Archive for the ‘Psalm 96’ 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

MAY 21 and 22, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

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-Ninth, Fortieth, and Forty-First Days of Easter (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   10 comments

Above:  Lazarus and Dives

Numbers and Luke, Part III:  The Kingdom of God

MAY 12-14, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 10:11-36 (39th Day of Easter)

Numbers 11:1-23, 31-35 (40th Dayof Easter)

Numbers 11:24-29; 12:1-16 (41st Day of Easter)

Psalm 99 (Morning–39th Day of Easter)

Psalm 47 (Morning–40th Day of Easter)

Psalm 96 (Morning–41st Day of Easter)

Psalms 8 and 118 (Evening–39th Day of Easter)

Psalms 68 and 113 (Evening–40th Day of Easter)

Psalms 96 and 138 (Evening–41st Day of Easter)

Luke 16:19-31 (39th Day of Easter)

Luke 17:1-19 (40th Day of Easter)

Luke 17:20-37 (41st Day of Easter)

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Numbers 10:11-12:16 constitutes a unit in that book.  The narrative tells how the Israelites moved to the desert of Paran. they moved in a particular order but not without grumbling.  Manna could not compare with Egyptian food, apparently.  And even Miriam and Aaron spoke against Moses.  The narrative says that God afflicted the people with fire or their murmuring until Moses convinced God to stop, and that God afflicted Miriam with a skin disease which rendered her ritually unclean for a week.

If I were to decide whether to stand in awe or terror of such a deity, I would choose the latter option.  That terror would also be appropriate in Luke 17:22-37.  And Dives, the rich man in the parable in Luke 16:19-31, should have learned terror of God in the afterlife, yet did not.  He still thought that the could order Lazarus, the poor man, around.

The Kingdom of God is among us.  In one sense it has always been present, for it is where God is.  Yet the Incarnation inaugurated the Kingdom of God via Jesus.  That Kingdom has not gone away since the time of the historical Jesus any more than it went away after the Crucifixion or the Ascension.  The full reign of God has yet to arrive on the planet, of course, but the Kingdom of God remains present via the Holy Spirit and the people of God, regardless of national, ethnic, or racial origin.

The Kingdom of God remains present in many ways.  It remains present anywhere the people of God work for the benefit of their fellow human beings.  It remains present anywhere one person corrects a fellow or sister human being in Godly love.  It remains present wherever people forgive and/or reconcile.  (Reconciliation is a mutual process, but one person can forgive another in absentia.)  It remains present wherever a person of God chooses not to hold a grudge.  It remains present wherever people of God care actively and effectively for the less fortunate.

May we remember that the shape of a society, culture, or subculture is what people have made it.  So, where injustice exists and persists, we humans are responsible.  May we, with God’s help, correct injustice and forge better societies, cultures, and subcultures.  This will not constitute God’s full reign following the apocalypse, but it will be an improvement on the present arrangements.

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-iii-the-kingdom-of-god/

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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 7 and 8, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

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

APRIL 29-30, 2021

MAY 1, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

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

APRIL 22-24, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

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 15 and 16, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

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 9, 2021

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Blessed Lord, who caused all holy scriptures to be written for our learning:

Grant us so to hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them,

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life,

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

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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Thirty-Third Day of Easter   8 comments

St. James of Jerusalem, a Pivotal Figure at the Council of Jerusalem

Divine Love, Commandments, and Gentiles, or: The Artificiality of Aspects of Organized Religion

May 6, 2021

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Acts 15:6-21 (Revised English Bible):

The apostles and elders met to look into this matter, and, after a long debate, Peter rose to address them.

My friends,

he said,

in the early days, as you yourselves know, God made his choice among you: from my lips the Gentiles were to hear and believe the message of the gospel.  And God, who can read human hearts, showed his approval by giving the Holy Spirit to them as he did to us.  He made no difference between them and us; for he purified their hearts by faith.  Then why do you now try God’s patience by laying on the shoulders of these converts a yoke which neither we nor our forefathers were able to bear?  For our belief is that we are saved in the same way as they are: by the grace of the Lord Jesus.

At that the whole company fell silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul s they described all the signs and portents that God had worked among the Gentiles through them.

When they had finished speaking James summed up:

My friends,” he said, “listen to me.  Simon had described how it first happened that God, in his providence, chose from among the Gentiles a people to bear his name.  This agrees with the words of the prophets: as scripture has it,

Thereafter I will return and rebuild the fallen house of David;

I will rebuild its ruins and set it up again,

that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord,

all the Gentiles whom I have claimed for my own.

Thus says the Lord, who is doing this as he made it known long ago.

In my judgment, therefore, we should impose no irksome restrictions on those of the Gentiles who are turning to God; instead we should instruct them by letter to abstain from things polluted by contact with idols, from fornications, from anything that has been straightened and from blood.  Moses, after all, has never lacked spokesmen in every town for generations past; he is read in the synagogues sabbath by sabbath.

Psalm 96 (Revised English Bible):

Sing a new song to the LORD.

Sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD and bless his name;

day by day proclaim his victory.

Declare his glory among the nations,

his marvellous deeds to every people.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

he is more to be feared than all gods.

For the gods of the nations are idols every one;

but the LORD made the heavens.

Majesty and splendour attend him,

might and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the LORD, you families of nations,

ascribe to the LORD glory and might;

ascribe to the LORD the glory due to his name.

Being an offering and enter his courts;

in holy attire worship the LORD;

tremble before him, all the earth.

Declare among the nations,

The LORD is king;

the world is established immovably;

he will judge the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad,

let the sea resound and everything in it,

let the fields exult and all that is in them;

let all the trees of the forest shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with justice

and peoples by his faithfulness.

John 15:9-11 (Anchor Bible):

[Jesus continued,]

As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.  Remain on in my love.  And you will remain in my love if you keep my commandments, just as I have kept  my Father’s commandments and remain in His love.  I have said this to you that my joy may be yours and your joy may be fulfilled.

The Collect:

O God, you continually increase your Church by the birth of new sons and daughters in Baptism: Grant that they may be obedient all the days of their life to the rule of faith which they received in that Sacrament; through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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We human beings seem to be inherently cliquish, with some notable exceptions.  Sometimes God speaks to us and commands us to do something; let us call it X for the sake of this devotional.  X is supposed originally to be a sign of obedience to and reverence for God.  Yet, over time, certain people transform X into a sign of exclusivity and seek to impose it on others, who seek God honestly yet find X burdensome.  Perhaps those who impose this burden as a condition of membership think they are doing God’s work.  Yet they are doing so such thing.

Circumcision was a daunting prospect for a Hellenistic male.  Many Gentiles, dissatisfied with varieties of polytheism, believed in the God of Judaism, yet remained on the periphery because they were Gentiles.  Many of them loved God yet did not look forward to circumcision.  And who can blame them?  Some Jews did.  Peter, a convert to the idea of proclaiming the good news of Jesus to the Gentiles as equals, defended the goyim when Judaizers confronted him.

As Peter said, God shows no partiality, and anyone who keeps God’s commandments is acceptable to God.  Circumcision is not an issue in this framework.  Yet loving God fully and one’s neighbor as oneself are issues.  This is the summary of the law of God.  And, as Jesus said, keep his commandments.  I have paraphrased his short version of divine law.

So, why do we lay such burdens on people and seek exclusive identities.  I propose an oft-repeated thought: often we define ourselves by what we are not.  (I am guilty of this, so I write to myself first and to others second.)  We need to define ourselves primarily by what we are.  We are bearers of the image of God, who is pure love.  If we really love one another, we will look upon others as bearers of the divine image and fellow brothers and sisters in the human family.  This understanding embraces our common humanity.  History tells me that when governments to war, frequently they launch propaganda campaigns to dehumanize the enemy, thereby making it easier to convince people that killing the “others” is moral.  (The U.S. government did this to the Germans during World War I, for example.  And the Nazis did it to the Jews and many non-Germans before and during World War II.)

Yet God loves everyone–Jews and Gentiles, Americans and Germans, Germans and non-Germans, et cetera.  Anyone who loves God actively is acceptable to God, and labels are irrelevant.  Dare we speak this truth?

KRT

Posted originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2021, Episcopal Church Lectionary, May 6

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Twenty-Third Day of Easter   11 comments

Gentiles:  The Other Sheep

April 26, 2021

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Acts 11:1-18 (Revised English Bible):

News came to the apostles and the members of the church in Judaea that Gentiles too had accepted the word of God; and when Peter came up to Jerusalem those who were of Jewish birth took issue with him.

You have been visiting men who are uncircumcised,

they said,

and sitting at table with them!

Peter began by laying before them the facts as they had happened.

I was at prayer in the city of Joppa,

he said,

and while in a trance I had a vision:  I saw something coming down that looked like a great sheet of sailcloth, slung by the four corners and lowered from heaven till it reached me.  I looked intently to make out what was in it and I saw four-footed beasts, wild animals, reptiles, and birds.  Then I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Get up, Peter, kill and eat.’  But I said, “No, Lord!  Nothing profane or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’  A voice from heaven came a second time:  ‘It is not for you to call profane what God counts clean.’  This happened three times, and then they were all drawn up again into heaven.  At that very moment three men who had been sent to me from Caesarea arrived at the house where I was staying; and the Spirit told me to go with them.  My six companions here came with me and we went into the man’s house.  He told us how he had seen an angel standing in his house who said, ‘Sent to Joppa for Simon Peter.  He will speak words that will bring salvation to you and all your household.’ Hardly had I begun speaking, when the Holy Spirit came upon them, just as upon us at the beginning, and I recalled what the Lord had said:  ‘John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit.’  God gave them no less a gift than he gave us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.  How could I stand in God’s way?’

When they heard this their doubts were silenced, and they gave praise to God.

This means,

they said,

that God has granted life-giving repentance to the Gentiles also.

Psalm 96 (Revised English Bible):

Sing a new song to the LORD.

Sing to the LORD, all the earth.

Sing to the LORD and bless his name;

day  by day proclaim his victory.

Declare his glory among the nations,

his marvellous deeds to every people.

Great is the LORD and most worthy of praise;

he is more to be feared than all gods.

For the gods of the nations are idols every one;

but the LORD made the heavens.

Majesty and splendour attend him,

might and beauty are in his sanctuary.

Ascribe to the LORD, you families of nations,

ascribe to the LORD glory and might;

ascribe to the LORD the glory due to his name.

Bring an offering and enter his courts;

in holy attire worship the LORD;

tremble before him, all the earth.

Declare among the nations,

The LORD is King;

the world is established immovably;

he will judge the peoples with equity.

Let the heavens rejoice and the earth be glad,

let the sea resound and everything in it,

let the fields exult and all that is in them;

let all the trees of the forest shout for joy

before the LORD when he comes,

when he comes to judge the earth.

He will judge the world with justice

and peoples by his faithfulness.

John 10:1-18 (Anchor Bible):

(Note:  The Episcopal Lesser Feasts and Fasts lists 10:1-10 as the Gospel reading for Year C and 10:11-18 as the Gospel reading for Years A and B.  I have merged these.)

[Jesus said,]

Truly I assure you, anyone who does not enter the sheepfold through the gate, but climbs in some other way, is a thief and a bandit.  The one who enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep; for him the keeper opens the gate.  And the sheep hear his voice and he calls by name those that belong to him and leads them out.  When he has brought out [all] his own, he walks in front of them; and the sheep follow him because they recognize his voice.  But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.

Although Jesus drew this picture for them, they did not understand what he was trying to tell them.

So Jesus said [to them again],

Truly I assure you, I am the sheepgate.  All who came [before me] are thieves and bandits, but the sheep did not heed them.  I am the gate.  Whoever enters me will be saved; and he will go in and out and find pasture.  A thief comes only to steal, slaughter, and destroy.  I came that they may have life and to have it to the full.

I am the model shepherd: the model shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.  The hired hand, who is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep, catches sight of the wolf coming, and runs away, leaving the sheep to be snatched and scattered by the wolf.  And this is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep.

I am the model shepherd: I know my sheep and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father.  And for these sheep I lay down my life.  I have other sheep, too, that do not belong to this fold.  These also must I lead, and they will listen to my voice.  Then there will be one sheep herd, one shepherd.  This is why the Father loves me: because I lay down my life in order to take it up again.  No one has taken it away from me; rather, I lay it down of my own accord.  I have power to lay it down, and I have power to lay it down again.  This command I received from my Father.

The Collect:

Almighty and everlasting God, you have given your Church the great joy of the resurrection of Jesus Christ:  Give us also the greater joy of the kingdom of your elect, when the flock of your Son will share in the final victory of its Shepherd, Jesus Christ our Lord; who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever.  Amen.

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The other sheep who did not yet belong the fold in Jesus’ analogy were Gentiles.  The Apostle Peter extended his mission to include Gentiles, surprising himself and scandalizing others.  This was a common reaction at the time.  Indeed, if one reads the three verses past John 10:18, one notices that some Jews accused our Lord of being demon-possessed and out of his mind, although others rejected this interpretation.

Scandalous grace extends to all who will respond favorably, exposing as useless human attempts to make people seem worthy.  Peter realized this after his vision.  As he said, he could not stand in God’s way.  So I challenge everyone (beginning with myself) to ask oneself the following questions:  Am I standing in God’s way?  If so, in what way?  Then I challenge everyone (beginning with myself) to get out of the way and to stay there.

KRT

Published originally at SUNDRY THOUGHTS OF KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR on April 6, 2010

Posted October 29, 2010 by neatnik2009 in 2021, April 26, Episcopal Church Lectionary

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