Archive for the ‘Ten Commandments’ Tag

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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Exploitation III   Leave a comment

Above:  Moses, by Edward Peck Sperry, 1897

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsca-31841

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For the Second Sunday in Lent, Year 1, according to the U.S. Presbyterian lectionary of 1966-1970

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Lord Jesus Christ, our only King, who came in the form of a servant:

control our wills and restrain our selfish ambitions,

that we may seek thy glory above all things and fulfill our lives in thee.  Amen.

The Book of Common Worship–Provisional Services (1966), 121

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Exodus 34:1-9

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Matthew 7:24-29

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When I was a boy, I had a collection of Arch Books.  Each volume, a thin paperback book, told one Bible story in words and pictures.  This was a wonderful way for a child to learn Bible stories.  The Arch Book for the parable from Matthew 7:24-27 has lodged itself in my memory.

Jesus likened himself to a rock.  Moses was atop a mountain in Exodus 19 when he received far more than ten commandments from God.  (The commandments fill Exodus 20-24.)  Moses was atop a mountain again, to receive more commandments and stone tablet versions (Exodus 25-31).  While Moses was away, impatient Israelites broke the covenant.  Moses, in anger, broke the first stone tablets (Exodus 32).  Then Moses interceded on behalf of the people (Exodus 32-33).  God restored the covenant in Exodus 34.

We are supposed to read Exodus 34 in the context of the rest of the Torah narrative and of the Hebrew Bible more broadly.  We know of the unfortunate habit of murmuring and of relatively short memories of God’s mighty acts yet long memories of Egyptian leftovers.

I am not a psychologist, but psychology intrigues me.  Therefore, I listen and read closely in the field.  What we remember and what we forget–and why–indicates much about our character and about human nature, for good and for ill.  Often our minds work against the better angels of our nature; much of remembering and forgetting is a matter of the unconscious mind.  As rational as many of us try to be and like to think of ourselves as being, we tend to be irrational, panicky creatures who forget that, when we harm others, we hurt ourselves, too.  We also forget the promises we made recently all too often.

How we behave toward God and how we act toward others are related to each other.  Do we recognize God in others?  If so, that informs how we treat them.  Although I do not see the image of God in Mimi, my feline neighbor whom I feed outside my back door, I recognize her as a creature of God, an animal possessed of great dignity and worthy of respect.  Returning to human relations, the Law of Moses teaches, in terms of timeless principles and culturally specific examples, that we have divine orders to take care of each other, and never to exploit one another.  That commandment applies to societies, institutions, and governments, not just individuals.

Societies, institutions, governments, and individuals who forget or never learn that lesson and act accordingly are like a man who was so foolish that he build his house on sand, not on rock.  The rain will fall, the floods will come, the winds will blow, and the house will fall.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 12, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOSAPHAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF POLOTSK, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT FRANCES XAVIER CABRINI, FOUNDRESS OF THE MISSIONARY SISTERS OF THE SACRED HEART

THE FEAST OF RAY PALMER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ARTHUR DUNKERLEY, BRITISH NOVELIST, AND HYMN WRITER

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Wrestling With Biblical Texts   1 comment

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

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

Image in the Public Domain

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The Collect:

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

by sending us your Holy Spirit.

Direct us by the light of that Spirit,

that we may have a right judgment in all things

and rejoice at all times in your peace,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 36

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-21

Psalm 33:12-22

Matthew 5:1-12

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 20:

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

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

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

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

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

Matthew 5:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 20, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINIC OF SILOS, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT PETER CANISIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

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

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Grace and Mutual Responsibility, Part II   1 comment

8b18331v

Above:  A Cornfield, Hardin County, Iowa, September 1939

Photographer = Arthur Rothstein (1915-1985)

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/fsa2000009438/PP/)

Reproduction Number = LC-USF34-028069-D

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The Collect:

O God, the strength of all who hope in you,

because we are weak mortals we accomplish nothing without you.

Help us to see and understand the things we ought to do,

and give us grace and power to do them,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 24

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 20:1-21 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 23:21-24:4, 10-15 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 2:1-15 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:9-16 (All Days)

James 1:2-8 (Monday)

James 2:1-13 (Tuesday)

Matthew 19:1-12 (Wednesday)

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 20:

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

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

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

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/devotion-for-october-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

Deuteronomy 23-24:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/04/week-of-7-epiphany-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/devotion-for-october-22-and-23-lcms-daily-lectionary/

James 1:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/week-of-6-epiphany-monday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/23/week-of-proper-1-monday-year-2/

James 2:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/25/week-of-6-epiphany-thursday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/06/25/week-of-proper-1-thursday-year-2/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/16/proper-18-year-b/

Matthew 19:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/10/week-of-proper-14-friday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/09/devotion-for-october-28-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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I will meditate on your commandments

and give attention to your ways.

My delight is in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

–Psalm 119:15-16, Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006)

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The Law of Moses is a complex code.  In one breath it speaks of responsibilities people have to each other in community, such as not to exploit each other.  Yet the same law code classes women and servants with inanimate property in the Ten Commandments, has a negative view of female biology, and contains many offenses which end with death by stoning.  I join with my fellow Christians since the earliest years of Christianity in applying parts of the Law of Moses literally while not keeping other sections thereof.  There are, of course, the letter and the spirit of the law, with much of the letter consisting of culturally-specific principles.  So one might identify contemporary applications in lieu of examples from the Bible.  Yet I refuse to execute or condone the execution of a child who disrespects his or her parents severely, for example.

Thus I pick and choose amid the provisions of the Law of Moses, as I should.  I focus on mutual responsibilities, for all of us are responsible to and for each other.  This is a timeless truth, the keeping of which builds up communities, nations, societies, and the human species.  We ought never to exploit or seek to exploit one another.  To exclude another person wrongly or seek to do so is sinful.  To fail to recognize the Image of God in another is to sin.

That can be advice difficult to follow.  And the following counsel is really hard for me:

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and completely lacking in nothing.

–James 2:2-4, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition

I do not welcome

various trials (RSV-SCE)

as

friends (James 2:2, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, 1972).

Rather, I prefer the absence of

various trials (James 2:2, RSV-SCE).

Yet I recognize that

various trials

in my past have resulted in more mature faith.  I examine myself spiritually and recognize benefits I have gained from adversity.  Yet I do not wish to repeat the experiences.  I interpret the good results of

various trials

as evidence of abundant divine grace and rejoice in that.

May we, by divine grace, extend such grace to others as we have opportunity to do so.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUKE THE EVANGELIST, PHYSICIAN

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Deuteronomy and Matthew, Part VII: Loyalty and Discipleship   1 comment

christ-pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 5:1-21

Psalm 61 (Morning)

Psalms 138 and 98 (Evening)

Matthew 8:18-34

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Some Related Posts:

Matthew 8:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-tuesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/16/week-of-proper-8-wednesday-year-1/

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I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with my whole heart;

before the gods will I sing praise to you.

I will bow down toward your holy temple and praise your name,

because of your love and faithfulness;

for you have glorified your name and your word above all things.

In the day I called to you, you answered me;

you put new strength in my soul.

–Psalm 138:1-3 (The Book of Common Prayer, 2004)

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I will give thanks to you, O Lord, with all my heart:

before the gods I will sing your praises.

I will bow down toward your holy temple,

and give thanks because of your love and faithfulness:

for you have exalted your name and your word above all things.

On the day I called, you answered me:

and put new strength within me.

–Psalm 138:1-3 (A New Zealand Prayer Book, 1989)

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You shall not have other gods before my face.

–Deuteronomy 5:7 (Richard Elliott Friedman, Commentary on the Torah)

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Scholars of the Hebrew Scriptures argue whether Deuteronomy 5:7 and its counterpart, Exodus 20:3, are monotheistic statements.  Does the command mean to worship only YHWH yet to acknowledge the existence of other deities?  Or does it mean that one should worship only YHWH because there is only YHWH?  In other words, is it monotheistic (as Richard Elliott Friedman insists) or monolatric (as The Jewish Study Bible and The New Interpreter’s Study Bible argue).  The Bible is an anthology of texts from various periods and perspectives, so if it did indicated monolatry (my historical position) could it not mean monotheism now?  The widespread practice of monotheism did come relatively late (about 25,000 years ago) to the Hebrew people.  The theology existed long before that, of course, but the widespread practice, as the texts of the Hebrew Bible attest, came fairly late.

Psalm 138 seems to be the work of an Israelite (perhaps King David) present where people worship heathen deities.  He affirms his loyalty to YHWH.

Jesus, in Matthew 8:18-34, performs mighty acts and demands total loyalty.  He did have a house at Capernaum, but frequently lacked a place to lay his head; he did travel often.

There is only one deity, the one I know as God, YHWH, Adonai, etc.  Human theology on that topic has changed yet the reality has remained constant.  And Christian discipleship is following Jesus, not just affirming his ethics.  The demand from YHWH in Deuteronomy 5 and from Jesus in Matthew 8 is the same:  follow me.  That is a call to do something active.  May we obey it.  And, if we have begun to do so, may we remain on that spiritual path.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/devotion-for-october-5-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Expectations, Realities, and Consequences   1 comment

Above:  A Vineyard

Expectations, Realities, and Consequences

The Sunday Closest to October 5

Sixteenth Sunday After Pentecost

OCTOBER 2, 2011

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Exodus 20:1-20 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.

You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the earth.  You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the LORD your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation to those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.

You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the LORD your God, for the LORD will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy.  Six days you shall labor and do all your work.  But the seventh day is a sabbath to the LORD your God; you shall not do any work–you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.  For in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

You shall not murder.

You shall not commit adultery.

You shall not steal.

You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.

You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

When all the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain smoking, they were afraid and trembled and stood at a distance, and said to Moses,

You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, or we will die.

Moses said to the people,

Do not be afraid; for God has come only to test you and to put the fear of him upon you so that you do not sin.

Psalm 19 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  The heavens declare the glory of God,

and the firmament shows his handiwork.

2  One day tells its tale to another,

and one night imparts knowledge to another.

3  Although they have no words or language,

and their voices are not heard,

4  Their sound has gone out into all lands,

and their message to the ends of the world.

5  In the deep has he set a pavilion for the sun;

it comes forth like a bridegroom out of his chamber;

it rejoices like a champion to run its course.

6  It goes forth from the uttermost edge of the heavens

and runs about to the end of it again;

nothing is hidden from its burning heat.

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 for ever,

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.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

Isaiah 5:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

Let me sing for my beloved

my love-song concerning his vineyard:

My beloved had a vineyard

on a very fertile hill.

He dug it and cleared it of stones,

and planted it with choice vines;

he built a watchtower in the midst of it,

and hewed out a wine vat in it;

he expected it to yield grapes,

but it yielded wild grapes.

And now, inhabitants of Jerusalem

and people of Judah,

judge between me

and my vineyard.

What more was there to do for my vineyard

that I have not done in it?

When I expected it to yield grapes,

why did it yield wild grapes?

And now I will tell you

what I will do to my vineyard.

I will remove its hedge,

and it shall be devoured;

I will break down its wall,

and it shall be trampled down.

I will make it a waste;

it shall not be pruned or hoed,

and it shall be overgrown with briers and thorns;

that they rain no rain upon it.

For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts

is the house of Israel,

and the people of Judah

are his pleasant planting;

he expected justice,

but saw bloodshed;

righteousness,

but heard a cry!

Psalm 80:7-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

7  Restore us, O God of hosts;

show the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

8  You have brought a vine out of Egypt;

you cast out the nations and planted it.

9  You prepared the ground for it;

it took root and filled the land.

10  The mountains were covered by its shadow

and the towering cedar trees by its boughs.

11  You stretched out its tendrils to the Sea

and its branches to the River.

12  Why have you broken down its wall,

so that all who pass by pluck off its grapes?

13  The wild boar of the forest has ravaged it,

and the beasts of the field have grazed upon it.

14  Turn now, O God of hosts, look down from heaven;

behold and tend this vine;

preserve what your right hand has planted.

SECOND READING

Philippians 3:4b-14 (New Revised Standard Version):

If anyone else has reason to be confident in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, a member of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrews; as to the law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to righteousness under the law, blameless.

Yet whatever gains I had, these I have come to regard as loss because of Christ. More than that, I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead.

Not that I have already obtained this or have already reached the goal; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Beloved, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but this one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the heavenly call of God in Christ Jesus.

GOSPEL READING

Matthew 21:33-46 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

Listen to another parable. There was a landowner who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a wine press in it, and built a watchtower. Then he leased it to tenants and went to another country. When the harvest time had come, he sent his slaves to the tenants to collect his produce. But the tenants seized his slaves and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other slaves, more than the first; and they treated them in the same way. Finally he sent his son to them, saying, `They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, `This is the heir; come, let us kill him and get his inheritance.’ So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Now when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and lease the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the produce at the harvest time.

Jesus said to them,

Have you never read in the scriptures:

‘The stone that the builders have rejected

has become the cornerstone;

this was the Lord’s doing,

and it is amazing in our eyes’?

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people that produces the fruits of the kingdom. The one who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; and it will crush anyone on whom it falls.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you are always more ready to hear than we to pray, and to give more than we either desire or deserve: Pour upon us the abundance of your mercy, forgiving us those things of which our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things for which we are not worthy to ask, except through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ our Savior; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Exodus 20:

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

Mark 12 (Parallel to Matthew 21):

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/11/08/week-of-last-epiphany-monday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/15/week-of-proper-4-monday-year-1/

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These readings seem familiar, do they not?  Thus they are the kind of lections we need to read very carefully again, if not for the first time.  I have dealt with the Ten Commandments and the parable already within this blog network, so I refer you, O reader to the links above for certain thoughts while I pursue another thread.

…he expected justice,

but saw bloodshed;

[he expected] righteousness,

but heard a cry!

Isaiah 5:7c-d reads.  Thus, in Isaiah 5:1-7, God vows to make the vineyard a “waste.”  The vineyard in that reading is the people of Israel, and the laying waste refers to the Babylonian Exile.

The vineyard theme recurs in the reading from Matthew.  The writing of the Gospels took place in the shadow of the Jewish War, which ended with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in 70 C.E.  So my historical-critical eyes detect animosity toward the mainstream Jewish community from the marginalized Christian Jews in Matthew’s audience.

Nevertheless, I also detect a universal and timeless lesson:  The wages of sin is death.  Yet, as Paul reminds us, keeping the Law scrupulously is insufficient, lest we boast in what we have done.  Rather, the

surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus

makes the difference.  ”Knowing” is about far more than acknowledging him intellectually; it is about following him–as individuals and as faith communities.  Jesus is the trump card.

I write these words on Easter Sunday 2011, so this is an especially opportune time to quote the motto of the Moravian Church:

Our lamb has conquered; let us follow him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 24, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN WALTER, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF THE SEVEN MARTYRS OF THE MELANESIAN BROTHERHOOD

THE FEAST OF TOYOHIKO KAGAWA, TEACHER AND EVANGELIST

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Adapted from this post:

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

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Judgment and Mercy, Part I   1 comment

Above:  Moses

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Exodus 33:7-11; 34:5-10, 27-28 (Richard Elliott Friedman, 2001):

And Moses would take the tent and pitch it outside of the camp, going far from the camp, and he called it the Tent of Meeting.  And it would be:  everyone seeking YHWH would to out to the Tent of Meeting, which was outside of the camp.  And it would be, when Moses would go out to the Tent, all the people would get up, and they would stand up, each one at the entrance of the tent, and they would look after Moses until he came to the Tent.  And it would be, when Moses came to the Tent, the column of cloud would come down, and it would stand at the entrance of the Tent, and He would speak with Moses.  And all the people would see the column of cloud standing at the entrance of the Tent, and all the people would get up and bow, each at the entrance of his tent.  And YHWH would speak to Moses face-to-face, the way a man speaks to his fellow man.  And he would come back to the camp.  And his attendant, Joshua, son of Nun, a young man, would not depart from inside the Tent.

And YHWH came down in a cloud and stood before him there, and he invoked the name YHWH.  And YHWH passed in front of him and called,

YHWH, YHWH, merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in kindness and faithfulness, keeping kindness for thousands, bearing crime and offense and sin; though not making one innocent; reckoning fathers’ crimes on children and on children’s cildren, on third generations and on fourth generations.

And Moses hurried and knelt on the ground and bowed, and he said,

If I’ve found favor in your eyes, my Lord, may my Lord go among us, because it is a stiff-necked people, and forgive our crime and our sin, and make us your legacy.

And He said,

Here, I am making a covenant.  Before all your people I’ll do wonders that haven’t been created in all the earth and among all the nations; and all the people whom you’re among will see YHWH’s deeds, because that which I’m doing with you is awesome….

And YHWH said to Moses,

Write these words to yourself, because I’ve made a covenant with you and with Israel based on these words.

And he was there with YHWH forty days and forty nights.  He did not eat bread, and he did not drink water.  And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

Psalm 103:5-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

5 He satisfies you with good things,

and your youth is renewed like an eagle’s.

6 The LORD executes righteousness

and judgment for all who are oppressed.

7 He made his ways known to Moses

and his works to the children of Israel.

8 The LORD is full of compassion and mercy,

slow to anger and of great kindness.

9 He will not always accuse us,

nor will he keep his anger for ever.

10 He has not dealt with us according to our sins,

nor rewarded us according to our wickedness.

11 For as the heavens are as high above the earth,

so is his mercy great upon those who fear him.

12 As far as the east is from the west,

so far has he removed our sins from us.

13 As a father cares for his children,

so does the LORD care for those who fear him.

Matthew 13:36-43 (J. B. Phillips, 1972):

Later, he left the crowds and went indoors, where his disciples came and said,

Please explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field.

Jesus replied,

The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man.  The field is the whole world.  The good seed?  That is the sons of the kingdom, while the weeds are sons of the evil one of this world.  The enemy who sowed them is the devil.  The harvest is the end of this world.  The reapers are angels.

Just as weeds are gathered up and burned in the fire so will it happen at the end of the world.  The Son of Man will send out his angels and they will uproot from the kingdom everything that is spoiling it, and all those who live in defiance of its laws, and will throw them into the blazing furnace, where there will be tears and bitter regret.  Then the good will shine out like the sun in their Father’s kingdom.  The man who has ears should use them!

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The Collect:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy: Increase and multiply upon us your mercy; that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we lose not the things eternal; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Sometimes I feel like a broken record, or at least Mojo Jojo from The Powerpuff Girls; I keep repeating myself.  I have an excellent reason for my repetition:  the texts keep saying the same things over and over again.  So here I am, again, writing that divine judgment and mercy are intertwined.

One point does bear elaboration before I proceed.  Consider Exodus 34:6-7, which speak of the passing down of sins through the generations.  Richard Elliott Friedman makes the following comment about it on page 291 of his Commentary on the Torah:

…Third, psychologically one can observe traits persevering through that many [four] generations.  I have personally observed ongoing dynamics within my family through four generations.   This does not mean that an individual’s bad deed will be duplicated by his or her children and grandchildren.  But it may recognize that such deeds have consequences, for better or worse (pride and embarrassment, stigmas, reactions, conscious or unconscious imitation), that persist through generations.

Consequences constitute the crux of the issue.  Deeds have consequences, and often divine punishment is merely permitting consequences to play out.  Much of the time this for disciplinary reasons, so that we will learn our lessons.  Responsible parents do not always shield their children from the consequences of bad actions.  This is for the good of the children.  Since the parental role (often paternal, but sometimes maternal, too) is one Biblical writers applied to God, this analogy works well.  Furthermore, forgiveness of sin does not erase the consequences of it.  Roman Catholic theology reflects a deep understanding of this fact, hence the teaching on Purgatory, which many people misunderstand.

The God of the Old Testament is merely a vengeful deity, contrary to the oft-repeated stereotype.  There is much mercy there, too, as the excerpts from Genesis indicate.  This is God, who loves the Israelites enough to liberate them.  They can never pay him back, but they can worship only him, demonstrate gratitude for provisions, and obey some commandments.  Is this too much to ask?  No!  But do they do that much?  No!  Why should God not be angry and disappointed?  But does God give up on them?  No!

This is God, who speaks to Moses personally in the leader’s own tent for a few chapters in Exodus (until Chapter 40).  But God continues to speak to Moses, who is faithful, and who even argues with him from time to time.  This is God, who demonstrates caring and much involvement with the Israelites, although mostly by dealing with Moses, who functions as an intermediary.

Yet, as Jesus reminds us in Matthew 13:36-43, there is still judgment for unrepentant.  And it will be terrifying.

My note of caution is to repent not out of fear of damnation, but out of love, respect, and awe for God and divine mercy.  A relationship built on terror of Hell is one with a father figure whom one thinks might be abusive.  That is a dysfunctional spiritual relationship.  No, may we love God, who loves us.  And may we bear fruits consistent with righteousness.  This is possible, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, DEAN OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED, ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ABBOT OF JARROW

THE FEAST OF JOHN HORDEN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF MOOSONEE

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/01/12/week-of-proper-12-tuesday-year-1/

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