Archive for May 2016

Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 26, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Lot and His Daughters

Above:   Lot and His Daughters, by Lucas van Leyden

Image in the Public Domain

The Good Society

NOVEMBER 4 and 5, 2019

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Nehemiah 13:1-3, 23-31 (Monday)

Zechariah 7:1-14 (Tuesday)

Psalm 50 (Both Days)

1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (Monday)

Jude 5-21 (Tuesday)

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“When you see a thief, you make him your friend,

and you cast your lot in with adulterers.

You have loosed your lips for evil,

and harnessed your tongue to a lie.

You are always speaking evil of your brother

and slandering your own mother’s son.

These things you have done, and I kept still,

and you thought that I am like you.”

–Psalm 50:18-21, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The Law of Moses teaches that, among other things:

  1. We humans depend on God for everything,
  2. We depend on each other also,
  3. We have no right to exploit each other,
  4. We are responsible to each other, and
  5. We are responsible for each other.

Thus hospitality is a great virtue, for it can make the difference between someone coming to harm or avoiding harm, as well as the difference between someone dying or living.

My summary of the forbidden behaviors in these days’ readings is that they are generally activities that harm others.  I note that, in post-exilic zeal to obey the Law of Moses, many people went too far with regard to the treatment of foreigners.  The Book of Jonah pushes back against such excesses.  The Book of Ruth, in which a Moabite woman marries a Hebrew man and becomes an ancestor of King David, is probably another protest against such zealousness-turned-xenophobia, such as that praised in Nehemiah 13:1.

As for homosexual behavior (as opposed to homosexuality as a sexual preference, an understanding which did not exist until recent centuries), Jude 7 is the only verse in the Bible to make explicit the link between homosexual conduct and the story of Sodom in Genesis 19.  In that chapter Lot, who has lived in the city since Genesis 13, presumably knows his neighbors well enough to understand what they like.  Lot has taken in two angels.  A mob gathers outside his door and demands that he send them outside to that they can gang rape the angels.  Lot refuses the demands and offers to send his two virgin daughters out instead.  (Bad father!)  Fortunately for Lot’s daughters, the mob is not interested and the angels have a plan to save Lot and his family from the imminent destruction of the city.  In the context of Genesis 19 the planned sexual activity is rape, not anything consensual; may nobody miss that point.  The standard Biblical condemnations of the sins of Sodom and Gomorrah are like those in Ezekiel 16:48-50 and 3 Maccabees 2:5-6, where one reads that the cities’ sins were notorious and the people were arrogant and brazen in their iniquity.  Ezekiel 16 adds to that description the neglect of the poor and the hungry–a lack of hospitality.

Zechariah 7:8-14 states that the pre-exilic Kingdoms of Israel and Judah violated the basic requirements of the Law of Moses, and paid the price.  The societies, generally speaking, did not administer true justice and act kindly and compassionately.  No, it oppressed widows, orphans, the poor, and resident aliens.  The societies were unrepentant, and divine patience ran out.

Society is people.  It shapes its members, who also influence it.  May we–you, O reader, and I–influence society for the better–to care for the vulnerable, to resist bullying and corruption, to favor kindness and compassion, and to seek and find the proper balance between individual and collective responsibility.  May we eschew bigotry in all forms, for we have a divine mandate to love our neighbors as we love ourselves.  May we seek to love God and each other fully, manifesting respect for the image of God in each other, seeking to build each other up, for that is not only the path to the common good but is also godly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/the-good-society/

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Devotion for Saturday Before Proper 26, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Isaiah

Above:   Isaiah

Image in the Public Domain

As One Thinks

NOVEMBER 2, 2019

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 1:1-9

Psalm 32:1-7

John 8:39-47

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Happy are they to whom the LORD imputes no guilt,

and in whose spirit there is no guile!

–Psalm 32:2, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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That description does not apply to the Hebrew nation in Isaiah 1 or to the group of Jews in front of Jesus in John 8.  In both cases their deeds revealed their creeds, and divine authority disapproved of the contents of both categories.

Proverbs 23:7, in the context of a greedy man offering someone food for ulterior motives, says, in most modern translations, something like the wording in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985):

He is like one keeping accounts….

The New Jerusalem Bible (1985) states,

For what he is really thinking about is himself.

The Revised English Bible (1989) uses an idiomatic translation.  The miserly man

will stick in your throat like a hair.

The Authorized (King James) Version offers a different take on the difficult-to-translate verse.  Of the greed man it states,

For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he….

I leave questions of the proper translation of Proverbs 23:7 to scholars of the Hebrew Bible.  Nevertheless, I offer one thought relating to that old rendering.

As one thinks in one’s heart, so one is

is an accurate statement.  It applies to the hostile crowd in John 8 and to the idolatrous people in Isaiah 1, as well as to a host of other contexts.  It also applies to you, O reader, and to me.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/as-one-thinks/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 26, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Job and His Alleged Friends

Above:   Job and His Alleged Friends

Image in the Public Domain

Easy and False Answers

OCTOBER 31, 2019

NOVEMBER 1, 2019

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The Collect:

Merciful God, gracious and benevolent,

through your Son you invite all the world to a meal of mercy.

Grant that we may eagerly follow this call,

and bring us with all your saints into your life of justice and joy,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 52

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The Assigned Readings:

Proverbs 15:8-11, 24-33 (Thursday)

Job 22:21-23:17 (Friday)

Psalm 32:1-7 (Both Days)

2 Corinthians 1:1-11 (Thursday)

2 Peter 1:1-11 (Friday)

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Then I acknowledged my sin to you,

and did not conceal my guilt.

–Psalm 32:5, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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The author of Psalm 32 had guilt and sin with which to deal.  The fictional character of Job, however, did not suffer because of any sin he had committed, according to Chapters 1 and 2.  Eliphaz the Temanite did not grasp this reality, so he uttered pious-sounding statements (some of which echo certain Psalms and much of the Book of Proverbs), pestering (not consoling) Job, who felt isolated from the mystery he labeled God.  Job was terrified of God (as he should have been, given God’s conduct throughout the book, especially Chapters 1, 2, 38, 39, 40, and 41) and was honest about his feelings.  Eliphaz, in contrast, offered an easy and false answer to a difficult question.

Yes, some suffering flows from one’s sinful deeds and functions as discipline, but much suffering does not.  Consider the life of Jesus of Nazareth, O reader.  He suffered greatly, even to the point of death, but not because he had sinned.  Much of the time our suffering results from the sins of other people.  On other occasions we suffer for no apparent reason other than that we are at the wrong place at the wrong time or we have a pulse.

May we resist the temptation to peddle in easy and false answers to difficult questions.  May we seek not to be correct but to be compassionate, to live according to love for God and our fellow human beings.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/easy-and-false-answers/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 25, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Belshazzar's Feast

Above:   Belshazzar’s Feast, by Mattia Preti

Image in the Public Domain

Humility Before People and God

OCTOBER 28, 2019

OCTOBER 29, 2019

OCTOBER 30, 2019

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The Collect:

Holy God, our righteous judge, daily your mercy

surprises us with everlasting forgiveness.

Strengthen our hope in you, and grant that all the

peoples  of the earth may find their glory in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 2:1-10 (Monday)

Daniel 5:1-12 (Tuesday)

Daniel 5:13-31 (Wednesday)

Psalm 84:8-12 (All Days)

1 Peter 4:12-19 (Monday)

1 Peter 5:1-11 (Tuesday)

Matthew 21:28-32 (Wednesday)

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O LORD of hosts,

happy are they who put their trust in you!

–Psalm 84:12, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Do not be arrogant, the readings for these three days tell us.  Trust in God instead, we read.  Daniel 5 tells us of Belshazzar, viceroy under this father, King Nabonidus (reigned 556-539 B.C.E.) of the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian Empire.  God, the story tells us, found Belshazzar wanting.  Furthermore, we read, God delivered the empire to the Persians and the Medes, and the Babylonian Exile ended shortly thereafter.

Cease your proud boasting,

let no word of arrogance pass your lips,

for the LORD is a God who knows;

he governs what mortals do.

Strong men stand in mute dismay,

but those who faltered put on new strength.

Those who had plenty sell themselves for a crust,

and the hungry grow strong again.

The barren woman bears seven children,

and the mother of many sons is left to languish?

–1 Samuel 2:3-5, The Revised English Bible (1989)

That is a timeless lesson.  We read of Jesus telling certain professional religious people that penitent tax collectors and the prostitutes will precede them in the Kingdom of God.  Later in 1 Peter, we read of the imperative to clothe ourselves in humility, when dealing with each other and God.  As Proverbs 3:34-35 tells us,

Toward the scorners he [God] is scornful,

but to the humble he shows favor.

The wise will inherit honor,

but stubborn fools, disgrace.

The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

Persecution might come, but one must remain faithful.  That is a recurring message in the Bible, from Jeremiah to the Books of the Maccabees to the Gospels to 1 Peter to Hebrews to the Revelation of John.  It can also be a difficult lesson on which to act, as many chapters in the history of Christianity attest.  Fortunately, God is merciful than generations of Donatists (regardless of their formal designations) have been.  That lack of mercy flows from, among  other sources, pride–the pride which says,

I persevered.  Why did you not do likewise?  I must be spiritually superior to you.

We all need to acknowledge, confess, and repent of our sins.  We all need to change our minds and turn around spiritually.  We all need to be humble before God and each other.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/humility-before-people-and-god/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 25, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Above:   The Embrace of Elizabeth and the Virgin Mary

Image in the Public Domain

The Balance of Judgment and Mercy

OCTOBER 24, 2019

OCTOBER 25, 2019

OCTOBER 26, 2019

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The Collect:

Holy God, our righteous judge, daily your mercy

surprises us with everlasting forgiveness.

Strengthen our hope in you, and grant that all the

peoples  of the earth may find their glory in you,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 51

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The Assigned Readings:

Jeremiah 9:1-16 (Thursday)

Jeremiah 9:17-26 (Friday)

Jeremiah 14:1-6 (Saturday)

Psalm 84:1-7 (All Days)

2 Timothy 3:1-9 (Thursday)

2 Timothy 3:10-15 (Friday)

Luke 1:46-55 (Saturday)

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Happy are the people whose strength is in you!

whose hearts are set on the pilgrims’ way.

–Psalm 84:4, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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And woe to those who hearts are not set on the pilgrims’ way.  They are deceitful, advancing from evil to evil.  They cheat each other and lie.  They wear themselves out by working iniquity.  Those of them who claim to be religious preserve an empty, outward shell of religion.  God, who scatters the proud in their conceit and casts the mighty from their thrones, is not impressed with such people:

Speak thus–says the LORD:

The carcasses of men shall lie

Like dung upon the fields,

Like sheaves behind the reaper,

With none to pick them up.

–Jeremiah 9:21, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Yet this same deity is also God the merciful.  In the midst of judgment we read the following words:

For what else can I do because of My poor people?

–Jeremiah 9:6c, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Later we read:

Thus said the LORD:

Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom;

Let not the strong man glory in his strength;

Let not the rich man glory in his riches.

But only in this should one glory:

In his earnest devotion to Me.

For I the LORD act with kindness,

Justice, and equity n the world;

For in these I delight–declares the LORD.

–Jeremiah 9:22-23, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Furthermore, as Luke 1:46-55 (the Magnificat), echoing the song of Hannah in 1 Samuel 2:1-10, reminds us, God has filled hungry people with good things, sent the rich away empty, and remained faithful to divine promises.

What is one supposed to make of this seeming contradiction between divine judgment and mercy?  I propose, as I have written repeatedly in weblog posts, that good news for the oppressed is frequently bad news for the unrepentant oppressors.  Furthermore, one should consider the issue of discipline, for a responsible parent does not permit a child to get away with everything.  Judgment and mercy exist in balance with each other; God is neither an abuser nor a warm fuzzy.  God is God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/the-balance-of-judgment-and-mercy/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 24, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Agony in the Garden

Above:   The Agony in the Garden, by El Greco

Image in the Public Domain

Trust in God

OCTOBER 21, 2019

OCTOBER 22, 2019

OCTOBER 23, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people,

you are always ready to hear our cries.

Teach us to rely day and night on your care.

Inspire us to seek your enduring justice for all the suffering world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Samuel 25:2-22 (Monday)

1 Samuel 25:23-35 (Tuesday)

1 Samuel 25:36-42 (Wednesday)

Psalm 57 (All Days)

1 Corinthians 6:1-11 (Monday)

James 5:7-12 (Tuesday)

Luke 22:39-46 (Wednesday)

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Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful,

for I have taken refuge in you;

in the shadow of your wings will I take refuge

until this time of trouble has gone by.

–Psalm 57:1, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Yet sometimes suffering does happen.  Jesus goes on to die after Luke 22:39-46.  Furthermore, James 5:11 refers to Job.  In addition, much suffering of the innocent results from the actions of others.

Several of the assigned readings for these days speak of deferred yet certain divine justice.  The length of the delay might be relatively brief (as in 1 Samuel 25) or part of an eschatological plan.  Regardless of the duration of the wait, having patience can be quite difficult.  In Revelation 6:10-11 the impatience extends into the afterlife.  How much more difficult will patience be for us on this side of Heaven?

We must try to trust in God.  That is the meaning of belief in the Bible:  to trust.  We can strive for that goal on our own power, but can succeed only by grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/trust-in-god-2/

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Devotion for Friday and Saturday Before Proper 24, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Jacob and Esau Are Reconciled

Above:   Jacob and Esau Are Reconciled, by Jan Van den Hoecke

Image in the Public Domain

Building Up Others

OCTOBER 18 and 19, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord God, tireless guardian of your people,

you are always ready to hear our cries.

Teach us to rely day and night on your care.

Inspire us to seek your enduring justice for all the suffering world,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 50

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The Assigned Readings:

Genesis 31:43-32:2 (Friday)

Genesis 32:3-21 (Saturday)

Psalm 121 (Both Days)

2 Timothy 2:14-26 (Friday)

Mark 10:46-52 (Saturday)

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He will not let your foot be moved and he who watches over you will not fall asleep.

Behold, he who keeps watch over Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep.

The LORD himself watches over you; the LORD is your shade at your right hand,

So that the sun shall not strike you by day, nor the moon by night.

The LORD shall preserve you from all evil; it is he who shall keep you safe.

The LORD shall watch over your going out and your coming in, from this time forth for evermore.

–Psalm 121:3-8, The Book of Common Prayer (1979)

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Here is a saying you may trust:

“If we died with him, we shall live with him;

if we endure, we shall reign with him;

if we disown him, he will disown us;

if we are faithless, he remains faithful,

for he cannot disown himself.”

Keep on reminding people of this, and charge them solemnly before God to stop disputing about mere words; it does no good, and only ruins those who listen.

–2 Timothy 2:11-14, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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God seeks to build us up; we should strive to the same for each other.  That is the unifying theme of these lessons.

Distracting theological arguments constitute “mere words” (2 Timothy 2:14).  Of course, many people do not think that such theological arguments are distracting and destructive.  Partisans certainly understand them to be matters of fidelity to God.  Such arguments help to explain the multiplicity of Christian denominations.  I think in particular of the Church of God (Guthrie, Oklahoma), which separated from the Church of God (Anderson, Indiana) in 1910-1911 over, in part, the parent body’s liberalization with regard to Sola Scriptura (or, more to the point, that which the Reformed churches call the Regulative Principle of Worship) and worldliness.  The Anderson Church began to (gasp!) permit the wearing of neckties!  (Shock horror)  Granted, the original, narrow meaning of Sola Scriptura, especially in Lutheran theology, applies only to requirements for salvation, but certain schools of Christianity have expanded its scope to matters beyond salvation–from liturgy to the presence or absence of neckties.

Legalism does not build up the body of Christ.  Reconciliation, however, does.  We read a prelude to the reconciliation of Jacob and Esau (effected in Genesis 33) in Chapter 32.  Jacob, who had, with the help of his mother, cheated his brother out of his birthright in Genesis 27, had gone on to become a recipient of trickery in Chapter 29.  He parted company with his father-in-law, Laban, with whom he had a difficult relationship, in Genesis 31, and was nervous about what might happen at a reunion with Esau, who proved to be conciliatory.

The healing of blind Bartimaeus (literally, son of Timaeus) is familiar.  Jesus, unlike many people in the account, has compassion for the blind man calling out to him.  Those others, we might speculate with little or no risk of being wrong, thought of Bartimaeus as a nuisance at worst and an irritant at best.  One need not use one’s imagination much to grasp the application of this story in daily life.  Do we see people, or do we see irritants and nuisances?

A moral law of the universe is that, whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves also.  This challenges us all, does it not?  Tearing others down might be in one’s short-term interests, but, in the long term, those who injure others do so to their detriment.

How is God calling you to build up others today, O reader?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 31, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THE VISITATION OF MARY TO ELIZABETH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/05/31/building-up-others-2/

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