Archive for the ‘Widow’s Mite’ Tag

Sins of Omission, Part II   Leave a comment

Above:  The Widow’s Mite, by James Tissot

Image in the Public Domain

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FOR THE SEVENTH SUNDAY OF KINGDOMTIDE, ACCORDING TO A LECTIONARY FOR PUBLIC WORSHIP IN THE BOOK OF WORSHIP FOR CHURCH AND HOME (1965)

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Heavenly Father, in whom we live and move and have our being:

We humbly pray you so to guide and govern us by your Holy Spirit that in all the

cares and occupations of our daily life we may remember that we are ever walking in your sight;

for your name’s sake.  Amen.

–Modernized from The Book of Worship for Church and Home (1965), page 154

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Ezekiel 18:23-32

Psalm 38

James 1:17-27

Luke 21:1-4

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Responsibility comes in two varieties–collective and individual.  My Western culture emphasizes the latter, frequently to the exclusion or minimization of the former.  Other cultures commit the opposite errors.  A balance is proper.

The theme of individual responsibility is present.  Ezekiel 18 (as well as 3:16-21; 14:12-23; and 33:1-20) argues against the theology of Exodus 20:5 and Deuteronomy 5:9, whereby God holds members of subsequent generations accountable for one’s sins.  Yes, one’s life can have consequences for members of subsequent generations.  I can, for example, identify how two of my great-grandfathers on my father’s side influence me, for good and ill.  I am not responsible for their sins, however.  I am, of course, responsible for my own.

The theme of collective responsibility is also present.  In Luke 21:21:1-4 we read the story of the widow’s mite.  If we read immediately before and after it also, however, we find context.  In Luke 20:45-57 Jesus denounces those scribes who “devout widows’ houses” while seeking and enjoying social status, as well as maintaining the appearance of piety.  Then we read of a devout and impoverished widow donating money she cannot spare to the Temple.  Next, in 21:5, Jesus predicts the destruction of that Temple.  A progression is evident.

We are responsible for what we do in groups as well as by ourselves.  We are also responsible for sins of omission.  May we, by grace, care effectively for each other, individually and collectively, and never “devour widows’ houses” or stand by idly and silently while that happens, when we have an opportunity to say or do something to protest, if not to protect the exploited.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 11, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARY SLESSOR, SCOTTISH PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY IN WEST AFRICA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE FOX, FOUNDER OF THE RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS

THE FEAST OF MIEP GIES, RIGHTEOUS GENTILE

THE FEAST OF SAINT PAULINUS OF AQUILEIA, ROMAN CATHOLIC PATRIARCH

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Genesis and Mark, Part XXII: Sincerity (Or the Lack Thereof)   1 comment

widows-mite

Above:  The Widow’s Mite

Image Sources = Johannes Bockh and Thomas Mirtsch

(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:BasilikaOttobeurenFresko08.JPG)

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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:

Genesis 43:1-28 (24th Day of Lent)

Genesis 44:1-18, 32-34 (25th Day of Lent)

Psalm 34 (Morning–24th Day of Lent)

Psalm 5 (Morning–25th Day of Lent)

Psalms 25 and 91 (Evening–24th Day of Lent)

Psalms 27 and 51 (Evening–25th Day of Lent)

Mark 12:13-27 (24th Day of Lent)

Mark 12:28-41 (25th Day of Lent)

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Some Related Posts:

Genesis 44:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/23/week-of-proper-9-thursday-year-1/

Mark 12:

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

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

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/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/week-of-proper-4-saturday-year-1/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/proper-27-year-b/

Prayers:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/prayer-for-tuesday-in-the-fourth-week-of-lent/

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/06/prayer-for-wednesday-in-the-fourth-week-of-lent/

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As I read the assigned lessons I arrived at a unifying theme:  sincerity (or the lack thereof).  Joseph’s brothers demonstrated the sincerity of their change of heart by

  1. not objecting to preferential treatment for Benjamin, the youngest brother, in Genesis 43:33-34, and
  2. defending Benjamin, whom they thought was about to become a slave in Genesis 44:18-34.

They passed the test with flying colors.

In contrast, collaborators tried to trick Jesus into sounding like a rebel in Mark 12:13-17.  There were more Roman soldiers than usual in the city at the time.  But Jesus was no fool.  And the Sadducees, who denied the resurrection of the dead, asked an obvious trick question about levirate marriage and the afterlife.  Yet our Lord did field an honest question–one regarding the greatest commandment–and witnessed a desperately poor widow make an offering.  In the immediately prior passage he had denounced scribes who

devour the property of widows….

–Mark 12:40b, The New Jerusalem Bible

I have covered the widow’s mite in other posts linked to this one, but I choose to write the following here and now:  The widow should have kept her money and spent it on her needs.  But at least she was sincere.

May we refrain from playing destructive games with God and each other.  Instead, may we seek the best for each other and the community, be honest in that, and be sincere in our love.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 22, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BIGGS, ACTOR

THE FEAST OF ROTA WAITOA, ANGLICAN PRIEST

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Adapted from this post:

http://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/devotion-for-the-twenty-fourth-and-twenty-fifth-days-of-lent-lcms-daily-lectionary/

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Trusting God in Difficult Times   1 comment

Above:  Ruins of Babylon in 1932

Image Source = Library of Congress

(http://www.loc.gov/pictures/item/mpc2005007825/PP/)

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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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THE FIRST READING:

Daniel 1:1-20 (Revised English Bible):

In the third year of the reign of King Jehoiakim of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, the Babylonian king, came and laid siege to Jerusalem.  The Lord handed King Jehoiakim over to him, together with all that was left of the vessels from the house of God; and he carried them off to the land of Shinar, to the temple of his god, where he placed the vessels in the temple treasury.

The king ordered Ashpenaz, his chief eunuch, to bring into the palace some of the Israelite exiles, members of their royal house and of the nobility.  They were to be young men free from physical defect, handsome in appearance, well-informed, intelligent, and so fitted for service in the royal court; and he was to instruct them in the writings and language of the Chaldaeans.  The king assigned them a daily allowance of fine food and wine from the royal table; and their training was to last for three years ; at the end of that time they would enter his service.  among them were certain Jews:  Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.  To them the master of the eunuchs gave new names:  Daniel he called Belteshazzar, Hananiah Shadrach, Michael Meshach, and Azariah Abed-nego.

Daniel determined not to become contaminated with the food and wine from the royal table, and begged the master of the eunuchs to excuse him from touching it.  God caused the master to look on Daniel with kindness and goodwill, and to Daniel’s request he replied,

I am afraid of my lord the king:  he has assigned you food and drink, and if he were to see you looking miserable  compared with the other young men of your age, my head would be forfeit.

Then Daniel said to the attendant whom the master of the eunuchs had put in charge of Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, and himself,

Submit us to the this test for ten days:  give us only vegetables to eat and water to drink; then compare our appearance with that of the young men who have lived on the kings’ food, and be guided in your treatment of us by what you see for yourself.

He agreed to this proposal and submitted them to this test.  At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who had lived on the food from the king.  So the attendant took away the food assigned to them and the wine they were to drink, and gave them vegetables only.

To all four of these young men God gave knowledge, understanding of books, and learning of every kind, and Daniel had a gift for interpreting visions and dreams of very kind.  At the time appointed for the king for introducing the young men to court, the master of the eunuchs brought them into the presence of Nebuchadnezzar.  The king talked with them all, but found none of them to compare with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah; so they entered the royal service.  Whenever the king consulted them on any matter, he found them ten times superior to all the magicians  and exorcists in his whole kingdom.

THEN RESPONSE #1:

Canticle 13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

(Song of the Three Young Men 29-34 plus the Trinitarian formula)

Glory to you, Lord God of our fathers;

you are worthy of praise; glory to you.

Glory to you for the radiance of your holy Name;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you in the splendor of your temple;

on the throne of your majesty, glory to you.

Glory to you, seated between the Cherubim;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

Glory to you, beholding the depths;

in the high vault of heaven, glory to you.

Glory to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit;

we will praise you and highly exalt you for ever.

OR RESPONSE #2:

Psalm 24:1-6 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The earth is the LORD’s and all that is in it,

the world and all who dwell therein.

For it is who founded it upon the seas

and made it firm upon the rivers of the deep.

“Who can ascend the hill of the LORD?

and who can stand in his holy place?”

“Those who have clean hands and a pure heart,

who have not pledged themselves to falsehood,

nor sworn by what is a fraud.

They shall receive a blessing from the LORD

and a just reward from the God of their salvation.”

Such is the generation of those who seek him,

of those who seek your face, O God of Jacob.

THEN THE GOSPEL READING:

Luke 21:1-4 (Revised English Bible):

As Jesus looked up and saw rich people dropping their gifts into the chest of the temple treasury, he noticed a poor widow putting in two tiny coins.

I tell you this,

he said:

this poor widow has given more than any of them; for those others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all she had to live on.

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The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, whose will it is to restore all things in your well-beloved Son, the King of kings and Lord of lords: Mercifully grant that the peoples of the earth, divided and enslaved by sin, may be freed and brought together under his most gracious rule; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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A Related Post:

Mark 12 (Parallel to Luke 21):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/week-of-proper-4-saturday-year-1/

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Last week we read about one way of handling attempted assimilation into a Gentile culture:  insurrection.  However, in Daniel 1, we have an example of nonviolent resistance on a small scale.

The Chaldeans, a.k.a. Neo-Babylonians, had consigned the Kingdom of Judah to history in 587 B.C.E.  Daniel and his fellows found themselves forced into the service of King Neuchadnezzar II against their will, but they made the most of a bad situation.  In the process they retained their Jewish identities despite Chaldean attempts to the contrary.  Consider the renaming, for example.  Daniel, or “El has judged,” became Belteshazzar, or “Protect the king.”  Hananiah, whose name meant “Yah has been gracious,” received the name Shadrach, which was probably Persian for “shining.”  Mishael, literally, “Who is what El is?,” became Meshach, a name derived from the Zoroastrian deity Mithras.  And Azariah, whose name meant “Yah has helped,” became Abed-nego, or “Servant of Nabu,” Nabu being the Babylonina God of Wisdom.

There were royal power plays at work.  Changing the mens’ names signified not only assimilation but dependence on the king, as did assigning food and wine from the king’s table.  Yet these four men followed an invisible and more powerful king, who enabled them to survive in difficult circumstances.

Now I turn toward the lesson from Luke.

I have already covered the Markan version of this story and provided a link to that post.  Yet a grasp of the Lukan telling requires me to back up a few verses, into Luke 20:45-47, immediately before 21:1-4.

In the hearing of all the people Jesus said to his disciples:  ”Beware of the scribes, who like to walk up and down in long robes, and love to be greeted respectfully in the street, to have the chief seats in synagogues and places of honour at feasts.  These are the men who eat up the property of widows, while for appearance’ sake they say long prayers; the sentence they receive will be all the more severe.”

Now read Luke 21:1-4 again.

The widow put two lepta into an offering box at the Temple.  A lepta was 1/128 of a day’s wage, or a denarius.  So the widow was really poor.  Now reconsider the words of Jesus; did the praise the widow or lament her action?  The text does not indicate his tone of voice, but lament seems to be the more likely dominant option.  Certainly he did not want her to starve.  And her meager offering helped support the Temple system off which the corrupt religious establishment lived and from which it derived its power.  Yet the widow did trust God and practice religion piously, as she understood it.  One can, with justification, understand Jesus to have praised her humble piety, which stood in stark contrast to the false holiness of those he had just condemned.

Let us be clear.  Luke 21:1-4 is no more an instruction to give away all the money one has to pay bills and buy food than Daniel 1 is a vegetarian tract.  Yet a common thread runs through them:  We must trust and follow God.  This is easy when times are good, but difficult when circumstances are harsh.  Certainly exile following the destruction of one’s nation is harsh.  Truly grinding poverty is harsh.  ”Woe to those who create and maintain such harsh conditions,” Biblical prophets said again and again.  ”God loves the orphans and the widows,” they said; and the author of Luke-Acts did, too.  Open an unabridged concordance of the Bible and look up “widow” and “widows,” focusing on Luke and Acts.  Then read those passages.

With this post I near the end of this series of devotions.  It will end with “Week of Proper 29:  Saturday, Year 1,” after which I will return to ADVENT, CHRISTMAS, AND EPIPHANY DEVOTIONS and blog there for a few months.  I mention this because the temporal relationship of this post to Advent is germane.  During Advent we will focus on the approaching Incarnation of God in human form, Jesus of Nazareth.   His birth constituted, among other things, an affirmation of the dignity of human beings, including the poor and the downtrodden, such as today’s widow.

Regardless of your economic situation, O reader, I encourage you to trust and follow God.  By the way, I hope for your sake and that of your family, if you have one, that your economic situation is excellent and improving.  This is a prayer I say for everyone:  May all have all that they need and the good judgment to use it properly.  And may they thank God for it in words, deeds, and attitudes.  Furthermore, may we function as agents of God in helping each other achieve and retain this reality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 30, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUSEBIUS OF CAESAREA, HISTORIAN AND ROMAN CATHOLIC OF BISHOP

THE FEAST OF APOLO KIVEBULAYA, ANGLICAN EVANGELIST

THE FEAST OF JOACHIM NEANDER, GERMAN REFORMED MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF JOSEPHINE BUTLER, WORKER AMONG WOMEN

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/week-of-proper-29-monday-year-1/

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Widows   1 comment

Above:  Fresco of the Widow’s Mite

Image Sources = Johannes Bockh and Thomas Mirtsch

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FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #1

Ruth 3:1-5; 4:13-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Naomi her mother-in-law said to her,

My daughter, I need to seek some security for you, so that it may be well with you. Now here is our kinsman Boaz, with whose young women you have been working. See, he is winnowing barley tonight at the threshing floor. Now wash and anoint yourself, and put on your best clothes and go down to the threshing floor; but do not make yourself known to the man until he has finished eating and drinking. When he lies down, observe the place where he lies; then, go and uncover his feet and lie down; and he will tell you what to do.

She said to her,

All that you tell me I will do.

So Boaz took Ruth and she became his wife. When they came together, the LORD made her conceive, and she bore a son. Then the women said to Naomi,

Blessed be the LORD, who has not left you this day without next-of-kin; and may his name be renowned in Israel! He shall be to you a restorer of life and a nourisher of your old age; for your daughter-in-law who loves you, who is more to you than seven sons, has borne him.

Then Naomi took the child and laid him in her bosom, and became his nurse. The women of the neighborhood gave him a name, saying,

A son has been born to Naomi.

They named him Obed; he became the father of Jesse, the father of David.

Psalm 127 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Unless the LORD builds the house,

their labor is in vain who build it.

2  Unless the LORD watches over the city,

in vain the watchman keeps his vigil.

3  It is in vain that you rise so early and go to bed so late;

vain, too, to eat the bread to toil,

for he gives to his beloved sleep.

4  Children are a heritage from the LORD,

and the fruit of the womb is a gift.

5  Like arrows in the hand of a warrior

are the children of one’s youth.

6  Happy is the man who has his quiver full of them!

he shall not be put to shame

when he contends with his enemies in the gate.

FIRST READING AND PSALM:  OPTION #2

1 Kings 17:7-16 (TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures):

After some time the wadi dried up, because there was no rain in the land.  And the word of the LORD came to him:

Go at once to Zarephath of Sidon, and stay there; I have designated a widow there to feed you.

So he went at once to Zarephath.  When he came to the entrance of the town, a widow was there gathering wood.  He called out to her,

Please bring me a little water in your pitcher, and let me drink.

As she went to fetch it, he called out to her,

Please bring along a piece of bread for me.

She replied,

As the LORD your God lives, I have nothing baked, nothing but a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug.  I am just gathering a couple of sticks, s that I can go home and prepare it for me and my son; we shall eat it and then we shall die.

Elijah said to her,

Don’t be afraid.  Go and do as you have said; but first make me a small cake from what you have there, and bring it out to me; then make some for yourself and your son.  For thus says the LORD, the God of Israel:  The jar of flour shall not give out and the jug oil shall not fail until the day that the LORD sends rain upon the ground.

She went and did as Elijah had spoken, and she and he and her household had food for a long time.  The jar of flour did not give out, nor did the jug of oil fail, just as the LORD had spoken through Elijah.

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!

SECOND READING

Hebrews 9:24-28 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

For Christ has entered , not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.  Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the Holy Place yearly with blood not his own; for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world.  But as it is, he has appeared once for all for the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.  And just as it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment, so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly awaiting him.

GOSPEL READING

Mark 12:38-44 (Revised English Bible):

There was a large crowd listening eagerly.  As he taught them, he said,

Beware of the scribes, who love to walk up and down in long robes and be greeted respectfully in the street, and to have the chief seats  in synagogues and places of honour at feasts.  Those who eat up the property of widows, while for appearance’s sake they say long prayers, will receive a sentence all the more severe.

As he was sitting opposite the temple treasury, he watched the people dropping their money into the chest.  Many rich people were putting in large amounts.  Presently there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins, together worth a penny.  He called his disciples to him and said,

Truly I tell you:  this poor widow has given more than all those giving to the treasury; for the others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all that she had to live on.

The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son came into the world that he might destroy the works of the devil and make us children of God and heirs of eternal life: Grant that, having this hope, we may purify ourselves as he is pure; that, when he comes again with power and great glory, we may be made like him in his eternal and glorious kingdom; where he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Proper 27, Year A:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/19/proper-27-year-a/

Ruth 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/week-of-proper-15-saturday-year-1/

1 Kings 17:

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

Hebrews 9:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/30/week-of-3-epiphany-monday-year-1/

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

Mark 12:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/week-of-proper-4-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/week-of-proper-4-saturday-year-2/

Matthew 23 (Parallel to Mark 12):

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/26/week-of-proper-15-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/02/28/week-of-proper-16-monday-year-1/

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

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/03/06/week-of-proper-16-wednesday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/10/09/week-of-proper-15-saturday-year-2/

Luke 20-21 (Parallel to Mark 12):

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/30/week-of-proper-29-monday-year-1/

In Remembrance of Me:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/27/in-remembrance-of-me/

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Widows were among the most vulnerable members of society in Biblical times.  Their societies, being patriarchal, placed most women in subservient and economically dependent statuses.  A widow needed a man–perhaps her son or another relative–to care for her.

This Sunday we read two stories of God providing for widows, whether via a man or a direct miracle.  And, in Mark 12, a widow pays an offering she cannot afford.  I have covered that story in a post (a link to which I have provided) already.  So, with a minimum of repetition, I propose that Jesus probably lamented her sacrifice.  That should have been food money, not an offering the Temple authorities would not have missed.  I hope that God provided for that faithful widow.

Consider the scene from Mark 12.  It was Holy Week, so Jesus was a few days away from dying, something he had to do.  The widow did something she thought she had to do because the religious authorities said so.  Yet it was unnecessary, and she did need to eat.  The major difference between the two sacrifices I choose to emphasize now is that our Lord’s sacrifice was necessary; the widow’s was not.  Yet they shared a common factor:  Temple authorities played large role in both of them.

May we read these stories, digest them, and inwardly digest them.  Accordingly, may we help the vulnerable, as we are able, and refrain from imposing needless burdens upon others.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 10, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LEO THE GREAT, BISHOP OF ROME

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/11/10/proper-27-year-b/

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In Praise of True Piety   1 comment

Above:  A Mite from the Reign of Alexander Jannaeus, Hasmonean Priest-King of Judea, 103-76 B.C.E.

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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 12:1, 5-15, 20 (Revised English Bible):

After the wedding celebrations were over, Tobit sent for Tobias.

My son,

he said,

when you pay for the man who went with you, see that you give him something extra, over and above his wages.

So Tobias called him and said,

Half of all that you have brought with you is to be yours for your wages; take it, and may you fare well.

Then Raphael called them both aside and said to them:

“Praise God, and in the presence of all living creatures thank you for the good he has done you, so that they may sing hymns of praise to his name.  Proclaim to all the world what God has done; pay him honour and give him willing thanks.  A king’s secret ought to be kept, but the works of God should be publicly acknowledged.  Acknowledge them, therefore, and pay him honour.  Do good, and no evil will befall you.  Better prayer with sincerity, and almsgiving with righteousness, than wealth with wickedness.  Better give alms than hoard up gold.  Almsgiving preserves from death and wipes out every sin.  Givers of alms will enjoy long life; but sinners and wrongdoers are their own worst enemies.

I will tell you the whole truth, hiding nothing from you. I have already made it clear to you that while a king’s secret ought to be kept, the works of God should be glorified in public.  Now Tobit, when you and Sarah prayed, it was I who brought your prayers to be remembered in the glorious presence of the Lord.  So too when you buried the dead:  that day when without hesitation you got up from your meal to bury dead man, I was sent to test you.  At the same time God sent me cure both you and Sarah your daughter-in-law.  I am Raphael, one of the seven angels who stand in attendance of the Lord and enter his glorious presence….And now praise the Lord, give thanks to God here on earth; I am about to ascend to him who sent me.  Write down everything that has happened to you.

Psalm 65:1-5 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 You are to be praised, O God, in Zion;

to you shall vows be performed in Jerusalem.

2 To you that hear prayer shall all flesh come,

because of their transgressions.

3 Our sins are stronger than we are,

but you will blot them out.

4 Happy are they whom you choose

and draw to your courts to dwell there!

they will be satisfied by the beauty of your house,

by the holiness of your temple.

Mark 12:38-44 (Revised English Bible):

There was a large crowd listening eagerly.  As he taught them, he said,

Beware of the scribes, who love to walk up and down in long robes and be greeted respectfully in the street, and to have the chief seats  in synagogues and places of honour at feasts.  Those who eat up the property of widows, while for appearance’s sake they say long prayers, will receive a sentence all the more severe.

As he was sitting opposite the temple treasury, he watched the people dropping their money into the chest.  Many rich people were putting in large amounts.  Presently there came a poor widow who dropped in two tiny coins, together worth a penny.  He called his disciples to him and said,

Truly I tell you:  this poor widow has given more than all those giving to the treasury; for the others who have given had more than enough, but she, with less than enough, has given all that she had to live on.

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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 Bible does contradict itself.  For example, Tobit, Psalms, and Proverbs link piety and good fortune to each other, but Ecclesiastes is more realistic and Jesus and Paul recognize that suffering flows from righteousness much of the time.  Being a Christian, I side with Jesus.  This fact does not prevent me from enjoying the Book of Tobit, however, even if I reject the formulation that almsgiving atones for all sins.

I choose to focus on the positive instead.  The entire extended family of Tobit is now healed, thanks to divine actions.  And Raphael reveals his actual identity and returns to Heaven.  Before he departs, however, he utters timeless wisdom:

A king’s secret ought to be kept,

but the works of God should be publicly acknowledged.

Jesus, in Mark’s Gospel, tops off a series of conversations (mostly confrontations) by condemning scribes who display false piety in public for the sake of status.  They have honor because social rules say they do.  This honor is worthless in the eyes of God, Jesus says.  These honor seekers are really predators who “eat up the property of widows.”  This is an apt description of temple tithes imposed upon the poor.  Then Jesus observes wealthy people giving large amounts of money they would never miss and a widow depositing two mites, a much smaller sum.  Her offering impresses him the most.  She trusts God, and the others do not.

These offerings supported the Temple system, which of the Jesus of Mark opposed.  This point should be plain by now to anyone who has been reading this Gospel for twelve chapters.  The widow gave money because her society expected it of her and because this was the piety she had learned.  Her sincerity and trust impressed Jesus.  I read this story and come away with a second thought:  Why should anyone expect such a widow to support the corrupt Temple system?  She should have used the two mites for necessities.  God would not have held that decision against her, I think.

Besides, organized religion cannot contain all of true piety.  The widow already practiced this piety, for she trusted God to provide for her needs.  And she acknowledged it in public.  That impressed Jesus.

It is well and good to seek to understand the meaning of a Bible story first within the contexts of history, culture, and texts.  Indeed, we need to begin there.  Then we need to move to the next level, which is contemporary application.  So I leave you, O reader, with open-ended questions:

  • How much do you trust God?
  • Are you helping to support a modern counterpart to the corrupt Temple system of Jesus’ time?

In the name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.   Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2010 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH OF HUNGARY, PRINCESS

THE FEAST OF FRANZ SCHUBERT, COMPOSER

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Adapted from this post:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/11/19/week-of-proper-4-saturday-year-1/

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Posted January 26, 2012 by neatnik2009 in Mark 12, Psalm 65, Tobit

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