Archive for July 2011

Twenty-Second Day of Easter: Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B   15 comments

The Good Shepherd

Loving One Another Can Be Risky

APRIL 25, 2021

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Acts 4:5-12 (New Revised Standard Version):

The day after they had arrested Peter and John for teaching about Jesus and the resurrection, the rulers, elders, and scribes assembled in Jerusalem, with Annas the high priest, Caiaphas, John, and Alexander, and all who were of the high-priestly family. When they had made the prisoners stand in their midst, they inquired,

By what power or by what name did you do this?

Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them,

Rulers of the people and elders, if we are questioned today because of a good deed done to someone who was sick and are asked how this man has been healed, let it be known to all of you, and to all the people of Israel, that this man is standing before you in good health by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified, whom God raised from the dead. This Jesus is “the stone that was rejected by you, the builders;/it has become the cornerstone.  There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved.

Psalm 23 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 The LORD is my shepherd;

I shall not be in want.

2 He makes me lie in green pastures

and leads me beside still waters.

3 He revives my soul

and guides me along right pathways for his Name’s sake.

Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I shall fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of those who trouble me;

you have anointed my head with oil,

and my cup is running over.

6 Surely your goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,

and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever.

1 John 3:16-24 (New Revised Standard Version):

We know love by this, that he laid down his life for us– and we ought to lay down our lives for one another. How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help?

Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action. And by this we will know that we are from the truth and will reassure our hearts before him whenever our hearts condemn us; for God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. Beloved, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have boldness before God; and we receive from him whatever we ask, because we obey his commandments and do what pleases him.

And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who obey his commandments abide in him, and he abides in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit that he has given us.

John 10:11-18 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away– and the wolf snatches them and scatters them. The hired hand runs away because a hired hand does not care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. For this reason the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it up again. I have received this command from my Father.

The Collect:

O God, whose Son Jesus is the good shepherd of your people: Grant that when we hear his voice we may know him who calls us each by name, and follow where he leads; who, with you and the Holy Spirit, lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Twenty-Second Day of Easter:  Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-second-day-of-easter-fourth-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Acts 4:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sixth-day-of-easter-friday-in-easter-week/

1 John 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/twelfth-day-of-christmas/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/second-day-of-epiphany/

John 10:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/twenty-third-day-of-easter/

Very Bread, Good Shepherd, Tend Us:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/27/very-bread-good-shepherd-tend-us/

Shepherd of Souls, Refesh and Bless:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/09/07/shepherd-of-souls-by-james-montgomery/

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We read in 1 John 3 that we ought to “love one another,” as the text tells us, “not in word or speech, but in truth an action.”  In other words, talk is cheap and writing nice sentiments is easy, but loving actively matters.  The Good Shepherd of John 10 lays down his life for the sheep, which is what Jesus did. And, when we turn to the lesson from Acts 4, we need to know that Peter and John are facing charges before the Sanhedrin.  Peter had just healed a crippled beggar at Temple’s Beautiful Gate then delivered a sermon.  Now he faced charges of “proclaiming that in Jesus there is resurrection of the dead.”  Peter, who had recently denied Jesus three times, did not back down this time.  He loved Jesus in truth and action.

Psalm 23 speaks poetically of God setting a table for us in the presence our enemies.  Yes, loving one another will make enemies for us.  What is so allegedly offensive about love?  Despite much rhetoric to the contrary, many of us, in our societies, enjoy privileges derived from unjust inequality.  There will always be some inequality, such as that based on the fact that some people are more talented in certain ways than are others.  This is fine, for absolute equality is not desirable, as constitutes universal mediocrity.  Those who stand out because of their talents have something valuable to teach the rest of us.

But there is artificial inequality, the sort I find offensive.  This results from marginalizing people unjustly, for reasons such as physical disability, sex (usually female), ethnicity, and race.  This treatment of people stifles their opportunities to explore and develop their God-given talents and, in so doing, retards the progress of the society which condones and practices it.

And, when the wages of many are unjustly depressed and the wealth of a relative few is vast and growing, there is a basic instability in an economic system.  We will always have the wealthy and the poor among us for a set of reasons, but a narrower gap between the two economic extremes is healthy for society.  It also comes nearer to reflecting God’s economy, in which there is enough for everybody.

To resist unjust inequality properly is to act out of love for one’s neighbors.  It also threatens the status quo and  is, in some cases, criminal.  Under the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, for example, helping an escaped slave gain his or her freedom was a federal felony.  I think also of those courageous Righteous Gentiles (often Christians) in Europe who sheltered Jews at great risk to themselves during the time of the Third Reich.  I hope that, if dire circumstances and the Law of Love ever require, I will have the moral courage to become a criminal in the style of those who sheltered Jews and escaped slaves.

As risky as loving our neighbors can be, we can take comfort that God will set a table for us in the presence of our enemies.  If God is for us, who can be against us and triumph in the end?

May we love one another regardless of the risks.  We are sheep; may we recall what our shepherd has done for us and follow him.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/loving-one-another-can-be-risky/

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Fifteenth Day of Easter: Third Sunday of Easter, Year B   11 comments

Above: Supper at Emmaus, by Caravaggio, 1601

A Time for Courage

APRIL 18, 2021

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Acts 3:12-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Peter saw the astonishment of those who had seen the lame man healed, he addressed the people,

You Israelites, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, the God of our ancestors has glorified his servant Jesus, whom you handed over and rejected in the presence of Pilate, though he had decided to release him. But you rejected the Holy and Righteous One and asked to have a murderer given to you, and you killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know; and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you.

And now, friends, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. In this way God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, that his Messiah would suffer. Repent therefore, and turn to God so that your sins may be wiped out.

Psalm 4 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Answer me when I call, O God, defender of my cause;

you set me free when I am hard-pressed;

have mercy on me and hear my prayer.

2  “You mortals, how long will you dishonor my glory;

how long will  you worship dumb idols

and run after false gods?

3  Know that the LORD does wonders for the faithful;

when I call upon the LORD, he will hear me.

4  Tremble, then, and do not sin;

speak to your heart in silence upon your bed.

5  Offer the appointed sacrifices

and put your trust in the LORD.

6  Many are saying,

“Oh, that we might see better times!”

Lift up the light of your countenance upon us, O LORD.

7  You have put gladness in my heart,

more than when grain and wine and oil increase.

8  I lie down in peace; at once I fall asleep;

for only you, LORD, make me dwell in safety.

1 John 3:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and that is what we are. The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we will be has not yet been revealed. What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. And all who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Everyone who commits sin is guilty of lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he was revealed to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Everyone who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous.

Luke 24:36b-48 (New Revised Standard Version):

When the disciples were telling how they had seen Jesus risen from the dead, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them,

Peace be with you.

They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost. He said to them,

Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.

And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet. While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them,

Have you anything here to eat?

They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate in their presence.

Then he said to them,

These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you– that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.

Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, and he said to them,

Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things.

The Collect:

O God, whose blessed Son made himself known to his disciples in the breaking of bread: Open the eyes of our faith, that we may behold him in all his redeeming work; who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Fifteenth Day of Easter:  Third Sunday of Easter, Year A:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fifteenth-day-of-easter-third-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Acts 3:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/fifth-day-of-easter-thursday-in-easter-week/

1 John 3:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/15/tenth-day-of-christmas/

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The Apostles were understandably perplexed.  Just a few days previously, the Roman Empire had executed Jesus.  More than once he had predicted this event as well as his Resurrection, but they did not understand what he meant.  So the reality took them aback.  Besides, might they be next?  How long might they survive?

Then they heard that Jesus was alive, and had spoken at length to two disciples on the road to Emmaus.  These followers could not be making this up, could they?

Then Jesus appeared to them and charged them to carry on his work.  They did.  This required great courage and, for most of them, ended in martyrdom.  Simon Peter, the impetuous redhead, became a great leader of the nascent movement.  The reading from Acts 3 occurs after he healed a crippled beggar at the Beautiful Gate, at the Jerusalem Temple.  Onlookers, understandably amazed, listened to the Apostles’ bold proclamation.

We are all children of God, albeit ones in various stages of rebellion against God.  Nevertheless, there is the hope of repentance, or turning around or changing one’s mind.  As we read in 1 John 3, sin is lawlessness, but we need not remain in that state, at least to the extend we are in it.

The eleven surviving Apostles plus Matthias, who filled the vacancy Judas Iscariot created, changed the world.  We who call ourselves Christians stand on their shoulders of faith.  These men acted courageously and boldly and, in so doing, left the world a better place.  How many positive social reform movements, inspiring works of musical and visual art, masterpieces of theological and devotional literature, improved communities, and changed lives have flowed from what the Apostles did?

Our impact might not be as great, but it does not need to be so in order to answer faithfully God’s call on our lives.  Each of us affects many other people directly and indirectly.  They, in turn, do likewise.  And so it goes.  May our impacts be positive, for the benefit of others and the glory of God.

We have much to do.  May we take courage, be bold, get to work, and continue it faithfully.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/a-time-for-courage/

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Eighth Day of Easter: Second Sunday of Easter, Year B   13 comments

Robert De Niro as Captain Mendoza in The Mission (1986)

(Image = A Screen Capture via PowerDVD)

Forgiving and Retaining Sins

APRIL 11, 2021

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Acts 4:32-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.

Psalm 133 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1 Oh, how good and pleasant it is,

when brethren live together in unity!

2 It is like fine oil upon the head

that runs down upon the beard,

3 Upon the beard of Aaron,

and runs down upon the collar of his robe.

It is like the dew of Hermon

that falls upon the hills of Zion.

5 For there the LORD has ordained the blessing;

life for evermore.

1 John 1:1-2:2 (New Revised Standard Version):

We declare to you what was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the word of life– this life was revealed, and we have seen it and testify to it, and declare to you the eternal life that was with the Father and was revealed to us– we declare to you what we have seen and heard so that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. We are writing these things so that our joy may be complete.

This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with him while we are walking in darkness, we lie and do not do what is true; but if we walk in the light as he himself is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.

My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

John 20:19-31 (New Revised Standard Version):

When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said,

Peace be with you.

After he said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again,

Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.

When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,

Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.

But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him,

We have seen the Lord.

But he said to them,

Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.

A week later his disciples were again in the house, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were shut, Jesus came and stood among them and said,

Peace be with you.

Then he said to Thomas,

Put your finger here and see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Do not doubt but believe.

Thomas answered him,

My Lord and my God!

Jesus said to him,

Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may come to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that through believing you may have life in his name.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, who in the Paschal mystery established the new covenant of reconciliation: Grant that all who have been reborn into the fellowship of Christ’s Body may show forth in their lives what they profess by their faith; 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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Some Related Posts:

Eighth Day of Easter:  Second Sunday of Easter, Year A:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/eighth-day-of-easter-second-sunday-of-easter-year-a/

Acts 4:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/tenth-day-of-easter/

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If you forgive men’s sins,

their sins are forgiven;

if you hold them,

they are held fast.

–John 20:23 (The Anchor Bible)

This is an interesting passage, is it not?  How one interprets it probably says much about where one stands in relation to the Protestant and Counter Reformations.  That, at least, has been my impression, based on a review of commentaries on the Gospel of John.  Almost without failing, Roman Catholic commentators favor the interpretation that the Christian community has the power to absolve and retain sins, but almost all Protestant scholars have argued that all the church has the power to do is pronounce what God has done.  I belong a tradition in the middle.  The Reconciliation of a Penitent in the 1979 Book of Common Prayer permits the priest either to absolve sins or to announce the forgiveness of sins.  Pick your flavor:  Catholic or Protestant; both are Christian.

I took some time to explore this passage.  It can, depending on how one wants to read the Greek, read in the present tense or the passive past perfect tense; the sins are either retained or forgiven or they have been forgiven and have been retained.  Also, to forgive means to “let go,” and a both “retain” an “hold” are literal translations of the same Greek word.  There is apparently some slight ambiguity in the text as to whether one or one’s sins are retained or forgiven (in whatever tense and voice), but, as Father Raymond Brown points out in Volume II of his massive commentary on the Gospel of John, textual parallelism points to the sins being retained or forgiven.

There is one more very interesting fact:  This is the only time the Greek words for “to forgive” and “to retain” appear in the Johannine Gospel.

With that much resolved, there is another question: Who retains the unforgiven sins?  The text seems to indicate that the unforgiven person does.

The major purpose of the series of devotional blog posts is to offer thoughts one can apply in life.  Fortunately, I have three such thoughts today:

  1. If we do not forgive the sins of those who have wronged us, we carry those sins around with us.  Grudges can become very heavy and cumbersome luggage we need not take from place to place.
  2. We need not, despite our Reformation heritage and/or Western individualistic asssumptions, overlook or give short shrift to the communal setting of forgiveness in John 20:23.  The Church, empowered by the Holy Spirit, must carry on Christ’s work of loving people, making them whole again, and building and restoring faith communities.
  3. There is great power in both the human forgiveness and the human proclamation of the forgiveness of sins.  In The Mission (1986), set in South America in the middle 1700s, a group of Jesuits works with the Guarini tribe in the rain forest.  Captain Mendoza, a former slave trader who has hunted the Guarini, changes his life after he kills his brother because the two of them love the same woman.  Father Gabriel, the Jesuit priest in charge of the Guarini mission, takes Mendoza to the Guarini.  Along the way, Mendoza lugs a heavy and rather inconvenient net containing instruments of war and violence.  At the mission site, the Guarini chief orders a tribesman to cut the burden away from Mendoza.  The former slave captain, forgiven by the people he once hunted, begins a new life among them.  First, however, he breaks down emotionally.

Here ends the lesson.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/forgiving-and-retaining-sins/

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First Day of Easter: Easter Sunday, Year B–Principal Service   36 comments

Above:  Victory of the Resurrection

Raised–In an Altered Form

APRIL 4, 2021

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The Assigned Readings for This Sunday:

Acts 10:34-43 or Isaiah 25:6-9

Psalm 118:1-2, 14-24

1 Corinthians 15:1-11 or Acts 10:34-43

John 20:1-18 or Mark 16:1-8

The Collect:

Almighty God, who through your only-begotten Son Jesus Christ overcame death and opened to us the gate of everlasting life: Grant that we, who celebrate with joy the day of the Lord’s resurrection, may be raised from the death of sin by your life-giving Spirit; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

First Day of Easter:  Easter Sunday, Year A–Principal Service:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-year-a-principal-service/

First Day of Easter:  Easter Sunday, Years A, B, and C–Evening Service:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/first-day-of-easter-easter-sunday-years-a-b-and-c-evening-service/

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My devotion for this Sunday morning is subjective, whereas my text for the Easter Vigil is a straight-forward “He did rise from the dead” affirmation.  If you prefer that, follow the link.

The power of the Resurrection is that of restored life–in an altered form.  One cannot pass from life to death to life again without emerging changed.  I know this power well in my life.

I was a Ph.D. student at The University of Georgia from 2005 to 2006.  My program became a casualty of my major professor.  So I limped my way to the emotionally draining end of a dream.  I was burned out on being a graduate student.  Besides, in my understandable anger, I had burned my bridges.  There was no turning back, one way or another.

Then I faced legal charges, of which I was innocent.  Finally, in late June 2007, after making my life difficult for months, my prosecutor offered a compromise which entailed the court dropping all charges immediately.  I accepted; at least the case was over and I avoided a criminal record, a result I value because of my innocence.  (Yet I distrust the legal system to this day.)

The combined traumas of 2006 and 2007 killed (metaphorically speaking, of course) my former self.  Then, by the power of God, the new self began to emerge.  (Here is a link to my poem from that period,)  He looks like the former self outwardly and has many of the same memories as the former self, but is slower to judge and quicker to try to understand others.  The new self grasps better how much he depends on God and accepts this reality ungrudgingly.

Yes, I carry psychological scar tissue, but scar tissue is a natural result of surviving an injury or injuries.  I am grateful to be where I am spiritually, but do not look back fondly on my journey in 2006-2007.  It was truly painful, but it made me a better person. The bottom line, however, is this:  I am still here, a little worse for wear yet better off in many ways.  I still here because of God’s power, not my own.  [Update: Those negative emotions washed out of my system years ago.  I would not have been human had I not had such emotions, but I would have been foolish not to drop that burden years ago.–2017]

Resurrection used to be abstract for me.  Not anymore.

KRT

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https://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2018/03/20/uga-and-me/

Great Vigil of Easter, Year B   15 comments

Easter Vigil, St. Peter and St. Paul Episcopal Church, Marietta, Georgia, April 4, 2010

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

He’s Alive!

LATE SATURDAY, APRIL 3-EARLY SUNDAY, APRIL 4, 2021

(BETWEEN SUNSET AND SUNRISE)

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READINGS AT THE LITURGY OF THE WORD

(Read at least two,)

(1) Genesis 1:1-2:4a and Psalm 136:1-9, 23-26

(2) Genesis 7:1-5, 11-18, 8:6-18, 9:8-13 and Psalm 46

(3) Genesis 22:1-18 and Psalm 16

(4) Exodus 14:10-31; 15:20-21 and Canticle 8, page 85, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

(5) Isaiah 55:1-11 and Canticle 9, page 86, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

(6) Baruch 3:9-15, 3:32-4:4 or Proverbs 8:1-8, 19-21; 9:4b-6 and Psalm 19

(7) Ezekiel 36:24-28 and Psalms 42 and 43

(8) Ezekiel 37:1-14 and Psalm 143

(9) Zephaniah 3:12-20 and Psalm 98

DECLARATION OF EASTER

The Collect:

Almighty God, who for our redemption gave your only- begotten Son to the death of the cross, and by his glorious resurrection delivered us from the power of our enemy: Grant us so to die daily to sin, that we may evermore live with him in the joy of his resurrection; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen. or this O God, who made this most holy night to shine with the glory of the Lord’s resurrection: Stir up in your Church that Spirit of adoption which is given to us in Baptism, that we, being renewed both in body and mind, may worship you in sincerity and truth; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

READINGS AT THE FIRST HOLY EUCHARIST OF EASTER

Romans 6:3-11

Psalm 114

Mark 16:1-8

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A Related Post:

Great Vigil of Easter, Year A:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/great-vigil-of-easter-year-a/

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Recently, while listening to Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) radio, I heard an interviewee say,

We danced our religion before we thought it.

This is objectively accurate.

I am an intellectual–an unapologetic one.  So I like to ponder various matters deeply, exploring their nuances.  This is healthy, for one ought to exercise one’s brain power frequently.  Yet sometimes intellect and reason cannot explain something.  The Resurrection of Jesus is one of these matters.

Without the Resurrection Christianity is a lie and we who affirm the reality of this event are pitiable fools, the the latest in a long line of deluded idiots.  Yet the saints who preceded us were not deluded fools, and Christ is risen indeed.

Happy Easter!

KRT

Sunday of the Passion: Palm Sunday, Year B   19 comments

Above:  Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem

Expectations

MARCH 28, 2021

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THE ASSIGNED READINGS FOR THIS SUNDAY

At the Liturgy of the Palms:

Mark 11:1-11 or John 12:12-16

Psalm 118:1-2, 19-29

At the Liturgy of the Word:

Isaiah 50:4-9a

Psalm 31:9-16

Philippians 2:5-11

Mark 14:1-15:47 or Mark 15:1-39, (40-47)

The Collect:

Almighty and everliving God, in your tender love for the human race you sent your Son our Savior Jesus Christ to take upon him our nature, and to suffer death upon the cross, giving us the example of his great humility: Mercifully grant that we may walk in the way of his suffering, and also share in his resurrection; 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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A Related Post:

Sunday of the Passion:  Palm Sunday, Year A:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/sunday-of-the-passion-palm-sunday-year-a/

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Palm Sunday is liturgically unusual.  It sits at the beginning of Holy Week yet summarizes said week.  During the rest of the week one reads of various events ranging from the cleansing of the Temple to the Last Supper to the crucifixion to the interment in the tomb.  So there is much redundancy in the full observance of Holy Week.  The designers of the Revised Common Lectionary seem to have arranged the readings for Palm Sunday so that one can skip the intervening days and proceed directly to Easter Sunday.

Historical scholarship reveals the presence of a variety of expectations as to what a Messiah would do and how he would do it at the time of Jesus.  Some Jews did not even expect a Messiah.  But many Jews looked for a national liberator, for they lived under occupation.  Passover, the annual celebration of the deliverance of the Hebrews from slavery in Egypt brought many pilgrims to Jerusalem, raised the political stakes, and made Rome nervous.  If someone were to begin a revolution, he might do it at Passover.

What did the cheering crowds expect of Jesus?  What did the Roman guards think as they watched the Triumphal Entry?  For that matter, what do we ant Jesus to be and fear that he might be?  If Jesus does not match our expectations, the problem lies within us, not him.  If there is a misunderstanding, we are confused party.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/20/expectations/

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Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year B   30 comments

Above:  Wheat

Image Source = Photographer2008

Good Friday is Near

MARCH 21, 2021

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THE FIRST READING

Jeremiah 31:31-34 (New Revised Standard Version):

The days are surely coming,

says the LORD,

when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant that I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt– a covenant that they broke, though I was their husband,

says the LORD.

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the LORD,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

THE PSALMS:  OPTIONS

Psalm 51:1-13 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your loving-kindness;

in your great compassion blot out my offenses.

2 Wash me through and through from my wickedness

and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,

and my sin is ever before me.

4 Against you only have I sinned

and done what is evil in your sight.

5 And so you are justified when you speak

and upright in your judgment.

Indeed, I have been wicked from my birth,

a sinner from my mother’s womb.

7 For behold, you look for truth deep within me,

and will make me understand wisdom secretly.

Purge me from my sin, and I shall be pure;

wash me, and I shall be clean indeed.

Make me hear of joy and gladness,

that the body you have broken may rejoice.

10 Hide your face from my sins

and blot out all my iniquities.

11 Create in me a clean heart, O God,

and renew a right spirit within me.

12 Cast me not away from your presence

and take not your holy Spirit from me.

13 Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

OR

Psalm 119:9-16 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

9  How shall a young man cleanse his way?

By keeping to your words.

10  With my whole heart I seek you;

let me not stray from your commandments.

11  I treasure your promise in my heart,

that I may not sin against you.

12  Blessed are you, O LORD;

instruct me in your statutes.

13  With my lips will I recite

all the judgments of your mouth.

14  I have taken greater delight in the way of your decrees

than in all manner of riches.

15  I will meditate on your commandments

and give attention to your ways.

16  My delight is in your statutes;

I will not forget your word.

THE SECOND READING

Hebrews 5:5-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Christ did not glorify himself in becoming a high priest, but was appointed by the one who said to him,

You are my Son,

today I have begotten you;

as he says also in another place,

You are a priest forever,

according to the order of Melchizedek.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, having been designated by God a high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

THE GOSPEL READING

John 12:20-33 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now among those who went up to worship at the festival were some Greeks. They came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and said to him,

Sir, we wish to see Jesus.

Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. Jesus answered them,

The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. Very truly, I tell you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains just a single grain; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. Those who love their life lose it, and those who hate their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves me must follow me, and where I am, there will my servant be also. Whoever serves me, the Father will honor.

Now my soul is troubled. And what should I say– “Father, save me from this hour’? No, it is for this reason that I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.”

Then a voice came from heaven,

I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.

The crowd standing there heard it and said that it was thunder. Others said,

An angel has spoken to him.

Jesus answered,

This voice has come for your sake, not for mine. Now is the judgment of this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

He said this to indicate the kind of death he was to die.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you alone can bring into order the unruly wills and affections of sinners: Grant your people grace to love what you command and desire what you promise; that, among the swift and varied changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Fifth Sunday in Lent, Year A:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fifth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

Jeremiah 31:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/13/feast-of-the-reformation-october-31/

Hebrews 5:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/week-of-2-epiphany-monday-year-1/

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There are, in my tradition, six Sundays between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday.  So chronology, if not the tone of the last two readings, should make plain the fact that Good Friday is relatively close to the Fifth Sunday in Lent.  Palm Sunday is one week away from this Sunday, and the overall tone from the lessons for this Sunday conveys that reality well.

Lent is, of course, preparation for Easter.  It is also, in my tradition, the time when flowers and the word “Alleluia” are forbidden, and simple meals involving soup tend to precede adult midweek religious programs in parishes.  We tone things down during Lent.  Then we become starker on Maundy/Holy Thursday before breaking out flowers and Alleluias at the Easter Vigil or on Easter Sunday morning.

This is a time for great sobriety of spirit.  Christ our Passover is about to be sacrificed for us.  After that is accomplished we may keep the feast.

KRT

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Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year B   23 comments

Above:  Stained-Glass Window:  Moses and the Snake, St. Mark’s Church, Gillingham, Kent, England

Image in the Public Domain

Sins and Suffering

MARCH 14, 2021

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Numbers 21:4-9 (New Revised Standard Version):

From Mount Hor the Israelites set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom; but the people became impatient on the way. The people spoke against God and against Moses,

Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we detest this miserable food.

Then the LORD sent poisonous serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many Israelites died. The people came to Moses and said,

We have sinned by speaking against the LORD and against you; pray to the LORD to take away the serpents from us.

So Moses prayed for the people. And the LORD said to Moses,

Make a poisonous serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten shall look at it and live.

So Moses made a serpent of bronze, and put it upon a pole; and whenever a serpent bit someone, that person would look at the serpent of bronze and live.

Psalm 107:1-3, 17-22 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

1  Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,

and his mercy endures for ever.

2  Let all those whom the LORD has redeemed proclaim

that he redeemed them from the hand of the foe.

3  He gathered them out of the lands;

from the east and from the west,

from the north and from the south.

17  Some were fools and took to rebellious ways;

they were afflicted because of their sins.

18  They abhorred all manner of food

and drew near to death’s door.

19  Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble,

and he delivered them from their distress.

20  He sent forth his word and healed them

and saved them from the grave.

21  Let them give thanks to the LORD for his mercy

and the wonders he does for his children.

22  Let them offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving

and tell of his acts with shouts of joy.

Ephesians 2:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

You were dead through the trespasses and sins in which you once lived, following the course of this world, following the ruler of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work among those who are disobedient. All of us once lived among them in the passions of our flesh, following the desires of flesh and senses, and we were by nature children of wrath, like everyone else. God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ– by grace you have been saved– and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God– not the result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.

John 3:14-21 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said to Nicodemus,

Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.

Indeed, God did not send the Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Those who believe in him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.

The Collect:

Gracious Father, whose blessed Son Jesus Christ came down from heaven to be the true bread which gives life to the world: Evermore give us this bread, that he may live in us, and we in him; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year A:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/fourth-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

Numbers 21:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirtieth-day-of-lent/

John 3:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/second-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/tenth-day-of-easter/

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/eleventh-day-of-easter/

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Sometimes there is a link between one’s sin and one’s suffering. Actions do have consequences, after all.  But, as we read in Job and the Gospels, one’s sufferings, diseases, and disabilities do not always result from one’s sins.  Reason and experience confirm this conclusion.

Some suffering results from the sins of others.  Suppose, for example, that somebody steals my car, causing me inconvenience at least and perhaps suffering.  I was just minding my business, but the other person’s greed has hurt me.  Likewise, one can come down with lung cancer because of the cigarette smoke of others.  Living well is no guarantee against all bad ends.

Then there are the cases where suffering has no apparent cause.  Why are some people born blind, for example?  Jesus faced this question.  Nobody needed to have sinned for the blindness to have resulted.  So let us refrain from assuming that a person’s suffering has resulted from something he or she has done, for we run the risk of judging others unjustly.  Our knowledge is limited, but God’s is not.  And God is also prone to forgiving generously.

KRT

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Third Sunday in Lent, Year B   23 comments

Above:  Moses with the Ten Commandments, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Law

MARCH 7, 2021

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Exodus 20:1-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

Then God spoke all these words:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you 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 on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under 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 of 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 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.

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.

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

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

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

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

The fear of the LORD is clean and endures forever;

the judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether.

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

sweeter far than honey, than honey in the comb.

11 By them also is your servant enlightened,

and in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can tell how often he offends?

cleanse me from my secret faults.

13 Above all, keep your servant from presumptuous sins;

let them not get dominion over me;

then shall I be whole and sound,

and innocent of a great offense.

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

O LORD, my strength and my redeemer.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

The message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,

and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

John 2:13-22 (New Revised Standard Version):

The Passover of the Jews was near, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. In the temple he found people selling cattle, sheep, and doves, and the money changers seated at their tables. Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables. He told those who were selling the doves,

Take these things out of here! Stop making my Father’s house a marketplace!

His disciples remembered that it was written,

Zeal for your house will consume me.

The Jews then said to him,

What sign can you show us for doing this?

Jesus answered them,

Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

The Jews then said,

This temple has been under construction for forty-six years, and will you raise it up in three days?

But he was speaking of the temple of his body. After he was raised from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this; and they believed the scripture and the word that Jesus had spoken.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; 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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Some Related Posts

Third Sunday in Lent, Year A

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/third-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

Exodus 20:

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/

1 Corinthians 1:

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

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-sixth-day-of-lent-tuesday-in-holy-week/

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I grew up in the Bible Belt of southern Georgia U.S.A.  My parents taught me to engage my brain fully when considering the Bible, a fact for which I bless them.  That training continues to serve me well.  To this day, if I had to live in certain counties in Georgia–for example, those without an Episcopal congregation–I would not attend church, for I doubt that I could find a place to worship and to engage mind within the same walls without incurring scornful looks.  I am about to demonstrate why this is true.

One feature of Jewish law is that it is supposedly revealed–not subject to human reason–but revealed.  Yet I propose that there is great moral and intellectual danger in going on autopilot with regard to the Law of Moses.  For example, some of the Ten Commandments, printed above in English translation, classify women along with livestock and property.  Others do not question the moral legitimacy of slavery.  And other parts of the Law of Moses are quick to condemn people to death.  Just flip over to Exodus 21.

One can cherry pick the parts of the Law of Moses which confirm one’s opinions concerning a variety of issues, but this constitutes intellectual dishonesty if one claims to take the Bible literally and to consider the Book inerrant and infallible.  The truth is that we who read the book must pick and choose, for we cannot keep all of it, due to contradictions.  This is especially true if we are Christians.

So, as one does not accept biblical inerrancy or infallibility, but who takes the Bible quite seriously, I choose to follow the Law of Love:  What does love require?  I can ignore Exodus 21:7f, which begins with selling one’s daughter into slavery, for the Law of Love proscribes that such an act is never appropriate.  And, like the father in the Parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32), I can overlook the commandment to put to death a child who curses his mother or father (Exodus 21:17).

The Johannine Gospel, unlike the Synoptic Gospels, places our Lord’s cleansing of the Temple at the inaugural phase of his ministry.  (The Synoptics place this event just a few days before his crucifixion.)  Thus the author of the Gospel of John has Jesus begin his ministry by questioning and protesting publicly the Temple system of animal sacrifices, one which many people could not afford.  It was also true that the conversion of Roman currency (technically idolatrous, for it bore the allegedly divine Emperor’s image) into money religiously appropriate for the purchase of a sacrificial animal benefited not only the money changers but also the Temple authorities financially.  This economic exploitation galled Jesus.  For Jesus, love trumped all else.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 speaks of Christ as being a stumbling block and a portal simultaneously.  The purpose of the Incarnation was not to erect a stumbling block but, if that is what one makes Jesus, that is what he is for that person.  Jesus is love incarnate.  For many of us (in the general sense) pure love and compassion are terrifying, for they break down the barriers we use to define our reality.  Who is an insider?  Who is an outsider?  Who is pure?  Who is impure?  Who is saved?  Who is damned?  We have our own answers, as does God.  These answers conflict quite often.  God, I suspect, is generally more merciful than we are.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/law/

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Second Sunday in Lent, Year B   17 comments

Above:  Economic Inequality Made Manifest

Image Source = eenthappana

Justification, Love, and Justice

FEBRUARY 28, 2021

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Genesis 17:1-7, 15-16 (New Revised Standard Version):

When Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said to him,

I am God Almighty; walk before me, and be blameless. And I will make my covenant between me and you, and will make you exceedingly numerous.

Then Abram fell on his face; and God said to him,

As for me, this is my covenant with you: You shall be the ancestor of a multitude of nations. No longer shall your name be Abram, but your name shall be Abraham; for I have made you the ancestor of a multitude of nations. I will make you exceedingly fruitful; and I will make nations of you, and kings shall come from you. I will establish my covenant between me and you, and your offspring after you throughout their generations, for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you.

God said to Abraham,

As for Sarah your wife, you shall not call her Sarai, but Sarah shall be her name. I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her. I will bless her, and she shall give rise to nations; kings of peoples shall come from her.

Psalm 22:22-30 (1979 Book of Common Prayer):

22 Praise the LORD, you that fear him;

stand in awe of him, O offspring of Israel;

all you of Jacob’s line, give glory.

23 For he does not despise nor abhor the poor in their poverty;

neither does he hide his face from them;

but when they cry to him he hears them.

24 My praise is of him in the great assembly;

I will perform my vows in the presence of those who worship him.

25 The poor shall eat and be satisfied,

and those who seek the LORD shall praise him:

“May your heart love for ever!”

26 All the ends of the earth shall remember and turn to the LORD,

and all the families of the nations shall bow before him.

27 For kingship belongs to the LORD;

he rules over the nations.

28 To him alone who sleep in the earth bow down in worship;

all who go down to the dust fall before him.

29 My soul shall live for him;

my descendants shall serve him;

they shall be known as the LORD’s for ever.

30 They shall come and make known to a people yet unborn

the saving deeds that he has done.

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

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

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

Mark 8:31-38 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus began to teach his disciples that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said,

Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.

He called the crowd with his disciples, and said to them,

If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake, and for the sake of the gospel, will save it. For what will it profit them to gain the whole world and forfeit their life? Indeed, what can they give in return for their life? Those who are ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of them the Son of Man will also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.

The Collect:

O God, whose glory it is always to have mercy: Be gracious to all who have gone astray from your ways, and bring them again with penitent hearts and steadfast faith to embrace and hold fast the unchangeable truth of your Word, Jesus Christ your Son; who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Second Sunday in Lent, Year A:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/28/second-sunday-in-lent-year-a/

Romans 4:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/07/week-of-proper-23-saturday-year-1/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/08/week-of-proper-24-monday-year-1/

Genesis 17:

https://lenteaster.wordpress.com/2010/10/29/thirty-second-day-of-lent/

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2010/12/13/week-of-proper-7-friday-year-1/

Mark 8:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/26/week-of-6-epiphany-thursday-year-1/

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2010/10/27/week-of-6-epiphany-friday-year-1/

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

Faith in Romans vs. Faith in James:

http://ordinarytimedevotions.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/week-of-proper-23-tuesday-year-1/

O Lord,You Gave Your Servant John:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2010/08/06/o-lord-you-gave-your-servant-john/

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Last Sunday’s readings focused on baptism, a sacrament which is an outward sign of something God has done and is doing.  This Sunday we have another great word:  justification.  This is also something God has done and is doing.   Justification indicates having a right relationship with God; it is a legal term.  And, according to Paul, it comes through faith and grace.  The Letter of James, of course, speaks of justification by deeds, but that book uses “faith” to mean something different than in Romans.  For more details, follow the germane link I have provided.  The bottom line is this:  There is no contradiction between Romans and James on the issue of justification.

This justification, since the time of Jesus, owes much to the Atonement, which, I am convinced, was a process which began with the Incarnation (again, something God initiated) and ended with the death and resurrection of Jesus (something God did).  Our responses to God, then, are of the essence.  How will we respond to such a merciful and active deity?  This grace, which facilitates faith, is cheap but not free.  It was cheap neither to God the Father nor God the Son.  And it demands much of us.

The baptismal vows speak of loving our neighbors as ourselves and respecting the dignity of our fellow human beings. So, how will we treat our fellow human beings, and what will we consider acceptable treatment?  Will our neighbors have living wages, safe working conditions, and career opportunities which make the most of their talents an abilities?  Will they face discrimination?  What will the love of Christ and our neighbors impel us to do?

I could continue, but I trust that I have made my point clearly.  May we love our neighbors as ourselves, even if that entails taking up a cross and following Jesus.

KRT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/justification-love-and-justice/

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