Archive for the ‘Matthew 18’ Tag

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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Devotion for the Seventh Day of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

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Above:  Shepherds, 1898

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-06374

Sheep and Mutuality

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 4, 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:

Exodus 34:1-9, 27-28

Psalm 32

Matthew 18:10-14

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I will instruct you and teach you

in the way that you should go;

I will guide you with my eye.

–Psalm 32:9, Common Worship (2000)

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No one may come up with you, no one may be seen anywhere on this mountain; the flocks and herds may not even graze in front of this mountain.

–Exodus 34:3, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One of the perils of superficial familiarity with biblical texts is going on autopilot regarding them.

O yes, I know this passage,

we tell ourselves before we move along.  Yet we probably do not know these texts as well as we think we do.

Matthew 18:12-14 is such a text.  I knew that I was missing something, so I consulted my collection of commentaries.  They have informed me that these flocks were usually village flocks which a team of shepherds guarded.  Thus one shepherd could seek a lost sheep while his coworkers watched the others.  And each sheep was important.  Likewise, a sheep apart from the herd was in great danger.

This parable sits in the middle of teachings about communal life.  Immediately before the parable we read about welcoming children.  After the parable we learn about how to deal properly with errant members of the faith community.  In all three cases we read about what is best for the individual and the community.  But, as Matthew 18:17 tells us, the community must not allow the errant individual to danger it.

Communal life, with individual responsibilities to and for each other, constitutes one of the major concerns of the Law of Moses.  May we modern people not ignore this fact, despite the rugged individualism prevalent in the global Western tradition.  The individual cannot be healthy apart from the whole, which cannot be all that it can be without all of the members it should have.

Another point stands out in my mind.  As Moses collected the second set of tablets from God, not even flocks and herds were supposed to be in front of the mountain where he met with God.  The holy distance from sinful people–even from livestock–was very much a real issue.  By the time of Matthew 18, however, God, via the Incarnation, had closed that gap.  People ate with Jesus, anointed parts of him, and looked into his face.  And, as Hebrews 4:16 (assigned for yesterday) told us in the context of our Lord and Savior’s testing yet sinlessness:

Let us therefore approach the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1993)

So, confident in our great high priest, may we love each other actively and effectively, fulfilling our mutual responsibilities well.

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/sheep-and-mutuality/

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Devotion for the Fourth Day of Lent, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

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Above:  Jesus Blessing the Children (1891)

W21597 U.S. Copyright Office

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-pga-01427

The Kingdom of God

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 29, 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:

Isaiah 58:1-12

Psalm 51

Matthew 18:1-7

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Give me the joy of your saving help again

and sustain me with your bountiful Spirit.

I shall teach your ways to the wicked,

and sinners shall return to you.

–Psalm 51:13-14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To repent is to turn around, to change one’s mind.  Apologizing for and acknowledging error are parts of the process yet one ought never to confuse those parts of the whole.  No, repentance is active.  And action is what Isaiah 58:1-12 advises.  The mandated deeds include helping the less fortunate and bringing about justice, in contrast to the rampant economic exploitation and judicial and political corruption.

Those sins remain commonplace in contemporary societies, unfortunately.  Political corruption creates and perpetuates much poverty.  Wars lead to famines much of the time.  Judicial corruption imprisons people unjustly and places the poor accused at greater risk than the wealthy accused, who can accord bail and skilled attorneys.  Third Isaiah’s condemnations in 58:1-12 apply to my nation-state as much as they did to the kingdom in which he lived.

The greatest in the Kingdom of God, our Lord and Savior said, was as a powerless child, not anyone in a position of authority and prestige.  This profoundly counter-cultural message of nearly 2000 years ago remains just as subversive today as it was then.  God’s ways differ from dominant human standards of respectability and political legitimacy.  And witnesses from the Bible and times subsequent to its writing have reminded successive generations of our responsibilities to and for each other, especially the less fortunate and more vulnerable.  Such as these, Jesus said, are the greatest in the Kingdom of God.

I like the Kingdom of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 7, 2013 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF ELEANOR ROOSEVELT, FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA

THE FEAST OF HERBERT F. BROKERING, HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT VINCENT LIEM, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIBRORD, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF UTRECHT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/the-kingdom-of-god/

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Eighteenth Day of Lent   9 comments

Stained Glass Window from the Scots’ Church, Melbourne, Australia:  The Unforgiving Servant

Tuesday, March 22, 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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Song of the Three Young Men 1-4, 11-20a, a.k.a. Daniel 3:24-27, 34-43 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

And they [Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, a.k.a. Azariah] walked about in the midst of the flames, singing hymns to God and blessing the Lord.  Then Azariah stood up and offered this prayer; in the midst of the fire he opened his mouth and said:

Blessed are you, O Lord, God of our fathers, and worthy of praise;

and your name is glorified for ever.

For you are just in all that you have done to us,

and all your works are true and your ways right,

and all your judgments are truth.

For your name’s sake do not give us up utterly,

and do not break your covenant,

and do not withdraw your mercy from us,

for the sake of Abraham your beloved

and for the sake of Isaac your servant

and Israel your holy one,

to whom you promised

to make their descendants as many as the stars of heaven

and as the sand of the shore of the sea.

For we, O Lord, have become fewer than any nation,

and are brought low this day in all the world because of our sins.

And at this time there in no prince, or prophet, or leader,

no place to make an offering before you or to find mercy.

Yet with a contrite heart and a humble spirit may we be accepted,

as though it were with burnt offerings of rams and bulls,

and with tens of thousands of fat lambs;

such may our sacrifice be in your sight this day,

and may we wholly follow you,

for there will be no shame for those who trust in you.

And now with all our heart we follow you,

we fear you and seek your face.

Do not put us to shame,

but deal with us in your forbearance

and in your abundant mercy.

Deliver us in accordance with your marvelous works,

and give glory to your name, O Lord!

Psalm 25:4-11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Make your ways known, O LORD;

teach me your paths.

Lead me in your truth, and teach me;

for you are the God of my salvation;

for you I wait all the day long.

Be mindful of your compassion, O LORD, and of your mindful love,

for they have been from of old.

Remember not the sins of my youth, or my transgressions;

according to your mercy remember me,

for your goodness’ sake, O LORD!

Good and upright is the LORD;

therefore he instructs sinners in the way.

He leads the humble in what is right,

and teaches the humble his way.

All the paths of the LORD are mercy and faithfulness,

for those who keep his covenant and his testimonies.

For your name’s sake, O LORD,

pardon my guilt, for it is great.

Matthew 18:21-35 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Then Peter came up and said to him [Jesus],

Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him?  As many as seven times?

Jesus said to him,

I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.

Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants.  When he began the reckoning, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents, and as he could not pay, his lord ordered him to be sold, with his wife and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.  So the servant fell on his knees, imploring him, ‘Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay you everything.’   And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt.  But that same servant, as he went out, came upon one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii, and seizing him by the throat he said, ‘Pay what you owe.’  So his fellow servant fell down and pleaded with him, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you.’  He refused and went and put him in prison till he could pay the debt.  When his fellow servants saw what had taken place, they were greatly distressed, and they went and reported to their lord what had taken place.  Then his lord summoned him and said to him, ‘You wicked servant!  I forgave you all the debt because you pleaded with me, and should you not have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you? ‘ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, till he could pay all his debt.  So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.’

The Collect:

O Lord, we beseech you mercifully to hear us, and grant that we, to whom you have given a fervent desire to pray, may, by your mighty aid, be defended and comforted in all dangers and adversities; 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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This day’s readings concern judgment and mercy.

The Book of Daniel dates to the second century B.C.E., during the reign of the Syrian tyrant Antiochus Epiphanes.  The book, set in exile of a few centuries past, tells  stories about how pious Jews triumph over their enemies by practicing their religion and receiving divine aid.  The Song of the Three Young Men is a Greek addition to the Book of Daniel, set inside Chapter 3, during the famous furnace scene.

The theology of the Song of the Three Young Men is that sin led to exile, so repentance will lead to restoration.  God will forgive the penitent.

In the reading from Matthew the first servant owes a debt he can never repay.  He pleads for mercy and receives complete debt forgiveness from his lord.  Shortly thereafter this servant refuses to forgive the smaller yet relatively difficult to pay debt of a second servant.  The angry lord punishes the first servant the same way the first servant punished the second servant.  This reminds me of Matthew 7:1-2 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

Judge not, that you not be judged.  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.

The great theologian Samuel Clemens, who wrote as Mark Twain, stated that the Bible verses which troubled him most were those he understood best.  This is straight-forward material.   We must forgive others if we expect reasonably that God will forgive us.  And forgiveness is difficult–possible only with grace.  So, do we want to forgive.  If yes, why–because it is the proper and healthy option or out of self-interest?

These implications strike home with me, as I have written in this series already.  They trouble me, and that is good news, for I feel the need to address this issue in my life.  That need would not exist if not for grace.  Thanks be to God.

KRT

Written on February 27, 2010