Archive for the ‘Sarai’ Tag

Trust in God, Part III   3 comments

Above:  Annunciation of the Angel to Saint Zechariah, by Domenico Ghirlandaio

Image in the Public Domain

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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 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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Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 25

1 Thessalonians 3:9-13

Luke 1:1-25

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As Karl Barth pointed out, God, not human beings, properly occupies the center of Christian theology.  The overabundance of human-centered language in hymnals and in lyrics to music in church is never a good sign.

God is at the center in the readings for this Sunday.  God occupies the center of Jeremiah 33, with its prophecy of a restored Davidic monarchy and levitical priesthood.  God occupies the center in the prediction of redemption while all around looks dire.  God guides people spiritually and forgives sins.  God helps us empathize and rejoice with each other as we serve God.  God offers good news that seems unbelievable.

A Southern Baptist collegiate ministry sends people to stand in the quadrangle at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia a few times each semester.  Sometimes someone stops me to ask me a few questions.  One of those questions is,

Do you believe in God?

My answer is always the same:

What do you mean?

I ask because my answer depends on the intent of the questioner.  A common understanding of belief in God is intellectual acceptance of the existence of God.  In the creeds and in many Biblical passages, though, belief in God indicates trust in God.  I always affirm the existence of God, whom I usually trust.

Trust is of the essence of in Luke 1:1-25.  In this Sunday’s Gospel reading, the lack of trust is a problem for Zechariah.  I do not condemn, though, for my response would also be in so many words,

Yeah, right.

We readers, if we know the Bible well, should think immediately of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah (Genesis 15:1-20 and 17:1f).  We ought also to remember Genesis 16, the beginning of the story of Hagar and Ishmael, as well as the faithlessness of Abram and Sarai.

Returning to Luke 1:1-25, if we continue reading that chapter, we find next week’s Gospel reading, which I mention here only in passing.  The contrast between Zechariah and Mary is multifaceted.  Trust (or lack thereof) in God is one of those facets.

I do not condemn Zechariah caution and skepticism.  I also rejoice that God does not asks us to cease to transform into gullible people.  Furthermore, divine grace continues to shower upon those who respond to seemingly unbelievable truths with

Yeah, right.

My favorite Biblical character is St. Thomas the Apostle; I affirm honest doubt.  It keeps one from falling for scams and joining cults.

Yeah, right

is frequently the correct reply.

When, however, the seemingly unbelievable is true and of God, we can turn to God and admit that our initial skepticism was wrong, even if it was understandable.  Sometimes we need hindsight to see more clearly.  And grace continues to abound.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 8, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SECOND SUNDAY IN LENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KING, BISHOP OF LINCOLN

THE FEAST OF FRED B. CRADDOCK, U.S. DISCIPLES OF CHRIST MINISTER, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND RENOWNED PREACHER

THE FEAST OF GEOFFREY STUDDERT KENNEDY, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/03/08/devotion-for-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-c-humes/

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Grace and Character Flaws   1 comment

Parable of the Sower

Above:  The Parable of the Sower

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Eternal God, you draw near to us in Christ, and you make yourself our guest.

Amid the cares of our lives, make us attentive to your presence,

that we may treasure your word above all else,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:10-20 (Thursday)

Genesis 13:1-18 (Friday)

Genesis 14:1-16 (Saturday)

Psalm 15 (All Days)

Hebrews 5:1-6 (Thursday)

Ephesians 3:14-21 (Friday)

Luke 8:4-10 (Saturday)

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Yahweh, who can find a home in your tent,

who can dwell on your holy mountain?

Whoever lives blamelessly,

who acts uprightly,

who speaks the truth from the heart,

who keeps the tongue under control,

who does not wrong a comrade,

who casts no discredit on a neighbour,

who looks with scorn on the vile,

but honours those who fear Yahweh,

who stands by an oath at any cost,

who asks no interest on loans,

who takes no bribe to harm the innocent.

No one who so acts can ever be shaken.

–Psalm 15, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Abram (later Abraham) was a fascinating, contradictory, and frequently puzzling figure, for he was a human being.  In Genesis 12-14 alone he pretended that Sarai (his wife) was his sister, lied to the Pharaoh (who, unlike Abram, suffered because of the lie), prospered (in large part due to that lie), remained in Canaan and engaged in warfare while Lot, his nephew, moved to Sodom.  At the end of Chapter 14 Abram encountered Melchizedek, hence one reason for the reading from Hebrews 5, I suppose.

The traditional name of the reading from Luke 8 is the Parable of the Sower.  Nevertheless, the emphasis in the story is the soils, so, as some commentators I have read have argued, we should refer to the Parable of the Four Soils.  Each of us is, under the best circumstances, good soil, albeit not entirely so.  That is a fact of human nature.  Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah had serious defects of character, as did St. Paul the Apostle.  Likewise, you, O reader, and I have character flaws.  Nevertheless, may the lovely prayer in Ephesians 3:14-21 be others’ prayer for us and our prayer for others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ADALBALD OF OSTEVANT, RICTRUDIS OF MARCHIENNES, AND THEIR RELATIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ABRAHAM KIDUNAIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT, AND MARY OF EDESSA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ANCHORESS

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/16/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-proper-11-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Trusting in God, Part IV   1 comment

Abrahamic Covenant

Image Source = Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D., New Catholic Picture Bible:  Popular Stories from the Old and New Testaments (New York, NY:  Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1960), page 16

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The Collect:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death

to be for us the means on life.

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss

for the sake of your Son, 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 15:1-6, 12-18 (Thursday)

Genesis 16:1-6 (Friday)

Genesis 16:7-15 (Saturday)

Psalm 22:23-31 (All Days)

Romans 3:21-31 (Thursday)

Romans 4:1-12 (Friday)

Mark 8:27-30 (Saturday)

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My soul shall live for him;

my descendants shall serve him;

they shall be known as the LORD’s own for ever.

–Psalm 22:29, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Harboring doubts regarding extraordinary promises (as in Genesis 15) and not understanding who Jesus is despite spending much time in close quarters with him (as in Mark 8) are growth opportunities.  Information is the antidote to ignorance, but a lack of trust in God is a spiritual problem.  When one acts on it (as in Genesis 16, despite the glowing review of Abraham in Romans 4), one complicates matters horribly.

We are responsible to God and each other.  We also depend on God and each other.  We will not trust God all the time, for we are mere mortals.  We can, however, rely on divine grace and improve; we can trust God more often.  God expects us to improve, not be flawless.  When we fail to trust God then act out of fear and a misdirected sense of human agency, we harm others as well as ourselves, for what we do to others, we do to ourselves.  Mutuality works for the positive as well as the negative in our lives.

Recently someone asked me if I believe in God.  My answer surprised him, for I replied by asking him what he meant by “believe in.”  Biblical belief is trust in God, not the affirmation of divine existence.  So I continued my answer by stating that I affirm the existence of God all the time and trust God most of the time.  It was a precise and honest answer.

May we trust God more than we do.  May I trust God more than I do.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETIUS OF TRIER, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, AND BISHOP; AND SAINT AREDIUS OF LIMOGES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF SAINT ABRAHAM OF KRATIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK, ABBOT, BISHOP, AND HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2014/12/06/devotion-for-thursday-friday-and-saturday-before-the-second-sunday-in-lent-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Children and the Kingdom of God   1 comment

Jesus Blesssing Children

Above:  Jesus Blessing Children

Image Source = Father Lawrence G. Lovasik, S.V.D., New Catholic Picture Bible:  Popular Stories from the Old and New Testaments (New York:  Catholic Book Publishing Company, 1955, 1960)

Image Scanned by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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The Collect:

Thanks be to you, Lord Jesus Christ, most merciful redeemer,

for the countless blessings and benefits you give.

May we know you more clearly,

love you more dearly,

and follow you more nearly,

day by day praising you, with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 22

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 16:1-14

Psalm 86

Luke 18:15-17

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Turn to me and have mercy upon me;

give your strength to your servant

and save the child of your handmaid.

–Psalm 86:16, Common Worship (2000)

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Abram had received a promise from God that he would become the father of nations.  There was just one problem:  he had no children.  Abram and Sarai took matters into their own hands, thereby creating a mess and causing injury immediately to Hagar and later compounding it and extending it to Ishmael.  The boy, whose existence was due to faithlessness, became a pawn.

Children were people without social standing in our Lord and Savior’s cultural context.  Sometimes parents even sold them into slavery to pay off debts.  One function of the Kingdom of God in the Gospels was to point out the ways in which the dominant society fell short of the divine mark.  Hence the Beatitudes (and, in the Gospel of Luke, the corresponding Woes) were counter-cultural.  Blessed are poor?  Woe to the rich?  Blessed are the peacemakers?  In the Kingdom of God, yes!  The description of the way things ought to be condemned the way they were.

That description continues to condemn societies.  For example, the exploitation of children–from child labor to sexual slavery to conscription as soldiers–constitutes current events.  Some patterns never change, although the places, dates, and certain other minor details regarding them do.  I live just outside the Atlanta Metropolitan Area.  Atlanta is a hub of human trafficking, unfortunately.

In the Gospel of Luke the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (18:9-14) and the conversation between Jesus and the rich ruler attached to his wealth (18:18-30) bookend the pericope about receiving the Kingdom of God as a little child does.  The cumulative message, therefore, is that social standing counts for nothing in the eyes of God and that wealth is irrelevant in the same context.  No, pride must go away and we must approach God humbly, aware of our powerlessness and limitations.

The exhortation in Luke 18:15-17 also points to inherent human dignity and links well with the plights of Hagar and Ishmael.  May we never use people as pawns, for that is unfair to them.  It also violates the commandments to care for one another and to be responsible to each other–orders which undergird much of the Law of Moses and are consistent with our Lord and Savior’s ethical teachings and lived example.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD WATSON GILDER, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF HENRY FRANCIS LYTE, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF LEO TOLSTOY, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MECHTILD OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2014/11/20/devotion-for-wednesday-after-the-second-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Posted November 21, 2014 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 16, Luke 18, Psalm 86

Tagged with , , , , , ,

Faith, Questions, and Confidence   Leave a comment

th

Above:  A Question Mark

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The Collect:

Almighty God, you have filled the earth with the light of your incarnate Word.

By your grace empower us to reflect your light in all that we do,

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 21

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 12:1-7 (January 2)

Genesis 28:10-22 (January 3)

Psalm 72 (both days)

Hebrews 11:1-12 (January 2)

Hebrews 11:13-22 (January 3)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 12:

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

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/devotion-for-the-eighth-and-ninth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/proper-5-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/week-of-proper-7-monday-year-1/

Genesis 28:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/18/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-in-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/31/proper-11-year-a/

Hebrews 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/week-of-6-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/proper-14-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/11/09/proper-15-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/06/05/devotion-for-friday-before-the-first-sunday-of-advent-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Now faith means that we have full confidence in the things we hope for, it means being certain of things we cannot see.  It was this that that won their reputation for the saints of old.

–Hebrews 11:1-2, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition (1972)

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Faith gives substance to our hopes and convinces us of realities we do not see.

It was by faith that the people of old won God’s approval.

–Hebrews 11:1-2, The Revised English Bible

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Faith is the reality of we hope for, the proof of what we don’t see.  The elders in the past were approved because they showed faith.

–Hebrews 11;1-2, Common English Bible

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Only faith can guarantee the blessings that we hope for, or prove the existence of realities that are unseen.  It is for their faith that our ancestors are acknowledged.

–Hebrews 11:1-2, The New Jerusalem Bible

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Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval.

–Hebrews 11:1-2, The New Revised Standard Version–Catholic Edition

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Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel,

who alone does wonderful things.

And blessed by his glorious name for ever.

May all the earth be filled with his gory.

Amen.  Amen.

–Psalm 72:18-19, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The Bible is replete with troublesome characters.  Yet, the texts tell us, God worked through many of them.  For example, Abraham and Sarah became the parents of nations in their old age–an inspiring story?  But what about the mistreatment of Hagar and Ishmael?  Furthermore, the story of near-sacrifice of Isaac disturbs me; I will make no excuses for it.  As Elie Wiesel pointed out in a Bible study I saw in the 1990s, the Bible does not record any conversation between father and son after that incident, which must have damaged their relationship in ways which the passage of time did not repair.

As for Jacob, he was a trickster whom others conned.

Yet God worked with and through them, transforming these people for their benefit and that of many others, even to the present day.  That is grace, is it not?

“Faith” has more than one meaning in the Bible.  It is purely intellectual in James and inherently active in Paul, hence the appearance (but no more than that) of a faith-works contradiction between the two.  And, in the Letter to the Hebrews, faith is that which, in the absence of evidence for or against, enables one to continue in justifiable confidence.  If we have empirical evidence one way or the another, we do need faith.  I have heard church members say that they (A) have faith and (B) have evidence for the same proposition.  They misunderstood whereof they spoke.  They sought certainty when they should have desired confidence.

As James D. G. Dunn wrote in a different context (the search for the historical Jesus):

The language of faith uses words like “confidence” rather than “certainty.”  Faith deals in trust, not in mathematical calculations, nor in a “science” which methodically doubts everything which can be doubted….Walking “by faith” is different from walking “by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).  Faith is commitment, not just conviction.

Faith as trust is never invulnerable to questions.  Rather, faith lives in dialogue with questions.  Faith-without-doubt is a rare commodity, which few (if any) have experienced for any length of time.  On the contrary, doubt is the inoculation which keeps faith strong in the face of unbelief.  Whereas it is the “lust for certainty” which leads to fundamentalism’s absolutising of its own faith claims and dismissal of all others.  In fact, of course, little or nothing in real life is a matter of certainty, including the risks of eating beef, or of crossing a road, or of committing oneself in marriage….

Jesus Remembered (Grand Rapids, MI:  William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2003), pages 104-105

I propose that we should never fear to question God faithfully.  Have we understood God correctly?  We can misunderstand, after all.  We have done so often.  And sometimes, as in the case of the Syro-Phoenician woman who encountered Jesus, rebutting a statement is the result which the speaker of the rebutted statement desires.  Sometimes passing the test of faithfulness entails arguing with, not being submissive, to God.  We need not stand in terror of God if we act out of healthy faith, the kind which creates space for many intelligent questions.  And then how will God work through us in the world?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 24, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THOMAS A KEMPIS, SPIRITUAL WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN BOSTE, GEORGE SWALLOWELL, AND JOHN INGRAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/07/24/devotion-for-january-2-and-3-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Active Faith I   1 comment

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Above:  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., 1964

Photograph by Dick DeMarsico, World Telegraph and Sun

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/00651714/)

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1, 10-20 and Psalm 50:1-8, 23-24

or 

Genesis 15:1-6 and Psalm 33:12-22

then 

Hebrews 11:1-3, 8-16

Luke 12:32-40

The Collect:

Grant to us, Lord, we pray, the spirit to think and do always those things that are right, that we, who cannot exist without you, may by you be enabled to live according to your will; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 14, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/proper-14-year-a/

Proper 14, Year B:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/03/proper-14-year-b/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-confession-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-twelfth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Isaiah 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2012/02/22/devotion-for-november-27-in-advent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/09/15/week-of-proper-10-monday-year-2/

Genesis 15:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/devotion-for-the-tenth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/second-sunday-in-lent-year-c/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/week-of-proper-7-wednesday-year-1/

Hebrews 11:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/18/independence-day-u-s-a-july-4/

Luke 12:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/15/devotion-for-the-twenty-ninth-thirtieth-and-thirty-first-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/16/devotion-for-the-thirty-second-day-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/09/week-of-proper-24-tuesday-year-1/

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We human beings use the same word in different ways, with a variety of meanings.  Consider, O reader, the word “day,” for example.  People say,

In my day…

and

Back in the day…,

as well as

There is a new day coming.

Or “day” might apply literally, as in when today separates yesterday from tomorrow.

The same principle applies to “faith” in the New Testament.  The Apostle Paul, in Romans, used it to mean something inherently active, which leads to works.  A Pauline formula is that as a person thinks, so he or she is.  The Letter of James contains a different definition, that of intellectual assent to a proposition or set of propositions.  So, according to that definition, faith without works is dead.  Both epistles agree on the imperative of active faith, so one need not imagine a discrepancy between their conclusions.

And there is the definition of faith from Hebrews 11:1-3:

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.  Indeed, by faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is was made from things that are not visible.

New Revised Standard Version

In other words, faith applies in circumstances in which one can neither prove nor disprove a proposition according to scientific methods or documentary evidence.  That is an anachronistic definition, I know, but it works well.  Science can tell us much; I respect it and reject all anti-scientific sentiments and statements.  God gave us brains; may we use them as fully and critically as possible.  And documents form the basis of the study of history as I practice it.  Objective historical accuracy and the best scientific data available ought to override dogma, superstition, and bad theology.  So, no matter what the Gospels say, demon possession does not cause epilepsy, for example.  Yet there does exist truth which these twin standards of modernism (as opposed to postmodernism) cannot measure.  Such truth is good theology, which one can grasp by faith.

We read in Hebrews of the faithful example of Abram/Abraham (and by implication, of Sarai/Sarah), which harkens back to Genesis.  Theirs is a fantastical story, one which challenges understandings of biology.  But that is not the point.  The point is that God does unexpected things, and that the people of God should accept this reality.  And whether a certain unexpected thing is good news or bad news depends upon one’s spiritual state, as in Luke 12.

The reading from Isaiah 1 caught and held my attention most of all.  I, as an observant Episcopalian, am an unrepentant ritualist.  The text does not condemn ritualism itself.  No, the text damns insincere ritualism mixed with the neglect of vulnerable members of society:

Wash yourselves clean;

Put your evil things

Away from my sight.

Cease to do evil;

Learn to do good.

Devote yourselves to justice;

Aid the wronged.

Uphold the rights of the orphan;

Defend the cause of the widow.

–Isaiah 1:16-17, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Do it or else, the text says.  This is a call to society; Enlightenment notions of individualism do not apply here.  The Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1967, called for

…a true revolution of values

from a society focused on things to one which places the priority on people.  In the same speech, the one in which he opposed the Vietnam War without equivocation, he said:

A nation that continues to spend year after year more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

A Testament of Hope:  The Essential Writings and Speeches of Martin Luther King, Jr.  (Edited by James M. Washington, 1986), page 241

The Prophet Isaiah would  have agreed.

Eternal God, heavenly Father,

you have graciously accepted us as living members

of your Son our Savior Jesus Christ,

and you have fed us with spiritual food

in the sacrament of his Body and Blood.

Send us now into the world in peace,

and grant us strength and courage

to love and serve you

with gladness and singleness of heart;

through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 365

Do we have the Abrahamic faith to do that?  And how much better will our societies be for all their members if we do?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN MEDICAL PROFESSIONALS

THE FEAST OF HUGH LATIMER, NICHOLAS RIDLEY, AND THOMAS CRANMER, ANGLICAN MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2012/10/16/proper-14-year-c/

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Genesis and Mark, Part X: The Promise of New Life   1 comment

jesus-healing-a-bleeding-woman

Above:  Jesus Healing a Bleeding Woman

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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 15:1-21

Psalm 43 (Morning)

Psalms 31 and 143 (Evening)

Mark 5:21-43

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 15:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/11/week-of-proper-7-wednesday-year-1/

Mark 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/week-of-4-epiphany-tuesday-year-1/

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

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-for-saturday-of-the-first-week-of-lent/

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The readings for today concern the promise of new life.  The daughter of Jairus was dead.  The woman with a hemorrhage was socially marginalized, declared ritually unclean.  Hers was a social death.  And Abram was elderly and the end of his lineage.  Then God intervened.

The Book of Genesis tells us what happened to Isaac, Abram’s son.  Yet the scriptural narrative does not continue the accounts of the woman and the girl.  Surely the daughter of Jairus knew what Jesus had done for her.  And woman knew what our Lord had done for her.  The healed woman, restored to society, had the option of no longer being destitute.  Bud did she heal psychologically.  Toward what end did she dedicate the rest of her life?  I wonder.  And what about the girl, with her new lease on life?

Life is precious.  May each of us, having drawn new life from God each day, seek to pend that day (or the portion thereof we have) for the glory of God and the benefit of others.  There are many ways to help others, so that task is relatively easy.  Specifically, may we dedicate each day (or the portion thereof we have) glorifying God and helping others as God calls us to do so.  Here the variety of gifts will become apparent.  May we welcome them, not scorn any of them.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF U.S. PRESBYTERIANISM

THE FEAST OF NGAKUKU, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/14/devotion-for-the-tenth-day-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Posted January 20, 2013 by neatnik2009 in Genesis 15, Mark 5, Psalm 143, Psalm 31, Psalm 43

Tagged with , , , , ,

Genesis and Mark, Part IX: Trust and Distrust in God   1 comment

separation-of-abram-and-lot

Above:  The Separation of Abraham and Lot

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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 11:27-12:20 (8th Day of Lent)

Genesis 13:1-18 (9th Day of Lent)

Psalm 38 (Morning–8th Day of Lent)

Psalm 22 (Morning–9th Day of Lent)

Psalms 126 and 102 (Evening–8th Day of Lent)

Psalms 107 and 130 (Evening–9th Day of Lent)

Mark 4:1-21 (8th Day of Lent)

Mark 5:1-20 (9th Day of Lent)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 11-13:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/proper-5-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/06/week-of-proper-7-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/all-hallows-eve-a-k-a-the-vigil-of-the-eve-of-all-saints-day-october-31/

Mark 4-5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/week-of-3-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/12/week-of-3-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/13/week-of-3-epiphany-saturday-year-2/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/week-of-4-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/09/proper-6-year-b/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/15/proper-7-year-b/

Prayers:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-for-thursday-of-the-first-week-of-lent/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/25/prayer-for-friday-of-the-first-week-of-lent/

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Abram trusted God when he moved his household away from all that he had known.  Yet he did not trust God in Egypt.  Ironically, Abram did not pay the price for that distrust; others did.  Likewise, the Apostles feared for their lives during the storm.  May we refrain from being too critical; the actions of Abram and the Apostles were predictable.  Any of us, in such a circumstance, might have done the same.

Yet we ought to draw useful spiritual lessons from these stories.  I will be brief today, for I have covered similar material recently:  Survival is in God alone.  Trusting in God can be difficult, but is possible via grace.  And I do not presume to have mastered this trust.

The struggle to trust God continues, but with the understanding that what God has in mind is better than what we or others imagine as being best for ourselves.  We read in Genesis 13 that

Lot chose for himself (verse 11, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures).

God directed Abram where to go.  And the Gereasene demoniac’s neighbors did not rejoice in his new wholeness.  We are like that:  selfish, at least some of the time.

May we seek the best for each other in the context of the common good while trusting in God.  There will be plenty for everybody to have enough.  And our identities will depend on whose we are–God’s–not who we are not–in this case, the Gerasene demoniac.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 12, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF DUNCAN MONTGOMERY GRAY, SR., EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF MISSISSIPPI

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY OF OSTIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT, CARDINAL, AND LEGATE; AND SAINT DOMINIC OF THE CAUSEWAY, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL MARSDEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/12/devotion-for-the-eighth-and-ninth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Justification, Love, and Justice   1 comment

Above:  Economic Inequality Made Manifest

Image Source = eenthappana

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

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Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him,

I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.

Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,

As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

God said to Abraham,

As for Sarah your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.

Psalm 22:22-30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

22 Praise the LORD, you that fear him;

stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;

all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;

neither does he hide his face from them;

but when they cry to him he hears them.

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly;

I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,

and those who seek the LORD shall praise him:

“May your heart love for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD,

and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the LORD;

he rules over the nations.

28 To him alone who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;

all who go down to the dust fall before him.

29 My soul shall live for him;

my descendants shall serve him;

they shall be known as the LORD’s for ever.

30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn

the saving deeds that he has done.

Romans 4:13-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

The promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath; but where there is no law, neither is there violation.

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of all of us, as it is written,

I have made you the father of many nations

) — in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become

the father of many nations,

according to what was said,

So numerous shall your descendants be.

He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. Therefore his faith

was reckoned to him as righteousness.

Now the words,

it was reckoned to him,

were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

Mark 8:31-38 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said,

Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them,

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

The Collect:

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Second Sunday in Lent, Year A:

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

Romans 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/week-of-proper-23-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/week-of-proper-24-monday-year-1/

Genesis 17:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-second-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

Mark 8:

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://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/20/proper-5-year-a/

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

O Lord,You Gave Your Servant John:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

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Last Sunday’s readings (https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/holy-baptism/) focused on baptism, a sacrament which is an outward sign of something God has done and is doing.  This Sunday we have another great word:  justification.  This is also something God has done and is doing.   Justification indicates having a right relationship with God; it is a legal term.  And, according to Paul, it comes through faith and grace.  The Letter of James, of course, speaks of justification by deeds, but that book uses “faith” to mean something different than in Romans.  For more details, follow the germane link I have provided.  The bottom line is this:  There is no contradiction between Romans and James on the issue of justification.

This justification, since the time of Jesus, owes much to the Atonement, which, I am convinced, was a process which began with the Incarnation (again, something God initiated) and ended with the death and resurrection of Jesus (something God did).  Our responses to God, then, are of the essence.  How will we respond to such a merciful and active deity?  This grace, which facilitates faith, is cheap but not free.  It was cheap neither to God the Father nor God the Son.  And it demands much of us.

The baptismal vows speak of loving our neighbors as ourselves and respecting the dignity of our fellow human beings. So, how will we treat our fellow human beings, and what will we consider acceptable treatment?  Will our neighbors have living wages, safe working conditions, and career opportunities which make the most of their talents an abilities?  Will they face discrimination?  What will the love of Christ and our neighbors impel us to do?

I could continue, but I trust that I have made my point clearly.  May we love our neighbors as ourselves, even if that entails taking up a cross and following Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 25, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES BAR-ZEBEDEE, APOSTLE AND MARTYR

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Adapted from this post:

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

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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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