Archive for the ‘June 11-20’ Category

Devotion for Trinity Sunday, Year A (Humes)   2 comments

Above:  Icon of the Holy Trinity, by Andrei Rublev

Image in the Public Domain

Little Less Than Divine

JUNE 16, 2019

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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 1:1-2:4a

Psalm 8

2 Corinthians 13:11-13

Matthew 28:16-20

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Trinity Sunday is the creation of Bishop Stephen of Liege (in office 903-920).  The feast, universal in Roman Catholicism since 1334 by the order of Pope John XXII, is, according to the eminent Lutheran liturgist Philip H. Pfatteicher, author of the Commentary on the Lutheran Book of Worship (1990), not so much about a doctrine but

the now completed mystery of salvation, which is the work of the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.

–page 301

Famously the word “Trinity” appears nowhere in the Bible, and no single verse or passage gives us that doctrine.  The doctrine of the Holy Trinity is the result of much debate, some fistfights, ecumenical councils, Roman imperial politics, and the pondering of various passages of scripture.  The conclusion of 2 Corinthians and Matthew are two of those passages.  Perhaps the best summary of that process in the fourth chapter in Karen Armstrong‘s A History of God (1994).

I, being aware that a set of heresies has its origin in pious attempts to explain the Trinity, refrain from engaging in any of those heresies or creating a new one.  No, I stand in awe of the mystery of God and affirm that the Trinity is as close to an explanation as we humans will have.  We cannot understand the Trinity, and God, I assume, is more than that.

The great myth in Genesis 1:1-2:4a, itself a modified version of the Enuma Elish, affirms, among other key theological concepts, (1) the goodness of creation and (2) the image of God in human beings.  We are not an afterthought.  No, we are the pinnacle of the created order.  These themes carry over into Psalm 8.  The standard English-language translation of one verse (which one it is depends on the versification in the translation one reads) is that God has created us slightly lower than the angels.  That is a mistranslation.  TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985) renders the germane passage as

little less than divine.

The Anchor Bible (1965) translation by Mitchell J. Dahood reads

a little less than the gods.

The Hebrew word is Elohim, originally a reference to the council of gods, and therefore a remnant of a time before Jews were monotheists.  An alternative translation is English is

a little lower than God,

which is better than

a little lower than the angels.

Studies of religious history should teach one that Elohim eventually became a synonym for YHWH.

“Little less than divine” seems like an optimistic evaluation of human nature when I consider the past and the present, especially when I think about environmental destruction and human behavior.  But what if Pfatteicher is correct?  What if the work of salvation is complete?  What if the image of God is a great portion of our nature than the actions of many of us might indicate?

In Christ we can have liberation to become the people we ought to be.  In Christ we can achieve our spiritual potential–for the glory of God and the benefit of others.

May we, by grace, let the image of God run loose.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JULY 13, 2018 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF CLIFFORD BAX, POET, PLAYWRIGHT, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUGENIUS OF CARTHAGE, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP

THE FEAST OF JOHANNES RENATUS VERBEEK, MORAVIAN MINISTER AND COMPOSER

THE FEAST OF PETER RICKSEEKER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MISSIONARY, MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; STUDENT OF JOHANN CHRISTIAN BECHLER, MORAVIAN MINISTER , MUSICIAN, MUSIC EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER; FATHER OF JULIUS THEODORE BECHLER, U.S. MORAVIAN MINISTER, MUSICIAN, EDUCATOR, AND COMPOSER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2018/07/13/little-less-than-divine/

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Devotion for Trinity Sunday (Ackerman)   2 comments

Above:   The First Council of Nicaea

Image in the Public Domain

Relationships

JUNE 16, 2019

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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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Song of Songs 8:6-7

Psalm 89:5-8

Hebrews 11:4-7, 17-28

John 5:19-24

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Trinity Sunday is frequently a difficult occasion to preach, for many heresies have their origin in attempts to explain the Trinity.  Yet on this day, the only Christian feast devoted to a doctrine, one must say something.

The Bible offers a variety of images for God from Genesis to Revelation.  Abraham and God, we read, took walks together and engaged in conversations.  Yet, as we read in Exodus, the understanding of God had become one of a remote figure whose holiness was fatal to most people–Moses excepted.  We read of the heavenly court, modeled after earthly royal courts, in Psalm 89.  And we read in John 5 that Jesus and YHWH/God the Father have a relationship.

The full nature of divinity exceeds human capacity to grasp it, but we can know some truths.  Hebrews 11 reminds us of the faithfulness of God in relating to we human beings.  By faith, we read, people have committed great deeds that have glorified God and benefited others, even long past the lifespans of those who have committed those great deeds.  The theme of relationship is also present in the Song of Songs (a book I advise reading in TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures, 1985).   The relationship in Song of Songs 8 is between a man and a woman (marital status unknown), whose love has placed their lives at risk.  Love and death are linked for them.

Let me be a seal upon your heart,

Like the seal upon your hand.

For love is fierce as death,

Passion is mighty as Sheol;

Its darts are darts of fire,

A blazing flame.

Vast floods cannot quench love,

Nor rivers drown it.

If a man offered all his wealth for love,

He would be laughed to scorn.

–Song of Songs 8:6-7, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Neither can anything quench or drown divine love for us, despite our frequent lack of love for God.  Yet for a relationship to be healthy, more than one figure must be engaged in maintaining it.  May we embrace the mystery of the Holy Trinity and pursue and deepen a healthy relationship with God, whose goodness and mercy alone pursue us in Psalm 23.

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/relationships/

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Devotion for Trinity Sunday (Year D)   2 comments

ancient-corinth

Above:  Ancient Corinth

Image Source = Library of Congress

Reproduction Number = LC-DIG-matpc-07406

Building Each Other Up in Christ

JUNE 16, 2019

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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:

1 Kings 9:1-9, 11:1-13 or Ecclesiastes 8:1-17

Psalm 35

John 15:18-25 (26-27); 16:1-4a

2 Corinthians 12:11-21; 13:1-10 (11-13)

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One might suffer for any of a number of reasons.  One might, as did Solomon, suffer for one’s sins; actions do have consequences, after all.  Or one might suffer because of the sins of at least one other person.  This is one reason one might suffer for the sake of righteousness.  Or perhaps one might suffer for merely being at the wrong place at the wrong time.  On other occasions there might be no apparent reason for one’s suffering.

This is a devotion for Trinity Sunday.  Many attempts to explain the mystery of the Holy Trinity have resulted in heresy.  I have resolved to cease trying to explain it and to revel in the glorious mystery instead.  God is greater and more glorious than I can imagine; thanks be to God!

I do feel comfortable in making some comments, however.  For example, Jesus of Nazareth (the historical figure) was the incarnated form of the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son.  I do not pretend to grasp the mechanics of the Godhead, but so be it.  Jesus suffered and died, but not because of any sin of his; he committed none.  God suffered due to human sinfulness and made something wondrous out of something brutal and base.

That extravagant grace imposes certain obligations on those who benefit from it.  Among these obligations is building each other up.  St. Paul the Apostle’s words on that topic remain as applicable today as they were in Corinth nearly 2000 years ago.  Christ Jesus is in me.  He is also in you, O reader.  He is also in those around us.  How will we treat them?  We have Jesus, a role model, to emulate.  Where would the human race be without him?

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/building-up-each-other-in-christ/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 7, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Stone Retaining Wall

Above:  Stone Retaining Wall, October 1979

Photographer = Carl Fleischhauer

Image Source = Library of Congress

Barriers

JUNE 20, 2019

JUNE 21, 2019

JUNE 22, 2019

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The Collect:

O Lord God, we bring before you the cries of a sorrowing world.

In your mercy set us free from the chains that bind us,

and defend us from everything that is evil,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 40

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The Assigned Readings:

Isaiah 56:9-12 (Thursday)

Isaiah 57:1-13 (Friday)

Isaiah 59:1-8 (Saturday)

Psalm 22:19-28 (All Days)

Romans 2:17-19 (Thursday)

Galatians 3:15-22 (Friday)

Matthew 9:27-35 (Saturday)

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Yahweh, do not hold aloof!

My strength, come quickly to my help,

rescue my soul from the sword,

the one life I have from the grasp of the dog!

Save me from the lion’s mouth,

my poor life from the wild bulls’ horns!

–Psalm 22:19-21, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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No, the LORD’s arm is not too short to save,

Or His ear too dull to hear;

But your iniquities have been a barrier

Between you and your God,

Your sins have made Him to turn His face away

And refuse to hear you.

–Isaiah 59:1-2, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

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That passage from Isaiah goes on to say that God will

…repay fury to His foes;

He shall make requital to His enemies,

Requital to the distant lands.

–Isaiah 59:18b, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

Then justice and righteousness will prevail, and the words of God will be in the mouths of the people

from now on, for all time.

–Isaiah 59:21d, TANAKH:  The Holy Scriptures (1985)

God establishes no barriers between himself and us.  No, we erect and maintain such walls.  We even become attached to them and defend some of them as righteous.  Our moral blind spots prevent us from recognizing every example of this in which we have participated and take part.  Therefore sometimes we mistake the work of God for evil, or at least as negative.  There is frequently an element of the self-defensive in such reactions, for recognizing acts of God as what they are would require us to admit that we are not as holy as we imagine ourselves to be.  It would also require us to question certain “received wisdom,” to which we have become attached and by which we define ourselves.

We would do much better to embrace divine offers of love and reconciliation, and to accept the freedom Christ brings, as well as the accompanying demands of grace upon our lives.  Grace is free, but not cheap.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

MARCH 5, 2016 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF OZORA STEARNS DAVIS, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST MINISTER, THEOLOGIAN, AND HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF SAINT EUPHRASIA OF CONSTANTINOPLE, ROMAN CATHOLIC NUN

THE FEAST OF HARRIET KING OSGOOD MUNGER, U.S. CONGREGATIONALIST HYMN WRITER

THE FEAST OF THOMAS HORNBLOWER GILL, ENGLISH UNITARIAN THEN ANGLICAN HYMN WRITER

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https://blogatheologica.wordpress.com/2016/03/05/barriers/

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Devotion for Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday After Proper 6, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Hezekiah

Above:  Hezekiah

Image in the Public Domain

The Law of Moses, Faith, Works, and Justification

JUNE 17, 2019

JUNE 18, 2019

JUNE 19, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, throughout the ages you judge your people with mercy,

and you inspire us to speak your truth.

By your Spirit, anoint us for lives of faith and service,

and bring all people into your forgiveness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Chronicles 29:1-19 (Monday)

2 Chronicles 30:1-12 (Tuesday)

2 Chronicles 30:13-27 (Wednesday)

Psalm 130 (All Days)

Galatians 3:1-9 (Monday)

Galatians 3:10-14 (Tuesday)

Mark 2:1-12 (Wednesday)

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For with Yahweh is faithful love,

with him generous ransom;

and he will ransom Israel

from all its sins.

–Psalm 130:7b-8, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The Law of Moses receives positive treatment in 2 Chronicles 29 and 30.  Keeping it is an outward sign of devotion to God in the narrative from the reign of King Hezekiah.  After all, the theology of the Babylonian Exile is that it resulted from widespread and persistent disregard for the Law of Moses, especially those regarding idolatry and social injustice, especially economic exploitation and judicial corruption.

What are we to make, then, of St. Paul the Apostle’s attitude toward the Law of Moses?  The immediate context of Galatians 3 was the question of the relationship between faith and works with regard to justification with God.  St. Paul argued that justification with God occurs via faith alone, faith being inherently active; faith and works were, in the Apostle’s mind, a package deal.  He cited the example of Abraham, whose faith God reckoned as righteousness.  The author of the Letter of James cited that example also, but to argue that

a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

–James 3:24, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

For the author of James faith was intellectual and not inherently active, so the pairing of faith and works was crucial.  The men agreed that active faith was essential.

Jesus came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it.  He engaged in disputes with religious officials whose legalism amplified certain aspects of the Law of Moses while ignoring the mandate to practice mercy, also part of the law.  Our Lord and Savior argued that certain religious leaders taught the Law of Moses wrongly, not that the law was invalid.  The law, ideally, was something that would become part of one, that one would keep it in principle, bearing in mind that some parts of it were culturally specific examples, and not becoming bogged down in them.  It was something one was supposed to keep as a matter of reverence and gratitude, not legalism.  Perhaps St. Paul was objecting more to legalism than to the Law of Moses itself.  He was, after all, engaged in a dispute with Judaizers, who insisted that Gentile converts to Christianity (then a Jewish sect) became Jews first.  The context of argument contributed to taking an opposite position, not seeking a moderate position.

Jesus agreed with Rabbi Hillel, who summarized the Torah as loving God with all of one’s being.  Hillel continued,

The rest is commentary.  Go and learn it.

Much of that commentary consists of instructions (many of them culturally specific) about how to care for the vulnerable people in our midst.  May we Gentiles follow the lead of our Jewish brethren and ask ourselves how to apply those laws in our contexts.  Then may we live according to the divine mandate to love God fully and each other as we love ourselves.  May we do this out of reverence and gratitude, as an expression of faith.

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/the-law-of-moses-faith-works-and-justification/

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Devotion for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday Before Proper 6, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Death of Absalom

Above:  The Death of Absalom

Image in the Public Domain

The Parental Love of God

JUNE 13, 2019

JUNE 14, 2019

JUNE 15, 2019

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The Collect:

O God, throughout the ages you judge your people with mercy,

and you inspire us to speak your truth.

By your Spirit, anoint us for lives of faith and service,

and bring all people into your forgiveness,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.  Amen.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 39

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The Assigned Readings:

2 Samuel 13:23-39 (Thursday)

2 Samuel 15:1-12 (Friday)

2 Samuel 18:28-19:8 (Saturday)

Psalm 32 (All Days)

James 4:1-7 (Thursday)

Romans 11:1-10 (Friday)

Luke 5:17-26 (Saturday)

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Countless troubles are in store for the wicked,

but the one who trusts in Yahweh is enfolded in his faithful love.

–Psalm 32:10, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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Absalom rejected his father, King David, who mourned for him after he died.  According to 2 Samuel, David brought the troubled life of his family upon himself via the incidents involving Bathsheba and Uriah the Hittite (2 Samuel 11 and 12).  Absalom also brought his death upon himself by means of his ambition, pride, and variety.  Nevertheless, the grief David felt upon losing another son was real.

People rejected God in the readings from the New Testament.  Rejecting Jesus–especially accusing him of committing blasphemy–was–and remains–a bad idea.  Those negative figures in the story from Luke 5 did not think of themselves as bete noires; they could not fit Jesus into their orthodoxy.  There were also questions regarding our Lord and Savior’s credentials, so the issue of pride came into play.  Attachment to tradition in such a way as to make no room for Jesus was also a relevant factor.

But, as the Letter of James reminds us, God opposes the proud and bestows grace upon the humble:

Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.  Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you men of double mind.  Be wretched and mourn and weep.  Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to dejection.  Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.

–James 4:8-10, Revised Standard Version–Second Edition (1971)

I propose that the grief of God over errant human beings is somewhat like that of David over Absalom.  God loves us selflessly and unconditionally.  Such love warrants reciprocation, but reality is frequently otherwise.  Consequences of that rejection of grace unfold as they will.  Yet abuses and misuses of free will, a gift of God, cannot override divine love, which permits us to decide how to respond to it.  Yes, Hell is real, but no, God sends nobody there.  Those in Hell sent themselves there.

May we not grieve God, who is our Father and our Mother, who, like the mother eagle in Deuteronomy, teaches us to fly and, like Jesus lamenting over Jerusalem, yearns to shelter us under henly wings.  May we succeed in rejoicing God’s proverbial heart, by grace and free will.

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/the-parental-love-of-god/

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Devotion for Wednesday After Proper 5, Year C (ELCA Daily Lectionary)   2 comments

Christ Healing a Bleeding Woman

Above:  Christ Healing a Bleeding Woman

Image in the Public Domain

Empathy, Sympathy, and Community

JUNE 12, 2019

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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:

Jeremiah 8:14-22

Psalm 68:1-10, 19-20

Luke 8:40-56

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God, you rained down a shower of blessings,

when your heritage was weary you gave it strength.

Your family found a home, which you

in your generosity provided for the humble.

–Psalm 68:9-10, The New Jerusalem Bible (1985)

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The lection from Jeremiah 8 is grim.  It comes from a section of prophecies of judgment against Jerusalem.  (Nevertheless, Hebrew puns are present.)  In some portions of the reading the identity of the speaker is unclear, but the tone is never vague–doom will arrive, and mourning will be abundant.

In Luke 8 grief and anguish give way to joy.  Jesus heals a ritually unclean woman with a gynecological condition.  He restores her to her community and ends her mental and emotional anguish.  Then he raises the daughter of Jairus, a leader of a synagogue, from the dead.  Our Lord and Savior restores the family of Jairus to wholeness and the daughter to life and community.

We mere mortals share our lives with each other when we live in community.  We might guard our privacy, but even those matters we choose not to disclose influence our lives in community.  Whenever we grieve and mourn, that affects others.  Likewise, whenever we rejoice and laugh, that affects others also.  May we support each other in positive living for the glory of God and the benefit of others, remembering that, as John Donne wrote so well,

No man is an island.

I think of the woman from Luke 8:42b-48.  The text informs us that she had endured her medical condition and the related stigma and stresses for twelve years.  How many people had tried to help her in any way?  And how many, guarding their ritual purity, had shunned her?  No woman is an island, even if she is ritually impure.

Sometimes politicians and pundits sneer at empathy, but it is a great virtue in short supply much of the time.  So is its cousin, sympathy.  Can we empathize or sympathize with a desperate father, a shunned woman, and a member of a doomed community?  How will we express that empathy or sympathy?

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/empathy-sympathy-and-community/

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