Archive for the ‘Psalm 50’ Tag

Devotion for the Forty-Eighth and Forty-Ninth Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   9 comments

Above:  Moses Striking the Rock, by Pieter de Grebber

Numbers and Luke, Part VIII:   The Sin of Pride

JUNE 3 and 4, 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 20:1-21 (48th Day of Easter)

Numbers 20:22-21:9 (49th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–48th Day of Easter)

Psalm 92 (Morning–49th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–48th Day of Easter)

Psalms 23 and 114 (Evening–49th Day of Easter)

Luke 20:19-44 (48th Day of Easter)

Luke 20:45-21:9 (49th Day of Easter)

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The readings for today occur against the backdrop of death.  Miriam and Aaron die.  Jesus will die soon.  And, in the midst of all this, the main sin common to the readings from Numbers and Luke is pride, being spectacular.  That was the sin of Moses, whose disobedience detracted from the glory of God.  And the scribes in Luke 20:45-47 reveled in public acclaim while devouring the property of widows.  Furthermore, those who wasted our Lord’s time with a political trap and with sophistry earlier in Luke 20 probably thought their rhetorical powers and mind games clever.  They were mistaken.

To have a balanced self-image, or ego, is crucial.  We are neither worms nor demigods.  We are, however, bearers of the image of God.  And, as the author of the Letter to the Hebrews wrote in poetic terms, we are slightly lower than the angels.  So we ought to acknowledge our potential, its source, and our limitations.  To miss the mark–to aim too high or too low–is to arrive at an inaccurate estimate of our true worth.

May we therefore think neither too highly nor too lowly of ourselves.  And may we let God appear as spectacular as possible.  Not to do so is to commit the sin of pride.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 23, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT NICETAS OF REMESIANA, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF WIREMU TAMIHANA, MAORI PROPHET AND KINGMAKER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-viii-the-sin-of-pride/

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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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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 Twelfth and Thirteenth Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   6 comments

Above:  The Calling of Saint Matthew, by Caravaggio

Exodus and Luke, Part V:  The Tabernacle of God

APRIL 28 and 29, 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 25:1-22 (12th Dayof Easter)

Exodus 31:1-18 (13th Day of Easter)

Psalm 47 (Morning–12th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–13th Day of Easter)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening–12th Day of Easter)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening–13th Day of Easter)

Luke 5:17-39 (12th Day of Easter)

Luke 6:1-19 (13th Day of Easter)

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Exodus 25 begins a section of that book which contains detailed instructions regarding the Tabernacle, the priestly vestments, the furniture, the curtains, et cetera.  The mental images which fill my head every time I read those verses are far from a plain vernacular church building, the kind of structure which is ubiquitous in rural Georgia, USA.  The Tabernacle is supposed to be and look holy.  And I agree; a church building ought to be beautiful.

Then, in the context of the Tabernacle, we find instructions to keep the Sabbath, even to execute anyone who works on that day (31:14).  As a matter of law, one reserves execution for offenses considered especially serious and dangerous.  It is true that the Sabbath was a mark of freedom, but was the command to kill those who worked on it necessary?  I have worked on my Sabbath, Sunday; I had little choice.  And I have worked on Fridays and Saturdays.  I know people, such as health care professionals who have to work some Sundays.  Although I try to avoid needless shopping in Sundays, I do not advocate executing people who do anything other than rest on them.

Laws such as this one give ammunition to militant Atheists and fuel the imaginations of ruthless theocrats and would-be theocrats.  And, minus the killing, they remind me of old Puritan New England laws and more recent Southern U.S. “blue laws.”  Once, in South Carolina, it was illegal to buy a light bulb on a Sunday.  And it used to be illegal to hum to oneself in public in Puritan New England.  Yet I take the passage in its historical and cultural contexts, thereby softening its brutal blow.  The main idea is that the Israelites were supposed to be a holy people, a people set apart by God to witness to others.  They were to be the main tabernacle of God.

In Luke 5 and 6 Jesus healed a paralytic and a man with a withered hand.  He dined with Levi/Matthew, his new Apostle, and some of Levi/Matthew’s fellow tax thieves for the Roman Empire.  People with physical deformities were marginalized in the Law of Moses.  A blind man could not serve as a priest, for example.  Physical deformity or major malfunction carried with it stigma and spiritual second-class citizenship.  And dining with collaborators!  How dare he?  Actually, why not?  The tabernacle of God, defined as God’s people, included the physically deformed and disabled plus the notorious sinners who knew of their spiritual deficiencies.

We–you, O reader, and I–despite our spiritual deficiencies, are invaluable parts of the tabernacle of God.  It is a spectacular place, would not be same without us.  May we, by grace, live up to our potential.

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-v-the-tabernacle-of-god/

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Devotion for the Sixth Day of Easter: Friday in Easter Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   11 comments

Above:  Captain John Sheridan Thinking Logically about Illogical Things While Delenn Looks On

A Screen Capture from And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place (1996), an episode of Babylon 5 (1994-1998)

Image courtesy of PowerDVD and a legal DVD

Exodus and Hebrews, Part XIII: Sharing Each Others’ Burdens

APRIL 22, 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 18:5-27

Psalm 96 (Morning)

Psalms 50 and 138 (Evening)

Hebrews 12:1-24

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer:

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

Babylon 5:  And the Rock Cried Out, No Hiding Place (1996):

http://neatnik2009.wordpress.com/2010/07/29/babylon-5-and-the-rock-cried-out-no-hiding-place-1996/

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The thing you are doing is not right; you will surely wear yourself out, and these people as well.

–Exodus 18:17b-18, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Therefore, we also, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses [as this] surrounding us, after we have put aside every weight, even the sin that clings to us very readily, let us run with endurance the course that is laid out before us, keeping our gaze directed to Jesus, the prime leader and perfecter of the faith, who, instead of the joy laid out before him, having despised [the] cross of shame, endured [it], and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Just consider the one who has endured so great an opposition [as this] against himself, from the sinners, so that you may not become exhausted, being depressed in your souls.

–Hebrews 12:1-3, The Anchor Bible

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Jethro had sage advice for his son-in-law, Moses, who was overworking himself.  Moses needed to share his burden with trustworthy men.  It was a solution which worked for the common good.

We are not alone either, so we need not bear our burdens alone.  We have the examples of Jesus and members of the Church Triumphant, of course.  And we have human helpers around us.  Do we avail ourselves of them, for our benefit and that of others?

Above:  The Reverend Will Dexter, Dispensing Advice 

My thoughts turned to science fiction as I read Jethro’s advice to Moses.  I recalled And the Rock Cried Out, Hiding Place, a 1996 episode of Babylon 5 (1994-1998).  In that episode Captain John Sheridan, a hero, is overworking himself, staying up quite late to read station reports and complete other mundane business.  The Reverend Will Dexter, a visiting minister, fulfills Jethro’s function and advises Sheridan to share the burden of command.  Otherwise, Sheridan will be a bad and overburdened leader unable to do what he needs to do.  Sheridan, although initially dismissive, follows the advice.

What is God calling you, O reader, to do?  And with whose help?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 2, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT STEPHEN OF SWEDEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY, BISHOP, AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF LYONS (A.K.A. SAINT BLANDINA AND HER COMPANIONS)

THE FEAST OF REINHOLD NIEBUHR, UNITED CHURCH OF CHRIST THEOLOGIAN

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/01/exodus-and-hebrews-part-xiii-sharing-each-others-burdens/

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Twelfth Day of Lent   19 comments

A Slum Near Cairo, Egypt

Image Source = Katonams

Tuesday, March 15, 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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Isaiah 1:2-20 (Revised English Bible):

Let the heavens and the earth give ear, for it is the LORD who speaks:

I reared children and brought them up, but they have rebelled against me.

An ox knows its owner and a donkey its master’s stall;

but Israel lacks all knowledge, my people has no discernment.

You sinful nation, a people weighed down with iniquity,

a race of evildoers, children whose lives are depraved,

who have deserted the LORD, spurned the Holy One of Israel, and turned your backs on him!

Why do you invite more punishment, why persist in your defection?

Your head is all covered with sores, your whole body is bruised;

from head to foot there is not a sound spot in you–nothing but weals and welts and raw wounds

which have not felt compress or bandage or the soothing touch of oil.

Your country is desolate, your cities burnt down.

Before your eyes strangers devour your land; it is as desolate as Sodom after its overthrow.

Only Zion is left, like a watchman’s shelter in a vineyard,

like a hut in a plot of cucumbers, like a beleaguered city.

Had the LORD of Hosts not left us a few survivors,

we would have become like Sodom, no better than Gomorrah.

Listen to the word of the LORD, you rulers of Sodom;

give ear to the teaching of our God, you people of Gomorrah:

Your countless sacrifices, what are they to me? says the LORD.

I am sated with the whole-offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed cattle;

I have no desire for the blood of bulls, of sheep, and of he-goats,

when you come into presence.

Who has asked you for all this?

No more shall you tread my courts.

To bring me offerings is futile;

the reek of sacrifice is abhorrent to me.

New moons and sabbaths and sacred assemblies–

such idolatrous ceremonies I cannot endure.

I loathe your new moons and your festivals;

they have become a burden to me, and I can tolerate them no longer.

When you hold out your hands in prayer, I shall turn away my eyes.

Though you offer countless prayers, I shall not listen;

there is blood on your hands.

Wash and be clean;

put your evil deeds far from my sight;

cease to do evil, learn to do good.

Pursue justice, guide the oppressed;

uphold the rights of the fatherless,

and plead the widow’s cause.

Now come, let us argue this out, says the LORD.

Though your sins are scarlet, they may yet be white as snow;

though they are dyed crimson, they may become white as wool.

If you are willing to obey, you will eat the best that the earth yields;

but if you refuse and rebel, the sword will devour you.

The LORD himself has spoken.

Psalm 50:7-24 (Revised English Bible):

Listen, my people, and I shall speak; I shall bear witness against you, Israel:

I am God, your God.

Not for your sacrifices do I rebuke you, your whole-offerings always before me;

I need no young bull from your farmstead, no he-goat from your folds;

for all the living creatures of the forest are mine and the animals in their thousands on my hills.

I know every bird on those mountains; the teeming life of the plains is my care.

If I were hungry, I would not tell you, for the world and that is in it are mine.

Do I eat the flesh of bulls or drink the blood of he-goats?

Offer to God a sacrifice of thanksgiving and fulfill your vows to the Most High;

then if you call to me in time of trouble, I shall come to your rescue, and you will honour me.

God’s word to a wicked person is this:

What right have you to recite my statutes, to take the words of my covenant on your lips?

For you hate correction and cast my words out of your sight.

If you meet a thief, you choose him as your friend, and you make common cause with adulterers;

freely you employ your mouth for evil  and harness your tongue to deceit.

You are forever talking against your brother, imputing faults to your mother’s son.

When you have done these things, and kept silence,

you thought that I was someone like yourself;

but I shall rebuke you and indict you to your face.

You forget God, but think well on this,

lest I tear you in pieces and there will be no one to save you:

he honours me who offers a sacrifice of thanksgiving,

and to him who follows my way I shall show the salvation of God.

Matthew 23:1-12 (Revised English Bible):

Jesus then addressed the crowds and his disciples in these words:

The scribes and the Pharisees occupy Moses’ seat; so be careful to do whatever they tell you.  But do not follow their practice; for they say one thing and do another.  They make up heavy loads and pile them on the shoulders of others, but will not themselves lift a finger to ease the burden.  Whatever they do is done for show.  They go about wearing broad phylacteries and with large tassels on their robes; they love to have the place of honour at feasts and the chief seats in synagogues, to be greeted respectfully in the street, and to be addressed as ‘rabbi.’

But you must not be called ‘rabbi,’ for you have one Rabbi, and you are all brothers.  Do not call any man on earth ‘father,’ for you have one Father, and he is in heaven.  Nor must you be called ‘teacher;’ you have one Teacher, the Messiah.  The greatest among you must be your servant.  Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

The Collect:

O God, you willed to redeem us from all iniquity by your Son: Deliver us when we are tempted to regard sin without abhorrence, and let the virtue of his passion come between us and our mortal enemy; 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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Point #1:

Growing up in a series of small congregations (interlocking extended families, really) as  a pastor’s son I have a certain perspective on the causes of conflict in some churches.  When a person with an imbalanced ego has a position (with or without a title) of authority or influence in a congregation that person can wreak havoc.  The person with a weak ego uses his or her position as an ego crutch, which he or she defends, often destructively to the body of Christ.  Likewise, the person with a raging ego uses his or her ecclesiastical status to demonstrate a false proprietorship.  The result is not the building up of the body of Christ.

This day’s reading from Matthew reflects the Gospel ethic of “the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”  Proper ecclesiastical leadership builds up the body of Christ, not the ego of the leader.  This model extends to leadership in other settings.

Point #2:

Sin is both individual and corporate.  The dominant variety of Christianity in the Bible Belt emphasizes individual sin, sometimes to the exclusion of corporate sin.  A balanced understanding of sin addresses both varieties.

Consider, for example, the question of “fallen women” in the United States during the early 1800s.  Many prostitutes of that time had one alternative to selling their bodies.  That option was starvation.  They lived in a society which did not educate women (except to be homemakers) or prepare them for careers.  So a young and unmarried woman alienated from her family and lacking friends had few options.  Without justifying prostitution, was not the subordination of women (the societal sin) a major contributing factor to prostitution?

It is easy to focus on individual sin to the exclusion of corporate sin.  This is a seductive approach for various reasons, among them convenience.  Yet this leaves much important work undone.  Is it acceptable, for example, to lecture about family values while keeping wages depressed, thereby harming families?  In this scenario a consistent ethic of supporting family values entails paying workers enough to that they can support their families better.  And it involves one’s profit margin and business model.  What would Isaiah say about this?

The imperative of economic justice is a major theme in the Bible.  The prophet Isaiah addressed this issue in this day’s Old Testament reading.  Biblical authors made clear that God disapproves of economic injustice, and so should people.  Society does come into existence formed fully; people shape it.  And people can reshape it.

This is a question of loving our neighbors as ourselves.  Jesus spoke of that.

I conclude with an old Franciscan blessing:

May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.

May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for
justice, freedom, and peace among all people.

May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer
from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may
reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.

May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that
you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able,
with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.

And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator,
Jesus Christ the Incarnate Word who is our brother and Saviour,
and the Holy Spirit, our Advocate and Guide, be with you
and remain with you, this day and forevermore.

AMEN.

KRT

Written on February 22, 2010

Posted October 28, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2022, Episcopal Church Lectionary, March 15

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