Archive for the ‘Psalm 105’ Tag

Devotion for the Fourth Sunday in Lent, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Clarke County Jail, Athens, Georgia

Image Source = Google Earth

God is Watching Us

MARCH 27, 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:

Hosea 11:1-11

Psalm 105

Colossians 3:1-11

John 18:15-27

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God is a like a loving father in Hosea 11:1-11.  The people of Israel and Judah are like a perpetually rebellious son in that passage.  Not only does God call for the people (plural) to repent in Hosea 1:1-11, but God also repents of destructive plans.  Mercy follows judgment.

In context, those collective, persistent sins involved committing idolatry and treating human beings badly.  Authors in both the Old and New Testaments banged the drum of the message that God cares deeply about the treatment of human beings, especially vulnerable ones, by individuals, communities, systems, institutions, and governments.

Recently, in Athens-Clarke County, Georgia, where I live, I read about a local miscarriage of justice.  Without ever receiving either proper mental health care or a trial, an elderly, mentally ill woman spent nearly a year in the Clarke County jail.  The District Attorney’s Office had refused to drop the charges at the time the article went to print.  There should never have been any legal charges, just proper mental health care.

When governments act unjustifiably, they do so in the name of the people.  I say,

Don’t you dare do that in my name!

I say,

Repent of injustice.

I say,

God is watching us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 7, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANÇOIS FÉNELON, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF CAMBRAI

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALDRIC OF LE MANS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANGELA OF FOLIGNO, PENITENT AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT GASPAR DEL BUFALO, FOUNDER OF THE MISSIONARIES OF THE PRECIOUS BLOOD

THE FEAST OF SAINT LUCIAN OF ANTIOCH, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR, 312

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/07/god-is-watching-us/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

SKD405728 Doorway in Meissen, 1827 (oil on canvas) by Friedrich, Caspar David (1774-1840); Galerie Neue Meister, Dresden, Germany; (add.info.: Toreingang in Meissen;); © Staatliche Kunstsammlungen Dresden; German, out of copyright

Above:  Doorway in Meissen (1827), by Caspar David Friedrich

Image in the Public Domain

Of Divine Mercy, Divine Judgment, the Narrow Door, and the Closed Door

MARCH 16, 2022

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 20:1-22

Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42

Luke 13:22-31

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Glory in God’s holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Search for the LORD and the strength of the LORD;

continually seek the face of God.

–Psalm 105:3-4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The three assigned readings for this day teach us to turn toward God at all times–in good times, in bad times, and in times between those two poles.  If we have turned away from God, we need to turn back toward God–to repent.  This is still the time of God’s mercy, as our Mennonite brothers and sisters in faith say.  Eventually, however, the narrow door of salvation will become the closed door outside of which will be many frantic and disappointed people who had understood themselves to be spiritual insiders.

The concept of God in hellfire-and-damnation theology terrifies me and does not satisfy me.  Likewise, the teddy-bear God of Universalism seems insufficient to me.  Somewhere in the middle is a balanced God concept which takes into account both judgment and extravagant mercy.  I do not pretend to know the proper balance of judgment and mercy, but I affirm the reality of both factors and reject excessive emphasis on either one to the exclusion or improper minimization of the other.  God, to my understanding, is frequently more merciful than many human beings.  King David was correct:

I am in great distress; let us fall into the hand of the LORD, for his mercy is great;  but let me not fall into human hands.

–2 Samuel 24:14, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The context of that passage is divine anger over a military census in the Kingdom of Israel.  Even in the midst of a plague in the realm, the author of that portion of 2 Samuel tells us, David understood God to be more merciful than many people.

I disagree with the theology of 2 Samuel 24 as a whole, for I question understanding a plague affecting innocents as divine punishment for a census they did not order.  God seems to have bad aim in that chapter.  Should not God have punished David, who commanded that the census take place, instead?  Nevertheless, the verse I have quoted stands as a testimony to divine mercy amid divine judgment.  The theology of 2 Samuel 24:14 is impeccable.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/of-divine-mercy-divine-judgment-the-narrow-door-and-the-closed-door/

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Devotion for Tuesday After the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Return of the Spies from the Land of Promise--Gustave Dore

Above:  Return of the Spies from the Land of Promise, by Gustave Dore

Image in the Public Domain

Fidelity and Spiritual Community

MARCH 15, 2022

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 14:10b-24

Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42

1 Corinthians 10:1-13

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Remember the marvels God has done,

the wonders and the judgments of God’s mouth,

O offspring of Abraham, God’s servant,

 children of Jacob, God’s chosen.

–Psalm 105:5-6, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Yet the generation of Israelites who left Egypt as free people retained a slave mentality.  Members of that generation witnessed many astonishing acts of God on their behalf yet reacted fearfully when they learned that they might have to act faithfully, to do something, albeit with divine assistance.  They feared to enter Canaan, so their desire not to go there became their punishment from God.

As a cliché tells us, be careful what you wish for; you might get it.

St. Paul the Apostle, engaging in the tradition of interpreting biblical stories metaphorically, used accounts from the Torah to encourage Christians at Corinth to live faithfully, to refrain from sin as much as possible, and to cease from grumbling.  The Apostle, convinced that the end of evil times was near, wrote:

If you think you are standing firm, take care, or you may fall.  So far you have faced no trial beyond human endurance; God keeps faith and will not let you be tested beyond your powers, but when the test comes he will at the same time provide a way out and so enable you to endure.

–1 Corinthians 10:12-13, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That passage contains two major points.  First, people ought to avoid spiritual complacency.  That is always excellent counsel.  Second, “you,” as in

So far you have faced no trial beyond human endurance…,

is plural.  The pericope from 1 Corinthians 10 addresses a congregation, not an individual.  The plural nature of “you” in this passage is clear in the Nouvelle Version Segond Revisee (1978), in which the pronoun is the plural vous, not the singular tu.

The walk of faith is one a person takes as part of a spiritual community, not as a rugged individualist.  One depends on the other members of the spiritual community, to whom and for whom they one is responsible, and on God, on whom one depends entirely.  One’s strength is in God and spiritual community, not in oneself.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 17, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN ORGANIST, COMPOSER, AND PIANO BUILDER; AND HIS SON, JACOB CHRISTIAN TILL, U.S. MORAVIAN PIANO BUILDER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/17/fidelity-and-spiritual-community/

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Devotion for Monday After the Second Sunday in Lent, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Golden Calf

Above:  The Golden Calf

Image in the Public Domain

The Tangible Presence of God

MARCH 14, 2022

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in the mystery of the cross

you promise everlasting life to the world.

Gather all peoples into your arms, and shelter us with your mercy,

that we may rejoice in the life we share in 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 33:1-6

Psalm 105:1-15 [16-41] 42

Romans 4:1-12

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Search for the LORD and the strength of the LORD;

continually seek the face of God.

–Psalm 105:4, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The reading from Exodus 33 follows on the heels of chapter 32, in which Israelites had created a golden bull (although the traditional term is golden calf) as a tangible sign of God’s presence while Moses was away on Mount Sinai/Horeb with God briefly.  God, we read, was most unhappy:

If I were to go in your midst for one moment, I would destroy you.

–Exodus 33:5b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Moses talks God down, fortunately for the Israelites.

Faith, for St. Paul the Apostle, was inherently active.  Hence the Pauline definition of faith was that, in the absence of proof for or against a proposition, one trusts that it is true and acts accordingly.  This contradicts the definition of faith in the Letter of James, whose author wrote that faith (for him merely intellectual) is insufficient for justification with God.  No, in the Letter of James justification comes via works.  Both writers agreed that works are essential for justification with God, but St. Paul understood works to be part and parcel of faith.  These are the kinds of nuances many people overlook in the Bible.

To have an active faith in God, who is invisible, is not to go through life without tangible signs of the divine presence.  Actually, tangible indicators of God’s presence surround us.  We have no need to manufacture any such indicator, for nature is replete with them.  We need merely to open our minds, attune them to spiritual matters, and observe.  The Reverend Maltbie Davenport Babcock (1858-1901), Presbyterian minister, humanitarian, poet, and admirer of nature, summarized the point well:

This is my Father’s world,

And to my listening ears,

All nature sings, and round me rings

The music of the spheres.

This is my Father’s world:

I rest me in the thought

Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;

His hand the wonders wrought.

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This is my Father’s world,

The birds their carols raise,

The morning light, the lily white,

Declare their Maker’s praise.

This is my Father’s world:

He shines in all that’s fair;

In the rustling grass I hear Him pass,

He speaks to me everywhere.

The full text of the poem begins on page 180 of this book.

The presence of God is tangible indeed.  In my darkest hours, my happiest moments, and the times between those two extremes I have encountered God via people and animals as well as directly, without mortals as vehicles of grace.  You, O reader, might understand well what I mean because of your experiences.  If you do not, are you willing to perceive the tangible presence of God?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 15, 2015 COMMON ERA

PROPER 28:  THE TWENTY-FIFTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALBERT THE GREAT, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF REGENSBURG

THE FEAST OF JOHANN GOTTLOB KLEMM, INSTRUMENT MAKER; DAVID TANNENBERG, SR., GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN ORGAN BUILDER; JOHANN PHILIP BACHMANN, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN INSTRUMENT MAKER; JOSEPH FERDINAND BULITSCHEK, BOHEMIAN-AMERICAN ORGAN BUILDER; AND TOBIAS FRIEDRICH, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND MUSICIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/15/the-tangible-presence-of-god/

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Devotion for Wednesday After the Second Sunday in Lent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Divided Monarchy Map

Above:  Map of the Divided Monarchy, from The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume III (1954)

Scan Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Fear and Willful Blindness

MARCH 3, 2021

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The Collect:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death

to be for us the means on life.

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss

for the sake of 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 30:12-22

Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45

John 12:36-43

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Seek the Lord and his strength;

seek his face continually.

Remember the marvels he has done,

his wonders and the judgments of his mouth.

–Psalm 105:4-5, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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A close reading of the Jeremiah pericope reveals some interesting details.  The kingdom has sinned and will pay the penalty.

Your injury is incurable,

Your wound severe….

–Jeremiah 30:12, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

God says via the prophet, yet just a few verses later we read, also from God via Jeremiah:

But I will bring healing to you

And cure you of your wounds.

–30:17a, TANAKH

The allegedly incurable injury was not beyond divine healing power after all, for mercy followed judgment.

We move from collective willful blindness to individual willful blindness in John 12:36-43.  Our Lord and Savior threatened the political and religious order of his time and place.  Those invested in that order had much to lose in the short term by following him.  Of course, they also had much to gain in the long term by following him and acknowledging what they had seen.  But, human nature being constant, the short-term interests became the greater priorities.  That pattern should seem familiar from history and contemporary politics, should it not?

Willful blindness is quite bad, but the lack of the courage of one’s convictions (as in John 12:42-43) might be worse.  To see spiritually than to choose not to act accordingly because of what certain people might think is predictable and wrong.  It is also a sin all of us who have lived long enough have committed.  If we are quite young, we will commit with the passage of a sufficient amount of time.  It is a sin on which one might choose to focus this Lent.  Why not give up that sin for Lent this year?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATUS OF LUXEUIL AND ROMARIC OF LUXEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS AND ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, ARCHDEACON OF EILENBURG

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BAXTER, ANGLICAN THEOLOGIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/fear-and-willful-blindness/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After the Second Sunday in Lent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Sacrifice of Isaac--Caravaggio

Above:  The Sacrifice of Isaac, by Caravaggio

Image in the Public Domain

To Argue Faithfully

MARCH 1 and 2, 2021

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The Collect:

O God, by the passion of your blessed Son you made an instrument of shameful death

to be for us the means on life.

Grant us so to glory in the cross of Christ that we may gladly suffer shame and loss

for the sake of 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 27

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 21:1-7 (Monday)

Genesis 22:1-19 (Tuesday)

Psalm 105:1-11, 37-45 (Both Days)

Hebrews 1:8-12 (Monday)

Hebrews 11:1-3, 13-19 (Tuesday)

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For he remembered his holy word

and Abraham, his servant.

–Psalm 105:42, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The New Testament defines faith three ways, for that anthology is the product of more than one writer.  Faith, in the Pauline sense, is inherently active, hence justification by grace.  Yet, in the Letter of James, faith is intellectual, hence that book’s theology of justification by works.  Those two schools of thought affirm active faith, so they are two ways of making the same point.  Then there is faith according to Hebrews 11:1:

Now faith is the assurance of things not hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Faith, according to this definition, which overlaps with the Pauline meaning, keeps one going in the absence of evidence in support of or in contradiction to a proposition.

Abraham, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, was an exemplar of that kind of faith.  As we have read in Genesis in this lectionary-based series of devotions, this was not always true.  (The author of Hebrews glossed over some content from Genesis.)  And I argue that, in Genesis 22, the patriarch failed the test of faith, for the faithful response was to argue.

Did I hear you correctly?  Do you want me kill my own son?  Have I not sacrificed Ishmael already by sending him away with Hagar?  What kind of God commands me to kill my son?

The near-sacrifice of Isaac by Abraham must have caused psychological damage to the son (how could it not?), for he became a passive, minor figure and the least of the patriarchs.

My favorite aspect of Judaism is arguing faithfully with God.  In Islam one is supposed to submit to God, but Jews get to confront the deity in good conscience.  This ethic is evident in the Psalms, with frequent complaints to God.  I recall, decades ago, reading a review of a translation of the Psalms.  The new translation avoided King James-style politeness, as in

Lord, I beseech thee,

preferring

Look, Yahweh.

The review, from a Christian magazine, was favorable.  I have kvetched to God with great honesty often.  Is not honesty essential to any healthy relationship?

Pondering the art of faithful arguing led me to remember an incident from the Gospels.  The four Gospels are wonderful texts, but they lack any description of tone of voice at some crucial points in the narratives.  Tone of voice, of course, can change the meaning of dialogue.  In Matthew 15, for example, Jesus was in Gentile country–the region of Tyre and Sidon.  There a Gentile woman begged our Lord and Savior to heal her daughter.  He replied,

It is not right to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.

–15:26, The Revised English Bible (1989)

She answered,

True, sir, and yet the dogs eat the scraps that fall from the master’s table.

–15:27, REB

Jesus replied,

What faith you have!  Let it be as you wish.

–15:28a, REB

The context if that story tells me that Jesus said what he did to prompt her to reply as she did.  She passed the test.  All she had to do was argue.  Isaac would have been better off had Abraham been as faithful as that Gentile woman.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINTS AMATUS OF LUXEUIL AND ROMARIC OF LUXEUIL, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS AND ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF MARTIN RINCKART, ARCHDEACON OF EILENBURG

THE FEAST OF RICHARD BAXTER, ANGLICAN THEOLOGIAN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/12/11/to-argue-faithfully/

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Fourth Day of Easter: Wednesday in Easter Week   6 comments

Summer Afternoon

Ray of Hope

April 7, 2021

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Acts 3:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

One day Peter and John were going up to the temple at the hour of prayer, at three o’clock in the afternoon. And a man lame from birth was being carried in. People would lay him daily at the gate of the temple called the Beautiful Gate so that he could ask for alms from those entering the temple. When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked them for alms. Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said,

Look at us.

And he fixed his attention on them, expecting to receive something from them. But Peter said,

I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.

And he took him by the right hand and raised him up; and immediately his feet and ankles were made strong. Jumping up, he stood and began to walk, and he entered the temple with them, walking and leaping and praising God. All the people saw him walking and praising God, and they recognized him as the one who used to sit and ask for alms at the Beautiful Gate of the temple; and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him.

Psalm 105:1-8 (New Revised Standard Version):

O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name,

make known his deeds among the peoples.

Sing to him, sing praises to him;

tell of all his wonderful works.

Glory in his holy name;

let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.

Seek the LORD and his strength;

seek his presence continually.

Remember the wonderful works he has done,

his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,

O offspring of his servant Abraham,

children of Jacob, his chosen ones.

He is the LORD our God;

his judgments are all in the earth.

He is mindful of his covenant forever,

of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations.

Luke 24:13-35 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now on that same day, the first day of the week, two of the disciples were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem, and talking with each other about all these things that had happened. While they were talking and discussing, Jesus himself came near and went with them, but their eyes were kept from recognizing him. And he said to them,

What are you discussing with each other while you walk along?

They stood still, looking sad. Then one of them, whose name was Cleopas, answered him,

Are you the only stranger in Jerusalem who does not know the things that have taken place there in these days?

He asked them,

What things?

They replied,

The things about Jesus of Nazareth, who was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people, and how our chief priests and leaders handed him over to be condemned to death and crucified him. But we had hoped that he was the one to redeem Israel. Yes, and besides all this, it is now the third day since these things took place. Moreover, some women of our group astounded us. They were at the tomb early this morning, and when they did not find his body there, they came back and told us that they had indeed seen a vision of angels who said that he was alive. Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said; but they did not see him.

Then he said to them,

Oh, how foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have declared! Was it not necessary that the Messiah should suffer these things and then enter into his glory?

Then beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.

As they came near the village to which they were going, he walked ahead as if he were going on. But they urged him strongly, saying,

Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.

So he went in to stay with them. When he was at the table with them, he took bread, blessed and broke it, and gave it to them. Then their eyes were opened, and they recognized him; and he vanished from their sight. They said to each other,

Were not our hearts burning within us while he was talking to us on the road, while he was opening the scriptures to us?

That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together. They were saying,

The Lord has risen indeed, and he has appeared to Simon!

Then they told what had happened on the road, and how he had been made known to them in the breaking of the bread.

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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When God intervenes in our lives to help us we witness divine love.  This healing might be physical, emotional, psychological, spiritual, or a combination of two or more of these categories.  Such healing is not for us alone, though.  Restoration of an individual to wholeness affects others, as well.  And the imperative upon the healed is to share the good news with others, and thereby to spread the blessings.  The healing of the formerly lame man affected the lives of his friends and family members.  Cleopas and his companion told the apostles and those gathered with them of the encounter with Jesus.  (And who knows who else they told?) This verbal witness had an effect on those who heard it.

What is your story?  How can it help others spiritually?

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 3, 2010

Thirty-Second Day of Lent   17 comments

Christ Pantocrator

Thursday, April 7, 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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Genesis 17:1-8 (Revised English Bible):

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

I am God Almighty.  Live always in my presence and be blameless, so that I may make my covenant with you and give you many descendants.

Abram bowed low, and God went on,

This is my covenant with you: you are to be the father of many nations.  Your name will no longer be Abram, but Abraham; for I shall make you father of many nations.  I shall make you exceedingly fruitful; I shall make nations out of you, and kings shall spring from you.  I shall make my covenant with you and your descendants after you, generation after generation, an everlasting covenant: I shall be your God, yours and your descendants.’  As a possession for all time I shall give you the land in which you now are aliens, the whole of Canaan, and I shall be their God.

Psalm 105:4-11 (Revised English Bible):

Look to the LORD and be strong;

at all times seek his presence.

You offspring of Abraham his servant,

the children of Jacob, his chosen ones,

remember the marvels he has wrought,

his portents, and the judgements he has given.

He is the LORD our God;

his judgements cover the whole world.

He is ever mindful of his covenant,

the promise he made with Abraham,

his oath given to Isaac,

and confirmed as a statute for Jacob,

as an everlasting covenant for Israel:

I shall give you the land of Canaan,

he said,

as your allotted holding.

John 8:51-59 (The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition):

[Jesus replied,]

Believe me when I assure you that if anybody accepts my words, he will never see death at all.

The Jews replied,

Now we know you’re mad.  Why, Abraham died and the prophets, too, and yet you say, ‘If a man accepts my words, he will never experience death!”  Are you greater than our father, Abraham?  He died, and so did the prophets–who are you making yourself out to be?

Jesus returned,

If I were to glorify myself, such glory would be worthless.  But it is my Father who glorifies me, the very one whom you say is God–although yo have never known him.  But I know you, and if I said I did not know him, I should be as much a liar as you are!  But I do know him and I am faithful in what he says.  As for your Father, Abraham, his great joy was that he would see my coming.  Now he has seen it and he is overjoyed.

The Jews said to him,

Look, you are not fifty yet–and have you seen Abraham?

Jesus returned,

I tell you in solemn truth, before there was an Abraham, I AM!

At this they picked up stones to hurl at him, but Jesus was nowhere to be seen; and he made his way out of the Temple.

The Collect:

O God, you have called us to be your children, and have promised that those who suffer with Christ will be heirs with him of your glory: Arm us with such trust in him that we may ask no rest from his demands and have no fear in his service; 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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An understanding of this day’s excerpt from John requires context, for it comes from a narrative.  Jesus has been arguing with a group of Jews in the Temple.  They had believed in him briefly, until he said that they would know the truth, which would set them free.  Then they began to argue that they were descendants of Abraham who had never known slavery, so they did not need to be set free.  Jesus replied anyone who sins is a slave, and that he, as the Son, could liberate them.  Our Lord and Savior continued by saying that the individuals around him were not acually children of Abraham, for Abraham responded to God faithfully; children of Abraham would follow his example.  Jesus continued by telling these individuals that the devil was their father, for the truth was not in them, either.  Then the crowd questioned Jesus’ sanity, and accused them of dishonoring not only himself, but God, also.  This is a summary of John 8:31-50.

In John 8:51-59 Jesus identifies himself with “I AM,” which harkens back to the burning bush episode from Exodus, and pulls rank.  (If anyone deserved to pull rank, it was Jesus.)  He says that he knows Abraham (I have no doubt.) and references the divine prediction of the conception of Isaac by the aged Abraham and Sarah.  God had acted to initiate a covenant with human beings and to continue a lineage to which Jesus was heir.  Referring to this, Jesus says that Abraham was faithful despite how unlikely this promise seemed.  So the people standing in front of him were not children of Abraham because they acted faithlessly in the presence of the fulfillment of divine promises.

The Johannine Gospel tells us that people tried to stone Jesus on the premises.  That behavior did not demonstrate faithfulness, certainly.

It is easy and appropriate to condemn such behavior.  Indeed, as I write these words I rest on nearly two thousand years of tradition.  The mob of the Johannine story rested on thousands of years of tradition, too.  They had become complacent within their tradition.  Is the same statement true about us today?  Useful tradition can be beautiful and necessary; I do not advocate throwing out the baby with the bath water.  All I say is this:  May we avoid religious complacency and smugness.  When God speaks to us, may we recognize that voice and respond faithfully, not defensively.  May we be dutiful children of the living God, I AM.  May we go where God commands us to go and follow divine instructions, as Abraham did.  Abraham had abandoned his home and culture–his traditions–to follow God literally and figuratively.  What does God require of you?

KRT

Written on March 10, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/what-god-requires/

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, April 7, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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Fifteenth Day of Lent   12 comments

A Vineyard

Friday, March 18, 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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Genesis 37:3-4, 12-28 (Revised English Bible):

Because Joseph was a child of his old age, Israel loved him best of all his sons, and he made him a long robe with sleeves.  When his brothers saw that their father loved him best, it aroused their hatred and they had nothing but harsh words for him.

Joseph’s brothers had gone to herd their father’s flocks at Shechem.  Israel said to  him,

Your brothers are herding the flocks at Shechem; I am going to send you to them.

Joseph answered,

I am ready to go.

Israel told him to go and see if all was well with his brothers and flocks, and to bring back word to him.  So Joseph was sent off from the vale of Hebron and came to Shechem, where a man met him wandering in the open field and asked him what he was looking for.

I am looking for my brothers,

he replied.

Can you tell me where they are herding the flocks?

The man said,

They have moved from here; I heard them speak of going to Dothan.

Joseph went after his brothers and came up with them at Dothan.  They saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.

Here comes that dreamer,

they said to one another.

Now is our chance; let us kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns; we can say that a wild beast has devoured him.  Then we shall see what becomes of his dreams.

When Reuben heard, he came to his [Joseph’s] rescue, urging them not to take his [Joseph’s] life.

Let us have no bloodshed

he said.

Throw him into the cistern in the wilderness, but do him no injury.

Reuben meant to rescue him from their clutches in order to restore him to his father.  When Joseph reached his brothers, they stripped him of the long robe with sleeves which he was wearing, picked him up, and threw him into the cistern.  It was empty, with no water in it.

They had sat down to eat when looking up, they saw an Ishmaelite caravan coming from Gilead on the way down to Egypt, with camels carrying gum tragacanth and balm and myrrh.  Judah said to his brothers,

What do we gain from killing our brother and concealing his death? Why not sell him to these Ishmaelites?  Let us do him no harm, for after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood;

his brothers agreed.  Meanwhile some passing Midianite merchants drew Joseph  up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty pieces of silver to the Ishmaelites; they brought Joseph to Egypt.

Psalm 105:16-22 (Revised English Bible):

He [the LORD] called down famine on the land and cut off their daily bread.

But he had sent on a man before them, Joseph, who was sold into slavery,

where they thrust his feet into fetters and clamped an iron collar round his neck.

He was tested by the LORD’s command until what he foretold took place.

The king sent and had him released, the ruler of the people set him free

and made him master of his household, ruler over all his possessions,

to correct his officers as he saw fit and teach his counsellors wisdom.

Matthew 21:33-46 (Revised English Bible):

[Jesus said,]

Listen to another parable.  There was a landowner who planted a vineyard: he put a wall round it, hewed out a wine-press, and built a watch-tower; then he let it out to vine-growers and went abroad.  When the harvest season approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect the produce due to him.  But they seized his servants, thrashed one, killed another, and stoned a third.  Again, he sent other servants, this time a larger number; and they treated them in the same way.  Finally he sent his son.  ‘They will respect my son,’ he said.  But when they saw the son the tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir; come on, let us kill him, and get his inheritance.’  So they seized him, flung him out of the vineyard, and killed him.  When the owner of the vineyard comes, how do you think he will deal with those tenants?  ‘He will bring those bad men to a bad end,’ they answered, ‘and hand the vineyard over to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop when the season comes.’  Jesus said to them, ‘Have you never read in the scriptures: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the main corner-stone.  This is the Lord’s doing, and it is wonderful in our eyes”?  Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you, and given to a nation that yields the proper fruit.’

When the chief priests and Pharisees heard his parables they saw that he was referring to them.  They wanted to arrest him, but were afraid of the crowds, who looked on Jesus as a prophet.

The Collect:

Grant, O Lord, that as your Son Jesus Christ prayed for his enemies on the cross, so we may have grace to forgive those who wrongfully or scornfully use us, that we ourselves may be able to receive your forgiveness; 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 we have two stories of jealousy and malefaction.

The Joseph Epic from Genesis was the first Biblical story I read in depth, in July 1988.  Thus I have great fondness for this saga.  Joseph, a younger brother, was his father’s favorite.  The young man received a supervisor’s garment and a special status.  This fact, combined with his chattering about dreams favorable to him, infuriated his brothers, most of whom took out their jealousy on him.  They meant to kill him, but settled on sending him into slavery in Egypt.  With family members like this, who needs enemies?

Later in the narrative Joseph’s ability to interpret dreams places him in the good graces of the Pharaoh, who promotes him to a high position.  And from that office Joseph has an opportunity to punish his brothers or to help and forgive them.  He chooses the latter action.

The Matthew Gospel is a product of marginalized Jewish Christians who had lost the argument for Jesus within their Jewish community.  This fact is essential to understanding that book and this day’s excerpt from it.  God owned the vineyard, the vineyard was the Jewish nation, the prophets were the servants, and Jesus was the murdered son.  So, who were the wicked tenants?

Let us avoid anti-Semitism.  In the text Jesus addresses not all Jews, but “chief priests and elders” in the Temple.  The Jesus of Matthew (unlike the Jesus of Mark) is a proponent of Torah piety, but not the religious authorities.  (The Jesus of Mark opposes the Temple system and Torah piety.)  I conclude that at the time the wicked tenants were those at the Temple who collaborated with the Roman Empire.  More broadly though, the wicked tenants were the bad leaders of the Jewish nation and people over time.

Consider this , also.  Joseph’s brothers and the wicked tenants acted out of jealousy.  Negative emotions lead to bad deeds or the absence of good deeds, and positive emotions culminate in constructive actions.  Yet, God can use even the circumstances we create via our malefaction to bring about positive results.  That demonstrates divine sovereignty.

KRT

Written on February 24, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/jealousy-and-malefaction/

Posted October 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, Episcopal Church Lectionary, March 18

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