Archive for June 2014

Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 13, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Gathering of the Manna

Above:  The Gathering of the Manna

Image in the Public Domain

The Extravagance of God

AUGUST 9, 2017

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The Collect:

Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness,

and you cover creation with abundance.

Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit,

and with this food fill all the starving world,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 16:2-15, 31-35

Psalm 78:1-8, 17-29

Matthew 15:32-39

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He rained down manna upon them to eat

and gave them grain from heaven.

So mortals ate the bread of angels;

he provided for them food enough.

–Psalm 78:24-25, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That manna was probably crystallized excrement of insects, but it was sufficient.  Such excrement is, to this day, a product which many people consume without harmful effects.  Perhaps the greatest barrier for Westerners such as myself is the “ick” factor, which results from knowing what something people from cultures quite different from ours consume on a regular basis.

There was enough manna, which people were forbidden to stockpile.  In Matthew 15:32-39, where Jesus fed four thousand men plus uncounted women and children, there were initially only seven loaves and a few small fish yet seven baskets full of leftovers at the end.  The extravagance of the story in the Gospel of Matthew is remarkable.  That which seemed woefully insufficient was actually more than enough in the hands of Jesus.

The spiritual lesson remains true regardless of the issue of historical accuracy.  I have known people who have insisted that they had no talents to use in service to God, as if the matter was about them.  No, their inferiority complex aside, the matter was always about God, who seems to expect relatively little of us–the offering of the metaphorical seven loaves of bread and a few small fish plus confidence in divine abilities–and calls that enough.  This little bit, compared to all that God has done, is doing, and will do, is quite small.  Yet it proves difficult for many people.  Sometimes it has been impossible for me.  At those times God supplied the necessary grace.  The light of God is constant, I suppose, but it seems brightest in the blackest darkness.

The extravagance of God astounds me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/the-extravagance-of-god/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 13, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Moses

Above:  Moses, by Michelangelo Buonarotti

Image in the Public Domain

Trusting in God

AUGUST 7, 2017

AUGUST 8, 2017

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The Collect:

Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness,

and you cover creation with abundance.

Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit,

and with this food fill all the starving world,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 8:1-10 (Monday)

Deuteronomy 26:1-15 (Tuesday)

Psalm 78:1-8, 17-29 (Both Days)

Romans 1:8-15 (Monday)

Acts 2:37-47 (Tuesday)

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We will recount to generations to come

the praiseworthy deeds and the power of the LORD,

and the wonderful works he has done.

He gave his decrees to Jacob

and established a law for Israel,

which he commanded them to teach their children;

That the generations to come might know,

and the children yet unborn;

that they might in turn tell it to their children;

So that they might put their trust in God,

and not forget the deeds of God,

but keep his commandments;

And not be like their forefathers,

a stubborn and rebellious generation,

a generation whose heart was not steadfast,

and whose spirit was not faithful to God.

–Psalm 78:4-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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To believe in God, in the Biblical sense, is to trust in God.  The Psalm speaks of trusting in God, hence the focus of this post.  Deuteronomy, placing words in the mouth of Moses, reminds people of what God had done for them–how faithful God had been–and how faithful they should be.  Among the commandments to keep were orders to care for the widows and the orphans, and, by extension, all the vulnerable members of society.  There was more than enough for them to eat, dress, and have shelter properly in God’s economic plan.  If we have faith that God will provide enough for all of us to have a sufficient supply of necessities, we will have a secure place from which to extend hospitality to others, as God commands us to do.

We humans are at our worst when we act out of fear.  We protect ourselves and our families at the expense of others at such times.  We might even seek to harm others actively because we imagine that there is not enough for everyone to have enough of necessities.  In such cases we might affirm the existence of God, but we do not trust in God.

Whenever I hear people speaking of belief in God I suppose that they really mean affirming the existence of God.  An Episcopal priest I know has an excellent way of dealing with people who claim not to believe in God.  He asks them to describe the deity in whom they do not believe.  He winds up replying that the does not believe in that God either.  But, to the larger point of trusting in God versus merely affirming the existence of God, I have my own answer.  I affirm the existence of God consistently, but I trust in God most of the time.  And I seek to trust God more often.

How about you, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/trusting-in-god-3/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 13, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Martin Luther

Above:  Martin Luther

Image in the Public Domain

The Surprises and Faithfulness of God

AUGUST 3, 2017

AUGUST 4, 2017

AUGUST 5, 2017

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The Collect:

Glorious God, your generosity waters the world with goodness,

and you cover creation with abundance.

Awaken in us a hunger for the food that satisfies both body and spirit,

and with this food fill all the starving world,

through your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 10:1-5 (Thursday)

Isaiah 51:17-23 (Friday)

Isaiah 44:1-5 (Saturday)

Psalm 145:8-9, 14-21 (All Days)

Philippians 4:10-15 (Thursday)

Romans 9:6-13 (Friday)

Matthew 7:7-11 (Saturday)

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The LORD is faithful in all his words

and merciful in his deeds.

–Psalm 145:14, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The faithfulness of God was among the theological emphases of Martin Luther.  That point, an excellent one, unifies the assigned readings for these days.

God is full of surprises from human perspectives.  God works outside of human traditions–such as primogeniture–much of the time.  Even repentant prostitutes and collaborators with the Roman Empire preceded certain respectable religious people into Heaven, according to Jesus.  We desire cheap grace, that forgives our sins yet requires nothing of us.  Yet we receive free grace, that which we cannot buy yet which requires much of us.  It is therefore free yet costly.  It cost St. Paul the Apostle a life of comfort inside the religious establishment then cost him his life.  This grace, which does not remove the temporal consequences of sin, waits for us nevertheless at the end of punishment.

Sometimes we mere mortals are God’s chosen channels and vehicles of grace.  May we be the best and most faithful such channels and vehicles possible, by grace.  (Everything seems to come back to grace.)  If we fail in this function, the consequences to others can be severe.  Proverbs 10:4 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989) reads:

A slack hand causes poverty,

but the hand of the diligent makes rich.

This is not always true.  Had the author of that verse not heard of the working poor and the idle rich?  Most people in Palestine in antiquity were peasants, but not lazy individuals.  The masses were poor, the upper class constituted a minority, and the middle class was scarce or absent.  Structural barriers to upward mobility remain in our world.  They are, fortunately, not as intense in some places as in others, but their continued existence is sinful.

How will God surprise us next?  The divine call to all of us will differ in details.  Some of us ought to oppose social structures of injustice as our primary vocation, functioning as thorns in the sides of powerful and dangerous people.  St. Paul thought that Jesus would return within his lifetime, so he left reforming society to God.  That was about two thousand years ago, so I propose that this work is a legitimate calling from God.  Others of us will have different assignments to complete.  There is plenty to do.  May each of us listen attentively for our instructions then obey them.  When we do that, what potential might God unlock in us and in those around us, those to whom God sends us, and those whom God sends to us?  May we discover the answer to that question, by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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This is Post #600 of ORDINARY TIME DEVOTIONS.

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/the-surprises-and-faithfulness-of-god/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 12, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

King Solomon's Court

Above:  King Solomon’s Court

Image in the Public Domain

The Kingdom of Solomon Versus the Kingdom of God

JULY 31, 2017

AUGUST 1, 2017

AUGUST 2, 2017

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The Collect:

Beloved and sovereign God,

through the death and resurrection of your Son

you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy.

By your Spirit, give us your wisdom,

that we may treasure the life that comes from

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 3:16-28 (Monday)

1 Kings 4:29-34 (Tuesday)

Proverbs 1:1-7, 20-33 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:121-128 (All Days)

James 3:13-18 (Monday)

Ephesians 6:10-18 (Tuesday)

Mark 4:30-34 (Wednesday)

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I am your servant; grant me understanding,

that I may know your decrees.

–Psalm 119:125, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Biblical authors, although usually honest about the faults of heroic or allegedly heroic figures, nevertheless created a tapestry of ancient texts which sometimes overplays the virtues of certain people.  If David really was, for example, a man after God’s own heart, I have a major problem with the nature of God.  And, although the narrative of 1 Kings turned against Solomon after Chapter 4, Chapter 2 contained troubling information about the methods by which the new monarch consolidated his power and eliminated his rivals.  Thus the positive discussion of Solomon’s wisdom in Chapters 3 and 4 rings hollow for me.  Nevertheless, the much vaunted wisdom won him such a reputation that tradition has credited him with writing Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, historically dubious claims.

Perhaps nostalgia from a time after the division of the united monarchy–a split due in large part to Solomon’s own domestic policies–accounted primarily for the minimization of the acknowledged faults of David and Solomon.  I consider what the Bible tells me of those two kings and ponder Proverbs 1:7 (The New Revised Standard Version, 1989):

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;

fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Then I consider incidents from their lives and interpret the verse as a negative commentary on them.  I arrive at the same conclusion regarding this passage:

The wisdom that comes from above is first pure, then peace-loving, gentle, approachable, full of merciful thoughts and kindly actions, straight forward, with no hint of hypocrisy.  And the peacemakers go on quietly sowing for a harvest of righteousness.

–James 3:17-18, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English, Revised Edition, 1972

I think also of the large plant which grows from a mustard seed.  (The mustard seed is not actually the smallest seed, but Jesus did not attend school to study horticulture.  Besides, there is a rhetorical device called hyperbole, which we find in the Bible.)  From that very small seed comes a large, pesky plant–a weed–to which the parable likens the Kingdom of God.  The kingdom, like the mustard plant, provides shelter for a variety of creatures and goes where it will.  One knows that not everyone in the Kingdom of God gets along well with each other, so this analogy is worth considering with regard to how we think of those who differ from us and are also of God.

David and Solomon presided over a kingdom built on force and compulsion, as political states are by nature.  Their Kingdom of Israel also sat on a foundation composed partially of economic injustice, evident partly in artificial scarcity.  In the weed-like Kingdom of God, however, there is no scarcity; everybody has enough.  The Kingdom of God functioned partially as a negative commentary on political-religious-economic realities within the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus and the early Church, contributing to his crucifixion.  The Kingdom of God continues to indict all forms of exploitation and injustice, including those which people have institutionalized.

The purpose of the Gospel, I have heard, is to comfort the afflict the comfortable and to comfort the afflicted.  Are we among the comfortable or the afflicted?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/the-kingdom-of-israel-and-the-kingdom-of-god/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 12, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

3g05226v

Above:  The Meeting of King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Circa 1899

Copyright by The U.S. Printing Co.

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-USZC4-5226

The Kingdom of Solomon Versus the Kingdom of God

JULY 27, 2017

JULY 28, 2017

JULY 29, 2017

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The Collect:

Beloved and sovereign God,

through the death and resurrection of your Son

you bring us into your kingdom of justice and mercy.

By your Spirit, give us your wisdom,

that we may treasure the life that comes from

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 1:28-37 (Thursday)

1 Kings 1:38-48 (Friday)

1 Kings 2:1-4 (Saturday)

Psalm 119:129-136 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 4:14-20 (Thursday)

Acts 7:44-53 (Friday)

Matthew 12:38-42 (Saturday)

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Let your countenance shine upon your servant

and teach me your statutes.

My eyes shed streams of tears

because people do not keep your law.

–Psalm 119:135-136, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Solomon recurs in the assigned readings for these three days.  Often the references are explicit.  Other times, however, he functions as an unnamed and negative figure of contrast.

We begin in 1 Kings 1 and 2, where we read of Solomon’s accession to the throne of Israel.  This process included scheming and political maneuvering.  Early in Chapter 2 the crown prince, soon to be king, received instructions to follow the Law of Moses.  Later in that chapter the new monarch eliminated political rivals.  Solomon was off to a bad start.  Furthermore, the foundation of his reign was tyranny, including forced labor and high taxes on the poor.  Had not Israelites been slaves in Egypt?  O, the irony!

The Kingdom of God is greater than the kingdom of Solomon.  In the former there is enough for everybody to share the wealth equitably and forced labor is absent.  God, who lives in faithful people and whose law is inscribed on their hearts, calls people to mutual respect and responsibility, not to any form of injustice–judicial, economic, et cetera.  There is no artificial scarcity in the Kingdom of God.  No, there is unbounded abundance of blessings, which exist not for hoarding (as some tried to do with manna), but for the common good.

St. Paul the Apostle wrote:

We [apostles] are fools for Christ’s sake, but you [Corinthians] are wise in Christ.  We are weak, but you are strong.  You are held in honor, but we in disrepute.  To the present hour we hunger and thirst, we are poorly clothed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands.   When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate; we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the dregs of all things.

–1 Corinthians 4:10-13, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

The greatest one in the Kingdom of God is the servant of all.  Blessed are the poor in the Kingdom of God.  Blessed are those who hunger and those who weep.  Blessed are those whom others revile for the sake of righteousness.  And blessed are those who are poor in spirit–who know their need for God.  Blessed are those who seek righteousness and who make peace.

Solomon’s kingdom did not function on these principles.  Neither do governments in our own day.  I know that people who try to make government look less like Solomon’s kingdom face charges of engaging in class warfare.  The real practitioners of class warfare in these cases are the accusers, of course.

Justice–in the context of the common good–requires some people to surrender or forego certain perks and privileges.  But if we act on the principles that (1) everything belongs to God and (2) we are tenants on this planet and stewards of God’s bounty, we will not insist on gaining or keeping certain perks and privileges at the expense of others.  And we will not think too highly of ourselves and look down upon others.  That is a challenging and tall order, but it is also a good one to pursue.  We can at least approach it, by grace, of course.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 14, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL THE GREAT, FATHER OF EASTERN MONASTICISM

THE FEAST OF DOROTHY FRANCES BLOMFIELD GURNEY, ENGLISH POET AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT METHODIUS I OF CONSTANTINOPLE, PATRIARCH

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/the-kingdom-of-solomon-versus-the-kingdom-of-god/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 11, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Last Judgment

Above:  The Last Judgment

Image in the Public Domain

Freedom and Judgment

JULY 24, 2017

JULY 25, 2017

JULY 26, 2017

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The Collect:

Faithful God, most merciful judge,

you care for your children with firmness and compassion.

By your Spirit nurture us who live in your kingdom,

that we may be rooted in the way of your Son,

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Nahum 1:1-13 (Monday)

Zephaniah 3:1-3 (Tuesday)

Daniel 12:1-13 (Wednesday)

Psalm 75 (All Days)

Revelation 14 (Monday)

Galatians 4:21-5:1 (Tuesday)

Matthew 12:15-21 (Wednesday)

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“I will appoint a time,” says God;

“I will judge with equity.

Though the earth and all its inhabitants are quaking,

I will make its pillars fast.

I will say to the boasters, ‘Boast no more,’

and to the wicked, ‘Do not toss your horns;

Do not toss your horns so high,

nor speak with a proud neck.'”

For judgment is neither from the east nor from the west,

nor yet from the wilderness or the mountains.

–Psalm 75:2-6, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings for these three days speak of freedom, judgment, and mercy.  In Nahum 1 mercy for the Israelites was judgment upon the Assyrians.  Judgment upon Jerusalem came in Zephaniah 3.  The authors of Daniel 12 and Revelation 14 wrote of an eschatological judgment, something one reads about (sort of) in Matthew 12.  Condemnation resulted from the abuse of freedom.

The late C. H. Dodd summarized a vital lesson in these readings better than my ability to paraphrase.  The Kingdom of God, Dodd wrote, is nearer to or further away only from a human, temporal perspective.

There are particular moments in the lives of men and in the history of mankind when what is permanently true (if largely unrecognized) becomes manifestly and effectively true.  Such a moment is reflected in the gospels….But when a person (or a society) has been presented with such a challenge and declines it is not just where he was before.  His position is the worse for the encounter.  It is this that gives point to the tremendous warnings that Jesus is reported to have uttered about the consequences of rejection….Whatever possibility of disaster may lurk within the choice which is offered, the facing of the choice, in the freedom which the Creator allows to his creatures, in itself raises life to greater intensity.  The coming of the kingdom meant the open possibility of enhancement of life; it also meant the heightening of moral responsibility.

The Founder of Christianity (New York, NY:  Macmillan Publishing Company, 1970), pages 57-58

May we exercise our freedom to become better people, build up our neighborhoods and society, lift each other up, seek the common good, and glorify God.  May our love for God and each other be active and contagious.  And may our words, even if they are impressive in the service of God, be far less eloquent than our actions in the same cause.  May all of this prove to be true because righteousness is good and we seek that which is good.  And may we succeed by grace and be among God’s faithful servants.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/freedom-and-judgment/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 11, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Crucifix December 6, 2013

Above:  The Crucifix I Wear to Church

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Icons and Idols

JULY 20, 2017

JULY 21, 2017

JULY 22, 2017

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The Collect:

Faithful God, most merciful judge,

you care for your children with firmness and compassion.

By your Spirit nurture us who live in your kingdom,

that we may be rooted in the way of your Son,

 Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 43

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 41:21-29 (Thursday)

Isaiah 44:9-17 (Friday)

Isaiah 44:18-20 (Saturday)

Psalm 86:11-17 (All Days)

Hebrews 2:1-9 (Thursday)

Hebrews 6:13-20 (Friday)

Hebrews 7:15-20 (Saturday)

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Teach me your way, O LORD,

and I will walk in your truth;

knit my heart to you that I may fear your Name.

I will thank you, O LORD my God, with all my heart,

and glorify your Name for evermore.

–Psalm 86:11-12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The readings from Jeremiah speak of idolatry.  Idols are abominations, their works are nothing, and their images are empty wind the lessons (especially 41:21-29) tell us.  Jesus warns against false religious teachers, wolves in sheep’s clothing, in Matthew 7:15-20.  These false teachers, like idols, distract people from God.  And the author of Hebrews points to Christ, through whom we have redemption.

Snapshot_20140603_2

Above:  Part of My Liturgical Library, Decorated by Crucifixes, June 2014

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

I perceive the need to distinguish between icons and idols.  Icons, whether two-dimensional (as in Eastern Orthodoxy) or three-dimensional (as in Roman Catholicism), are objects of reverence through which we see God.  We are, after all, visually oriented creatures.  I have a collection of Madonnas and crucifixes, as well as an Eastern Orthodox-style image of Jesus.  Some would label these idols, but those individuals would be mistaken.  Icons can also be habits, activities, and other objects.  The Bible, for example, is properly an icon.

Idols are whatever stand between one and God.  If one fixates on something–an object, a habit, an activity, et cetera–instead of God, it is, for that person, an idol.  Unfortunately, the Bible functions as an idol in the lies of many people.  This, I am confident, is not what God intends.

May each of us examine self spiritually and, by grace, succeed in identifying all of one’s idols.  And may all of us succeed, also by grace, in resisting the temptation to commit idolatry any longer.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 13, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY OF PADUA, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

THE FEAST OF G. K. (GILBERT KEITH) CHESTERTON, AUTHOR

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/06/15/icons-and-idols/

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