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Devotion for the Eighth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  St. Paul the Apostle

Image in the Public Domain

The Renewal of All Things

JULY 23, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Isaiah 55:10-11

Psalm 65

Romans 8:18-25

Matthew 13:1-9 (18-23)

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Almighty God, we thank you for planting in us the seed of your word. 

By your Holy Spirit help us to receive it with joy,

live according to it,

and grow in faith and hope and love;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

or

Lord God, use our lives to touch the world with your love. 

Stir us, by your Spirit, to be neighbors to those in need,

serving them with willing hearts;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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O almighty and most merciful God,

of your bountiful goodness keep us, we pray,

from all things that may hurt us that we,

being ready in both body and soul,

may cheerfully accomplish whatever things you want done;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 69

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When reading the assigned lessons in preparation for drafting a post, I often notice that one lesson is an outlier.  Today I choose to focus on the outlier.  The theme of God sowing, complete with the Matthean version of the Parable of the Sower/the Four Soils, is a topic about which I have written and posted more than once.  You, O reader, may access my analysis of that parable by following the germane tags attached to this post.  I also refer you to this post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA.

Romans 8:18-25 flows from what precedes it immediately:  Christians are heirs–sons, literally–of God, through Jesus, the Son of God.  The gendered language is a reflection of St. Paul the Apostle’s cultural setting, in which sons, not daughters, inherited.  As “sons of God,” we Christians bear witness with the Holy Spirit that we are members of the household of God.

Literally, Christians are “sons of God” or have received the “spirit of sonship” in verses 14, 15, and 23.  We are “children of God” in verses 16, 17, and 21, though.  (I checked the Greek texts.)  These distinctions are obvious in translations that do not neuter the Greek text.  I check genders (male, female, and neuter) via the Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002).  My historical training tells me that before I can interpret a document in context, I must know what the document says.

Romans 8:18-30, from which we extract 8:18-25, tells of the renewal of all things.  In the midst of suffering, the future glory of the human race in God still awaits.  The renewal of creation itself awaits.  The sufferings are birth pangs.  Meanwhile, Christians must wait with patience and expectation.

For obvious reasons, I leave comments about birth pangs to women who have given birth.

St. Paul the Apostle understood suffering for Christ.  St. Paul the Apostle mustered optimism in dark times, by grace.  This has always astounded me.  I, having endured suffering less severe than that of St. Paul the Apostle, have found depression and pessimism instead.

I write this post during dark times for the world.  The COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage around the world.  Authoritarian forces endanger representative governments around the world.  Polarization has increased to the point that opposite camps have their own facts.  (Objective reality be damned!)  I have found more causes for depression and pessimism than for optimism.

Yet St. Paul the Apostle, speaking to us down the corridors of time, tells us that these are birth pangs of a better world.  I hope that is correct.  I pray that these are not birth pangs of a dystopia.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 18, 2023 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JACQUES ELLUL, FRENCH REFORMED THEOLOGIAN AND SOCIOLOGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CELESTINE V, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINT DUNSTAN OF CANTERBURY, ABBOT OF GLASTONBURY AND ARCHBISHOP OF CANTERBURY

THE FEAST OF GEORG GOTTFRIED MULLER, GERMAN-AMERICAN MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF SAINT IVO OF KERMARTIN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ATTORNEY, PRIEST, AND ADVOCATE FOR THE POOR

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Seventh Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  A Yoke

Image in the Public Domain

Yokes

JULY 16, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Zechariah 9:9-12

Psalm 45:1-2 (3-13), 14-22 (LBW) or Psalm 119:137-144 (LW)

Romans 7:15-25a

Matthew 11:25-30

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God of glory, Father of love, peace comes from you alone. 

Send us as peacemakers and witnesses to your kingdom,

and fill our hearts with joy in your promises of salvation;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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Grant, Lord, that the course of this world

may be so governed by your direction

that your Church may rejoice

in serving you in godly peace and quietness;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 68

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Zechariah 9:9-12 depicts a future scene, in which the Messiah, an ideal king, approaches Jerusalem at the culmination of history–the Day of the LORD.  This is the scene Jesus reenacted during his Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, without being a regnant type of Messiah.

The image of YHWH as king exists in the assigned readings from Psalms.

In Romans 7:15-25a we read St. Paul the Apostle’s confession of his struggles with sins.  We may all relate to those struggles.

My tour of the readings brings me to Matthew 11:25-30 and the topic of yokes.

Literally, a yoke was a wooden frame, loops of ropes, or a rod with loops of rope, depending on the purpose.  (See Numbers 19:2; Deuteronomy 21:3; and Jeremiah 28:10.)  A yoke fit over the neck of a draft animal or the necks of draft animals.  Alternatively, a captive or a slave wore a yoke.  (See Jeremiah 28:10; 1 Kings 12:9; 2 Chronicles 10:4; and 1 Timothy 6:1).  Also, a yoked pair of oxen was a yoke.  (See 1 Samuel 11:7; 1 Kings 19:21; Luke 14:19).

Metaphorically, a yoke had a variety of meanings, depending on the circumstances.  It often symbolized servitude and subjection.  Forced labor was an unjust yoke (1 Kings 11:28; 12:11, 14).  Slavery was a yoke (Sirach 33:27).  Hardship was a yoke (Lamentations 3:27; Sirach 40:1).  The oppression and humiliation of one nation by another was the yoke of bondage (Jeremiah 27:8; 28:4; Hosea 11:7; Deuteronomy 28:48; and Isaiah 47:6).  To break out of subjugation or slavery was to break the yoke (Jeremiah 28:2; Isaiah 9:4; 14:25).  God promised to break the yoke of Egypt in Ezekiel 30:18.  To break away from God was to break God’s yoke (Jeremiah 2:20; 5:5; Sirach 51:39).  Sin was also a yoke (Lamentations 1:14).

The yokes of God and Christ carry positive connotations.  The yoke of obedience to God is easy.  It is also the opposite of the yoke of subordination and subjugation.  This positive yoke is the yoke in Matthew 11:28-30.  It is the yoke St. Paul the Apostle wore (Philippians 4:3).  It is the yoke in Psalm 119:137-144.

Draw near to me, you who are untaught, 

and lodge in my school.

Why do you say you are lacking in these things,

and why are your souls very thirsty?

I opened my mouth and said,

Get these things for yourselves without money.

Put your neck under the yoke,

and let your souls receive instruction;

it is to be found close by.

See with your eyes that I have labored little

and found for myself much rest.

Get instruction with a large sum of silver

and you will gain by it much gold.

May your soul rejoice in his mercy,

and may you not be put to shame when you praise him.

Do your work before the appointed time,

and in God’s time he will give you your reward.

–Sirach 51:23-30, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

You, O reader, will serve somebody or something.  That is not in question.  Whom or what you will serve is a germane question.  Why not serve God, the greatest king?  In so doing, you will find your best possible state of being.  The path may be difficult–ask St. Paul the Apostle, for example–but it will be the best path for you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 14, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF FRANCIS MAKEMIE, FATHER OF AMERICAN PRESBYTERIANISM AND ADVOCATE FOR RELIGIOUS TOLERATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT CARTHAGE THE YOUNGER, IRISH ABBOT-BISHOP

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIA DOMINICA MAZZARELLO, CO-FOUNDER OF THE DAUGHTERS OF MARY HELP OF CHRISTIANS

THE FEAST OF SAINT THEODORE I, BISHOP OF ROME

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VICTOR THE MARTYR AND CORONA OF DAMASCUS, MARTYRS IN SYRIA, 165

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Sixth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

Loyalty to God

JULY 9, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Jeremiah 28:5-9

Psalm 89:1-4, 15-18 (LBW) or Psalm 119:153-160 (LW)

Romans 6:1b-11

Matthew 10:34-42

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O God, you have prepared for those who love you

joys beyond understanding. 

Pour into our hearts such love for you that,

loving you above all things,

we may obtain your promises,

which exceed all that we can desire;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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O God, because you have prepared for those who love you

such good things as surpass our understanding,

pour into our hearts such love towards you that we,

loving you above all things,

may obtain your promises,

which exceed all that we can desire;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 67

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Jeremiah 28:1-17 is the story of Hananiah, a false prophet who offered false hope in the waning years of the Kingdom of Judah.  Hananiah had predicted that God would terminate the Chaldean/Neo-Babylonian threat.  Jeremiah confronted him and accused him of encouraging disloyalty to God.

Psalms 89 and 119, like Jeremiah, extol and encourage loyalty to God in the midst of disloyalty to God.

St. Paul the Apostle encourages us down the corridors of time to be

dead to sin but alive for God in Christ Jesus.

–Romans 6:11b, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

When we return to Matthew 10:37-38, we read of the priority of loving Jesus most of all and of taking up one’s cross and following him.  Heeding this advice entails reordering one’s priorities if they are askew.

Those who are loyal to God will stand out compared to those who are disloyal to God.  Given the human tendency to promote conformity, some negative consequences will befall those who are loyal to God.  Those dispensing the negative consequences may include co-religionists.  That is especially unfortunate.

I offer one caution, O reader.  Do not mistake serial contrariness against “the world” for loyalty to God.  “The world” does not get everything wrong.  Instead, follow the coherent moral standards summarized in the Golden Rule.  How would a world in which the Golden Rule was the accepted standard function, in contrast to the one in which we live?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 5, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CHARLES WILLIAM SCHAEFFER, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HISTORIAN, THEOLOGIAN, AND LITURGIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT CATERINA CITTADINI, FOUNDER OF THE URSULINE SISTERS OF SOMASCO

THE FEAST OF SAINT EDMUND IGNATIUS RICE, FOUNDER OF THE INSTITUTE OF THE BROTHERS OF THE CHRISTIAN SCHOOLS OF IRELAND AND THE CONGREGATION OF PRESENTATION BROTHERS

THE FEAST OF FRIEDRICH VON HÜGEL, ROMAN CATHOLIC INDEPDENDENT SCHOLAR AND PHILOSOPHER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS HONORATUS OF ARLES AND HILARY OF ARLES, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; AND SAINTS VENANTIUS OF MODON AND CAPRASIUS OF LERINS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Fifth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Jeremiah

Image in the Public Domain

Human Agents of God

JULY 2, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Jeremiah 20:7-13

Psalm 69:1-20 (LBW) or Psalm 91 (LW)

Romans 5:12-15

Matthew 10:24-33

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O God our defender,

storms rage about us and cause us to be afraid. 

Rescue your people from despair,

deliver your sons and daughters from fear,

and preserve us all from unbelief;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 25

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O Lord, whose gracious presence never fails to guide

and govern those whom you have nurtured

in your steadfast love and worship,

make us ever revere and adore your holy name;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 66

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Following God is frequently a guarantee that one will experience rejection, often from devout people.  The Golden Rule exists in most of the world’s religions.  Yet, O reader, practice the Golden Rule and notice how much criticism you receive from some adherents to some of these religions, including your own.

Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

Faith has the power to transform people.  Religion often reinforces positive and negative tendencies people have.  God or a deity frequently functions as a justification for what one wants to do anyway.  People often create God in their image.

Jeremiah did not create God in his image.  The Weeping Prophet struggled with God, complaining while obeying.  The authors of the assigned texts from the Hebrew Bible wrote of divine protection.  Divine protection kept Jeremiah alive yet did not prevent his involuntary exile in Egypt.  And Jesus died horribly via crucifixion.

Martyrs populate Christian calendars of saints.  This is consistent with various sayings of Jesus from the canonical Gospels.  Commandments to deny oneself, take up one’s cross, and follow Jesus dovetail with Matthew 10:24:

No disciple is above his teacher, no slave above his master.

The New American Bible–Revised Edition (2011)

Yet, in sovereignty, God makes unjust suffering work for a positive end.  Persecutions and martyrdoms water the church.  Redemption comes via the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  Often, social injustice prompts a backlash in favor of social justice.  The New Testament depicts the violent, oppressive Roman Empire as an involuntary tool of God.  God works with what is available.

As much as I enjoy forces of evil functioning involuntarily as agents of God, I assert that being a voluntary agent of God is superior.  I try to be one of these voluntary agents of God.  To the extent I succeed, I do so by grace.  May you, O reader, succeed by grace, in that effort, too.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 4, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT CEFERINO JIMENEZ MALLA, SPANISH ROMANI MARTYR, 1936

THE FEAST OF ANGUS DUN, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WASHINGTON, AND ECUMENIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT BASIL MARTYSZ, POLISH ORTHODOX PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF SAINT JEAN-MARTIN MOYË, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST, MISSIONARY IN CHINA, AND FOUNDER OF THE SISTERS OF DIVINE PROVIDENCE AND THE CHRISTIAN VIRGINS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS JOHN HOUGHTON, ROBERT LAWRENCE, AUGUSTINE WEBSTER, HUMPHREY MIDDLEMORE, WILLIAM EXMEW, AND SEBASTIAN NEWDIGATE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYRS, 1535

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Fourth Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Sheep

Image in the Public Domain

Reconciliation

JUNE 25, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Exodus 19:2-8a

Psalm 100

Romans 5:6-11

Matthew 9:35-10:8

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God, our maker and redeemer,

you have made us a new company of priests

to bear witness to the Gospel. 

Enable us to be faithful to our calling

to make known your promises to all the world;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 24

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Almighty and everlasting God,

give us an increase of faith, hope, and love;

and that we may obtain what you have promised,

make us love what you have commanded;

through Jesus Christ, your Son, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 65

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The mandate of the people of God–Jews and Gentiles alike–is to be, in the language of Exodus 19:6,

…a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985, 1999)

Individually and collectively agreeing to that is relatively easy.  Following through on that commitment is relatively difficult, though.  It is impossible without grace.  We are sheep–prone to go astray with little or no prompting.  We need reconciliation to God and one another, as well as to ourselves.

God has acted to effect reconciliation.  That, then, leaves the human side of the relationship.  Grace is free, not cheap; it imposes the obligation of faithful response to God.  How we treat our fellow human beings is bound up with our response to God.

Do not imagine, O reader, that I have worked out all these details in my life.  Do not think that I have achieved an advanced stage of spiritual development.  I know myself too well to assert that I have done what I described in the first two sentences of this paragraph.  No, I muddle through, accumulating a mixed record daily.  Therefore, I write this post to myself as much as I write it to you.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 3, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CAROLINE CHISHOLM, ENGLISH HUMANITARIAN AND SOCIAL REFORMER

THE FEAST OF SAINT MARIE-LÉONIE PARADIS, FOUNDER OF THE LITTLE SISTERS OF THE HOLY FAMILY

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MAURA AND TIMOTHY OF ANTINOE, MARTYRS, 286

THE FEAST OF SAINT TOMASSO ACERBIS, CAPUCHIN FRIAR

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Third Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Hosea

Image in the Public Domain

Repentance

JUNE 18, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Hosea 5:15-6:6

Psalm 50:1-15 (LBW) or Psalm 119:65-72 (LW)

Romans 4:18-25

Matthew 9:9-13

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O God, the strength of those who hope in you: 

Be present and hear our prayers;

and, because in the weakness of our mortal nature

we can do nothing good without you,

give us the help of your grace,

so that in keeping your commandments

we may please you in will and deed,

through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 24

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O God, from whom all good proceeds,

grant to us, your humble servants,

that by your holy inspiration we may think the things that are right

and by your merciful guiding accomplish them;

through Jesus Christ our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 64

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For I desire goodness, not sacrifice;

Obedience to God, rather than burnt offerings.

–Hosea 6:6, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985, 1999)

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Yet the Law of Moses commands sacrifices and burst offerings.

Hebrew prophets did not always express themselves as clearly as some of us may wish they had.  In context, Hosea 6:6 referred to God rejecting the opportunistic appearance of repentance or a habitually errant population.  Divinely-ordained rituals were not properly talismans; they did not protect one from one’s proverbial chickens coming home to roost.  Hosea 6:6 asserted the primacy of morality over rituals.

I am neither a puritan nor a pietist.  I favor polishing God’s altar and eschew condemning “externals.”

God, metaphorically, is a consuming fire.  Before God, therefore, false repentance does not impress.  The attitude in Psalm 119 is preferable:

Before I was humbled, I strayed,

but now I keep your word.

You are good, and you do what is good;

teach me your statutes.

–Psalm 119:67-68, The Revised New Jerusalem Bible (2019)

Sometimes recognizing one’s need to repent may be a challenge.  How can one repent if one does not think one needs to do so?  How can one turn one’s back on one’s sins (some of them, anyway) unless one knows what those sins are?  Self-righteousness creates spiritual obstacles.

How happy are they who know their need for God, for the kingdom of Heaven is theirs.

–Matthew 5:3, J. B. Phillips, The New Testament in Modern English–Revised Edition (1972)

The test, O reader, for whether you need God is simple.  Check for your pulse.  If you have one, you need God.  We all stand in the need of grace; may we admit this then think and act accordingly.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 2, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALEXANDER OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH; AND SAINT ATHANASIUS OF ALEXANDRIA, PATRIARCH AND “FATHER OF ORTHODOXY”

THE FEAST OF CHARLES SILVESTER HORNE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF CHRISTIAN FRIEDRICH HASSE, GERMAN-BRITISH MORAVIAN COMPOSER AND EDUCATOR

THE FEAST OF ELIAS BOUDINOT, IV, U.S. STATESMAN, PHILANTHROPIST, AND WITNESS FOR SOCIAL JUSTICE

THE FEAST OF JULIA BULKLEY CADY CORY, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT SIGISMUND OF BURGUNDY, KING; CLOTILDA, FRANKISH QUEEN; AND CLODOALD, FRANKISH PRINCE AND ABBOT

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for the Second Sunday After Pentecost, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Figs

Image in the Public Domain

Mutuality in God

JUNE 11, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Deuteronomy 11:18-21, 26-28

Psalm 31:1-5 (6-18), 19-24 (LBW) or Psalm 4 (LW)

Romans 3:21-25a, 27-28

Matthew 7:(15-20) 21-29

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Lord God of all nations,

you have revealed your will to your people

and promised your help to us all. 

Help us to hear and to do what you command,

that the darkness may be overcome by the power of your light;

through your Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 24

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O God,

whose never-failing providence sets in order all things

both in heaven and on earth,

put away from us, we entreat you, all hurtful things;

and give us those things that are profitable for us;

through Jesus Christ, our Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 62

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Jewish Covenantal Nomism, present in Deuteronomy 11 and in the background of Romans 3, establishes the tone for this post.  Salvation for Jews comes by grace; they are the Chosen People.  Keeping the moral mandates of the Law of Moses habitually is essential to retaining that salvation.

Love, therefore, the LORD your God, and always keep His charge.  His laws, His rules, and His commandments.

–Deuteronomy 11:1, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985,1999)

Perfection in these matters is impossible, of course.  Therefore, repentance is crucial daily.  In broader Biblical context, God knows that we mere mortals are “but dust.”  Do we?

Grace is free, not cheap.  Nobody can earn or purchase it, but grace does require much of its recipients.  Thin, too, O reader, how much it cost Jesus.

Both options for the Psalm this Sunday contain the combination of trust in God and pleading with God.  I know this feeling.  Maybe you do, too, O reader.

St. Paul the Apostle’s critique of Judaism was simply that it was not Christianity.  As E. P. Sanders wrote:

In short, this is what Paul finds wrong in Judaism:  it is not Christianity.

Paul and Palestinian Judaism:  A Comparison of Patterns of Religion (1977), 552

For St. Paul, the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus changed everything.

I, as a Christian, agree.  However, I also affirm the continuation of the Jewish covenant.  I trust that God is faithful to all Jews and Gentiles who fulfill their ends of the covenant and mourns those who drop out.  Many of those who have dropped out may not know that they have done so.

The good fruit of God, boiled down to its essence and one word, is love.  Recall the First Letter of John, O reader:  Be in Christ.  Walk in the way Jesus walked.

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.  For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments.

–1 John 5:2-3a, Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002), 203

And how could we forget 1 John 4:7-8?

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and he who loves is born of God and knows God.  He who does not love does not know God; God is love.

Revised Standard Version–Second Catholic Edition (2002)

This point brings me back to Psalm 31.  In verse 6 or 7 (depending on versification), either God or the Psalmist hates or detests idolators.  Translations disagree on who hates or detests the idolators.  In context, the voice of Psalm 31 is that of a devout Jews falsely accused of idolatry; he protests against this charge and defends his piety and innocence.  Human beings are capable of hating and detesting, of course.  I reject the argument that God hates or detests anyone, though.

Salvation comes via grace.  Damnation comes via works, however.  God sends nobody to Hell.  As C. S. Lewis wrote, the doors to Hell are locked from the inside.

The Right Reverend Robert C. Wright, the Episcopal Bishop of Atlanta, says to love like Jesus.  Consider, O reader, that Christ’s love is self-sacrificial and unconditional.  It beckons people to love in the same way.  This divine love, flowing through mere mortals, can turn upside-down societies, systems, and institutions right side up.

However, anger, grudges, and hatred are alluring idols.  Much of social media feeds off a steady diet of outrage.  To be fair, some outrage is morally justifiable.  If, for example, human trafficking does not outrage you, O reader, I do not want to know you.  But too much outrage is spiritually and socially toxic.  To borrow a line from Network (1976):

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!

That kind of rage is a key ingredient in a recipe for a dysfunctional society.

We human beings all belong to God and each other.  We are responsible to and for each other.  May we think and act accordingly, by grace and for the common good.  God commands it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 1, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE THIRD SUNDAY OF EASTER, YEAR C

THE FEAST OF SAINTS PHILIP AND JAMES, APOSTLES AND MARTYRS

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for Trinity Sunday, Year A (ILCW Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by St. Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

The Abstract, the Tangible, and the Mysterious

JUNE 4, 2023

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According to the Inter-Lutheran Commission on Worship (ILCW) Lectionary (1973), as contained in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978) and Lutheran Worship (1982)

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Genesis 1:1-2:3 or Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40

Psalm 29 (LBW) or Psalm 135 (LW)

2 Corinthians 13:11-14

Matthew 28:16-20

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Almighty God our Father,

dwelling in majesty and mystery,

renewing and fulfilling creation by your eternal Spirit,

and revealing your glory through our Lord Jesus Christ: 

Cleanse us from doubt and fear,

and enable us to worship you,

with your Son and the Holy Spirit, one God,

living and reigning, now and forever.  Amen.

OR

Almighty and ever-living God,

you have given us grace,

by the confession of the true faith

to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity

and, in the power of your divine majesty,

to worship the unity. 

Keep us steadfast in this faith and worship,

and bring us at last to see you in your eternal glory,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 24

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Almighty and everlasting God,

since you have given us, your servants,

grace to acknowledge the glory of the eternal Trinity

by the confession of a true faith,

and to worship the true Unity in the power of your divine majesty,

keep us also steadfast in this true faith and worship,

and defend us from all our adversaries;

for you, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, live and reign,

one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Lutheran Worship (1982), 61

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ALTA TRINITA BEATA

High and blessed Trinity,

By us always adored.

Glorious Trinity,

Marvelous unity,

You are savory manna

and all that we can desire.

–Medieval, Anonymous

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One may use the word “mystery” in at least two ways.  One may think of a situation in which gathering more information will eliminate confusion and enable arriving at a firm answer.  The Holy Trinity is a mystery, but not in that way.  Even if we mere mortals had all the information about the nature of God, we could not understand it.  We can barely grasp what we do know, and what we know raises more questions than it resolves.  So be it.  The second meaning of “mystery” is an ancient definition:  One can know something only by living into it.  One can know God by faith, for example.

The Feast of the Holy Trinity is the only Christian feast of a doctrine.  It is more than that, though.  Lutheran minister and liturgist Philip H. Pfatteicher recommends thinking of Trinity Sunday as:

…the celebration of the richness of the being of God and the occasion of a thankful review of the now completed mystery of salvation, which is the work of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship:  Lutheran Liturgy in Its Ecumenical Context (1990), 301

A doctrine–especially the Holy Trinity–can seem abstract.  Some people (including moi) like abstractions.  However, abstractions leave others cold and spiritually unmoved.  Salvation is not abstract, however; it is tangible.  And how it works is a mystery in at least the second meaning of the word.

Happy Trinity Sunday!

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

APRIL 27, 2022 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF GEORGE WASHINGTON DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF NEW JERSEY; AND HIS SON, WILLIAM CROSWELL DOANE, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF ALBANY; HYMN WRITERS

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANTONY AND THEODOSIUS OF KIEV, FOUNDERS OF RUSSIAN ORTHODOX MONASTICISM; SAINT BARLAAM OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT; AND SAINT STEPHEN OF KIEV, RUSSIAN ORTHODOX ABBOT AND BISHOP

THE FEAST OF CHRISTINA ROSSETTI, POET AND RELIGIOUS WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS REMACLUS OF MAASTRICHT, THEODORE OF MAASTRICHT, LAMBERT OF MAASTRICHT, HUBERT OF MAASTRICHT AND LIEGE, AND FLORIBERT OF LIEGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS; SAINT LANDRADA OF MUNSTERBILSEN, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBESS; AND SAINTS OTGER OF UTRECHT, PLECHELM OF GUELDERLAND, AND WIRO, ROMAN CATHOLIC MISSIONARIES

THE FEAST OF SAINT ZITA OF TUSCANY, WORKER OF CHARITY

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Link to the corresponding post at BLOGA THEOLOGICA

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Devotion for Thanksgiving Day (U.S.A.), Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Za’atri Refugee Camp for Syrian Refugees, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, July 18, 2013

Image in the Public Domain

Image Source = United States Department of State

Gratitude and the Golden Rule

NOVEMBER 24, 2022

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Deuteronomy 26:1-11

Psalm 126

Philippians 4:4-9

John 6:25-35

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All we have comes from God.  The Biblical ethic of mutuality begins here.  It continues by teaching that we are all responsible to and for each other.  We, therefore, have no right to exploit or victimize anyone.

These texts take us–you, O reader, and me–into the realm of collective responsibility.  That gets us into laws, policies, and politics.  Deuteronomy 26 points to immigrants and refugees, in particular.  Nativism and xenophobia are not proper Biblical values, but they are staples of many laws and policies (especially immigration laws and policies) and much political activity.  This constitutes a violation of the Golden Rule.

Philippians 4 offers wonderful communal advice.  Christian toleration (not of evil, of course) should be a defining characteristic of faith community and society.  People ought to fill their minds with that which is noble, good, and pure.

Repaying God for all the blessings God has bestowed is impossible.  God does not command repayment, fortunately.  A faithful response is in order, though.  Gratitude is part of that faithful response.  One may properly express that gratitude in more than one way.  Words and thoughts of “thank you” are appropriate.  Participation in corporate worship, when possible and when responsible, according to public health concerns, is crucial, also.  Keeping divine commandments is a mandated expression of love for God in both Testaments.  And both Testaments teach that love for God and love for our fellow human beings are intertwined.

So, how grateful are we, collectively and individually?  And how many types of people are we willing to love in the name of God?  Furthermore, how politically controversial will living according to the Golden Rule be?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANSKAR AND RIMBERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOPS OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE ANNE PROCTER, ENGLISH POET AND FEMINIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALFRED DELP, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JEMIMA THOMPSON LUKE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND JAMES EDMESTON, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL DAVIES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/02/03/gratitude-and-the-golden-rule/

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Devotion for Christ the King Sunday, Year D (Humes)   1 comment

Above:  Icon of Christ Pantocrator

Scan by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Faithful Community

NOVEMBER 20, 2022

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

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

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

which you have given us in our Savior Jesus Christ,  who lives and reigns

with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

The Book of Common Prayer (1979), page 236

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Jeremiah 33:14-16

Psalm 100

Hebrews 13:1-16, 20-21

John 17:1-26

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How can people live in faith community?  Certain details vary according to when and where a given faith community lives, as well as who comprises it.  However, Hebrews 13 provides essential guidance for how to live the John 17, 

that they will all be one,

just as Jesus and YHWH are one.  I choose not to copy or paraphrase all of Hebrews 13:1-16, 20-21.  I encourage you, O reader, to study that text instead.

I do have some comments, though.  The instructions are representative, not comprehensive.  They boil down to this summary:  Honor the image of God in one another.  This is the essence of compassion, which begins by getting outside of oneself.

The Church has a bad name in many quarters.  A certain bumper sticker reads,

JESUS, SAVE ME FROM YOUR FOLLOWERS.

Many non-Christians think of Christians as being non-judgmental.  To be honest, many Christians associate Christianity with right-wing politics, Nativism, xenophobia, fascism, nationalism, and discredited conspiracy theories.  To be honest, many self-identifying Christians embrace at least one of the following:  right-wing politics, Nativism, xenophobia, fascism, nationalism, and discredited conspiracy theories.  One may even think of Falangism, which is Christian fascism, as in Francisco Franco’s Spain.  The contemporary fascist movement in the United States of America does come wrapped in the American flag and the Christian cross.  Many of the Church’s wounds are self-inflicted injuries.  The proper Christian response to these criticisms is to avoid defensiveness and to live the faith as Jesus taught it.

We of the Church can learn much from our critics.  Some of them may know the ethics and morals of Jesus better than many of us do.  The Holy Spirit may be speaking to the Church through some of the Church’s critics.

Christ is the King of the Universe.  Many of his subjects on Earth are not in the Church.  Likewise, many of the members of the Church are not Christ’s subjects.  The Gospel of Mark teaches that many who think they are insiders are really outsiders, and vice versa.  That lesson functions simultaneously as warning and comfort.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

FEBRUARY 3, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANSKAR AND RIMBERT, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOPS OF HAMBURG-BREMEN

THE FEAST OF ADELAIDE ANNE PROCTER, ENGLISH POET AND FEMINIST

THE FEAST OF SAINT ALFRED DELP, GERMAN ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST AND MARTYR, 1945

THE FEAST OF JEMIMA THOMPSON LUKE, ENGLISH CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER; AND JAMES EDMESTON, ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAMUEL DAVIES, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MINISTER AND HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/02/03/faithful-community-part-vii/

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