Archive for the ‘St. Matthew’ Tag

Taking Offense   Leave a comment

Above:  The Calling of Saint Matthew, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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

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Lord, open our eyes that we may behold wondrous things out of thy Law,

and open our hearts that we may receive the gift of thy saving love;

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 119

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Jeremiah 7:1-7

Colossians 3:12-17

Mark 2:1-17

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Jeremiah 7:1-7 and Mark 2:1-17 contain offensive speech and actions.  They qualify as offensive not because of any profane nature but because, in real time, some people found them offensive.  The antidote to taking offense wrongly in such cases is following the advice in Colossians 3:12-17.

How quickly and easily do we take offense at that which is good and kind?  Yes, difficult truths offend us, but, in many circumstances, the warning of judgment is an opportunity for repentance.  We ought to welcome such opportunities, which are mercies.

Life is more pleasant when we take offense only when appropriate to do so.  Exploitation, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, nativism, pollution, unnecessary violence, and disregard for human life should, for example, always offend us.  They ought to offend us so much that we act collectively to alter our societies in the direction of what Theodore Parker (1810-1860), the maverick Unitarian minister, a prominent abolitionist, and an advocate of civil disobedience in the context of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, referred to as the moral arc of the universe that bends toward justice.

Some on the Right pretend that the Left has a monopoly on snowflakism.  I know from experience that conservative snowflakes also exist, for I have offended some of them by, for example, politely disagreeing with them.  In the classroom I have experience offending others by presenting objective, confirmed facts about ancient comparative religion.  I also offend many to my left by maintaining the singular-plural binary, thereby refusing to use “them,” “they,” “themselves,” and “their” as singular pronouns.  If any of this offends, so be it; I have done nothing wrong.

Neither did Jesus or Jeremiah, who were focusing on weightier issues.

If Jesus offends us, that is our fault, not his.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; SAINT AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; SAINT URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND SAINTS DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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Knowing One’s Need for God   1 comment

Calling of St. Matthew Caravaggio

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

Holy God, heavenly Father, in the waters of the flood you saved the chosen,

and in the wilderness of temptation you protected your Son from sin.

Renew us in the gift of baptism.

May your holy angels be with us,

that the wicked foe may have no power over us,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Psalm 32

Psalm 25:1-10

Matthew 9:2-13

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For your Name’s sake, O LORD,

forgive my sin, for it is great.

–Psalm 25:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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How happy are those who know their need for God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

–Jesus in Matthew 5:3, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972), J. B. Phillips

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The emphasis this time, in contrast to the previous post, is the individual.

I lift up my soul….

Forgive my sin….

Then I acknowledged my sin….

“Blessed are the poor in spirit” is one of those well-worn King James phrases which requires explanation.  It refers to those who know their need for God and act accordingly.  Each one of us needs God, of course, but some are oblivious to that fact.  St. Matthew, originally a literal tax thief for the Roman Empire, knew his need for God and acted accordingly.  The paralyzed man with friends carrying him might have known of his need for God; the text says nothing about that point.  His friends, however, were acting based on confidence that Jesus would heal him.  On the other hand, Pharisees who accused our Lord and Savior or committing blasphemy (an offense punishable by death according to the Law of Moses) due to his act of healing and words of forgiveness (more the latter than the former) also criticized him for eating with tax collectors and sinners.  These Pharisees did not realize their need for God.  They would have, in fact, benefited from  open minds and many meals with Jesus.

A few days ago, on the Oconee Campus of the University of North Georgia, I encountered some members of an Evangelical college ministry.  I surmise that they were not from the school, for one young man representing the organization did not know that he was on a campus of a state college.  He asked me to complete a brief questionnaire.  I agreed.  One item entailed me rating my goodness on a scale of one (evil) to ten (perfect).  I guessed five, for I am far from both ends of the spectrum.  He and a comrade suggested that I was perhaps an eight or a nine, but I replied that no, I know myself.  (At least they were nice people.)

I know my need for God and the sacraments.  My record of acting on that knowledge is mixed.  Yet I improve, by grace.

None of us is worthy based on our own merit, but our effort is valuable nonetheless.  That little bit of desire and initiative is something with which God can work.  So may you, O reader, be aware of your need for God and respond favorably to God, regardless of how feeble and inadequate your response might seem.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 6, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

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

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

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICHOLAS OF MYRA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF PHILIP BERRIGAN, SOCIAL ACTIVIST

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Exodus and Luke, Part V: The Tabernacle of God   1 comment

calling-of-st-matthew-caravaggio

Above:  The Calling of Saint Matthew, by Caravaggio

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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:

Exodus 25:1-22 (12th Dayof Easter)

Exodus 31:1-18 (13th Day of Easter)

Psalm 47 (Morning–12th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–13th Day of Easter)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening–12th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–13th Day of Easter)

Luke 5:17-39 (12th Day of Easter)

Luke 6:1-19 (13th Day of Easter)

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Some Related Posts:

Luke 5-6:

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/week-of-proper-17-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/11/week-of-proper-17-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/12/week-of-proper-18-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/14/week-of-proper-18-tuesday-year-1/

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Exodus 25 begins a section of that book which contains detailed instructions regarding the Tabernacle, the priestly vestments, the furniture, the curtains, et cetera.  The mental images which fill my head every time I read those verses are far from a plain vernacular church building, the kind of structure which is ubiquitous in rural Georgia, USA.  The Tabernacle is supposed to be and look holy.  And I agree; a church building ought to be beautiful.

Then, in the context of the Tabernacle, we find instructions to keep the Sabbath, even to execute anyone who works on that day (31:14).  As a matter of law, one reserves execution for offenses considered especially serious and dangerous.  It is true that the Sabbath was a mark of freedom, but was the command to kill those who worked on it necessary?  I have worked on my Sabbath, Sunday; I had little choice.  And I have worked on Fridays and Saturdays.  I know people, such as health care professionals who have to work some Sundays.  Although I try to avoid needless shopping in Sundays, I do not advocate executing people who do anything other than rest on them.

Laws such as this one give ammunition to militant Atheists and fuel the imaginations of ruthless theocrats and would-be theocrats.  And, minus the killing, they remind me of old Puritan New England laws and more recent Southern U.S. “blue laws.”  Once, in South Carolina, it was illegal to buy a light bulb on a Sunday.  And it used to be illegal to hum to oneself in public in Puritan New England.  Yet I take the passage in its historical and cultural contexts, thereby softening its brutal blow.  The main idea is that the Israelites were supposed to be a holy people, a people set apart by God to witness to others.  They were to be the main tabernacle of God.

In Luke 5 and 6 Jesus healed a paralytic and a man with a withered hand.  He dined with Levi/Matthew, his new Apostle, and some of Levi/Matthew’s fellow tax thieves for the Roman Empire.  People with physical deformities were marginalized in the Law of Moses.  A blind man could not serve as a priest, for example.  Physical deformity or major malfunction carried with it stigma and spiritual second-class citizenship.  And dining with collaborators!  How dare he?  Actually, why not?  The tabernacle of God, defined as God’s people, included the physically deformed and disabled plus the notorious sinners who knew of their spiritual deficiencies.

We–you, O reader, and I–despite our spiritual deficiencies, are invaluable parts of the tabernacle of God.  It is a spectacular place, would not be same without us.  May we, by grace, live up to our potential.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARA LUGER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/06/08/devotion-for-the-twelfth-and-thirteenth-days-of-easter-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Jesus Calls Matthew   2 comments

Above:  The Calling of Saint Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen

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Isaiah 58:9b-14 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

If you take away from the midst of you the yoke,

the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness,

if you pour yourself out for the hungry

and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,

then shall your light rise in the darkness

and your gloom be as the noonday.

And the LORD will guide you continually,

and satisfy your desire with good things,

and make your bones strong;

and you shall be like a watered garden,

like a spring of water, whose waters do not fail.

And your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;

you shall raise up the foundations of many generations,

you shall be called the repairer of the breach,

the restorer of streets to dwell in.

If you turn back your foot from the sabbath,

from doing your pleasure on my holy day,

and call the sabbath a delight

and the holy day of the LORD honorable;

if you honor it, not going your own ways,

or seeking your own pleasure, or talking idly;

then you shall delight in the LORD,

and I will make you ride upon the heights of the earth;

I will feed you with the heritage of Jacob your father,

for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

Psalm 86:1-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Incline your ear to me, O LORD, and answer me,

for I am poor and needy.

Preserve my life, for I am godly;

save your servant who trusts in you.

You are my God; have mercy on me, O Lord,

for to you do I cry all the day.

Gladden the soul of your servant,

for to you, O Lord, do I lift up my soul.

For you, O Lord, are good and forgiving,

abounding in mercy to all who call on you.

Give ear, O LORD, to my prayer;

listen to the cry of my supplication.

In the day of my trouble I call on you,

for you do answer me.

There is none like you among the gods, O Lord,

nor are there any works like yours.

All the nations you have made shall come

and bow down before you, O Lord,

and shall glorify your name.

For you are great and do wondrous things,

you alone are God.

Teach me your way, O LORD,

that I may walk in your truth;

unite my heart to fear your name.

Luke 5:27-32 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

After this [healing a paralytic] he [Jesus] went out, and saw a tax collector, named Levi, sitting at the tax office; and he said to him,

Follow me.

And he left everything, and rose and followed him.

And Levi made him a great feast in his house; and there was a large company of tax collectors and others sitting at table with them.  And the Pharisees and their scribes murmured against his disciples, saying,

Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?

And Jesus answered them,

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  I have come not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, mercifully look upon our infirmities, and in all our dangers and necessities stretch forth your right hand to help and defend us; through Jesus Christ, our Lord, who lives with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

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Over the years I have had encounters (often unpleasant) with religious know-it-alls, universally fundamentalist Protestants–often Southern Baptists and Church of God in Christers.  They have informed me that I think too much, ask too many questions, and that these tendencies have damned me to Hell.  Their narrow vision did not enable them to consider me part of the Christian spectrum.  Without even pretending to get along with them (for I do not know how to conduct an intelligent theological dialogue with one has consigned me to Hell), I am far more generous toward them they were toward me; they are Christians, too, as I define “Christian.”  Questions concerning damnation are sole province of God.  And some of my best theological discussions have been with those who have exiled themselves from organized religion (yet not Christian faith) after negative experiences; they were open to possibilities, not wedded to a rigid theology.

Jesus recognized great potential where others (in today’s reading, Pharisees) saw the damned and the undesirable.  Tax collectors were Roman collaborators and literal tax thieves–certainly despised people.  And Jesus thought of them as human beings who needed him.  So he reached out to them.  This caused a scandal.

May we who call ourselves Christians have enough courage to expand the boundaries of our thinking.  May we, by grace, see more nearly as God sees. When we look at people who differ from us as fellow children of God, bearers of the divine image.  May we dare to look past any tradition or other worldview which obstructs a divine viewpoint toward our fellow human beings.  And may we commit sacredly scandalous acts when those are appropriate.  Polite society tells us that those who lie with dogs rise with fleas.  This is true sometimes, but were the tax collectors dogs?  Did Jesus rise with fleas?  Are we more like Jesus or an unduly critical Pharisee clinging to tradition sincerely yet wrongly, out of faith?

Jesus said to follow him.  He did not say to affirm certain creeds in their entirety or to sign a written confession of faith.  No, Jesus said to follow him.  The path of Jesus is one of love of God, others, and self.  It leads to sacrifices, and sometimes to ignominy and martyrdom.  It is a narrow and difficult road, but it is the life-giving road, also.  Following Jesus is active; it is lived orthopraxy, not stale and merely intellectual orthodoxy frozen in the form of a creed, confession, or liturgy.  When lived orthopraxy is what it should be, it is indistinguishable from healthy orthodoxy.

So, let us follow Jesus.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 18, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GUIDO DI PIETRO, A.K.A. FRA ANGELICO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND ARTIST

THE FEAST OF SAINTS COLMAN OF LINDISFARNE, AGILBERT, AND WILFRID, BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER, PROTESTANT REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEOTONIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Being Moral Consists of Far More Than Following a Checklist   1 comment

Above:  The Calling of St. Matthew (1621), by Hendrick ter Brugghen

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Genesis 12:1-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the LORD said to Abram,

Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you.  I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing.  I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him.  Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.  Abram took his wife Sarai and his brother’s son Lot, and all the possessions that they had gathered, and the persons whom they had acquired in Haran; and they set forth to go to the land of Canaan.  When they had come to the land of Canaan, Abram passed through the land to the place at Shechem, to the oak of Moreh.  At that time the Canaanites were in the land.  Then the LORD appeared to Abram, and said,

To your offspring I will give this land.

So he build there an altar to the LORD, who had appeared to him.  From there he moved on to the hill country on the east of Bethel, and pitched his tent, with Bethel on the west and Ai on the east; and there he built an altar to the LORD and invoked the name of the LORD.  And Abram journeyed on by stages toward the Negeb.

Psalm 33:1-12 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Rejoice in the LORD, you righteous;

it is good for the just to sing praises.

2 Praise the LORD with the harp;

play to him upon the psaltery and the lyre.

3 Sing for him a new song;

sound a fanfare with all your skill upon the trumpet.

For the word of the LORD is right,

and all his works are sure.

He loves righteousness and justice;

the loving-kindness of the LORD fills the whole earth.

By the word of the LORD were the heavens made,

by the breath of his mouth all the heavenly hosts.

7 He gathers up the waters of the ocean as in a water-skin

and stores up the depths of the sea.

8 Let all the earth fear the LORD;

let all who dwell in the world stand in awe of him.

9 For he spoke, and it came to pass;

he commanded, and it stood fast.

10 The LORD brings the will of the nations to naught;

he thwarts the designs of the peoples.

11 But the LORD’s will stands fast for ever,

and the designs of his heart from age to age.

12 Happy is the nation whose God is the LORD!

happy the people he has chosen to be his own!

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Hosea 5:15-6:6 (New Revised Standard Version):

[Yahweh speaking]

I will return again to my place

until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face.

In their distress they will beg my favor.

Come, let us return to the LORD;

for it is he who has torn, and he will heal us;

he has struck down, and he will bind us up.

After two days he will revive us;

on the third day he will raise us up,

that we may live before him.

Let us know, let us press on to know the LORD;

his appearing is as sure as the dawn;

he will come to us like the showers,

like the spring rains that water the earth.

What shall I do with you, O Ephraim?

What shall I do with you, O Judah?

Your love is like a morning cloud,

like the dew that goes away early.

Therefore I have hewn them by the prophets,

I have killed them by the words of my mouth,

and my judgment goes forth as the light.

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,

the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

Psalm 50:7-15 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 Hear, O my people, and I will speak:

“O Israel, I will bear witness against you;

for I am God, your God.

I do not accuse you because of your sacrifices;

your offerings are always before me.

I will take no bull-calf from your stalls,

nor he-goats out of your pens;

10 For all the beasts of the forest are mine,

the herds in their thousands upon the hills.

11 I know every bird in the sky,

and the creatures of the fields are in my sight.

12 If I were hungry, I would not tell you,

for the whole world is mine and all that is in it.

13 Do you think that I eat the flesh of bulls,

or drink the blood of goats?

14 Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and make good your vows to the Most High.

15 Call upon me in the day of trouble;

I will deliver you, and you shall honor me.

SECOND READING

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

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

For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham (for he is the father of us, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”)–in the presence of God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist.  Hoping against hope, he believed that he would become “the father of many nations,” according to what was said.  He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was already as good as dead (for he was about a hundred years old) or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.  No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, being fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised.  Therefore his faith “was reckoned to him as righteousness.”  Now the words, “it was reckoned to him” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours alone, but for ours also.  It will be reckoned to us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was handed over to death for our trespasses and was raised for our justification.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 9:9-13, 18-26 (New Revised Standard Version):

As Jesus was walking along, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax booth; and he said to him,

Follow me.

And he got up and followed him.

And as he sat at dinner in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came and were sitting with him and his disciples.  When the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples,

Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?

But when he had heard this, he said,

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’  For I have come to call not the righteous but sinners.

While he was saying these things to them, suddenly a leader of the synagogue came in and knelt before him, saying,

My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.

And Jesus got up and followed him, with his disciples.  Then suddenly a woman who had been suffering from hemorrhages for twelve years came up behind him and touched the fringe of his cloak, for she said to herself,

If I only touch his cloak, I will be made well.

Jesus turned, and seeing her he said,

Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.

And instantly the woman was made well.  When Jesus came to the leader’s house and saw the flute players and the crowd making a commotion, he said,

Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.

And they laughed at him.  But when the crowd had been put outside, he went up and took her by the hand, and the girl got up.  And the report of this spread throughout that district.

The Collect:

O God, from whom all good proceeds:  Grant that by your inspiration we may think those things that are right, and by your merciful guiding may do them; 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 Second Reading reading for this Sunday ties into the Genesis option for the First Reading, and the Gospel Reading connects to the Hosea choice for the First Reading.  And everything links together into a wonderful and consistent package.  My summary of that package is this:  Being moral consists of far more than living according to a checklist of “You shall” and “You shall not” statements.  Rather, proper priorities form the seat of morality.  And what is more moral than showing mercy and trusting in God?

Let us begin with Jesus and work backward from there.  First, he ate with tax collectors and other notorious sinners.  This was a great scandal to those preoccupied with ritual purity.  Besides, a self-respecting person concerned about ritual purity took great care in choosing with whom he broke bread.  Tax collectors were not salaried people, so they collected the Roman imperial rate plus the money they used to support themselves.  They were tax thieves.  This was common knowledge, and they were despised, considered traitors to their own Jewish people.  And here was Jesus, eating with them!  In North America we have a cliche:  He who lies down with dogs rises with fleas.  There was probably a similar saying in Aramaic.  But Jesus did not seek respectability according the such standards.  The other notorious sinners violated many parts of the Jewish law code, probably without remorse.  But the law was so complicated that only a small elite proportion of the population could obey the law in its entirety, as they interpreted it.  Yet these men, who lived according to the letter of the law, that is, a checklist, frequently violated the spirit of said law.  So even they broke the religious law.

You see, O reader, nobody could keep the law in its entirety, spirit and letter.  This, I think, is part of why Paul emphasized the role of faith.  As a former legalist, he understood this lesson well.  And Paul, by mentioning Abraham, a paragon of faith, made a chronology-based point that the great patriarch’s righteousness could not and did not rely on the law, for Abraham lived and died before the days of Moses.

In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus quoted Hosea, channeling Yahweh:

For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice,

the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

(Note:  The difference in translation between Hosea and Matthew is easy to explain.  The author of the Gospel of Matthew quoted the Septuagint, a Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible.)

Jesus showed mercy to his dinner guests, whose potential he recognized.  He knew what they were but focused on what they could become.  May we look upon others in the same way.

And Jesus showed mercy on his way to satisfy the request of a grieving father.  The woman with the hemorrhage was, by the Law of Moses, ritually impure.  She had been for years.  Imagine how desperate she must have been for healing and restoration to society, for she was marginalized and destitute.  Her plight was itself an indictment of the law.  Jesus had mercy on this woman who had nothing but faith and helped Jairus, who had only one alternative to faith.  That alternative was to bury his daughter.

As one reads the four canonical gospels closely, one notices that Jesus violated and countermanded aspects of the religious law, as the Pharisees practiced it.  He did not wash his hands ritually.  He gleaned food from fields on the Sabbath.  He did not maintain a morality checklist beyond loving God fully and one’s neighbor as oneself.  One rule, treating others as one wants others to treat one, covers much of morality in just a few words.

As a student of U.S. history and of religion, I know the well-plowed ground that is the sad tale of how many professing Christians in Antebellum America quoted the Bible to justify slavery.  (The best book to cover this material is H. Shelton Smith’s In His Image, But….)  The pro-slavery case rested mostly on a a literal reading of selected passages of scripture, along with creative explanations about how keeping someone enslaved is consistent with the Golden Rule.  The anti-slavery case rested almost entirely on the Golden Rule.  And really, what else should it have needed?  The pro-slavery interpretation of the Bible was a highly selective checklist attempting to maintain the letter of the law; it was masterpiece of prooftexting.  But the anti-slavery case was gloriously simple, focusing on the spirit of the law.

I challenge you, O reader, as much as I challenge myself, to focus on the letter of the law and to let the details fall into the place.  This letter of the law is really quite simple:

  • Love and trust the Lord your God with everything you have and are.
  • Love your neighbor as yourself.
  • Live mercifully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 20, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF LEO TOLSTOY, NOVELIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT MECHTILD OF MAGDEBURG, ROMAN CATHOLIC MYSTIC

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Jesus and the Outcast   1 comment

Above: The Calling of St. Matthew, by Hendrick ter Brugghen (1621)

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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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Hebrews 4:12-16 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And before him no creature is hidden, but all are open and laid bare to the yes of him with whom have to do.

Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.  For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning.  Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Psalm 19:7-14 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

7 The law of the LORD is perfect and revives the soul;

the testimony of the LORD is sure and gives wisdom to the innocent.

8 The statutes of the LORD are just and rejoice the heart;

the commandment of the LORD is clear and gives light to the eyes.

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures forever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

10 More to be desired are they than gold, more than much fine gold,

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

14 Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight,

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

Mark 2:13-17 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them.  And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him,

Follow me.

And he rose and followed him.

And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him.  And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples,

Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?

And when Jesus heard it, he said to them,

Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.

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The Collect:

Father in heaven, who at the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan proclaimed him your beloved Son and anointed him with the Holy Spirit: Grant that all who are baptized into his Name may keep the covenant they have made, and boldly confess him as Lord and Savior; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, in glory everlasting. Amen.

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Almighty God, to you all hearts are open, all desires known, and from you all secrets are hid; Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name; through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 355

One way of defining oneself as pure is labeling the “other” as impure.  Thus purity codes are inherently exclusive.  And how many of us grew up hearing the Benjamin Franklin aphorism that those who lie down with dogs will rise with fleas?  Jesus, being Jesus, ignored this convention, which religious orthopraxy and orthodoxy had enshrined.  Pharisees were careful with whom they ate, restricting this activity to those on the approved list.

Matthew (Levi), his fellow tax collectors, and others who refused flagrantly obey the Law of Moses, at least as the Pharisees said people should, were not on the approved list.  Yet Jesus broke bread and drank wine with such people.  And he recruited Matthew, who was a literal tax thief working for the occupying Roman Empire, to join his inner circle.  Jesus saw the potential within people and worked to bring it out in them.

I invite you, O reader, to ask yourself who you are in this story.  Are you Jesus, disregarding purity codes?  Or are you one of the impure.  Perhaps you are one our Lord’s critics, a person concerned greatly with respectability and the maintenance of tradition above all else.

We are all broken, sinful, and incapable of pleasing God on our own power.  So, in truth, each of us is impure.  But do we recognize this fact and approach the throne of grace in proper humility?  The word of God (in the Hebrews reading, simply God speaking) exposes all. It cuts through all distinctions and lays bare what we are.  We cannot hide from God, even by being “properly” religious.

Nevertheless, Jesus would invite you to dinner.  He does; today we call it the Holy Eucharist, Holy Communion, Mass, or the Divine Liturgy, depending on one’s tradition.  There we meet the living Savior and take him into our bodies in the forms of mystically transformed bread and wine.  Nobody among us is worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs from under Jesus’ table, but we receive the invitation anyhow.  Our worthiness comes from Christ.

Therefore, being aware of our own unworthiness, may we refrain from labeling others “outcast,” “impure,” and “unworthy.”

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 20, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRI NOUWEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ANDREW KIM TAEGON, PAUL CHONG HASANG, AND THEIR COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF C. (CHARLES) H. (HAROLD) DODD, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF JOHN COLERIDGE PATTESON, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MELANESIA, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF NELSON WESLEY TROUT, FIRST AFRICAN-AMERICAN U.S. LUTHERAN BISHOP

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http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/13/feast-of-st-matthew-the-evangelist-apostle-and-martyr-september-21/

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Adapted from this post:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/20/week-of-1-epiphany-saturday-year-1/

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Posted December 31, 2011 by neatnik2009 in Hebrews 4, Mark 2, Psalm 19

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