Archive for September 2014

Devotion for Saturday Before the First Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Second Coming Icon

Above:  Second Coming Icon

Image in the Public Domain

Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending

DECEMBER 2, 2017

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever . Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Micah 2:1-13

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Matthew 24:15-31

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Hear, O Shepherd of Israel, leading Joseph like a flock,

shine forth, you that are enthroned upon the cherubim.

In the presence of Ephraim, Benjamin, and Manasseh,

stir up your strength and come to help us.

Restore us, O God of hosts;

show the light of your countenance,

and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:1-3, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The assigned readings for today begin with a violent and exploitative regime in power and end with with God having supplanted them.  The lesson from Micah ends with a new shepherd–Yahweh.  In Matthew the coming of the Son of Man (Jesus) extinguishes the light of the Sun and the Moon, the blessing of which Roman Emperors claimed.  Thus, as a note in The New Interpreter’s Study Bible (2003) says on pages 1790 and 1791:

Jesus’ coming is “lights-out” time for Rome.

This is a devotion for the last day of the Season after Pentecost, Year A.  The next day in the liturgical sequence will be the First Sunday of Advent, Year B.  Thus focusing on the Kingdom of God versus the kingdom of this world is an especially appropriate thing do do in this post.  The Roman Empire ceased to exist a long time ago, but exploitative and violent socio-economic-political systems remain in place.  Their “lights-out” time has yet to arrive.  The Kingdom of God, realized partially for a very long time, has yet to arrive in full force.  Until it does each of us should ask himself or herself a potent question:  With which kingdom am I aligned?  Proper subsequent action will depend upon the honest answer.

Yea, Amen!  Let all adore Thee,

High on on Thine eternal throne;

Saviour, take the power and glory,

Claim the Kingdom for Thine own:

O come quickly!

O come quickly!

Alleluia! Come, Lord, come!

–Charles Wesley, 1758 (altered), from The Hymnal (1933), Hymn #184

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 9, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CONSTANCE AND HER COMPANIONS, MARTYRS

THE FEAST OF ANNE HOULDITCH SHEPHERD, ANGLICAN NOVELIST AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT ISAAC THE GREAT, PATRIARCH OF ARMENIA

THE FEAST OF WILLIAM CHATTERTON DIX, HYMN WRITER

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The Next Post in the Sequence:

http://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2011/06/02/first-day-of-advent-first-sunday-of-advent-year-b/

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/lo-he-comes-with-clouds-descending/

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Devotion for Friday Before the First Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Great Day of His Wrath

Above: The Great Day of His Wrath, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

Promises of God

DECEMBER 1, 2017

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever . Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 14:1-9

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

1 Thessalonians 4:1-18

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Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Zechariah 14 contains a vision of the establishment of the Kingdom of God in all its glory.  That account influenced the Book of Revelation and, before the composition of that text, hopes of the imminent return of Jesus Christ.  By the 50s C.e., however, many of the earliest Christians had died and many of their survivors grieved for fear that the deceased would miss the Second Coming, which many people of the time assumed might occur immediately.  St. Paul the Apostle wrote to comfort those who grieved accordingly.  The deceased will be there, he insisted, for there is a divine promise of that.

As I type these words in late 2014, many more Christians have died without witnessing the Second Coming.  Recent predictions of specific dates for that event have joined their predecessors in the dustbin on history.  Yet the promises of God remain dependable.  So whatever happens, whenever it occurs, and however it comes to pass, there is no need to grieve for fear that we or others have missed out on a promise of God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/promises-of-god/

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Devotion for Thursday Before the First Sunday of Advent, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

John T. Neufield

Above: John T. Neufeld, a U.S. Mennonite Conscientious Objector During World War I

Image in the Public Domain

The Endurance of the Saints

NOVEMBER 30, 2017

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The Collect:

Stir up your power, Lord Christ, and come.

By your merciful protection awaken us to the threatening dangers of our sins,

and keep us blameless until the coming of your new day,

for you live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever . Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 18

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The Assigned Readings:

Zechariah 13:1-9

Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19

Revelation 14:6-13

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Restore us, O God of hosts;

show us the light of your countenance, and we shall be saved.

–Psalm 80:7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Having been disciplined a little,

they will receive a great good,

because God tested them and found them worthy of himself;

like gold in the furnace he tried them,

and like a sacrificial burnt offering he accepted them.

–Wisdom of Solomon 3:5-6. The New Revised Standard Version:  Catholic Edition (1991)

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That quote from the Wisdom of Solomon refers to the fate of the “souls of the righteous,” but the sentiment is consistent with the assigned readings.  In them we have accounts of suffering, usually in apocalyptic circumstances, such as we find in Zechariah 13 and Revelation 14.  Those who endure the suffering will be as gold or refined silver.

That is one understanding of suffering.  Truly it is a perspective on the subject consistent with apocalyptic literature and the experiences of people who have suffered for their faith and emerged stronger in that faith.  It has also been my experience, even though I suffered not for the sake of righteousness but because I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  Stronger faith as a result of suffering is a grace I have received.

Here is a call for the endurance of the saints, those who keep the commandments of God and hold the faith of Jesus.

–Revelation 14:12, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Today many of the saints suffer for the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  May they endure their tribulations and reign with Christ.  May those who cause them to suffer change their ways and follow Christ also.  And may we who are fortunate not to face such difficulties support those who do.  May we also refrain from making excuses for spiritual laxity and from overestimating our troubles when many of our coreligionists must endure much just to live faithfully.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/the-endurance-of-the-saints/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 29, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Pantocrator

Above:  Christ Pantocrator

Image in the Public Domain

Responding to God

NOVEMBER 29, 2017

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The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 33:7-20

Psalm 7

John 5:19-40

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God is my shield and defense;

he is the savior of the true in heart.

God is a righteous judge;

God sits in judgment everyday.

If they will not repent, God will whet his sword;

he will bend his bow and make it ready.

–Psalm 7:11-13, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Striving to be a merely decent human being is a worthy goal, one which falls into the Lutheran category of civic righteousness–that is, good yet incapable of saving one from the consequences of sin.  Yet the standard of mere human decency evaded our Lord and Savior’s critics in John 5.  He was healing people on the Sabbath.  His critics complained about the timing, as if there were ever a bad day to commit a good deed.  His identification of God as his Father seemed blasphemous to them also.  In the Law of Moses the penalty for committing blasphemy is death.

The call to repent–to change one’s mind, to turn around–exists in both main pericopes today.  There is good news for the penitent and bad news for the impenitent, for judgment and mercy coexist.  God keeps offering opportunities to change course for the better and to receive forgiveness, but some people reject the offer.  This point fits well with the rest of Ezekiel, which proceeds from the assumption that sin led to the Babylonian Exile.

That call to repent repeats.  Striving to be a merely decent human being is a good beginning of a positive response to God.  That little bit is possible only via grace, which bestows the free will with which we respond to God positively or negatively.  Shall we reply positively?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/responding-to-god/

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Devotion for Tuesday After Proper 29, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Triumph of Mordecai

Above:  The Triumph of Mordecai, by Pieter Lastman

Image in the Public Domain

Vindication

NOVEMBER 28, 2017

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The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 8:3-17

Psalm 7

Revelation 19:1-9

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Let the malice of the wicked come to an end,

but establish the righteous;

for you test the mind and heart, O righteous God.

–Psalm 7:10, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Haman’s plot to kill the Jews fails in Esther 7.  Haman dies by impaling–the means of death he had planned for Mordecai.  King Ahasuerus bestows Haman’s property upon Queen Esther and grants Mordecai and Esther the authority to countermand the order to kill the Jews.  Then, in Chapter 9, Jews massacre their enemies, numbered in the tens of thousands.  Ahasuerus becomes a monarch who does not sanction genocide and Mordecai receives a major promotion.

In Revelation much rejoicing in Heaven follows the fall of Rome, for God has avenged those whom the empire had victimized.

Many of psalms contain prayers for vindication.  Esther 9 and Revelation 19 reflect the same desire.  I recall also an episode of Hunter (1984-1991) I watched on DVD recently.  A stereotypically White trash criminal, upon learning of the death of his wife, prays in one scene for the aid of Jesus in killing the man who took her life.

The desire for vindication is a natural and predictable one.  Indeed, I know it well.  Yet I know also that there would be less violence and more peace in the world if fewer people sought vindication and left that matter to God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/vindication/

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Devotion for Monday After Proper 29, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ahaseurus and Haman at Esther's Feast

Above:  Ahasuerus and Haman at Esther’s Feast, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Two Kings

NOVEMBER 27, 2017

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The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Esther 2:1-18

Psalm 7

2 Timothy 2:8-13

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I will bear witness that the LORD is righteous;

I will praise the Name of the LORD Most High.

–Psalm 7:18, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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This is a devotion for the day after Christ the King Sunday.  Pope Pius XI created that festival in 1925, when dictators governed much of Europe, interwar tensions were rising, and the Holy Father perceived the need to issue a reminder that God is in control, despite appearances.  The original date was the last Sunday in October, opposite Reformation Sunday in many Protestant churches, but the Roman Catholic Church moved the date to the Sunday before Advent in 1969.  In the middle of the twentieth century many U.S. Protestants observed Christ the King Sunday on the last Sunday in August.  I have found evidence of this in the official materials of the reunited Methodist Church (1939-1968).  Today observance of Christ the King Sunday (on the Sunday before Advent) is common in many non-Roman Catholic communions.  I have detected in the Revised Common Lectionary and the Common Lectionary before that, as well as in official materials of Anglican/Episcopal, Methodist, Moravian, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Disciples of Christ, United Church of Christ, Cooperative Baptist, Evangelical Covenant, and other denominations.

In contrast to Christ the King we have the fictional Ahasuerus, a pompous figure whose courtiers manipulate him.  He and others figure in the Book of Esther, which the germane notes in The Jewish Study Bible (2004) refer to as a low comedy with burlesque elements, as well as a serious side.  (Comedy has a serious side much of the time.)  The Book of Esther pokes fun at authority figures, one of the oldest pastimes.  Ahasuerus, humiliated when Queen Vashti refuses his summons, decides angrily to replace her.  Before he can reverse that decision, his advisers intervene.  This opens the narrative door for Esther to become the secretly Jewish Queen of Persia just in time for Haman to plot to kill the Jews.  Esther might have been a tool of schemers initially, but she becomes an instrument of God.

St. Paul the Apostle might not have written 2 Timothy, but the letter is of the Pauline tradition.  Certainly the Apostle did suffer hardship due to his obedience to God and agreed, as the text says:

If we have died with [Christ Jesus], we will also live with him;

if we endure, we will also reign with him;

if we deny him, he will also deny us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful–

for he cannot deny himself.

–2:11b-13, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Regardless of the situations of our daily life and how they became our reality, may we obey God and do the right thing.  This might prove to be quite dangerous, leading even to death, but so did the path of Jesus, our Lord and Savior.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 8, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SHEPHERD KNAPP, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN DUCKETT AND RALPH CORBY, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIESTS AND MARTYRS IN ENGLAND

THE FEAST OF NIKOLAI GRUNDTVIG, HYMN WRITER

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/two-kings/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 29, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Cyrus II of Persia

Above:  King Cyrus II of the Persian Empire

Image in the Public Domain

God’s Surprising Possibilities

NOVEMBER 25, 2017

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The Collect:

God of power and might, your Son shows us the way of service,

and in him we inherit the riches of your grace.

Give us the wisdom to know what is right and

the strength to serve the world you have made,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 53

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 44:21-28

Psalm 95:1-71

Matthew 12:46-50

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Come, let us bow down, and bend the knee,

and kneel before the LORD our Maker.

For he is our God,

and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hand.

Oh, that today you would hearken to his voice!

–Psalm 95:6-7, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Sometimes the instruments of God in our lives include people whom we would not have expected.  That fact says much about the limitations of our expectations, does it not?  Two examples come from the pericopes for today:

  1. King Cyrus II of Persia, a Zoroastrian and a Gentile, ended the Babylonian Exile of the Hebrews; and
  2. Jesus said that one’s biological family is not necessarily one’s spiritual family.

I have learned of the limited scope of my expectations, for I have fallen in love with a woman who does not fit most of the categories I had in mind when I was unattached and pondering a possible mate.  My beloved is right for me, I am glad to say.  Vehicles of grace come from unexpected directions sometimes.  May we be glad when we arrive and remain open to God’s surprising possibilities.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

SEPTEMBER 7, 2014 COMMON ERA

PROPER 18:  THE THIRTEENTH SUNDAY AFTER PENTECOST, YEAR A

THE FEAST OF THE SAINTS AND MARTYRS OF THE PACIFIC

THE FEAST OF ELIE NAUD, HUGUENOT WITNESS TO THE FAITH

THE FEAST OF JANE LAURIE BORTHWICK, TRANSLATOR OF HYMNS

THE FEAST OF JOHN GREENLEAF WHITTIER, POET

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/gods-surprising-possibilities/

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