Archive for the ‘Psalm 23’ Tag

Devotion for the Forty-Second Day of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   8 comments

Above:  The Reports of the Two Spies

Numbers and Luke, Part IV:  Difficult Vocations

MAY 28, 2022

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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:

Numbers 13:1-3, 17-33

Psalm 92 (Morning)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening)

Luke 18:1-17

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Marginalized people take center stage in Luke 18:1-17.  A widow, one of the more vulnerable people in a patriarchal society, has to intimidate a corrupt judge into doing the right thing.  A tax collector, who raises funds for the occupying Romans and lives off what he steals in the process, is humble before God, in contrast to a Pharisee, a member of the religious establishment.  And the Kingdom of God belongs to powerless people, such as children.  God, who is unlike the corrupt judge, justifies the tax collector and gives the Kingdom to the powerless.

Nevertheless, the widow still had to work hard to intimidate the corrupt judge.  And the tax collector had to do some heavy theological lifting.  And neither would resettling Canaan be easy for the Israelites after having lived in Egypt for centuries.

What is God calling you, O reader, to do?  And how difficult will it be?  The good news is that where God’s call is, one also finds God’s empowering grace and Holy Spirit.  Doing what God has commanded of you might be difficult.  It might take a long time.  And you might not live long enough to see the project completed; some sow seeds and others read the harvest sometimes.  But may you do as God has commanded, not losing heart.  Or, if you do lose heart, may you find it again quickly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 20, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BAIN OF FONTANELLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP, MONK, MISSIONARY, AND ABBOT

THE FEAST OF ONESIMUS NESIB, TRANSLATOR AND LUTHERAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-iv-difficult-vocations/

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Devotion for the Thirty-Fourth and Thirty-Fifth Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   11 comments

Above:  Jesus Carrying the Cross, by El Greco

Leviticus and Luke, Part VIII:  Sin and Suffering

MAY 20 and 21, 2022

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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:

Leviticus 26:1-20 (34th Day of Easter)

Leviticus 26:21-33, 39-44 (35th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–34th Day of Easter)

Psalm 92 (Morning–35th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–34th Day of Easter)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening–35th Day of Easter)

Luke 13:18-35 (34th Day of Easter)

Luke 14:1-24 (35th Day of Easter)

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The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod lectionary of 2006 (from the Lutheran Service Book) skipped over Leviticus 25, which includes the year of the Jubilee.  People should have observed it more often than they did.  If one had lost an inheritance of land, he was supposed to get it back.  Slaves were to become free people.  the land was supposed to lie fallow, for its benefit and that of the people.  The underlying principle was that everything belonged to God.

The theology of sin and suffering in Leviticus 26 is overly simplistic.  Sin leads to suffering; righteousness leads to blessings.  The Book of Job argues against this theology as a universal rule.  And Jesus, in Luke 13 and 14, was en route to Jerusalem to die–not for his own sins (as he had none) but for and because of the sins of others.  Herod Antipas (Luke 13:31-33) wanted Jesus dead.  His father, Herod the Great, had also wanted Jesus dead.  Seeking the death of another is certainly sinful.

Blessed are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of Man.  Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy, look!–your reward will be great in heaven.  This was the way their ancestors treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The New Jerusalem Bible

Not all will go well for us when we walk with God.  Yet it is good to walk with God, regardless of the price one must pay.  What can one offer in exchange for one’s soul?

I close with words by William Alexander Percy (1885-1942):

The peace of God,

it is no peace,

but strife closed in the sod.

Yet let us pray for just one thing–

the marvelous peace of God.

Amen.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 16, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF RUFUS JONES, QUAKER THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN FRANCIS REGIS, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF JOSEPH BUTLER, ANGLICAN BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/leviticus-and-luke-part-viii-sin-and-suffering/

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Devotion for the Twenty-Sixth, Twenty-Seventh, and Twenty-Eighth Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  A Vegetable Garden Which Violates the Law of Moses

(But I am not legalistic, so I do not care.)

Leviticus and Luke, Part IV:  Legalism and Compassion

MAY 12-14, 2022

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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:

Leviticus 17:1-16 (26th Dayof Easter)

Leviticus 18:-7, 20-19:8 (27th Day of Easter)

Leviticus 19:9-18, 26-37 (28th Day of Easter)

Psalm 47 (Morning–26th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–27th Day of Easter)

Psalm 92 (Morning–28th Day of Easter)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening–26th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–27th Day of Easter)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening–28th Day of Easter)

Luke 10:23-42 (26th Day of Easter)

Luke 11:1-13 (27th Day of Easter)

Luke 11:14-36 (28th Day of Easter)

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The laws in Leviticus 18-19 are a mixed bag.  They concern, among other things, sexual relations, clothing, proper conduct toward the poor, and what to do when someone sheds animal blood improperly.  I look in amazement at the hypocrisy of self-professed biblical literalists who quote 18:22 (the ban on homosexual intercourse) yet commit fraud (in violation of 19:13) or do not think twice about wearing polyester garments (in violation of 19:19).

Context is crucial.  In regard to the question of homosexuality, the concept of homosexual orientation did not exist at the time, so such intercourse was considered unnatural.  Also, it could never lead to procreation.  But neither can sexual relations between a husband and his post-menopausal wife.  So, is that also wrong?

Priests could wear garments made of two or more types of cloth–and they did (Exodus 28:6 and 39:29).  So lay people were not supposed to do so, except at the fringes of garments, according to Numbers 15:37-40.  Nevertheless, an allegedly unnatural mixture of people or cloth or even cattle or seeds (Leviticus 19:19) was taboo, except when it was not.  How many of you, my readers, have a vegetable garden with more than one type of plant growing in it?  Are you thereby sinning?  Are your polyester garments–certainly unnatural mixtures–sinful?

I avoid such hypocrisy by not being a biblical literalist or claiming to be one.  So I quote science, consider historical contexts, and throw out some laws while retaining others for use in the twenty-first century Common Era.  Defrauding people is bad.  Forcing’s one’s daughter into prostitution is clearly wrong.  And one should respect one’s elders.  But are vegetable gardens and polyester suits sinful?

As I ponder the readings from the Gospel of Luke I notice the thread of the importance of caring for each other.  The stranger is my neighbor, and the person I might despise due to his group identity might be a hero or heroine.  We must forgive each other.  If this proves difficult, we must take that issue to God, who can empower us to forgive.  People matter more than rules about cloth combinations or animal blood.

Do I pick and choose what to affirm in the Bible?  Of course I do!  Does not the Letter to the Hebrews override much of the Law of Moses?  Did not Jesus countermand parts of the letter of that law code?  As a Christian, I have the New Testament and the Old one.  And, as a thinking human being, I have access to scientific, psychological, psychiatric, and sociological knowledge which did not exist in biblical times.  So read about Jesus exorcising demons and interpret it as him curing epilepsy or some other illness with organic causes.  While doing this I focus on principles more than on details.  One of these principles is that Jesus taught compassion, not legalism.  So, if I am to follow him, I must live accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I, PATRIARCH OF CONSTANTINOPLE

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/leviticus-and-luke-part-iv-legalism-and-compassion/

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Twenty-Second Day of Easter: Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year C   10 comments

Above:  Lamb of God Crozier

Agents of Divine Healing

MAY 8, 2022

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Acts 9:36-43 (New Revised Standard Version):

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. At that time she became ill and died. When they had washed her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Since Lydda was near Joppa, the disciples, who heard that Peter was there, sent two men to him with the request,

Please come to us without delay.

So Peter got up and went with them; and when he arrived, they took him to the room upstairs. All the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made while she was with them. Peter put all of them outside, and then he knelt down and prayed. He turned to the body and said,

Tabitha, get up.

Then she opened her eyes, and seeing Peter, she sat up. He gave her his hand and helped her up. Then calling the saints and widows, he showed her to be alive. This became known throughout Joppa, and many believed in the Lord. Meanwhile he stayed in Joppa for some time with a certain Simon, a tanner.

Psalm 23 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and my staff–

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

my whole life long.

Revelation 7:9-17 (New Revised Standard Version):

After this I looked, and there was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands. They cried out in a loud voice, saying,

Salvation belongs to our God who is seated on the throne, and to the Lamb!

And all the angels stood around the throne and around the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, singing,

 Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom

and thanksgiving and honor

and power and might

be to our God forever and ever!  Amen.

Then one of the elders addressed me, saying,

Who are these, robed in white, and where have they come from?

I said to him,

Sir, you are the one that knows.

Then he said to me,

These are they who have come out of the great ordeal; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

For this reason they are before the throne of God

and worship him day and night within his temple,

and the one who is seated on the throne will shelter them.

They will hunger no more, and thirst no more;

the sun will not strike them,

nor any scorching heat;

for the Lamb at the center of the throne will be their shepherd,

and he will guide them to springs of the water of life,

and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.

John 10:22-30 (New Revised Standard Version):

At that time the festival of the Dedication took place in Jerusalem. It was winter, and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the portico of Solomon. So the Jews gathered around him and said to him,

How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.

Jesus answered,

I have told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in my Father’s name testify to me; but you do not believe, because you do not belong to my sheep. My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish. No one will snatch them out of my hand. What my Father has given me is greater than all else, and no one can snatch it out of the Father’s hand. The Father and I are one.

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:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/02/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-fourth-sunday-of-easter/

Feast of Saints Lydia, Dorcas, and Phoebe, Holy Women (January 29):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/06/15/feast-of-sts-lydia-dorcas-and-phoebe-holy-wome-january-29/

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Last Sunday in the Revised Common Lectionary, Jesus gave Simon Peter a commission to feed his (our Lord’s) lambs and tend his sheep.  This Sunday we see the empowered Apostle at work, raising from the dead one Tabitha/Dorcas of Joppa, a woman deemed essential in her community.  Restored to life, she could resume her

…good works and acts of charity.

–Acts 9:36b, New Revised Standard Version

The theme of shepherding also carries over from last week.  Tabitha/Dorcas was a shepherd to vulnerable people in Joppa.  Psalm 23, of course, depicts God as a shepherd.  The assigned reading from John 10 follows the Good Shepherd monologue immediately.  In John 10:22-30 Jesus, whose life is in danger, accuses the critics in front of him of not being among his sheep.  (They did want to stone him in John 10:31.)  And martyrs with robes washed white in the blood of the Lamb of God feature prominently in Revelation 7.  Those sheep have found their safe pasture posthumously.

Violence occupies a prominent place in two of the New Testament readings.  Unfortunately, many people over time have acted on their desires to commit violence against those who merely disagree with them.  New England Puritans, in colonial times, executed Quakers, who were, of course, nonviolent.  Anabaptists have faced persecution and/or martyrdom in the Old World since the 1500s.  Persecution has continued in the New World.  I regret that some of this has occurred in the United States, especially during times of war, when the U.S. Government had no patience with conscientious objectors.  Many of my fellow human beings cannot or chose not to abide differences, hence much violence.  Thus others become martyrs, often by the hands of professing Christians.  It was wrong.  It is wrong.

What causes fighting and quarrels among you?  Is not their origin the appetites that war in your bodies?  You want what you cannot have, so you murder; you are envious, and cannot attain your ambition, so you quarrel and fight….

–James 4:1-2a, Revised English Bible

Many of us want conformity, so we despise the nonconformists among us.  We do not understand them, so we hate them. We hate them, so we commit or condone violence against them.  As a lifelong nonconformist (often by default, for peer pressure has less influence on me than on many others), I have suffered emotionally from the taunts of others.  So I identify naturally with the picked-on, the despised, the misunderstood, and the oppressed.  They are of my tribe, whether or not I understand them.  So I attend church happily with heretics, homosexuals, and others who have incurred spiritual wounds in other Christian traditions.

May we–you, O reader, and I–be, by grace, agents of divine healing, not of spiritual harm or even of physical martyrdom.  May we love others, not seek their harm.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/agents-of-divine-healing/

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Devotion for the Nineteenth, Twentieth, and Twenty-First Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  The Tabernacle

Exodus and Luke, Part X:  Just As the LORD Had Commanded

MAY 5-7, 2022

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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:

Exodus 38:21-39:8, 22-23, 27-31 (19th Dayof Easter)

Exodus 39:32-40:16 (20th Day of Easter)

Exodus 40:17-38 (21st Day of Easter)

Psalm 47 (Morning–19th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–20th Day of Easter)

Psalm 92 (Morning–21st Day of Easter)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening–19th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–20th Day of Easter)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening–21st Day of Easter)

Luke 8:1-21 (19th Day of Easter)

Luke 8:22-39 (20th Day of Easter)

Luke 8:40-56 (21st Day of Easter)

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The long and detailed description of the setting up of the Tabernacle in Exodus contains the refrain

…just as the LORD had commanded Moses.

(TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures)

The Tabernacle complete, Gods Presence fills the space.  God and the people will meet there.  Thus the Book of Exodus ends.

Foster R. McCurley, Jr., in his 1969 adult Christian education volume, Exodus (Philadelphia, PA:  Lutheran Church Press), concludes on page 128:

At the same time, the Book of Exodus means something for us because in some ways we stand in a similar predicament.  The people of Exodus had received the gift of deliverance and had been brought into a new relationship with God. They waited for the fulfillment of the promise made to Abraham–the promise of land, descendants, and blessing.  We of the church look back to the Cross and Resurrection, and we have been brought into a unique relationship with our Father.  We rejoice in our salvation and in the new covenant which God has established with us in Christ.  Yet we wait for the consumation of the kingdom–to a time when Christ will come again to make all things new.  We stand as participants in the last act of God’s triumphant drama, but the final curtain has yet to fall.

It sounds like an Advent message, does it not?

The Kingdom of God was evident among those whom Jesus healed, the marginalized people whose dignity he affirmed, and the women who financed his ministry.  Yet that was nearly 2000 years ago.  We wait for the final curtain to fall.  As we wait may we do as the LORD commands us.  So may our fate be different from that of the liberated generation of Israelites.  May we live in gratitude to God, who has freed us from our sins.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 9, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT COLUMBA OF IONA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY AND ABBOT

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/exodus-and-luke-part-x-just-as-the-lord-had-commanded/

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Devotion for the Fourteenth Day of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   5 comments

Above:  The Adoration of the Golden Calf, by Nicolas Poussin

Exodus and Luke, Part VI: Extending Compassion to Others

APRIL 30, 2022

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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:

Exodus 32:1-14

Psalm 92 (Morning)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening)

Luke 6:20-38

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Be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.

–Luke 6:36, The New Jerusalem Bible

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And the LORD renounced the punishment He had planned to bring upon His people.

–Exodus 32:14, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Old habits are difficult to break.  This fact does not excuse anyone from not trying hard enough; no it just means that one might have to expend extra effort.  Among those habits is idolatry.  An idol can be an image, a concept, an activity, or a book.  One makes something an idol by allowing it to distract one form God.  Idols are ubiquitous.  I wonder, in fact, how many of the Ten Commandments yard signs I see are idols for those who have erected them.  And, living in Athens, Georgia, the most prominent idol seems to be University of Georgia athletics, especially football.  How many times have I heard fans describe to me as being “like a religion”?

In Exodus 32 we read of part of the notorious Golden Calf incident.  God, quite angry intends to destroy the Israelites there and then, but Moses talks God down.  I wonder where we would be had God’s Plan A (as presented in the chapter) become reality.  For the sake of truth and accuracy in biblical summary, there is plenty of bad news for the Israelites later in the chapter.  Yet I am trying not to get too far ahead of myself.

As I have written many times in various devotional posts, with God one finds both judgment and mercy.  Today’s readings emphasize the latter element.  And we are supposed to extend compassion to one another, just as God has done so to us.  But, if one insists on judging others, one should look out

…because the standard you use will be the standard used for you.

–Luke 6:38, The New Jerusalem Bible

The offset to this, of course, is grace.  Nevertheless, I am not a Christian Universalist, nor do I deny the reality of chastisement from God.

Each of us has a personality which marks us as an introvert or an extrovert.  These are the ways God has made us, and there is no sin in being the person God made one to be.  Indeed, different varieties of Christianity are tied more to one pole than to the other.  Evangelicalism, in my experience, is quite extroverted, whereas Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and Eastern Orthodoxy, with their monastic traditions, recognize the spiritual validity and richness of introversion.  As an introvert, I feel drawn toward the latter, not the former.  I have adopted a lifestyle which is akin to a version of monasticism without a cloister or vows; I am monkish.  These lectionary-based devotional posts flow from some of the solitude I seek and find.  As for extroverts, they can be wonderful company, and I recognize their spiritual gifts.  I am merely wired differently.  If we were all the same, the world would be a greatly diminished place, would it not?

May each of us extend compassion to others in a manner consistent with how God made us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 8, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLARA LUGER, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS

THE FEAST OF ROLAND ALLEN, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/exodus-and-luke-part-vi-extending-compassion-to-others/

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Devotion for the Seventh Day of Easter: Saturday in Easter Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   13 comments

Above:  Logo of the Moravian Church

Image Source = JJackman

Exodus and Hebrews, Part XIV: Following Jesus

APRIL 23, 2022

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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:

Exodus 19:1-25

Psalm 92 (Morning)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening)

Hebrews 13:1-21

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A Related Post:

Prayer:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/02/27/prayer-for-saturday-of-easter-week/

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I have heard press reports of the Vatican cracking down on liberal dissenters for years.  This is the sort of news that makes me glad to be an Episcopalian, for we have distributed authority.  And, as a self-respecting liberal, I identify with the denominational establishment more often than not.  Many Roman Catholic dissidents would occupy the Episcopal Church’s mainstream if they were to leave the Roman Church for the Anglican Communion.

I thought about that as I read Hebrews 13:17, which, in The New Jerusalem Bible, begins

Obey your leaders and give way to them….

Context matters.  The dominant theme in Hebrews 13 is looking out for each other, including strangers.  So a good religious leader is one who looks out for the flock.  When I turn to historical context I note that the audience consisted of persecuted Christians and Christians who might face persecution.  So sticking together was vital for the church.  Nevertheless, as one who grew up feeling out of place in the denomination in which he grew up (The United Methodist Church) and feeling alienated from the adjacent and dominant Southern Baptist subculture in rural southern Georgia, I reserve the right to identify with dissenters when I agree with them.  I also reserve the right to identify with the establishment when I agree with it.  I know that all of the following statements are accurate:

  1. I can be wrong.
  2. I can be correct.
  3. Bishops can be wrong.
  4. Bishops can be correct.
  5. Both sides can be wrong, just about different matters.
  6. Both sides can be correct, just about different matters.

The ultimate Christian leader is Jesus of Nazareth; may we follow him always.

Moses was the leader in the Book of Exodus.  He was, unfortunately, not immune from mysogyny, hence his instruction

…do not go near a woman

–Exodus 19:15b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

in relation to maintaining the ritual purity of men.  (The Law of Moses does cast female biology in a negative light, does it not?)  But it was generally good advice to do as Moses said; God spoke to him.  And Moses was trying to do the best he could for the people.  Leading a group of mostly quarrelsome nomads in the desert was not an easy task or vocation.

Issues of human authority and submission to it occur elsewhere in the Bible.  Paul wrote that we should obey our leaders, but Hebrew Prophets, speaking for God, opposed kings in their day.  I have no doubt that one reason the Romans crucified Jesus was that his rhetoric regarding the Kingdom of God called the imperium into question; the Kingdom of God looked like the opposite of the imperial order.  And our Lord and Savior clashed with his religious leaders.  So prooftexting one or two passages regarding this issue distorts the biblical witness on it.

I am a Christian who grew up a Protestant.  (Now I identify as an Anglo-Lutheran-Catholic within The Episcopal Church.) Much of that Protestant rebelliousness remains within me, although I have mixed it with Roman Catholicism.  So I stand with the Moravians, whose motto is

OUR LAMB HAS CONQUERED; LET US FOLLOW HIM.

May we follow him wherever he leads us.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 3, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MORAND OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK AND MISSIONARY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LIPHARDUS OF ORLEANS AND URBICIUS OF MEUNG, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOTS

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF UGANDA

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/exodus-and-hebrews-part-xiv-following-jesus/

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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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Twenty-Second Day of Easter: Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year A   12 comments

Above:  Logo of the Moravian Church

Jesus:  Shepherd and Lamb

MAY 3, 2020

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Acts 2:42-47 (New Revised Standard Version):

Those who had been baptized devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers.

Awe came upon everyone, because many wonders and signs were being done by the apostles. All who believed were together and had all things in common; they would sell their possessions and goods and distribute the proceeds to all, as any had need. Day by day, as they spent much time together in the temple, they broke bread at home and ate their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having the goodwill of all the people. And day by day the Lord added to their number those who were being saved.

Psalm 23 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He makes me to lie down in green pastures;

he leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the darkest valley,

I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff–

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me

in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me

all the days of my life,

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

my whole life long.

1 Peter 2:19-25 (New Revised Standard Version):

It is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly. If you endure when you are beaten for doing wrong, what credit is that? But if you endure when you do right and suffer for it, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you should follow in his steps.

He committed no sin,

and no deceit was found in his mouth.

When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly.  He himself bore our sins in the body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.  For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the guardian of your souls.

John 10:1-10 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus said,

Very truly, I tell you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold by the gate but climbs in by another way is a thief and a bandit. The one who enters by the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. The gatekeeper opens the gate for him, and the sheep hear his voice. He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought out all his own, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow him because they know his voice. They will not follow a stranger, but they will run from him because they do not know the voice of strangers.

Jesus used this figure of speech with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them.

So again Jesus said to them,

Very truly, I tell you, I am the gate for the sheep. All who came before me are thieves and bandits; but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters by me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.

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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A shepherd is  a shepherd only if there are sheep to guard and lead.

The imagery of sheep and shepherds runs throughout the Old and New Testaments.  Various groups of people–royal subjects, people in front of Jesus, et cetera–filled the role of sheep, depending on the text in question.  Depending on the passage of Scripture one considers, the shepherd was God, a king, or Jesus.  And some shepherds neglected their flocks.  Jesus, we read, is the Good Shepherd.  And he is, indeed.

We, as sheep, need a shepherd to protect us from ourselves, for we want to wander off to dangerous places.  Despite what we like to think about ourselves, we are not always the brightest crayons in the box.  Dealing with this issue effectively begins with recognizing the truth about ourselves and how much we need God, specifically in the form of Jesus.  May we acknowledge our shepherd and follow his lead.

Yet Jesus is also the victorious and worthy sacrificial lamb.  Members of the Church Triumphant wash their robes in his blood, and their robes become white. This poetic image communicates a great truth regarding atonement.  So, as the logo of the Moravian Church encourages us, may we follow the lamb.  Considering what he sacrificed and why he did it, we should reciprocate in love, devotion, and gratitude.

KRT

Written on June 20, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in May 3, Revised Common Lectionary Year A

Tagged with , ,

Twenty-Ninth Day of Lent   12 comments

Susanna and the Elders, by Albrecht Altdorfer (c.1480-1538)

Monday, April 4, 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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Daniel 13:1-9, 15-29, 34-62 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

There was a man living in Babylon whose name was Joakim.  And he took a wife named Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, a very beautiful woman and one who feared the Lord.  Her parents were righteous, and had taught their daughter according to the Law of Moses.  Joakim was very rich and had a spacious garden adjoining his house; and the Jews used to come to him because he was the most honored of them all.

In that year two elders from the people were appointed as judges.  Concerning them the Lord had said:

Iniquity came forth from Babylon, from elders who were judges, who were supposed to govern the people.

These men were frequently at Joakim’s house, and all who had suits at law came to them.

When the people departed at noon, Susanna would go into her husband’s garden to walk.  The two elders used to see her every day, going in and walking about, and they began to desire her.  And they perverted their minds and turned away their eyes from looking to Heaven or remembering righteous judgments.

Once, while they were watching for an opportune day, she went in as before with only two maids, and wished to bathe in the garden, for it was very hot.  And no one was there except the two elders, who had hid themselves and were watching her.  She said to her maids,

Bring me oil and ointments, and shut the garden doors so that I may bathe.

They did as she said, shut the garden doors, and went by the side doors to bring what they had been commanded; and they did not see the elders, because they were hidden.

When the maids had gone out, the two elders rose and ran to her, and said,

Look the garden doors are shut, no one sees us, and we are in love with you; so give your consent, and lie with us.  If you refuse, we will testify against you that a young man was with you, and this was why you sent your maids away.

Susanna sighed deeply, and said,

I am hemmed in on every side.  For if I do this thing, it is death for me; and if I do not, I shall not escape your hands.  I choose not to do it and to fall into your hands, rather than to sin in the sight of the Lord.

Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and the two elders shouted against her.  And one of them ran and opened the garden doors.  When the household servants heard the shouting in the garden, they rushed in at the side door to see what had happened to her.  And when the elders told their tale, the servants were greatly ashamed, for nothing like this had ever been said about Susanna.

The next day, when the people gathered at the house of her husband Joakim, the two elders came, full of their wicked plot to have Susanna put to death.  They said before the people,

Send for Susanna, the daughter of Hilkiah, who is the wife of Joakim.

Then the two elders stood up in the midst of the people, and laid their hands upon her head.  And she, weeping, looked up toward heaven, for her heart trusted in the Lord.  The elders said,

As we were walking in the garden alone, this woman came in with two maids, shut the garden doors, and dismissed the maids.  Then a young man, who had been hidden, came to her and lay with her.  We were in a corner of the garden, and when we saw this wickedness we ran to them.  We saw them embracing, but we could not hold the man, for hew was too strong for us, and he opened the doors and dashed out.  So we seized this woman and asked her who the young man was, but she would not tell us.  These things we testify.

The assembly believed them, because they were elders of the people and judges; and they condemned her to death.

Then Susanna cried out with a loud voice, and said,

O eternal God, who discern what is secret, who are aware of all things before they come to be, you know that these men have borne false witness against me.  And now I am to die!  Yet I have done none of the things they have wickedly invented against me!

The Lord heard her cry.  And as she was being led away to be put to death, God aroused the holy spirit of a young lad named Daniel; and he cried with a loud voice,

I am innocent of the blood of this woman.

All the people turned to him, and said,

What is this that you have said?

Taking his stand in the midst of them, he said,

Are you such fools, you sons of Israel?  Have you condemned a daughter of Israel without examination and without learning the facts?  Return to the place of judgment.  For these men have borne false witness against her.

Then all the people returned in haste.  And the elders said to him,

Come, sit among us and inform us, for God has given you that right.

And Daniel said to them,

Separate them far from each other, and I will examine them.

When they were separated from each other, he summoned one of them and said to him,

You old relic of wicked days, your sins have now come home, which you have committed in the past, pronouncing unjust judgments, condemning the innocent and letting the guilty go free, though the Lord said, ‘Do not put to death an innocent and righteous person.’ Now then, if you really saw her, tell me this: Under what tree did you see being intimate with each other?

He answered,

Under a mastic tree.

And Daniel said,

Very well!  You have lied against you own head, for the angel of God has received the sentence from God and will immediately cut you in two.

Then he put him aside, and commanded them to bring the other.  And he said to him,

You offspring of Canaan and not of Judah, beauty has deceived you and lust has perverted your heart.  This is how you have been dealing with the daughters of Israel, and they were intimate with you through fear; but a daughter of Judah would not endure your wickedness.  Now then, tell me:  Under what tree did you catch them being intimate with each other?

He answered,

Under an evergreen oak.

And Daniel said to him,

Very well!  You have lied against your own head, for the angel of God is waiting with his sword to saw you in two, that he may destroy you both.

Then all the assembly shouted loudly and blessed God, who saves all who hope in him.  And they rose against the two elders, for out of their mouths Daniel had convicted them of bearing false witness. and they did to them as they had wickedly planned to do their neighbor; acting in accordance with the law of Moses, they put them to death.  Thus innocent blood was saved that day.

Psalm 23 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

The LORD is my shepherd, I shall not want;

he makes me lie down in green pastures.

He leads me beside still waters;

he restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I fear no evil;

for you are with me;

your rod and your staff,

they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies;

you anoint my head with oil,

my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life;

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

John 7:53-8:11 (Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition):

They [the chief priests and Pharisees] went each to his own house, but Jesus went to the Mount of Olives.  Early in the morning he came again to the temple; all the people came to him, and he sat down and taught them.  The scribes and Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in adultery, and placing her in their midst they said to him,

Teacher, this woman has been caught in the act of adultery.  Now in the law Moses commanded us to stone such.  What do you say about her?

This they said to test him, that they might have some charge to bring against him.  Jesus bent down and wrote with his finger on the ground.  And as they continued to ask him he stood up and said to them,

Let him who is without sin among you be the first to throw the stone at her.

And once more he bent down  and wrote with his finger on the ground.  But when they heard it, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest, and Jesus was left alone with the woman standing before him.  Jesus looked up and said to her,

Woman, where are they?  Has no one condemned you?

She said,

No one, Lord.

And Jesus said,

Neither do I condemn you; go, and do not sin again.

The Collect:

Be gracious to your people, we entreat you, O Lord, that they, repenting day by day of the things that displease you, may be more and more filled with love of you and of your commandments; and, being supported by your grace in this life, may come to the full enjoyment of eternal life in your everlasting kingdom; 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 story of Susanna, one of the Greek additions to the Book of Daniel, is canon in the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox traditions.  It is also an ancient example of a detective story and a courtroom drama.  The two lecherous and would-be murderous elders commit perjury and face the consequences of their actions.  They attempt to blackmail the virtuous (and married) Susanna into having sex with them in violation of the Law of Moses, which proscribes execution for all sexual partners involved in adultery.  The same law code states elsewhere that false witnesses will suffer the same fate they wish upon the innocent party or parties.

This day’s reading from John was originally in Luke, but that is a point of information, not formation.  My approach in these devotions is to seek formation.  So let us proceed, taking the reading on its own terms and in narrative context.

The placement of this story at this point in the Johannine Gospel narrative indicates heightened tensions between Jesus and religious authorities, who try repeatedly to entrap him in his words.  In this case the pawn is a woman caught in adultery.  The text states her guilt of the charge and the existence of a man who does not appear in the story.  He got away, and this fact does not seem to trouble the religious authority figures in front of Jesus.  The Law of Moses called for the execution of the man and the woman committing adultery.  This is a trap for Jesus, and he knows it.  So he exposes their hypocrisy, and they skulk away.  And Jesus sends the woman on her way, granting her a new beginning.

Righteousness does not consist of manipulating religious laws and traditions to cover up nefarious goals.  Nor does it is not involve playing “gotcha” with anyone.  No, I think that righteousness is much like love.  It is patient and kind, eschews arrogance and does not insist on its own way.  Righteousness, like love, rejoices in the truth, not wrongdoing.  Righteousness entails caring about the consequences of one’s actions on others.

Let us pursue righteousness, not self-justification at the expense of others.

KRT

Written on March 5, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/14/the-pursuit-of-righteousness/

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, April 4, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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