circa 56 C.E., wrote:

It is my confident hope that nothing will prevent me from speaking boldly; and that now as always Christ will display his greatness in me, whether the verdict be life or death.

–Philippians 1:20, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Christ, in Matthew 26, was obedient to God–soon to the point of death.  His final journey to Jerusalem had a result far different from that of the trek of pilgrims who sang Psalm 121.

Each of us has an inner Jonah.  Each of us likes certain categories more than we ought and other categories we should reject.  We like for God to bless people like ourselves and overlook our sis, and to smite our enemies, collective and individual.  To some extent, we define ourselves according to who we are not.  Therefore, if our enemies and those we dislike change, what does of identity become?

Defense mechanisms are frequently negative.  When we embrace them and flee from God, they certainly are.  When we embrace them and find divine grace scandalous, they are surely negative.  When we embrace them and choose not to speak the words of God boldly or at all, they certainly are idolatrous.

May we, by grace, eschew this and all other forms of idolatry.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 23, 2018  COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF CHARTRES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2018/05/23/devotion-for-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-a-humes/

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