Archive for August 2012

Devotion for July 21, 22, and 23 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Air Views of Palestine.  Air Route Over Cana of Galilee, Nazareth, Plain of Sharon, etc.  Ashdod.  Home of Dagon.  Encroaching Sand Waves in Distance.  1932.

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and Acts, Part III:  The Hand of God

SUNDAY, JULY 21, 2019

MONDAY, JULY 22, 2019

TUESDAY, JULY 23, 2019

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 4:1-22 (July 21)

1 Samuel 5:1-6:3, 10-16 (July 22)

1 Samuel 6:19-7:17 (July 23)

Psalm 19 (Morning–July 21)

Psalm 136 (Morning–July 22)

Psalm 123 (Morning–July 23)

Psalms 81 and 113 (Evening–July 21)

Psalms 97 and 112 (Evening–July 22)

Psalms 30 and 86 (Evening–July 23)

Acts 16:23-40 (July 21)

Acts 18:1-11, 23-28 (July 22)

Acts 19:1-22 (July 23)

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The Ark of the Covenant was a mysterious and fearsome object.  It was, in the minds of some Israelites, the presence of God made tangible.  So, of course, they reasoned, its presence at a battlefield would guarantee military victory against the Philistine forces.  Wrong!  Yet God was not defeated.  Humiliations befell an idol of Dagon.  And, according to the narrative, Bubonic Plague befell many Philistines.  Eventually the Philistines returned the Ark, but those who had looked into the sacred object died.

This story, which I have kept unified across The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod’s daily lectionary of 2006’s daily divisions, contains some troubling aspects.  Would a loving God give anyone Bubonic Plague?  (The internal evidence, down to tumors and rodents, indicates Bubonic Plague.)  And the element of death for looking into the Ark indicates a God concept foreign to me, a Christian.  God, for me, is approachable; what is more approachable than the Incarnation?  Chronology aside, I reject the idea that God had a personality transplant.  We are, I propose, dealing with changing human understandings.

Speaking of changing human understandings, I have caused some controversy in college classrooms in Georgia (U.S.A.) when teaching World Civilization I by pointing out that lived Judaism used to be polytheistic.  This fact of history should come as no surprise to anyone who has studied the Old Testament (including 1 Samuel 7) and/or biblical archaeology and/or ancient comparative religion.  But some people become irrational, defensive, and oblivious to facts relative to religion; this is an unfortunate tendency.  I have nothing to fear from a verified fact about ancient theology.  Anyhow, Samuel was correct in 1 Samuel 7:3:

If you mean to return to the LORD with all your heart, you must remove the alien gods and the Ashteroth from your midst and direct your heart to the LORD and serve him alone….

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

Paul, Silas, and Timothy served God alone.  Along the way they suffered beatings, imprisonments, and a lawsuit.  They also founded churches, converted people, and encountered fellow Christians who helped them.  The hand of God, which the Philistines could not defeat, also triumphed over the forces opposed to Paul and company.

Being on God’s side does not mean that no hardships will befall one.  Eli had to suffer the loss of his sons.  And Paul and company had to cope with the aforementioned difficulties, among others.  Also, not being on God’s side does not mean that one will face an unbroken series of hardships.  But, when one is on God’s side, one will never be alone in those difficulties; the hand of God will never be far away.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, CARDINAL

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/1-samuel-and-acts-part-iii-the-hand-of-god/

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Proper 11, Year C   19 comments

Above:  Convent at Mamre Near Hebron, Palestine (Abraham’s Oak), 1944

Image Source = Library of Congress

Divine Promises

The Sunday Closest to July 20

Sixth Sunday After Pentecost

JULY 21, 2019

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 8:1-12 and Psalm 52

or 

Genesis 18:1-10a and Psalm 15

then 

Colossians 1:15-28

Luke 10:38-42

The Collect:

O Lord, mercifully receive the prayers of your people who call upon you, and grant that they may know and understand what things they ought to do, and also may have grace and power faithfully to accomplish them; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and for ever. Amen.

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Some Related Posts:

Prayer of Praise and Adoration:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-praise-and-adoration-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Confession:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-confession-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

Prayer of Dedication:

http://gatheredprayers.wordpress.com/2011/03/10/prayer-of-dedication-for-the-ninth-sunday-after-pentecost/

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Divine promises turn our worlds upside-down and defy expectations.

Reconciliation, in Colossians 1, is related to justification, a legal concept.  So God is the judge, each of us is the accused, and Jesus is the defense attorney.  These are inexact metaphors, for

  1. Elsewhere in the New Testament the Holy Spirit is the defense attorney, and
  2. The judge is in cahoots with the defense attorney.

But there is more.  In Christ our estrangement from God ends.  And we have an avenue via Christ to end our estrangements from one another.  Why not?  If we love God, whom we cannot see, how then ought we to think about our fellow human beings, whom we can see?  This is a noble and high vocation, one attainable by grace.  And, if we strive yet fall short, God knows that we are but dust.

Such divine generosity requires an affirmative response.  St. Mary of Bethany understood this, as did Abraham and Sarah (although the latter needed a little time to grasp it) before her.  And one cannot respond affirmatively to God while exploiting people economically.  Although Colossians 1 contains a promise of deliverance from sins via God, Amos 8 tells us of doom because of the sin of economic exploitation.  The Law of Moses condemned such practices and mandated ways of helping the poor, yet some people manipulated it to make their exploitative deeds seem respectable and proper.

The Bible says more about money, greed, and economic exploitation than about sexual activities, yet many professing Christians are quicker to condemn aspects of the latter than of the former.  I have also noticed that condemnations of the latter tend to be more vocal and visible than those of the former.  If we who call ourselves Christians are to avoid rank hypocrisy, we ought to realize that many of us are invested in economic realities which place many others at an undue disadvantage.  We ought to ask God to help us see or blind spots.  We ought to be willing to confront the social structures which grant us advantages at the expense of others.  And we ought not to settle for condemning just (or primarily) the low-hanging fruit.  Then we will hear what God tells us because we will listen closely.  And something unexpected will be born to us via divine power and bring us closer to God, the main agent of bringing about this reconciliation and justification.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 11, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT GREGORY THAUMATURGUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF NEOCAESAREA; AND SAINT ALEXANDER OF COMANA “THE CHARCOAL BURNER,” ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR AND BISHOP OF COMANA, PONTUS

THE FEAST OF SAINT CLARE OF ASSISI, FOUNDER OF THE POOR CLARES

THE FEAST OF JOHN HENRY NEWMAN, CARDINAL

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/15/divine-promises/

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Devotion for July 20 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   4 comments

Above:  Shiloh, 1898-1914

Image Source = Library of Congress

1 Samuel and Acts, Part II:  Answering the Call of God

SATURDAY, JULY 20, 2019

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 3:1-21

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

Acts 16:1-22

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When God speaks to us, do we recognize this reality?  And, if we do, how do we respond?  Samuel came to know that God was calling him.  Eli accepted the harsh news regarding his family.  Paul, Silas, and Timothy responded to God’s call by preaching to others.  Lydia and her husband responded by extending hospitality to those who had converted them.

The Larger Westminster Catechism begins:

Q:  What is the chief and highest end of man?

A:  Man’s chief and highest end is to glorify God, and fully to enjoy him forever.

That is an excellent summary of Christian vocation.  It is also a general statement.  Particulars depend on circumstances and other factors, such as who one is, where one is, and when one is there.

Recently I have been watching the Ronald D. Moore version of Battlestar Galactica from beginning to end again.  In one of the last episodes President Laura Roslin tells Lee Adama that she has one concern about him:  He is so determined to do the right thing that he does not always do the smart thing.  Indeed, managing to be wise yet innocent can prove difficult.  And, once one has lost innocence, can one regain it?  And how dirty can one get while trying to perform good deeds (or at least the best ones possible) in the real world before one becomes corrupted?

I lack good answers to these important questions.  They are hard questions, so easy answers will not suffice.  But, by grace, we can shed light in the real world, enjoy and glorify God, do the right and smart thing, and obey the call of God as it plays out where and when we are.  God has the answers; look there for them, O reader.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 10, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT LAURENCE OF ROME, ROMAN CATHOLIC DEACON AND MARTYR

THE FEAST OF EUNICE KENNEDY SHRIVER, FOUNDER OF THE SPECIAL OLYMPICS

THE FEAST OF SHERMAN BOOTH ABOLITIONIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/1-samuel-and-acts-part-ii-answering-the-call-of-god/

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Devotion for July 19 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  Hophni and Phinehas

Image in the Public Domain

1 Samuel and Acts, Part I:  God’s Favor

FRIDAY, JULY 19, 2019

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:18-36

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 142 and 65 (Evening)

Acts 15:22-41

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One of many recurring themes in the Hebrew Scriptures is how God’s grace sometimes defies human preferences for inheritance and/or succession.  The promise passed through the lines of two second sons, Isaac and Jacob.  Eli’s sons did not succeed him; Samuel, who was unrelated to him, did.  David was not the eldest in his family.  And Solomon was not David’s firstborn son.  As I ponder these examples, I conclude that divine favor is the unifying thread.  Jacob was a notorious trickster, and David and Solomon were hardly moral giants.  I care less about the sexual sins of the latter two than about their economically exploitative policies, which affected more people negatively.  But many of my fellow human beings focus so much on matters of sexuality that they overlook or downplay economic exploitation, a topic on which the Bible has much more to say.

But I digress.  Back to my regularly scheduled program….

The Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod daily lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006), with these readings, returns to the Acts of the Apostles after a detour through the Letter to the Galatians.  The message from the Council of Jerusalem reminds us that God’s favor crosses other lines and extends to Gentiles.  There are favored Gentiles in the Hebrew Bible, of course; Rahab and Ruth come to mind immediately.  But I detect a new level of this theme in the New Testament.  I, as a Gentile, am grateful.

Where will God’s favor flow next?   I wonder.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIXTUS II, BISHOP OF ROME, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN MASON NEALE, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF SAINT MARGARET

THE FEAST OF MARION HATCHETT, LITURGIST AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/1-samuel-and-acts-part-i-gods-favor/

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Devotion for July 17 and 18 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   12 comments

Above:  Hannah Presenting Her Son Samuel to the Priest Eli, by Gerbrand van den Eeckhout

Image in the Public Domain

Building Each Other Up

WEDNESDAY, JULY 17, and THURSDAY, JULY 18, 2019

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 1:1-20 (July 17)

1 Samuel 1:21-2:17 (July 18)

Psalm 89:1-18 (Morning–July 17)

Psalm 97 (Morning–July 18)

Psalms 1 and 33 (Evening–July 17)

Psalms 16 and 62 (Evening–July 18)

Galatians 5:1-26 (July 17)

Galatians 6:1-18 (July 18)

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Hannah’s worth as a human being and as a woman had nothing to do with her reproductive system.  Yet at least one other person (Peninnah) thought that it did, and the stress of the situation affected Hannah negatively.  That spiritual crisis was real.  That emotional pain was real.  And God relieved both.

My brief summary of Galatians 5 and 6 follows:

Christian liberty carries with it the obligation to love one’s neighbor as one loves oneself:  to think of others more than oneself (without harming oneself needlessly), to seek the common good, to help others shoulder their burdens, to relieve others of other burdens, to practice to fruit of the Holy Spirit, which The New Jerusalem Bible, in 5:22-23, lists as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, trustfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

I prefer to focus on the positive (the “you shall” list) rather than on the negative (the “you shall not” list) for three reasons:

  1. Listing what is forbidden does not necessarily indicate what is allowed;
  2. Focusing on the negative portrays morality in a bad light; and
  3. Focusing on the positive fills one’s time with good attitudes and deeds.

The positive deeds we are free to do entail building each other up, not tearing each other down.  In contrast, Peninnah tore Hannah down.  Then God built her up.

Sometimes it is easier to say that one ought to be gentle than it is to be gentle, for some human beings (often unintentionally) make that difficult.  I have faced this challenge and not always done as well as I should.  Yet I remain mindful of the goal, toward which I continue to press, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIXTUS II, BISHOP OF ROME, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN MASON NEALE, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF SAINT MARGARET

THE FEAST OF MARION HATCHETT, LITURGIST AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/building-each-other-up/

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Devotion for July 14, 15, and 16 (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   10 comments

Above:  Statue of Samson

Image in the Public Domain

Judges and Galatians, Part III:  Gentiles and Fidelity

SUNDAY, JULY 14, 2019

MONDAY, JULY 15, 2019

TUESDAY, JULY 16, 2019

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ;

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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The Assigned Readings:

Judges 14:1-20 (July 14)

Judges 15:1-16:3 (July 15)

Judges 16:4-30 (July 16)

Psalm 103 (Morning–July 14)

Psalm 5 (Morning–July 15)

Psalm 42 (Morning–July 16)

Psalms 117 and 139 (Evening–July 14)

Psalms 84 and 29 (Evening–July 15)

Psalms 102 and 133 (Evening–July 16)

Galatians 3:1-22 (July 14)

Galatians 3:23-4:11 (July 15)

Galatians 4:12-31 (July 16)

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Samson boasted of his own strength, gave God no credit much of the time, and had bad taste in women.  His first love pleased him.  She was, according to the Alexandrian Greek text of Judges 14:1,

…the right one in his eyes.

She was also a Gentile.

The full view of Gentiles in the Hebrew Scriptures is not

Jews good, Gentiles bad.

Rahab the prostitute recognized Yahweh as God, so the Israelite forces spared her and her family.  Later in the Bible, Ruth, a Moabite, became an ancestor of King David.  Both women were, according to the beginning of Matthew 1, ancestors of Jesus.  The reality that most Gentiles would continue in their traditions led to the command for Jews to choose life partners faithful to God.

The Law of Moses defined that fidelity for a long time.  The Law, in Pauline theology, was like a house slave responsible for raising children.  No matter how capable that disciplinarian was, the children outgrew their need for him or her.  And Jesus, in whom there is no longer a distinction between Jew or Greek, has fulfilled the Law.

I do not pretend to understand all the implications of the previous statement, but that is fine.  Reliance on knowledge for salvation is Gnosticism, a grave heresy.  Rather, I accept readily the limits of my understanding and leave the details to God, who does grasp them.

I do know at least one thing, however:  seeking companionship of various forms with people who are faithful to God remains crucial.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

AUGUST 7, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT VICTRICIUS OF ROUEN, ROMAN CONSCIENTIOUS OBJECTOR AND ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIXTUS II, BISHOP OF ROME, AND HIS COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF JOHN MASON NEALE, FOUNDER OF THE SISTERHOOD OF SAINT MARGARET

THE FEAST OF MARION HATCHETT, LITURGIST AND EPISCOPAL PRIEST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/05/03/judges-and-galatians-part-iii-gentiles-and-fidelity/

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