Twenty-First Day of Lent   12 comments

Cedars of Lebanon

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Friday, March 20, 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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Hosea 14:2-10 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

Return, O Israel, to the LORD your God,

For you have fallen because of your sin.

Take words with you

And return to the LORD.

Say to Him:

Forgive all guilt

And accept what is good;

Instead of bulls we will pay

[The offering of] our lips.

Assyria shall not save us,

No more will we ride on steeds,

Nor ever again will we call

Our handiwork our god,

Since in You alone orphans find pity!

I will heal their affliction,

Generously will I take them back in love;

For my anger has turned away from them.

I will be to Israel like dew;

He shall blossom like the lily,

He strike out like a Lebanon tree.

His boughs shall spread out far,

His beauty shall be like the olive tree’s,

His fragrance like that of Lebanon.

They who sit in his shade shall be revived:

They shall bring to life new grain,

They shall blossom like the vine;

His scent shall be like the wine of Lebanon.

Ephraim [shall say]:

What more have I to do with idols?

When I respond and look to Him,

I become like a verdant cypress.

Your fruit is provided by Me.

He who is wise will consider these words,

He who is prudent will take note of them.

For the paths of the LORD of smooth;

The righteous can walk on them,

While sinners stumble on them.

Psalm 81:9-15 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

Hear, My people, and I will admonish you;

Israel, if you would be listen to me!

You shall have no foreign god,

you shall not bow down to an alien god.

I am the LORD your God

who brought you out of the land of Egypt;

open your mouth wide and I will fill it.

But My people would not listen to Me,

Israel would not obey Me.

So I let them go after their willful heart

that they might follow their own devices.

If only My people would listen to Me,

if Israel would follow my Paths,

then would I subdue their enemies at once,

strike their foes again and again.

Mark 12:28-34 (The New Testament in the Language of the People):

Then one of the scribes, on hearing them [some Pharisees, Herodians, and Sadducees] arguing, came up, and since he saw that Jesus had answered them properly, he asked Him,

What sort of command is the first of all commands?

Jesus answered,

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

Then the scribe said to Him,

Indeed, Teacher, you have properly said that He is one by Himself, and there is no other but Him, and to love Him with one’s whole heart, one’s whole understanding, and one’s whole strength, and to love one’s neighbor as one loves himself is far more than all the burnt-offerings and sacrifices.

So Jesus said to him, as He saw that he had answered thoughtfully,

You are not far from the kingdom of God.

And no one ventured to ask Him any more questions.

The Collect:

Grant us, O Lord our Strength, a true love of your holy Name; so that, trusting in your grace, we may fear no earthly evil, nor fix our hearts on earthly goods, but may rejoice in your full salvation; 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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Jesus had been sparring verbally with Pharisees and Herodians over the lawfulness of paying Roman taxes with idolatrous coins bearing the image of the allegedly divine emperor.  If he said no, the imperium would not like his answer.  Yet if he said yes, religious authorities would pounce on him.  Jesus avoided the trap by saying that one should give the empire its due and render to God what God is due.

Then, in the Markan narrative, Sadducees, who did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, asked Jesus a question about a woman who married a series of brothers via levirate marriage.  Whose wife would she be in the resurrection?  This was an insincere inquiry.  I imagine Jesus thinking, “This is the best they do?  They ask me stupid questions like this?”

Then a thoughtful scribe seeking an answer asked Jesus a question concerning the greatest commandment.  Jesus channeled Deuteronomy 6:4-5, the Shema.  I will not repeat what I have written concerning the greatest commandments in immediately preceding posts of this series.  Instead, I refer you to them.

The presence of Jesus reflects the theology of Hosea.  God offered people another chance to obey God and avoid the consequences of disobedience.  Biblical judgment and mercy balance each other well.  Often they are present on the same printed page, if not adjacent pages.  Judgment means nothing in the absence of mercy, just as mercy lacks meaning without judgment.  God loves us and wants us to come home.  And, in this day’s reading from Mark, the only professional religious person interested in an honest answer received encouraging words from Jesus.

So, are we more interested in seeking useful answers from God, or do we want to play sophomoric and political games with the Holy One?  And what does the answer say about us?

KRT

Written on February 28, 2010

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Posted October 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2020, Episcopal Church Lectionary, March 20

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