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Devotion for the Sixth Sunday of Easter (Year D)   1 comment

parable-of-the-wicked-servant

Above:  Parable of the Wicked Servant, by Domenico Fetti

Image in the Public Domain

Respecting the Image of God in Others

MAY 22, 2022

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The Collect:

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 15:1-18 or 19:15-21

Psalm 129

Matthew 18:1-14 (15-20) or Luke 9:46-50; 17:1-4

2 Corinthians 9:1-15

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The reading for this Sunday, taken together, proclaim the mandate of economic and legal justice, condemn lying in court, command forgiving penitents, order valuing the powerless and the vulnerable, and extol the virtues of generosity of spirit and of giving.  On the other hand, we read a prayer for God to destroy Israel’s enemies and a permission slip to dun foreigners.  What are we supposed to make of all this?

First I call attention to the presence of both collective and individual sins and virtues.  My Western culture, steeped in individualism, understands individual sins better than collective and institutional ones.  I know that, as a matter of history, many professing Christians have obsessed over personal peccadilloes to the exclusion or minimizing of societal sins.

My second point is the value of foreigners who bear the image of God.  Focusing just on the Hebrew Bible for a few minutes, I recall certain passages that depict some goyim favorably:  Rahab the prostitute (Joshua 2:1-24 and 6:17-25), Ruth (Ruth 1-4), and Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-19).  And, of course, as one turns to the New Testament, one should think of the controversy regarding St. Paul the Apostle’s mission to the Gentiles.

Finally, forgiveness can be difficult, but it is the best policy.  According to a rule common among Jews at the time of Jesus, one was perfect if one forgave three times daily.  As we read in the Gospel readings, Jesus more than doubled that number, increasing it to seven.  (He affirmed spiritual challenges.)  Even if forgiving someone does not affect that person it changes for the better the one who forgives.  We also read in Matthew 7:1-5 that the standard we apply to others will be the standard God applies to us.  One might also consult Matthew 18:23-34, the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant.

I understand the desire for God to smite one’s foes.  I have prayed for such results.  I have also learned that praying for their repentance–for their benefit and that of others–is a better way to proceed.  Even our foes bear the image of God, after all.  God loves them too, correct?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 12, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN DOBER, MORAVIAN BISHOP AND HYMN WRITER; JOHANN LEONHARD DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND BISHOP; AND ANNA SCHINDLER DOBER, MORAVIAN MISSIONARY AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDITH CAVELL, NURSE AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT KENNETH OF SCOTLAND, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT NECTARIUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ARCHBISHOP

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/12/respecting-the-image-of-god-in-others/

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Seventeenth Day of Lent   22 comments

An Old Postcard Image of Nazareth

Monday, March 21, 2022

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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2 Kings 5:1-15b (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Aram, was important to his lord and high in his favor, for through him the LORD had granted victory to Aram.  But the man, though a great warrior, was a leper.  Once, when the Arameans were out raiding, they carried off a young girl from the land of Israel, and she became an attendant to Naaman’s wife.  She said to her mistress,

I wish Master could come before the prophet in Samaria; he would cure him of his leprosy.

[Naaman] went and told his lord just what the girl from the land of Israel had said.  And the king of Aram said,

Go to the king of Israel, and I will send along a letter.

He went out, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothing.  He brought the letter to the king of Israel.  It read,

Now, when this letter reaches you, know that I have sent my courtier Naaman to you, that you many cure him of his leprosy.

When the king of Israel read the letter, he rent his clothes and cried,

Am I Gold, to deal death or give life, that this fellow writes to me to cure a man of leprosy?  Just see for yourselves that he is seeking a pretext against me!

When Elisha, the man of God, heard that the king of Israel had rent his clothes, he sent a message to the king:

Why have you rent your clothes?  Let him come to me, and he will learn that there is a prophet in Israel.

So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and halted at the door of Elisha’s house.  Elisha sent a messenger to say to him,

Go and bathe seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh shall be restored and you shall be clean.

But Naaman was angered and walked away.

I thought,

he said,

he would surely come out to me, and would stand and invoke the LORD his God by name, and would wave his hand toward the spot, and cure the afflicted part.  Are not the Amanah and the Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel?  I could bathe in them and be clean!

And he stalked off in a rage.

But his servants came forward and spoke to him.

Sir,

they said,

if the prophet told you to do something difficult, would you not do it?  How much more when he has only said to you, ‘Bathe and be clean.’

So he went down and immersed himself in the Jordan seven times, as the man of God had bidden; and his flesh became like a little boy’s, and he was clean.  Returning with his entire retinue to the man of God, he stood before him and exclaimed,

Now I know I know that there is no God in the whole world except in Israel!

Psalm 42:2-6 (TANAKH: The Holy Scriptures):

Like a hind crying for water,

my soul cries for You, O God;

my soul thirsts for God, the living God;

O when will I come to appear before God!

My tears have been my food day and night;

I am ever tainted with, “Where is your God?”

When I think of this, I pour out my soul:

how I walked with the crowd, moved with them,

the festive throng, to the House of God

with joyous shouts of praise.

Why so downcast, my soul,

why disquieted within me?

Have hope in God;

I will yet praise Him

for his saving presence.

Luke 4:23-30 (The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition):

So he [Jesus] said to them [at Nazareth],

I expect you will quote this proverb to me, ‘Cure yourself, doctor! Let us see you do in your own country all that we have heard that you did in Capernaum.’

Then he added,

I assure you that no prophet is ever welcomed in his own country.  I tell you you the plain fact that in Elijah’s time, when the heavens were shut up for three and a half years and there was a great famine through the whole country, there were widows in Israel, but Elijah was not sent to any of them.  But he was sent to Sarepta, to a widow in the country of Sidon.  In the time of Elisha the prophet, there were many lepers in Israel, but not one them was healed–only Naaman, the Syrian.

But when they heard this, everyone in the synagogue was furiously angry.  They sprang to their feet  and drove him right out of the town, taking him to the brow of the hill on which it was built, intending to hurl him down headlong.  But he walked straight through the whole crowd and went on his way.

The Collect:

Look upon the heart-felt desires of your humble servants, Almighty God, and stretch forth the right hand of your majesty to be our defense against all our enemies; 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 enemies seemed to be the former neighbors, at least for Jesus in this day’s Gospel reading.  And why is that?  One reason is that were too familiar with Jesus to understand who he was.  In other words, they were simultaneously too familiar and insufficiently familiar with him.  Jesus had just taught with authority at the Nazareth synagogue (after the temptations in the wilderness), beginning his public ministry.  The former neighbors did not believe that the spirit of the Lord was upon him.

Jesus cited the example of Naaman, a military officer of Aram, a rival of Israel, the northern kingdom.  (Think about the geopolitics of this story.)  Naaman had a skin condition, probably not the disease most people think of when they hear the word “leprosy.”  (The Biblical authors used the term “leprosy” very broadly.)  This condition, whatever it was, caused concern, however, and the Aramean king permitted Naaman to seek treatment in Israel.

In the story from 2 Kings, Naaman learns of Elisha via a captured servant girl, and he receives instructions from a servant of the prophet.  Servants play a prominent role in this account.  And the cure is a relatively simple and unexpected procedure.  Irony abounds.

Another element original readers might not have expected is the extension of grace to Gentiles, even to an agent of a rival kingdom.  I appreciate the extension of grace to Gentiles, for I am among the goyim.  The love of God is universal.  Deo Gratia.

So, do any of us not perceive the universality of the love of God?  Do we think that anyone is beyond grace?  One must consider the element of human free will, of course, for it constitutes another essential aspect of salvation for those not covered under Single Predestination.

Finally, grace demands something of its recipients.  It is free, not cheap.  What does grace demand of you?

KRT

Written on February 26, 2010

Posted October 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, Episcopal Church Lectionary, March 21

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