Archive for the ‘Rebekah’ Tag

The Commandment to Commit Agape   1 comment

Rebekah (2)

Above:  Eliezer Meeting Rebekah at the Well

Image Source = Elsie E. Egermeier, Bible Story Book (1939)

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Sovereign God, ruler of all hearts,

you call us to obey you, and you favor us with true freedom.

Keep us faithful to the ways of your Son, that,

leaving behind all that hinders us,

we may steadfastly follow your paths,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 24:34-41, 50-67

Psalm 140

1 John 2:7-11

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I know that Yahweh will give judgement for the wretched,

justice for the needy.

The upright shall praise your name,

the honest dwell in your presence.

–Psalm 140:12-13, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The reading from Genesis 24 might prove confusing unless one reads the entire chapter.  In it Abraham sends a servant (whom the text does not name) to find a wife for Isaac.  The standard for a wife is good character.  Rebekah, daughter of Laban, passes the test by extending hospitality (a matter of life or death in that place and culture) to the servant.  She becomes Isaac’s beloved.  On the other hand, we read of her devious side in Genesis 27.  That, however, is another story for a different story.

The standard for righteousness in 1 John 2:7-11 is love–agape, to be precise.  Agape is unconditional and selfless love, the variety of love that leads one to sacrifice for another person.  The person who lacks agape resides in spiritual darkness, but he or she who has agape knows the way to go.

This is an appropriate standard to apply to questions of individual actions and governmental policies, especially when lives are at risk.  Extending hospitality might constitute the difference between people living or dying, or of living in a better situation or in worse circumstances.  The commandment to love unconditionally and selflessly applies, does it not?  It might be politically unpopular, but it still applies.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLOTTE ELLIOTT, JULIA ANNE ELLIOTT, AND EMILY ELLIOTT, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT HUMPHREY OF PRUM, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF THEROUANNE

THE FEAST OF JOHN HAMPDEN GURNEY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD, FOUNDER OF THE BROTHERS HOSPITALLERS OF SAINT JOHN OF GOD

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/devotion-for-monday-after-proper-8-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Hostility and Reconciliation   1 comment

Suitcase

Above:  A Suitcase

Image Source = Maksim

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

With your abundant grace and might,

free us from the sin that binds us,

that we may receive you in joy and serve you always,

for you live and reign with the Father and

the Holy Spirit, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 20

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 25:19-28

Psalm 113

Colossians 1:15-20

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Who is like the LORD our God, who sits enthroned on high,

but stoops to behold the heavens and the earth?

He takes up the weak out of the dust

and lifts up the poor from the ashes.

He sets them with the princes,

with the princes of his people.

He makes the woman of a childless house

to be a joyful mother of children.

–Psalm 113:5-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To read of God granting a barren woman children is appropriate just a few days prior to December 25.  Unfortunately, Jacob and Esau, the twin children of Isaac and Rebekah, were not paragons of peace and reconciliation, although they did resolve their differences eventually.

The pericope from Colossians functions as a counterpoint to the reading from Genesis.  We humans struggle with each other, “hostile in mind, doing evil deeds,” as Colossians 1:21 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989) says.  Yet we can have reconciliation with God and each other through the killed and resurrected Jesus if we persist in faithfulness.  We humans are creatures of habit.  May we encourage each other in pursuing good habits, therefore, so that we, exercising freedom in God, may come nearer to the proper spiritual destination in Christ.  Yes, clinging to hostility does prove appealing much of the time, but that luggage is too heavy to carry on the journey with Jesus, the celebration of whose birth we approach.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 21, 2015 COMMON ERA

 THE FEAST OF JOHN ATHELSTAN LAURIE RILEY, ANGLICAN ECUMENIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2015/08/21/devotion-for-monday-after-the-fourth-sunday-of-advent-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted August 21, 2015 by neatnik2009 in Colossians 1, Genesis, Psalm 113

Tagged with , , , , ,

Flawed Agents of Grace   1 comment

Jacob's Ladder William Blake

Above:  Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and eternal God, you show perpetual lovingkindness to us your servants.

Because we cannot rely on our own abilities,

grant us your merciful judgment,

and train us to embody the generosity of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 48

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 27:1-29 (Monday)

Genesis 28:10-17 (Tuesday)

Psalm 106:1-12 (Both Days)

Romans 16:1-16 (Monday)

Romans 16:17-20 (Tuesday)

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Remember me, O LORD, with the favor you have for your people,

and visit me with your saving help;

That I may see the prosperity of your elect

and be glad with the gladness of your people,

and I may glory with your inheritance.

–Psalm 106:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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One of the challenges one faces in reading the Bible intelligently is understanding cultural nuances.  What does it matter, for example, that a father imparts a blessing on his son?  That was important in the culture of Isaac, Jacob/Israel, and Esau/Edom, for the blessing or curse, in the minds of many people, determined the destiny of the recipient of the pronouncement.

Isaac was a pitiful character.  The fact that his father, Abraham, had tried to kill him once must have messed him up psychologically.  Wife Rebekah plotted to deceive him in order to promote her second son, Jacob.  She succeeded, and the promise flowed through the second son again, Isaac having been the second son of Abraham.  The confirmation of the promise came in a dream about angels on a ladder.  But Jacob remained a trickster, one whom Laban fooled.  The promise of God, this chain of events tells me, does not depend on purity of human character or motivation.  This is good news, for it the divine promise did depend on such factors, it would be vain hope.

St. Paul the Apostle, after a long list of commendations in Romans 16, advised people to avoid

those who stir up quarrels and lead others astray, contrary to the teaching you received

–Romans 16:17b, The Revised English Bible (1989).

The process of sorting out core Christian doctrines entailed centuries of debates among those who asked sincere questions.  Many of these seekers of the truth were objectively wrong about certain details, but at least they proceeded from a good motivation.  When they were wrong, their contribution led to the formulation of correct doctrines, so we Christians of the twenty-first century are indebted to them.  St. Paul the Apostle might have considered some of these individuals to be among “those who stir up quarrels and lead others astray,” for he was quite opinionated.  There were also actual mischief-makers.  Maybe you, O reader, have encountered the type–people who ask questions to provoke, not to seek an answer.

Those who sow the seeds of dissension seem to have great internal discord, for those at peace with themselves make peace and troubled people cause trouble.  I have witnessed these dynamics in congregations.  And I recognize it in family life, such as in the account in Genesis 27 and 28.  Much of the narrative of the Old Testament reads like a catalog of bad parenting and of sibling rivalry.  The texts are honest about character flaws, though, so we modern readers need not feel guilty about thinking of them as less than heroic all the time.  These were flawed people–as we are–and God worked through them as God works through us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 16. 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN DIEFENBAKER AND LESTER PEARSON, PRIME MINISTERS OF CANADA; AND TOMMY DOUGLAS, FEDERAL LEADER OF THE NEW DEMOCRATIC PARTY

THE FEAST OF JOHN JONES OF TALYSARN, WELSH CALVINISTIC METHODIST MINISTER AND HYMN TUNE COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF BROTHER ROGER OF TAIZE, FOUNDER OF THE TAIZE COMMUNITY

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY WOMEN OF THE NEW TESTAMENT

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/08/16/devotion-for-monday-and-tuesday-after-proper-20-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Living Water in the Wilderness   1 comment

3b49982r

Above:  Christ and the Woman of Samaria at Jacob’s Well

Image Creator = N. Currier (Firm)

Image Created Between 1835 and 1856

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/90715946/)

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC2-2099

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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:

Genesis 24:1-27 (17th Day)

Genesis 29:1-14 (18th Day)

Psalm 81 (Both Days)

2 John 1-13 (17th Day)

1 Corinthians 10:1-4 (18th Day)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 24:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/15/devotion-for-the-thirteenth-and-fourteenth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-1/

2 John:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/11/week-of-proper-27-friday-year-2-and-week-of-proper-27-saturday-year-2/

1 Corinthians 10:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/third-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/devotion-for-august-17-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Oh, that my people would listen to me!

that Israel would walk in my ways!

–Psalm 81:13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The daily lectionary I am following in this series of posts focuses on the Revised Common Lectionary, building up to a Sunday’s readings Thursday through Saturday then glowing from those readings Monday through Wednesday.  Thus, for the purpose of this post, one needs to know that the Gospel lection for the Third Sunday in Lent, Year A, is Jesus speaking to the Samaritan woman at the well.  This is the longest recorded conversation of our Lord and Savior in the Gospels.  And it was, I have mentioned, not only with a woman but with a Samaritan–a radical step in that social milieu.  That Jesus, what will he do next?  Which social norm will he violate tomorrow?

I bring the discourse on living water in John 4 into this post, for that content belongs here also.  At a well a servant of Abraham found Isaac’s future wife and Jacob’s mother, Rebekah.  At a well Jacob met one of his future wives, Rachel.  Wells were crucial sources of life-giving and life-sustaining water, especially in an arid environment.  And, elsewhere in the biblical narrative, God provided water for the wandering Israelites in the desert after the Exodus and before the settlement of Canaan under the leadership of Joshua, son of Nun.  The tie between water and the sense of God providing for the people was palpable.

The metaphorical living water of which Jesus spoke in John 4 brings me to 2 John 6:

To love is to live according to [God’s] commandments:  this is the commandment which you have heard since the beginning, to live a life of live.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

As we journey through the wilderness of anxiety, fear, animosity, misunderstanding, and perhaps even hatred, may we drink deeply of the living water of Christ-like love–agape–which accepts others unconditionally and self-sacrificially.  May we trust that God will provide sufficiently and on time.  May we have the grace and strength to seek the best interests of others–also our own best interests–for we are all in in this life together and dependent on God.  May this living water enable us to help others–therefore ourselves–and to love and glorify God, regardless of how bleak the wilderness seems or is.

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-seventeenth-and-eighteenth-days-of-lent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Genesis and Mark, Part XIV: Huh? What?   1 comment

isaac-blessing-jacob

Above:  Isaac Blessing Jacob, by Govert Flinck

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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 24:32-52, 61-67 (15th Day of Lent)

Genesis 27:1-29 (16th Day of Lent)

Psalm 22 (Morning–15th Day of Lent)

Psalm 43 (Morning–16th Day of Lent)

Psalms 107 and 130 (Evening–15th Day of Lent)

Psalms 31 and 143 (Evening–16th Day of Lent)

Mark 8:1-21 (15th Day of Lent)

Mark 8:22-38 (16th Day of Lent)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 24:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/proper-9-year-a/

Genesis 27:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/week-of-proper-8-saturday-year-1/

Mark 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/19/week-of-5-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/21/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/22/week-of-6-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/week-of-6-epiphany-wednesday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/week-of-6-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/week-of-6-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/second-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/12/week-of-proper-1-wednesday-year-1/

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

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

Prayers:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/prayer-for-friday-in-the-second-week-of-lent/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/30/prayer-for-saturday-in-the-second-week-of-lent/

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And the LORD answered her [Rebekah],

“Two nations are in your womb,

Two separate peoples shall issue from your body;

One people shall be mightier than the other,

And the older shall serve the younger.”

–Genesis 25:23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Rebekah, sister of Laban, was generous,  unlike her brother.  And, according to the narrative, she became an instrument of God’s will.  (She was also a trickster.)  Just as the divine promise favored Isaac, the second son of Abraham, it also favored Jacob, the second son of Isaac.  The human means of granting this favor in each case were morally difficult, to state the case simply.  And so I scratch my head and ask myself what I am supposed to make of such stories.

Now I consider the sequence of events in Mark 8:

  1. Jesus feeds “about four thousand people” with seven loaves and a few small fishes.  He has leftovers afterward.  (1-10)
  2. Some Pharisees ask for a sign.  Jesus refuses.  (11-13)
  3. Jesus speaks metaphorically about the yeast of Pharisees and of Herod Antipas.  His Apostles take him literally.  (14-21)
  4. Jesus cures a blind man at Bethsaida.  (22-26)
  5. Jesus confesses Jesus to be the Christ.  (27-30)
  6. Jesus predicts his death and resurrection.  Peter rebukes him.  Jesus rebukes Peter then says that anyone who would follow must take up his own cross.  (31-38)

Jesus was surrounded by people who were oblivious–metaphorically blind–to his identity.  Peter grasped that Jesus was the Christ–the Messiah–yet misunderstood what that meant.  And, as for Pharisees demanding a sign, why was another multiplication of food insufficient?

God comes to us in many ways, including Bible stories.  As I reflect on my childhood Christian education, I do not recall many discussions of the nuances of morally difficult stories.  There was a great biblical whitewashing in Sunday School.  I prefer the Bible straight up, a stiff drink of narrative theology, if you will.  This good, stiff drink can prove uncomfortable sometimes, but so be it.  Even when I scratch my head and ask myself,

Huh? What?,

I prefer that reality to comfortable ignorance.

We meet Jesus in print via Bible stories  yet others encountered him in the flesh.  And many of them were confused.  You, O reader, and I have the advantage of hindsight. But we are also subject to confusion.  Nevertheless, such confusion can turn into knowledge of the truth, as it did in the case of Peter.  He, of course, took up his cross (literally).  Our crosses might not prove as costly, but what if they do?  Are we prepared for that?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW FOURNET AND ELIZABETH BICHIER, COFOUNDERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS; AND SAINT MICHAEL GARICOITS, FOUNDER OF THE PRIEST OF THE SACRED HEART OF BETHARRAM

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF SUDAN

THE FEAST OF TE WERA HAURAKI, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/16/devotion-for-the-fifteenth-and-sixteenth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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The Victory Belongs to God Alone   1 comment

Above: Paul Writing His Epistles (1500s C.E. Painting)

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 24:34-38, 42-49, 58-67 (New Revised Standard Version):

The servant said to Laban,

I am Abraham’s servant. The LORD has greatly blessed my master, and he has become wealthy; he has given him flocks and herds, silver and gold, male and female slaves, camels and donkeys. And Sarah my master’s wife bore a son to my master when she was old; and he has given him all that he has. My master made me swear, saying, `You shall not take a wife for my son from the daughters of the Canaanites, in whose land I live; but you shall go to my father’s house, to my kindred, and get a wife for my son.’

I came today to the spring, and said, `O LORD, the God of my master Abraham, if now you will only make successful the way I am going! I am standing here by the spring of water; let the young woman who comes out to draw, to whom I shall say, “Please give me a little water from your jar to drink,” and who will say to me, “Drink, and I will draw for your camels also” — let her be the woman whom the LORD has appointed for my master’s son.’

Before I had finished speaking in my heart, there was Rebekah coming out with her water jar on her shoulder; and she went down to the spring, and drew. I said to her, `Please let me drink.’ She quickly let down her jar from her shoulder, and said, `Drink, and I will also water your camels.’ So I drank, and she also watered the camels. Then I asked her, `Whose daughter are you?’ She said, `The daughter of Bethuel, Nahor’s son, whom Milcah bore to him.’ So I put the ring on her nose, and the bracelets on her arms. Then I bowed my head and worshiped the LORD, and blessed the LORD, the God of my master Abraham, who had led me by the right way to obtain the daughter of my master’s kinsman for his son. Now then, if you will deal loyally and truly with my master, tell me; and if not, tell me, so that I may turn either to the right hand or to the left.

And they called Rebekah, and said to her,

Will you go with this man?

She said,

I will.

So they sent away their sister Rebekah and her nurse along with Abraham’s servant and his men. And they blessed Rebekah and said to her,

May you, our sister, become thousands of myriads; may your offspring gain possession of the gates of their foes.

Then Rebekah and her maids rose up, mounted the camels, and followed the man; thus the servant took Rebekah, and went his way. Now Isaac had come from Beer-lahai-roi, and was settled in the Negeb. Isaac went out in the evening to walk in the field; and looking up, he saw camels coming. And Rebekah looked up, and when she saw Isaac, she slipped quickly from the camel, and said to the servant,

Who is the man over there, walking in the field to meet us?

The servant said,

It is my master.

So she took her veil and covered herself. And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent. He took Rebekah, and she became his wife; and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

AND

Psalm 45:11-18 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

11 “Hear, O daughter; consider and listen closely;

forget your people and your father’s house.

12 The king will have pleasure in your beauty;

he is your master; therefore do him honor.

13 The people of Tyre are here with a gift,

the rich among the people seek your favor.”

14 All glorious is the princess as she enters;

her gown is cloth-of-gold.

15 In embroidered apparel she is brought to the king;

after her the bridesmaids follow in procession.

16 With joy and gladness they are brought,

and enter into the palace of the king.

17 “In place of fathers, O king, you shall have sons;

you shall make them princes over all the earth.

18 I will make your name to be remembered

from one generation to another;

therefore nations will praise you for ever and ever.”

OR

Song of Solomon 2:8-13 (New Revised Standard Version):

The voice of my beloved!

Look, he comes,

leaping upon the mountains,

bounding over the hills.

My beloved is like a gazelle

or a young stag.

Look, there he stands

behind our wall,

gazing in at the windows,

looking through the lattice.

My beloved speaks and says to me:

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away;

for now the winter is past,

the rain is over and gone.

The flowers appear on the earth;

the time of singing has come,

and the voice of the turtledove

is heard in our land.

The fig tree puts forth its figs,

and the vines are in blossom;

they give forth fragrance.

Arise, my love, my fair one,

and come away.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Zechariah 9:9-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion!

Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem!

Lo, your king comes to you;

triumphant and victorious is he,

humble and riding on a donkey,

on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim

and the war-horse from Jerusalem;

and the battle bow shall be cut off,

and he shall command peace to the nations;

his dominion shall be from sea to sea,

and from the River to the ends of the earth.

As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you,

I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.

Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope;

today I declare that I will restore to you double.

For I have bent Judah as my bow;

I have made Ephraim its arrow.

I will arouse your sons, O Zion,

against your sons, O Zion,

and wield you like a warrior’s sword.

Psalm 145:8-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

8 The LORD is gracious and full of compassion,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 The LORD is loving to everyone

and his compassion is over all his works.

10 All your works praise you, O LORD,

and your faithful servants bless you.

11 They make known the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your power;

12 That the peoples may know of your power

and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.

13 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom;

your dominion endures throughout all ages.

14 The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in all his deeds.

15 The LORD upholds all those who fall;

he lifts up those who are bowed down.

SECOND READING

Romans 7:15-25a (New Revised Standard Version):

I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.  Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good.  But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.  For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it.  For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do.  Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.

So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand.  For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, but I see in my members another law oat war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.  Wretched man that I am!  Who will rescue from this body of death?  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to the crowd,

To what will I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to one another,

“We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;

we wailed, and you did not mourn.”

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, “He has a demon”; the Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, “Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” Yet wisdom is vindicated by her deeds.

At that time Jesus said,

I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.

Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.

The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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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Sometimes I can tie all lectionary readings for a day together neatly via a common thought.  This unifying theme might be easy or difficult to locate, but I can find it–much of the time.  Proper 9, Year A, is an exception to this rule.  So I state quickly that genuine romantic love between adult human beings, especially those bound to each other by the sacrament of marriage, is beautiful and that God is present there.  Now I move along to Zechariah, Paul, and Matthew.

I take these readings in chronological order.

The Book of Zechariah exists in two parts:  Chapters 1-8 and 9-14, each section having separate authorship.  Zechariah 9-14 contains prophesies about how God will deal with the Jewish people from the time of Hellenistic domination of the Holy Land to the coming of the Messiah.  The texts say that God will act, so the victory will belong to God.  Worthless shepherds will not obstruct these deeds, for God will replace them with a worthy shepherd, the Messiah.

Jesus, of course, was (and is) that Messiah.  People criticized him for many reasons:  he ate and drank too much or he fasted too much; he healed on the Sabbath; the man could not satisfy some people regardless of how good he was.  Some people will find fault with anyone, even Jesus.  But he was (and is) the Good Shepherd, and through him God has made atonement for sins.

Speaking of sins, Paul struggled with them.  I know this feeling, but I take it as more positive than negative.  The term “immoral” indicates that one knows the difference between right and wrong, and chooses the latter.  But “amoral” indicates that one cannot make the distinction.  At least the person who is immoral at least some to the time knows the difference, and God can work with that.  It is vital to try and to want to do the right thing.  We humans are deeply flawed, “but dust” as the Book of Psalms says, but we also bear the image of God (Genesis 1).  So we need to honor the divine image within ourselves and each other, and to trust God to help us distinguish between right and wrong, and to believe that God will help us choose what is correct.

Culture can affect our perceptions of morality, sometimes for the worse.  As a student of U.S. history, I know that many Antebellum Southerners thought that keeping slaves was moral, and that anyone who said or thought otherwise did not understand the Bible correctly.  Also, I have a book containing a 1954 sermon from Texas entitled “God the Original Segregationist.”  The pastor continued to sell copies of this sermon via the mail through at least 1971.  It is easy for me to point out these moral misunderstandings, but I am blind to my own.

So I read Paul’s confession and identify with it.  And I take comfort that the victory is God’s work, and that neither I nor anyone else will stand in its way.  But I hope I am not and will never be a would-be obstacle God must sweep aside.  No, I want to be on God’s side.  By grace, may as many of us as possible be there.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/proper-9-year-a/

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Proper Forms of Inclusion   1 comment

Above: Rebecca and Eliezar, by Bartolome Esteban Perez Murillo (1600s)

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Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), of The Episcopal Church, contains an adapted two-years weekday lectionary for the Epiphany and Ordinary Time seasons from the Anglican Church of Canada.  I invite you to follow it with me.

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Genesis 23:1-4, 19; 24:1-8, 62-67 (An American Translation):

The length of Sarah’s life was one hundred and twenty-seven years.  Sarah died at Kirjath-arba (that is, Hebron), in the land of Canaan, and Abraham proceeded to wail and weep for Sarah.  Rising from the side of his dead, Abraham said to the Hittites,

Since I am an immigrant and a serf under you, give me some property with you as a burial ground, that I may inter my dead.

Following that Abraham buried his wife Sarah in the cave in the field of Machpelah, facing Mamre (that is Hebron), in the land of Canaan.

Now that Abraham was old and well advanced in life, having been blessed by the LORD in all things, Abraham said to the oldest slave of his household, who had charge of everything that belonged to him,

Put your hand under my thigh, while I make you swear by the LORD, the God of the heavens and the earth, that you will not marry my son to a daughter of the Canaanites, among whom I am living, but that you will go to my own land and kindred to get a wife for my son Isaac.

The son said to him,

Suppose the woman is unwilling to follow me to this land; am I to take your son back to the land that you left?

Abraham said to him,

See to it that you do not take my son back there!  It was the LORD, the God of the heavens, who took me from my father’s home and the land of my birth, who spoke to me and made this promise, ‘It is to your descendants that I am going to give this land’–it is he who will send his angel ahead of you, so that you shall get a wife for my son there.  But if the woman should be unwilling to follow you, then you will be absolved from this oath to me; only you must never take my son back there.

Now Isaac had moved from the neighborhood of Beer-lahai-roi, and was living in the land of the Negeb.  One evening Isaac went out to stroll in the fields, and raising his eyes, he saw camels coming.  Rebekah too raised her eyes, and seeing Isaac, she dismounted from her camel, saying to the slave,

Who is the man yonder that is walking through the field toward us?

The slave said,

He is my master.

Then she took her veil, and covered herself.

The slave told Isaac all that he had done; so Isaac brought her into his tent.  He married Rebekah and she became his wife; and in loving her, Isaac found consolation for the death of his mother.

Psalm 78:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hear my teaching, O my people;

incline your ears to the words of my mouth.

I will open my mouth in a parable;

I will declare the mysteries of ancient times.

That which we have heard and known,

and what our forefathers have told us,

we will not hide from their children.

4 We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

5 He gave his decrees to Jacob

and established a law for Israel,

which he commanded them to teach their children;

6 That the generations to come might know,

and the children yet unborn;

so that they in their turn might tell it to their children;

7 So that they might put their trust in God,

and not forget the deeds of God,

but keep his commandments;

And not be like their forefathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

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

Afterward, as Jesus was passing along from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tollhouse, and he said to him,

Follow me!

And he got up and followed him.

While Jesus was at home at table, a number of tax-collectors and irreligious people came in joined Jesus and his disciples at table.  And the Pharisees observed it, and they said to his disciples,

Why does your master eat with tax-collectors and irreligious people?

But he heard it, and said,

It is not the well but the sick who have to have the doctor!  Go and learn what the saying means, ‘It is mercy, not sacrifice, that I care for.’  I did not come to invite the pious but the irreligious.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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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The two readings for this day address the difficult issue of inclusion.

Abraham arranges the marriage of nearly forty-year-old son by sending Eliezar of Damascus to find a female cousin, who turns out to be Rebekah.  Abraham is clear in his instructions; the marriage must not be a religiously mixed one, with the other side being Canaanite.

Yet Abraham is living as foreigner among Hittites, with whom he has respectful relationships, so he is not xenophobic.

Meanwhile, in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus dines with irreligious people and Jewish collaborators of the Roman Empire, thereby causing a scandal.  Eating with such people was not respectable, yet there Jesus was, in their company.

Nobody is beyond the reach of mercy, and many of those we consider outsiders are or can be insiders, according to God’s definition.

But where ought we to draw the line between including people, and in which social relationships?

I am single, never having married.  This is my preferred state.  So far be it from me to give marital advice to anyone.  But I know that if I were to marry, I would seek certain points of compatibility in the woman.  Among these would be spiritual and religious.  In other words, I would seek a wife with whom I could attend church comfortably and with whom I could engage in excellent religious discussion.  So Abraham’s choice makes sense to me.

One purpose of a home, as I understand it, is to propagate faith.  This has been my experience, and I am grateful for it.  So I argue affirmatively for marriage within a religion.

I also defend Jesus’ choice to associate repeatedly with the allegedly unclean, such as Gentiles, apostates, and collaborators, for nobody is beyond grace.  One never knows who can bring to God if one does not try. More people than we might suspect are insiders, according to the divine standard.  May we not judge them as being outsiders unjustly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 17, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARIA STEWART, EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF EGLANTYNE JEBB, FOUNDER OF SAVE THE CHILDREN

THE FEAST OF FRANK MASON NORTH, U.S. METHODIST MINISTER

THE FEAST OF SAINT OLYMPIAS, ORTHODOX DEACONESS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/17/week-of-proper-8-friday-year-1/

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Posted February 6, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Genesis, Matthew 9, Psalm 78

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God = Hope   1 comment

Above: Jacob’s Ladder, by William Blake (Circa 1800)

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Genesis 28:10-22 (An American Translation):

Leaving Beersheba, Jacob set out for Haran.  Reaching a certain sanctuary, he spent the night there.  He took one of the stones of the sanctuary, and using it for a pillow, he lay down in that sanctuary.  He had a dream in which he saw a ladder set up on the earth, with its top reaching the sky, and angels of God were ascending and descending on it,  Then the LORD stood over him, and said,

I am the LORD, the God of your father Abraham and of Isaac.  The land on which you are lying, I am going to give to you and your descendants.  Your descendants shall be like the dust on the ground; you shall spread to the west, to the east, to the north, and to the south, so that all the races of the earth will invoke blessings on one another through you and your descendants.  I will be with you, and guard you wherever you go, and bring you back to this land; for I will never forsake you, until I have done what I have promised you.

When Jacob woke from his sleep, he said,

The LORD must surely be in this place–and I did not know it!

He was awe-struck, and said,

What an awesome place this is!  This can be nothing other the house of God, and that the gate of the sky.

Accordingly, he called the name of that sanctuary Bethel [house of God] whereas the earlier name of the city had been Luz.

So when Jacob rose in the morning, he took the stone which he had used as a pillow, and setting it up as a sacred pillar, he poured oil on its top.  Jacob then made this vow:

If God go with me, and watch over me on this journey that I am making, and give me food to eat and clothes to wear, so that I come home safely to my father’s house, then the LORD shall be my God, and this stone which I have set up as a sacred pillar shall be God’s house, and I will give to thee a portion of everything that thou givest me.

Psalm 91:1-6, 14-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,

abides under the shadow of the Almighty.

He shall say to the LORD,

“You are my refuge and my stronghold,

my God in whom I put my trust.”

He shall deliver you from the snare of the hunter,

and from the deadly pestilence.

4 He shall cover you with his pinions,

and you shall find refuge under his wings.

You shall not be afraid of any terror by night,

nor of the arrow that flies by day;

Of the plague that stalks in the darkness,

nor of the sickness that lays waste at mid-day.

14 Because he is bound to me in love,

therefore I will deliver him;

I will protect him, because he knows my name.

15 He shall call upon me, and I will answer him;

I am with him in trouble;

I will rescue him and bring him to honor.

16 With long life will I satisfy him,

and show him my salvation.

Matthew 9:18-26 (An American Translation):

Just as he [Jesus] said this to them, an official came up to him and bowing down before him said to him,

My daughter has just died.  But come!  Lay your hand on her and she will come to life!

And Jesus got up and followed him with his disciples.  And a woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years came up behind him and touched the tassel of his cloak.  For she said to herself,

If I can just touch his cloak, I will get well.

And Jesus turned and saw her, and he said,

Courage, my daughter!  Your faith has cured you!

And from that time the woman was well.

When Jesus reached the official’s house,and saw the flute-players and the disturbance the crowd was making, he said,

Go away, for the girl is not dead; she is asleep.

And they laughed at him.  But when he had driven the people out, he went in and grasped herhand, and the girl got up.  And the news of this spread all over that part of the country.

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The Collect:

O God, you have taught us to keep all your commandments by loving you and our neighbor: Grant us the grace of your Holy Spirit, that we may be devoted to you with our whole heart, and united to one another with pure affection; 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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Jacob was a schemer, far from a pillar of faith and integrity.  He had stolen his brother’s Esau birthright and paternal blessing.  And Jacob enjoyed the company of Hittite women, a fact which disturbed Rebekah, his mother.  So he was off (per orders) to visit the household of his kinsman Laban and meet a suitable wife.

Along his way, Jacob had to sleep on a rocky hilltop.  It was a barren, foreboding place, but it was what was available.  There Jacob had a dream; This was a gateway to heaven itself, and he was indeed the heir to God’s promise to Abraham.

This dream impressed Jacob deeply, for it filled him with reverence for God.

God does not call the qualified; God qualifies the called.

God came to Jacob, an unexpected person, in an unusual way.  And God, via Jesus, came to desperate people in ways onlookers did not expect.  The woman with a hemorrhage had a severe physical problem that rendered her ritually unclean and that deprived her of a means of supporting herself.  The physical condition was bad, but the stigma compounded her pain.  She approached Jesus, and he restored her to wholeness, health, and ritual cleanliness.

It makes sense that Jesus had compassion on her.  His existence was a scandal, and if anyone knew the sting of stigma, he did.  Some people did not refer to him as “Son of Joseph,” per the norm in his society, but as “Son of Mary,” slurring his mother’s sexual history and his paternity.  The human potential for cruelty toward the vulnerable, despised, and marginalized was old in Jesus’ time, and he refused to participate in that process.

This is another excellent reason for us to refuse, as well.

The Jewish community elder had a dead daughter.  The desperate father asked Jesus to help her, a request which led to the first instance of a raising from the dead in the Gospel of Matthew.  Of course the claim that the girl was not dead, only sleeping, seemed ridiculous.  But what other hope did the father have?

And what hope of becoming anything other than schemer did Jacob have?  How possible did it seem that, after twelve years, the woman could be healed and restored to society?  They all seemed dim, did they not?

But consider what happened, and become filled with awe.  Then respond accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF KATHARINA VON BORA LUTHER, WIFE OF MARTIN LUTHER

THE FEAST OF PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/20/week-of-proper-9-monday-year-1/

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Posted August 26, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 28, Matthew 9, Psalm 91

Tagged with , , , ,

God Works Through Unexpected Means Sometimes   1 comment

Above: Isaac Blessing Jacob, by Govert Flinck (1638)

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Genesis 27:1-9, 15-29 (An American Translation):

One day, when Isaac was old and his eyes so dim that he could not see, he called his older son Esau.

My son!

he said to him.

Here I am,

he replied.

He said,

Here I am an old man, not knowing what day I may die.  Get your weapons, then, your quiver and bow, and go out into the fields, and hunt some game for me.  Then make me a tasty dish, such as I like, and bring it to me to eat, that I may give you my blessing before I die.

Now Rebekah was listening when Isaac when Isaac spoke to his son Esau; so when Esau went off to the fields to hunt game for his father, Rebekah said to her son Jacob,

I have just heard your father say to your brother Esau, “Bring me some game, and make me a tasty dish to eat, that I may bless you before the LORD before I die.”  Now then, my son, obey me in the charge that I give you.  Go to the flock and get two fat kids for me there, that I may make them into a tasty dish for your father, such as he likes….

…and taking the best clothes of her older son Esau, which she had in the house, Rebekah dressed her younger son Jacob in them; she put the skins of the kids on his hands and on the smooth parts of his neck, and committed the tasty dish and bread which she had made into the hands of her son Jacob.  Then he went in to his father, and said,

Father!

He said,

Yes.  Who are you, my son?

Jacob said to his father,

I am Esau, your first-born; I have done as you told me; now sit up and eat once more of my game, that you may give me your blessing.

But Isaac said to his son,

How ever did you come to find it so quickly, my son?

He said,

Because the LORD your God brought it in my path.

Isaac then said to Jacob,

Come up close that I may feel you, my son, to see whether you really are my son Esau or not.

So Jacob went up to his father Isaac, who felt him, and said,

The voice is Jacob’s voice, but the hands are those of Esau.

Hence he did not detect him, because his hands were hairy, like those of his brother Esau; so he blessed him.

Are you really my son Esau?

he said.

I am,

he replied.

So he said,

Bring me some of your game to eat, my son, that I may give you my blessing.

So he brought it to him, and he ate; he also brought him wine, and he drank.  Then his father Isaac said to him,

Come here and kiss me, my son.

So he went up and kissed him; and when he smelt his clothes, he blessed him, saying,

Ah, my son’s smell is like that of a field tht the LORD has blessd.

May God give you of the heaven’s dew,

Of earth’s fatness, with plenty of grass and wine!

Nations shall serve you,

And peoples bow down to you.

Be master of your brothers,

And let your mother’s sons bow down to you!

Cursed be they who curse you,

And blessed b they who bless you!

Psalm 135:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Praise the Name of the LORD;

give praise, you servants of the LORD.

2 You who stand in the house of the LORD,

in the courts of the house of our God.

3 Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good;

sing praises to his Name, for it is lovely.

4 For the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself

and Israel for his own possession.

For I know that the LORD is great,

and that our Lord is above all gods.

The LORD does whatever pleases him, in heaven and on earth,

in the seas and all the deeps.

Matthew 9:14-17 (An American Translation):

Then the disciples of John came up to him [Jesus] and said,

Why is it that we and the Pharisees are keeping the fast, while your disciples are not keeping it?

Jesus said to them,

Can wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?  But a time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and they will fast then.  But no one sews a patch of unshrunken cloth on an old coat, for the patch will tear away from the coat, and make the hole worse than ever.  And people do not put new wine into old wine-skins, or if they do, the skins burst, and the wine runs out and the skins are spoiled.  But people put new wine into fresh wine skins, and so both are saved.

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have built your Church upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone:  Grant to us so to be joined together in unity of spirit by their teaching, that we may be made a holy temple acceptable to you; 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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The Bible is brutally honest about many major figures with whom the reader is supposed to sympathize.  Jacob, who becomes Israel, for whom the Jewish nation is named, is an opportunist.  Rebekah, his mother, is a schemer.  Isaac, his aged and blind father, seems not to be at the peak of his mental powers in Genesis 27.  And Esau, the trouble-maker, is twice an aggrieved party at the hand of his brother Jacob in Genesis.  Yet, according to an oracle in Genesis 25:33, Jacob is supposed to take precedence, and he does.  This happens by underhanded methods, but it comes true.

I dislike all these characters by Genesis 27, but Biblical writers want me to pick a side.  The Bible is a complicated volume.

In Matthew 9:14-17 we have a variation of the Markan teaching about wineskins and wine (Mark 2:18-22).  Matthew adds the “so both are saved” element.  So, in Matthew, there is value in traditions and innovations, but not all traditions and all innovations.  Consider the theology of the Gospel of Matthew:  Jesus praises Torah piety, but not many of those who claim to practice it; they get it wrong.  So Jesus (both old and new) breaks many traditions while keeping others.  His innovative variety of Torah piety is what people should have been keeping all along.  He scandalizes many respectable religious establishment types by eating with irreligious people and Roman collaborators, and by not fasting when others do.

Consider the Apostles of Jesus, too.  These were imperfect men.  They spent most of the timeframe of the Gospels squabbling and failing to understand even basic teachings.  Yet God worked through them, as much as God worked through Rebekah and Jacob.  And God works through us, who are quite flawed.

God is sovereign.  That is good news.  Are we willing to recognize both the old and new ways in which God works?

I have particular take on the old-new debate.  I belong to The Episcopal Church, which replaces its Book of Common Prayer from time to time.  To be precise, this has happened previously in 1789, 1892, 1928, and 1979.  Liturgical revision immediately prior to 1979 began in 1967, the proposed Prayer Book arrived in 1976, and the General Convention approved it three years later, but still some of my fellow Episcopalians refer to it as the “new” Prayer Book.  As I heard a catechist in the Diocese of Georgia ask in 2000, how old does the 1979 Prayer Book have to be before it ceases to be new?

We humans like our traditions, but we ought not transform them into idols.  No, they should be icons.  The difference is that an idol replaces God and distracts our attention from God.  But an icon is a visible representation of God, who is invisible; we see God through an icon.  A Prayer Book, like any tradition, ought to be a means to an end, not an end.  From time to time a new one arrives; there is room for both innovation and tradition.

As for me, the 1928 Prayer Book is a relic, a volume from which I have never worshiped.  I am a 1979 Prayer Booker.  It contains the best of its predecessor volumes while incorporating many pleasant innovations, not least of which is Eucharistic Prayer C from Holy Eucharist Rite II.  The book, like all products of human hands and minds, is imperfect.  But it is excellent, and through it God nourishes my spiritual life.  For that I am grateful.

It is an excellent wineskin.

This might surprise those oppose such formal liturgies, but so be it.  God works through them and their prayers, too.

God works in many ways, through many vehicles of various types.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 18, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARC BOEGNER, ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY SAYERS, NOVELIST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/week-of-proper-8-saturday-year-1/

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Posted August 26, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 27, Mark 2, Matthew 9, Psalm 135

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