Archive for the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ Tag

Mutuality in God X   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Beatitudes

Image in the Public Domain

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Micah 6:1-8

Psalm 1

1 Corinthians 1:26-31

Matthew 5:1-12

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O God, you know that we cannot withstand

the dangers which surround us. 

Strengthen us in body and spirit so that, with your help,

we may be able to overcome the weakness

that our sin has brought upon us;

through Jesus Christ, your Son our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 16

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Almighty God,

you know that we are set among so many and great dangers

that by reason of the weakness of our fallen nature

we cannot always stand upright;

grant us your strength and protection to support us in all dangers

and carry us through all temptations;

through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 25

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Sacred ritual is part of the Law of Moses.  So are moral mandates regarding how people ought to treat each other.  A sacred ritual is not a talisman.  To treat it as such is to make a mockery of it.

“The man” of Psalm 1:1 is a student of the Torah.  He, in the original cultural setting and in the Hebrew text, is a man.  In my cultural setting, that role is no longer gender-specific, for the better.  Certain details change, according to physical and temporal setting.  Others remain constant, though, for better or worse.  For example, “the man” of Psalm 1:1 is stable.  The language of positions in Psalm 1:1 is interesting.  “The man” contrasts with the impious, who are in motion–walking, following, and standing–before finally sitting down in the seat of scoffers.  True stability exists in God alone.

The readings from the New Testament tell us that divine values differ from dominant human values.  Conventional wisdom may get some details right.  After all, a broken clock is right twice a day.  Yet conventional wisdom tends to be foolishness.  The ethics of the Beatitudes, for example, look like folly to “the world.”

Micah 6 contrasts with what God has done with what people have done, collectively.  The Bible frequently concerns itself with collective actions and inactions.  My Western culture, with its individualistic emphasis, does not know how to comprehend collective guilt, sin, and repentance.  Yet the Bible does.  Mutuality, not individualism, is a Biblical virtue.  Remember, O reader, that in three of the four readings for this Sunday, the emphasis is on “we,” not “me.”  Furthermore, “we” and “me” coexist in Psalm 1.

The emphasis on “we” terrifies me.  I may try to follow God daily, to practice the Golden Rule, et cetera.  Yet I also belong to a community, a culture, a society, a nation-state, and a species.  The sins of others may cause me to suffer because of my group memberships–community, culture, society, nation-state, and species.  Recall, O reader, that the population in Micah 6 addressed included pious people.  Remember, O reader, that not all Christians in Corinth were querulous jerks.

Ponder, O reader, how we–the “we” of wherever you live–can improve relative to Micah 6:8.  How can “we” do justice, love goodness, and walk modestly with God?

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MIROCLES OF MILAN AND EPIPHANIUS OF PAVIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ALBAN ROE AND THOMAS REYNOLDS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS, 1642

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN YI YON-ON, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN KOREA, 1867

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Adapted from this post

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The Sermon on the Plain   Leave a comment

Above:  The Sermon of the Beatitudes, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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READING LUKE-ACTS, PART XVI

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Luke 6:20-49

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If the FOX News Channel had existed in the time of Jesus, its “talent” would have lambasted Jesus.  The Woes (6:24-26) would have been examples of class warfare.  Jesus would have been a “woke” Social Justice Warrior–and probably a communist.  To quote a meme from a few years ago,

NO, BARACK OBAMA IS NOT A DARK-SKINNED SOCIALIST GIVING AWAY HEALTH CARE.  YOU’RE THINKING OF JESUS.

Jesus was a social revolutionary.  He comforted the afflicted and afflicted the comfortable.  He died for doing so.

The Gospel of Matthew has the Sermon on the Mount.  The Gospel of Luke has the Sermon on the Plain.  This is no matter; both sermons are literary constructs anyway.  Their importance is their content.  In Luke 6:20f, the poor are poor, the hungry are hungry, and the weeping weep.  Also, the wealthy are receiving their consolation, those with plenty to eat will go hungry, those who are laughing will weep, and those who are renowned will be like false prophets.  The Lucan reversal of fortune is in full swing.

Jesus taught in a particular context.  The vast majority of the population was desperately poor.  The wealthy had either build their fortunes or maintained their fortunes by exploiting the poor.  The middle class was small.  This model has remained current in much of the world, unfortunately.

The gap between the rich and the poor has been growing wider for decades in my country, the United States of America.  The Right Wing has long placed too high a value on property rights and too low a value on human rights.  The moral critique that the United States society needs to value people more than things has remained as valid as it was on April 4, 1967, when a modern-day prophet, the Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr., uttered it in the Riverside Church, New York, New York.  The Right Wing detested him and suspected him of communism, too.

As Michael Eric Dyson correctly argues, the version of Martin Luther King, Jr., many White conservatives find non-threatening is a historical fiction.  King’s radicalism offers a stinging critique of many current conservative talking points.  King’s radicalism still comforts the afflicted and afflicts the comfortable.

The teachings of Jesus continue to comfort and afflict simultaneously.  Loving enemies, for example, breaks the cycle of violence.  But hearing that we should love our enemies may afflict us.  Condemnations of hypocrisy apply to everyone, too.  Jesus continues to meddle in our business, as he ought to do.  We want God to comfort us and people similar to ourselves, but to smite “those people”–everyone else, those whom we have othered.  God loves them, too, of course.

As Christians we believe that what Jesus began with the call of the Twelve and the sharp-edged teaching of blessings and curses remains in force today.  This is the shape of the kingdom:  the kingdom which still today turns the world upside down, or perhaps the right way up, as much as it ever did.

–N. T. Wright, Advent for Everyone:  Luke–A Daily Devotional (2018), 17

The world is upside down when it ought to be right side up.  Are you, O reader, complicit in maintaining this disorder?  If so, the teachings of Jesus afflict you, as they should.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 29, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FIFTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY INNOCENTS (TRANSFERRED)

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Faithful Servants of God, Part IX   1 comment

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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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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Ecclesiastes 7:1-4, 11-18 or Ezekiel 34:1-10

Psalm 9:1-10

Galatians 4:1-16

Matthew 5:38-48

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As Koheleth and Jesus tell us, the way of the world is that righteous people suffer, both the righteous and the wicked prosper, and God is in control.  The combination of those three statements might seem incongruous.  Throughout the Book of Psalms righteous people cry out to God for deliverance from oppression.  Often they are understandably angry, but Christ tells us to pray for our persecutors and to love our enemies.  Interestingly, nowhere does the Hebrew Bible command anyone to love one’s enemies, and, as we have read previously in this series of posts, God prospers that the wicked change their ways and find mercy.  Yet many of the wicked refuse to repent, so the divine deliverance of the oppressed becomes bad news for oppressors.

The call to radical love thunders off the pages of the Sermon on the Mount.  We are to trust in God, not ourselves, and be so loving as to seem foolish to many.  Such love breaks the cycle of anger, resentment, revenge, and violence.  We, as inheritors, by grace, and adopted members of the household of God, are free to do that, if we dare.

May we dare accordingly.  Then we, by grace, will be suited for our purpose, or, as Matthew 5:48 puts it, perfect.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 21, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH, CARL PHILIPP EMANUEL BACH, AND JOHANN CHRISTIAN BACH, COMPOSERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF FLÜE AND HIS GRANDSON, SAINT CONRAD SCHEUBER, SWISS HERMITS

THE FEAST OF SAINT SERAPION OF THMUIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM EDWARD HICKSON, ENGLISH MUSIC EDUCATOR AND SOCIAL REFORMER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2018/03/21/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a-humes/

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Lead Us Not Into Temptation   Leave a comment

Above:  Icon of the Lord’s Prayer

Image in the Public Domain

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And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:

For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever.  Amen.

–Matthew 6:13, Authorized Version

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…et ne nos indicas in temptatiónem; sed libera nos a malo.

…and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

–from The Roman Missal (2010)

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It is not a good translation because it speaks of a God who induces temptation.  I am the one who falls.  It’s not him pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen.  A father doesn’t do that; a father helps you get up immediately.  It’s Satan who leads us into temptation; that’s his department.

–Pope Francis, December 2017

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The Holy Father is correct.

James 1:13-15 agrees with him:

Never, when you are being put to the test, say, “God is tempting me;”  God cannot be tempted by evil, and he does not put anybody to the test.  Everyone is put to the test by being attracted and seduced by that person’s own wrong desire.  Then the desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and when sin reaches full growth, it gives birth to death.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Translations (mostly Roman Catholic ones, on purpose, in this post) of Matthew 6:13, with its two lines, fall into several categories.  As for the first line, many translations (including the Rheims-Challoner New Testament, 1582/1749-1752; the Confraternity Version, 1941; and the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Version, 2002), ask that God not lead one into temptation.  The Jerusalem Bible (1966) and The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) are some of the translations in which one asks,

And do not put us to the test.

In The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) we read,

…and do not subject us to the final test,

but deliver us from the evil one.

Similar to that translation are versions in which one asks for deliverance

from the time of trial,

as in The Book of Common Prayer (1979), which also provides the option of praying

And lead us not into temptation,

in the traditional version of the Lord’s Prayer.  The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011) also falls into the category of asking for deliverance from “the evil one,” not from “evil.”

My reading of commentaries has revealed a narrow range of interpretations of Matthew 6:13.  There is a consensus that (1) God does not tempt anyone, per James 1:13-15; and (2) the second petition should be for deliverance from “the evil one,” not generalized evil.  The main differences relate to the interpretation of what the first petition means.  One camp argues that it is simply a request for God to remove temptation or for the ability to resist temptation in the here and now.  Douglas R. A. Hare, author of the 1993 commentary on the Gospel of Matthew for the Interpretation series, suggests a translation:

Grant me strength to resist temptation.

–Page 70

He stands in line with Sherman E. Johnson, writing in Volume VII (1951) of The Interpreter’s Bible:

The word rendered temptation might mean “trial” or “persecution,” but the petition is usually taken as a request that God will remove occasions of sin or the evil impulse which usually prompts sin.  God’s omnipotence and providence are, as always, assumed; but there is no reflection on the question raised by Jas. 1:13-14, “Does God tempt man?”

–Page 314

Another school of thought holds that the passage has an eschatological and apocalyptic tone, that the “time of testing” of “final test” will happen prior to the return of the Messiah, during the “Messianic woes.”  The first petition thereby becomes a request that God will spare the faithful from those persecutions.  W.D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, writing in Matthew:  A Shorter Commentary (2004), agree with this interpretation:

All temptation belongs to the latter days.

–Page 95

M. Eugene Boring, writing in Volume VIII (1995) of The New Interpreter’s Bible, agrees with this conclusion.

Eschatology permeates the Gospel of Matthew in general and the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) in particular.  This fact embarrasses many people; that is their problem.  The eschatological nature of the Gospel of Matthew does not embarrass me–not anymore.  Jonathan T. Pennington, author of Heaven and Earth in the Gospel of Matthew (2007), his published dissertation, notes that the Gospel of Matthew uses “Kingdom of God” just four times and “God” fifty-one times.  Pennington, who analyzes the different uses of “Heaven” in the Gospel of Matthew, pushes back against the consensus that “Kingdom of Heaven” is a reverential circumlocution.  He insists that “Kingdom of Heaven” is usually an apocalyptic term for God’s physical kingdom on the Earth.  Pennington does write, after all, of the frequent contrasts between Heaven and earth in the Gospel of Matthew.

The eschatological reading of the first petition in Matthew 6:13 is correct, at least ultimately.  In the meantime, to pray for strength to resist temptation is proper, as is asking God to remove temptations.  We are weak creatures, “but dust” (Psalm 103:14).  As a cocktail napkin I recall reads,

LEAD ME NOT INTO TEMPTATION.  I CAN FIND MY OWN WAY.

We can avoid that path much of the time, by grace, fortunately.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 19, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTEENTH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF RAOUL WALLENBERG, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF CHICO MENDES, “GANDHI OF THE AMAZON”

THE FEAST OF ROBERT CAMPBELL, SCOTTISH EPISCOPALIAN THEN ROMAN CATHOLIC SOCIAL ADVOCATE AND HYMN WRITER

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Esther VII: Enemies   1 comment

Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther

Above:  Haman Begging the Mercy of Esther, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Almighty and ever-living God, you are always more ready than we are to pray,

and you gladly give more than we either desire or deserve.

Pour upon us your abundant mercy.

Forgive us those things that weigh on our conscience,

and give us those good things that come only through your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 7:7-8:17

Psalm 55:16-23

Matthew 5:43-48

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You, God, will thrust them down

to the abyss of destruction,

men bloodthirsty and deceptive,

before half their days are spent.

–Psalm 55:23, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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In Matthew 5:43-48, part of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus commands his followers to love their enemies and to pray for their persecutors.  Those instructions contradict the psalm and the designated portion of the Book of Esther.

In the Book of Esther Haman meets his grisly end and King Ahasuerus grants permission to Mordecai and Queen Esther to revoked the first royal edict and order anything (in his name) they deem appropriate.  Ahasuerus remains a figure through whom others govern.  The monarch orders the execution of Haman and his sons and gives his property to Queen Esther.  She and Mordecai write the second royal edict (as contained in Chapter E, as The New American Bible labels it) in the name of Ahasuerus.  They authorize Jews living in the Persian Empire to attack their (the Jews’) enemies.  Mordecai receives special honors, and, throughout the empire, Jews rejoice and their enemies do not.

How much of this is justice and how much is revenge?  In the Law of Moses the penalty for perjury to convict someone falsely is symmetrical:

If the man who testified is a false witness, if he has testified falsely against his fellow, you shall do to him as he schemed to do to his fellow.  Thus you will sweep out evil from your midst; others will hear and be afraid, and such evil things will not again be done in your midst.  Nor must you show pity; life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

–Deuteronomy 19:18b-21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Nevertheless, there is a difference between justice and revenge.  I grasp the punishment of Haman yet wonder about the bloodbath reported subsequently in the Book of Esther.    “An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth” leaves the world blind and toothless in time.

I, as a Christian, read the Bible through what the late Donald Armentrout called the “Gospel glasses.”  The four canonical Gospels contextualize the rest of the Bible for me.  The ethics of Jesus therefore override contradictory texts in my mind.  I am still working on loving my enemies as I understand the distinction between justice and revenge on one hand and revenge and a rescue operation on the other.  Some people will not cease from oppressing because others appeal to their consciences, which might not exist.  Nevertheless, is even necessary violence something to celebrate?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2016/03/17/devotion-for-wednesday-after-proper-12-year-c-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Wrestling With Biblical Texts   1 comment

moses-with-the-tablets-of-the-law-rembrandt-van-rijn

Above:  Moses With the Tablets of the Law, by Rembrandt Van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

O God, on this day you open the hearts of your faithful people

by sending us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit,

that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace,

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 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-21

Psalm 33:12-22

Matthew 5:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 20:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2013/10/18/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-the-sixth-sunday-after-epiphany-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2011/07/26/third-sunday-in-lent-year-b/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/09/week-of-proper-11-friday-year-1/

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

Matthew 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/devotion-for-september-28-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Shall we unpack the Ten Commandments, at least a little?

  1. Many more commandments follow immediately, starting in Exodus 20.
  2. Many of the Ten Commandments are self-explanatory, so not committing adultery against a neighbor are straight-forward, for example.
  3. Swearing falsely by the name of God refers to insincere oaths and to attempts to control God, not to certain curse words and related expressions.
  4. On the troubling side, the text classes wives with property and livestock (20:14) and allows for slavery (20:10).
  5. The commandment to have no other gods might deny the existence of other deities or mean simply not to worship them while acknowledging their existence.  Hebrew Bible scholars debate that point.  Yet I know that many Hebrews during Biblical times not only acknowledged the existence of other deities but worshiped some of them.
  6. Sometimes displaying the Ten Commandments constitutes idolatry, which intention defines.

Exodus 20:5-6 requires some explanation.  Does God really punish descendants for someone’s sins?  Or is this a description of behaviors repeated across generations?  The ultimate context in which to consider any passage of Scripture is the entire canon thereof.  Thus I point out that a note on page 149 of The Jewish Study Bible (2004) lists Deuteronomy 24:6; Jeremiah 31:29-30; and Ezekiel 18:1-20 as passages which state that God punishes a person for his or her sins alone.  This nuance helps to fill out the picture.  Sometimes Biblical authors wrote of effects as if they were divine purposes, even when they were not.  Human understandings have changed, even if God has not.

If we read Exodus 20:5-6 as descriptive and interpret it within the context of the previously listed passages from Deuteronomy, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, a certain understanding takes shape.  One’s good and bad behaviors might echo for three or four or more generations.  I can, for example, identify positive and negative legacies from two of my paternal great-grandfathers which have affected me.  I, being aware of my responsibility for my own actions, have endeavored to keep the good and to break with the bad.  God know how successful that has proven so far.

The Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes are about, among other things, how faithful people of God ought to live with God and in community.  Depending on one’s community, living with God properly might contradict the former and lead to persecutions–even death.  The Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-12 and Luke 6:20-23) say that God’s order is not the dominant human one in which a person lives.  The Beatitudes are counter-cultural.  And Luke 6:24-26 (the Woes) goes beyond anything Matthew 5:3-12 indicates.  If one really reads them, one should recognize that the Beatitudes and Woes remain political hot potatoes.

One part of the honest–not autopilot–interaction with the Bible I like is that we must wrestle with texts and reconsider aspects of our opinions, culture, politics, and economics–even ones which we like and which benefit us.  This is healthy to do.  We will do it if we take the Bible seriously and seek to cut through confirmation bias and defense mechanisms.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2013/12/20/devotion-for-the-forty-ninth-day-of-easter-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part IV: God, Mammon, and Killing   1 comment

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Above: The Front of the U.S. $100 Bill

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 2:16-37

Psalm 13 (Morning)

Psalms 36 and 5 (Evening)

Matthew 6:16-34

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Some Related Posts:

Matthew 6:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/04/week-of-proper-6-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/05/week-of-proper-6-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/14/week-of-proper-6-friday-year-2/

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How priceless is your love, O God!

Your people take refuge under the shadow of your wings.

–Psalm 36:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Deuteronomy 2:16-37 seemed dull until I arrived at the end of that lection and found a reference to the supposedly divine-sanctioned killing of all men, women, and children and the complete destruction of property in war.  The Richard Elliott Friedman Commentary of the Torah (2001) informed me that

In contexts that do not have to do with war, the Hebrew word herem refers to something that is devoted to God (Lev. 27:21, 28-29; Num. 18:14).  In contexts of war, as in this verse, herem refers to the rule, in divinely commanded wars only, against taking spoils or slaves, but rather destroying all of these and thus dedicating them to the deity.  Then point:  the war is not for profit.

–page 569

That did not cause me to feel better or to think kindly about the text.

Yet the not-for-profit theme fits well with Matthew 6:16-34.  Fasting should not be for the purpose of amassing social capital.  One should value God more than wealth, can be a tool for good, bad, and neutral purposes.  As 6:21 (The Revised English Bible) tells us,

For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also.

William Barclay wrote succinctly and correctly,

…wealth is always a subordinate good.

The Gospel of Matthew, Volume 1 (Chapters 1-10), Revised Edition (Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press, 1975, page 252)

But it can become an idol.  Anything can become an idol if one treats it accordingly.

One of the great principles of the Law of Moses is that everything belongs to God; we are merely stewards.  Yes, there is value in not becoming a moral hazard or an unnecessary burden upon others if possible.  That is one reason for purchasing various forms of insurance policies.  But a proper spiritual perspective on wealth and all that it can buy is that they belong to God.  Lasting profit is spiritual, for we cannot take our money and our possessions to the afterlife.  How effectively have we cared for others collectively and individually?  (To set one against the other is to create a false dichotomy.)

To bring this post back full circle, I propose that killing people then claiming to have dedicated to God is unacceptable at all times and places, Deuteronomy 2 not withstanding.  The Golden Rule overrides that understanding of herem.  And conducting a massacre is neither for one’s spiritual profit nor the benefit of the massacred.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/devotion-for-october-1-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part III: For the Benefit of Others   1 comment

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Above: The Arch, The University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Image Source = Josh Hallett

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 1:37-2:15

Psalm 62 (Morning)

Psalms 73 and 8 (Evening)

Matthew 6:1-15

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Some Related Posts:

Matthew 6:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/first-day-of-lent-ash-wednesday/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/02/week-of-proper-6-wednesday-year-1/

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Jesus, in Matthew 6:1-15, sets the tone with the first verse:

Be careful not to parade your religion before others; if you do, no reward awaits you with your Father in heaven.

The Revised English Bible

This does not mean that religion is or should be a purely private matter, for the truth remains that as one thinks, so one behaves.  The point pertains to motivation.

Aside:  Purely private religion is the opposite of theocracy, of which I am also very critical.  

Evangelicalism, as I have experienced it, is very extroverted.  I, on the other hand, am introverted.  So I have felt out of place around many Evangelicals  much of the time for this and other reasons, including rampant anti-intellectualism (not on my part) and discomfort (also not on my part) with the number and nature of theological questions I am fond of asking and exploring.  I am an Episcopalian, so I like to ask questions.  And I, as an introvert, am especially loathe to wear my religion on my sleeve, but am obviously not reluctant to be openly religious in public.  I do prefer, however, to be so in a generally quiet manner.  And I will not knock on doors as part of an effort to convert others, for I dislike it when others knock on my door for that purpose.  Besides, many people whom I have encountered do not know how to take “no” for an answer; their bad manners offend me.  (Certain Mormons have been especially guilty of such rudeness at my front door.)  That which I do not like others to do to me I try not to do them.  How is that for attempting to live according to the Golden Rule?

One problem of which we read in Deuteronomy 1:37-2:15 is flouting the commandments of God.  There was no public-private distinction in this case, for the the flouting was both public and private.

Doing good deeds in secret, for the benefit of another or others, not for one’s own glory, is righteous and selfless.  It is pure, or at least as close to pure as a human act of kindness can be.  Being sincere before God and not showing off one’s religiosity is honest.  And it does not constitute flouting the commandments of God.

I choose to write about one more aspect of the Matthew lection.  One command of God I have experienced great difficulty in not flouting is forgiving certain people.  It is easy to forgive some yet not others.  But my mandate is is not to make such distinctions.  This struggle continues for me, but spiritual progress has occurred, by grace.  I detect much room for further progress, but I take this opportunity to rejoice in that spiritual progress which has taken place.

It can be difficult to forgive those who have harmed us.  I have my own list of such people; it includes a small group of professors at the Department of History of The University of Georgia.  Their deeds were perfidious; I will not claim otherwise and nothing can change the reality of their perfidy.  But they have only as much power over me now, years after the fact, as I grant them.  And I grant them none.  I refuse to carry grudges against them, for the burdens have proved too heavy for me to shoulder.  I do hope and pray that these professors have, for their sake and those of others, abandoned their perfidious ways.  If they have not done so, that is a matter for God and others to address; my own issues fill my time.

As I think so I am.  As I think, so I behave.  As you think, O reader, so you are and behave.  May we, by grace, be and behave as God approves, for the benefit of others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

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[Update: Those negative emotions washed out of my system years ago.  I would not have been human had I not had such emotions, but I would have been foolish not to drop that burden years ago.–2017]

https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/devotion-for-september-30-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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This is post #800 of BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part II: Acting Confidently in God   1 comment

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Above: Design Drawing for Stained-Glass Window Showing the Sermon on the Mount

From J. & R. Lamb Studios, 1857-1999

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/LAMB2006000629/)

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 1:19-36

Psalm 110 (Morning)

Psalms 66 and 23 (Evening)

Matthew 5:21-48

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Some Related Posts:

Matthew 5:

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

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

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

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/13/proper-2-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/week-of-proper-5-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/week-of-proper-5-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/28/week-of-proper-5-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/30/week-of-proper-6-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/01/week-of-proper-6-tuesday-year-1/

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

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But in truth God has heart me;

he has attended to the voice of my prayer.

–Psalm 66:17, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Psalm 66:17 reflects confidence in God.  Yet Moses, speaking in Deuteronomy 1:19-36, notes instances of a lack of confidence in God.  The TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures translation refers to sulking and complaining, in fact.  These are not the responses of confident people.  No, they indicate fear.

Matthew 5:21-48, using culturally specific examples, encourages confident (in God) responses to others.  We can forgive others and not seek vengeance, for example, when he have confidence in God.  We can love our enemies when we leave divine justice to God, knowing that God might forgive, not avenge.  And we can treat others fairly and with their best interests in mind when we are confident of God’s provision for us.

When we act out of fear we are more likely to sin against God and each other, to behave cruelly or at least apathetically.  Then we harm ourselves also.  Then we injure the image of God not only in others but in ourselves.  And that is wrong.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATOR OF AUXERRE AND GERMANUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT MAMERTINUS OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AND SAINT MARCIAN OF AUXERRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES BUGENHAGEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARCELLINUS OF EMBRUN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF OLAVUS AND LAURENTIUS PETRI, RENEWERS OF THE CHURCH

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/20/devotion-for-september-29-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part I: Salt and Light   1 comment

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Above:  Men Working in a Salt Mine, Circa 1893

A Photograph by Frances Benjamin Johnston (1864-1952)

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-5217

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 1:1-18

Psalm 122 (Morning)

Psalms 141 and 90 (Evening)

Matthew 5:1-20

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Some Related Posts:

Matthew 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/05/fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/09/fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-a/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/week-of-proper-5-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/22/week-of-proper-5-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/24/week-of-proper-5-wednesday-year-1/

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With this post I begin a series of reflections based on the juxtaposition of Deuteronomy and the Gospel of Matthew–thirty-five days–through November 1.  This seems to be an appropriate pairing, for the Gospel of Matthew is quite Jewish in character.  I wonder what insights will flow from the Deuteronomy-Matthew juxtaposition.

Today little happens in the assigned portion of Deuteronomy.  Moses sets the stage in his address, speaking of sharing authority so that the burden of leadership will be bearable.

The link between that lection and the one from the New Testament becomes clear from a close reading of Matthew 5:1-20.  There we find the Beatitudes and a teaching about being salt and light in the world.  Indeed, those who live the Beatitudes are salt and light in the world.  And the Hebrews from the time of Moses were supposed to be that also.  Yet, too often, many of them were the opposite.  The Law of Moses was a culturally specific set of guidelines of how to be salt and light.  It was an imperfect set of guidelines, for it was sexist and condoned slavery, but it was a beginning.  And it was the law code which Jesus came to fulfill (in general principles) and to affirm, not to destroy.

My cultural context differs greatly from that of both Jesus and the Law of Moses, but timeless principles continue to apply in a variety of settings.  The most basic such principle is that all of us belong to God, so we ought to think of and behave toward each other with empathy.  Yes, the Law of Moses acknowledged the existence of slavery, but it did place restrictions on that practice.  That was at least a beginning.  And I propose that a combination of scarce resources for the community and a heightened (relative to that in the United States of America in 2013) sense of what constituted grave offenses (in the light of belonging to God) accounted for so many capital crimes.  But the Law of Moses also required many humane measures to aid the poor and prevent others from falling into poverty.  The Law of Moses remains relevant (in a way), even though Christ has fulfilled it.  This explains why I ponder its principles while wearing a polyester shirt and eating a pork chop yet not experiencing cognitive dissonance.

The proposition that we belong to God,  not to ourselves, remains true.  So a person who annoys me greatly also belongs to God.  My worst enemy also belongs to God.  My best friend also belongs to God.  And I have the same obligation toward them that they have toward me:  to love them actively as bearers of the image of God.  That proves difficult much of the time, but such a reality does not constitute an excuse for me not to try.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 19, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MURIN OF FAHAN, LASERIAN OF LEIGHLIN, GOBAN OF PICARDIE, FOILLAN OF FOSSES, AND ULTAN OF PERONNE, ABBOTTS; AND OF SAINTS FURSEY OF PERONNE AND BLITHARIUS OF SEGANNE, MONKS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALPHEGE OF CANTERBURY, ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARY OF THE INCARNATION, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIMEON BARSABAE, BISHOP; AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/04/19/devotion-for-september-28-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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