Archive for April 2015

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

Good Shepherd

Above:   Christ, the Good Shepherd

Image in the Public Domain

Sheep and Shepherds

JULY 23, 24, and 25, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 50:1-7 (Monday)

Zechariah 9:14-10:2 (Tuesday)

2 Samuel 5:1-12 (Wednesday)

Psalm 100 (All Days)

Hebrews 13:17-25 (Monday)

Acts 20:17-38 (Tuesday)

Luke 15:1-7 (Wednesday)

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Shout joyfully to the LORD, all you lands;

serve the LORD with gladness;

come before him with joyful song.

Know that the LORD is God,

he made us, we belong to him,

we are his people, the flock he shepherds.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,

his courts with praise.

Give thanks to him, bless his name;

good indeed is the LORD,

his faithfulness lasts through every generation.

–Psalm 100, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

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All of the assigned readings for these three days speak of sheep and shepherds:

  1. God is the shepherd in Psalm 100.
  2. God is the shepherd-divine warrior who will end the Babylonian Exile in Jeremiah 50:1-7 and Zechariah 9:14-10:2.
  3. David, a troublesome character, is the shepherd-king in 2 Samuel 5:1-12.
  4. Jesus is the Good Shepherd in Luke 15:1-7.
  5. St. Paul the Apostle is the shepherd warning of “fierce wolves” in Acts 20:17-38.
  6. Faithful church leaders are the shepherds worthy of obedience in Hebrews 13:17-25.

Now I proceed to unpack some themes:

  1. The core of church doctrine, as in the question of the nature of Christ, developed over centuries, during which debates, arguments, and street brawls, and knife fights occurred in the name of sorting out proper theology.  Much of what we Christians take for granted these days came about over five centuries, give or take a few years.  Even the latest book in the New Testament did not exist until the end of the first century of the Common Era, and consensus regarding canonical status required more time to form.  In that context obeying orthodox bishops made a great deal of sense, although the definition of orthodoxy shifted over time.  Origen, for example, was orthodox in his day yet heterodox ex post facto.
  2. The parable from Luke 15:1-7 assumes a team of shepherds, so one shepherd could leave to seek a lost sheep without fear of losing more animals.
  3. That parable tells us that all people matter to Jesus.  They should, therefore, matter to us also.
  4. One metaphor for kings in the Bible is shepherds.  Some shepherds are good, but others are bad, unfortunately.  Good kings do what is best for all the people, especially the vulnerable ones.
  5. God is the best shepherd, protecting the flock, seeking an unbroken and unforgotten covenant with it, and searching for the lost sheep.  The flock can be bigger, and we can, by grace, function well as junior shepherds, subordinate to God, the senior shepherd.

I notice the community theme inherent in the metaphor of the flock.  We depend upon God, the ultimate shepherd, and upon the other shepherds in the team.  We also depend upon and bear responsibilities toward each other, for we follow the lead of others–often the lead of fellow sheep.  Sometimes this is for better, but often it is for worse.  Sticking together and following the proper leader is essential for group survival and for individual survival.

May we, by grace, recognize the voice of God, our ultimate shepherd, and follow it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 5, 2015 COMMON ERA

EASTER SUNDAY, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF MILNER BALL, PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER, LAW PROFESSOR, WITNESS FOR CIVIL RIGHTS, AND HUMANITARIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT NOKTER BALBULUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONK

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/05/sheep-and-shepherds/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 11, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Christ Giving Sight to Bartimaeus--Blake

Above:  Christ Giving Sight to Bartimaeus, by William Blake

Image in the Public Domain

God, Beside Us in Suffering

JULY 21, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 12:1-13

Psalm 23

Luke 18:35-43

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The LORD is my shepherd;

there is nothing I lack.

In green pastures he makes me lie down;

to still waters he leads me;

he restores my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for the sake of his name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff comfort me.

You set a table before me

in front of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me

all the days of my life;

I will dwell in the house of the LORD

for endless days.

–Psalm 23, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

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Jeremiah lamented the fact that the wicked (many of them, anyway) prosper and that the righteous (many of them, anyway) suffer.  He also prayed for divine wrath against the wicked.  That was a predictable and understandable attitude, one which many people have shared.  May we be honest, O reader?  Have you and I not rejoiced to learn that some scoundrel got his just desserts?

I perceive, however, that Jesus never rejoiced in that.  Yes, he became angry with and confronted people who acted in certain ways and harbored certain attitudes, but I sense that he would have preferred that they repent and follow him.  He did not even seem confrontational with the wealthy man in Luke 18:18-30, just a few verses before healing a blind man near Jericho.  Later our Lord and Savior prayed for those who executed him and consented to his execution.

Blessed are you when people hate you and ostracize you, when they insult you and slander your very name, because of the Son of Man.  On that day exult and dance for joy, for you have a rich reward in heaven; that is how their fathers treated the prophets.

–Luke 6:22-23, The Revised English Bible (1989)

The same God who sets a table for us in the presence of our enemies abides with us during difficult times.  I have known that presence during my darkest hours.  I treasure the blessing of that presence without possessing any nostalgia for the context thereof.

Archbishop Desmond Tutu told a story about a Jew during the Holocaust.  A Nazi guard was forcing him to perform an especially dirty, degrading, disgusting, and unpleasant cleaning job.

Where is your God now?,

the guard asked sarcastically.  The Jew replied,

Beside me, here in the muck.

Here ends the lesson.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/god-beside-us-in-suffering/

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

St. Paul Preaching in Athens

Above:  St. Paul Preaching in Athens, by Raphael

Image in the Public Domain

Divine Love, Pursuing Us

JULY 19 and 20, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, powerful and compassionate,

you shepherd your people, faithfully feeding and protecting us.

Heal each of us, and make us a whole people,

that we may embody the justice and peace of your Son,

Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 10:1-16 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 10:17-25 (Friday)

Psalm 23 (Both Days)

Colossians 1:15-23 (Thursday)

Acts 17:16-31 (Friday)

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The LORD is my shepherd;

there is nothing I lack.

In green pastures he makes me lie down;

to still waters he leads me;

he restores my soul.

He guides me along the right paths

for the sake of his name.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff comfort me.

You set a table before me

in front of my enemies;

You anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me

all the days of my life;

I will dwell in the house of the LORD

for endless days.

–Psalm 23, The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2010)

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Among my favorite quotes is one from Theophrastus (circa 371-circa 287 Before the Common Era), a Greek philosopher:

Superstition is cowardice in face of the divine.

The interlocking pericopes for these two days combine to encourage us to avoid superstition and idolatry.  The readings tell us to follow God, who is faithful to divine promises, who chastises us for the purpose of correction, and who pursues us to bless us.  Divine goodness and mercy do not merely follow us in Psalm 23.  No, they chase after us with the intention of overtaking us.

Perhaps my favorite passage from Colossians is the one assigned for one of these two days.  The crucified and resurrected Christ is the reconciling agent in the created order.  That is a profound theological statement, one which requires more than one blog post to unpack.  Much of that theology exists in the realm of mystery, defying rational statements and related apologetics.  That is fine with me, for I enjoy a divine mystery.  I have spent years with that mystery from Colossians, pondering it and permitting it to seep into my being.  I hope to spend more years on that project.  Certainly the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Trinity as Jesus of Nazareth (however the mechanics of that worked) was an example of goodness and mercy pursuing humankind.  The chase continues, fortunately.

May you, O reader, embrace God, whose goodness and mercy pursue you to bless you, and continue in a healthy spiritual pilgrimage.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/divine-love-pursuing-us/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 10, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Above:  An Icon of Christ the Merciful

Image in the Public Domain

Defensive Violence

JULY 16, 17, and 18, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, from you come all holy desires,

all good counsels, and all just works.

Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give,

that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments,

and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies,

may live in peace and quietness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 5:1-9 (Monday)

Amos 9:1-4 (Tuesday)

Amos 9:11-15 (Wednesday)

Psalm 142 (All Days)

Acts 21:27-39 (Monday)

Acts 23:12-35 (Tuesday)

Luke 7:31-35 (Wednesday)

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 I cry to the LORD with my voice;

to the LORD I make loud supplication.

I pour out my complaint before you, O LORD,

and tell you all my trouble.

When my spirit languishes within me, you know my path;

in the way wherein I walk they have hidden a trap for me.

I look to my right hand and find no one who knows me;

I have no place to flee to, and no one cares for me.’

I cry out to you, O LORD,

I say, “You are my refuge,

my portion in the land of the living.”

Listen to my cry for help, for I have been brought very low;

save me from those who pursue me,

for they are too strong for me.

Bring me out of the prison, that I may give thanks to your name;

when you have dealt bountifully with me,

the righteous will gather around me.

–Psalm 142, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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The Book of Amos, after all of its predictions of destruction, takes a sudden turn at the end and concludes with a promise that God will restore the Hebrew nation.  Hope of restoration was on the minds of many whom Jesus encountered in Roman-occupied Judea.  Many others, however, benefited from that occupation, for they had made their peace with Roman authorities.  Some of these elites plotted to kill Jesus then St. Paul the Apostle, who were indeed threats to their power, although not in ways many people thought and in ways many people did not expect.  Hostility was often inconsistent in its standards:

For John the Baptist came, neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, “He is possessed.”  The Son of Man came, eating and drinking, and you say, “Look at him! A glutton and a drinker, a friend of tax-collectors and sinners!”

–Luke 7:33-34, The Revised English Bible (1989)

As a sign I have reads,

FOR EVERY ACTION THERE IS AN EQUAL AND OPPOSITE CRITICISM.

The term “Kingdom of God” has more than one meaning in the Bible.  It refers to the afterlife in some passages yet to the reign of God on earth in others, for example.  The latter definition interests me more than does the former.  One function of the latter definition is to criticize human institutions and social structures as falling short of divine standards, which is the definition of sin.  Some people hear criticism and respond by trying to change them for the better.  Others ignore the criticism.  A third group reacts violently in defense of themselves and their beloved institutions and social structures.

Repentance is better than defensive violence.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/defensive-violence/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 10, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Amos and Obadiah

Above:  An Icon of the Prophets Amos and Obadiah

Image in the Public Domain

The Call of God, With All Its Responsibilities

JULY 12, 13, and 14, 2018

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The Collect:

O God, from you come all holy desires,

all good counsels, and all just works.

Give to us, your servants, that peace which the world cannot give,

that our hearts may be set to obey your commandments,

and also that we, being defended from the fear of our enemies,

may live in peace and quietness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 42

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The Assigned Readings:

Amos 2:6-16 (Thursday)

Amos 3:1-12 (Friday)

Amos 4:6-13 (Saturday)

Psalm 85:8-13 (All Days)

Colossians 2:1-5 (Thursday)

Colossians 4:2-18 (Friday)

Luke 1:57-80 (Saturday)

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I will listen, O LORD God, to what you are saying,

for you are speaking peace to your faithful people

and those who turn their hearts to you.

Truly, your salvation is very near to those who fear you,

that your glory may dwell in our land.

Mercy and truth have met together;

righteousness and peace have kissed each other.

Truth shall spring up from the earth,

and righteousness shall look down from heaven.

O LORD, you will indeed grant prosperity,

and our land will yield its increase.

Righteousness shall go before you,

and peace shall be a pathway for your feet.

–Psalm 85:8-13, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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At the risk of sounding like Peter Parker’s uncle Ben, I repeat the old statement that great responsibility accompanies great ability.  In the Book of Amos the Hebrew nation had squandered opportunities to be a light to the nations.  They had fallen into idolatry, economic injustice, and attempts to stifle prophecy, among other sins.  As Amos announced, God was quite upset:

Hear this word, O people of Israel,

That the LORD has spoken concerning you,

Concerning the whole family that I brought up from the land of Egypt:

You alone have I singled out

Of all the families of the earth–

That is why I call you to account

For all your iniquities.

–Amos 3:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

The hope which Psalm 85:8-13 expressed seemed far removed from reality.

Turning to the pericopes from the New Testament, St. Paul the Apostle, St. Mary of Nazareth, and St. John the Baptist lived up to their responsibilities.  St. Paul (who might have even written or dictated the Letter to the Colossians) and St. John the Baptist gave their lives for God.  Our Blessed Mother raised the Son of God properly with the able help of St. Joseph and experienced great heartache prior to her Assumption into Heaven.

The call of God, with all its responsibilities, carries great risks, joys, sorrows, and rewards.  I, as a Christian, follow Jesus, who gave everything.  Dare I shirk my responsibilities and offer excuses instead?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/the-call-of-god-with-all-its-responsibilities-2/

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Devotion for Tuesday and Wednesday After Proper 9, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jeremiah Icon

Above:  An Icon of the Prophet Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

Suffering

JULY 10 and 11, 2018

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us

to proclaim the coming of your kingdom.

Give us the courage you gave the apostles,

that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace

in every circumstance of life,

in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 16:1-13 (Tuesday)

Jeremiah 16:14-21 (Wednesday)

Psalm 119:81-88 (Both Days)

James 5:7-12 (Tuesday)

John 7:1-9 (Wednesday)

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My soul is pining for your salvation;

I have hoped in your word.

My eyes fail with watching for your word,

while I say, “O, when will you comfort me?”

I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,

yet I do not forget your statutes.

How many are the days of your servant?

When will you bring judgment on those who persecute me?

The proud have dug pits for me

in defiance of your law.

All your commandments are true;

help me, for they persecute me with falsehood.

They had almost made an end of me on earth,

but I have not forsaken your commandments.

Give me life according to your lovingkindness;

so shall I keep the testimonies of your mouth.

–Psalm 119:81-88, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The tone of these days’ readings is grim.  James 5:7-12 and Psalm 119:81-88 occur in the context of suffering.  The theme of endurance unites those pericopes.  Jesus chooses not to risk his life yet in John 7:1-9 the time to do that has yet to arrive.  And divine punishment for societal sins is over the horizon in Jeremiah 16:1-21.  The lovingkindness of God, a topic of Psalm 119:81-88, is absent from Jeremiah 16:1-21.

Suffering has more than one cause.  Sometimes one suffers because of one’s sins.  On other occasions, however, one suffers because of the sins of other people.  At certain times one might not be able to determine any reason for one’s suffering, perhaps because there is none.  I do not pretend to have knowledge I lack.  Nevertheless, this reality of suffering does not damage my faith (trust) in God.  I have enough confidence in God to ask hard and inconvenient questions as part of my search for answers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/suffering-2/

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Devotion for Monday After Proper 9, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Ezekiel Icon

Above:  An Icon of the Prophet Ezekiel

Image in the Public Domain

Ignoring the Prophets of God

JULY 9, 2018

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The Collect:

God of the covenant, in our baptism you call us

to proclaim the coming of your kingdom.

Give us the courage you gave the apostles,

that we may faithfully witness to your love and peace

in every circumstance of life,

in the name of Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 41

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The Assigned Readings:

Ezekiel 2:8-3:11

Psalm 119:81-88

2 Corinthians 11:16-33

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My soul is pining for your salvation;

I have hoped in your word.

My eyes fail with watching for your word,

while I say, “O, when will you comfort me?”

I have become like a wineskin in the smoke,

yet I do not forget your statutes.

How many are the days of your servant?

When will you bring judgment on those who persecute me?

The proud have dug pits for me

in defiance of your law.

All your commandments are true;

help me, for they persecute me with falsehood.

They had almost made an end of me on earth,

but I have not forsaken your commandments.

Give me life according to your lovingkindness;

so shall I keep the testimonies of your mouth.

–Psalm 119:81-88, The Book of Common Prayer (2004)

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The role of a prophet of God can be an unhappy and quite difficult one.  Ezekiel accepted his commission readily then objected bitterly to having to make harsh statements to a population which refused to heed his message, which he relayed from God.  St. Paul the Apostle, by his own accounts, was frequently in danger.  Nevertheless, the audience of 2 Corinthians 11:16-33 had misplaced priorities:

For you put up with it when someone makes slaves of you, or preys upon you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or gives you a slap in the face.

–2 Corinthians 11:20, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

They suffered because of their foolishness, not for the sake of righteousness.

A more interesting question concerns why so many of we human beings refuse to heed prophets from God.  Often we have difficulty telling the false prophets from the genuine articles, so we clump them together as “kooks.”  That explains much, but not all, germane to my question.  I am convinced that we humans prefer to be comfortable, sometimes in socially unjust and theologically false contexts.  God’s prophets denounce idolatry, but we have become fond of and attached to our idols.  We find that not resisting social injustice is easier than calling it what it is then acting accordingly, so we do little or nothing when the opportunity to act presents itself.  The prophets of God remind us to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  They tell us to welcome strangers and to care for widows and orphans, but we find ways to justify dong the opposite while claiming to follow God.  The prophets of God call our attention to the exploitation of people, but we might benefit financially from economic injustice.

The image of God is among the most profound theological concepts in the Bible, an anthology packed with them.  I wonder how much better societies and communities would be if more people tried to recognize the image of God in all others then acted accordingly.  The treatment of human beings, especially the somehow different, would certainly improve.  Prejudices would decline, the world would be a more peaceful place, and efforts to justify discrimination as the protection of religious freedom would have less support.  More people would heed the words of God’s prophets.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 4, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE EVE OF EASTER, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF BENJAMIN HALL KENNEDY, GREEK AND LATIN SCHOLAR, BIBLE TRANSLATOR, AND ANGLICAN PRIEST

THE FEAST OF SAINT GEORGE THE YOUNGER, GREEK ORTHODOX BISHOP OF MITYLENE

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

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/04/04/ignoring-the-prophets-of-god/

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