Archive for the ‘Marriage’ Tag

Interdependence, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  A Family

Image in the Public Domain

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

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O Thou who from the beginning didst create us for life together:

grant that, by thy fatherly grace, we may put aside suspicion and fear,

and live as one family on earth, praising thy name;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 127

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Genesis 2:15-25

Ephesians 5:21-33

Mark 10:1-9

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Torah piety, which informs the New Testament, teaches the following lessons germane to the assigned readings:

  1. We depend entirely on God.
  2. We depend on each other.
  3. We are responsible to each other.
  4. We are responsible for each other.
  5. We have no right to exploit each other.

In other words, independence is a lie and dependence and interdependence are the rule.

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

–Ephesians 5:21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Ephesians 5:22-6:9 contains some understandably controversial and uncomfortable passages.  Misinterpretations are as old as antiquity and as recent as the present day.  This section of Ephesians details spiritual responsibilities–of a husband to his wife, of a wife to her husband, of parents to children, of children to parents, of slaves to masters, and of masters to slaves.  The acceptance of Roman slavery in the context of the expectation of the parousia (which has yet to happen) properly offends moral sensibilities.  All forms of slavery are wrong in all places and at all times.  All forms of slavery violate the Golden Rule.

I am an unlikely person to write a blog post about marriage, for I am a confirmed bachelor.  If I were to marry, I would wed a woman, but I prefer to live alone.  But even we bachelors are responsible to and for others.  We may be solitary by choice and inclination, but we are not cut off from society.

Life together in society, to be as beneficial as possible, requires give and take, for the common good.  As The Book of Common Prayer (1979) reminds us, we depend upon the labor of each other.  May we help each other fulfill the potential each person has, for the glory of God and the common good.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 26, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANNE AND JOACHIM, PARENTS OF SAINT MARY OF NAZARETH

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part XIX: The Kingdom of the Powerless   1 comment

01427v

Above:  Jesus Blessing the Children

An Image from 1891

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/2003688894/)

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01427

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 30:1-20

Psalm 62 (Morning)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening)

Matthew 19:1-15

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Some Related Posts:

Deuteronomy 30:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/second-day-of-lent/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/first-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/proper-18-year-c/

Matthew 19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/07/week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/05/week-of-proper-14-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-14-thursday-year-2/

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Women and children were among the most vulnerable members of our Lord’s society.  Widows and orphans especially at risk.  Thus in Matthew 19:1-15, Jesus affirmed the dignity of women and children and the importance of commitments.  Some men divorced their wives for casual reasons, thereby placing the divorced women at great risk of falling through the cracks of society.  And, as Richard Horsley has taught me, some Pharisees permitted elites to divorce and remarry for reasons of consolidating control over land and other resources.  (Source = Jesus and Empire:  The Kingdom of God and the New World Disorder, Minneapolis, MN:  Fortress Press, 2003, page 122).  Jesus frowned upon people making a mockery of solemn commitments to God and each other.

Children were powerless.  So Jesus, of course, spoke highly of such socially invisible people.  The man who dined with notorious sinners, spoke at length about profound topics with women, and scandalized the defenders and guardians of ritual purity codes said:

Let the children come to me; do not try to stop them, for the Kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.

–Matthew 19:14, The Revised English Bible

Welcome, O reader, to the Kingdom of God, where the meek inherit the earth, the hungry eat, the thirsty drink, and the powerless and socially invisible people are role models.  This is consistent with the best of the Law of Moses and the commandments of God in our mouths and hearts.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 9, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE FEAST OF THOMAS TOKE LYNCH, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ANNA LAETITIA WARING, HUMANITARIAN AND HYMN WRITER; AND HER UNCLE, SAMUEL MILLER WARING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS, BISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE

THE FEAST OF SAINTS WILLIBALD OF EICHSTATT AND LULLUS OF MAINZ, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT WALBURGA OF HEIDENHELM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; SAINTS PETRONAX OF MONTE CASSINO, WINNEBALD OF HEIDENHELM, WIGBERT OF FRITZLAR, AND STURMIUS OF FULDA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS; AND SAINT SEBALDUS OF VINCENZA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT AND MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/devotion-for-october-28-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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2 Kings and Ephesians, Part III: Building Each Other Up   1 comment

female-sign

Above:  Female Sign

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 4:8-22, 32-37 (September 6)

2 Kings 4:38-5:8 (September 7)

Psalm 85 (Morning–September 6)

Psalm 61 (Morning–September 7)

Psalms 25 and 40 (Evening–September 6)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening–September 7)

Ephesians 5:15-33 (September 6)

Ephesians 6:1-24 (September 7)

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Some Related Posts:

2 Kings 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/25/proper-12-year-b/

Ephesians 5-6:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/proper-15-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/week-of-proper-25-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-25-tuesday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/proper-26-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/proper-16-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/week-of-proper-25-wednesday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-25-thursday-year-2/

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Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

–Ephesians 5:21, Revised English Bible

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That is the verse upon which Ephesians 5:22-6:9 hangs.  To read any portion thereof outside of the context of 5:21 is to distort the meaning of any of those verses.  A common Christian expectation at the time was that Jesus might return next week or next month or next year, so a revolution in social structure or economic realities was not on the table; preparing for the Second Coming took precedence.  Since Jesus has not returned by January 4, 2013, when I type these words, I propose that those are matters worthy of moral and theological consideration.  To do so is to honor the Golden Rule.

I have kept the Ephesians readings together.  In so doing, however, I have divided the story of Naaman.  So be it; I will deal with that story in the next post in this series.  But I have been able to pair advice from Ephesians with miracle stories involving Elisha.  Many of those tales echo Elijah miracle stories, by the way.

I did notice a common thread involving women.  The Shunammite woman needed her son for her financial security in her patriarchal society.  But the text from Ephesians advises the mutual submission of wives and husbands to each other and both of them to Christ.  Wives and husbands have sacred obligations to each other; they belong to each other.  This is a beautiful teaching, even if patriarchy does stain it.

The Letter to the Ephesians, as scholars have noted, displays great unity.  The end follows nicely from what precedes it:  Act for the common good; build each other up.  That was what Elijah did for the Shunammite woman.  That is what we are called to do for each other today, where we are.  The only situational aspect of this ethic is what the details will be.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT DAVID I, KING OF SCOTLAND

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, QUAKER FOUNDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/01/04/devotion-for-september-6-and-7-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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1 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part VI/2 Samuel and 1 Corinthians, Part I: Self-Control   1 comment

mountains-of-gilboa

Above:  Mountains of Gilboa

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2010000317/PP/)

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 31:1-13 (August 13)

2 Samuel 1:1-27 (August 14)

Psalm 42 (Morning–August 13)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–August 14)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–August 13)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–August 14)

1 Corinthians 7:1-24 (August 13)

1 Corinthians 7:25-40 (August 14)

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Some Related Posts:

2 Samuel 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/10/week-of-2-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/20/proper-8-year-b/

1 Corinthians 7:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/11/third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/02/week-of-proper-4-friday-year-2/

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Paul expected Jesus to return quite soon.   So, regarding marriage and sexuality, he advised people to remain as they were–single or married–and to place matters of God above those of the desires of one’s spouse or body.  He advised self-control while acknowledging the goodness of sexuality.  But even a good thing, not controlled, can become a distraction.

Along the way Paul wrote a number of statements one will not hear at a wedding ceremony.

To the unmarried and to widows I say this:  it is a good thing if like me they stay as they are; but if they lack self-control, they should marry.  It is better to be married than to burn with desire.

–Verses 8-9, Revised English Bible

In other words,

Marriage:  At least it is not fornication.

And we read at the end of the chapter:

Thus he who marries his betrothed does well, and he who does not marry does better.

–Verse 38, Revised English Bible

The main idea, that one must not become and/or remain distracted from God’s call on one’s life, unites the chapter.  And sexuality is a powerful human drive; it does ensure the continuation of the species and provide much pleasure.  But it, like so much else, can become a distraction from one’s divine vocation(s).

The theme of self-control continues in 1 and 2 Samuel.  Saul had tried more than once to kill David.  And the monarch had ordered the killing of people who had helped the former shepherd.  Yet David had refused to kill Saul when he had opportunities to do so.  He even lamented not only his friend, Jonathan, but Saul, after they died.  David’s self-c0ntrol relative to Saul was remarkable.  It is a model to emulate.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FREDERICK PRATT GREEN, BRITISH METHODIST MINISTER, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMEW ZOUBERBUHLER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF PAUL TILLICH, LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/22/devotion-for-august-13-and-14-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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A Preacher’s Kid’s Defense of Clerical Continence   4 comments

Above:  A Pulpit

I begin with definitions, for the meanings of words matter to me very much.  The question of factual accuracy is vital, especially when building a subjective case.  One might disagree with my opinion, but may my facts be iron-clad.  As the late U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, everybody is entitled to his own opinion but not his own facts.  So, courtesy of The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, here are some definitions.

  1. Clerical.  adj.  2.  Of, relating to, or characteristic of the clergy or a clergyman.

  2. Celibacy.  n.  The condition of being unmarried, especially by reason of religious vows.

  3. Continent.  adj.  2.  Partially or completely abstaining from sexual activity.

A person can be celibate while not being sexually continent.  And two people can be married while being sexually continent, as in the case of “white marriages.”   So sexual continence (often paired with celibacy) pertains more to the case I will make than does celibacy.

I support widespread and affirmed sexual continence among members of the clergy of various denominations.   This might be an ironic case for me to make, one might argue.  I am, after all, a Preacher’s Kid, albeit one who predates his father’s clergy status.  My experiences explain why I affirm clerical continence, for I know what it is like to live under unrealistic expectations of lay people.  And I do not argue for mandatory continence, for allegedly one-size-fits-all solutions do not work for all affected people.  Yet I do state that nobody should look askance at a member of the clergy who has chosen to live as a single and continent person.

Some people do look askance at them.  Many Evangelical and Fundamentalist congregations expect their pastors to be married.  So many single Evangelical ministers have difficulty getting hired.  Homophobia plays a role in some of these attitudes, for the suspicion among some is a single man of a certain age must be a homosexual.  But another factor is acclimation to a certain religious subculture, complete with a certain common pattern of human relationships.

Marriage is a sacrament, one to which many members of the clergy have a vocation.  But many also have the opposite vocation.  Both come from God.  I will not chase a rabbit too long here and now, but the biblical teachings regarding sexual activities are not a clear-cut as many people think.  Read Genesis 38, for example.  And, for orders to stone people who have committed various sexual infractions, read Deuteronomy 22:13-30.

I grew up in a series of United Methodist parsonages in rural southern Georgia.  Each house was more like a fishbowl than a home.  The expectations of many church members was that I ought to be super holy.  (It is difficult to grow up with those unrealistic expectations.)  And people volunteered me for more Christmas plays and other church activities than I counted.  Would it have been too much to ask that people ask me, not assume?

Even worse, the frequent moving (about every two or three years) was devastating.  The causes were issues pertaining entirely neither to my father or to certain lay people, but I did know of some individuals who had been primarily responsible for moving successive ministers.  Having to start at a new school and to meet new people was painful for me, an introvert.  So I withdrew into my own head after a little while; life was easier that way.  I have spent the last few years  unlearning those emotional self-defense tactics I adopted as a child and adolescent.  They had their time and places; what else was I supposed to do?

Yet circumstances have changed.  As I type these words I have lived in the same town for almost seven years.  I have lived in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, longer than I have lived anywhere else.  And I want to remain as long as that is prudent, which will hopefully be for a long time to come.

These have been my reflections; I have spoken only for myself.  My mother had a different yet overlapping set of issues, to which I do not presume to speak.  When I reached adulthood I flirted briefly with clergy status.  For a time I pondered the Episcopal priesthood.  Indeed, I would be more likely to succeed as an Episcopal priest than as a United Methodist minister, especially in Georgia–and especially in the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta, as opposed to the more conservative and less cosmopolitan Diocese of Georgia.  But I chose not to pursue the clergy path, even as an Episcopal deacon.  The liberation of being among the laity has long appealed to me.

My most basic argument for widespread and affirmed clerical continence is that is generally better that parsonage families not exist than that they do.  The price members of parsonage families pay is too high.  That has been my experience.

The statistical likelihood is that you, O reader, are a lay person if you are a Christian.  (Indeed, this blog is unapologetically Christian.)  I hope that, if your priest or pastor is married, you will consider these perspectives from a Preacher’s Kid and act toward your parsonage or rectory family as an angel, not one who lays unrealistic expectations on them.  They face challenges with which you might not be able to identify.  Yet you can support your parsonage or rectory family with words, deeds, and prayers.  And you can prevent some needless relocations.  Please do that in any situation.  An unnecessary move is rough on a family and a single person alike.

I conclude with a reading recommendation.  For a glimpse into being a collar-wearing member of the clergy read Barbara Brown Taylor’s Leaving Church.  It describes another set of challenges to which I do not presume to speak.  Yet, based on my experiences, I relate to the memoir.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 28, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN H. W. STUCKENBERG, LUTHERAN PASTOR AND SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANFRANC OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET POLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

Men, Women, Paul, and Jesus   1 comment

Above:  Wedding Rings

Source = Jeff Belmonte

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Wedding_rings.jpg)

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Ephesians 5:1-33 (Revised English Bible):

In a word, as God’s dear children, you must be like him.  Live in love as Christ loved you and gave himself up on your behalf, an offering and sacrifice whose fragrance is pleasing to God.

Fornication and indecency of  any kind, or ruthless greed, must not be so much as mentioned among you, as befits the people of God.  No coarse, stupid, or flippant talk:  these things are out of place; you should rather be thanking God.  For be very sure of this:  no one given to fornication or vice, or the greed which makes an idol of gain, has any share which makes an idol of gain, has any share in the kingdom of Christ and of God.  Let no one deceive you with shallow arguments; it is for these things that divine retribution falls on God’s rebel subjects.  Have nothing to do with them.  Though you once were darkness, now as Christians you are light.  Prove yourselves at home in the light, for where light is, there is a harvest of goodness, righteousness, and truth.  Learn to judge for yourselves what is pleasing to the Lord; take no part in the barren deeds of darkness, but show them up for what they are.  It would be shameful even to mention what is done in secret.  But everything is shown up by being exposed to the light, and whatever is exposed in the light becomes light.  That is why it is said:

Awake, sleeper,

rise from the dead,

and Christ will shine upon you.

Take great care, them, how you behave:  act sensibly, not like simpletons.  Use the present opportunity to the full, for these are evil days.  Do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.  Do not give way to drunkenness and the ruin that goes with it, but let the Holy Spirit fill you:  speak to one another in psalms, hymns, and songs; sing and make music from your heart to the Lord; and in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ give thanks every day for everything to our God and Father.

Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.

Wives, be subject to your husbands as though to the Lord; for the man is the head of the woman, just as Christ is the head of the church.  Christ is, indeed, the saviour of that body; but just as the church is subject to Christ, so must women be subject to their husbands in everything.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for it, to consecrate and cleanse it by water and word, so that he might present the church to himself all glorious, with no stain or wrinkle or anything of the sort, but holy and without blemish.  In the same way men ought to love their wives, as they love their own bodies.  In loving his wife a man loves himself.  No one ever hated his own body; on the contrary, he keeps it nourished and warm, and that is how Christ treats the church, because it is his body, of which we are living parts.

That is why

(in the words of scripture)

a man shall leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.

There is hidden here a great truth, which I take to refer to Christ and to the church.  But it applies also to each one of you:  the husband must love his wife as his very self, and the wife must show reverence for her husband.

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Some Related Posts:

The Feast of Aquila, Priscilla, and Apollos (February 13):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/01/22/feast-of-aquila-priscilla-and-apollos-february-13/

The Feast of Sts. Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe, Holy Women (January 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/feast-of-sts-lydia-dorcas-and-phoebe-holy-wome-january-29/

The Feast of St. Mary Magdalene, Equal to the Apostles (July 22):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-mary-magdalene-equal-to-the-apostles-july-22/

The Feast of Joanna, Mary, and Salome (August 3):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/01/29/feast-of-joanna-mary-and-salome-august-3/

The Feast of Sts. Mary and Martha of Bethany, Friends of Jesus (July 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-sts-mary-and-martha-of-bethany-friends-of-jesus-july-29/

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Ephesians 5:2 sets the tone for the rest of the chapter, which flows organically from Chapter 4.

Live in love as Christ loved you and gave himself up on your behalf, an offering and sacrifice whose fragrance is pleasing to God.

Therefore exploitative behavior, whether sexual or economic, is off-limits, as is all else that does not build up others.  And, in terms of relationships, there is no license for one to lord over another in the style of a dictator.  So nobody ought to read Ephesians 6:22-24 outside of the context of Ephesians 5:21

(Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.)

and 5:25-33.  To do so is to engage in the Biblical malpractice of prooftexting. If wives are then supposed to be subject to their husbands, husbands ought to be subject to their wives, according to Ephesians 5:21.

Women feature prominently and favorably in the New Testament.  We read of Paul working with women in ministry.  The example of Prisca/Priscilla comes to mind immediately.  And Jesus treated women as equals, violating social conventions.  So he, for example, saw no difficulty with Mary of Bethany sitting at his feet as a male disciple would or with speaking at length and intelligently to the woman at the well.  Our Lord also depended on certain women for financial support of his ministry.  And let us never forget the women at the cross and the tomb.  Furthermore, there is Galatians 3:28; in Christ, it tells us, there is no male or female.

I invite you, O reader, to consider the end of Ephesians 5 in the context of these facts and the rest of the epistle, which speaks of acting compassionately, thinking of feelings and reputations of others, and being tender-hearted with one another.  All of this occurs within the context of an understanding that we are parts of the body of Christ; one part ought not to oppress another.  Then I invite you to act and continue to act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 7, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF HERBERT F. BROKERING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT LIEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIBRORD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on November 7, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/07/week-of-proper-25-monday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-25-tuesday-year-2/

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The Original Principle   1 comment

Above:  Nablus, Palestine, Ottoman Empire, 1918 (Built on the Site of Shechem)

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Joshua 24:1-14 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Joshua assembled all the tribes of Israel at Shechem.  He summoned Israel’s elders and commanders, magistrates and officers; and they presented themselves before God.  Then Joshua said to all the people,

Thus said the LORD, the God of Israel:  In olden times, your forefathers–Terah, father of Abraham and father of Nahor–lived beyond the Euphrates and worshiped other gods.  But I took your father Abraham from beyond the Euphrates and led him through the whole land of Canaan and multiplied his offspring.  I gave him Isaac, and to Isaac I gave Jacob and Esau.  I gave Esau the hill country of Seir as his possession, while Jacob and his children went down to Egypt.

Then I sent Moses and Aaron, and I plagued Egypt with [the wonders] that I wrought in their midst, after which I freed you–I freed your fathers–from Egypt, and you came to the Sea.  But the Egyptians pursued your fathers to the Sea of Reeds with chariots and horsemen.  They cried out to the LORD, and He put darkness between you and the Egyptians; then He brought the Sea upon them, and it covered them.  Your own eyes saw what I did to the Egyptians.

“After you had lived a long time in the wilderness, I brought you to the land of the Amorites who lived beyond the Jordan.  They gave battle to you, but I delivered them into your hands; I annihilated them for you, and you took possession of their land.  Thereupon Balak son of Zippor, the king of Moab, made ready to attack Israel.  He sent for Balaam son of Beor to curse you, but I refused to listen to Balaam; he had to bless you, and thus I saved you from him.

Then you crossed the Jordan and you came to Jericho.  The citizens of Jericho and the Amorites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hittites, Girgashites, Hivites, and Jebusites fought you, but I delivered them into your hands.  I sent a plague ahead of you, and it drove them out before you–[just like] the two Amorite kings–not by your sword or by your bow.  I have given you a land for which you did not labor and towns which you did not build, and you have settled in them; you are enjoying vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant.

Now, therefore, revere the LORD and serve Him with undivided loyalty; put away the gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD….

Psalm 136:1-3, 16-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

for his mercy endures for ever.

2 Give thanks to the God of gods,

for his mercy endures for ever.

3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords,

for his mercy endures for ever.

16 Who led his people through the wilderness,

for his mercy endures for ever.

17 Who struck down great kings,

for his mercy endures for ever;

18 And slew mighty kings,

for his mercy endures for ever;

19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,

for his mercy endures for ever;

20 And Og, the king of Bashan,

for his mercy endures for ever;

21 And gave away their lands for an inheritance,

for his mercy endures for ever;

22 An inheritance for Israel his servant,

for his mercy endures for ever.

Matthew 19:3-12 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Then the Pharisees arrived with a test-question.

Is it right,

they asked,

for a man to divorce his wife on any grounds whatever?

He answered,

Haven’t you read that the one who created them from the beginning made them male and female and said: “For this cause shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave to his wife; and the twain shall become one flesh”? So they are no longer two separate people but one.  No man therefore must separate what God has joined together.

They retorted,

Then why did Moses command us to give a written divorce notice and dismiss the woman?

He answered,

It was because you knew so little about the meaning of love that Moses allowed you to divorce your wives!  But that was not the original principle.  I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife on any grounds except her unfaithfulness and marries some other woman commits adultery.

His disciples said to him,

If that is a man’s position with his wife, it is not worth getting married!

Jesus replied,

It is not everybody who can accept this principle–only those who have a special gift.  For some are incapable of marriage from birth, some are made incapable by the action of men, and some have made themselves so for the kingdom of Heaven.  Let the man who can accept what I have said accept it.

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The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; 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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Marriage is indeed a great gift, and not one for everybody.  I write as a never-married man who is content to remain unattached.  It is good that I am not a Mormon, for my single state would place me at a great spiritual disadvantage within that tradition.  But, as William Barclay wrote in Volume 2 of his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew:

…there are those who have taken upon themselves voluntarily vows of chastity, celibacy, purity, poverty, abstinence, continence.  That will not be the way for the ordinary man, but the world would be a poorer place were it not for those who accept the challenge to travel alone for the sake of the work of Christ.  (Page 208)

Here are links to other posts pertaining to divorce:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/week-of-proper-2-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/proper-1-year-a/

KRT

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Now, for my main point…

The reading from Joshua is the first part of a speech which continues with the devotion for Saturday in the week of Proper 14, Year 1.  So, to help provide a hint of what verses 1-13 build up to, I have extended the reading by one verse:

Now, therefore, revere the LORD and serve Him with undivided loyalty; put away the gods that your forefathers served beyond the Euphrates and in Egypt, and serve the LORD.

That is the original purpose of the many laws of the covenant.  It is possible to become lost in the details of any elaborate law code, thereby reducing morality to a check list.  But that misses the point and evades the spirit of the law.  We human beings are as we think, for actions (excluding accidents) flow from attitudes.  And both the Old and New Testaments tell us to God fully and our neighbors as we love ourselves.  That is the big picture, the forest view.  So let us avoid becoming legalistic, lost amid the trees while deluding ourselves into thinking that we are practicing righteousness.

Let us consider the issue of divorce, for example.  The Law of Moses permitted a man to divorce his wife for almost any reason, but he had to issue a certificate of divorce.  And she had the right to remarry in such an event.  The assumed reason in the Mosaic Law was adultery, but the letter of the law did not specify this.  So, in a highly patriarchal age, a woman might find herself at great economic risk due to the whims of an uncaring man.  Jesus condemned this.

There was also a practice called Korban, by which a person gave property to the religious establishment, for the support of the professional religious.  This was often noble and well-intentioned, but not always.  Some used this as a way of depriving family members with whom they were at odds of financial support.  Jesus condemned this, too.

Many of us in the human species like to game any given system for own advantage, fulfilling the letter of a specified legal or religious system to appear good.  But we do not fool God when we act for selfish reasons.  God tells us to love each other, to care for each other, to support each other in our common life together.  That is the big picture, the forest view.  How is that for an original principle?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT SCHOLASTICA, ABBESS AT PLOMBARIOLA

THE FEAST OF HENRY WILLIAMS BAKER, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-friday-year-1/

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Posted October 6, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Joshua 24, Matthew 19, Psalm 136

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