Archive for the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ Tag

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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Trusting in God, Part I   1 comment

Genesis 12:1-9 (An American Translation):

The LORD said to Abram,

Leave your land, your relatives, and your father’s home, for the land that I will show you; and I will make a great nation of you; I will bless you, and make your name so great that it will be used for blessings.  I will bless those who bless you, and anyone who curses you I will curse; through you shall all the families of the earth invoke blessings on one another.

So Abram departed, as the LORD had told him, and Lot went with him.  Abram was seventy-five years old when he left Haran.  Abram took his wife Sarai and his nephew Lot, with all the property that they had accumulated, and the persons they had acquired in Haran, and they started out for the land of Canaan; and to the land of Canaan they came.

Abram traveled through the land as far as the sanctuary of Shechem at the terebinth of Moreh, the Canaanites being then in the land.  Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said,

To your descendants I am going to give this land.

So he built an altar there to the LORD, who had appeared to him.  From there he moved on to the hills east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east.  There he built an altar to the LORD, and called upon the name of the LORD.  Then Abram set out, continuing on his way to the Negeb.

Psalm 33:12-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

12 Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD!

happy the people he has chosen to be his own!

13 The LORD looks down from heaven,

and beholds all the people in the world.

14 From where he sits enthroned he turns his gaze

on all who dwell on the earth.

15 He fashions all the hearts of them

and understands all their works.

16 There is no king that can be saved by a mighty army;

a strong man is not delivered by his great strength.

17 The horse is a vain hope for deliverance;

for all its strength it cannot save.

18 Behold, the eye of the LORD is upon those who fear him,

on those who wait upon his love,

19 To pluck their lives from death,

and to feed them in time of famine.

20 Our soul waits for the LORD;

he is our help and our shield.

21 Indeed, our heart rejoices in him,

for in his holy name we put our trust.

22 Let your loving-kindness, O LORD, be upon us,

as we have put our trust in you.

Matthew 7:1-5 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Pass no more judgments upon other people, so that you may not have judgment passed upon you.  For you will be judged by the standard you judge by, and men will pay you back with the same measure you have used with them.  Why do you keep looking at the speck in your brother’s eye, and pay no attention to the beam that is in your own?  How can you say to your brother, ‘Just let me get that speck out of your eye,’ when all the time there is a beam in your own?  You hypocrite!  First get the beam out of your own eye, and then you can see to get the speck out of your brother’s eye.

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The Collect:

O Lord, make us have perpetual love and reverence for your holy Name, for you never fail to help and govern those whom you have set upon the sure foundation of your loving-kindness; 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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I hear and read people use the words “faith” and “believe” in reference to God.  But what do they mean?  I do not know, unless they stop to explain, but I know what I mean.  Just to be clear, faith is active trust in God, that God will keep divine promises.  Actions demonstrate faith.  Faith and belief are identical in my mind.  To believe in God is to trust in God, not merely to accept the existence of God intellectually.

Abram trusted and believed in God as he understood God.  One ought not to assume that Abram belonged to the cult of Yahweh, which originated after his lifetime.  No, Abram was almost certainly a polytheist, a description which applied to most people on the planet at the time.  And the voice that directed him to leave Ur (located somewhere in Mesopotamia; scholars disagree where in the land between the rivers) for Haran then to Canaan belonged to the deity Abram knew as El Shaddai (God of the Mountains).  This was a Mesopotamian and Canaanite god.  El was, in fact, the chief of the Canaanite pantheon the Elohim, or “mighty ones.”  And study of the Bible tells me that Elohim was another early name used for God.  Monotheism is a recent development in the history of religion, and Judaism has never included the doctrine of the Trinity.

(I am a history buff, and this fact does inform my approach to the Bible.)

Anyhow, subsequent tradition associated Yahweh with El Shaddai and Elohim.  And the author of this part of Genesis used the sacred name Yahweh for the deity who spoke to Abram.  Most importantly, Abram listened and obeyed.  He left everything he knew and ventured into the unknown.  He could have stayed home and been comfortable, but he obeyed the voice.

Jesus, in this day’s portion of the Sermon on the Mount, says not to judge others.  Our information is partial, but God knows everything.  So judgment belongs to God.  Each of us has judged others, and perhaps only those who will die immediately will not judge others again.  So we have committed this sin, and will do so again.  We might even be doing it now.  And I am at least as bad about this as are many other people.

So I address myself as much as anyone else when I write that judging others demonstrates a lack of trust in God, that God will keep divine promises.  Do I believe–trust–that someone who has done something terrible to me has thwarted God’s plan for my life, for example?  Do I doubt that God is in control?  Apparently I do, and I am not alone.  We all need more trust in God.  And, by grace, it is available.

Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS, BISHOP OF MYRA

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

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

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