Category Archives: Selected Sunday Scriptures

Selected Sunday Scriptures #146

It has been a while since I posted, I know, but in my defense I have been very busy. And traveling. And dealing with family matters. Typical stuff. Today’s scripture selections are chosen because they were the readings at a recent wedding I attended. The bride and groom are some former commenters here, who went by the names FeminineButNotFeminist/Cassie and (among others) Uberdeplorable Psychedlic Cat Grass. So they seem like fitting choices. The first is from the Book of Sirach:

Happy is the husband of a good wife;
    the number of his days will be doubled.
A loyal wife rejoices her husband,
    and he will complete his years in peace.
A good wife is a great blessing;
    she will be granted among the blessings of the man who fears the Lord.
Whether rich or poor, his heart is glad,
    and at all times his face is cheerful.

13 A wife’s charm delights her husband,
    and her skill puts fat on his bones.
14 A silent wife is a gift of the Lord,
    and there is nothing so precious as a disciplined soul.
15 A modest wife adds charm to charm,
    and no balance can weigh the value of a chaste soul.
16 Like the sun rising in the heights of the Lord,
    so is the beauty of a good wife in her well-ordered home.
17 Like the shining lamp on the holy lampstand,
    so is a beautiful face on a stately figure.
18 Like pillars of gold on a base of silver,
    so are beautiful feet with a steadfast heart.

(Sirach 26:1-4, 13-18)

There are a lot of valuable points in this passage. We see first, that a good wife is a valuable thing. In fact, elsewhere in this same book the author declares that a good wife is the greatest treasure a man can have. Second, we see some of the blessing that a good wife can bring: a longer life, a happier life, a healthier life, and a more peaceful life among other things. Third, we can see some of the virtues that make for a good wife (and woman): self-discipline, modesty, loyalty being some examples.

We can also see that a woman’s beauty is in fact a good thing. It is compared to the Temple of God, a place frequently considered beautiful in the OT. And a place that should be beautiful. Contra those who say that beauty is only skin deep, it does have value as well, and men are not shallow for considering it. Of course, those who read Proverbs and further in this book will know that beauty alone is no virtue, and can be quite deadly to a man.

Then we have St. Paul’s well known (and infamous in some circles) Epistle to the Ephesians:

[A]ddressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, 20 always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God the Father.

 

21 Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, be subject to your husbands, as to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. 24 As the church is subject to Christ, so let wives also be subject in everything to their husbands. 25 Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26 that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27 that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. 28 Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no man ever hates his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, as Christ does the church, 30 because we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” 32 This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church; 33 however, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

(Ephesians 5:21b-33)

Few passages are more seemingly controversial than this passage from the New Testament. And yet, when you truly read it, few passages are as beautiful. St. Paul eloquently paints out the love that Christ for all of us, and explains that same level of love is expected of a Christian husband towards his wife. Of course obedience on the part of the wife is the part of this passage which is decried. But what can I say? I think most of my readers here already know that we live in an age of ugliness.

Finally, on to the Gospel of Matthew:

And Pharisees came up to him and tested him by asking, “Is it lawful to divorce one’s wife for any cause?” He answered, “Have you not read that he who made them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one’?[a] So they are no longer two but one.What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder.” They said to him, “Why then did Moses command one to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “For your hardness of heart Moses allowed you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you: whoever divorces his wife, except for unchastity, and marries another, commits adultery; and he who marries a divorced woman, commits adultery.”

(Matthew 19:3-9)

Unfortunately this particular translation carries with it the error of many other translations of Scripture. Contra the popular understanding outside the Catholic Church, Jesus did not provide for an exception clause here. For those curious about this, blogfriend Deep Strength has an excellent analysis and summary located here.

But to get back on topic, here we see Jesus firmly lay out how marriage is: it is a permanent affair as long as two people are on Earth. God is what brings man and woman together (just as He did in the beginning), and man cannot undo this. Any attempt along these lines is inherently disordered, and thus, sinful.  At the same time when one is not caught up in sin, one can see the beauty of it all. A man and a woman are no longer separate after marriage. They are bound up, in a mysterious way, into something new altogether. This is why the Catholic Church refers to it as a Sacrament, which is a translation of Mystery, which is how matrimony is referred to in the East. It is a beautiful and mysterious thing, just like God Himself.

God grant them both many blessed and happy years.

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #144

Today’s post will draw heavily from the Psalms. First we have Psalm 141:

I call upon thee, O Lord; make haste to me!
    Give ear to my voice, when I call to thee!
Let my prayer be counted as incense before thee,
    and the lifting up of my hands as an evening sacrifice!

Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord,
    keep watch over the door of my lips!
Incline not my heart to any evil,
    to busy myself with wicked deeds
in company with men who work iniquity;
    and let me not eat of their dainties!

Let a good man strike or rebuke me in kindness,
    but let the oil of the wicked never anoint my head;
    for my prayer is continually against their wicked deeds.
When they are given over to those who shall condemn them,
    then they shall learn that the word of the Lord is true.
As a rock which one cleaves and shatters on the land,
    so shall their bones be strewn at the mouth of Sheol.

But my eyes are toward thee, O Lord God;
    in thee I seek refuge; leave me not defenseless!
Keep me from the trap which they have laid for me,
    and from the snares of evildoers!
10 Let the wicked together fall into their own nets,
    while I escape.

(Psalm 141)

I love this Psalm, as it teaches a great deal about humility. It reminds us that we must rely on God, and have no power to compel Him. We are entirely reliant on His love for us, with no means of enforcement. It cautions us about the dangers of the tongue, and how our words lead to sin. It reminds us to watch our company, and choose well. And of course, perhaps most importantly, it tells us that it can be a good thing to be rebuked, even violently. For such chastisement can also be love as well.

Then we have Psalm 146″

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord, O my soul!
I will praise the Lord as long as I live;
    I will sing praises to my God while I have being.

Put not your trust in princes,
    in a son of man, in whom there is no help.
When his breath departs he returns to his earth;
    on that very day his plans perish.

Happy is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
    whose hope is in the Lord his God,
who made heaven and earth,
    the sea, and all that is in them;
who keeps faith for ever;
    who executes justice for the oppressed;
    who gives food to the hungry.

The Lord sets the prisoners free;
    the Lord opens the eyes of the blind.
The Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
    the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord watches over the sojourners,
    he upholds the widow and the fatherless;
    but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.

10 The Lord will reign for ever,
    thy God, O Zion, to all generations.
Praise the Lord!

(Psalm 146)

This Psalm is hopeful, but also contains some important warnings. It reminds us not to trust too much in human beings, who are weak and prone to error. After all, we are all doomed to die, and with that death our plans come to nothing. At the same time, if we trust in God, we will not be disappointed. For the Lord saves us, and protects those who are vulnerable.

Finally, a snippet from the Gospel of Matthew:

13 Then children were brought to him that he might lay his hands on them and pray. The disciples rebuked the people; 14 but Jesus said, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And he laid his hands on them and went away.

(Matthew 19:13-15)

I find it funny, in a dark way, how many human beings act like children. But not in the way that Jesus meant. Rather than be trusting and innocent, like these children, instead people are immature and rebellious. It is a reminder that maturity is about more than just age- but how we act.

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #143

I hadn’t realized it had been as long as it had since I posted. Hopefully no one was getting worried. The first passage today is from Acts, and is the ultimate resolution of the Council of Jerusalem:

22 Then it seemed good to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barsab′bas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren, 23 with the following letter: “The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cili′cia, greeting. 24 Since we have heard that some persons from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, 25 it has seemed good to us in assembly to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth. 28 For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: 29 that you abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.”

(Acts 15:22-29)

This passage is always a valuable one to keep in mind, as it shows the Apostles and elders of the Church exercising their authority over believers. In this age of everyone believing whatever they want to believe, a sign of order and authority is invaluable.

Next a passage from the Letter of St. James:

19 Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, 20 for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rank growth of wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing.

(James 1:19-25)

Our faith is meant to be a dynamic, living thing. If we are not expressing it in our lives daily, then it is dead. And so are we, once our time upon this world ends.

Finally, a Psalm with a reminder about the importance of humility:

O Lord, my heart is not lifted up,
    my eyes are not raised too high;
I do not occupy myself with things
    too great and too marvelous for me.
But I have calmed and quieted my soul,
    like a child quieted at its mother’s breast;
    like a child that is quieted is my soul.

O Israel, hope in the Lord
    from this time forth and for evermore.

(Psalm 131)

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #142

I have been talking with one of my readers lately about the problem of peer groups, which are ostensibly full of “righteous” people, supporting sin and attacking those who point it out. This got me thinking about when similar situations occurred in Scripture. One example I can think of is found in the Gospel of John:

45 Then the temple police went back to the chief priests and Pharisees, who asked them, “Why did you not arrest him?” 46 The police answered, “Never has anyone spoken like this!” 47 Then the Pharisees replied, “Surely you have not been deceived too, have you? 48 Has any one of the authorities or of the Pharisees believed in him? 49 But this crowd, which does not know the law—they are accursed.” 50 Nicodemus, who had gone to Jesus[q] before, and who was one of them, asked, 51 “Our law does not judge people without first giving them a hearing to find out what they are doing, does it?” 52 They replied, “Surely you are not also from Galilee, are you? Search and you will see that no prophet is to arise from Galilee.”

(John 7:45-52)

Indeed, this is a problem which has been with the Church since the beginning. St. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians had, as one purpose, correcting a situation where the church there was supporting a sinful situation.

It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?

For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing.[a] When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.[b]

Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— 10 not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister[c] who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? 13 God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

(1 Cor 5)

One can imagine the incredulity of Paul while writing this. One can also, I think, imagine that his letter was not well received back in Corinth. But he wasn’t concerned with whether they liked him or not. His concern was the Truth. And that should be our concern as well. And if that costs us “friends”, then I think I stand on firm ground in saying they were never true friends in the first place.

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #141

Today marks both Palm Sunday and the Annunciation. This is altogether fitting, as both are days of heralding what is to come. We enter now Holy Week, a week marked by both triumph and tragedy. The passages for today are easy enough to guess ahead of time:

26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee called Nazareth, 27 to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, favored one! The Lord is with you.” 29 But she was much perplexed by his words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. 30 The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. 33 He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 Mary said to the angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” 35 The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. 36 And now, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month for her who was said to be barren. 37 For nothing will be impossible with God.” 38 Then Mary said, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.

(Luke 1:26-38)

Yet more triumph awaits:

28 After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem.

29 When he had come near Bethphage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30 saying, “Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31 If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ just say this, ‘The Lord needs it.’” 32 So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33 As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, “Why are you untying the colt?” 34 They said, “The Lord needs it.” 35 Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36 As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37 As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38 saying,

“Blessed is the king
    who comes in the name of the Lord!
Peace in heaven,
    and glory in the highest heaven!”

39 Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, “Teacher, order your disciples to stop.” 40 He answered, “I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.”

(Luke 19:28-40)

But as I mentioned earlier, this is also a week of tragedy. And it is altogether fitting that the triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem should transition quickly into a tale of tragedy:

41 As he came near and saw the city, he wept over it, 42 saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 Indeed, the days will come upon you, when your enemies will set up ramparts around you and surround you, and hem you in on every side. 44 They will crush you to the ground, you and your children within you, and they will not leave within you one stone upon another; because you did not recognize the time of your visitation from God.”

(Luke 19:41-44)

Thinking on it, it occurs to me that in many respects all of Creation was waiting for this week since the  beginning. Indeed, one might argue that Creation was made for this week, as it would restore what had been lost.

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #140

I was reading Cane Caldo’s most recent post this week, and I immediately thought of this passage from First Timothy:

Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it legitimately. This means understanding that the law is laid down not for the innocent but for the lawless and disobedient, for the godless and sinful, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their father or mother, for murderers, 10 fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching 11 that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me.

(1 Timothy 1:8-11)

The unfortunate truth is that society needs both criminal laws, as well as social sanction, to keep people in line. Those who are rebellious will not be motivated by virtue, therefore to restrain them you must appeal to their self-interest. That means using the laws of society to keep them in place.

As much as we would rather not have laws in place, or social sanctions, or whatever the particular instrument in question is, they are absolutely necessary. We are witnessing now the price that is paid when society gives those things up.

Also, I think I have found a corollary, of sorts, to the old engineer adage:

Cheap. Fast. Good…. pick two.

I suppose one could call it a social engineer’s adage:

Virtue. Freedom. Wealth/Comfort… pick two.

The obvious scripture passage to back this up involves a certain gate:

16 Then someone came to him and said, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17 And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments.” 18 He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder; You shall not commit adultery; You shall not steal; You shall not bear false witness; 19 Honor your father and mother; also, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20 The young man said to him, “I have kept all these; what do I still lack?” 21 Jesus said to him, “If you wish to be perfect, go, sell your possessions, and give the money to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” 22 When the young man heard this word, he went away grieving, for he had many possessions.

23 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, it will be hard for a rich person to enter the kingdom of heaven. 24 Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” 25 When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astounded and said, “Then who can be saved?” 26 But Jesus looked at them and said, “For mortals it is impossible, but for God all things are possible.”

(Matthew 19:16-26)

The more wealth there is, the more care needs to be taken to limit freedom (if only in a self-imposed way). Otherwise virtue will be pushed to the back-burner.

Finally, this passage from St. James’s letter appealed to me today:

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Show by your good life that your works are done with gentleness born of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. 15 Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy.

(James 3:13-17)

Well, maybe not appealed to me. Rather, convicted me. Envy is one of my long running problems, one that has been very difficult to stamp out. I’ve made progress in a lot of other areas, but this one still eludes me.  All the more reason for me not to boast, and to remember that I too depend utterly on the mercy of God.

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Selected Sunday Scriptures- #139

Today’s post will have no central theme. Rather, I will feature some scripture which caught my attention in the last few weeks. First up is a verse from Proverbs 31:

She girds herself with strength,
    and makes her arms strong.

(Proverbs 31:17)

I have tended to skip past this particular verse when reading through Proverbs 31 in the past. However, I am now of a different mind. This week at Church I saw a mother with two young children holding them throughout the service. Neither kid was a newborn- 1 and 3 years old, respectively. And she held them throughout much of the service. That couldn’t have been easy. [For those curious, dad was dealing with the older and more troublesome children.]

Physical strength is often something which is seen as a male attribute. But women need strength of their own as well- being a mother pretty much demands it. While I’ve intended to get my wife a gym membership when/if I get married, it was mostly focused on general health and keeping the weight off. But building muscle is another important thing which I had overlooked until today.

Next comes this passage from Romans:

What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.

For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. For whoever has died is freed from sin. But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.

12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

(Romans 6:1-14)

I’ve never understood those Protestant traditions which have held that Baptism is “optional” for Christians. Scripture alone is clear on its importance- its necessity. We must die to the sins of this world, and be born anew into the family of God. And baptism is the means we do so. It is a spiritual drowning, if you will, which recalls back to the parting of the Red Sea. This leads to a seeming paradox- the only way to live is to die. But this life is bound by death already. The only way to escape that is through God. And in so doing we become His children. See also this from John’s Gospel:

12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood or of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God.

(John 1:12-13)

Going back to the passage from Romans, we can also see that if we choose to live a life of sin, we can bring back that part of us which was supposed to die. That life where we were the children of the Enemy, and not of God. We must keep that old self buried, and never seek to dig it up. If we can do so, then eternal life with our Heavenly Father is before us.

 

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