Devotion for Proper 11, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Ruins of Ephesus

Image Source = Google Earth

Keeping Faith

JULY 17, 2022

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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Genesis 4:1-16 or Acts 21:8-15

Psalm 124

Revelation 2:8-11

John 6:25-40

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Keep the faith, we read.  Keep the faith, even though a congregation is small in membership and poor by economic standards.  Keep the faith even though one or one’s fellow congregants must suffer and perhaps die for the faith.  Keep the faith while enemies of the people of God assail them.  Keep the faith in the name of Jesus, the bread of life.

Why does God prefer X to Y?  The answer may never become obvious to we mere mortals, as in the matter of the sacrifices Cain and Abel made to God.  What is clear, however, is how people respond or react to God’s choosing.  One may respond well, as in Acts 2:14:

The Lord’s will be done.

The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Or one may respond badly.

Keep the faith amid disappointment and anger, we read.  Keep the faith when hopes and realities do not resemble each other.  Do not lash out and behave in an unfortunate and indefensible manner.

Ernest Lee Stoffel, writing in 1981, wrote words (based on Revelation 2:8-11) that are more applicable to the state of the church in 2021.

The church’s present “poverty” in the world–declining membership, gaining little attention in the world, losing her place as a dominant institution in most communities–may be the way to her becoming “rich,” to the recovery of her real power in Christ’s power.  The way of bigness and wealth (and this is not to inveigh against large, rich churches) may not be the way.  Sometimes it is when we have nothing, when we have been stripped of our securities, and feel no affirmation at all, that we have the most power.  The way may be the way of “poverty” before Christ, standing before him, stripped of any affirmation or security.

The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 29

After all, we all depend entirely on God, who is faithful.  May we keep the faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 16, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ROBERTO DE NOBOLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BERARD AND HIS COMPANIONS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS IN MOROCCO, 1220

THE FEAST OF EDMUND HAMILTON SEARS, U.S. UNITARIAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF GUSTAVE WEIGEL, U.S. ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF RICHARD MEUX BENSON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST; CHARLES CHAPMAN GRAFTON, EPISCOPAL PRIEST, COFOUNDER OF THE SOCIETY OF SAINT JOHN THE EVANGELIST, AND BISHOP OF FOND DU LAC; AND CHARLES GORE, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF WORCESTER, BIRMINGHAM, AND OXFORD; FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE RESURRECTION; AND ADVOCATE FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE AND WORLD PEACE

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/keeping-faith-part-ii/

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Devotion for Proper 10, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Ruins of Ephesus

Image Source = Google Earth

Deeds and Creeds

JULY 10, 2022

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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Genesis 3:1-19 or Acts 20:17-38

Psalm 123

Revelation 2:1-7

John 6:16-24

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Words have power.  Libel and slander are threats.  Some words build up.  Other words tear down.  Some words make truths plain.  Other words confuse.  Some words heal, but other words harm.  And misquoting God is always a bad idea.

Consider Genesis 2:16-17, O reader:

The LORD God gave the man this order:  You are free to eat from any of the trees of the garden, except the tree of knowledge of good and evil.  From it you shall not eat; when you eat from it you shall die.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Then, O reader, consider Genesis 3:2-3:

The woman answered the snake:  “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden that God said, “You shall not eat it or even touch it, or else you will die!”

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

God said nothing about touching the fruit in Genesis 2:16-17.

Misquoting God opens a door that should remain closed.

Nevertheless, I have this complaint to make; you have less love than you used to.

–Revelation 2:4, The Jerusalem Bible (1966)

Concern for resisting heresy can come at a high cost, if a congregation, person, et cetera, goes about affirming orthodoxy the wrong way.  That cost is too little love.  This is also a moral in Morris West’s novel Lazarus (1990), about the fictional Pope Leo XIV, a harsh yet extremely orthodox man.

The late Presbyterian minister Ernest Lee Stoffel offered useful analysis of the message to the church at Ephesus:

This is to say that a church can lose its effectiveness if it has no love.  As I think about the mission of the church, as I hear calls for “more evangelism” and a stronger application of the Gospel to the social issues of the day, I wonder if we can do either unless we can love first–love each other and love the world, for Christ’s sake.

The Dragon Bound:  The Revelation Speaks to Our Time (1981), 27

To quote St. Paul the Apostle:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.  And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.  If I give away all I have, and if I deliver my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.

–1 Corinthians 13:1-3, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

Orthodoxy without love is devoid of value.  May we who say we follow Jesus really follow him.  May we love as he did–unconditionally and selflessly.  May we–collectively and individually–love like Jesus.  May our orthodoxy and our orthopraxy be like sides of one coin.  May our deeds reveal our creeds and not belie our professions of faith.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER AND MARTYR, 1968

THE FEAST OF ABBY KELLEY FOSTER AND HER HUSBAND, STEPHEN SYMONDS FOSTER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONISTS AND FEMINISTS

THE FEAST OF BERTHA PAULSSEN, GERMAN-AMERICAN SEMINARY PROFESSOR, PSYCHOLOGIST, AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF GENE M. TUCKER, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN COSIN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF COSIN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/15/deeds-and-creeds-v/

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Devotion for Proper 9, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes, by Francisco Herrera the Elder

Image in the Public Domain

Human Obliviousness and Disharmony with God

JULY 3, 2022

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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Genesis 2:15-25 or Acts 20:1-12

Psalm 120

Revelation 1:9-10

John 6:1-15

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Genesis 2:15-25 presents, in the format of a myth, a portrait of life in harmony and innocence in the Garden of Eden.  That is not the kind of life known during any documented epoch of the human past, or the of the present.  Therefore, an encounter with God may seem frightening.  Or it may seem intimate and comfortable.  Or  it may astound.  Given the variety of encounters with God, both direct and indirect, as well as the range of people and circumstances, one cannot legitimately say that an encounter with God will definitely proceed in a given manner.

To ask that we have more than a very short-term memory of the encounter is reasonable, though.  We read of the Feeding of the Five Thousand in John 6:1-15.  If we keep reading, we reach the events of the next day, in the immediate area.  We read in John 6:30-31:

So they said, “What sign will you yourself do, the sight of which will make us believe in you?  What work will you do?  Our fathers ate manna in the desert; as scriptures says, He gave them bread from heaven to eat.

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

Jesus must have rolled his eyes and muttered an ancient equivalent of,

Oy vey!

The author of the Gospel of John did not record that reaction, of course.

Not being oblivious to God is one step toward living in harmony with God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 15, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF MARTIN LUTHER KING, JR., CIVIL RIGHTS LEADER AND MARTYR, 1968

THE FEAST OF ABBY KELLEY FOSTER AND HER HUSBAND, STEPHEN SYMONDS FOSTER, U.S. QUAKER ABOLITIONISTS AND FEMINISTS

THE FEAST OF BERTHA PAULSSEN, GERMAN-AMERICAN SEMINARY PROFESSOR, PSYCHOLOGIST, AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF GENE M. TUCKER, UNITED METHODIST MINISTER AND BIBLICAL SCHOLAR

THE FEAST OF JOHN COSIN, ANGLICAN BISHOP OF COSIN

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/15/human-obliviousness-and-disharmony-with-god/

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Devotion for Proper 8, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  The Temple of Artemis (1886), by Ferdinand Knab

Image in the Public Domain

Enemies and Threats, Real and Perceived

JUNE 12, 2022

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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Genesis 2:3-9 or Acts 19:23-41

Psalm 119:129-144

Revelation 1:1-8

John 5:19-47

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God has breathed life into we human beings and spoken to us.  God has spoken to us frequently and in different ways.  God has never ceased to speak to us.  God has even become incarnate.

But how many of us are listening to God?

The words from God can be extremely inconvenient sometimes.  Human nature is a constant factor.  Any perceived threat to the economy (as at Ephesus, in Acts 19:23-41) can become a cause of outrage.  This outrage may lead to a riot, therefore to possible peril for some, such as St. Paul the Apostle and his traveling companions.

Some of the politics of 85 C.E. or so (the time of the composition of Luke-Acts) probably informed the telling of Acts 19:23-41.  We human beings always filter the past through the lens of our present day, even when we recount the details accurately.  The depiction of Roman officials in Ephesus as protectors of St. Paul the Apostle and his traveling companions seems, in the present day of 85 C.E. or so, a political message:  Christians are not enemies of the Roman Empire.

Above:  Site of the Temple of Artemis, Ephesus

Image Source = Google Earth

Nevertheless, Christianity may be a foe of certain forms of commerce–the silver shrines of Artemis, in the case of Acts 19:23-41.  One consequence of living in such a way that one follows Jesus may be that one no longer purchases X.  And one consequence of the growth of Christianity may be that the market for X diminishes.  Some people, whose livelihoods depend upon a healthy market for X, may become fearful.  Then what might they do?

Nevertheless, one needs to continue to follow Jesus.  One needs to keep listening to God.  We need to persist in following Jesus and listening to God.

By the way, the great Temple of Artemis in Ephesus, once one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is a ruin.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 14, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT MACRINA THE ELDER, HER FAMILY, AND SAINT GREGORY OF NAZIANZUS THE ELDER

THE FEAST OF SAINT CAESARIUS OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; AND SAINT CAESARIA OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS

THE FEAST OF EIVIND JOSEF BERGGRAV, LUTHERAN BISHOP OF OSLO, TRANSLATOR, AND LEADER OF THE NORWEGIAN RESISTANCE DURING WORLD WAR II

THE FEAST OF KRISTEN KVAMME, NORWEGIAN-AMERICAN HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT SAVA I, FOUNDER OF THE SERBIAN ORTHODOX CHURCH AND FIRST ARCHBISHOP OF THE SERBS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/14/enemies-and-threats-real-and-perceived/

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Devotion for Trinity Sunday, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

The Holy Trinity as Theological Poetry

JUNE 12, 2022

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31

Psalm 29

Romans 5:1-5

John 14:23-27

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I have written many devotions for Trinity Sunday over more than a decade.  Not repeating myself has become impossible,

Here it goes, then.

Many people think of the doctrine of the Trinity as theological prose.  They are mistaken; it is theological poetry.  I do not presume to claim to understand the mechanics of the Trinity.  No human brain can grasp those details.  And, if one consults a history of Christian theology, one will read that Trinitarian heresies originated with attempts to explain it.

Love God and enjoy the theological poetry, O reader.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 12, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BENEDICT BISCOP, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF WEARMOUTH

THE FEAST OF SAINT AELRED OF HEXHAM, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT OF RIEVAULX

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTHONY MARY PUCCI, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF HENRY ALFORD, ANGLICAN PRIEST, BIBLICAL SCHOLAR, LITERARY TRANSLATOR, HYMN WRITER, HYMN TRANSLATOR, AND BIBLE TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARGUERITE BOURGEOYS, FOUNDRESS OF THE SISTERS OF NOTRE DAME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/12/the-holy-trinity-as-theological-poetry/

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Devotion for Proper 7, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  The Pool of Bethesda

Image in the Public Domain

Rich in Good Deeds

JUNE 19, 2022

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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Zephaniah 1:1-18 or Proverbs 25:6-22

Psalm 119:73-77, 103-105

1 Timothy 6:9-21

John 5:1-18

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Idols abound.  They include wealth, power, prestige, and foreign religions.  Even the most well-meaning people are vulnerable to these temptations.

As we read in 1 Timothy 6, we should be rich in good deeds.  As we read in Psalm 119, we should delight in the Law of God.  And, as even much of Second Temple Judaism affirmed, performing a good deed on the Sabbath is acceptable.

Those who criticized Jesus for healing on the Sabbath in John 5:16f seemed not to have cared about that final detail.  Sabbath laws were flexible in Second Temple Judaism, or at least in portions thereof.  There were schools of Judaism.  And, within each school, personal agendas informed how some people responded and reacted to various deeds on the Sabbath.

None of this should surprise us–especially Gentiles.  I recall a saying from my formative years (as a United Methodist) in southern Georgia, U.S.A., in the Bible Belt:

There are Baptists, then there are Baptists.

So, may we lay aside the stereotype of Second Temple Judaism as a legalistic religion with works-based righteousness.  May we do so as we follow the advice (from 1 Timothy 6) to be rich in good works.  After all, one knows a tree by its fruits.

We can take nothing with us when we die.  We can, at that time, however, leave a legacy of faithful, active love.  We can leave a legacy of trust in God, love of God, and love of our fellow human beings.  We can leave the world better than we found it.  We can leave this life rich in good deeds.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 4, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE ELEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT ELIZABETH ANN SETON, FOUNDRESS OF THE AMERICAN SISTERS OF CHARITY

THE FEAST OF FELIX MANZ, FIRST ANABAPTIST MARTYR, 1527

THE FEAST OF SAINTS GREGORY OF LANGRES, TERTICUS OF LANGRES, GALLUS OF CLERMONT, GREGORY OF TOURS, AVITUS I OF CLERMONT, MAGNERICUS OF TRIER, AND GAUGERICUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN LUDWIG FREYDT, GERMAN MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/04/devotion-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/04/rich-in-good-deeds/

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Devotion for Proper 6, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Jesus and the Samaritan Woman at the Well of Jacob

Image in the Public Domain

Judgment and Mercy

JUNE 13, 2010

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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 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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Amos 9:8-15 or Proverbs 22:1-23

Psalm 119:33-48

1 Timothy 6:1-8

John 4:1-42

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First, I condemn all forms of slavery at all times and places.  The acceptance of slavery in 1 Timothy 6:1-2 is false doctrine.

With that matter out of the way, I focus on my main point.  1 Timothy 6:7 is correct; we came into this world with nothing.  We, likewise, can take nothing with us when we die.  Greed is a form of idolatry.

The reading from Proverbs 22 includes harsh words for those who oppress the poor.  To oppress to the poor is to get on God’s bad side.  Oppression of the poor is a topic in the Book of Amos.  That practice is one of the stated causes of the fall of the northern Kingdom of Israel.

Judgment and mercy exist in balance in Amos 9.  The destruction, we read, will not be thorough.  Then restoration will follow.  This restoration remains in future tense, given the scattering of the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel.

LORD, let your mercy come upon me,

the salvation you have promised.

–Psalm 119:41, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Jesus knew how to use harsh language.  He used none with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, though.  He had a long conversation with a woman–a Samaritan woman.  Jesus surprised even his closest associates by doing so.  Christ offered grace and no judgment.  Many exegetes, preachers, and Sunday School teachers have judged the woman, though.  They should never have done so.

The woman at the well was different from the condemned people in Amos 9 and the false teachers in 1 Timothy 6.  She was receptive to God speaking to her when she realized what was happening.  That Samaritan woman gained insight.  She also acquired a good name, something more desirable than great riches.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE TENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF EDWARD CASWALL, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF EDWARD PERRONET, BRITISH METHODIST PREACHER

THE FEAST OF GLADYS AYLWARD, MISSIONARY IN CHINA AND TAIWAN

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM ALFRED PASSAVANT, SR., U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HUMANITARIAN, AND EVANGELIST

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/03/devotion-for-the-eighth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/03/judgment-and-mercy-part-xx/

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Devotion for Proper 5, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Figs, by Giovanna Garzoni

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

JUNE 10, 2018

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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 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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Amos 8:1-12 or Proverbs 9:1-6

Psalm 119:1-8, 12-16

1 Timothy 5:17-25

John 3:1-21

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The evildoers in Amos 8 were dishonest.  They lived to cheat people and to exploit those who were vulnerable and less fortunate.  These evildoers were, in terms of Proverbs 9, absent from Lady Wisdom’s banquet.  No, they attended Lady Folly’s banquet.  These evildoers, in terms of Psalm 119, did not have blameless ways and did not walk in the Law of God.

I seek to be clear, as Amos 8:4f is clear.  Some people seek to obey the divinely-imposed ethical mandates vis-à-vis mutuality yet get some details wrong.  Amos 8:4f does not condemn such people.  No, it condemns those who are not even trying to obey divine law, to respect God in their fellow human beings.

Such dishonest people have always been with us, unfortunately.

A lifestyle of mutuality seeks to bring out the best in others.  It strives to build the common good, therefore to respect the image of God each person bears.  This effort glorifies God.  May we humans love one another.  May we love God, too.  May we seek to build each other up, not to build ourselves up at the expense of others.  May we glorify God, not ourselves.

This is what we should do, after all.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE NINTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF JOHANN KONRAD WILHELM LOEHE, BAVARIAN LUTHERAN MINISTER, AND COORDINATOR OF DOMESTIC AND FOREIGN MISSIONS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS NARCISSUS, ARGEUS, AND MARCELLINUS OF TOMI, ROMAN MARTYRS, 320

THE FEAST OF SAINT ODILO OF CLUNY, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SABINE BARING-GOULD, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/02/devotion-for-the-seventh-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/02/mutuality-in-god-vi/

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Devotion for Proper 4, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Nicodemus Coming to Jesus, by Henry Ossawa Turner

Image in the Public Domain

Salvation and Damnation

JUNE 3, 2018

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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 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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Amos 7:1-17 or Proverbs 8:1-21

Psalm 118:14-29

1 Timothy 5:1-16

John 3:1-21

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Old and New Testaments.  They find balance in Jesus in John 3.  Those who reject the light condemn themselves to the darkness.  God sends nobody to Hell.  All who go there send themselves.  We read of the impending doom of the northern Kingdom of Israel in Amos 7.  In that passage, we also read that God is in judgment mode.

Proverbs 8 speaks of divine wisdom.  That is the wisdom, the persistent, collective rejection which led to the pronouncement of divine judgment in Amos 7.  The word of God that Amos proclaimed was treasonous, according to authorities in the Kingdom of Israel.  That word of God condemned the leaders who labeled that truth as treason.  The Assyrians arrived in force, right on schedule, though.  The truth was not treason.

The reading from 1 Timothy 5 speaks to divinely-mandated ethics.  The passage also contains some culturally-specific elements that may be irrelevant to your context, O reader.  May we not become distracted by those culturally-specific details.  The timeless principle is mutuality:  We are res[pmsob;e to and for each other.  In that timeless context, individual and collective responsibility also exist in balance.

I admit without apology that I am pedantic.  My pedantry extends to theology.  In the Gospel of John, eternal life is knowing God via Jesus (John 17:3).  Within the Johannine context, as in John 3:16, therefore, there is no eternity apart from God–Jesus, to be precise.  In other words, eternal life and the afterlife are not synonyms in Johannine theology.  “Eternal” describes the quality of life, not the length thereof.  I am a generally Johannine Christian, so I understand “eternal life” according to the definition in John 17:3.  Nevertheless, outside of the Johannine tradition in the New Testament, the meaning of “eternal” is “everlasting.”

I am not shy about saying and writing openly what I really think:  I remain unconvinced that my Jewish elder brothers and sisters in faith are doomed to go to Hell.  No, I affirm that their covenant remains in effect.  According to Covenantal Nomism, consistently and unrepentantly disregarding the ethical obligations of the Law of Moses causes one to drop out of the covenant.  Salvation comes via grace, but damnation comes via works.

The more I age and move away from reflexively Reformation-influenced theology, the more comfortable I become embracing the relationship among faith, works, salvation, and damnation in both Testaments.  God cares deeply about how people treat each other, the Bible tells us.  We mere mortals may deceive ourselves and each other.  We cannot, however, pull the proverbial wool over God’s equally proverbial eyes.  Our creeds become evident in our deeds.

Nevertheless, may we avoid the trap of thinking that we deserve salvation.  That remains a gift.  All who receive it may experience a degree of shock when they realize who else has received it.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/salvation-and-damnation-part-iii/

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Devotion for Proper 3, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Christ Banishes Tradesmen from the Temple

Image in the Public Domain

Suffering

NOT OBSERVED IN THE SEASON AFTER PENTECOST 2022

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

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

that we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of 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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Amos 6:1-7 or Proverbs 6:6-22

Psalm 118:1-14

1 Timothy 4:1-16

John 2:13-25

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These five readings, taken together, remind individuals, communities, and populations to obey God’s laws, keep its ethical mandate of mutuality under God, and not to be arrogant while idling in obliviousness to consequences of disobeying divine ethical standards.  The Assyrians were on their way in Amos 6.  False teachers were troublesome in 1 Timothy 4.  Sacred rituals were not talismans in John 2.

Keeping the ethical mandates from God is not a talisman either.  One who reads the Gospel of John should notice that Gospel’s placement of the “Temple Incident” (as scholars of the New Testament call it) at the beginning of Christ’s ministry.  Such a reader also notices that, according to the Gospel of John, different groups tried for years to kill Jesus throughout the Fourth Gospel.  If righteousness were a shield against negative consequences, Jesus would have been the safest person who ever lived.

Unfortunately, old, false ideas remain persistent.  (Old, true ideas persisting is positive, of course.)  The idea that one is suffering, therefore must have sinned, is false.  So is the proposition that one is prosperous and secure, therefore must have done something right and righteous.  How many times must one read the Gospel of John, ponder the life of Christ, and read accounts of martyrs before one understands this?

The rain falls on the just and the unjust.  Many of the wicked prosper.  Many of the righteous struggle and suffer.  It is not fair.  Life is not fair.  Nevertheless, actions do have consequences in this life and in the afterlife.  Sometimes we also suffer because of the actions of others.  The problem of suffering is too complex for simple answers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 31, 2020 COMMON ERA

THE SEVENTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF SAINT GIUSEPPINA NICOLI, ITALIAN ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN AND MINISTER TO THE POOR

NEW YEAR’S EVE

THE FEAST OF ROSSITER WORTHINGTON RAYMOND, U.S. NOVELIST, POET, HYMN WRITER, AND MINING ENGINEER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZOTICUS OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PRIEST AND MARTYR, 351

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2020/12/31/devotion-for-the-fifth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2020/12/31/suffering-part-vi/

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