Sorry that the posting has been sparse this week, but I have lived in headache city all week long.

Today, the first reading is: Isaiah 6:1-8

I have a feeling that I'm going to like Isaiah. I found a little picture at the thrift store that says: See! I will not forget you...I have you carved in the palm of my hand. (Isaiah 49:15) I love the poetics and the violence. Also, this reading is about seraphim. I'm not sure it can get any better than that for old testament mysticism. Well, I read the intro, and it seems like this is not a dream sequence, like I thought when I first read it. Well, maybe, kinda. It is his vision, his "call"

So, the year that King Uzziah died is about 742 B.C., and Isaiah has a vision in the temple. This is the footnote from the NAB : Seraphim: literally "the burning ones," are celestial beings who surround the throne of God. Each has six wings. Reverence for the divine majesty causes them to veil their faces with two wings; modesty, to veil their extremities in similar fashion; alacrity in God's service, to extend two wings in preparation for flight. Holy, holy, holy: God's perfect interior holiness whose exterior manifestation is his glory.

It's a very dramatic vision, with angels and singing and smoke and God. So, he thinks he's about to die. Instead, the angel touches his mouth with an ember from the alter to purge him of his sins and wickedness. God calls out "Whom shall I send? Who will go for us?”. And Isaiah just pipes right up and says "Here I am...send me!"

I'm used to biblical characters arguing with God about their call, and avoiding it. (Moses and Jonah to name just two.) But Isaiah still pipes right up. After reading about all of the regular Joes who didn't feel worthy when God called them, Isaiah comes out even more of a hero by responding positively to God, and making himself available to God's will.

The gospel today is: Matthew 10:24-33

I think I see the tie-in right away. Jesus is telling us that we are all servants of the Lord and we should aspire to be like Him, not better than Him. He says not to worry, that one day we will know the answers to everything. And he says: "What I say to you in the darkness, speak in the light; what you hear whispered, proclaim on the housetops", which immediately makes me think that Isaiah is the perfect role model for this. He tells us not to be afraid, which he tells us a lot, and makes a veiled threat about Gehenna.

But I think it all comes down to the ending of the passage: "Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my heavenly Father. But whoever denies me before others,I will deny before my heavenly Father.” To me, this is reassuring. I know what the rules are. Jesus makes it pretty clear what we should and shouldn't do in this passage. Actually doing it may be hard, but the blueprint is right in front of us.

To catch up on the news, I think this one story is the most interesting thing going on in the church right now. Yes, I know that World Youth Day is coming up, but this really has my attention: Anglican bishop seeks union with Rome

Our first reading today is Hosea 10:1-3, 7-8, 12

Maybe I just can't focus today, but I am completely lost. I'm gonna give it a shot, though. Hosea calls Israel a " luxuriant vine whose fruit matches its growth." I suspect that this is spoken with a little sarcasm. It seems like he goes on to insinuate that the more successful they become, the more idolatrous they become. They are building a bunch of altars and pillars, which we know from yesterday were, at the very least, encouraging idol worship along side worship of the God of Abraham. He accuses their worship and sacrifices of being empty, and reminds them that when they deny God, he can't do much for them.

Hosea then goes on to describe a cataclysmic disaster that he feels the Israelites are bringing on themselves. The king of Samaria is gonna disappear, "The high places of Aven shall be destroyed", "thorns and thistles shall overgrow their altars", and apparently they will be so downcast that they will beg the mountains and the hills to fall on them.

So he tells them to go and spiritually clean house. They should "Sow for yourselves justice, reap the fruit of piety". He tells them that they should seek the Lord, possibly before the Lord seeks them out. The title for this chapter in my bible is "Punishment of Idolatry". I think we are gonna see a lot of this in the old testament. Over and over, God needs to remind us of the first two commandments. He wants to be first, before everything. Even when Jesus is asked which is the most important commandment, he says "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment".

Wow! For someone with no focus, I sure can ramble on. Time for the Gospel: Matthew 10:1-7

Jesus calls together his disciples and gives them the power to heal and drive out demons. Just so that everyone is clear on who gets to go on this faith-healing journey, Matthew names all of the twelve apostles: Simon called Peter, and his brother Andrew; James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John; Philip and Bartholomew, Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James, the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus; Simon the Cananean, and Judas Iscariot who betrayed Jesus.

I do have to admit I only quoted that verse so that I could put all of those links in there.

What is actually interesting about this is that he instructs his disciples to stay among the"house of Israel". I feel like the Jews were God's chosen for so long that he wanted to give them the chance for salvation first. He probably felt like they were also the most qualified to later go and preach salvation to the hordes of ignorant pagan gentiles.

That's all I got. Here's some news: Scholars divided on interpretation of ‘Gabriel’s Revelation’ tablet

And if you are following this story, like me: Dissident Anglican Bishops May Seek Refuge in Rome

a few different takes on this story (I'm eating up everything I can find) Vatican "regret" at Church of England vote

England church backs women bishops, risks division

'We ARE navel-gazing': Mail was right about Church's self-obsession, says Archbishop of York as ordination row simmers

Well, I slept late, had a great vacation, and here is your first reading of the day:
Hosea 8:4-7, 11-13
First, I want to share a little of what I just read in the NAB introduction to Hosea about this new book that I don't know much about:
"Hosea belonged to the northern kingdom and began his prophetic career in the last years of Jeroboam II (786-746 B.C.)...The prophecy pivots around his own unfortunate marriage to Gomer, a personal tragedy which profoundly influenced his teaching. In fact, his own prophetic vocation and message were immeasurably deepened by the painful experience he underwent in his married life.

Gomer, the adulteress, symbolized faithless Israel. And just as Hosea could not give up his wife forever even when she played the harlot, so Yahweh could not renounce Israel, who had been betrothed to him. God would chastise, but it would be the chastisement of the jealous lover, longing to bring back the beloved to the fresh and pure joy of their first love.

Israel's infidelity took the form of idolatry and ruthless oppression of the poor. No amount of mechanically offered sacrifices could atone for her serious sins. Chastisement alone remained; God would have to strip her of the rich ornaments bestowed by her false lovers and thus bring her back to the true lover. A humiliated Israel would again seek Yahweh. The eleventh chapter of Hosea is one of the summits of Old Testament theology; God's love for his people has never been expressed more tenderly. Hosea began the tradition of describing the relation between Yahweh and Israel in terms of marriage."

I know that was long, but I think it may be important to understanding the Hosea readings. Now I've forgotten the whole reading, and I've gotta go back and read again...

So, they made kings, but not by God's authority. Apparently, the Israelites had a rebellion against the Davidic line, and put their own ruler in place, who then put up idols in several temples. Hosea goes on to describe that idols are stupid and empty, and that people who believe in them are stupid and empty. (Yes, my words, not Hosea's)

Hosea goes on to talk about Ephraim, who built a whole bunch of altars, thinking that it would help to fight sin, but it had the opposite effect. This is the footnote about that in the NAB: "The very multiplicity of sanctuaries throughout the land was a danger to the purity of worship. The local shrines were speedily assimilated to the cult places used by the Canaanites, and the Lord was identified with the god Baal worshiped there. Thus the Deuteronomic writers, influenced by prophetic ideas, ended by restricting sacrificial worship to the one temple in Jerusalem."

Hosea also goes on to talk about how his words are not heeded, which I'm sure he felt all over, from his home life to the general population that he was trying to get to listen to his prophecy. But he was wrong. His words have lived thousands of years, and influenced biblical law and writings forever. He ends with a threat. Because Israel has been so sinful, they will go back to Egypt. I assume that to mean that they will go back to slavery. God is so tired of their empty promises and mechanical gestures that he wants to strip everything from Israel so that they will be happy to come back to him again. I guess the analogy of the nation fallen away from God to the wife fallen from her husband seems pretty apt. The lesson that I take from this reading is what I get over and over and over from the old testament: God should be the most important thing in your life, don't worship anything or put anything in front of him. Sounds simple. What does God want from us? Love. More love than we give anything or anybody else.

On to the Gospel:
Matthew 9:32-38

It seems like in Jesus' day, there were a lot of people who were possessed by demons. I know that popular interpretation of this tends to lean towards the idea that ancient people attributed unknown illnesses and mental illnesses to demon possession. I like to think that there were actual demons. The world had gotten so rotten, so unlivable, so filled with real hardship and supernatural hardship that it was the best time in history for Jesus to come and save it.

Anyway, he's going around, exorcising demons, and the Pharisees started laying the groundwork for future persecution by claiming that Jesus only had the power to drive out demons by the power of the prince of demons, not God.

But Jesus just goes on with his work. He travels, heals, preaches, and exorcises. He becomes so saddened by the lost state of mind of the people that he encounters that he asks the disciples to pray to God for more "laborers for his harvest". The NAB footnotes to say that "It presupposes that only God (the master of the harvest) can take the initiative in sending out preachers of the gospel" I'm okay with that interpretation. That is why before someone becomes a priest or a preacher that they get "the call", right?

Anyway, that's all I got for today.

Here's your news story: Dissident Anglican bishops may seek refuge in Rome