Archive for the ‘Naaman’ Tag

The Scandal of Grace IV   2 comments

Above:  Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman, by Pieter Franz de Grebber

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday after the Epiphany, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, who knowest us to be in the midst of many dangers, that we cannot always stand upright;

grant to us such strength and protection that we may be supported in all difficulty,

and our feet be set against temptation; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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2 Kings 5:1-14

Romans 1:8-17

John 2:1-11

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Grace is scandalous.  Frequently we desire grace for ourselves, those we like, and those similar to us, but not for those who fit the opposite descriptions.  Yet we read today of the healing of Naaman, a gentile and a commander in an enemy army.  We also read of St. Paul the Apostle’s sense of obligation to gentiles.  The reading from John 2 reminds us of that the mission to Jesus began with Jews.  We  also need to consider the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), at the end of the Gospel of Matthew.  If we are observant readings of that Gospel, we should know that the mission of Jesus began with the Jews there, too, and that it came to encompass gentiles only in Matthew 28.

Imagine, O reader, an updated version of the story of Naaman, a commander in the Aramean army.  Suppose that a high-ranking officer in the armed forces of a nation-state hostile to your nation-state were in your country, in search of medical care.  What would your reaction or response be?  What would the politics of the situation be in your community?  What comments and memes would people post in social media?  What would certain politicians say and tweet?  What would certain news channels say?  What would certain hosts of radio talk shows say?  What would some bloggers write?

May we embrace the scandal of grace, thank God for it, and practice it fearlessly.  The same grace that saves us also saves those we fear, despise, and do not understand.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND ALLEGED HERETIC; AND HIS DAUGHTER, EMILIE GRACE BRIGGS, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND “HERETIC’S DAUGHTER”

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND “SWEET-VOICED NIGHTINGALE OF THE CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HIRAM FOULKES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Psalms 82-85   1 comment

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POST XXXII OF LX

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The Book of Common Prayer (1979) includes a plan for reading the Book of Psalms in morning and evening installments for 30 days.  I am therefore blogging through the Psalms in 60 posts.

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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 226

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Show us, O LORD, Your faithfulness;

grant us your deliverance.

–Psalm 85:8, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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Show us, O Yahweh, your kindness,

and give us your prosperity.

–Psalm 85:8, Mitchell J. Dahood translation

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Show us your steadfast love, O LORD,

and grant us your salvation.

–Psalm 85:7, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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LORD, show us your love

and grant us your deliverance.

–Psalm 85:7, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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The act of comparing translations can yield much.  For example, the Hebrew word hesed can mean “faithfulness,” “kindness,” “love,” and “steadfast love.”  Likewise, another Hebrew word can mean “deliverance,” “salvation,” and “prosperity.”  In the context of Psalm 85 it is deliverance from the Babylonian Exile and prosperity that only God can provide.  Related to these matters is the fact that “righteousness” and “justice” are the same in the Bible.  I bring up this point because of Psalm 82, which tells us that God’s justice is universal.

The author of Psalm 83 assumes that enemies of ancient Israel are automatically enemies of God also.  Thus he has no hesitation to ask God to smite them.  Yet, as we read in Psalm 81, God has enemies in ancient Israel also.  Furthermore, a recurring theme in the Hebrew Bible is the faithfulness of certain Gentiles, including the prostitute Rahab and her family (Joshua 2 and 6) and the Aramean general Naaman (2 Kings 5), both from national enemies.  In the Book of Jonah, a work of satirical fiction from the post-Babylonian Exilic period, God recognizes the possibility that enemies of ancient Israel will repent and desires that they do so.   Reality is more complicated than the author of Psalm 83, in his understandable grief and anger, perceives it to be.

A faithful response to God includes both gratitude and obedience.  This segue brings me to Psalm 84, my favorite psalm, one which Johannes Brahms set to music gloriously in A German Requiem.  The psalmist writes as a pilgrim to the Temple at Jerusalem.  He approaches the Presence of God humbly and filled with awe.  The author delights to be in the Presence of God, which he understands to exist physically (via the Ark of the Covenant) at the Temple.

If Rahab and her family could become part of Israel, surely divine judgment and mercy crossed national barriers in antiquity.  If the Gentile Ruth could become the grandmother of David, YHWH was never just a national deity.  If the alien Naaman could recognize the power of YHWH, there was an opening to Gentiles at the time of the divided monarchy.

If divine justice is universal, as I affirm, we will do well to cease imagining that God is on our side and strive instead to be on God’s side.  We can succeed, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 14, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CROFT, ANGLICAN ORGANIST AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JONATHAN MYRICK DANIELS, EPISCOPAL SEMINARIAN AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF MATTHIAS CLAUDIUS, GERMAN LUTHERAN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MAXIMILIAN KOLBE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR

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Respecting the Image of God in Others, Part I   1 comment

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Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servant, by Domenico Fetti

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:

Deuteronomy 15:1-18 or 19:15-21

Psalm 129

Matthew 18:1-14 (15-20) or Luke 9:46-50; 17:1-4

2 Corinthians 9:1-15

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The reading for this Sunday, taken together, proclaim the mandate of economic and legal justice, condemn lying in court, command forgiving penitents, order valuing the powerless and the vulnerable, and extol the virtues of generosity of spirit and of giving.  On the other hand, we read a prayer for God to destroy Israel’s enemies and a permission slip to dun foreigners.  What are we supposed to make of all this?

First I call attention to the presence of both collective and individual sins and virtues.  My Western culture, steeped in individualism, understands individual sins better than collective and institutional ones.  I know that, as a matter of history, many professing Christians have obsessed over personal peccadilloes to the exclusion or minimizing of societal sins.

My second point is the value of foreigners who bear the image of God.  Focusing just on the Hebrew Bible for a few minutes, I recall certain passages that depict somegoyim favorably:  Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:1-24 and 6:17-25), Ruth (Ruth 1-4), and Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-19).  And, of course, as one turns to the New Testament, one should think of the controversy regarding St. Paul the Apostle’s mission to the Gentiles.

Finally, forgiveness can be difficult, but it is the best policy.  According to a rule common among Jews at the time of Jesus, one was perfect if one forgave three times daily.  As we read in the Gospel readings, Jesus more than doubled that number, increasing it to seven.  (He affirmed spiritual challenges.)  Even if forgiving someone does not affect that person it changes for the better the one who forgives.  We also read in Matthew 7:1-5 that the standard we apply to others will be the standard God applies to us.  One might also consult Matthew 18:23-34, the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

I understand the desire for God to smite one’s foes.  I have prayed for such results.  I have also learned that praying for their repentance–for their benefit and that of others–is a better way to proceed.  Even our foes bear the image of God, after all.  God loves them too, correct?

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-sixth-sunday-of-easter-year-d/

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Divine Mercy and Wisdom   1 comment

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Above:  Elisha Refusing the Gifts of Naaman, by Pieter de Grebber

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God,

increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and love;

and that we may obtain what you promise,

make us love what you command,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 23

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 17:8-16 (Monday)

2 Kings 5:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 56 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 2:6-16 (Monday)

1 Corinthians 14:13-25 (Tuesday)

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I praise God for his promises,

I trust in him and have no fear;

what can man do to me?

–Psalm 56:11, The Psalms Introduced and Newly Translated for Today’s Readers (1989), by Harry Mowvley

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One can perceive divine wisdom only via God.  Such wisdom, which is for the building up of community (faith and otherwise) and not of self at the expense of others, is frequently counter-cultural.  We who claim to follow God should be careful to avoid the opposite fallacies of complete accommodation to social norms and of serial contrarian tendencies.  Letting go of proper standards is at least as bad as distrusting everything “worldly,” much of which is positive or morally neutral.

The narrative pericopes from the Hebrew Bible for these days tell of God extending mercy to people via people.  In one account the conduit is the prophet Elijah, who helps an impoverished widow of Zarephath.  In the other story a captive Hebrew servant girl suggests that her Aramean master, Naaman, a military commander, visit the prophet Elisha for a cure for his skin disease.  Naaman is surprised to learn that the remedy is to bathe in the humble River Jordan seven times.  Divine help comes in unexpected forms sometimes.  Having a receptive frame of mind–perhaps via divine wisdom–is crucial to recognizing God’s frequently surprising methods.

I have never had a miraculously refilling jar of flour or jug of oil, but I have known the considerably mundane and extravagant mercies of God in circumstances ranging from the happy to the traumatic.  Either God’s mercies have been greater in proportion to my sometimes difficult circumstances or my perception was proportionately greater and divine mercies have been equally extravagant across time.  Was the light bulb brighter or did I notice it more because the light outdoors became dimmer?  I do not know, and perhaps the answer to that question does not matter.  Recognizing divine mercy and wisdom then acting accordingly does matter, however.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DAVID NITSCHMANN, SR., “FATHER NITSCHMANN,” MORAVIAN MISSIONARY; MELCHIOR NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND MARTYR; JOHANN NITSCHMANN, JR., MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; ANNA NITSCHMANN, MORAVIAN ELDRESS; AND DAVID NITSCHMANN, MISSIONARY AND FIRST BISHOP OF THE RENEWED MORAVIAN CHURCH

THE FEAST OF BRADFORD TORREY, U.S. ORNITHOLOGIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF HARRY EMERSON FOSDICK, NORTHERN BAPTIST PASTOR AND OPPONENT OF FUNDAMENTALISM

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITED REFORMED CHURCH, 1972

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/10/05/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Humility Before God, Part I   1 comment

house-of-naaman-damascus

Above:  House of Naaman, Damascus, 1900-1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

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The Collect:

O God, our teacher and guide,

you draw us to yourself and welcome us as beloved children.

Help us to lay aside all envy and selfish ambition,

that we may walk in your ways of wisdom and understanding

as servants of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Kings 5:1-14 (Monday)

2 Kings 11:21-12:16 (Tuesday)

Psalm 139:1-18 (Both Days)

James 4:8-17 (Monday)

James 5:1-6 (Tuesday)

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LORD, you have searched me out and known me;

you know my sitting down and my rising up;

you discern my thoughts from afar.

–Psalm 139:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Temple at Jerusalem was approximately 140 years old.  The Ark of the Covenant was there.  Repairing the structure of the Temple, which, like all buildings, required maintenance, should have been a priority long before King Jehoash made it one.  The lack of upkeep indicated an improper attitude toward God.

The proper attitude toward God includes humility.  God is God; none of us is God.  We depend entirely upon God (and rely upon each other), so any thought to the contrary is mistaken.  Our interdependence and mutual responsibility (to and for each other) leaves no room for sins such as oppression, exploitation, and gossiping.  Our total dependence on God leaves no room for excessive pride.

Naaman learned humility and monotheism.  Unfortunately, the narrative ended with the beginning of his journey back home.  I wonder how the experience at the River Jordan changed him and how that altered reality became manifest in his work and daily life.  I also wonder if that led to any negative consequences for him.

Martin Luther referred to James as an “epistle of straw.”  The letter’s emphasis on works (including justification by them) offended the reformer, who was reacting, not responding, to certain excesses and abuses of the Roman Catholic Church.  The epistle’s emphasis on works was–and remains–necessary, however.  The book’s condemnations of exploitation and hypocrisy have called proper attention to injustices and other sins for millennia.

I am not a wealthy landowner exploiting impoverished workers (James 5:1-6), but part of these days’ composite reading from the epistle speaks to me.  The condemnation of judging others (4:1-11) hits close to home.  My estimate is that judging others is the sin I commit most often.  If I am mistaken, judging others is one of the sins I commit most frequently.  I know better, of course, but like St. Paul the Apostle, I know well the struggle with sin and my total dependence upon God.  Knowing that one has a problem is the first step in the process of resolving it.

Caution against moral perfectionism is in order.  Public statements by relatives of victims of the White supremacist gunman who killed nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, Charleston, South Carolina, have been impressive.  The capacity for forgiveness has come quickly to some.  I rejoice that divine grace is so richly evident in their lives.  For some of us (including the author), however, the capacity to forgive those who have committed lesser offenses has arrived later rather than sooner.  For others it remains in transit.  In any circumstance may it arrive in God’s time.  May the rest of us refrain from judging those struggling with that (and other) issues.

The Didache, an essential Christian text from the second century of the Common Era, opens with an explanation of the Way of Life (filling a page and a half in my copy) and the Way of Death (just one paragraph–about one-third of a page).  The accent on the positive aspect of morality is laudable.  The section on the two Ways ends with two sentences:

Take care that nobody tempts you away from the path of this Teaching, for such a man’s tuition can have nothing to do with God.  If you can shoulder the Lord’s yoke in its entirety, then you will be perfect; but if that is too much for you, do as much as you can.

Early Christian Writings:  The Apostolic Fathers (Penguin Books, 1987), p. 193

We, to succeed, even partially, depend on grace.  Even so, I am still trying to do as much as I can, to borrow language from the Didache, for human efforts are not worthless.  I am imperfect; there is much room for improvement.  Much has improved already, by grace.  The potential for spiritual growth excites me.  The only justifiable boast will be in God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 30, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN OLAF WALLIN, ARCHBISHOP OF UPPSALA AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR JAMES MOORE, UNITED METHODIST BISHOP IN GEORGIA

THE FEAST OF HEINRICH LONAS, GERMAN MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND LITURGIST

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/06/30/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-20-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Called to Serve God   1 comment

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Above:  The Miraculous Draught of Fishes, by Raphael

(Image in the Public Domain)

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The Collect:

Holy God, our strength and our redeemer,

by your Spirit hold us forever, that through your grace we may

worship you and faithfully serve you,

follow you and joyfully find you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:19-21

Psalm 40:1-11

Luke 5:1-11

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 5:1-11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-c/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/devotion-for-the-eleventh-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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He has put a new song in my mouth,

a song of praise to our God;

many shall see and fear

and put their trust in the Lord.

–Psalm 40:3, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The ELCA Daily Lectionary of 2006 pairs two stories of people called to discipleship.  First we read of Elisha leaving his family behind to follow Elijah.  Then we have an account of Jesus calling his first several Apostles, already acquainted with him.  Sts. James and John, sons of Zebedee, were our Lord’s cousins through St. Mary’s sister.  And St. Simon (Peter) was their business partner whose mother-in-law Jesus had cured in the previous chapter.

None of these men (except Jesus) were perfect.  St. Simon Peter was quick to speak before he thought sufficiently.  The brothers jostled for positions of privilege in the Kingdom of God.  And Elisha, as Walter Harrelson wrote n the 1962 Encyclopedia Americana,

offered no word of protest against Jehu’s bloody purge of Ahab’s 70 sons and others of his kin, of Ahaziah’s 42 brethren, and of the worshipers of Baal (II Kings 10).

And he

cursed playful children for mocking him, whereupon bears devoured them (II Kings 2:23-24).

–Volume 10, page 214

Yet, as Harrelson notes, Elisha also showed mercy on Syrian captives, healed Naaman, and cared about the common people of the kingdom.  The good came mixed with the bad.

Elisha and the Apostles did much that was great in the name of God.  They changed the world the better.  And so can I.  So can you, O reader.  The same power which flowed through them is available to us.  We can be effective instruments of God by divine grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 5, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MOTHER TERESA OF CALCUTTA, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF GREGORIO AGLIPAY, PHILIPPINE INDEPENDENT BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/09/05/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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2 Kings and Philippians, Part I: For the Glory of God   1 comment

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Above:  Elisha Refusing Gifts from Naaman, by Pieter de Grebber

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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 5:9-27

Psalm 103 (Morning)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening)

Philippians 1:1-20

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Some Related Posts:

2 Kings 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/seventeenth-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/proper-1-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/07/21/proper-9-year-c/

Philippians 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/eighth-day-of-advent-second-sunday-of-advent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/week-of-proper-25-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-25-saturday-year-2/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-sixteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-confession-for-the-sixteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/23/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-sixteenth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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The story of Naaman continues in 2 Kings 5.  Yes, Naaman overcomes his prejudices, regains his health and status, and praises God.  That is positive.  But Elisha pronounces the scourge of leprosy upon Gehazi, the deceptive servant who had made him appear as one who required payment for healing.  That is a difficult passage to read.

Paul had founded the church at Philippi.  He was on friendly terms with that congregation, one which had to contend with difficulties from inside and outside.  The Apostle wrote from prison, so he knew of hardship for the sake of the Gospel.  Yet, as he observed, this incarceration had enabled the spread of Christianity in another place; God worked in many circumstances.  Even though being an Apostle did not enrich Paul or make his life easier–in fact it caused him much difficulty–he embraced his calling.

Each of us has a set of vocations from God.  All of these fall under the umbrella of enjoying and glorifying God yet are varied in their details.  That is appropriate, for I have gifts and opportunities in combinations others do not and visa versa.  May all of us work for God faithfully where we are, not seeking to exploit our vocations for our benefit.  And may we be kinder than Elisha was to Gehazi.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF NICHOLAS KASATKIN, ORTHODOX ARCHBISHOP OF ALL JAPAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANSKAR, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF GIOVANNI PIERLUIGI DA PALESTRINA, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF MILLARD FULLER, FOUNDER OF HABITAT FOR HUMANITY

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/02/03/devotion-for-september-8-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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