Archive for the ‘Genesis 4’ Tag

Devotion for the Fifth Sunday in Lent (Year D)   1 comment

cain-and-abel

Above:  Cain and Abel

Image in the Public Domain

God’s Inscrutable Grace

MARCH 21, 2021

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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:

Genesis 4:1-16 or Isaiah 63:(7-9) 10-19

Psalm 101

John 8:31-47

Galatians 5:(1) 2-12 (13-25) or James 5:1-6 (7-10) 11-12 (13-20)

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Divine judgment and mercy share the stage with repentance in these readings.  We who sin (that is, all of us) make ourselves slaves to sin, but Christ Jesus liberates us from that bondage and empowers us to become people who practice the Golden Rule–to be good neighbors, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, et cetera.  Christ breaks down spiritual barriers yet many of us become psychologically attached to them.  In so doing we harm others as well as ourselves.

Much of Psalm 101 seems holy and unobjectionable:

I will walk with integrity of heart within my house;

I will not set before my eyes anything that is base.

–Verses 2b-3a, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

So far, so good.  But then we read verse 8:

Morning by morning I will destroy

all the wicked in the land,

cutting off all evildoers

from the city of the LORD.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

That psalm is in the voice of the king.  Given the human tendency to mistake one’s point of view for that of God, is smiting all the (alleged) evildoers morally sound public policy?

A clue to that psalm’s point of view comes from Genesis 4, in which we read that sin is like a predator:

And if you do not do well, sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it.

–Genesis 4:7b, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

This quote, from God to Cain, comes from after God has rejected his sacrifice of “fruit of the soil” in favor of Abel’s sacrifice of “the choicest of the firstlings of his flock” and before Cain kills Abel.  I know of attempts to explain God’s rejection of Cain’s sacrifice by finding fault with him.  The text is silent on that point; God never explains the reason for the rejection.  Nevertheless, we read of how badly Cain took the rejection, of how he reacted (violently), of how he expressed penitence and repented, and of how God simultaneously punished and acted mercifully toward the murderer.

The irony is pungent:  The man who could not tolerate God’s inscrutable grace now benefits from it.

The Jewish Study Bible–Second Edition (2014), page 17

Cain, spared the death penalty, must relocate and enjoys divine protection.

“God’s inscrutable grace” frequently frustrates and offends us, does it not?  Is is not fair, we might argue.  No, it is not fair; it is grace, and it protects even those who cannot tolerate it.  “God’s inscrutable grace” breaks down barriers that grant us psychological comfort and challenges to lay aside such idols.  It liberates us to become the people we ought to be.  “God’s inscrutable grace” frees us to glorify and to enjoy God forever.  It liberates us to lay aside vendettas and grudges and enables us to love our neighbors (and relatives) as we love ourselves (or ought to love ourselves).

Will we lay aside our false senses of justice and embrace “God’s inscrutable grace”?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

OCTOBER 9, 2016 COMMON ERA

PROPER 21:  THE TWENTY-FIRST SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINT DENIS, BISHOP OF PARIS, AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUIS BERTRAN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY PRIEST

THE FEAST OF ROBERT GROSSETESTE, SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF WILHELM WEXELS, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR; HIS NIECE, MARIE WEXELSEN, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER; LUDWIG LINDEMAN, NORWEGIAN ORGANIST AND MUSICOLOGIST; AND MAGNUS LANDSTAD, NORWEGIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, FOLKLORIST, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMNAL EDITOR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/10/09/gods-inscrutable-grace/

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Devotion for the Fifth and Sixth Days of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

09744v

Above:  Crucifix, Tyrol, Italy, Between 1890 and 1900

Image Creator = Detroit Publishing Company

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-ppmsc-09744

Suffering

MONDAY, MARCH 2, 2020, and TUESDAY, MARCH 3, 2020

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The Collect:

Lord God, our strength, the struggle between good and evil rages within and around us,

and the devil and all the forces that defy you tempt us with empty promises.

Keep us steadfast in your word, and when we fall, raise us again and restore us

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 26

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 19:1-8 (5th Day)

Genesis 4:1-16 (6th Day)

Psalm 32 (Both Days)

Hebrews 2:10-18 (5th Day)

Hebrews 4:14-5:10 (6th Day)

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You are a place for me to hide in;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with songs of deliverance.

–Psalm 32:8, Common Worship (2000)

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The theological problem of why people suffer is a golden oldie.  Some attempts to answer it prove unsatisfactory, often blaming the victim.  The arguments of Job’s alleged friends come to mind immediately.  Such theodicies cross the line separating good piety from idiocy and cruelty.

The assigned readings for these two days offer some scenarios in which people suffer:

  1. Suffering results from one’s own sin, as in Psalm 32.
  2. Suffering results from another person’s malice, as in the other lessons.

And sometimes God provides for a suffering person, as in 1 Kings 19 and Genesis 4.  In the latter case, divine protection covered a murderer.  In offer no explanations or justifications.  No, I function merely as a reporter.

Yet I know that suffering can lead to useful spiritual lessons.  And I take great comfort in the truth that God, by virtue of the Incarnation, sympathizes with us in our weakness and suffering.  We are not alone, no matter how much we might feel alone.  Thanks be to God!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 18, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ARTHUR TOZER RUSSELL, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT HILDA OF WHITBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/suffering/

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Devotion for the First Sunday in Lent (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   7 comments

Above:  Cain and Abel

Genesis and Mark, Part V:  Sin and Attitudes

FEBRUARY 21, 2021

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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 4:1-26

Psalm 84 (Morning)

Psalms 42 and 32 (Evening)

Mark 2:18-28

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/prayer-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/prayer-of-confession-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/01/23/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-first-sunday-in-lent/

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Much time had passed since the days when the Law of Moses was relatively new.  Lifestyles had changed, as had social, cultural, and political realities.  Yet, within Judaism, the Law of Moses remained a divine instructions.  So teachers interpreted the Law to fit within their then-current contexts.  That was essential background for grasping correctly one reason that Jesus irritated so many people so much.  Keeping the Law just so was not a mater of maliciousness; it was an issue of both righteousness and identity, as practitioners understood them.

Jesus walks around, heals many people on the Sabbath, plucks ears of corn on the Sabbath, and eats with notorious sinners.  In so doing he called into question the basis of the lived faith of many people.  He was courting danger.  I wonder, in fact, how well many self-described Christians of today would respond to a preacher who questioned traditional doctrines and practices and dined with notorious sinners.  I leave that question with you, O reader.  And I ask how I would respond to such a person.

Jesus argued by words and words that his critics had gotten the Law wrong.  They had ossified it, despite their attempts to reinterpret it for new circumstances.  They had focused so much on arbitrary rules that they had overlooked human necessities.  They needed to be flexible.  They needed to allow for grace more than they did.

Meanwhile, in Genesis 4, there were two brothers–Cain, an agriculturalist, and Abel, a pastoralist.  Both made offerings to God, who accepted that of Abel but rejected that of Cain.  The story implies (by lack of details concerning Cain’s offering) that his was substandard.  The text does indicate clearly that Cain had a bad attitude.  He did kill Abel, after all.  Yet the murderer came under divine protection.  He lived the rest of his life in exile, but he had divine protection.  Grace and judgment coexisted.

God, addressing Cain in verse 7 said,

Surely if you do right,

There is uplift.

But if you do not do right

Sin crouches at the door;

It urge is toward you,

Yet you can be its master.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scripures

The image of sin crouching at the door as if to ambush one is vivid.  Sin mastered the character of Cain.  That was not a foregone conclusion, though.  And sin need not master any of us.  I suspect that when sin approaches most often, it does so dressed up as righteousness.  In Mark 2, it convinced some people because it came in the guise of Sabbath law.

We must be on guard against the appearance of righteousness without the substance thereof.  And we must also mind our attitudes.  Cain had a bad attitude in Genesis 4.  Our Lord’s opponents in Mark 2 also had bad attitudes.  A good attitude alone is insufficient for righteousness, but it cannot hurt–and it can help.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 7, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMITION OF HUY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP

THE FEAST OF HARRIET STARR CANNON, COFOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF SAINT MARY

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROSE VENERINI, FOUNDER OF THE VENERINI SISTERS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODARD OF NARBONNE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP, AND SAINTS JUSTUS AND PASTOR, MARTYRS

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/01/20/genesis-and-mark-part-v-sin-and-attitudes/

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