Archive for the ‘Manna’ Tag

Spiritual Blindness, Part II   1 comment

mosaic

Above:  Mosaic, Church of the Multiplication, Tabgha, Israel

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:

1 Samuel 21:1-15 or 2 Kings 4:38-44

Psalm 49:(1-12) 13-20

Matthew 15:29-39; 16:10-12 or Mark 8:1-26

2 Corinthians 8:1-6 (7-15) 16-24

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Stories of a holy person feeding a multitude with a small amount of food and having leftovers rhyme, if you will, O reader, in the Bible.  This day we read an account of Elisha feeding 100 men and parallel stories of Jesus feeding 4000 men (plus uncounted women and children) in Matthew 15 and about 4000 people in Mark 8.  The mechanics of such feelings do not interest me, but the theological importance of them does.  The Kingdom of God is here, and we can perceive that reality, if we are spiritually attuned.  In the Kingdom of God one finds abundance for everyone; artificial scarcity is a human creation.

Meanwhile, in 2 Corinthians 8, St. Paul the Apostle is raising funds for the Church at Jerusalem.  This becomes explicit in Chapter 9.  He, quoting Exodus 16:18, originally about manna, makes a point about wealth, monetary and physical:

The one who had much did not have too much,

and the one who had little did not have too little.

–2 Corinthians 8:15, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

After all, we cannot take our money and possessions with us when we die.  In this life we ought to use them for positive purposes.  So, for example, if a rebel leader (David) pretending to be in the employ of King Saul needs bread for himself and his men takes the display bread reserved for priests to eat, the physical need overrides the ritual rules.  (Yet, in 1 Samuel 22, the lie had fatal consequences for the priests.)

In the Kingdom of God scarcity is absent.  So is the violence of someone such as King Saul.  The ways of God are not the ways of human beings, despite our repeated attempts to make God fit into our categories.  Part of this problem of attempting to make God fit into our categories is unavoidable, for, when we ponder God, we must do so from a human perspective.  It is the only way we can think about God.  Yet we must, if we are wise, recognize that our point of view is rather restricted.  Our perspective might be, for example, the spiritual blindness of the Apostles of the leaven of the Pharisees.  Reality is much broader than our narrow perspectives, we read.  Are we willing to open our spiritual eyes?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-of-easter-year-d/

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Artificial Scarcity and Human Needs   1 comment

Gathering of the Manna

Above:   The Gathering of the Manna, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, rich in mercy, you look with compassion on this troubled world.

Feed us with your grace, and grant us the treasure that comes only from you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 49

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 22:2-16

Psalm 146

2 Corinthians 8:8-15

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The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked.

–Psalm 146:8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To profit by withholding what is due to the poor

Is like making gifts to the rich–pure loss.

–Proverbs 22:16, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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The lection for 2 Corinthians 8 follows a few verses in which St. Paul the Apostle lauded the Macedonian churches which, in the midst of great affliction, gave financially beyond their means for the benefit of the church at Jerusalem.  St. Paul advised the factious church at Corinth to follow that example, thereby proving the genuineness of their love.  Recalling the equitable distribution of manna in Exodus 16:18, he quoted the standard that

He who gathered much had nothing over, and he who gathered little had no lack.

Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

To help those who are less fortunate is a divine commandment, not a suggestion.  People of good will disagree on the best way to fulfill that mandate.  Sometimes I am uncertain of how to obey it in the moment, as I drive and see a beggar at an intersection in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia.  There exists a social safety net, composed of public and private sector agencies, but it is insufficient to help all who need it.  Furthermore, not all of the beggars are really in need; they cast suspicion on those beggars who are needy.  And reports of aggressive panhandlers cast more suspicion on those who need help.  Knowing that one should help the less fortunate is easier than knowing how to help them most effectively.

Artificial scarcity is a feature of human economic systems, but, in God’s economics, this is not the case.  Those who have much do not have too much and those who have little still have enough.  That is a vision of the social reality of the Kingdom of God, in which hording is not a spiritual virtue.  Money is a useful tool and a morally neutral thing.  How one relates to it, however, is not.

As for how best to help those who are less fortunate, may God lead us (individually and collectively) in responding faithfully and effectively to human needs.  A leader, by definition, is someone whom others follow.  If one has no followers, one is simply taking a walk.  May we follow God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 20, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALCUIN OF YORK, ABBOT OF TOURS

THE FEAST OF JOHN JAMES MOMENT, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LUCY ELIZABETH GEORGINA WHITMORE, BRITISH HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/05/20/devotion-for-thursday-before-proper-21-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Extravagance of God   1 comment

Gathering of the Manna

Above:  The Gathering of the Manna

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness,

and you cover creation with abundance.

Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit,

and with this food fill all the starving world,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 16:2-15, 31-35

Psalm 78:1-8, 17-29

Matthew 15:32-39

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He rained down manna upon them to eat

and gave them grain from heaven.

So mortals ate the bread of angels;

he provided for them food enough.

–Psalm 78:24-25, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That manna was probably crystallized excrement of insects, but it was sufficient.  Such excrement is, to this day, a product which many people consume without harmful effects.  Perhaps the greatest barrier for Westerners such as myself is the “ick” factor, which results from knowing what something people from cultures quite different from ours consume on a regular basis.

There was enough manna, which people were forbidden to stockpile.  In Matthew 15:32-39, where Jesus fed four thousand men plus uncounted women and children, there were initially only seven loaves and a few small fish yet seven baskets full of leftovers at the end.  The extravagance of the story in the Gospel of Matthew is remarkable.  That which seemed woefully insufficient was actually more than enough in the hands of Jesus.

The spiritual lesson remains true regardless of the issue of historical accuracy.  I have known people who have insisted that they had no talents to use in service to God, as if the matter was about them.  No, their inferiority complex aside, the matter was always about God, who seems to expect relatively little of us–the offering of the metaphorical seven loaves of bread and a few small fish plus confidence in divine abilities–and calls that enough.  This little bit, compared to all that God has done, is doing, and will do, is quite small.  Yet it proves difficult for many people.  Sometimes it has been impossible for me.  At those times God supplied the necessary grace.  The light of God is constant, I suppose, but it seems brightest in the blackest darkness.

The extravagance of God astounds me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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Edited from This Post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/06/14/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-13-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Anxiety Versus Faithfulness   1 comment

gathering_of_the_manna

Above:  The Gathering of the Manna, Part of a Fifteenth-Century Altarpiece

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Merciful God, the fountain of living water,

you quench our thirst and wash away our sin.

Give us this water always.

Bring us to drink from the well that flows with the beauty of your truth

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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 16:1-8 (14th Day)

Exodus 16:9-21 (15th Day)

Exodus 16:27-35 (16th Day)

Psalm 95 (All Days)

Colossians 1:15-23 (14th Day)

Ephesians 2:11-22 (15th Day)

John 4:1-6 (16th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 16:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-third-day-of-easter-tuesday-in-easter-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/02/devotion-for-the-fourth-day-of-easter-wednesday-in-holy-week-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/week-of-proper-11-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/proper-13-year-b/

Colossians 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/week-of-proper-17-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/week-of-proper-17-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/08/11/proper-11-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/02/24/devotion-for-september-13-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Ephesians 2:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

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The story which unites the assigned portions of Exodus is one of divine fidelity and human inconstancy.  Yet again people grumbled and failed to trust that God would provide in a timely fashion.  Out of faithfulness sinful acts flowed like a mighty river of perfidy.

This is a typical human pattern, is it not?  We should trust God, saying with Psalm 95: 1,

Come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Yet often grumble then we hoard needlessly and out of faithlessness.

Forty years long I detested that generation and said,

“This people are wayward in their hearts;

they do not know my ways.”

–Psalm 95:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

Our worst behaviors usually flow from bad attitudes.  Out of such faithlessness we erect barriers between God and ourselves.  We do either that or we refuse to tear down such obstacles.  Out of such infidelity we build barriers between ourselves and others.  We do do either that or we refuse to tear down such obstacles.  The readings from Colossians and Ephesians speak of reconciliation via Christ.  This contradicts the human behaviors I have just mentioned.

Our faithful work is to cooperate with God, not to grumble and hoard greedily out of a sense of anxiety and insecurity.  Our task is to function as instruments of grace.  John 4:2 reads:

…although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized….

The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

Our Lord and Savior’s disciples, despite their well-documented shortcomings, were crucial to the success of the Jesus movement, which became Christianity.  Likewise, we modern Christians have a mandate to show Jesus to others.  We cannot do this well unless we lay aside certain spiritual baggage.  We will remain deeply flawed, of course, but God can still shine through the cracks in our pots.

What kinds of attitudes will we seek to have toward God and each other?  We are powerless, of course, to do everything necessary on our own power.  Yet our attitudes matter greatly.  What we do is important.  So, by grace, may we succeed in fulfilling the sacred tasks God has assigned to us and which, hopefully, the best parts of our free wills want to complete.  May we do it because it is the right thing to do.  May we do it because it glorifies God.  May we do it because it helps others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 25, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SQUANTO, COMPASSIONATE HUMAN BEING

THE FEAST OF JAMES OTIS SARGENT HUNTINGTON, FOUNDER OF THE ORDER OF THE HOLY CROSS

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/11/25/devotion-for-the-fourteenth-fifteenth-and-sixteenth-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted January 14, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Colossians 1, Ephesians 2, Exodus 16, John 4, Psalm 95

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Scandalous Generosity   1 comment

Above:  Map of Ancient Nineveh

Image Source = Fredarch

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Nineveh_map_city_walls_%26_gates.JPG)

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 16:2-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them,

If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not. On the sixth day, when they prepare what they bring in, it will be twice as much as they gather on other days.

So Moses and Aaron said to all the Israelites,

In the evening you shall know that it was the LORD who brought you out of the land of Egypt, and in the morning you shall see the glory of the LORD, because he has heard your complaining against the LORD. For what are we, that you complain against us?

And Moses said,

When the LORD gives you meat to eat in the evening and your fill of bread in the morning, because the LORD has heard the complaining that you utter against him– what are we? Your complaining is not against us but against the LORD.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.”

And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said,

I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,

What is it?

For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them,

It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

Psalm 105:1-6, 37-45 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Give thanks to the LORD and call upon his Name;

make known his deeds among the peoples.

2 Sing to him, sing praises to him,

and speak of all his marvelous works.

Glory in his holy Name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and his strength;

continually seek his face.

5 Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth,

O offspring of Abraham his servant,

O children of Jacob his chosen.

37 He led out his people with silver and gold;

in all their tribes there was not one that stumbled.

38 Egypt was glad of their going,

because they were afraid of them.

39 He spread out a cloud for a covering,

and a fire to give light in the night season.

40 They asked, and quails appeared,

and he satisfied them with bread from heaven.

41 He opened the rock, and water flowed,

so the river ran in the dry places.

42 For God remembered his holy word

and Abraham his servant.

43 So he led forth his people with gladness,

his chosen with shouts of joy.

44 He gave his people the lands of the nations,

and they took the fruit of others’ toil.

45 That they might keep his statutes

and observe his laws.

Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Jonah 3:10-4:11 (New Revised Standard Version):

When God saw what the people of Nineveh did, how they turned from their evil ways, God changed his mind about the calamity that he had said he would bring upon them; and he did not do it.

But this was very displeasing to Jonah, and he became angry. He prayed to the LORD and said,

O LORD! Is not this what I said while I was still in my own country? That is why I fled to Tarshish at the beginning; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love, and ready to relent from punishing. And now, O LORD, please take my life from me, for it is better for me to die than to live.

And the LORD said,

Is it right for you to be angry?

Then Jonah went out of the city and sat down east of the city, and made a booth for himself there. He sat under it in the shade, waiting to see what would become of the city.

The LORD God appointed a bush, and made it come up over Jonah, to give shade over his head, to save him from his discomfort; so Jonah was very happy about the bush. But when dawn came up the next day, God appointed a worm that attacked the bush, so that it withered. When the sun rose, God prepared a sultry east wind, and the sun beat down on the head of Jonah so that he was faint and asked that he might die. He said,

It is better for me to die than to live.

But God said to Jonah,

Is it right for you to be angry about the bush?

And he said,

Yes, angry enough to die.

Then the LORD said,

You are concerned about the bush, for which you did not labor and which you did not grow; it came into being in a night and perished in a night. And should I not be concerned about Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than a hundred and twenty thousand persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also many animals?

Psalm 145:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

1 I will exalt you, O God my King,

and bless your Name for ever and ever.

2 Every day will I bless you

and praise your Name for ever and ever.

Great is the LORD and greatly to be praised;

there is no end to his greatness.

One generation shall praise your works to another

and shall declare your power.

I will ponder the glorious splendor of your majesty

and all your marvelous works.

They shall speak of the might of your wondrous acts,

and I will tell of your greatness.

They shall publish the remembrance of your great goodness;

they shall sing of your righteous deeds.

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

SECOND READING

Philippians 1:21-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for you. Since I am convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with all of you for your progress and joy in faith, so that I may share abundantly in your boasting in Christ Jesus when I come to you again.

Only, live your life in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that, whether I come and see you or am absent and hear about you, I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God’s doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well– since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 20:1-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

The kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire laborers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the laborers for the usual daily wage, he sent them into his vineyard. When he went out about nine o’clock, he saw others standing idle in the marketplace; and he said to them, “You also go into the vineyard, and I will pay you whatever is right.” So they went. When he went out again about noon and about three o’clock, he did the same. And about five o’clock he went out and found others standing around; and he said to them, “Why are you standing here idle all day?” They said to him, “Because no one has hired us.” He said to them, “You also go into the vineyard.” When evening came, the owner of the vineyard said to his manager, “Call the laborers and give them their pay, beginning with the last and then going to the first.” When those hired about five o’clock came, each of them received the usual daily wage. Now when the first came, they thought they would receive more; but each of them also received the usual daily wage. And when they received it, they grumbled against the landowner, saying, “These last worked only one hour, and you have made them equal to us who have borne the burden of the day and the scorching heat.” But he replied to one of them, “Friend, I am doing you no wrong; did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage? Take what belongs to you and go; I choose to give to this last the same as I give to you. Am I not allowed to do what I choose with what belongs to me? Or are you envious because I am generous?” So the last will be first, and the first will be last.

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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We like grace when we benefit from it, as in the case of the children of Israel, whom God fed in the wilderness.  Yet often we object when others–especially our enemies and others unlike us–benefit from it, too.

Consider Jonah, one of the most interesting literary creations in the Bible.  He was a satirical figure who epitomized the worst of post-Exilic Judaism, which had a strong dose of exclusivity about it.  So, in the short book bearing the name “Jonah” the titular character receives a mandate from God to offer the people of Nineveh–traditional enemies–a chance to repent.  Jonah runs away, but cannot escape from God.  Finally, Jonah does as God demands, and finds success in this effort disappointing.  Who is he without his traditional enemy?  What is his identity now?  This man cares more for a plant than for fellow human beings who are different from him, but whom God loves and to whom God reaches out.

This not merely about the scandal of grace extended to our enemies.  Jesus told a parable about a vineyard owner who hired people during various times of day then paid everybody the same amount–the standard daily wage at the time and place.  Those who had worked all day were upset, but the vineyard owner had not cheated them.

Why does God’s generosity scandalize us, or at least bother us?  Perhaps we think that we are deserving, but those people over there are not.  I have seen a sticker which reads,

GOD LOVES EVERYBODY, BUT I’M HIS FAVORITE.

This is supposed to be funny, which is how I interpret it.  But some people believe it.  In reality, however, we are just as deserving as those people are, which is to say that we are not deserving at all.  This, however, is not how many of us like to think of ourselves.

Too often we define ourselves according to what we are not.  We are not like those people.  We are not those people.  We are better than them, we tell ourselves.  In reality, however, my identity, your identity, and the identity of the person least like us all exist in the context of God.  We are children of God, and therefore siblings.  So our quarrels exist within a family context.  God, our Father-Mother (Metaphors relative to God are imperfect, and the Bible contains both masculine and feminine images for God.), loves us and does not give up on any of us.  So we ought not to write anyone off.  Yet we do.

We can be instruments of God voluntarily–like, Moses dealing with the ever-grumbling children of Israel, or Paul, bringing the message of Jesus to the Gentiles–or involuntarily–like Jonah, weeping over a dead plant while bemoaning the repentance of a population.  If divine grace and generosity scandalize us, the fault is with us, not with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 29, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ERNEST TRICE THOMPSON, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

THE FEAST OF JOHN KEBLE, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JONAS AND BARACHISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

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Posted May 4, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 16, Jonah 3, Matthew 20, Philippians 1, Psalm 105, Psalm 145

Tagged with

What?????   1 comment

Above:  Sinai Desert

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Exodus 16:1-5, 9-15, 19, 20 (An American Translation):

Setting out from Elim, the whole Israelite community came to the desert of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after their departure from the land of Egypt.

Then the whole Israelite community grumbled against Moses and Aaron in the desert.

O that we would have died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by pots of flesh and had plenty of food to eat,” the Israelites said to them; “for you you have brought us into this desert, to make this whole crowd die of famine.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain food out of the sky for you, but the people are to go out and gather only a day’s ration each day, in order that I may test them to see whether they will follow my instructions or not.  On every sixth day, however, when they measure what they bring home, it shall be twice as much as what they gather from day to day.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

Say to the whole Israelite community, “Present yourselves before the LORD; for he has heard your grumbling.”

When Aaron said this to the whole Israelite community, they looked toward the desert, whereupon the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I have heard the grumbling of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall have flesh to eat, and in the morning plenty of bread to satisfy you; and thus shall you know that I am the LORD your God.”

So it came about at evening that quails came up and covered the camp, and in the morning there was a fall of dew around the camp; when the fall of dew evaporated, there, on the surface of the desert, there was a fine scaly substance, as fine as hoar-frost on the ground!  When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,

What is it?

–for they did not know what it was.

Then Moses said to them,

That is the bread which the LORD is giving you to eat….

Then Moses said to them,

No one is to leave any of them over until morning.

But they did not obey Moses; certain ones left some it over until morning, as it bred maggots and became foul.  So Moses became angry with them.

Psalm 78:18-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

18 They tested God in their hearts,

demanding food for their craving.

19 They railed against God and said,

“Can God set a table in the wilderness?”

20 True, he struck the rock, the waters gushed out, and the gullies overflowed;

but is he able to give bread

or to provide meat for his people?”

21 When the LORD heard this, he was full of wrath;

a fire was kindled against Jacob,

and his anger mounted against Israel;

22 For they had no faith in God,

nor did they put their trust in his saving power.

23 So he commanded the clouds above

and opened the doors of heaven.

24 He rained down manna upon them to eat

and gave them grain from heaven.

25 So mortals ate the bread of angels;

he provided for them food enough.

26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens

and led out the south wind by his might.

27 He rained down flesh upon them like dust

and winged birds like the sand of the sea.

28 He let it fall in the midst of their camp

and round about their dwellings.

29 So they ate and were well filled,

for he gave them what they craved.

Matthew 13:1-9 (An American Translation):

That same day Jesus went out of his house and was sitting on the seashore.  And such great crowds gathered about him that he got into a boat and sat down in it, while all the people stood on the shore.  And he told them many things in figures, and said to them,

A sower went to sow, and as he was sowing, some of the seed fell by the path and the birds came and ate it up, and some fell on rocky ground where there was not much soil and it sprang up at once, because the soil was not deep, but when the sun came up it was scorched and withered up, because it had no root.  And some of it fell among the thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it out.  And some fell on good soil, and yielded some a hundred, some sixty, and some thirty-fold.  Let him who has ears listen!

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The Collect:

Almighty God, the fountain of all wisdom, you know our necessities before we ask and our ignorance in asking: Have compassion on our weakness, and mercifully give us those things which for our unworthiness we dare not, and for our blindness we cannot ask; through the worthiness of your Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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A desert can be a forbidding place.  Saints have gone into them to test their spiritual mettle and their willingness to rely on God.  Some of the more famous people of this sort are John the Baptist, Antony of Egypt, John Climacus, and, of course, Jesus of Nazareth.

Realization and acceptance of one’s reliance on God, a virtue, can terrify us.  This is especially true if one’s culture places great value on self-reliance, thereby stigmatizing dependency.  Yet we are all God’s dependents, and self-reliance is an illusion.

With all this mind, let us consider the reading from Exodus.

About a month has passed since the Exodus.  The great Israelite throng is in the desert, and the period of praising God for deliverance from slavery has ended.  Walter Brueggemann, in The New Interpreter’s Bible, provides an excellent analysis.  The plenteous, piled-up food in Egypt was the bread of coercion distributed according to the will of the Pharaoh.  Yet the manna and quail in the desert come from God, and the distribution is equitable.  There is just one caveat:  No hoarding is allowed.

This is God’s economy:  There is enough for everyone to have enough, but not an excessive amount.  Really, how much does one person need?  This lesson contradicts much of Western society and politics, not to mention the basest varieties of capitalism.  Human economies experience booms and busts, and rely on inequality in distribution of food and other necessities.  This is sinful.  So I prefer God’s economy.

So, due to God’s mercy, a forbidding wilderness becomes a place where there is enough.  People will neither starve nor grow fat on what is available.  This is not so bad, is it?

I love puns.  So imagine my delight in reading that the Hebrew text for “What is it?” is identical to that for “It is manna.”  Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah, likens this exchange in Exodus 16:15 to Abbott and Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine.  The Bible contains much humor in the original languages and certain scenarios; may we not be so serious-minded that we cannot recognize this fact and enjoy the Scriptures in this way.

What was manna?  (Be prepared for a gross-out moment.)  It was almost certainly honey dew, the excretions of scale insects and plant lice who had injested sap of tamarisk trees then left “souvenirs” onto branches.  The “souvenirs” then crystalized and fell to the ground.  Bedouins use this as a sweetener, according to a note from The Jewish Study Bible.

There is a certain squeamishness about eating certain food, especially if one knows what it is.  On the other hand, ignorance is culinary bliss.  The Israelites had not seen manna before, so they did not know that it was solidified and crystalized insect excretions.  Yet it was enough, and it was good for the people.

The Israelites had begun to grumble really early, even immediately before the Exodus itself.  Then they continued.  They sound like the seed that fell among thorns in the Parable of the Sower; concerns choked off faith.  This might be my story or your tale, too.  May it not be so.  Rather, may as many people as possible be like the seed in fertile soil.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH SETON, FOUNDER OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS I OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN KONRAD WILHELM LOEHE, LUTHERAN PASTOR

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/week-of-proper-11-wednesday-year-1/

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Posted April 19, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Exodus 16, Matthew 13, Psalm 78

Tagged with ,

The Bread of Life and the “Ick” Factor   1 comment

Image Source = Junior

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Eucharistic_Miracle_of_Lanciano_-_rear-lighted_panel_-_side.JPG)

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Exodus 16:2-4, 9-15 (New Revised Standard Version):

The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness. The Israelites said to them,

If only we had died by the hand of the LORD in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.

Then the LORD said to Moses,

I am going to rain bread from heaven for you, and each day the people shall go out and gather enough for that day. In that way I will test them, whether they will follow my instruction or not.

Then Moses said to Aaron,

Say to the whole congregation of the Israelites, “Draw near to the LORD, for he has heard your complaining.”

And as Aaron spoke to the whole congregation of the Israelites, they looked toward the wilderness, and the glory of the LORD appeared in the cloud. The LORD spoke to Moses and said,

I have heard the complaining of the Israelites; say to them, “At twilight you shall eat meat, and in the morning you shall have your fill of bread; then you shall know that I am the LORD your God.”

In the evening quails came up and covered the camp; and in the morning there was a layer of dew around the camp. When the layer of dew lifted, there on the surface of the wilderness was a fine flaky substance, as fine as frost on the ground. When the Israelites saw it, they said to one another,

What is it?

For they did not know what it was. Moses said to them,

It is the bread that the LORD has given you to eat.

Psalm 78:23-29 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

23 So he commanded the clouds above

and opened the doors of heaven.

24 He rained down manna upon them to eat

and gave them grain from heaven.

25 So mortals ate the bread of angels;

he provided for them food enough.

26 He caused the east wind to blow in the heavens

and led out the south wind by his might.

27 He rained down flesh upon them like dust

and winged birds like the sand of the sea.

28 He let it fall in the midst of their camp

and round about their dwellings.

29 So they ate and were well filled,

for he gave them what they craved.

John 6:24-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

The next day, when the people who remained after the feeding of the five thousand saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him,

Rabbi, when did you come here?

Jesus answered them,

Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.

Then they said to him,

What must we do to perform the works of God?

Jesus answered them,

This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.

So they said to him,

What sign are you going to give us then, so that we may see it and believe you? What work are you performing? Our ancestors ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, “He gave them bread from heaven to eat.”

Then Jesus said to them,

Very truly, I tell you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.

They said to him,

Sir, give us this bread always.

Jesus said to them,

I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 16:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/04/week-of-proper-11-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/proper-20-year-a/

John 6:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sixteenth-day-of-easter/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/seventeenth-day-of-easter/

Humbly I Adore Thee, Verity Unseen:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/04/14/humbly-i-adore-thee-verity-unseen/

Break Thou the Bread of Life:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/break-thou-the-bread-of-life/

I Come with Joy to Meet My Lord:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/i-come-with-joy-to-meet-my-lord/

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There is an obvious link between the Exodus and the John readings.  The Israelites, needing food in the desert, received from God a sufficient amount of manna and quail.  Many people have wondered what manna was, in a scientific sense.  It was probably the crystalized excrement of scale insects and plant lice who had injested the sap of tamarisk trees.  (The Jewish Study Bible, page 140)  There is an “ick” factor to it.

There is also an “ick” factor to Jesus as the bread of life.  John 6, to Jewish sensibilities of the time, contained objectionable material, for consuming a person’s flesh and blood was (and is, in most cultures) taboo.  This being the Gospel of John, there is a highly symbolic layer to the text, but the text is not entirely figurative.  There is manna symbolism, indicating that God is the source of this bread of life.  Yet the manna was, as Father Raymond E. Brown wrote in hisAnchor Bible commentary on the Johannine Gospel,

a foreshadowing of the real bread from heaven, which is Jesus own teaching.  (Volume 1, page 266)

So this bread of life is spiritual sustenance.  And Jesus himself, God incarnate, the living embodiment of these teachings, identifies himself as the bread of life in verse 35.  If one reads verses 51-58, one reads a text which identifies the flesh of our Lord as the bread of heaven itself.  Yet, as Father Brown documents in great detail, there has been disagreement about the precise meaning of “bread of life” in Christian tradition since the Patristic Era.  (Volume 1, page 272)  Should one focus more on the physicality of Jesus (as in the Eucharist) or on his teachings?  Or should one consider both equally?

I favor the latter option.  There is much playing out in the Greek text of John 6.  There are Passover and manna references, allusions to different types of bread of life, and a host (pardon the pun) of other details which brilliant scholars have poured over with excruciating attention.  The text is, simply put, subtle and rich in meaning, capable of meaning more than one thing simultaneously.  Being more of a “both and,” rather than an “either or” person much of the time, I ask,

Why not focus on both Jesus (as present in the bread and wine of Eucharist) and his teachings?

One misses a critical element in the absence of the other.

Jesus–the historical human being–was a great moral teacher.  He was more than that, of course, but he was that.  His teachings remain pertinent today.  It is also true that I encounter the Christ of my ftith every time I take communion, which I consider to be the transubstantiated body and blood of Jesus.  As a Eucharistic Minister in The Episcopal Church, I hold a chalice containing consecrated wine.  I say,

The blood of Christ, the cup of salvation,

to those who come forward.  I mean it literally.  If I am what I eat and drink, may I become more like Jesus through the Eucharist.  And may you, O reader, do the same.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 1, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ANTHONY ASHLEY COOPER, LORD SHAFTESBURY, SEVENTH EARL OF SHAFTESBURY, AND BRITISH HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT THERESA OF LISIEUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT REMIGIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF RHEIMS

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on October 1, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/01/proper-13-year-b/

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