Archive for the ‘Parable of the Wicked Tenants’ Tag

A Faithful Response, Part XVII   Leave a comment

Above:  The Wicked Husbandmen, by Jan Luyken

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Sixth Sunday of the Season of God the Father, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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O God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, our only Savior, the Prince of Peace:

give us grace seriously to lay to heart the great dangers we are in by our divisions.

Take away all hatred and prejudice, and whatever else may hinder us from godly union and concord;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 128

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Genesis 17:1-8

2 Corinthians 3:4-11

Matthew 21:33-43

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In parts of the Hebrew Bible, as in Jeremiah 23, that the people of Israel are, metaphorically, sheep, and their rulers are, metaphorically, shepherds.  Unfortunately, the shepherds, we read, are usually bad at their jobs.

Shepherds tended the sheep, property of others.  Shepherds were employees.  Likewise, the leaders of Jesus in Matthew 21:33-43 were, metaphorically, tenants, not owners.

God is the owner of the sheep and the land in both metaphors.  God has sufficient power in self; we do not.  We are dependents.  If we imagine otherwise, we deceive ourselves.  May we be grateful and faithful dependents, behaving differently than the wicked tenants in Matthew 21.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 14, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE THIRTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT VENANTIUS HONORIUS CLEMENTIUS FORTUNATUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF POITIERS

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY ANN THRUPP, ENGLISH HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF THE CROSS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

THE FEAST OF ROBERT MCDONALD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND MISSIONARY

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Humility and Arrogance   1 comment

Parable of the Wicked Servants

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servants

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty God, your sovereign purpose bring salvation to birth.

Give us faith amid the tumults of this world,

trusting that your kingdom comes and your will is done

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Daniel 4:4-18 (Thursday)

Daniel 4:19-27 (Friday)

Daniel 4:28-37 (Saturday)

Psalm 16 (All Days)

1 Timothy 6:11-21 (Thursday)

Colossians 2:6-15 (Friday)

Mark 12:1-12 (Saturday)

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FYI:  Daniel 4:1-37 in Protestant Bibles equals Daniel 4:1-34 in Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox translations.

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Arrogance can be easy to muster and humility can be difficult to manifest.  I know this well, for

  1. I have been prone to intellectual arrogance, and
  2. humility can be painful.

To be fair, some people I have known have nurtured my intellectual arrogance via their lack of intellectual curiosity and their embrace of anti-intellectualism.  That reality, however, does nothing to negate the spiritual problem.  I am glad to report, however, that it is a subsiding problem, by grace.

The internal chronology of the Book of Daniel defies historical accuracy; I came to understand that fact years ago via close study of the text.  The Book of Daniel is folkloric and theological, not historical and theological.  The folktale for these three days concerns King Nebuchadrezzar II (a.k.a. Nebuchadnezzar II), King of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire, who reigned from 605 to 562 B.C.E.  The arrogant monarch, the story tells us, fell into insanity.  Then he humbled himself before God, who restored the king’s reason.

So now I, Nebuchadnezzar, praise, exalt, and glorify the King of Heaven, all of whose works are just and whose ways are right, and who is able to humble those who behave arrogantly.

–Daniel 4:34, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

This is folklore, not history, but the lesson regarding the folly of arrogance is true.

The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Mark 12:1-12) exists in the context of conflict between Jesus and Temple authorities during the days immediately prior to his death.  In Chapter 11 our Lord and Savior cleansed the Temple and, in a symbolic act, cursed a fig tree as a sign of his rejection of the Temple system.  In Chapters 11 and 12 Temple authorities attempted to entrap Jesus in his words.  He evaded the traps and ensnared his opponents instead.  In this context Jesus told the Parable of the Wicked Tenants.  The vineyard was Israel, the slain slaves/servants were prophets, and the beloved son was Jesus.  The tenants were the religious leaders in Jerusalem.  They sought that which belonged to God, for Christ was the heir to the vineyard.

1 Timothy 6:11-21 continues a thread from earlier in the chapter.  Greed is bad, we read:

But those who want to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction.  For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pains.

–6:9-10, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Faithful people of God, however, are to live differently, pursuing righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness (verse 11).  The wealthy are to avoid haughtiness and reliance on uncertain riches, and to trust entirely in God (verse 17).  Further instructions for them include being generous and engaging in good works (verse 18).

Complete dependence upon God is a Biblical lesson from both Testaments.  It is a pillar of the Law of Moses, for example, and one finds it in 1 Timothy 6, among many other parts of the New Testament.  Colossians 2:6-15 drives the point home further, reminding us that Christ has cancelled the debt of sin.

Forgiveness as the cancellation of debt reminds me of the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (Matthew 18:23-35).  A king forgave a large debt–10,000 talents–a servant owed to him.  Given that one talent was fifteen years’ worth of wages for a laborer, and that the debt was therefore 150,000 years’ worth of wages, the amount of the debt was hyperbolic.  The point of the hyperbole in the parable was that the debt was impossible to repay.  The king was merciful, however.  Unfortunately, the servant refused to forgive debts other people owed to him, so the king revoked the debt forgiveness and sent the servant to prison.

So my heavenly Father will also do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother or sister from your heart.

–Matthew 18:35, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Just as God forgives us, we have a responsibility to forgive others.  Doing so might require us to lay aside illusions of self-importance.  That has proven true in my life.

The path of walking humbly with God and acknowledging one’s total dependence upon God leads to liberation from illusions of grandeur, independence, and self-importance.  It leads one to say, in the words of Psalm 16:1 (Book of Common Worship, 1993):

Protect me, O God, for I take refuge in you;

I have said to the LORD, “You are my Lord,

my good above all other.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 10, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SCHEFFLER, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, POET, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF GEORG NEUMARK, GERMAN LUTHERAN POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOHN HINES, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2015/07/10/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-28-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Faith Manages   1 comment

Rising Star Delenn

Above:  Ambassador Delenn, from Rising Star, a 1997 Episode of Babylon 5 (1994-1998)

A screen capture I took via PowerDVD and a legal DVD

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The Collect:

Stir up the wills of your faithful people, Lord God,

and open our ears to the words of your prophets,

that, anointed by your Spirit, we may testify to your light;

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 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Habakkuk 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Habakkuk 3:2-6 (Friday)

Habakkuk 3:13-19 (Saturday)

Psalm 126 (All Days)

Philippians 3:7-11 (Thursday)

Philippians 3:12-16 (Friday)

Mathew 21:28-32 (Saturday)

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Restore our fortunes, O LORD,

like the watercourses of the Negev.

Those who sowed with tears

will reap with songs of joy.

Those who go out weeping, carrying the seed,

will come in again with joy, shouldering their shears.

–Psalm 126:5-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these three days combine to constitute a tapestry of hope, faith, violence, and judgment.

The lessons from Habakkuk complain to God about persistent injustice and report a divine reply that (A) God will settle scores one day, and (B) the righteous must remain faithful during trying times.  Some of the material is disturbing:

You tread the earth in rage,

You trample nations in fury.

You have come forth to deliver Your people,

To deliver Your anointed.

You will smash the roof of the villain’s house,

Raze it from foundation to top.

You will crack [his] skull with Your bludgeon;

Blown away will be his warriors,

Whose delight is to crush me suddenly,

To devour a poor man in an ambush.

–Habakkuk 3:12-14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Happier is the end of the book:

Though the fig tree does not bud

And no yield is on the vine,

Though the olive crop has failed

And the fields produce no grain,

Though sheep have vanished from the fold

And no cattle are n the pen,

Yet will I rejoice in the LORD,

Exult in the God who delivers me.

My Lord GOD is my strength:

He makes my feet like the deer’s

And lets me stride upon the heights.

–Habakkuk 3:17-19, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

As I have written many times, I understand the reality that some oppressors will not cease oppressing until someone forces them to do so.  Thus a rescue mission becomes necessary.  This is good news for the oppressed and a catastrophe for the oppressors.  Yet the imagery of God cracking open skulls bothers me.

The note of judgment continues in Matthew 21:28-32, set in the context of the final days leading up to our Lord and Savior’s crucifixion.

Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are going into the kingdom of God ahead of you.  For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes believed him; and even after you saw it, you did not change your minds and believe him.

–Matthew 21:31b-32, New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The bad news for chief priests and elders, beneficiaries of the Temple system, comes amid a series of controversies in the Gospel of Matthew.  The Parable of the Wicked Tenants (Matthew 21:33-45) follows on the heels of those harsh words, for example.

St. Paul the Apostle picks up the theme of remaining faithful during difficult times in Philippians.  His reference to the righteous living by faith echoes a line from Habakkuk–a nice touch, which the lectionary amplifies.  Faith, in the Pauline sense of that word, is inherently active, compelling one to do something.  In contrast, the definition of faith in the Letter of James is intellectual, hence that author’s insistence on pairing works with faith.  So no disagreement between Sts. Paul and James regarding faith and works exists.  Maintaining that active faith under great pressure is both difficult and crucial, as St. Paul knew well.

When times and circumstances challenge our trust in God, may we say with St. Paul:

But even beyond that, I consider everything a loss in comparison to the superior value of knowing Jesus Christ my Lord.   I have lost everything for him, but whatever I have lost I think of as sewer trash, so that I might gain Christ and be found with him.

–Philippians 3:8-9a, Common English Bible (2008)

Faith (in the Pauline sense) functions in the absence of proof for or against a given proposition.  As Ambassador Delenn, a character from Babylon 5 (1994-1998), one of my favorite science fiction series, said,

Faith manages.

(Indeed, that was one of the major themes of the series.)  Faith keeps one on the proper path when, as Habakkuk wrote, the crops have failed and the livestock have vanished.  If we give up, we have decided to act in a way which will create a more negative future.  Yet if we persist, we act based on hope.  Such hope as overcome incredible odds many times, from ancient to contemporary times.  Many people have suffered and died so that members of subsequent generations can lead better lives.

Advent is a season of hope and violence.  Some of the violence is contemporary.  Other violence comes from the texts we read.  For example, St. Mary of Nazareth, the mother of our Lord and Savior, would have died by stoning if not for the graciousness of St. Joseph.  Faith manages during times of doubt, despair, and suspicion.  It persists during protracted periods of whisper campaigns and rumor-mongering, such as Jesus and his mother had to endure.

May we, by grace, have healthy faith from God in God, in whom both judgment and mercy exist.  And may we leave the judgment to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 26, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 25:  THE TWENTIETH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALFRED THE GREAT, KING OF THE WEST SAXONS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CEDD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF LONDON

THE FEAST OF DMITRY BORTNIANSKY, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PHILLIP NICOLAI, JOHANN HEERMANN, AND PAUL GERHARDT, HYMN WRITERS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-third-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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The Internalized Covenant with God   1 comment

Second Temple Model

Above:  A Model of the Second Temple, Jerusalem

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Stir up our hearts, Lord God, to prepare the way of your only Son.

By his coming strengthen us to serve you with purified lives;

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 19

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 36:24-28

Psalm 85:8-13

Mark 11:27-33

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Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

The LORD will indeed grant prosperity

and our land will yield its increase.

Righteousness shall go before him,

and peace shall be a pathway for his feet.

–Psalm 85:7-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That positive vision is similar to the one in Ezekiel 36:24-28.  The internalized covenant in a renewed and restored Israel is happy news.  Yet one ought not to overlook or minimize Ezekiel 36:32 (New Revised Standard Version):

It is not for your sake that I will act, says the Lord GOD; let that be known to you.  Be ashamed and dismayed for your ways, O house of Israel.

God will act, Ezekiel tells us, on behalf of the holy divine name, which the Hebrews had profaned.

I read Mark 11:27-33 and 12:1-12 then imagine Jesus saying,

Be ashamed and dismayed for your ways, O chief priests, scribes, and elders.

That concept exists in the words of Mark 11:27-12:12.  The Temple system exploited the pious poor economically and collaborated with the Roman occupiers.  It also propagated a form of piety which only those of certain means (a minority of the population) could afford to maintain.  Woe indeed to those who benefited from that system!  Although Jesus refused to answer the trick question in 11:27-33, the Parable of the Wicked Tenants (12:1-12) provided an unambiguous reply just a few days before the death of our Lord and Savior, as the Gospel of Mark tells the narrative.

Lest we of today feel overly comfortable in our denouncement of people dead for thousands of years, we need to look around and ponder our contexts.  Are we complicit in structures which exploit people?  Do we participate in or make excuses for organizations which ignore the principle of the internalized covenant with God and twist religion into an instrument for improper spiritual authority?  If so, we ought to be ashamed and dismayed for our ways.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 25, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HERBERT STANLEY OAKELEY, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ANGELINA AND SARAH GRIMKE, ABOLITIONISTS

THE FEAST OF SAINT PROCLUS, ARCHBISHOP OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT RUSTICUS, BISHOP OF NARBONNE

THE FEAST OF VINCENT PRICE, ACTOR

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Adopted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/10/25/devotion-for-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-of-advent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Numbers and Luke, Part VII: Accepting or Rejecting the Chosen of God   1 comment

wicked-husbandmen

Above:  The Wicked Husbandmen

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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:

Numbers 16:41-17:13/17:6-28

Psalm 47 (Morning)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening)

Luke 20:1-8

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TECHNICAL NOTE:

Numbers 16:41-17:13 (Protestant versification) = 17:6-28 (Jewish, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox versification).

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The theme of authority and rebellion against it continues from previous readings in the Book of Numbers and the Gospel of Luke.

One day prior to the setting of the Numbers reading Moses had ordered that the fire pans of Korah and his people be melted down and made into copper plating for the altar as a warning against any future rebellions.  Yet he and Aaron faced a rebellion which, the narrative tells us, God punished with a plague which killed 14,700 people.  And God affirmed the Aaronic priesthood; I ought to mention that detail.

Much later, in Jerusalem, during Holy Week in 29 CE, Jesus faced challenges to his authority.  The textual context makes abundantly clear that the wicked tenants in the parable were stand-ins for people such as those who were confronting him.

Here I am, almost eleven months ahead of schedule, writing a devotional post for just a few days before Pentecost Sunday, and the lectionary I am following has me in Holy Week!  Anyhow, the message is timeless:  Do not oppose the chosen ones of God.  Since I am writing for just a few days before Pentecost Sunday, I choose to focus on the Holy Spirit here and now.  It goes where it will.  Through it God the Father speaks to us. We need it to interpret Scripture correctly.  The one unpardonable sin in the Bible is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, which I understand to be to mistake good for evil, to be so spiritually oblivious as not to know the difference.

May we–you, O reader, and I–recognize the fruits of the Holy Spirit in people.  We see them in many ways.  When people of God strive for social justice, which entails inclusiveness more often than not, the Holy Spirit is probably at work.  When love and compassion win, the Holy Spirit is at work.  The test is fruits, or results.  And may we support the good ones (the ones of the Holy Spirit, of God) and reject the rest.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBAN, FIRST ENGLISH MARTYR

THE FEAST OF THE INAUGURATION OF THE UNITING CHURCH OF AUSTRALIA, 1977

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FISHER, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ROCHESTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF NOLA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/22/devotion-for-the-forty-seventh-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Genesis and Mark, Part XXI: Reconciliation Versus Destruction   1 comment

parable-of-the-wicked-husbandmen

Above:  The Wicked Husbandmen

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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:

Genesis 42:1-34, 38

Psalm 119:73-80 (Morning)

Psalms 121 and 6 (Evening)

Mark 12:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 42:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/22/week-of-proper-9-wednesday-year-1/

Mark 12:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/week-of-last-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/week-of-proper-4-monday-year-1/

Matthew 21 (Parallel to Mark 12):

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/24/proper-22-year-a/

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/prayer-for-monday-in-the-fourth-week-of-lent/

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Selling anyone into slavery is a wicked act.  That statement seems self-evident, does it not?  Yet that is what Joseph’s brothers plotted to do to him.  And so he went to Egypt involuntarily.  Years later, with severe famine widespread, most of these brothers met Joseph again without recognizing him.  And he tested them while setting in motion plans for a family reunion.  In return for wickedness there was grace, even if it wore a disguise.

In contrast we have the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, which we find in all three Synoptic Gospels.  (It also appears in Matthew 21:33-46 and Luke 20:9-19.)  The chronology in each case is quite similar:  It is Holy Week, Jesus having expelled the money changers from the Temple recently.  The accounts from Mark and Luke end in the same way, more or less, as does that of Matthew, but the latter adds an explicit wrinkle left implicit in the other Gospels:

I tell you, then, that the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.

–Matthew 21:43, The New Jerusalem Bible

This is a troublesome parable.  God looks like an absentee landlord who demands the fruits of other’s labor.  So one might sympathize with the frustrations, if not the violence, of the wicked tenants.  Yet that is beside the point.  In textual context, Jesus is the murdered son and the Temple authorities are the wicked tenants.  Read in the context of the First Jewish War and the destruction of the Temple in 70 CE, events in the shadows of which the canonical Gospels exist, the Christians (many of them Jewish at the time) are the new tenants.

Such stories have become fodder for Anti-Semites.  This is most unfortunate.  I reject hatred toward any group of people, especially the Jews, the truck of the tree onto which my branch, the Gentiles, is grafted, by grace.

So we have two responses to evil:  reconciliation and destruction.  The latter attitude, as reflected in the Parable of the Wicked Tenants, is understandable in the context of the long and messy separation of Christianity from Judaism.  The earliest canonical Gospel, Mark, dates to no earlier than 67 CE.  John, likely the latest one, probably comes from the 90s.  Mutual anger, resentment, and misunderstanding characterized the parting of the ways between Judaism and Christianity, its offspring.  The canonical Gospels are documents from that particular era, so they reflect the time of their origin.  We humans recall and retell the past in the context of our present; the Gospels are consistent with this rule.

Reconciliation is preferable to destruction, anger, resentment, and misunderstanding.  It is not always possible, for reconciliation is a mutual state.  Yet, if reconciliation does prove impossible because one party is unwilling, the willing party can forgive and refuse to hold a grudge any longer, if at all.  And that is better than mutual hostility.  Did Jesus condemn from the cross?  No, he forgave!  May we, by grace, follow his example and forgive–reconcile, if possible.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BIGGS, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF ROTA WAITOA, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/devotion-for-the-twenty-third-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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