Archive for the ‘Shema’ Tag

Reconciliation, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Tomb of Rabbi Hillel

Image in the Public Domain

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For the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost, Year 2, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Holy God, who sent thy Son Jesus Christ to fulfill the Law:

mercifully grant that by our actions we may show forth his perfect love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 124

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Deuteronomy 30:11-20

Acts 6:1-7

Matthew 5:17-26

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The Law of God is permanent (Matthew 5:17f), according to Jesus, agreeing with Deuteronomy 30:11f.

How, then, are we supposed to interpret the Law-related conflicts between religious authorities and our Lord and Savior?  He interpreted the Law more inwardly and rigorously.  For example, he taught reconciliation, a principle at work in Acts 6:1-7.

Reconciliation, by definition, must involve more than one party.  If I seek to reconcile with John Q. Public, that desire speaks well of me.  If Mr. Public agrees to reconcile, we accomplish reconciliation.  Yet if Mr. Public rejects my offer of reconciliation, he continues to carry his burden; I carry no burden, for I have laid it down.  That result is positive for me, but reconciliation would be preferable.

Christ’s interpretation of the Law refuses to honor the letter of the Law while violating the spirit of the Law.  Internalize the ethos of the Law, Jesus says, then act accordingly.  This is an old teaching in 2019, as I type these words.

It was not unique to Jesus, though.  Rabbi Hillel, who died when Jesus was a minor, quoted the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) when he summarized the Torah.  He continued,

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

The wisdom of Hillel and Jesus continues to instruct those who pay attention.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 18, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF BARTHOLOMÉ DE LAS CASAS, “APOSTLE TO THE INDIANS”

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR PENRHYN STANLEY, ANGLICAN DEAN OF WESTMINSTER, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD WILLIAM LEINBACH, U.S. MORAVIAN MUSICIAN AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF ELIZABETH FERARD, FIRST DEACONESS IN THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND

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Friendship V   3 comments

Above:  Job and His Alleged Friends, a Fresco

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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Job 5:6-23 or Deuteronomy 5:6-21

Psalm 41

James 2:1-17

Mark 1:29-45

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The Law of Moses, unlike the older Code of Hammurabi, to which it bears some similarity, does not bring social class into consideration.  No, the Law of Moses is impartial regarding the socio-economic status of both the victim and the perpetrator.  In the Code of Hammurabi, for example, the same crime (theft or assault, for example) leads to a harsher penalty when the victim belongs to a higher social class.  In the Law of Moses, however, the penalty is the same, regardless of anyone’s socio-economic status.  That ethic of socio-economic impartiality carries over into James 2:1-7.

The Hillelian distillation of the Law of Moss comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-5 (the Shema).  How we love God, assuming that we do, manifests in how we treat each other.  Hypocrisy is as old as human nature.  Pious fronts belie both evil intentions and lesser disregard and carelessness.  Often those who violate the Golden Rule do so while imagining that they are honoring God.  Eliphaz the Temanite and the other so-called friends of Job (who remind me of, “with friends like these, who needs enemies?”) sound like the Book of Psalms much of the time.  That fact complicates the interpretation of much of the Book of Job.  The best answer I can offer is that what they said applied in certain circumstances, but not that one.

If we were less concerned about who is wright and about insisting that we are right, and if we were more concerned about being good friends to one another, we could fulfill the spirit of most of the assigned texts for today.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES AUGUSTUS BRIGGS, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, AND ALLEGED HERETIC; AND HIS DAUGHTER, EMILIE GRACE BRIGGS, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR AND “HERETIC’S DAUGHTER”

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND ECUMENICAL PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE; AND SAINT JOSEPH THE HYMNOGRAPHER, DEFENDER OF ICONS AND “SWEET-VOICED NIGHTINGALE OF THE CHURCH”

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM HIRAM FOULKES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/14/devotion-for-the-fourth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-humes/

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Old Teachings   1 comment

Above:  Christ in the Synagogue at Capernaum, a Fresco

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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Job 3:1-26 (or 1:1-19) or Deuteronomy 5:6-21

Psalm 40

James 1:17-27

Mark 1:21-28

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And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying “What is this?  A new teaching!  With authority he commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.”

–Mark 1:28, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

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One may legitimately question whether Christ’s action in Mark 1:21-28 constituted a teaching.  Assuming that it was, was it a new teaching?

Despite traditional Christian attempts to divorce Jesus from Judaism, one would have had a difficult time finding someone more Jewish than Jesus of Nazareth.  Judaism was not monolithic two millennia ago.  (Neither is it monolithic today.)  Jesus was a man of his culture, place, and faith.  With ease he quoted Deuteronomy, the various Isaiahs, and Rabbi Hillel.  There was continuity from the Hebrew Bible (as in the Ten Commandments, repeated in Deuteronomy 5) to Jesus.

There is much continuity from the Hebrew Bible to the New Testament.  The teaching to walk, not just talk, the talk, is present in both, as in the context of the Ten Commandments and the Letter of James.  The theme of trusting in God, who cares about us (as in Psalm 40), is also present in the New Testament.  As one considers the lilies of the field, one may recall that Job had a different opinion in Job 3.  If each of us lives long enough, each of us also sometimes thinks that God does not care about us.

Occasionally, at the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia, where I teach, someone from a campus ministry politely asks me if I believe in God.  I ask this person what he or she means, for the answer depends on the question.  Many people used “believe in God” to mean “affirm the existence of God,” but belief, in the creedal sense, is trust.  My answer is that I always affirm the existence of God and usually trust in God.

I (usually) trust in God, incarnate in the historical figure of Jesus of Nazareth, whose teachings were mostly old, in continuity with the Hebrew Bible.  The Golden Rule and the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5) are old, for example.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MILTON SMITH LITTLEFIELD, JR., U.S. PRESBYTERIAN AND CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

THE FEAST OF SIGISMUND VON BIRKEN, GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CULLEN BRYANT, U.S. POET, JOURNALIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Adapted from this post:

https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2019/06/13/devotion-for-the-third-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-b-humes/

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Hesed, Part III   1 comment

Above:  The Feast of Esther, by Jan Lievens

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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Esther 7:1-10; 9:20-22 or Isaiah 61:10-62:3

Psalm 35:1-3, 9-18

1 Corinthians 13

Matthew 22:34-46

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Today’s readings from the Hebrew Bible reflect danger and divine deliverance.  In Esther and Isaiah the agents of divine deliverance are human beings.

The appeal for divine deliverance is the request for hesed, or loving kindness, steadfast love, keeping of faith.  That is a form of love that is covenantal and beyond sentimentality.  That is the human love in 1 Corinthians 13.  That is the love for God and neighbor in Matthew 22:34-40, quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18, and sounding much like the then-fairly recently deceased Rabbi Hillel.

Two words I often hear misused are “love” and “friend.”  I like chocolate, not love it.  In the age of social media “friend” has taken on superficial and shallow connotations.  Regardless of how many “friends” one has on any given social media website, one is fortunate if one has a few friends face-to-face–people who will proverbially go through hell for one.  I mean no disrespect to Joseph Scriven (1820-1886), author of the hymn, “What a Friend We Have in Jesus.”  Yet the passage,

Do thy friends despise, forsake thee?

Take it to the Lord in prayer!

is inaccurate.  If we define a friend as an individual who behaves as a friend, those alleged friends in the hymn are actually enemies.  If one has “friends” such as those, one joins the company of Job, afflicted by four enemies by the time the final author of that book wrote.

May we be agents of hesed to one another.  May we have hesed for God.  After all, God has hesed for all of us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 17, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JUTTA OF DISIBODENBERG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND HER STUDENT, SAINT HILDEGARD OF BINGEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF GERARD MOULTRIE, ANGLICAN PRIEST, HYMN WRITER, AND TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SZCESNY FELINSKI, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF WARSAW, TITULAR BISHOP OF TARSUS, AND FOUNDER OF RECOVERY FOR THE POOR AND THE CONGREGATION OF THE FRANCISCAN SISTERS OF THE FAMILY OF MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZYGMUNT SAJNA, POLISH ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1940

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Adapted from this post:

https://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2018/09/17/devotion-for-proper-25-year-a-humes/

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Spiritual Barriers   1 comment

Ramparts of Constantinople

Above:  Ramparts of Constantinople, Ottoman Empire, Between 1900 and 1920

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-15141

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The Collect:

O Lord God, you are the holy lawgiver, you are the salvation of your people.

By your Spirit renew us in your covenant of love,

and train us to care tenderly for all our neighbors,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 6:1-9, 20-25 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 10:10-22 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 119:41-48 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:41-48 (All Days)

James 2:8-13 (Monday)

James 2:14-26 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:16-22 (Wednesday)

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I shall continue to keep your law;

I shall keep it for ever and ever.

I will walk at liberty,

because I study your commandments.

–Psalm 119:44-45, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Rabbi Hillel summarized the Law of Moses by quoting the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), the order to love Yahweh with all one’s heart, soul, and might.  Then he said,

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

We humans require “hooks” onto which to “hang” information.  Hillel pointed to an excellent one.  Much of the information, in the Law of Moses, consists of culturally specific examples of timeless principles.  Many interpreters of that code miss this point, hence continued legalism while missing the point.  Some have become lost in the trees and cannot see the forest.

The readings for these three days combine to reinforce a few theological points:

  1. How we think of God influences how we think of people;
  2. How we think influences how we act;
  3. How we treat people matters to God;
  4. To have only abstract theology is insufficient;
  5. As I heard growing up, “our prayers must have feet;” and
  6. We must eliminate spiritual barriers to trusting God.

These six points overlap, for, if we fear scarcity, for example, we might hoard in our self-interest and thereby deprive others of necessities.  God will notice that reality.

All of us have spiritual barriers.  One barrier for the man in Matthew 19:16-22 was wealth, which has functioned in that capacity for many people for a long time.  Fear of vulnerability is among the most common barriers.  This applies to the rich man in Matthew 19 because his wealth insulated him from certain stresses and other problems.  To overcome this fear is a great challenge, especially if one has acculturated in a setting which encourages rugged individualism.  The truth, of course, is that we all rely on each other and depend entirely on God.  Yet the illusion of independence and self-sufficiency remains as a major obstacle to trusting in God.  May we, by grace, find liberation from all barriers which separate us from a deeper relationship with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 4, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ALL CHRISTIAN PEACEMAKERS AND PEACE ACTIVISTS

THE FEAST OF ALBERT SCHWEITZER, MEDICAL MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF PAUL JONES, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF UTAH AND WITNESS FOR PEACE

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2014/09/04/devotion-for-monday-tuesday-and-wednesday-after-proper-25-year-a-elca-daily-lectionary/

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Love   1 comment

Above:  Elisabeth Louise Vigee-Lebrun and Her Daughter (1789), by Elisabeth Vigee-Lebrun

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Ruth 1:1-22 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

In the days when the chieftains ruled, there was a famine in the land; and a man of Bethlehem in Judah, with his wife and two sons, went to reside in the country of Moab.  The man’s name was Elimelech, his wife’s name was Naomi, and his two sons were named Mahlon and Chilion–Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah.  They came to the country of Moab and remained there.

Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons.  They married Moabite women, one named Orpah and the other Ruth, and they lived there about ten years.  Then those two–Mahlon and Chilion–also died; so the woman was left without her two sons and without her husband.

She started out with her daughters-in-law to return from the country of Moab; for in the country of Moab she had heard that the LORD had taken note of His people and given them food.  Accompanied by her two daughters-in-law, she left the place where she had been living; and they set out on the road back to the land of Judah.

But Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law,

Turn back, each of you to her mother’s house.  May the LORD deal kindly with you, as you have dealt with the dead and with me!  May the LORD grant that each of you find security in the house of a husband!

And she kissed them farewell.  They broke into weeping, and said to her,

No, we will return with you to your people.

But Naomi replied,

Turn back, my daughters!  Why should you go with me?  Have I any more sons in my body who might be husbands for you?  Turn back, my daughters, for I am too old to be married.  Even if I thought there was hope for me, even if I were married tonight, and I also bore sons, should you wait for them to grow up?  Should you on their account debar yourselves from marriage?  Oh no, my daughters!  My lot is far more bitter than yours, for the hand of the LORD has struck out against me.

They broke into weeping again, and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law farewell.  But Ruth clung to her.  So she said,

See, your sister-in-law has returned to her people and her gods.  Go follow your sister-in-law.

But Ruth replied,

Do not urge me to leave you, to turn back and not follow you.  For wherever you go, I will go; wherever you lodge, I will lodge; your people shall be my people, and your God my God.  Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried.  Thus and more may the LORD do to me if anything but death parts me from you.

When [Naomi] saw how determined she was to go with her, she ceased to argue with her; and the two went on until they reached Bethlehem.

When they arrived in Bethlehem, the whole city buzzed with excitement over them.  The women said,

Can this be Naomi?

She replied,

Do not call me Naomi.  Call me Mara, for Shaddai has made my lot very bitter.  I went away full, and the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has brought me back empty.  How can you call me Naomi, when the LORD has dealt harshly with me, when Shaddai has brought misfortune upon me!

Thus Naomi returned from the country of Moab; she returned with her daughter-in-law Ruth the Moabite.  They arrived in Bethlehem at the beginning of the barley harvest.

Psalm 146 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Hallelujah!

Praise the LORD, O my soul!

I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.

2 Put not your trust in rulers, nor in any child of earth,

for there is not help in them.

When they breathe their last, they return to earth,

and in that day their thoughts perish.

Happy are they who have the God of Jacob for their help!

whose hope is in the LORD their God;

Who made heaven and earth, the seas, and all that is in them;

who keeps his promise for ever.

Who gives justice to those who are oppressed,

and food to those who hunger.

The LORD sets the prisoner free;

the LORD opens the eyes of the blind;

the LORD lifts up those who are bowed down.

8 The LORD loves the righteous;

the LORD cares for the stranger;

he sustains the orphan and the widow,

but frustrates the way of the wicked!

The LORD shall reign for ever,

your God, O Zion, throughout all generations.

Hallelujah!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Deuteronomy 6:1-9 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And this is the commandment, the laws, and the judgments that YHWH, your God, commanded to teach you to do in the land to which you’re crossing to take possession of it, so that you’ll fear YHWH, your God, to observe all His laws and His commandments that I’m commanding you:  you and your child and your child’s child, all the days of your life, and so that your days will be extended.  And you will shall listen, Israel, and and be watchful to it, that it will be good for you and that you’ll multiply very much, as YHWH, your fathers’ God, spoke to you:  a land flowing with milk and honey.

Listen, Israel:  YHWH is our God.  YHWH is one.  And you shall love YHWH, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  And you shall impart them to your children, and you shall speak about them when you sit in your house and when you go in the road and when you lie down and when you get up.  And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall become bands between your eyes.  And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and in your gates.

Psalm 119:1-8 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Happy are they whose way is blameless,

who walk in the law of the LORD!

Happy are they who observe his decrees

and seek him with all their hearts!

3 Who never do any wrong,

but always walk in his ways.

4 You laid down your commandments,

that we should fully keep them.

Oh, that my ways were made so direct

that I might keep your statutes!

Then I should not be put to shame,

when I regard all your commandments.

I will thank you with an unfeigned heart,

when I have learned your righteous judgments.

I will keep your statutes;

do not utterly forsake me.

SECOND READING

Hebrews 9:11-14 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once and for all into the Holy Place, taking not the blood of goats and calves but not his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.  For if the sprinkling of defiled persons with the blood of goats and bulls and with the ashes of a heifer sanctifies for the purification of the flesh, how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify your conscience from dead works to serve the living God.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 12:28-34 (Revised English Bible):

Then one of the scribes, who had been listening to these discussions and had observed how well Jesus answered, came forward and asked him,

Which is the first of all the commandments?

He answered,

The first is, “Hear, O Israel:  the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.”  The second is this:  ”You must love your neighbour as yourself.”  No other commandment is greater than these.

The scribe said to him,

Well said, Teacher.  You are right in saying that God is one and beside him there is no other.  And to love him with all your heart, all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself–that means far more than any whole-offerings and sacrifices.

When Jesus saw how thoughtfully he answered, he said to him,

You are not far from the kingdom of God.

After that nobody dared put any more questions to him.

The Collect:

Almighty and merciful God, it is only by your gift that your faithful people offer you true and laudable service: Grant that we may run without stumbling to obtain your heavenly promises; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 26, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/proper-26-year-a/

Ruth 1:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/week-of-proper-15-friday-year-1/

Deuteronomy 6:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/week-of-proper-13-saturday-year-1/

Hebrews 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/29/week-of-2-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-seventh-day-of-lent-wednesday-in-holy-week/

Mark 12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/week-of-proper-4-thursday-year-1/

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

Matthew 22 (Parallel to Mark 12):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/proper-25-year-a/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/week-of-proper-15-friday-year-1/

Luke 10 (Parallel to Mark 12):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/04/25/week-of-proper-22-monday-year-1/

A Prayer for Compassion:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/24/a-prayer-for-compassion/

Prayers for Those Who Suffer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/07/18/prayers-for-those-who-suffer/

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The context for this Sunday’s reading from Mark is Holy Week; Jesus will die soon.  This places the statement about the greatest commandments in a certain light and helps explain the lectionary committee’s decision to pair Hebrews 9:11-14 with Mark 12:28-34.  And Jesus pulled the two greatest commandments from the Law of Moses–Deuteronomy 6:4-5 and Leviticus 19:18, to be precise.  Our Lord also agreed with his elder (and deceased) contemporary, Rabbi Hillel, on the question of the summary of the Law of Moses.

There are types of love in the Bible, and we see some of the best representatives of love in this Sunday’s readings.  A daughter-in-law remains loyal to her mother-in-law.  We read of the commandments to love God fully and our neighbors as ourselves, and of the depth of God’s love for us.  I must add something else here to augment that thought.  I write devotions in sequence, according to lectionaries (more or less).  Very recently I wrote a devotion on Ephesians 5, which, while discussing marriage, commands the husband to love his wife.  The text speaks of the two as one flesh:

He who loves his wife loves himself.–Ephesians 5:28b, New Revised Standard Version

We will love ourselves most or all of the time, unless we loathe ourselves, as some do.  I suspect, though, that egotism is more rampant than self-loathing.  So the main spiritual task for most of us is to place ourselves in proper context–not superior to others in the eyes of God–and to act compassionately toward others, as if toward ourselves.  We are not isolated from others; what one does affects others.  Yes, we are separate and unique in body and personality, but no, we are not isolated from others even in these matters.  We have the power to build people up or to tear them down; may we, for the common good and the love of God, do the former, not the latter.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 8, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN VON STAUPITZ, MARTIN LUTHER’S SPIRITUAL MENTOR

THE FEAST OF JAMES THEODORE HOLLY, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF HAITI

THE FEAST OF JOHN MILTON, POET AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE ANGLICAN COMMUNION

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/08/proper-26-year-b/

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Finally, A Sincere Question!   3 comments

Above:  First Paragraph of the Shema in Hebrew

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

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Tobit 6:9-11; 7:1-15 (Revised English Bible):

When Tobias had entered Media and was already approaching Ecbatana, Raphael said to the youth,

Tobias, my friend.

He replied,

Yes.

Raphael said:

We must stay tonight with Raguel, who is a relative of yours.  He has a daughter named Sarah, but no other children, neither sons nor daughters.   You as her next of kin have the right to marry her and inherit the girl’s property….

As they entered Ecbatana Tobias said,

Azarias, my friend, take me straight to our kinsman Raguel.

So he took him to Raguel’s house, where they found him sitting by the courtyard gate.  They greeted him first, and he replied,

Greetings to you, my friends.  You are indeed welcome.

When he brought them into his house, he said to Edna his wife,

Is not this young man like my kinsman Tobit?

Edna questioned him,

Friends, where do you come from?

They answered,

We belong to the tribe of Naphtali, now in captivity at Nineveh.

She asked,

Do you know our kinsman Tobit?

They replied,

Yes, we do.

She said,

Is he well?

They answered,

He is alive and well

and Tobias added,

He is my father.

Raguel jumped up and, with tears in his eyes, he kissed him.

God bless you, my boy,

he said,

son of a good and upright father.  But what a calamity that so just and charitable a man has lost his sight!

He embraced Tobias his kinsman and wept; Edna his wife and their daughter Sarah also wept for Tobit.

Raguel slaughtered a ram from the flock and entertained them royally.  They bathed and then, after washing their hands, took their places at the meal.  Tobias said to Raphael,

Azarias, my friend, ask Raguel to give me Sarah my kinswoman.

Raguel overheard this and said to the young man:

Eat and drink tonight, and enjoy yourself. There is no one but yourself who should have my daughter Sarah; indeed, I ought not to give her anyone else, since you are my nearest kinsman.  However, I must reveal the truth to you, my son:  I have given her in marriage to seven of our kinsmen, and they all died on their wedding night.  My son, eat and drink now, and may the Lord deal kindly with you both.

Tobias answered,

I shall not eat again or drink until you have disposed of this business of mine.

Raguel said to him,

I shall do so:  I give her to you in accordance with the decree in the book of Moses, and Heaven itself has decreed that she shall be yours.  Take your kinswoman; from now on belong to her and she to you, from today she is yours for ever.  May all go well with you both this night, my son; may the Lord of heaven grant you mercy and peace.

Raguel called for Sarah and, when she came, he took her by the hand and gave her to Tobias with these words:

Receive my daughter as your wedded wife in accordance with the law, the decree written in the book of Moses; keep her and take her safely home to your father.  And may the God of heaven grant you prosperity and peace.

Then he sent for her mother and told her to fetch a roll of papyrus, and he wrote out and put his seal on a marriage contract giving Sarah to Tobias as his wife according to this decree.  After that they began to eat and drink.

Psalm 128 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who fear the LORD,

and who follow in your ways!

2 You shall eat the fruit of your labor;

happiness and prosperity shall be yours.

Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house,

your children like olive shoots round about your table.

4 The man who fears the LORD

shall thus be blessed.

The LORD bless you from Zion,

and may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem all the days of your life.

May you live to see your children’s children;

may peace be upon Israel.

Mark 12:28-34 (Revised English Bible):

Then one of the scribes, who had been listening to these discussions and had observed how well Jesus answered, came forward and asked him,

Which is the first of all the commandments?

He answered,

The first is, ‘Hear, O Israel:  the Lord our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’   The second is this:  ‘You must love your neighbour as yourself.’  No other commandment is greater than these.

The scribe said to him,

Well said, Teacher.  You are right in saying that God is one and beside him there is no other.  And to love him with all your heart, all your understanding, and all your strength, and to love your neighbour as yourself–that means far more than any whole-offerings and sacrifices.

When Jesus saw how thoughtfully he answered, he said to him,

You are not far from the kingdom of God.

After that nobody dared put any more questions to him.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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THE SHEMA

Hear, Israel:  the LORD is our God, the LORD our one God; and you must love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments which I give you this day are to be remembered and taken to heart; repeat them to your children, and speak to them both indoors and out of doors, when you lie down and when you get up.  Bind them as a sign on your hand and wear them as a pendant on your forehead; write them on the doorposts of your houses and on your gates.

–Deuteronomy 6:4-9 (Revised English Bible)

The recent arc of the Markan narrative in the lectionary has been one of Jesus fielding insincere questions.  But, at the end of this part of the story, a scribe asks an intelligent and sincere question:  What is the greatest commandment.  This man receives a reply unlike the one Jesus had for the Sadducees just a few verses ago:  “You are so far from the truth!”  In this case, Jesus quotes the Shema, a duly famous part of the Law of Moses, and amends it:  We must love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  The scribe agrees with the answer, and Jesus says that the man is near to the kingdom of God.  Did the scribe complete the journey?  The texts are silent on that point, but I hope the answer is affirmative.

Too often certain people and institutions who claim the Christian label become caught up in legalism and call this holiness.  For example, the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) began in the 1800s as a Restorationist body claiming the Bible alone as its source of authority in matters of doctrine and practice.  For a while men were not allowed to wear neckties to church; the denomination was that strict.  The Anderson, Indiana, group liberalized by 1910-1911, when it permitted men to wear neckties to church.  This was one issue that prompted the Church of God (Guthrie, Oklahoma) to break away; it opposed neckties.  (My source = Encyclopedia of American Religions)

In the 1960s, in rural Kathleen, Georgia, parents began to offer a regular Saturday night chaperoned dance at the fellowship hall of Andrew Chapel Methodist Church.  This was an event for local youth, so they would have something positive to do on the weekend.  One night, the pastor of a local Baptist church made an unfortunate scene at one of these dances when he complained loudly about all the allegedly sinful dancing taking place indoors.  Some of his parishioners were at that dance, and that pastor had to seek other employment shortly thereafter.  (My source = the United Methodist minister who had served as pastor of Andrew Chapel in the 1960s)

These are just two examples of what has happened when people seeking to obey God become so lost in the trees that they lose sight of the forest.  If we will focus on loving people as ourselves, for example, many details will fall into place.  It is laudable to love the Bible, but not to seek permission for every minute detail (such as whether it is proper to wear a necktie) in its pages.  And the denunciation of all dancing as sinful is an old saw, one that ought to die.

As Jesus reiterated, we need to love God fully.  After all, God loves us.  The Book of Tobit tells a fictional story of that love.  After the events of the previous excerpt from Tobit, the elderly blind man sends his son to Ectabana, in Media, to visit a family friend with whom Tobit had deposited money.  (Tobit and Anna needed the money now.)  The archangel Raphael, disguised as Azarias, a kinsman of Tobias, accompanies Tobit’s son to Ecbatana and helps ensure the successful match-making between Tobias and Sarah.  The divine healing of Sarah then Tobit is about to commence in the narrative.

The scriptures say that God wants to be gracious to us.  May we respond favorably to God and extend grace to others, as we have opportunity.  Yesterday I had the chance to be extraordinarily kind to a student experiencing a medical situation.  It will not derail her progress in my course; I will not permit it to do so.  I mention this for one reason:  Everything I have learned from my formative years tells me that my decision was the only proper one.  So, when the opportunity to function as an agent of grace presented itself, I never considered doing anything else.  Yes, I broke rules to do this, but God has broken rules in order to extend grace to many of us again and again.  I have learned the meaning of the words of Jesus:

Go and do likewise.

All praise to the God of mercy!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 16, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGARET OF SCOTLAND, QUEEN

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPE MOSCATI, PHYSICIAN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/week-of-proper-4-thursday-year-1/

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Loving Our Neighbors As We Love Ourselves   1 comment

Above:  The Logo of Lehman Brothers, Now Defunct

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Deuteronomy 34:1-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

Moses went up from the plains of Moab to Mount Nebo, to the top of Pisgah, which is opposite Jericho, and the LORD showed him the whole land: Gilead as far as Dan, all Naphtali, the land of Ephraim and Manasseh, all the land of Judah as far as the Western Sea, the Negeb, and the Plain– that is, the valley of Jericho, the city of palm trees– as far as Zoar. The LORD said to him,

This is the land of which I swore to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, saying, “I will give it to your descendants”; I have let you see it with your eyes, but you shall not cross over there.

Then Moses, the servant of the LORD, died there in the land of Moab, at the LORD’s command. He was buried in a valley in the land of Moab, opposite Beth-peor, but no one knows his burial place to this day. Moses was one hundred twenty years old when he died; his sight was unimpaired and his vigor had not abated. The Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days; then the period of mourning for Moses was ended.

Joshua son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom, because Moses had laid his hands on him; and the Israelites obeyed him, doing as the LORD had commanded Moses.

Never since has there arisen a prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face. He was unequaled for all the signs and wonders that the LORD sent him to perform in the land of Egypt, against Pharaoh and all his servants and his entire land, and for all the mighty deeds and all the terrifying displays of power that Moses performed in the sight of all Israel.

Psalm 90:1-6, 13-17 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

 Lord, you have been our refuge

from one generation to another.

 Before the mountains were brought forth,

or the land and the earth were born,

from age to age you are God.

3  You turn us back to the dust and say,

“Go back, O child of earth.”

 For a thousand years in your sight are like yesterday when it is past

and like a watch in the night.

 You sweep us away like a dream;

we fade away suddenly like the grass.

 In the morning it is green and flourishes;

in the evening it is dried up and withered.

13  Return, O LORD; how long will you tarry?

be gracious to your servants.

14  Satisfy us with your loving-kindness in the morning;

so shall we rejoice and be glad all the days of our life.

15  Make us glad with the measure of the days that you afflicted us

and the years in which we suffered adversity.

16  Show your servants your works

and your splendor to their children.

17  May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us;

prosper the work of our hands;

prosper our handiwork.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Leviticus 19:1-2, 15-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD spoke to Moses, saying:

Speak to all the congregation of the people of Israel and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.

You shall not render an unjust judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great: with justice you shall judge your neighbor. You shall not go around as a slanderer among your people, and you shall not profit by the blood of your neighbor: I am the LORD.

You shall not hate in your heart anyone of your kin; you shall reprove your neighbor, or you will incur guilt yourself. You shall not take vengeance or bear a grudge against any of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the LORD.

Psalm 1 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Happy are they who have not walked in the counsel of the wicked,

nor lingered in the way of sinners,

nor sat in the seats of the scornful!

2 Their delight is in the law of the LORD,

and the meditate on his law day and night.

They are like trees planted by streams of water,

bearing fruit in due season, with leaves that do not wither,

everything they do shall prosper.

4 It is not so with the wicked;

they are like the chaff which the wind blows away.

Therefore the wicked shall not stand upright when judgment comes,

nor the sinner in the council of the righteous.

For the LORD knows the ways of the righteous,

but the way of the wicked is doomed.

SECOND READING

1 Thessalonians 2:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

You yourselves know, brothers and sisters, that our coming to you was not in vain, but though we had already suffered and been shamefully mistreated at Philippi, as you know, we had courage in our God to declare to you the gospel of God in spite of great opposition. For our appeal does not spring from deceit or impure motives or trickery, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the message of the gospel, even so we speak, not to please mortals, but to please God who tests our hearts. As you know and as God is our witness, we never came with words of flattery or with a pretext for greed; nor did we seek praise from mortals, whether from you or from others, though we might have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children. So deeply do we care for you that we are determined to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you have become very dear to us.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 22:34-46 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together, and one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him.

Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?

He said to him,

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.

Now while the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them this question:

What do you think of the Messiah? Whose son is he?

They said to him,

The son of David.

He said to them,

How is it then that David by the Spirit calls him Lord, saying,

“The Lord said to my Lord,

Sit at my right hand,

until I put your enemies under your feet”?

If David thus calls him Lord, how can he be his son?

No one was able to give him an answer, nor from that day did anyone dare to ask him any more questions.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, increase in us the gifts of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain what you promise, make us love what you command; 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:

Deuteronomy 34:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/week-of-proper-14-wednesday-year-1/

Leviticus 19:

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

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

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

1 Thessalonians 2:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/01/week-of-proper-16-tuesday-year-1/

Matthew 22:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/24/week-of-proper-15-friday-year-1/

Mark 12 (Parallel to Matthew 22):

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/16/week-of-proper-4-thursday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/17/week-of-proper-4-friday-year-1/

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There was a notoriously violent slave master in the Antebellum U.S. South.  This man also claimed to be a good Christian.  Indeed, he attended church frequently and bore the nickname “Deacon.”  One of Deacon’s slaves left a written testament in which he claimed not to want to go to Heaven if Deacon was going to be there.

Many of us are aware of the Golden Rule and the Shema.  We quote them and make warm and positive statements about the Good Samaritan.  Yet how often do we act to the contrary and/or justify those who do?  Do we really believe our excuses or are we trying to convince ourselves of that which we know to be immoral?

And how much better off would the rest of us be if certain people in some corporations valued the common good more than short-term profits?

This is a very basic topic–one I have covered elsewhere, as the links testify.  So, in the name of not repeating myself too many times, I conclude with these words:  Whatever the cost(s) to ourselves, may we love our neighbors as ourselves.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 11, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY KNOX SHERRILL, PRESIDING BISHOP OF THE EPISCOPAL CHURCH

THE FEAST OF MATTEO RICCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF RUATARA, TE ARA MO TE RONGOPAI, GATEWAY FOR THE GOSPEL

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on May 11, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/11/proper-25-year-a/

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God, Known Through Acts in History   1 comment

Above:  The Shema in Hebrew

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Deuteronomy 6:4-13 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

[Moses said,]:

Listen, Israel:  YHWH is our God.  YHWH is one.  And you shall love YHWH, your God, with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  And you shall impart them to your children, and you shall speak about them when you sit in your house and when you go in the road and when you lie down and when you get up.  And you shall bind them for a sign on your hand, and they shall become bands between your eyes.  And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and in your gates.

And it will be when YHWH, your God, will bring you to the land that He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give you big and good cities that you didn’t build, and houses filled with everything good that you didn’t fill, and cisterns hewed that you didn’t hew, vineyards and olives that you didn’t plant, and you’ll eat and be satisfied, watch yourself in case you’ll forget YHWH, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from a house of slaves.  It’s YHWH, your God, whom you’ll fear, and it’s He whom you’ll serve, and it in His name that you’ll swear….

Psalm 18:1-2, 48-50 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

I love you, O LORD my strength,

O LORD my stronghold, my crag, and my haven.

2 My God, my rock in whom I put my trust,

my shield, the horn of my salvation, and my refuge;

you are worthy of praise.

48 You rescued me from the fury of my enemies;

you exalted me above those who rose against me;

you saved me from my deadly foe.

49 Therefore will I extol you among the nations, O LORD,

and sing praises to your Name.

50 He multiplies the victories of his king;

he knows loving-kindness to his anointed,

to David and his descendants for ever.

Matthew 17:14-20 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

When they returned to the crowd again a man came and knelt in front of Jesus.

Lord, have pity on my son,

he said,

for he is a lunatic and suffers terribly.  He is always falling into the fire or into the water.  I did bring him to your disciples but they couldn’t cure him.

You really are an unbelieving and difficult people,

Jesus returned.

How long must I be with you, and how long must I put up with you?  Bring him here to me!

Then Jesus spoke sternly to the evil spirit and it went out of the boy, who was cured from that moment.

Afterwards the disciples approached Jesus privately and asked,

Why weren’t we able to get rid of it?

Jesus replied,

Because you have so little faith.  I assure you that if you have faith the size of a mustard-seed you can say to this hill, “Up you get and move over there!” and it will move–and you will find nothing is impossible.

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The Collect:

Let your continual mercy, O Lord, cleanse and defend your Church; and, because it cannot continue in safety without your help, protect and govern it always by your goodness; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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The reading from Deuteronomy contains the Shema, an oft-quoted passage within the Bible.  Jesus quotes in the canonical Gospels, for example, and pairs it with the command to love one’s neighbor as oneself.  On these two commands, he says, hang all the Law and the Prophets.

Professor Richard Elliott Friedman, in his Commentary on the Torah, says this about the Shema:

In comparing Israel’s monotheism to pagan religion, we must appreciate that the difference between one and many is not the same sort of thing as the difference between two and three or between six and twenty.  It is not numerical.  It is a different concept of what a god is.  A God who is outside of nature, known through acts of history, a creator, unseeable, without a mate, who makes legal covenants with humans, who is one, is a revolution in religious conception. (Page 586)

Even more revolutionary is the Incarnation of Jesus, fully human and fully divine.  This is God in both physical and visible forms, as Messiah, but not according to the prevailing expectations along the lines of national liberation.  This is the one in whom I place faith, and in whom I can do more than many might think possible.

Think about the implications:  God loves us and directs us in paths for our own good and that of those around us.  So we have an obligation to reciprocate and to love our neighbors as ourselves–with great respect.  We need to stand up for and help each other as we are able, and we need to act according to a principle that Martin Luther King, Jr., stated eloquently:  “Injustice anywhere is injustice everywhere.”  We have an obligation to help each other become what God wants each to become.  How we act toward each other is part and parcel of how we respond to God.

So this matter is far from abstract.  Both trust in God and the lack thereof are observable.  Compassion, kindness, and love are far more than warm, fuzzy feelings; they lead to observable deeds.  May we show our love and regard for the God of history through our own actions toward each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 28, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT THOMAS AQUINAS, ROMAN CATHOLIC THEOLOGIAN

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on January 28, 2011

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/28/week-of-proper-13-saturday-year-1/

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Posted October 2, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Deuteronomy 6, Matthew 17, Psalm 18

Tagged with

Idolatry, Again: Elijah Versus Prophets of Baal   1 comment

Above:  Elijah’s Sacrifice Consumed by Fire

Image Source = Cadetgray

1 Kings 18:20-39 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

Ahab sent orders to all Israelites and gathered the prophets at Mount Carmel.  Elijah approached all the people and said,

How long will you keep hopping between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him; and if Baal, follow him!

But the people answered him not a word.  Then Elijah said to the people,

I am the only prophet of the LORD left, while the prophets of Baal are four hundred and fifty men.  Let two young bulls be given to us.  Let them choose one bull, cut it up, and lay it on the wood, but let them not apply fire; I will prepare the other bull, and lay it on the wood, and will not apply fire.  You will then invoke your god by name, and I will invoke the LORD by name; and let us agree:  the god who responds with fire, that one is God.

And all the people answered,

Very good!

Elijah said to the prophets of Baal,

Choose one bull and prepare it first, for you are the majority; invoke your god by name, but apply no fire.

They took the bull that was given them; they prepared it, and invoked Baal by name from morning until noon, shouting,

O Baal, answer us!

But there was no sound, and none who responded; so they performed a hopping dance about the altar that had been set up.  When noon came, Elijah mocked them, saying,

Shout louder!  After all, he is a god.  But he may be in conversation, he may be detained, or he may be on a journey, or perhaps he is asleep and will wake up.

So they shouted louder, and gashed themselves with knives and spears, according to their practice, until the blood streamed over them.  When noon passed, they kept raving until the hour of presenting the meal offering.  Still there was no sound, and none who responded or heeded.

Then Elijah said to all the people,

Come closer to me;

and all the people came closer to him.  He repaired the damaged altar of the LORD.  Then Elijah took twelve stones, corresponding to the number of the tribes of the sons of Jacob–to whom the word of the LORD had come:

Israel shall be your name

–and with the stones he built an altar in the name of the LORD.  Around the altar he made a trench large enough for the two seahs of seed.  He laid out the wood, and he cut up the bull and laid it on the wood.  And he said,

Fill four jars with water and pour it over the burnt offering and the wood.

Then he said,

Do it a second time;

and they did it a second time.

Do it a third time,

he said; and they did a third time.  The water ran down around the altar, and even the trench was filled with water.

When it was time to present the meal offering, the prophet Elijah came forward and said,

O LORD, God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel!  Let it be known today that You are God in Israel and that I am Your servant, and that I have done all these things at Your bidding.  Answer me, O LORD, answer me, that this people may know that You, O LORD, are God; for You have turned their hearts backward.

Then fire from the LORD descended and consumed the burnt offering, the wood, the stones, and the earth; and it licked up the water that was in the trench.  When they saw this, the people flung themselves on their faces and cried out,

The LORD alone is God, The LORD alone is God!

Psalm 16:1, 6-11 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

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

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

my good above all other.”

6 My boundaries enclose a pleasant land;

indeed, I have a goodly heritage.

I will bless the LORD who gives my counsel;

my heart teaches me, night after night.

I have set the LORD always before me;

because he is at my right hand I shall not fall.

9 My heart, therefore, is glad, and my spirit rejoices;

my body also shall rest in hope.

10 For you will not abandon me to the grave,

nor will your holy one see the Pit.

11 You will show me the path of life;

in your presence there is fullness of joy,

and in your right hand are pleasures for evermore.

Matthew 5:17-19 (An American Translation):

[Jesus continued,]

Do not suppose that I have come to do away with the Law or the Prophets.  I have not come to do away with them but to complete them.  For I tell you, as long as heaven and earth endure, not one dotting of an i or crossing of a will be dropped from the Law until it is all observed.  Anyone, therefore, who weakens one of the slightest of these commands, and teaches others to do so, will be ranked lowest in the Kingdom of Heaven; but anyone who observes them and teaches others to do so will be ranked high in the Kingdom of Heaven.

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The Collect:

O God, your never-failing providence sets in order all things both in heaven and earth:  Put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things, and give us those things which are profitable for us; 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 took notes for this post and drafted my comments a few days ago.  Now, as I type the final version, I have the first part of Mendelssohn’s Elijah playing.  It is appropriate timing, for the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal is about to begin.

There was a real choice between Yahweh and Baal.  This day we have part of the account of the account of the duel of a sort between Elijah, speaking for Yahweh, and 450 prophets of Baal.  Yahweh wins despite seemingly improbable odds.  A fire on a drenched altar? Who had heard of such a thing?

The prophets of Baal, for all their pleading, dancing, and bloodletting, failed.  How could they not?  Baal was imaginary.  This was an unambiguous victory for Yahweh.  Yet the idolatry continued for centuries.  Some people are just stubborn, apparently.

“The Law,” in the context of the Gospels, has layers and aspects.  There are, for starters, the letter (economically and culturally specific to circumstances, which change and therefore fail to apply after a while) of the law and there is the spirit (not tied to circumstances) thereof.  There is the Law of Moses and then there are elaborations upon it which people have added over time.  Jesus is consistent with the best of these traditions (the spirit of the law), not the persnickety details the Gospel writers quote him as contradicting.

The audience for Matthew was Jewish Christian, so this was an important point for the author of that text to make clear.  Jesus was an observant Jew, albeit neither a Pharisee nor a Sadducee.  For Jesus performing merciful deeds was legal and commendable on every day of week.  In contrast, strict Pharisees allowed only the most basic first aid on the Sabbath, delaying more advanced medical attention until the next day.  ”Do the most good you can everyday,” Jesus said with this words and deeds, “including on the Sabbath.”

There is nothing sinful about that.

The choice between goodness and the Law and the Prophets, when one interprets the latter correctly, is an illusion.  When one follows our Lord and Savior’s admonition to love God fully and one’s neighbor as one’s self, the two commandments on which all the Law and the Prophets hang, one keeps the Law.

It is that simple–and that challenging.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 6, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE TRANSFIGURATION OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST

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Published originally at ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS BY KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/06/week-of-proper-5-wednesday-year-2/

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