Twelfth Day of Lent   19 comments

A Slum Near Cairo, Egypt

Image Source = Katonams

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Collect and lections from the Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints

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Follow the assigned readings with me this Lent….

Kenneth Randolph Taylor

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Isaiah 1:2-20 (Revised English Bible):

Let the heavens and the earth give ear, for it is the LORD who speaks:

I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.

An ox knows its owner and a donkey its master’s stall;

but Israel lacks all knowledge, my people has no discernment.

You sinful nation, a people weighed down with iniquity,

a race of evildoers, children whose lives are depraved,

who have deserted the LORD, spurned the Holy One of Israel, and turned your backs on him!

Why do you invite more punishment, why persist in your defection?

Your head is all covered with sores, your whole body is bruised;

from head to foot there is not a sound spot in you–nothing but weals and welts and raw wounds

which have not felt compress or bandage or the soothing touch of oil.

Your country is desolate, your cities burnt down.

Before your eyes strangers devour your land; it is as desolate as Sodom after its overthrow.

Only Zion is left, like a watchman’s shelter in a vineyard,

like a hut in a plot of cucumbers, like a beleaguered city.

Had the LORD of Hosts not left us a few survivors,

we would have become like Sodom, no better than Gomorrah.

Listen to the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom;

give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah:

Your countless sacrifices, what are they to me? says the LORD.

I am sated with the whole-offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed cattle;

I have no desire for the blood of bulls, of sheep, and of he-goats,

when you come into presence.

Who has asked you for all this?

No more shall you tread my courts.

To bring me offerings is futile;

the reek of sacrifice is abhorrent to me.

New moons and sabbaths and sacred assemblies–

such idolatrous ceremonies I cannot endure.

I loathe your new moons and your festivals;

they have become a burden to me, and I can tolerate them no longer.

When you hold out your hands in prayer, I shall turn away my eyes.

Though you offer countless prayers, I shall not listen;

there is blood on your hands.

Wash and be clean;

put your evil deeds far from my sight;

cease to do evil, learn to do good.

Pursue justice, guide the oppressed;

uphold the rights of the fatherless,

and plead the widow’s cause.

Now come, let us argue this out, says the LORD.

Though your sins are scarlet, they may yet be white as snow;

though they are dyed crimson, they may become white as wool.

If you are willing to obey, you will eat the best that the earth yields;

but if you refuse and rebel, the sword will devour you.

The LORD himself has spoken.

Psalm 50:7-24 (Revised English Bible):

Listen, my people, and I shall speak; I shall bear witness against you, Israel:

I am God, your God.

Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you, your whole-offerings always before me;

I need no young bull from your farmstead, no he-goat from your folds;

for all the living creatures of the forest are mine and the animals in their thousands on my hills.

I know every bird on those mountains; the teeming life of the plains is my care.

If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and that is in it are mine.

Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of he-goats?

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and fulfill your vows to the Most High;

then if you call to me in time of trouble, I shall come to your rescue, and you will honour me.

God’s word to a wicked person is this:

What right have you to recite my statutes, to take the words of my covenant on your lips?

For you hate correction and cast my words out of your sight.

If you meet a thief, you choose him as your friend, and you make common cause with adulterers;

freely you employ your mouth for evil  and harness your tongue to deceit.

You are forever talking against your brother, imputing faults to your mother’s son.

When you have done these things, and kept silence,

you thought that I was someone like yourself;

but I shall rebuke you and indict you to your face.

You forget God, but think well on this,

lest I tear you in pieces and there will be no one to save you:

he honours me who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving,

and to him who follows my way I shall show the salvation of God.

Matthew 23:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus then addressed the crowds and his disciples in these words:

The scribes and the Pharisees occupy Moses’ seat; so be careful to do whatever they tell you.  But do not follow their practice; for they say one thing and do another.  They make up heavy loads and pile them on the shoulders of others, but will not themselves lift a finger to ease the burden.  Whatever they do is done for show.  They go about wearing broad phylacteries and with large tassels on their robes; they love to have the place of honour at feasts and the chief seats in synagogues, to be greeted respectfully in the street, and to be addressed as ‘rabbi.’

But you must not be called ‘rabbi,’ for you have one Rabbi, and you are all brothers.  Do not call any man on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.  Nor must you be called ‘teacher;’ you have one Teacher, the Messiah.  The greatest among you must be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

The Collect:

O God, you willed to redeem us from all iniquity by your Son: Deliver us when we are tempted to regard sin without abhorrence, and let the virtue of his passion come between us and our mortal enemy; 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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Point #1:

Growing up in a series of small congregations (interlocking extended families, really) as  a pastor’s son I have a certain perspective on the causes of conflict in some churches.  When a person with an imbalanced ego has a position (with or without a title) of authority or influence in a congregation that person can wreak havoc.  The person with a weak ego uses his or her position as an ego crutch, which he or she defends, often destructively to the body of Christ.  Likewise, the person with a raging ego uses his or her ecclesiastical status to demonstrate a false proprietorship.  The result is not the building up of the body of Christ.

This day’s reading from Matthew reflects the Gospel ethic of “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”  Proper ecclesiastical leadership builds up the body of Christ, not the ego of the leader.  This model extends to leadership in other settings.

Point #2:

Sin is both individual and corporate.  The dominant variety of Christianity in the Bible Belt emphasizes individual sin, sometimes to the exclusion of corporate sin.  A balanced understanding of sin addresses both varieties.

Consider, for example, the question of “fallen women” in the United States during the early 1800s.  Many prostitutes of that time had one alternative to selling their bodies.  That option was starvation.  They lived in a society which did not educate women (except to be homemakers) or prepare them for careers.  So a young and unmarried woman alienated from her family and lacking friends had few options.  Without justifying prostitution, was not the subordination of women (the societal sin) a major contributing factor to prostitution?

It is easy to focus on individual sin to the exclusion of corporate sin.  This is a seductive approach for various reasons, among them convenience.  Yet this leaves much important work undone.  Is it acceptable, for example, to lecture about family values while keeping wages depressed, thereby harming families?  In this scenario a consistent ethic of supporting family values entails paying workers enough to that they can support their families better.  And it involves one’s profit margin and business model.  What would Isaiah say about this?

The imperative of economic justice is a major theme in the Bible.  The prophet Isaiah addressed this issue in this day’s Old Testament reading.  Biblical authors made clear that God disapproves of economic injustice, and so should people.  Society does come into existence formed fully; people shape it.  And people can reshape it.

This is a question of loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Jesus spoke of that.

I conclude with an old Franciscan blessing:

May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for
justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer
from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may
reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that
you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able,
with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you
and remain with you, this day and forevermore.

AMEN.

KRT

Written on February 22, 2010

Posted October 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2020, Episcopal Church Lectionary, March 10

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19 responses to “Twelfth Day of Lent

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