Archive for the ‘Romans 5’ Tag

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

Zedekiah

Above:  King Zedekiah of Judah

Image in the Public Domain

Spiritual Responsibility

MARCH 21 and 22, 2022

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The Collect:

Eternal God, your kingdom has broken into our troubled world

through the life, death, and resurrection of your Son.

Help us to hear your word and obey it,

and bring your saving love to fruition in our lives,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 28

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 11:1-17 (Monday)

Ezekiel 17:1-10 (Tuesday)

Psalm 39 (Both Days)

Romans 2:1-11 (Monday)

Romans 2:12-16 (Tuesday)

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You chastise mortals in punishment for sin,

consuming like a moth what is dear to them;

surely everyone is a mere breath.

–Psalm 39:11, The Book of Worship of North India (1995)

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The judgment of God is righteous, the readings for these days tell us.

Ezekiel 17:1-10 requires explanation, for it uses metaphorical language.  The references involving the cedar, the vine, and the eagles refer to international relations from 598 to 588 B.C.E.  In verses 3-6 the meaning is that King Nebuchadnezzar II of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire had taken many prominent people of Judah, including King Jehoiachin (reigned in 597 B.C.E.), into exile, after which King Zedekiah (reigned 597-586 B.C.E.), who was initially loyal to Nebuchadnezzar II, came to the throne of Judah.  The eagle in verses 7-8 is the Pharaoh of Egypt, to whom Zedekiah transferred his loyalty.  The pericope concludes that the survival of Zedekiah and Judah is impossible.

Part of the background of the assigned passage from Ezekiel is the position that pursuing those alliances with dangerous foreign leaders was not only foolish but faithless.  Obey and trust in God instead, prophets said.  Theological interpretation in the context of the Babylonian Exile reinforced that position.  The people and bad kings of Judah reaped what they sowed, the final versions of certain books of the Hebrew Bible argued.  (There were, of course, good kings of Judah.)

God is angry with Judah in Jeremiah 11:1-17.  The people, having generally (with some notable exceptions) refused to obey the covenant with God, will suffer the punishments for noncompliance which the covenant contains.  Among the accusations is rampant idolatry.

The first word of Romans 2 is “therefore,” which leads me back into chapter 1.  The essence of Romans 1 is that Gentiles have no excuse for persistent unrighteousness, including idolatry.  Divine punishment for them for these offenses is therefore justified.  Then, in Romans 2, St. Paul the Apostle tells his Jewish audience not to be spiritually complacent.

The very fact that the Jew agrees so entirely with Paul’s charge against the Gentile shows that he himself is without excuse and subject to the wrath of God.

–Anders Nygren, Commentary on Romans (1944); Translated by Carl C. Rasmussen (Philadelphia, PA:  Muhlenberg Press, 1949), page 113

Furthermore, some Gentiles have the law of God inscribed on their hearts, when even some Jews do not.  Doing is better than merely hearing, according to the Apostle.

Three thoughts come to my mind at this point.  The first is that St. Paul was correct.  He echoed Jeremiah 31:31f (the inner law), but expanded the text to include Gentiles.  St. Paul also sounded much like Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5.

Do not judge, and you will not be judged.  For as you judge others, so will yourselves be judged, and whatever measure you deal out will be dealt to you.

–Matthew 7:1-2, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The Gospel of Matthew did not exist during St. Paul’s lifetime, but the Apostle did have some familiarity with oral traditions and perhaps some written sayings of Jesus, from which the author of the Gospel of Matthew drew.

My second thought is that St. Paul’s challenge to question one’s assumptions and prejudices is timeless.  Who are those we define as spiritual outsiders?  Some of them might be closer to God than we are, and we might not be as close to God as we think we are.

My final thought in this collection is that St. Paul sounds very much like the perhaps later Letter of James.

Exhibit A:

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified.

–Romans 2:13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

The emphasis here is on active faith.  The Pauline definition of faith was confidence, in the absence of evidence for or against, which leads to actions.  Thus, later in the epistle, St. Paul argued:

Therefore since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ….

–Romans 5:1, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Romans 2:13 and 5:1 stand as portions of a unified, steadily building case in a theological treatise.

Exhibit B:

What good is it, my friends, for someone to say he has faith when his actions do nothing to show it?  Can faith save him?…So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is by itself a lifeless thing.

–James 2:14, 17, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Exhibit C:

Do you have to be told, you fool, that faith divorced from action is futile?…You see then it is by action and not by faith alone that a man is justified.

–James 2:20, 24, The Revised English Bible (1989)

Faith, in the Letter of James, is intellectual, hence the necessity of pairing it with deeds.  On the surface the theologies of justification in the Letter of James and the Letter to the Romans might seem mutually contradictory, but they are not.  No, they arrive at the same point from different destinations.

The judgment of God exists alongside divine mercy.  The balance of the two factor resides solely in the purview of God.  Our actions influence divine judgment and mercy in our cases, however.  One can find that teaching in several places in the Bible, including Ezekiel 18, Matthew 7:1-5, Romans 2:6f, and James 2:8f.  Yes, the legacies of ancestors influence us, but our spiritual responsibility for ourselves remains intact.  May we exercise it properly.

Related to one’s spiritual responsibility for oneself is one’s spiritual responsibility for others, as in Romans 2:17-24.  That, however, is a topic for another post.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 19, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHANN HERMANN SCHEIN, GERMAN LUTHERAN COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF F. BLAND TUCKER, EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/11/19/spiritual-responsibility/

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Third Sunday in Lent, Year A   26 comments

Above:  Jacob’s Well in 1934

The Water of Life

MARCH 15, 2020

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Exodus 17:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

From the wilderness of Sin the whole congregation of the Israelites journeyed by stages, as the Lord commanded. They camped at Rephidim, but there was no water for the people to drink. The people quarreled with Moses, and said,

Give us water to drink.

Moses said to them,

Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test the Lord?

But the people thirsted there for water; and the people complained against Moses and said,

Why did you bring us out of Egypt, to kill us and our children and livestock with thirst?

So Moses cried out to the Lord,

What shall I do with this people? They are almost ready to stone me.

The Lord said to Moses,

Go on ahead of the people, and take some of the elders of Israel with you; take in your hand the staff with which you struck the Nile, and go. I will be standing there in front of you on the rock at Horeb. Strike the rock, and water will come out of it, so that the people may drink.

Moses did so, in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the place Massah and Meribah, because the Israelites quarreled and tested the Lord, saying,

Is the Lord among us or not?

Psalm 95 (New Revised Standard Version):

O come, let us sing to the LORD;

let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation!

Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving;

let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise!

For the LORD is a great God,

and a great King above all gods.

In his hand are the depths of the earth;

the heights of the mountains are his also.

The sea is his, for he made it,

and the dry land, which has hands have formed.

O come, let us worship and bow down,

let us kneel before the LORD, our Maker!

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture,

and the sheep of his hand.

O that today you would listen to his voice!

Do not harden your hearts, as at Meribah,

as on the day at Masah in the wilderness,

when your ancestors tested me,

and put me to the proof, though they had seen my work.

For forty years I loathed that generation

and said,

They are a people whose hearts go astray,

and they do not regard my ways.

Therefore in anger I swore,

They shall not enter my rest.

Romans 5:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

Since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have obtained access to this grace in which we stand; and we boast in our hope of sharing the glory of God. And not only that, but we also boast in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person– though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.

John 4:5-42 (New Revised Standard Version):

Jesus came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

A Samaritan woman came to draw water, and Jesus said to her,

Give me a drink.

(His disciples had gone to the city to buy food.) The Samaritan woman said to him,

How is it that you, a Jew, ask a drink of me, a woman of Samaria?

(Jews do not share things in common with Samaritans.) Jesus answered her,

If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, “Give me a drink,” you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.

The woman said to him,

Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?

Jesus said to her,

Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.

The woman said to him,

Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.

Jesus said to her,

Go, call your husband, and come back.

The woman answered him,

I have no husband.

Jesus said to her,

You are right in saying, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one you have now is not your husband. What you have said is true!

The woman said to him,

Sir, I see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you say that the place where people must worship is in Jerusalem.

Jesus said to her,

Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father seeks such as these to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.

The woman said to him,

I know that Messiah is coming” (who is called Christ). “When he comes, he will proclaim all things to us.

Jesus said to her,

I am he, the one who is speaking to you.

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said,

What do you want?

or,

Why are you speaking with her?

Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people,

Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?

They left the city and were on their way to him.

Meanwhile the disciples were urging him,

Rabbi, eat something.

But he said to them,

I have food to eat that you do not know about.

So the disciples said to one another,

Surely no one has brought him something to eat?

Jesus said to them,

My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to complete his work. Do you not say, “Four months more, then comes the harvest”? But I tell you, look around you, and see how the fields are ripe for harvesting. The reaper is already receiving wages and is gathering fruit for eternal life, so that sower and reaper may rejoice together. For here the saying holds true, “One sows and another reaps.” I sent you to reap that for which you did not labor. Others have labored, and you have entered into their labor.

Many Samaritans from that city believed in him because of the woman’s testimony,

He told me everything I have ever done.

So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them; and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman,

It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is truly the Savior of the world.

The Collect:

Almighty God, you know that we have no power in ourselves to help ourselves: Keep us both outwardly in our bodies and inwardly in our souls, that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; 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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Water is precious, especially in the desert.  Modern-day Israel and surrounding nations, the locations of most of the Biblical narrative, are mostly desert.  So think of the Biblical references to water.  (Psalm 1 comes to mind immediately.)  Water can make the difference between life and death.

H2O can make the make the difference between physical life and death, just as spiritual water can make the difference between spiritual life and death.  That is my theme for this entry.

God had delivered the Israelites (through water) out of slavery in Egypt and into freedom.  This liberty entailed a nomadic life in the desert of the Sinai Peninsula.  God provided the Israelites everything they needed for survival, yet many people grumbled, waxing nostalgically about Egyptian table scraps and pressing Moses about where to find more water. They found it inside rocks.  Indeed, the presence of water inside rocks is a fact of nature.  The main issue with the Israelites was their faithlessness, fed by a lack of gratitude, patience, and vision.

Often we (including the author of this post) are impatient of God, unaware of how fortunate we are.  Human nature does not change.

Samaritans were half-breeds and heretics by orthodox Jewish standards.  So why did Jesus deign to carry on an intelligent, non-judgmental conversation with one of them?  And with a woman!  Women were the social inferiors of men in that patriarchal society.  This Samaritan woman had more faith than did many Israelites shortly after the Exodus, though, and she received spiritual water and rejuvenated faith.  She went away justified.

Truly all people who seek and find God, who demonstrate living faith in the one true deity and his only Son, Jesus, are acceptable to God–regardless of ethnic origin or sex.  Some heretics have more faith than certain observant people.  Some of my most productive and interesting theological discussions have been with refugees and exiles from organized religion.  I think especially of a young woman I knew as a classmate at Valdosta State University, Valdosta, Georgia, in the early and middle 1990s.  Brittany (not her real name) had grown up in a conservative, Charismatic congregation of an old, mainline Protestant denomination.  She cared deeply about epistomology, or how we know what we know.  Brittany’s congregation did not encourage her epistomological quest, equating it with faithlessness.  So, wounded and unwelcome, she left organized religion.  That was were she was spiritually when I spoke to her last, in early 1996.  Yet she was more faithful in a healthy way than those other students who attended fundamentalist churches weekly (or more often) and who discouraged my questions, telling me they would lead me to damnation.

Receptiveness to God is not the sole province of those who seem orthodox.  Sometimes the alleged heretics are closer to God.  Penitent prostitutes (not St. Mary Magdalene, who was not a prostitute), unlike some Pharisees, welcomed the message of our Lord and Savior.  The Samaritan woman at the well found much more than she expected, and led others to Jesus.  And Gentiles found God throughout the New Testament.  Perhaps the pivotal difference between those who embrace God and those who think they do is that the former population knows fully of its need for God, and therefore does not cling to false pride.

So there you have it.  May we welcome healthy faith in the only God wherever we find it, in whomever it lives.

KRT

Written on June 17, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/10/the-water-of-life/

First Sunday in Lent, Year A   21 comments

Above: Temptations of Christ, a Byzantine Mosaic which Resides at St. Mark’s, Venice, Italy, because Knights of the Fourth Crusade Stole It from Constantinople (But Who Is Keeping Track?)

Interpreting the Temptations of Jesus

MARCH 1, 2020

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Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7 (New Revised Standard Version):

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man,

You may freely eat of every tree of the garden; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall die.

Now the serpent was more crafty than any other wild animal that the LORD God had made. He said to the woman,

Did God say, “You shall not eat from any tree in the garden”?

The woman said to the serpent,

We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; but God said, “You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree that is in the middle of the garden, nor shall you touch it, or you shall die.”

But the serpent said to the woman,

You will not die; for God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.

So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate; and she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate. Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together and made loincloths for themselves.

Psalm 32 (New Revised Standard Version):

Happy are those whose transgression is forgiven,

whose sin is covered.

Happy are those to whom the LORD imputes no iniquity,

and in whose spirit there is no deceit.

While I kept silence, my body wasted away through my groaning all day long.

For day and night your hand was heavy upon me,;

my strength was dried up as by the heat of summer.

Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and I did not hide my iniquity;

I said,

I will confess my transgressions to the LORD,

and you forgave the guilt of my sin.

Therefore let all who are faithful

offer prayer to you;

at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters

shall not teach them.

You are a hiding place for me;

you preserve me from trouble;

you surround me with glad cries of deliverance.

I will instruct you and teach you the way you should go;

I will counsel you with my eye upon you.

Do not be like a horse or a mule, without understanding,

whose temper must be curbed with bit and bridle,

else it will not stay near you.

Many are the torments of the wicked,

but steadfast love surrounds those who trust in the LORD.

Be glad in the LORD and rejoice, O righteous,

and shout for joy, all you upright in heart.

Romans 5:12-19 (New Revised Standard Version):

As sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned– sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.

But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Matthew 4:1-11 (New Revised Standard Version):

After Jesus was baptized, he was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him,

If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.

But he answered,

It is written,

“One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.”

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him,

If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,

“He will command his angels concerning you,’ and ‘On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”

Jesus said to him,

Again it is written,

“Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him,

All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.

Jesus said to him,

Away with you, Satan! for it is written,

“Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.”

Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.

The Collect:

Almighty God, whose blessed Son was led by the Spirit to be tempted by Satan: Come quickly to help us who are assaulted by many temptations; and, as you know the weaknesses of each of us, let each one find you mighty to save; 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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It is appropriate to have this Gospel reading on the First Sunday in Lent, for the number “40″ for days of this season comes partially from the 40 days the Gospels say Jesus spent in the wilderness.

There is something mythic about a great religious leader having to face three temptations at the hand of an evil spiritual figure as a rite of passage.  At least one Buddhist version of this tale says that Siddhartha faced down fear, lust, and ego before he became the Enlightened One.  And we read that Jesus faced three temptations, also.  I suspect that this story is part of mythology, just as much as are the early chapters of Genesis.  (All the Bible is true, and some of it happened.)

As I write this devotional nine months early, in the energy-sapping heart of Summer 2010 (with the weather certain to become worse before it improves), I turn to the late Henri Nouwen, the Dutch Roman Catholic priest and wonderful spiritual writer for his cogent interpretation of Christ’s temptations.  In The Way of the Heart (1981), Father Nouwen wrote of harried, compulsive ministers:

Just look for a moment at our daily routine.  In general we are very busy people.  We have many meetings to attend, many visits to make, many services to lead.  (Our calendars are filled with appointments, our days and weeks filled with engagements, and our years filled with plans and projects.  There is seldom a period in which we do not know what to do, and we move through life in such a distracted way that we do not even take the time to rest to wonder if any of the things we think, say, or do are worth thinking, saying, or doing.  We simply go along with the many “musts” and “oughts” that have been handed on to us, and we live with them as if they were authentic translations of the Gospel of our Lord.  People must be motivated to come to church, youth must be entertained, money must be raised, and above all everyone must be happy.  Moreover, we ought to be on good terms with the church and civil authorities; we ought to be liked or at least respected by a fair majority of our parishioners; we ought to move up in the ranks according to schedule; and we ought to have enough vacation and salary to live a comfortable life.  Thus we are busy people just like all other busy people, rewarded with the rewards which are rewarded to busy people! (page 12 from the 2003 reprint)

Then Nouwen defined the false self, or secular self, which, Thomas Merton explained, social compulsions have manufactured.  Instead, Nouwen wrote, one’s true self, which is spiritual, requires solitude for the purpose of transformation.  Solitude, he wrote, is “the solitude of transformation.”  Then Nouwen continued:

Jesus himself entered into this furnace.  There he was tempted with the three compulsions of the world:  to be relevant (“turn stones into loaves”), to be spectacular (“throw yourself down”), and to be powerful (“I will give you all these kingdoms”.  There affirmed God as the only source of his identity (“You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone.”)  Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter–the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self.  (page 16 from the 2003 reprint)

That is one truth we can take from this mythic story and apply in our lives.

KRT

Written on June 17, 2010

http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/interpreting-the-temptations-of-jesus/