Archive for the ‘June 3’ Category

Devotion for Proper 4, Year D (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Nicodemus Coming to Jesus, by Henry Ossawa Turner

Image in the Public Domain

Salvation and Damnation

JUNE 3, 2018

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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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Amos 7:1-17 or Proverbs 8:1-21

Psalm 118:14-29

1 Timothy 5:1-16

John 3:1-21

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Divine judgment and mercy exist in balance in the Old and New Testaments.  They find balance in Jesus in John 3.  Those who reject the light condemn themselves to the darkness.  God sends nobody to Hell.  All who go there send themselves.  We read of the impending doom of the northern Kingdom of Israel in Amos 7.  In that passage, we also read that God is in judgment mode.

Proverbs 8 speaks of divine wisdom.  That is the wisdom, the persistent, collective rejection which led to the pronouncement of divine judgment in Amos 7.  The word of God that Amos proclaimed was treasonous, according to authorities in the Kingdom of Israel.  That word of God condemned the leaders who labeled that truth as treason.  The Assyrians arrived in force, right on schedule, though.  The truth was not treason.

The reading from 1 Timothy 5 speaks to divinely-mandated ethics.  The passage also contains some culturally-specific elements that may be irrelevant to your context, O reader.  May we not become distracted by those culturally-specific details.  The timeless principle is mutuality:  We are res[pmsob;e to and for each other.  In that timeless context, individual and collective responsibility also exist in balance.

I admit without apology that I am pedantic.  My pedantry extends to theology.  In the Gospel of John, eternal life is knowing God via Jesus (John 17:3).  Within the Johannine context, as in John 3:16, therefore, there is no eternity apart from God–Jesus, to be precise.  In other words, eternal life and the afterlife are not synonyms in Johannine theology.  “Eternal” describes the quality of life, not the length thereof.  I am a generally Johannine Christian, so I understand “eternal life” according to the definition in John 17:3.  Nevertheless, outside of the Johannine tradition in the New Testament, the meaning of “eternal” is “everlasting.”

I am not shy about saying and writing openly what I really think:  I remain unconvinced that my Jewish elder brothers and sisters in faith are doomed to go to Hell.  No, I affirm that their covenant remains in effect.  According to Covenantal Nomism, consistently and unrepentantly disregarding the ethical obligations of the Law of Moses causes one to drop out of the covenant.  Salvation comes via grace, but damnation comes via works.

The more I age and move away from reflexively Reformation-influenced theology, the more comfortable I become embracing the relationship among faith, works, salvation, and damnation in both Testaments.  God cares deeply about how people treat each other, the Bible tells us.  We mere mortals may deceive ourselves and each other.  We cannot, however, pull the proverbial wool over God’s equally proverbial eyes.  Our creeds become evident in our deeds.

Nevertheless, may we avoid the trap of thinking that we deserve salvation.  That remains a gift.  All who receive it may experience a degree of shock when they realize who else has received it.  So be it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JANUARY 1, 2021 COMMON ERA

THE EIGHTH DAY OF CHRISTMAS

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

THE WORLD DAY OF PEACE

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https://adventchristmasepiphany.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/devotion-for-the-sixth-sunday-after-the-epiphany-year-d-humes/

https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2021/01/01/salvation-and-damnation-part-iii/

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Devotion for Proper 4 (Ackerman)   1 comment

Above:   The Destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, by John Martin

Image in the Public Domain

False Teachers

JUNE 3, 2018

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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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Genesis 19:1-8, 15-26, 30-38

Psalm 11

2 Peter 2:4-10a

Matthew 11:20-24

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David Ackerman continues his grand tour of difficult passages of scripture.  The theme this time is judgment and mercy.

One should be careful to examine a passage of scripture closely.  In Genesis 19, for example, we read of (A) an equal-opportunity rape gang and (B) the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah.  The gang members do not care if their conquests are male, female, or angelic.  Furthermore, Lot, while being hospitable to his house guests, offers his two daughters to the gang instead.  Fortunately for the daughters, the gang had become fixated on “fresh fish.”  One might reasonably surmise, however, that Lot knew the character of his neighbors.  One might also question the character of the daughters, who went on to get their father drunk, seduce him, and have children with him.  Lot and his family are a disturbing group of people in Genesis.

Elsewhere in the assigned lessons we read of divine judgment on false teachers and those who follow them.  This judgment falls on the unrepentant, whether Jewish or Gentile.  Yet there is also mercy for the repentant, whether Jewish or Gentile.

These readings contain much material to make one squirm.  I refer to what is there, not what we merely think is present.  Genesis 19 is partially an origin story of the Amorites and the Moabites, whose founders were the products of subterfuge, drunkenness, and incest.  It is also partially a cautionary tale about the lack of hospitality.  What could be more inhospitable than seeking to seeking to rape someone?

Divine judgment and mercy are real, as are human misinterpretation of Bible stories.  May we turn of the autopilot mode that prevents us from studying passages seriously and transform us into false teachers.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 15, 2017 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JOHN ELLERTON, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN WRITER AND TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF CARL HEINRICH VON BOGATSKY, HUNGARIAN-GERMAN LUTHERAN HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINTS LANDELINUS OF VAUX, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT; AUBERT OF CAMBRAI, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP; URSMAR OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT AND MISSIONARY BISHOP; AND DOMITIAN, HADELIN, AND DODO OF LOBBES, ROMAN CATHOLIC MONKS

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/false-teachers/

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Devotion for Proper 4 (Year D)   1 comment

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Above:  The Exorcism

Image in the Public Domain

Faithfulness and Faithlessness

JUNE 3, 2018

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The Collect:

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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The Assigned Readings:

Deuteronomy 31:30-32:27 or Isaiah 5:8-17

Psalm 142

Matthew 17:9-20 or Mark 9:9-29 or Luke 9:18-27 (28-36) 37-45

Philippians 2:14-30

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A typically Jewish way of speaking and writing about God is to recall what God has done.  After all, God is like what God has done.  Furthermore, we are like what we have done, although we are far more than the worst deeds we have committed.  The relevant issue is the pattern of what we have done and of what we are doing.  Repentance is possible, after all, and the past is not necessarily accurate in predicting the future.

Consider with me, O reader, the assigned readings for this Sunday.  The two options for the First Reading proclaim divine judgment upon the faithless, for whom God has done much.  The faithless should know better.  Perhaps they do know better, but they are not acting as if they do.  The lection from Isaiah 5 follows the famous passage likening rebellious Israel to a well-tended vineyard that yields wild grapes.  God will judge that vineyard, we read.  Likewise, we read of faithless Israel in Deuteronomy.  If Richard Elliott Friedman is correct, lurking in the background of the text is a condemnation of polytheism.  God is, after all, insistent upon monotheism in the Hebrew Bible.  If Dr. Friedman is correct, faithlessness to YHWH entails turning to supposedly subordinate deities, members of the divine council–a concept Hebrew prophets opposed vigorously.

In contrast to those lections we read Psalm 142, the lament of a dying man whom other mortals have abandoned.  This man, contemplating the imminent unknown, turns to God alone.  One may assume safely that God is faithful to those who demonstrate fidelity.

The passage from Philippians belongs to a section of that epistle in which one finds advice regarding how to live faithfully in community.  People are to think about each other and model their lives after Jesus, whose humility and selflessness is certainly challenging to emulate.  In this context the customary verses about people with polysyllabic names take on more importance than they might otherwise; these verses model the attitudes and behaviors the preceding verses extol.  People are like what they do.

The three options for the Gospel reading are parallel versions of the same story, set immediately after the Transfiguration of Jesus.  One might fixate on the typically Hellenistic diagnosis of epilepsy as demonic possession, but to do so would be to miss the point.  In the narrative the Apostles have just learned of Christ’s true identity in all of its glory, yet they have not grasped this revelation, and were therefore ineffective.  The lesson for we who read these stories thousands of years later is to ponder whether we grasp who Jesus is and whether we are as effective as we can be in our discipleship.

Our challenge in this regard is to render proper thanksgiving to God in our lives.  We can do this only be grace, of course, but our desire to pursue this course of action is also essential.  Obstacles include laziness, fear, selfishness, cultural conditioning, the pressure to conform, and simple obliviousness.  If we are to grow into our full spiritual stature, however, we must seek to follow and honor God and to trust in divine grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

DECEMBER 16, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE TWENTIETH DAY OF ADVENT

THE FEAST OF GUSTAF AULEN, SWEDISH LUTHERAN THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF SAINT FILIP SIPHONG ONPHITHAKT, ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR IN THAILAND

THE FEAST OF MAUDE DOMINICA PETRE, ROMAN CATHOLIC MODERNIST THEOLOGIAN

THE FEAST OF RALPH ADAMS CRAM AND RICHARD UPJOHN, ARCHITECTS; AND JOHN LAFARGE, SR., PAINTER AND STAINED GLASS MAKER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/12/16/faithfulness-and-faithlessness/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 5, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Apostle Paul

Above:   The Apostle Paul, by Rembrandt van Rijn

Image in the Public Domain

Ego and Humility

JUNE 2-4, 2016

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The Collect:

Compassionate God, you have assured the human family of eternal life through Jesus Christ.

Deliver us from the death of sin, and raise us to new life,

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

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 14:1-11 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 14:12-24 (Friday)

2 Samuel 14:25-33 (Saturday)

Psalm 30 (All Days)

Acts 22:6-21 (Thursday)

Acts 26:1-11 (Friday)

Matthew 9:2-8 (Saturday)

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To you, Yahweh, I call,

to my God I cry for mercy.

–Psalm 30:8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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We read of forgiveness in the lections from the New Testament.  Saul of Tarsus receives forgiveness and a new mandate from God.  (Grace is free yet not cheap.)  Jesus forgives a man’s sins during a healing in Matthew 9.  Critics who are present think that our Lord and Savior is committing blasphemy, for their orthodoxy makes no room for Jesus.  The healed man becomes a former paralytic, but Christ’s critics suffer from spiritual paralysis.

The language of 2 Samuel 14 indicates that King David has not reconciled with his son Absalom, who had killed his (Absalom’s) half-brother, Amnon, who had raped his (Absalom’s) sister, Tamar, in the previous chapter before he (Absalom) had gone into exile.  The entire incident of pseudo-reconciliation had been for the benefit of Joab.  The false reconciliation proved to be as useless as false grace, for Absalom, back from exile, was plotting a rebellion, which he launched in the next chapter.

The juxtaposition of Saul of Tarsus/St. Paul the Apostle, the paralyzed man, and Absalom is interesting and helpful.  Both Saul/Paul and Absalom had egos, but the former struggled with his self-image as he made a pilgrimage with Jesus.  Absalom, in contrast, did not strive to contain his ego.  No, he permitted it to control him.  We know little about the paralyzed man, but we may assume safely that a runaway ego was not among his problems.

If we are to walk humbly with God, we must contextualize ourselves relative to God.  We are, in comparison, but dust, and God is the proper grounding for human identity.  Proper actions will flow from appropriate attitudes.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 4, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF PAUL CUFFEE, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN MISSIONARY TO THE SHINNECOCK NATION

THE FEAST OF SAINT CASIMIR OF POLAND, PRINCE

THE FEAST OF EMANUEL CRONENWETT, U.S. LUTHERAN MINISTER, HYMN WRITER, AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF SAINTS MARINUS OF CAESAREA, ROMAN SOLDIER AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR, AND ASTERIUS, ROMAN SENATOR AND CHRISTIAN MARTYR

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/04/ego-and-humility/

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Devotion for Thursday and Friday Before Proper 5, Year B (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

The Two Reports of the Spies

Above:  The Two Reports of the Spies

Image in the Public Domain

God, Affliction, Judgment, and Mercy

JUNE 3 and 4, 2021

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The Collect:

All-powerful God, in Jesus Christ you turned death into life and defeat into victory.

Increase our faith and trust in him,

that we may triumph over all evil in the strength

of the same Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 28:9-13 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 1:34-40 (Friday)

Psalm 130 (Both Days)

1 Peter 4:7-19 (Thursday)

2 Corinthians 5:1-5 (Friday)

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Out of the depths have I called to you, O LORD

LORD, hear my voice;

let your ears consider well the voice of my supplication.

If you, LORD, were to note what is done amiss,

O Lord, who could stand?

–Psalm 130:1-2, Book of Common Worship (1993)

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Who indeed?

We read of judgment, mercy, and affliction in the pericopes for these two days.  Faithfulness to God, especially when the depiction of God is that of one with a short fuse, is especially dangerous.  And even when texts depict God as having more patience, persistent faithlessness remains perilous.  The readings from the New Testament add the element of enduring suffering for the sake of righteousness faithfully.  Trust in God and rejoice, they advise.

I recognize that judgment and mercy exist in God.  Sometimes the former precedes the latter, but, on other occasions, mercy for some entails judgment on others.  I prefer a utopia in which all is peace, love, mutuality, faithfulness to God, and other virtues, but that is not this world.  If, for example, the oppressors refuse to refrain from oppressing, is not the deliverance of the oppressed sometimes the doom of the oppressors?  We human beings make our decisions and must live with the consequences of them.  Nevertheless, I choose to emphasize the mercy of God, but not to the exclusion of judgment.  (I am not a universalist.)  The depiction of God in much of the Torah disturbs me, for the divine temper seems too quick.  I prefer the God of Psalm 130.

Nevertheless, enduring suffering for the sake of righteousness patiently and with rejoicing is something I have not mastered.  I am glad that my circumstances have not led to such suffering.  Yet I have endured some suffering with great impatience, finding God to be present with me during the ideal.  I have rejoiced in the spiritual growth I have experienced in real time and after the fact, with the benefit of hindsight.  Divine mercy has been especially evident in difficult circumstances.

I conclude that trusting God to fulfill divine promises is wise, for God is faithful.  None of my doubts have led to divine retribution, fortunately.  God has never failed me, but I have failed God often.  Reducing the number of instances of failure is among the spiritual goals I am pursuing via grace.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 17, 2015 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT PATRICK, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF ARMAGH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2015/03/17/god-affliction-judgment-and-mercy/

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Devotion for Monday and Tuesday After Proper 8, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Death of Naboth

Above:  The Stoning of Naboth, by Caspar Luiken

Image in the Public Domain

Tenants, Not Landlords

JULY 3 and 4, 2023

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The Collect:

O God, you direct our lives by your grace,

and your words of justice and mercy reshape the world.

Mold us into a people who welcome your word and serve one another,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

1 Kings 21:1-16 (Monday)

1 Kings 21:17-29 (Tuesday)

Psalm 119:161-168 (Both Days)

1 Thessalonians 4:9-12 (Monday)

1 John 4:1-6 (Tuesday)

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Princes have persecuted me without a cause,

but my heart stands in awe of your word.

I am as glad of your word

as one who finds great spoils.

As for lies, I hate and abhor them,

but your law do I love.

–Psalm 119:161-163, Common Worship (2000)

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The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; with me you are but aliens and tenants.

–Leviticus 25:23, The New Revised Standard Version (1989)

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But we belong to God….

–1 John 4:6a, The Revised English Bible (1989)

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As for brotherly love, there is no need to write to you about that, since you have yourselves learnt from God to love another….

–1 Thessalonians 4:9, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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One of the great lessons of the Bible is that we belong to God, the world belongs to God, and we are only tenants and stewards responsible to God and each other. The Law of Moses, in Leviticus 25:23-28, addresses the issue of the ownership, sale, purchase, and redemption of land in the light of that ethic. God is watching us and we have no right to exploit or trample each other. If God is our parental figure metaphorically (usually Father yet sometimes Mother; both analogies have merit), we are siblings. Should we not treat each other kindly and seek to build each other up?

King Ahab and his Canaanite queen, Jezebel, abused their power and violated the ethic I just described. Neither one was of good character. Jezebel plotted perjury, false accusations, and the execution of an innocent man. Ahab consented to this plan. His responsibility flowed partially from his moral cowardice, for he could have prevented his wife’s plot from succeeding. And he, of course, could have been content with what he had already in the beginning of the story. The man was the monarch, after all.

Many of us seek after wealth or try to retain it while laboring under the misapprehension that it does or should belong to us. Actually, all of it belongs to God. Yes, there is a moral responsibility in all societies to provide a basic human standard of living for all people, given the ethic of mutuality and the fact that there is sufficient wealth for everyone to have enough to meet his or her needs. (I do not presume that there is one way all societies must follow to accomplish this goal.) And, if more of us thought of ourselves as stewards and tenants answerable to God, not as lords and masters, a greater number of our fellow citizens would be better off. That is a fine goal to which to strive en route to the final destination of a society based on mutuality.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 24, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF IDA SCUDDER, REFORMED CHURCH IN AMERICA MEDICAL MISSIONARY IN INDIA

THE FEAST OF EDWARD KENNEDY “DUKE” ELLINGTON, COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF JACKSON KEMPER, EPISCOPAL BISHOP OF WISCONSIN

THE FEAST OF MOTHER EDITH, FOUNDER OF THE COMMUNITY OF THE SACRED NAME

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/tenants-not-landlords/

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

Snapshot_20140516

 

Above:  One of My Globes

Image Source = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The World and the Kingdom of God

JUNE 1-3, 2023

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The Collects:

Almighty Creator and ever-living God: we worship your glory, eternal Three-in-One,

and we praise your power, majestic One-in-Three.

Keep us steadfast in this faith, defend us in all adversity,

and bring us at last into your presence, where you live in endless joy and love,

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

or

God of heaven and earth, before the foundation of the universe

and the beginning of time you are the triune God:

Author of creation, eternal Word of salvation, life-giving Spirit of wisdom.

Guide us to all truth by your Spirit, that we may proclaim all that Christ has revealed

and rejoice in the glory he shares with us.

Glory and praise to you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 37

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The Assigned Readings:

Job 38:1-11 (Thursday)

Job 38:12-21 (Friday)

Job 38:22-38 (Saturday)

Psalm 8 (All Days)

2 Timothy 1:8-12a (Thursday)

2 Timothy 1:12b-14 (Friday)

John 14:15-17 (Saturday)

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What we do not understand about God and related topics outweighs what we know about them. Why, for example, do good people suffer? The Book of Job tells us that God permitted the suffering of the eponymous character. That is a difficult answer, but it is the one the text provides in Chapters 1 and 2. We know of the reasons for the sufferings of the Apostle Paul; his witness created many enemies. The Gospel of Christ does that frequently. Jesus did, after all, die on a cross—and not for any sin he had committed, for he had committed none.

The glorification of our Lord and Savior in the Fourth Gospel was his crucifixion. This was a twist many people did not expect, for crucifixion was a mode of execution the Roman Empire reserved for those it considered the worst of the worst. It was a mark of shame and public humiliation. And this became Christ’s glorification? The twist was—and remains—a wonderful one.

In the name of that crucified and resurrected Lord and Savior, through whom we have access to the gift of the Holy Spirit—God’s active power on earth—in John 14:16, we can have eternal life in this world and the next one. The same world which did not know Jesus or the Holy Spirit killed him, St. Paul the Apostle, and a great company of martyrs. It continues to make martyrs. Yet the Kingdom of God, like a great week, goes where it will.

So may we say with the author of Psalm 8,

O Lord our governor,

how glorious is your name in all the world.

–Verse 1, Common Worship (2000)

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 16, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS ANDREW FOURNET AND ELIZABETH BICHIER, COFOUNDERS OF THE DAUGHTERS OF THE CROSS; AND SAINT MICHAEL GARICOITS, FOUNDER OF THE PRIESTS OF THE SACRED HEART OF BETHARRAM

THE FEAST OF SAINT JOHN NEPOMUCENE, ROMAN CATHOLIC PRIEST

THE FEAST OF THE MARTYRS OF SUDAN

THE FEAST OF TE WARA HAURAKI, ANGLICAN MISSIONARY

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/29/the-world-and-the-kingdom-of-god/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 4, Year A (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

GFS_7888

Above:  Bishop Robert C. Wright (Episcopalian) and Archbishop Wilton Gregory (Roman Catholic) at the Good Friday Pilgrimage for Immigrants, April 18, 2014

Image Source = Bill Monk, Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta

Of Externals and Internals

JUNE 1-3, 2023

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The Collect:

O God our rock, you offer us a covenant of mercy,

and you provide the foundation of our lives.

Ground us in your word, and strengthen our resolve to be your disciples,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 38

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The Assigned Readings:

Exodus 24:1-8 (Thursday)

Deuteronomy 30:1-5 (Friday)

Amos 2:6-11 (Saturday)

Psalm 31:1-5, 19-24 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-29 (Thursday)

Romans 9:6-13 (Friday)

Matthew 7:1-6 (Saturday)

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Be my strong rock, a fortress to save me,

for you are my rock and my stronghold;

guide me, and lead me for your name’s sake.

–Psalm 31:3, Common Worship (2000)

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One of the faults of certain varieties of Protestantism is overemphasizing the internal and unseen while underemphasizing the external and the seen. Pietists, for example, dismiss “externals” frequentlu, as if “externals” are meaningless. They are not necessarily so.

No, a ritual (such as a sacrifice or circumcision) can matter quite a lot, for we humans need visible signs and rites of passage. How else are we to mark the difference between one stage of life and another or to note a covenant to God? We need externals beause we see, touch, feel, hear, and smell; we are not disembodied sentients. The scriptures command many rituals in particular settings, in fact.

The scriptures also make clear that rituals are not supposed to be talismans which protect us from punishment for sins of which we have not repented, individually or collectively. Rituals one performs piously have meaning, but those one performs while disobeying divine commandments, such as how to treat people, offend God.

For crime after crime of Israel

I shall grant them no reprieve,

because they sell honest folk for silver

and the poor for a pair of sandals.

They grind the heads of the helpless into the dust

and push the humble out of their way.

Father and son resort to the temple girls,

so profaning my holy name.

–Amos 2:6-7, The Revised English Bible

God, the Bible tells us, cares deeply about how we act toward our fellow human beings. We ought to seek God’s best for them, not exploit them for our own gain and pleasure. We should seek to raise the status of the powerless, the less powerful, and the marginalized among us. Each of us bears the image of God and therefore deserves respect. When we seek to do those things may we succeed by grace. And may we engage in rituals which create holy atmospheres for our spiritual benefit and glorify—not mock—God.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MAY 10, 2014 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF THEODORE PARKER, ABOLITIONIST AND MAVERICK UNITARIAN PASTOR

THE FEAST OF SAINT ANTONY PIEROZZI, A.K.A. ANTONINUS OF FLORENCE, ROMAN CATHOLIC ARCHBISHOP OF FLORENCE

THE FEAST OF JOHN GOSS, ANGLICAN CHURCH COMPOSER AND ORGANIST; AND WILLIAM MERCER, ANGLICAN PRIEST AND HYMN TRANSLATOR

THE FEAST OF NICOLAUS LUDWIG VON ZINZENDORF, RENEWER OF THE CHURCH

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2014/05/28/of-externals-and-internals/

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Devotion for June 3 in Ordinary Time (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   1 comment

Above:  Carpe Diem Sundial

Image Source = aewolf from Denver

Ecclesiastes and John, Part VII:  Carpe Diem

JUNE 3, 2023

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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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Ecclesiastes 11:1-10

Psalm 51 (Morning)

Psalms 85 and 47 (Evening)

John 10:22-42

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The title of the notes to Ecclesiastes 11:1-10 in The Jewish Study Bible is

Seize the day, for the future is dark and uncertain.

That summarizes the text accurately.  Youth is fleeting, it says.  Hard work does not guarantee success, it says.  All of this rings with truth and accuracy for many people, including me.  I wish that it did otherwise, but such is reality.  One need not have lost youth to know frustration over fruitless efforts.  Yet one does need to have achieved a certain age to realize the fleeting nature of age.  For me that moment came on the day I looked at the birth dates of my students one Fall Semester and realized that most of them were either infants or fetuses when I graduated from high school.  Sprouting white hairs at the temples and on my chin reinforced my sense of age.  Nevertheless, I think that white hairs on my chin look rather distinguished.

Jesus, for all his hard work, faced a near-stoning in John 10.  In the same chapter and at a different locale he found believers.  Hard work does not guarantee success, as Koheleth wrote:

…you don’t know which is going to succeed, the one or the other, or if both are equally good.

–Ecclesiastes 11:6b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

The best any of us can do will have to suffice.  So, while we are here on this planet, may we strive to do our best at whatever we do.  May our goals be socially useful ones which help people practically, affirm their dignity as bearers of the divine image, and meet real needs.  May each of us do his or her part, including helping others do theirs.  And, whether we succeed or fail partially or completely, may the effort (at least) have been worth it.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 6, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINTS VINCENTIA GEROSA AND BARTHOLOMEA CAPITANIO, COFOUNDERS OF THE SISTERS OF CHARITY OF LOVERE

THE FEAST OF ISAIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF JAN HUS, PROTO-PROTESTANT MARTYR

THE FEAST OF SAINT PALLADIUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/ecclesiastes-and-john-part-vii-carpe-diem/

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Devotion for Saturday in Pentecost Week (LCMS Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Above:  The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, by David Roberts; Lithograph from 1842-1845

Image Source = Library of Congress

Numbers and Luke, Part XIII:  Allegedly Sacred Violence

JUNE 3, 2023

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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 everlasting 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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The Assigned Readings:

Numbers 32:1-6, 16-27

Psalm 104 (Morning)

Psalms 118 and 111 (Evening)

Luke 24:1-27

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…your sin will overtake you….

–Numbers 32:23b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

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Just when I begin to like the Torah I read something like Numbers 31, a chapter over which the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod Daily Lectionary from the Lutheran Service Book (2006) skips.  (Sometimes skipping is necessary, and the text always remains available for reading.)  The editor or editors of the Torah after the Babylonian Exile wove together various documents; sometimes the seams jump out at a person who reads the texts carefully.  Numbers 31 picks up a thread left dangling at the end of Chapter 25.  In both chapters killing people seems to be answer to idolatry.  And the violence in Chapter 31 is allegedly God-sanctioned war in retribution for the events early in Numbers 25.  In 31:15b we read of Moses saying disapprovingly,

You have spared every female!

TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

He goes on to order the death of

every male among the children.

–32:17a, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures

After that the settlement of the Transjordan begins in Chapter 32.

The lectionary, by pairing Numbers 32, which occurs in the context of the previous chapter, with Luke 24:1-27, begs me to read the Old Testament lessons in the context of the Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus.  Can you, O reader, imagine Jesus ordering the execution of young men and condemning people for sparing every female of a particular population?  Neither can I.  The recently resurrected Jesus, with fresh memories of his death, certainly would not have done so.

There has been far too much killing already in the Bible and beyond its pages.  Too many people (one would be too many) have died because of theological disputes.  May neither you, O reader, nor I be responsible for any such killing.  Rather, may we function as agents of divine love and reconciliation.  Then the prediction of Numbers 32:23b, that our sin will overtake us if we disregard God’s commandments, will not come to fruition for us.

If x, then y

is a logical progression.  So, if x does not occur, neither does y.  And what is more godly than love, the blood-soaked parts of the Hebrew Scriptures notwithstanding?

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 26, 2012 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF JEREMIAH, BIBLICAL PROPHET

THE FEAST OF ISABEL FLORENCE HAPGOOD, ECUMENIST

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http://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2013/03/02/numbers-and-luke-part-xiii-allegedly-sacred-violence/

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